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Tuesday
May012018

When The Enemy Comes In Like A Flood

Isaiah 59:19-20  So [as the result of the Messiah's intervention] they shall [reverently] fear the name of the Lord from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him and put him to flight  

I recently had the opportunity to preach at a conference held in Cape Verde, an island off the coast of West Africa. It was great to see how pastors and small congregations were leading the way to raise up a standard on their island. Most of these small congregations have schools for pre-school children so they are starting their discipleship at an early age. 

Our enemy uses many tactics to deceive and misguide us, but one of the ways he gets traction in our lives is through small but subtle ways. Once he has some small access to our minds and desires, he then floods our world with the temptations he knows will bring us to sin. He operates a lot like Amazon does when you are shopping for something. They create an algorithm that has the things you like in it so they can target you with more products like the ones you were shopping for. Satan works much in the same way; he knows what you like and plays to those areas trying to find the weaknesses that may be open to explore a darker side. Currently he is trying to get Americans to legislate any speech against a minority or religious group as hate speech. At present several attempts to produce any meaningful legislation have failed, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see a bill on this again in the near future. This subtle way of getting people on board with any kind of rebuttal to a religion or an ethnic group could be construed as hate speech. That would mean that pastors who warn people about Islam, or the sinfulness of homosexuality and transgender issues, all will become guilty of hate speech. The social media giants and others who have become the gatekeepers of public debate have already decided that they will use censorship on their electronic platforms. This concerns me because freedom of speech is for everyone, not just the left leaning people.

When we look at the world, we find hate speech prosecutions in many nations that do not enjoy our free speech protections. For example, in Pakistan, people are arrested and sentenced to death for “blasphemy” for insulting Islam, while in Egypt; individuals are arrested for “debauchery” for waving rainbow flags at concerts. There are people in our country who want the same kind of provisions to restrict any honest communication between people groups. The rules will be clear:

There were 784 active hate groups in the United States in 2014, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Hate crimes are “crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, gender or gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.”

The Church would be the first to condemn prejudice against any group regardless of the race or religion, yet the Church still supports freedom of speech. Once you begin to determine what kind of speech you are censoring, that will be the day freedom ends and tyranny begins. As indicated earlier, Satan uses subtle ways to crack open an opportunity to bring in the flood. 

The church and the government are headed for a collision. We will either comply to never again preach about immorality, or go to jail and be fined. This is Satan’s way of coming in a subtle way with hate speech only to be ready with the flood to outlaw all resistance to immorality. 

The Church is the last man standing when it comes to what is wrong and what is right in our society. Without a moral voice that pushes back on the flood of immoral behavior, we are destined to become a Sodom and Gomorrah. 

Even now it is difficult to find pastors who will preach against godlessness and immorality. If a church does take a stand against the immoral issues of our day, the people have become so brainwashed that they think their church is becoming judgmental. 

The church had better wake up to the realization of our eroding freedom of being able to say what is true. 

Keeping it honest and truthful…K

 

 

Thursday
Apr192018

The Influence of Truth

The further society moves away from God’s truth, the more we will find ourselves in a room that is growing increasingly dark.

Amos 8:11 says: “The time is surely coming," says the Sovereign LORD, "when I will send a famine on the land--not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the LORD.”

It seems as if we are in a drought of knowing truth. It is one thing to know the truth, and it is another to trip over the truth and act as if nothing happened. Winston Churchill discovered the same thing when he said:

“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.”

We live in a stumbling world of people who trip over the obvious insights of truth. The Apostle Paul described it this way: always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.” -2 Timothy 3:7

As a child growing up in a small town, I used to go the city dump a lot. I would bring my pellet gun and stand at the edge of the large open garbage pit and shoot at the rats running through the cans and open bags of garbage. It was like a modern electronic game only in real time. While walking around in the garbage pit wasn’t the most pleasurable experience, killing those rats made it all worthwhile. In the same way we are all surrounded by the garbage dumps of society where we are faced with the ideas of a rotting society. Our world has come up with the most bizarre ideas on marriage, gender, and race; it is like society is on an acid trip of some kind. When I was using drugs in my late teens it was common to take LSD. That drug would disorient my senses so that everything around me became a fantasyland with no connection to the real world. An example of our garbage-laden world was most recently exhibited when a writer for late night TV host Stephen Colbert tweeted following the death of Barbara Bush, saying, “she was the only woman who was 92 for 30 years”. Another example was a California professor who tweeted that Mrs. Bush was an “amazing racist”. This is how people wallow in garbage. I am amazed how the left gets away with the kind of things they publish today. 

The question to you today is one I have been asking lately of everyone: “How are you influenced?”  What kind of influences are affecting your outlook? The Bible teaches that unless that influence changes, we will eventually become just like the influences we allow into our lives. 

1 Corinthians 15:33

Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals."

Proverbs 14:7

Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge.

1 Corinthians 5:11

But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one.

Influences are a major factor in how you develop a pattern of thinking that will either allow you to discern truth or trip over it. Discernment itself is a dying gift and yet it is discernment that helps us preserve the truth. There are many aspects of church life that we have lost in my lifetime and discernment is a dimension that is necessary to preserve the truth. I heard one prophecy teacher recently say that the last days will be known as the era of deception, and if that is so, then discernment is even more critical for the Church. 

How are you being influenced? That is a great question as you take inventory of your spiritual life.

Keeping it truthful and honest….K

Wednesday
Apr112018

The Gift of Brokenness

One of my favorite Psalms is King David’s confession of his sin in Psalm 51:

Have mercy on me, O God,according to your unfailing love;according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquityand cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinnedand done what is evil in your sight.

Let me tell you why I like it. Everyone, especially leaders, need to have a reality check from time to time. That reality check is about their brokenness before God. 

Remember the story of the tax collector and the Pharisee in Luke 18? They both came to plead their case and one was a proud man and he wanted everyone to know about his great success. The other man knew that his life was broken and he was in need of mercy. 

11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

The Bible says the man who was broken received what he needed from God in that moment of honesty. 

I just read of another famous Christian pastor who resigned recently because of some issues of indiscretion. Not all of these leaders who resign are guilty of the things they are accused of, but the accusations will always be a question mark in the minds of people. Some leaders, however, have lived like the Pharisee in the parable of Luke 18. They stand on their accomplishments as if they were a conquering hero. They see themselves as successful and a cut above the other leaders in the herd, totally unaware that the great leaders have little to brag about and most of them have wounds that result in walking with a limp. They, like the tax collector, know their leadership is flawed and often inept when called upon to lead. They make mistakes and respond like King David, with a spirit of brokenness and repentance.

Leaders who walk with a limp are often the kind of people you can trust to lead because they understand brokenness and the pain of failure. King David failed as a leader, and as a parent, yet God knew that through his brokenness he was still a man who pursued God with all his heart. I love people who are vulnerable and are not afraid to tell you why they limp. They openly share the cost of their brokenness and the joy of God’s restorative mercy, which enables them to rebuild their life from the ashes of failure. You may be suffering from some kind of brokenness today, but instead of seeing is as an insurmountable failure, you see it as an opportunity for God to restore you with new hope and promise. I don’t think King David ever forgot the words he wrote in Psalm 51, because his brokenness helped him experience God’s mercy as it covered a multitude of sins. 

Keeping it honest and truthful….K

Saturday
Apr072018

It is Easier to Complain than it is to Change

I am aware that many times this blog sounds like I am complaining, and to some degree I am. I admit it. I don’t mean to be negative and only accent our short- comings, but I simply ask the question what is missing today? For me what is missing is an honest dialogue about our spiritual lives. I write what I do because I am not hearing Christian communication punching through all the rhetoric surrounding a Christianity that is more about our culture than the Bible. 

Again, that may sound judgmental to you, but if you have been reading the Bible for some time you realize that what you read is not always kind or nice, and it doesn’t fit perfectly into a beautiful box with a bow on it. The prophets were not winning any awards for being politically correct or being Minnesota nice. Their message was clear, concise and messy as they gave a warning to people to change their direction. When people are leaning in the wrong direction away from God, He will always warn or speak before He acts. Warning is not as negative as some might think but more of a loving act that cares about the end result of life. 

As my title suggests, it is always easier to complain than it is to change. Most of us probably are in the complaining camp, because it is easier to assess a problem than it is to solve it. Yet, as Christians, our job is to point to the solution of problems and invite God into lives, first to address our need for Him, and then ask Him to look at the mess we are facing. 

Healing evangelist Smith Wigglesworth describes a condition many believers find themselves in as they struggle to keep their faith in God alive: 

“The reason the world is not seeing Jesus is that Christian people are not filled with Jesus. They are satisfied with attending meetings weekly, reading the Bible occasionally, and praying sometimes. It is an awful thing for me to see people who profess to be Christians lifeless, powerless, and in a place where their lives are so parallel to unbelievers’ lives that it is difficult to tell which place they are in, whether in the flesh or in the spirit.”  

Is Wigglesworth complaining or making an observation? To me this is a diagnosis of a spiritual condition that needs to be corrected. Jesus made this kind of statement all the time:

Matthew 23:25-28 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

His observation about having the wrong motives in serving God was clearly about the misuse of saying one thing and doing something completely different. 

The Bible tells us to examine ourselves, come to an honest moment of truth, and stop spinning our words about how great God is. He doesn’t care so much about us telling him how great He is, He would rather have us live out His greatness through our lives, and then and onlythen will it affirm the greatness of God. 

Remember God told ancient Israel He was tired of the sacrifices and the words of their lips, which meant nothing:

Matthew 15:8 “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

Isaiah 1:10-12 “Hear the word of the LORD, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the instruction of our God, You people of Gomorrah. 11"What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?" Says the LORD. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of ramsand the fat of fed cattle; And I take no pleasurein the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. 12"When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts?

Now you might say I am complaining again, but I am not. I am only using God’s Word to remind all of us that it is a lot easier to be religious than it is to come to Jesus, deny yourself, pick up the cross, and follow Him. 

One of the great needs today is finding a quiet place where you invite Jesus to come and change you. What part of your life have you surrendered to complaining, being religious, or worshipping your opinions?  It may be a daily exercise for the balance of this year to simply pray: “Jesus change my heart, teach me your ways O God, and lead me to live out your Word.”

Now that prayer just might make a difference in your life, which in turn may even change the world around you. 

Keeping it honest and truthful….K

Thursday
Apr052018

When We Are Led Astray

Most of us would say deception is everywhere today, and fake news is the norm. Yet even though that may be true, I think deception is as dangerous coming from good things as it is coming from the cults.

That’s right, good things! I am personally less aware of how good things deceive me because they are good and good is still good. Yet I am convinced that there are good things that are replacing the importance of God in my life. No good Christian replaces God entirely, we simply add to our list of things that represent God and in time that list becomes more important that God.

Where is the scriptural precedent for this? 

Revelation 2:2-5 “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

The church of Ephesus was extremely successful and no one would argue that their success wasn’t an important contribution to the Christian cause of their day.  Yet, their ministry of doing good was a deceptive element of removing Jesus from being first in all they did. It was a big mistake and that’s why I want to tell you about my list that represents God and why it is so deceptive. 

Here is a typical list of good things, that left unchecked, could compete for the love we have for God:

Loving Ministry: Ministry is a good thing, but when it becomes the object of our love rather than our love for God, we are being deceived. Many times people fall in love with the benefits of ministry, which meets a need for being needed. Being needed is not a Christian virtue - serving is a Christian virtue, but if we twist these around, being needed is the wrong motive to doing ministry.

Loving Recognition: When leadership has an ego that needs to be recognized, you have a narcissist at the helm. Leadership that has an ego to be stroked is no better than anyone who takes a bribe. Narcissism is taking a bribe for being a leader and many leaders could not lead unless the bribes keep happening. You may say that is cruel, but I say when you have a narcissistic leader leading you, do you not have a person that God, resists because of pride? (James 4:6-7)

Loving Prosperity: We love things and things make us feel good about ourselves. It is a false sense of value, but we still love to be surrounded by nice things. Church property is a nice thing to have and to own. Yet property can create a stress that motivates us to think differently about people and their value to the church. No pastor is honest enough to say that they treat the wealthy of the church differently than the single mother. If that happens, it is a rare character to behold. Debt liabilities of churches can change the way ministry is done and how the message of the pulpit can even change.

Loving Knowledge: Respect has to be earned and the way we get respect is by our ability to know things. We require higher degrees for our pastors, and yet the scripture says we should have men of character leading our churches. There is quite a disconnect between these two streams of thought. I don’t think education is bad, but education is not the standard for Christian leadership, character is.  (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

Some education can be the greatest culprit that challenges faith. There is a reason we see so few miracles today in our churches compared to churches in the developing world. Could it be we have overeducated our leaders who lead our churches and their education doesn’t allow them the freedom to just trust God?
 

Loving Power: How many of us have been in a church dispute? Most of the time it is about who has the power to direct the ministry. We love to have the power to control the outcome of the ministry, spend the money, and be in charge of the direction the ministry should take. Yet it seems to me that the only power that should be associated with any ministry or church should be that of the Holy Spirit. However some even use Him as a scapegoat for control by simply using words like: “the Spirit told me”. Loving or seeking power is not a good thing for most people to pursue because it usually destroys them.

Loving Success: To be admired by others is a good thing especially if the person who is being admired is a humble servant of God. Too often that is not the case but instead we want to be known for the success of our ministry or the size of our church or the influence of our name among the brethren. How does this attribute sow godliness? How do any of these on the list so far sow into godliness? That is my point - these good things will and do replace God and become deceptive elements in our Christian walk.
 

Loving Values: This one is a bit tricky because everyone loves values and principles. Yet like some of our doctrines they can become more important than God. It is true that values and doctrine are important, but how they are used and how important they become is what is worth reviewing. Too often we will not have fellowship with people who do not believe like we do and it separates rather than builds. I am not suggesting we abandon our values, but I am suggesting that we don’t place those values on the same level as God.

I think you get the point of this blog. Not easy to read, and you may disagree, but prayerfully consider if our ways have lead us astray from our first love.

Keeping it honest and truthful…K

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