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Archive for the tag “Repentance”

What is the Silence Teaching You?

For the last couple of weeks, I have heard many encouraging words. But I have also heard a message or two about where is God at a time like this? It’s always the question when trouble comes, right? One of the messages I heard recently from Pastor Jack Hibbs concerned the church of Ephesus in the Book of Revelation.

Jesus has been given the authority by God the Father to judge all things. During Jesus’ time on earth, He did not judge (condemn) but came to save (rescue) us from our sins. He exchanged our sin debt for His life – He was the Sacrificial Lamb who took away our sins by His blood being poured out for us (by death on a cross).

After Jesus’ ascension back to heaven, His role has changed. He will no longer by the Sacrificial Lamb but the Lion of Judah when He returns. Through His mercy though, He offers warnings to His people. When He was walking this earth, He spoke of the Good News that the Kingdom of God was near. He asked all to repent of their sins. He looked at sinners and told them He forgave them. He looked on the people with compassion. He healed them; drove out demons and caused the blind to see and the deaf to hear. That was then; what’s going on now?

Jesus still looks on us with compassion. He still sees us as sheep without a shepherd; lost and wandering in the desert looking for food and water. However, He warns us through His Word that time will come when we have to own up to our sins. We will face Him one day as a judge. For those who know Jesus as Lord and Savior, His judgment will be based on what we have done with what we were given. For those who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior will be judged based on the sins they committed. We will all be given an eternal sentence – it just depends on whether it’s life or death.

This all seems a bit harsh, right? Sorry, just writing what I know to be true. However, there is still Good News to be shared in this day and time. Jesus did come to save the lost and to bring living water and daily bread to those who would seek Him. The Kingdom of God is still near and He still wants us to repent of our sins. He still forgives and gives us life everlasting when we turn toward Him. There is no doom and gloom when we received the free gift He offers us. He is still the Rescuer and the Redeemer.

In Revelation, we find seven letters to churches Jesus chose to give a warning before their influence is removed from them (their lamp stand). It can be said these churches represent the Church through the ages. It could also represent our own hearts concerning Jesus. Jesus warns the churches of their lack of zeal for the Lord. He also told them to repent and turn back to Him – to those who have ears, let them hear.

If we wonder where God is at this time, look to God’s Word. God is speaking today just as He was in biblical times. However, are we paying attention? I do not believe God caused these things to occur, but I do believe God has allowed these things for our good and for His glory. I believe He is using these times to get our attention.

The distractions have been taken away. Our “busyness” has been put on hold. There is nothing to fill our time with going back and forth – chasing after the wind as Solomon put it in Ecclesiastes. There is silence wherever you turn. Very few cars on the roads, people are not gathering in different places; and life has slowed down to an almost stop. Every worship center around the world has closed regardless of religion. So, why the silence?

God speaks clearly in the silence.

When the prophet Elijah wanted to see God, God hid him in the cleft of a rock. God was not in the powerful wind that tore the mountains apart or the earthquake or fire; but when Elijah heard a gentle whisper, he pulled his cloak over his face and went to stand before the Lord at the mouth of the cave (1 Kings 19:11-13).

It is silence that brings His presence. Are we willing to step into the cleft of the rock in order to hear Him? We haven’t experienced this type of silence in so long, it’s a bit scary. However, it’s never a scary thing to be with God. Peace beyond understanding is what He gives in His presence.

There are many words in the Bible to give us encouragement for such a time as this. Be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6-9); I’ll be with you wherever you go (Deuteronomy 31:6). When I find myself in circumstances beyond my control, every time God brings Isaiah 41:10 to mind:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

God is speaking. Cover your face and listen to Him. Lean into this time. Learn from it. Make this a pivotal time in your life and also your family’s life. Jesus is here with us and for us and is upholding us in this time. Be assured of His presence in the silence.

Lord, give us ears to hear and a heart that is obedient to what You say. Forgive us and help us turn away from these sins of ours and turn to You and only You. May You once again look upon us with favor as we humbly come before You. Heal our land as only You can do for the sake of Your Name and for Your glory. Amen.

The Rescue Story

Before the sun peeked over the horizon this morning, I was laying at the edge of wakefulness when I heard a gentle whisper “we carry a message, not a stone.” As I contemplated those words, more words started flowing. Of course, the bed was warm and I wasn’t quite ready to greet the dawn; so the words that I write now will not be as eloquent as the words given first thing, but I will give it my best shot. A song popped into my head as I thought about the words – it’s about a rescue story. Have you heard the song by Zach Williams? Check it out sometime.

The story opens with the snake slithering in and speaking a message of deception. The enemy said (Genesis 3:4-5) “you will not surely die” and “you will be like God.” Eve looked at the fruit and saw it was pleasing to the eye and desirable for wisdom, she took some and ate it (Genesis 3:6). In the previous two chapters in Genesis, God created a perfect world. Sin had not entered into the picture. Two chapters of God’s perfect world were undone by a deceptive snake. Eve believed the lie and sin entered in with one bite. The rest of the Bible is God’s rescue story.

I have entered the reading of Leviticus for my quiet time reflections. I am working my way through the offerings the Israelites were supposed to burn on the altar. It’s a hard read. Animal parts, burning on the altar, blood splattering. Animal after animal was offered to cover the sin problem, but it was never permanent. It was a symbol of what it would take to become a permanent solution – a perfect Lamb – without blemish (sin) – sacrificed outside the city for the sake of all.

God takes sin very seriously. I know, we don’t like to think of Him that way – the God of wrath. But sin to Him deserves wrath. It is an abomination to Him. No matter the sin, it’s all against Him. He does not take this lightly and nether should we.

When Adam and Eve took that bite, they surely did die. The perfect relationship was broken and they were condemned to die. The enemy said they would be like God knowing good and evil. However, God had already created Adam in God’s likeness (Genesis 1:27). The enemy suggested God was withholding from them – the knowledge of good and evil – God was withholding something they needed – wisdom. But they already had everything they needed – a right relationship with God and every need was already fulfilled.

At the right time, God sent His Son not to condemn us for our sins, but to save us (John 3:16-17). Jesus is our hope and our salvation. He is our light in the darkness and ever present hope in despair. He is our redeemer and our rescuer. He doesn’t leave us in our despair, but lifts us out and puts us on a solid rock. This is the message we carry. Our job is not to condemn the world – carrying a stone to throw, but share the message of hope to this condemned world.

For those caught in sinful situations back in Old Testament times, stoning was the punishment depending on the sin. When caught, the community would take the one caught outside the village and throw stones until the sinner was dead. It was a harsh sentence. Everything seemed harsh back in that day, didn’t it? But again, sin was taken much more seriously than it is today.

Even the message we receive today about Jesus isn’t as harsh as it was in that day. Jesus cleaned the temple area with a whip – driving out money changers and animals. He spoke “woes” to the religious elite. Jesus’ message began with (Mark 1:15) “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Many heard His message and felt it was too harsh. Many turned away. Jesus said that the road was narrow to heaven and few would find it. Seems harsh, right?

We have often heard there were many roads to heaven. But if that were the case, Jesus didn’t have to pay the price for our sins and die a cruel death. The animals were offered as a sin offering until Jesus was able to do it once and for all. Face it; we have a sin problem. Confess it and turn from it. And be rescued once and for all.

As followers of Jesus, we don’t carry a stone but a message of hope, of peace, of joy and an everlasting love, mercy and grace. Many will reject it, but many will come to know Him and turn from their sinful ways. I know I did and I am so grateful for my rescue story!

Throwing stones reminded me of the story in John about the woman caught in adultery. Her punishment should have been stoning according to the Law of Moses. The crowd threw her at the feet of Jesus. I will leave you with Jesus and this woman’s interaction. We all have a come to Jesus moment. What we do with it means the difference between life and death.

When they (the Pharisees) kept on questioning him (Jesus), he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:7-11

New Year, Old Message

Since the New Year began ten days ago, I have been listening to many speakers talk about the future. Most spoke about how to stay focused on the goals and plans to have a better year. A few have talked about the prophetic times we are in right now. They are not foretelling when Jesus will return, but they are saying He is coming soon. The term “soon” is a relative term. It could mean today. It could mean ten years from now or one hundred.

For the last two thousand years, Jesus’ people have been waiting on His return for the church – His bride. But the signs of the times are showing His return is very soon. Yes, we have always had certain signs – turmoil in the world. Wars and rumors of wars. Earthquakes in various places. Famines and pestilence. The signs have always been there.

However, this time is different. The intensity is greater on the various attributes of the “labor pains” we are experiencing today. We see more damaging hurricanes than ever before. Earthquakes are in the 7.0 range more frequently than ever before. But the telling sign is Israel. The fig tree – Israel – is blooming. They are prospering in their land. They are relatively peaceful and safe in their land. Yes, they have enemies trying to destroy them. But most citizens of that country live in peace.

The Bible speaks of a time when Jerusalem will be a sore subject to most countries. In Zechariah 12:3, God said He will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all nations. Don’t we see that today? Has there been a time when more strife over Jerusalem than now when nations are moving their embassies to Israel’s capital? I think not. Israel has never had the prosperity as they do today. They have found natural gas and oil in their land in the last ten years. They are leaders in innovation. There has never been a time when other nations want what they have. And nations are foaming at the mouth to get Israel’s resources.

God said He would put a hook in the jaw to bring those northern nations to Israel’s door. Never has there been a time when Russia, Iran and Turkey have been in agreement as they are today. And they are poised on Israel’s northern border. They are just waiting for the time to invade. Russia needs the resources Israel has – gas and oil. Turkey wants the territory for their caliphate. Iran just wants Israel gone. Period. The Palestinians are just a thorn in Israel’s flesh – a distraction from Iran.

God is setting the stage. And there are a few players out-of-place. The US in the Middle East? Maybe we need to be out of the area in order for the play to begin. There might be more things to set in motion in the Middle East before Jesus’ return, but we are closer today than ever before. Everything is coming together just as the prophets from the Old Testament said it would.

Another sign of the times is the church today. False teachers are more common today. The church seeker movement has taken a step away from sound doctrine. Feel good messages are a sign of the times. Itching ears want to hear the good and not the wrath of God. The culture has moved into the church.

“Selfies” are still another example of the times we live in. Delusion is running rampant. Choosing a baby’s gender instead of biology dictating gender? Crazy. Gender is fluid? What? I am sure it has been like this at other points in history. Sodom and Gomorrah come to mind. The time before the flood has been mentioned in the Bible as well. “As it was in the days of Noah so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37 and Luke 17:26). The door closed on all those outside – only eight were saved.

2019 could be the year when we see Jesus’ return. But I’m not writing about that. This is a time when we should be filled with urgency. If 2019 is the time – and I’m not saying it is – then we should be preaching the Gospel message to all who need to hear. John the Baptist was the voice in the desert to clear the way for the Lord. His message was “repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near.” The religious folks in his day missed the signs of the times. I don’t know what type of signs was for the first coming of Jesus; but whatever they did have, they missed it.

One sign given was the star over Bethlehem. The wise men came from afar to worship the newborn king, but they didn’t know which direction to turn. They went to the leader of the area, Herod, to inquire about the location of the birth. The priests were summoned to give the answer. The wise men took off for Bethlehem without a single priest following them. The religious elite missed the sign. Shepherds heard the angels proclaiming the news and they went to see. But the religious ones were not present.

For followers of Jesus, we need to keep watch and be ready. The priests had thirty years to get ready for Jesus’ ministry and they didn’t. I don’t know how much longer we have, but the bridegroom is on His way – do we have enough “oil” in our lamps? The foolish ones didn’t have enough oil and were left outside the party (parable found in Matthew 25).

The message of John the Baptist needs to be preached again. The way needs to be made clear for the Kingdom of God is near. It begins with me repenting of my sins and being made clean. You too. Now is the time to get ready. Those who have ears let them hear.

“It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” Luke 12:38-40

In the Gap

We are just days away from another catastrophe, at least that’s what is projected. A hurricane has its sights on Florida or the east coast. I sit in my little home in a safe distance from the coast of North Carolina, but that didn’t matter for Hurricane Fran. I didn’t live here at the time, but heard of its destructive path. What will Irma hold for us? Part of North Carolina was under flood waters last year due to Hurricane Matthew so it could happen again. We just never know which way it will turn and what will be the destructive path.

I watched a video on YouTube yesterday afternoon from a prophet from India. His message was delivered in 2015. During a prophetic conference in Houston, the Lord gave him a message for the people of Houston that devastation would be coming by flood. The prophet reminded the audience that we are here for such a time as this. This is our time to stand in the gap just as Esther stood in the gap for her people.

Houston is known for floods so maybe it was brushed off as just another flood. I remember a time when I went to Houston in the midst of a tropical storm. I remember how deep the waters flooded the streets and the underground area beneath the large buildings. It doesn’t take much for streets to flood. So I can see the people who heard the message thinking we’ve survived thus far, it couldn’t be any worse than what we’ve already seen.

So from the message in 2015 to the hurricane that brought the devastation in 2017, the gap could have been filled to keep this prophetic word from coming to pass. Even as the hurricane was forming, people could have dropped to their knees and cried out to God to keep this from them. Maybe some did. But maybe it was too little, too late. Houston was not spared from devastation. Maybe God needed to send the warning. Maybe He is still sending a warning to us with this next storm.

The prophet said that devastation is to wake us up. It’s a shaking to drop us to our knees. Devastation always comes before destruction. God always warns us before He destroys. He sent the prophet Jonah to the city of Nineveh and gave them forty days to repent before the destruction would come. The people dropped to their knees and repented. God delayed the judgment for a couple more centuries because of their repented hearts.

The prophet also stated that he has seen the US divided in two. Politically, we are already there. Physically, could be an earthquake that divides the nation. However, he said we could be captured and this would divide America. North Korea, Iran, and Russia all have an agenda for America. All eyes are on North Korea, but it could come from any direction, if God allows it. The prophet said that with Trump as President, we have been given a grace period. If his tenure ends early, captivity will come early.

The message I received from the prophet was to stand in the gap and plead with God to keep these destructive things from coming to pass. The prophet made a comment that we are good to hear the word and just walk away. It might not really affect us so we let it go. Or we just don’t care or believe it could happen to us. I am just as guilty to hear these things and do nothing with it, but maybe write about it. Or pray half-heartedly.

Last week, Pastor James MacDonald spoke a word about Jesus’ return. He said that God’s justice is coming. Pastor Tony Evans had a series based on the churches in Revelation. Every church was told to repent. And every church was told to have ears to hear. We are not to get comfortable with the status quo. We are not to compromise on God’s principles. I know this won’t be popular, but we are not to tolerate sin – especially in the church. We need to repent, now more than ever.

On the Jewish calendar, we are in the month of Elul which is the month of preparation. From August 21 (the solar eclipse day) until the Day of Atonement on September 30 is the time of preparation – a time of repentance. Forty days. I think we are in a very significant time. Not one but two historic hurricanes in this one month – maybe even one more before the Day of Atonement. Wouldn’t that be significant? It’s time to get on our knees and cry out to God to keep this from coming to pass. This is our time.

Oh Lord, have mercy on us; please keep this hour of destruction from us. You are the Lord Almighty – Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. You speak and storms cease. You are the only One who can save us from this hour. Please forgive our apathy and our complacency. Please help the church be cleansed and made pure. Help us to see ourselves as you see us and let us repent of our sins. Oh Lord, keep Hurricane Irma from touching our shores, drive it out to sea by Your mighty hand. Lord, let Your will be done as You see fit for this time. Whatever we need to get us where You want us to be; let Your will be done. For this we ask in the mighty name of Jesus – our Lord and Savior, Amen.

Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief. Revelation 3:2-3 (NLT)

Season of Preparation

For the last two years, I have been working with a natural, functional practitioner. She began her practice as a chiropractor, but her practice has evolved over the years. I am just fascinated at all she has learned over the years, and I am so encouraged by the way she helps others to better health. For the last thirteen year, I also have benefited from her practice. She is the one who diagnosed me with an autoimmune disease, and the one who pointed me to a healthier lifestyle that I still practice today. She has been instrumental in my healing journey.

Over the weekend, my sister asked me what I plan to do with the knowledge that I am learning from the doctor. I really don’t know what I am going to do with all that I learn. I just know this is preparation for something to come. It has to be since I want to benefit others by what I know. My doctor gave me a seed of knowledge that has grown into a full passion for the health and well-being of building up the body of Christ. I want the body of Christ to be healthy and whole. I can’t say that we are right now, but I hope that one day we will be a picture of true health. I want to be a part of that journey.

So the eclipse happened on Monday. I saw glimpses of the path of totality but my location only gave 93% totality. I started noticing the change in light about 1:45 pm. I noticed an eerie light and had to see what was going on. My colleague had a pair of glasses so I was able to actually see the moon crossing the sun. However, the 93% still gave enough light to drive out the darkness. Isn’t that amazing?

As the body of Christ, we can bring just a sliver of light to drive out the darkness around us. We’re actually supposed to be more than a sliver, but it really doesn’t take much to make a difference. Monday evening was also the beginning of the Jewish month of Elul. I don’t know much about the festivals of the Jewish calendar, but I have learned a few things over the last few years. The month of Elul is the last month of the Jewish year. This is considered the month of preparation before the Day of Atonement which happens forty days later.

As I listened to different speakers concerning this eclipse, I learned a couple of interesting facts about the time of Jonah. Before Jonah found his way to Nineveh, they had already experienced several signs of destruction. They had already experienced a couple of plagues and a civil disturbance. But most notably, they had experienced their own total eclipse that was just a couple of months before Jonah showed up preaching repentance.

If you remember the story, Jonah began to tell the people “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” The Word says that Nineveh believed God (Jonah 3:4-5). Everyone in that city humbled themselves – from the least to the greatest. The king made a decree for all people to fast and pray urgently for God to relent and have compassion on them. And God did. God saw they had repented and turned from their evil ways. God spared that generation from the destruction that would eventually come.

So this month of Elul, the month of preparation before the Day of Atonement (begins at sundown on September 29), the people of God repent of their sins and do what is necessary to become clean so they will be ready for that Day. It’s a season of calling out to God that He would forgive them and cleanse them. Maybe we as the Body of Christ should do this as well. Maybe we should be on our knees before God asking for forgiveness for ourselves and our nation. Maybe God would hear our prayers and would spare this generation from the destruction that will eventually come. Maybe judgment will be delayed if we humble ourselves before Him.

Maybe it starts with me. And you. We need to come into agreement as all of Nineveh did that we need forgiveness and plead with God to send the Holy Spirit flowing boldly through this land. We need Him desperately. He is the only One who can bring a revival to His Body that would change this nation. But it takes us getting on our knees – humbly – before Him. This is the season of preparation. Are you willing to prepare for that Day?

“This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.” John 3:19-21 (MSG)

Pandora’s Box

On Sunday night, I listened to a minister who spoke on the end times. I usually listen to his weekly prophecy update. He has an interesting take on what’s going on around us; especially since he reads sources that are not main stream media. When the national media focuses so much on the political news, we never hear what’s going on around the world – especially if it relates to Israel. This minister is located in Hawaii but comes from an Arabic background. He has knowledge of the Middle East and gives great insight into that world.

One thing he said on Sunday night that has me pondering on a few issues. He referred to a passage in the Old Testament (I think Jeremiah) where God told the prophet to quit praying; judgment was coming. God is not quick to rush to judgment. He always gives the people time to repent before He gives judgment. Most notably was Nineveh during the days of Jonah. Even Sodom and Gomorrah had time before judgment came. God gives the people of those nations time to repent and get right before Him. Some do – Nineveh did or at least they were given additional years because of their repentance; some don’t – Sodom and Gomorrah were no more. There is a time when God’s patience runs out.

It’s curious to me that when a nation’s “greatness” ends, it’s a time when the people indulge in their pleasures and forsake the moral good. At the end of Judges (21:25), we are left with this text “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” Sad words indeed. I wonder if the Romans had a sign of “handwriting on the wall” or the Greeks. I know God used that for the Babylonians. But what will be the sign for us as a nation? Will we see the sign of demise?

I believe we have already opened a “Pandora’s box” with many issues in our land today. There is no way we’re going to stuff everything back into the box. Not just with the current legislation, but issues we have allowed for the last fifty years or maybe it’s been almost seventy years. Interesting, isn’t it? Seventy years since the beginning of Israel’s rebirth (well, in the next couple of years). Could this be relevant to the times we’re in?

It’s odd to hear the political slogans about “making America great again.” My question is – is that God’s plan to make America great again, or is it time for the end of our greatness so that the one world power can emerge? There has always been another nation that rises to become the “world power” when another takes a fall. In the future, prophecies indicate there will be a one world governmental body, one currency, and one world religion. Since World War II, these parts have been falling into place little by little. Is everything in place for it to happen? I think so. But something big has to happen in order for global chaos to warrant a one world order.

Another thing I have been pondering from the message Sunday night was the picture of the Empire State building showcasing the image of a Hindu goddess “Kali.” In the Snopes page found HERE, this image was shown in a display featuring endangered species (August, 2015). What makes this questionable, is the fact this is the goddess associated with “Time, Change, Power, and Destruction.” Relevant? Is this our “handwriting on the wall?” I don’t know, but it does cause me to wonder about the future of our nation. Is this the time that God brings judgment? Again, I don’t know. But I do believe we have done things that will bring judgment at some point. The time is His and His alone. He is the only One who has the final say.

Our job as God’s people is to PRAY until He tells us to stop praying. We can’t put anything back into Pandora’s Box. But we can pray for resolutions, and we can pray for repentance for the things that have already taken place. Our posture should be like that of Nehemiah who was so distraught over the status of his nation that he sat down and wept. Scripture tells us (Nehemiah 1:4) that Nehemiah mourned and fasted and prayed over the brokenness of Israel. Let us pray for our nation as Nehemiah prayed over Israel in humbleness and sincerity. I don’t know if our nation will ever be “great” again, but the people of God can make a difference for the future events that will take place. Maybe we can keep the destruction from coming for just a while longer.

“O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.” Nehemiah 1:5-7

Consider the Source

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to take a little road trip with my sister and brother-in-law. I love road trips because it’s an opportunity for uninterrupted conversations, which seems to be rather rare these days. However, there was a time in my life when road trips were very stressful. When I was alone with my Mom on a road trip, I knew I was going to be in for an interrogation. She spent the time “drilling” me with questions about my life. And my life was not in the best shape at that time. I didn’t want her asking too many questions because at some point, I would only be able to give her a bunch of lies to cover up the truth. Glad those days are over! Glad I survived them!

Yesterday morning when I was in my quiet time, I recalled the conversation with my brother-in-law (BIL). We talked about a series of topics, but one of the discussions came to a standstill. I tried to convince him about something I had heard. No amount of argument could persuade him about the topic. His mind was already made up and nothing would change it. He told me to consider my source. I believed my source was good and believed the facts were true. But nothing I said led him to believe me or my source. So I dropped the subject, and we talked about something else for the rest of the trip.

As I remembered the conversation, I was reminded I need to consider the source of the argument. When I consider spiritual matters, I have to go to the source of Truth. The passage in my quiet time was about spiritual maturity. Maturity comes with walking closely with the Lord; reading God’s Word and applying what is taught. As we grow spiritually mature, we are enabled to grow in our understanding. The more we know, the more we grow. Our minds have to be tuned to the right frequency to hear the Truth. We have to be able to listen and transform our thinking to what the Lord is saying. We have to consider the source.

When I traveled with my Mom, I didn’t want to listen to what she had to say because I knew she was right; and I needed to change. I wasn’t ready to make the necessary changes. As time moved on, I began to listen; and I began to change. I don’t want to live in ignorance any longer. I want to be able to discern the truth and apply it. As I discern the truth, I change my mind from incorrect thinking. This is spiritual maturity. It’s transformation as the Lord leads.

We don’t use the term “repentance” anymore, but this is the term associated with “changed” thinking. We read God’s Word and come into agreement with Him on His Truth. In James 1:22, we are told not to just listen to the Word, but do what it says. It is written that “anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like” (James 1:23-24). Paul wrote in his second letter to Timothy, “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

In this same letter, Paul wrote Timothy about the end of times when people will not put up with sound teaching. “They [the people] will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:4). Discernment is the key to understand what we hear and read is truth or myths. And when we are confronted with the truth, we have to be open to change our minds to line up with God’s Truth. When our stinking thinking leads us in the wrong direction, repentance turns us around.

John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. His message was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2). Jesus said throughout His teachings, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Many in Jesus’ day ignored the message. They did not believe. They counted on their inheritance as sons and daughters of Abraham. Jesus’ message is still the same today. There is only one way to receive the true inheritance of heaven. Jesus Christ is the key to unlock the true riches of heaven. There is no other source for true light and life. Consider the message and change your mind if it’s not firmly established in Truth. If you have ears, please hear the message before it’s too late.

For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. Mark 4:22-24 (NLT)

Athirst for God

On the first day of the New Year, I opened the book “Pursuit of God” by AW Tozer to renew my focus for this year. As I read the words, I realized he penned them in 1948. He begins his preface “in this hour of all-but-universal darkness.” How much more are these words relevant to this day and time? He wrote of those who are growing hungrier for God. The people “are athirst for God and they will not be satisfied till they have drunk deep at the Fountain of Living Water.” In his day and time, he felt there was a revival happening but realized it may be the “cloud the size of a man’s hand.” Oh how I wish this to be true now!

Tozer wrote about how evangelicalism needs to change in light of the conditions around us. He reflected most were no longer seeking to build an altar for sacrifice, but were more comfortable “to count the stones and rearrange the pieces with never a care that there is not a sign of fire upon the top of lofty Carmel.” He referenced 1 Kings 18 for the imagery. For those who truly desire God, they cannot “reconcile themselves to the continued absence of fire. They desire God above all. They are athirst to taste for themselves the ‘piercing sweetness’ of the love of Christ about Whom all the holy prophets did write and the psalmists did sing.” Is that not poetry? Are his words not true to this day and time?

We need teachers like this who inspire us to have this desire for ourselves. But is it really the inspiration of the teachers or is it not by the hand of God drawing us to Him if only we would respond? We should all long for nourishment to satisfy our souls. “For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience, they are not the better for having heard the truth.” Ouch. Okay, that stepped on my toes a bit. How long do I sit in a chair drinking in the Word, but fail to let it draw me closer? In one ear and out the other without really thought provoking change coming from it.

“The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.” Yes, let it be as he says. Let this be my heart’s desire for this new year. I no longer want just an occupation of the seat, but an occupation of my heart. For far too long, Satan has snatched the Word right out of my heart because I didn’t pay close attention to the application. I leave the gathering every Sunday and have an agenda for the day. But did the agenda have time to reflect on what was heard? Does my soul feel quench by the Living Word?

One of the sentences speaks the loudest to me right now was this: “It is a solemn thing, and no small scandal in the Kingdom, to see God’s children starving while actually seated at the Father’s table.” Tozer closes saying God’s hungry children need to find Him. If his (Tozer’s) “fire is not large it is real and there may be those who can light their candle by its flame.” The Holy Spirit can fan into flame even the smallest of sparks. We need sparks in the Body of Christ for this day. I don’t know if the revival happened in Tozer’s day. I didn’t research it. We are in desperate need of one today. Think of the difference we could make if we all were athirst for God!

If you are hungry; if you are thirsty, Jesus says “come.” First things first. We cannot do anything of any importance until we get right with God, and we are clothed in His righteousness. I don’t remember where I heard this prayer, but I am claiming it for 2016. “God, work boldly in me that You can be clearly seen working through me.” For God’s glory in this New Year! Come on Sparky! Let’s do this!

At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 1 Kings 18:36-38

This post inspired by The Preface found on Page 8 of the “Pursuit of God” © Moody Bible Institute of Chicago 1948, 1983, 1999, 2006.

The Mathematical Equation

My pastor started a new sermon series a couple of weeks ago. This past Sunday, he asked a question that has been marinating in my mind ever since. What happens when Jesus is taken out of church? He pointed to Revelation 3:20. Jesus told John to write a letter to the church at Laodicea. The church at Laodicea was considered “lukewarm” – neither hot nor cold toward Jesus. They considered themselves to be “rich; acquired wealth and didn’t need a thing” (Revelation 3:17). However, Jesus said they didn’t realize their true nature – they were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. He asked the church at Laodicea to be earnest and repent! In verse 20, Jesus said He was standing at the door knocking, waiting on them to respond. Consider this: Jesus was outside the church – He was knocking on the church’s door. I find this very disconcerting.

My pastor gave us this mathematical equation: Christianity-Christ=Religion. Religious people are good people. However, Jesus has more in mind for us than being good. When you consider the Pharisees of ancient Judaism, you get a picture of a religious person. They were sincere in their belief system. They were zealous. They gave sacrificially – doing more than the required tithe (tenth of their income). They were scholars of Moses’ Law – they knew it by heart since they had memorized it. They believed in miracles. They kept the traditions alive from generation to generation. They prayed all the time. And they even expected to see their Messiah come at any time. You would think these were the ones Jesus would be hanging out with and teaching. Yet, these are the ones who ultimately killed Him.

Jesus saved the harshest criticisms for the religious ones and turned to uneducated men to spread His Good News. Jesus flipped religion upside down. The Pharisees were upset with Jesus’ teaching. They believed they were right with God. But they didn’t understand the spiritual application of what they were learning. It was all head knowledge. They had no heart change. Revelation 3:20 is the passage many point toward when telling sinners about Jesus waiting for them to open their hearts to Him. But if Jesus is at the church doors waiting to be let in, what does that truly mean?

Over and over, Scripture tells of repentance and forgiveness. True heart change comes through repentance – agreeing with God of our unrighteousness; we don’t measure up to God’s standards. It’s impossible to live a sinless life. But with Jesus all things are possible. We are given His righteousness when we repent of our sins. It’s His clothes we put on every day. Priscilla Shirer says we have to intentionally put on the breastplate of righteousness. It’s His righteousness because there is no one righteous. We don’t have it in us unless Jesus lives in us.

I have the picture in my head of Peter asleep in his jail cell. He was sleeping so soundly, an angel had to strike him to wake him up. The angel escorted him to freedom. I see this image as the church body fast asleep. I believe we are being poked and prodded into wakefulness. The angel told Peter to put on his clothes and sandals. I believe we too need to be clothed in righteousness. We need to be set free from all the chains that are keeping bound to the darkness in this world. Yes, the church body is bound up – we are neither hot nor cold. We hear the word yet it doesn’t change us. We comment that is was a good sermon, but is it applied to our lives? Do we do drive by readings or memorize Scripture for anything other than checking a box?

When people truly encountered Jesus, they were changed. My pastor’s sermon series is Re Jesus. He is going to teach us about the radical Jesus who changed the religiousity of His day. Maybe it will change ours too. If you are interested in learning more, check out the sermons at takeajourney.org. They will be life-changing! The antidote to religion is Jesus. Jesus is knocking. Will the Church open the doors to real change?

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:19-22

Still the Message

Repent! For the Kingdom of God is near!” John the Baptist was given this message before the ministry of Jesus began. He was the one who called from the wilderness to bring about the change of heart for those who would hear and heed the word. Jesus had the same message. It might have been stated a bit differently. He spoke of forgiveness of sin to those who came for healing. The sick and hurting came in large groups for healing. But Jesus always looked to their hearts first to find their true sickness. He offered forgiveness and told those who came to Him “Go and sin no more!” The same message of repentance – turn away from your sins, and you will receive the Kingdom of God. Overcome that thing that holds you back. For the one who overcame, many promises were given. When Jesus taught the large crowds He ended His teachings with this phrase: “For those who have ears to hear, let them hear.”

In Jesus’ time, the message was verbal. No one had ten copies of scrolls that they kept on their nightstand or coffee table to show those who entered their dwelling how “spiritual” they were. They went to the Temple to learn from the scholars. No one carried a scroll around to read while waiting for the next caravan to come around to take them to the mall to shop. It was all by the word of mouth that people were taught. So when Jesus said, “for those who have ears” He meant everyone that was listening to the sound of His voice. Pay attention – this is important to grasp the understanding you will need to enter the Kingdom. He said the way to the Kingdom is narrow and only a few would enter by the narrow gate.

I was listening to someone speak about the seven churches in Revelation on Sunday morning. I had a few thoughts that came to mind as they were speaking that I took note of and wrote them down. The first thought was: these letters were sent to churches – believers. I know it’s pretty obvious. Jesus wasn’t pointing out flaws or giving encouragement to non-believers. He had a message to give His followers. He had to get them back on track if there were going to fulfill His mission. Jesus gave every church a directive and a promise. Every church was called to repent of their deeds and for those who overcame their “issues” a promise was given. I have a red-letter Bible (meaning that the words that Jesus spoke are printed in red). Every word in this section of Revelation chapters two and three are in read letters. John wrote down what Jesus instructed to the seven churches. After Jesus gave the direction to each church, Jesus ended each letter “for those who have ears, let them hear.”

The message reminded me also when Peter, James and John went up the mountain with Jesus. Jesus was transfigured before them and they were overwhelmed with His glory. Peter being Peter started talking nonsense about building shelters for Moses and Elijah. God interrupted Peter telling them to listen to His Son (Matthew 17:5). Pay attention, boys! Jesus’ words were important to record. If they were important to write then they must be important to remember and obey. Listen! For the Kingdom of God is near.

Do we get that in this day and time? Are we so far removed from the message that we fail to hear the truth behind it? Would Jesus still give us this message today? The word today should still be repent for the kingdom of God is near. For believers today, the kingdom is already here – the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Even more today, we should pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us. For those who have ears to hear: Pay attention! Repent! Set ourselves apart from the worldly pursuits and pursue holiness! This is not a message we like to hear. But we’re all called to do just that. Our lives matter here on earth to bring glory to Jesus. But it takes a pure heart and a willing spirit and a renewed mind. It’s still the same message today. Pay attention to what the Lord is saying today.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:19-20

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