Leaving Laodicea
435 - How to Become a Faith Prepper

435 - How to Become a Faith Prepper

October 31, 2019

There comes a time in each of our lives when we have to ask ourselves some tough questions, especially as we see the coming darkness growing over our land and the church.  And for many, that day of self-examination and questioning is today.  Consider the following:

What are we to do when we see the darkness rapidly encroaching on everything we hold dear?
How do we raise our children in this deeply divided and hostile environment?
How are we to remain light in the coming darkness?
Where do we find our strength for the journey?
Where can we go for our encouragement and motivation to stand strong, come what may?
What is going to happen to all we know and love if things keep getting darker?
How can we become, today, the believers we need to be, seeing all the chaos around us?

The answer is simple.  It is now time to put everything aside and begin to prepare for what lies ahead.  No more denial or sticking our heads in the sand.  It is now time to become a faith prepper.


It's Time to Become a Faith Prepper

A faith prepper, like any prepper, is one who sees the danger ahead and sacrifices today for tomorrow in order to secure the safety and well being of those he loves.  After all, Noah built the ark before it started to rain.

Consider these two people who both saw the danger, yet only one did anything about it.  Which are you?

A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished - Proverbs 22:3.

Just a few more questions.

How can we, as individual believers and as a church, work, and sacrifice to become a faith prepper?
What is the shortest distance between where we are spiritually and where we need to be?
What is the key to intimacy with the Lord?
And what is the one area in our spiritual lives that is most lacking?
Answer:  Prayer.

That's right, the first step to becoming a faith prepper is understanding the importance of prayer.  And we will begin to do that with a 21 Day Prayer Challenge to "Pray Before Anything". The following is a study on Prayer and becoming a Faith Prepper.

434 - Preparing for the Invite

434 - Preparing for the Invite

October 30, 2019

When we come to the Lord's table, often we spend little time in spiritual preparation to meet with our Lord.  But this is His table and He has offered to each of us, regardless of our sins and failures, the blessing to come and dine with Him.  Remember His words to His disciples?

Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15).

With "fervent desire I have desired."  Can you feel the intensity in His words?  This is something Jesus was passionate about, something that He truly wanted to do.  And it involved each of us.


Spiritual Preparation for the Invite

In the Philadelphia church age (Rev. 3:7-13) where the Lord only had good things to say about the church, just a few generations ago, the church took the Lord's Supper much more seriously than we do today.  In fact, they had printed prayers and a devotional study they spent the week going through to make sure they were not taking this in an "unworthy manner" (1 Cor. 11:29).  For example, let me give you the text for just Saturday, the day of Self-Surrender to the Lord.

My Father, You call me to Your table to participate by faith anew in the sacrifice of Your Son: I cry to You, in turn, to make me partaker of the power, the inclination, and the spirit of His self-sacrifice, that I, in fellowship with Him, may in like manner offer myself up to You. “Through the Eternal Spirit, He offered Himself up to God.” My God, let the same Spirit make me also, on my part, a complete offering to You.

My Father, grant unto me to see that self-offering constitutes the essence and the worth of His sacrifice. Let the surrender of my feeling and will to the will of God be the mark of my piety. Yes, Lord, let me live as one who offers himself wholly to the desire of God and man to further Your honor and their salvation.

My Father, at the Supper I desire truly to present myself as a living, a holy sacrifice, well-pleasing, to God—an offering that shall be wholly consumed.

For this end, I entreat You for grace to prepare myself for this sacrifice, as Your Son prepared Himself for the sacrifice on Golgotha by saying in Gethsemane: “Not My will, but Yours be done." So would I offer myself as a sacrifice to You with the complete surrender of my will: may Your will be all in all to me, O my God. Lord enable me to say in truth: “I live only to do the will of God.” In the strength of Jesus Christ, who lives in me and in whom I offer myself to You, I venture to make His language my own: “I come to do Your will, O God!”

Lord, prepare me also to say: I desire here before You to renounce every known and unknown sin. All self-seeking and self-will I desire to abandon before You. I take Jesus Christ as my holiness, my strength, my victory; and in virtue of the new nature which He has prepared for me, I say: Father, no more sin, but Your will only— Your will wholly, Your will always and in all.

Lord Jesus, who did give Himself for me, I give myself to You.  Yes, Lord, in this very moment, where I in solitude am this morning preparing myself for the Supper, I say before heaven and earth: Jesus, Son of God, I will give myself wholly to You, to live now and henceforth only for You. Lord Jesus, I do this now. And as one who is offered to the Father and to You, I will go to the Supper table, there to be confirmed in the faith and confession; I am no longer my own: I have been bought with a high price: I will glorify God in my body and my spirit, which are God’s.

Are you humbled?  Convicted?  Maybe you should be.  I know I am when I read this and the rest of what they prayed during their week of preparation for the invite.

Take some time and read through the days of prep the church of a time gone by spent preparing themselves to meet with the Lord.  And see, like me, if it doesn't give you a deeper view of what this Lord's Supper is all about.

The following is a study on preparing to dine with the Lord.

433 - Our Natural Reaction to Seeing Him

433 - Our Natural Reaction to Seeing Him

October 2, 2019

When we look at the Revelation, we should be shocked by the reaction of those who see Jesus face to face.  First, John. And then the twenty-four elders. Look at the reaction of John:

After John hears the loud voice of the Lord, "as a trumpet", and sees the seven lampstands and the seven stars and the "One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band" - John is so overwhelmed that he "fell at His feet as dead".  Dead.  John had reached his ability to function and all his systems had shut down.

Have you ever responded like that when you encountered the Lord Jesus?  Have you ever known anyone who has?  And, if not, did you ever wonder why?


The Twenty-Four Elders

But when the twenty-four elders see Christ, their reaction puts us to shame.  Consider the following:

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:  “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created" (Revelation 4:9-11).

And then their praise continues:

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.  And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:8-10).

And more...

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!”  Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever (Revelation 5:11-14).


What Are We Missing?

I think it's kind of obvious, don't you?  What we see in the Revelation is a far cry from what we experience each Sunday in church.  Which makes me wonder, why?

Has God changed?
Does He allow Himself to be worshipped one way by the twenty-four elders but expects less from us today?
Or is He now content and satisfied by our lukewarm adoration of His Son?
Is He, like us, more concerned about what we feel comfortable with than what His Son deserves?
Has the Father finally determined that "it's all about us" and not about Him?

I think not.

There is so much more we need to know and understand about how to truly worship the Lord that is found in the pages of the Revelation.  So let's find out more together, shall we?

The following is a study on the worship of God.

432 - The Importance of Trust in Dark Times

432 - The Importance of Trust in Dark Times

September 24, 2019

The expectation for our future, as a Nation and as the church, are grim indeed.  We are going to face some very tough times, and have to navigate some very rough waters, especially for those of us who live in the United States.

During the Tribulation, the Bible teaches that Israel will stand alone.  No longer will we be her protector.  God will fill that role.  In fact, the US is not even a minor player in the end times scenario.  Look at Ezekiel 38 and 39 if you need convincing.  The prophetic future of the US is almost non-existent.  Something must happen to us to bring us down to the point we can no longer protect Israel.  Can you see it coming?

Just look around.


The Expectation

We are facing unprecedented times in America:

Our trade war with China, and soon the rest of the world.
The coming 2020 elections and all the chaos that will surely follow, regardless of who wins.
The overt attack on Christianity in the media.
The almost insane push of the homosexual agenda. Judicial tyranny at every level.
The widespread corruption in our honored institutions and the government.
Natural disasters run amok, earthquakes, drought, hurricanes, flooding, etc.
Societal breakdown.
Hatred among citizens.
The public talk of a Second Civil War.
Mass shootings and other acts of terror on almost a daily basis.
And it only gets worse.

Because of these, we will need to learn to lean more on the Lord than ever before.  Sunday School faith will no longer cut it.  Church, as we have known it in the West, will become more and more obsolete and irrelevant.  Your personal faith and trust in the Lord will rapidly become the most important thing in your life.  And it all hinges on one word:

Trust.


Trust During the Coming Darkness

The classic Old Testament teaching on trust is found in Proverbs 3:5-6.  There our Lord gives us a profound if/then promise, the very if/then promise we so desperately need as we see the darkness approaching.  Consider His words:

(if) Trust in the LORD with all your heart, (if) and lean not on your own understanding; (if) in all your ways acknowledge Him, (then) and He shall direct your paths.

As we look at this promise, we are compelled to ask ourselves a few questions about the joy of having the Lord directing our paths.

What would you give, especially when we see the coming darkness in our world growing stronger, to have the Lord of All direct your life?
What would it be worth to you to have the confidence to run to Him for shelter and refuge and to know you are welcome under His wings?
What confidence in dark days would that give you?

There is so much more here than just what we read on the surface.  To discover the meaning and implication of each word of this glorious if/then promise, and then to rest in His promise, you will need to keep listening.

The following is a study on the importance of trust as found in Proverbs 3:5-6.

431 - How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit

431 - How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit

August 20, 2019

As we begin to see the darkness come over our land and persecution confront the church in ways unimaginable just a generation ago, it is well past time for each of us to understand and embrace the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit like never before.  As Appollo Creed said to Rocky to shake him from his fear, "There is no tomorrow!"

And Appollo was right.  There is no tomorrow.  The time for spiritual preparation is today.  Actually, it should have been yesterday, or last week.  The time for fervency towards our Lord cannot be put off any longer.  The well-worn excuses about family responsibilities, career advancement, and the general business of life seem trite at best, and will mean nothing when persecution comes.  And it will come.  Most assuredly it will come.  The Scriptures promise persecution.

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution - 2 Timothy 3:12

That is, of course, unless you aren't particularly interested in living godly in Christ.  Then you may be pretty safe, right up until the time you take the mark on your hand or forehead.  But that's another issue for another time.


How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit

The key to living a life of assurance and confidence in Him is learning how to remain filled with the Holy Spirit.  And before you can remain filled, you have to be filled in the first place.  This is what this message talks about. We talk about some steps you can take to prepare yourself for His filling.  They are as follows:

First, you must desire to live a life that will please the Lord.

Second, be willing to surrender your life totally and irrevocably to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Third, confess every known sin that the Holy Spirit calls to your remembrance and experience the cleansing and forgiveness that God promises in 1 John 1:9.

Fourth, ask Him, by faith, to fill you with the Holy Spirit. You can pray something like this:

Dear Father, I need You. I hunger and thirst for a more vital relationship with You. I admit that I have been in control of my life. And, as a result, I have sinned against You. Thank You for forgiving my sins through Christ’s death on the cross for me. I now confess and turn from my sins and surrender the control of my life to the Lord Jesus. By faith, I invite You to fill me with the Holy Spirit as You commanded me to be filled. You promised to fill me if I ask according to Your will. I pray this in the authority of the name of Jesus Christ.

To demonstrate my faith, I now thank You for filling me with Your Holy Spirit and for taking control of my life. Amen.

But that's not the end of it.


There is so much more to learn.

You will need to understand the basis of God's filling, and it has nothing to do with the amount of time you spend praying or the people who lay hands on you.  The basis is on the command (Eph. 5:18) and promise (1 John 5:14-15) of God.  And the filling of the Holy Spirit is given to you the same way you received salvation, by faith.

But there is so much more about all this that we cannot do it justice in this simple summary. 

To find out more, you will need to keep listening. The following is a study on How to Be Filled by the Holy Spirit.

428 - The Forgotten Discipline of Remembering

428 - The Forgotten Discipline of Remembering

June 26, 2019

Unfortunately, in our walk with the Lord, Chaucer's ancient adage proves true:  Familiarity Breeds Contempt.  It breeds contempt in the form of apathy, laziness, indifference, lack of honor or respect and, finally, of misplaced love.  It seems to be the curse of Western Christianity that wants for nothing save the things that matter. What can we do when we find our relationship with the Lord boring at best?  What happens when, to quote the classic song by the Righteous Brothers, "we've lost that lovin' feelin'"?  What happens then? How can we recapture what we have a hard time even remembering?  We find the answer in the Lord's letter to His church in Ephesus.


Familiarity Breeds Contempt

The church at Ephesus, when John penned the Revelation, was only one generation removed from the life of the Lord.  They were a hard-working bunch of committed believers who had a resume and doctrinal purity that would be the envy of almost any church today.

“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil.  And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary" - Revelation 2:2-3.

In fact, they worked for the Lord to the point of sheer exhaustion.

“I know your works (the results of employment, duty, business, something to be done), your labor (to toil to the point of exhaustion, the labor which demands the whole strength of a man exerted to the utmost to accomplish the task), your patience (to remain under, to bear up under), and that you cannot bear (support, stand) those who are evil (bad, worthless, wicked, vicious, harmful, bad in heart, conduct, and character).  And you have tested (tried, to prove either good or bad) those who say (affirm, proclaim) they are apostles (messengers, sent ones) and are not, and have found (by examination, search, or inquiry) them liars (false); and you have persevered (to bear up under patiently) and have patience (to endure, to remain under), and have labored (to be fatigued, worn out, weary, faint) for (what) My name’s sake and have not become weary (faint from constant work)."

I get tired just reading all that they did.  But, like the church today, they had missed the most important part of their relationship with Jesus.  The relationship!

“Nevertheless (in spite of all this) I (Jesus) have this against you, that you have left (to forsake, quit, abandon, desert) your first love ( agapē)" - Revelation 2:4.

Sobering words.  The Lord said He is "against" them... even after all the good they had done.  How could that be?  And what can they do to right their sinking ship? It may seem simple, but it is hard to remember the right things.  Sometimes it is painfully hard.

"Remember (to call to mind, to keep on remembering) therefore from where (why, how) you have fallen (to fall off or from, to fall away, to fail, to be without effect, in vain); repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place— unless you repent" - Revelation 2:5.


Do You Remember?

It may seem simple, but it is hard to remember the right things.  Sometimes it is painfully hard.  Consider the following questions to help begin the process of remembering:

What does it mean to remember? Take a moment and remember your first few weeks as a new creation in Christ. What were you like? Back then, how would you feel about yourself now? Did you make any promises to the Lord that you would not even think of making today? Did you keep whatever promises you made to Him? Has your relationship with Him cooled over time? If so, did it happen gradually, like a slow leak? Or did it happen all at once? What do you remember about that time?

There is so much more to remember.  To find out about the forgotten discipline of remembering, keep listening. The following is a study on Revelation 2:2-3.

427 - Are You In?  Or Are You Out?

427 - Are You In? Or Are You Out?

June 17, 2019

There comes a time in each of our spiritual lives when the Lord brings to us His divine interruption that always comes with a choice.  And that choice, other than obedience, seems to focus on our willingness to let Him move us into an area that we are totally unfamiliar with.   Or will we choose to remain where we feel safe and comfortable?  The choice is either to follow Him into the deep or remain in the kiddie pool holding fast to our water wings.  And as always, the choice becomes a matter of faith, of trust.

After all, we sing songs about Him being a "good, good Father."  Do we really mean it?  Or is that just for church?

The question or choice is simply this:


Are you in?  Or are you out?

If you look at the major faith personalities in the Bible, you will find every one of them had to ask themselves the same question.   Every one of them was faced with a choice that comes with a set of troubling questions:  "Do I continue in the course that seems right to me?  Or do I trust I actually heard from the Lord and go in a direction totally unfamiliar to anything I’ve ever done or known?  How much faith do I really have?”

We call these moments Divine Interruptions.

In this message, we'll look at these interruptions from the vantage point of:

David
Paul
Mary
Matthew
James and John and Peter and Andrew
Moses
And finally, Hosea.


A Personal Note

And I will share with you the divine interruption I received this week while preparing for this message from Jude.  In fact, in the weeks to follow I will share more about the changes the Lord has brought in my life regarding what His will is for me and this ministry.  And I rejoice in that.  Why?  Because He has simply answered a prayer I have prayed for almost two years in a most profound way.

But we will talk more about that at a later time.

The following is a study on Jude 1:1-3.

426 - What Does Personal Revival Look Like?

426 - What Does Personal Revival Look Like?

June 10, 2019

When it comes to revival, personal revival, we are somewhat hamstrung by the reality that many in the church today have no idea what that even looks like.  Think about it.  It's not like you can pick up the phone and call a mature Christian saint who is at the top of their game spiritually, and has been for years, and ask them to mentor us in personal revival.  It seems, at least in the West, that those people are few and far between if they exist at all. And this is to the shame of the church... and to each of us as individuals. So we're back to the main question.


What Does Personal Revival Look Like?

In this message, we'll look at a few Scriptures that describe to us what true, Spirit-led, personal revival looks like.  Some of the passages we'll examine are Psalm 119:25, 37, and 40, along with a few of the kingdom parables (Matthew 13:44-46).  We then look at Philippians 3:7-8, and a few other passages, and conclude by asking just a few questions.

What is worth selling all you have to acquire?
What is worth everything you are?
What is the thing you value the most?
Have you asked the Lord to show you things in your life that are worthless and deceitful and are causing you to sin and grieve the Holy Spirit?
Or are you too afraid of what He might say?
What will you do if He shows you what must go? Is the promise of living your life more alive and more abundantly than you are now worth more than holding on to what we are convinced brings lasting joy?
Will you ask Him right now to reveal it to you? But as we shared last week...


The Time is Now

Remember, our first step in seeking true revival is to ask HIm what we are doing, or not doing, that grieves His Spirit. Until then, be vigilant and strong and live out the life He intended for you to live.  Empowered by HIm, seeking Him, being dependent on Him alone, and faithfully serving Him wherever He commands. Adveho quis may. Come what may.

The following is a study on the reality of personal revival.

424 - Our Greatest Gift from Him

424 - Our Greatest Gift from Him

January 23, 2019

As the Christmas season is winding down, it would be appropriate for us to look at the greatest gift we have ever received from the greatest Person we have ever known— our Lord, and to give Him praise for that wondrous gift.  And for me, I find that gift revealed to me in Colossians. Let's look at this gift together.


No Longer Alienated and Enemies of the Lord

The Scriptures say that I, and all who are called by His name, are no longer "alienated and enemies" of the Lord.  Look at this marvelous gift found in Colossians 1:21-22:

And you (your name), who once were (past tense) alienated (apallotrióō – to estrange, alienate entirely) and enemies (echthrós – hatred, hostility, enmity) in your mind by (what) wicked works, yet now (present tense) He (Christ's actions) has reconciled (apokatallássō – the restoration of a relationship of peace which has been disturbed) in the body of His flesh (how) through death, (why) to present (paristánō – to cause to stand near or before) you (your name) holy (hágios – set apart, sanctified, consecrated, a saint), and blameless (ámōmos – unblameable, without spot or blemish) and above reproach (anégklētos –unreproveable, not merely unaccusable but unaccused, free from any legal charge) in His sight (presence, before His face).

But there is more.  He keeps us from stumbling and presents us faultless before His glory.  Amazing.   Read it yourself in Jude 1:24.

Now to Him (Christ) who is able to keep you (your name) from stumbling (áptaistos – falling), and to present you (your name) faultless (where) before the presence of His glory (how) with exceeding joy (agallíasis – extreme exultation, exuberant joy),

And how do we respond to this incredible gift?  Read the next verse.

To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.

I pray you will begin the next year with the same praise and passion for your Lord that you ended the last one.  And you can do that by realizing what a great God we serve and what a great gift He has given us in His Son.  Will you join with me in exalting His Name?  Then keep listening. The following is a study on realizing our great blessings found in Colossians 1:21-22 and Jude 1:24-25.

423 - The Breathtaking View of Christ

423 - The Breathtaking View of Christ

January 22, 2019

One of the major failures of the church today is to downplay the place of Christ when we come together to worship.  Yes, you heard right.  We, hopefully unknowingly, often relegate Christ to the back pew or the second chair.  And who do we elevate in His place?  Usually the pastor or, often, the worship leader.

And when we come together as a church we have a tendency to preach on the "what's" and "why's" of the Scripture and seldom the "how's".  Think about it.  We know we are commanded to "present our bodies as a living sacrifice" (Rom. 12:1-2), but are never told exactly how to do that.  Did you ever wonder why?

We are commanded to "walk according to the Spirit" (Gal. 5:16), yet are never instructed on how to do that.  We know what it means and why it's important.  But for some reason, our pastors fail to take our hands and show us exactly how to accomplish this command.  Why?

Is it because practical Christianity is not in vogue today?  Or could it be we have become a church made up of those who can tell us what to do but have never experienced it themselves?  Are we more like cowboys driving cattle from the rear than a shepherd leading from the front?

What are we to do?


Seven Things the Church Failed to Teach Me

Recently I was reading a blog that shared these seven things the author said the church never taught him.  And I couldn't agree more.  Consider the following:

  1.  How to practically live by the Christ who dwells inside me.
  2.  How to practically learn how to hear the Lord’s voice beyond “pray and read your Bible.”
  3.  That church-as-we-know-it is drastically different from church-as-God-would-have-it.
  4.  What the gospel of the kingdom is and how radically it can alter a human life.
  5.  How deep the tentacles of the world system go and how to break free from them.
  6.  That God’s presence is extremely subtle most of the time.
  7.  How to find Christ in the Scriptures, including the entire Old Testament.

So in 2019, I have committed to teach the church I pastor the "how's" of the Christian faith and to answer these, and other, practical questions about living for Him.  Will you join with me as we explore the breathtaking view of our Lord together?

The following is a study on the Breathtaking View of Christ found in Colossians 1:15-19 and 2 Colossians 2:9-10.