BREAKING NEWS: GLORY MANIFESTS IN WEEKEND MEETINGS

TESTIMONY FROM THIS WEEKEND’S GLORIOUS MEETINGS AT FIRST ASSEMBLY OF GOD IN WATERBURY, CT:

“I had not cried so much in awhile. The second service was like being in a cloud with the Holy Presence of God wrapping us in a Love that was immeasurable!!! It’s Monday morning and it’s still here.” A. V.

GLORY TO GOD!

We were in a Holy Ghost bubble from beginning to end. Hardly anyone moved. Old and young were captivated by the presence of the Lord. Utterance pressed upon my lips from the beginning of Sunday’s services to the end. But I can take no credit except to say that it was easy to yield to the Spirit of God.

First, because of the hunger and expectation of the people. Secondly, because of the liberty the pastors allowed us to have in these meetings. And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, my wife went into deep intercession before both services even while sitting on the platform.

The aforementioned testimony also bore witness to the remaining effect of the glory that manifested on Sunday. She stated that it was still present on Monday morning.

The last time I remember hearing of this sort of residual anointing was about three years ago when a dear sister testified of how she felt God’s holy presence in the lobby of the church the day after one of our meetings. I also remember hearing the testimony of one of my pastor friends testify of how the presence of the fear of the Lord saturated the offices of his church building after a prophet had ministered there.

I believe this kind of manifestation is what the apostle Paul referred to when he said this:

“Meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak” (Col. 4:3-4).

Paul said he desired prayers to make the word and the mystery of Christ manifest. This is what I believed happened this past weekend. These type of meetings have long term effects on the hearts and lives of the saints. Even sinners alike who were present were mightily impacted by the Spirit of God.

This is the reason why I wrote the book, Passing On The Move Of God To The Next Generation. We need to have this kind of glory and presence restored to today’s Church. Holy Spirit inspired prayer is the key. The reason we don’t have more of these type of manifestations is because we don’t pray long enough in the Spirit to obtain this blessing.

The Lord is calling us to more Spirit-inspired prayer (Prayer: The Language Of The Spirit).

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THE COMING JUDGMENT AND THE COMING GLORY

One genuine prophet of God said he couldn’t see the condition of America past September of this year. I took it to mean that something terrible may happen.

November is the time of mid-term elections here in America. Could there be a vicious backlash from the angry leftists who have such hatred toward our bold bully President? Could there be an assassination attempt against him? The fight between good and evil in our nation has just begun. The liberal leftists are coming with a vengeance. They are already plotting and planning now for the overturn of Trump’s agenda that they hope will start with mid-term elections. One righteous preacher predicted that barring a miracle in November Nancy Pelosi may be back as the Speaker of the House again. How loathsome and nauseating that would be! He also predicted that it will be the greatest internal fight and leftist backlash in the history of our government. I submit all this to the reader for prayerful consideration. Some things can still be further delayed or stopped altogether through prayer and repentance. One thing is for sure: the time of shaking is here.

And this word, yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved…” (Heb. 12:27-28). 

I want to apply this shaking to what is presently happening in America. Donald Trump’s presidency was the beginning of the greater shaking in our nation. Thank God we who follow Christ belong to a higher kingdom not of this world. To be honest, I was not pro-Trump during the early part of the election season, even reproving those who were. I don’t know the man’s heart now, but he’s never been a godly man. You may disagree with me, but Since then I’ve seen the hand of God on him and how in God’s sovereignty he was elected and is actually being used to help restore God’s purposes for America.

Yes, he is rude and crude, but he was the only one with enough clout who could stop Barrack Obama’s antichrist agenda of a terrible remaking of America and a big step toward further socialism and possibly a future one world government. He was the only one who could drain the dirty swamp in Washington. He was the only one who could’ve come against international corruption. He was the only one who loves all the things that made America great and could pushback to restore her greatness. Excuse my coarse rhetoric, but our president is the bully with balls. No other candidate matched the demeanor this man has for what God needed done in holding back evil forces intent on destroying  our nation in this hour, and extend mercy and opportunity for the real Church. Again, you may disagree, but that is how I see it.

INSTRUMENT OF JUDGMENT

But I believe Trump is also an instrument of judgment, not only on the world’s system, but upon the false church. What do I mean?

The false church tipped the scales to elect Barrack Obama, an enemy of God, the true Church, and Israel. The false Church and professors of Christianity voted for an agenda to infiltrate America with more foreign religions, and many immigrants who would receive government aid to further deepen our national debt. The false church voted for an agenda that would reduce our liberties and increase the hatred for true Christianity. The false church  lacked any sort of godly discernment and was too weak and anemic to save marriage, free speech, and the life of the unborn.

The awful escalation of violence, hatred, and division in America and her present condition right now is due in great part to Barrack Obama’s presidency. What a disaster! No presidency has done more harm to America’s constitution, morals, and liberties than Obama’s. Members of the true Church were the only ones who saw through his chameleon colors and smooth lips. They were the remnant that saw war in his heart and a treasonous man who hates America.

Mario Murillo in a recent article said this about the false compromising church:

“God has waited and been patient. He gave you time to play church. He let you have your blessing toys. He looked away in hopes we would come to ourselves. His blessing and his goodness did not bring you to repentance. No, it became a license to go deeper into counterfeit Christianity. The American church is guilty of great crimes against the Holy Spirit. We told Him to leave and let us grow Christianity incorporated—the worst thing we could have done. It was a mistake—a terrible, incalculable, ongoing mistake—derailing more truth in less time than any moral plague in history.”

Wow! What a piercing word.

A GREATER DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE TRUE AND FALSE CHURCH

God is a God of both unity and division. It seems contradictory that Jesus prayed for believers to be united as one (Jn. 17:20-22) while also stating that He came to bring division.

Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law” (Lk. 12:51-53). 

Truth and light separates and divides, but also creates unity. One day all that’s false will be separated from all that’s true. The weeds will be separated from the wheat (Mt. 13:38-43). The bad fish will be separated from the good fish (Mt. 13:47-50). The goats will be separated from the sheep (Mt. 13:31-46). And the foolish virgins will be distinguished from the wise virgins (Mt. 25:1-13). But this separation is not all relegated to the future, but it is a principle of judgment that has happened throughout the ages and will intensify as the coming of the Lord draws near. God shakes everything that can be shaken and removes it, so only that which cannot be shaken remains (Heb. 12:27). He does this even within the Church.

Yes, included in this principle of judgment is our own Christian maturity and sanctification. God reveals what is false in us and removes it or prunes us from it (Jn. 15:2), so that only the true and the holy remain. As an analogy, during the wheat harvest time in Israel the farmers would collect the harvest and first lay it out on a threshing floor where it was stomped on and crushed in order to begin to separate the inner grain from the outer husk or shell. Then they would take the grain/wheat up on the side of a hill when the night winds were blowing and throw the harvested wheat into the air. The wind would then blow away the residue of the chaff that remained, so that the pure wheat could then be harvested and collected. God does that with us.

He is preparing a bride for Himself who is free of all spots and blemishes. He removes those things that defile us in order to sanctify us and cleanse us with the washing of water by the Word (Eph. 5:26-27).

I see a great process of this divine separation taking place right in our day. There will be more intense times now in our personal lives, the church, and the nation that will appear violent as God uses circumstances and situations to sort of crush us with godly pressure, and then He will toss us again and again into the wind of the Holy Spirit to separate us from what must be revealed and removed. Our repeated impacts against the pure truth of God’s Word will cause a breaking. It will appear as judgment, but we must remember that His purpose is not vindictive or punitive but redemptive. He is preparing us for Himself and to be a more effective vehicle of power and mercy to the world. It is when the world witnesses the glory of God in the true Church that they will have a greater opportunity to repent and believe the gospel. But judgment must come before the glory, so that God’s people can stand in the glory. It will work for our good as we continually yield to Him in the process and genuinely worship and obey Him. Let us receive grace so that we can serve God whole-heartedly in these days of shaking.

“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29).

WHAT CAN BE EXPECTED AS WE PRAY

Here’s what we may expect in the nation and in the Church in both judgment and glory (some of these statements were taken from a recent Mario Murillo article and modified):

  • Preachers who have peddled the word of God for gain will have their ministries judged and some will even be publicly humiliated and could also be taken out of the way.
  • Churches that have been built on compromise and the wisdom of man will see a mass exodus as people begin to seek pure truth and authenticity as well as the reality of the Holy Spirit and the power of God.
  • Organizations and companies who have used their power and wealth to persecute the righteous will be shaken and some big CEO’s may even die (think of king Herod; Acts 12:23).
  • The most powerful anti-Trump liberal forces will crumble when they attack our president, not because he is godly or a great leader, but because he is wreaking havoc on a corrupt world system.
  • Corrupt politicians who have abused their power and preyed on the sentiments and the gullibility of the American people will also vanish from the scene and may also die.

The fight will now be against God.

Here are some reasons for the judgment:

  1. A righteous remnant is praying and contending for a holy Church and the power of God and He is compelled to respond.
  2. God wants true repentance, holiness, and revival.
  3. The false church must be judged so that power and mercy can be extended to the masses through a holy and consecrated Church.
  4. America has done much good in the world, sown precious seeds of the gospel for many generations, and still remains a beacon of light and hope for many people throughout the nations, and for those reasons God wants to preserve her.

I believe we will see wrath and mercy, kindness and severity, revival and judgment poured out simultaneously side by side. This process has already started and is meant to further distinguish the true church from the false church as the Lord gets the attention of His people and the world. It is time to  judge ourselves so we can be on the glory side.

Here is what we can expect on the glory side:

  1. As the true Church shines with increasing glory persecution will also increase, and true believers will be further marginalized and godly preachers hated.
  2. The true Church may be driven underground, but will become an epicenter of glory, power, and mass conversions.
  3. The nameless and faceless generation and those who have labored in obscurity and been faithful in the little will arise in strength and their voices will echo the true word of the Lord in this hour, and many young people shall see the evil and corruption in our nation as well as the unrighteous persecution of Christians and will favor Christianity and be open to the gospel.
  4. Every church and ministry that is fueled by the wisdom of man will continue to diminish in effectiveness and power, and those who move according to God’s heart and plan will grow increasingly stronger and flourish.

Everything that can be shaken will be shaken. The days of playing church are over as we enter into a season of greater seriousness in the Spirit and in the body of Christ. The increased persecution will bring more churches together as the people of God put aside their petty differences and rally around the Lordship of Jesus and His true cause and commission. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad I’m on the Lord’s side. How glorious these days will be for those who truly love and fear the Lord.

JUDGMENT IS COMING AND NOW IS: BUILDING FOR THE STORM

My last few blogs have come from a dream the Lord gave me toward the end of last year concerning Jesus not only being our Savior but also our Judge. In the dream I emphatically spoke these words: “There are not enough judges in the Church.” This revelation and insight has evolved into a greater understanding of the necessity of the Church learning of God’s judgments and the effect they have on our character and growth, both individually and collectively as a Church.

Long ago God gave Israel judges, so that the nation would not do what was right in their own eyes and live independently of God’s will.

“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6).

“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25).

By deliberately serving idols and foreign gods and doing what was right in their own eyes, Israel broke their covenant with God. Then the Lord would raise up judges to deliver them from their oppressors when they would cry out to Him. Does this not accurately describe the day we are living in?

The Church is in need of judges. All ministry gifts in the body of Christ are to exercise judgment. Prophets, especially, have grace from the Lord to judge all things.

“Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge” (1 Cor. 14:29).

There have always been true prophets and false prophets. Personally, I believe the false prophets outnumber the true ones today. This has been true throughout Israel and the Church’s history. For example, in the days of Ezekiel false prophets exercised great influence over Israel, similar to what we see happening today in many churches. Only today we don’t just have false prophets, but we also have false apostles, teachers, and shepherds, who are primarily responsible for creating the counterfeit Christianity that is so prevalent in our time, and not preparing, equipping, and building God’s people for the storm that is coming.

The following verses typify the work of false prophets.

DON’T BUILD WITH UNTEMPERED MORTAR

“Because, indeed, because they have seduced My people, saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is no peace—and one builds a wall, and they plaster it with untempered mortar—say to those who plaster it with untempered mortar, that it will fall. There will be flooding rain, and you, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall tear it down. Surely, when the wall has fallen, will it not be said to you, ‘Where is the mortar with which you plastered it?’” Therefore thus says the Lord God: “I will cause a stormy wind to break forth in My fury; and there shall be a flooding rain in My anger, and great hailstones in fury to consume it. So I will break down the wall you have plastered with untempered mortar, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be uncovered; it will fall, and you shall be consumed in the midst of it. Then you shall know that I am the Lord” (Ez. 13:10-14).

The Hebrew word for untempered is “taphel” and my studies indicate this probably refers to mortar made with clay instead of slaked lime. In some Middle Eastern countries today walls are still commonly built of small stones or mud bricks, and then smeared over with clay mortar. The surface is rubbed smooth and is attractive in appearance. This coating prolongs the life of the wall but requires yearly attention if the wall is to stand.

Ezekiel uses this practice to typify the work of false prophets. They build up stories and make them plausible by an outward semblance to truth, while, in fact, they are flimsy, unreliable prophecies, resembling the walls described above, which can be broken down by a push or a heavy rain storm (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia). The same could be applied to false teachers and those who major on ear-ticking messages and neglect the full counsel of the word of God.

THOSE WHO TEACH THE WORD WILL BE JUDGED MORE STRICTLY

Ministers have a great responsibility before God to build His house correctly according to God’s pattern. The house of God are His people with Jesus as the cornerstone who holds it all together.

“You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple” (1 Pt. 2:5).

“But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house” (Heb. 3:6).

Under the new covenant, building God’s house means building God’s people. This was the apostle Paul’s passion and life purpose:

“So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ” (Col. 1:28).

The way we build people is not only through teaching sound doctrine, but also through  relationship and our life example enveloped in the whole counsel of God.

“You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house…” (Acts 20:18-20).

“And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (v. 25-26).

“Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears” (v. 30-31).

Oh, can you hear the heart of Christ in this great apostle? Nothing was more important to him than building up the people of God and presenting them perfect in Christ Jesus. He was constantly evaluating, judging, admonishing, and warning the churches, leaders, and all the saints. He did not want them to be deceived and devoured by grievous wolves (false apostles, prophets, teachers etc.), and drawn away by even those among them who would twist the Scriptures and speak perverse things. Paul tearfully warned them over the course of three years concerning these things. He saw something in the Spirit; he saw what was coming, even though it didn’t seem that way at the moment he shared these things with them. Where are these men today who warn us as Paul did? Why do so many Christians today see warnings and judgment as such a negative thing when it is one of the great keys of possessing the wisdom of God?

What should be the mood of Christians in these perilous and dark times at the end of this age? Yes, we are to possess a strong inner joy and an unshakeable peace, but also be sober, watchful, and prayerful. The Holy Spirit has many moods and He manifests them all in various ways and at different times. If we are living in the days of Noah as Jesus foresaw it would be (Mt. 24:37-39), why is there such a hip-hip hooray attitude and such an irreverence in the Church today? Why is there so little weeping and travail for the lost and the state of so many churches? Imagine what it was like in the days of Noah when he was building the Ark. Would it be appropriate if Noah wiggled his hips from the platform of the Ark and pointed his finger at the mocking, unbelieving, and deceived crowds of people below, proclaiming how God was going to bless them, and bring them happiness and prosperity and make all their dreams come true? Please understand me; I am not opposed to any of God’s blessings (for He does bless and prosper His people abundantly), but I am only using this example to contrast the lightness, casualness, and sometimes inappropriate mood of today with the soberness and reverence that ought to be?

“But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (1 Pt. 4:7).

Here are a couple of more truths concerning judgment:

First of all, judgment begins in the house of God.

“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pt. 4:17)

Secondly, ministers/teachers will be judged more strictly.

“Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly” (Jam. 3:1).

Because of this principle of judgment, the Lord will judge national ministries, then the local pulpits, then the pews of entire congregations, and then the world. All that can be shaken will be shaken. We have a responsibility to judge ourselves and get things right. As we do, the Church will grow in holy character, in great power, and in godly influence.

In our next blog we will see why this truth of judgment is one of the most neglected themes of our day and yet one of the most important. Don’t miss it. It will shake you to the core.

To be continued…

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BUILDING FOR THE STORM

This is God’s heart for His people:

“Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” (Dt. 5:29)

“You are the foundation on which we stand today. You always save us and give true wisdom and knowledge. Nothing means more to us than obeying you” (Is. 33:6 – CEV).

A heart to truly obey Him is what the Lord has always looked for in His people. This heart is cultivated through our love for the Lord and holy fear. This fear is birthed in God’s people primarily through a knowledge of His judgments. Notice in the early days of the Church the effect the judgment that fell on Ananias and Sapphira had on the people.

“Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things (Acts 5:5).

Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things. And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women…  (Acts 5:10-14).

We often forget these portions of Scripture and how this component of the fear of the Lord greatly impacted and contributed to the glory, power, and growth of the early Church.

“Yet none of the rest dared join them (the disciples), but the people esteemed them highly” (v. 13).

The Message Bible says it this way:

“But even though people admired them a lot, outsiders were wary about joining them. On the other hand, those who put their trust in the Master were added right and left, men and women both.”

POLARIZATION: ONE EFFECT OF GOD’S JUDGMENTS AND THE FEAR OF THE LORD

The judgment that fell on Ananias and Sapphira caused sinners to be leery of joining themselves to the apostles and the Church while at the same time gaining public respect and influence. This divided or polarized those who were not interested in genuine repentance and living whole-heartedly for the Lord from the multitudes that were being genuinely converted and being added to the Church. The dividing line was very distinct. In many places today it is difficult to tell the difference between the Christian and non-Christian, but not in the early Church. God wants to restore this polarization in the Church today.

The great fear that came on the entire Church and those who heard of these events is a necessary component for the overall health of the Church, and it is also a precursor to actual revival and spiritual awakening in the nations. What many Christians don’t understand is that these kind of judgments in the Church are a manifestation of God’s mercy to the masses, because when the Church is judged and cleansed that is when we have the greatest impact on the world. Conversely, when there is lack of judgment in the Church it means a widespread judgment to the masses, and mercy reserved for only a small righteous remnant.

Imagine the impact of this judgment, not only upon that present early apostolic generation but upon their children and grandchildren and the ensuing generations who witnessed these things and/or heard them. When Ananias’s and Sapphira’s dead bodies were carried out by the young men it was a dreadful object lesson of the fear of the Lord to future generations. I’m sure this event was noised abroad for years to come. This was in fact a judgment against counterfeit Christianity that greatly impacted the Church and the world. As I said,  it was an act of mercy to the world in preserving the mighty influence and power of the Church from moral compromise and tainted motives enveloped in personal selfish ambition through Ananias and Sapphira. Notice the ultimate result that the fear of the Lord had on the early Church. The Church had rest and peace, was strengthened, and encouraged, and also grew numerically.

“The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers” (Acts 9:31).

Can you see how as the polarization in the early Church increased, so did the power and impact increase simultaneously? One of the definitions of polarization is a division into two opposites. Polarization happens when people are divided into contesting groups. Polarization is a concept that comes from science, and it involves light, radiation, or magnetism moving in specific directions. Outside of this scientific concept, polarization usually refers to how people think, especially when two views emerge that drive people apart, kind of like two opposing magnets. As an example, when Democrats and Republicans fight, it can cause polarization. A Civil War is also a serious form of polarization. Polarization involves people moving in two directions —becoming almost as separate as the North and South Pole.

In this postmodern day of Church growth which tends to focus more on peripheral and demographic elements, these verses lead us to the inward character of believers and how it relates to both spiritual and numerical growth.

When we fail to include the judgments of God and the fear of the Lord in our doctrine and teaching we are building with flimsy materials of wood, hay, and stubble that will not stand up under the trials, pressures, and hardships of life. A house built with such materials will not survive the storm. The fear of the Lord, which is nurtured through the eternal judgments of God, is a great contributor and foundational to a healthy growing church. A house won’t stand the storm unless it is built on a solid foundation.

AS IT WAS IN THE DAYS OF NOAH

The condition of mankind on the earth today is similar to what it was during the days of Noah.

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Gen. 6:5-6).

Hmmm…how terrible and wicked was mankind that it grieved the Lord He had made man!

I had a thought this morning of what it must have been like in those days – how the people laughed and mocked Noah when he began building the ark, as he was trying to tell them and warn them of what was coming, but they didn’t care and they were unconcerned and wouldn’t listen. They even laughed and mocked when the door of the ark was closed supernaturally by God Himself, and they may have even laughed and mocked when the raindrops started to fall. But they weren’t laughing when the raindrops did not stop falling, and the waters began to rise, and there was no place left to go. When they finally realized what was happening it was too late to change their mind. Are we seeing a similar scenario today?

We need judges (prophets and ministers) who will warn us.

To be continued…

 

 

A WORD TO PREACHERS: YOU BETTER START BUILDING FOR THE STORM (Part 2)

Today it is very popular to hear a Bible teacher or preacher expound on Scriptures that promise you a blessed, happy, and prosperous life. There are definitely principles in the Word of God that when implemented will produce such benefits as health, financial success, peace in your life and relationships etc. I am not opposed to any of it. What I do find alarming is when we major on the blessings of God without hardly a mention of the cross and the price of obedience to follow Jesus. Preaching and teaching on only these principles can easily turn the hearers into “fish and loaf” believers, and the preachers/teachers into ear-tickling motivational speakers who lull their hearers into a false sense of security that sets them up to be targets of deception. When we preach seeker-friendly messages and exclude the holiness of God and His commands to lay down our lives we will breed soft “Christians” who easily succumb to the storms and pressures of life. Here’s some food for thought: it’s easy to embrace the Christian blessings without embracing the Christian faith. The Christian faith is not the outward blessings but the inward Christ life.

Here is a unique Scripture and the fruit of sowing sugar coated messages:

“If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?” (Jer. 12:5).

Another translation says it this way: “If you have raced with runners and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in a peaceful land, what will you do in the thickets of the Jordan?” (Jer. 12:5).

It is easy to breed soft believers in the West where comfort and convenience seem to be the aim of most. Compare it to the days of the early Church where trials and persecutions abounded, and it cost people their lives to be identified as a Christian. Compare it to many Eastern countries today where the Bible and preaching are banned, where it is illegal to convert to Christ, and where many saints are still killed for the faith. For the most part we’ve been insulated against such here in the West. Why is this important?

Because the Bible is not a Western book, and cannot be read through Western lenses lest you be deceived and settle for a half-hearted devotion to Christ that is so prevalent in the Church today. This deception has a tendency to thicken when our surroundings are superficial and shallow. Understand that what you associate with, who you listen to, and what you view will shape what you believe and who you are. This makes it even more critical and vital that Bible preachers and teachers are expounding on the full counsel of God and not just teaching principles of success and prosperity. Actually, in one way it can even be more of a challenge to minister to believers in the West than in persecuted nations because of the comforts, conveniences, and materialism that often breed compromise and complacency. Such a people will grow weary in any kind of battle. According to Jeremiah they will not be able to race with the runners much less compete with wild horses. They will stumble in a land of peace much less in a land of unrest and hostility where the opposition is greater.

THE POWER OF EXAMPLE

Imagine what it was like for the early Church believers sitting under the apostles teaching and having a close-up view of their daily lives. In our cozy culture I think we forget this or just don’t want to think about it. We have an abundance of gospel preachers and teachers full of so much “Christian” knowledge, much of which they never learned through suffering or even personal application in an uncomfortable and hostile environment. In the early Church much of the teaching was by life example and modeling Christ. The apostles spent 3 years with Jesus. Three years! Every day!  In every kind of situation. With all types of people. Do you think that’s worth anything? In the West it’s too easy to miss that.

In the days of the early Church new believers observed the apostles as they used every opportunity to preach the gospel while suffering persecution for it. After Stephen was martyred there was great persecution that arose against the Church that scattered the believers, but they kept preaching the word everywhere (Acts 8:1-4) (Acts 11:19-21). The example of the apostles’ boldness and unfailing courage to continue to preach the gospel in spite of the persecution motivated the early believers and the young ministers like Stephen (Acts 7) and Philip (Acts 8:5-8) to do the same.

The early believers carefully observed the apostles’ response to the persecution and they imitated them (Acts 4:13-31) (Acts 5:17-21; 40-42). They also observed their care for new believers in various cities and towns (Acts 11:22-24; 14:22; 15:41; 18:23; 20:31) (Col. 1:28-29) (1 Thes. 2:11-12). They knew that Jesus and His gospel were the passion and purpose of their lives that even the threats of death could not stop them. Because the apostles patterned their life and ministry after Jesus and modeled the Christ life to them, the early Church was full of functioning disciples and workers in the harvest fields who did the same. We often forget this most important element of discipleship. Most Western schools fill our heads with knowledge and theory but neglect the impact a life totally devoted to Christ can have on the heart of another. We place great emphasis on titles, degrees, and credentials unlike our Master who chose simple uneducated men whose hearts He could impact. And although the apostle Paul was educated and probably possessed the highest degrees of his day he put no stock in it (Phil. 3:8). These were the credentials that were important to him and that he reminded his followers of:

“But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yettrue; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yetnot killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Cor. 6:4-10) (Also see 2 Cor. 11:22-28).

PAUL PREPARED THEM FOR THE STORM SO THAT HIS LABOR WOULD NOT BE IN VAIN

“Finally, when we could stand it no longer, we decided to stay alone in Athens, and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles. Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come—and they did, as you well know. That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong. I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you and that our work had been useless. But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you. So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord. How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence” (1 Thes. 3:1-9).

Paul sent Timothy to check up on these believers to make sure they were standing strong in their faith and not yielding to the temptations of the devil and allowing the troubles and persecutions that he had already warned them about cause them to be shaken in their faith. If so, his labor of ministry to them would’ve been useless or vain, and he would’ve been in danger of losing his own reward . Paul had a habit of checking up on the fruit of his ministry and the people he had laid down his life for. This was his pattern.

“Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless” (Phil 2:16).

THE KEY TO SURVIVING ANY STORM

What is it that will cause Christians to survive the storm and the pressures and troubles that come to us all? According to the full counsel of the Word, it is obedience that derives from both a love for the Lord and the true fear of the Lord. God’s grace imparts the ability to obey His Word, but it is His fear that keeps us from receiving His grace in vain (2 Cor. 6:1; 7:1) and coming short of His rest (Heb. 4:1). A revelation of the Father’s love keeps us from having a legalistic and obligatory relationship with Him while the fear of the Lord keeps us from drifting and backsliding.

The fear of the Lord is primarily cultivated through knowing the judgments of God and the punishment and penalty for sin and the loss of our eternal rewards. We have an absence of this in the West that  has weakened the foundation of the Church. Without this foundation our house will not stand in the storm. In one word, the foundation is obedience for that is what the fear of the Lord produces. In the parable of the house built on the sand and the house built on the rock (Mt. 7:24-27) obedience to the Word of God was the rock and the key to the house surviving the storm.

When you’re building a house the most important part of it is the foundation. If the foundation is strong the house will stand when the storms come.

“When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation” (Pr. 10:25).

He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure” (Is. 33:6 – NIV)

A house is built and established through God’s wisdom, but the fear of the Lord is the key to having a strong foundation. To be continued…

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