Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Radical Cross

A. W. Tozer was a very unique man of God.  He saw things like very few man ever did.  Interestingly, he was saved in the attic of his parents after hearing a street preacher leaving work in Akron, Ohio.  After doing some street preaching himself, he was called to pastor a storefront church in West Virginia. Thus began his long and great work of pastor and editor.
Many saw him as a modern-day prophet and he dared many who listened to him to walk the narrow path.  He didn't care which friends he had, those who understood him stood by him.  What should stand out is Aiden Wilson Tozer never had any biblical seminary training.  How did this man learn so much?  Simple: the Holy Spirit and his separation from the world.  Complete and iconic.
In the book "The Radical Cross," the first chapter points out what American Christianity ignores in the attributes of a crucifixion.  We think we see it as a thing of beauty, a shiny garb around our neck or a tattoo on our arm.  We are ignorant of the power of God through the Cross, as noted in 1 Corinthians 1:18.  
It is not the resurrection that we are talking about, this occurred three days later after Jesus was slain.  We need to see the cross for what it truly is, an instrument of death and destruction.  Let me go through briefly what the cross was, how the power of God pertains to it, and how it reflects to Christians.
First, as already said, it is a symbol of death.  Everyone who was sentenced and nailed to it succumbed to it.  It left no one still alive, even the Son of Man.  It had no mercy, no compromise; the only ultimatum it gave to its victims to come off was death.  Once you knew you would be crucified, death was the only option you had on getting off.  
Crucifixion was bloody and gory.  Your friends no longer walked by your side.  They did not want to be affiliated with you anymore.  Even the disciples fled and were nowhere to be seen.  Pain brought from the nails, the stretching of the body by the wood and gravity only added to the eventual demise.  Lastly, also consider where Golgotha was; on a hill for all to see.  It was a sign of humiliation and shame.
How does all of this apply to us?  Interesting that many Christians and pulpits quote Galatians 2:20, where Paul said I have been crucified with Christ, not I but He who lives in me.  Paul also said that as the sufferings of Christ abound in him, so consolation also abound by Christ (2 Corinthians 1:5).
We are not called to be physically crucified.  We are called to crucify the old man (Romans 6) and bury him.  Jesus said no one is worthy to follow him if he does not take up his cross (Matthew 10:38).  Another saying Jesus told was to "deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me (Matthew 16:24).  Note what need to do; deny ourselves first, take up our cross, THEN we follow Him. 
We can only have the abundant life what Jesus desires us to have until we sentenced the flesh to death.  Look at Paul went through in following Christ.  Stoned, beaten with rods, flogged, shipwrecked and imprisoned.  All this and he never wavered.  Once the old man was crucified, all that was left was a spiritual man wanted nothing more than to preach Christ crucified and holy solitude with the King.

Sorry to say, the crucifixion of Jesus leads us to the gate but the path requires us to take up our own cross.  The sufferings we will go through, trials, tribulations, mockings; this is the nails to the flesh, for none of the forementioned the flesh wants to endure.  If you love the luxury and freedom in America, all the gadgets and fine living, maybe this is what is keeping you from carrying your cross.

Jeremiah 9:23-24


Michael  

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Divided People of America

The internet, social media in particular, is now destroying America, in my personal opinion.  All you need to do is perform a deep research on how people feel on certain issues and you will see how divided we are.  The election and inauguration of President Donald Trump have exemplified and amplified the fractures in our freedoms for the last twenty years.
Many liberals, (especially the LGBTQ factions) have been making demands they want, regardless of the freedom of others in speech, religion, and media.  There were riots (no such as "peaceful when businesses are looted and cars set on fire) on the day of the inauguration, a Women March that had more to do with pro-choice and their hatred for Trump than women rights, and the current abyss in Congress with the continual movement of the left.
Conservative views, in general, have not changed drastically in the last fifty years or so, in my opinion.  The Western Church has been changing to meet the will of the culture which, in turn, has caused her to stray away from the firm apostles' creed and foundation of the Word.  While this has happened, it has weakened her influence on the culture around her.  Instead of her making her mark on the culture through holiness and repentance, she has taken in the world and watched the structure change to pragmatism and humanism.  Because of this, she does not possess the power to transform itself to holiness.  Thus, she has become more willing to conform to the culture for her pleasure than her willingness to bear her cross.
In my fifty plus years of being an American, they change from the 1970s to now is extraordinary.  I am ignoring the technological advances, our gain of knowledge in all areas.   I am specifically noting our view and our purposeful neglect of what our freedom truly stands for to the citizens of America.  
It is a real sad state of affairs when people take their right to protest and free speech, then use it to voice their views with intolerance and hatred.  I have seen vulgar language on both sides of the agenda.  I have even seen very disrespectful speech against the very genre of people who fought to defend that same right to speech.  It is ironic how Americans have used the freedom of speech to divide or even threaten others because of differences of beliefs, views, and religion.
Hypocrisy fills America's social media and airwaves.  UC-Berkeley was a scene of a riot recently, all was done in protest of free speech, in which Milo Yiannopoulos was going to speak.  Christians bakers who politely refused to bag a cake gets slammed with a six-figure lawsuit, while Ellen DeGeneres retakes an offer for Kim Burrell to appear on her show, for her speech against gay marriage at a church.  At this writing, there is a court fight over immigration about letting just "anyone" in through our borders yet, we lock our doors at night to protect what is close to us.  To top of the proverbial cake, we have sanctuary cities that break laws of immigration.  California (of course) is looking into being the first "sanctuary state" (IMHO, they already hold the distinction).
Individuals and groups have been making threats for special rights over others.  We have the hate crime, which only is used with a one-way mirror.  Marriage has been changed to accept the "pursuit of happiness."  The cry is not "finally, equality," it is if you get an inch, continue to go the mile.  Sadly, we see people and special groups use these freedoms for themselves.  Now that Donald Trump is the 45th President (only three weeks + in), people have taken their being upset to new levels.
We have the elements for a profane civil unrest.  Racism has risen exponentially, due to some elevating even the smallest of issues.  There are groups that supposedly promote one thing, while they look forward to following their true, hidden agenda.  The economy might be stable, but as long as our government continues its unsurmountable deficit spending, the experts believe it is inevitable.  
Many liberals are trying to stoke a fire they will realize later they don't want.  The abyss of political and social extremes grows wider by the day.  Others are willing to lie (or believe in a lie) to keep the ignorance against anyone that refuses to agree with their views.  They are more open to degrade the other side.  Social media has become a dessert lover's dream for those to desecrate anyone who they believe is intolerable to their mindset.  Hence, they keep digging a bigger ditch and blame the right for the gap.
America is in trouble - financially, politically, socially, and spiritually.  The Church needs to get right with God - and soon.  I cannot say if any major unrest will bring martial law or will it usher in the Great Tribulation.  The ingredients are there in the world.  The selfishness has infiltrated the Western Church.  We need to get on our knees.

Jeremiah 9:23-24

Michael

 

 
 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Christian quotes to Ponder

"You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary."
"How can you expect to dwell with God forever if you so neglect and forsake Him here?"
"Godliness is more easily feigned in words than in action."

Jonathan Edwards

"My talent is to speak my mind.  God won't object if you bury that talent."
"The Church recruited people who had been starched and ironed before they were washed."
"Any 'Christian' who takes for themselves any more than the plain necessities of life; live in an open habitual denial of the Lord.  They have gained riches and hell-fire."

John Wesley

"Churches don't need new members half as much as they need the old bunch made over."
"One reason sin flourishes is that it is treated like a cream puff instead of a rattlesnake."
"The only way you can keep a broken vessel filled is by keeping it under the tap." 
Billy Sunday

"You can always tell the power of a church by the number of people who attend the prayer meetings."
"My crusade is the wake up the Church from its spiritual lethargy, rousing it to the fact that it is being brainwashed and propagandized."
"Before there can be fullness there must be emptiness.  Before God can fill us with Himself, we must first be emptied of ourselves."
A. W. Tozer

"Jesus Christ went more willing to the Cross than we do to the throne of God."
"Are there not more millions of us who would rather go sleeping to hell than sweating to Heaven?"
"Christ is never loved until sin is loathed."
Thomas Watson

"The beginning of the way to heaven is to feel we were on the way to hell."
"A sin...consists of doing, saying, thinking or imagining anything that is not in perfect conformity with the mind or law of God."
"Obedience is the only reality... It is the real test of real discipleship among the Lord's people."
J. C. Ryle

"The early church was married to poverty, prisons, and persecutions.  Today, the Church is married to prosperity, personality, and popularity."
"If Jesus preached the same message that ministers do today, He would never have been crucified."
"It is much easier to wear a cross than bear a cross."
Leonard Ravenhill

Blessings,

Michael
Jeremiah 9:23-24 
 
 


Sunday, January 15, 2017

What We Truly Worship

In the region where I reside at this time, I am surprised how much the Green Bay Packers get praised.  Even churchgoers complain about going to church in a couple inches of snow but make every effort to get to the stadium two hours before game time.  These same people will sing quietly during worship yet, yell out loud when Aaron Rodgers throws a touchdown pass.We are guilty of what I am about to write.  I read this in a pamphlet from Duncan Campbell.  It was about spending more time getting our little things and assume our salvation as many go through the motions.   Americans hold more value in the worship of materialism than we do in our so-called "walk with the Lord." 
Many of us are addicted by social media.  It is amazing how we post when some arrive at church that "I am here to worship the LORD."  This may be harmless in itself but somehow we have related going to church as our sole means of worship.  Also, I see today that many Christians cannot worship without music to enhance the atmosphere.
It is sad we are willing to spend more effort on a football game that we are in preparing to be with God.  Worship is a constant act with us.  Yes, there are times we cannot be paying homage to the Almighty.  What we are willing to put our worth into can become an idol before our worship with God.
I am not here to write there are no real believers who are diligently seeking after the King of kings.  I question who do the saints of old seek God in prayer.  The office bearers who were praying for God to come happened to spend five hours on Tuesday and Friday night in a barn on their knees.  From my perspective, we should be ashamed.  Our prayer meetings hardly last two hours.
Even Leonard Ravenhill was shocked when he heard a Christian from Africa say to him that Americans don't know what worship truly is.  We last maybe a half hour and he said his church spends three hours in worship!  How's that for preparing to be in His presence?
Let me add one note.  There is a lost art in Christianity today that A. W. Tozer practiced many times.  Jesus, at times, became overwhelmed by the people many times.  His answer was to retreat and spend silence with His Father.  
You can worship in his presence without words or music.  Giving Him homage by your full honoring God.  Sitting or walking in holy silence, even waiting on Him, is a worthy form of worship.  Psalm 46:10a speaks volumes in ceasing from everything we do and paying all respect to the Most High, allowing Him to present Himself as our King, God and Father.
I am at a loss at words why this is no long sought after in our prayer time.  Do we have the patience or the time to sit in a quiet place and wait on Him?

Jeremiah 9:23-24


Michael

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Memberships, Life Groups and Church

2 Corinthians 3:1
Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?

Luke 16:10
He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.


I have had much research looking for reason of the above, and none is worth much value except what you place in it.  

First, membership.  It is amazing how much merit is placed on people to become a "member" of a local assembly of believers.  I hear pastors and leaders put so much emphasis, but why?  In some mysterious cloud, many believe you will become more active and willing to serve within a body of believers.  Also, the view of democracy fits right in with America.  But how does a democratic view piece itself within the confines of a monarchy?  Doesn't Jesus pick the pastors (Ephesians 4:11)?
I know some will use the "elect" mentality for the elders and deacons.  If this is true, the word "elect" and "predetermined" is used by Paul in his epistles to the Romans, Corinthians and the church in Galatia.  We can't use the same study for these words.  It would then appear the God holds a "vote" to see how is approved as a believer.  Also, nowhere in the Word of God does it say to hold a congregational vote to determine leadership in the church.  It is picked accordingly by the leaders.  The only "vote" is when there is sin among the leaders and there better be accountability.  If there is none, it is best for you to find another assembly of honor.
Jesus called us to be faithful stewards.  We are to be faithful to HIS work and glory, not to your respective place of assembly.  ALL believers are called to glorify Christ, not the church we attend.  It is good we do this among our brethren but leaders restrict many to their own flock.  We are ALL part of the Body of Christ, not just a limb or even a finger.  
What membership did Paul have?  What about Peter?   James?  Timothy?  Philip?  Did all of these need letters of commendation to prove who they are in Christ?  Well before our current forms of instant communication, these men's reputations went before them.  It wasn't membership that approved them, it was their faithfulness to glory Christ.  Paul took beatings, even among the Jews, to prove what he went through for the gospel.  Simply, when believers die, they will not hear Jesus pronounce their membership to XYZ Church.  The words "good and faithful servant" will echo out from the words of their Savior.  This should be the importance.  If you are faithful, no membership is needed.  These people are there to serve Christ, not XYZ Church.
Life groups are today's church method of keeping it as simple and superficial as they can.  It actually takes the calling of teacher out of play.  Here's why.
Most Life group leaders are not trained to study and teach the Word.  Just get a study guide or book (other than the Bible) and let the author do it for you.  You can take as long as you want, and there is a good chance the leadership will approve it, since it takes the individual out of play.  It also takes the Holy Spirit out of his ministry.  How do I say?
His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8).  I am not saying all of this wrong, it is many are now going the way where it is easy to follow along to another author's steps in becoming a better Christian.  This may fit well in some areas but not as a whole, for many do not begin our walk with God from the same starting point.  
Another thing that is not mentioned is to get to know what the author is writing about and to, one of the best forms of acknowledgment is to understand "said author."  If James Doe wrote a book on area restaurants, it will be tailored to his liking and tastes.  He may not approve of a certain type of pizza because of spices, while others may enjoy it.  It all begins with knowing the author.  
There is a very slim chance we can bring James Doe into our restaurants and get a "feel" why he likes and dislikes certain food.  Since the Holy Spirit assisted in the writing of the Bible and Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), we can have the Spirit with us when we study the Word of God.  Bringing this author in with us creates a whole new ability to understand the Word, for He is the guide to all Truth.  
Here is another difference that many leaders will either disagree or despise.  Many do not trust in these leaders' ability to teach straight from the Word of God.  One former pastor held to others as no problem.  God even admonished to him that if you teach the Word righteously, they will teach it correctly as well.  Once you begin to lose confidence in those underneath you, it may be the leader that needs to see this need of change.
Many pastors cannot rely on those leading life groups to teach the Word righteously.  Many of these pastors themselves are not teaching the Word with a depth and a strong desire for their congregation to be good Bereans.  They rather have them follow them and trust them rather than the leading of the Holy Spirit.  So what do they do?  They want Life Groups to keep it on the surface where they can oversee them.  In fear, these Life Group leaders pick something they believe the pastor will support, so instead of letting the Holy Spirit guide them through the Word, they pick a study guide with questions - where even a monkey can follow the steps.  Easy, neat and clean - but very superficial.  
Western churches have become so fearful of people leaving and keeping their chairs filled than filling their hearts with the Truth.  We severely lack living water, and we have been taught and fed the same bowl of cereal the congregation expects nothing more.  With such superficial ways, we go home and there isn't enough nourishment to where many want more meat, so they will read and study at home.  
We need to be more zealous of being with God, but also acknowledging it will require getting burned with getting close to the all consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28).  Our sin will be exposed as well as our pride, and any worthiness we feel will be of Him and not of us.  We are being taught to take our rowboat and go great lengths to cross the ocean.  If we are taught our gifts and act in the same accord to cross the ocean, we can all build a ship and carry as many as we can.  Only if you are willing to work together and know God's will for us, then we can attain the ultimate prize.

Jeremiah 6:15-16

Michael