Sunday, April 26, 2015

The 80/20 Connundrum in Gods Church

The polls have been done, the questions answered and the numbers just aren't pretty.

79.5% of Americans identify as Christians, but they rarely attend church services, do not trust exclusively in Christ for salvation and they do not value the teachings of the Bible as Gods Word.

If the statistics were true, 8 of every 10 people we know would be an active, believing Christian. 

The numbers are closer to maybe 7-9%, and of that percentage, according to a Barna Group poll:

46% of church going people say their lives have not changed at all as a result of attending services
61% say they have received NO significant insight from attending church services
17% of all Americans are actively antagonistic toward the Bible

The statistics go from bad to worse, and are indicative of the disarray Gods Holy Church is in here in America, at this time in His Story.

2 out of 3 Americans believe the Bible contains everything needed to live a meaningful life, but only 1 out of 5 actually reads the bible just 4 days a week.

When we take out the Sundays and Wednesdays in the church setting, this means 1 in 5 of actually reads any part of the bible just 2 more times in any given week period.  Since Apostle Paul tells us we are transformed by the renewing of our minds to His word, it leaves very little transformation going on!

Only 20% of church goers who identify themselves as Christian say they even think about the bible during any given day.


The actual numbers are far worse.  The truth is that fewer than 1 out of 10 Americans participate in the activities that would be expected of true Christians.

LESS THAN 1 IN 10:

  • read the Bible 
  • strive to live according to its teachings 
  • submit their personal will to the Will of the Creator they say they believe in.
Sadder still, less than 1% of that less than 1% have experienced any significant transformation in their lives as a result of trusting in Jesus as their Lord and Savior according to their own testimonies.

The Lord called His people to “come out from among them” through sanctification and be a peculiar people.

From Exodus 19:5 to 1Peter 2:9 it has always been Gods intention that His people would be different from others on the earth.  That they would stick out.  That the difference would be noticeable and noticed!

How else would anyone know something was different enough about you that they might want to know what it is and thereby open a door for you to share the Gospel, the Good News of Salvation, as Jesus in Acts 1:8 instructed us to do?

Yet, particularly in the last 30 or so years, the “church” has put such effort into being exactly LIKE the world, under the false notion that being like the world would somehow attract the world to them, and then they would share the Gospel.

Unfortunately, every experiment has proven that it doesn't work that way.  If we were reading the bible, we'd remember that 1Corinthians 5:6 warned us of the opposite occurring, that "a little leaven leavens the whole lump."  Adding a little "clean" doesn't work but the opposite does.

As the church becomes more worldly, compromising in the mistaken idea they could “reach” more people this way, the only result is that the church became more worldly while the world never became more godly.  Compromise has led to a watered Gospel that lacks the power of God.

I Corinthians 5:6 and again in Galatians 5:9, we were warned against that kind of thinking and we didn’t pay attention.  Instead, we are now paying a price.

Here is a truth, straight from the Bible, that IF we will pay attention to, we can experience transformation, we can experience true salvation, we can experience lasting, glorious, joyful change in our hearts and lives that not only blesses us, but will bless those around us!

Philippians 2:12
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

We are INDIVIDUALLY responsible before God.  We will each INDIVIDUALLY give an account of ourselves to the Lord at the Day of Judgment.

When each INDIVIDUAL makes their own personal commitment and works out their salvation according to the teaching and doctrine found in the Bible, then when we come together COLLECTIVELY, like the First Century Church:

Acts 2:40-47
And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, save yourselves from this untoward generation.
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
We will have in common the doctrines we follow, when we share, rather than dictate according to our own need, want and desire, the words found in the Bible.

We will have in common a peculiarity that smells and looks like a TRUE BELIEVER that others will recognize.  They may hate us, as they hated Jesus, but we will be true to the Lord Who made formed and created us!

 We will see God move mightily on behalf of His people when we zealously, diligently seek personal relationship with the Father and The Son Jesus through the Holy Spirit given for that purpose, and then COLLECTIVELY, CORPORATELY manifest that power in His name. 

  • Not the name of a denomination
  • Not the name of a church building
  • Not the name of any Pastor, bible Teacher or CELEBRITY so-called Christian

In the Name above all names, the Name of Jesus the Lord.

In thinking about all of this I can't help but wonder, based on the behaviors we've encountered as we've visited churches across the US, do enough of us even still care?
WHAT DO YOU THINK?  Hit the "Comment" below and share your thoughts with the Body of Christ.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Going Through

Many is the time I find myself thanking God for the examples He supplied throughout the Old Testament of how the flesh fails.

My flesh fails regularly; it gets impatient, selfish, self-absorbed, frustrated, and angry and a whole host of other … shhhh…sinful emotions on a daily basis.  Someone else may have found a foolproof way to fleshproof their existence, but I haven’t reached that Nirvana plateau by any stretch of the imagination.

Speaking of imagination though, I often utilize my imagination to help me get my flesh under control when it is acting up particularly badly in any given situation. 

I imagine those Israelites, trudging across the Wilderness.


That’s why I’m so thankful for the examples we’ve been given.  They help me put it all in perspective and remembering how weak my flesh is, how weak all flesh is, I also remember where the strength comes from.  It certainly isn't from me "pulling up my boot straps" or reaching deep inside myself. 

May I share some recent events as relate to historical events with you? 

Recently, my spouse and I prayed a series of prayers based on some specific needs in our lives.  Here’s what we discovered and learned and by Gods grace are overcoming through the answers God provided to each prayer.  Listen in and see if you might learn something too.

At first when our prayers were answered, we were joyful!  WOW!!  We asked, God supplied, isn’t our God good??!!?!

Then the daily grind set in, quickly, quicker than you could imagine. 
To get from A to B, where we wanted and needed to get to, we had to actually make the trip.

Just like the Israelites, all those years ago, when they asked and asked for God to deliver them from bondage to the Egyptians.

God delivered them.  He set them free!  He promised to bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey!  They would be masters of their own destinations, free to choose their own life path!

The journey to that freedom had only just begun when it started.

The grumbling, the whining, and the bellyaching about how hard it was, actually making the journey.  How hungry they were, how thirsty, how tired and hey, didn’t they have it better when they were in Egypt? 

Food was scarce, sure, but at least they had something to eat!  Water was precious and doled out by the thimble-full, but hey, at least they had water!

The fleshly ailment that plagued those Israelites is the same exact fleshly ailment that began to plague my spouse and me.

We were fast losing sight of the BIG PICTURE, the deliverance from certain situations as God brought about answers to our prayers, as He began to bless us just as we had asked Him to!  

We were getting trapped by the minutiae of the “DAILY GRIND”. 

There’s a reason it is called the DAILY GRIND. 

Daily, it grinds you down. 

It grinds down your joy.
 
It grinds down your gratitude. 

It grinds down your vision of the BIG PICTURE, that you are leaving point A which wasn’t working out favorably at all, and that you are actually on your way to point B, where you WANT to be, where you need to be and where God will bless you there. 

It just grinds your vision down until your vision is fuzzy and out of focus, and you are caught in that minutiae.

We tend to have a very romantic view of those souls from the Old Testament that serve as our example.  We read about 40 years of wandering in the desert and our minds condense it to no more than the 4 seconds it takes us to read the words.

40 years.
WOW!!

I am not sure I’d have made it.  After 6 months or so, I probably would have convinced myself that I had misheard Gods instructions and I was really supposed to stop traveling, dig in and build a city for myself right there in the wilderness.

Can you honestly say you wouldn’t do the same?  That you would have the foresight and strength of mind to keep going, pitching your tent every night, cleaning it all up and packing it away and strapping it on your back and walking all day, every day, day after day for 40 years?  

That’s 14,600 days.  Even if you stayed in camp for a week at a time, that’s 2080 times you would pack that tent, trudge through hot desert, unpack that tent, sleep, pack that tent up and do it all again.
I can hear you and me now.  

Whining, crying, belly-aching and forgetting all about what WE asked God to do for us and He is so graciously and kindly doing!

When they finally reached that beautiful Land that had been promised, 10 of them had gotten ground down in the minutiae of the daily grind and reported on what they’d seen; sure, the Land was flowing with milk and honey, but it’s too late, they said,  it’s too hard, they cried, it will be too much work for us to go in and possess it, we just can’t do it!


Two of them reported that the Land was glorious and they needed only to march in and claim the prize they’d been promised!  See Numbers 13 and 14 for the full story.

How did they have such a different response?  It wasn’t that they didn’t all go through the same daily grind.  It was something else.

Their God had given specific instruction to them.  And they were sticking to it.

He has given specific instruction to us. Are you aware of that?  Each of us has a specific call, a purpose to fulfill.  Can we, will we stick to it?

Jesus told us to follow Him.  How exciting, how wonderful!  We’ve been invited to follow the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  How romantic to follow in His steps!

Oh, no, wait, we have to TAKE UP OUR CROSS, the burden involved in following Him, the cost, the weight, the DAILY GRIND we have to overcome to do what it takes to follow Jesus.

We’ve just celebrated the Resurrection of Christ.  For many, that means we focused for a minute or two on what Jesus went through to get to that Resurrection.

Every blow of every crack of the whips they used to beat Him beyond recognition. 

Every strand of hair painfully pulled ruthlessly from his chin as they tore out His beard.

Every drop of spittle spat contemptuously upon Him.

Every kick crashing wave upon wave of pain through His muscles, already stretched beyond endurance.

Every thorn point, breaking skin and violently tearing into His skull.




How did Jesus get from point A: coming to earth as a man to deliver all Mankind from the wages of sin, to point B: raising up from the dead to gloriously declare that all penalty had been paid, all the price was settled and you and I were FREE for all Eternity from our sin?

It wasn’t that He didn’t go through.  He most certainly went through for you and me.
The Scripture tells us the answer.

Hebrews 12: 1-3
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

We cannot escape the experience of the flesh.  We must go through, just as Caleb and Joshua, two of the 12 spies Israel sent into the Promised Land to bring back a report, had to go through.  The same daily grind as everyone else for those 40 years of wandering, seemingly endlessly, pointlessly for 14,600 days.

The difference was in their focus.  The difference was in what they choose to hold onto.  While everyone else kept looking at the circumstances of the world around them, and giving in to the complaints of their flesh, they kept their focus firmly fixed, steadfast, on the promises God had made to them.  They didn’t concentrate on the momentary flesh discomforts, but kept the vision of the end result bright and clear  before their eyes.

When Jesus was enduring horrific suffering in the flesh, His mind was fixed, not on what He was currently enduring, but on the BIG PICTURE.  The END RESULT that would be achieved.  The JOY of providing salvation to His creation – YOU and ME.

It’s tough, I will give you that.  It is a struggle.  In fact, it is a real FIGHT to bring the flesh into submission.  But it is a fight worth waging and a fight worth WINNING.

The prize is spectacular, beyond the ability of our finite minds to comprehend.

JOY everlasting.  Always in the delightful, loving, glorious presence of God in all His fullness.


We can also try looking at this another way.

Think back to when you were a child.  Your parents or a figure of authority you really wanted to impress  asked you to do something.  They were counting on you.  

You didn’t want to let them down.  You not only wanted to achieve the expectation to please them, but you wanted the satisfaction yourself of knowing you had done it, you had completed the task, won their approval and proved to yourself you could do it.

That was a temporary, momentary, fleeting victory which you were willing to give your all to achieve.

God has set a task and the end result is ETERNAL, NEVER ENDING, and of far greater IMPORT to the entire world and all of heaven and most especially to YOU.

If we will fix our thoughts and hearts on the end result, somehow, we will get through the minutiae and win the victory over our flesh. And receive the reward that God has promised, life everlasting, full of joy and peace.

And we will experience reward right here on earth, living a life of true purpose, being LIGHT and SALT to our own generation, and some of us will even affect generations that came before us, and the generations coming up after us.

Obedience.  Its a WIN - WIN situation for all who participate.

Don't give up, don't give in!  Just SURRENDER to the work of the Holy Spirit and follow His leading.  You will have a bumpy ride, but it will be exhilarating!  





Saturday, April 4, 2015

WHO SAID THAT? The Easter Offering

The John 3:16 scripture is one of if not THE best known scripture in all the world.  Almost everyone can quote it if you just give them the first word or two.

Do you know who said these world famous words quoted in the Gospel of John?

If you or I were the one's who uttered these words, they might not carry much authority.  If they'd been spoken by someone who wasn't well known or well respected but spoke these exact words, no matter how true they might be, they still wouldn't carry a lot of authority either.

But these words do have authority.  GREAT AUTHORITY.

The reason?  They were spoken by the ONE PERSON who is well known, is well respected and was in the absolute best position to speak them with all authority.

JESUS spoke these words in John chapter three; and He was talking to one of the religious leaders of His time, Nicodemus.

Jesus was sharing with Nicodemus the Prophetic Truths that were already revealed in the Scriptures, that He knew that Nicodemus, as a religious man and especially as one in authority over others, should have known.

That Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah promised by God back in Genesis 3, when Adam sinned by disobeying Gods command not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  The serpent, satan, deceived Eve into believing she could eat that fruit and instead of the bad consequence God had told Adam would occur, she would experience good consequence.  

Adam, knowing exactly what God had commanded, joined Eve in disobedience and SIN entered the heart and lives of the man and woman God had created in His own image.

Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”


Our journey, each of our individual journeys from birth BACK to being in perfect harmony and agreement with God our Creator, started right there, right then, with Adam and Eve.

Jesus knew EXACTLY why He left His Heavenly Home and came to earth as a babe, born of a woman.  He knew EXACTLY what the entire purpose of His life was about.  He knew EXACTLY what was required to redeem His Creation, Mankind, and He was willing to do what it would take - DEATH - to accomplish that redemption.  He and the Father were one, they have always been one and they will always be one.

One in purpose and One in Spirit.  

"For God (the whole Godhead; Father, Son and Spirit) so LOVED the world (this world that They created, the earth and EVERYTHING in it - every blade of grass, every leaf on every tree every fish in the ocean, every micro-organism, every human being, every animal and bird) that He gave His Only Begotten Son (His very self in human form as Jesus) that whoever believes in Him (all of Him, Father, Son and Spirit; any person in any walk of life or any country anywhere at any time) should not perish but have everlasting life (what He originally intended for His Creation right from the beginning)."

Jesus spoke those words with complete AUTHORITY, because He was the author of those words.  Though fully man, He remained fully God, a spiritual mystery you and I can only accept even if we cannot comprehend the fullness of it.

The wages of sin are death.  The temporary redemption available through animal sacrifice was not enough to accomplish what God wanted to accomplish.  The redemption of all His created sons and daughters.

So He came Himself to accomplish redemption once and for all time for ALL PEOPLE.

The gift God gave the world He loves is ETERNAL LIFE.  What He intended from the beginning, what satan tried to destroy; what Jesus accomplished on the Cross at Calvary.

Your and my redemption from darkness, sin and eternal death.  This flesh is corrupt and will someday die.  On the Cross, Jesus restored the Eternal Spirit which lives forever.  When you receive the gift of salvation, you are "born again" as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3.  Listen in on this conversation and discover the Way to Salvation:


1There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 

This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” (Nicodemus acknowledges that Jesus came from God!)

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (this is why we use the phrase "born again")
Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (This is the rebirth, a spiritual, eternal life!)
Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (We can know we are born of the Spirit even though it cannot be physically explained)

Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”  

We continue to ask that exact same question today.  How can these things be?  Man wants to control his environment and what happens in his life.

While we are blessed by God with free will, ultimately, God is Sovereign and this is His world, His Creation to rule and reign over. 

I'll say it again,  Jesus knew EXACTLY what His life was about.  Would you like to know what YOURS was created to be?


When we acknowledge that we have sinned (separated ourselves from God by disobedience to His commandments) and ask, God forgives our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.  We become NEW CREATIONS at that moment, born again of His Spirit as He originally intended.  (Take a look at II Corinthians 5:17).

Jesus comes into our hearts (Colossians 1:27) and transforms us from dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) to ALIVE ETERNALLY once more according to Gods perfect will.

This Easter season, take a break from the bunnies and chicks and spend time contemplating a lamb.

Gods perfect LAMB, whose blood was shed for YOU.  

Like all gifts should be, it is only expected that you will RECEIVE it, smile and say THANK YOU and then make the most of it :O)

Happy Easter everyone, have a joy filled holiday, from Turn the Tide Ministries.