Saturday, June 28, 2008

I Can't Hear You

I have been a Christian for 50 years. Yet never have I seen the attitudes I am seeing around me in the church world. It grieves my heart and it must also grieve the heart of God. I am talking about the “I’m right and you are wrong” attitude. It appears to be coloring every aspect of church life. It causes believers to be angry with each other, to leave the church and then go no where. I sometimes wonder how many folks are out there, who used to go to church every Sunday, joining their hearts in harmony to worship the God they love, but today finds them, at home, trusting the TV or radio to provide their spiritual nourishment. What’s the problem?
Eyes on Man
All too often the problems begin when we get our eyes off God and focus instead on man and his problems. We must ask ourselves when we find we are in the middle of strife in the church, “Why do I go to church?” Is it to listen to the preacher, to fellowship with my friends, to grow in my own ministry, to serve the Lord. Or is it to worship God? When we forget that the original plan of God was to gather the people together to worship Him, we often fall into patterns we call ‘worship’ but it often is not worship at all. While we are to be careful in what we adhere to in our doctrine, we must also be careful that we do not neglect the teachings of the Lord… And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul (Deuteronomy 10:12). For Jesus Himself told satan in the wilderness temptation… “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matthew 4:10) When we cut ourselves off from corporate worship we invite all kinds of problems into our lives. Our focus at first seems to be self-preservation. We don’t want to be hurt or deal with people who continually seem to hurt us. So we remove ourselves from their fellowship. But all too soon, our wounded hearts rationalize that the risk is too great that we might experience more pain and so we go no where at all. As we focus on the problem man has caused in our lives, we are like turtles, pulling inside our shells to protect. But in fact we do more harm than good. We set a poor example for those who look to us for guidance. We fail to forgive, and we often live in continual pain because of it. Our children and grandchildren see that church and Christian fellowship is not important. We no longer have the encouragement of other believers to work together for the cause of Christ. Some fail to tithe. Others fail to serve. Some eventually turn away from God altogether...all because they got their eyes on the wrong things.
Ears to Hear
Too many today are getting caught up into cultic teachings. As the church becomes more and more passive in it’s approach to try to please everyone and not offend anyone, leadership often fails to declare the Word of God with boldness. People don’t know what they believe or why. When they pull away from the church they often turn to TV or radio and begin to listen to voices declaring their opinions instead of the Word of God. They lack spiritual discernment. I have met far too many in recent years who have slowly bought into such ministries as the “Shepherd’s Chapel” and Pastor Arnold Murray, and his non-biblical beliefs, which are based on the cultic “Serpent Seed Doctrine” which teaches that Eve had sexual intimacy with Satan to produce Cain, who began a ‘hybrid’ race of people who were cursed by God, called them Kenites, and are now the Jews, and dark skinned peoples of the world. This is pure racism and has absolutely no basis in proper Biblical interpretation!!! Yet folks watch his programs because he takes the Bible in hand and reads it verse by verse, explaining his ‘doctrine’ with the American flag behind him.
Another odd teacher some are heeding is Mr. Harold Camping on the Family Radio network. His voice comes across the airwaves via his 150 radio stations across the nation on this call-in talk show called “Open Forum.” Some find themselves buying into his odd doctrines which declared that Christ would return in 1994 but when that failed he re-evaluated and now has determine that the rapture will take place May 21st, 2011, and that the Lord will return on October 20th 2011. Some of his other non-biblical teachings include…. annihilation of the unsaved, the rejection of the total depravity of man in denial of Romans 3:12, no visible Return of Christ, no resurrection of the unsaved, no final judgment of the unsaved, no eternal hell, the Holy Spirit has already lifted from the church, God has abandoned his apostate church. Therefore he advocates that you no longer need to go to church—any church, just listen to his radio station and send your tithes to him, while you wait for 2011. One of his most ridiculous declarations is that no one in the world was saved between 1988 and 1994. We must remember the scriptures which teach us… (1 John 4:1 KJV) Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. We must be discerning in the body of Christ! We must know our Bibles. We must not neglect the teachings of Jesus Christ. One of the last things Jesus told his disciples is found in Matthew 28: 19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” We are not to abandon the church, to stop making disciples, to stop baptizing the converts, because He, Jesus, is still with us, “even to the end of the age.” Time has not stopped and God is still with the church! The age of the church is not over! Just as we are to observe communion ‘’til He come”, so we must continually “occupy til he comes”. (Luke 19:13) We have work to do for God! There are lost souls who need to find the Savior. The Word of God teaches us “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:3-4) And this culture today is abounding in fables. The more Biblically ignorant the world becomes, the more they become the victims of unscrupulous teachers of lies and fables. That is why Paul told young Timothy in the previous verse, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” ( 2 Tim 4:2) It takes courage to take a stand in the face of blatant error. Sometimes it causes divisions, especially when loyalties are stretched. We need a new generation of pastors and teachers who will fearlessly proclaim the Word of God, who will not be afraid to reprove and rebuke in love, those who are falling into error. Boards need to stand firmly behind their pastors as they preach the Word. Just as a shepherd would leave the 99 and go in search of the one lost sheep who has wandered from the fold, so must we, as servants of the Lord, seek to bring back into the fold, those who have wandered into spiritual error.
What are you listening to with your ears? Are you just listening for ‘something new and novel?” Or, are you carefully listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit who promised to lead us into all truth? One of the often repeated phrases given to John in Revelations in the messages to the churches was…”He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;” (Rev. 2:7) The Spirit filled believer must be listening, not to the voices around him, but to the Spirit, who will confirm the Truth and reveal the errors. The Holy Spirit is still at work in the church and is still speaking to believers. He is going to do that until Jesus returns for his Bride, the church. That is why we must also be cautious today when we listen to those who call themselves ‘prophets’. Some would try to manipulate for personal gain. Others try to make a name for themselves. Both are wrong. The Lord left us with the Holy Spirit so that all of us could now serve the Lord as prophets, priests and kings. But that does not mean we fall into imbalance, to use it for selfish purposes. We are to ‘try the spirits.’ We are to ‘preach the Word.’ We are to ‘teach all nations’ and bring them to the truth. Jesus set the example… “And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:34) Parents, teach your children and grandchildren the Word of God. Take them faithfully to the house of God and teach them to worship and value the presence of God. Pastors, stand tall in your pulpit, and with holy boldness, declare the message God has placed on your heart without apologies. You are guarding your flock! Teachers, wherever you teach, use your gift to declare the truth! Be a student of the Word! Be aware of the dangers in our culture. Warn the innocent! Expect opposition! Be ready with an answer and let the Holy Spirit give you an answer when you have none. Be faithful! Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You're not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It's the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won't last forever. It won't be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does. 1 Peter 5:8-11 (The Message Bible)
J. Johnson

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Will You Pray?

The Harvest Season is coming once again! It happens every summer as we go into the fair grounds with the God Mobile and take the gospel message to those who really want to know if they are ready for heaven. But we have a great need. We need faithful prayer warriors who will be willing to stand with us throughout the summer months, who will pray behind the scenes for the workers, for those who come seeking the answers they long to know, for safety on the highways moving the God Mobile. We also need those willing to help us with the expenses this harvest incurs. It takes money, to provide the gas to get to the fairs, to provide printed materials to give out to the seekers, (tracts, gospels of John, follow up materials directing them to churches etc), as well as costs to rent space at each fair. Pray for more workers. Your gifts this month will enable us to win the lost. In the last 5 years over 9,000 have prayed, one-on-one! The task is joy-filled yet very exhausting as they come drawing from you sometimes in groups of 3 to 6. We need your prayers! Will you stand with us once again? Your gifts are tax-deductible as always when made out to “Word of the Lord Ministries” Thank you for your faithfulness!

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They may also be sent to: Word of the Lord Ministries, PO Box 210015, Milwaukee, WI 53221

The Valley of Decision

We are amazed at what we see on our TV screens and via the internet today as we see moment by moment news flashes from around the world. We can watch as after shocks and new quakes hit China’s Sichuan Province and in the next moment see the devastation in Myanmar or bombs exploding in Iraq. We can go on the internet and see all the recent earthquakes shaking the ground all around the globe. We can pull down news feeds from networks around the world and hear the latest news that speaks of prophetic fulfillment and warns the believers that it is possible that Jesus could return at any time. Yet, though we have all this technology at our fingertips, the world rumbles on—going through the daily motions and routines. The Bible gives us the warnings of God’s judgment on the nations in Joel 3:14-17 "Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. 15 The sun and moon will grow dark, And the stars will diminish their brightness. 16 The LORD also will roar from Zion, And utter His voice from Jerusalem; The heavens and earth will shake; But the LORD will be a shelter for His people, And the strength of the children of Israel. 17 “ So you shall know that I am the LORD your God, Dwelling in Zion My holy mountain. Then Jerusalem shall be holy, And no aliens shall ever pass through her again.”
God will be bringing the nations of the world to a point at which they must choose….a valley of decision. When we are so busy, so distracted, so apathetic, we are not ready to make important choices. But when the pressure mounts and the times get hard, we begin to look at our options a little more carefully. We begin to make priorities. Some are already doing that with their cars. As gas prices climb, we choose what we will go for, and we plan our trips carefully for the best use of our gas money. We park our gas-hogs, pull out our bikes or walking shoes and get some exercise instead. Suddenly we take the time to think about other options. We choose what is really important and what is not.
God wants us to do the same with our spiritual lives. Soon, all around us, there will be millions, in the valley of decision. They will be looking for answers to the dilemma’s they face. They will want to know what to do and where to turn. They will want help with their questions, and will want to know about God and eternity. Some many be very angry, blaming God for their circumstances. Some will be in a state of utter despair. But the believer is not to be this way. He is to be ready, not indecisive. He serves God, who knows all things. For the believer, there need be no panic or fear. When we see the signs, the divine notifications, we can be sure that God is working His plan and He has an eye on those who are His own….But the LORD will be a shelter for His people. While the multitudes are in the valley of decision, we are to take note that the ‘the day of the LORD is near .' This tells us that in the divine calendar of God, we will see things to point us to the Lord. In a recent broadcast on Prophesy in the News with J.R. Church, he hosted a Messianic pastor, Rev. Mark Biltz who shared an interesting interpretation regarding the signs that Joel talked about here….the sun and moon growing dark and the stars diminished brightness. Back in the days when it was written, they did not understand what was happening when the sun or the moon experienced an eclipse. Today, we understand what causes this to happen. Yet, to God, He uses these rhythmic occurrences to remind man of His existence and His plan as well as His calendar. Today we use a Gregorian calendar. But the Jews have a calendar all their own. Their New Year begins in Sept/Oct instead of January. Rev. Biltz noted by looking back in history via NASA that God often allowed historic events to occur on the 9th day of Av (July or Aug) including the destruction of two of the Jewish temples(423 BC and 69 AD), the expulsion of Jews of Spain(1492 AD) and England(1290 AD), the 6 day war in Israel(1967), and the expulsion of Jews from Gaza (2005). When comparing these dates with eclipses of past history, they coincided. God marked each sad day with a sign in the heavens.
While we tend to look at the catastrophes like just another news item, God marks them in His divine calendar. He tells us in His Word, that we can expect to see these things all happening at the same time. It is a sign to us all. While some think God has abandoned the Jewish people, it is amazing that the prophecies spoken thousands of years ago, continue to point the people of God to the reality of a God who loves his creation enough to warn them in advance. When God speaks from Jerusalem, and the heavens and earth shakes at the sound of His voice, we need not fear. God is in charge!
How is God shaking your world today? If I have to pay $4.00 a gallon for gas, I find it hard to complain when I hear that others in the world are paying $9.00 for the same thing. If I have a small ache or pain, I just can’t complain when I see the sad destruction of thousands crushed under crumbling buildings, and homes washed away. When I look up to the sky, and I see the creation of God, the moon and the stars, the sun shining on my world, what can I say? God is still God. Even if I should be wounded or killed by some catastrophe, does God stop being God? No!
We ask ourselves, why do the righteous suffer? We must remember that this world is not our final home. We are strangers and pilgrims in a ‘foreign land.’ The suffering that the righteous may have to endure here for a moment of time is nothing compared to the eternal home He has prepared for us all. We often forget those in the past who also suffered and died. Of the 11 remaining disciples after the death of Jesus, only one, John the beloved, died of old age. The remainder died a martyrs death. Throughout the annals of time, great men and women are listed in Foxes Book of Martyrs, including Polycarp, Wycliffe, Luther, and Tyndale, who suffered persecutions and death because of their faith. Today, websites record stories of modern day martyrs for the cause of Christ. Perhaps you heard of the Christians who were burned alive in their church in Kenya this year. This week as China was mourning it’s losses, it also was putting on trial pastors of house churches. In Pakistan, a mob of 200 Muslims are calling for the hanging of a Christian medical doctor who has served faithfully for years. Since 1985 it is estimated that 2 million people, many of them Christians, were killed in Sudan because of their faith. While we sit on our comfortable sofa’s and watch the news like we watch fictional dramas, people are dying for their faith. If such persecution were to come to North America, I wonder how many would stand and how many would fall.?!
Jesus spoke to his followers in Luke 18:1, 8 “he spoke a parable to them that men ought always to pray and not to loose heart…. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes will He really find faith on the earth?”
While some are busy, caught up in accumulating their wealth, souls are dying without a Savior. Where are our priorities? Even in the churches today, we get so busy with our spaghetti dinners, and our seasonal presentations that we forget to go outside our walls and talk to the neighbor next door, or the stranger at the bus stop. While we should be spending quality time with the Lord in prayer, modeling for our families what is really important in life, instead, we spend our time with frivolous video games. How many churches have closed their doors on Sunday night due to poor attendance? How many evangelists have left the road to take a church because churches were too busy to have a revival service? How many missionaries have abandoned their call to the world because they were unable to raise their support at churches who use their buildings only on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights? Multitudes, multitudes—in the valley of decision…. And what are we doing to reach them? Look around you! Who needs Jesus? He did not come for the righteous, but sinners. Are there any sinners in your life? Jesus moved about. He went to the most unlikely places….the home of the tax collector…. The funeral procession of a child… The pool where sick people lay about…. And He went up into a mountain to pray…! It takes time and effort and prayer to do the work of God. If you are physically unable to go… then give...and pray...and love...and encourage those who can.
When you begin to get a little self-centered….turn your thoughts toward others who are facing the valley of decision. Some must choose to pay the rent, or buy some food. Some must choose to stand for Christ and face beatings and death, or recant and be lost. When you put your own problems into an eternal perspective of such magnitude, they really seem much smaller. We have been in the valley of decision and we have chosen to follow the Lord. The rewards of that choice are ‘out of this world.’ “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” Revelations 22:12 We must be about our Father’s business….ministry to the multitudes in the valley of decision.

J. Johnson