Many people, if not most, see this blog-site as one of many on the internet today emphasizing the coming end of the world as we know it, and so emphasizing, “end time theology.’ I do make it a point to show how the world is changing and how these many changes are matching up more and more to the list that Jesus listed and in fact, told us to watch for so that we are not caught off guard. But, that is not really the purpose of this blog-site. The main theme of everything I’ve written and shared with people has come down to the need for us to be about preparing the way for the return of Jesus. So…the “preparing”; what’s that really all about?
Here is a question that I’ve posed more than once: What if Jesus all of a sudden, without any warning whatsoever called His remnant into His Presence? Would you be prepared?
The answer that most of us would give is a no-brainer! We automatically assume that we are part of the “in-crowd”. In the things I want to share down below, in no way do I intend to question God’s grace. Please believe that. I do want to bring some things up though that are way too often by-passed because they aren’t all that convenient to our thinking. We also don’t like our “self-esteem” harpooned. We immediately reject anyone questioning the depth of our relationship with God. So, that either means that God needs to change His approach to us, or we need to grow up a bit in our spirituality. It’s one or the other! Knowing that I’ve touched on this off and on in the past, I have a great sense of urgency to say more than I have before. Do with it as you like, but please bear with me.
In a post a few days ago I brought up Luke 21:29-36: “He told them a parable: Look at the fig tree and all the trees; when they put forth their buds and come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and perceive and know that summer is already near. Even so, when you see these things taking place, understand and know that the kingdom of God is at hand. Truly I tell you, THIS generation (those living at that definite period of time) will not perish and pass away until ALL has taken place…BUT TAKE HEED to yourselves and be on your guard, lest your hearts be overburdened and depressed (weighed down) with the giddiness and headache and nausea of self-indulgence, drunkenness, and worldly worrisome cares pertaining to the business of this life, and let that day come upon you suddenly like a trap or a noose; for it will come upon all who live upon the face of the entire earth. KEEP AWAKE THEN AND WATCH AT ALL TIMES (be discreet, attentive, and ready), praying that you may have the full strength and ability and be accounted worthy to escape and these things that will take place, and to stand in the Presence of the Son of Man.”
There are several things that strike me about this passage and I’ll just be able to mention them shortly in passing this time around because each one of them is a sermon in itself. One thing of great current importance is the fact that God has every intention of us being aware of the season we are living in. He went as far as saying that the generation of people that sees the fig tree bloom will see everything else happening as well. This speaks of a tremendous up-tick in events. The fig tree has always been symbolic of the nation of Israel in Scripture. So, the inference is clear and really couldn’t be any plainer. We are THERE. We are the generation that saw Israel become a nation and will see the return of the KING of Kings, as well as the onslaught of everything in between.
Here is one thing that we really need to get settled in our minds. There’s nothing special about us as Christians here in America. Just because we are from this blessed land does not make us more privileged than others around the world. Nothing exempts us from having to live up to the same requirements that God has set in stone for every other Christian on this earth. Why do we even think that it is different for us? I know that I may now have irritated some readers, but please hear me out. This is not just hot air.
When we look back at the time of the Pioneers, one of the things that this portion of American history recounts for us are the stories of the many “Rev. Mr. Black’s” that sacrificed themselves crossing this vast country, not to cut a glorious or prosperous way of life for themselves and their families out of the rugged wilderness; nor did they do it in order to become famous in the history books that were inevitably going to tell at least a part of their story. The majority of them did it because they felt the call of God on their lives and they were willing to do whatever He asked. These men cut their own paths through the wild, untamed west. They planted themselves in the middle of gold towns, silver mining areas, and cities that were badly in need of strong men carrying a combination of integrity and the true grit needed to even try curbing the near anarchy and evil ruling in so many areas. Many cities like San Francisco and others were openly “sin-cities” even way back then, in spite of all the ads showing them to be centers of art and modern culture. In so many places, gold and silver brought enough wealth that people became intoxicated with more than alcohol. All sense of decency, honesty, morality, and conscience were thrown to the wind. This is the wild west that these traveling preachers went to. They preached a message that was completely contrary to what most people wanted to hear. Most of us in the best churches would find ourselves uncomfortable to sit through what they had to say! How many of our best churches would throw them out?
Now when we read the stories or watch Hollywood’s version of the typical “Rev. Mr. Black”, way too often characters like Don Knox or some other wimpy looking character was used. That’s a personal peeve of mine; where were the preachers that had the stature of someone like John Wayne, Kris Kristofferson, or Tom Selleck? There were some, but they were pretty rare.
The thing that caused these traveling preachers to be so effective, was their “fire & brimstone” sermons. They preached a message of repentance and holiness and it was straight out of the Bible. The Wesley brothers were a prime example. They were holiness preachers, and through their obedience to the call of the Almighty, they became responsible for a great holiness movement across much of America. I believe they had a great part in what is said about the Church of Philadelphia in Revelation, chapter 3. They were not perfect in any sense of the word, yet they were “perfect” in their obedience and unflinching refusal to compromise God’s true Word. That is something that is sadly lacking in most churches today. Our society shows the consequences of this laxness.
I don’t want this to be a “church-bashing” post, but there are some things that need to be reckoned with, because we don’t have much time left to do so. The greater majority of church denominations have fallen into apostasy. This may offend some readers, but it’s true. I also believe that a large percentage of people that claim to be Christians have no more relationship with God than the ones that deny any belief In Him at all! Oh I’m sure there will be those that say no one has the right to say this because no one knows the heart of any man or woman other than God, and that is absolutely true. But, the fruit of our lives shows it.
Something that would be quite revealing would be if we in all honesty took a look at our priorities. There is one list that looks and sounds good, and we would gladly share with others, and then there is the one that we would ashamedly have to admit was the real one.
The western church for the most part is very weak, and here are some reasons why. When we speak about having a love for God, it has more to do with what we can get out of God than anything. When is it that we are the most fervent in our prayers? It is always when we are in trouble or have some desperate situation looming over our heads.
We talk about our love for the Scriptures, but for most people, their Bibles do nothing more than gather dust on the shelf. Do we really love God’s Word? Most I’m afraid, do not. Oh, we complain that our lives are so very busy and there is so much required of us. Yet, how many hours a week do we spend in front of the TV? I myself am not against TV, but I have found myself losing the desire to spend as much time in front of it as before. It is a great thief of our time. Also, if we don’t screen what we watch, it changes our attitudes in areas of right and wrong. We are inundated with garbage and then wonder why our lives turn to garbage.
Having been a pastor a number of years, I have often wondered what the church experience must be like in a country where churches are few and far between, and there are not enough Bibles to go around to everyone. I don’t have any idea how many Bibles I have in my house, but it’s a lot. I’ll have to admit that I’ve taken it for granted most of my life, that I’ll always have one available. What if things changed to the point to where Bibles became an item against the law to own? What if you went to jail for getting caught with one in your possession? What if it were against the law to have a church service? Forget the multi-million dollar edifices we have all over America today to worship in. What if you weren’t even allowed to meet in homes? We don’t think that could possibly happen here in America. Can anyone tell me, WHY NOT? It is already well on the way.
America as a whole decided to kick God out of our nation, its government, its society, and schools. We didn’t want His archaic rules! We rebelled against His antiquated laws of morality! We rejected the fact that He as God was our Creator. Intellectually, our universities decided God or any belief in Him, was going to hold mankind back from being able to enter The Age of Aquarius. In our school system it was decided that our children needed to find out what sex they were meant to be, only by experimenting. It was also decided that teaching Creationism was unaccepable, even though hundreds if not thousands of scientists every year are coming to the conclusion that this world and everything in it was way too complex to just happen on its own. There had to be a Sovereign Designer behind it all. I could go on and on…
Looking back, the social revolution that raised its ugly head in the 60’s started something that never went away. Our nation changed. It is not that the US was perfect before then; it wasn’t, but the out and out rebellion didn’t really take hold until the 60’s. Once that threshold was crossed, every other foul influence found it relatively easy to enter as well.
What had been the primary influence in America which made it different than any other place on earth, was the power of the Church of Jesus which influenced every part of our society. Once that power was lost, America began to fall like a rock. The things that defined the Great United States of America as a place that everyone in the world wanted to come to, began to be lost. What happened? The church lost its power and became nothing more than a “form of godliness”, but without any power.
Today, this is specifically why America is collapsing. As church people, we’d like to ignore the signs and just go on playing the church game. As long as the pastor doesn’t preach longer than his allotted 20 minutes, and church doesn’t last too long so that we can get to all the other things we have planned, we’re happy. Sermons in most churches today have become seeker-friendly. There are things we now avoid, because it makes people uncomfortable. What’s the matter with us? The country is going to hell in a hand-basket and yet we can’t spare some time to pray! Of course, many don’t believe that we are in trouble! Those that God has put into leadership but aren’t leading their people and making sure they know what time it is on the clock, will have blood on their hands.
It’s easy to pick on leaders that are in the spotlight though. They are just as human as everyone else. Let’s bring this down to us as individuals. Can you define your relationship with God? How would you describe it? Describe your church experience? How is it changing you? How are you different than you were a year ago? What have you gained in your own personal relationship with God this last year?
There’s an interesting story in the Old Testament where God wanted to meet with all the Israelites. They had been given strict instructions about how to prepare themselves for this occasion. God was very specific in what He required of them. God had the desire to be personal with every single one of them. As it turned out, God’s Presence—even from a distance, so scared them that they told Moses to go talk to God and then bring the messages back to them. They wanted nothing to do with getting close to God.
It’s too bad that a little of that didn’t rub off on us today. I realize that because of “grace”, we have direct access to God. We don’t have to go through a great holy man. One thing that has happened through is that people have gotten way too glib and think of God more like a white bearded granddaddy in the sky. We have no concept of what “awe” people like Moses, Abraham, David, Daniel and others had in their relationships with God. They never forgot WHO He was. Why do you think they tore their fine clothing into pieces and put on sackcloth so many times? Why would they throw ashes and dirt on their own heads and spend hours and at times days in God’s Presence?
Today we want our quick spiritual fix for the week. Our spirituality gets pumped up on Sundays and then it leaks out all week long. We expect all of our spiritual growth to be fed to us with our spiritual spoon one day per week. For most church goers, they spend more time in prayer on Sundays than the rest of the week combined, and that is because in church someone else does it for them.
Most church people today have very little idea what they believe. How about you? What do you believe? If you were to lose your Bibles today, how much would you know of what is in that book? What things have you learned that would be useful if you all of a sudden didn’t have a Bible to turn to, or even a church to go to?
Here’s another question? Why was it that in earlier times, getting to go to church was something that people looked forward to all week long? Sunday, the day of rest, was used for the purpose it was intended, once upon a time. Thinking back to the days of the pioneers once again, preachers had very little, if any, professional training. Most had none. They used what they had and made the most of it. God’s Spirit taught people, and the people listened. Today, there are college classes teaching how to advertise your church, how to put together killer programs that will somehow con people into coming to church. We have professionals that are hired just to raise money for our edifices. Yet, most of these huge expensive buildings are void of the Presence of God. What a waste! How do we convince people to attend our churches? What is it that really works? It all comes from our personal walk with Him. People around us can tell if we have a relationship with God. They aren’t usually fooled by “religious speak”. They’ve heard it all, and much of it has been distorted and church organizations have taken to becoming little more than sales organizations. “Here’s why our church is better than the one down the street:” “Come try our church and you’ll get a free gift”. I could continue…
I’m convinced that God is sick of it! We aren’t representing Him, we are representing ourselves! That’s why we have no awe of God anymore. That’s why we are irritated if the sermon is a little long. We have something more important to do. Here’s a thought: If God is sick of all the shenanigans, hadn’t we better figure out what we need to change? The bridegroom is standing at the doorway, and one must ask, “Has the bride been preparing herself?” The Bible says that the Bridegroom is coming for a bride without spot or wrinkle. Have we the Bride been preparing ourselves to meet the KING of KINGS, or have we been spending our time competing with each other? Will our Master find us desiring His return, or does it matter to us? How many of us are going to be caught unaware? Apparently many will. That’s the reason for writing a post like this. We need to get back to something that we have lost somewhere…
The Church during the time of the pioneers I believe is the Church of Philadelphia described in Revelation 3:7-13. Jesus said in verse 7 that He knows their deeds, knows they have little strength, but have kept His Word…
In contrast to that, the Church of Laodicea, which happens to be the last one before the return of Jesus, has been given an “F” grade by Jesus. Listen to what Jesus said: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing’. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked…”
I didn’t notice Jesus sparing anyone’s self-esteem with what He said. I can choose to ignore it because I don’t like it, or I can ignore it because Jesus must be talking about someone else—not me. Only you know where you stand. Only I know where I stand, but we don’t have the luxury of time to let everything pan out however it will. We have a choice to make, and it is an eternal one. If I have never settled things between myself and my Maker, I’d better do it today, not tomorrow! If you’ve lived a haphazard life spiritually, it needs to be corrected now, TODAY. All this talk of the return of Jesus as Messiah is not a fairy tale. It’s a fact, and the Bible has proven itself to be flawless for a very long time. I wouldn’t bet against anything that it says is coming. None of it! Every single thing that is foretold will happen. Everything!
To Be Continued…