Friday, September 24, 2021

Are You In "Mere Men" Status?

"Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment." (1 Corinthians 1:10)

Is it even possible for we believers to be in agreement, have no divisions among ourselves, and be made complete in the same mind and judgment? Well, just by observation of today's church you wouldn't think so! But Paul says it is possible. It's Scripture! Paul has been informed that people of the church are quarreling over who to follow. Some are saying, "I follow Paul." Others are saying, "Well, I follow Apollos." It's no different today. "I follow this nationally known preacher." "I'm of the Baptist camp." Others say, "I'm Church of God." It's funny how I hardly ever hear someone say, "I am a follower of Jesus Christ." Or, "I'm a Christian"! I once heard someone say, "I'm a Baptist, not a Christian"!

Paul was determined to set the folks at Corinth straight. His point is that Jesus is our salvation, no one else. There are those who can preach Jesus well, but we shouldn't follow them, we should follow Jesus. Even as we obey the Great Commission and make disciples of the nations, the disciples we make should be followers of Jesus, not of ourselves. Some Pastors, Preachers, and Teachers are intent on gathering followers for themselves, or for their church/denomination. On the other hand, I'm grateful for those who not only lead folks to Jesus as they follow Him, but lead those to follow Jesus, not themselves. This is effective, kingdom leadership! We need more of it.

Here is the problem with gathering people to build our own kingdoms. It produces extremely immature sheep! This was Paul's point. That's the problem with too many of our churches: a lack of growth to maturity. Listen to how he put this. "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not mere men?  What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth." (1 Corinthians 3:1-7) (Underlines added by me.)

Division in the church (this kind by following men, not Jesus) makes us "mere men" according to Paul. Mere men don't change the world. They make up numbers. They can raise finances, but they don't change the world, by changing lives. In the case above, Paul couldn't even speak spiritual things to them because they were walking as "mere men". Paul understood that this kind of division would prevent believers in the church from growing to maturity in Christ. He had the solution. "Be imitators (followers) of me, just as I also am of Christ." (1 Corinthians 1:11) There it is! Follow me as I follow Jesus. Watch me, and you'll see how to follow Christ. But the attitude of many is "Watch me! You'll see I talented I am. You'll see how great I can preach."

You may have your preferences, and that's OK. But if you're exalting your preferences over Jesus Christ, you're heading for "mere men" status. A church filled with "mere men" makes up a powerless church. It may be large, medium, or small; but it will also be powerless. It may be impressive, but still...powerless. However, a church filled with folks who are committed to following Jesus as the leadership follows Jesus, is a powerful church made up of "spiritual men". Of course, that includes women, boys, and girls too.

Paul made a very interesting statement: "God who causes the growth." (See above.) Do we get that? God causes the growth, not man. When you and I are intent on following Jesus, not a man or men, or a church or a ministry, God will cause us to grow. But in order for us to be successful at following Jesus, we need help from folks, churches, and ministries who encourage us to follow them...but only as they follow Jesus. This again, is true, Biblical, and effective leadership. Man can be impressive and draw people by their impressive talents. But man alone cannot cause growth in the body of Christ.

My heart for my children has always been that they see and pursue Jesus, because they see Connie and me pursuing Him. Some parents wonder why their children turn away from following Jesus. In more than a few cases it's because the children have heard one thing, and seen another growing up. Nothing blesses my heart more than to see my children loving, following, and serving Jesus, because they learned by example, not by lecture alone. That should also be the heart of any Pastor, church, or ministry. Those who understand and practice this are producing maturing followers of Christ through whom God is using to impact folks in powerful ways.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Right Before Our Very Eyes

With all that is happening in the world, it's pretty easy to see Bible prophecy unfolding right before our very eyes. It's very difficult not to see that we are well into the end times, and that Jesus' coming is very near. Whether He comes on my watch or not, there is no denying that we are clearly witnessing what the Bible says will happen as His coming draws very near.

The fact that Jesus might not come in my lifetime is not an excuse for me to pull back and cruise through this life, living according to my on personal agenda rather than God's. On the other hand, He could very well come in my lifetime. That's how close we are. The truth is, if you can see the signs of the times, you also see that He is near. The signs (Bible prophecy coming to pass) should convince anyone in their right mind that Jesus is real, and is very near. And, whether at His coming, or our meeting Him when we leave this life, we should always live for that day. We should live to be ready!

Bible prophecy unfolding before my very eyes gives me a peace that transcends understanding. Why? Because it is proof that God is not a liar; that He speaks the truth. It confirms that even though heaven and earth will pass away, what God said will stand. Being true to His Word makes God trustworthy. He avails to you and me many precious and powerful promises in His Word that He will bring to pass, if we simply believe what He says is true. "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?" (Numbers 23:19) 

Unfortunately many Christians can't discern the signs of the times because they don't know and stand solidly on His Word. They are living more for the world than for Jesus. I'm not trying to sound harsh in saying that. But if you are living for the world, that's the way your life goes; according to the world! The things that happen in the world affect your life, more that what God says about your life. You are moved by those things, but not by God's Word, because you don't know His Word. You think within, "The world has been bad before, and it's no different in our current times." Yes, the world has been bad since the moment the serpent deceived Adam and Eve. However, one who is living for Jesus every day will recognize those events that the Word of God specifically says will take place as we draw nearer to Jesus' return. They will be seen to them as Bible prophecy being fulfilled before our very eyes!

The first coming of Jesus was prophesied for thousands of years, but His own people didn't recognize the time of His coming. "He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him." (John 1:11) God had raised up and sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for His coming. How did he do that? By preaching the Gospel of Jesus. "The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached......." (John 16:16) Sadly, the religious rejected John the Baptist's message. But many who were considered outcasts from the religious society of the day did receive John's message. And most of those who received John's message received Jesus. "But as many as received Him (Jesus), to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name..." (John 1:12)

It's not much different today concerning Jesus' return. The only difference is that the church has been established to be the body of Jesus in the earth. And the main responsibility of the church is to propagate the Gospel of Jesus, and make ready a people who are living for Jesus, and looking for His return. As followers of Jesus, they live by the Word of God which clearly describes what to look for as His coming draws closer and closer with each tick of the clock.

I don't claim to be an expert in Eschatology. But I do study the Word. Do you? If God said certain things would begin to take place toward the end, we should be able to recognize these events being played out - right before our very eyes. What has taken literally thousands of years to prophecy concerning Jesus' return will consummate in an extremely short period of time. If you are basing your perceived timeline of Jesus' return on the timing of events of the past, you may be surprised. Things are escalating on a pace much faster than ever before. And things will continue to escalate even more rapidly in the days ahead. Hence, my point in this post. Know what the Word says, specifically about the things that will happen as His return quickly draws closer. We are most definitely in the last days. Matthew 24 describes the events that must take place before the great tribulation. Those things are already happening - now. Don't think you will be snatched out of here at some point just because you made a mental ascent to a 20 second prayer. That prayer should be (or have been) a life-commitment to serve and follow Jesus all the days of your life. Included in our commitment to Him should be our preparation for and our expectation of His return. Be on the alert my friends. Look at the signs of the current times and observe. Be ready. Know Jesus. Know His Word. Expect His return very soon, and live accordingly.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Light In The Darkness

I may ruffle a few feathers with this post, but I simply want to speak the truth. I'm more concerned about the church functioning in a manner that changes lives, circumstances and nations, rather than acquiescing, and never making a difference. If I can exhort you, then I feel I am being effective. On the other hand, if I can rile you up a bit, then I feel I am being effective. But if I shut up, neither will happen, and the church will continue to flow with a world that continuously moves farther and farther away from Jesus, the head of the church.

I won't say I don't want to be critical. The fact is, Biblical truth may set you and me free, but it is quite often critical, pointing out areas in which we can do better!

So, when should the church make the greatest impact in a godless world? In my humble opinion, it is when the darkness is the most pervasive. It's when sin seems to abound more than ever. The Apostle Paul said in Romans 5:20 that the Law caused sin to abound, because it declared you and me unable to attain to God's standard of righteousness (the Law itself). He said that where sin increased, grace increased even more. Of course, Paul is referring to God's grace being poured out on you and me through Jesus. But there is a very powerful Spiritual principle here. The darker our world becomes, God's grace in us, increases even more to reach those who are still bound to the darkness. You are a vessel of God's infinite grace.

Stated another way, the darker the night becomes, the brighter the light in us IS. The light in us is designed to always exceed, and overpower the darkness. We, the church, are the light of the world. If the light doesn't shine, the world remains in darkness. "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:14 - 16)

I was so blessed to see the church taking the love of Jesus, which is the light of the Gospel, to the city of Portland, Oregon recently. There was opposition from a terrorist organization, but these truly Christian men, women, boys, and girls stood their ground as they stood in praise to Jesus. Hearts were touched. Lives were changed. Souls were saved. Bodies were healed and set free from drug and alcohol addiction! Is this not what the church should be doing? The world is already trying to debunk this event. The religious are already trying to crucify. However, what was was done IS done! Now there are vacancies in hell because the church was not missing, but ever so present in a devastated and ravaged American city.

At the event in Portland I noticed a unity among those worshiping Jesus that has been absent from the church. It wasn't the cohesiveness of another gathering. It was the unity born out of lifting up Jesus and sharing His love in an area controlled by the darkness. There was purpose there. Godly purpose gives birth to the unity of the Spirit. The darkness had no power because the light overpowered the darkness!

If you are a born again Christian, God has a purpose for you. NO ONE is called by God to no purpose. What is that purpose? It is to live wholly for Jesus and always seek God to make a difference. Jesus called it "being the salt (not of heaven) but of the earth." Jesus also referred to Himself as the "Light of the world". His light can only be shone through His purchased vessels, His church. The Apostle John said that Jesus is "...the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man." Jesus came into the world over 2,000 years ago. Now He lives in those who have surrendered their lives to Him. The only way He can light up the world is through His blood-bought church.

I am convinced that God's church is beginning to awaken. People are beginning to realize by the Spirit of God the enormity of the call upon their lives to be a follower of Jesus. Many are beginning to understand, as a result of seeking God's face, the power of the God they serve. There is nothing menial about our God. His arm is not so short that He cannot reach into any situation through His church. Folks are truly awakening to the truth and undeniable fact that we are the body of Jesus in the earth. It is through His body that Jesus moves in the earth.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Live For Jesus

As I look back over a whole bunch of years of walking with Jesus, I've come to the conclusion that Jesus has used me most when I simply live for Him. Living for Jesus is more about being a witness than it is about the formulated process of witnessing. Folks who live out loud for Jesus are simply folks who unashamedly follow after Him. Their lives amplify their commitment to Him...whether in public or in private.

I'm reminded of an incident that happened quite a few years back just after I had arrived in Germany to serve 3 years there in the United States Air Force. Connie and the children, Russ and Stacie had yet to arrive as I hadn't secured a place to rent on the economy. I was staying in the barracks temporarily, until they came. It was in the evening, after work, and I was in the basement of the barracks doing my laundry. I loved studying the Word (and still do) so while the clothes were washing and drying I was reading and meditating in my Bible. A young GI came down the hall and glanced in the laundry room and walked on by. A few minutes later he came back and entered the room. He said, "I see you are reading a Bible." I said, "Yes, I am. I love the Word of God."

As the conversation continued, I learned that this young man was in deep trouble. He had become extremely intoxicated at the Airman's Club a few nights before. A friend offered to take him home to sleep it off at his house. In his drunkenness it was said that he made some inappropriate advances to one of his children. The sad thing is that he claimed he didn't remember it. The friend was intending to file charges against this young, single GI and eventually did.

The young man was devastated. He said he had seen me reading my Bible and assumed I was close to God. He was hoping I could intercede in his behalf. I told him I would be more than willing to pray for him. But I also told him that if he really wanted God's intervention, he needed to surrender his life to Jesus. Then He could move in his behalf - from the inside out! There was absolutely NO hesitation in his response. He said he was ready to pray and surrender to Jesus right then, so I led him to Jesus - right then.

I can't explain in words how desperate this young man was. Let me just say, it was very evident that anything, everything, and all Jesus had for him he received at the very moment we prayed. This young GI turned into a wild man for Jesus. Nothing inhibited him in any way. He began telling every single person he met about Jesus. He did go to trial. I was actually presented with the opportunity to go before the judge in his behalf as a witness to the change in his life. Obviously I didn't know him at the time of the incident, and I made that clear. I was grateful however, to testify about Jesus and how he had touched this young man.

As you've probably gathered, he was convicted. He was sentenced to a year in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. I received letters from him over the next several months and beyond. While he was in the prison, he witnessed powerfully and won many men to Jesus! Whether he was guilty or not, he committed to serving Jesus - even in the prison! God used him mightily. We eventually lost touch. But I have no doubt he was committed to serving Jesus for the rest of his life.

I am so glad I was in that laundry room at that time. I am so glad that I wasn't ashamed to be seen reading my Bible. I wasn't handing out tracks. I wasn't looking for someone to nail to the wall with the gospel. I was simply living my new life out loud for Jesus. I love what the Apostle Paul declares in Romans 1:16. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."

Those who are not ashamed to live their lives for Jesus, are the ones to whom He will present divine connections, divine, appointments, and divine opportunities. Stand up for Jesus my friend. Just live for Him.