8/27/2015 – Brief Thoughts: The Right Battlefield

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12-13)

“Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4-5)

Two playing fields for battle exist for the disciple, and they once again involve the two kingdoms that daily woo his soul. When the enemy presses in he can either choose to do battle in the kingdom of heaven on earth, or in the kingdom of man. If he allows himself to battle against flesh and blood—if he takes up the sword against another, hates another, or refuses to forgive another, he has chosen the kingdom of man as his battlefield—the field where Satan rules. In this kingdom Satan is greater than him, and the battle will be lost. However, if he chooses to keep the battle on the fields of the kingdom of heaven on earth he offers the fight up to God. In this kingdom God in him is greater than he who is in the world, and he wins because God working through him gains the victory. The equation looks something like this:

Kingdom of heaven on earth: God > man > Satan.       Kingdom of man: man < Satan

No matter the offense, no matter the hurt, no matter the personal sacrifice we must at all times keep the fight on the proper field of battle, for it is not the battle we fight for at all. What we fight for is the only thing that ever matters: our ability to personally abide in Christ and bear His fruit in this lost world. Whenever the enemy presses in immediately turn the battle over to Jesus, thereby removing your yoke that is heavy and replacing it with His that is light. The battle that will overwhelm you with its weight on the fields of the kingdom of man is lighter than a feather’s weight for Jesus on the fields of the kingdom of heaven on earth. Gain the victory! Stay on the right field of battle!

8/21/2015 – Mike’s Blog: When the men rise up

WHEN THE MEN RISE UP

“Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.” (Luke 18:5-6)

I’m part of a unique fellowship on Thursday mornings dedicated to seeking the leading of the Holy Spirit, with no agenda other than to seek Him. We open with a prayer for revelation and we marvel in where He leads. Some may think it a stretch for men in modern Christendom to fill five hours talking about God. Hardly. We are never at a loss for material, for these men don’t just seek God on Thursday or Sunday mornings. When amongst men who seek and serve Him 24/7 there’s always material enough.

Though I’ve witnessed amazing things in this group, nothing could have prepared me for a woman of tenacious faith named Barbara [names ficticious]. A mom at the end of her rope, Barbara came along with her son Brad seeking healing for her family. She said her husband couldn’t make it, and her other son Jimmy was curled up in the car outside in the parking lot, no doubt unexcited to join a bunch of “old guys” in one more futile prayer session.

Barbara’s husband had spent his life suffering from severe asthma, and now two sons spent theirs constantly battling severe food allergies that led to constant headaches for Brad and non-stop ringing in Jimmy’s ears. One had told her he didn’t want to live any more. As Barbara spoke and I witnessed the look of pure hopelessness in Brad’s eyes, I fought to hold back the tears. We were all sent scrambling to move burritos and coffee when Barbara informed us just the odors would make him sick.

The family had been to many physicians, including the famous Mayo Clinic. No answers. Having become convinced God would be the One to bring healing, they had also been to number of famous faith healers. No healing. But Barbara was not one to give up. We all knew what courage it took for the first woman to show up at our men’s meeting. Barbara, like the woman in the parable, was fully prepared to wear out the ears of heaven!

We asked her why she had come to a group of ordinary men when the renowned healers had failed. Barbara’s answer pierced me down to the bone! She said her husband Chuck had been told by God to go and find a group of godly men, saying, “When the men pray your family will be healed.” God’s Spirit cried out in mine, “I told them to go find the sort of unrenowned men My Son sought: the fishermen, tax collectors, and doctors who will arise when I call in these latter days to restore My church as they did before. Find these who worship Me in Spirit and in truth, and who gather in community as one to seek Me and act. Go find the men!”

God is calling us out, men, to restore the church His Son revealed. As before, He’s calling us out of our lavish temples and away from our mundane, comfortable existence. He’s calling us out from what too many years of religious freedom and too little religious suffering have reduced us to. He’s calling us to follow Jesus Christ out in to our homes, our board rooms and our coffee shops, to rebuild true Christian community.

He’s calling us out to just be the men of God people like Barbara and her family are looking for—transformed, fully engaged, on fire apostles! The comforts of this world, so abundant for so long, are even now beginning to fail us. These are “only the beginnings of the birth pangs.” There will be a new and desperate hunger for Jesus Christ as calamity increases and the world’s solutions fail us. It will be this new breed of apostles the Spirit will tell the lost and desperate to seek out.

We spent two hours talking and praying with Barbara and her two sons [after praying with Barbara and Brad, we felt moved to gather around Jimmy in the parking lot to pray for him]. I’m not the charismatic type, but I came away from there fully expecting healing because I fully believed we were the men. If Brad’s non-reaction to the food and coffee odors still permeating the room was any indication, healing was on its way. They were clearly not a problem, and Brad’s countenance had noticeably changed.

So thank you, Barbara, for being one of the bravest people I’ve ever met, and for displaying a faith so rare these days. Moreover, thank you for reminding me of the importance of my mission: calling men out of the culture and religion of Laodicea to become the transformed men of His new church. The great Judge is calling out, and searching for, the men of no great renown yet who are ready, willing, and able to declare “Here am I, Lord. Send me” into Your kingdom to grant the lost protection in a world teetering on the brink.

8/14/2015 – Brief Thoughts: Yield signs along the way

“Submit therefore to God.” (James 4:7)

“The bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast, and the door was shut.” (Matt 25:10)

Wouldn’t it be so much simpler if God set up stop signs in our lives at every corner, followed by a directional sign to let us know exactly which way to turn? Stop signs and directional signs are easy to comply with because they provide a simple, understandable command. While sometimes He does give us clear direction, more often than not God puts up yield signs which require submitting to His will when we don’t know what that will is. “Submit” is an entirely different game than “stop” or “go in this direction.” A yield sign indicates we have to choose, and choose wisely. Variables not found in clear commands come with yield signs, and that demands we exercise wisdom and discretion. Most importantly it means we have to exercise faith by pressing on in a direction we don’t yet fully comprehend.

The disciple knows God’s way is more often to ask us to yield than to give clear direction, and so he prepares himself by knowing Him as fully as he can through consistent spiritual disciplines and practices. He spends time in His Word, time in meditations, time in prayer, time with other believers, and time fulfilling his mission and purpose—all in the pursuit of knowing his Lord as fully as possible so he can make the best, and most wise, of choices when asked to yield, and then step out in faith. Like the faithful virgins who had their lamps trimmed when the bridegroom came, the disciple engages in the regular maintenance of his faith rather than suffering the consequences of relying upon crisis management when the bridegroom calls. He rejoices when the choices are simple, but is always ready when the task requires him to submit and yield.

8/3/2015 Brief Thoughts: Living in Balance

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” (1 Cor 6:12-13)

“An overseer, then, must be…temperate, prudent…” (1 Tim 3:2)

Balance is critical to the walk of the disciple. He can engage in many pursuits, even biblical ones, but must not be mastered by any of them. He can throw himself in to mission and purpose [bearing fruit], and ignore his time with God [abiding in Him] which leads to self-motivated ministry, pride, and burn out. Or, he can spend all his time engaged in personal meditations and neglect his mission leading to isolationism, laziness, and the accumulation of knowledge without love. He can be an over-achiever for God and forget to rest in God, or he can over-rest in God at the expense of achieving anything. The disciple is a holy, Spirit-led warrior, and a redeemed sinner. The disciple understands the Spirit makes him run, while at the same time the flesh hinders him. He is a “new creature in Christ” (2 Cor. 5) with “sin dwelling in him” (Rom. 7). At the same moment he needs to exult and repent. At the same second he needs to be bold in his spirit and contrite in his spirit.

We are told to partake in all of these things, but allowing one to master us at the expense of its balancing counterpart inevitably leads to trouble. While understanding all things are lawful for him, nonetheless the disciple knows he needs to be temperate and prudent at all times, seeking the balances in life God desires for in doing so he moves forward with wisdom. He does this because we are told in Psalms111 and Proverbs 9 “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” and living in balance steers us clear of pride and in to a healthy fear of God. When a man allows these balances to temper his steps, he walks in wisdom. The head and the heart function as one, the Spirit and the flesh function as one, and he and his God function as one. Such oneness is not possible if he allows himself to be mastered by living life catering to extremes.

7/29/2015 Mike’s Blog: Here we go again

HERE WE GO AGAIN

 “[Jesus said] ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting…But as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.’ Therefore Pilate said to Him, ‘So You are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king.’” (John 18:36-37) 

 “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.”  (2 Tim 2:3-4)

As election seasons dawn anew upon the American landscape, political dialogue from those who say they believe in God will fill the airwaves, and wherever it is they gather for church, fellowship, or Bible study. And so, as has been my habit since the Spirit opened my eyes to the reality of the kingdom of heaven on earth and it’s true government and purpose, I will speak out in an effort to hopefully sway just a few away from “the dark side.” People engaging in political concerns may hold a belief in God, but I fear they understand not the nature or reality of the kingdom of heaven on earth. They claim to fight for religious freedom, and to restore the Christian foundations that established this country. But all they truly fight for, and in, is the security and comfort of their flesh.

What Jesus said to Pilate over 2,000 years ago [see verse above] is true today. His kingdom was not of this world then, and it is not now. When His people sought to “take Him by [political] force and make Him [a worldly] king He withdrew from them” (John 6:15). His answer to His people who persist in the same futile, worldly effort today is also the same as it was then.

If this is not so ask yourself why, after the countless hours in prayer and billions of dollars spent by the faithful down through time trying to legislate morality on a world loathe to accept it the slow and steady juggernaut of moral decline of the world into the cesspool it has become today has not been stopped, nor thwarted in the slightest? If the thousands upon thousands of times 2nd Chronicles 14 has been preached and followed in prayer hasn’t slowed the steady slide down the slippery slope, why not? To begin with, this passage referred to a time when “the land” meant everything. “The land” was the promise and reward of the people of Israel. It was where God was, and where He was with them. It is no longer so today.

Since Jesus came to introduce us to a new kingdom there is no longer a piece of real estate that should hold our hope. No, we should be “desiring a better country…a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16), that is found by faith in God. That country is the kingdom of heaven on earth Jesus came to open to us, and it has nothing to do with healing any land on earth. The only temple that matters to Him is the one Paul said was in our hearts (1 Cor. 3:16). That is where He is with us, and the indwelling of the Spirit is our promise and reward.

Jesus did not come to see to our religious freedoms. Religious freedoms are what have made of us Laodiceans. He did not come to see to the comforts of our flesh, for comforts of the flesh have turned us in to lovers of money. He did not come to guarantee our kids could pray in public schools, nor to insure we could build lavish temples and fill them on Sundays without fear of persecution, for it is the lack of persecution that has made us superficial and shallow. He came to set us free from our addictions to the comforts and securities of the flesh, the world, and money, and open our eyes to an entirely different government (Isa. 9:6-7) that rules over an entirely different kingdom.

The disciple knows the path to pleasing His King is found in suffering at the hands, and under the unjust laws, of those who rule over the kingdom of man [as Jesus, His King, did], not through “entangling himself in the affairs of everyday life” (2 Tim. 2:3) so he can avoid suffering. If any man ever had a just argument and right to rise up and protest unjust laws and unjust rulers it was Jesus. He was the only truly righteous, lawful man who ever lived and He was unjustly tried, convicted, and crucified. But true to Isaiah’s prophecy, and counter to the practices of those who engage in politics today, “He did not cry out or raise His voice, nor make His voice heard in the streets” (Isa 42:2). Also true to Isaiah’s prophecy, in spite of His unjust murder “He will faithfully bring forth justice.”  It will not be the justice those who join worldly kingdoms to fight spiritual battles are looking for, because His justice is not found in the comforts of the flesh, nor an easier life for our children or ourselves.  His justice is found in victory over the world, and that comes with suffering in the flesh as He did. It is not found in entanglement with its systems.

God knew that along with the freedom of choice He grants all of the people He created there would be two kingdoms operating on this earth. They would be as opposed as Spirit and flesh (Rom. 8), because one would be ruled by the Spirit and one ruled by the flesh. Therefore, He had to establish two forms of government that would likewise be diametrically opposed in every way. While we are commanded to pray for earthly rulers, and we are commanded to submit to their laws: just or unjust [like Jesus did], nowhere are we told to trust in them, hope in them, or join them.

This world will not be saved. America will not be saved. Only souls can be saved, and that requires our total fealty to the real King of the real kingdom. We are to be good soldiers who fight for them, not who enmesh themselves in political causes and candidates. I fear those who do cannot see, and do not understand the kingdom of heaven on earth. They try to straddle a fence that cannot be straddled, and are effective in neither kingdom because they allow the counterfeit to sap their time, energy, and focus away from the genuine article that demands their time, energy, and focus. Here we go again.

7/19/2015 – Mike’s Blog: Tip of the Spear Update

TIP OF THE SPEAR UPDATE

Back in December of 2009, in a blog entitled “Homosexual Attack,” I first warned the forces of evil would use the homosexual movement as the “tip of its spear” to bring down organized religion. I wrote the downfall would come through the loss of 501c3 status, and the possibility of facing criminal charges leveled through hate speech laws as well for any religious organization that spoke out against homosexuality. I said I didn’t know when it would happen, I just felt a certainty that it would. With the Supreme Court decision recently to legalize same sex marriage that has become a very real possibility [please see article below], so I felt inclined to write this update.

I also wrote in that article, and maintain today, I do not consider the sin of homosexuality any worse than any other, so I don’t want this to be seen as gay bashing. Anyone who knows me also knows this is certainly not a call to arms for our Christian political activists, because “good soldiers of Jesus Christ do not become entangled in the everyday affairs of men.”

https://stream.org/supreme-court-imposes-sex-marriage-you-could-lose-your-church/

There are a few new aspects, in addition to the article, that are the reason for this update:

  • I wrote earlier it would be the homosexual movement that would be used by the forces of darkness to bring down today’s church. I am not so sure now as I was six years ago whether it is God or Satan orchestrating it. Just as Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem the Jews had come to worship thousands of years ago, it is a possibility God is orchestrating, and a certainty He is allowing, this attack on the temples we worship today. I applaud bringing down organized religion and its temples regardless of who is orchestrating it, so the true church of Jesus Christ can finally be revealed.
  • In response to a post on my Reconnections Friends FB page, a brother suggested this will also be used to attack the head of the religious snake: our seminaries. Any seminary’s life blood is, like all aspects of modern Christendom, money. That comes in several forms, but the primary one the federal government is the puppet master of. That is accreditation. All educational institutions in the country have to be accredited by the Department of Education, an agency openly hostile to biblical precepts, if they want to qualify for student loans. Accreditation also allows incoming students to transfer credits from former institutions they have attended to new ones they want to attend. Without either of these critical capabilities a seminary’s money would quickly dry up. Up until July 1, 2010 both government and private sources made student loans. But then Barak Obama changed all that by making any future student loans the business of Uncle Sam. This is not surprising inasmuch as Obama has made it clear he wants to make everything we say, think, or do the business of Uncle Sam.

What are our seminaries going to do when the homosexuals begin applying for gay housing, and other acknowledgments and rights? What are they going to do when classes in the history if gays in religious movements, and other such courses, must be offered in the interest of “fairness”? Any seminary that does not bow to these demands will be stripped of federal accreditation, and therefore denied the money they need to operate. When you buy in to the world’s love of money, you become the puppet of its puppet masters. Organized religion, from the head of the snake down to the tail, has bought in hook, line, and sinker, and now the puppet masters must be paid homage to.

  • Finally,  there is a second upper-cut that will follow the tip of the spear. The tip will be followed by the shaft, which will be the worldwide financial collapse soon coming that will finish off the ornate campuses we call seminaries, and the even more ornate temples we call churches.

The forces of evil are moving rapidly now, and have become a tidal wave that cannot be stopped. God has abandoned America as a nation because America long ago abandoned Him, and we are about to feel His just wrath. Hillary Clinton will win the White House, because the forces of evil now boast far more voters than the forces of good. The rapid slide into evil and lawlessness begun by Obama and his minions will only continue and worsen under Hillary. The election of the first woman president will result in a return to the Garden of Eden, when Adam first stepped back and let Eve rule. The results will be no less catastrophic.

Get ready to strap it on, people. “He is not for Jesus will be against Jesus, and He who does not gather with Him will be scattered.” Anyone who will not totally forsake the love of money and the love of this world, and indeed the love of his own life will succumb to what’s coming. Anyone who wants to hold on to his worldly goods will have to bow the knee to Big Brother in the coming times. Anyone who puts their hope in America, its laws, and its politicians will be in for a very rude awakening.

As I have said many times though my flesh quakes at the thought of what is coming, my spirit cries “Bring it on!” “Oh that you were hot or cold, but because you are lukewarm I spew you out of My mouth” (Rev. 3). Anything is preferable to life here in Laodicea.

7/10/2015 – Brief Thoughts: Outside the Camp

“Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp.” (Ex 33:7-8) 

 “But when [the Jews] resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.’” (Acts 18:6)

God’s true church is always found operating outside the camp of organized religion, because men inevitably try to take a God they cannot possibly fully comprehend and fit Him into their tidy boxes they can understand. Those boxes that begin with spiritual boundaries typically end up taking the form of physical outlines we call churches. But they are not now, any more than the temples the Jews built and worshipped were then. God refuses to be put in any box that can be comprehended by men, just as He refuses to be found or followed at a time and place that is convenient to men.

Our Lord is always on the move—always about that “new thing” He is doing. This is why He said through the prophet Isaiah, “Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new! Now it will spring forth. Will you not be aware of it?” (Isa 43:18-19). It is why Paul said, “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on” (Phil 3:13-14). When we try to put God in our boxes called organized religion we attempt to keep Him confined to who we perceive Him to be, not who He actually is or evolving in to what He will mean to us as we grow and progress. Jesus is constantly in the process of growing His disciples, and that growth never takes place in what was, but what is and will be as those new things for us take shape. That is why, for the disciple who truly seeks the Lord, life will always be found a “good distance” from temples and religions of man, and far, far outside their camps.

7/4/2015 Mike’s Blog: God’s Relevance in the Age of Disbelief

 “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’ and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”'” (Ex 3:14)

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.” (Matt 5:17-18)

As religions of man constantly water down the message, the truths, and the person of Jesus Christ in order to make Him less intimidating and more marketable, and this so they can attract more seekers, claim more converts, and build bigger buildings to appear more successful to the world, the phenomenon of God being defined by our perception of Him grows. Many have come to the point where they believe God is impacted by those perceptions because many, like the Laodiceans of Revelations 3, have created a lesser god they believe to be the Real McCoy who is indeed defined by perception rather than reality.

One of those false perceptions instituted in an effort to make Jesus less intimidating is the abolishing of the law in favor of grace. This is not the case, for He could no more abolish the law than He could abolish Himself. The law and grace were one in Him (John 1:14). Jesus was the Word [the law] made flesh (John 1:14). If Jesus came to abolish the law, then He would have been “a kingdom divided against Himself” (Matt. 12:25), and such kingdoms cannot stand.

Due to our sin nature, every man has a slightly different perception of reality and truth. Because of this our mandate as believers is to “bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:15), and this because we are daily confronted with deceptive paths Satan and the world try to lead us down. But God’s identity is truth in Him, not illusion dictated by what our perceptions make Him to be. Per our example because we desire the law to be abolished, and this so we can live in fealty to our own desires and not obedience to His commands, does not mean it is abolished. Truth is never abolished.

Every time truth is embellished or changed, the result is never as truly attractive or satisfying as the original. This is abundantly evident in the failure of what we are serving up as Jesus to excite the men in the pews. The less they see to engage them, the less relevant God becomes to them. But does that mean God is becoming irrelevant? God has no mandate to conform to our perceptions in order to remain relevant. If God’s relevance were to be measured by everyone’s perceptions of Him we would live in the spiritual anarchy of the polytheism of the New Ager, and God would cease to be the Great “I AM.” He would then become the lesser, “We Are.”

The only people Jesus will become irrelevant to are the ones who misperceive and misunderstand Him. The Bible repeatedly and consistently tells us these will be “many”. With the same consistency, the Bible tells us those who accept and live in the truth of properly perceiving Him will be “few”. Regardless of what the many do, and how many millions or billions that may be, Jesus did not come to save nations and worlds, He came to establish His new temples within the hearts of individuals. He will never be irrelevant to His few, His “remnant” that He always keeps for Himself. He will remain relevant to them because they will be the few who see through the lies and deceptions to believe the truth.

The only destinies that will be impacted by our beliefs surrounding God are our own. It is our eternal relevance that will be established by God’s perceptions of us, not the other way around. Therefore, any false perceptions we may hold are not a “Him” problem. They are an “us” problem. If the Gospel becomes irrelevant in America it will be an America problem, not a God problem. He is the ultimate arbiter of what is true and what is not. He is the final and indisputable arbiter of what is relevant and what is not. That is because He is the living, everlasting, unchangeable truth and we are a mass of contradicting beliefs, perceptions, and subsequent delusions.

Paul the great Apostle said, “For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted. But the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness [our illusions] and disclose the motives of men’s hearts [where illusions begin]” (1 Cor. 4:4-5). Paul was saying he was the worst possible arbiter of his own condition, as are we all, and that until the Lord makes the call we wait for the truth to be revealed and then trust and live according to His judgments.

Reigning as the existent truth, God does not need to prove Himself to us. He merely sends the Spirit to convict us of who He “is”, and allows us to either accept or reject that. To those who worship an illusion the battle is lost already, for they never knew Him nor He they. John tells us God seeks those who worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). To seekers of truth who worship Him thus, He will never become irrelevant regardless of the false perceptions generated through popular cultures and times. God will forever, simply and profoundly, “be”, and the law that He both gave and is will likewise “be”.

We will come to know Him for who He is or we will not. But regardless, it will not affect His relevance, irrelevance, existence, law, or “truth” in any way. As we move through time towards the end of time on earth, and religions pews become more and more full of what Michael Wells used to call “unbelieving believers,” the only ones made relevant or irrelevant, saved or damned, by our perceptions and beliefs will be us. Jesus Christ, the “truth” (John 14:6), will remain the same yesterday, today, and yes forever (Heb. 13:8). Will we get on board with the way, the truth, and the life or will we suffer the consequences of being swept up in the age of disbelief? That will be the ultimate “us” question, because God has already determined who He is. And while what we think of who He is does matter to Him, it matters not the slightest concerning Him.

6/28/2015 Brief Thoughts: The Greatest Character Trait

“Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.” (Ps 51:8) 

 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:3)

 

There is one prayer I believe God wants to hear above all others, because there is one affliction He hates above all others. There is one condition of the heart God treasures above all others, because it is the condition that provides fertile soil for everything else He desires to accomplish in us. Without this heart condition nothing else is possible within the kingdom of heaven on earth, and with it nothing is impossible. It is the first of the Beatitudes, and its evil twin the first thing God hates (Prov. 6:16-17). It is the goal of the cross, and everything that happens afterward. It is what opens, and thereafter keeps the door open to the kingdom of heaven on earth, and after that eternal life. It must be the disciple’s diligent quest and constant companion, for it will keep him from his diligent and constant enemy. It is therefore to be treasured above all other character traits in life because without it faith, hope, and love are not possible.

The character trait of which I speak is humility [or brokenness], and to maintain it is the lifelong challenge for the disciple. It is why he is commanded to “deny himself, and take up his cross daily” (Luke 9:23). There is no pride on earth as persistent, deceptive, or deadly as Christian pride because it finds its roots in all of the “good” things the disciple is supposed to be about. It is the trap of the mature, because the closer one gets to Christ the more good works he is driven to do, and the richer are its fields. I believe there exists no prayer God desires to hear more, nor is there one more dangerous or that takes a greater commitment from a man than these three simple words: “Lord, break me.”

6/14/2015 Mike’s Blog: Contemporary Worship Survey 2015

THE SONGS OF LAODICEA

It has been a few years since I last posted a survey of the contemporary Christian worship music that thousands, if not millions, are singing in their cars, homes, and churches across America every day. Songs influence our thinking in powerful ways, because music has a way of filtering through our conscious mind [the guard at the gate allowing what is right and turning away what is wrong] to our subconscious mind [where influence takes place whether we want it to or not]. After recently completing an updated version, including approximately 3 hours of listening to the most popular Denver Christian radio stations, What I suspected I would find, I found. We are indeed living in the age of Laodicea.

For those who haven’t been following my blogs, that means we are pursuing the model of the church at Laodicea in Revelations 3. Laodicea, like America, was an environment rich in wealth and all it buys: comfort, security, and convenience. This environment led its people into thinking they were “rich, wealthy, and in need of nothing.” However Jesus examined their deeds [the real proof of what anyone truly believes] and responded, “You are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.”

What Laodicean environments like the one we’ve enjoyed since the end of WWII always result in is the delusion that comes from too much pampering of the flesh, and not enough challenging of the spirit, inevitably culminating in the fashioning of idols that allow people to think all is well when it’s not. The church at Laodicea obviously had done this, inasmuch as they thought they were in good standing with Jesus when He had a decidedly different take on it. What I call our “American idol” is the idol of grace.

An idol is anything, anyone, or any illusion we fashion and place above the true and only God as our object of worship. In this case it is an illusion—a part of the real and true God we extract from the whole because it is comfortable to us. The Pharisees extracted the law from God, and it became their idol. Today we have extracted grace from God, and we bow to it. Again, it is because grace is comfortable, and comfort is what Laodicean environments lull us in to seeking. Ah, but Jesus, the God of “grace and truth” does not allow us such comfort, and so the truth part must be done away with so we can continue living the illusion without conviction of the truth.

There is no group of leaders in Christendom today that has bought more in to the idol of grace than our worship leaders, as the survey will document. In a way this is understandable because worship is such an emotional thing. Grace scores high on the emotional scale, while truth wants nothing to do with it. Truth is, and it cares not how we feel about it. Truth cannot be altered, and that is why in Laodicea it must be done away with. Jesus always confronted people with truth, even as He loved them in grace. Together they make a powerful team. But take either part from the other and you have the model of Christianity yielding the tragic polling results today, or the Phariseeism Jesus encountered that yielded equally tragic, yet different, results in Israel.

Understanding some of this is subjective in nature, and different people performing the survey would probably come up with somewhat different results, the overall message is not debatable. The survey is divided up in to two parts: How God’s character was referred to by individual song [one per song], and then how that character relayed into how He felt about us [each time the characteristic was mentioned]. As one of the popular radio station’s mantra states, the way God’s character was revealed was most certainly “positive and encouraging.” God was referred to [see survey attached for specifics] over 40 times in a positive light: merciful, loving, gracious, comforter, friend, good, etc.

He is indeed all of these things, but is that the whole truth? Truth demands the entire story be told, not just the parts that make us feel good. How about singing about some of His other equally true characteristics? How about singing of Jesus as our judge? Will that not be an important part of what He does? Will that not matter to us? John 5 states, “Even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son.” In 2 Timothy 4 Paul states, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead.” In a scene in Revelations 19, we see Jesus coming from the clouds on a white horse, “judging and waging war clothed in a robe soaked with blood.”

These and many other verses portray Jesus as the One who will come judging in truth. No more grace will be extended to men at that point in time. The truth of our words and our deeds alone—that all important fruit of the Spirit we bore—will determine the outcome. What of this Judge of all mankind do we find in contemporary worship? How many times did I hear Jesus referred to as Judge? Only once, and that was to reassure all who bowed to idol of grace God was not a God of judgment.

How about the One to be feared? Again, from John 5: “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father.” The word for “honor” here means to fear or revere. In Luke 12, Jesus is telling people whom they should truly fear, and it is Him: “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!” Paul tells us to work out our salvation in fear and trembling in Philippians 2, and Peter instructs us to conduct ourselves in fear while on this earth in chapter 1 of his first epistle. These and many other verses speak of Jesus as a God to be feared even as He is loved, yet how many references did I hear songs exalting Him in this light? None. Not one.

And how about Jesus our commander? There are approximately 60 verses in the NT referencing Jesus or the Father commanding us, and yet how many times did I hear Him referred to as commander? None. How about the just One? Ditto: zippo, notta, nil. The lopsided, myopic vision of Jesus as loving, graceful forgiver to the exclusion of all else cannot be denied.  Behold our idol of grace: the whole God of the Bible stripped of truth, judgment, and the reverence so richly due Him.

How were these characterizations displayed in the lyrics concerning how Jesus sees us? Again, reference the attached survey for specifics, but they are equally lopsided. Some of the highlights: I heard how beautiful, perfect, flawless, and valuable I was to Jesus 28 times [this in itself is an illusion because I am not. I am redeemed, but a sinner nonetheless], about His forgiveness and grace 35 times, and [wait for it] about how much He loved me 100 times! All totaled, I heard 220 “positive and encouraging” messages. But what of that One I should fear? What of that One who commands me and requires obedience? None. And while I heard song after song concerning salvation and coming to Jesus, how many times did I her the word “disciple”, or “discipleship” mentioned? At the expense of sounding redundant: Zippo, notta, nil.

The gold standard for those who call themselves Christian, and the goal for all who evangelize, preach, or teach the Gospel is one. It is stated in the Great Commission: Go make disciples…who observe all I command.” There is no lesser standard. Jesus did not command us to make converts and then warehouse them in our temples. He said we were to make fully functional citizens of the kingdom of heaven on earth, and there was never a lesser acceptable mark. But do we in Laodicea herald that, or any uncomfortable “truthful” aspect of our God in modern worship? Do this survey for yourself and you decide.

Let me make it clear I have no problem with people singing about the positive and encouraging aspects of God, but the imbalance here is beyond disturbing and ample evidence of how we have fashioned a Laodicea idol, and now worship him rather than Jesus.

There are other disturbing trends in contemporary worship, and I will follow up on those in my next blog. Until then, I hope we will all consider the truth of the God we serve, as well as His grace. The idol of grace is a small, impotent god who cannot provide men with the challenges they require to remain engaged, and this is to a large extent why they have become so disengaged in what modern religion in America is serving up. The God of grace and truth, while definitely uncomfortable at times with His dismantling rebukes and admonitions, is in the end imminently more exciting and worthy of our attentions…and our worship.