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

Advertisements

We’re gonna find out where you folks really stand.
Are there any queers in the theater tonight?
Get them up against the wall!
There’s one in the spotlight, he don’t look right to me,
Get him up against the wall!
That one looks Jewish!
And that one’s a coon!
Who let all of this riff-raff into the room?
There’s one smoking a joint,
And another with spots!
If I had my way,
I’d have all of you shot!
~Pink Floyd, In the Flesh (II)

The bake sale will be held this Friday...

Sorry if you find yourself offended at the perfectly apt Pink Floyd lyric above, if so feel free to take away my Brownie Button.

As this writing was gestating in me, that song kept going through my head because I think our churches can be a lot like that and that really bothers me. We spend so much time pointing the finger and rejecting anyone who does not conform to our standards that we can never showcase who God really is, just our own hypocrisy.

You see, recently I was noticing some Christians going about their business. It wasn’t at one of the churches that I serve, it was just somewhere around town. And as I watched them I thought about how they really seemed to have everything together, as a Christian should, I guess. They looked like Christians are supposed to look and smiled and waved and came across as very Christian. Their talk was very nice and very shallow, saying exactly what a Christian is supposed to say and not revealing any “icky-ness” whatsoever.

And it really got under my skin, if I’m being honest. Now, I know that there are people out there that are just naturally bubbly, happy, peaceful, give it a name. And I know that as a Christian, it is the conventional wisdom that you should have all of these qualities literally dripping off of you.

If you are one of those who just naturally (or supernaturally) have the perfect Christian hair, clothes, attitude, speech, past and disposition, that’s really super duper! But if you are assuming the dress, mannerisms and demeanor of someone who is naturally that way, when you really aren’t, then we have a problem.

When we subscribe to this “fake it ‘til you make it” lifestyle that is so prevalent today, we hurt ourselves, we hurt others and ultimately we hurt the church.

We hurt ourselves because even if no one else can see the truth, you know in your heart that you are a fraud. You are in good company however because being a fraud is absolutely expected of you in the American church. From the time that you first become a Christian, you are shown how to act, how to talk, how to dress and how to conduct yourself. And all of these things are taught to you in the most passive-aggressive way possible.

We quickly learn to never show anyone who or what we are inside. Because revealing the truth that does not align with the current groupthink equals rejection and judgment.

And so you soldier on, struggling with feelings of worthlessness and being convinced that there is something really wrong with you. And that something is so bad, if anyone else were to see it, they would have to come to the conclusion that you aren’t really a Christian at all.

This is a form of idolatry. Instead of allowing God to be glorified for what He has actually accomplished in you, you effectively tell God that what He has done is not enough because you do not measure up to other people’s standards.

It hurts others because what has been done to you, you are now doing to them. The same issues that have plagued you, you are causing inside of them. When we place a burden upon someone’s shoulders that we ourselves have not been capable of carrying, we take a place of honor among the Pharisees. Someone remind me again, how did Jesus react to their religious hypocrisy?

They were whitewashed tombs, appearing good on the outside but inside full of dead man’s bones and everything unclean. In fact, this religious fascism was so damaging to the work of God that he called them “Sons of Hell”.

And Jesus was never found around them, choosing to hang out with those who knew that they were sick. Who are we today? Are we those who like to show people that we have it all together and can instruct them on righteous living, or are we those who know that we still need help and offer grace to those who are as ungodly as we are, on our own?

Honestly, where you are now and where you were before is a mighty long way from one another. There have been genuine miracles that have occurred in you as God has worked on you over the years. And those miracles should shine for everyone to see. But your weakness should be seen as well because that is your testimony. That He has done something in you, not what you have managed on your own. And that gives hope to those who are still struggling.

Finally, it hurts the church both because the world is watching and also because our effectiveness is based on our confidence in God’s work.

As the church has been exposed over the last 25 years, the world has taken less and less interest in what we have to say. The fall of prominent ministers has assured them that we are all just frauds. We say what we are and our actions show the truth of it. And this is what the world can’t stand- our hypocrisy.

Catch that, please. The world doesn’t care if we are flawed and God is perfect. The fact that we need a savior does not bother them a lick. Rather, it is our pretending perfection that infuriates them. When I talk to the gay florist or the tattoo artist, the righteousness or holiness of God does not offend them. But if I display my own, they would be rightfully offended. Because no matter how much I may want to be, I am not God. I am a human who needed God’s help in order to be something better than my nature allowed me to be. This they can relate to.

Perhaps if we fostered an attitude that gave as much grace in public as we need in private, more people would pay attention to what we say. All that we can offer them is Him, alone. Truth be told, we are all jacked up on multiple levels and God has done some great things, even if other people don’t appreciate them. So how about we spend our time pointing to Him and less excluding everyone that shows a weakness.

One time I was invited to preach at a big event in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The group set up in a park and had me as the main speaker. Afterwards, as the crowd was dispersing, a young guy came up to me. He said to me, “Pastor, you said that God would accept me exactly as I am right now if I would take the step of calling on Him.” I nodded and told him that I felt exactly that way. He looked at me and said, “But I am gay”. I then spent quite a bit of time explaining my own failings and ongoing issues and that my weakness had never been a restraint to God’s grace, only my unwillingness to come to Him.

He cried for a long time and I put my arms around him and told him that there was enough love in God’s heart to cover any sin, except the sin of rejecting His Son.

Afterwards, the group that held the event came over to me and asked what all that was about. I explained what the young guy had said and what I had said back to him. They were mortified and said to me, “You did tell him that he would have to stop being gay if he was to come to church, right?” True story.

My response now is the same as it was then; if a fault is enough to keep you from attending church, we are all in trouble. Some of you are fat, gluttons really, and that is a sin. Some of you look at porn, lusting constantly and that is a sin. Most of you lie on a daily basis and that is a sin. In fact, whatever does not come from faith is sin. So, we are all equally doomed and damned.

Maybe God should just expose us all for what we are when we are alone, or in our heads. At least then we would freely give grace to others because we would finally need some ourselves from them.

So, here is my point; ‘fess up and be real. Let’s pursue holiness in the fear of God while receiving grace for ourselves and giving it to others on our way. Let’s not forget where we were, or still are and give God the glory that we aren’t there any longer.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain”. –1 Corinthians 15:10

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.

Rediscovering Sabbath

Posted: March 24, 2011 by JC Smith in Practices
Tags: , , , ,

American Christianity is weird. Now that I mention it, I have been in it quite a long time now and it seems to just be getting even more weird…

I knew that I was in for a bumpy ride within my first year as a Christian. I mean, the first month and a half of my conversion, no one spoke to me at the church that I went to.

So, I knew from the jump that I was probably not going to fit in. And sure enough, I haven’t.

Sometimes its like the church folks in America and I don’t even speak the same language. Kind of like talking to a deaf person who watches your mouth open and close like a fish trying to suck in some water when none is there.

Yeah, kind of like that.

One of the strange things about the modern church is their fascination with the error of Antinomianism.

For those of you who don’t know, Antinomianism is a cute little heresy from way back that basically says that because Christ freed us from the law and works, nothing is required of us at all. It basically is a false teaching that tells people that they are exempt from any moral law since they are under grace.

I may deal with that error in a full article at some point. Today though, I just wanted to point it out to ward off any Antinomians (like garlic for vampires) as I talk about the Sabbath. And if we aren’t speaking the same language, or you are Antinomian- that’s fine. You take the high road and I’ll take the low road and I’ll get to Dublin before ye.

This article is for those who do feel the same way and who could really use the blessing of it in their lives.

You see, this year, we decided to go ahead and break from Pennycostul tradition and celebrate Holy Week. We are doing the whole she-bang; Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday (Didache, communion), Good Friday, Holy Saturday (fasting and prayer) and a sunrise Easter service.

Anyway, included in our Holy Week plans is a fast from Friday night to Saturday night. That of course, is the traditional Sabbath. Now, I know that a lot of religious folks have misused things like the Sabbath, taking all the fun out of them, like the Pharisees did in Jesus’ day. But I am not talking about that.

I am talking about 24 hours of your week where you un-plug and focus on the things with real meaning in your life, things like relaxation, family, nature, your health and most importantly, God. See, Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. That means, God put the Sabbath in place so that for one day out of the week, we could get re-centered and find some balance against the other six days.

That is something seriously lacking in our world. I mean, it is go-go-go, all of the time. Then one day you wake up and you don’t know your wife because you haven’t spent any real time with her. You are roommates with benefits and that’s about it. You don’t really know your kids either. Usually because you haven’t had any real time for yourself or for you and your spouse and so you want them in bed as soon as possible. And so it goes. We hustle from one thing to the next and miss everything in between.

That’s one of the reasons I don’t care much for cities. The stimulus is just ridiculous; the flashing lights, signs, buildings, people, cars, noise, smoke. It can be overwhelming and if you are like me, I value controlled stimulus, not chaos.

So we all need a break. But most of the time we find that in TV or movies or busy music. All things that overstimulate your brain and are really not what God had in mind at all when he came up with rest.

For us, we started to un-plug by getting rid of the television as the centerpiece of the living room. We just got it out of there completely and replaced it with a bookshelf. We didn’t know if anyone would still use the space after we did it, particularly the young ones. But after we did it, I came downstairs and the two youngest were sharing an easy chair reading a book. And the room has been in constant use ever since, actually, it is used more now than before. We all talk at night, read books, whatever. And there is a sense of peace that was not there before.

Taking this whole idea one step further, we are adopting the idea of Sabbath once a week. For 24 hours, sundown to sundown, things go off. No cellphones, TV, movies, computers, video games, everything goes off. We won’t buy or sell anything during that 24 hours. And the whole idea is to reconnect to people, nature, ourselves and God.

Upon doing an internet search for the Sabbath, I found some great resources. Here is a list that I found that we are going to print and place on the fridge to help us remember what the day is about:

The 10 Principles of Sabbath
1. Avoid technology.
2. Connect with loved ones.
3. Nurture your health.
4. Get outside.
5. Avoid commerce.
6. Light candles.
7. Drink wine.
8. Eat bread.
9. Find silence.
10. Give back.

What a great list! And what a great idea from God!

So, find those “whole” things in your life and focus on them for 24 hours out of every week. Get out in a garden and get some dirt in your toes. Go for a walk in the park and get some grass between your toes. Get some wine and a loaf of fresh bread and Brie and go sit under a tree or by a river with your spouse. Let the kids ask anything they want for an hour of undivided attention.

If your life is so busy that you and the family simply cannot spare the time, then now would be a great time to sit down with everyone and discuss whether or not you are truly living. I mean, is all that stuff really worth it?

So, take God’s suggestion and get free. Blessings on you and good Sabbath!

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.

Luk 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

Luk 4:19  To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

It's this or lamb chops, Fluffy...

What is ministry success? Simple question, isn’t it? And no doubt the answers would roll off of our tongues readily and without much thinking involved.

But I have really had to put some thought into this lately and I am not sure where it is taking me. See, here’s the deal; we have the “Churchian Correct” answers, then there are the real answers that you may think but wouldn’t actually say out loud and then somewhere out there is the truth. I am after number three on that list; what is the truth?

For most Pastors and Itinerants (Evangelists, teachers, etc.) the Churchian Correct answer would be “To glorify God”, “To see people saved”, “To impact the world for the Kingdom”. All of those are nice answers and admirable “CC” answers as well. No one can give you the Pharisee stare over those answers, for sure. And yet, how do we really quantify success?

This is important, not only so that we can begin to view everything that we do through God’s viewpoint but also for our own sanity as the Churchians, the flesh and the enemy all jockey for position in order to be the one who takes us out of the game.

The questions that everyone has (and few ask out loud) in regards to a church or ministry are like these:

“How many people do you have coming?”

“How much money is coming in?”

“How well are you known?”

“Who do you know and who knows you?”

“What projects do you have underway?”

Here is the very bottom line for much of the American church. To glorify God, see people saved and be able to impact the world are wonderful ideals but all of those must fall at the feet of what we truly worship: American success and American exceptionalism. Numbers and money are the failsafe way of telling whether or not God is with you. The other things are nice, even noble, but what is really important are numbers and money.

Imagine if they ran Missionary Societies that way. The Society sends a couple to the Bukuvu, deep in the jungle. After awhile they start to get concerned about a lack of “fruit” and so they place a call from Headquarters:

“Hi Brother Todd, we were just calling down there to check up on you and the work, how are things going among the cannibals of the Buvuku? All of the people here are praying for you, you know.”

“Well, it’s the Bukuvu, sir, and things are going really well spiritually, we added a few headhunters and have been adapting our methods in order to really impact this region”.

“Great! How are your numbers?”

“Well, numbers aren’t high. We get some in and then don’t see them again. Then we had quite a few that came in and were involved but then they tried to eat my face off. You know, they are cannibals and biting and devouring each other is how they are used to living. That’s why we are adapting our methods. But we have some here that are wonderful stories of how God has impacted their lives…”

“Numbers aren’t high, huh? Well, how are the offerings? I mean, you haven’t been able to send much back to the home office here. We are getting a little tired of sending money down there and not seeing a real return.”

“Well, like I said, we have some that have been really impacted and we have quite a bit of hope for what God is starting to do around here. Plus there is this enemy tribe that attacks almost constantly, especially me and the family. Then we put the call out for the church to come and defend us and most of them fall asleep. So, it has been tough, you are fighting the “Eat your face off” culture on one hand and the enemies on the other.”

“Well, you need to get the cannibal attendance up and speak to them about the importance of giving as well. Remember, sheep are only good for two things: for meat and to be sheared.”

“Uhhhh…yeah… Well, something about that just doesn’t sound right to me. I was under the impression that ministry is its own reward and that we are doing this to ‘seek and save those that are lost’. And as far as the sheep go, they are coming along but I will certainly not use them just to shear or for… meat.”

“Well, that is idealism. In public we will say that these things are what are important but in reality we all know that a ministry must produce. See, it’s like a cow, if the milk production runs low, you need to kill it. Or else it’s just a waste of resources. So, we need you to produce real results or we will have to conclude that you are bad and that God doesn’t want you here.”

“Because I don’t have high numbers and we aren’t producing money?”

“Yes, those are the very best ways of determining if God is with you- numbers and money.”

Now, that seems farcical but it’s not. Why are so many church plants done in suburbs? Of course, the suburbs need saved too, we would all agree on that. What’s amazing to me is how many of us get “called” there when there are so many places that desperately need us and are ignored. What about Evangelists that you know who focus only on jails? When I have done prison ministry, there is almost a 100% rate of success. But the offerings aren’t all that high, unless you count cigarettes.

Can success be reckoned by numbers? As David Platt said in his recent book, “Radical”, Jesus was the world’s youngest Mini-Church Pastor. In fact, He seemed to go out of His way to discourage people from following Him. By John Chapter 7, he was left with a handful of people after He preached what Platt referred to as His infamous “Eat Me” sermon.

So, Jesus wasn’t exactly into numbers as a gauge of His success. For that matter, neither was Jeremiah, Paul, Ezekiel or Daniel.

All Church planters sow in tears that they may reap in joy. And most of the time, that season of reaping can seem so terribly far off that they no longer live with it before their face. When the markers for success are money and numbers, is it any wonder all of our kids want to be in Christian rock bands and not missionaries, either to the world or right here in the U.S.?

Adoniram Judson was the first missionary to India. I am including His story here to begin to give you a peek into what God deems as success:

His conversion not only saved his soul, it smashed his dreams of fame and honor for himself. His one pressing purpose became to “plan his life to please his Lord.” In 1809, the same year he joined the Congregational church, he became burdened to become a missionary. He found some friends from Williams College with the same burden and often met with them at a haystack on the college grounds to earnestly pray for the salvation of the heathen and petition God to open doors of ministry as missionaries to them. That spot has been marked as the birthplace of missions in America.

Three years later, February 19, 1812, young Adoniram Judson, and his bride of seven days, Ann Haseltine Judson, set sail for India, supported by the first American Board for Foreign Missions. But on that voyage, Judson, while doing translation work, saw the teaching of immersion as the mode of baptism in the Bible. Conscientiously and courageously, he cut off his support under the Congregational board until a Baptist board could be founded to support him!

The Judsons were rejected entrance into India to preach the Gospel to the Hindus by the East India Company and after many trying times, frustrations, fears, and failures, they finally found an open door in Rangoon, Burma.

There was not one known Christian in that land of millions. And there were no friends in that robber-infested, idolatry-infected, iniquity-filled land. A baby was born to alleviate the loneliness of the young couple, but it was to be only for a temporary time. Eight months later, Roger William Judson was buried under a great mango tree. The melancholy “tum-tum” of the death drum for the thousands claimed by cholera, and the firing cannons and beating on houses with clubs to ward off demons, tormented the sensitive, spiritual souls of that missionary couple, too.

And there were no converts. It was to be six, long, soul-crushing, heart-breaking years before the date of the first decision for Christ. Then, on June 27, 1819, Judson baptized the first Burman believer, Moung Nau. Judson jotted in his journal: “Oh, may it prove to be the beginning of a series of baptisms in the Burman empire which shall continue in uninterrupted success to the end of the age.” Converts were added slowly — a second, then three, then six, and on to eighteen.

But opposition came, also. Finally Judson was imprisoned as a British spy — an imprisonment of twenty-one months. Judson was condemned to die, but in answer to prayers to God and the incessant pleadings of his wife to officials (one of the most emotional-packed, soul-stirring stories in evangelism), Judson’s life was spared and finally British intervention freed him from imprisonment.

So, follow me here. Judson goes to India as a loose cannon. Then, amidst horrible poverty, they have a baby who dies. Six years into the work, there is not a single convert. When his church grows to 18, he is thrown in prison. This is not sounding like he was called at all. No doubt He was told to quit- unless he was having awesome offerings there in India. God was obviously not with Him, if He was, the baby wouldn’t have died, He would have seen numbers go up and the offerings would be there.

The end of the story is telling:

The work progressed and gospel power began to open blind eyes, break idolatry-shackled hearts and transform the newly-begotten converts into triumphant Christians. On April 12, 1850, at the age of 62, Judson died. Except for a few months (when he returned to America after thirty-four years from his first sailing), Judson had spent thirty-eight years in Burma. Although he had waited six years for his first convert, sometime after his death a government survey recorded 210,000 Christians, one out of every fifty-eight Burmans.

Now, one of you out there just thought to yourself, “Yeah, but that was in Heathen India, this is the U.S. of A and so it’s not the same”. So, there is an American Hell then for the lost sinner? Those in India who don’t know Jesus are more lost than an American who doesn’t?

So, what is the measure of ministry success? I have come to the conclusion that it simply cannot be either numbers or money. That fits the American mindset but not the Biblical one nor historical precedence.

I have often seen ministry as if God has this huge map up in the throne room spread out before Him. And in every place where there is a dedicated servant, He can put a push-pin there. It is covered; He has someone there to work with and to carry on Kingdom business. And what is that business? I think that Jesus’ opening salvo at Nazareth is a pretty good indicator:

Are you preaching the Gospel to the poor, helping those who cannot repay you?

Are you healing the brokenhearted? Is your ministry personal, hands-on and compassionate?

Are you preaching deliverance to the captives? Are people getting free of the world, the flesh and devil under your ministry?

Are those who cannot see, seeing for the first time?

Are those who are bruised being set free? Are the oppressed, those who are held in bondage and tyranny, coming into a new Kingdom?

Are you proclaiming Jubilee? Are debts forgiven, slaves being set free and are people coming out of the world and into God’s way of Sabbath Economics and freedom from Babylon?

All of these things are worth putting money into. Because as my co-author Nate says, we have an intangible product. We don’t produce cars or accounting papers or stocks or bonds. We are in a spiritual business and so you can’t determine the value of what we do by using physical things, like money or big numbers.

But even using those standards, we still have to embrace what I call “Endgame thinking” in our ministry efforts. At the end of your life, after all of the die have been cast and all of the changes have been made in you that God wanted to make, what are you left with?

I think that if at the end of my days, there are more Christians in our churches who have been saved, trained and sent out than there was when I began, then I am a success in the Kingdom, because I would have multiplied my talents. Those who would have known the terror of an eternal Hell are now walking along the Highway of Salvation to the Celestial City.

And what price can you place on one soul?

If there is a church there where truth is being preached, we are a success. This is true in world missions: to get a church in place and place someone there who loves Jesus. That there is any fruit at all is a vast improvement over what would have been there if there was no church at all.

And we simply must begin to adapt these same standards to what we do here in the States.

Let those churches with an excess of money redistribute that to places where money is tight. This was what they did in the book of Acts and I see no reason to change it today. We should begin to applaud church planters and support them just as we do foreign missionaries. We need to start to have a big picture approach to what we do.

The moment you being to judge Gospel effectiveness by the flesh, you will never succeed because you will forget God and compromise everything to accommodate the world system and its way of thinking.

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.

We have no clue what you are saying.

To obey is better than sacrifice
I don’t need your money
I want your life
And I hear you say that I’m coming back soon
But you act like I’ll never return

To obey is better than sacrifice
I want more than Sunday and Wednesday nights
Cause if you can’t come to Me every day
Then don’t bother coming at all.

Keith Green

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day…” Matthew 7:21

It struck me recently reading the above verses in Matthew that I have never fully understood what they meant. I used to use it simply as a verse for telling people that there were those that claimed to be Christians who would not make the final cut. The other night after reading it, something struck me deeply. I tossed and turned for quite awhile in bed struggling with the thought and its implications for not only myself but for the whole of western Christianity as well.

The definition I use for religion is a simple one. It is the worship of God in His absence. When God is absent, we humans get into big trouble, fast. And usually it is directly related to some misconception that we have involving God. It is so easy to confuse His silence for His condoning of us and our actions, doctrines, beliefs and habits. In fact, many can go years without hearing from God, writing it off as a “wilderness” time and feeling that because He is not directly rebuking them or interfering, that He is fine with who they are or what it is that they are doing.

The rules all change when God is away from the office. Men feel they have a free hand to interpret the scriptures however they like. After all, God is not saying anything so it must be okay, right? Denominations rule the unwashed masses with the iron hand of flesh because God has never said he cared one way or another. And worst of all, we live and act as if God is just pleased as punch with whatever we give Him. He doesn’t expect much; after all, we are only human.

This is especially true in the area of ministry. We act as if a license to preach is a license to do whatever strikes us as being “godly”. We create good programs, centered on quasi-godly ideas. We cleverly market who we are and the “god” we have created in our minds as being the right one, for everyone, across the board. We build big churches and control people who we think God has given into our care. All because God is absent and not really saying anything one way or another about what we are doing. Look across the panorama of the American church system today and you will see a large percentage of those involved in that system doing what they feel is “right” in His name.

Because God is absent, we substitute in His place an image of God that we have created. We use scriptures to build this image, raping them to provide the most one-sided version possible, the version most conducive to what we ourselves have said about God in the past. For the grace crowd, that means ignoring or flat-out lying about large sections of scripture that plainly go against the ideas that they claim to be God’s plan. For the repentance crowd, it means forgetting His grace and love as you batter and beat everyone around you for not being “up to par” with your ideals. Either way, we scream from our ditch that those across the road in the other ditch are wrong.

This holds true whether you are Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Word of Faith or Episcopalian, COGIC, Methodist, African Methodist, whatever. One note sounds clear through all of the posturing and portraits that we paint: God is absent and we are all just guessing.

Read a hundred books; see a thousand preachers. Attend a million churches; sit in a dozen conferences, the song will remain the same. There are a lot of people intrigued by the idea of God but with no practical knowledge of the “god” that they are making all of these assumptions about.

It is interesting to note that Saul listened to the people when he made the decision to keep the best back as a sacrifice to God. They apparently were still going to offer them all to God as a sacrifice. Perhaps they felt it was better to offer it all in a big ceremony than just to simply destroy it where they found it as God had commanded. They were going to do what God said to do; they were just going to alter the way that it was done. After all, the ends justify the means. The sacrifices would be made as God had said, just in an improved way. Here we find the first parallel to the times that we live in.

More and more I hear from the Spirit that this is the age of Saul. First off, it says that on the way back, Saul built a monument for himself along the way. What are many of our ministries and churches if not exactly that? They are monuments to the preachers who built them or the congregations who inhabit them. They offer every convenience for people so that they will return. They put exactly the right light on the minister so that people look up to him, admire him even worship him. If God does not show up, does it matter at all? After all, isn’t God in the still, small voice as well? Isn’t the satisfaction you get from being around friends and family close to his heart? Aren’t the things that we are doing related to God and therefore isn’t He pleased with us?

Saul followed the desires of the common people in making his decision to alter the way he kept God’s command. The way they suggested seemed to be a good way to kill two birds with one stone, as it were. You could keep the command of God while keeping the people happy. Sounds good, right? Well, to everyone except for God, it seems. Because God responded, “to obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

When God says something, it is not open to interpretation. You cannot take it, perform only the core of what was required and call it good. To obey means to do what he says, how he says. There is no deviation allowed from what God commands, period. But Saul opted to appease the people while trying to obey God. There is another group guilty of this in the bible that not many are aware of, the Laodicean church from the book of Revelation.

When we think of the Laodiceans, we think of the luke-warm church. And that is obviously the case. But ever wonder how they got that way to begin with? You see, we can use archaeology to tell us all about the history of Laodicea but that tells us nothing of the church itself. What does speak volumes is the name itself. Laodicean is a compound word. Laos is found in Strong’s 2992: a people, people group, tribe, nation, all those who are of the same stock and language. This is where we get the word laity, the common people. The last part of the word is Dike, found in Strong’s 1349: custom, usage, self-evidently right or just. Taking those two together would be “what the common people consider to be right or just or the customs and opinions of the common people”. Sounds seeker-sensitive to me.

The Laodicean church probably began like all of the others. Somewhere along the way, however, something happened. They began to do things in line more with what the people felt than what God had said expressly. And as they did so, they created an atmosphere that was luke-warm, comfortable for the people attending. They became so comfortable in who they were that they succumbed to spiritual pride; they actually believed that they had no need of anything at all. They looked around at each other and noticed they were all the same and God was silent. They couldn’t be wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked! They had attained everything that they needed to, there was no need to repent, they had arrived.

But God said differently. You see, the person of God is not open for personal interpretation. Neither is service to God, for that matter. With him, the ends do not justify the means- only the will of God matters. In fact, God starts the letter to the Laodiceans by calling himself the “Amen, the faithful and true witness”. He is the “so be it”, faithful and true to perform what He says. He sees, as a witness, what God requires and no deviation from that is acceptable.

How the sound of the bleating of the sheep can be heard today in our country! How many of us perform what God requires, only in a slightly skewed way, based upon our own culture and ideals or worse, based upon what the crowds want around us? How many blow off what God said to do, justifying it with a million scriptures or the slight of hand of a master illusionist, showing all of what you have accomplished on the right while hiding where you have failed in your left? How many of us are doing a million things in His name and never asking His will in the first place regarding any of it?

How it is done is as important as what is being done. Who reading this letter will stand before the judgment seat of Christ one day with all that we have done in His name fresh on our lips, the smiles falling away as he calls us practitioners of lawlessness, who never considered asking what he wanted while we were busy performing everything we wanted him to ask of us?

Many shall say on that day.

Many. Not a few, not the exception, many will say to him on that day, “Lord, Lord”. And not be known. Because what matters to God is adherence to His will, not only doing His work. But we are all so busy with the “work of the Lord” that we feel we can ignore the Lord of that work.

Churches open 3 times a week, preachers preaching sermon after sermon to empty people in a godless environment. How can we sit in a place built to house the church as they meet God and where God is to meet His church, and never for a second wail at the fact that He is not even present there at our meetings? We can eye the girl ahead of us or think nasty thoughts of the person behind us that we don’t like. We can think about lunch or the ball game the entire time we are there. Because God is absent and none of it really matters, only that those around you see you acting pious and holy. And week after week, year after year, we never ask the simple question that should have been the very first one that we asked, “Where is God?”

America is in danger today because the church, which lives in her, is asleep at the wheel. We have made ministry a career and the absence of God an excuse for pushing our own agenda. In an age when God is absent, we have made spiritual excuses for this instead of stopping and looking long and hard at who we are and whom we serve. What is his will? Is what you are doing for him his will for you today?

Friend, you better hope that it is. Because God does not like those who do things in his name apart from his will. We are in danger as a country because we don’t pray; we just assume that we know. We are in danger because we sit back and jealously defend what we have said to be true for the last however many years; almost uncaring that God may be saying something different.

To obey is better than sacrifice. To be obedient is more important than what you do to serve Him. It did not matter that they were going to offer the best as a sacrifice; all that mattered was that they were lawless in their actions; rebellious to what God said to do. If rebellion is at the heart of your service to God, is it any wonder that He is absent from our services? Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft to God. And service to Him that is begun or worked out in rebellion is no service at all. It is a placebo, carefully designed to lull you into a state of complacency and eventually, apathy to His will.

To know His will in all things, beyond a guess, beyond reasoning and then to accomplish that revealed will is all that matters. Revival will come when we all make this step, to know Him and the fellowship of His sufferings. To make sure that the cup and His will are the same thing and then to drink it gladly, regardless of its contents.

Then and only then will we be able to find Him. When we stop programs that are needless and human-centered and find out His mind on the subject. When we pray rather than prance, petition rather than posture. When we would rather have nothing and know His will then have everything and be ignorant of it. When we can throw it all away just to find Him or rather, be found of Him. When we are transformed by the renewing of our minds and we know what is that perfect and acceptable will of God in all things, then we will have revival.

What we have today is a Spirit of Saul running rampant in the church. This is one who calls himself a prophet, performing the duties of the office because he once prophesied. Someone who does a part of what God asks and balks that God should be displeased with Him. We have a church system that is busy doing the work of God apart from the will of the God they are supposedly working for in the first place. This is an entire generation that will be crying out “Lord, Lord, did we not…” on that day. Because they assumed they knew the will of God when God was silent. We say we are doing what is right but I hear the Spirit asking, “What is that bleating of the sheep that I hear?”

Because the ultimate proof of God’s being behind a work is God being felt in the work. And for the biggest of us, that presence is awfully small to be Jehovah.

“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.