Posts Tagged ‘Repentance’

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

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.

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.