Thursday, May 13, 2021

A Message for the End Times Remnant: The Last Great Awakening

Return of Jesus, cc 2.0

Welcome to the wilderness. Temptations on one side, false teachers on the other. The true message is Jesus Christ as revealed in the gospels, repent and believe! Join our ranks, the ranks of the holy remnant in a post-Christian world.

The United States, Europe, the western world has slipped into moral chaos: Relativism, atheism, post-modernism, the sexual revolution, and today, the curtailing of free speech. The two towers of propaganda and censorship rise above the cities of the Earth. Christianity is under assault. Yet the message continues to go out everyday. Keep spreading it far and wide!

All must repent and believe in Jesus Christ before it's too late! The return of Christ is so near! Heaven and hell stand before us in the valley of decision! Who will answer? Who will decide?

This may not be the message you wanted. But it is the truth. This is your message, the vital message, and if you won't carry it, who will?

We will carry it. We the few, the remnant, the believing church of Philadelphia in the time of the lukewarm church of Laodicea. We must repent of double-mindedness now, so when the last great awakening comes, we are able to take the message to all for the billion soul harvest! Will you be ready? Are you becoming rapidly who you were always meant to be?

This is what we must be: The Holy church in the wilderness. The undefiled remnant. We're the new counter-culture revolutionaries. We're the ones willing to live the true Christian message. And we're going to live it boldly.

Just like John the Baptist in the wilderness making the way for the coming messiah...

Just like the Acts church missionaries blazing inroads and trails into the depths of the ancient Roman empire.

Just like the Apostle Paul who endured whips, floggings, shipwrecks, and constantly threats for the name of Christ.

Just like the disciples of Jesus who each gave their life for the savior, and John who saw the end in the Revelation of Christ.

Today our world is a wilderness of sin, and we're on the outskirts, fighting for the true message, teaching the radical gospel by the words of the Bible.

On one side stands the sinful society who casts the God of the Bible aside, and on the other side the self righteous lukewarm sin-filled churches of the world. We are the remnant gathered in the wilderness to call out the true message, the vital cross of Jesus Christ received by grace through faith, and lived out through tireless love, holiness, discipleship, and evangelism.

Escape the matrix of this world! Join the resistance!

If you're reading this message: You are the resistance.

You are the evangelist, the prophet, the teacher; you are the messenger! No one else will do it for you Christian. You must be the soldier of Christ, wherever and whenever you go. Time is running short. Christ's return is imminent. The souls of countless billions hang in the balances. You can do this. You will do this. For all things can be done in the power of Christ for his glory. Believe it can be done. Believe it will be done. Believe it is already accomplished. Pray hard, work hard, and remember: What you do today, will echo forever in eternity.

The Planet Earth cc 2.0 via Flickr

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Night Train

I was walking one night, down a dark dark road. 

Imagining what my life might be like if I lived in a dream,

I came upon a crossroads, stopped in my tracks,

Down the road more murky I traveled

But soon the path had grown tiresome to me,

So I disappeared down on a misty ravine

Through the night, rushing water,

Humming in the brush,

Something beckons me forward,

A glowing mist caught my eye,

Came into the clearing, transfixed,

Can this be real? My mind accepted it,

A train stood tall and mighty, 

It called me onto it,

Lured me with it's mystery,

So I climbed aboard, and the train took off,

I climbed to the  top, and sat upon the roof

The winds whipped through my hair,

Where are you taking me, I wondered

A place far away

Anywhere but here,

Was the train in my mind

Was the train an illusion?

It was a steady thing,

Breaking through the twilight

I delight in it,

It played music for me,

Some sort of mystery,

It explained itself to me,

Little by little revealing,

Stars over my head,

Moon lush and stolen glory,

Wonder takes me away,

I'm captured, stolen from the past days,

Where are you taking me?

The beauty, the intrigue,

These are things I'd never seen,

This urge controls me,

I never want to leave,

The night ride, a window,

To a sublime new reality,

Night train, never take me home,

You've stolen me away,

From all I thought I knew,

You reveal something new,

A reality I never had perceived,

I'm addicted to your railways,

I'm hooked to your wandering paths,

Never let me go,

Take me where you would will me to go,

So you bring me at dawn,

To a lush valley,

Light trickles in from the sky,

Dare you show me the mysterious,

You welcome me into a mysterious valley,

I climb down, depart the train,

Break through the foliage,

The valley beckons me,

The valley is bright, the night breaks

It threatens to awake me,

But I'm still dreaming,

A corridor appears, a hallway into the mountain side

Down, down, down through the rocks

They cut me, tear at me,

Will I ever make it back?

Something here wants to destroy me,

Will I survive this path?

Yet a presence beckons me,

Calls me home deeper, deeper still

Into the depths below, downward, downward,

Into the watery depths below,

The rocky cavern breaks,

To a wide opening,

A giant room opens before me,

What is this place? 

Something has brought me here,

An image appears on the cavern walls

It lights up for me to see,

I am devoured by the image,

Of a shining glorious mystery,

It has come into me,

It has taken over me,

The mystery has discovered me,

The train serves the master,

The conductor of the train, appears before me,

And I am awe-struck,

The terror fills me,

The horror overwhelms me,

The realization cripples me,

I am broken, crushed, devastated,

But at the moment of complete collapse,

I realize, a candle has been lit in me,

It shines within me, 

The conductor points down ahead,

Toward an opening in the rock face,

The cleft is dark, and cold,

I can't see my way,

Still the conductor beckons me,

'Go between the rocks, go all the way'

So I follow the light, 

It's lit within me,

It burns ever so softly,

I began my blind journey,

Clinging to the walls,

Climbing my way out anxiously,

The rocks break

The sunlit valley before me,

I'm not who I used to be,

The day before me awakens,

Disappointed at first,

But fire within keeps burning,

So my journey begins,

An exile in a lost land,

The train and the conductor,

Have changed everything,

The journey begins today,

A new wondrous adventure,

In the depths of the valleys. 

Monday, May 10, 2021

How Do I Become a Christian?

Used under CC 3.0 license. Star Forming in region S106, from the Hubble Telescope. Attribution: NASA & ESA

So you've looked at the arguments for God, the Bible, and Jesus. You've decided there is enough evidence to take a reasonable leap of faith. Or you just know in your heart there is a God, something bigger than you. What's next?

What does it mean to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ? Can one simply say a prayer, and be saved? It's hard to say. I'm sure for some, that is their experience with stepping into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

For me, it happened in a series of spiritual awakenings. Over a period of time, years actually, I slowly came to realization after realization about the world around me. I pursued that journey. I thought and studied, and learned, and talked about it with people. I journaled about the things I was learning.

I really began at a place of little concern for spiritual matters. Eventually I had an awakening in 2011, that God does exist. From there I adopted a sort of pantheistic view. I had opened myself up to all religious views. In 2012 I called out in particular to Jesus Christ, and the reality came to me that Christ was the exclusive way to God. From there it's like my worldview began an extended, slow and steady transformation from materialistic/spiritual views, to theologically deep and philosophically coherent views about the world around me. My depth of gratitude toward Christ went from little, to deeper and deeper.

The journey goes from far before meeting Christ, to long after, in my experience. In any case, I will try to explain the basics, and describe a possible prayer that might be a helpful starting point. But as a reminder, simply be open to pursuing the journey, and pursuing the knowledge of the Holy, and be open to having a series of awakenings regarding Christ and the truth of the Bible. Engage in the journey and relationship.

Christianity is about a personal relationship with God. It's about a reconciliation between one person, you, and God, through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It's like a romance, or a close friendship, or a father-son/father-daughter relationship. It's not about ritual or superstition. It's about turning from sin, and the lies we've believed about reality, and turning to Jesus Christ in faith.

Repentance is key to salvation in Jesus Christ. The word of God the Bible says to "Repent and believe the good news!" -Mark 1:15. What does it mean to repent? The concept of repenting is that we turn away from sin and turn to Jesus. To repent, means to "put to death" the works of our fleshly desires. A few of the sins that I had to put aside included: Drugs (I was a drug addict), alcohol (I drank constantly), cigarettes (destructive to the body), masturbation, having sex outside of marriage, pornography, lying, stealing (even pirated movies and music), sexual fantasizing, movies/tv series full of gore and sex, and many other sinful practices. Trust in the Holy Spirit, who will lead you to areas in your life that need to change. Be focused and concentrate on this process of repentance, because Christ expects us to be holy as He is holy.

Christianity is also about serving God. We renounce our plans for life and we embrace what God's will is for our lives. Like for me, I wanted to be a journalist or a novelist. But when I became a Christian, I realized through prayer, fasting, and Bible reading that God was calling me to be a minister. He doesn't call everyone to be ministers, often he calls us to a certain job or vocation. Once again, the Holy Spirit will lead you if you're yielded to His influence.

The three most important parts of our relationship with God are prayer, fellowship, and Bible reading. As a Christian I try to pray twice a day. Sometimes I'll say the "Our Father" but most often I'll just get on my knees and talk to God. It's about communication and love. And remember, if we love someone we'll spend real time with them. Not just ten or twenty minutes a day. But real time. So in your prayer life, don't just spent a few minutes praying, build it more and more until you're praying for an hour or hours a day. Prayer is how we talk to God, but how does God talk back? That's where Bible reading comes in. As I read the various books of the Bible, God will communicate through them to me. Isn't that cool? Of course being a Christian is not simply communicating with God, it's also fellowship and brotherhood between fellow believers.

Joining a church is an absolute necessity. We can't do it alone. We will die with nothing if we try to do it alone. A gazelle wandering away from the herd will be picked off and eaten by lions. There are no solo Christians. We must join a weekly fellowship and a must is also a weekly Bible study/small group. I repeat, this is not optional!
I would encourage you to find a Bible, a good understandable translation like the New International Version, the English Standard Version, New Living Translation, or even something very contemporary like The Message Translation. Read through the Gospel of John. That is my favorite Gospel. Luke, Mark, and Matthew are great too though! The Psalms are great to read through, they are poetry about out wonderful God. If you have trouble understanding exactly what's being talked about, consider purchasing a quality Study Bible. A Study Bible will include commentary and notes on the scriptures in front of you, to provide for better understanding of the Bible.

If you prefer to read on the computer, check out Bible Gateway. You can go through the Bible in any translation you like. There are even Bible commentaries, studies, and Audio Bibles. Bible hub is a good study website as well. For topical listings of Bible verses check out Open Bible. There are Bible apps as well, like YouVersion for all phones. Check out the Bible Project on YouTube, it's a great way to learn the big story of scripture.

Once you've read through the Bible, ask yourself, do I understand that I need a Savior to remove my sins? Do I realize I've fallen short of the perfect requirement of God, just like the rest of humanity? Do I understand that God is sovereign over my life, and I want him to be my personal God?

Then it's time to cry out to Jesus Christ. Call out to the name of Jesus Christ, with belief in your heart that Jesus can help you. Cry out with all your might. Scream out to Jesus for hope, for forgiveness, for freedom, and for salvation. I remember when I cried out to Jesus. I cried out in horror and misery, and it was like that cry echoed up into the heavens above, level by level reaching the very throne of God, and on that day the way was opened to salvation. Praise the Lord!

I could recommend many books for understanding the basics of Christian faith. The Pilgrim's Progress is a vital read for any Christian, available free online (updated language) PDF. Also available on Librivox as an audiobook. Peace with God by Billy Graham is excellent. Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray is available free in audio book format online at Librivox. "Know What You Believe" and "Know Why You Believe" by Paul Little are both very good books to read. They are fun reads too, which is nice. Additionally, "Knowing God" by J.I. Packer and "The Cross of Jesus Christ" by John R.W. Stott is amazing as well.

If you've come to understand your need for Jesus Christ, go on your knees before God, and say a prayer similar to this:

Father God of the Bible, I realize now that you're real, your Bible is real, and your son Jesus Christ is real. I admit to you Father that I've sinned against you, I confess my sins to you now (confess them one by one). I repent of my sins, please Lord set me free from every sin. And I admit that I need a Savior. You have provided that Savior. I accept him Father, today I accept your son Jesus Christ, and his work on the cross as the necessary payment for all my sins, past, present, and future. I recognize that Jesus resurrected from the dead to give me eternal life. Please Father, cloth me in His righteousness. Father God I acknowledge you as the sovereign Lord of my life, please grant me your Holy Spirit to guide me in my new life as a Christian. Thank you so much Father, it's in Jesus Christ name I pray this prayer, Amen.

Then pursue that new life. Find a good Bible believing church in your area. Join a weekly Bible study. Read books on the Christian life. Pray and pray a lot (15 minutes to 2 hours a day.) Get involved in discipleship (training Christians in deeper practices) and evangelism (telling non-believers about Jesus) as well.

Remember that as Christians we are all waiting for a culminating event at the end of the age: The return of Jesus Christ. Jesus will return, and we should be expectantly waiting for Him. Everyone will either go to heaven because they faithfully followed Jesus, or they will go to hell, if they rejected Christ, or failed to live a pure Christian life.

Learn and grow as a Christian. Establish a network of relationships with Christians in your area. And live it my friend, live it.

It will do us no good at all my friends, if we live as a Christian for many years, but then fall way later. We will be worse off than if we'd never known Jesus at all. Do not fall away! Stay strong and continue with Jesus Christ to the very end. Run your race well! Finish the journey strong, and live forever with your family of believers in the next phase of existence, after this life comes to an end. May God bless you and keep you until then!

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Great Mother's from the Bible and Christian History

Moms are the best aren’t they? I have a great mom, she's awesome. She read books with me every night before bed when I was a kid. By 6th grade I had read about 10,000 books. We would often read the same books over and over, and I began to learn the styles and patterns for writing, and later on I would become a writer and blogger. Pretty cool.

So today I’d like to draw your attention to some awesome mother’s from the Bible and Christian history. Think of first of all Mary the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist.

Mary and Elizabeth don’t know it at that time, but God is literally going to change the world through the two children growing in their bellies. Isn’t that an amazing honor that women have, to raise up such great people of faith?

I think of Susanna Wesley the mother of Methodism. She trained up John and Charles, just as a mother, but she was utterly dedicated to her calling to be a great mother. She meticulously raised John and Charles to be men of God. And through her ministry to them, and their ministry to the world, millions of souls came into contact with Jesus Christ.

In the same way Elizabeth would give birth to John the Baptist. Does anyone here think John the Baptist is awesome? Very early on in my Christian life I thought John the Baptist was really, really cool. He lives in the wilderness, he’s an outcast, eating wild honey, crazy hair, eating bugs, preaching the word, rallying the people, the grassroots, to be prepared to welcome and embrace the coming of Jesus. And then we have Jesus, God come to Earth. He’s the savior, the king, our God, the maker of the universe, and the designer of the human soul. He’s goodness, love, holiness, purity, tenderness, friendship, and mystery before our very eyes. And it all started with Mary, and Elizabeth. Two mothers.

When I think of a great mother I also think of Abraham’s wife Sarah from the old testament. She had to wait a long time before she was able to conceive a child. In fact Sarah was considered barren. Yet she always longed to have a baby. And eventually God fulfilled her dream. And her son Isaac would be a great hero of the Bible.

I think of Naomi from the Bible. Her husband died and she was alone. Then her sons died as well. But her son’s wife Ruth stayed with Naomi. And Naomi guided Ruth as if Ruth were her own daughter. Maybe your own mother wasn’t much of a blessing. Maybe she wasn’t really there for you. But maybe you had another motherly figure in your life, someone who wasn’t your mom, but was more of a mother to you than anyone else in your life. That’s who Naomi was. She was a mother to Ruth, guiding her to make right choices and do God’s will. Here’s a word for you, if you didn’t have a great mother, maybe you can be a great mother to your own children, or be a great mother to someone who else who you care about? Pray about it.

Another motherly hero from the Bible was Samson's mother. We don’t even know her name from the Bible. But she honored God so well, by raising up Samson in the Lord. And even when Samson went astray and made bad choices, she continued to pray for him and hope for him and try to guide him to do the right things. Samson sinned greatly, but in the end he turned back to the Lord and the Lord granted him a great victory before he died.

Many, many of us here are only still breathing because we had a praying mother or a praying grandmother. Otherwise we’d be long dead. Mother, if you have a wayward son or daughter, whose causing trouble, keep praying and keep being that voice of loving accountability in their life! Never give up! Samson’s mom never did, and Samson won the day.

I think of another mother from Christian history, the famous Mother Teresa. This woman was a mother to so many who needed her. She served lost and homeless children on the streets of Calcutta, India. She was a mother to the world. Many mothers out there may not even have children, but they are mothering a whole bunch of people, friends, family members, neighbors and coworkers. It’s a great thing. Maybe God is calling you today to be a mother to a whole community of people. Maybe God is calling you to adopt children and change their stories forever. Pray about it.

I also think of Abigail Adams, a great mother from history. She was wife to the 2nd president of the united states John Adams. While John was often away on business, serving in the political sphere Abigail single-handedly raised their children, was in charge of the farm, and loved her husband dearly as well. In fact one of Abigail’s children John Quincy Adams wrote: "My mother was an angel upon earth. She was a minister of blessing to all human beings within her sphere of action. Her heart was the abode of heavenly purity… She was the real personification of female virtue, of piety, of charity, of ever active and never intermitting benevolence."

Being a mom is hard. It isn’t easy. It’s hard work. But women who raise their children up right, in the Lord, teaching them the Bible, end up being blessed, because their children will often go on to do great things for the Lord.

Our culture often diminishes motherhood as something that’s not of much value. Nothing could be further from the truth. Children need great mothers and fathers to prosper. Motherhood is huge for children and our society. If you can be a great mother out their leading your children to worship Jesus, you can change the world. That’s what it’s all about when we consider loving people as Christ loves us.

In conclusion, happy mothers day to all the moms out there, even if you aren’t a biological mother, maybe you’re a mother in a different way, to people you know and friends. Reflect on the great mothers of the Bible and Christian history. Be a heroic mother who raises up her children in the Lord. Raising your children in the Lord may be the single great accomplishment of your life, that in the future means millions will come to know Christ because of them. Amen.

The Kingdom Divided: Israel Splits between Rehoboam & Jeroboam

During the civil war in the United States 620,000 people died, because a kingdom had been divided. The nation divided politically, over the issue of slavery, and the northern states fought a long bloody war to end slavery forever in the USA. In the end they were victorious, but the cost was more than half a million lives.

Americans can be pretty stubborn right? Even today we see our nation just as divided, if not more divided ideologically than even during the civil war. Jesus said a house divided against itself cannot stand. And we’ll see today, that the splitting of the kingdom of Israel, between Judah and the northern kingdom would be a crippling blow to the nation.

Last week we explored the life of King Solomon, the wisest king who ever lived. But despite all his wisdom, in the end he turned away from the Lord and his many wives led him to worship false gods. In any case, one of Solomon’s sons was named Rehoboam. And he would be the next king after Solomon died.

But we also see this other person, his name is Jeroboam (no relation to Solomon) and he also seeks the throne. In fact God has told Jeroboam that he will be enthroned over 10 tribes of Israel.  He tries during Solomon’s life to claim it from him, but instead has to flee to Egypt. Then after Solomon’s death, we see Jeroboam once again attempting to claim the throne.

Ok, so remember, Rehoboam, with an R, is Solomon’s son and King. Jeroboam, with a J, is this new king who God says will sit on the throne. Alright? Awesome. You can turn in your Bibles to 1st King chapter 12. And it says this:

“Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone there to make him king. 2 When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt. 3 So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: 4 “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”

5 Rehoboam answered, “Go away for three days and then come back to me.” So the people went away.

6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.

7 They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.”

8 But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. 9 He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?”

10 The young men who had grown up with him replied, “These people have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter.’ Now tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. 11 My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’”

So we see Jeroboam return from Egypt, and basically stirring up trouble against Rehoboam. He gathers a bunch of people with him and goes to Rehoboam and tells him to be kind to them and treat them well.

Rehoboam asks them to wait three days. He consults two groups of people for advice, the elders, and his buddies from growing up. And he decides to go with the advice of his young friends.

So Rehoboam goes before the people and tells them he will not be lightening any loads for them. In fact he’s going to be even more severe than his father Solomon.

And we’re all doing a face plant right here. All Rehoboam had to do was say alright, I won’t be quite as hard on you as Solomon was. I won’t work you quite as hard. And everything would’ve been OK. But instead Rehoboam allows pride to get in the way, takes some bad advice, and ends up making people even more upset.

This is a good life lesson for us today: There will be critical moments where we can either make things worse, or diffuse the situation. We’ll want to respond with anger and pride, but instead if we take the humble road, and respond kindly, we’ll diffuse a dangerous situation.

Has anyone here been in an argument with someone, and one of you said something, or gave some ground, that allowed the argument to diffuse, and fade away? That’s always a nice moment in a fight, when we come to some sort of resolution. We allow the anger to pass and then healing can start.

And have you ever been in that moment, of a fight, and one of you said the exact wrong thing, and it made the argument ten times worse? And maybe it even led to a total break of a friendship or relationship.

We’ll see that Rehoboam’s harsh reply causes massive consequences for Israel.

It says again in 1st King 12:18-24: “18 King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, but all Israel stoned him to death. King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

20 When all the Israelites heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David.”

So Rehoboam rides out to put everyone to work and they rebel instead. The nation splits! The northern tribes gather under Jeroboam and make him King. And the tribe of Judah rallies around Rehoboam, and he is king over Judah. Rehoboam’s response is to plan to go to war.

It continues, “21 When Rehoboam arrived in Jerusalem, he mustered all Judah and the tribe of Benjamin—a hundred and eighty thousand able young men—to go to war against Israel and to regain the kingdom for Rehoboam son of Solomon.

22 But this word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God: 23 “Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah, to all Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, 24 ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not go up to fight against your brothers, the Israelites. Go home, every one of you, for this is my doing.’” So they obeyed the word of the Lord and went home again, as the Lord had ordered.”

Rehoboam is ready to reunite the kingdom. But Shemaiah, prophet of God, hears from the Lord and relays a message to the king, to not do that. Remember how during this period of Israel’s history we’ll always see a king who rules, and a prophet who speaks God’s instructions to the kings.

God says, don’t go to war, I’m the one who allowed this to happen. But why did God bring this about? I assume, because of the failures of King David, and the failures of Solomon, and the rebelliousness of the people. So be it, you’re going to be divided then. That’s just my opinion, but it seems right.

So first we see in 1st Kings, the history of Jeroboam’s life explored. The kingdom has divided into Judah, and Samaria. As life continues after the split, Jeroboam sees that as the various Jewish festivals occur, his people in Samaria will have to start going to Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem to do that. So he worries that when his people in Samaria go to Jerusalem to celebrate the festivals, that he will lose control over the people in Samaria.

It says in 1st Kings 12:26-30 “ Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. 27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.”

28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 29 One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other.”

Nightmare! Not good! So Jeroboam doesn’t want his people going to Jerusalem. So he sets up two golden calves for the people to worship God before the golden calves. Bad idea. Doesn’t this guy know history? During the exodus under Moses, the people rebelled and worshipped a golden calf. 

Always remember those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. Study history my friends. It’s important. So Samaria is in big trouble now they are worshipping calves and it’s bad.

There’s wisdom for us today here. Know history. Understand who God is. Understand what the Bible teaches us about the world around us. Many Christians I know in the world today are totally deceived by the ideals of the world. I will talk to them, and they parrot the ideologies of the world, word for word, spoon fed to them by the news media and our culture. And you see them lining up on the side of Satan, and supporting evil ideologies and political viewpoints. And it’s very sad. They’ve been deceived, and they are actually supporting evil, thinking that they being a good Christian by supporting those things. Turn off the television, don’t trust the news media, do your own research. Most importantly pray for discernment, and know your Bible in and out. All of it.

So God sees that Jeroboam is doing bad stuff. So he sends a man of God, to speak to Jeroboam. It says in 1st Kings 13:1-6 “By the word of the Lord a man of God came from Judah to Bethel, as Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make an offering. 2 By the word of the Lord he cried out against the altar: “Altar, altar! This is what the Lord says: ‘A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests of the high places who make offerings here, and human bones will be burned on you.’” 3 That same day the man of God gave a sign: “This is the sign the Lord has declared: The altar will be split apart and the ashes on it will be poured out.”

4 When King Jeroboam heard what the man of God cried out against the altar at Bethel, he stretched out his hand from the altar and said, “Seize him!” But the hand he stretched out toward the man shriveled up, so that he could not pull it back. 5 Also, the altar was split apart and its ashes poured out according to the sign given by the man of God by the word of the Lord.

6 Then the king said to the man of God, “Intercede with the Lord your God and pray for me that my hand may be restored.” So the man of God interceded with the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored and became as it was before.”

God will always warn us when we’re headed the wrong direction. He’ll send a friend to us. Or he’ll speak to us through the Bible, or through prayer, and he’ll warn us. Watch for that, as you make decisions. And obey the Lord. We see that at first, Jeroboam listens to the man of God, and repents. But it doesn’t last long.

It says in 1st King 13:33-34 33 “Even after this, Jeroboam did not change his evil ways, but once more appointed priests for the high places from all sorts of people. Anyone who wanted to become a priest he consecrated for the high places. 34 This was the sin of the house of Jeroboam that led to its downfall and to its destruction from the face of the earth.”

So Jeroboam really does poorly and so his leadership as king of Samaria is a disaster. Turn in your Bibles to 1st King chapters 14, and go down to verse 21. Here we see the author turning to Rehoboam’s leadership. It says he became king at the age of 41, and ruled for 17 years. And he does just as bad as Jeroboam did in the north.

It says in 1st Kings 14:22-24 “Judah did evil in the eyes of the Lord. By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than those who were before them had done. 23 They also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. 24 There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.”

As a result you’ll see that Egypt would invade Judah and cause much destruction. In the next few chapters we see various kings indicated for Israel in the north and Judah in the south, and what they did when they were king. It’s history. That’s what a lot of the Bible is, is ancient history. Real stuff.

Israel has all bad kings. They don’t have any good kings during this time. But Judah does have at least some good kings over this time period. King Asa of Judah does well. Meanwhile Israel goes from bad to worse, they have kings Elah and Zimri who are both evil terrible kings. And then they get the worst one yet, named King Ahab. The name may sound familiar. An important biblical figure. We see King Ahab, as leader of Israel, and he takes a foreign wife, who worships Baal. Baal is basically Satan. Just a very evil false god. So at the conclusion of our message today, we see King Ahab and his wife Jezebel being the leaders over Israel. They turn much of Israel against God and toward the worship of Baal and the Asherahs sadly. But God isn’t done yet. He’s about to raise up prophets who will do mighty things in His name.

So in conclusion today, there is a final message for us today in the sad saga of the splitting of Israel. Remember, to be a peacemaker, like Jesus calls us to be. Jesus was the ultimate peacemaker. He mended disagreements. He was at peace with people as much as he could. But he also divided people. Because the truth does divide people. And we all have a choice to make. We have an ultimate choice to make in our lives. God honors our free will choice. Choice is sacred, a gift from God.

Will we choose the way of peace, the way of love, the way of holiness and serve the Lord God Almighty? Or will we choose the easy path, of sin, pleasure, selfishness, and death?

It’s really amazing to me, how many choose the road of sin. It’s easy. Sin is appealing. The flesh is always crying out for pleasure. That’s the wide road to destruction. Many walk on it.

Sure, you can fool me. Your pastor. You can say the right things to me, to keep in the dark. But ultimately that doesn’t really matter. I’m not going to be judging you on the last day. God will be your judge. And he sees everything we do in secret. Doesn’t really matter if people can fool me, or fool their friends, or the church, in the end they can’t fool God.

So instead choose life. Sin is waiting at the door, and it desires to master you. To control you. But instead you must be master over sin. In Christ you can be master over sin. You can live in holiness. It’s the battle we all face.

The people of Israel often chose sin, and evil, and it caused great destruction. We see the same thing happening in our country today, in the United States, many choose death and sin, and the result is chaos.

The choice stands before us. We are in the valley of decision. Will we choose life? Or will we choose sin? It’s hard. I know it is. Sometimes in my battle, I make the wrong choice. But I always turn again to the Lord, and continue on the right path.

I believe in you. You can walk the right path in Christ. Despite all Israel did to dishonor God and sin against God, God continued to reach out to them, and many were saved, though most of them chose destruction. Be one of those who follow the narrow path my friends. Because the clock is ticking. The battle is real. But in Christ we can do all things. Resist sin, cling to Jesus.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Church Life: Leadership, Unity, Gossip, & Rebellion

Once upon a time there was a new Christian. He was in his early twenties, had just recently gotten saved. And he was part of a small church that met in a high school auditorium every Sunday. As the months went by he became more and more involved in the church, serving in various ministries, helping pick up trash on the highway, helping develop sermon series, and so on and so forth. But increasingly this young man found himself at odds with the pastor there. He questioned the pastors methods. He would post passive aggressive remarks on his Facebook account for all the church to see. He would write blog posts. He would argue with the pastor about methods and evangelism and goals. He never felt like they were doing enough. And eventually he angrily left the church after a final dispute with the pastor. This guy was me. And I sinned in all this. The truth was God, was leading me to the Salvation Army. So I’m sure I was meant to leave that church and go to another. But the way I did it was evil. At the time I was just so sure I was the hero of the situation, bravely fighting for the truth. But I wasn’t. I was the rebel. And I made it hard for that pastor, his name was Aaron, to do his job. And I regret that. And I’m so sorry for what I did.

Our topic today relates to this, today we are talking about church life! How does it work? Well, we are the body of Christ – meaning we actually do the things that Jesus did while he was on the Earth. We share the gospel, gather together, disciple one another, grow together, make use of our spiritual gifts, and uphold society in goodness.

But today we’re discussing the real nuts and bolts of how the church functions. We are all Christians, gathered together. Some have made commitments to be soldiers, they are our members, you might say. Then you have the elders, the corps council that discuss church issues and make decisions. Then you have your pastors, they lead the flock, with the guidance and support of the elders. Over the pastors are what are called “bishops.” They tend to be in charge of groups of many churches. In The Salvation Army it functions this way. We have attenders, that’s everyone here. Then we have soldiers, who are official church members and serve in various ministries. Then we have soldiers who serve on the corps council, which makes them “elders.” Officers, like myself, we wear red, are the pastors of The Salvation Army. And our bishops are called divisional commanders. Then you have territorial leaders over them, and international leaders over them. It’s a sort of hierarchical structure in the church.

But the government of a church really depends on which denomination you’re a part of. Other churches may have priests as their leaders, or ministers, or they may have a church council or a church board, some denominations vote on their decisions, others have a sort of constitution they follow or amend as needed. It’s all just minor adjustments, and honestly I can’t really say there is one right way.

I think The Salvation Army is a biblical church movement. But I also tend to think most other churches in the area are also legitimate expressions of biblical Christianity. We all serve in different ways to bring people to Jesus and meet needs.

Since being here in Owosso, we’ve impacted thousands of people in our area toward Jesus, and we’ve met needs all over. Now most of those people did not join our salvation army church, but many of them did return to churches they once attended, or joined other churches near them, or at least began to explore the possibility of a relationship with Christ. That’s victory to me. I don’t really care if they join the Salvation Army, or a different biblical church. As long as they come to know Jesus and follow Jesus, then I’m happy.

I hope that’s your attitude as well.

But if you are here, at The Salvation Army, I’m sure God is calling you to be here and to serve here. At least for the present time. God will lead us to the church where he wants us to serve. I’m sure of that.

So how do we functions as a group of believers? First of all, we follow the leading of our leaders. We don’t complain against our leaders. We don’t make unfounded accusations against our leaders. We don’t argue with our leaders. The only exception is if we notice a serious concern in the theology of the church, something is not biblical and it disrupts our witness of the gospel. Other than that, there really is no ground for grumbling, complaining, arguing, or fighting against your leaders. In the same way, I may not agree with everything my headquarters tells me to do, but I follow their lead in everything. And honestly, I’m happy to do so. Because if I don’t agree with some idea or initiative, I remind myself, I’m often wrong. So I trust their leadership. And I love them. I show them respect and affection. I appreciate them. And I hope you appreciate me as your leader. And I hope you appreciate the soldiers who serve here at this church. Bless them, don’t curse them.

The word of god says, “Hebrews 13:17 ESV “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

So if I need to correct you on something, please respond in contemplation and humility. Let me do this with joy, not with groaning. And honestly, there’s been some groaning lately, on my behalf. I don’t correct or rebuke because I enjoy it. I do it because I will have to give an account for those Christians who were under my care, before the God of heaven and Earth. And if I say, oh, I noticed they were gossiping, I noticed they were causing arguments and divisions, and hatred and strife, but I didn’t say anything to them;  I’m going to be in big trouble with God.

We struggle with the idea of authority over us I think. Many of us have been burned and hurt by authorities in our lives. But I want to remind you today: There can be good authorities over us, good people, who love God, and are really serving with love and truth. And that’s the right kind of authority.

So brothers and sisters don’t live in rebellion. Rebellion is a terrible thing. I recall when Moses was leading the Israelites through the wilderness, there were two men Jannes and Jambres, who constantly complained and whispered against Moses leadership. They spread rumors and dissensions, and led more and more people to their ranks. And eventually they rebelled against Moses, and 3,000 people joined them. But they were in the wrong. They rebelled against the authority God himself had put in place. And all of them died.

A biblical church is united. Not gossiping against one another, not fighting each other, but serving with joy together, serving for Jesus. Submitting to one another in love. What does it meant to submit to one another? It means to allow someone else to have the lime light, it’s allowing someone else to have their way. Maybe its your job to wipe down the tables but you notice someone else doing it, do you get mad, or just let them do it. Maybe you notice someone in your seat in the van, you always sit there, but now they are there. Submit to them, let them sit there. No big deal.

I know there’s been gossip going on again in the church. And we really need to stop that right here and right now. Gossip is deadly to a church. Gossip is when we hear a rumor about someone, or an accusation, and then we go to our friend, at church, or in the church van, or when we’re at the store, and we say, “Hey, guess what I heard about so and so.” That is what we call gossip. And the bible repeatedly condemns gossip as a sin. As something very evil. The Bible tells us the tongue can be a very wicked thing that spews out evil. Watch your tongues friends. Watch what you say.

The Bible says on judgment day we will give an account for every idle word we spoke across our whole lives. That’s serious stuff. So watch what you say. But if you hear something about someone, and you’re concerned, the biblical thing to do is go directly to that person, sit down one on one and talk to them about it. Beautiful thing to do. But it’s hard too. So what do we often do instead? Instead of going directly to the person, we go to someone else and gossip about it. Evil. Because we’re spreading rumors that may not even be true. And we’re slandering their character in secret. That wrong my friends. Very wrong. Don’t gossip, as your pastor I’m challenging you today, kill the gossip. Watch your tongue. Pray about this, God will help you.

And finally, as the church, we want to be practicing our spiritual gifts. Let me ask you this: Have you discovered what your gifts are? God has given each of us unique gifts, and they’re all different.

There are several lists of spiritual gifts in the Bible, one list is in Romans 12, another in Ephesians 4, but we’re going to quick look at the list in 1st Corinthians 12.

Think about it: Which of these gifts might you have?
administration - do you like paperwork? managing stuff? Could be your gift
apostle- a gifting similar to church planting, leadership in the body of Christ, bringing about great change, reformation
discernment - you have a talent for understanding the real meaning of things, whether when viewing theology, or philosophy, or politics, you see through deception and lies to the core truth of issues.
faith- you have great faith, when others doubt you stay strong in trust
healings - are you able to pray for someone and they are healed? You have this gift.
helps - you are a helper, you serve others
knowledge - you are able to give a "word of knowledge." God tells you something about someone, to tell them.  
miracles- a rare gift, to perform miraculous signs and wonders. Never met someone with this gift, not  yet anyway. 
prophecy- God tells you future events, and you speak them to others, to help others.
teaching- talented at teaching the word of God
tongues- able to speak in heavenly languages
tongues interpretation- able to interpret heavenly languages
wisdom- has great wisdom about life to share with to others

Pray about these gifts. If one sticks out, write it down, and then tonight ask God to develop that gift in your life. Then God will call you to use that gift. Very exciting. So in conclusion today, be the church. Submit to your authorities. Trust the Bible. Share the gospel. Don’t gossip. Don’t argue with your leaders. Don’t rebel against God or your leaders. Stand firm in the faith. Stand firm in unity.

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