From the Heart … and Mind

Do you ever get discouraged and begin wondering why you’re even here? You see others who seem to have a “Midas’ touch,” whatever they put their hands to seems to turn to gold; yet, whatever you touch seems to turn to rust. If so, you’re not alone. Believe me, I get it.

Some people might be surprised to learn that when I was a teenager I had the driving passion to be the drummer of a thrash metal band, write songs, come out with albums, and tour the world. Here I am now, an author, but there’s no “Midas’ touch.” I have two simple desires: 1) That persons come to know Jesus Christ and His love and grace, and 2) for persons to grow in Him and His Word. Anyone who blogs knows it is difficult getting persons to check out your website. And for Christian authors who publish books, it is extremely difficult getting your name out and getting persons to actually purchase your books. If you’re not a big name like David Jeremiah, R. C. Sproul, Tony Evans, etc., no one is interested. Sadly, even many who say you’re a godly person, a good teacher and communicator, etc. won’t actually take the time to read posts, let alone purchase books.

While I have always enjoyed writing, part of the reason I began writing blogs and books is because I feel many things are dismissed and ignored from many pulpits. From my perspective, it seems many preachers are more concerned about building their churches in numbers rather than depth. I know of some who will avoid certain subjects altogether, lest they offend persons and cause them to leave. The Bible has some difficult spots, and truth is going to offend at times. Neither you nor I like to be confronted with the reality of the real wickedness of our sins or to be confronted where we are wrong. But if we truly desire God and truth, then we must put our big boy/girl pants on and let God be right. Granted, a pastor must always seek to be tactful and compassionate (sometimes we’re not, let’s be honest), but we must be faithful to God and His Word if we ourselves are truly going to be found faithful to Him.

Anyway, when I wrote the devotional book, Pause, Hear His Whisper, I touch on various subjects and passages you rarely, if ever, will hear or read in churches or books. In my book, The Lost Doctrine of the Bible, I write about the doctrine of repentance. So many churches so emphasize the necessity of faith while totally disregarding the fact that repentance is a part of genuine faith. This is shown in both the Old and New Testaments repeatedly.

One of the warnings we read of repeatedly in the Scriptures has to do with false prophets. In fact, the New Testament states that false teachers and false teachings will go from bad to worse as the return of Christ draws nearer. But how often do we hear this in churches? This is why I wrote the book, BEWARE of False Prophets: Taking Seriously the Warnings of Jesus, the Prophets, & the Apostles. I know of churches that won’t touch on the end times. Granted, we need to be careful of hype and false information, but we are living in times when there is the talk of the New World Order, a one-world government the Bible prophesies of. While I have no idea when Jesus is going to return or when the antichrist is going to come onto the scene, the church must always be ready in every generation. This is why I wrote, Storm on the Horizon: Are We Approaching the End Times?

We must not ignore some of the power-grabbing and insincerity within churches. Understand, I’ve been a Christian for thirty years now. I know of some of the songs and dances some like to play. Furthermore, I’m not saying everyone is guilty of this. However, I know many persons, although qualified and beneficial, are excluded from certain ministries and cliques because of their looks, temperaments, lack of formal education, etc. Others aren’t in the right “circles” and aren’t willing to kiss other peoples’ fannies. How many of God’s servants would be wonderful blessings to their churches if truly given the attention and nurturing but are denied because of various biases? It is for these reasons I wrote the books, The Great Commission: Every Christian’s Responsibility and Misfits of Grace: Black Sheep in God’s Family.

Perhaps a bit controversial is my latest book, Metal Head Devotions: Heavy Devotionals for Those Who Like HEAVY MUSIC. It’s exactly what it says. I used to write a lot of songs and lyrics. This book was fun to write because for each devotional I wrote an accompanying lyric fitting for a heavy/thrash metal song. Yet, the book is deeply grounded in the supremacy of Christ and the trustworthiness of the Scriptures. So much in popular Christendom is fuzzy and warm, and only metal heads, in many cases, can appreciate the heavier realities discussed in the Bible. A friend of mine, who I sent a copy to, told me that this type of book was long overdue.

So, what does all this have to do with discouragement? Well, sometimes it just seems no one cares. We’re told God wants to use us, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. Sometimes it feels like we’re not good enough. It feels as if we’re non-verbally told to sit down, shut up, and stop rocking the boat. Sometimes, being told God wants to use us seems more as a pleasantry but not a sincere reality.

If you’re feeling discouraged, I wish I could say something truly and wonderfully encouraging to you, but I’m feeling the same way. Does God truly want to use us? Does He truly want us to use our gifts and abilities for His glory? With my head I say yes, but with my heart, I admit, it sometimes doesn’t really feel this way. I admit, I sometimes struggle with the fact that there are persons who have quite a following promoting violence, immorality, and foolishness, but the person of God is lucky to have even ten people to read a post. So, I don’t really have anything profoundly to say. But I will say this, you’re not alone. Furthermore, continue to abide in Christ and His Word, and be faithful. The prophets and the apostles were not celebrities. They were not popular or well-beloved either.

If anything in this post resonates with you, drop me a line. Blessings to you and your work for His kingdom! Our labors will be fruitful, if we faint not.

Do We Really Pray for God’s Holiness and Will?

While teaching His disciples to pray, Jesus begins by telling them, “Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10). Do we, today, truly pray for these? Oh sure, with our mouths we do, but do we pray for these from the depths of our hearts? You might be convinced we do, but I’m not so certain.

To “hallow” means to honor as holy, to set apart, and to revere. It’s to set Him as the supreme focus, and to not treat His name or presence flippantly. For His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven would require persons to genuinely be focused on Him and what pleases Him. It would require for us to surrender to Him as the Sovereign, taking ourselves, our desires, and our preferences out of the equation. 

But is God truly hallowed among us when we are so concerned and distracted by the things of this world; when the music is more about the production, the delivery, and often about us; and when God must share the spotlight with Super Bowl Sunday?

Concerning His will, what if His will is green carpet rather than blue? What if He desires an organ rather than a band or vice versa. What if His will means for us to be poor or to suffer? What if He desires for you or I to be a missionary to Africa or to teach a class in the slums? How can His will be done on earth as it is in heaven when so many in churches are arguing why God says some things are considered sin and casting doubt on His Word (which explains His will)? How can His will be done when, too often, we’re more concerned about offending others than we are about offending God? Or if we’re more concerned about growing churches numerically that we’ll dilute the teachings, rather than grow the faithful in authentic godliness?

The only way we’ll sincerely pray for God and His name to be hallowed and for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven is if we get serious about God and our faith in Him. But the only way this will happen is if we are willing to confess our religious shallowness, insincerity, and hypocrisy, and ask for renewal of our hearts and spirits. And this must, for each of us, begin with ourselves.

Why Do You Pray?

When it comes to prayer, consider this: Why do you pray? Take some time to think about this. Not every reason to pray stems from pure motives. Is it simply because this is what churchgoers do? That is, is it simply one of the checkboxes on a religious list to check off? Is prayer simply a last resort when nothing else has worked and you’re at your wit’s end? 

In the Scriptures, there are various reasons we are called to pray:

  • Praise and worship God
  • To give thanks
  • To intercede for others 
  • To pray about needs

Still, these are to be founded upon a relationship. Jesus says, 

The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. ~ John 4:23

Yes, God desires worship, but not simply as a religious exercise; rather, from an experiential and relational understanding of who He is. Yes, God wants our thanksgiving, but as children responding to their loving Father’s goodness. Indeed, we should pray for others, but intercession should come as a result of genuinely sharing God’s heart. And yes, God wants us to bring our needs and anxieties to Him, but not as some cosmic genie who is to bow to the whims of people. 

Do you know God as your God, Savior, Redeemer, and Father? Do you believe God really wants to hear from you and to reveal Himself to you? Perhaps this is one of the most difficult obstacles many of us face when it comes to prayer. For sure, there are also the obstacles of sin, faithlessness, and stubborn rebellion. However, in our impatience of wanting answers immediately and according to our wills, or desiring some sort of mystical, warm fuzzy experience, we sometimes feel as though God is distant. But how many of us simply come to talk to God relationally? Even more, to really pause with His Word (the Bible) and listen to Him speak? Too often we bring our religious honey-do lists to God, then we run off. Is this not true?

Yet, often persons don’t want to hear what God is saying and reveals. “Well, my God wouldn’t judge anybody,” I’ve heard people say. “I don’t see why God condemns that,” I’ve heard others say. “I don’t care what the Bible says, I’m going to do this anyway!” some obstinately declare. To have such attitudes demands certain questions. For such persons who say such things, how can persons say He’s their God? The very concept of “God” (even in false religions) is that such a being is sovereign, a master, a superior. To say He is one’s Savior, then, raises another question: From what does He save a person from? The Bible says Jesus came to save us from our sins. So then, how can He save persons from what they refuse to surrender? Understand, there is the reality of sanctification and struggling against our sinful nature. But this is not the same as telling God, “You might call this sin, but I don’t. Come hell or high water, I’m living my way—my will be done!”

So, back to the original question: why do you pray? God invites each of us to come to Him through Jesus His Son, to know and love Him as we are known and loved. But prayer is not a honey-do list. It’s both talking and listening to God. It’s difficult for many of us to learn, but He has a much grander, and eternal plan that far surpasses our temporal dreams. Do we care? Do we desire His will be done? One of the first things Jesus teaches us to pray is for the Father’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Is this what we pray? Is this what we truly desire?