Archive for the ‘Revival’ Category

Churches today, just as Israel of old, has forgotten God and replaced Him with our own golden calves of psychology, secularism, traditions of men and political bias—and we have reaped the rewards of our actions: Divisions, discord among believers, sexual perversion and worst of all, sexual abuse of children committed by the very ones who are supposed to protect them—from law enforcement to foster care to clergy in the Catholic and Protestant churches!   

It is a sad day indeed when the world tells the church that it needs to repent…And they’re right!  Hear what God says:

“As surely as I live, declares the Lord GOD, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did as you and your daughters have done. Now this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, and complacent; they did not help the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:48-50)

Notice that there is no mention of homosexuality. 

The real sin of Sodom was complacency and refusal to help the needy. And the church today continues on as if nothing is wrong—Much like the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:17—“You say, I am rich; I have grown wealthy and need nothing not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”

The church today has spent so much time judging others that we cannot see our own sin. (Matthew 7:3) Here Jesus is speaking of judging rashly, or passing judgment upon someone on outward appearance alone. We must judge ourselves and our own actions, but not make our word a law to everyone else.

The apostle Paul addresses this when he writes: “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. I was not including the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a verbal abuser, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business of mine is it to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” (1 Corinthians 5: 9-12) 

Many have chastised me for speaking out against sin in the church—criticizing me as being self-righteous or legalistic. But I am only trying to warn God’s people of the path of destruction they are traveling on. Many Christians believe that just because they repeated a “sinner’s prayer” and “accepted Jesus as their Savior” that they’re okay with God and they don’t have to do anything else because Jesus cleansed them of their sins, now and in the future.

But listen to what the prophet Jeremiah said to those with that same attitude in his day:

“For long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds; but you said, ‘I will not serve.’ Yes, on every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down like a whore. Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine? Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord GOD. How can you say, ‘I am not unclean, I have not gone after the Baals’? Look at your way in the valley; know what you have done—a restless young camel running here and there, a wild donkey used to the wilderness, in her heat sniffing the wind! Who can restrain her lust? None who seek her need weary themselves; in her month they will find her.” (Jeremiah 2: 20-25) 

The apostle Paul speaks of the same type of Christians in the Corinthian church: “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual, but as worldly—as infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for solid food. In fact, you are still not ready, for you are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and dissension among you, are you not worldly? Are you not walking in the way of man?” (1 Corinthians 3: 1-3) 

But there is yet hope for us all who are called by His name:

“If I close the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send a plague among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7: 13-14) 

Our land will not be healed by any political leader or policy. It will only be healed when God’s people, who are called by His name, humble themselves with repentant hearts, pray and seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways. Only THEN will our land be healed.

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they will become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best of the land. But if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 1: 18-20) 

Today is the day for repenting. Let us not wait until we are on the precipice of destruction before we cry out to God, like ancient Israel did. “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as you did in the rebellion…See to it, brothers, that none of you has a wicked heart of unbelief that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3: 12-15) 

This is my prayer for the Church today.

There has been a dangerous shift in God’s Church recently that should disturb anyone who profess to be Christians. Those who have believed and followed the teachings of the Bible for years are now refusing to acknowledge sin. 

In fact, I have witnessed many who actually support those who are living a sinful lifestyle—and even question if their actions are sinful even at all! And these are not new converts who are ignorant of the Scriptures. They are people who have lived godly lives for years—and even taught others the Bible truths that they now claim are not relevant anymore! 

Words we hear a lot of Christians use these days is tolerance and love. They are both good words, but we have applied them too often, where they don’t belong. What has been the result? Murders and violence plaguing our schools and cities, physical, emotional and sexual abuse of millions of children, corruption in businesses and politics, human trafficking and genocide. 

Just like much of the evils in the world, it began oh so subtly. First we invited unsaved people to attend our church services. Not only do we invite them to church, but we go out of our way to make them feel welcome and try not to offend or upset them by calling out their sin. Maybe even go the extra step of making the unbeliever part of your church family by allowing them to work in the nursery or teach a Sunday school class. Then before you know it they’re preaching their lies from the pulpit. 

What’s most concerning is that churches today have altered how they conduct Sunday services and how they market to attract unsaved people to an event they weren’t biblically meant to attend in the first place. The unsaved are not ready to experience what churches are supposed to offer. They’re not ready to hear the truth from God’s Word, the Bible. So churches attempt to accommodate them with worldly influences. Many church services today resemble a rock concert atmosphere more than a place of worship and discipleship. God told Peter, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” But churches today have called clean what God has called unclean! 

In being so tolerant toward sin, churches today have become more like those they once preached against. Remember the words of the apostle Paul: “Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good character. Sober up as you ought, and stop sinning; for some of you are ignorant of God. I say this to your shame.” (1 Corinthians 15:33-34)

In some things Jesus was the most tolerant, loving man who ever lived, but by today’s standards, Jesus would be considered one of the most intolerant, narrow-minded and unloving people. Many bring up the fact that Jesus dined with drunkards, prostitutes and other sinful people. But they neglect to acknowledge that he was the most intolerant  and narrow-minded when it came to obeying God.

Jesus was tolerant toward the sinner, but intolerant toward the evil that enslaves the sinner. To the woman caught in the act of adultery He said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) He forgave her because he loved her, but he condemned her sin because he loathed it with a holy hatred. As Christians, there are certain things that we should be intolerant about too. Jesus was so intolerant toward sin that he turned over the merchant’s and money changer’s tables in the temple and called out the hypocrisy of the priests. And in the end he sacrificed his own life in order to free us from the power of sin. 

The Hebrew and Greek words translated “sin” throughout the Bible revolve largely around two major concepts. The first is that of transgression. To transgress means “to step across” or “to go beyond a set boundary or limit.” Most of the other words translated “sin” in the Bible involve a second concept, “to miss the mark.” 

Both of these concepts translate the idea of failing to measure up to a standard. Academic and athletic courses and tests are graded or judged according to a minimum standard. If we don’t meet that standard, we fail that test or course. 

This is where the biblical definitions of sin become important, because Scriptures define the boundaries and standards God set for us and on how we are to live our lives. The definitions of sin in the Bible are not simply arbitrary dos and don’ts. Instead, they show us the way God lives and the spiritual principles by which He lives—The same standard of conduct He expects His human creations to live by. 

What, then, are the boundaries and standards God has set for us that define sin? The most basic definition of sin is in 1 John 3:4: “Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” Here God defines a boundary for mankind. He says that sin is transgressing His holy, spiritual law (Romans 7:12-14). God’s laws are good. The problem is with us. Breaking that law—crossing that divine boundary, that God has set for us—is sin. 

Just as a good parent shows their love to their children by establishing rules for them, God gave humanity His laws to show us His way of love toward us. Those laws also define how we demonstrate our love to God and our fellowman. (Deuteronomy 30:15-16; Matthew 22:35-40; 1 John 5:3) Sin is in violation of that law of love. God showed us a way to live in peace and harmony with Him and with mankind and defined this way of life by His law. When we violate or transgress that boundary and break God’s law, God defines it as sin. It boils down to whose will is most important in our lives. Is it our will, doing what we want to do? Or is it God’s will, doing what He thinks is most important? 

Revelation chapters 2 & 3 gives us an insight of what Jesus thinks of sin and what happens when God’s people refuse to repent. The question every Christian should ask themselves is, “What church do I belong to?”

The solution for the Church today is simple, but not an easy one. John Bunyan’s classic, “Pilgrim’s Progress” explains the hardships,  trials and temptations the Christian life can be. I have learned that whenever you speak God’s truth to people you will risk being looked at as the enemy. Even from other Christians. But in the end, it will be well worth it.

Murders, violence plaguing our schools and cities, physical, emotional and sexual abuse of millions of children, corruption in businesses and politics, human trafficking and genocide. What causes these things? And how do we put and end to it?

The solution is simple, but not so easy. 

The Bible teaches us that if we repent of our wickedness, return to God and obey His commandments, He will bless every aspect of our lives, but if we continue in our wickedness and follow after other gods, all we can expect is more evil in our lives and in the end, destruction. 

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. “ (Deuteronomy 28: 1-6) 

“But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.” (vs 15-19)

Although many Christians place the blame for all the trouble in the world on unbelievers and the devil, these words were directed at God’s people. They were never directed to those who rejected God and worshipped idols. Read what God told Solomon after he finished building the Temple for God: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name 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 7:13-14)

You see, all the problems we see in the world can all be solved if only Christians would repent and turn back to God and obey Him. Even the apostle Paul wrote, “What business of mine is it to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13) So the Bible makes clear that Christians are not to judge unbelievers, but those who claim to be Christians inside the Church. But to do that we must first understand what it means to be a true Christian.

True Christianity—What is it? 

The basic definition of a Christian is a person who professes belief in Jesus as the Messiah based on the teachings of the Bible. People often consider themselves Christians if they were brought up in a religious family or if they go to church. But does this make someone a true Christian? Keith Green once said, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.”

The Bible has a lot to say about being a true Christian. The word “Christian” is only used three times in the Bible. In Acts 11:26, the believers of Jesus were first called Christians because their actions resembled Jesus’ behavior. The word is also used in Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16. 

The Bible teaches that a follower of Christ is one who has been born again. In John 3:3 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” The term “born again” has been used (and abused) by many in our generations. But it was considered nonsense by the man Jesus was talking to in this passage. Nicodemus asked Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old?”  What Nicodemus couldn’t know until later on, was that the phrase “born again” literally means born from above. It indicates a change in one’s heart—a spiritual transformation of someone’s life. 

What is the Result? 

A realization of one’s sin. Romans 3:23 says, “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This sin results in death according to Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The death that the apostle Paul is speaking of is not an earthly death but the second death after the Resurrection. The term “second death” appears only in the book of Revelation. It appears four times: Revelation 2:11; 20:6; 20:14-15; and 21:8. Revelation mentions that there is no second death for those who have repented of their sins and surrendered their lives to God. Only those who have rejected God and His gift of salvation through His son, Jesus.

A true Christian has faith in only Jesus

Having faith in Jesus’ death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and accepting that salvation is a free gift of God—acknowledging that we can’t do enough good deeds to work our way into heaven. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” We cannot become holy by doing things, helping people, giving money, being kind or polite. We can only become holy by believing in Jesus Christ and letting him take control of our lives.

What are the characteristics of a true Christian? 

A true Christian is a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” The “old” refers to everything that was part of our old nature—pride, love of sin, negative habits and evil passions. We do not inherit the new nature from our parents, nor can we re-create a new nature for ourselves, no matter how good and moral of a person we are. And it doesn’t mean that God simply cleans up our old nature. He creates in us an entirely new and unique person! 

A true Christian is dead to sin. 

Romans 6:11-12 says, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” A Christian may still struggle with temptation to sin, but they repent to God and are forgiven because of the sacrifice that Jesus made. Repentance is not parroting a prayer and asking Jesus to come into your life. And it doesn’t mean that you’re sorry you got caught in the sin. Repentance means that you’re sorry for the sin itself—that your sin hurt God and damaged your relationship with Him. Repentance means that you turn from your old life of sin and surrender every aspect of your life to God—A life no longer ruled by sin. 

A true Christian is conformed to God’s Spirit.

A true Christian allows God’s Holy Spirit to conform them to the image of Christ. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.The fruit of the Spirit has nothing to do with soul winning, or preaching, or being successful financially, or even discipling others. The fruit of the Spirit has to do with how one lives their life. I have met many who are homeless, who struggle with health issues and have never won anyone to Jesus, and yet lived their lives according to God’s word. And we have all witnessed so-called successful Christian preachers and evangelists who have never displayed any of the fruit of the Spirit in their personal, private and/ or public life. 

A true Christian is called to live a holy life. 

That means not being conformed to the ways of the world. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 NLT) In Ephesians 4:17-32 Paul gives us instructions on how to live our new life in Christ: “…put off your former way of life, your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be renewed in the spirit of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness…Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up the one in need and bringing grace to those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” I believe this would apply to our social media posts and Twitter feeds as well.

 A true Christian is to read and obey God’s Word. 

James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” There are many professing Christians today who say, “Because we are now under grace we don’t need to  obey the Old Testament law.”  And, “It’s impossible for us to obey God’s commandments. That’s why Jesus had to die on the cross.” 

But why would God give us commandments that He knew were impossible for us to obey? He wouldn’t. In 1 John 5:3 we read, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome…” And again in 1 John 2:3: “By this we can be sure that we have come to know Him: if we keep His commandments.” When God gave His commandments of blessing and cursing to Moses and to the Hebrew people he said, “…For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off…But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that YOU CAN DO IT.” – Deuteronomy 30:11-14 (Emphasis mine) 

A New Commandment or just the same old one?

Many Christians believe that because Jesus gave us a “new commandment” in John 13:34-35 that he replaced the Old Testament Law. They even give proof by pointing to what Jesus said in Luke 10:27: One day an expert in the law stood up to test Him. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus said. “Do this and you will live.” 

So what was this expert in the Law referring to? Possibly the commandment from Deuteronomy 6:5? “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” And Leviticus 19:18? “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against any of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” 

Anyone who thinks that the Old Testament is only about strictly obeying the Law and lacks God’s grace, has not studied the Old Testament. It was out of God’s love for His people that He continued to pour out His grace on them—time and time again. The people would rebel against God and serve idols, then they would bring trouble and destruction on themselves. Then they repented and cried out to God, and God saved them—time and time again. And that is exactly how God expects us to love each other. The same way He loves us.

God’s Laws and His Holy festivals that He commands us to obey are not to keep us under His thumb or hold them over our heads. His commandments are for our own safety. When my children were young they obeyed my rules. Not because they thought I would love them more if they obeyed me, or afraid that if they disobeyed I would love them less. But BECAUSE they loved me they obeyed me. And they knew that my rules would keep them safe. We do not obey God’s commandments because we think God will love us more if we obey, or we’re afraid that God will love us less if we don’t. But BECAUSE we love God we obey His commandments. (1 John 5:3)

Now there will always be sin in the world until Jesus returns and rules on the earth. But the problems plaguing our world today would be greatly reduced if only God’s people would repent of their wickedness and turn again to God and obey only Him. It’s all up to us. 

Listen to what God said: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. So choose life, so that you and your descendants may live, and that you may love the LORD your God, obey Him, and hold fast to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land the LORD swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) 

I have noticed that there are many people on Face Book who post memes with Bible verses telling people to, “Like and share if you’re not ashamed of Jesus”. Then on the same page this same person shares some off color joke or obscene post.    

I try not to be judgmental, but it got me wondering, do people who profess to be Christians actually know what that means? Do they even know what they believe? 

If you asked them, “Well, why do you believe that?” Or, “Can you show me that in the word of God?” Some may reply with, “I heard my pastor say that and it seems right to me.” The problem with this answer is that feelings change and as a consequence, a hunch or a feeling, or “My pastor said” or “It seems right to me” will not hold up under cross examination. 

We have all heard the saying, “If you were accused of being a Christian would there be evidence to convict you?” But if a Christian stands to defend his beliefs in an actual court room, their testimony becomes quite critical. Because the court has said that a person cannot hold to their beliefs if they cannot describe them. Their belief cannot be a hunch or a feeling. In a court of law, a defendant must be able to state their beliefs from the Bible orally.

The court does not expect eloquence, but it does expect the defendant to be able to explain his or her beliefs in a simple and concise manner. This becomes important because often we like to hide behind a title. We may claim to be a “Fundamentalist” a “Messianic” or an “Evangelical Christian,” which are descriptive of what group you belong to, but not what you believe personally. In the matter of beliefs, the court realized there must be a test to determine which beliefs are upheld and protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

Below are excerpts from his book, Conviction vs. Preference, by Attorney David C. Gibbs Jr., Christian Law Association, Conneaut, Ohio. These are actual incidents that have occurred during court proceedings. 

In 1972, the court came down with such a test. (Wisconsin v. Jonas Yoder, 406 U.S. 205) Ironically, that test case involved Christian education. An Amish man who lived in the state of Wisconsin by the name of Jonas Yoder told the state that he would no longer send his children to the state school. The state of Wisconsin advised him that he must, to which he replied, “I don’t think you hear me. I am not going to send my children to your school.” Mr. Yoder was threatened with being sued if he refused to comply but still he refused. He was warned that if he was sued and if the state won the case, he could go to jail. His only response was that he would not send his children to the school. Even under the threat of losing his children, he refused to change his mind, explaining that his religious beliefs prohibited him from complying with the demand.

Mr. Yoder did not fare very well in court. He lost the case and was told that now that he had had his day in court, he must comply with the ruling. He still refused, never altering his position and he found out something very interesting. After losing his appeal, his case went to the U. S. Supreme Court, where Mr. Jonas Yoder was told that the First Amendment protected him and he was not required to send his children to the state school. This case laid down the test that was to be used for all subsequent cases to determine which beliefs are to be protected by the First Amendment and which are not.

The first definition the court made was, “Every religious belief is one of two types. It is either a conviction or a preference.”

Most Christians carelessly use the word conviction. In reality, the test of whether or not a matter is a conviction is a very severe one and not to be taken lightly. It will be seen here that most of us possess only preferences. 

WHAT IS A PREFERENCE?

A preference is a belief that is held with such intensity that a person can go into full time service in the name of that belief. He can be a minister of the gospel, a Christian schoolteacher or a missionary. He might even give all of his wealth to it and the court decides he still has only a preference. His belief may energize him to stand on a street corner and witness and proselytize, but it would still only be a preference. If a belief can change under some circumstances, the court calls it a preference. True conviction cannot be changed! When a man knows what he believes is right and allows the pressure of others to cause him to bend, the court calls the belief a preference. 

Lawsuit pressure causes many people to change their beliefs. There have been many men who say, “I am for this, but I am not going to get sued over it because the news media makes us into villains.” If you avoid taking a stand that will cause you to get sued because you do not want to see your church membership drop and that causes you to change your beliefs, then your belief was a preference. 

Jail pressure causes many people to change their beliefs. The incarcerated are isolated from their Christian influence, friends and family. And they are thrown into the middle of often-brutal men who normally relish the thought of breaking a Bible-toter. The court says if you change your beliefs for fear of going to jail, then your beliefs are preferences. 

Death pressure causes most people to change their beliefs. The court will ask if you are prepared to die for your belief. The court says that for a belief to be a conviction it will not change, even in the face of death. Why? Only a belief that is God-ordered is a conviction. Therefore the court must first decide if your belief is a conviction or a preference. Only a conviction is protected by the Constitution. 

WHAT IS A CONVICTION?

A conviction is something that you purpose in your heart, as a fabric of your belief system. It is one that you will not change due to any circumstance—It says, “When you believe that your God has required something of you, you will withstand all of the tests put to you.” It has been said that a man is never made by a crisis. The crisis exposes the man for what he already is. 

A conviction is a personal belief. The court says that if you require others to stand with you to maintain your beliefs, then your beliefs are preferences and not convictions. There have been preachers willing to stand on their belief only if they have the backing of a certain college or group to stand with them. That doesn’t go over in a court, for your belief must be a personal conviction regardless of what anyone else thinks or does. 

A conviction is non-negotiable. The court says if you can discuss the negotiation of your faith, it is a matter of preference. Why? How do you negotiate what is God ordered? Recall what the three Hebrews said because it illustrates the last point the court chose. “King, we believe that our God can deliver us, but even if you throw us into that furnace and God does not deliver us, we are not going to bow” (Daniel 3:16–18). In the case of Jonas Yoder and others the Supreme Court has ruled that the test of conviction is if there is a consistent lifestyle of one’s beliefs. A good part of every court case is about whether what you say with your mouth is consistently being practiced with your life. (End of excerpts)

A conviction can also be misinterpreted and misguided. Many of the suicide bombers had such a strong conviction of their beliefs that they were willing to give their lives for it. And yet, even among terrorists there has been instances of their beliefs being a preference rather than a conviction.

Take for example, Hoda Muthana, a young woman from Hoover, Alabama who traveled to Syria to join ISIS. Five years and three husbands later, she says she regrets what she did and is now begging to return to the US. In a recent handwritten note obtained by CNN from a family representative, she writes, “When I left to go to Syria I was a naive, angry, and arrogant young woman. I thought that I understood my religious beliefs.”  As it turns out those religious convictions were actually her preference at the time. And those preferences changed when pressured by outside influences. 

On the other hand, Christians in Nigeria and other countries have given up their lives rather than deny their Lord and convert to Islam or some other religion not grounded in the Word of God—even when it would be much easier and safer to comply with their torturers. Their beliefs were obviously a conviction.  

So are your beliefs a conviction or a preference? 

When Jonas Yoder went to trial and lost, he still won. When he appealed and lost, he won. And when he went to the Supreme Court and the judges unanimously said he was right, he knew he was right all along. He stood in this country when no one else stood with him. But when all the tests of preference and conviction were applied, he passed.

 Pressure from friends and family members, threat of lawsuits, jail or death will decide if your beliefs are a conviction or a preference. It is a conviction of Christians that pornography should not be viewed, that obscenity should not be spoken, that nudity should not be viewed. It is a conviction that unrighteous themes should not be exalted or promoted. Most would agree that these are the convictions of a Christian because the Bible requires it. Is it a sin to do otherwise? I believe that the answer is a resounding yes.

So how is it that so many who profess to be Bible believing, God loving, Jesus following Christians show no consistent lifestyle? Perhaps it is time to place ourselves on trial to see if we really believe what we say we believe. Are we really living consistently by the things that we say are convictions? It is unlikely that we will ever be put on trial for our beliefs, but whether or not you are ever brought into a courtroom and put on trial by men, you are on trial every day before your God. He demands holy living and consistency of life, not just in words. Anyone can say they believe in certain things, but as a child of God we ought to live a life consistent with what we say we believe. God help us to make it so.

“We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.”  – Senator John McCain (2018)

Wiser words were never spoken in our modern time. And yet, this is exactly what has happened, and continues to happen in our world. The question is, Why? 

The answer lies within the pages of the Bible:

“…because they refused the love of the truth that would have saved them. For this reason, God will send them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie, in order that judgment will come upon all who have disbelieved the truth and delighted in wickedness…” – 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 –

“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion”… In the Last Days many will be deceived by their own sin, and the strong delusion is their punishment. They did not receive the truth or love it, which was their sin; and therefore are given up to believe a lie. Had they received the truth, they might be saved; but not receiving it, they are lost. So that although God is not the author of sin or falsehood, yet he may in justice give them over to their sin, which the apostle calls God’s sending them a strong delusion. It is their punishment; a making of their own, not of God. (See Romans 1: 23-25) 

2 Timothy 3:1-5 warns: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” Sound familiar?

These verses are mainly describing unbelievers in the last days before Jesus returns, but sadly, today they could also apply to those who claim to be Bible believing followers of Jesus. More and more of these so-called believers are demeaning others on Face Book and other social media who happen to disagree with them—Even promoting violence on those who happen to have different views. So many are complaining and arguing over political views—some even coming to blows simply because of their political affiliation.

The Bible teaches us that we will reap whatever we sow. (Galatians 6:7-8; Proverbs 22:8; Jeremiah 17:10)  We’ve replaced the Bible and prayer in our public schools with metal detectors and police security. Those who were designed and appointed to help us and be examples for us—from our teachers and coaches, to our legislators, to the local priest and pastor, on up to the President, have fallen and have led us to the brink of destruction. And no one seems to realize that God may have placed those very people in their positions in order to lead His people to repent of their wickedness and turn once again to Him. (See Psalm 75;4-8; Daniel 2:21)

When people in positions of authority do something stupid and unethical, all of us who are under their authority suffer. But God’s plan cannot be stopped or even slowed by the feeble efforts of wicked men.

Throughout history God has always used wicked leaders to bring repentance unto righteousness in His people. The prophet Habakkuk wrote during the troubled times before Judah’s captivity. During this period, foreign powers invaded Israel again and again, and inside the nation known as God’s people, evil and immorality raged. (Habakkuk 1:5-11) The prophet Jeremiah, a contemporary of Habakkuk, also warned of God’s coming judgment. Many Israelites were confused. Why would a holy God allow such evil to continue? Are we not God’s chosen people?

Is not that the same thing that many Christians today would say? Our nation has been blessed because our country’s beginnings were based on Biblical principals. But because we are so blessed, we have become complacent. Like Israel of old, we fail to seek God; to defend His Word, and to declare His Gospel, because our lives are so comfortable. Rather than making disciples of all nations, we gradually have become just like the world. So God will use our suffering under wicked leadership to try to wake us from our slumber and lead us to repentance. 

We just celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who stood up for the poor and the downtrodden of his day. He believed with all his heart that no matter what the color of our skin or the place of our birth, we are all created equal by God. Sadly, Dr. King would cringe if he could see what’s happening in America today and what has happened to his dream.

It has passed the time for Christians to stop blindly following the ways of the world like a bunch of unthinking zombies and return to the ways of God!

 

Behold the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear, but your sins have separated you from your God and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59: 1-2)

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn away from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and forgive their sins and heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7: 13,14)

 

Most of us would like to think that people are basically good and that our country will eventually become good and fair for most of us.

I know that the sovereign Creator of the universe will eventually bring his divine plan to fruition. And victory will belong to the faithful because the Lamb of God has overcome by virtue of his death and resurrection (Revelation 5:6; 12:11). And all who stand in opposition to the King of Kings will be vanquished. 

But history has proven to us that sometimes a country has to “hit bottom” before drastic changes are made. I know this: if righteousness exalts a nation (Proverbs 14:34), then unrestrained sin will also destroy it. I also know that God has a moral standard by which He judges nations, and when they reach a certain depth of depravity, He will bring them down (Genesis 15:16; 18:22). 

God gave Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, forty days to get their act together (Jonah 3:4). When they repented, God relented. Assyria then continued for another century and a half. However, the Assyrians degenerated again, and the prophet Nahum was sent to proclaim their destruction (Nahum 1:9). Nineveh fell completely in 612 B.C.

What makes Americans believe that we live in an eternal empire, when in reality this country is on a collision course with oblivion when Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Rome—none of these superpowers, lasted more than a few centuries? Decadence consumed all of them. And there are clear signals that the same weaknesses are eating away at America as well.

Anyone who reads a local newspaper or watches the evening news will have to admit to the fact that our country is in deep trouble—School shootings, Sexual assaults on children and other cases of child neglect and abuse have become all too common. And our legislators have done nothing to make any real changes. 1 in 5 children will be sexually abused before they reach 18. (Many in their own homes) And even when the perpetrators are convicted, most judges on sentence them to probation!

We’ve replaced the Bible and prayer in our public schools with metal detectors and police security. We’ve given up the security of family values and replaced them with immoral ideas and attitudes. Sanctity of life is no longer fought for, and more often is legislated against. As a result, our children have become uncontrollable beasts who murder without conscience. And those who were designed to be examples for our children—from parents, teachers and coaches, to the local pastor, to our legislators, on up to the President, have fallen and have led us to the brink of destruction. 

Just as Israel of old, we too, have forgotten God and replaced Him with our own golden calf. We have bowed down to the idols of humanism, secularism, and government control, and we have reaped the rewards of our actions.

I have heard many complain about how corrupt our government is. And they usually blame the current administration for the country’s ills. But God tells us that it is His own people who are to blame: “For exaltation comes not from east or west or out of the desert, but it is God who judges; He brings one down and exalts another.” (Psalm 75:6-7) 

If God is the one who “brings one down and exalts another” then the current administration was placed there by God himself. But why? Why would God place a wicked leader in such a prominent place? So that His people would repent and turn back to Him! (See Habakkuk, Jeremiah and Isaiah) We are like Nineveh. Except God is still waiting for us to repent.

America was once a great nation because it was founded on absolute principles based on God’s Word, the Bible. For years God has been trying to get our attention, calling us to arise from our slumber! To return to him and repent of our wicked ways so that He can heal our land. (II Chronicles 7:14) But we have ignored Him. 

In recent years we had George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barrack Obama as presidents. Each one’s administration and its policies became progressively worse than the last. Yet we refused to repent and turn to God. And now we have Donald Trump who has continually lied to the public, encouraged actions of white supremacists, violated human rights, and has a history of sexual harassments and assaults. And STILL we refuse to repent!

As believers in God and his son, Jesus the Messiah, it is the responsibility of us who have been justified by his death and resurrection to seek God’s face, repent of our apathy and wickedness and pray earnestly for revival! Revival in our own heart first—as well as for our community and our nation.

We have to understand that repentance isn’t just walking in front of the church and parroting a “sinner’s prayer” and then believe that you’re okay as you walk right back into worldly pleasures. Repentance means more than just being sorry. Someone once said that the road to destruction will be paved with the souls of the sorrowful. I’m sure that all of the fallen angels who rebelled against God are sorry now that they followed Satan in his failed revolt against God.

In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

You also have to acknowledge that in your flesh, (that is, in your own strength) this is impossible to accomplish. The foundation of all sin and all the problems that have plagued societies and civilizations since the fall of man is ‘Self’. Everything from lust, to murder, to war, are all sins derived from ‘Self’. Wars are being waged simply because someone has something that the other wants and cannot have. Neither side will compromise, so they go to war. (James 4:1-4)

But how can we know what God’s will is for us? How can we know that what we’re doing is sin that needs to be repented of? 

By studying the Bible (Basic Instructions Before leaving Earth). You see God did not leave us alone without leaving us an instruction manual. By studying the Bible we will understand God’s heart and what He expects from us and how very much he loves us and wants to bless us. And I’m not talking about being spoon-fed a pastor’s version of Scripture, but to really study it for yourselves, allowing God’s spirit to teach you.

But you must also be aware that once you surrender to God’s will and decide to obey Him, the world will come against you—and sometimes the strongest opposition will be among your closest friends and loved ones. (1 Peter 4: 12-16; Romans 5:2-5; Matthew 5:10-12)

I don’t think our nation (or the world) has ever been in a greater sense of turmoil than it is at this moment. All the blasphemy, all the unbelief, all the dirty stories, all the lying, all the deception, all the sexual perversion and all the drunkenness…And that is happening among people who claim to belong to God! This tremendous iniquity continues to rise up in the sight of God. The shadow of darkness and death is over this generation like nothing we’ve ever had before. And yet, the greatest tragedy of all is this: A silent Church in a dying world. We have neither the vision nor the passion, nor at this moment, the intention of setting our house in order “to break up our fallow ground” and to prepare the way of the Lord. (Hosea 10:12)

“…I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. So choose life, so that you and your descendants may live, and that you may love the LORD your God, obey Him, and hold fast to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land the LORD swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30: 19-20) 

Some will read that Scripture and interpret it as God saying, “CHOOSE LIFE! OR I WILL DESTROY YOU!” But it’s more like a compassionate father gently saying, “I love you. Please…choose life.”

There is  a storm coming. And not many are prepared. Not a physical storm like what we’ve seen lately with rain and hail and tornados and floods; but a spiritual storm. One that will be more devastating than any tornado or flood.

The people of Judah had rebelled against the principles upon which their nation had been founded on. Judah had turned its back upon God and rejected any attempt by those sent to call her back. As promised, God withdrew His protection from her. He had warned that if His people became faithless that He would employ a pagan power to conquer them and lead them back into captivity. He had led them from Egyptian bondage 800 years before, and now, because of their infidelity, He would allow them to return to bondage—this time in Babylon.

They had refused to believe it could ever happen to them. They found their own false prophets to tell them that everything was fine. They ridiculed Jeremiah and others who warned of the devastation to come. The Lord spoke through Jeremiah and put it this way; “Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north…and I will send Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon…against this land and against its inhabitants…and this whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” (Jeremiah 25:9-11)

But the false prophets told them that God would never allow this to happen because they were God’s chosen people. They were insisting that God loved them and that He only wanted to bless them. But it wasn’t true!

Today we have the modern counterparts of these false prophets. Some promise that God will bless you if you send them money. Some say that God will not bring judgment against Christians because they are God’s chosen people. They say that God loves them and that He only wants to bless them. They claim that the world’s problems are a direct result of sinfulness in the “world”—But if we elect someone with “Christian values”,  America will be great again.

They have forgotten that God is the one who exalts leaders into office: (Psalm 75:7; Daniel 2:21) So what if, because we have turned our back on God and instead placed our trust in man and rejected any attempt by those He sent to call us back, God also removes His protection from us?

There are many today who cry out, “God bless America!” But how can God bless America when we allow children to be beaten, raped and killed? How can God bless America when we refuse to allow our children to pray and criminalize those who do? How can God bless America when we ignore the suffering of the poor and destitute while we indulge ourselves on the luxuries we have accumulated for ourselves.

William Booth embarked upon his ministerial career in 1852, desiring to win the lost multitudes of England to Christ. He walked the streets of London to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the destitute. Booth abandoned the conventional concept of a church and a pulpit, instead taking his message to the people.

He once related a vision he had concerning the lost. He saw a dark and stormy ocean. In that ocean he saw myriads of poor human beings plunging and floating, shouting and shrieking, cursing and struggling and drowning. But what puzzled him most was the fact that although all of them had been rescued at one time or another from the ocean, nearly everyone no longer seemed troubled by those who were downing—nor did they even seem to care about the poor perishing ones who were struggling and drowning right before their very eyes—many of whom were their own husbands and wives, brothers and sisters and even their own children!

The primary aim of the Salvation Army was not to provide charity, but to win souls from the devil. Booth stated that “what was important was not whether a man died in the poorhouse but if his soul was saved.” (‘The Salvationist in a Secular Society’— p29)

And yet today the Salvation Army is a human organization more interested in the needs of the flesh, rather than the needs of the soul. Is it possible that God had given William Booth a vision of the “future” Salvation Army and Christianity as a whole?

The Church today reminds me of a poem I read years ago written by Howard Clinebell:

The Little Lifesaving Station

On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occurred, there was once a crude lifesaving station. The building wasn’t much more than a small hut, and there was only one boat. But the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought of themselves, went out night and day tirelessly searching for the lost.

Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station. So much so that it became famous for its rescue efforts. Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money for the support of its work. New boats were purchased and donated to the station and crews were trained to improve the rescue operations of the station.

As the little lifesaving station grew some of the members were unhappy that the building itself was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided for those who were rescued from the sea. So the members raised funds for the station and replaced the emergency cots with beds and placed better furniture in an enlarged building.

Soon the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members. They decorated it beautifully and furnished it so exquisitely that it became sort of a club. The lifesaving station’s logo still prevailed on the wall above the fireplace and its name was still used to raise funds,  but  fewer members were now interested in going out to sea on lifesaving missions. They even hired lifeboat crews to do the work that they used to do themselves.

About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, and half drowned people. These people were dirty and sick. And some of them were foreigners who couldn’t speak English. The beautiful club was thrown into chaos. The property committee immediately had a shower built outside the club building with an attached closet filled with clean clothes so that the victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up and dressed properly before coming inside.

At the next club meeting there was a split in the membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities because it was unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social structure of the club. Some members insisted that the lifesaving operations were the primary reason for them being there and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station. The latter were finally voted down and were told that if they wanted to save the lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters they could start their own lifesaving station further down the coast. That’s exactly what they did.

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old one. It evolved into a club and later another lifesaving station was founded.

History continues to repeat itself and if you visit that seacoast today you will find a number of exclusive clubs along its shores.  Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but sadly, most of the people there drown.

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth…But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:1-7, 14-15)