Saturday, November 1, 2008
“America has thousands of churches! There are some in Cathedrals, Small Chapels, Storefronts, Private Homes and Warehouses. Some of these churches are denominational and some are not, some are traditional and some are very unique, and finally some are growing and unfortunately MANY are DYING! There are a lot of churches, ministries, and Christian Centers that are on life support spiritually. Why? I believe the question is on the hearts and minds of many Pastors and church members, and the answer is available…BUT can we handle the TRUTH?
The truth is something most Christians avoid like the plague! Why? I think we (Christians) would rather blame the devil for things that are really our fault and responsibility. Is the devil our enemy? Of course he is! But WE reap what WE sow. The church preaches a lot about sowing and reaping, especially when it comes to money and wealth. If you read the verses in Malachi about tithes, read carefully! It wasn’t the people God was rebuking, IT WAS THE PRIEST! But many churches lay this on the members and yet they don’t practice what they preach. Tithes in the Old Testament were not JUST for the priest! The Levites, The Strangers (homeless), The Widows, and the Fatherless ALL benefited from the tithe.
Local churches are supposed to make an impact on the communities they are in by GIVING back, (Matt. 5:14-16) Sinners should have to even confess and admit that the Church in their community makes a difference in the neighborhood! I want to give you ten answers to the QUESTION! “Why is my church dying!” Hold on to your hat’s the answers may shake up your traditional thinking…and make you THINK!” It is not a sin to think outside of the box of tradition…it is a sin to stay ineffective.
There is nothing wrong with having a storefront church! But if after 20 years your storefront church still has the same 12 members, you need to padlock the door and admit your church is dead! Saints should beget saints, we were saved to lead others to salvation in Jesus Christ! My prayer is that this small book will make you mad enough to do something!
Friday, October 31, 2008
I’ll get right to the point! Every since Martin Luther received the revelation from God that salvation was a free gift from God, that came through grace and faith…there has been a chasm between the Catholic and the Protestant. As an ordained Protestant minister I know all of the doctrinal problems involved in Catholicism. I have studied church history in college and on my spare time, I know about all of the church councils through the ages and the anti-biblical decisions they made, I know Peter wasn’t the first pope. I know praying to Mary is not scriptural or right. I know we can confess our sins to the Lord directly and not a priest. I know that a wafer and wine isn’t actually Jesus when I take communion.
I also know that if Martin Luther and some of the other reformers could see where the Protestant movement has gone, I think they would be ashamed and disgusted. If the Apostle Paul could see the confusion and apostasy in the church both Catholic and Protestant he would scream. Why? The Protestant church has become the very thing it despised. I have spent 23 years in the Air Force and have traveled all over the world. I have worshipped in nearly every church imaginable; (including Catholic) these are some reasons and observations as to why I feel there needs to be a second reformation. First the observations: While Catholicism has its problems let’s look at the history and flaws in Protestantism.
First Protestantism has many different groups: Fundamentalist, Evangelicals, Charismatic, Pentecostals, Holiness, Oneness (Jesus Only), and The Word Faith groups. This fragmenting of Protestantism is the first problem in itself. Fundamentalist say they believe in the Bible literally yet most reject the gifts of the Spirit, The Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and healing for today. They trust Scofield’s teaching more than they trust the Bible itself. While in Bible College I heard teachers and students a like quote Scofield like he was The Apostle Paul. Evangelicals say they believe in fulfilling the Great Commission yet many Evangelical churches are selectively racist; America has driven segregation out of almost every place except their churches. Martin Luther King said Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week. Both white and black churches are guilty of this. However I must say America’s history is silent concerning the Protestant churches silence through 300 years of slavery and annihilation of Native Americans. The Charismatic movement on a positive note brought praise and worship back to it’s rightful place in the Body of Christ, yet they also ushered in a propensity to place trust “new revelations” that don’t always line up with scripture. I believe in the gifts of the Spirit and the gift of prophecy, but these utterance gifts MUST line up with scripture! According to New Testament examples of prophecy, most prophecies are warnings or words of encouragement; NOT insight on how to be a millionaire. In many Charismatic churches, everyone has a “word from God”; this has caused many a problem in the lives of the saints of God.
I am from the category called Pentecostal, oh yeah we have problems as well. Pentecostals stress the need to be Spirit-filled, which I agree with, yet they over emphasize speaking in tongues; the key issue is the need to be Spirit-filled! I believe in the gifts of the Spirit, I pray in tongues myself…But! Speaking in tongues don’t confirm a person’s holiness or spirituality. (There are 8 other spiritual gifts!) Show me a Christian that shares Christ (Acts 1:8) and shares love (ICor.13) and I’ll show you a Spirit-filled saint. Holiness churches tell people they must dress a certain way to be saved, look sour and not have any fun, holiness is important and all believers must live separated lives, BUT! Holiness is a way of life that can only occur after the New Birth. Wearing long dresses and black suits in the summer DON”T MAKE YOU HOLY! The Word/Faith movement has done some positive things in encouraging people to study the Word, yet the enemy duped some of them into preaching prosperity as the Gospel and not salvation and a hunger for spiritual blessing versus the material. The other problem with the faith camp is the false teaching of believers never having problems and “divine healing” or the denial of sickness in the life of a believer.
I believe in healing and have received healing myself, but Christians are not exempt from getting sick. (Kenneth Hagin Sr.; Fred Price and his wife; and R.W. Shambach have all preached divine healing and have all been severely ill recently) Remember when Jesus encountered a man born blind, his disciples asked the question, “Who sinned him or his parents?” Jesus said, “Neither”. Paul’s dear friend Epaphroditis was sick nigh unto death, but Paul said God had mercy on him. Saved people can and do get sick! The Lord can also heal us as well. Our faith will be tested one way or another, why should we be any different than Abraham, Joseph, Job, or Daniel; their faith was tested greatly on many occasions. It was because of their faith they endured hard times and persecutions. The Oneness or Apostolic camp believes in Jesus only and denies the Trinity. They also over emphasize the act of baptism. Salvation comes through the avenue of GRACE through FAITH! They believe baptism saves yet the Bible is clear, belief MUST precede baptism or it is an empty act. (Read Philip and Eunuch in Book of Acts) What is my point? The bottom line is Jesus died for our sins and we must preach this to a lost and dying world. I went to a revival 5 years ago (A world famous evangelist was there); he preached before at least 3,000 people and talked about prosperity and healing for 2 hours. He called for a prayer line and never mentioned salvation through grace and faith. What does it profit a man to have prosperity and divine health and not eternal life and a close walk with Jesus.
There is a need for unity amongst believers; this is difficult because each of the groups I mentioned has its good points and strengths, yet they are all flawed in some way. The Word of God has no flaws, and this is where we must meet. I was raised in the Baptist church, I went to a Lutheran School (middle school), I have had fellowship with different groups within the military chapel system, and I worked with foreign missionaries in Korea for 2 years. I helped start the first Church of God in Christ in Korea. During Operation Desert Storm I lead 2 Muslims to Christ with an Assembly of God brother and an apostolic brother. (This was not easy…but it happened) I have preached in Honduras, Turkey, and Somalia. Now why am I sharing all of this? Everywhere I went God teamed me up with people from nearly every group I mentioned…AND IT WORKED! It worked because in the military we didn’t have the luxury of always finding Christians just like you. My first assignment overseas I was teamed up with a Southern Baptist Caucasian brother. He was from Forsythe County, Georgia. This is one of the most racist areas in America, yet we worked together like brothers.
The demonic walls of separation in the Protestant church MUST come down. How can we preach to the Catholic about the mote in his eye, while we the Protestants have a beam in our own? The saints of God must gather at the foot of the cross of Jesus. The Word of God must be all of our training manuals. Salvation by grace through faith is what caused Martin Luther to start the first reformation; we have departed from this in a great way. The doctrine of salvation through grace and faith has to be the preeminent prime directive for the church. Paul said it best in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation, to the Jew first and to the Gentile.” We must rally around the Gospel of Christ as our anthem and battle cry. Paul also said, “Woe unto me if I preach not the Gospel.” What is the Gospel? It isn’t politics, it isn’t prosperity, and it isn’t divine healing or speaking in tongues. These things have their place but they cannot replace the simplicity of the Gospel. Jesus came to save the world! Salvation is a free gift that is for all that desire it. This is what Martin Luther nearly died to protect. Paul did die to protect this doctrine! All of the disciples died for this message of hope in Christ. Let us not stain their memory by dividing over things that don’t impact salvation.
Salvation of the soul is the main issue, what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul. Eternity is a long time, Insuring people spend it with the Lord is more important than insuring they have wealth! What do you think can help usher in the Second Reformation?
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
"Be gracious to me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Thy compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me. 4 Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, And done what is evil in Thy sight, So that Thou art justified when Thou dost speak, And blameless when Thou dost judge. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. 6 Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom. 7 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which Thou hast broken rejoice. 9 Hide Thy face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Thy presence, And do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, And sustain me with a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors Thy ways, And sinners will be converted to Thee. 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltness, O God, Thou God of my salvation; Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Thy righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, That my mouth may declare Thy praise. 16 For Thou dost not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; Thou art not pleased with burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.18 By Thy favor do good to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then Thou wilt delight in righteous sacrifices, In burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then young bulls will be offered on Thine altar.
Being king must have gone to David's head. He may have thought himself above even the Law of God. He set aside all his morals, scruples, and ethics to follow the way of his selfish desire. He looked with lust on Bathsheba as she bathed; he had her brought to his palace and engaged in an adulterous alliance with her. Then when she told him she was pregnant, he tried to cover his sin by having her husband Uriah brought home from battle for some R&R. Uriah refused the luxury of sleeping at home so David had him abandoned in the front lines of battle where he was slain.
This was no sin of impulse. David wasn't just caught up in circumstances beyond his control. He planned and plotted to carry out his sin and he put great effort into concealing it. This Psalm reveals David's folly and restoration. It is the Psalm of the changed heart.
David's story could be told and retold under a hundred different scenarios. Maybe this Psalm relates your own story. This morning let me relate a situation that parallels and illustrates the universal process of spiritual recovery.
When he was just 19, Al Johnson had joined two other men in robbing a Kansas bank. The case was closed after the two other criminals were killed in an auto crash and were mistakenly identified by bank officials as the robbers. Al felt sure he would never be caught. He married a Christian girl and even pretended to be a Christian. She knew nothing of his past crime. Then someone sent him a tract in the mail entitled, "God's Plan of Salvation." Reading it, he noticed the Bible verse that said, "whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." The realization struck that salvation was for him. He could be forgiven and his conscience set free. The guilt of his crime accused him, the cowardice of hiding his crime shamed him. He realized his guilt and hated it. That is the first step in having a changed heart. David took it, and so must we. What is the first step to a changed heart?
CONTRITION: V17: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise"
David spoke of a broken and contrite heart. The word for "contrite" means
To be bowed down with the awareness of our spiritual bankruptcy.
That our inner spirit is crushed with a sense of its guilt.
That we have a genuine and deep sorrow for our rebellion against God and a determined desire to do differently.
A contrite heart
Does not seek to rationalize or explain or excuse or defend or justify sin.
Does not try to fool God or others or self. It recognizes that God demands truth and honesty.
Does not mean merely feeling bad or remorseful about sin!
Does not seek to blame circumstances or other people or God for our own failure.
Remember Adam saying, "The woman YOU gave me handed me the fruit and I ate it. Eve pointed to the serpent and said, "He deceived me and I ate." He blamed God and Eve, she blamed the serpent.
Can't you just hear David doing something like that? Blaming God or blaming Bathsheba: "Lord, if you hadn't made me king I wouldn't have been walking on the palace roof in the first place. And besides, did you see what she wasn't wearing?"
Maybe we do the same thing: "Well, Lord, if you were married to this jerk, you'd cheat too!" Or "It's not my fault, the boss is so cheap I have to steal from the company to survive!" Or, "If I didn't have such terrible neighbors, I wouldn't lose my temper as much!"
A contrite heart recognizes that sin is:
A spiritual crime since it is a violation of God's laws.
An offense against all that is decent and moral and right.
Rebellion, disobedience, and stubbornness of heart.
When we become aware of our sins, iniquities and transgressions, and are contrite, we need to know that
God isn't interested in empty apologies.
God doesn't want cheap promises or resolutions.
God cares nothing for our efforts to balance evil with a little more good.
God desires a broken and contrite heart which is the true sacrifice of one who determines to turn from sin, to forsake sin, and to abandon it.
Al Johnson became convicted of sin, was contrite, humbled his heart and decided to truly forsake his sin and to follow Jesus Christ. When he did, his life changed. He stopped a lifelong habit of lying and cheating. And after much thought and prayer he confessed his crime. His confession made television newscasts and newspaper headlines. Honest acknowledgment of sin is an essential in our own lives, too, and it was another step in David's reclamation. What is the next step in having a changed heart?
CONFESSION: verses 3, 4: "For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me. 4 Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, And done what is evil in Thy sight, So that Thou art justified when Thou dost speak, And blameless when Thou dost judge."
There are two sides to his confession:
He confessed to himself: "I know, I am acquainted with, I recognize my sin! I cannot deny it or escape it or forget it. The memory haunts me, the devil accuses me, the sin taunts me, and it is always before me."
He confessed to God: "Against You only have I sinned."
Along with his admission of guilt is a confession of God's correctness and justice in judging him for his sin. David makes no plea for indulgent lenience or permissiveness, no claim that God is being too hard on him, no appeal for a light sentence. Simply put, it is, "I am wrong, you are right!"
Genuine confession demands:
A right estimate of sin. It is not a mistake, or a slip, or mischief.
A right attitude to sin. A loathing, a disgust, a disapproval.
A right conduct with regard to sin. A forsaking of and a determined renunciation of sin.
This brings us to the cross of Christ.
At the cross, we do not hide our sins, but confess them and trust the Savior to wipe them away.
Solomon said, "He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion." Proverbs 28:13. To confess demands the honesty of:
It was Isaiah who said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, ..." Isaiah 6:5.
It was Peter who fell at Jesus' feet and said, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" Luke 5:8.
The publican smote his breast and prayed, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" Luke 18:13.
Paul who declared "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all." 1 Timothy 1:15.
Al Johnson, convicted of sin, converted to Christ, went and tried to make things right with the state by confessing his crime. As it turned out, under a Kansas statute of limitations, he was set free. There was no penalty that could legally attach to him for his crime. David experienced something even better than that. And there is something even better for the Christian. There is forgiveness, justification, salvation. Let's consider, then, the last step in having a changed heart:
CLEANSING: verses 7, 9, 10: "Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. . .9 Hide Thy face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me."
David recognized the filth and grime of his sin and wanted to be cleansed of it.
He said, "Purge me, purify me, wash me." The words he uses imply a thorough scrubbing. One pictures an old time mother with her child at the sink scrubbing him until his skin literally shines and squeaks.
He said, "Blot out my iniquities." It is the image of erasure where a mark is totally obliterated, wiped away and removed.
He said, "Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me." David knew the inclination of one's heart to evil.
He knew that "every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Genesis 6:5.
He knew that "The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick." Jeremiah 17:9.
It was not David's desire, nor God's intent, to gloss over or to wink at or to indulge sin. Sin had to go.
It is not while we indulge, or excuse, or conceal sin, but when we have experienced God's cleansing that we can know the joy of His salvation.
Sometimes we have door-to-door salesmen trying to sell us some "Miracle Cleaner" that will remove everything from berry stains to tattoos. Never works! But God has a cleanser that never fails: "the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." 1 John 1:7. All sin, all times, all people, always.
In a sense, the statute of limitations had cleansed all Al of punishment. Yet, although he was beyond the scope of law to punish him, he still chose to repay his share of the stolen funds to the bank. In time he became the manager of a service station, the father of three admiring children, and an outstanding Christian layman. But he didn't do that alone. David couldn't do it alone.
Someone once said, "Man cannot cope with guilt alone. I don't care how many worship services you attend or good deeds you do, your goodness is insufficient. You can't be good enough to deserve forgiveness. ... No one. Not you, not me, not anyone. Quit trying to quench your own guilt. You can't do it. There's no way. ... I don't care how bad you are. You can't be bad enough to forget it. And I don't care how good you are. You can't be good enough to overcome it. You need a Savior." And, for those who come to Jesus Christ in contrition and confession, He is that savior. Will you come to Him? Will you ask Him to cleanse your heart? Will you allow Him to transform your life? Will you experience the salvation He, and He only, can provide? This is the moment to decide as you ask Him to change your heart.