December 26, 2018 · 9:28 pm
The last few chapters of Nehemiah capture for us the reality of living life back in the Promise Land. The work of establishing a place of common worship, the restoral of daily sacrifices and offering and the reading of the word of God daily in the Temple all have resumed. The Temple and the city of Jerusalem are secure once again. Those who had rightful inheritance live within the walls. The scribes, priests, gatekeepers and singers are developing a “routine” in life. Man it feels good to be back home after a long absence! Coming out of chapter 9 which was a REVIVAL of the people. There is then chapter 10, with the identification of the signers of the Covenant. I couldn’t help but think of the USA and the original signers of our Constitution. I have often thought of the similarities of Israel and America. No I’m not talking politically! God has blessed people for their worship and obedience to His Word. When we fail to remember that HE is God and WE are not; then a resulting downfall is imminent. Far too long America has banked on the blessings of God, without any corresponding obedience to Him and His Word. I have heard some pastors even exclaim that America is GOD’s gift to the World. There is a definite arrogance about Americans. It wasn’t until I was overseas did I come to the reality of the expression “Ugly Americans.” For the very same reasons of disobedience and pride that brought Israel into a tumultuous time, even so I believe America is headed in the same direction. We cannot count on just the Blessings of God; we must also know the divine correction of God. The Father in Heaven loves His children, but He will not tolerate “brats.” There is a great need for a Holy Ghost, spirit breaking, confessional, repentant of sins, glorifying God revival; In the CHURCH. I’ll be doing a study on the Seven Churches’ in Revelation 1-3 soon. Something that must be noted, every church has problems. Mainly self-induced problems. If warnings are not observed when pronounced by God – through His Word and prophets, then there is a reality that the “Lamp” will go out. Jesus will extinguish the Lamp.
Israel discovered that their existence was in jeopardy when carried away into exile. They got and woke up for hundreds of years. I do not know what it will take for the Church in America to wake up? As a Church Revitalization person, I see churches that are ready to die. They don’t care; all they know is that they will not do anything to stay alive. Long before the Church doors close; the Holy Spirit of God has left. The Holy Spirit does not inhabit “dead people!” The problem with Israel before the captivity is the same problem with Churches today – we think we are bigger than God. We think that the CHURCH is ours! They may own the building – but the building IS NOT THE CHURCH. Enough preaching.
As a result of the Holy Spirit driven revival the people – Jews made changes in their living. Sin was no longer acceptable. It wasn’t just about doing the right things as it was also not doing the wrong things. When revival occurs, it affects every aspect of life. Just as Jesus indwelling our bodies through the Holy Spirit saturates our lives. The Work of living was the focus of the people. It is one thing to rebuild – quite another to live out on a continual basis what was covenanted during the revival. Sure all the rituals of worship were restored, the practices of the people and the labors to keep and sustain the place of worship had to be accomplished. But, having an awesome worship experience isn’t all God wants. He wants ALL of you and me! Ever detail of every area of our lives. Just as Jesus told the rich young ruler, “there is one thing thou lackest, go and sell all that you have and come follow Me.” All In- is the minimum requirement of following Jesus. There was a lingering problem of “unequally yoked marriages.” Israel had been told NOT to do it, they did it anyway. In Nehemiah 13- Solomon is the bad example and warning against mixed marriages. Please rise above RACIAL prejudices. This is a spiritual problem even today. Believers are inter-marrying with unbelievers and becoming casualties. DO NOT DO IT!
The problem stretched from the lowest social class to the priests. If revival is really going to be a lasting revival – we must continue the work of renewal as Nehemiah. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are not solely about repairs and building of the Temple and Walls. It was about building and restoring the Faith and obedience of God’s people. Nehemiah says at the end of the book; “Thus I purified them from everything foreign.” May we have purified lives before our God!
December 10, 2015 · 7:23 pm
This blog entry focuses on Revelation 2-3, even though our reading went through chapter 8. I may do another blog to capture the importance of the Seals and Trumpets.
There is much being said about the condition of the Church [universal] in America. Two schools of thought are used to approach the problem of declining, plateaued and dying churches. The % of church that fit into these descriptors is estimated at somewhere between 80-90%. The approaches to cure/remedy the epidemic are increased church planting – plant churches to replace those that die; and church health/revitalization measures to restore existing churches. Now when we think of the statistics of 4400 church closing their doors every year in all American denominations, these two measures have a formidable task.
How did the churches get in the condition they are in? Was there some specific universal problem? It is very obvious that the USA is no longer a “christian nation.” [If it ever really was] Christian virtues and values are under severe attack, for the worldview is no longer one of Judaeo-Christian ethics and morality; but one of humanism and relativism. I am speaking from my position of being a boomer generation. I remember when there was a common belief system evident between the “Church” and the Community. This is no longer valid. For a multitude of reasons, the Church and the community, as well as country has a competing set of values and virtues. Many efforts have been made to try to connect the church world and the community together; often at compromise of the Gospel. I know of one major hurdle all churches have had to face in the past 40 years, is the music wars. I don’t want to fill this blog with all the outward problems the “Church in America” has, but focus more on the why.
In the book of Revelation; Jesus addresses seven church that are on a mail route in what is known today at Turkey. In five of the seven churches; He brings condemnation upon them for things they either were allowing or were no longer doing. Much has been said about the church at Laodicea, which is the lukewarm church. Interestingly enough, there was the cold dead church called Sardis; which I really only see them as further down the road in degree of closing their doors.
Jesus addressed each Angel of the specific church, which begs the question, does each church have its own Guardian Angel? And why did Jesus address the Angel and not the Pastor? The answer to both of these questions is yes, churches have an angel and because the angel is the Messenger of God to the Church, the message was one which carried great authority. However, the pastor in many cases could be part of the church problem.
I have discovered that churches do not suddenly decline or die; there is a gradual “falling away” from the things of God. The first step; [and this can be found in the book of Hebrews] is the church becomes Apathetic – no feeling. One can think of the church at Ephesus, they had lost their first love. The spark or passion for the Lord had been extinguished. I couldn’t help but think of how many couples tell me that they have “fallen out of Love” with their spouse. Interesting when you think of Jesus as the Bridegroom, and we being the Bride. There are many churches that fit the Ephesian model; they do a lot of good things, but its in the tradition or flesh and there isn’t any blessings from God. The second step that leads to dead and dying churches is Apostasy – heretical teachings. This captured the majority of the churches indicted by Jesus. They had allowed false teaching and teachers to come in to the church and “pollute” the Gospel. Often church life is influenced by people with loud voices, deep pockets or charismatic personalities. I have found that churches often will remain silent on controversial or conflicts because they just want to try and keep the peace. Here again is a compromise that leads to destruction of the Gospel. People want to believe and act they way they want to believe and act; not the way scripture sets forth. The woman Jezebel and the Nicolaitans were problem people; yet churches refused to exercise church discipline. Preachers were preaching for money and a following then as they do now. Apostate is where the church is no longer sound on doctrine and theology – many of the cults existing today come from churches who have not dealt with false teachers. The last cause for dead and dying churches is Anarchy – or really a rebellion/revolt against God. The church has forfeited its place within the Kingdom of God. Jesus gave each church a warning with a judgment if they did not Repent and Return to Him. Their lamp would be blown out. Why are so many churches dying today – these three downward steps lead them to death. The answer – Repent for the Day is at Hand!; or I will close your doors – it is Christ’s church, He said He would build it, He is the authority and has the right to affirm or deny churches that may or may not be His!