Stay on Target

Posted: June 28, 2011 by natewhiteside in Nate Whiteside

A JEDI CAN SUCCEED IF HE STAYS FOCUSED ON THE TARGET
Remember the scene from the 1977 Star Wars movie, Episode IV: A New Hope, where the X-Wing fighters are attacking the Death Star? One of the Y-Wing fighter pilots is being attacked by an enemy fighter as he tries to launch missiles to destroy the Death Star. His comrade calmly reminds him, “Stay on target.” He again yells for help. The response is, “Stay on target.” Good guys are getting wiped out by the enemy, and the enemy is getting closer to destroying the good guys and all their fleet of ships. The phrase “Stay on target,” that target being the destruction of the Death Star and salvation of their comrades, is repeated. Finally Luke Skywalker flies in his X-Wing fighter and is attacked by enemies too. He hears his Jedi Master’s voice telling him, “Use the force, Luke,” and “let go.” Luke, in the face of enemies attacking him, time running out, and losing his wingmen, focuses on the target and succeeds in destroying it, thus defeating the enemy while saving his comrades.

Today we also need to stay on target, not wavering, in the face of very hard times. There are two commands in this passage, both warning us as Christians how not to let things of our culture knock us off target.

The first command is in Colossians 2:16. Paul commanded the Colossians not to let anyone judge them by what they ate or drank, their festivals (or lack thereof), New Moons, or Sabbaths. One person’s rules on eating and drinking do not necessarily apply to another’s. One person’s rules on festivals, celebrations, keeping the Sabbath do not necessarily apply to another’s. Max Lucado wrote “Legalism has no pity on people. Legalism makes my opinion your burden, makes my opinion your boundary, makes my opinion your obligation.”

We learn in 2:17 that those things were a mere shadow of the things to come, but “the substance belongs to Christ,” (NASB). Jesus Christ is the “body,” of the shadow that was cast in the Old Testament, and in the traditions of the Jewish people. He is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. He said in Matthew 5, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” When you see a shadow, shadows never stand alone. There is always a body casting that shadow. The 2 dimensional shadow is nothing compared to the 3 D body that casts it. The shadow changes, varies, depending on the direction and angle of the light. The body never does, whether a tree, rock, chair, building, car, animal, or person. The nature of that body is the same.

So the good human ideas for applying what the Bible says are good for a specific time, place, and people group. But the main thing remains the main thing. The Bible remains the Bible, Gospel remains the Gospel, sinners still need to repent or risk Hell, and people who are saved by Jesus Christ are still saved by Jesus Christ.

YOU CAN SUCCEED IF YOU STAY FOCUSED ON THE TARGET

 F. B. Meyer, famous preacher 100 years ago, once said that when we see a brother or sister in sin, there are two things we do not know: First, we do not know how hard he or she tried not to sin. And second, we do not know the power of the forces that assailed him or her. We also do not know what we would have done in the same circumstances.[1]

At a pastor’s conference in Spokane, Chuck Swindoll told of being at a California Christian camp. The first day there a man approached him and said how greatly he had looked forward to hearing Dr. Swindoll speak and his delight at now finally being able to realize that desire. That evening Swindoll noticed the man sitting near the front. But only a few minutes into the message the man was sound asleep. Swindoll thought to himself that perhaps he was tired after a long day’s drive and couldn’t help himself. But the same thing happened the next few nights, and Dr. Swindoll found his exasperation with the man growing. On the last night the man’s wife came up and apologized for her husband’s inattention to the messages. She then explained that he had recently been diagnosed as having terminal cancer and the medication he was taking to ease the pain made him extremely sleepy. But it had been one of his life-long ambitions to hear Dr. Swindoll speak before he died, and now he had fulfilled that goal.[2]

John Walvoord, last sermon at Dallas Theological Seminary. Teacher and president of the seminary for over 50 years, one of the people responsible for the great reputation that Dallas has today all over the world. He said to us, in his last chapel, “Whatever you do when you preach a sermon, include the Gospel. The Bible says the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, but many churches today have great oratory messages without including the gospel.

If you want to hear the one message that will never change, and always reach deep into the heart of every listener, it is this story of Jesus Christ, the God who became man, the One who offered His perfect body for our sinful souls, so we might rise one day in perfect bodies with Him and spend eternity with Almighty God. You need to meet that truth and teach that truth whenever you teach the Bible, or you are teaching the shadow. Teach the Body–Jesus Christ, not the shadow.

You need to stop right now and make sure you have this salvation in Jesus Christ. It is NOT Jesus and baptism, Jesus and communion/eucharist, Jesus and confession, Jesus and giving, Jesus and penance, Jesus and hard work, Jesus starts it and I finish it, or Jesus plus anything added, or Jesus minus whatever you don’t like about Him. Colossians 2:6 says, “so then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him.”

It is all about Jesus Christ, accepting His life through accepting His death, and accepting His deity through accepting His resurrection. That is the target. Living like Jesus Christ.

So, are you on target?

YOU CAN SUCCEED IF YOU STAY FOCUSED ON THE TARGET

Another disqualifier for the Colossian Christians were those who believed they were more spiritual than others. In 2:18, the Bible tells us the second command of this passage. They were not to let those in Colossae according to the false teaching disqualify them (strong word for an umpire or official to rob an athlete of the prize), which is the same as to condemn them. In John Calvin’s commentary on Colossians, he translates this “let no one take from you the palm.” There was a custom in races of that day that the winner would receive the prize, but there was a palm that was also given, for everyone who completed the race. If you got injured or distracted, and could not complete the race, you were deprived of that palm. So the Bible warns us, let no one rob you of the Lord’s reward for running the race to the end.

Characteristics of the false teachers in Colossae, according to this passage:

First, “humility” in this case “false humility” Paul writing tongue-in-cheek. The people believed they were actually humble. They looked down on others in their “humility.”

Second, “worship of angels” worship of angels. This means focusing on creatures of heaven is not worshipping God.

Third, “vision entering into” entering into a tale at length of what one has seen in a vision.

In Colossae and other cities, some people were depriving themselves of food and sleep in order to induce visions. This is why they emphasized fasting so much. Modern medicine shows us a lack of sleep combined with a lack of protein will increase your chances of hallucinating. People were doing this in order to see either the true God or have some experience that would give them the same authority as Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, or the prophets who saw visions.

Those who practiced these things were not connected to the Head, Who is Christ. So on the one hand, the Bible warns us here not to be knocked off course by those who worship the acts of godliness over God, and on the other hand, not to be knocked off course by those seeking spirituality on their own, disconnected from the Head.

What else? Fourth, these people were “having an exaggerated self-conception” by their “mind of the flesh.”

The difference is, the prophets did not seek visions, they sought God Himself. Once again, the shadow of God is not what you should look for. You should seek God Himself—seeking Jesus Christ!

This means that even if you find someone at some other church, in some other ministry, who does or has something you admire, don’t compare that to where God has you now. Don’t get discouraged. I met a man for lunch who is a minister in the circles that practice the manifestations of the spiritual gifts more than my circles of Christianity. I felt the condescension from him, so I asked him, “Do you think you are more spiritual than me because you practice these manifestations of the Spirit–as you call them–and I do not?” He paused, and said, “I would never say that.” But he did feel that, as he nodded his head yes. I didn’t let that man rob me of my palm. Neither should you. Continue in Jesus Christ. I asked that man “Can you prove from the Bible that you are more spiritual?” He said, “I don’t know.”

If it can’t be found in the Bible, it isn’t true. We who stay on target follow Jesus, and live according to the Word of God. If you have a great, popular church growth idea but it goes against Scripture, it is not a great church growth idea at all. Stay on the target–Jesus Christ.

YOU CAN SUCCEED IF YOU STAY FOCUSED ON THE TARGET

Are you on target? Have you gotten off target? The same thing Karl Barth had said decades earlier, when asked what his greatest theological thought was, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

What is the target we need to stay focused on? Go back to v. 6, “so then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, so live in Him.”

Review: Jesus Christ is not the shadow of Jesus Christ, and He is not a teaching that sounds kind of like Jesus Christ, and He is not the man-made buildings, programs, or books that are tools to worship Jesus Christ. Jesus is not the angels who adore Him, or the visions people have of Him. He is a real person who dwells within all of us who receive Him as Savior.

Some of you have given up. Your X-Wing is out of fuel, you don’t feel like a Jedi. You don’t even know why you get up in the morning. Life has let you down.

Read this encouraging poem, if you feel like you’ve been knocked off course.

“I’ve dreamed many dreams that never came true. I’ve seen them vanish at dawn,

But I’ve realized enough of my dreams, thank God, to make me want to dream on,

I’ve prayed many prayers when no answer came, I’ve waited patient and long;

But answers have come to enough of my prayers, to make me keep praying on.

I’ve trusted many a friend who failed, and left me to weep alone;

But I’ve found enough of my friends true-blue, to make me keep trusting on.

I’ve sown many seeds that fell by the way, for the birds to feed upon;

But I’ve held enough golden sheaves in my hand, to make me keep sowing on.

I’ve drained the cup of disappointment and pain, I’ve gone many days without song;

But I’ve sipped enough nectar from the rose of life, to make me want to live on.”

Charles Allen, The Secret of Abundant Living.

Spend time with Jesus Christ, not His shadows that fill religion. Stay in the race, on target.

[1] Taken from http://www.bible.org/illus.php?topic_id=843, at 2:09pm on 2/10/07.

[2] Bible.org

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In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him ’til he cried out in his anger and his shame
I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains
Yes he still remains

-Simon and Garfunkel, the Boxer

Many times over the years I have walked into a church building and felt uncomfortable. There was no single source that I could point at for what I was feeling, just that feeling of discomfort and the overwhelming desire to be out of there as soon as I could.

I had a tough time putting my finger on the problem- everything seemed to be normal. The people were nice enough; there were no obvious signs of something being amiss that I could see right away; only the discomfort and the acknowledgment that for some reason, I just didn’t quite belong.

I have had this feeling in other places as well, sometimes in a home where the income level or manner of the persons living there is way beyond what I am used to. Or, maybe it was in a store or restaurant with successful businessmen in suits sitting just across the way from me in my steel-toed boots. Anyway that you look at it, it boils down to the fact that I was different somehow than my surroundings and had become painfully aware of that fact.

There must be a class somewhere that I missed. I remember missing a day in school and looking at the assignments that were handed out upon my return and thinking to myself, “I get this that was taught the day before yesterday and I understand that assignment from today. The middle one, I have no clue what that is about.” Like being the one “who should have been there” when you hear an inside joke, I have always felt a little uncomfortable around those people who made the class that I obviously missed.

I imagine that somewhere in the discipleship process, there was a workshop given detailing how to act in church. The teacher (who happens to look an awful lot like Martha Stewart) would stand very erect in front of the class, her posture speaking in great volume, teaching in proper English how to dress, how to smile just right so that you give no clue to those around you as to your real thoughts or intentions, how to emote all of the right things to all of the right people. Perhaps included in that workshop is a lecture on the art of small talk as well; I also seemed to have missed that one.

More than the way the people around me are acting though, it is the feeling of being somehow different that gets me every time. Like when I first entered ministry, I actually tried to dress up when I preached. I saved all of my money so I could buy a few cheap suits at JC Penney’s. I had a black one and a blue one. I also bought a shiny pair of shoes because all the other preachers that I saw wore shiny shoes. And I felt transformed. I had been a Skinhead, a punk rocker, and an all-around screw-up. My hairstyles ranged from the bald uniform cut of a skin to the 9-inch purple Mohawk. And now, here I was, a citizen. I wore the same clothes that they all did; I was obviously the same, right?

I couldn’t have been more wrong and I should have known that better than anyone.

You see, when I was in the world, we had a term we used quite frequently to describe someone who dressed the part but was something different than the façade they were displaying; a poser.

There were very few things worse than being named poser, honestly. Anyone who was seen to be a poser knew then that everything they were projecting about themselves was a lie. You were acting or dressing differently than the person that you really were. It was the lowest of the low. Back then who you really were inside was more important than what you appeared to be to others. Anyone could cut their hair funny or shave it off. Anyone could don the apparel and act out a role. To the real skins, punks and Goths, the outside display was just a manifestation of an inner working. And if you didn’t feel what you were doing then you just needed to go away.

So there I was with my black suit and blue suit (and shiny shoes) and I tried to do street ministry with all the “street cred” that my apparel afforded me. And I found that the ones that I identified with the most – identified with me the least. Without meaning to, I was preaching a message before saying a single word. And that message was “all that I was before I became a Christian was an act- I was just a tourist”. Needless to say, not many listened to what I had to say.

I went home dejected utterly. God finally illuminated something to my spirit that I will never forget- He did not call me out of everything that he did just so that I could be like every other Christian. I got rid of all of those things that were not really me almost immediately. I made a call that has influenced everything in my life ever since- I will be myself, be that good or bad, ugly or beautiful, right or wrong. I will never pretend to be something that I am really not in order to please you or to be seen as “safe” by the Churchian community.

So I have become an iconoclast of sorts. I am not safe to bring in to preach because I will do what God tells me regardless of how people feel about it or if I will get invited back or not. I am not safe to be friends with because I will put God first before you. I am not safe to have in your clique because I will not adhere to your rules just because everyone else does. I will reveal things about myself that are not acceptable if I feel that God wants me to because I value his approval way more than yours.

And so on and so on. But thanks be to God, I may be ugly but at least I am real.

I believe that this rampant posing has impacted the church in one area more than any other- with our men. The Word tells us that we must have our hearts circumcised and I could not agree more. That must not have been enough for the church though because we seem to have skipped right past circumcision of the heart and went right for a total neutering. The churches read books like “Wild at Heart” and then they say to themselves, “I AM wild at heart, by George! I want adventure and to be dangerous again- maybe we should make a focus group and share how we all feel inside about it.” And so the neutering is revealed even as the heart shows the slightest stirring of recapturing what was lost.

My friend once had a cat that was a real tomcat all the way. He did what he wanted, prowled the neighborhood, and picked some fights with other cats (and occasional dogs as well). He was so ornery that we had to contain him under a laundry basket sometimes because he would attack anything that came in reach. The vet told my friend that the cat needed to be neutered in order to settle him down a bit. So he took him up and got the job done on him. From that moment on, he was a different cat. All he did was sit on the windowsill and look out the window at a world that he no longer saw the adventure in.

So it is with our men in the church. Somehow after a very short time of being saved, we no longer have any fight left in us. We become little hippy Gandhi Christians, de-neutered, de-clawed, de-odored and disinfected, safe for inclusion in the white suburban neighborhood church of our choice. Like the lion at the zoo who yawns instead of roars, we have become sad shells of what God intended us to be. And this is applauded by the church, even considered to be virtuous- especially for preachers.

No wonder our young people are not lining up to take on the challenges of ministry any more. They all want to be rock stars, leading praise and worship when they start out but graduating to real Christian rock stars later on. Forget laying your future at the foot of the cross and heading out to a foreign mission field, that is not really needed anymore. Why suffer to spread the Gospel or lay your life on the line for the cause of Christ when you can be idolized by adoring fans who will listen intently as you talk about God for two minutes at the end of your hour long set?

We want to be cool, not Christ-like and it is showing in our utter failure to reach the current generation.

It is not really their fault though if we are to be honest. They are this way because when we look around for heroes of the faith we can find none among our contemporaries. When I want to get edified myself I have to find sermons preached 30 years ago from men who are dead because there are very few that I would listen to today. The mold for today’s minister is safe, funny, inoffensive and relevant to a hip 30-something society.

But that kind of man does not speak to the heart of who I am. I have a roar in me; a roar that I know is meant for the hoards of Churchians who have my savior as a hobby in their life. It is a roar that is meant for a world that mocks God and rushes headlong into an eternal hell. A roar that is sent with all of the ferocity of someone that was left beaten, robbed and raped on the side of the road of life all of those years ago, and is aimed directly at an enemy that figured that no one would take the time to rebuild what was so obviously ruined.

And though I have oftentimes tried to bury it in the past, that roar always rises to the surface because it is not my roar alone but it is the raw sound of the frustrated heart of an entire generation.

We must be ourselves, no matter what it looks like. We must learn to hate the Churchian mask with every fiber of our being. We must discover the fighter that the enemy has tried to emasculate before it is too late and the battle that we were meant for is over and the looting begins.

Find your war cry, church. Then scream it with all of your heart no matter who approves or disapproves. Cast off Saul’s armor and find your stones and run to the battle. Who cares what everyone else is doing or what is considered appropriate Christian behavior at the moment? That is nothing but a spiritual flavor of the month club and is utterly useless in real application.

We are a generation that could not see who we really were in any of the Christians that were around us and so we figured that it was us who were wrong. So we bought the clothes, the bumper stickers, donned the hairdo that we saw everyone else wear and became Christian posers. When that failed to satisfy or when the utter hypocrisy ate at us too much, we just quit.

But who you are inside is tailor made for the hell you live in today. You are God’s answer for the enemy’s advances. But the fake can never make the cut. Only the genuine heart roar has a place on the battlefield of today.

So get saved, get real or get out.

Our love for one another is a witness

Posted: February 7, 2011 by natewhiteside in Nate Whiteside

In Johnny Cash’s song, “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” he sings, “You can run on for a long time, run on for a long time, run on for a long time, sooner or later God’ll cut you down, sooner or later God’ll cut you down . . . Go tell that long tongue liar, go tell that midnight rider, tell the rambler, the gambler, the backbiter, tell them that God’s gonna cut ‘em down, tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut ‘em down . . .”

He gives a testimony, “O my goodness gracious let me tell ya the news, my head’s been wet with the midnight dew, I’ve been down on bended knee, talkin’ to the man from Galilee, He spoke to me in a voice so sweet, i thought I heard a shuffle of angels’ feet, He spoke to me and my heart stood still, when He said ‘Man, go do My will,’ . . . You can throw your rock, and hide your hand, workin’ in the dark against your fellow man, But sure as God made black and white, what is done in the dark will be brought to the light . . .”

This song speaks about people who do not follow God, and think they are getting away with it. In the trailer for the new movie “True Grit,” based on the 1968 book by Charles Portis, True Grit, this song is played. The message of that book is a similar message, where a man murders another man in the old west, and the story is of bringing him to justice. It is a great book, but that’s not the point.

The point has to do with what Paul wrote about in Galatians 5:13-26, where he urged the Galatians to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not satisfy the desires of the flesh,” or “live by the Spirit,” (NIV) (for JC Smith :)) Hold onto that thought . . .

. . . John 13:34-35, Jesus said “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Picture Jesus in the upper room, talking to His disciples, and he tells them a new commandment. (Sorry, couldn’t find a more manly Jesus picture–not one that was reverent. Got a better one? Send it to nswhiteside@gmail.com). He’s not replacing the First and Great Commandment, “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength;” He’s not replacing the 2nd Great Commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself,” but He’s giving them a new commandment like the other two. This should flow out of your life. This command is the new bumper sticker He wants them to wear, that marks them as people trying to be like Him. The rabbi is telling His students the school mascot: Love one another.

Go back to Galatians. Paul writes to a people much like our churches today. Whether or not you believe they were in Northern or Southern Galatia, they had the same problems we have. On one hand, they struggled with legalism, where Christians believe that if they act perfectly it is the most important part of their walk with Christ. Usually these are people who define themselves by who they’re against or what they don’t believe in, or what they don’t do. You’ve heard, “We don’t smoke, drink, chew, or hang around those that do.” Who wants to be a part of an amoeba that constantly defines itself by what others do, that it does not?

Then Galatia had the other extreme, which were the libertines, or the eccentrics carrying out their Christian liberty. A good word to describe them is irresponsible. You can spot these Christians because they believe that they prayed a prayer and now can live however they want. They do not feel guilty when they sin, or express remorse, because they think that because all sin was paid for on the cross, Jesus doesn’t care. Kind of like a multi-billionaire handing us hundreds of dollars every month and not caring how we spend it because the supply seems limitless. That is also wrong.

In this context, speaking of living their lives like Christ, Paul incorporates Jesus’ command in the sermon on the Mount and John 13 in the Upper Room discourse: Love your neighbor as yourself! Paul says it sums up the entire law! “So then, live by the Spirit . . .” In other words, “Because of this . . .” or “Having said that, I say to you . . .” In light of your need to stop biting and devouring each other, you need to live by the Spirit, and you will not satisfy the desires of the flesh. The two, he explains, are like oil and water and cannot co-exist. You must choose, and it isn’t legalism, and it isn’t irresponsible Christian hedonism, it is in the middle like Jesus. Live by the Spirit, communion with God and letting Him lead you.

Our witness is loudest in our relationships that are closest. We should be so living by the Holy Spirit that we can open our home and let people watch us argue with our spouse and see that even in our disagreements, the Holy Spirit is there and our resolution is in accordance with God the Holy Spirit. Same with our churches, so that unbelievers are awed at our love for one another. Disciples of Jesus have this. Do you? If not, are you working on it? This is something you can’t put off.

Dr. Criswell, long time pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, TX, described this as if we all owned two dogs, one called the sinful nature and the other represented walking by the Spirit. Whichever dog you feed is going to grow stronger. So the question is “Which of your two dogs is healthy and growing, and which of your two dogs is starving?”

Lewis Sperry Chafer, in his book, He That is Spiritual, hits this nail on the head. He said that the problem is never God’s fault (I’m paraphrasing), it is ours. It isn’t that the Spirit isn’t filling us enough, because the Holy Spirit comes into our lives completely when we are saved. The problem is us not giving Him enough of ourselves.

Don’t miss this: Paul told Christians in Galatians 5 that in order to love one another, you must be living by the Spirit. You must be godly, because you can try to love someone completely like Jesus did (remember, it is “as I have loved you,”), but unless you depend on Him, your nature is not able to love others like Jesus did. The Spirit in you–Jesus who said He would be with you always, even to the end of the age–the Spirit of Christ which is the Holy Spirit–He alone gives us the power we need to love one another. In order to love one another, we have to live by the Holy Spirit.

So, then, how does what Paul is saying relate to what Jesus said in John 13? Jesus said loving one another is our ID. Paul explained that can’t happen unless we are trying to be Godly. Godliness can’t happen unless we surrender ourselves to the Holy Spirit. So then, how do we surrender ourselves to the Holy Spirit? Read Galatians 5:22 and following, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

What Paul describes is like two people walking up the ladder of Godliness. As long as both people continue to climb upwards, they continue to get closer together. However, if one person decides to go down and give into the sinful nature, the two naturally grow farther apart.

Followers of the rabbi from Galilee, let’s be people of love, an inner joy, people of peace, people who have patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness in our relationships and to our call, people of gentleness, and people who demonstrate to the world what self-control looks like. Ask the Holy Spirit to enable you to do this. Focus on this, on what we do. Love one another greatly.

Lastly, my friend from India grew up a Hindu and now is a Christ-follower. It is interesting that He said the one thing that got him, that he could not stop thinking about when he met Christians, was their love for one another. It was their treatment of each other better than family, that got him. That eventually led him to investigate and discover the Gospel, and follow Jesus. Keep reading in Galatians and chapter 6 says, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” Let’s risk our lives for one another, help restore the fallen followers of Jesus, help the poor brothers and sisters (as well as the poor unbelievers), and that will be a loud witness to the world who thinks we’re irrelevant. Let’s be disciples who show love for one another.

Knowing Jesus Means Having Compassion on Others

Posted: January 19, 2011 by natewhiteside in Nate Whiteside

Matthew 14:13-33

Picture a tired and grieving Jesus with His disciples, looking for seclusion, and finally finding it. He had just heard about John the Baptist’s death, and needed a moment alone. He and His disciples boarded a boat on Lake Galilee, pushed off the shore, and at last they would find seclusion.
When they reached the other side of the lake, crowds had anticipated their arrival. Was He disappointed? He had compassion on them. He began to heal their sick.
When evening came, which was 3pm for Jewish people, His disciples said to Him (Paraphrase) “this is our secluded spot we were looking for. We found it first. Send them away so they can buy themselves some food.”
Don’t you love it when people try to get you to do something by suggesting you do something else? The disciples didn’t care about them being fed as much as they cared about themselves resting.
Jesus wanted them to have the same compassion on the crowds, and He replied,
14:16, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered.
“Bring them here to me,” he said.
Jesus directed the people to sit down. Luke tells us He divided them into groups of 50.
Jesus took the food, looked up, gave thanks, and broke the loaves of bread.
One of the most common Jewish blessings for food was, “Blessed art Thou, o Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.”
Jesus possibly said that common blessing, thanking God publicly. Then Jesus gave the food to the disciples, until they were passing out food. They would return several times each and Jesus never ran out of food. He made the five loaves and two fish last for 5,000 men, and above that many women and children.
Notice: How many people did Jesus hand the food to in the crowd? None. Jesus handed the food to His disciples, and they handed food to the people.
Jesus wants to work through you to show HIS compassion through your life.
They didn’t just have enough; they had 12 baskets full. One basket for each disciple.
When you commit yourself to serve God by having compassion on people, God will take care of your needs in His way and in His time.

Jesus then sent the disciples in a boat away from that part of the lake, and then He sent the crowds away. He finally had time to rest.
If you’re available to God and watching for peoples’ needs, God will provide times of rest for you. If you avoid peoples’ needs and force times of rest, you will miss the miraculous work that God wants to do through you.
If you’re thinking right now, listening to this, “I don’t have any spare time now. How will I have any free time if I let people interrupt my schedule?”
If you do it to minister to them, God will take care of you and give you a season of rest in His way and in His time.

Jesus isn’t finished showing compassion. He doesn’t just require you to show compassion as His disciple.
He was by Himself, up on a mountainside praying. 14:23 tells us “when evening came,” possibly meaning the 4th watch of the night (3am-6am). Jesus was alone still in a time or resting and or prayer.
The boat was far from shore, and being “buffeted” by the waves; the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch Jesus came to them, walking on water, having compassion for His disciples caught in a storm.
Peter goes out after Jesus calls him, and Peter takes his focus off Jesus and puts it on the problems.
He cries out “Lord, save me!”
Jesus saved him, then Jesus rebuked him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
It is awesome to arrive in the safety of Jesus’ hand, but it is terribly uncomfortable to leave the place of security like the boat. It is also terribly difficult sometimes to walk that space between the place of safety and where Jesus commands us to go. Yet, if Peter had stayed focused on Jesus, the story would have ended without Jesus rebuking him. Would you have succeeded?
Not even the greatest of the OT prophets walked on water. Not even deities of other cultures walked on or controlled water. They had religious texts where their gods saved sailors, but none of the other nations’ gods dealt with the sea. The sea in ancient near eastern culture was a symbol for chaos and evil.
The only God immune to its appetite of swallowing people, and the only God able to calm it, is Jesus Christ God Almighty!
Matt 14:33, “Those who were in the boat worshipped Him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”
Something else to notice here, that Jesus not only tells you to show others compassion, but He is standing there showing you compassion when you fail.
Knowing Jesus means showing compassion to people. God wants you to do that. He wants YOU to get involved.
What did Jesus say? Matthew 28 records that He told us to make disciples by going into all the world, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all He has commanded. As we do that He is with us always.
Right now as I write, and later as you read, people are dying and going to hell.
Jesus talked about hell, and how our showing them compassion fits into their eternal destiny. He said in Matthew 16, “I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not stand against it.”
In some Jewish writings, Sheol (Gehenna, Hell) is portrayed as a place with many, many gates and layers of gates as you go further in, to keep the damned inside.
Jesus is saying that though their destiny is to be trapped in the painful consequences of their sin forever, My church will liberate them from hell.
That is awesome! He wants you to be a liberator. It starts with having compassion on people.

30,000 kids die daily from starvation.

Here at one of the churches where I serve, we have a food pantry. We have given out the food to people from the community who needed help but tried to limit it to church members who were struggling. This is due, in part, to professional pantry vultures that actually schedule their lives around when various charities are giving away stuff. We always want to help when help is needed but we also want to be sure to adhere to the biblical idea of “if you do not work, you do not eat’.

Now, this last week we decided that we must meet the needs of the poor, wherever they are but we didn’t think Jesus would wait around in a big building and have the poor come to Him. So, we decided to take the food to them, the voiceless, lonely lurkers out there who may very well be convinced that no one cares anymore. Now, we have a pretty sizable population of illegal immigrants here, they mostly work in the cheese factories. They also happen to be both the poorest section of the community and also the most unreached. So, we had a little hand-out printed up in Spanish, then loaded up an SUV and headed out.

Along the way, we stopped at a new tattoo parlor in town and I introduced myself to the owner. Turns out he is an ex-punk, ex-Skinhead like me and around the same age. I explained that I was a Pastor and had come to see him and to tell him to either repent or perish. I joke, I kid.

Actually, I explained that I was a Pastor and then showed him my sleeves (for you squares out there, sleeves are full arms done in tattoos, I didn’t show him my shirt sleeves, that would be strange.) he was of course really taken back by this and told me that he had never met a Pastor with tattoos. He noticed some of the tats that I have right away, like the Exploited screaming skull and the Doc Martins.

Soon, we had a great conversation going on in which he told me how he used to be a Catholic and really didn’t have a problem with the church, just church people. I told him that I agreed with him and felt the same way. In fact, I told him about how Jesus dealt with the religious leaders of His day and how he had told them that whores and tax collectors would go into the Kingdom before them. Anyway, I offered to come and hang out with him and he seemed to really want me to, which was cool. He doesn’t know it yet, but God is finding him.

Then we were off to find some poor folks. We would go to places where we knew that someone was struggling. We knocked on the door, introduced ourselves (if they spoke English) or handed them the Spanish hand-out if we had to. We explained that we couldn’t eat ourselves without them having enough and that Jesus cares about them even if Christians don’t.

At one place, there was a young Mexican girl who answered the door. The front room was very, very cold (this is Wisconsin in January). She let us know that she couldn’t find work and had three small kids. She didn’t heat the front room and just heated the bedroom with an electric heater. She was out of diapers and food and very far from home. Can you imagine what that must be like? My wife asked her if she needed potatoes and she was very excited, then she noticed two small potatoes wrapped in Saran-Wrap on top of the fridge, they were only eating small bits at a time.

I ran to the store and bought some diapers and we gave her food and asked if she needed blankets. This was repeated over and over that afternoon. I told my wife that if that were us, to have someone come and offer the things that we needed so badly, when it seemed that no one cared- that would be a miracle in my book.

There is all of this desperation, all of this need, right outside our doors. And how will we face God? I have the answer for it and it is quite simple; we will face Him exactly like the Rich man from Luke chapter 16, who fared sumptuously and those outside his gates got the scraps.

We give God the extra and keep the bulk for ourselves, so self-satisfied that if we give anything at all, that is more than most people do. But you are not called to be slightly better givers than most people, you are called to live a life of consecration and giving all that you have to meet the needs of those that Christ called “blessed”.

Isn’t that amazing? When you or I call someone or something blessed, we do so with the full (mis)understanding of Jewish covenant that Jesus railed against. The notion that to be rich is to be blessed while to be poor is the markings of God’s displeasure or even His curse is from the Old Covenant. When Jesus detailed who the blessed truly were, He named off the poor, the hated, the sorrowful, the persecuted. And it is to these same people that the sheep were applauded for serving and the goats were rejected for overlooking. Which one are you?

Someone once said that “if a child dies from hunger while a Christian sits full, that person is guilty of murder” and I can see where they are coming from. We have separated ourselves from the hurting and the poor by so many degrees of separation that it no longer affects us as it should. We do this, like the rich man with his walls and gates, to protect us from the inconvenience of giving. And like him, the dogs have more mercy than we do so many times. And in a world where we spend more on dog food than missions, the irony of this is overwhelming.

What would it look like if we practiced real community? What if our first job in the church was remembering the poor and way down at the bottom of that list were new buildings and padded pews? What if we set ourselves to the practice of seeking and saving the lost, regardless of where they fall on the income scale? What if we stopped planting so many churches in Suburbia and began reclaiming the abandoned and dilapidated areas of our communities. And from there, we walk and meet needs and provide services to those who cannot repay us?

I will tell you, we would begin to look like the church.

What if we stopped all the singles programs, recovery groups and movie nights geared towards keeping a lethargic church interested and began instead to use the wisdom and skills found in our membership to train people how to balance checkbooks, fix an engine, clean a home, apply for school? What if we made it our business to save the lost and completely eradicate poverty all around us?

What is stopping us from being the church right now? What stops us from having less so that others can have more? Why do we recoil at the idea of emptying our barns of all that we have stored up and instead, emptying them onto those who have nothing so that they have enough? Friend, we must go into all the world, that is a command. But don’t go empty-handed, take your wooden trophies that the world has bestowed on you for being such a productive member of it with you as you go. Real Christianity is not about having more and more for yourself, it is about giving more and more to others in the name of your Lord who gave all for you.

After all, charity is nothing more than giving back what you have stolen.

“So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

Jesus

Luke 14:33-35

“Well I’m gonna go then. And I don’t need any of this. I don’t need this stuff, and I don’t need you. I don’t need anything except this. And that’s it and that’s the only thing I need, is this. I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that’s all I need. And that’s all I need too. I don’t need one other thing, not one – I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure. And this. And that’s all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair.

And I don’t need one other thing, except my dog.”

Navin R. Johnson
The Jerk

the Jerk

Selective hearing is amazing, is it not? At some point in the journey of the Christian Church, we lost our ability to take God seriously. I am willing to take a guess that this may have started when the Bible stopped being the Word of God and it became the suggestions of God, and even those have been, in our mind, muddled up in bad translations and social ideals that no longer apply.

But if one part of the book is wrong, how can any part of the book be trusted?

And that is exactly our issue, isn’t it? If you do not believe in the infallibility of the book in the original languages, if whole sections are not for today, then you can be free to pick and choose which parts you like. We have gotten very, very good at this actually.

Throw two rocks hard enough and you will likely hit two Churchians with radically different ideas of God. And in our relativistic post-modern society, that is exactly what you should expect. Since no one has a lock on the truth and all religion is simply a man trying to have some personal religion that suits him, the idea of absolutes makes people freak out. We don’t like the idea that God has:

a.) The power to do as He wishes.

or

b.)The authority to do as He wishes.

We are the stars of this show and He loves us, right? I mean, for God so loved the world that He gave so this whole thing is all about us and His desire to love, bless and snuggle with us if we so choose. We leave churches if we aren’t getting fed, loved, hugged, promoted, adored, called, whatever. We choose churches based on what they can do for us. We engage in endless self-promotion in order to further our ministry and our gifting and our agenda. We build huge monstrosities called “Churches” (imagine if we called Army barracks Armies?) so that the world can gaze in wonder in the rightness and power of us and our calling.

We choose doctrines and pet teachers who tell us exactly what we want to hear. Hyper-Grace Antinomian doctrines are flourishing even though that little bit of heresy was called out a long time ago. We are even starting to see Pelagianism and Universalism make a comeback. All of this is surging in popularity because man wants the Gospel presented to him in a way that lines up with his or her worldview, period.

God is irrelevant; my perception of God is what is important. Besides, if the Bible is only partially true, who cares, right? A good God’s judgment seat is only for rewards, not to ever punish.

And so we heap up to ourselves teachers who tell us that God’s desire is for you to have your best life now. We hang on the every word of Antinomian pimps who tell us that grace is a cover for sin and that nothing that you do matters because God doesn’t care about law, commands or morals. We chase teachers who will give us the 7 secrets of complete selfish happiness, all without the slightest concern that they are teaching half-truths designed to hobble the true church of God and usher in a satanic age such as the world has never seen.

Sin is self-life, period. I want what I want when I want it and no one can tell my heart otherwise. This is the root of all sin, self. And (curiouser and curiouser) it also happens to be the common theme of the Laodicean church.

Let me give you an example; a person’s life turns out to not be what they expect. They are facing some failures and some loss that they do not want to face. A friend suggests that they go with them to ‘Happy Family Fun Church’, who knows; maybe they will hear something that will help them out. Once there, the person sees Happy Family Fun Churchians all acting happy and fun together. They sing happy songs, greet you in a happy way and happily take your money.

Then the motivational speaker takes the stage and explains that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life. It wasn’t His will that they are not happy, they chose to be unhappy by not saying the magic words. If they would just say the magic words along with the speaker, why, all will be well. God won’t care if they sin anymore, he will load them with benefits like cars and planes and all of this can be theirs for the happy fun price of ZERO, if they will just simply join us in saying the magic words.

Well, once they do this (who wouldn’t take a deal like that?) they are immediately welcomed into the church and given basic teaching on how to talk like a Christian and look like one (happy and fun). And that person is effectively damned for all of eternity because of the lies being propagated in the name of Laodicean religion. Jesus only saves the lost, you see. If they are comforted and coddled and told that they are just fine, what are the chances that they will ever accept the fact that they are lost and ungodly?

The root of that religion is self and origin will always point to destination, always.

Go ahead and try and ruin a ministry and start your own, hide and watch exactly where you end up. God will not be mocked, friend. Start a church based off a split, fostering a spirit of division, discord and malice. Plan for that church to split and split and split. Steal an idea and start a business, divorce your spouse for a better one, smear and use gossip to ruin someone, choose your poison. Your origin in unrighteousness will always point to your destination.

This holds true for those who come and “accept” Christ in an AMWAY altar call or even those who run to an altar call to avoid Hell, it is all the same. If self is the heart of your origin, selfish destruction will be the destination that you arrive at.

Someone may say that this is not fair, that it was the Preachers who were the ones spreading this false doctrine, why should the people be blamed for it? And I agree to a point but we know the end result of those people, they will be held to a stricter judgment and give an account of what they have done. And those who were wrapped up in the spirit of the age and selfishly seeking the benefits of a Just and Holy God will gain the word of God from The Revelation of St. John; ”He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be”.

The heart of all sin is self. “Selah” right there for a moment and contemplate. When you were offended at a brother and began to maliciously gossip and slander them with self-righteous zeal, what was the root of your offense? Was it not the wounding of your self-life in some way?

When you were alone and looked at pornography on the internet, what was the root of that? Was it not self and its needs and desires and the wishing for what you do not have, coveting something that is not yours?

When you lie to spare the feelings of someone else are you not really lying to save yourself from embarrassment or in order to maintain position with that person?

When you read the words of Christ about taking up your cross and following Him or forsaking all that you have, what is it that rises up in consternation and screams; “That’s not for today!” or “Jesus wasn’t being literal, just be willing to do it!” It is self, friend and it is your mortal enemy and has become in the Laodicean church the enemies’ Fifth Column. It is the hidden underground resistance that undermines your trip to the Celestial City every single step of the way. Because self and Christ don’t mix, they are mutually exclusive, diametrically opposed to one another.

The very heart of the call of God to salvation is a rejection of the self life. In Prevenient Grace, you must accept that self does not know Him, in Convicting Grace; you must accept that you are not pleasing to Him. Then, on the border of salvation and damnation, you must come to the conclusion that you are ungodly and that, not your faith, charm, will, decision, power, money, but that alone is the basis of your salvation. “I am ungodly; take me to Him who justifies the ungodly”. That admission of guilt and your undeserving nature is the death pangs of self-life in you.

But the wrestling match against the sinful selfish nature will continue until complete sanctification is established with Him in glory. And at every moment that it rears its head, we must yell, “Away with Him!” If self is tied up in possessions, give them away, literally. If self is tied up in ministry, quit until you get it fixed. If self is causing you to sin, cut that part of your life off completely. If your self life is so strong that you are compelled to look at porn, throw the computer out, dear heart. If self is at the heart of your business or your job, quit, take a reduction in pay and embrace simplicity in order to find salvation from self.

When the Israelites were given instruction for the Passover, they were told to not enjoy the meal, eat it quickly and in much haste. They were told to bind up their garments to run and eat it with their walking staff in their hand. As Watchman Nee wrote, “The world is to us while we live, a journey, when we die, a tomb”. This world is not your home, you are passing through. And none of these things can give you satisfaction. Live as if you are passing through here, a righteous sojourner.

And your mission while you are on this earth is to daily crucify your flesh, that self-life that ties you to Hell. Deal with it as extremely as you need to, it is your worst enemy. Do things that do your proud heart good. Serve as if you are no one. Be the least as often as you can. Kill that scoundrel by any means necessary.

Jonathan Edwards

One of the best ways that I have found to do exactly this is through the practice of resolutions such as Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley employed. As they lived, when they saw areas of failure and self, they would mark it immediately. Then later, they would make a resolution in their diary and read them every week in an effort to improve upon their condition. Here is an example of Edward’s resolutions (Thank you to A Puritans Mind.)

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the aforementioned things.

3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

Carry with you a small notebook and pen. During the course of your day, when you see an area of self-life or sin that keeps coming up, mark it on the notebook. Then prayerfully make a resolution that deals specifically and harshly with that area and keep it constantly until you have the victory.

The Christian life does not end with Justifying Grace but in the process of the Holy Spirit making that justification true in you through Sanctification. This is a forgotten truth in this era of presumptuous faith. So many reject openly the truth that we have to walk worthy of our calling, examine ourselves, prove our own selves and pursue holiness in the fear of the Lord. If we would hate the self-life and embrace His sanctification, using resolutions as our Fathers did, we would find ourselves in a much different state of Grace than we are currently in here in America.

I truly believe that many of us in the Church have only left the world in tears, taking as much of it as we could along with us as we go, just like Navin R. Johnson left his home in The Jerk. This is so contrary to the Gospel message that we have been and will continue to be doomed to failure and ridicule by the world so long as we continue to do this.

The world is, after all, looking for someone to tell them the truth based on a life that looks like the truth as well. But where are the self-sacrificing missionaries today? Where are those who take little but give much? Where are those who would rather be wronged than harm a brother? Where are those who display the true Grace of God to the world in the rejection of the world and the self?

This is true Christianity, the death of self, the Glory of God and the defeat of the world, the flesh and the devil.

And we will never leave Laodicea until we start right here, eating our meal quickly and with bitter herbs, staff in our hands ready to journey into the desert for the sake of the call.

 

The road out of Laodicea.

 

One of the main motivations that I feel in this current drive towards vintage reconciliation is my deep desire to help correct what I view as fundamental flaws in the churchian system and to provide genuine alternatives for those who feel trapped inside of it. As this generation gets older, I see that we are less and less willing to just accept the spiritual hand-me-downs of our predecessors. The armor doesn’t fit us, the system is all wrong and we just can’t get used to it. Like being in a bed when the sheets are too short, after awhile, you just want to replace them all and start fresh.

Personally, I have always been a bit marginalized, counter-culture, non-conformist, give it a name. When Christ found me all those long years ago, I was not a poster child for Christian virtue, anything but. I was a real mess in every possible way. And yet, He was pleased to find me and to lavish upon me a love and concern that frankly I had never truly experienced in my life, who has?

When He did this, He bought someone who loves Him back, viciously. The scripture that reads, “Zeal for your house consumes me” (John 2:17) certainly has always applied to me, as my entire being has been focused on God and His work ever since. Now, my zeal has been imperfect at times (let the reader sense understatement here) even damaging to myself and others in particular. In other words, I have never done everything right but everything that I have done, I was sure was right at the time. Selah.

I have always been quite sure that God was somehow amused by my awkward attempts at zealously pursuing what I felt that He wanted from me. Like a teacher who gives children hand-outs of perfect cursive and tells them to copy it exactly, what do they feel when they view the awkward and imperfect attempts at carrying out their wishes? Not anger, to be sure, unless they are a tyrant. So, I have always felt God smile when my baby deer legs didn’t quite hold me up or when I picked fights too big for me, certain of His bigness.

My sureness of His hand on my life stems primarily from the fact that He doesn’t let me get away with much. God always lets me know when I have been or am wrong and that has become one of those things that I genuinely fear, I really don’t want to be wrong because I really want Him to be pleased with me. This being said, I always find that I doubt, above all things, the sincerity of my own heart. I know myself, that is, my flesh, and am convinced as to its reckless and selfish nature.

And so I am generally the first to apologize, even when the other person’s wrong far exceeded my own and they have never apologized for what they did. I do this, not because I am über but because I fear God. I want to make sure that He is pleased with me and I will let Him deal with the others, He is after all, really good at that.

What bothers me most, therefore, is not the fact that men can be wrong, even grievously. What bothers me is that they never see it, repent for it, make amends or even apologize.

For instance, ever since I first came to the “church”, I have been shocked at the deluded and Christless state of many in the Church both systemically and personally. I have traveled and preached all over and it never ceases to amaze me that so many could never question or care that what they promote or do is contrary to the truth of the Word. It is actually quite scary when you think about it; how many of those who name the name of Christ can do things that are humanistic at best and downright satanic at worst, all without ever seeming to even care?

Some are loyal to “you four and no more” above all else, believing that God is interested in you in particular and so it does not matter what you do or whom you do it with or to. Some shamelessly build their own Kingdoms using gimmicks and humanist programs. Some think that their “calling” gives them the right to get to where they are going all on their own, even trampling ministers and ministries along the way. Some “serve” Christ while fostering satanic ideals of division, rebellion, selfishness, self-centeredness, gossip, malice, character assassination, bitterness and despising authority. Talking about Christ while hating and trying to destroy ministries in His Body is not a mistake, it is satanic.

The concept of community, Body life and brotherly love has all but disappeared in our every-man-for-himself culture. We have equated love with emotion and lost the notion of love as an act of volition. We have mistaken community for pot lucks and movie nights and missed the entire point of New Testament community.

The laundry list of faults goes on and on.

To understand how we got here, you must understand that the main focus of what we do is first of all numbers and secondly, self advancement.

This is how we judge our own success and other’s as well. If you have numbers, God is pleased. If you do not have numbers, God is obviously not pleased with you or even “with” you at all. This flies in the face of both the Gospel and history and has been one of the main causes for the declension of the modern Laodicean church. Because the proclamation of truth searches hearts and the motivations of the heart, something Laodicean Larry and Laura do not want. They want their best life now, justification of sin without justification of the sinner, prosperity without divine purpose and no guilt trips to bring them down.


Moo.

In the clergy’s pursuit of the American dream, we are happy to give them what they want. We want numbers, they want Jesus-Lite (all of the taste, none of the guilt!) and so we fashion them whatever God they wish. They hand us their gold, we get to building them an idol that they can sing about, feast to and fornicate in front of without fear. Big churches want to hold onto their power and money, middle churches wish to get more money and power and little churches dream of having money and power and we sell our souls to satan for it.

Gone is all talk of sin, the depravity of man, the sovereignty of God, the wrath of God, Hell, the atonement, regeneration as mandatory, repentance, sacrifice, martyrdom, consecration and the judgment seat of Christ. In their place are self-help, practical lessons on life, prosperity without purpose, greasy grace, antinomianism, Pelagianism, egalitarianism, seeker-sensitive non-religion, no cost, no discipleship, no guilt, no works, and humanist propaganda.

For those of us who feel that something is rotten in Denmark, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the problem. In this culture, size makes right and so if you have numbers, it must be God. Subsequently then, if you don’t have big numbers, you really cannot speak on issues until you have proven that God is indeed with you by big numbers.

So to cry out that you feel that something is amiss when you are not on Christian television (a sure sign of the favor of God) is frowned upon. Small town local pastors should not have a say in the state of the church because that right is reserved for certain special leaders. I imagine many of the same arguments were made in Luther’s day; how can the whole church be wrong? Why would God give you an answer? Aren’t there good things that are going on to outweigh the bad? Why would God reveal truth to a little nobody monk?

And we, like Him, only know what we know. Namely, that this monstrosity looks nothing like the First Church, Geneva, Herrnhut, The Foundry, Red River, Ulster, Northampton, Wales, Hebrides. And our current crop of Adonijah leaders look and sound nothing like Knox, Calvin, Augustine, Luther, Edwards, Whitefield, Zinzendorf, Wesley, Moody, Spurgeon, Tozer, Reidhead, Paisley and most importantly, Yeshua Ha-Mashiach.

So, regardless of numbers or popularity, we hear the voice in the middle of the night telling us to  “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee”. We only know that something is deeply flawed and we have to leave. Like Abraham, we travel from Ur not knowing where we are going but certain of the call to go anyway.

God’s natural law states that a body in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force and the force that acts upon it must be an unbalanced force. In other words, in order for us to make a difference to the church at large we must hit the problem as hard as we can from one direction and at a different trajectory than what it is currently on.

So, here we all are. We are stuck on a bus with no driver, heading as fast as it can towards a destination that we want no part of. And yet, we feel helpless because all that we know is on that bus.

We want to continue mostly worthless worship services because we don’t have any better ideas. Never mind that particularly in the Charismatic circles, it is all emotionalism, humanism and flesh. We just don’t have any better ideas and besides, our flesh really likes to sing and imagine that God is listening, he is, of course, so desperate for any affection that he breaks down and weeps when even the biggest hypocrite, who denies His name six days out of seven, sings along with our worship leader.

We want to continue with all of the Laodicean 21st Century inventions because that is what we are comfortable with. And as that revolutionary war guy said, “Give me comfort or give me death”! We know, deep down that something is wrong but we are afraid to make the changes to something better because we don’t really know what that is.

And so, like the people who do wrong, consistently, even brazenly, sowing discord, division and character assassination and so on, we never think of repentance or reconciliation because we want what we want. God will get over it, right?

One of the best ways to understand the concept of sin is that sin is rebellion against deity by saying that you want what you want, regardless of what deity says. Alternatively you can say that Christianity therefore is the practice of saying that you want what God wants, regardless of what your flesh wants. This is basic elementary everyday normal Christianity.

Using this simple bit of truth, when we know that changes must be made and yet we do not do them, that must be sin, at least as much as those who seek their own and curse, bite and devour others on their way. We want our way with the church, we want society to be pleased with us and we don’t want to rock the boat. It all starts, continues and ends with self.

I have seen this particularly with charismatics. They are fine with all manner of heresy, heterodoxy, error, sin, humanism, self love and narcissism. But don’t change their changes. Whatever little “advances” and modifications they have made generationally to the church are off-limits. You can rant and rave all day about religious people (everyone not charismatic), but don’t you dare change their changes.

So here after a few months of pursuing vintage reconciliation, we find ourselves not really looking very charismatic at the moment. But we are feeling a whole lot more like Jesus. I suspect the same can be said for all of the churches here locally that have been undergoing real transformation.

It has been hard, we have lost some people that we loved, have seen numbers fluctuate. But we know that God is the wind in our sails and so we press on. We do this because it is better to not be safe than to be silently wrong. To leave Ur and head out, even not knowing where you are going feels a whole lot better than sitting there and complaining about all of the wrong that is around you.

So, Pastor Abraham, wherever you are right now just get up and go. Sure, numbers may drop, people may hate you for rocking the boat, fleshy Christians high on greasy grace may bite and tear at you but shouldn’t you follow your own conscience? You know that something is amiss and in order to change it, incrementalism simply will not work now. We are too deep into the Humanist age; the consumer-based Churchian mob rule of Laodicea. No, what it is going to take to awaken the sleeper out of their slumber is a full on carpet bombing mission of shock and awe. And no one else can do it except you.

What it takes is simply stepping off of the bus, period. Just get off and stop the madness altogether. Nix everything in your service that has been contrived in the last hundred years for starters, you have to go back before Laodicea. I would counsel not trying to go back to the Apostolic age, even they were rebuked in the Book of Revelation. Instead, go back to the Philadelphian Age, brotherly love and missions. Just start there. Kill the lights, close the computer, shut down the PowerPoint and the tragically hip praise team. Then, kill your suit, kill your sermon, kill the altar call, kill the offering.

After it is all gone and the room sits silent, just the sheep and yourself, talk to them and let them talk to you back. Talk about Jesus and talk about discipleship. Serve communion, feed some hungry people once a week. Actually help people who come by your church, get involved in your community and fight for what is right and for those who can’t defend themselves.

Chuck the show and the entertainment and just demonstrate what Christianity is. Then begin to add again what people have forgotten from that wonderful Philadelphian era. Our services have begun to look like services again but with a major difference; they don’t look like we are living in Laodicea. And by the Grace and favor of the Lord, we won’t ever wake up in Laodicea again.

And so, my dear Pastors and leaders out there, do you really want another day at the Laodicean Christian Center, Inc.? If you don’t change now, you may die right there. You were meant to be a preacher, to exemplify Christ, to reach out to a lost a dying world, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. You were not created to be a religious CEO but a prophet. Leaving Laodicea doesn’t take a five year plan or a twelve step program, it takes just simply leaving Laodicea and being true to what God has called you to be, even if it is true by yourself in the desert heading to a future that is uncertain.

I do not believe that anyone who reads this blog would be the sort to say that there is not something rotten in Denmark. So what we are doing is looking for some active solutions, those inspirations from God that reveal His answers to the quandaries that currently beset us on all sides.

Most of us are quite aware that many of the mainline churches are in imminent danger of closing within a 15-20 year period. As the current membership gets older, there are not many young people coming in to carry the torch. I truly pray that in response to this problem, the fallen heads at the top of the ivory towers don’t repeat their mistakes of the past by simply attempting to compromise more with a world system that is inherently Anti-Christ. We saw this flawed reasoning in action in response to Modernism here in North America. Many of the churches felt that their only chance for survival was an all-out surrender to the Modernist mindset. Of course, this has had interesting consequences beyond the immediate fallout of their compromise. Today, in a Postmodern, or Post-postmodern age, Modernism is considered to be the enemy in every way possible, hence the gulf between attendees and non-attendees in those churches. In other words, these churches compromised with a worldview that seemed to be gaining steam at the time in order to save their own tukhus’ and ended up completely alienating a future generation by it. And what appears to be their solution? Get more postmodern!

Compromise with the Zeitgeist will never be the answer of God, ever. As Watchman Nee said; “This world is to us when we are alive, a journey, when we die, a tomb.” That is all that it is, a place that we pass through as strangers and foreigners. To compromise with the ideas of the world only ever landed Israel in trouble and at times, in bondage. It is no different for us today. The seeker-sensitive, positive self-image Gospel has landed us in a much more dire position than we were before it began.

Consider; we have never had bigger churches than we do today. And yet, 90% of the people who make decisions for Christ leave and never follow Him. On top of this, look at the moral condition of our nation at the moment. It seems to be teetering on the brink of anarchy at times and immorality and crime are ever increasing. How do you reconcile these things? We have plenty of bubble gum churches with atriums and amusement parks and yet we have made not a single dent on the moral condition of the world in which we are here to save? I could argue that getting the message out of the necessity of repentance and the mandatory nature of regeneration is the sole reason for the existence of the church, not the tending of the 99 sheep. The church has become the land flowing with milk and money and we simply must just stop all of it immediately.

We have found some solutions that genuinely seem to work. For us, we have very few people over the age of 40 and so if there were ever a suitable mouse maze, this is it. The churches where I serve are primarily Gen-X/Y Churches. I see this as only increasing as we go along and that suits me just fine. So, what solutions has God led us to so far?

If we are to reach this world, let us first take advantage of the desire for anchoring among the current generation. As everything around them spins off into confusion and disorder, people are hungry for something solid and reliable. There has possibly never been a time in the church when people were more desperate for the old paths than today.We have implemented several things here that serve this end.

First, we distribute index cards at the start of service when people are coming in. They are encouraged to write down any prayer requests that they may have on these. The very first thing that we do in the service is to pray for these problems so that people can focus on the message and have their needs taken before God. Now there are other branches of the local church who do this and the prayers are different from church to church, to be sure. The Baptists pray for the people to have the strength to endure their time of trial and the Pentecostals try to lay hands on them directly. Sorry, just a joke, couldn’t help it. At any rate, the needs of the people are taken before God first.

At the Churches where I serve, we have temporarily taken out all worship songs from the service. I wrote about this elsewhere and so I won’t reiterate it here. Suffice it to say, if you can’t stop gossip, backbiting and not serving widows and orphans, God doesn’t want to hear you sing (Isa 29:13). We need to stop thinking that love is an emotional feeling that we extend towards one another, it isn’t. It is not hugs, smiles or picnics. Love is a verb, an action in laying down your life for others. So, until we start operating in true love, why sing? I know, real Gen-X there, right? Hence the exodus of the Boomers.

Boomers truly desire a meaningful worship service and no guilt trips. The same can’t be said of Gen-X, they want the hard stuff. During service, people are free to ask questions and we always close with question and answer so that no one goes away confused. The service is followed by Communion and a weekly Lovefeast.

Also, anyone who needs some food is taken to our pantry and given food for their family, after every service (and during the week if need be). We have also started a weekly soup kitchen on Mondays where we feed those from the surrounding area who just need a bit of a helping hand through the week. This is one of the most satisfying new things that we do.

The latest addition has been Wesleyan Classes, Bands and Select Societies. I will write more on this a bit later but it is easily the single greatest area of fruit that we have, so much so that people would much rather just do Class meetings than Church meetings, go figure.

We have decided that radical changes must take place if we are to reach this generation of souls on the earth. To this end, we have begun to change our thinking in many, many ways as God has led us deeper down this rabbit hole.

I truly believe that we are in desperate need of the passionate communication of doctrine in these churches. The true and fiery preaching of the fundamentals needs to be restored to the pulpits once again in our mainline churches. Nothing else will do except a genuine revolution among the pastoral corps here because for far too long these pulpits have sat as bleak reminders of the better days of years gone by. They simply must remember what it was that stirred the people originally in their churches and do those things again.

Now, whether you are a bit to the left of the political spectrum, or a bit right, is not the issue. We can learn to operate together and build the Kingdom of God. The right side desperately needs to employ aspects of the Social Gospel in what they do and the left desperately needs to employ the Spiritual Gospel in what they do. We truly can learn from one another and allow our diversity to be our strength.

Here, in the town where we live, we are learning to come to terms with the idea of “Church by Locality”. That in essence, God only has one Church in our town. It is not the Baptist or Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic or United Church of Christ. It isn’t even the Spirit-Filled Churches (curiouser and curiouser). Instead, it is all of us together and each of us is only a branch of that greater system of things in which God is moving. This is a revolutionary idea and in chasing hard after it, I see not just the only solution to the problems currently plaguing the mainline churches but also the only solution to the increasing problem of the marginalized 18-35 demographic.

For us, this is still in its infancy to be sure. We pastors have been meeting together to pray for revival once a week now for the last seven months or so. And though it started off quite awkward at times, it has gelled into a unity among us that I did not know was even possible in 21st century America. We are all very different (major understatement here) and have very different views of ministry, church and God. But we are all passionate about Him and His Kingdom and that has seemed to trump all reservations. Currently, we are starting to take some baby steps towards a more visible “Church at Darlington”. We want the congregations to experience the same unity that we have and for them to become involved in the growth of the Church and serving the Community at large with us.

What are the next steps for us here?

1. I think that ideally we would begin to pray for revival together on a regular basis as a single church.

2. To be able to recognize strengths in each branch of the Church at Darlington and use them towards common goals.

3. To willingly sacrifice members, talents, resources and time from our stronger areas to make up for weaker areas in the other churches.

4. To begin to operate more like a single church with many branches rather than a collection of individuals who are either building our own Kingdoms or extending the reach of our sectarian denominations.

If any of you readers want further information on any of those things or would just like to talk with Nate or myself, please drop an email to us or comment on here. We would love to serve you in any way we can.

J.

Dear caretaker of God,

I’m just checking in, as a good American does, with the caretaker of the God who founded this nation and our churches. Is He responsive today? We’re not sure, but we think we’re doing what the last people did who checked in with you. I think it was you. You’re a pastor, right? Don’t pastors talk to God for us? We voted to hire a pastor at our church, and think he should do all the “ministry,” while we make the decisions. Same with you, right? No, we’d rather not talk directly to God, because we don’t have enough time to stop by. Let him know we’ll stop by and visit when we get a break from doing church work. How’s the Alzheimer’s doing? You asked in your last message what makes us think that you’re His caretaker. Doesn’t someone need to take care of someone with Alzheimer’s? You asked what made us think He has Alzheimer’s, and again I say it’s because we haven’t seen or heard anything. You understand that’s also why we don’t try to communicate too much with Him. During the Enlightenment Era, people discovered God was old and getting older, and humans were getting smarter, and we’ve been told we’re climbing the evolutionary ladder. Some believe we’ve outgrown God.

I know you say that’s because we aren’t listening, or we aren’t reading the Bible, but honestly, we’ve perfected church. I think you’re saying this because you have a personal axe to grind. I mean we had church perfected in the Enlightenment Era, then the PostModern Era took it to a whole new level. We’re so nice we don’t expect anything from anyone, and agree with everyone who has any kind of opinion whatsoever. We’ve perfected positive thinking. Truthfully, we’re getting pretty hammered and pressured by everyone around us and their agendas. They have a lot of sway. Some of them  have high political offices and others have a lot of money. Some have even lived in this area all their lives, and are the fourth generation in their family! Since we haven’t listened (strike that) heard from God, it must be the sender, not the receiver, thus many have assumed silence is concession.

Besides, trying to talk to political leaders is getting us only on a watch list, and we don’t want to rock the boat. You understand, we care about safety first, as a good Christian should. So what do we do? We’re pretty sure we’ve got God figured out based on what He wrote (and our smart interpretation of it), so we’ll go with that. We are convinced (everyone agrees) that we only need to pray a prayer once and can live how we want. So by doing all this travelling to get people to pray prayers, and building bigger buildings, and having more people in our gatherings who pray prayers, and paying the best musicians, we’re doing above and beyond what’s required. Some people even give 8% tithe. In the age of Grace! We will just do things the way they’ve always been done, taking parts of Scripture that are relevant (though no one knows that that means in a postmodern world where structure is irrelevant, thus when you strategize to become relevant you are irrelevant. Don’t try to become unirrelevent or you definitely aren’t relevant. Don’t try to figure it out, or you most definitely are no longer relevant. Head in the clouds, no demands, come as you think you are, and you might be relevant). I mean taking parts of Scripture that we have been told are relevant in the new books we’ve read. Other parts were cultural, such as verses against premarital sex, gossip, homosexual behavior, male leadership and headship, talking about Jesus’ death on the cross (is He there with you and God still? Some doubt it).

Please pass all this onto God. Thanks for doing what your people hired you to do. It sounds like you’re going to stay longer than our pastor. He doesn’t pass our complaints (strike that) messages on as well, and spends too much time visiting people. He can’t get it that he’s supposed to just do what we tell him. I’m sure you do, because you’re close to God. Write back soon.

(Response)

Dear writer,

Your irreverence is astounding, but I’ll pray God understands. You are a product of American church religion that used to be Christian. God has already spoken about this, in Isaiah 57 (NASB) “The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart; and devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from evil, He enters into peace; they rest in their beds, Each one who walked in his upright way. But come here, you sons of a sorceress, offspring of an adulterer and a prostitute. Against whom do you jest? Against whom do you open wide your mouth and stick out your tongue? Are you not children of rebellion, offspring of deceit, who inflame yourselves among the oaks, under every luxuriant tree, who slaughter the children in the ravines, under the clefts of the crags? Among the smooth stones of the ravine is your portion, they are your lot; even to them you have poured out a drink offering, you have made a grain offering. Shall I relent concerning these things? Upon a high and lofty mountain you have made your bed. You also went up there to offer sacrifice. Behind the door and the doorpost you have set up your sign; indeed, far removed from Me you have uncovered yourself, and have gone up and made your bed wide. And you have made an agreement for yourself with them, you have loved their bed, you have looked on their manhood. You have journeyed to the king with oil and increased your perfumes; you have sent your envoys a great distance and made them go down to Sheol. You were tired out by the length of your road, yet you did not say, ‘It is hopeless.’ You found renewed strength, therefore you did not faint. Of whom were you worried and fearful when you lied, and did not remember Me? Nor give Me a thought? Was I not silent even for a long time, so you do not fear Me? I will declare your righteousness and your deeds, but they will not profit you. When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you. But the wind will carry all of them up, and a breath will take them away. But he who takes refuge in Me shall inherit the land and shall possess My holy mountain.”

So you see, writer, you are in a dangerous place. You see, American Christian, you cannot use the excuse of God being silent. You cannot use the excuse of God being still. It is not God who has changed, but you. I am not His caretaker, and to think so is blasphemous. Yet in your heart, you believe He does have Alzheimer’s, and is not responsive, otherwise you would be afraid of Him instead of fearing men, money, and monarchs. You are walking down a well worn path that Jesus called the wide gate of destruction, and your good company cannot see the green meadows giving way to fire and refuse. Turn back your life to once again walk the narrow road towards the narrow gate. Dig in the ground behind you and pick up your dropped cross, then carry it. But until you do that, do not write back! Do not include me in your failure! I don’t want any part of the American church that has cut off her ears and gouged out her own eyes, sniffing in the wind for the nearest scent of an idol to mate with. It is apparent by the choosing of large crowds over finding lost sheep that you have lost your first love. Do lovers who cheat on their beloved blame the faithful spouse? Yet you have blamed God when it was you who had the affair. God has already spoken, and the Almighty need not repeat Himself for your sake. He owes no one an explanation, and, contrary to what you have been led to believe, He is not silent.

God is moving in the hearts of those who are faithful to Him, raising up a new generation of people who will obey Him and not excuse His commands. Jesus’ voice rings in the ears of His sheep and they desire more, not less. Against the juggernaut of selfishness, dehumanizing others and yourselves, and atheistic political movement, the ancient Rock of Ages is not afraid. He has always and will always have a remnant of faithful ones. He can do more with one than 7 billion can do without Him.

I urge you, writer, to examine yourself for the answer to your problems, not God. After you have discovered your weaknesses, see if you can hear Him better. See if you can see Him then. If you do this, and only after you do this, write me back. As to me talking with God on your behalf? God decided (written in the Bible) that you could talk directly to Him yourself. You should enjoy this.

With Concern,

Servant of the Lord

ps Please leave your pastor alone before you turn your prophet into a professional.

The Naaman principle: that if God’s people stop following Him, He will find another people who are obedient to Him.

In this entry we’re taking a look at the ministry of one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament, Elisha. God used Elisha to accomplish more miracles than anyone else in the Old Testament; in fact, anyone else in Scripture next to Jesus. Elisha was used to perform fourteen miracles, but our focus is not on him. Our focus is on a non-Israelite, foreign, ungodly man named Naaman. How does this relate to our need to get back on track? You’ve probably figured out the thesis, but read on just to make sure.

The story unfolds in 2 Kings 5. His name means “beautiful or handsome one.” He was the commander of the army of Aram (also called Syria), under king Ben-Hadad I or II.

He was mighty in battle, and God had used him already (whether he knew it or not, we are not told). He came to Israel because he had heard from his servant girl that there was a prophet in Samaria who could cure him of his leprosy.

We’re told that the Lord granted Naaman success in battle. During one of those campaigns, Naaman capture this Israelite slave girl. Sometimes God places His people in positions of lowliness, suffering, humiliation, or forced meekness for His greater purpose. I wonder how many times the slave girl doubted God’s sovereignty. If you’re in a position like this, God still has a purpose for you, just like He intended this unnamed slave girl to direct Naaman towards His prophet, Elisha.

Naaman came from Aram, to Israel, with the blessings of his king. He brought a small treasure to pay to the king of Israel for healing him. King Joram didn’t didn’t see any way for him to be healed, and tore his clothes in distress. Elisha heard of it, and sent word that Naaman should come to Elisha and he would know there was a prophet of God in Israel.

The leader of God’s people, the king, should have known where to find the prophet of God. Instead, he saw Naaman’s approach through his own personal values, namely as a threat to his power. So Elisha texted King Joram just in time, telling him he’d take care of it.

Naaman arrived at the doorway of Elisha’s house with his entourage. Elisha didn’t go out to meet him, but sent a servant telling him to dip in the Jordan River 7 times.

Naaman, expecting to speak with Elisha himself, and expecting more ritual, was furious. His pride was wounded.

(vv. 11-12) “He turned and went off in a rage.”

Sometimes people are upset at God or God’s mouthpiece because they were expecting something different. You probably have faced this as a Christian before. When I was an Associate Pastor in Dallas, TX, one Sunday morning a lady called our church and asked, “Are women allowed to wear pants there?” We were a Baptist church, but not that kind. One of the greatest compliments I’ve heard was a friend telling me, “Nate, when I’m with you, I can’t imagine you as a pastor.” He goes to our church and is an active leader there. He further explained that he had a preconceived idea of pastor as an aloof, anti-social, stoic fossil who loved crowds but hated people.

I hope I don’t ever see one more briefcase-toting, coat and tie wearing, professional occupying his dust-free office, operating a 9-5 workday, preoccupied with programs and ministries as the solutions for sin. We need no more professionals writing how-to books. We need prophets of God, who will tell people not to promote a mosque at ground zero, or to be ashamed of themselves if they’ve never helped the poor while never missing their favorite TV show. We need people who are willing to be slandered as “friend of tax-collectors and sinners,” not excusing Jesus-style ministry in the name of “above reproach” or avoiding “slippery slope” lifestyles.

Naaman didn’t expect to be talked to by a servant, dismissed to wash on what he considered a dirty river. Sometimes the simple message of “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved,” is insulting to your pride. Sometimes you expect God to acknowledge your physical, mental, or spiritual eliteness. Sometimes you expect God to come to you on your terms, at your time, in your place, and do things your way.

Isaiah 55:9, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than  your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Today one of the weaknesses of our churches is trying too hard to meet sinners on their terms. God doesn’t even try hard to meet sinners on their terms and offer compromise. All people must meet God on His terms, which necessitates thinking less of self and more of Him.

We must meet God on His terms. Today He says to you, your best righteous works are not valuable to Him. Only the righteous work of Jesus on the cross, Jesus in the tomb, and Jesus resurrected in the air!

Some people have been disappointed in the church because they believe the church needs to come to them and be more seeker sensitive. That is not God’s plan for His church. I recently read a great list of reasons people don’t attend sports events, if the same excuses applied as are used for leaving church. So here are reasons people leave churches applied to sporting events:

1. Every time I went, they asked me for money.

2. The people with whom I had to sit didn’t seem very friendly.

3. The seats were too hard and uncomfortable.

4. The coach never came to see me.

5. The referee made a decision with which I could not agree.

6. I was sitting with some hypocrites–they only came to see what others were wearing.

7. Some games went into overtime, and I was late getting home.

8. The band played numbers I had never heard before.

9. The games are scheduled when I want to do other things.

10. My parents took me to too many games when I was growing up.

11. Since I read a book on sports, I feel that I know more than the coaches anyway.

12. I don’t want to take my children, because I want them to choose for themselves what sport they like best (Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, s.v. “excuses.”).

God doesn’t want to make a deal with you regarding your cleansing. He doesn’t take bribes, accept acts of penance, or need our offerings in order for us to be healed. It is only by God’s grace—His giving us what we didn’t earn and should not have—that we receive healing.

It is only by God overlooking Naaman’s status as outside the covenant people, that Naaman received God’s mercy. It is only by God overlooking our status as sinful people that we receive God’s mercy. It is only God giving good works, God giving righteousness, God giving all that we are healed. Jesus’ death and resurrection are the only good works that can pay for ultimate healing, and God did that for you. Free of cost!

God has a storehouse of treasure and He wants you to withdraw out of His account, freely!

What happens next with Naaman?

For the second time, his healing is influenced by his servants. It was an Israelite servant girl who gave him the idea of going to Elisha, and now God again used the humble to influence the mighty.

Notice what Elisha did and did not do:

He left Naaman alone for God to deal with him. Too many times, when we tell someone about Jesus and the need to follow Him, we break out our spiritual first aid kit and rush like a paranoid field medic to the scene. We believe we will be the influencing force for their salvation. God is the only influence for salvation.

Elisha did not chase Naaman. God did. Pastors, church leaders, those who have family members who reject Christ, and all who have told the Gospel while being mocked and jeered: God is still able to save, and He’s the only one who ever could in the first place. Don’t chase. Let God chase.

As this applies to winnowing out the wheat of our churches and making disciples like Jesus Christ, there will be seed that falls by the wayside, on thorns, on rocky soil, and on fertile soil. The fertile soil seed is what we must focus on. If some drop off and decide to reject the tightening of the screws, and the harder practice so that the chance of winning the game is greater, then we must let God chase them.

Naaman put his pride aside and followed Elisha’s advice.

What was his response? After seeing the results he praised God!

5:15, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”

Gehazi, witnessing God work, could only think of the money Elisha was passing up. Gehazi desired the money, and snuck later and lied, taking the money. Gehazi then lied to Elisha about taking the money. God cursed Gehazi with leprosy and all his descendants.

Note: Sometimes the people on the outside understand more about God than the people on the inside

What does this have to do with following Jesus? Jesus gave a commentary on this passage, saying it applied to Himself.

Turn to Luke 4. Jesus told us why God healed Naaman and Naaman came to recognize the One True God, about how God chose to heal a foreigner and be glorified through that man’s healing rather than healing one of the many leprous Israelites. Why did God choose to do this? Jesus said it was because of the very reason Nazareth rejected Him.

Luke 4:22–27 (READ IT)

Part 1 of what Jesus said is this:

If God’s people reject Him, God will go outside and find those who are faithful.

If you tell God “No,” God will find another to take your place who is willing to say, “Yes.”

Romans 11 tells us about this happening to Israel, God’s chosen people:

Romans 11:7–12 (READ IT)

Today we stand at a crossroads, where we have the decision Naaman had.

Are we similar today to the Israel Elisha lived in? Are God’s people today giving into idols and derailed from the mission of the church?

Jesus said to go into all the world and make disciples of every nation. Are you doing that?

America used to be the most involved in training and sending people for the Kingdom work. Now God is doing that work in Asian churches, and African churches, and South American churches. Before America, it was England who birthed William Carey, Hudson Taylor, and the 1800’s missionary movement that sent thousands all over the world.

Today South Korea has the largest church the Yoida Full Gospel Church which averages 800,000 people in attendance every Sunday. That means nothing, unless there is more. And there is. They purchased a mountain called Prayer Mountain, where anyone can come and pray. They send out missionaries all over the world and send out church planters all over the world.

In China, the underground church is training missionaries to go into Muslim countries that are closed. This is a closed country where Christians are persecuted, sending missionaries to countries where Christians are persecuted.

What are you doing with all the comforts and freedom you have?

We can:

1)      throw away the words of God Who is saying to do something different and possibly uncomfortable

2)      accept what is an unexpected word from God in an unexpected way

We can trust that God really does want you to take seriously Jesus’ requirements for following Him.

Part 2 of what Jesus said about Naaman is this:

Jesus had a habit of stirring the pot. He could have walked out of Nazareth with their lipservice approval. But he knew they were telling him what he wanted to hear. Like where we live sometimes. You and I would have to be foolish to believe everything people say about us, especially what people say to me.

#1 question you need to ask is not “What will people think about me?” but “Am I converted?” If you’re saved, then from what? Do you do those old sinful things? If you do, can you really say God saved you from it? John Wesley wrote after years of ministry, that he was not a Christian, but he desperately hoped to become one. Where are the ones who will consider that part of their salvation is their cross?