Your Will Be Done / Is Jesus Our King?

An important question we must ask ourselves is this: Is Jesus our King? Note, the question is not whether He is King, because this is a given. He will forever be the Sovereign King of kings. Rather, the question is , is He our King? “Well,” someone will say, “He’s my Savior.” Again, this isn’t an answer to the question. Is Jesus Christ your King, and mine? Understand, our answers have ramifications and specific implications, and as my pastor pointed out recently, even children understand these implications.

Each of us, whether young or old, understand that a Monarchy is not a democracy. Neither majority nor minority opinions count for anything. Furthermore, the king is sole authority and rule maker. And when a king sends a request/command, it’s not a matter of whether the subject wants to do it. 

If Jesus is truly our King, then He has authority over us. Now, technically, He is King over all but many reject His authority over their lives. However, for the people of God, we gladly receive His authority over our lives. Likewise, if He is our King, then we must acknowledge He is the Sovereign rule and law maker. These are not up for debate. We are either willing to surrender to His kingship or defy Him like an unbeliever. When He declares something good and right, then it is so. And when He declares something as wrong and evil, then it is so. Again, to argue, debate, and to try to twist the Scriptures to fit our preferences is simply to defy Him just as an unbeliever.

We must also be cautious of words like liberal, conservative, moderate, Democrat, Republican, and the like. Jesus isn’t any of these. He is perfectly holy, righteous, and just. Sir, ma’am, you might use such words to describe yourself. However, if you profess Jesus ad your King (Lord) and Savior, is your life being transformed by being conformed to His likeness and teachings? 

It’s become en vogue in certain circles to cast doubt on the Scriptures; yet, when you read the Gospels, Jesus has complete trust in them and their accuracy. Some like to pit the “theologies” of the apostles against one another, but Jesus never does this with the prophets, and it is His Spirit which would guide them to complete the canon of Scriptures.

There are others who want to distort such as the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, twisting morality into something relative and subjective. Some do this with the issue of the sanctity of life as well. Nevertheless,  if Jesus is truly your King, then you’ll know you have no warrant to tamper with His ordinances.

Still, on the “conservative” side I have witnessed all kinds of pride and hypocrisies, as though we are among God’s favorites. Therefore, we think Jesus will just wink at our pride, turning a blind eye, demanding our ways, improprieties, and the like. Again, to dismiss His commands concerning humility, honesty, purity, love, and integrity is to rebel against Him like an unbeliever. None of us is immune from this tension.

So, as we consider the Kingship of Jesus Christ, we can acknowledge the difficulty of the Christian life, and the frustrations in prayer. Part of what makes the Christian life difficult is the reality of learning to say “No!” to ourselves and our preferences and passions, and learning to say “Yes!” to Christ’s. And part of what makes prayer frustrating is the fact many of our prayers are denied because they’re not in line with God’s character, ways, or will. But who is king? Is it you (or I) or is it Christ? Then where does our allegiance lie? Is it in us and our desires or in Christ and His desires? 

Consider what Jesus says in His sermon on the Mount:

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. ~ Matthew 6:24

While Jesus uses money as an example here, one’s master can just as easily be pride, lust, substances, an ideology, a denomination, a political affiliation, etc. The point is, whoever our true master and king is, that is who we will ultimately follow. There are many who profess that Jesus is their King, but their true loyalties are elsewhere. Therefore, Jesus is not really their King.

Understand, none of us is perfect. That’s not the point. Even the apostle Peter failed numerous times. Nevertheless, we continue to see his relationship, love, and devotion to Christ continue to grow in the Gospels, then Acts, and then in his letters. But this growth came through his receiving Jesus’ instructions, rebukes, and encouragement. When Jesus instructed him in teachings, Peter listened with acceptance—even when it was uncomfortable (for example, when he asked about forgiving a person up to seven times, and Jesus said seven times seventy. Peter didn’t argue). Or when Jesus rebuked him, even calling him Satan, Peter didn’t question Jesus’ authority or right to say such a thing. And when Peter totally blew it, denying Jesus three times, he humbly received His love when Jesus didn’t give up on him. But neither did he waste nor abuse that love.

So, perhaps one of the most difficult aspects to prayer is that of, while letting our requests be made known to Him, but also genuinely meaning it when we say, “Not my will, but Your will be done.” Why? Because He is the all-wise and all-good King. Honestly, sometimes my prayers are about what I want. Even aside from prayer, sometimes my flesh wants to respond with accordance to my desires, which are in contrast to Christ’s. I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t feel this tension. Yet, at the end of the day, who is King? And whose will do I truly desire to be done? And to whom do I truly give my allegiance? I hope that each day my allegiance to Jesus Christ is becoming increasingly solidified. Any of us can say that Jesus is our King easily enough. But the proof is in whether our lives are increasingly conforming to Him and the Sacred Scriptures. It is by this our lives prove if we are being honest when we say to Him, “Your will be done.” Otherwise, they’re just empty words.

Stay Alert and Awake!

But if that wicked servant says to himself, “My master is delayed,” and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him … and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

~ Matthew 24:48-51

Lest [the master] come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.

~ Mark 13:36-37

Years ago, when I was in my teens, my parents had gone out of town. When they left, the house was in disarray. My mom sternly warned me that the house had better be straightened up by the time they returned—or else. At the time, I had the benefit of knowing when they would return, and I did make sure I had taken care of all the chores before their return.

Jesus has “gone out of town.” He has left His people with instructions: for the shepherds and teachers to lovingly guide, instruct, and equip His people in the ways of righteousness, and for His people to carry out His Great Commission.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:18-20)

Consider the One who has issued this commission. It is none other than Jesus, the Christians’ Savior, Lord, God, and King. Believers need to recapture the definition of these titles:

  • Savior – one who saves, rescues, or delivers from harm or oppression. Jesus saves/delivers His people from the tyranny and ultimate consequence of sin, the wrath of God, the devil, and hell.
  • Lord – one who has authority, a master. One who calls the shots and is to be obeyed.
  • God – the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens and the earth.
  • King – a sovereign ruler.

Are these the way Jesus is viewed and treated in many churches? Be honest, is sin recognized and handled as a real hazard, danger, and poison? Is Jesus approached with genuine reverence and treated as authentic royalty? Is He approached as persons would approach a king, with humility and loyalty? 

Many people and churches emphasize Jesus’ love to the point of exclusion of His other attributes and characteristics (holiness, justice, truth, and purity). However, we must understand the One who extends forgiveness and grace is also the one who commands us to repent and to sin no more. While Jesus promises a heaven for His people, He also promises a hell for the unrepentant and unbelieving. He, indeed, is the gracious Savior of all who turn to Him, but He is also the Judge who will condemn those who reject His light because of their love for the darkness.

Jesus asks, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46). Elsewhere, He says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). How can Jesus be one’s Lord and King if what He says is dismissed?

On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matt. 7:22-23)

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. (John 3:19)

There are two kingdoms. Each of us is a citizen of one or the other, and our heart and loyalties are to whichever one we belong. Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24). Granted, in context He is talking about money, but the principle certainly applies on a broader scale. These two kingdoms are diametrically opposed to the other. The one is a kingdom of light, holiness, love, purity, and truth. The other is a kingdom of darkness, evil, selfishness, immorality, and deception. Although the kingdom of light is the kingdom of the rightful King, the kingdom of darkness is ruled by a would-be king (Satan) who is in continual rebellion of the rightful King’s rule.

There are many who feign to be a part of the kingdom of light, yet their lives reveal love for the kingdom of darkness (this will be discussed further in chapter four). The Bible says:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-10)

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. … And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal. 5:19-24) 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is transformative. When a person believes the Gospel and is born again by the Spirit of God (see John 3), he becomes a new creature. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). The Bible tells us those who are born again become citizens of King Jesus’ kingdom.

Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col. 1:12-14)

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the bodyand the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Eph. 2:1-3)

The genuine follower of Christ still battles an internal struggle with sin. He is made perfect positionally, but not experientially. Nevertheless, he is changed, and will continue to change.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:17-18)

John tells us that if we claim to have fellowship with God while walking in darkness, then we lie and are not practicing the truth. He goes on to explain that if we walk in the light, then we have fellowship with God, “and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Still, we cannot claim to be without sin, but “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all righteousness” (see 1 John 1:5-10).

Later in John’s letter, he encourages believers to abide in Christ, and when He appears, we will be like him. John then adds, “everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” Then, in the next paragraph he writes, “No one who abides in [Christ] keeps on sinning … Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil … whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God” (see 1 John 2:28-3:10).

In John’s Gospel, the apostle shares some of Jesus’ teachings about abiding in Him, loving/obeying, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus emphasizes our need to abide in Him, apart from which we cannot be nourished, grow, or bear fruit.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:1-6)

What does it mean to “abide” in Jesus? Jesus likens Himself to a vine and his followers as branches. The vine is the source of the roots and nourishment. If a branch is severed from the vine, it dies and withers. To abide in Christ means to stay connected and dependent on Him the same way a branch is connected and dependent on a vine. Disciples of Jesus Christ are to have this kind of relationship to Him.

In the previous chapter, Jesus explains to His disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (14:15), and those who do He will send the Spirit of truth to live in them (vs. 17). Jesus goes on to promise them who love Him, who keep His commandments, will in turn be loved by Him and the Father. Furthermore, He will manifest Himself to them (vs. 21).

In chapter 16, Jesus explains that the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Truth—will guide His people “into all the truth,” “things that are to come,” and “take what is [Christ’s] and declare it to you.” In all this, the Holy Spirit’s intention is to glorify Christ (see vs. 12-15). If any words or activities do not truly honor Christ, His teachings, and redemptive work then one can be certain that these are not of the Holy Spirit of God.

What does walking in the light, abiding in Christ, loving and obeying Him, and the Holy Spirit have to do with staying alert and awake? Walking in the light gives evidence of a genuine relationship with God. Obeying Christ and keeping His commandments gives evidence to authentic love for Him. The Holy Spirit will reveal truth and things to come to those who love Jesus.

In Matthew 24, Jesus tells of some things to watch for concerning His coming and the end of the age. There are those who limit this discourse as meaning the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.; however, this must include the future because Jesus has not yet returned. During this discourse, Jesus makes a distinction between wise servants and wicked servants. The wise servants continue to wait, serve, and expect the return of the Master. The wicked servants grow weary of waiting and begin to serve themselves. Jesus gives clear warning of the severe judgment of the wicked servants (vs. 45-51).

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells a parable of ten virgins. Five of the virgins were wise, while the other five were foolish. The coming of the bridegroom was delayed. The wise had prepared and had gotten extra flasks of oil for their lamps. The foolish made no such preparations. The wise who had prepared were each welcomed to the wedding feast. The foolish ones, who were late in coming due to not being prepared, were prohibited from joining in the feast. They were told the horrifying words, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.” Jesus ends the parable by saying, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (see vs. 1-13).

Oil is often  used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus returns, there will be many who are churchgoers but who are not born again. Therefore, they will not be filled with the Holy Spirit or genuine faith leading to salvation. Jesus warns in Matthew 24 of some whom He describes as wicked servants, although professing Him to be their “master,” go through the motions of religiosity but do not expect His return. These also become abusive toward His faithful servants while associating with the godless and adapting their ungodly ways.

For His faithful ones, Jesus does not simply leave them in the dark. Jesus had rebuked the religious leaders of the day, saying, “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times” (Matt. 16:3). Yet, in answer to the disciples’ question, “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3), Jesus gives various signs to watch for. Each is an indication that His return is drawing ever closer. Furthermore, throughout the New Testament we are given other things to watch for (we will consider some of these later). The question must be asked, would Jesus rebuke us today for not being able to interpret the times?

Jesus promised He would return when we least expect it; yet He expects His people to anticipate His return and be prepared. His return just might be closer than we think. 

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul notes, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (5:3). The apostle goes on to state matter-of-factly that such persons who live immorally, impurely, or covetous “has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (vs. 5).

As Paul continues, he explains that we had once been a part of darkness, with all its shameful works; however, in Christ we have become children of light.

But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine upon you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:13-16)

Elsewhere, Paul writes on the similar theme:

 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. (1 Thes. 5:5-7)

Our Master has gone “out of town,” and He appears to be delaying; nevertheless, He is going to return. When He does, will He find us faithful in our service, anticipating His return? If He returned this week, would we be taken by surprise? We cannot be faithful and unfaithful at the same time. Which are you? May we take ever so seriously Jesus’ admonitions. He has given explicit warnings to the immoral, the hypocrites, and the apostates. May His words be inscribed in our minds, on our hearts, and the depths of our soul: “And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

~ from the book, Storm on the Horizen: Are We Approaching the End Times? by Geno Pyse, p. 11-26

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. 

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?

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.

A House of Prayer 

Jesus says explicitly, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’” (Matt. 21:13; Luke 19:46). Therefore, not only is He stressing the importance of prayer, but it is to be of highest priority of any congregation gathering in His name—from the vocational ministers to the attending laity. So we should ask ourselves, how did churches become houses of worship? Understand, this is not simply a changing of terms. These are not synonymous. No, this shift is quite consequential.

“My house is to be a house of prayer,” the Lord declares. Yet, consider the emphasis of most churches. Is it prayer? No, most churches emphasize the preaching, worship, or missions/outreach of some kind. Yet, typically in any service prayer is given only a couple of minutes. Certainly the preaching of God’s Word, worship, and missions/outreach are all important. However, it is through prayer churches show their dependence on God and seek His directives. Furthermore, it is through prayer these other things are infused with the power of the Holy Spirit versus man’s ingenuity and activity (there is a distinction). Incidentally, it is by the lack of prayer churches reveal their trust in themselves (rather than on God) and seek after their own agendas instead of God’s will. Oh sure, in many cases buildings are erected and congregations grow numerically—but not infused with the power of God and a deeper knowledge of Him!

Henry Blackaby writes this haunting observation, “Those who know they can do nothing apart from abiding in Christ will cry out to God continually (John 15:5). People who become self-confident and proud will find they are too busy to pray.” How much do you and I, as well as our churches, genuinely cry out to God in total dependence and with abandonment of ourselves?

We say that we follow Christ and that He is our Teacher and example—that we want to be like Him. But is this true? Do we follow His example? Do we really want to be like Him? Oswald Chambers is right when he says, “Prayer seems like such a small thing to do—next to nothing at all in fact. But that’s not what Jesus said. To Him prayer is everything.”

Consider how many times in the Gospels we read of the Son of God rising up early in the morning while it was still dark or staying up late into the night for the purpose of praying. Before calling His disciples, He prayed. So devoted was He to prayer that His disciples (who no doubt were familiar with prayer) requested that He teach them to pray. Before His passion, knowing the cup of suffering was being given to Him to drink in its entirety, He pleaded that there was some other way; nevertheless, He wanted the Father’s will to be done. Is this our mindset—our desire—to seek long and hard after God, to enquire of His guidance in every decision, and to surrender our desires and agendas in order to align ourselves with His? This is difficult. In fact, this is impossible if we are not being infused with His Spirit. Cheryl Sacks rightly notes that this cannot happen apart from fervent prayer.

Please understand, I’m not speaking as one who is some great prayer warrior. But I see so much powerlessness of the church as darkness spreads further and many people falling away from the faith. We have Christian literature and media galore, but where is our influence? We have plenty of nice facilities and events, but where is the power? Is not our lack of influence and power simply a result of our lack of prayer?

The purpose of this article is not to shame the church or put her down. Rather, I am simply wanting to encourage you, and that we may encourage one another, to seek passionately after the heart and face of our Father—just as our Savior exemplified. By the moving of the Holy Spirit within us, may our church buildings be restored to houses of prayer instead of houses of worship. May we become completely dependent on God rather than our own abilities, and may we learn to sincerely pray patterned after His, “Your will be done.” From here, only God knows what incredibly positive effects this would have in our lives, our homes, our churches, our communities, and our world. We won’t ever know, except churches becoming what God has willed for them to be—houses of prayer.