Sunday, November 27, 2011

CHRIST'S "TRIPLE-T" BRAND: Trouble, Trial and Tribulation

TROUBLE IS OUR FRIEND
A. Brother

“Is any one of you in trouble? 
He should pray.”
James 5:13

“Therefore confess your sins to each other
and pray for each other
so that you may be healed.”
James 5:16

Many of those who claim to be Christians today refuse to acknowledge trouble.  Many refuse to acknowledge that trial and hardship come into our lives for a purpose.  Many believe that it is important to cover up trouble, and to pretend that it doesn’t exist, and so we ignore our own trouble, smooth it over, and we do the same with the trials and troubles that come into our brother’s lives.

In particular, we have many today in the Body of Christ, those who sincerely want to know the Lord, and to serve Him, who are in trouble.  They are experiencing terrible crises, of finance, of marriage, of family, of work, or of health.  Hundreds of thousands of sincere, “Bible-believing” Christians today suffer from all these hard things, and many are on the edge of despair daily.

We’re suffering in our hearts because we don’t get why these things are happening.  We don’t understand the purpose of trouble in our lives.  Modern Christianity teaches a false version of discipleship, and many of us feel down deep that these troubles all come as God’s judgment on people who are living in some way out of God’s will.

What a foolish sentiment.  Don’t we understand Christ at all?  Don’t we hear the Scriptures, which abound with God’s truth about trouble?

Trouble and trial and tribulation, the “Triple-T Brand” on God’s flock of sheep, means He loves us so much He wants the depth and genuineness of our faith to be tested, and He wants to be our salvation in the midst of it.  This does not mean God will miraculously lift us out of it.  Many times in the Word of God we are shown that we must go through the fire, and go through the deep waters of suffering, not around them.  Yet He will deliver us.

But trouble is in many ways the wonderful mercy of God in action.  He must have our full attention, and He will not allow us to be distracted by complacency or lukewarmness.  He will not allow us to bask in the glory of our own strength, which we often do. 

James knew trouble well.  And the believers in Christ he was writing to knew trouble and trial, and James wrote to that situation. 

For my brothers this morning who face deep trouble, as I do, let’s take heart in the truths of James’ Word from the Lord.  What are we to do if we are in trouble?

PRAY.  Pray and pray and pray.  Seek the Lord at every moment you can.  He is the One who wants to guide you and keep you through this trouble.  Not for the purpose of getting you out of it, but to teach you His power in your life.  You must learn from it.  You and I must learn the Presence of God, as Israel learned the Presence of God when He delivered them from the clutches of Pharoah, and brought them out of Egypt.  How else would we learn God’s power and love but through great trouble and trial—so great that we cannot deliver ourselves!

Listen to what James says.  He says that we are to pray, but he also says we are to confess our sins to one another, and pray for one another, and seek God’s healing.  This is completely abandoned in our day.  Who can we trust?  Does brother trust brother to love, and not to condemn?  So we hide ourselves and our troubles, and go to church and pretend, and so the Body is sickly and full of hidden pain and sorrow.

But for my brother and sister who grieve, who sorrow, who are so afraid that you will not make it through whatever trial faces you, James has another simple instruction for us.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith
develops perseverance.
Perseverance must finish its work
so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything.
If any of you lacks wisdom,
he should ask God, who gives generously
without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
James 1:2-5

You see trouble is not about blame.  God looks at you “without finding fault” and comes to you in your trouble to teach you His love and grace and mercy, and His power.  This isn’t about you.  It’s about Christ in you, and learning the Presence of God, even in your worst circumstances.

This is our simple haven.  We are to lean on the Lord, talk with Him continually about our troubles, share our troubles with brothers and sisters we can trust, pray together, confess our sins to one another if we’ve sinned, and pray for healing.  We must turn to the Lord only, not the world.  He must answer us with His wisdom, as He has promised. 

These are our instructions in times of trouble and trial.

And woe to those among us who condemn and look down their noses at the Lord’s own who are experiencing terrible afflictions.  Woe to those who look at others and see their many sins, yet who don’t see their own.  We know what Jesus said to the Pharisees, and the religious people who believed that holy people didn’t see trouble.  We know how He feels about judgmental people.

God’s best is for those who seek Him in these terrible times.  Trouble is our friend.  God will give us wisdom, and we will learn perseverance and faith, and become mighty in the Spirit of God if we do these things and don’t give up.


Friday, November 25, 2011

A GIANT BUFFET OF CHRISTIAN SELF-FOCUS

DISTORTION:
The Smorgasbord of Self-Focus
A. Brother

"Even from your own number men will arise
and distort the truth..."
Acts 20:30

       I'm writing with a heavy heart today, as I'm overwhelmed by the massive distortions of truth perpetuated by men who call themselves believers in Christ.  Just visiting the blog world--the writings of the people central to all the so-called "Christian industries" such as publishing, and music, and the arts, education, and ministry--is a journey into the chaos of self-promotion.
      This is not Christ.  This smorgasbord of self-focus is not Christ.  The name of Christ is not mentioned, except in passing, like a reference on a resume.  
      Of course I serve Christ, so I do this, or that, and look at me, and at my fine, wonderful life of achievements.  Of course I serve Christ, but look at me and my family, and my latest book, or CD, or degree, or conference speaking schedule.  Of course I serve Jesus, that's why I'm so successful, and have a big following on all the social media sites, and why my book is being published, and I have a speaking tour set up.  Of course I am a Christian, and that's why my blog has a community of thousands, and my every word is commented on by hundreds of people a day.  Of course my life is an example, because so many people say nice things about me, and buy my stuff.
      ME, ME, ME, I, I, I, MINE, MINE, MINE!
      How lonely and ignored the Lord Jesus is today among our affluent, modern, fantabulous Christians!  In reading this drivel I'm driven by the Holy Spirit to remember and read in Scripture about my Lord's ministry--how humble it was, and how He never exalted Himself.  I think of Paul and the other apostles--outcasts and hated by the world, persecuted and hunted down, opposed even by many in the religious world.  Rioted over in the marketplace, lowered down city walls to escape mobs, protected from religious zealots by the pagan Roman armies, shipwrecked, beaten, hungry, cold, without permanent homes, and all because of their love for Christ and their refusal to compromise with the world.
      No such life for the modern, fantabulous American Christian.  Why should we live in such a Way?  Why should we not live lusciously delicious lives, full of success, full of ourselves?  After all, we've earned it!  How talented we are, and how brilliant!  We have become all we need, and to boot, we have Christ and the church!  The Christian mob throws its uncritical approval upon us, and garlands of praise, and so stamps us with glory!
      The Lord God stands aside for this procession.  He is not the subject of all this self-adoration.  He does not participate.  His Word stands today as it always has, and we either humble ourselves, giving all, dying to self, following Jesus, or we will be left out on the Day coming, when God's true ekklesia, His scattered, suffering, persecuted, loved, cherished, faithful remnant, will be gathered from the four winds to His arms.
      Other great processions, self-congratulatory parades of so-called 'Christian' religiosity, have marched across the globe at various times in history.  Where are they now?  Dead and buried and forgotten.  Like all man's endeavors, they pass away like the grass.  But the Word of God stands forever, and His Truth will always be, and only those who obey the Lord Jesus and follow Him on the nearly forgotten Narrow Road will be there with Him when He returns.
     Many across the globe have not bowed their knee to the modern, affluent, fantabulous Baal.  Thousands have continued to stand, uncompromised, unbowed, silent before those who ignore them, or accuse them, as our Lord Jesus was silent before the religious Jews and Pilate.
      What will you do when you find out that your celebrity, your achievements in the 'Christian world', your fine plaques and trophies, your long resume, your leadership, your popularity, your self-accomplishments, all mean nothing to Christ?  What will you do when He asks you who you are?  If you can't answer 'I am nothing--my life has been You, and You alone, dear Friend'--then He will have to throw away your press releases, and your framed photos of you and your adoring fans and say, "Depart from Me, I never knew you."
      Is all this temporary partying worth that?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

HOW LONG WILL YOU WAVER BETWEEN TWO OPINIONS?


 DANCING BETWEEN TWO WORLDS
A. BROTHER

"How long will you waver 
(literally, 'continue this wild and futile religious dance')
between two opinions?  
If the Lord is God, follow Him; 
but if Baal is God, follow him."
1 Kings 18:21

This morning I am convicted in myself of my sin.  When I am steadfast, I hold to God and His Word, and am convinced of His love and His truth.  Jesus and I walk in fellowship, and I bask in the warmth of His Word, and even the difficulties.

But when I am hard hit by certain things, and certain situations, I falter, and sometimes waver to the point of despair.  I lash out at others, at God, and feel desperately alone.  I dance around seeking some kind of resolution, suddenly unsure of everything, and hurt myself and those close to me by my unfaithfulness.  

This sin of 'wavering' and 'dancing between two opinions' is my struggle.  God is working in me to eradicate my doubt and fear, but it is a hard, deep work, and involves extrusion of my flesh through small openings that approximate the size of a needle's eye.  Very painful, and for me, at times excruciating.  The impossibility speaks to the power of God being our only possible means of success, and I don't even believe in the power of God at times.

When Elijah stood before Israel on Mount Carmel and spoke these words above, he was not speaking to heathen.  He was speaking to those who had the truth, who knew the truth of God, who had the Word.  It is important we understand this.  God's challenge to us today is to you and me, those who know about Jesus Christ, who claim His Name, who label themselves Christians.

What will we do?  Will we continue in our 'dance' between the world and the Lord?  Will we continue to be wholehearted in good times, and dancing the dance of fear and anger in bad?

Only Christ, and His power, can deliver us from this.

"What a wretched man I am!  
Who will rescue me from this body of death?"
Romans 7:24

Paul answer immediately, having been through much pain and suffering, the crucifying of the flesh by cross, the daily dying he experienced for his love of Christ.  

"Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Romans 7:25

It is only Christ.  He only can deliver, and make whole.  It is His Spirit in us that leads and guides us away from sin, that empowers us to live holy lives.  This unholiness in me, my tendencies to sin that I hate, cannot be eradicated by my hatred of it.  No matter how badly I feel after I fall, I cannot rise into new strength and courage by my anger toward my own sin.  It is only Christ's power that will deliver me.

Even Jesus, my Lord, Lord of all creation, and Lord of heaven, learned obedience by the same process through which He takes us now.

"Although He was a Son, 
He learned obedience from what He suffered
and once made perfect, 
He became the source of eternal salvation for all..."
Hebrews 5:8

It is my only comfort this morning that Christ is with me in this.  He went through it all, and became my all-sufficient, perfect Savior through the things He suffered.  His perfection means my perfection is possible in Him.  When Peter says, "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" he meant that Christ in us will kill the wavering, dancing old man, and make us into strong, steadfast, powerfully holy men and women, if we only understand and persevere.

Yet we are called, as Elijah called Israel, to make the choice every day.  

We must wake and make the choice each new morning.  Will we dance around with the world, from fear, from greed, from lust, from anger?  Or will we stand with Christ, letting Him do His work in us, letting Him be the answer for us?

Brethren, I pray for you and for myself this morning.  Help, Lord Jesus.  Many of us waver and dance between two worlds.  Many of us haven't died to ourselves, our own dreams, our own goals, our own comforts and precious worldly things.  We must have your power to step across that line, forsake sin today, and be Yours completely.

Forgive me for my grave sins of doubt, of fear, of uncertainty.  These are at the core of all my stupid and senseless actions.  Forgive me and cleanse me, Lord Jesus, and give me Your heart, soul, mind and strength to love and to go on to perfection.

Monday, November 14, 2011

WHEN TAKING THE STAGE IS GIVING YOUR LIFE.

The other day I was walking outside on a break from work.  I had been complaining to my Father that so few seemed to care about Christ at all, or even to know that He exists, and that extends to those of us who claim to know Him.  So few, and who are they?  So few, that sometimes I shake inside with fear that there is actually no faith on earth, as our Lord Jesus questioned there would be when He returns.


So much religion, and so much posturing, and so little actual faith.


I was walking, discouraged, and was passing a bush in the landscaping, when I spotted a piece of paper out of the corner of my eye.  It was mostly hidden, laying flat under the trunk of the bush.  I reached in, maybe out of some compulsion to gather litter, and picked it up, ready to drop it in the trash on my way back into the office.  


Stunned, I stared at the paper, and memories flooded back from the past.  Thirty five years earlier, I had met a man and his wife, and his family, and helped this man briefly to set up a speaking tour in my area of the country.  I had been privileged to not only hear this man speak, and to wonder at his faith, but to have my world opened up to the suffering of men and women and children who dared to follow Christ in harrowing, life-threatening circumstances.  


I stared at the paper, which was one page, old and dried out, torn from a book.  It was a story, one I'd forgotten completely, of how this man I knew briefly in my life had been alone, facing his own Gethsemane and Golgotha, and had proven himself "one of the few".


It was the story of what happened in Romania when the communists, set up by Hitler's fall, slipped into the power vacuum in eastern Europe cleverly led by Stalin.  In Richard's country, they disguised themselves as friendly comrades of religion, and called a religious conference, inviting all pastors and leaders of all faiths and denominations.  Romania was largely Christian at that time, with Catholics and Protestants solidly entrenched throughout the country.  Most of the people in this country would have called themselves Christians.


The 4,000 delegates to this convention were standing and speaking of solidarity with the new communist government, and how they were thankful that this new regime would partner with them in building a great society, full of equality and how they would support it.  Richard stayed silent, listening in disbelief as man after man who claimed Christ stood and praised the communists, and vowed to create a new, more perfect society with them.  


His wife, Sabina, who had recently brought their first son into the household, leaned over to Richard and said, "Richard, stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ."


Richard knew what would happen.  "If I speak, you will lose your husband."


Sabina replied, "I do not wish to have a coward for a husband."


Pastor Richard Wurmbrand took the stage in the grand hall.  A great silence fell, because this young pastor was well-known already, and considered the "Billy Graham of Romania" in his day, leading youth rallies that were bringing many to a new, vital faith in Christ out of the dead traditionalism that was all around.


He began to preach, and said, "Delegates, it is our duty not to praise earthly powers that come and go, but to glorify God the creator and Christ the Savior, who died for us on the cross."


Pandemonium broke out.  Communist officials jumped up and denounced him, and pulled the plug on the sound system.  Richard continued to preach the Truth from the stage.  Gradually, the audience began to applaud, and then to rise up and chant in defense of this lone pastor, "The Pastor! The Pastor! The Pastor!" they cried, finding courage in the act of one man. 


The congress went on chanting long after the microphone wires were cut and the event was ended for the day.


Not long after, Richard Wurmbrand was walking to church when a group of secret police kidnapped him.  He was not seen for many years.  In fact, his wife and son and all who knew him believed he had been killed.  


In truth, Richard was led to a dank, empty, cold, wet prison cell 3 stories below the ground in an ancient Romanian prison.  He was kept there, not seeing another human being except his torturers and his guards, for the next 8 years.  He endured complete silence except when his interrogators took him to try to beat or cajole a confession out of him.  He was alone, only Christ with Him in his cell.  He didn't see sun, moon, stars or flowers.  He didn't see anyone he knew.  When he finally did come up to a regular prison cell, with other men, he could not even write his name or remember anything but the name of Christ.  He had forgotten the many sermons he'd composed.  He'd forgotten almost everything.  Toward the end, he could not do anything to keep himself alive, but trudge around his cell, repeating the name of Jesus over and over.  Christ was all, and Christ never left him.


Wurmbrand was in prison many more years, until God moved on some who would ransom Richard from the communists, who loved money above all, and he would become a voice in the wilderness in America and the Western countries telling the true story of what happens when we lose faith.  When we become compromised with the world.  Telling the true story of what it means to be one of the few with Christ.  He would reveal the plight of thousands of true saints throughout the modern world, working to help them, as nobody had been able to help him.


I knew Richard as a thin, tall, very dignified elderly man (he was only around 65 years old, but to me appeared as 90), who walked around in his stocking feet because they couldn't abide shoes after being broken in beatings so many times.  He was kind, and soft-spoken, and always seemed pre-occupied with something intensely important.  


The young man (me) who set up his speaking tour in the Northwest must have seemed immature to the point of embarrassment.  I looked at him and at Sabina, and talked with them, and felt like I was on another planet.  I was concerned about everything around me, and worried about how the schedule was going, and worried about the microphones, the platform, the seating, the attendance, and all else.  I  know now that Richard and Sabina had been through so much (Sabina had spent years in prison herself, losing not only her husband, but not knowing anything about her son), that they considered their present circumstances heaven in comparison.  They had achieved the state of faith where they trusted Christ to build His own Kingdom.


I know now that God had me with them to teach me about Christ's few.  They were to be examples to me, though ignored for many years, of how to stand for Christ, and how to endure hardship like good soldiers for Jesus.  They were living symbols for me, and now, here I stood, so many years later, having wasted enormous amounts of time and energy being that man consumed by fears and doubts, that man consumed by lusts and worldly desires, holding in my hand pages 63 and 64 of "Jesus Freaks", a publication from somewhere, from which this single page had been torn and tossed to end up under a bush for me to find.


Coincidence?  You tell me.


The God of the Universe never gives up on His chosen.  It is up to us to respond and be ready when our congress is called, and the thousands stand to praise the enemy and join the parade.
Exactly where my own earthly country is headed right now.  


Will we risk all to stand and speak?  Or will we be so weakened and compromised, so hardened to sin, so dependent on the world, that we actually become Satan's tools in his quest to rid the earth of all who name the name of Christ?


What if our spouses, instead of encouraging us as Sabina did, to stand and wipe the shame off the face of Christ, implore us to sit down and shut up for the sake of all we hold dear, all we've worked for?  


You few.  You chosen.  Christ's simple band of fishermen, tax collectors and other sinners.  Wake up and listen today.  Can you not hear the voice of our Lord, saying, "For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it, but whoever loses his own life for Me and for the gospel will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?..if any man is ashamed of Me and My Words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father's glory with His holy angels."  Mark 8:35-38


All courage in Christ today, brethren.  


A. Brother

Sunday, November 6, 2011

PROPHETS OR FARMERS?

PROPHETS OR FARMERS
A. Brother

“On that day every prophet
will be ashamed of his prophetic vision.
He will not put on a prophet’s garment of hair
in order to deceive.  He will say,
‘I am not a prophet.
I am a farmer; the land has been
my livelihood since my youth.’
If someone asks him,
‘What are these wounds on your body?’
he will answer, ‘The wounds I was given
at the house of my friends.’”
Zech. 13:4-6

I am not a prophet.  I am a farmer.  The Word of God is the seed, and I have been given the task of sowing it.  I am not responsible for the increase of it, only the sowing.  I am not responsible for the reaping of it, only the sowing.  The wounds on my body are the wounds of my Friend, Christ.  This is a simple revelation, but one we must listen to.

Too many of us are zealous to do the Lord’s work.  The Lord requires us to put off the natural man, and to “put on Christ”, who will do His work in us, and who will advance His work through us without our particular help.  The importance of this putting off of self, and putting on of Christ cannot be overemphasized.  So many of us strive and strive, we take up a “work for God” and do it in the natural man, we undertake tasks for God, we run off and do things for God.  Yet the important work, the making of each of us into a man or woman of God, we neglect and ignore. 

We have been raised in a wrong way of thinking.  Even in the churches we have stressed the doing of things.  We have stressed the building of things, the taking hold of things, the effort of things.  We talk of “living the Christian life” and “doing the Lord’s work” and we haven’t died at all, we have just taken up a work in our own strength and our own hands.

In the calling of Abraham, God did the impossible.  He took this old man, and his old wife, and he made them parents of an entire nation.  He did something, not out of the efforts of the old man, but out of His own power.  This resulted in glory for God alone, and not for Abraham.  Abraham’s only glory was that he “believed God and it was reckoned unto him as righteousness.” (see Romans 4:18-25)

This man is a picture of Christ in us.  It is God who calls, God who wills, God who works in us for His good pleasure.  It is none of our effort that benefits the Kingdom.  Our faith is our glory, because it brings glory to God alone.  Until we see this, we are still viewing Christ as someone outside ourselves, who we serve because we want to earn His favor, to be significant.  We are striving because of the emptiness inside us, which many of us know to be the truth from experience.  Even those of us who’ve claimed Christ as Lord for many years KNOW this emptiness, this striving after wind.

The wounds of Christ are His marks in us.  What does this mean?  It means we must die, and be marked with the death of Christ in us before we can experience His life in us. 

Too many of us claim to speak for Christ.  Yet we live without scars and wounds, and we have never gone up to the “Place of the Skull”, Golgotha, carrying our cross, dying to self, and having God turn His face away during our time of dying.  When Jesus was on the cross, He cried out in his natural man, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”  Yet the Father had to turn away in his grief, and not save His only Son, but let Him die for us.  At that moment, Jesus became man in the way that allows Him to know every suffering we will ever go through.  So the Father must turn away and let us die many times in this life on earth, because He knows, even in His grief over our pain, that we must go through the dying in order to have Life.

The small things are the significant things.  The things that go unnoticed by the world, and sadly, often by the people of God.  These are our Golgothas.  The places of dying.  These are necessary for Resurrection to take place in us.

Then, with Paul, we will understand, and say:

“Since you died with Christ…
Since then you’ve been raised with Christ…”
Col. 2:20;3:1

In this new place, this place of resurrection beyond the grave:

“Here there is no Greek or Jew,
circumcised or uncircumcised,
barbarian, Scythian, slave or free,
but Christ is all, and in all.”
Col. 3:11

Brethren, we must stop our striving to be someone in Christ.  We must stop working to be someone of significance.  We must stop working to do the Lord’s work.  It is Christ in us that does His work.  We must rest in Him, and let Him work.  His work in us will be enough.


DON'T BE LED ASTRAY BY TODAY'S SERVANTS OF SATAN.

MASQUERADE
A. Brother
  
“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived
by the serpent’s cunning, your minds
may somehow be led astray
from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 
Or if someone comes to you
and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached…
you put up with it easily enough.” 
2 Cor. 11:3,4

“…Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 
It is not surprising, then, if his servants
masquerade as servants of righteousness.” 
2 Cor. 11:14,15

            Since Christ came, there have been those who knew Him, and preached Him truly and faithfully.  These men, like Paul, suffered much to follow Christ, and were examples of his love and sacrifice.  They lived the “sincere and pure devotion” which Paul talks about here to the people they brought into the Kingdom of God
          They were examples to the flock of Christ’s compassion, humility, and generosity, giving of themselves without thought of being paid back, and desiring only that men and women find Christ for themselves, and that they be taught the truth consistent with Scripture and the life of Jesus.  From the apostles on down, these men and women are our examples for life and service in Christ.

          But today, as always, we have many who do not preach and teach the Jesus of the Bible.  They are fakers and deceivers, deceiving and being deceived, and take many with them down the path of disobedience and confusion.  Our churches in affluent America have gone down this path with alarming speed over the past decades, growing fat and complacent, leaving the elementary truths of God’s Word behind in their love affair with the world and its ways.
          Our leaders, the so-called shepherds of the flock, have led the way in being deceived, and in accepting the wages of the world.
          The vast majority of our church traditions, practiced daily, weekly and monthly among the churches calling themselves by Christ’s Name, are weak and faulted, based upon the traditions of men rather than on the revealed will of God in His Word.
          The traditional church service.  The Sunday School.  The tithe.  The sacred days, like the Sabbath, Christmas, Easter.   The role of pastors.  The clergy/laity division.  All are dangerously removed from Biblical teaching, and must be examined as man-made traditions, much like those gradually adopted by the Jews over the centuries, which Jesus our Lord spoke against, and still speaks against in His Word.  Our desire to have religion and its trappings has resulted in a maze of religious tradition that entraps people who would know Christ from finding the way to Him.
          God abhors religion.  He hates man-created religious tradition, pomp and ceremony.  He despises our attempts to rein in the Holy Spirit and put Him in the confines of liturgy and rigid conformity to comfortable schedules and staid religious structures.
          Who are we to stand against the Word of God?  To ignore His clear Ways?  To replace His power with our placid, powerless religion?  To preach a gospel other than that which Paul and the other apostles preached?  Who are we to disobey the God of Heaven, who reached down in Christ to pluck us out of dead religion, and grabbed us away from the world and its basic principles?  Who are we to mold ourselves after the weak and miserable traditions of men, instead of holding fast to the Truth that is the power of God in us?

          As Paul told the Corinthian ekklesia of God in the passage quoted above, they were already being led astray by smooth-talking professional preachers and teachers who were more interested in securing lucrative and steady employment than in serving Christ by taking up their cross of pain and suffering.  So today, we have a professional clergy that is dedicated to continuing the puny traditions of men, so that they can thrive in steady, salaried, comfortable positions of prominence.
          If Paul were preaching today, he’d be standing against this unholy system of paid prophets and secure shepherds, because he stood against it in his day.
          The tithe we preach and teach today has absolutely no place in the teaching of the New Covenant.  The teaching of the New Covenant in Christ is giving, without reference or basis in tithing.  Generosity, love, sharing, and giving up all one has is the new standard.  Love for the brethren is the key concept in giving, and support for those who preach and teach God’s Word among us is expected, not in worldly business paradigms, but in spontaneous, abundant, loving provision out of hearts full of gratitude to Christ.  Our giving to Christ is not counted in percentages, but in possibilities.
          The church services we hold have no resemblance to those held among the scattered ekklesia of God in New Testament days.  Their coming together was marked by the leading of the Holy Spirit, and though done in orderly fashion, was marked by the enthusiastic input of all in the Body that were present, with songs and teachings being brought by many, and confession of sin and prayer for healing of those sins being a regular part of their gatherings.  The music was spontaneous and came from the heart.  The gifts of the Holy Spirit were allowed to be manifest among the brethren as He led, and the unfettered growth of the Body in love and strength and encouragement was the result.  There was mourning and grieving, repentance and confession as well as joy and praise.  There was no “professional” staff hired to plan and develop sophisticated service traditions, and to do all the leading and teaching and preaching and music themselves.
          Leaders were expected to shepherd the flock, down in the trenches, loving and working individually with their sheep.  They knew their sheep as Jesus knows them, doing the difficult work of feeding and caring for them, as Jesus did.  Every sheep was expected to grow and contribute, and the leaders were charged with teaching and preaching, making sure the flock learned how to follow Jesus, and going after the strays personally, as Jesus would.  The leaders were charged also with training others to lead, and growing up others into the maturity in Christ that would allow them to teach others how to follow Christ.
          There were no special days, because the birth of Christ, His death, and His resurrection were celebrated in the daily life of the Body.  They were in the process of dying to self, and being resurrected to new life, and it wasn’t a once a year thing.  It was daily.  That’s why they met together often, as often as they could, because they loved to be together, and didn’t need special days and special events to make it worthwhile. 
          There were no staid traditions.  It was each day with Christ, each day by faith and not by sight, each day in danger and difficulty on the Narrow Road with their Savior.  They, like many Christians in the non-affluent countries today, knew that following Christ meant exposure to mistreatment, and hardship.  As it would for us in America if we truly followed Christ, instead of playing dead religious games.

          We must fall on our knees and repent, asking the Lord God for forgiveness, and for His will in His Word to be revealed to us in freshness by His Spirit.  We must weep and mourn and wail as James says, seeking God’s forgiveness for our apostasy and comfortable disobedience.  We ask God for the wrong things, and we ask Him with wrong motives, to spend them on our own spiritual comforts and pleasures.

          Woe to those who lead the flock of God into the wrong pastures!  You who eat of the best, and sit at the seats of honor at the banqueting tables, and hold the pulpits away from the Lord’s people so that you can have the preeminence.
          Woe to you who treat the Lord’s holy offices of leadership as a career, and your positions as secure ways of income!
          Woe to you leaders who lead with unexamined and untested lives, emulating not Paul and the other apostles, not the Lord Jesus Himself, but the worldly leaders around you.  Woe to you who rely on worldy management principles to govern the One Holy Nation of God!

“Woe to you who are complacent in Zion,
and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria,
you notable men of the foremost nation,
to whom the people of Israel come…
You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches.
You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves.
You strum away on your harps like David
and improvise on musical instruments.
You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions,
but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.
Therefore you will be the first to go into exile;
your feasting and lounging will end.” 
Amos 6:1-7

            Listen to the Word of God, kneel and repent of your wickedness, before He comes and removes you from your exalted and comfortable position.  Grieve over the ruin of the churches, put aside your self-absorption and insistence upon your security, and become like the Lord Jesus, the Servant, and like the apostles and prophets who are given us as examples in Scripture. 
          Abandon Broadway, and take the Narrow Roads with Christ, and find true fulfillment in your calling, or suffer the loss of all you have worked for!
          Sheep of the One Flock, heed your One Shepherd’s voice, and leave the dead religious traditions of men.  Follow Christ, your Lord and find His joy, His peace, His love, His Way.  Leave the men and women who “masquerade as servants of righteousness” but preach a Jesus other than the Jesus preached by the Word of God.  Leave them and follow Christ, for in the final Day, you will have no excuse!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

WHEN YOU HEAR OF WARS AND REVOLUTIONS.

"When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened.  
These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away."  
Luke 21:9

Brothers and Sisters,
This morning I hear the voice of Christ
telling us to calm down, 
and not to worry.
Too many of us are troubled constantly
by the seemingly out-of-control events
in the world.
Do not worry, and don't be afraid.
This is all in the Father's hand.
We are in the Father's hand.
Nothing can happen to those who cling to Jesus
except what the Father deems necessary.
Take this into your life today.
Be strong, and of good courage,
for Christ has overcome the world.

A. Brother

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