Reflections

First Baptist Church of La-Z-Boy

One of the results of Covid is the revealing of many people’s ignorance of the Christian faith and its relation to the church. For all who profess to be Christians, and despite any criticism (sometimes justifiable) of churches, we must remember that the church is Christ’s idea. Let me say that again. The church is Christ’s idea. 

“I don’t need to go to church to be saved,” some say. Perhaps not, but what makes you think you’re saved if you reject the very idea and structure of the One you profess to be Savior and Lord? “You’re adding works to salvation,” someone will accuse. No, I’m saying you’re dismissing the very idea and structure Jesus established. “Well, I don’t need to go to church to worship God,” many say. Well, just because you profess to worship doesn’t mean you do, nor does it mean it’s acceptable to God. The Scriptures reveal numerous times when God rejected people’s worship. The writer of Hebrews admonishes,

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ~ Hebrews 10:24-25

“Well, I’m fed by Pastor Stanley [or Jeremiah, etc.].” Perhaps, but church is not simply about you. The church is a body where every member has value and is needed (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). There are persons in the church you are to interact with, to encourage, to exhort, to hug, to pray for. It is difficult to be involved (as we’re commanded to be) sitting in a recliner or laying in bed.

No where in the New Testament are followers of Jesus Christ called to be Lone Rangers. First Baptist Church of La-Z-Boy, St. Paul of King Size Bed, and Holy Trinity Breakfast Church are not legitimate churches. It is one thing to truly be shut in and bedridden, but it is quite another to dismiss church and the support thereof simply out of “convenience.” God calls us to love and serve one another. There’s nothing “convenient” about this. Church is more than simply going to sing some songs and hearing a message. Church is a living organism made up of individuals who minister to one another and to be involved together in the Great Commission of our Lord.

If you’re choosing to stay home from church when you are quite capable of going, you can use whatever excuse you want. But you fail to understand the very faith in which you profess. The Christian faith is not an isolated or “private” faith, but one of community. You do need church and the church needs you.

Behind Enemy Lines

Prayer is such a mysterious thing. God is Sovereign, His purposes will be accomplished, and His will cannot be thwarted; however, He has purposed that some things will either happen or not happen—depending on the prayers of His people. 

In prayer, because of the shed Blood of Jesus Christ, God’s people appear to simply pray wherever they are praying at the moment. However, they are also in the very presence of God before His throne of grace (Hebrews  4:16; 10:19-22). 

Strangely, like the stealth of Navy SEALs, our prayers also enter behind enemy lines where the works of God are not noticed by us, but are active nevertheless. While our prayers in no way force God’s hand to do anything, and neither is God dependent on our prayers in any way, somehow our prayers play a vital role in people’s deliverances, the breaking of strongholds, the infusion of God’s power, protection of God’s people, etc.

Our prayers truly matter. This truth is sorely neglected, forgotten, and misunderstood in many of our Evangelical churches. In the book of Daniel, we get a rare glimpse of the spiritual reality that goes on behind the scenes where human eyes cannot see. In chapter 10, Daniel (who had been praying and fasting for three weeks was visited by an angelic being. The prophet is told,

Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come. ~ Daniel 10:13-14

How have we gotten to the point where we have such audacious arrogance to think spiritual battles are won and the kingdom is advanced simply by our preaching, programs, and church attendance? How have we become so lazy and unbelieving when it comes to prayer that churches have nearly jettisoned prayer meetings, and the average Christian spends less than two minutes in prayer? Will our Bible studies bring revival? Will our church programs break the strongholds and addictions holding people captive? Will our Christian concerts bring the protection and comfort needed by those suffering around the world? These, apart from prayer, will accomplish very little, if anything at all. We must pray! If we truly want to see captives set free behind enemy lines, then we must pray. To simply say we entrust everything to God’s sovereignty is to offer an invalid excuse not to pray; furthermore, to spurn all God’s commands and instructions to pray. The darkness will only grow stronger as God’s people refuse to pray.

Prepare for Battle

Our nation is in serious trouble. The fact of the matter, if you read the first chapter of Romans, our nation is experiencing the judgment of God. While writing of the rebellious nature of man in general, the apostle writes,

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth….For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools. ~ Romans 1:18, 21-22

History bears witness to this. Anywhere Christianity has taken root, positive changes happened in societies (e.g., the value of children and women, the abolishing of slavery, healthcare, etc.). Opponents will say things like, what about the Crusades, etc. But we must understand the reality of the sinful heart of unregenerate men. As for the Crusades, Roman Catholicism is known for many corrupt popes, cardinals, and priests who were obviously not born again. Many of the Crusaders, too, were worthless men who loved violence and conquest. Corrupt men using religion to camouflage their wickedness is nothing new. We read about it in both the Old and New Testaments (e.g., the Pharisees and Sadducees). And we see it today in politics and in churches promoting the false prosperity gospel. Nevertheless, wherever a people are truly yielded to the authority of Jesus Christ and the Scriptures, these communities develop stability, as well as goodwill toward others. (For further study on the positive impact Christianity has had on the world, read How Christianity Changed the World, by Alvin J. Schmidt).

We also see the evidence of what Paul writes even in our own nation. Despite the good Christianity has done, godless men in our government, universities, and corporations seek to destroy such evidence by rewriting history, grossly editing original manuscripts, removing statues, etc. And what are many trying to replace all this with? Many of these men, with all their prestige, credentials, and forked-tongue rhetoric are promoting Marxism (socialism/Communism), which history repeatedly shows it strips people of dignity and value, and is known for its cruelty, violence, and genocides. They claim to be wise—far wiser than the ignorant masses—they have become futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts are horrifically darkened. They continually promise a golden age of utopia—without God—but all they will deliver is misery for the populace.

Further down, the apostle writes,

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie. ~ Romans 1:24-25

Immorality, infidelity, and perversion have always found safe harbor in the hearts of godless individuals. So yes, there has always been cases of adultery, child molestation, and the like. Nevertheless, even in our nation, these were once considered taboo. Pregnancy out of wedlock and divorce were once shameful. Then came Hollywood with all its productions and godless promotions, increasingly stirring the lusts within people. During the 60’s came the “sexual revolution.” A generation no longer wanted the constraints of godly living. So, God gave them over to what their foolish hearts desired.

But the depravity of the sinful heart is like the grave and is never satisfied. The apostle writes,

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their woman exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another. ~ Romans 1:26-27

During the 70’s and 80’s there became a push from Hollywood and universities to legitimize homosexual behavior. Today, not only is this behavior staunchly defended in Hollywood and Washington, but even many churches professing to be ambassadors of Christ. And there is a growing persecution (as evidenced in Canada) against those who would stand against the authority’s acceptance of this lifestyle. Nevertheless, we cannot nullify what God’s Word says, regardless of what side one chooses to stand.

The apostle then delves into the third wave of God’s judgment on a people.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. ~ Romans 1:28-31

Our society laments the violence in our city streets, poverty, broken homes, and threats of terrorist attacks. Yet, it is offended when the name of Jesus Christ is proclaimed, or the Ten Commandments are displayed. Our schools fully embrace evolution and deny any Intelligent Design (let alone the Creator as declared by Christians). Lascivious and blasphemous celebrities are idolized, while manipulative and corrupt politicians are applauded. Child-molesters are being defended by those claiming their desires are legitimate. Abortion is defended, even applauded, by many, despite the fact footage shows the real brutality which takes place, as babies’ body parts are ripped apart. Planned Parenthood, which claims to be “non-profit,” is somehow a multi-billion-dollar industry. And speaking of multi-billion-dollar industries, let us not forget to mention the tragic reality of human trafficking—a modern slave trade supported by many of our celebrities, politicians, and businessmen. This is the reality of societies without God. Utopia is the myth believed by fools.

It is strange that so many are looking to politicians to fix the problems when they, and their policies and exchanging of money “under the table,” are a vital part of the problems. Understand, this isn’t to casually dismiss the voting process. Citizens must be wise in who they vote for. But what good is this if the citizens are unwise and godless? The church must understand the issues go deeper than politics. Far deeper. If there is to be any hope for our nation, then God’s people must pray. This means seeking His face, as well as confessing the sins of our nation—as well as our own (see Nehemiah 1:6-7). But it also means preparing for spiritual war. The apostle writes in the sixth chapter of Ephesians,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. ~ Ephesians 6:10-12

While we are responsible for the choices we make, and societies are responsible for the ideologies and beliefs they hold to, there is the reality of evil demonic beings influencing the events of our world. Have you ever wondered why universities, politics, Hollywood, Communism, Islam, New Age Occultism, etc., are hostile toward Christianity specifically and directly? In any case, while not dismissing the wickedness of people, our real enemies are not the people but the demonic forces influencing them. Sadly, many churches are not only standing alongside the wicked, but many are just as influenced by the spiritual forces of darkness. Why else would the Cross and Blood of Jesus Christ be deemphasized in some churches—even despised? And too often Christians are so busy warring against one another, completely oblivious to the fact the real enemies are unseen and working behind the scenes, not only in the world, but in our associations, conventions, seminaries, etc.

The apostle goes on to write to followers of Christ,

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. ~ Ephesians 6:13-18

The real battle does not take place on the streets of Washington, but on our knees in prayer. But we must have the complete armor on. We have a worthy adversary. Some don’t like it when I use the term “worthy,” thinking I mean he is worthy of some sort of praise. Still, others boast of the Victory we have in Christ, and mock the adversary as being a “toothless tiger.” But let us understand, while we are not told to be afraid of him, we are certainly to be aware of him. He is extremely crafty and manipulative. He knows our weaknesses quite well. In fact, Jesus tells us to pray for God’s deliverance from temptation and evil (Matthew 6:7). Peter warns us of the devil, who is like a lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Again, we don’t need to be afraid, but we must be aware, and we must be willing to battle in prayer with complete dependence on God. We must be girded with truth. As Neil Anderson writes in The Bondage Breaker, the power of the devil is in the lie. We must conquer using God’s truth. We must be covered and protected with righteousness. Unrighteousness will only play right into the enemy’s hands to his advantage. We must have the shoes on, firmly rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The evil one is a fighter, and he will unleash lies and persecution against us. Whether through other people or whispers to our mind. We must lift our shield of faith in resistance to these fiery arrows. With this, we need to protect our minds with the helmet of salvation. Always remembering what Christ has done for us. We are saved by His grace and sacrifice, and not of our own works. And our weapon is the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, the Bible. Too often, people want to use the ideologies and trends of men, but these are like J. R. R. Tolkens’ golden rings described in his masterpiece, Lord of the Rings. These are crafted by evil, benefit evil, and enslave to evil. Our only true weapon is the Word of God in against the spiritual forces of evil. Lastly, we must be in constant prayer in the Spirit, in accordance with God’s will and ways, and praying for all fellow followers of Christ.

My friends, if there is any hope whatsoever for America, it will only come because of God’s mercy and power in response to the sincere prayers of His people. Only if we are willing to prepare for, and engage in, battle in prayer will be see hope and healing for our nation and world. But the question is, will we prepare for battle in the heavenlies?

“We’ve Got This, God!”

If there’s one characteristic that plagues many American churches—especially the “megachurches”—is the self-sufficient attitude, along with the image projection. There really is a mindset of not really needing anything; that is, except for people’s money in the offering plates and select individuals (not so much their spiritual gifts, but talents) to fill certain slots throughout the church. But there is a desperate lack of authentic dependence on God and His workings. After all, they have a charismatic speaker, a talented worship band, and generous giving. No, the real trust is in the givers, for if they’re offended, they might leave. So compromises to the Word of God, and certain individuals are overlooked because they don’t fit the image the church is trying to maintain.

Jesus says of the church of Laodicea,

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. ~ Revelation 3:17

Do we dare to believe, or even consider, that Jesus is saying this to  many churches in America? Understand, I am not simply talking about “liberal” churches. No, I am talking about many conservative, Evangelical churches. Oh sure, there’s the pro-life stance, etc., but there isn’t a dependence on Christ for a mighty move of God. Why should there be? 

How can there not be? We can plant and we can water, but not a one of us can speak and bring life into a soul. We can stir emotions and work about warm fuzzies, but we are completely incapable of reviving a heart.

We think because we have beautiful buildings filled with lovely people that this itself is a sign of God’s pleasure, despite that many have no real hunger for God and His ways. Worship is about an experience more than exalting the living Savior. Youth groups are more about having fun and going to concerts, not about genuine discipleship and learning to serve Christ with surrender. Preaching tends to be topical rather than expository, lest the preacher seems too radical and people are “offended” by the teachings of Christ and the apostles.

It’s not that such churches are cold towards Christ and the Scriptures, but neither are they hot with passion for Him and His Word. There’s just a measure of indifference toward the things of God and too much love and comfort for the things of this world. Jesus is neither joking or playing games when He says,

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. ~ Revelation 3:15-16

How do we ever even begin to correct the problem? Through prayer! Serious prayer. Crying out to God for restoration, and confessing the mediocrity that’s offered in His name. When will we ever learn that simply because something is offered to God doesn’t mean He approves of it? God is never impressed with half-hearted devotion and lip service.

Do we really have it all under control? No, not if we’re not totally dependent on Him. Apart from Him, we can do nothing!

If My People…

“If” is a small word, having only two letters, but “if” is anything but insignificant. “If” is a conditional word containing tremendous possibilities. If this happens, then this will be these will be the results. However, if this does not happen, then these will be the results. Whatever field we are talking about, whether natural, medical, psychological, mechanical, judicial, spiritual, etc., the results can be vastly different. The differences can be a matter of bad or good, infecting or healing, breaking or fixing, chaos or peace, judgment or mercy, destructive or calmness, death or life.

The Lord tells His people in the days of old,

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

Did you notice the if/then condition? But the Lord doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say,

But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight. ~ 2 Chronicles 7:19-20

By now, no doubt some will be saying, “But that’s the Old Testament,” or “But God was talking specifically to the Jewish nation.” However, let me sound this truth, God is unchanging, and His principles remain constant. Furthermore, let me ask you this, since this is from the Old Testament and God was talking to the Jewish nation, should we remain proud and stiffnecked, and not pray or seek His face because we are under grace? Where do you read this in the New Testament? Do you see this in Jesus’ teachings? Or in Romans, or the letters of Peter or John? Where exactly in the New Testament are we shown we can remain in our pride, hold onto our idols, where we don’t need to seek God’s face and pray?

While I have heard preachers and seminary professors state that this promise is specifically to the Jews of old, does this mean this passage has no promise or application to us? Do the prayers of God’s people today, who are in Christ, not count for anything? This passage in 2 Chronicles has much relevance to us today. Do you not believe God would do a might work of mercy and healing throughout our nation if we, the church, as a whole organism, humbled ourselves before Him, sincerely prayed and sought His face, and turned from our wicked ways? Do you really think He would ignore us since, after all, that promise was in the Old Testament to the Jewish nation?

Let me ask you further, do you think that we are not proud and do not need to turn from any wicked ways? Do you think we have not turned aside and forsaken His statues and commandments? And do you think we are not guilty of going out and serving other gods? We are far more guilty than you realize! Consider how churches put so much emphasis in people’s degrees and natural abilities, and the way prayer is often just a casual two-minute formality; and think how the common consumer mentality infects many churchgoers. “What does this church have to offer me?” is a question often asked. Not “does this church proclaim the truth? What can offer it?” Think about how many church leaders borrow from the trends, ideologies, and pragmatism of the world, instead of abiding by the principles laid out in God’s Word. Think about how many songs in worship settings emphasize the greatness of God, not because of who He is, but because of what He has done for us and how He makes us feel. Think of songs how we say He is welcomed in His own house! Do these not all reveal the pride in our hearts?

Repeatedly the Bible tells us to love one another, to consider others as being better than ourselves, to have the mindset of Christ who humbled Himself to be as a servant. But how many pastors are genuinely servant-leaders? How many of us are known to treat others as better than ourselves? How many church splits have occurred over trivial things? (More often it has to do with persons not getting their way than it does doctrinal issues). And we are told to learn contentment, to not fall into greed, and to not love money? Yet, how many preachers use preaching to obtain wealth—even at the expense of compromising truth? And God declares in Genesis, and Jesus echoes in the Gospels, that God created two genders, male and female, and has instituted the bond of sacred matrimony between one man and one woman. Yet, we have many in churches disregarding these statutes shamelessly. The Creator God, the Giver and Sustainer of life who many claim to worship, all the while condoning abortion. The Scriptures tell us,

Say to the people of Israel, Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. ~ Leviticus 20:2

Say to the people of Israel, Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. ~ Jeremiah 32:35

Do we honestly believe we have not turned aside? Do we seriously believe we have not forsaken God’s statues and commands?

Now, concerning idolatry, do we think this is simply the abomination of Old Testament religions? “You shall have no other gods … You shall not make for yourself a carved image … You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain” (Ex. 20:3-7). The unhealthy devotion many have for football, television, and the like, by all appearances, far surpasses devotion to God. In his book, Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer notes, “Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous.” So many ideas about God in many of our mainline denominations veer away clear teachings of the Scriptures. Why? Usually because what God reveals about Himself goes against what persons want to believe and hold onto. Understand, persons can change God within their imaginations all they want and however they want, but God Himself is not changed in the least. Persons can hold to their imaginations about God and trust them as true, but this is all idolatrous.

One of the modern movements, despite having a history containing numerous scandals and apostasies, is not only popular with young people, but its music is used in many evangelical churches. Let’s be extremely careful, because our acceptance of it (instead of doing away with it) can taint our own worship. For though some of the songs do appear very worshipful and honoring to Jesus Christ, some of their concerts have celebrated goddess worship (it is rather blatant if you were to watch the live presentation on a Youtube video). Speaking of goddess worship, Maria Kneas, in her book, How to Prepare for Hard Times and Persecution, tells of an ecumenical Re-imagining Conference held in Minneapolis, in 1993. Hundreds of those who gathered were from numerous mainline denominations. While there, the people invoked the name of Sophia, the goddess of wisdom, and even calling her Creator. Apparently (but not surprisingly) the doctrines of Jesus’ incarnation and atonement (the very central teachings of the Christian faith) were openly rejected. This is idolatry in explicit form.

Lest anyone thinks I am only addressing liberal or “progressive” (falsely so-called) Christianity, those of us who consider ourselves conservative evangelicals are not off the hook. The truth be told, we have our own pet sins, of which we don’t really consider sin, let alone evil. But all sin is evil because all sin is rebellion against God and His character, regardless how we like to dress it or what perfume we try to douse it with. Consider the sin of heartless faith. Jesus, while commending the church of Ephesus for their strong stance against sin and holding to correct doctrine, strongly rebukes them for their lack of love for Him. Jesus says,

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. ~ Revelation 2:4-5

And what about the sin of unbelief? “God doesn’t do that anymore,” some will say. Or else we mask our unbelief with, “if it be Your will,” sometimes already holding the thought that He probably won’t do it anyway. But we are told,

And [Jesus] did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. ~ Matthew 13:58

While our prayers must fall in line with God’s will and purposes, what does Jesus command? Elsewhere He says,

Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. ~ Mark 11:24

What about the sin of partiality? Let’s face it, evangelicals are pros when it comes to saying we’re on a level playing field, and that no one is truly better than another. I’ve been a Christian for about thirty years, and I’m convinced that most Christians do not really believe this. If we did, then more people wouldn’t feel so isolated or rejected in evangelical churches. Although James blatantly calls our partiality sin (James 2:9), our churches, just like the world, contain the haves and the have nots, the popular and the unpopular, the sought after and the neglected.

In his book, Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges addresses quite a list of sins the Bible condemns, while the same are too often ignored or condoned in evangelical churches. Just to mention several: ungodliness (i.e., leaving God out of our thoughts or plans), anger, ingratitude, pride, impatience, judgmentalism, anxiety, worldliness, and gossip.

My intention is certainly not to belittle the church, the people of God. Yet, is it not true that so often we can look at the world, or even other churches, wanting to take the specks out of their eyes, while being completely oblivious of the logs and cedar beams in our own? We wonder why the world is caught within a downward spiral, but how can it not be when so much of the professing church is also caught within a downward spiral of its own? I ask you today, what would happen—even if it began with small pockets across our nation—if God’s people were to get serious about their faith and profession, turning to Him, confessing all that God calls sin (taking our warped and perverse notions out of the equation altogether), and were to forsake all our various wicked ways? One thing is for certain, we won’t know unless we actually come to the end of ourselves and turn wholeheartedly to God, through Jesus Christ His Son. But to do this we must acknowledge all the logs in our eyes, filth in our minds, the flames of hell from our lips, and the stinking sewage sitting stagnantly in our hearts, and ask God to burn the logs and beams, to cleanse and sanitize our minds, to pour His living waters on our tongues, and empty and refine our hearts of all the sewage.

If God’s people who are called by His name would humble themselves, and pray and seek His face and turn from their wicked ways, then what would happen? Let’s begin asking God to do such a work within us (as only He can do), and maybe we will see our nation and world mended in a way either has experienced in a long time.

When Was the Last Time You Wept Over Broken Walls?

Preachers, today, don’t want to talk about sin and its devastating consequences, and congregations don’t want to hear about it. Nevertheless, like death, just because we try to ignore it doesn’t make it go away or any less real. When sin is left unchecked—even the supposed “little” ones—it eventually ruins. Like and old weathered and rotted fence, it will eventually break leaving the property vulnerable.

For example (and I’m sure many of us can relate to some of these), multiple explosions of anger eventually ruin a relationship between friends or relatives. Continual seemingly innocent flirtations finally lead to an affair, ruining marriages. The banding with bad company does corrupt good morals. Continual pride or lack of grace finally turns persons off from the gospel because they see no love of Christ in a person. And the list goes on. None of these are exaggerations but are very real. I can almost guarantee if you’ve not experienced one of these personally, you know of someone who has.

Churches are not immune. How many churches have been completely shamed and devastated because of a minister’s infidelity or greed? Still, how many churches have no genuine spiritual vitality, all because of the condoning of sin(s)? Oh sure, they might have food drives and so forth, but they are completely barren as far as spiritual vitality goes. The walls are broken down, and the people are left vulnerable, ravished, and hardened.

We read in Nehemiah, in his own words,

And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”   As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. ~ Nehemiah 1:3-4

Let us not think this was simply an immediate response on Nehemiah’s part and he was over it in five minutes. In his commentary on Nehemiah (in the ESV Expository Commentary series), W. Brian Auker notes “the prayer that follows summarizes what Nehemiah prays over several months.” Today, we see the damaging effects of sin all around us, from Washington all the way down to our homes and personal lives. All around us are broken people within broken down walls. Tragically, too many preachers and authors are saying with sympathetic smiles, “It’s all okay. You’re okay. God loves you. This wreckage is not your fault.” But the fact of the matter, sometimes it is—as it was of the Jews of old. Our sins have consequences, and sometimes the results are extremely horrible and painful. To treat persons as though everything is okay is not only to dismiss the problem, but it’s also to openly lie to them and make light of the reality of the consequences of sin, whether it’s our sin or the sins of others.

Understand, my point is not to throw people’s sins and consequences in their faces. Rather, I want to ask you—especially if you’re a preacher—a question: When was the last time you wept over the broken walls? When was the last time you wept over persons who once walked with the Lord but who are now entangled in sinful living? Or wept with a family whose child has overdosed? Or wept over your town or city gripped with drug and alcohol addictions, immorality, and domestic or gang violence?

Am I crossing a line when I say many preachers are too busy growing their churches and youth programs to notice the broken walls around them? Do I speak erroneously when I say many of us have been hurt enough times, we don’t feel much of anything? And am I mistaken when I say many churches are oblivious to many of the broken walls, because they don’t view sin as being destructive? Instead, they want to blame all the ills on society and others? But tell me, if our hearts are not broken because of the broken walls, will we really be stirred to positive action? If we don’t feel anything, if we are not moved with compassion, are we really going to pray? Tony Evans writes in his Bible commentary,

“Broken people cannot fix broken walls. This raises the question: is prayer the first thing or the last thing that you do when you see that something is broken? If it’s the last thing, then you waste time in everything you do that leaves God out of the equation to fix it. Far too often, we allow other things to push prayer aside rather than allowing prayer to push other things aside.”

E. M. Bounds notes, “The world needs more true praying to save it from the reign and ruin of Satan.” But how will we truly pray unless we’re truly moved? And how will we be moved unless the Holy Spirit does a deep work within us? May God prick our consciences, break our hearts, and help us to weep over the broken walls around us! But even in this, we must be willing to yield, repent, and declare, “God, Your will be done!”

Perhaps it’s been a while since we’ve wept because of the broken walls. Let us confess our sins and callousness, and let’s ask that God will restore a genuine fervor for lives to be restored by His truly amazing power and grace.

Whatever Happened to Prayer Meetings?

There is a strange phenomenon which has taken root in much of modern Christendom, bearing poisonous fruit in many churches. This phenomenon has to do with people talking about dependence on God and the importance of prayer, all the while jettisoning prayer and the stressing of it in many congregations. (I will talk about its fruit in a moment)).

Case in point, whatever happened to prayer meetings? Many churches no longer have them. After all, typically prayer meetings were quite low in attendance. And being fair, often such meetings were not truly prayer meetings, but most of the time wasted gossiping and sharing prayer requests instead of actually praying. So instead of fixing the problems within the prayer meetings, such meetings are chucked altogether, to use the time in more “profitable” ways.

Ah, but over time some seeds have been unwittingly planted. Sprouts broke through the ground and their roots began digging deep into the soil. Eventually a trees grew and fruit was born, fruit which was “good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the [trees were] to be desired to make [us] wise,” (Gen. 3:6) we’ve partaken of the fruit. This fruit has distorted the perception of much of the church, make no mistake. Men and women alike have mistakenly perceived that they can build churches without the help of God. They mistakenly believe they can offer the sacrifices of Cain and still be accepted (Gen. 4:3-4). By their own hands and wisdom, they build and sustain their congregations, believing that the growth in numbers signifies the life and blessing of God—despite any shallowness of faith, mock reverence, disbelieving of the Scriptures, and the void of real intimacy, power, and revelation of God.

Understand, I am not simply being critical. For all our talk on how dependent we are on God, why is there, in many cases, such a deemphasis on prayer? Why do many churches place so much attention on the worship but not prayer? Why have so many churches abandoned expository preaching and replaced it with “topical,” and merely referencing the Bible (which is God’s revelation to us) instead of digging into it? We have within congregations, as well as among churches professing the name of Christ, persons with differing opinions on crucial issues like sanctity of life, sanctity of marriage, the trustworthiness of the Scriptures, the exclusivity of Jesus Christ, etc. Be very clear on this—there is no division within the Godhead on these issues, nor within His revelation. No, but the poisonous fruit of the trees we have planted have poisoned the mind and distorted the perception.

Too often churches and individuals already have the course of action they intend to take, in accordance with their own understanding. Instead of truly seeking the Lord for His wisdom, guidance, and direction, we lay our plans and strategies before Him and ask Him to bless them. We consider this a “prayer of dependence.” E. M. Bounds is right when he says, “We do more of everything else than of praying. As poor as our giving is, our contributions of money exceed our offerings of prayer.” Can most churches and individuals really argue against Bound’s assessment?

Where are the prayer meetings? Where was the emphases on prayer and our need for God’s power? When was the last time we and our churches have truly cried out to God for a genuine and mighty move of His Spirit and power? Oh sure, we might occasionally toss up a prayer for revival, but do we sincerely desire moves of God and revival? These do not come without a cost. Not only do these require the time for seeking and asking of these, but also surrender. A. W. Tozer asks,

“Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late [I dare say, not much in our day]—and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying [in our case, we tend to substitute both praying and obeying for our own ingenuity], and it simply will not work. To pray for revival while ignoring the plain precept laid down in Scripture is to waste a lot of words and get nothing for our trouble. Prayer will become effective when we stop using it as a substitute for obedience.”

All around me I hear people or see what they post on social media what a mess our world is in—even from Christians. Strangely, for all the complaining and anxieties, I do not hear the stressing of prayer and crying out to God. Why is this? We say we depend on God and prayer is so important, but are we not liars? Do we think God is indifferent to the condition of our world, He who declares that He takes no delight in the death of anyone (Eze. 18:32)? Is He who created the universe by the sheer power of His command impotent in bringing revival? He “who desires all people to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4), will He say, “Absolutely not!” if His people genuinely repent of their own wickedness and plead on behalf of those who are perishing?

How have we become so content with mediocrity and spiritualized excrement? How have we gotten to believe we are some kind of miniature saviors, feeding others crumbs from our own ponderings? Pastors, teachers, I don’t care a wit about our degrees or certificates. I don’t care about any personal skills of leadership. All of it is mere rubbish if not infused by the power of God. All of it! I don’t care how good at preaching or teaching any of us are. Jesus tells us explicitly, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, emphasis added). We must ask ourselves, do we truly believe this? Truly?

If we genuinely believe that we can do nothing apart from abiding in Christ and Him in us (for this is what the Master tells us), then we must reestablish the prayer meetings. We must lift our requests to God rather than sharing them with one another. We must cry out to God and ask Him to uproot these trees with poisonous fruit which we have planted and maintained. Oh, that God would grow the fruit of repentance in our hearts and lives. Oh, that we would turn from our wicked ways. No doubt we are guilty as the people of Jeremiah’s day:

“For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” ~ Jeremiah 2:13  

Oh, that we would reestablish the prayer meetings and rebuild our altars! I close with words from Bounds: “But not all praying is true praying. The driving power, the conquering force in God’s cause, must be God Himself. ‘Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not’ (Jer. 33:3).”

Our Wonderful Privilege and the Holy of Holies

Prayer today is such an incomprehensible privilege many of us take for granted, of which saints of old didn’t have the honor. Don’t misunderstand, they did pray. However, there was a closeness and intimacy with God that was denied them.

Leviticus is not most people’s favorite book in the Bible; however, foolish are we if we casually dismiss it. For this book instructs us in the holiness of God. The Day of Atonement (chapter 16) is a lesson and foreshadowing of the death of Christ. You see, persons didn’t just waltz into the presence of God (the Holy of Holies). In fact, they were denied any access to it. Only the high priest was to enter, only once a year, and only after he performed rigorous preparation. All of this, and the sacrifice, was done in order to atone for the sins of the people. 

When Jesus died (which is the final and only Sacrifice by which we are saved) an amazing thing happened. We are told,

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. ~ Matthew 27:51

It is said the curtain was 4 inches thick, and it symbolized the way our sins separated us from God. I’ve read that the curtain was so thick that horses tied on both sides would be unable to rip it. Yet, this curtain was supernaturally torn in half, as God removed this separation through the death of Christ.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. ~ Romans 5:10-11

Are you seeing the significance yet? Those who are born again, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb have access to God. It is only by the atoning and redemptive work of Christ we are able to enter the very presence of God in prayer.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ~ Hebrews 4:16

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. ~ Hebrews 10:19-22

What audacity! What a slap in the face, when we refuse the privilege of prayer because it’s “too boring” or we’re “too busy.” We’re like the excuse makers is Jesus’ parable of some who were invited to the king’s banquet. “I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it,” says one. “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused,” says a second. “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come,” the third man says (Luke 14:18-20).

We say prayer is important, but how many genuinely believe this? After all, sports, movies, and video games aren’t really important at all but we give serious time and attention to these, don’t we?

Understand, prayer is not to be some legalistic routine, otherwise it loses all value. Furthermore, sports, movies, and games aren’t wrong in themselves. But what a shame the living God of the universe invites us to come to Him and talk, but we make excuses. Yet, how many of us would skip school, call off work, or change our plans if we were invited to come and talk to our favorite actor, singer, or well known preacher or theologian? Yet, these are all mere mortals who are going to stand before God, just like us, and give account.

Oh that God would restore within us a genuine astonishment of being able, through the blood of Christ, to enter the Holy of Holies to talk to the King who has redeemed, called, and adopted us! What an awesome privilege is ours!

But Do We Desire Him?

So many worship songs today declare how God’s love and grace make us feel. He showers on us His love. He gave His life for us, and fills us with His peace. “I could sing of Your love forever,” we sing, but does this include when a driver cuts us off or a restaurant employee messes up our order?

We talk and sing about God’s great love and sacrifice for us—that He gave His all to redeem us, to make us His own. But do we love Him? Do we genuinely desire Him? Please consider what I’m about to say. We modern Christians have made our feelings and worship into idols. I’m afraid, if we are honest, many love the emotional stimuli surrounding worship far more than the God whom is being claimed as being worshipped. 

Another thing we’ve carved into an idol is knowledge. Many take great delight in studying the Bible, theology, and hearing a good sermon. Mind you, of themselves these are good things; however, do we love the knowledge more than the Giver of knowledge?

We will spend hours at concerts, conferences, seminars, or in studies. But how much time will we be still in God’s presence, simply conversing with Him in prayer? For the vast majority, such time is significantly decreased. How can we truly love and adore one whom we don’t want to be with, who cramps our style, whom we’re too busy for, and not worth sacrificing other things for just to be with Him?

Leonard Ravenhill observes, “A man may study because his brain is hungry for knowledge, even Bible knowledge. But he prays because his soul is hungry for God.” How many of us can truly say our soul is hungry for God? What about when we set aside the music, the lights, and the various nuances and stimuli? Do we desire Him, to talk to Him, and to hear directly from Him? The psalmist writes,

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” ~ Psalm 42:1-2

How many of us can truly say this? God doesn’t only want our praise and worship (although He does want these). He also wants our hearts, our time, and our presence with Him. Do we give Him these from devoted hearts filled with love and desire for Him? If we can only muster a couple of minutes to Him, can we truly answer affirmatively? Oh, we desire warm-fuzzies, entertainment, and motivationals—but do we desire Him?

Let Us Reason Together 

Our world, our nations, and our communities are becoming increasingly confounded and divided. Politicians continue giving empty promises with ulterior motives, and every side seems to be slow to listen but quick to anger and speak. 

Washington, Hollywood, the United Nations, universities, and the like often criticize Christianity, some even going so far to say Christians are the problem. But this seems highly unlikely, considering godless people have the most influence in our schools,world affairs, media, and pop culture. The more our nations and communities scorn Christ and indulge in vices and behaviors that break down the family and community structures, the chaotic our world becomes. This is not to be blamed on Christianity. The teachings of Christ clearly discern between right and wrong, but we are living in a time reflecting the days of Isaiah:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! ~ Isaiah 5:20

Understand, this blame shifting is nothing new. The godly have always  been accused of “cramping” other’s styles, then blamed further when godless living faces consequences. In fact, Augustine’s, City of God, is largely a response to those of the day who blamed Christianity for Rome’s fall (of course people’s decadence and rulers’ corruption couldn’t have had a part).

Nevertheless, despite the world’s (and many churches) growing scorn, hostility, and unbelief of the Bible and the God it represents, God is not indifferent or callous towards people. While He has every right to tell us, “You made your bed, now lay in it,” He does not have this attitude.  He is not aloof to our increasing guilt, shame, anxiety, or fear. Rather, what does He say?

When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” ~ Isaiah 1:15-20

No doubt Jesus says of the nations today as He did of Jerusalem:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate.” ~ Matthew 23:37-38

Some time ago I came across an event being promoted called, “Give Christianity the Middle Finger,” and elsewhere saw pictures of some young girls at a protest rally, holding placards which read, “We’re going to hell and proud of it.” While I won’t deny that some who profess Christ are blowhards, but what offense has God committed? Despite the behaviors of people, God remains consistent with His character and nature. And He tells us,

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? ~ Micah 6:8

Yet, our world applauds and defends injustice, delights in strife, arguing, and division, and walks proudly without God or thoughts of Him. Indeed, God is not the problem, but we are. If we would yield to Him and His ways, so many problems would seem to take care of themselves. People would look after one another and care for one another. Still, God invites us to “come, and reason together.” It is our sins that are as scarlet and staining, not His. But He can wash us and heal us. But we must first be willing to reason. Can we do this?

This article is not simply intended for the “godless,” but is just as much for modern churchgoers. Many churches and their leaders are running in various directions other than the direction Christ directs us. This is just as evil as anyone else’s resistance (Jer. 2:13).

Let us be reasonable and approach the Lord with humility. Whether we want to acknowledge the truth or not, the further we get away from Christ the more dark and turbulent our world becomes. And we only have ourselves to blame.