Friday, July 31, 2015

A Spoiled Church - Part Six

"If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, 
and pray
and seek My face, 
and turn from their wicked ways; 
then will I hear from heaven, 
and will forgive their sin, 
and will heal their land."
2 Chronicles 7:14

Oh, dear friends!
I hardly know where to start this post.

I think I will take the advice of the old Proverb,
"Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped."

We always slip before we fall, right?

"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."
Proverbs 16:18  

We are a proud people...prone to think we can handle things on our own...
prone to feel self-sufficient in times of prosperity.

God has prospered our nation greatly.
As a whole, we want for very little.
We live pampered lives.
We are spoiled.
Yes, that includes us, God's church, first and foremost.

Our pride has cost us...dearly.

We have distorted and blurred the lines to the point that we,
"have put no difference between the holy and profane, 
neither have shewed difference between the unclean and the clean..."
Ezekiel 22:26  

We call evil good, and we call good evil.

"If My people...shall...pray."
Can you sense the longing of our Father, 
as He uttered these words?
As He repeats them us...His people?

Are you able to discern His anguish?
The pain in His great, loving heart?
How anxiously He waits?
Hoping with all His Father heart that we will do the right thing?

Every day, we hear more news to confirm the continuation of our moral decline.
Things so appalling that we have to recoil...stop reading...and watching...and listening.
Because the atrocities are too grotesque.
We find that we can bear no more.

Dear Lord, how did we get here?
How did we fall so far?

I hear His answer.

It takes me directly back to where we slipped.
53 years, one month, and 4 days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court passed a ruling
that children were no longer allowed to pray to God in our public school classrooms.
Measures to remove prayer from schools started a few years before that in 1958 when a man named Steven Engel, his wife, and seven other parents brought a law suit against the state of New York,
over their dislike of their children praying the following prayer,
"Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee,
and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country."

This initial lawsuit was lost, but an appeal was made, and on June 25, 1962,
the highest court of our land, doled out a decision to make it unlawful for children to pray in school.

This, my friends, was where we slipped.
Though, there were disturbing signs before this, 
this was the conspicuous beginning of the "slip" that has steadily and increasingly picked up steam and momentum, 
and landed us in this fallen place.

The first step downward is always the hardest to take.
Moral restraint and a keen sense of conscience makes taking that initial plunge repressive and uncomfortable.
But, once the first step has been taken, the 2nd step seems a little easier,
the 3rd a little more so, the 4th even less anxious.
On and on we go, until we get to a point that we no longer listen to that still, small voice inside of all.

Did you know it is possible for a conscience to become seared?
I Timothy 4:2 says,
"Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron..."

Seared in this passage means cauterized.
It means that the spiritual nerve endings have been destroyed.
It means that the nerves are deadened to the point that the person no longer feels obvious impulses.
They are rendered insensitive to the dealings of the Holy Spirit.
They feel their conscience no more.

Do you know how dangerous it is to walk through life without a working conscience?
I'll be honest.
I can't think of too many things more terrifying than to think of running wide-open, full-speed 
in the wrong direction, and not even knowing it.
To imagine living life void of the restraint of a keen moral compass literally makes me shudder.

Because our conscience is placed within us by God for the specific purpose of our own protection.
To think that we hold within our grasp the capability and potential of searing that precious, inherent moral sense is beyond frightening to me.

This deadening does not take place overnight.
Cauterization of the conscience does not happen the first time the conscience is overridden.

But, if you give it time, and if you continue to override and silence it's voice,
there will come a day that you can do absolutely any wild, outlandish thing you want to do,
and you will feel nothing.

No remorse.
No shame.
No fear of repercussions.
No sting of guilt.
No fear of Almighty God or of facing His justice or thought of any form of retribution.

What a dangerous, horrifying condition in which to find one's self!

So, our supreme court passed a ruling on June 25, 1962 that said it was unconstitutional for 
our children to pray in public schools.
That was a huge the wrong direction.
There was reluctance in 1958, when it was first suggested, but by 1962, 
senses had been numbed to the daring and audacity factor.
The idea had been toyed with long enough to take the edge off its signification.

So, the ruling was passed, and we, regardless of whether we liked it or not,
as a nation, had to comply and succumb to the law.
Our children could no longer legally pray in school.

Sadly, oh, so sadly, it didn't stop there.
Does it ever?

A downward spiral is an extremely slippery slope.

In 1963, just one year after prayer was banned, came the next plunge of our descent.
The founder of American Atheists, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, along with Edward Schempp,
consolidated their lawsuits with the intent of putting an end to Bible reading in the public classroom.
Alas to say, the suit was won, when the Supreme Court ruled in her (their) favor,
banning Bible reading in public schools.
That same year, the supreme court took another downward plummet when they overturned the state law that banned the teaching of evolution.

Do you see how this works?
Need I say more?

Little by little, we have veered so far from the ways of our founding fathers,
and with each descending step, we have drifted farther and farther from God.

Steven Engel (died February 6, 2008), Madalyn Murray O'Hair (died September 29, 1995), and Edward Schempp (died November 8, 2003)....
all three of their souls are now in eternity in the hands of a just God.
They are now giving an account for every deed done in this life,
just as you and I will do one day.
Did they really comprehend the immensity of their actions?
Had they any idea how far-reaching and devastating the repercussions would be?

If you pull the foundation out from under a standing building, 
what options are left but for the building to fall...collapse...crumble?

If you remove the moral compass from a nation, 
what options are left but for the nation to aimlessly wander...drift...self-destruct?

If you sear the conscience of a soul, how can you even measure or predict the consequences?

“Sin will take you farther than you want to go, 
keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”
I don't know who to attribute that quote to, but they, obviously were endowed with wisdom.

When that first tragic decision was made over 50 years ago to remove prayer from the public school arena, could we have ever predicted the extent of such ensuing moral decline?

If someone had told us where we would be today, would we have even believed them?

The very thing we were told our children could no longer do in school,
is the very thing we are going to have to do now.

Let's return to where we were when we slipped...
the place that caused the beginning of our fall.

And let's do the opposite, shall we?

We cannot go back and undo that dreadful decision.
It happened.
And we are paying the price for it...dearly.

We can't undo what has been done, but can we not do what we need to do now?

It is the 2nd step God laid out in the redemption plan of 2 Chronicles 7:14.

""If My people, which are called by My name, 
shall humble themselves, 
and pray..."

Have you taken the first step?
Have you humbled yourself?

To God?
"But He giveth more grace. 
Wherefore He saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. 
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. 
Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: 
let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up."
James 4:6-10

To others?
"Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. 
Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: 
for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time..."
I Peter 5:5-6

Have you truly humbled yourself?

Is there anything else you need to do to complete step one?
Humbling ourselves low before God sets the tone for Him to receive our prayers...
it sets us up and readies us for step two.

We must approach God with humility.
Total acknowledgement that we are wrong...
and He is right.

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: 
a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
Psalm 51:17

Is your spirit broken?
Do you weep over the conditions?
Are you sorry?
Have you embraced your own personal responsibility?
Are you willing to pay God's price?

"The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit."
Psalm 34:18

Have you felt the sense of dread Josiah felt?
Do you tremble at God's Word?
At His impending judgment for our sins?

"For all those things hath Mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: 
but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, 
and trembleth at My word."
Isaiah 66:2

There are no words for me to accentuate how vitally imperative it is that we PRAY.

After humbling ourselves, isn't this the next natural step?

Prayer is not complicated.
Just talk to Him.
Tell Him how sorry you are.
Beg for His mercy.

"Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: 
and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; 
and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon."
Isaiah 55:7

There is hope.
It is abundant.
But, we have to do this God's way.
We must forsake our own way, we must forsake our own thoughts, ideas, and opinions.
We can no longer afford to take our own path.

God is a holy God.
He demands that we be the same.

"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; 
I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, 
to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
Isaiah 57:15

"To revive the spirit of the humble"!!!!
I don't know about you, but I could sure stand some reviving right now.
My heart is so burdened and grieved.
I am ready for revival.
This is where it starts, my friend.

We must where we slipped.
We must bow.
Low, down at His feet.
On our knees.
In earnest, sincere, fervent prayer.
Here, we will find His pity.
His great Father heart will be moved.

"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear Him."
Psalm 103:13

You and I, we must meet His conditions.
We must humble ourselves....and pray.
Like never before.

Just imagine what our country would be like now, 
had the children of the last 53 years been permitted to pray!
Think where we will be in another 53 years without prayer!
Oh, dear Lord...I cannot type this without streaming tears.

My heart is broken.
Is yours?
Can you sense the urgency?
Are you willing to help me turn this thing around?
Will you please pray? 

what we do now will directly affect what God does next.

God help us to do the right thing.

Stay tuned for Part Seven of "A Spoiled Church"!!!
Coming soon, Lord willing!!!

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Spoiled Church - Part Five

"If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; 
then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
2 Chronicles 7:14

My heart is so burdened this morning.
Because even as God lays the words to this post upon my heart,
and I wake up early to obey His voice and write them,
I fear that all effort may be in vain.
It leaves me with an uneasy sense of dread as I realize that our healing hinges solely upon us.
I hate to say this, but that is not a comforting thought.

Because based upon our past performance of doing the very least we can skim by with,
it is hard for me to wrap my mind around the hope that we will do things any differently this time.

This time, it is going to require a great deal of actual effort.
It is going to require wholeheartedness.
Fervency of spirit.
Sacrifice of self.
A humbling down such as we have never needed to condescend before.

Things have never been on such an evil downward spiral in our country.
Things have never been so cold and indifferent in the American church.
We have never been so spoiled.

In Jesus' letter to the Laodicean church of Revelation,
He told them He would prefer they would be either all the way cold or all the way hot,
rather than to find them in their lukewarm condition.
He said if they stayed lukewarm, He would spew them out of His mouth. Revelation 3:16
God hates lukewarmness.
Lukewarmness sickens the point of vomiting.

Being the spoiled lot that we are, we tend to like lukewarm.
Lukewarm is comfortable.
Lukewarm is really hard to leave.
Lukewarm feels good.
Not too hot, not too cold.
Just enough of God to make us feel justified,
yet not enough to convince us to dive in full force.
We just love attaching that name "Christ-follower" to ourselves,
but we don't like the thoughts of actually "following" Him.
We are Gospel-educated enough to comprehend that truly emulating Him is going to go against everything "politically-correct" suggests, and to really be His life-disciple is going to work like a cross to our nature and demand us to take the very radical path of greatest resistance.
What lukewarm person likes the sounds of that?
The mere idea makes the lazy and spoiled exhausted,
before they ever take the first baby step.
So, the usual response is to settle back in...snuggle back under the covers,
pretend it isn't happening, and allow the sweet power of blissful ignorance to overwhelm.
Giving in to this conniving temptation will lull us back to sleep
and give satan even more brazen boldness...just enough to finish us off.

Oh, dear Christian!
I won't allow you to hit that snooze button...not here...not on my watch!!!!!
By God's grace, I will keep splashing water all over your sleepy face.
Cold enough to make you squirm and open your eyes and jolt your senses.
Every time you come by here.
As long as I have a platform.
For as long as I have breath.

The time has come that every, single one of us must answer the age-old question...
who is really on the Lord's side?  Joshua 24:15

If we choose this day to follow Jesus,
we are going to have leave lukewarm behind.
Us and lukewarm....we must part ways on the most hostile and uncivil terms.

In the last post, we discussed what it means to humble ourselves to and before God.
Have you done that?
Have you surrendered?

Have you humbled yourself to God?
If you haven't, will you consider doing that now?
Right now?
Before you go any farther?
Because until you do that, progress stops.

I hope and pray that each one of us have already made that full surrender and humbled ourselves low at His feet, with a sense of urgency and abandonment like never before.

Presuming we have all done this...individually, we will attempt to proceed to that next problematic issue that we would probably rather just avoid and pretend we didn't hear about.
You know, that part in the last post that said,
"This first 2 Chronicles 7:14 step of humbling ourselves is two-fold.
There is the part of humbling ourselves before God, which is a multi-faceted process,
and then, there is the issue of humbling each other."

Stick with me, my friends.
There is no "skip" button at the bottom of this post.
Neither you....nor I...get a free pass.

Were we really hoping God would forgo this step and let us slide?

You and I are going to have to humble each other.

What does this mean?
Where do we even start?

We are so splintered!!
Oh, dear Lord, how it must break Your heart!

Jesus' heart-wrenched prayer in the 17th chapter of John was that we all might be one.

We are far from it.
According to this apologetic link, in mid-2000 there were 33,800 denominations within the ranks of Christianity.
The projections on the chart show that by the year 2025, that number will have risen to 55,000.

So, if the projections in the chart are correct and have come to pass as predicted,
we will assume that, at this time, there is somewhere around 46,500
factions, schisms, and departmentalized denominations within the ranks of those who profess
to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I don't know about you, but that just boggles my mind.

And it makes me sad.

Because Jesus' heart was heavy when He left here.
This is exactly what He did not want to happen.

And, here we are.
Holding one another at arm's length.
Huddled up in our little, compartmentalized groups, all of us thinking we are the only ones who have it right, and taking a Pharisee-like stance towards anyone who doesn't agree.

I'll be honest.
When I got to the writing of this post, I nearly gave up on this whole series.
Because, as I said above, realistically, I see very little hope of this step ever happening.

There is so much pride among God's people, that, it is hard for me to even imagine a mass humbling.

We are spiritually prejudice.
We look at one another, externally size one another up,
and we draw foregone conclusions, without ever having given each other a fair chance.

I John 4:1 says, 
"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God..."

It says to "try the spirits" to see whether or not they are of God.

The biggest part of the time, we never even reach this step.

Because if a professing brother or sister in Christ is wearing a different label,
worshiping in a different faction or denomination,
and if they look different than us, we automatically assume that we are right,
they are wrong, we are on a higher spiritual plane than they are,
and it is impossible for us to ever have fellowship.

So, we walk away in our pride, and we dismiss them as an enemy,
never even coming close to being able to "try their spirit".

To try the spirit of another, we have to get close enough to look beyond the outside.
The spirit is not visible from the outside.
And while I am braced for the argument that "if the inside of the cup is clean,
the outside will automatically come clean", I am also prepared to burst the bubble
and proclaim that I am not the judge...and neither are you, dear friend.

If the Spirit of God is in you, and the Spirit of God is in me,
there will be an automatic union of our souls, regardless of our "labels".
There will be an instant recognition.
We will recognize It in each other, and the world around us will discern It, as well.

The proof is in the love.

In John 13:35, Jesus said, 
"By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another."

"...the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."
Romans 5:5

I don't know about you, but I have never seen such an "unloving" time among "God's people".

Jesus said it would be this way.
"And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold."
Matthew 24:12

There is too much iniquity going on.
We have allowed the world to infiltrate us to the degree that our love for God
and for one another and for the world around us...has "waxed" stone cold.

Humbling ourselves will require us to lay aside preconceived notions.
It will demand us to look give one another time and opportunity and space 
to reveal what is in our hearts.

If only we would do this!
If only we would lay aside our petty differences...
those things that are negotiable...
for the sake of what is not.

Jesus must weep, as He looks down upon the disarray and our consistent petulance.

What would you be willing to give to see Him hear from Heaven,
and forgive our sins, and heal our land?

Just how important is this to you?
Just how much does it mean?

Do you look around and see the conditions and mourn?
Does it bother you that, while we bicker over the insignificant, and while we dig in our heels against each other, there is a real enemy working overtime to pull our freedom of speech and our freedom of religion right out from under us?
Does it set off an alarm inside of you that if we don't get busy and break down the walls within our ranks, come together in one accord, stop seeing each other as the enemy, and unify our efforts to turn the tide, we will soon not be able to recognize our "Christian" all?

Does this concern you?

Does it startle you enough to do something about it?

We are never going to convince God to heal our land, 
if we do not meet HIS conditions.

It is just not going to happen.

Just how much is this worth to you?

Is it worth enough to compel you to humble yourself....first to God,
then by taking the following steps of humbling to each other?

1.  Ask forgiveness.

Think about it.
Go ahead.
I'll wait.
Do you owe someone an apology?
Your spouse?
Your child?
Your parent?
Your sibling?
Another relative?
Your boss?
Your co-worker?
Your brother in Christ?
Your sister in Christ?
Your pastor?
Your neighbor?
A dear friend?
Have you wronged someone?
Were you dishonest with someone?
Have you cheated on someone?
Did you join in on gossiping about someone?
Is someone hurt because of something you, intentionally OR unintentionally did?
Let's take it a step farther.
Is someone offended at you, even though you feel you did nothing wrong?
Take your time.
Examine yourself.
Think hard.
Is God spotlighting all?
Okay, will you do something for me...or more importantly, for HIM?
For the healing of our nation?
Stop right now, go grab a pen and paper, and write down the thing(s) that are coming to your mind.
Will you do this?
No one in the world has to ever see this.
Just God.
And you.
Make a list, if you need to.
Keep writing, until every, single thing God brings across your mind is written down.
This may take some time.
Take it.
Get it all out.
Transfer every last thing to the paper in front of you.
Now, I ask you bad do you want God to hear from Heaven?
How much does it mean to you that He forgive the sins of our nation?
How deeply do you long for Him to heal our land?
Do you want these things bad enough to right your wrongs?
Look at that list again.
I know.
It's not easy on the eye.
This stings.
This is hard.
This is....downright humiliating.
Ahem...what were we talking about here?
Um...isn't that what God says has to happen?
Who enjoys that?
Who likes humbling themselves...all the way down to a crawl?
How bad do we want to turn this thing around, my friends?
Enough to let go of our pride?
God says we have to do this,
or He won't do what we need the most.
I beg you.
Consider this.
Go to the first item on your list.
Ask yourself some pointed, direct, practical questions.
How can this wrong be made right?
What will it take?
A phone call?
A letter?
An email?
A personal visit?
A restitution?
We don't like that, do we?
Who even preaches on that anymore?
Stop thinking about how this is going to make you look.
Stop caring about what everyone else will think of you.
Wouldn't it feel GREAT to be able to mark off every, single thing on that list of yours?
Don't you want to be free from guilt?
Isn't it time to make amends?
Read Jesus' words very carefully.

"Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, 
and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.  Agree with thine adversary quickly..."
Matthew 5:23-25

Is there anyone with whom you need to be reconciled?
Will you humble yourself?
The sooner you do it, the better.
Time's a wastin'.

2.  Forgive.

"And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: 
that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses."
Mark 11:25,26
It requires humility to ask forgiveness.
It requires humility to forgive.
It isn't easy to let go of a grudge.
Sometimes we nurse them so long, they become a part of us.
Like a security blanket, we carry them around, as we pout.
Did I mention that we are a spoiled church?
Jesus didn't say that we are to forgive only when we are asked forgiveness.
He said to forgive.
You may never get that long-coveted apology.
You may be right.
They may be wrong.
It doesn't matter.
God said that the only way He will hear from Heaven,
forgive our sins, and heal our land, is for us to humble ourselves.
I heard a quote that went something like this...
"Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."
(I found a similar quote by Marianne Williamson so am attributing this to her.)
Unforgiveness is a prison without bars.
Have you ever thought of the depths of humility to which Jesus had to condescend in order to say,
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do", while hanging, bleeding, and dying on an old, rugged cross?
Did the perpetrators of His mutilation and abuse ask Him to forgive them?
Did He need their apology in order to let it go?
Can we humble ourselves and follow His example?
"...for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; 
and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
Luke 18:14
Is there someone you need to forgive?
Isn't it time to let it go?
Can you turn it loose for the sake of God's forgiveness and healing?
Just how much do we want His help?
Will we pay His price?
He will not negotiate.
It is what it is.
Jesus annihilated any excuse we could ever fabricate.

3.  Lay aside differences.

Differences of opinion are what led us to such a divided state.
You know, when it all boils down, 
we have a lot more in common than you might think.
If we would stop prejudging and start "trying the spirits" instead,
we may be pleasantly surprised to find that there are many who love Jesus Christ every bit as much as we do, and who are endeavoring just as hard as we are to serve and please Him.
We may be shocked to discover that even though they worship in a different building with a different sign over the door, down under the exterior that we are so quick to size up,
there is much that we agree upon.
What would happen if we all started focusing on what we can agree on,
instead of what we do not?
What if we cast aside the negotiables...those traditions of men that have absolutely no Scriptural foundation...and came together to discuss what is non-negotiable...
non-negotiable being the Biblically-based absolute truths of God's Word.
What if we elevated our eyes and thoughts to Him Whom we are trying to serve?
What if, instead of exalting our ideas and opinions and interpretations,
we got back to the basics and followed His example of humility and started washing one another's feet?
If something is not Bible-based, if it is simply your opinion or the opinion of someone you respect,
and if it is based on traditions only, would you consider laying it down for the sake of the healing of our land?
Are your opinions that important?
At the end of the day, when you stand before God, how much will they be worth?

4.  Become teachable.

"Be of the same mind one toward another. 
Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. 
Be not wise in your own conceits."
Romans 12:16
Own the fact that you do not know it all, and there is still much to learn.
Be willing to learn from any source God chooses.
He chose a donkey to teach Baalam's lesson, remember?
(Numbers 22)
He got Moses' attention by speaking to him through a bush that was on fire, but would not burn.
(Exodus 3:1-6)
He communed with Jonah as he languished in the belly of a whale.
(Jonah 2)
Sometimes, we miss the whole point because God chooses to send the lesson through someone or something different from what we were expecting.
Within our prideful "brands", we have convinced ourselves that we cannot learn from those whom we perceive to be "beneath us" spiritually.
If we are truly honest before God, He has a way of pruning off that selfish pride,
and bringing us to places of submission where we are willing to be taught by those we formerly deemed spiritually inferior.

5.  Surrender your "right to be right"...
for the sake of a greater cause.

This is a tough one!
But, may I remind you that this is precisely what our Lord did...for us?

"In His humiliation His judgment was taken away..."
Acts 8:33

In His humiliation.
His judgment was taken away.
His rights to defend Himself.
He laid them down willingly.
The King of Kings and Lord of Lords surrendered His rights
for the sake of my salvation....and yours.

"Therefore doth my Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again.
No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. 
I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. 
This commandment have I received of My Father."
John 10:17,18

Should we get by with less?

When I began to ponder this, the dear Lord brought something to my mind...
a painful lesson He once had to teach me.
One that I will never forget.

I was, at the time, involved in a situation that was beyond difficult for me.
Without going into too many particulars, suffice to say, I was doing something I felt God was requiring me to do, while being surrounded by very hard-to-deal-with people.
It seemed that I was contested on every hand, continually making extreme sacrifices, 
while being fought to the limit by the very ones for whom I was sacrificing.

Honestly, looking back, I marvel that I ever came through such an ordeal.
But, God used it...all of it...the bad, the ugly, and the impossible,
to teach me many spiritual lessons.
The whole experience served me well and purged away dross that I wasn't even aware I had.

The learned lesson that I want to share here is the one God called "the last quail".
Let me explain.
While deep in the throes of the above-described situation,
Zach and I were doing school one day, and we began to study about quails.
While all of it was interesting to me, the part I found most intriguing was their pecking order.
We learned that there is a quail who is at the top of the pecking order.
This quail can peck all of the other birds, but none of them can peck back.
The second quail in line can peck all of the birds, except the one at the top of the pecking order.
The third quail can peck all of the others, except for the top two.
This continues, all the way down the line, until you reach the last quail.
This bird can be pecked by every other bird, but it cannot peck back.
At all.
No retaliation for ill treatment.
No revenge for abuse.
No getting even for injustice.
Just surrender.

Immediately, God spoke to my heart, reminding me of my current struggle.

"Child, you are the last quail."


"You are the last quail."

The reality and implication of what He was saying hit home...hard,
Let me tell you, I did not like my placement in the pecking order.
Not one little bit.

I began to argue.
"But, Lord, they are not doing me right!
They totally override my position and everything I try to do!
They act like my opinions don't matter.
They are so hurtful, and rude, and unappreciative.
I try so hard.
It is all so unfair!"

On and on, I droned.

God listened...and waited...until I was finished with my self-defending rant.

"You are going to have to accept that you are the last quail."

That's it, Lord?
No negotiating?

His words to me were final.

I looked at Zach and told him what was going on,
repeating the words God was speaking to me.
He instantly understood.
Bless his heart, he has seen it all...
walked through it...right along with Kevin and me.

He knew.
So did I.
God was right.
I had to surrender my "rights to be right" in that situation.
As long as I kept nursing self and taking offense, peace was going to persistently evade me.
The other people involved were not going to change.
That was obvious.
And, I tell you the truth, they were Biblically wrong in what they were doing.
But, even though they were absolutely on the wrong side of the issue,
there was something I absolutely needed to learn.
God was teaching ME that lesson.
How often He uses other people, strategically placed in our lives by Divine providence,
to teach us what we need to know.
After I finally adjusted myself and resigned to my God-ordained place in that particular "pecking order", a sense of peace filled my soul.
I'm not going to lie and tell you it was easy.
There were moments I was so hurt and bewildered and frustrated,
but, time after time, God reminded me of what He expected of me,
and I finally reached a place where I could just accept that, and it was okay.
It sure made it a lot easier when the inside tug-of-war between God and self was finally over.
What I learned, during my being at the end of the pecking order,
has served me well over and over again since then.
It was absolutely necessary for me to reach a place of "no pecking back".
It was the only path to true peace.

Sometimes, we need to humble ourselves, even when we have done nothing wrong.
Sometimes, we need to humble ourselves when we are right...
for the sake of a greater cause.

There is way too much self on board.
In our quest to protect it, pamper it, and preserve it,
we are creating great divides and canyons among us, 
and we are turning those who are seeking for truth against Christianity entirely.

"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord..."
Hebrews 12:14

"If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men."
Romans 12:18

Why is it so hard to say I'm sorry?
To forgive?
To lay aside our differences?
To become teachable?
To surrender our rights to be right?

It is all a part of fulfilling the first step of God's healing plan laid out in 2 Chronicles 7:14.
There are many other aspects of this, but this post is so long already,
and I feel God saying that this is enough.

Stay tuned for Part Six of "A Spoiled Church"!!!
Coming soon, Lord willing!!!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Spoiled Church - Part Four

"If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, 
and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; 
then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
2 Chronicles 7:14

To read A Spoiled Church - Part One, click here.
Are you awake yet?
Have your senses been jolted?
Do you sense the sifting that is going on among the ranks of God's church?
Can you discern the urgency of the hour?
Are you willing to join me in taking that first "4-3 2 Chronicles 7:14" step towards redemption?

As Kevin and I sat talking the other morning, my eyes filled with tears.
"I just feel like finding a cave somewhere and hiding in it!" I moaned.

Instantly, both of our minds went to a heavily-burdened prophet from long ago...
way back in Old Testament times....
who could not only relate, but who actually did find a cave...and hide in it.

I'm sure you know who I mean.

Remember, Elijah?

The man was weary...of the evil, the rebellion, the lawlessness, the total disregard for God
and His holy law.
He was on the run...being hunted down by the heathenistic queen Jezebel and her wicked husband,
King Ahab.

There was a deeply-embedded hatred in the heart of Jezebel towards the prophet Elijah
because he stood firm for the one, true God of Heaven.
He refused to succumb to the worship of her foreign, pagan, false gods.
This infuriated her.
Jezebel seemed not only to hate Elijah, but to loathe the Spirit of God that resided within him.
She made a proclamation that she would kill Elijah, which put him in the position of running for his life.

As he ran, he came upon a cave, and he hid in it.
Well, I can't say for sure that he was actually hiding...but we do know he "lodged there",
or at least spent one night.

There are so many spiritual nuggets in that story.
But, for the sake of time and length, we'll have to save those for another day, perhaps.
Meanwhile, you can read all about it in the 19th chapter of I Kings.

Now that we are awakening to our conditions,
the temptation is REAL for us to go hide in a cave, isn't it?
There is this lure to roll over, hit the snooze button, 
nuzzle back under our hypocrisy "cover",
pretend all of this is not happening, and lazily drift back to sleep.

And that is precisely what the enemy of our souls is hoping we will do.
Right now, he is feeling threatened because God's people are waking up.

It is always easier to bury your head in the sand than to face the music.

Dear friends, we cannot afford to do this.
Apathetic "ignorance" is no longer an option.
Not this time.
Not on our watch.
This is not the time to be passive.
Complacency must be shaken off.
There is way too much at stake.

We are dangerously close to losing it all.
I believe this with all my heart.

Be assured, this is not fear mongering or scare tactics, 
and the only agenda I wish to promote is God's.

It would be easier...on my flesh, that just ignore the heaviness of the burden God is placing upon my heart.
But, in all honestly, would it?
Because it is weighty.
It stays with me...always.

And if I have learned anything in my years serving the Lord,
no matter how hard something is that He is asking me to do,
it is always easier to be obedient than to walk through life with His disapproval.

I care.
About our nation.
About God's church on this earth.

I care enough that I am willing to take personal responsibility 
for the spoiled condition we are in.
I care enough to "get down to business" with God...
to read His Word with an open heart and mind...
to confess my sins of passivity, indifference, complacency, apathy, carelessness, and negligence...
to take the proactive steps that He instructs me, on a personal level, to take...
and to speak the truth that He lays so heavily upon my heart.

I care enough to obey Isaiah 58:1.
"Cry aloud, spare not, 
lift up thy voice like a trumpet, 
and shew My people their transgression..."

We have failed to cry out, "spared", and held back for way too long.
Too much sugar-coated, watered-down, people-pleasing, ear-tickling "preaching"
is part of our is part of the reason we are where we are.
If we, as Christ's earthly body, do not bring ourselves in line,
things will never change in our nation.

Dear Lord, help us.
Things have to change, and the change has to take place...
in us.

We are now engaged in intense spiritual warfare.
God is sending out a battle cry, and He is waiting for our response.

These two songs are quickly becoming two of my favorites,
as their message really resonates right now.
I hope you will take the time to listen to their words.

If video doesn't load, click here.

If video doesn't load, click here.

Can you hear the battle cry?
Are you ready for one more battle stand?

It all starts with me...and you.
We can afford to wait no longer!
Our Captain awaits.
We have no time to lose.
As the song says, "we must soldier on."

So, without further ado and by faith in God's promise to hear from Heaven, forgive our sin, and heal our land,
we step forward and take our first prerequisite step.
Let's take it together.
Shall we, my friend?
I'll go first.
I hope you will follow.

"If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves..."

What does this humble ourselves?
I really wanted to know, so I began to delve into the original Hebrew meaning.

These are the definitions I unearthed:

to make or become low, 
to humiliate, 
to level, 
to bring into a humble condition, 
to assign a lower rank or place to,
to be ranked below others who are honored or rewarded,
to stoop to a condition of a servant,
to lower one's soul,
to bring down one's pride,
to have a modest opinion of oneself,
to behave in an unassuming manner devoid of all haughtiness,
to confess and deplore one's spiritual littleness and unworthiness,
to afflict one's soul,
to disturb and distress the soul of one,
to submit oneself in a lowly spirit to the power and will of God,
to put to the blush

This first 2 Chronicles 7:14 step of humbling ourselves is two-fold.
There is the part of humbling ourselves before God, which is a multi-faceted process,
and then, there is the issue of humbling each other.

The first one is hard.
The second one, I believe, is even harder.

In this post, we will talk about what it means to humble ourselves before God,
because this step must happen first.
We will devote the next post to the explanation of humbling ourselves to each other.

There was one point in time, in this downward spiral, that I was praying, begging God to allow a different outcome to take place in a certain situation.

I will never forget His words to me that day.

"My people have not humbled enough."

It was one of those trends when it seemed that God's people had become slightly concerned
about the conditions, and they were beginning to show a bit of alarm.

But, it was as if God was letting me know that what few feeble attempts they had made at humbling themselves fell way short.

So, He did not answer my earnest prayers in that situation,
and He allowed just the opposite of what I was asking to take place.
I will never forget how hard I cried, because, even as I prayed for a different outcome,
I knew deep inside, God was saying no to that prayer.
I believe the sole reason for His denial of that request was so that things would
escalate to the point they are now.
Because, we seem to be a people who are slow to catch on.
Things seem to have to reach such an intense peak of blatancy before we ever feel that we need to actually get up and do something.

Did I mention that I believe we are spoiled?
And that our character and disposition has been harmed by our pampering?

We are going to have to humble ourselves, dear friends.

I mean really humble ourselves.
To the point that we are absolutely willing to do anything and everything God demands.
To the point of complete and thorough resignation of selfishness and everything contrary to God's Word.

We are a very proud people, who see ourselves as quite self-sufficient, so this is not going to be easy.
The higher we exalt ourselves, the harder we fall.

Humbling ourselves means that we must...

1.  Admit our true condition.
"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags..."
Isaiah 64:6
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; 
and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."
Isaiah 53:6
"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; 
there is none that doeth good, no, not one."
Romans 3:10-12

Stop sugar-coating it.
Snap out of denial.
We are in one, bona fide mess.
We have completely gone against His Word and His will.
We are self-destructing right before our own eyes,
on a downward spiral towards an abyss from which we will never be able to return or recover on our own, and we absolutely cannot halt the momentum.
We are reeling out of control, and there is no human way of stopping it.

2.  Feel genuine remorse and sorrow for where we are.
"For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of..."
2 Corinthians 7:10

I'm talking about an anguish that bathes the soul with a deep, penetrating shame.
A Godly sorrow that flows from deep within the spirit.
The kind Josiah felt when he heard the Words of God's law being read for the first time,
and the light of it pointed to the enormity of their transgressions.
  The kind that will compel us to repent and let go of our sins.
Picture this.
You have just died...crossed over that narrow, fragile threshold that separates time from eternity.
You now find yourself standing directly in front of the Judgment seat of Christ.
For the first time, you look fully into the face of Almighty God.
It is just you...and HIM.
The brightness of His holiness, righteousness, and purity shines an overpowering spotlight upon your every hidden sin.
How you wish you could return...take that narrow, fragile step backwards,
to the place where the words "I'm sorry" still mattered and meant something.
You realize, too late, that you are not saved.
That, tragically, the day of His grace is past.
You think back over your life and realize that you always meant to take that step,
but somehow you just never got around to it.
And now, He, Who was only moments ago, The Savior, offering redemption,
is now, The Judge, about to dole out your eternal death sentence.
Mercy's door has been for you forever closed.
The reality of His presence, so strong, so intense, compels you to hang your head
in the most profound sense of contrition you have ever before experienced.
For the first time, denial is no longer an option, and you realize, and you fully embrace the fact that you are wrong...and He is right...and He was all along.
Now, that you have pictured that scene and imagined that horror,
own your personal responsibility in all of this, my friend.
And allow that sense of accountability to drive you to your knees for the sins of our nation.

3.  Acknowledge that God is God, and He is our only hope.
"And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in Thee."
Psalm 39:7

We cannot save ourselves.
We can't turn the tide.
The downward-pulling current is way too strong.
We need a Savior.
Someone bigger than us.
Stop trying to figure out a way around this.
Let's face it.
If God doesn't have mercy, we are doomed.

4.  Be willing to do anything He asks us to do.
""I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,
that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, 
which is your reasonable service."
Romans 12:1

Give Him the reins to every part of your life.
Reach a place of total surrender.
Wave the white flag of your will, once for all.
Go deeper with Him than ever before.
Put Him in charge, and make Him the true Lord of your life...
your actions, your thoughts, your motivations, everything about you.
Acknowledge that there is a cause far bigger than your own.
Think about what is at stake, instead of how you may be inconvenienced.
Ask Him how you can make a difference.
Stop allowing fear of what He might ask you to do to hold you back from complete submission to Him.
He will never ask you to do anything that He won't do with you.
Give Him your all.
Make a brand-new, fresh commitment to follow Jesus forever.
Recognize that you are here right now for a Divine purpose,
and selfishness is not a luxury we can longer afford.
Get over yourself and what you want to do with your life.
Consecrate your all on the altar of His will.
If you don't do what He is calling you to do, who will?
Who and what will suffer because of your disobedience?
Is it worth it?

"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time..."
1 Peter 5:6

"So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. 
Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded."
James 4:7,8

We must humble ourselves, dear friends.
This is the first multi-faceted step of the four contingent steps God requires us to take
in order for Him to hear from Heaven, forgive our sins, and heal our land.

Will you take this first step?

I close this post, with a few powerful words from one of my favorite public people ever.

Stay tuned for Part Five of "A Spoiled Church"!!!
Coming soon, Lord willing!!!