The Men of God

Recently I had posted [on Facebook], “Have you ever stopped and realized most of the prophets and New Testament writers would not be welcomed speakers in many churches?” Understand, I’m not trying to be cute or sound clever. I’m being quite serious, and stating something I think many churches—including Evangelical leaders—should consider.

Do you think my statement is exaggerated? Really? Have you read Jeremiah, Isaiah, or Ezekiel lately? Each man blasted the religious people—especially the priests, shepherds, and “prophets” for their corrupt and deceitful practices, and for profaning God’s name, putting their own preferences and desires ahead of God’s. The prophets then turn and blast the national leaders for all their greed, corruption, and injustices. Would many preachers today, who are so concerned about numbers and offending persons, put up with such prophets, although clearly men of God?

Have you read from 1 and 2 Kings, the words and behaviors of prophets like Micaiah and Elijah? Micaiah was hated by a notoriously wicked king because he didn’t prophesy “good” for him. When Micaiah was summoned, he mockingly said all would go well, go and be victorious. The king, irritated by the mocking flattery, told the prophet to speak the truth. Indeed, Micaiah then spoke the truth and was imprisoned for it—yet, his haunting warnings to the king came to pass with precision. Elijah taunted the prophets of Baal as they danced and cut themselves, trying to get Baal to consume their sacrifices. Elijah mocked them, saying, “Maybe he’s sleeping or on a trip. Or maybe he’s relieving himself!” Was this tactful or gracious of behavior of either prophet? Yet, who’s going to say these weren’t men of God?

Have you read James or Jude recently? Both letters are brief, but loaded with dynamite. James doesn’t hold back punches as he speaks to the Christian community about faith, double-mindedness, partiality, the tongue, and worldly wisdom. He gets straight to the points, never sparing the feelings of his readers. Still, there should be no doubt about his love for them. Jude goes straight for the jugular when discussing the dangers and slyness of false teachers who creep into churches to teach “damnable heresies” of sensuality and licentiousness. Were these men arrogant and insensitive? Be careful how you answer, because God chose these two men to write letters  to become a part of sacred Scripture.

And what about Brother Paul? He addresses numerous problems of sinful behaviors and false teachings in the churches. Then, in Galatians, he even mentions a time he had to confront Peter with hypocrisy to his face in front of everyone. If a man today had the heart of Paul, would he not be considered self-righteous and divisive?

A man of God is not determined by how pleasant his smile or how “nice” he is to others (“niceness” and kindness are not the same; “niceness” can be a result of cowardliness and false motives). Rather, a man of God will direct people to the Scriptures, to Christ and His atoning work, and to holy and loving conduct. Furthermore, genuine men of God will confront us with the truth and discomfort of our sins. Only by dealing with sin can we truly experience the hope God offers. Many don’t want to hear this anymore. This is not surprising. Yet, the Scriptures warn:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. ~ 2 Timothy 4:1-3

Exchanging of Glory and Broken Cisterns

Throughout history there have been instances of revivals and spiritual awakenings, but not a single one of them came apart from God’s people praying. If there has ever been a time when there’s been a desperate need for revival, it is now. Yet, in a time when God and His mercies are needed, not only is secular society becoming more resistant toward Him, so also, many Christians are more interested in receiving warm fuzzies, and many ministers are more interested in building their churches.

Despite the increasing chaos our world is facing, where are the desperate pleas for revival being sounded from the pulpits? Where are the voices on social media stating our desperate need for God’s intervention – not in an accusingly fashion, but an honest plea?

We could learn a lot from the Old Testament, if we’d stop listening to Bozos who say it’s irrelevant to the people “under grace” (the writers of the New Testament declare that we have these writings for an example). Speaking through on of His prophets, God declares to the people of old:

But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. ~ Jeremiah 2:11-13

The people of God committed two evils: 1) forsaking God, and 2) pursuing and putting trust in other things other than God. Are we not guilty of this today? We claim to come to God in our churches and concerts, but is it truly to pursue God or to experience some form of manifestation? Is it truly about God and surrendering to Him, or to experience some kind of miracle and experience? Still, isn’t it, in many cases, just something we do out of habit? In this, are we not guilty of forsaking our God? Added to this evil is another evil of simply pursuing our own agendas (e.g., bigger congregations, bigger buildings, more programs, etc.). It’s not that these things are necessarily wrong in themselves; however, in many cases these come at the cost of genuine pursuit of, and surrender to, God. The whole counsel of God is neglected, lest the people are “offended” and leave, etc. So, are we not left with many wonderful buildings, many wonderful programs, yet a biblically illiterate and spiritually malnourished people?

Later, God says through His prophet:

An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their discretion; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes? ~ Jeremiah 6:30-31

Can we honestly say the church today isn’t experiencing this? If this is not true, then why are many churches, conferences, and concerts filled, despite the fact God’s Word is neglected, denied, or is said of “needing to comply with the times”? How is it many televangelsists continue to have their bank accounts expand, and “Christian” authors remain bestsellers, despite their teachings stand in opposition to the teachings of the Scriptures?

Still, God’s message to us is the same as His message to the people of old:

Return, faithless Israel, declares the LORD. I will not look on you with anger, for I am merciful, declares the LORD; only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the LORD your God and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, declares the LORD. ~ Jeremiah 3:12-13

I believe God wants to heal our land. He wants to bring revival. But instead of pleading for revival, our prayers are often filled with “bless me, bless me, bless me,” while secular society screams, “Leave us alone! We can handle this on our own!” And all that keeps happening is our world is spiraling further out of control.

Instead of trying to defend our positions, whether “liberal” or “conservative,” when will we humbly and honestly acknowledge, “God, You are right and we are wrong! Have mercy, for we have sinned against You greatly! Have mercy on us and our lands. Bring revival! Bring awakening! We are helpless apart from You! Have Your way in us!” Will we ever return to the fountain of living waters, or will we continue to trust in broken cisterns which cannot hold water, then only to continue to wonder why we remain thirsty while the world becomes increasingly barren spiritually?

The End of the Matter

The End of the Matter

All is vanity,

A chasing of the wind:

We have our dreams,

But nothing in the end.

We have our birth and death,

We have our work and play.

But all is meaningless,

What else is there to say?

The end of the matter,

When all is said and done,

We’re here for a purpose,

Not just going ‘round the sun.

Not just for toiling,

Not to shake our booties;

But in life to live for God—

This is our sacred duty.

I have had my pleasures,

I’ve had my share of pain.

I’ve enjoyed the sunshine,

I’ve been refreshed by the rain.

I’ve been on the playground,

And I’ve surely been in school:

I’ve been a wise man,

But I’ve also been the fool.

The end of the matter,

When all is said and done,

We’re here for a purpose,

Not just going ‘round the sun.

Not just for toiling,

Not to shake our booties;

But in life to live for God—

This is our sacred duty.

People enjoying sex and drugs,

And forever rock and roll.

Money and accomplishments,

But nothing soothes the soul.

With angry fists and voices lifted,

In unbelief we taunt:

But for every word and deed,

Be sure, we’ll give account.

The end of the matter,

When all is said and done,

We’re here for a purpose,

Not just going ‘round the sun.

Not just for toiling,

Not to shake our booties;

But in life to live for God—

This is our sacred duty.

This is our sacred duty.

This is our sacred duty.

In life to live for God—

This is our sacred duty.

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. ~ Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

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

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. ~  John 17:3

Many people don’t like the book of Ecclesiastes, stating that it’s “depressing,” but they miss the point of the book entirely. The book is not saying that everything in life is meaningless. After all, God has blessed life, work, and play (provided it’s not sinful). However, the life apart from God is empty, and nothing can truly satisfy us apart from God.

Many are familiar with the words of St. Augustine of Hippo, in which he writes, “You awake us to delight in your praise; for you made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”[1] This is the point the writer of Ecclesiastes is making. Making good grades, getting a good job, attaining wealth, having great sex, having fun parties, enjoying the best foods, etc. will not truly satisfy the space in the heart. The writer is not saying that none of these things are pleasurable, but they will neither satisfy nor sustain a person ultimately.

Isn’t it worth considering that the richest people in the world are never satisfied with all the money they have? They still want more. The same thing with other pleasures and vices. But at the end of the day, there’s still something missing. Occasionally we’re surprised to learn that some persons who seemed to have had it all end of taking their lives.

The writer is not saying any pleasure in life is bad and empty. However, where persons will truly find their purpose and fulfillment, strangely, is by fearing God and walking in His ways. Furthermore, those who simply live for the pleasures while dismissing God will not only give account one day, but all of these will be stripped from them.

1. Why would fearing God and keeping His commandments prover to be a good thing? Why would we find fulfillment in these?

2. How does Jesus define eternal life?

3. What does Augustine mean when he says that our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God?

[1] Saint Augustine of Hippo, The Confessions of Saint Augustine, ed. Hal M. Helms (Brewster, MA: Paraclete, 2010), 3.

(From the book, Metal Head Devotions, by Geno Pyse, available through

We Are One

We Are One

In the thick of warfare the battle ever rages;

The people of God opposed in the war of the ages.

Soldiers skirmishing among one another like foes,

And their wounded are trampled in the bloodied snow.

Let us not segregate, let us not divide;

Let us be bound by love, standing side by side.

United in essentials and in the work He has done,

In Christ alone, by grace alone, we are one.

Of the weapon of division the Adversary makes great use,

Brother against brother inflicting cruel abuse.

While the power of the opposing army ever grows,

We are to busy fighting among ourselves to ever know.

Let us not segregate, let us not divide;

Let us be bound by love, standing side by side.

United in essentials and in the work He has done,

In Christ alone, by grace alone, we are one.

In the absolute essentials let us be united,

But in secondaries let us not be divided.

By our love for one another they will know we are His;

But how can we be certain of ourselves if we dismiss this?

Let us not segregate, let us not divide;

Let us be bound by love, standing side by side.

United in essentials and in the work He has done,

In Christ alone, by grace alone, we are one.

We are one;

Stand as one;

Fight as one;

We are one!

We are one!

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:10

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. ~ Philippians 1:27

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. ~ John 13:35

The church of Jesus Christ has done some amazing things in our world. Despite all the unjust criticisms of the world, the church has made major contributions to the recognition of the value of woman and children, the sanctity of human life, science and medicine, education, social justice, etc.[1] However, one of the great tragedies of those who profess the name of Christ throughout the centuries is our lack of love for one another. The church is not guiltless. How sad to see the bitter strife between Catholics and Protestants through the ages, and the cruel persecution of both toward the Anabaptists.

My point here is not differences of doctrines or whether this group or that are really Christian. Personally, I have a difficult time believing persons who can inflict such cruelty upon other human beings are truly born again, regardless of what they call themselves or affiliate with. But that’s neither here nor there. The fact is these are groups and persons who claimed to do all this violence in the name of Jesus Christ, which is so foreign and contrasting to what Jesus lived and taught us.

Thankfully, a lot has changed, but I am haunted by this thought: Does the world know we are Christ’s disciples by our love for one another? As Christians and churches, are we not more generally known for our wanting money, condescending words and attitudes, hypocrisies, church splits, and theological debates and mudslinging? But are we known for our love for one another?

There is a raging spiritual war claiming the souls of many and seeking to spread evil around the world. The church has a ruthless adversary who violently hates us and the Christ we serve. We are an army that is to put on the whole armor of God (see Ephesians 6:10-18), locking our shields together in unity, but we are all too often bickering and warring amongst ourselves in the camp rather than opposing the real enemy.

We debate theological issues that are not bearing on people’s salvation. We strive and divide over such stupid things as the color of the carpet. Foolishness and wickedness, and so Christ-dishonoring! All the while, the adversary advances his cause in our generation, during our watch! How often are you and I guilty?

Oh, beloved, may we learn to genuinely love one another, even in our differences, but being cemented together in our love in Christ. May we remember that we are family, allies, and comrades. In Christ, may we be united in love.

1. The Bible tells believers to love one another, and to be united in mind and spirit. When we disobey these, what does this reveal about us?

2. Despite what/how Catholics or Protestants believe or live, what is our responsibility in the eyes of Christ?

3. Are you known for your love for other believers? If not, what is Jesus expecting of you to become obedient to His command to love?

[1] A book worth checking out is, How Christianity Changed the World, by Alvin J. Schmidt, published by Zondervan.

Devotional taken from, Metal Head Devotions, p. 121-124.

Disintegration of Darkness

It might come as a surprise to some, but I like heavy metal and thrash music (not death metal or the scream metal that’s popular today). I’ve liked these ever since I was a kid. For one, these are fitting for those who are misfits and just don’t like the carbon copies we’re expected to conform to. But, even though dark at times, I feel metal music is often far more honest than other genres. While so much of what’s popular is simply about drinking, partying, making out, and one upping others, metal music deals with many issues, stomping over “political correctness.” Even so much in mainstream Christian music is about having warm fuzzies, avoiding so many issues in real life. Very little is genuinely thought-provoking. 

I recently released a book through Amazon, geared toward Christians who enjoy heavy metal, Metal Head Devotions: Heavy Devotions for Those Who Like Heavy Music. The following is the second devotional in it. I hope you enjoy. Blessings!

Disintegration of Darkness

Light enters the darkness,

The blackness boasts to prevail;

But the darkness cannot overcome,

As the light impales.

Although darkness resists,

For light’s power to decimate;

But wherever there’s a crack,

The light will penetrate!

Disintegration of darkness,

The darkness cannot overcome;

Disintegration of darkness,

Impaled by the eternal dawn.

Order out of chaos,

From light there bursts forth life;

Darkness, the dreadful prison

Binding all with misery and strife.

The light seeks to illuminate,

To set the captives free;

But darkness squeezes like a vice

To damn them where they be.

Disintegration of darkness,

The darkness cannot overcome;

Disintegration of darkness,

Impaled by the eternal dawn.

The darkness cannot overcome,

Nor can it comprehend.

Wherever light shines gloriously,

The darkness comes to an end.

Those who come to the light,

In life will be exposed;

But those who run into the dark

Will with darkness erode.

Disintegration of darkness,

The darkness cannot overcome;

Disintegration of darkness,

Impaled by the eternal dawn.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ~ John 1:4-5

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. ~ John 3:19-20

Light and darkness are both strange things in existence. We make use of both for various reasons. Light is vital for life and well-being—both physically and spiritually. We use light to see and to expose. We use darkness to hide and conceal.

In Jesus Christ, light has come into the world in the spiritual sense. Apart from Him, we walk in the darkness, neither seeing nor knowing where we are going. In our darkness, we are completely disoriented. We see evidence of this in our world today. There is such chaos and disorder throughout the world. People calling good evil and evil good. Politicians and various leaders making decisions to fix problems, but what usually happens is more problems are created instead. So many decisions being made today make absolutely no sense, but this is the result of darkness—disorder and chaos.

On the flip side, the light shines and exposes things for what they are, and we are exposed for what and who we truly are. This is beyond uncomfortable. We are exposed as being weak, sinful, dirty, disgraceful, perverse, selfish, unholy, naked, and in desperate need. When Isaiah was exposed in the presence of God in Isaiah, he cried out that he was “undone.” He literally felt like he was going to be destroyed. Who among us like to be exposed for our faults, our lies, our improprieties, our gossip, etc.? The shame we feel can become unbearable. This is one of the reasons we don’t always rush to the light.

As followers of Christ, or persons considering doing so, it is important that we understand that God’s desire is not to shame us or destroy us. His desire is that we might see our desperate need for Him, to understand the terrible guilt and wickedness of our sins.

Think of it this way, we don’t need a doctor until we realize we’re sick or something is truly wrong within us. The same is true when it comes to the light of Christ. Most of us like to think that we’re pretty good chaps, until His light reveals our real selfishness, ulterior motives, false love, cowardness, and beastliness. Most of us are oblivious to just how deeply some of our words and actions have impaled and wounded other people, whether family, friends, acquaintances, or strangers. Once we can truly see and recognize our wretchedness, we can then begin to understand our own personal, and desperate, need of the Savior. But are we willing to approach the light and be exposed or creep back into the darkness and die in our sins?

1. When you consider the benefits of light in the natural realm, how does this transfer to the spiritual?

2. What does the Bible mean when it says, “In him [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men”?

3. What does the Bible mean when it says, “people loved the darkness rather than the light”? How does this affect people’s responses to both light and darkness?

Lost in God’s Own House

There is a strange occurrence during the reign of Josiah, whom we are told was a good king who “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD” (2 Kings 22:2). It would be humorous were it not so tragic. It was on his heart to begin doing repairs to the temple. During this time Josiah had sent Shaphan to the temple to enquire about the money collected from the people, so the workers doing the repairs could get paid. When Shaphan was conversing with Hilkiah the high priest, the priest told him, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD” (vs. 8).

To many of us today, especially who live in the Western world, we take for granted we have printed Bibles in abundance and in various languages and translations. The people then did not have such luxury. The Scriptures were carefully, tediously hand-copied and were expensive. So, it is not surprising that most households did not have copies of the Scriptures. What is surprising, however, is the fact the Scriptures—God’s Word—should have had preeminence in God’s house; yet somehow, in the midst of all the activities and religious routines, the Word of God was lost.

Many churches today are experiencing something similar. Thankfully, we have copies of the Word of God; however, there is a crucial, vital doctrine that has been lost in many churches, although it is in plain sight if people will but take the time to look. What is this doctrine? Repentance.

I have heard it said, “Don’t give me doctrines, just give me Jesus!” While this sounds pious to some, it is quite foolish. One cannot have Jesus of the Scriptures apart from doctrine because doctrines are teachings and Jesus gave us His teachings.

 While not to be considered acceptable, the situation during Josiah’s time is, perhaps, more understandable. Maybe a person had placed the Scriptures in a place to keep them safe, then this person died or moved. Or maybe someone else had come across them and moved the Scriptures to another place without telling anyone. We are not told as to what happened for the Book of the Law being lost somewhere in the temple.

Today, we do not have a legitimate excuse for having lost the doctrine of repentance. Not only should this be a basic doctrine learned by those having gone to seminary (which includes most ministers), it is repeatedly taught in the Bible—in both the Old and New Testaments! Nevertheless, one will not hear this doctrine taught in many churches. You will not read about it in many of the books filling the bookshelves of Christian bookstores. In fact, many of the authors who fancy themselves as preachers and theologians scorn the doctrine, treating it as archaic and puritanical.

So, our sin of losing the doctrine of repentance today is greater than the sin of the people losing the Book of the Law during the time of the Jewish kings. For the sin today is not simply and mistakenly misplacing the doctrine. For it is not a losing or misplacing the doctrine at all. Rather, it is a willful, deliberate casting aside—rejecting—the teaching and commandments of God.

The church must recover this crucial doctrine, blow off the dust, and begin putting it into practice. The consequences are too severe for us to ignore!

~ from the book, The Lost Doctrine of the Bible: Missing in Plain Sight, by Geno Pyse, p. 13-17.

The Power of God Unto Salvation

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. ~ Romans 1:16

 Good News. This is what gospel means. Only when persons understand the reason as to why it is good news will individuals begin to understand, and genuinely appreciate, the significance of the gospel.

The apostle declares that he is not ashamed of this good news—the gospel. That is, Paul is neither embarrassed nor apologetic about the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not simply a statement but a declaration. One that is countercultural and unpopular, for many find the gospel to be either offensive or ridiculous.

Roman society, like ours, had all kinds of gods and conflicting philosophies. For the most part, one could get along if he played by society’s rule of religious inclusivity. So, religion was treated almost the way people complement each other’s tattoos today. However, exclusivity was considered arrogant and presumptuous then as it is today.

Yet, here is Paul, not willing to play society’s game of religious flattery. No, he was not belligerent towards those of different faiths, but neither was he willing to say that Jesus Christ was but a way to paradise or heaven. Although he was greatly outnumbered, he was not embarrassed of the gospel, and he boldly declared that it is the power of God for salvation.

In Acts, we read of Paul’s visit to Athens and how his spirit was troubled as he witnessed the abundant idolatry. We are told “that the city was full of idols” (17:16). Paul reasoned in the synagogue and conversed with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in the marketplace. Then, one day he stood in the midst of the Areopagus, and said,

Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: “To the unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. (Acts 17:22-23)

He proceeds to tell them of the God of Christianity, and how this God created the world and all humanity. Paul then begins addressing men’s idolatry and calls them to repent, as he tells of a fixed day when God “will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (vs. 31).

Note, Paul did not lambaste the people. The text implies that the apostle genuinely cared about these people; however, he was unwilling to put their idolatry or any of their false gods on par with Jesus Christ and the gospel. Furthermore, he noted that Jesus, exclusively, was raised from the dead.

Concerning idolatry, whether it is religious or ideological, Paul addresses it in his letter to the Romans. The apostle does not mince his words, as he explains that our idolatries are neither accidents nor “mistakes.” The atheist’s stance on there being “no proof” is an invalid argument. And Paul declares God’s wrath is revealed

against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. (Rom. 1:18-19)

How? In “the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (vs. 20). The psalmist writes, “The heavens declare the glory of God …There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard” (Ps. 19:1, 3). Furthermore, Paul states that even though Gentiles who do not have the law “show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience bears witness” (Rom. 2:15).

From the macro down to the very micro, creation reveals design, order, and complexity. And a general morality is revealed throughout the world, whether the society is democratic, communistic, Hindu, etc. With this said, elsewhere Paul does note that the conscience can be seared: “Through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared” (1 Tim. 4:2). That is, a person’s conscience can become numb.

This issue of “suppressing the truth” must not be dismissed. If we were to probe honestly, each of us would see where we have done this in our own lives. Yet, we can see the suppression of truth all around us. The news media does this constantly. Certain people of a political party are verbally condemned for alleged behaviors, while explicit displays of the same behaviors in another party are dismissed.

In education and science, the theory of evolution is projected as “fact,” even though there is no evidence to support it. In fact, there are some prestigious individuals who have openly shared that they know evolution is not true, but they hold to it lest they would have to admit they have a Creator to whom they will give account to.

Another area you see the suppression of truth is in the philosophical realm, when people claim that truth is relative; that is, there are no absolutes. This becomes almost comical, as nearly everyone who professes this absurdity will go on to say how your views are wrong, or this action is unfair, etc. This profession of there being no absolutes (especially moral) is typically used to justify behaviors permitting individuals to do what they want, without having to feel the pangs of conscience.

Say what we will, but the fact of the matter is each of us has committed idolatry and suppressed the truth. As one theologian has said, our hearts are idol factories. Idols come in all shapes and forms. They can come as images of wood and stone, the saints of Catholicism, the Virgin Mary. Idols can be the traditions of churches or the pleasures of the flesh. An idol is anything that would replace God of His rightful place in our lives and worship. Even the garments of Evangelicalism can cover idolatry.

Why is God so angry with idolatry? Because it is a rejection of Him for what is false. Idolatry is a refusal to honor and serve God, it is an exchanging “the truth about God for a lie” and to worship and serve “the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25).

To put it another way, the Old Testament often uses the imagery of harlotry and infidelity when confronting idolatry:

Because she took her whoredom lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. (Jer. 3:9)

Your lewdness and your whoring have brought this upon you, because you played the whore with the nations and defiled yourself with their idols. (Eze. 23:29-30)

My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore. (Hos. 4:12)

Let us make no mistake, idolatry is present in many churches today clothed with many expressions. In his book, Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer rightly notes that idolatry begins within the mind, simply thoughts that are unworthy and contrary to whom God is.

Idolatry, regardless how we might dress it or justify it, will never bring us to God and salvation. In fact, idolatry does just the opposite, leading persons away from the true God and deeper into deception and false security. But Paul says the gospel—the good news—is the power of God for salvation to anyone who believes!

~ from the book, The Pure Gospel: Undiluted and Unadulterated, by Geno Pyse, p. 9-17.

Hospitals or Hospices?

It has been a few weeks since I have posted anything. There are a few reasons, but one of which has to do with releasing a new book through Amazon, entitled, Misfits of Grace: Black Sheep in God’s Family. I believe it’s an important message for the church today. The chief attribute Christians ought to be known for is love for one another. This doesn’t mean the condoning of sin, of course, but it does mean to treat persons with respect and worth. Sadly, too many persons, genuine believers, are attending churches trying to live by faith that they have intrinsic value as a brother or sister in the family of God, but they are ignored and rejected by the very persons who claim to be siblings in Christ. This is tragic. Furthermore, they are told they are important to the body, that God has given them spiritual gifts, but they are treated as mere benchwarmers and water boys on some high school sports team.

Some of God’s children are misfits, so to speak, and are treated as such by people. But be clear on this, these individuals are so dearly loved by God. They are not redeemed by accident, and their worth is not less than those who are “insiders” of religious circles.

Today, I’m sharing with you the first chapter of Misfits of Grace. I hope you will find it both challenging and encouraging.

Chapter One: Hospitals or Hospices?

Let’s begin with a multiple-choice question, shall we? Jesus says that people will know persons are His disciples by: a) How many verses they have memorized. b) Their faithfulness in church attendance. c) Having the complete set of John MacArthur’s Bible Commentaries. d) Branding sinners with red hot verbal irons. e) Being popular in churches. f) Appearing spiritual. g) Worshiping at a Chris Tomlin concert. h) Being a Sunday school teacher. i) All the above. j) None of the above. I trust that this was an easy question. In fact, I’m confident that many who are reading this can state what Jesus actually says: 

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. ~ John 13:35 

We, as Christians, can say these words with convincing conviction. However, let me ask you: Do others know you and I are Christ’s disciples by our love? Then again, what is love? The Bible defines it for us: 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. ~ 1 Corinthians. 13:4-6 

Do these describe most of us in our interactions with one another? Really? Are most of us truly known for being patient, kind, humble, and selfless? Oh sure, those within our circles and cliques might think well enough of us, but what about the outsiders—those deemed as different, unattractive, not funny, too serious, socially awkward, too bubbly, etc.?  This brings us to what James writes to believers, concerning partiality: 

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory… If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin. ~ James 2:1, 8-9 

Again, how are many persons in churches doing in not showing partiality? I’ve been a Christian long enough and have been to enough churches and events to know the more attractive, nicely dressed, and influential persons are often treated better than those who lack these qualities (we’ll look at this issue later).

 I remember years ago being excited about enrolling at a Bible College/seminary. I had envisioned it as being a slice of heaven on earth. However, the truth of the matter is it was one of the most excruciatingly lonely places I have ever been. Although I did have some friends there, on numerous occasions I remember greeting persons passing on the sidewalk only to have them walk pass me without a smile, hello, or eye contact. I remember thinking, “Wow! If you will not greet a brother in Christ who is civil with you, you will not minister to those of the likes of me before coming to know Christ.”

On another occasion I had the initial privilege of meeting a wellknown Southern Baptist preacher. At the time I had a cassette tape with a sermon he had preached. This message had a profound impact on me. While trying to thank him, he shook my hand without making eye contact and basically blew me off.

I’ve experienced numerous such encounters in churches and religious settings. Furthermore, I have met other misfits who have had their own share of similar experiences. Churches ought to be a place where followers of Christ are both welcomed and feel welcomed. Sadly, too often, the church is often described as the only army that shoots its own wounded. Churches are also said to be hospitals where the spiritual sick can find healing. Ironically, for many, churches are more like hospices where individuals feel left to die alone with their broken hearts and wounded spirits. In his book, Encourage Me, Charles Swindoll tells the story of meeting up with a Marine he had once served with. The man had since then become a Christian. When asked how he was doing, he acknowledged to Charles that he missed the days when he could simply meet with his buddies at a tavern and let his hair down. Charles admits that many Christian men feel this way.

 So, Jesus says others will know we are His disciples by our love for one another. Can this be said of you and me? What would those outside our circles say of us? Do you think their opinions don’t matter? According to Jesus, others’ perception of our love (or lack thereof) reveals a lot about our discipleship (or lack thereof) beneath Him and His teachings. The implication is clear: If we are not known for our genuine love for one another, then neither are we truly known as Jesus’ disciples and followers. 

The Importance of Confession

How easily we can camouflage pseudo-spirituality and religious pretenses with religious activities and rhetoric. We can fool others, and astonishingly, we can even deceive ourselves! But we cannot fool or pull one over on God, the omniscient One. We can twist God’s Word in a way to fool ourselves and others, but this is only to our own harm. Truth remains truth regardless of twisting, rhetoric, or smoke and mirrors. 

The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins,” (7:20). We can (and do) go around patting ourselves on the backs, thinking, “You’re okay and I’m okay.” But the truth of the matter is we’re not always okay. If we’re not careful, we can ignore the flowerbeds of our hearts and allow the weeds of anger, pride, lust, covetousness, worry, and the like to take root and begin choking the flowers of virtue and grace. We can begin to deny God’s perspective on attitudes and behaviors He declares  as sin. We can erect various forms of idolatry in our lives and churches and truly believe everything is alright when everything is all wrong.

Sin is never neutral. Even if a person is truly redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, sin still has consequences. And the more one ignores and dismisses the warnings of God’s Word, faithful believers, and the convictions of the Holy Spirit, the more severe the consequences will be.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. ~ 1 John 1:5-6

God is light. There is no darkness—not even shadows—in Him. He is completely holy, Truth to the utmost absolute, and pure in the highest caliber. We, on the other hand, are not. And while God, indeed, is very lovingly long suffering with us, He does not at all condone our walking and wallowing in sin like kids jumping in puddles and pigs rolling in mire. What we sometimes fail to understand is when we try to harbor our sins we begin to walk in darkness. The longer we are in darkness, the further we can stray from the Lord and lose our way. This, in turn, causes us to become more vulnerable to other deceptions and various forms of bondage (even religious kinds).

We read a truth in the Old Testament that remains true in the lives of true believers:

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. ~ Isaiah 59:1-3

In Christ, the issue is not whether one can be forgiven, because all sin is forgivable through Him. Rather, are we willing to let His light expose our sins, and are we willing to agree with Him for what He says about them? Our sins do disrupt our fellowship with Him. And Jesus says of those who reject Him and the reason they stand condemned:

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. ~ John 3:19-20

For God’s people, in the midst of our struggle with sin, the apostle writes,

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 8-9

The word confess doesn’t simply mean to admit. Rather, it’s taken from the Greek word, homoiogeo, which means to agree and consent to. Thus, confession has to do with agreeing with God concerning the way He sees our thoughts, behaviors, attitudes, and motives, then changing these accordingly.

Today, we are in dire need to confess—to agree, to consent—with God and His perception on things. It is easy to look at the world and see what a mess it’s in; however, as Christians we can be ever so guilty of wanting to take the specks out of unbelievers’ eyes, while being oblivious to the forests in our own. The church in the West (especially in the United States) harbors all kinds of pride, anger, envy, and partialities. We’ve allowed all kinds of “back talking” and casting doubt on God’s Word—even in many of our seminaries. Furthermore, we’ve erected all kinds of idols (especially in the areas of entertainment and comfortable living) in our hearts and churches. 

How can we see if we are walking and stumbling in darkness? How can we really be walking with God if we are not willing to agree and consent to what He says about things? An essential part of prayer is asking the Lord to reveal sin in our lives. The psalmist writes,

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! ~ Psalm 139:24-24

This, my friend, is a continual and life long endeavor. But we are promised that as we do, God is both faithful and just to not only forgive us of sin but to also cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

Biblical Words We Must Not Disregard 

We love words like grace and justification, although these reveal it’s all God’s work. So why are we afraid of words like predestination and election? After all, we’re told,

Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself. ~ Ephesians 1:4-5

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. ~ Romans 8:33

Take the time to consider these seven things:

1) We are finite creatures considering the works of an infinite God. Why should we be surprised we don’t comprehend such concepts?

2) God is complete and perfect in His holiness, love, justice, goodness, and mercy. None of these attributes betray the others when God does what He does. We might not understand, but we must remember point number one. To accuse God of being unjust is an astounding thing, considering none of us is the poster child of justice (Romans 3:10-18).

3) To dismiss or deny these words and concepts is to be unfaithful to the sacred texts (these are difficult to miss in Ephesians 1). What an astounding thing to dismiss, and in some cases to abhor, God’s revelation. We’re moved when we hear, “I have loved you, and you are saved entirely by My grace.” But then are bewildered when we hear, “I have chosen you and predestined you before the foundation of the world.”

4) These concepts were not meant to divide God’s people but to bring comfort to believers who were facing very real trials and persecution. Why are we not comforted by them?

5) Were it not for His election and predestination none of us would be saved, because none of us seek God on our own accord.

6) Predestination does not nullify God’s invitation for all to come to Him. Just because we don’t understand how these tie together in unity doesn’t make them less true. Again, we are finite.

7) That God would bother saving the likes of you or me should blow our minds and fill us with overwhelming gratitude. Grace means to receive what we don’t deserve (mercy, salvation), and it is the gift of God not by works. So what’s the problem with predestination and election, again?

What does all this have to do with prayer? First, if you are born again, this should fill your heart with utmost gratitude. Salvation always begins with God taking the initiative. If we love Him, then it’s only because He first loved us (1 John 4:10, 19). Second, it should motivate the child of God to want to talk with Him, because He wants to hear from you and me.

Let’s neither be afraid nor dismayed by these words and concepts. And certainly let us not be unfaithful to Sacred Text. They come from the all-wise One to the unwise, the Infinite to the finite, and the Just to the unjust. It shouldn’t surprise us that we don’t fully comprehend these great truths (far lesser things boggle our minds). What should surprise us is that we were were on His mind and in His heart before the foundation of the world.