Until Jesus Comes

Repent. Pray. Read your Bible. Pray. Believe it.  Pray. Be changed by it. Pray. Live it. Pray. Continue to repent, read, grow and live out God’s truth. Pray. 

Wait a minute.

Wait just a minute. Those things are yesteryear’s way. Our way today is so much more stupid enlightened. We don’t need all those old-fashioned ways.

Do we?

The church will never change the culture until the truth of God’s Word changes us. Churches all across America (and, indeed, the world) have bowed to shiny idols and sacrificed to Satan. We’ve said we believed Scripture but we’ve lived as if we don’t. We’ve rejected the clear teaching of Scripture in so many areas. Holiness? Godliness? Obedience? Ugh, all so very old-fashioned. We’ve embraced do-gooding as a substitute for growing in the fruits of the Spirit because it makes us feel as if we’re doing something. We’ve stained Truth with a more gentle man-centered approach, an approach we’re sure that Jesus Himself would have taken if He’d had the privilege of living in our modern, more compassionate, society. We’ve gotten all hyped up on a hefty dose of self-esteem and thought if we could just teach that, it had the potential to change things like nothing else ever could. We’ve put away the teaching of the Narrow Way and deemed those who believe that God’s Word is inspired, inerrant and infallible as harsh, judgemental and out of touch with the path of the modern church. But that’s alright, that’s okay. Because doing all of this has gotten us where we are today.

Just where we want to be.

Where is it we are going now?

The result of our wandering from truth is that we find ourself lost in a morass of Christ-less churches and moral decay.

We can’t achieve godliness without knowing God. We can’t know God without reading His Word and spending much time in prayer. We can’t follow Him and be His hands and His feet to this generation without repentance. We’ve made excuses for ourselves long enough; worse, we’ve made excuses for God. “God didn’t really mean….”, “The Bible says that but what it really means is….”.

Either we are for Christ or we are against Him, there’s no other option. We can’t say we are for Him and live for ourselves, ignore His Word or twist it to our satisfaction.

If we are for Christ then we have to believe what the Bible says about Him and about us: He’s the only Savior and we’re great sinners in need of Him. What His Word says is true.

Always.

As important as many issues in the church and in our country are, we can’t save anyone by focusing first and foremost on our government, marriage, family, children, abortion, modesty, poverty or any other area we’ve poured our lives and dollars into. I’m not saying those issues aren’t important, indeed their importance cannot be overstated. But to try to remedy what has gone wrong in any of these areas without beginning at the Cross is to make a bigger mess of things than has already been made. Those are the “hows” of being Jesus’ hands and feet. The why is the same thing it has always been: the Cross of Christ.

If we get the message of the Cross right, if we believe it, act on it and obey it then, suddenly, everything else falls into place.

But how can we do that? It seems too simple. And too hard.

How? By realizing we’ve been wrong. By throwing out all of our man-centered teaching. By destroying our programs, our manuals and all of our Christ-less books and falling on our faces in repentance.

By continuing on with our repenting, reading, praying, obeying.

By keeping on repenting, reading, obeying, praying.

Then more praying, reading, believing, obeying….

And keeping on and on and on with it…and only it…until Jesus comes.

 

 

Those Who Would Preach

I’ve sat under many a wimpy preacher. Men who cared more about their style and presentation than they did the Word of Truth. Those who carefully polished every expression, every word so as to receive a certain reaction. Men with a 100 different ties in their closet so that they never had to wear the same one on any given Sunday throughout the year (truth!). Men who didn’t understand the Father, were afraid of the Lion of Judah and unfamiliar with the Holy Spirit but who preached anyway (though not well). Those who thought it novel to use entertainment as a mode of presenting God’s Word. I’ve sat under men who cared more about the Sunday dinner waiting upstairs in the “Fellowship Hall” than they did piercing the hearts of men; those who were apt to dismiss quickly if their favorite team was playing that afternoon. I’ve listened to men who stepped up to the pulpit promising to proclaim the Word of truth only to let us know how very afraid of it they were themselves (“I never ask for wisdom. To me that is just plain dumb. You know what is going to happen: you’re going to hurt! I’m not that brave.”) but who were quick to try to hold others to standards they themselves couldn’t even begin to comprehend.

I’m tired of such preaching. I’m tired of most of what passes as preaching today. I’m tired of having my time wasted. More importantly, I’m tired of having the Word of God profaned by those who claim to know it but don’t and who twist it to their, and our, destruction. I’m sick of sitting down to worship only to have my time with my Lord invaded by frivolity, by endless stories that draw no one to holiness, by sickening attempts to tie God’s truth into modern culture (want the truth? The Word of God doesn’t need to be made relevant to modern culture; that “culture” will fade away. Only God’s Word lasts; it is IT that we bend to, not it to us.) All that such preachers are doing is feeding the flesh and that never helped anyone live a holy life here or make it to heaven in the end.

I’m not a preacher. I’m not even a man so I’m not even qualified to preach. Thus, I can’t speak to preachers man-to-man (nor would I want to try). Yet, I’ve seen these things first hand (over and over) and I must speak out. Lest you think it is a problem limited to one congregation or to one denomination, allow me to digress a moment: I’ve lived a rather vagabondish-life (not my desire) and because of that, I’ve been a member of many, many different congregations and several different denominations. Rarely have I found a church which doesn’t suffer from these problems with their preacher(s).  It is a problem that is caused by widespread ignorance of the Word of God.

I have a son who has been called to preach. It is my desire that he be as unlike the men I’ve referred to as night is from day. That is his desire, also. He immerses himself in the Word and he prays. He seeks out proven writers (frequently the older ones) and listens to the bold-for-the-truth preachers and he learns. For now, he is safe. But what will happen “out there” when he is among others who are “called” to preach? When he is sitting at the foot of men who are supposed to be teaching him to understand God’s Word? I’ve thought much about this. I’ve spent much time in prayer over it. I’ve known young men who went to seminary who came out pretty worthless and I’ve known men who have never formally studied who handled well the Word of Truth. With that in mind (and with much prayer), I offer the following advice both to my son and to others whom it might help:

Before you decide to preach, find out if you can do anything else (anything else at all) and if you can, do it for you haven’t been called by God to open His Word to His people or to the lost. If you are sure that preaching is where your heart is, get a heart check by those who know you best; perhaps they see something in you that you yourself cannot see that might disqualify you or delay you from being immediately qualified. Most importantly seek God’s will on it; if He has called you, He will prepare you and you will have no doubts and neither will anyone else.

Once you are sure, bury yourself in God’s Word and in prayer (which you ought to have been doing all along); if you don’t hunger for the Word and for time with God in prayer, now is the time that you must go to Him and ask forgiveness and seek His help. Learn to be with God in praise, in thanksgiving, in petition. Understand that intercessory prayer, while important, is the lesser of prayers; the greater is simply praising God and asking to know Him. Pray that God will bring you to the point where you simply want to be in His presence as often as you can and as long as you can (and that you come to desire to return there again and again). Beg Him to open His Word to you so that you might have knowledge of It, might understand It and have wisdom to live It, teach It and apply Its truth in all ways. Ask for spiritual eyes that you might see as God sees and a heart that loves, and hates, as His. Ask to be made holy, godly and righteous (and the wisdom to know the difference). Teach your mind to rest on the things of God. Spend the night watches meditating on His Word, meet the morning with Him in prayer.

Seek to be Spirit-led rather than seminary-taught. While seminary isn’t necessarily wrong (and can be very right if you find a God-directed one), a bad one can get in the way of you knowing and understanding God’s Truth. In that case it is far better to immerse yourself in the Word while asking that the Holy Spirit teach you (as He has many other preachers who have blessed this world). Who better to teach God’s Truth than the Author Himself? As you study, pray. As you pray, study. Pray that the prompting and probing of the Holy Spirit might be a reality to you always. Let your sins break your heart. Let the fact that you are a sinner with sinful desires continue to break your heart. Let the sins of the world, of the church, bring you to tears. Most of all, pray that your heart might be pierced through that your Lord isn’t everywhere honored (as He so richly deserves). Pray to love Truth and to hate every false way. Doing this will equip you better than those who boast far more credentials than you but who pray much less. (But if God sends you to seminary-GO!)

While preparing to study, while studying, after studying while preparing to teach, go to God and ask Him to break you and take all worldly desires from you (that of money, success, popularity, the flesh); ask that He do whatever it takes to make you a man after His own heart. Pray for spiritual discernment (for there is little among preachers today). Repent daily of not loving Him enough (for surely you don’t nor can you ever do so), repent daily of known and unknown sins; let nothing come between you and Him. Ask God to bring you to the place where He is not the number one thing that you desire but all that you desire (so that you could live without anyone or anything else if only you have Him). Let all  of your relationships bow to yours with God (for then you will be a fit son, a loving husband, a good father, a kind friend, a servant to all and an able expositor of the Word of Truth).

When the time to preach arises resist all urges to incorporate worldly ways into your message; that has long been done  and God’s people have suffered much from it. Keep the Cross central in your message always; begin there and end there. Pray before and during preparation and then pray again before you preach; ask the Lord to know His Truth and to be wise in your words, pray that hearts might be readied and be pierced, and be bold in your denunciation of sin. Pray to be kept humble. Preach only to please God. Your human listeners are not who you are ultimately preaching for; your Audience is an Audience of One. God Himself is the One Whom you must please with every single word that comes out of your mouth (and out of your heart). You will give an account of all that you have said in the pulpit (for we all will give account); preach that you might face Him having preached to honor Him.

Preach every sermon as if it will be your last to deliver or your people’s last to hear for it well may be. When your preaching is over, pray that God might use the words that you have delivered to His glory alone (and never to yours). Pray for humility as you gather words of praise from those who have been blessed; pray for wisdom and discernment as you gather criticism from those whose ears weren’t itched by your message. Then, as others go off to play and to talk of things of the world, retreat to a place where you can be alone with your Lord and seek His face and prepare for the time when you once again are used by Him to open the Word of life to those to whom He has drawn. Then, and then alone, will you be an able preacher.

 


Brothers, get serious about being a Husband and Father by Gene Long

Husbands, the chief purpose of your life is no longer for you to love God and glorify Him forever. Oh brothers it is so much deeper than that. Your chief purpose is to ensure that you and your household, your wife, your children, along with yourself, would love God and glorify Him forever. When your wife stands before the judgment seat of God she will answer for her sin. When your children stand before the throne they will answer for their sin. But when you, brother, stand before the judgment seat of God, you will answer for your sins, your wives sins, and your children’s sins. Do any of us even slightly fathom the responsibility that is upon us as husbands?

Scripture speaks nowhere of being one flesh with your children, nor with your neighbor or with God. You are pronounced to be one flesh with your wife. And you are commanded to lay down your life for your wife alone. This is your ultimate ministry.

What greater privilege could a man have? Would you dare go through your day without taking the time to study God’s Word and pray as a couple and family? Will you lazily sit watching American Idol while your children are left to find their own way? Anything in your life that displaces your role and duty to your family is an idol and it is sin. Football, hunting, cars, boats, television, politics. Do these take from the sanctification of your children and wife? What example are you setting for your sons and daughters?

Brothers, do you wake up in the morning to serve your family? To teach them, admonish them, encourage them? Do you lie down at night in prayer for the souls of your loved ones? Praying for wisdom and strength and diligence that you might be the man that God has called you to be. Think on these things. What can you do to make your home a place of sanctification?

*Perhaps you would bring your family together around the table for meals.
*Stay at the table after supper and have devotions together. Bathe your family in the Word of God. Write it on your doorposts.
*Cut the cable to the TV.
*Get you budget in order and give more to the Lord so that you may bring your wife home from work.
*Homeschool your children. Build a hedge around them as you train them to be soldiers in God’s army.
*Commit your family to gather weekly with the saints in corporate assembly and do not allow excuse.
*Honor the Lord’s Day in your home.

Deeply contemplate your commission as head of your home and cry out to God for help. Quit you like Men! Lead, provide and protect your family with authority from God, but let that authority be exercised with gentleness, grace and love.

Procreate! God tells us to be fruitful and multiply and proclaims the man blessed who has his quiver full. Give your wife children for which she can nurture and care. Pursue zealously the opportunity to create God honoring men and women from your home.

Brothers, get serious about being a husband and father. Nothing… NOTHING, in life outweighs your call to lead your home in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord. May your motto be,
“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!”

A Call For Godly Men

A few months back, in response to my article “The Christian Life Is Like…a Box Of Chocolates?” I received the following reply. It touched me and I contacted the writer, Al Hartman, and asked permission to quote him. He  graciously granted it.

“Perhaps (judging by the described table conversation) the ladies got what they expected, which would be very sad. But the root problem lies not with the ladies themselves, but with the men of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ, who both teach and display the example of faithful living for all the people of God. Generally speaking, when professing Christian men congregate in a manner similar to that Anna describes, they talk is sports, cars, careers, kids in college, etc. Ministry in such gatherings is weak at best and too often farcical. Men who ought to be leading their homes in discipleship have settled for regarding the church as a social club.

Now this abdication by men shouldn’t keep women from being godly, but without God-ordained leadership from husbands and fathers women aren’t rightly instructed in godliness.

We men look to the leaders of the church for our living examples of Christian thought, speech and behavior. Sadly, there is scarcely anything exemplary to be found in todays pulpits– not none, but far too little. We have the Scriptures of course, and the biographies and writings of men of God through church history, but few alive today are instructing us in what and how to read and study.

We need preachers and teachers who so trust God for their livelihoods that they are unafraid to call sin by its name and to instruct, exhort and admonish the faithful, without concern for loss of attendance numbers or income. The “church building fund” should be comprised of Scriptures, not dollars, for the church is made up of God’s children, not of construction materials.”

Men of God, it is time to bow down to pray and then rise up to lead God’s people in the ways of godliness. We have been without an abundance of godly leadership for so long. Much of what has poured forth from our pulpits and from our homes has been a strange mix of feminism, gnosticism and paganistic self-help and has led us on the pathways of death. It is time for a change. Now is the moment for action; it is now that God’s Truth must be proclaimed. Bury yourself in the Word and teach us from the over-flow. Spend the night watches alone with God. You only lead well when you lead from your knees.

Whether in the pulpit or at home, your sisters in Christ need you to take a stand for the Truth of God’s Word. We need to hear it boldly proclaimed. Teach us that God takes His holiness serious; help us to do the same. Be an example of pious living. Teach us to be faithful to our Lord so that we might hate sin. Show us how to pray continuously. Help us to love God’s holy Word and to rightly divide it by comparing Scripture with Scripture. Reintroduce expository preaching. Let us know that each verse of Scripture has a meaning; help us to find it and understand it. Remind us that when we get away from the Word of God, we get away from God Himself.

Teach us to pray. Help us to hunger for the presence of God. Explain to us that prayer isn’t just intercession and that it is much, much more involved than an acronym could ever cover. Show us how to carry everything to the throne of God and then, trusting Him, leave it there. Show us how to praise Him, love Him, hunger for Him. Teach us to just be with Him. Show us that praying continuously is not only possible but wonderful. Teach us to wait before God.

We need to hear that you care about being the husbands and fathers God has commanded you to be. Our young men need a guide; it can be you. Teach them to pursue God before they pursue anything else. Teach them to be men of God, to be godly husbands and fathers, to be leaders of God’s people. Teach them to boldly take a stand for righteousness. Encourage the older men to do the same; encourage them to be teachers whom the younger men can respect. Don’t be afraid to speak out just because no one else does so. Every movement of God had a beginning; let it start with you. Without you, we will continue to fail.

Satan has lied about womanhood and we have listened. We are listening no longer. We hear the Voice of our Shepherd and we are following. We need your prayers for us as we seek to become godly women and embrace the life that was meant to be ours. We need you to preach, to teach, to guide us in the area of biblical womanhood. The world that hates us for being what God has called us to be; we need to hear that our efforts at rediscovering godly femininity are appreciated. Teach us the worthiness of our roles. Teach us that modesty must flow from a heart that is set aside for God. Teach us to take a stand for truth. Show us that virtuous womanhood means much to you and even more to God. Don’t be afraid to be strong.

O brothers, we are counting on you. We cannot do this alone. We can take back our homes and our churches one man, one woman, one family at a time. Women can be the examples to their families and to other women but if we seek to take the leadership in their families or in the churches we will once more be sinning. The onus to lead is on you–the man of God. Please, I beg you, take it seriously.

 

By The Way Of The Cross

All of our life must be grounded in Scripture. What do we think about? How do we dress? What do we watch? How are we entertained? How do we spend our time? How do we relate to others? This and so much more, must be held up and examined in light of God’s Word.

There is no room for “I know…but…” or “It’s just that…” in the life of a Christian. We cannot justify our sin when we stand before the cross. God’s Word alone is to be our guide. Not our emotions. Not what others say. Not what some preacher or teacher who is not ground in the Word has said. God alone. God alone. God alone…He is all that matters. He alone is everything. We ought to know that but, so often, we don’t.

Too many preachers, too many who profess themselves to be teachers, too many husbands have failed to bury themselves in the Word of God so that they might lead their people, their families. This is sin.

A husband must guide his wife and his children to God. He does that by way of the cross. A pastor, a teacher, must guide those under them, those listening to them, to the cross. It is there that we see our great sin and God’s great grace.

Without a full understanding of our sin, we will never understand God’s love. He sacrificed His Son for us. Because we are so vile, we would have had no hope otherwise. Outside of the cross there is no hope.

Why then has the message of the cross been reduced and replaced? It is because we have put ourselves front and center. It isn’t Christ that many professing Christians are worshipping. It is themselves.

We must get back to the cross and see ourselves for what we are. We must see our sin in light of His glorious holiness. He has called us to holiness. We are content with the gutter.

It is time for a change. When we come to the place where we see every single sin (even the “little” ones or the culturally acceptable ones) as an affront to our holy God, we will begin to grow in holiness, godliness and righteousness. Then and only then will we impact our families, our churches and our culture.

The place to begin is the only safe place there is: go to the cross and stay by it. See yourself as a sinner and unworthy; see Christ as perfect and completely worthy.

Many have long been misled by those who claim to be guiding them in the study of the Word of God. These teachers will be held accountable for their failures. Those who know, who see the problem, must repent and set things right. The time is now. The place to start is the cross.

 

Dads Standing In The Gap

I think you’re making a big deal over nothing,” Landon said. “Sarah is going to feel uncomfortable if you make her dress different from the other girls. A regular swimsuit is fine! She is going to be swimming, Sarah, she isn’t meant to be fully dressed. Why do you have to make such a big deal out of everything?”

Marcie started to respond but was halted by the searching eyes of her 15-year-old daughter. Part of Sarah wanted to please her mother and part of her wanted to be like everyone else. Marcie could see the struggle written on her face.

Marcie wilted inside. She knew that, due to Landon’s stance, she had a battle looming before her. Being like everyone else would, in the end, simply prove irresistible to Sarah.

When men aren’t led by biblical commands, they become followers of the culture that surrounds them. When a man bows to the whims of the world rather than to the Word of God, he is at the mercy of a populace gone mad. This is bad enough if he is single, it is devastating if he is the head of a family.

Man was designed by God Himself to be the spiritual head of his family. He is responsible before God to lead them well. For the generations grown up on popular entertainment and modern mores, the dedication to the truth of God’s Word is sometimes nebulous. When one hasn’t been taught that the Bible is the foundation of all truth and, as such, ought to be the guide for all that we do, it is easy to be swayed. It then becomes normal to view the Word of God through the lens of modern culture rather than the culture through the lens of God’s Word. Christian piety is then sacrificed on the altar of modernity. “Hath God said?” becomes “But He didn’t really mean….”

Little girls depend on their fathers to help define them. If he treats her as worthy, she will one day seek a man who treats her as worthy. A Dad who encourages his daughter to dress immodestly in order that she might “fit in” is doing his daughter no favor. He is encouraging her to esteem herself, and more importantly, God, too little. Giving her few, if any, boundaries on her clothing makes it easy for her to make the wrong choices. When she then dates the kind of boys such clothing will attract, many dads are shocked and wonder what happened. He cannot see it was his lack of godly leadership that led his daughter to make poor choices.

Dads have long been asleep. A walk into the doors of the local church will reveal much about the integration of culture into a group meant to be set-apart for God. The shedding of clothing among those who claim to be Christian, shows that, while the lamb of God is proclaimed, however weakly, it is another god that is truly served. That god, whether it be the god of popularity or the god of self, cannot save. Dads had an obligation to prevent this kind of mutiny against a holy God. They failed.

A girl attired in sexy clothes will begin to see herself as sexy. So will those around her. This will have a devastating impact on how she is treated throughout her life. A good man wants a certain type of woman. A boy of questionable quality wants another type altogether. It is a dad’s obligation to actively prepare his daughter to be a good woman who is worthy of a good man. One way to do this is to be actively involved in helping her choose clothing that glorifies God. Dads should never buy into the lie that fashion is neutral. It isn’t. There is no neutrality anywhere in this world. What is not of God or for God is against God. Fashion that glorifies the body isn’t glorifying the Creator.

It is the father’s job to know the Word of God and to actively proclaim it to his family. He is responsible before God to make sure that his standards for his family are pleasing in God’s sight. It is so easy to fail in this. Dads often look around and give up. Other men who ought to be fighting, aren’t. The church doesn’t take a stand. Fashion is blatantly sexual. His daughter is pulled by the drifting tide of worldliness. What is a man to do? He is created by God to lead his family according to God’s standards. He is to do this even if no one else does. Too often he looks the other way and leaves the guidance of his daughters to his wife. This is sin. He compounds it when he then interferes with her efforts to guide her daughter in dressing decently.

Dads have a God-given responsibility to stand in the gap for their family. Are you standing in the gap for yours?

 

Anna Wood

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