Thursday, July 30, 2009

Stop Scaring Everybody?

Just the other day President Obama used those words in a speech. “Stop Scaring Everybody!” Now he was referring to conservative pundits who were raising some very alarming facts regarding the health care reform issue. I won’t get into a political debate right now, because that is for cooler heads than mine, but I will raise a few points regarding his words. They are indicative of a corrupt and depraved generation.

Does anybody remember the Apostle Paul’s prophetic writings in which he warns Timothy (and us) regarding the last days before the Parousia? It seems to me he wrote of peoples intolerance for truth. As a result, this intolerant population would demonize anyone who taught or held to sound doctrine. They would actually ostracize and ignore the truth.

Sounds like the Presidents words are just one more indication we are moving down the prophetic continuum.

Which raises another thought on repentance; has it become a lost Bible doctrine?

Not only is it a lost doctrine, but also a lost practice. Because we’ve softened the Gospel message, we’ve taken the onus of repentance off the hearer and placed it upon the speaker. That’s right the speaker. We’re the ones having to repent of what we’ve been saying for centuries.

Those of you who stand in the pulpit week in and week out understand what I’m talking about. Especially if you’re close to the Father’s heart and especially if you understand that the clock is ticking.

Isn’t it the truth, today the authority of a Gospel speaker is brought into question, when the speaker “steps on toes” and makes people feel uncomfortable? Because biblical truth can make people uncomfortable or offended, we’re gently told that we need to preach more grace. We’re told that if we offend everyone, we won’t have anyone to preach to, so don’t offend anyone.

But a cursory read of John 6 will reveal that Jesus took great pains at regularly sifting those following Him. As a matter of fact He even said if you really believe in Him and the Father, you would NOT be offended by the criteria He was establishing for Kingdom access.

Many preachers today take out the hard sayings from scripture. They ply a trade of good feelings doctrine, because popularity keeps the coffers full and keeps the followers following. I spent almost 2 full years in a prominent local AG church back in 2001-2002 and not once did I hear a message that included the word REPENT. As a matter of fact, if and when an allusion to repentance or change was found in the text, it was tacitly SKIPPED OVER and the hearers were directed to the dessert at the end of the text.

I raise that example because HOW PEOPLE LIVE and BEHAVE should be indicators of true repentance (Matthew 3:8). Granted, many who find true salvation are simply starting a journey. A journey that requires deep healing, cleansing and deliverance… but in due season CHANGE for the better SHOULD be the results of a life that has embrace God’s THINKING on all matters (repentance).

Because we have multiple generations who now pick and choose biblical truth like it’s some Bible-buffet, we have a generation of church brats that only know how to eat M&M’s and never touch their veggies (you can blame Doug Bryce for my rant).

To end this long post… when you hear our President telling the fact finders to “stop scaring everybody” you can be rest assured that spirit is also in the church.

My thinking is this: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. Well it’s not actually mine, but I stand by it. I’d say fear is a pretty good starting place Mr. President. Anyone else?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Debt of LOVE

Yesterday I posted some thoughts on Entering the Kingdom, debt, priorities, the rich, the poor and lies. This morning I awoke with similar thoughts, but the Lord took my mind back to a passage of scripture that gave me cause to challenge myself and you one more time.

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to LOVE one another, for he who LOVEs his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8 NIV)

My take on this passage of scripture is two fold. 1) If at all possible eliminate debt and 2) If you have debt, let it be a LOVE debt.

I think enough wisdom has been disseminated from the professionals regarding our need to be financially debt free, so there should be no standing question about that wisdom, but far less has been said about a LOVE debt.

Why is it that our culture has bought into the lie that financial debt is good and just part of life, all the while thinking that a debt of LOVE is mundane, foolish and at best saccharine and for the weak? It’s likely because true LOVE is so much like God that humanity as a whole marginalizes the art – the Art of God.

The only debt that any of us should look forward to servicing and keeping open is just that The Debt of LOVE. I mean really, can a person ever have enough LOVE, respect and honor? I don’t think so.

Have you ever really sat and pondered the premises of true LOVE? I don’t mean some faux LOVE that operates in the sensualities of life, but I mean genuine LOVE that goes beyond the pleasures of the giver to the entire Shalom of the receiver? When one begins to consider the entire well being of another person or group of persons… that is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to LOVE.

Last Sunday at the conclusion of our weekly service, one of our young ministers had brought the message and I was bringing the benediction. Nathan preached about a coming revolution, a revolution in thought and deed, a revolution that would change the face of the Church as well as the face of our culture; all before the Parousia. I LOVEd what my young friend presented, but as I was about to pray the Lord spoke to my heart and gave me a Word from His lips to my heart. He said, “If you want more… just pour!” (See 1 Kings 17:1-16; 2 Kings 4:1-7 after you finish reading this. Both passages are worth your time and germane to this writing.)

I paused for a moment, seeking to test all things as we’re instructed to do. I was sure He was speaking so I passed along His Word to His people. Amazingly, but not surprisingly the service didn’t end there. There was spontaneous worship and thanksgiving and several other wonderful words of admonition and encouragement were given. After a time of basking in the moment of God’s wisdom and presence, the service ended, but God’s Word DID NOT.

The parallel that we can draw from last weeks Word from heaven and what God woke me for is this. If we will live with an ongoing and outstanding debt of LOVE to everyone we meet and in every circumstance and situation – God the Father WILL provide an unending supply of resource.

Evangelism is far less about 4 Spiritual Laws or a Roman Road or even an EE Outline. As I read it from the Gospels, it looks more like a meal and a friendly glass of wine. As I read it from the Gospels, it looks more like a foot rub and some ointment for the tired feet of a friend. As I read it from the Gospels, it looks more like a confident hug offered to a hurting and broken individual – with zero words exchanged.

My life’s goal is this – LOVE. I know that sounds kinda silly to those who know my ribald humor and my rapier wit (not to mention my loathing of established religion), but I’m not kidding. I firmly believe that we can LOVE people into the Kingdom, but we cannot stop loving them, if and when we find disagreement with their philosophies and values.

Living with a debt of LOVE to a culture that is broken and lost in no way indicates we endorse or agree with said values and conditions, but it does say one thing. While they are yet sinners, we’ve decided to demonstrate LOVE toward them and offer pardon and friendship. For the very act of loving as God LOVEs is true holiness.

And do you know what the Bible says about holiness? Let me quote it for you. “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14 NIV)

For years I thought this passage was subjective and all about my efforts to act “holier than thou” or to put on some posture so that I could eventually get to heaven and “see the Lord”. But that thinking was faulted, for I am saved by grace through faith in Christ alone, not by works of holiness.

Over the years the Lord has revealed His intentions for this passage. Here it is: As I act lovingly toward others, as He acted, they will eventually see that there truly is a God. They will begin to see the Imago Dei in me and just maybe… just maybe… they might believe that He IS. (Hebrews 11:1,6)

So, to conclude my early morning thoughts on debt and LOVE… do everything in your power to eliminate your financial debt. Discipline and determine to be content and godly in all you do, for therein is found great gain. But never ever pay off the Debt of LOVE. For as we service that debt, others begin to see that there really may be a God who LOVEs them and desires a relationship with them. Not just a god who wants their money and will keep them from hell.

Imagine that. I’ve once again broken my promise of short posting, but hey… you gotta LOVE me right? Plus if you’ve read this far, I must have kept your attention.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Entering the Kingdom

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!" (Mark 10:23 NIV)

Take a moment right now and ask yourself if you are rich? Most of us would say no. Most of us might even say by the end of the month, we have more month than money. Unfortunately that’s a fact that is all too common.

But does that indicate that we are poor? Does it indicate that opportunity and the American Dream have slipped through our grasp? Hardly.

About 4 years ago, my wife and I decided to live like no one else, so that someday we could live like no one else (thanks Dave Ramsey). Amazingly enough, little changed in our income streams, but a whole lot changed with our debt ratio.

By determining that we would become debt free (except for our home mortgage)… and that we would continue to live that way… so that someday we would indeed pay off our home mortgage early and retire free and clear… with money in the bank… all on a modest income derived from two self-employment income streams… that goal is coming to pass. All our debts, to include all credit cards, two automobile notes and home equity loan have all been paid off in full. Now cash has become our greatest asset. Not our excellent credit rating.

Why do I bring up the subject of my old thinking versus my new thinking on debt and finances? Because we as American Christians may be fooling ourselves into thinking we have access to the Kingdom of God. Yeah that’s brazen and problematic for many of you readers (the 2 that are out there), but I would contend that because of our lust for stuff and the two lies we believe, we who are rich are actually keeping ourselves from knowing God and letting Him know us.

Let me expound just a bit. Jesus tells us that it is hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God (yet with God all things are possible). My contention is that ALL of us here in America are rich, despite how little cash we think we have. If we could understand that by the very lust of our flesh, the pride of life and the lust of our eyes, we may well have shackled ourselves to a destiny far less than God has ordained.

The two lies we believe are “you’re not good enough” and “if you buy this you’ll become good enough”. Madison Avenue has us by the glands and those two lies simply keep us running in circles trying to keep up.

So here’s the rub, we’re all rich, but because we believe the lies, we continue to amass vast amounts of stuff and usually debt goes with it. And as we do, our priorities get all messed up and our ability to do what the rich should do, gets mired down in feigning poverty. All the while we’re so far from being poor it’s pathetic.

Imagine what life would be like with zero debt? Imagine being content as well as being godly? Might I say that the only rich people going to heaven are those who have their priorities in order? I just did.

Most of the people that I know who lament their financial situation simply have too much debt. Whether its consumer debt or they’ve over bought on a mortgage (because they couldn’t imagine living in a home whose square footage is under 2000) or they are too ashamed to have rust on their quarter panels or worst of all they don’t know how to say “no” to themselves or their children. Regardless of the specific reason, debt is killing us, nationally and personally.

The way that it’s killing us is by causing we who are rich, to think we are poor. And because we think we are poor, we think God should feel sorry for us and benevolently step in and offer us some sort of divine bankruptcy opportunity or at least a stimulus package, all the while we are rich, but we’ve simply over spent.

Does Laodicea ring a bell? Maybe we should acknowledge that our wealth has gotten us into trouble and we need to get back to the most important things in life and eternity – loving God and loving each other.

Then maybe, just maybe we will be assured of Entering the Kingdom.

Now go and ask yourself if your debt has affected how you live for Jesus? Are you giving like you should? Are you serving like you should? Or are you consumed with servicing the lust behind your debt?

It’s worth looking into.