The Church of the Future

2 Thessalonians 2:3, Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion (apostasy) comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction (ESV).

1 Timothy 4:1-2, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared (ESV).”

The apostle Paul provided us an insight into what the future would hold for the church. His warnings were not written because he had nothing better to do than to try and scare the believers of the 1st century. The church was in its infancy, yet the problems were already present. Just about every book revealed another aspect of what they faced, and the issues were real.

For example, in Romans, he reveals a great deal of doctrine, but he also pointed out the reality that sin in the life of the believer was real. It would not be eradicated in this life but we could be thankful that we, as believers, would not be found to be under any condemnation. Nothing would separate us from the love of God, who had adopted us into His everlasting family.

Could anything have prepared the early church for the events that transpired in Corinth? Despite the debauchery that was a part of the Roman Empire being found in the presence of brothers and sisters in Christ, Paul had to remind these precious believers that although many had participated in various sins, they were now clean. They had been washed in the blood of the Lamb and justified. Their accounts had been settled and they were no longer enslaved to the slimepits of the world in which they once loved to wallow.

The problems that were addressed were game-changers. As each scroll must have been unrolled, read, and shared, each local body of believers had to have rejoiced that their names were truly written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Paul picked up his quill though and continued to warn each group.

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To the believers in Thessalonica, he lovingly encourages them by pointing out that the Lord had not yet returned. In fact, one of his greatest joys was the testimony that this local assembly had before the inhabitants of the city, and yes, even beyond the region in which they lived. This was a group that did not allow their testimony to wane. Were they perfect? Were they super pious? Did they live on some spiritual plateau where they had become free from the ensnarements of sin? No, no, and no! The Thessalonians were real people facing real threats from an empire that hated the God of the Bible first.

However, Paul then gets another parchment and writes to a young pastor named Timothy. This letter is different. He gives pastoral counsel and godly wisdom for how this young man can shepherd the flock of God carefully, biblically, prayerfully, and lovingly.

In the middle of this epistle though, Paul uses a phrase to show the importance of what he is about to share. “The Spirit expressly says…” We understand the inspiration of the entire Word of God, yet, under that inspiration, his words point out a solemn truth that was meant to be a word of warning to Timothy.

When I began teaching in a ministry capacity over 25 years ago, you would not have been able to convince me that the blood-bought church would be where it is at today. Were there cults to deal with? Yes, of course. Were books being written based on, at best, shady theology? Again, we affirm that there were such books.

However, had you told me that so many churches and even entire denominations would depart from the faith in such record numbers, I would have struggled to believe such a thing to be possible.

To have been told that the proliferation of local assemblies would involve being willing for many ministers to become a Judas and sell-out their testimony and the Word of God for the purposes of entertainment or for profit, I would have told you that you were crazy.

Believers have gone from a hunger for the Word of God to having itching ears. They want to hear nice platitudes that make them feel good about themselves. Churches no longer want to hear about sin, righteousness, and the coming judgment. Padded pews keep people comfortable while they learn how to have a higher level of self-esteem. We are now so full of ourselves in many churches today that there seems to be a self-imposed moratorium on the Holy Spirit’s working in our midst.

Today, an overwhelming number of pastors and churches are more interested in hearing “Judge not!” from each other than they are interested in hearing God say, “You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting. Judgment is coming!”

Above all else, we have smoothed sin over to the point where churches are looking for ways to embrace it, instead of calling sinners to repentance. Step on board a blogsite, Facebook post, Twitter feed, or whatever medium you choose and dare to speak out and proclaim the truth of God’s Word. It won’t take more than 4 or 5 minutes before people who have never spoken to you before arise from the dark mists of the internet to shout you down. “How dare you judge?” “Who do you think you are? God?” “We are called to just LURVE everybody without question!” Et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

And the words of the Spirit to the church at Ephesus rings out saying, “You have left your first love. You no longer hold Christ preeminent over all others and to the exclusion of all others.”

Sadly, the clarion call to repentance has mostly fallen on deaf ears and now we have truly become closer to the model of the Laodicean church, “You are neither cold, nor hot, but you are lukewarm. I will vomit you out of my mouth.” There is not one good word that is ever said about the church at Laodicea. They had passed the point where there was no turning back. The writing was on the wall.

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Today, I look at the 21st century church and realize that the 1st century church would not recognize us today. They would probably wail with despair realizing that we are not prepared for persecution. From the pulpit to the pew has capitulated to the world so much that some may well be willing to sit in the arena looking down on those being sacrificed to the lions.

It is heart-breaking to realize that if and when persecution comes the words of warning will fall on mostly deaf ears. Brother will turn against brother, children against parents, parents against children, and so-called believers against true believers as they ignore the reality of the dangers that were there all along.

Dear believers, if you are not willing to stand for something, then you will fall for anything. We must seek forgiveness from our Lord and with humility dust off our armor. We need to prepare for the fight of our lives and become like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress when he was willing to face the dangers of Vanity Fair.

The world mocks our “standards” when they look just like the standards to which the world adheres. Why should they want what we claim to have that makes us special if we look the same on Sunday as we did while partying with the world on the Saturday before? If our music, words, actions, and attitudes look no different week after week, month after month, and year after years, then we cannot claim to worship and adore the only One Who has the power to make us a NEW creation in Christ.

God does not save us to leave us wallowing in our sins. That simply means that the world can change to accept all the wickedness it wants. Even, the so-called church can accept all the evils of the world and call evil to be good or good to be evil. However, the day will never come when it is acceptable to God.

To conclude, the 21st century church of the future is failing as the church for the present, and they are a far cry from the church of the past. Are there any who will mourn when our children reject biblical Christianity because of the hypocrisy they see from parents? Will any be willing to weep as did Nehemiah over the sin that surrounded him? Will those who are true believers recognize that while Paul recognized the sin within his own life that grace abounds so that we no longer have to live as slaves to sin anymore than he did?

My prayer remains that God will begin a work of revival within my own life and heart so that I will be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. Then, I want to see the Holy Spirit move in a way that helps other true believers realize that there are still 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal. The end result is that when those who come after us look back, I want them to say with full confidence that the church of the past left a testimony for the true Church of the Future!

Thoughts on Fear

I’ve been pondering lately what makes people afraid. To fear is to not trust God but the average person would not give that as a reason for their fears. I know, in my life, my biggest fears have been due to thinking God would not intervene in a bad situation. The bottom line was that I wanted what I wanted and I did not want to accept the fact that God may not give me what I wanted. (How selfish is that!)

In talking with a friend recently, I realized that fear in some people may have to do with knowing that one is not right with God. Maybe they fear God will do bad things to them because of how they are living, or maybe they’re afraid of dying because they know that they are not ready to meet Him.

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If this is the root of your fear, it is not too late to repent of your sins and ask God’s forgiveness. God did not give you that spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). He desires for you to walk in faith and victory, completely trusting Him in everything! This is not impossible.

When one knows that there is nothing hidden in their life that is displeasing to the Lord, he or she can lay down that fear and walk in complete trust, knowing that God will take care of them. Sure, disappointments will still come. We will still face financial stress, sickness, death, and a myriad of other things but we will also be able to say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him” (Job 13:15).

I am praying for strength to trust Him more than ever this year. This past few years, I’ve dealt with more fears than I remember dealing with previously, but I know in reality that nothing can happen to me that my God doesn’t allow. I am continuing to learn to rest in that. I pray that you are too.

Sin Has Consequences

“That which is has already been, and what is to be has already been; and God requires an account of what is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:15).

I feel like, in many churches, more emphasis is placed on God’s forgiveness as opposed to His holiness. I am so grateful for God’s mercy and forgiveness, but there are often still consequences to the fleshly decisions that we make. This is one reason that it is important to walk in the Spirit so that you do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).

I don’t believe that God causes bad things to happen to His people but He does allow them, and sometimes it’s to remind us that sin has a price. Like most parents, He doesn’t give children instructions to be mean; He can see what the ravages of sin looks like, and He desires to spare us those things. He didn’t tell Adam and Eve not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because He didn’t want them to taste something good; He saw the destruction and devastation that would cause, and we are still reaping the effects of that today.

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As you look at your life and see the various sins and struggles you deal with, think about the effect those sins have on others. Even if no one knows what sin(s) you struggle with, everything is naked and open to God (Hebrews 4:13) and, if you are His child, and it will not be hidden forever.

If I end up writing more about this this year, it’s because I believe it is the message of 2017. Each year brings us closer to Christ’s return. We can’t afford to ignore His call to stop what we are doing, lay down the sins that so easily beset us, and follow Him. We must encourage others to do that as well but our words will have no bearing if we are not living that self-denying life.

I am writing to myself as well. The year is still young. I want to be faithful to allow God to show me my heart and the things which displease Him and trust that, at the end of this year, I will be closer to Him than ever before as I allow Him to rid me of myself and fill me with more of His love, peace, joy, patience, gentleness, self-control, and every other attribute that reflects Him.

I dealt with some physical challenges last year, and this year is starting out rough but, if I can do nothing else, I pray for God’s help to use the down times to listen to Him, hear what He would speak, and share those words with you.

Praise the Lord For He is Good!

Praise ye the Lord! O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good: and His mercy endureth forever. Psalm 106:1

The Lord is worthy of all praise. Whether we are going through easy or rough times we know that He alone is the worthy one. As the days draw nearer to the end times we see the world falling apart. Praise the Lord for He is good! We see people we thought were godly and standing for truth suddenly fall away to heresy. Praise the Lord for He is good! We see an ungrateful generation who think they are owed everything. Praise the Lord for He is good! We see a generation that has no natural affection and are truce breakers and unholy. Praise the Lord for He is good! We see loved ones turn on us and break our hearts. Praise the Lord for He is good!

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Whatever we are going through, we, as true believers, are told to give thanks to the Lord and praise Him no matter what happens. How can we be thankful to the Lord when the hard times keep rolling our way? Give thanks and praise to the only One Who deserves it. Learn contentment even in the midst of trials. Let’s look to the Lord when our heart is breaking and there is no one who will listen to us or when we can’t tell anyone what is going on in our lives. Praise the Lord for He is good!

As we go through life we can’t expect we will be trial free. Sometimes the trials feel like they are more than we can bear but we must cast all our cares on the Lord. He knows what we need and He will give us strength to make it through. Don’t wait until life is falling apart before you praise the Lord. Do it in the good times and the bad. Do it whether you feel like it or not. Praise the Lord for He is good!

Beloved of God

And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent.  ~Daniel 10:11

And said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong.  ~Daniel 10:19

I admit I’m a bit different in the way I think sometimes. Words jump out at me and send my mind to wandering. As I was reading the Book of Daniel a few weeks ago, I was struck by the angel calling him “greatly beloved.” To me, that speaks more than just, “You are loved.” “Beloved” means “adored, cherished, treasured, highly regarded, esteemed, much loved.” Daniel held a special place in God’s heart, and God wanted Daniel to know that.

We all know that God loved the world that He gave His Son but it seems like there are some who hold an especially close place in His heart. With Moses, God talked face to face (Numbers 12:8). At one point, God stated, “I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated” (Malachi 1:2-3). He called David a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22). I’m sure there are more examples I could give, but you get my point.

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I don’t write this to begin a doctrinal dispute. I just feel like it’s easy to take God’s love for granted and to think that, since God loves us, He will love us regardless of how we live. I want to study the lives of people like Moses and Daniel and David and find out what it was that made God pay special attention to them. They were just men and yet each one of them had a heart that was fully toward the Lord.

I pray that God will find me drawing ever closer to Him, that nothing will be more important than spending time with Him and taking time to hear what He would speak. I pray that pleasing Him would be my goal before anything else. I pray that He would say to me, “O daughter, greatly beloved, I am here.” I can’t think of anything that speaks peace more than that.

Having A Tender Heart

As I’ve gone through my life I’ve found many times that my heart has been hardened against the things of the Lord. Before the Lord drew me to Himself, my conscience was pretty much hard and cold except every once in a while. Then, I would have a glimpse of what would happen if I continued on the path I was traveling.

After salvation, I was still quite a bit like a worldling in most everything. As I watched my husband and learned a lot from him, who’d been saved for awhile, I began slowly changing in areas. He read a lot of theological books and I wanted to learn so I began reading them. There were many times I stopped reading, struggled for awhile and then grow hard and cold again. The Lord sent trials my way and I’d realize how cold I’d gotten. I had been so immersed in my own self that I never even saw what had happened and the stagnation within my own life. My heart was no longer tender towards the Lord and it would take awhile to return to tenderness towards the Lord.

Many churches we went to made a call for the conscience but not a call that would bring my heart to a tenderness towards the Lord. It was normally done to make me feel guilty over something I was doing (or not doing) that would prove to the leadership that I wasn’t spiritual enough. Some of the things were valid points but most weren’t.

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Sadly, a lot of churches and even believers can be very dictatorial over what is spiritual and what isn’t. We find, in evangelicalism, that rules or the lack thereof seems to take precedence over Biblical truth. So many churches that claim to be preaching the truth only tend to preach a portion of it. It’s easy to add a little error to truth but a little error makes the truth nonexistent.

The example Mark Anthony Escalera used about the barrel of apples is prime. If you have a barrel of apples and one is poisoned how will you know which one to choose? You might grab the first one and it could be clear of the poison but how will you know? Eventually you will grab the wrong one and pay the price.

So, how do you know which church has the poison, the error mixed in with the truth, and which doesn’t? Well, the Word of God is there for our learning and, as we grow in faith and in the knowledge of the Lord, we will have our senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Heb. 5:11-14. The Word of God has both truth and principles to follow in our lives. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” The Holy Spirit makes it plain to us.

The poison can apply to either churches that add extra to God’s Word or say that God’s Word is irrelevant and you can do whatever you want or that all roads lead to heaven. As we study God’s Word regularly and feast on His truth, let us be mindful to exercise our senses to discern good and evil. So many are headed in a direction that goes contrary to God’s Word because they refuse to read and refuse to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in such areas as is important for their walk with the Lord. May we be of that number who “might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that we might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:”

As we journey in this life towards the next, our hearts need to be tender towards the Lord. The strength of tenderness towards the Lord is where our relationship with Him grows. As we desire to do His will as well as do it, our hearts are exercised in obedience towards Him. Next time you visit a church the questions should not be — What can I get out of this? Or…is the music my style? Do they have great programs here? How long do services last!

Instead, ask these questions, Is this church teaching the Word of God in its entirety? Am I seeing the sin within my life and being convicted of it? Am I becoming more like the Lord Jesus Christ according to the Word of God? Am I able to discern if the leaders are teaching truth or error? May each of us be always tender towards the Lord.

Old and New

Normally, at the beginning of the year we ask ourselves, How can I get rid of the old and begin anew? What can I do differently in my life? Where do I need to go from here?

In the Bible we see a lot of places that talk about the old and new. We see that after salvation we are new creations in Christ and we are to put off the old man and put on the new man. We know that we need to put away the “leaven” out of our lives and follow the Lord. The old and new can be represented by either “old” is bad and “new” is good. Although sometimes “old” could be better than “new” if it’s in the way of wisdom.

As we go along further in our walk with the Lord things grow harder. These are times that we are to keep something that is old instead of replacing it with new. The things the Lord places in our path is always necessary and good but isn’t always new. Even in 2nd John, the writer tells us that it’s not as though a new commandment had been written but it was from the beginning.

When we fail a test placed before us then the Lord brings that situation back into our lives, not necessarily in the exact same way but close enough to the original situation that we almost have to say, “This seems to be a deja vu type situation. I already went through that so why am I going through it again?” Going through the same type situation doesn’t always mean that it’s about the same test, either, even though it could be.

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Our hearts tend to grow cold and distant towards the Lord when things go our way. We tend to want our will to be done not the Lord’s will. This, of course, isn’t unusual as it’s part of human nature. Doing our will instead of God’s will should, though, be unusual for a child of God. We each have sinful ways in our hearts and lives that have to be changed and conformed to the image of Christ. We are not exempt from both general suffering and discipline given us from the Lord when we follow our will.

However, going back to the old and new. The Lord guides our hearts in what we’ve learned in the past and builds on those areas at the present and future. Each thing we’ve learned is a grace the Lord has worked in and through us within each situation. We can either grow to be more like the Lord or stay stagnant, which eventually causes us to lose ground. This means the trial we go through will be even more difficult and we will need to work even harder on those areas we’ve lost.

On a more personal level, I find even in my own heart that the further I go in my walk with the Lord, the more dependent I need to be on the Lord. The example was made of a man being on an airplane about to go down. He was given a parachute and the other passengers, who didn’t have one, made fun of him. They tried every way they could to get him to take it off but it only caused him to cling tighter to the parachute knowing the plane was going down and that was the only way he would be saved. Friend, whoever you may be, if you are a true believer cling tight to the Lord through all your trials. Yes, this is a poor illustration but the idea is still the same. Do not let the things of this world allure you away from the Lord. Remember this “airplane” is going down and we should be more like the Lord today than yesterday and tomorrow more than today.

The question was asked, Where do I need to go from here? The answer is simple. Depend on the Lord, wait for Him to guide your path, follow His will no matter who deserts you, makes fun of you, persecutes you, or even tries to wheedle you into leaving the “parachute” behind, so to speak. No, we can’t leave the Lord as He has adopted His children into His family, but we can sure be like His disciples and deny Him or even follow the world for a time. May His grace, from everlasting to everlasting, be ever poured out into our hearts so we, His true children, will do His will always no matter what comes our way.