Thursday, 31 October 2013

Evangelicalism: A Sinking Ship?


A friend posted the following quote on Facebook recently. It has been attributed to A.W. Tozer, and was apparently written some 50 years ago. While Tozer may not have lived to see this day, he certainly did foresee it. Today I believe that we are beginning to see it, and see not just the demise of evangelicalism, but the demise of institutional Christianity as a whole. And now, lest I digress too far, here's the Tozer quote:

“As the Church now stands, the man who sees this condition of worldly evangelicalism is written off as somewhat fanatical. But the day is coming when the house will be left desolate and there will not be a man of God among them. I would like to live long enough to watch this develop and see how things turn out. I would like to live to see the time when the men and woman of God-holy, separated and spiritually enlightened-walk out of the evangelical church and form a group of their own; when they get off the sinking ship and let her go down in the brackish and worldliness and form a new ark to ride out the storm."

Recently I was presented this related prophetic word by a friend. I find it interesting that many, both well known and less well known, are seeing and saying essentially the same thing. Is theirs a wake up call for the church? You decide.

Postscript: If anyone knows the exact source of Mr. Tozer's quote, please drop me a comment; I would very much like to read it in its larger context and to reference this post properly. Thank you.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Halloween: Here's to You ...


I've never really been a big fan of Halloween. As a matter of fact, if there were a Scrooge of Halloween contest, I would probably be in the running as a potential winner.

I don't really know why that is. There was a time that I justified my anti-Halloween views on what some have said are its ancient associations with the occult. For example, some have claimed that Halloween is a day that witches celebrate above all other days.

As an aside, it is interesting that in the tenth century, King Edgar of England admitted that witchcraft was more popular than Christianity. Hmm, isn't it a little peculiar that today many professing Christians are still inthralled with this witchcraft celebration of old?

While Halloween has certainly evolved into child's play, I am reminded that the witchcraft from whence it supposedly came is certainly not child's play, and is actually an abomination in the eyes of God (see Deuteronomy 18:10 and Galatians 5:20). Still, its occultic past troubles me.

Consider also the ancient Druids, who used to put on grotesque and terrifying costumes, believing that if you dressed in a horrible enough fashion and went gallivanting around with the spirits all night, they would be fooled into thinking that you were one of them, and they would leave you alone and do you no harm. The Celts believed that when the spirits came to your house, if you did not treat them, they would trick you.

So today, when we dress ourselves or our children up in Halloween costumes, there is allegedly a connection to the ancient occult superstitions of yesteryear. It is true that many no longer make that association, but sometimes I cannot help but wonder if those same ancient spirits got the memo of disassociation by the modern world.

Well there you have it; and I guess to each their own. Celebrate it or not; it's your call. So, Halloween, here's to you. In our home we do often shop for Halloween candy, but typically not until November 1st, and only so that I might indulge my own sweet tooth at a little bit cheaper price.

Sorry kids, but maybe the neighbours are home. 

Photo Source: Unknown (via Facebook)

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Prayer: Some Random Thoughts


As I write these words, I’m looking out the window at our first snowfall of the season, and I’m not impressed. It got me thinking about the way we often petition God about some of the details of life; both the trivial details, and the more serious details, that often seem to plague us.

What do I mean? Consider these random thoughts:

Two athletes from opposing teams each pray for victory in the big game. How will God answer their prayers? A tied game? Granting the petition of the one but not the other? Someone has to win. How will God answer?

Two countries at odds with each other, perhaps stepping ever closer to the brink of war, each having Christian citizens, each claiming God is on their side, and each praying for victory over their adversaries. How will God answer?

A family at the hospital bedside of a critically ill family member; one praying for healing, and the other praying that God may take her home to Heaven and release her from her pain. How will God answer?

And then there are our fickle ideas of what constitutes perfect weather. The one prays for snow while the other prays that the snow clouds pass over without dropping their precipitation. The one prays about it being too dry, whereas his neighbor prays about it being too wet. The one prays about what he perceives as a climate too hot, while the other prays about a climate that he thinks is too cold. How will God answer?

And then there are the Scriptures that speak of the “prayers of faith,” and of how God answers those, as opposed to the faithless variety of prayer. In truth, all of the above examples could be “prayers of faith,” and if so, what then? How will God answer? Or will He?

I guess it all comes down to this: God is Sovereign and the buck ultimately stops with Him. “But, but, but … ” I can almost hear the objections now ringing through cyberspace.

“What shall we conclude then? Is there injustice upon God’s part? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion (pity) on whom I will have compassion. So then [God’s gift] is not a question of human will and human effort, but of God’s mercy. [It depends not on one’s own willingness nor on his strenuous exertion as in running a race, but on God’s having mercy on him.] For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, I have raised you up for this very purpose of displaying My power in [dealing with] you, so that My name may be proclaimed the whole world over. So then He has mercy on whomever He wills (chooses) and He hardens (makes stubborn and unyielding the heart of) whomever He wills. You will say to me, Why then does He still find fault and blame us [for sinning]? For who can resist and withstand His will? But who are you, a mere man, to criticize and contradict and answer back to God? Will what is formed say to Him that formed it, Why have you made me thus? Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same mass (lump) one vessel for beauty and distinction and honorable use, and another for menial or ignoble and dishonorable use?” (Romans 9: 14-21; Amplified) 

I guess at the end of the day, as troubling as those verses have been to some, I can rest in that. At the end of the day, dare we really “Name it and Claim it” as some of our leaders have taught? Isn’t that almost dictating the terms of our faith to God? I wonder sometimes.

At the end of the day, if God chooses to send us a snowstorm in October, or take one of my children home to Glory before his first birthday (which He has done), who am I to say otherwise? His will always prevails, regardless of my opinion on the subject, and even, dare I say, regardless of my level of faith. To Him be the glory. Amen.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Antichrists: You May Be One If ...


I’ve been thinking lately about antichrists.

Not the Antichrist per se, who will appear toward the end of history at the behest of Satan to usher in the end of the age, but of the plurality of antichrists in the world (and in the church) today.

“… even now many antichrists have arisen …” (1 John 2:18)

The word “antichrist” (a transliteration of the Greek antichristos) appears only in the writings of John, and that only about five times. It is an interesting word. Originally the prefix anti meant “in place of,” but later it came to mean “against.” Just as in apocalyptic writings where the Antichrist will set himself up one day “in place of” Christ, so too any one who in any way is or ever was “against” Christ, likely could be counted among the antichrists.

So exactly who are these antichrists?

The quick easy answer would be that anyone who does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who thereby rejects the Incarnation, is an antichrist. Such people do not only reject Jesus, but they also reject God Himself, because it was God who showed His love for us by sending His Son (John 3:16). Rejection of the Son equals rejection of the Father, which in turn equals being an antichrist. We could say that an antichrist is an atheist (or at the very least, an agnostic). Ultimately, however, the bottom line is that anyone who claims to believe in God, but rejects the Son, doesn’t believe in the same God that the true Christian believes in, and therefore is an antichrist. There are many gods that the antichrist may believe in, but there is only one true God, who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

He who is not with me is against me.” (Jesus; Mt.12:30; NIV)

He who is not with Jesus, is an antichrist. What does it mean to be with Jesus? A couple things that quickly come to mind are: belief in, agreement with, and obedience to. At the risk of sounding legalistic, failure on any of those three related points might mean that you’re an antichrist.

You say that you believe in Jesus? That’s great! What do you believe about Him? Was He only a good man or a prophet? Was He a nut-case or demon-possessed? The New Testament records incidents where people thought so. Many today think likewise. But what do you think? Jesus once asked the disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” (Mt.16:13). Who do YOU say that He is? Depending on how you answer that, you may be an antichrist.

Are you and I in agreement with Jesus? Do we think He was right in what He actually said and taught and in whom He claimed to be? Or are we only in agreement with our interpretations and our institutional and denominational biases? Many are in agreement with their religion, even a pseudo-Christian religion, but if their religion doesn’t fully agree with Jesus, then perhaps they also aren’t fully in agreement with Jesus. Depending on whether you do or don’t find yourself in agreement with Jesus, you may be an antichrist.

How obedient are we to Jesus? I’ve often wondered about this question. If Jesus taught on a particular topic and we blatantly disobey that teaching, what does that say about our profession that He is Lord? Can someone consistently disobey Jesus and still claim to be a Christian? Is not such a person really an antichrist? Hmm, I wonder sometimes.

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Jesus; Lk.6:46)

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Jesus; Mt.7:21)

Those aren’t my words; they’re Jesus’. How do we disobey Jesus? Quite possibly the biggest way that we regularly disobey Him is in our interpersonal relationships with one another. We gossip, we slander, we hate, we threaten, we kill, and ironically, we do so while at the same time calling ourselves Christians. My question is, do these tendencies of ours sound Christ-like? What was the main interpersonal example that Jesus taught? Love, even for our enemies. If you ask me, we often don’t even do a very good job of loving non-enemies, much less loving our enemies. It seems to me that we would rather arm ourselves against would-be enemies than feed them (see Romans 12:20). Still, Jesus wouldn’t have taught principles from the Father that He didn’t expect to be followed, or those that He knew were somehow impossible to be adhered to.

It all comes down to “doing” the will of the Father; it all comes down to obedience, without which, we may just be antichrists. Are you obedient to Jesus? Am I? Probably if we’re honest with ourselves, we’re a lot less obedient than we think we are. Maybe to one degree or another, we’re ultimately all antichrists.

Thankfully, however, it’s not all gloom and doom. Thankfully that is where Grace* comes in, but that’s a topic for another day. Peace.

* "Grace," a basic definition: God's dealing with man in undeserved ways; it is simply an outflow of God's goodness, generosity, and love.

Friday, 25 October 2013

The End of the Matter

"But about going further [than the words given by one Shepherd], my son, be warned. Of making many books there is no end [so do not believe everything you read], and much study is a weariness of the flesh. All has been heard; the end of the matter is: Fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is] and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man [the full, original purpose of His creation, the object of God's providence, the root of character, the foundation of happiness, the adjustment to all inharmonious circumstances and conditions under the sun] and the whole [duty] for every man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it is good or evil."

Amen.

Source: Ecclesiastes 12: 12-14 (Amplified)

Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Prophecy: A Wake Up Call for the Church?

A dear friend of mine, and brother in the Lord, came over to the house the other day and shared a prophecy that the Lord had given him concerning the church and some of the pastors who lead it.

Like many of the prophets of old, I know that not all will accept this prophet and his message. He knows it too. However, I have known this brother for many years, and I know his heart. Time and again I have seen the love of God manifested through him in ways that sometimes have made me feel ashamed, as I considered my own (sometimes pathetic) Christian walk. Unlike many, I can honestly say that he doesn't just "talk the talk," he lives it and walks it out daily.

It's a hard word, and it's a troubling word; but I believe it is a true word. Knowing this brother as I do, I can recommend and invite you to prayerfully give him an ear as well. Is God giving us, His church, a wake up call? I wonder.
_______________

The Prophecy:  October 12, 2013

I am the Lord and I change not.  My ways are not your ways and they are never compromised and they are past finding out.  I am the same yesterday, today and forever, therefore I cannot change.  My precepts are from everlasting to everlasting.  I change not!  What I did yesterday I will do today and forever!  The church is the same today as it was then, nothing has changed.

I say this as I am concerned for my Church and what man has done with what I have given.  My day of visitation is at hand and is near.  I wait only for the Fathers command!

I have seen what has been said and done in the land.  My leaders have taught falsely in that they have said, “my people have stolen the tithe”.  However, the people have not stolen the tithe, for the leaders have been weighed and it is found that the tithe is in their hands. They have built for themselves kingdoms in which they find glory but, I find no glory in them nor do I take pleasure in what man builds for me, for it is purely from the flesh.  They say it is for me but, it is only for their own praise.  I have said from the beginning that “freely you have received therefore freely give," but now you are discovered and you have disobeyed me.

There are those that have misled my sheep by even promising them an easy path through prosperity and should they “give” to their cause, then they will not see the testing; that I should bear them up as they should see no tribulation.   Surely as “I am, that I am," they lie and wait for their own gain, “but it is not from me," says the Lord!  I have not spoken to them neither do they know me.  They have prophesied lies in my name. 

They preach to you with man's words and wisdom; it is not I speaking to them.  They study my words and try to extract wisdom, but they know not who I am.  I have no relationship with them; I am only their “religion,” but I am not found of them who profess to have knowledge in doctrine and religion.  I am found only by the meek and lowly in heart and those that truly seek me and those who moan for the sin in Israel.  Those, who draw near to me with their whole heart and not just with the tongue, those who become as children will know me.  The prophets are speaking lies and distract my people from the truth.  They speak for the reward of fame and acknowledgement.  They have an appetite for recognition but have no desire for the truth.  They only bolster and forward the agendas of the leaders and pastors visions; it is not my revelation to them.  They tell you of revival and peace to come but, I tell you the truth, there shall no revival or peace come, for it is in the imagination of the false prophets whom I have not called.  My true prophets are quieted and rejected saying to them, “you are mad," therefore they are not allowed to speak.  The pastors and leaders have taken control and even saying, "if I am not in control I will not take part in it." They have stolen my Glory and I will say to them in that day, I share my Glory with no one.  Therefore your desolation comes as a thief in the night, to prove it is “I” that rule in the entire universe.  You cannot be to me the vessels that tell me what I can create and how to create it; I dictate the times and the seasons of man.

Therefore I am stout against those that lie and steal from my kingdom to build theirs.  I am against the proud and the haughty and those that refuse to bend the neck, those who refuse to hear my prophets that I have sent to you.  I am against those that take from the poor and needy as you have done and built your own kingdoms; who take what is not theirs, who shut the bowels of mercy to the least of those in my kingdom, says the Lord.  Those whom you would consider assets are nothing to me and those whom you consider liabilities are my chosen in disguise.  Angels, whom I have sent among you and you have not ministered to them.

Therefore, I have sent to you strong delusions and you do not know that you are wretched poor and blind.  You do not know that you are even the blind leaders of the blind.  Therefore strangers have invaded your places of worship, because you will not enter in yourselves.  Who is man, that he will teach me wisdom?  I do not bend the ear to those that do not have faith nor to those that are wise in their own sight.  Surely my ways are not your ways and therefore I will make desolate your cities that men have built and glory in, and they will in an hour be as nothing.  I am the Lord who will shake and reduce, and everything that can be shaken will be shaken.  Then will they say, “Where is the Lord," but I will not answer or hear them until Babylon is completely consumed and broken down in the heart of man.  I declare to you that today is the hour to flee and get out of her.    All religion, every “place of worship” that man has created is Babylon and Babylon will not and cannot prosper against me, says the Lord.   You have taken glory in them and have become proud of your accomplishments.   Those who have ears to hear, let them hear by the Spirit.

Why do you think that my people suffer just as the heathen do and there are no great miracles?  Did I not say that greater things than these should be done to them that believe?  What is it that you believe in?  You say because these things are absent, it is not for today, but you lie about my greatest gift on the cross.  Therefore I have withheld, because you have no faith.  My people have put their trust in the arm of flesh, in mammon and their knowledge, but not in me, says the Lord.  Therefore they perish because Babylon cannot heal her wounds and I have no part in her.  

Therefore in order to separate the true prophets from the liars this will be your sign: In five years (2018) the two major kingdoms of this world will come to an end, yet they will be.  The first is complete  and the second is about to go into perdition.  With it I will scatter your strength and the finances and your store houses will become waste places, because you have put your trust in horses and chariots and not in me.  Because of your pride I will leave your (spiritual) cities desolate and they will remain a testimony for your own condemnation in that day, says the Lord.  Furthermore I will confuse your wise men and a child will be able to understand my word but, your eyes will remain closed.  Because your idolatry of Babylon abounds, I, says the Lord, I will leave your worship places desolate.  I will utterly destroy anything that looks like man has built it and there will be nothing left, save the memories in which there is no glory.  I will touch your idol of religion and worship places.  Anything that is built, that you gave gathered money for, is coming to an end.  You are building in vain.

Oh my people, I gave you your birth right, the gift that I gave you each individually and you have not been satisfied, but lusted for more.  You as Esau sold your birthright and gifts for what satisfied the flesh and as Israel of old you too, as the younger sister Aholiba, have transgressed just as did those of the O.T church.  I gave you gifts, these were gifts only, and you merchandised them for money.  Pastors and teachers took filthy lucre for the “gift” that I gave to them and so they have become hirelings for reward.  Prophets, prophesied in my name for money!  Therefore I will spoil your pastures, I will touch your idol of money, I will touch your idols of worship and the idol of knowledge, says the Lord.   Will not the Lord your God recompense in the day of judgement?  You took from the poor and needy, from the widows and fatherless and still you say we have helped the poor, but you have lied and built bigger barns.  Your souls will I require.

Yet I have preserved those who have done my work.  They have done it without reward and I, who sees in secret, will reward openly.  These are my Church, church!

Come, says the Lord in repentance and humble yourselves before me.  Hear me O Israel my people and lament, for her sins are many.  Your idolatries are too numerous to mention. Your idols are set up in your hearts.  You have forsaken me, the fountain of your youth.  Return to me, do not forsake my ways and I will come again for you, that where I am, you too can be.  Seek me, says the Lord and I will abundantly pardon.  I will even heal your land but you must come, says the Lord.  Yet I know that you will harden your heart and refuse, for there is a way that seems right to man.   You have a form of godliness but keep on denying my power.

Harden not your hearts when you read these words, for I will do all that I said.  As surely as I live, you will taste of the wrath of God if you do not obey me and leave Babylon of your own choice.  In your pride you exalted yourself and have said, “I sit as a queen and have no need." Therefore will I bow your head and bring another nation whom you will bow down to.   My day of visitation slumbers not! 

_______________

Author: Barny Knelsen, Lethbridge, Alberta
Photo Source: Huffingtonpost.com

"The interior of an abandoned church is seen on September 5, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan."
Is this a sign of the times? Will it become the norm for our "places of worship," our "Babylons?" Hmm,  Barny thinks so.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Have We Repented of Preaching Repentance?


Has the preaching of “Repentance” become the new sin of the church? I have been wondering about that a little lately. What follows are a few of my musings on the subject.

Somewhere along the way, has the church taken the word “Repent” out of its vocabulary? Has the doctrine of “Repentance” become passé, and maybe even politically incorrect, in our modern liberal society in which everything goes?

If what is deemed “right” is now in the eyes of the beholder, is it then even permissible for the church to ask another to repent? Has the church become essentially a “feel-good” club for its members, scared to upset the status quo of the society in which it finds itself, and scared of the possibility of being labeled intolerant morality judgers? Has it become more concerned with the gaining and retention of new members than it has with the grass-roots call to repentance that the early church knew and preached?

The Greek word from which we most often get our English word Repentance is the word “metanoia.” Basically it speaks of the making of a decision to change one’s mind and attitude from an evil way of life to a way of holiness. It is the making of a U-Turn from the direction of a self-willed life to a God-willed and directed life. It is agreeing with God and essentially saying, “Yes Lord, you are right; I am a sinner worthy of death. Here and now I accept the atonement of Jesus and commit myself to walking my life according to your ways and precepts.

Though many of the old-time preachers of yesteryear regularly preached that message - such as Charles Spurgeon, Leonard Ravenhill, David Wilkerson, and a host of others - it seems to me that few today do likewise. Instead we often hear messages from the Christian community of almost everything else except the need for repentance. At the risk of digressing too far, I’ve actually heard sermons on the merits of Harry Potter (I kid you not) and discussions of someone’s post-doctoral studies; neither of which, if I recall correctly, had even one verse of Scripture or Christian principle in it.

If repentance isn’t preached, then is that not the same as essentially saying that we no longer believe it to be a requirement for the church? If so, then isn’t that also the same as suggesting that God must have changed His mind about calling people to repentance? Consider this thought from the Apostle Paul:
“Or are you [so blind as to] trifle with and presume upon and despise and underestimate the wealth of His kindness and forbearance and longsuffering patience?  Are you unmindful or actually ignorant [of the fact] that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repent (to change your mind and inner man to accept God’s will)? But by your callous stubbornness and impenitence of heart you are storing up wrath and indignation for yourself on the day of wrath and indignation, when God’s righteous judgment (just doom) will be revealed.” (Romans 2: 4-5; Amplified) 
Let’s consider a few of the parts of those verses:
… trifling
… presumption
… despising
… underestimating
About what? About “the wealth of His kindness and forbearance and longsuffering patience.” Have we done that? Have we forgotten or taken for granted the message of the cross of Christ? Certainly Paul’s not talking about us today, is he? Hmm, I wonder.
… unmindful
… ignorant
Sound harsh? Who, us? About what are we unmindful and ignorant? “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repent.” Yes, God is kind and loving; it’s a part of His nature. But He is also so that we might REPENT. Have we forgotten that? Hmm, I wonder.
… stubbornness
… impenitence
Consequences? You’ve got to be kidding! What consequences? “Storing up wrath and indignation for yourself.” Ouch! When was the last time we heard a message on the wrath of God? (I can almost hear the objections to this now) I bet it’s been a while. Do we still believe that part? Some don’t. Is there really going to be a day of judgment? Hmm, I wonder.

The truth is, however, that those of us who are in Christ Jesus, have nothing to fear.
“Therefore, [there is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus, who live [and] walk not after the dictates of the flesh, but after the dictates of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1; Amplified)
That is the Good News … for you and me … IF we know Jesus and walk in the Spirit. So where does that leave the preaching of repentance? Let me ask a pointed question: Do none of us in the church today have unsaved neighbors, friends and relatives? If so, then ‘maybe’ we’re excused from preaching repentance. But if that is untrue in our circle of acquaintances, then to not preach repentance is to either not believe in the literal existence of hell, or it is to be self-centered and unconcerned with the eternal destiny of our neighbors, friends, and relatives.

Alternately, maybe we’re just too scared of being labeled intolerant by our neighbors, friends, and relatives. One final thought:
“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10; NIV)
Something to think about.