Encountering God

[God] said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” ~ Exodus 3:5-6

Why do you go to church? Do you go to see friends or perhaps it has a good program for your children? Do you go because the preacher gives inspirational messages? Or does your motive go far deeper than these reasons? That is, do you go to encounter God—to hear a word from Him? All other reasons should pale in significance.

Although God pursued Moses, when He got his attention He told him to take off his sandals. Why? Because Moses was standing on “holy ground.” God was calling out to a mere mortal, but Moses was approaching the very God of the universe.

When you go to church, do you realize you are standing on holy ground? Encountering God is not about having a mystical experience, but hearing Him speak and getting a glimpse of His glory. He is magnified while we are minimized—and we are not left unchanged when God is truly encountered.

What is the difference between hearing a sermon and hearing from God? Why are mere feelings and emotions not to be trusted? Why did God allow Moses to encounter Him?

What Are You Doing This Sunday?

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ~ Hebrews 10:24-25

As the weekend draws near, I hope you are preparing your heart and mind to attend church. Some will say, “Churches are filled with nothing but hypocrites!” While this might contain an element of truth, the statement is not an absolute. If one expects a church to be perfect, he is expecting too much. For this is like expecting a hospital to be filled with healthy people; after all, it has doctors, nurses, and medicines. One does not go to a hospital because he’s healthy but because he is sick. The same is true why persons attend church. It is not because we have it all together but because we are sinful and flawed—in need of God’s grace.

“Well,” someone will say, “I can worship God at the lake.” But what does God desire? Does He not desire the corporate worship of His people? If anyone knows the shortcomings of people, it is God! Yet, church is His idea. There are at least three important reasons for attending a church: 1) To worship God corporately; 2) to be encouraged in your walk with Christ.; and 3) to be involved in ministering to, and investing in the lives of, others. Contrary to the misconception of some, faith is not a “private matter.”

Yes, churches are made up of imperfect, sometimes even hypocritical, people. But these are not to have our attention. God is. And understand, even if you or I were to find the perfect church, it would become imperfect as soon as we became a part of it. What a wonderful place to experience grace than in the midst of a people in a need of grace!

What is your perception of church? Does the New Testament portray perfect churches? How do the apostles address problems of churches in their letters?

What are your thoughts? Please leave a comment.

Is Church for “Seekers”?

This is a misleading question, just as “seeker sensitive” is misleading as a description for a church. Churches are to be places of honesty, founded upon the truth of God’s Word and His gospel. Yet, there are many churches today that are guilty of such guile. Mind you, many of these churches might have had good intentions; however, by dismissing a vital truth of the Scriptures, many compromises have been made which, in turn, has weakened the body and has prohibited genuine spiritual growth in many of God’s people—all for the sake of trying to minister to the unregenerate—and worse, to build structures, organizations, and “empires” of which the Holy Spirit is not responsible.

The apostle Paul, quoting from the Old Testament, writes something that just grates against the pride of people.

As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” ~ Romans 3:10-12

Did you catch that? No one seeks for God. All have turned aside. This is not exaggeration, but it means exactly what it says. The very nature and consequence of our sin is departure from, and resistance of,  God and His ways. Whenever a Christian says, “I found God,” this is clearly a misunderstanding of what actually transpired. We are the ones who are found, not God. God is the One who seeks to find us, not vice versa.

The desire to evangelize the lost is a noble one; however, the motives of a church and/or pastor to simply grow a church, offer cool programs, or to feed the ego are not. Sadly, these are done, perhaps not maliciously, at the cost of feeding, nourishing, and growing the sheep of God’s flock.

Too many churches are more afraid of “offending” persons than God. Let us be clear on this, the gospel of Christ and the message of the Cross are offensive. The exclusivity of Christ as being the only way of salvation and that we are sinners worthy of hell are also offensive. However, the church does not exist to appease the masses, but it exists to magnify Christ and exhort, edify, equip, and encourage believers.

Consider the example of Jesus, Himself. After teaching that He is the bread of life and that no one comes to Him lest the Father first draws him, we are told:

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. ~ John 6:60-66

Note, nobody cares more about the lost than Jesus, but Jesus does not dilute His message for the sake of His hearers. His teaching to “eat His flesh and drink His blood”—to find one’s sole sustenance in Him—was grossly offensive to some who professed to be His followers. We are told that many ceased following Him, merely revealing they were not believers or regenerated. Nevertheless, Jesus does not compromise His message to keep any followers; instead, He let’s them leave.

So, back to the original question, is church for “seekers”? Before I answer let me say this, in no way should visitors be treated poorly or disrespectfully. However, no, the church is not for or about them. If they are offended by the truth of God’s Word, so be it. The church is not to lower God’s standards or dilute His message to make them feel more comfortable. And if they leave, they leave. At the same time, true believers deserve to be nourished and taught, to go from “milk” to “meat.” So many preachers have abandoned expository preaching and instead teach nice little series of messages, often with little substance (and in some cases none). 

Genuine “seekers” are first sought by God. Let Him use the preaching of His Word to convict the hearts of people and draw them to Himself. To dilute His message is to take away any potency, then all a person is left with is, perhaps, a nice experience with goose bumps, but no real encounter with the living God. What a lame exchange. Furthermore, don’t let the sheep and lambs go malnourished. These are God’s sheep and not men’s. Pastors and churches will one day give account for however they took care or abused His sheep and lambs—His beloved ones.

Religious Malpractice 

Imagine for a moment, a doctor who simply tells his patients what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear, or else softens any news rather than the truth, as dire as it might be. Imagine that he denies the reality of diseases and prescribes narcotics simply because this is what many of his patients like about him. No doubt this man would be held accountable and have his medical license taken away from him—and rightly so!

When I was in Bible college, one of my professors wrote an article stating that preachers are like physicians of the soul. Our studies and training were to be treated no less serious that those in medical schools studying anatomy and medicine. 

Today, we watch the news and are concerned about what’s happening.  I often hear people say things like, “The world has lost its mind!” Or “Where are we headed?” Regardless of our religious or political beliefs, we know something is amiss. There is an honest diagnosis, as well as a cure, but many so-called physicians of the soul are guilty of religious malpractice. And just as bad, many congregants are fine with this. They’d rather have the narcotics rather than deal with the unpleasant reality of the disease.

The grave pandemic of the world, far more severe than covid, is sin—the rebellion against, and dismissal of, God and His ways. Sin is the diagnosis, and our selfishness, pride, greed, lusts, nastiness, violence, and the like are all symptoms. All of these contribute to the mess our world is in. So then, what is the cure? Jesus Christ and His redemptive work on the Cross, along with repentance and faith in Him. This is what physicians of the soul need to be preaching, but we are facing a major problem today as in Jeremiah’s day.

And the Lord said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not come upon this land’: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed.” ~ Jeremiah 14:14-15

We have all kinds of people, today, behind pulpits and writing books, claiming to be God’s spokespersons, despite the fact their teachings are contrary to the Scriptures. The Scriptures are to be used to test the teachings of people. Just because a person has a title like Dr., prophet, pastor, or whatever does not mean God has sent him. There are many liars and deceivers, and this should be upsetting. Sadly, some things don’t change.

An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes? ~ Jeremiah 5:30-31

Being lied to doesn’t bother many people today. Instead, they’re upset if one speaks the truth. This is considered hateful, divisive, and negative in the same way the evil king Ahab accused the prophet Elijah as being the troublemaker in Israel.

We should be alarmed at witnessing  Paul’s prophetic words concerning the last days:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. ~ 2 Timothy 4:3-4

Is the man of God, then, to compromise God’s message to appease the masses? No, Paul writes, 

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. ~ 2 Timothy 4:1-2

A person “of the cloth” doesn’t do anyone with rotten hearts and bleeding souls, poisoned by sin, any good by denying their dire situation and telling them their poisons are not toxic. Neither is their any honor for persons “of the cloth” when they willfully deny, twist, or are “selective” in what they’re willing to teach from God’s Word for the sake of living like parasites on parishioners. Still, what’s there to say about congregations when they delight in lies and being feasted upon, like rotten meat feeding maggots, because the truth of God is “offensive,” not realizing the Word of God and the offensiveness of the Cross are the very things which can bring healing to their hearts and souls?

Religious malpractice is not a “mistake” nor is it mere human imperfection. Such malpractice is inexcusable, and in the eyes of God it is sheer wickedness on a grand scale. Religious malpractice should be shunned and despised as much as medical malpractice—even more so by those who profess to be people of God.

Leaving the Sheep and Lambs Vulnerable 


[Note: There are many good, Christ-centered pastors who are committed to Him and the Scriptures; however, there are also many who are drifting away from the Scriptures, and therefore also from Christ. This article is simply a warning of our need for discernment to know the difference in these turbulent times.]

There is an extremely dangerous trend that has been going on for a number of years. Men and women, trusting in their own wisdom and concerned about their own vanity, calling themselves “pastors,” yet neglecting to nourish and protect their flocks. Professing to have God’s heart for the lost, they cater to dogs, swine, and predators, leaving mere crumbs for the sheep and leaving the lambs as helpless prey. Professing to be “shepherds, they dismiss the Word of God to build “their” churches and bank accounts.

These so-called shepherds will say what they will, defending their practices and ways, but they have no defense before the living God who does not change. This departure from God and His Word is nothing new. The prophet Isaiah cries out against such persons of his day,

His watchmen are blind;  they are all without knowledge; they are all silent dogs; they cannot bark, dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber. The dogs have a mighty appetite; they never have enough. But they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each to his own gain, one and all. ~ Isaiah 56:10-11

I know of a church whose previous pastor retired. Now, as they “reconstruct,” by their own admission in an ad seeking a worship “pastor,” one who will cater to younger people, “woo people to Jesus” through their worship production, and draw people to the church by their great music. The new “pastor” of this church is now discouraging and forbidding Bible studies to take place in the facilities (mind you, this is a large building) because he wants only things promoting “outreach.” Outreach for what? The Gospel? The true Gospel is founded on, and rooted in, the Word of God. 

I know of another church whose pastor has not only been deceived by some wolves, but permitted the flock to be left vulnerable and scattered. I know of some, personally, who have been deeply wounded in the process, as these wolves have come in promoting lies and sucking life and finances like worthless parasites.

Many churches throughout America are more concerned about appeasing popular culture and growing their numbers, rather than honoring Christ and nourishing His people. My bringing up such issues is not popular. Some people think my writings are too negative. But my desire is to see Christians and churches return to the teachings of the absolute truth of God’s Word and to stop depending on their feelings,as well as to stop being guided by their deceitful and desperately sick hearts. But how will this happen when sick seminaries are vomiting out so-called pastors who do not believe in the trustworthiness of the Scriptures, therefore refusing to yield to the authority of God’s Word and, instead, vomit out worthless ideas and opinions onto the congregations?

Jude advises believers to contend for the faith which has been once for all handed down to us, then warns of false teachers who have “crept” in to promote damnable teachings advocating sensuality (v. 3-4). And Paul, who declares that the very grace of God “trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions,” and that Jesus Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness” (Tit. 2:12, 14). What can be said about many churches today? Is the very faith of which Jude tells us to defend, and the grace of which Paul tells us that trains us in godly self-discipline, truly being adhered to? If we are honest, do not many churches essentially teach the popular teaching of those who practice Wicca, “Do what thou wilt, but harm none”?

In many churches today God is not truly viewed and revered as being holy, holy, holy. Many so-called pastors cast doubt on both the Scriptures and the exclusivity of the penal substitutionary death of Christ, despite the fact Jesus fully endorsed the Scriptures’ trustworthiness and His being the only means of salvation. In many churches greed and covetousness are not condemned but endorsed, although Paul equates these with idolatry—the worship of false gods. Many show their approval of various forms of immorality, although the Scriptures condemn all forms thereof. (Yes, Jesus does touch on these, as He declares that from the very beginning God ordained marriage as being the unity of one man and one woman [see Matt. 19:4-6]). Although many like to claim that “we’re set free from the Law,” Paul tells us, 

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” ~ Galatians 5:13

Although many churches will profess having the “faith of our fathers,” many of these churches have jettisoned the faith a long time ago. As guilty as churches might be, mark my words that pastors who are falsely so-called will give account for misleading people, whether it was intentional or not.

The priests did not say, “Where is the Lord?” Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal and went after things that do not profit. ~ Jeremiah 2:8

For the shepherds are stupid and do not inquire of the Lord; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered. ~ Jeremiah 10:21

Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. ~ Jeremiah 23:2

And this is the real point of James’ teaching on taming the tongue, for he begins by saying, 

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness…. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. ~ James 3:1, 5-6

How many churches and lives are ablaze because of hellish flames of the false doctrines of people’s man-centered theologies and ideologies? Preachers, say what you will, but Jesus tells us plainly,

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. ~ Matthew 7:13-14.

Furthermore, Jesus warns us,

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness. ~ Matthew 7:21-23

If you’re reading this and the Holy Spirit is convicting you, then now is not the time to resist and make excuses. Rather, the Spirit commands to repent. Preacher, are you feeding the sheep and lambs the Word of God or are you giving priority to your agendas and the beasts of the wilderness? Take heed, for God loves His flock, and He will punish those who starve, mistreat, and scatter them.

The Church’s Need to Press Into God

This is not intended to slam the church, but the time has come for Christians to stop “playing” church and start being the church. It’s time to jettison the numbers game and to start getting serious about authentic discipleship. It’s far past time for treating churches like businesses and trend-setters, and to start getting serious about Jesus Christ and His Great Commission—adhering to Jesus’ instructions instead of sinful men’s ingenuity.

For the past several decades the church has pressed more into the world, learning from its practices, ways, and examples to try to woo persons to Jesus, instead of pressing into God in prayer, proclaiming the true gospel, and trusting the work of the Holy Spirit to convict people of sin and drawing them to Christ in truth. However, what has happened instead is the church has become, by and large, impotent, ineffective, and irrelevant. In the meantime, the world is rapidly changing—and not for the better. Spiritual deception is running rampant, the world’s powerful elitists (including the Pope—who is not an ambassador of Christ) are pushing for a one world governance, which the Bible says will be demonically orchestrated and will give rise to the evil-to-the-core Antichrist. A secular, godless world is already being conditioned to embrace such a horrific leader to be its pseudo-savior.

Sadly, many preachers are more concerned with building megachurches, and many who profess to be Christians are more interested in feeling warm fuzzies, playing religious games, and slithering in and out of services without any commitment, rather than becoming genuine disciples and ambassadors of Christ, and being ready at any time for His return.

It’s high time for Christians to get serious about sin and repentance, and for so-called “backsliders” to stop feigning an empty faith and get right with God. We are entering a time when we can’t afford to play and mess around. Governments around the world are becoming increasingly corrupt, and it seems godless Marxism is is increasingly taking root. These, and the globalist elites do view Christianity with hostility. There is a strong storm brewing, and those who are not truly building their faith on the solid foundation of Christ and His teachings are in for a terribly rude awakening.

It’s timed or the church to press into the holy God, and to stop trying to appease the world. It’s time to return to proclaiming the true gospel and to warn of the wrath to come (1 Thes. 2:16). Indeed, we must speak the truth in love, but it’s high time to stop cuddling people in their sins. It’s true, they might choose to walk away forever from the grace offered them, but it’s their choice to make (Matt. 19:21-22). But this is better than cradling them in their sins and lying to them, giving them a false hope—which is exactly what it is when we try to say God accepts us and our sins or to simply deny something is sin that the Bible does call sin.

I wonder, when the storm comes, how many persons have genuine faith in Christ and His gospel that they’re not going to be swept away by the tides of deception and persecution? I’m both saddened and angered by how many are called pastors, but who are nothing but mongrels who have no business being behind the pulpit. They do not preach the whole counsel of God, they do not truly disciple and equip believers for kingdom living, but simply spin sermon lullabies, keeping persons lackadaisical. Many of them offer “gospels” which are not gospels at all, worthless teachings of temporal prosperity and a sense of belonging, but void of the true Spirit of Christ.

I’m not simply being unnecessarily critical. The Bible warns that in the last days deception and lawlessness will abound, and there will be a great apostasy (i.e., a falling away from the faith). Furthermore, we are warned: “But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Rev. 12:12). This dragon’s rage against the people of God is going to intensify, and he is going to give his authority to a man someday who is going to deceive many. This time might be closer than we think, if our world succumbs to a global governance. Eventually this is going to happen, but church, must it be now? Are we really to be like drunken or sleeping sentries who are oblivious to the forces of evil standing at the gates and ready for battle? Are the faithful to be left defenseless simply because so-called pastors are afraid of people leaving their churches because of truth or simply trying to make a name for themselves, rather than exalting them name of Jesus? Understand, every one of us will one day give account, and not everyone who says of Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21-23).

The church can no longer afford to “do business as usual.” We must begin pressing into God. First, we need to confess and repent of our religious games, idolatry, and apathy. Second, we need to plead for God’s protection from the storm to come, which might be closer than we think. Third, we need to plead for  divine discernment in these times, for lies and deception are all around us and are growing increasingly worse. Our nation and world have entered a downward spiral of which there is no recovering from except for the mercy of God in response to the prayers of His people. But the question remains, will we cast off our obstinance and pride to press into God for healing and restoration?

8 Lessons (of Many More) We Can Learn from the Seven Churches of Revelation 2-3

There are those who believe the seven churches of Revelation represent seven “church ages.” While I’ve considered this possibility,  I’m not convinced. I believe these seven literal churches represent the struggles and pitfalls churches continually face throughout the entire church age (singular) until the return of Christ. I think each of us would be wise to prayerfully and honestly read Revelation 2-3 and let the Holy Spirit reveal to us the unpleasant realities of our own hearts and the awful conditions of many of our churches. We’d be wiser still if we repent of all sin He reveals.

The words to the churches are instructions, warnings, and encouragement for us as much as they were to them. Of the seven churches, only two received complete commendation. Two received only rebuke, while the rest received both. Most of our churches fall into the latter groups. May we take Jesus’ words to heart.

  1. Jesus walks in our midst. This truth, if churches really believed and understood this, would challenge attitudes, thoughts, words, and behaviors. Jesus notices every detail going on in churches, whether it’s during services, meetings, or behind closed doors—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Behind the talk, the actions, and the motives, everything is perceived by His scrutinizing eye.
  2. Love is as important as sound doctrine (and vice versa). Which is more important, love or sound doctrine? The question is like asking which is more important, air or water? Neither is more important but both are vital. The church of Ephesus was commended by Christ for holding firmly to sound doctrine but sternly rebuked for losing love for Him. The church in Pergamum was commended for holding fast to His name but sternly rebuked for permitting false teachers and their teachings. For churches to be healthy and truly Christ-honoring, sound doctrine and fervent love for Christ. To surrender one is like giving up air or water—too long without either is fatal.
  3. Suffering does not equal God’s displeasure. The church in Smyrna was highly commended by Christ with no rebuke, although it had to endure tribulation, poverty, and intense suffering. This truth goes directly against the heresies of the modern “prosperity” gospel and teachings that God’s favor is evidenced by the comforts of this world.
  4. Jesus will judge idolatry and sexual immorality if not repented of. Jesus doesn’t turn a blind eye to idolatry, immorality, perversions, or the seduction of His people into such practices. The churches in Pergamum and Thyatira were severely rebuked by Christ for permitting idolatrous practices and sexual immorality. Jesus commands repentance and threatens severe consequences for those who refuse to repent. This should sound an alarm to churches today who permit idolatrous teachings (e.g., yoga, goddess worship, pluralism, etc.) and sexual immorality of various kinds or who turn a blind eye to sexual abuse. Jesus’ command of repentance is just as valid today as back then.
  5. Jesus searches the mind and heart, not just actions. To the church in Thyatira, “the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire” (2:18), declares, “All the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works” (2:23). Jesus not only sees the works and actions, but He also sees the motives, lusts, and ambitions behind all the pretensions. He threatens tribulation and commands repentance. For all who refuse to repent, the consequences only become more severe. Jesus is not speaking to the world here, but to His church. 
  6. Having a reputation of being alive does not mean God is pleased. Many churches appear to be thriving today. They have large numbers of people and programs. From all accounts they appear alive and hopping. The church in Sardis had a reputation of being alive, but Jesus says it was dead and lethargic. Seeing is not always believing, and perception doesn’t necessarily capture reality.
  7. Jesus honors love and faithfulness to Him. Of the seven churches, only two received only commendation. All the others received rebukes of some kind. So Jesus had some grievance against over 70% of the churches. Very few churches possess the caliber of faith and loving devotion as Smyrna and Philadelphia. Although such churches usually face trials of different kinds, Jesus promises His faithfulness and reward for these churches.
  8. Our perception can differ greatly from God’s. Just as suffering doesn’t necessarily mean God’s distance or displeasure, affluence doesn’t necessarily mean God is pleased. The church in Laodicea was rich and prosperous, but Jesus rebuked it, saying, “You are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (3:17). Churches can be presumptuous, thinking God is pleased because attendance has grown and the cashflow is coming in. Ironically, these can be evidence that things are severely wrong.

May we, today, have an ear, and hear what the Spirit says to the churches today.

8 Truths About Biblical Faith

Faith is a vital element in Christian life. In fact, without faith there is no salvation or pleasing God. The following are eight crucial elements  of biblical faith.

  1. Faith is the conviction of the unseen reality. Biblical Christian faith (belief) is neither abstract nor simply intellectual consent. The writer of Hebrews notes, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11:1). He then goes on to explain by using an example, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (11:3). Faith is like a mortar, binding and holding together what God reveals He has done, who He is, what He is like, what He is doing, and what He is going to do. Although our physical eyes cannot see the reality, faith has “eyes” that see what God reveals, and this becomes a conviction which leads action.
  2. Faith is not passive. God is not interested in people’s rumps sitting in pews, mindlessly and heartlessly singing songs and rushing about in religious activities. Genuine faith is vital, and it consists of pursuing and trusting God. The writer of Hebrews notes, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (11:6). Apart from genuine faith, it is impossible to please God, despite and religious or good works. Genuine faith is a response to God and His Word, and actively pursues Christ in trust and obedience.
  3. Faith trusts God and what He says. We are told that Abraham believed God and He “counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). God had told Abraham that he and his wife would have a biological son in their elderly age, and this son would be Abraham’s heir. The real test of his faith came later, after Isaac his son was born. God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son. Some people get stuck on God’s command, but He wasn’t going to allow Abraham to kill his son. However, Hebrews reveals the depth of Abraham’s faith: By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Heb. 11:17-19). Genuine faith believes God, whatever He says. What He reveals in the Scriptures is who He is, what He is like, what He has done, and what He’s going to do—even when one does not fully comprehend (which shouldn’t surprise anyone, since we are finite and God is infinite. As God says to us, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:9).
  4. Faith responds approximately to God’s instructions and warnings. Genuine faith responds appropriately to God’s character and ways, to His love and holiness, His promises of blessings and warnings of judgment, to His words of comfort and His words of rebuke. The writer of Hebrews writes of Noah, “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (11:7). Isaiah, when he got a glimpse of the glory of God, cried out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isa. 6:5). And Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words” (John 14:23-24). 
  5. Faith is anchored on Jesus Christ. Faith is centered around, and anchored on, the person and work of Jesus Christ. One’s salvation and acceptance is because of Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom. 5:9). The Christian’s identity is rooted in Him (Eph. 1 and 2). One’s good, acceptable works are wrought through Him (John 15:4-5). And His teachings are what give a person a solid foundation (Matt. 7:24-27). If one separates faith from Christ, he doesn’t have Christian faith. Jesus Christ is the very focal point of the Scriptures. Jesus says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). “No one who denies the Son has the Father” (1 John 2:23).
  6. Faith is accompanied by good works. A person is saved entirely by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8), and not a single work or effort contributes to this. However, genuine faith will grow in love and kindness, which will result in good works that are both acceptable to, and wrought by, God. An unloving Christian is a contradiction in terms. When a person is truly by the grace of God, this grace will manifest itself in his life in various ways, albeit not perfectly. James writes explicitly, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[b] is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:14-17). Paul writes, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). And Jesus our Lord says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Good works, then, do not contribute to one’s salvation; however, the evidence of true salvation includes good works and acts of mercy.
  7. Faith looks and sees beyond the temporal. The writer of Hebrews observed that God called out men like Abraham, making wonderful promises. They did not witness all the promises come to fruition while on earth, for the promises were not for this temporal world only.  “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (11:8-10). Genuine faith holds loosely to this world and fixes its gaze on the kingdom of Heaven.
  8. Faith endures hardships. One of the great perversions in American Christendom is the popular teaching of faith being a means of attaining wealth, having a “good” life, and being free of problems. Such teachings are a gross departure from authentic Christianity. The prophets, apostles, and Jesus were persecuted. Many of them were not affluent. The writer of Hebrews notes that while many persons of faith witnessed mighty workings of God, some “were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earthAnd all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised” (11:35-38). Paul tells us, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:12-13). And Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt.10).

Faith is far more than a religious word. It is an anchored and active lifestyle fixed and founded entirely on Jesus Christ. To get this wrong is to have the whole structure collapse  (1 Cor. 15).

Encourage Your Pastor

One of the sad (but true) jokes in churches is that many families will have roasted pastor for dinner after Sunday’s service. However, the pastor who is genuinely called by God and is trying to lead a congregation in the ways of God has a tremendous responsibility. Furthermore, he does so many things behind the scenes ministering to others most are unaware of. Contrary to popular belief, pastors do far more than “just prepare for sermons and preach.” They serve as counselors and comforters, and many are on-call 24/7.

Pastors are not perfect (although they are to be godly). They have feelings and passions. They experience fear, sadness, discouragement, and anger. Many are husbands and fathers trying to be good In these roles (these are difficult for them too), and often people expect their families to be picture perfect. Dysfunction brings their calling, character, and credibility into question.

Pastors must deal with conviction and accountability to God for how they behave and handle the Word of God. They must deal with their own consciences making them aware of their failures and inadequacies. And pastors have “a target on their backs,”  more so than the average Christian, because if Satan can influence them to fall into gross sin and scandalous activities, then congregations can be divided, confounded, and even faith being shipwrecked of some.

I have read of the following statistics:

  • 97% of pastors have been betrayed, falsely accused, or hurt by their trusted friends.
  • 70% of pastors struggle with depression.
  • 1500 pastors quit each month.
  • 10% will retire as pastors.
  • 80% of pastors feel discouraged.
  • 94% of pastor’s families feel the pressure of ministry.
  • 78% of pastors have no close friends.
  • 90% of pastors report to working 55-75 hours per week.

The primary tasks of a pastor is studying/teaching God’s Word and devoting himself to earnest prayer. Christians can say they “love God’s Word,” but pastors make a lot of people mad when they do truly preach God’s Word!

If you have a godly (albeit imperfect) pastor who strives to be faithful to Jesus Christ, His Word, and the Great Commission; and if he seeks to minister to the congregation and is burdened for the souls of people, then you are truly blessed. The Bible says this of such individuals:

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. ~ 1 Timothy 5:17 (ESV)

And,

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. ~ Hebrews 13:17

Do you give honor—even double honor—to your pastor? Or do you nit pick his flaws, give him grief because he did not call you on your birthday, and roast him because he preached against your beloved pet sin(s)? If the latter, how is this of any benefit to you? What gain is there in wounding and making the work difficult of one who loves you? Sadly, often pastors pour themselves out (sometimes at the expense of their families) only to meet with continual resistance, roasting, and betrayal from congregants. 

Do you pray for your pastor’s well being? Have you encouraged your pastor (and his family) lately? A gift, a note of appreciation, and the like could be of great encouragement to him. It might even be that needed spark to help him keep from giving up. Encourage your pastor. He experiences the stresses of life and loss, just as you, all the while putting these aside ad he tried to minister to others. The weight and burdens he carries with him you will never understand. He needs your prayers and encouragement more than you can ever know.

“Liking” Jesus but Not the Church

There is a book entitled, They Like Jesus but Not the Church, (note: I do not endorse the author or the movement he is part of). Certainly the church is not perfect—far from! However, is the author correct? Jesus is not at all concerned with whether people like him or not. We are told in the Gospels:

But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. ~ John 2:24-25 (ESV)

People are fickle. They can like a person one day and betray him the next. Or they can be infatuated for a season only to have the infatuation replaced by the coldness of winter.

What does Jesus say about people’s thoughts about Him and His people? He tells His disciples (men who struggled with ambition, pride, anger, prejudice, fear, etc.),

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. ~ John 15:18

Elsewhere, He explains:

The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. ~ John 7:7

A common complaint is churches are “filled with hypocrites.” As opposed to what? Politics? Hollywood? Realms where people are applauded and idolized—in spite of blatant hypocrisy! Furthermore, while hypocrites exist in many churches, there are also many wonderful, godly, honest, humble, and compassionate persons (but no one wants to give any credit to these). Yet, it is these that are just as much irritants to those who supposedly “like” Jesus. Notice what Jesus said, the world hated Him before it ever hated His people. And why does it hate Him? Because He testifies about it and its evil practices.

The apostle John declares,

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. ~ 1 John 4:19-21

And Jesus says plainly,

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me…. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. ~ John 14:23-24; 15:12

Jesus’ call has never been to follow His followers. Rather, He bids each of us to pick up our cross and follow Him. For someone to say he “likes Jesus but not the church” is merely a smokescreen concealing rebellion against the very One he claims to “like.”