The Bad Thing About a Good Life

American believers have, for the most part, enjoyed a ‘good life’ where the fruits of freedom to worship, work, plan and save grounded us in ‘One Nation Under God’.  The ‘good life’, often entangled in this world, gave birth to ungodly prosperity ministries and carnal churches.  However, the bad thing about a good life in an ungodly world is the inevitable upheaval of misplanted roots.  Since, “…Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin...” and “…the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”  this is not the place to invest our heart and trust.

Americans and believers alike are alarmed by the powerful forays that are, through destruction, forcing change.  A country that was built and cultivated over hundreds of years is seemingly toppling before our eyes.  But it was toppling all along….

removing 10 commandments

The Ten Commandments,  ordered removed by Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2015, under cover of night to avoid controversy

We lost all fear of ‘controversy with God.’  What was sanctioned in secret has come to utter fruition in the daylight – toppled statues, ruined icons, wanton cultural destruction.

‘Successful’ Christians are now scrambling to secure their lives here, especially with the growing threat of socialism… “Should I cash in my 401K?…Put my money in a safe?…But will there be a ‘cashless society’?…Should we buy property?”

Self-preservation is the most natural instinct within us – who doesn’t want to live and preserve a good life?  The only problem facing the believer though is the prevailing word of God that exhorts us to “pick up our cross” and follow Christ, “to live is Christ and to die is gain”, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” This call of separation unto God is an ongoing call from Genesis to Revelation, as is the rebuke against ‘friendship with the world’ and its entanglements.

I challenge myself in this:  maybe God is calling us to set our hearts upon and actually live according to His word,

“…godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that….take hold of the life that is truly life.  (I Timothy 6 excerpts)

These social, political, and moral upheavals pose great challenges for believers but also great opportunities to live out our faith as God intends – to believe and stand on His word, to express the glory and faithfulness of God, to be content…strengthening our hearts with the reality of Christ’s promised and soon return.

Believers are called out in every time and place of world history and with that call comes the power of God to live out our faith and fulfill His purposes for our short time here.

Lord, help us walk in and live through Your word in greater measure, proclaiming Your truth and faithfulness as this dark world readies for Judgment Day. 

God’s Call Within the Chaos

The current plight of NYC is no secret.  Living here for 40 years, as a student, social worker, and State Parole Officer, ‘chaos’ has fueled my career, my social life and increasingly later – my spiritual life in the Lord.  In my 20’s, my neighborhood was laden with drug dealers, so bold in fact that they set up chaise lounges on the sidewalks to sell comfortably!  The huge armory two blocks away from me provided beds for 800 homeless men – broken, addicted, and many dangerous – often spilling out into doorsteps and stoops.

This city snapshot of the 1980’s slowly faded as Federal, State and local law enforcement intervened, politics changed, and social initiatives began.  Uplifted and revived, NYC began to prosper and excel in every way.  There was, of course, still chaos but we wouldn’t have it any other way!

Crime, black outs, recessions, terrorist attacks…all brought chaos, but all brought us closer together.  Neighborly bonds strengthened and believers clung together with each other and the Lord.  Ministries grew as the Lord seemingly casted nets out to drug addicts, convicts, and others – many were drawn to the Lord and repented at our church, Times Square Church with Pastor David Wilkerson.  God reaped a harvest in NYC chaos!

prayer in the square

For 3 years TSC had Prayer in the Square. Tens of thousands gathered in Times Square, crying out to God for the city.

No one is sadder than me to say, “those days are gone”.  Why is our current ‘chaos’ so different?

The celebration of sin…

celebrating abortion

Bridges lit up, celebrating NY law that legalizes abortion until birth

abortion announcement

New curriculums for children….

“New York Teaching Pre-K Kids About LGBTQ, Transgender ‘Rights’”

Children gather to new story tellers….

drag queen story hour

Drag Queen Story Hour – a celebrated venue for teaching children new family values and sexual identities within public schools and libraries

There are, of course, too many events and developments to numerate.  But defining truths became evident – repenting of sin shifted into celebration of sin with a zeal to proliferate into school classrooms.

As debauchery fermented, the season of strong church leadership seemed to dissipate.  The ‘torch was passed’ to new leadership that focused on social programs and benign outreaches, often acquiescing to and even accommodating for prevailing moral landslide.

The current urban whirlwind of chaos and destruction is not from a terrorist onslaught or natural disaster, but the dark fruit of leadership given over to depraved, reprobate minds.

“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.  They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity…”  (Romans 1 excerpt)

God unravels man’s biggest delusion:  that you can sin and get away with it, you can disavow and offend God and prosper.  

Foundations of socialism and Marxism taking root in the rubble of shuttered businesses…desecrated social icons….law enforcement utterly scorned, systematically dismantled…a not-so-slow train wreck that will end up worse than we imagine.  If this is the evidence of God’s abandonment, believers need to boldly step back, strongly resisting any fleshly ambition to rescue a fallen city or land. 

There is nothing more important for the believer, the follower of Christ and lover of His word, than to discern the signs of the times.  While there’s always a call in times of chaos, Christ’s Body should not blindly jump into this condemned world’s foray.

As ‘mega-churches’ obscure and unravel and traditional denominations scramble for relevancy,  God is igniting pockets of believers.  God’s call in the chaos may not be loud but quietly powerful.  Within homes or through electronics, the Lord is shepherding sheep together, even just two or three, to exhort, teach, encourage and sharpen one another, “as iron sharpens iron”.

I pray the Lord dim my view of this temporal and imploding world.  As celebrity Christianity rightly deflates, I pray to value and esteem the precious one or two that the Lord may bring forth to disciple and counsel into His Kingdom.

May we press in to hear God’s call and follow His lead, with a heart of growing anticipation of Christ’s return.  Press on brethren, Maranatha!

Good Things From Closed Churches

church-closed

The ongoing hoopla about closed churches during a national pandemic is, ironically, nearly ungodly.  Protesting government officials, threatening lawsuits, and wasting money and energy point to a self serving faith, not selfless faith.  Is it really God’s call to rebel when our resources should go to serve?  Many churches, run on a business model, have their own bottom line motivation.   Closed churches though, can serve to refine and grow our faith more than ever.

Firstly, separating ourselves from the social gathering of others, the planned format of worship and social chatter can clarify our foundation of faith.  Do we find our spiritual fulfillment in our social gathering, singing, and sermons or does church serve to embellish the intimacy we have already with the Lord?  Do we have intimacy with our Savior, as a Bride to her Bridegroom?

Intimacy is measured in private, not corporate settingsClosed churches should lead to open prayer closets – that’s where our true spiritual life and growth take place.

Secondly, our gatherings are not squelched due to oppression or persecution but for a global health crisis.  When life drastically changes, shouldn’t we then beseech God for His change in agenda?  If sovereign God shuts down normalcy, shouldn’t our hearts be shaken toward Him and His word?  God is speaking into hearts during this pandemic with a call to press into His word.   We need to hear Him speak to us without a choir, pulpit, coffee hour or book table because thirdly….

all those things may be gone.  One day we may have to stand alone and know what we stand for.  Pandemics, crisis, wars, calamities…birth pains…do we know the scriptures well enough and understand eschatology – the study of the end times – to gauge our life in this crucial ticking clock?

The Apostles’ message of salvation did not go forth without proclaiming the truth of Christ’s return.  That anticipation is the framework from which Christian life was grounded.  Today, however,  everyone wants to ‘be saved’ by ‘praying a prayer’ but few understand the deep reality from what they are saved!  We are saved from the coming wrath of God, an unpopular and nearly forgotten truth.

The Body of Christ has a joy not found in happy-clappy songs, motivational sermons, or social group activities.  Perhaps there’s a place for them but our joy must transcend anything and any relationship in this temporal world.  If the Bible is true and it is, worse days are coming.  Covid-19 is merely a test run for what the word of God proclaims prior to Christ’s return.

With the pandemic of apostasy, closed churches may be God’s hand in drawing us alone to Him for His counsel, His healing, His leadership and His revelation of where we stand as His Bride.  After the Lord’s sacrifice for our sin, His call for His people is to be ready, be alert, and be watchful,  with lamps filled with oil, anticipating the Bridegroom…

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory unto Him!  For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready…”  (Rev 19:7)

The world may shut down but heaven will not.  I pray that we as a people press in, find our sanctuary at home with the Holy Spirit, and hear what the scriptures proclaim about our day, our calamity, and His return and His call upon us.

“He who endures to the end will be saved.”  (Matthew 24:13)

Maranatha! 

 

 

I Could Not Help Him Die

My brother’s birth was a most wonderful event in my life.  Being much older, I had the fun and fulfillment of sharing in Paul’s life events, learning to walk, going to school, homework helps, football cheers, wedding happiness and most joyful – the arrival of his precious children.

Even greater than all that was mentoring Paul into a living and saving faith through Jesus Christ our Savior.

When cancer struck him I was shaken but soon found that it deepened our fellowship with each other and importantly, with the Lord.  Daily phone counsel and prayer built us in faith and courage; although out of state, my frequent visits were precious.   I witnessed God’s work in Paul’s heart and faith and was certain of God’s call upon his life, positive that the Lord would heal.   When four year old Ella scampered by me one day, turned and surprisingly said, “Jesus is going to heal my dad!”  my heart was gripped…no way would God disappoint and dash her precious faith!

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A year later they would be fatherless

Within three years, Paul was hospitalized.  One day, shaking their heads, doctors called the family together, “there’s nothing more we can do…” My heart immediately erupted, ‘of course there’s nothing you can do, now God will show you what He can do!’ 

With courage and strength,  Paul knew he was dying, something I could not see nor receive.  I refused.  After so gladly sharing in all his life experiences, I dropped the ball at this crucial juncture of life and faith…I could not help him die

During his last night, I stood vigil by Paul’s side, praying through the night.  Even when he died the next day I reached out my hand to him, my heart cried, “now, even now Lord I believe You can raise him up!”

In the months that followed, the Lord brought healing into my anger and crisis of faith.  While I deeply regret not counseling Paul into eternity, in subsequent years God led me to help others, several parolees, who were suffering and dying.

This post has swirled in my heart for a while, perhaps the corona crisis stirred it up more.  However, I am convinced that our high call as Christ’s Body, especially toward our brethren, not only lies in mentoring each other as we walk with the Lord but mentoring each other as we die in the Lord.

In Charles Spurgeon’s Sermons on the Last Days, he preaches on Biblical truths regarding Christ’s return.  However, in the sermon, ‘A Last Lookout’ Spurgeon speaks of our own ‘end’, with a focus on the faith of apostles Paul and Peter…

“He (Paul) does not even say, ‘The hour of my death is at hand,’ but he adopts a beautiful expression, “the time of my departure” – words which are used sometimes to signify the departure of a vessel from the port; the pulling up of the anchor so that it looses its moorings when about to put out to sea…”

“Beloved believer in Christ Jesus…To die is to depart out of this world unto the Father.  What say you about your departure?”

The time of our departure, though unknown to us, is fixed by God, unalterably fixed; so rightly, wisely, lovingly settled, and prepared for, that no chance or haphazard can break the spell of destiny.”  (italics his)

“If you take counsel with death, your flesh will find no comfort; but if you trust in God, your faith will cease to parley with these feverish anxieties, and your spirit will enjoy a sweet calm…To live in constant communion with God is a sure relief from all these bitter frettings”

“There is a time to depart; and God’s time to call me is my time to go.”

May the Lord walk us through this life as His light for the truth, refreshing and encouraging those He appoints along the way.  May the reality of our eternal life in God’s Kingdom overshadow everything in this temporal world and become a living truth to share with others, to help them live and help them depart.

Favorite Quotes From Favorite Folks

The gifts of godly men and women leave us timeless truths that speak life into our journey with the Lord.   Here are just a few quotes from wonderful brethren….

“If I really want to please my Lord – then I cannot fight my circumstances.  I will hold on and never quit.  Nothing on this earth can give me what I get from God’s Spirit every day in my trial.”  Pastor Dave Wilkerson, God is Faithful

“Ambition is a gilded misery, a secret poison, a hidden plague, the engineer of deceit, the mother of hypocrisy, the parent of envy, the original of vices, the moth of holiness, the blinder of hearts, turning medicines into maladies and remedies into diseases.”   Puritan Thomas Brooks

“Where the battle rages there the loyalty of he soldier is proved.”  Martin Luther

“…what have you and I to do with maintaining our influence and position at the expense of truth?  It is never right to do a little wrong to obtain the greatest possible good…Your duty is to do the right; consequences are with God”.  Charles H. Spurgeon, 1868, Sermon at Metropolitan Tabernacle

“Zeal is a mixed affection, a compound of love and anger…True zeal will encounter the greatest difficulties.  When the world holds out danger to discourage us, zeal casts out fear.  It is quickened by opposition, and will march in the face of death.”  Thomas Watson, A Godly Man is a Zealous Man

“The church being called a lampstand indicates that, in God’s eyes, its primary function is to give light…The light that every church should hold forth is God’s Word, which alone is a light for our path in this dark world…No lampstand ever complains that the surroundings are too dark for it to shine in.  The brightness of a lampstand has nothing to do with its surroundings.  Is light depends solely on the amount of oil it contains.”  Zac Poonen, The Final Triumph, A verse by verse study of the book of Revelation

“Much of our problem in continuing fellowship with a holy God is that many Christians repent only for what they do, rather than for what they are…What should happen in genuine conversion?  What should a man or woman feel in the transaction of the new birth?  There ought to be that real and genuine cry of pain…”   A.W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship? 

“Genuine worship is a response to divine truth.  It is passionate because it arises out of our love for God.  But to be true worship it must also arise out of a correct understand of His law, His righteousness, His mercy, and His Being.  Real worship acknowledges God as He has revealed Himself in His Word.”  John MacArthur, WORSHIP, The Ultimate Priority

“Politics, education, literature, science, art, law, commerce, music…we have to acknowledge marked progress in each of these departments.  The question, however, is:  What is the ultimate goal of all this development?  At the end, John tells us, antichrist will arise and will set up his own kingdom in the world (I John 2:18…) That is the direction of the world’s advance.  Watchman Nee, Love Not The World

“But when we surrender ourselves to the Lord, learning day by day to treat all that comes to us with peace of soul and firm conviction that His will governs all, He will see to our growth in grace.  He will so govern the events in our lives, down to the smallest detail….”  Elisabeth Elliot, A Path Through Suffering

May the Lord continue to inspire and encourage us through His living word and the exhortations of His servants.