With the rise of the Equality Act, which demands the inclusion of LGBTQ rights, it is clear that the moral fabric of our nation continues to unravel, and at an alarming rate. Gone are the days when our nation considered Christian living to be the modus operandi for its citizens. Oh, how our nation has fallen since its inception. Our founding fathers once boldly declared statements like these made by the second U.S. President, John Adams:
-“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”
-“Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. . . . What a Eutopia – what a Paradise would this region be!”
It is safe to say that America has turned its back on God through the systematic removal of both prayer and Scripture reading from the public institutions it has developed to train its youth. But far worse than our nation turning its back on God, is that of the Christian Church doing likewise. Recently, a group of Episcopal Church leaders banded together and co-authored an opinion piece in the Record Eagle, a local paper of Traverse City, entitled “It's Time to Make Amends.” This piece, which has received support from numerous liberal Church leaders, is an objurgating call to the Christian Church to alter its teaching on what the Bible clearly considers to be sin.
Their article states, “As clergy serving in the Episcopal tradition of Jesus Christ’s holy, catholic, and apostolic church we want to say with crystal clarity that it is not a sin to be gay, queer, non-binary, transgender, asexual or anywhere else on the spectrum of human gender and sexuality.” Upon reading this article, as a Pastor and minister of God’s Holy Word, I felt I needed to take a moment to respond to such a statement. First, I would like to ask the authors of this opinion piece, by what authority do you make these claims? The only authority that the holy, universal, and apostolic church of Christ has is the Word of God. I would like to remind these Episcopal leaders and others who are sympathetic to their egregious statements, that while the Bible most certainly calls us to love, it is also crystal clear that to be gay, queer, non-binary, transgender, asexual, or anywhere else on the spectrum of human gender and sexuality is indeed sinful. All such expressions are sinful because they challenge God’s authority and design. God is the sole authority on gender and sexuality for He is the one who designed them. Thus, rather than appeal to the emotions and feelings of fallen man, we should look to the Bible to determine what is and is not sin.
“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them.”
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
“Male and female he created them, and He blessed them and named them Man when they were created.”
“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination...”
“A woman shall not wear a man's garment, nor shall a man put on a woman's cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.”
“No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.
“For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women 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, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”
“just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”
It is the task of the Church, not to acquiesce to the world’s sinful indulgences, but to herald the gospel so that those enslaved to their sins might believe by faith in Christ Jesus and repent of their sinful behavior.
Jesus states in Luke 24:46-48
“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations...”
Rather than soften our view of sin, the church is tasked with lovingly proclaiming the gospel to those enslaved to sin in hopes that they might believe in Christ Jesus and be set free. And while it is true that the world will hate us for taking such a stance, that is to be expected. For Jesus, Himself stated that the world hates Him because he testifies that its works are evil. Furthermore, He states:
“…and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
The Episcopal leaders, in their article, continually appealed to the need for God’s people to be loving. Without question, it ought to be the Church’s deepest desire to love and glorify God as well as demonstrate genuine love for people. One of the most loving things we can do for our neighbors is warn them of the wrath to come. The Bible is clear that all who die in their sins will spend an eternity in hell and will be judged for the wicked acts they have committed. Only those who have been redeemed by faith in Christ will be saved.
John 3:16-21 states:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 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. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Therefore, the Church has no choice but to lovingly proclaim the gospel to all who will hear it in hopes that some might receive Christ by faith. Those who advocate acceptance and inclusion of sin are the ones who are advocating a theology of judgment, for they are leading those in sinful bondage to their everlasting doom.
As a pastor over a flock of God’s sheep, it is my God-given duty to be aware of the dangers that lie in wait for those within Christ’s church. It is statements like these made by the Michigan Episcopal leaders that can do great harm to an individual struggling with sexuality and gender identity. As Christians, we should never seek to appeal to the fallen culture, but always to the authority of God’s Holy Word.
Here is a link to the opinion article in the Record Eagle: "Its time to make amends"
For over a year now, on Sunday evenings, I have been preaching through the book of Revelation. It has always been my desire and my aim, regardless as to which book of the Bible I am preaching through, to communicate God’s divine truth as accurately and as clearly as I am able. While some portions of Scripture are relatively easy to understand and explain, others require a greater degree of attention and care to faithfully articulate what God’s Word communicates. The book of Revelation is one that falls into that category which requires a significant amount of time and careful study to bring clarity where there has been much confusion. In all reality, there is perhaps no book of the Bible that has been harder for Christians to understand and, as a result, produced more strange and outlandish theology than the book of Revelation. Today, in light of all that is going on in the world (COVID-19, racial division, looting and rioting, government overreach, etc.) many (both Christians and non-Christians) have been drawn to the book of Revelation with the assumption that what we are presently experiencing is the end of the world.
In recent times we have witnessed droughts, fires, famines, earthquakes, pestilence, wars, and rumors of wars. So, is this what the book of Revelation is describing will come to pass? The book of Revelation, particularly in chapters 6 through 19, covers the time and events leading up to that which is referred to as “the Day of the Lord.” The phrase “the Day of the Lord” is used frequently in the Old Testament (e.g. Isaiah 2:12; 13:6, 9; Ezekiel 13:5, 30:3; Joel 1:15, 2:1,11,31; 3:14; Amos 5:18,20; Obadiah 15; Zephaniah 1:7,14; Zechariah 14:1; Malachi. 4:5) and numerous times in the New Testament (e.g. Acts 2:20; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10). This period is a time of great devastation as God’s righteous wrath is poured out upon the wicked and unrepentant world. In chapter four of Revelation, we witness Christ, the Lamb that was slain, receive a scroll, of which only He is capable of opening. This scroll is a legal document. More specifically, it is the title deed to the cosmos of which mankind handed over to Satan at the fall. This title deed, however, now rightfully belongs to Christ, for He has purchased it with His blood (Revelation 6:9-10). The scroll is sealed with seven seals, all of which must be broken for it to be unrolled and read. Each of the seven seals signifies the necessary judgments which will finish God’s decreed discipline of Israel and finalize His judgment of unbelieving sinners. These judgments span a seven-year period which ultimately serves to purify the creation and satisfy God’s wrath towards the wicked and unrepentant world. Within the seventh and final seal, there are two more sets of seven (seven trumpet judgments and seven bowl judgments). Without diving too far into all of that, the important thing to note is that each of these telescoping sevens is contained within the seventh seal and thus are the detailed specifics of the seventh seal judgment.
Now to back up just a bit, the book of Revelation is divided into three sections. The three sections are very clearly defined in the first chapter of the book. In Revelation 1:19 Jesus tells the apostle John, “Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.” These then become the three major headings of the book: 1. The Things That You Have Seen, 2. Those That Are, & 3. Those That are to Take Place After This. Chapter 1 entails the initial visions that John had seen. Chapters two and three covers “the things that are” which refer to the present church age in which we are currently living. Chapters 4 and onward deal with “those that are to take place after this,” in other words, those things which are future as they follow the current age. As I have recently stated, many today are assuming that what we are now experiencing is, in a sense, the judgments described in the third division of the book of Revelation, those things which “are to take place after this.” Before assuming that we have transitioned from the church age into the time of the tribulation, it would do us well to ask the question, “what is it that must occur to transition the world from the former dispensation into the latter?” In other words, what is it that moves history into the time of the tribulation described in Revelation 6-19? The simple and short answer to that question is the rapture of the church. Sadly, the doctrine of the rapture is one that is most ignored and maligned in modern-day evangelicalism. Lifeway Research conducted a poll in 2016 which revealed that a growing number of professed evangelical Christians (25%) do not believe in a literal rapture of the church. Of those polled, only 36% professed to believe in the pretribulation rapture, which is to say Christ’s coming to receive His bride before His wrath being poured out on the earth. This certainly is a sad (though not startling) statistic as more and more are focused on earthly gain and comfort rather than storing up our treasure in heaven. On two separate occasions, the Apostle Paul addressed the church in Thessalonica regarding both the rapture of the church and the day of the Lord. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul speaks of the coming rapture of the church’s being “caught up together to meet the Lord in the air.” The text states:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Here the apostle Paul instructs Christians, desiring that they are informed, that the church will be raptured; those that have already passed away, and those that will be alive at the time of Christ’s coming. He states plainly that we will be “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” This is the blessed hope which is also referred to in Titus 2:11-14 which states, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” The apostle Paul then transitions in his first letter to the Thessalonians to speak concerning the day of the Lord. He states:
“Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 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. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
Paul speaks of the coming judgment, the time of the tribulation, upon unbelievers those who are not of the light but of the darkness. In other words, as Christians, we are not to be lulled into a stupor like the rest of the world that are not expecting the return of Christ. We are anxiously awaiting the return of our Lord to remove us from the earth prior to His judgments befalling it. Paul declares that “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him.” In other words, the coming of Christ begins first with His rapturing the church to be with Him, and then His subsequent judgments will be poured out on the ungodly. The apostle Paul gives further instruction to the Thessalonians in his second letter to them where he states:
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming (2 Thess. 2:1-8).
It would appear as though the Christians of Thessalonica were being deceived by some letter claiming to have apostolic authority and declaring that they were currently in the day of the Lord. Such alarming statements would have the Thessalonians concerned for sure, for they were not anticipating judgment, but being caught up to heaven in the rapture of the church. It is for this reason that Paul then reassures that the day of the Lord had not come, and thus they did not miss the rapture, for the judgment of the Day of the Lord cannot come until “the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed.” In other words, Paul is reassuring that they were not living in the dispensation of God’s wrath, for the clear signs that signify such had not come. Furthermore, Paul states that the man of lawlessness, the antichrist who will rule during the time of the tribulation, will not be permitted to come forth until the restrainer is removed. The restrainer, quite plainly, is the Holy Spirit within the church. Until Christ has raptured His church and the Spirit no longer indwells it upon the earth, the day of the Lord cannot begin. In other words, the event which transitions the world from the church age into the time of the tribulation is the rapture of the Church. So perhaps now you are wondering, how can we be sure that the Holy Spirit within the Church is the restrainer that is presently restraining the coming of the antichrist? Before the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within the church, the Spirit of God was already present upon the earth for He is the only means by which anyone may, by faith, seek and follow God. When Jesus spoke to His disciples in the upper room He stated in John 14:17,
“…even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
In other words, the Holy Spirit was already with them, but on the day of Pentecost, He would be in them. The Work of the Holy Spirit in the church is to bring to light all that Christ has taught so that we might know Him and obey Him; in short, that we might be the salt and light of the earth (Matthew 5:13-16). Salt is, and has been, a highly valuable commodity for centuries for its ability to preserve. As the Spirit-filled church, we are called to preserve truth and goodness in this world, while being the light that calls sinners to repentance. This is the duty of the church until the time of the rapture, where God returns for His bride which has been sanctified throughout the church age. At the rapture of the church, God then shifts His focus on earth to the remnant of Israel which will have its present hardening removed. In Romans 11:25, the apostle Paul declares to the church, “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” In other words, in Israel’s rejection of the Messiah at His first advent, a judicial hardening has come upon them until the time of the tribulation wherein God will remove that hardening as the church is raptured aka, “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” I mentioned earlier that the tribulation period described in Revelation is largely about an event known as the Day of the Lord, but other names for such events are the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy and the time of Jacob’s trouble. Both of these titles demonstrate that the Tribulation period is focused on the nation of Israel and not the church. In Daniel 9:24 the Word of the Lord declares to Daniel, “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city.” Who are Daniel’s people? The nation of Israel. Daniel 12:1-2 states, “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.” God is going to preserve a sealed remnant of Israel through the Tribulation period much like Noah was preserved through the flood. While on the other hand, the church will be removed before the tribulation, much in the way that Enoch was removed before the flood.
The thing which often trips Christians up in regards to the placement of the rapture is that the book of Revelation nowhere plainly describes the rapture taking place. Some have assumed that verse one of Chapter four is in reference to the rapture which states, “After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” While I suppose it may be possible that this verse could potentially be alluding to the rapture, as it is the very next event following the church age, I wouldn’t hold too dogmatically to that as it cannot be fully substantiated within the context of the passage. However, this is not to say that the book of Revelation does not teach that the rapture is pre-tribulation, it most certainly does. In chapters 2-3 we witness specific instructions to the church while on earth during the church age, and nowhere is the church mentioned on earth again in the chapters which deal with the tribulation period. Furthermore, the raptured church is pictured as being in heaven before the start of the tribulation as the 24 elders clothed in white robes, wearing crowns, and singing a song of praise to the risen King for His work in redeeming them by His blood. Perhaps you are now asking, how can you know that the 24 elders represent the raptured church in heaven? Who else could they be? First, the book of Revelation is filled with numbers and symbols that are elsewhere in Scripture defined for us. So the next logical question becomes, “What is the significance of the number 24 in Scripture?” The number 24 is associated with the worship of the priesthood. It was King David who divided those responsible for the music in temple services, those who served as priests, and the Levites who aided the priests, into 24 courses (1 Chronicles 23 - 24). These courses rotated to divide the work amongst them. The order which the 24 courses of priests served in the temple are: 1) Jehoiarib; 2) Jedaiah; 3) Harim; 4) Seorim; 5) Malchijah; 6) Mijamin; 7) Hakkoz; 8) Abijah; 9) Jeshua; 10) Shecaniah; 11) Eliashib; 12) Jakim; 13) Huppah; 14) Jeshebeab; 15) Bilgah; 16) Immer; 17) Hezir; 18) Happizzez; 19) Pethahiah; 20) Jehezkel; 21) Jachin; 22) Gamul; 23) Delaiah; 24) Maaziah (1Chronicles 24). Thus, the number 24 symbolizes both worship and the totality of the priesthood. Perhaps you are now asking, “How does this help support the belief that the 24 elders are the church?” Excellent question, of which I will respond to with another question. Who are the New Covenant priests purchased by the blood of the Lamb? In short, the church. The apostle Peter declares to the church in 1 Peter 2:5-10,
“…you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
Not to mention that the elders themselves declare in a song to our Lord in Revelation 5:9-10,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
At this point, I have rambled on enough in what was meant to be a brief post. I hope that you have been able to track with me. So going back to where we began, the daunting debaucherous events of which we have been experiencing in the world as of late, though a clear indication that the end is near, they are not the events which are mentioned in the book of Revelation in chapters 6 and following. Therefore, I don’t at all believe that COVID-19 is the pestilence described in Revelation 6:8 nor do I believe that masks are the mark of the beast, though they clearly are a dry run, or preparatory rehearsal for the mark to eventually be implemented.
These certainly are dark days and require biblical discernment. Therefore, as an encouraging word to the church, I would like to close out this post by reiterating the words of Paul, “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 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.” May we continue in faithful obedience to Christ in bringing glory to our Holy God, to making disciples of Christ Jesus, and to strengthening and edifying the saints of our Lord.
Soli Deo Gloria!
As the world seemingly crumbles around us, it is wonderful to know that God is sovereign and that His glorious plan to restore His fallen creation continues unabated. We here at Colonville Bible Church are coming to the close of this year’s Vacation Bible School, and through it all my heart is encouraged to see all of these little ones get so excited about the Word of God. All week they have been committing passages of Scripture to memory, much-needed truth to mold and shape their minds towards having a proper Biblical worldview. While some view VBS as “another church program” this is intentional Kingdom work. We receive such joy from witnessing these young ones get so excited to hear of God’s grace and forgiveness, of His power, plan, and faithfulness. Making disciples of Jesus is one of the primary objectives of the Church. Jesus instructs His disciples with these words in Matthew 28:19-20:
“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.”
As I had stated in my previous blog post, God’s plan and purpose for His people during the present age is the work of harvesting, the work of sowing seeds by declaring the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the work of cultivating the crop by making disciples through teaching the authoritative Word of God. While much of the world today has become calloused towards even the notion of being a Christian, children are different. Children, though sinners like the rest of the human race, are more willing to hear the truths of God’s Word and be molded by them. This is what makes VBS so great! While it is true that there are times of silliness involved, VBS is an important and powerful tool to help lead these children towards divine truth. Personally, I am one who is sternly against the notion of incorporating entertainment into our church services, however, VBS skits and stories, though somewhat entertaining, have a way of gripping these kids' attention and leading them towards Christ. The more we are able to reach these little ones with Biblical truth, the greater hope we have of protecting them from the volatile ways of the world. In order to disciple anyone, young or old, we have to build intentional relationships in which we are invested in. VBS is a useful tool that allows us to begin this process. Already there are kids that I have only recently met, and yet due to our VBS skits, they see me as “the sheriff.” In only a short time I have earned their trust, and now I, and others here, must be faithful to declare the gospel and invest in these young one's lives.
I am writing this short blog post to encourage you all. Don’t let the plight of the world break your spirit. Fight the good fight while there is yet time to fight. Glorify God in all things and be intentional in discipling making. Christ is coming soon! At His return may we be found faithfully working the harvest, carrying out His will, and obeying His commands.
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
In 21st century America, the vast majority of people are largely out of touch with the labor-intensive lifestyle of an agrarian culture; a culture that is dependent upon sowing, cultivating, and reaping to survive. As a result of our present mammon-driven, on-demand lifestyle of mass production, the common everyday person is completely removed from the strenuous work of harvesting; and yet it is the work of sowing and reaping that is the common illustration used throughout Scripture to demonstrate God’s plan and purpose for His people during the present age. For instance, Jesus instructs His disciples by stating “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” He also states in John’s gospel, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” In other words, the work of the Church in the present age, is the work of harvesting, the work of sowing seeds by declaring the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and the work of cultivating the crop by making disciples through teaching the authoritative Word of God. The Christian life is marked by fruitful labor. The Lord Jesus declares in Luke 9:62, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Sadly, many professed believers in Christ assume that God simply wants to bless them abundantly with worldly gain. They act as if He wants nothing more than for them to live lives of health, wealth, and prosperity until the day that they die and enter the glory of Heaven where they will remain forever in eternal bliss. This presumptuous belief fails to grasp the weightiness of the Christian life and what God demands of His Church. Our lives are not meant to be comfortable, we are to sacrifice worldly comforts for the advancement of Christ. Jesus declares to His disciples in Matthew 16:24-26:
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
As God’s people, we are all sent on mission, we are to be harvest workers sowing the seed of the gospel. We are not responsible for whether or not the seed takes root, we simply continue to work while there is work to be done. Jesus states in the parable of the sower:
“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”
When asked to explain this parable Jesus stated:
When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.
The sower is the one who declares the Word of God, for the Word of God is the seed that is being sown. Anytime the gospel of Jesus Christ is presented to people it is a seed being sown. Sometimes that seed takes root and produces fruit, and other times, most of the time actually, fruit is not produced. In an agrarian culture, such as first-century Israel, far more seed was scattered than that which took root and produced fruit.
To those whom Christ has called to be His undershepherds He declares:
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes
And to the flock, the apostle Paul states in Galatians 6:6-10
Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
All of this to say that the present age in which we live is one of constant and consistent harvest work. Genesis 8:22 states, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” While the earth remains there will be much work for mankind to do, and even greater work for that of the church to commit itself to. We need to understand that the earth will not remain forever, at least not in its present condition. The apostle Peter declares in 2 Peter 3:1-7:
…I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
While there exist many mockers today of which insist that Jesus’ coming is merely a fable, the Word of God declares that such statements would be the norm as the day draws near. However, we know with absolute certainty that Christ is coming back and that one day this earth, which was once flooded and destroyed with water, will likewise be consumed by fire in the coming judgment. So again, going back to understanding the present age as a harvest, we are to due the work of sowing seed, cultivating the crop, and looking forward to the great harvest. Jesus declares in Matthew 13:24-30:
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
While we endeavor to diligently do the work that Christ has called us to, we must be aware that there has and will arise weeds amongst the wheat. But let this not distract us from continuing to sow the seed of the gospel, for God will one day remove the weeds and cast them into the fire. Our work is not in pulling the weeds but in seeking to cultivate the wheat. May we continue to praise and glorify God amidst the laborious work of the harvest until the day the King returns for His bride.
It is passion week, which normally is a week marked by church pageantry and festivities to commemorate the final week of Christ’s earthly ministry leading up to the crucifixion. However, here in the year 2020, or potentially what will one day be known as the year of the Coronavirus, things have been anything but normal. Seeing as how the nation (along with much of the world) is presently experiencing government-mandated lock-downs, as a means of mitigating the spread of this life-threatening sickness, many things are not as they once were. Along with the stay-at-home mandates, there inevitably comes a rise in depression, which sadly leads to an increase in suicide rates. A recent article in Scientific American entitled COVID-19 Is Likely to Lead to an Increase in Suicides, demonstrates this very fact. The article states, “Historically, disease pandemics have been associated with grave psychological consequences,” psychological issues which develop from an overwhelming sense of fear, grief, and anxiety. As the church prepares to celebrate the resurrection of Christ Jesus, these difficult days will likely cause us to consider more carefully the implications of the cross. For the message of the gospel (which means “good news”) is one that brings hope to the hopeless and peace to those enslaved to fear. The reason for which Jesus would go to the cross was to restore that which was lost, to heal that which was broken, to save that which was damned. There is no greater message in all the world than the message of the cross. But for the world to be able to receive the gospel, they must first be exposed to the judgment of God which inevitably awaits all of humanity that does not by faith believe in the risen Savior. As a result of the sins of Adam and Eve, the entire human race has fallen and is inherently sinful. Every person will individually be held accountable and responsible for their own sinfulness. This is bad news for the human race, as the Bible declares that “the wages of sin is death.” When one who is gripped by fear and anxiety considers death as a means of escaping the worries of this world, they reveal their ignorance of the events which transpire once one has passed from this life. For those who die outside of Christ, there is no hope, there is no rescue, there is no relief, there is no comfort, and there is no escape. The wrath of God is poured out on unrepentant sinners in the flames of the lake of eternal fire.
John 3:36 states:
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
Revelation 20:15 clearly states:
“And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
2 Thessalonians 1:9 states:
“They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”
In other words, the torments of this life pale in comparison to that which awaits the unrepentant sinner in hell. Every human being deserves hell, we are all by nature wicked and deserving of God’s righteous wrath. However, God is a merciful God, and He sent His Son to die on the cross in our place. The apostle Paul states in Ephesians 2:1-10:
“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 body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
The message of the cross is necessary for all of mankind to hear and heed. It is the most precious truth and the most important declaration anyone could ever receive. It is vital to genuine life and it is how the fallen world is restored unto God. Furthermore, it is the Church’s responsibility to carry the message of the cross and proclaim it to the world. It ought not to be sugarcoated nor should anything be added to it. It is not a message produced by the wisdom of man, but it is simple and bears the power of almighty God. For this reason, the apostle Paul declared to the church in Corinth:
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” -2 Corinthians 2:1-5
If you or someone you know is gripped with fear, please do not consider suicide an option. Taking your life will only serve to thrust you into the condemnation that awaits those whose names are not found in the Lamb’s book of life. The only way to receive true and lasting peace is in the salvation made possible through the atoning blood of Christ Jesus. His blood was shed to rescue sinners from the wrath of God to come. For when we by faith repent of our sins and believe on the name of Christ Jesus, we are forgiven and clothed in the perfect peace of Christ.
1 John 1:9 declares:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
This passion week, while the church is unable to gather in person, I hope and pray that it gives us the time we need to reflect on own our lives, on how faithful we have been to live for Christ and to proclaim the message of the cross. May we not act as though we are ignorant of the judgment that awaits unbelievers. Many are in need of being led to the cross. May we be a people that love others and see them, though living in sin, as those crying out “lead me to the cross” and faithfully carry out that plea. In all things may God be praised!
During these trying days it is quite easy for people to succumb to fear and anxiety. For those that are presently without work, perhaps it is the fear of financial-loss, for those that are alone, perhaps it is the fear of loneliness, for some it is the fear of getting sick, and for those that are sick, perhaps it is the fear losing their lives. Each of these fears, and a myriad of others, can be debilitating. The only effective way to combat them is through faith in the risen savior. Only through genuine belief in Christ is there hope for the hopeless. For those who are in Christ, we have the hope of resurrection, the hope of restoration, and the hope of eternal life. For those who are in Christ, we have the Word of God, and the Word of God is a bright and shining lamp allowing us to navigate the darkness of the world. God’s Word is a treasure-trove of truth that brings comfort to those who are consumed by fear.
I once heard it said that fear is to the devil, what worship is to God. Which is to say that the devil is most pleased when we are living in fear. 1 Peter 5:6-9 states:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”
Fear is a tool of the enemy, which is to say that it does not come from God. God’s Word has a lot to say about fear:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”
“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
2 Timothy 1:7
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
1 John 4:18
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
The only effective way to combat the enemy's efforts to keep God’s children in fear is to go to God’s Word for instruction and guidance. So what does God’s Word say about combating the works of Satan? I am glad you asked. Ephesians 6:10-18 states:
“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. 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”
We are to be clad with the armor of God. To wield the Word like a warrior wields a two-edged sword. To hold fast to the salvation we have in Christ Jesus. To pray to God in all circumstances.
“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The peace of God comes to those who, by faith in Christ, have peace with God. The joy of God is a disposition of which the follower of Christ is to walk in. If today you are experiencing debilitating effects of fear, wash away your fears with the authority of God’s Word and walk in the joy of the Lord. We must remember that the trials we face are a means of testing our faith, and are meant to strengthen our trust in the Lord. As we are comforted by the Lord we then are able to comfort others with the same comfort with which we have been comforted.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
May we all lean into the Word of God and find the comfort to extinguish the fear that the world is promoting.
For as long as we can tell, people have been plagued with the question, why does evil, suffering, pain, sickness, and death exist in the world? This very question is the so-called reason why many insist that the God of the Bible does not exist. Many ponder the question if God exists then why does He not prevent and prohibit all of the seemingly horrendous things that take place day in and day out? Many well-intentioned Christians have sought to answer this question by stating, that evil exists because we live in a fallen and sinful world. While this answer is both true and a seemingly sufficient response to the question, skeptics will still bark back with an argument that goes something like:
A God that allows suffering to continue is either a) not all-powerful and therefore is unable to prevent the suffering; b) not loving because this God has the power to prevent suffering but is unwilling to do so; and/or c) not all-knowing because God only is aware of the suffering after it has already happened and therefore cannot prevent it from taking place.
Christians know full-well that God is loving, for He has sent His Son into the to the world to die so that sinners would be restored unto Him; that He is all-powerful, for He created the universe by speaking it into existence and He presently holds it all together; and that He is all-knowing, for He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, and absolutely nothing is outside of His knowing. So if God is all-powerful, loving, and all-knowing, how do we answer the question concerning the existence of suffering in this world?
Again, suffering exists because of mankind’s sinful rebellion against God. There are consequences for evil behavior, and we all ought to be relieved that due to God’s love He did not determine to utterly destroy His creation at the fall. It would do us well to understand that Mankind is deserving of nothing less than to be sentenced to hell for all eternity. Asking why evil, suffering, pain, sickness, and death exist is not the proper question that we should be concerned with. Instead, we should marvel at the tremendous mercy and grace of God who has not only allowed us to go on living but has sent His Son to bear the punishment that we so richly deserve; while at the same time clothing sinners in His righteousness. It is obvious why suffering and pain exist, our rebellious hearts have brought such calamity upon ourselves. But God being rich in mercy has graciously lavished upon us that which we could never earn, salvation and restoration to our Great God and Savior. So suffering is a result of sin, but it is not as though God does not use our suffering to produce something marvelous. Romans 8:28 declares, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Does this mean that suffering will not befall those who love God? Not at all. But instead, it implies that everything which transpires in the life of a believer, suffering included, is a tool in God’s hands to produce that which is good.
Some of you may be thinking, wait a minute….how can you say that?! How can suffering, sickness, and death produce that which is good? The Word of God declares in James 1:2, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” Suffering, sickness, and death certainly are trials of various kinds that people face while alive here on earth, and James tells us that we are to count those things a joyous occasion in our life. To which you may find yourself responding by thinking, “what?! How can such seemingly disastrous events be considered joyous?!” If we continue reading, James tells us exactly how they are joyous. He states in verses 3-4, “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” In essence, trials are a great way to test how genuine our faith in God is. If we truly view Christ as our rock, our fortress, our greatest treasure, our joy, our peace, our deepest delight, and our anchor amidst the most tumultuous of storms, then the trials we face will aid us in activating our faith more readily and drive us into the arms of our great savior. Trials produce steadfastness, which is to say persistent patience and enduring reliance upon the rock of our salvation, Christ Jesus our Lord. It is for this reason that trials ought to be viewed as a good thing, rather than a hindrance to a life in pursuit of happiness. God ought to be our greatest joy in life and trials force us, if our faith is true, to fall before the throne of grace and cling to the gracious God that pulled us up out of the pit. Trials, again, serve to test our claims that Christ is our greatest treasure. For a trial, like that of being diagnosed with cancer, losing a loved one, or any number of life-altering events, will allow for you to either exercise your faith in the risen savior who purchased your life with His blood, or it will allow you to demonstrate just the opposite. Now, this is not to say that it is always easy to rest in Christ and count it all joy when in the midst of a trying and tumultuous time. However, if we belong to Christ, we will inevitably cling to Him as our only true source of joy and comfort amidst the chaos. If you have never read the book of Job I highly recommend that you do, for this book reveals that God not only preserves His people through the most disastrous of times but that He permits such trials to take place as a means of teaching us to trust in His sovereignty. Job learns an incredibly valuable lesson at the end of the book, and for those who have not read it, I don’t want to spoil it for you. Please go read it and see how Job’s life is drastically changed for the better after having faced more trials than most could bear. It is an excellent book, and as one who has recently traversed a series of difficult trials myself, it helps me to remember that in comparison my trials are minimal. Again, trials which may come in the form of suffering, sickness, pain, and death, ultimately serve to draw us ever closer to our great God and Savior. The greatest reward for the one who remains steadfast in this life is that of eternal glory in the presence of God almighty. As James states in the twelfth verse of the first chapter in his epistle:
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
So as the title of the short blog post states, the best way to traverse the many difficult trials of this life is not through denying God’s existence, but through having a heart fully surrendered to Him and His Holy Word.
To say that our nation is divided today is an understatement. There is a great deal of division with the American people holding to starkly different ideologies and worldviews. Our nation once upheld Christianity as the standard and valued God, His Word, and family above all else. Today, by and large, it is secular humanism, a.k.a. godless individualism, that is promulgated and propagated. As the adage goes, you reap what you sow, and as history reveals, when a nation honors God and upholds His Word it is a blessed nation, but when a nation shifts its focus to honoring the creation above the creator, e.g. worshiping the self rather than the God of universe, it plummets and self-destructs. Our nation certainly appears to be on the path to self-destruction as innocent children are murdered daily, the throwing away of plastic straws is far more of a concern than the rampant disposing of marriages, and America’s sexual debauchery is not far removed from that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Furthermore, our government continues to wage war against itself and places partisan politics above the people, and certainly above God.
So what do we do? Do we simply sit back and watch as the U.S. slowly sinks like the Titanic into the cold icy waters of the North Atlantic? Not at all! We return to our first love. We repent. We pray. We speak up in love. We honor and glorify God.
A couple of months ago I had the blessed opportunity of sitting down and speaking with my district’s state representative Jason Wentworth. Before meeting with him I knew very little about him (I had only lived in Clare for little less than a year). However, I was very pleased to find out that he represented our district as a man of faith and conviction. I am thankful to God for Representative Wentworth. He is a man who loves God, his family, his state, and his nation. It is my endeavor to pray for him regularly, and I would ask that you do the same. As a result of our meeting, Rep. Wentworth’s office reached out to me several weeks ago and asked if I would be willing to give the invocation before the Michigan House session on December 12 (yesterday). I gladly agreed. However, due to the House mostly wrapping things up on Wednesday (12/11) they did not meet yesterday. As a result, I was not able to give the invocation that I wrote for that occasion. While it is likely that I will get another opportunity to do so, I still wanted to share that prayer with you all here in this blog post. For while I have prayed this prayer many times in recent days, I hope that we could all pray it together. That we would pray this prayer for our state and our nation.
O Great and merciful Heavenly Father, blessed Son, and eternal Holy Spirit, we thank You for bestowing upon us Your great grace. Help us O Lord to be humbled by your majesty and directed by Your sovereign hand. We ask O Lord that You would forgive us our transgressions and that You would be glorified in our thoughts, our words, and our actions. Lord, we thank You for Your continued provision and we ask that You would bless both our state and our nation. Please Father, we further request that You would guide and direct our hearts, and lead us in the path of righteousness. May our state’s and our nation’s leaders, recognize, as did our founding fathers, that we are a people in desperate need to die to self and to live as Christ. To recognize that apart from receiving and believing the gospel of Jesus Christ we are hopeless and lost. Lord, may we, as did the United States Congress of 1854, declare that, “The great, vital, and conservative element in our system is the belief of our people in the pure doctrines and the divine truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Father, please forgive us for ever having deviated from Your clear, infallible, inerrant, authoritative, and objective Word. And Lord help us once more to cherish life and to see Your gift of children as being far more important and valuable than one’s personal preferences, comforts, and life ambitions. Father, help us to uphold Your model of marriage and family as revealed in Your Holy Word (the Bible), and Lord may You forgive us for ever having strayed from that clear standard. Lord, Your Word declares that “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Father, I pray that our Nation would see just how ubiquitous sin has become in our land, that we would be broken by it and turn from sin, repent of our ways, and fix our hearts and our praise upon the only one who is worthy and deserving of such worship, You: our Holy, righteous, sovereign, and Triune creator. Lord, you declare in Your Word, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Humble our hearts O Lord, may we be a people who rejoice in You always, who pray to You without ceasing, and have a heart of thankfulness in all circumstances. Please God, heal our land, unite our people under You, and be glorified in this place. We pray these things in the precious name of our matchless Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
I would strongly encourage you all to be praying for our state’s and our nation’s legislators. Reach out to them and encourage them in the Lord. Share with them that the Gospel of Jesus Christ matters above all things. That God’s Word matters. That God-honoring marriages matter. That children of all ages and stages of development matter. That family matters. God can stop this ship from sinking if we humble ourselves just as God’s Word says. If we pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways, He will be faithful to His Word to hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and heal our land.
All Glory and Honor be to our gracious Heavenly Father, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit that guides and directs His people.
Today many people are clamoring (mostly religious leaders) that they regularly hear the voice of God, and that, through their special relationship, He speaks to them intimately. Not only do they claim to have an intimate relationship with God, but they also insist that He verbally instructs them both in difficult life decisions and in the most simple and mundane tasks; such as selecting a turkey for Thanksgiving. As a result, a tremendous amount of ink has been used in the printing of countless books on “how to hear the voice of God.” The vast majority of these books are an incredible waste of time and money, as they endeavor to instruct readers in various ways to listen for God’s voice outside of the pages of Scripture rather than encouraging them to inductively study the Word of God. Which is to say that they believe that God speaks quite regularly today just as He did to individuals like Abraham and Moses. But is this accurate?
Throughout God’s Word we see several individuals that experience God speaking to them. For instance, Adam and Eve heard the voice of God in the Garden of Eden, Cain heard the voice of God while he was allowing his bitterness to ruminate within him, Noah heard the voice of God instructing him to build the ark, Abraham and Moses both had the opportunity to hear the voice of God on multiple occasions, in which they received instruction to leave pagan environments and to trust in God through a series of trying events which enabled them to witness God’s faithfulness. A handful of others also had the blessed opportunity of hearing God verbally speak to them, and yet, there are far more individuals in Scripture that never heard the voice of God. Which is to say that these individuals (Adam, Cain, Noah, etc.) are the exception, not the standard. This is not to say that God does not lead and guide those that do not hear God’s audible voice, of course He does. But the question then becomes, how? The answer simply is through God’s special written revelation a.k.a. the Scriptures.
For instance, in neither of the books of Esther or Nehemiah do we witness God speaking at all. Not once does Esther claim to hear the word of the Lord come to her, in fact God’s name isn’t even mentioned in the book of Esther, and yet she is still guided along by Biblical truth to make God-honoring decisions. Furthermore, the prophet Nehemiah never claims to have heard the voice of God. That’s right, a prophet of God that never once mentions hearing God speak to him. Does that mean that God is not in these books? No, of course God is in these books. God wrote these books through the leading of His Holy Spirit. Does this mean that God does not love Esther, Nehemiah and the countless others that never heard God speak to them as much as those that did hear the voice of God? Does it mean that Esther and Nehemiah did not have the faith of Abraham and Moses? The answer to both of these questions is: absolutely not. The standard way for God’s people to hear His voice is not through His speaking audibly from Heaven, but through the Scriptures; the authoritative Word of God. This is especially true for today, as we have in our possession the complete revelation of the Bible. It is solely through the closed canon of Scripture that God speaks today. There simply is no need for God to verbally speak to anyone when He has given to us all that we need to know in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation God has spoken to His creation and He is presently illuminating the truths therein which serve to guide His people. Hebrews 4:12 states:
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Some will say that what God says today is still important just not as important as the Word of God. But here is the thing, God cannot speak less authoritatively on one matter than another. All of God’s words are equally authoritative. If God tells Moses to go demand that Pharaoh release His people from bondage, and then tells you to go to Walmart to buy a 24 pound turkey, both of those statements are as equally authoritative because God said them. Can you see how ridiculous it is to say that God spoke a word to you? If someone claims that God gave them a word, they are essentially adding to Scripture whether they see it that way or not. To say that God told you something is to claim that there is more to be added to the Word of God. Here’s the problem with that, Revelation 22:18–19 states of God’s Word:
“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”
Today numerous false teachers want you to believe that God is presently speaking to you things that are outside the Word of God. They want you to believe that God will give you direction for your life, not through the pages of Scripture, but some supernatural, extra-biblical (outside of the bible) revelation. And why? Because they want to fool you into believing that God speaks to them in ways which are contradictory to Scripture. For instance, the health and wealth prosperity preachers are notorious for claiming that God personally speaks to them. Wealth is their idol, and seeing as how there is not a single passage in Scripture which can justify their obsession with material gain, these gnostic self-proclaimed soothsayers have to say that God spoke to them to justify their sinful indulgences. 2 Peter 2:1-3 states:
"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep."
The Apostle John also warns against false teachers which promote and propagate their false revelations from God in 1 John 4:1 which states:
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world."
How does one “test the spirits to see whether they are from God?” Through the clear authoritative Word of God. When the Apostle Paul was instructing Timothy, a young Pastor, to shepherd God’s sheep he tells him in 1 Timothy 6:20-21:
"O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith."
Furthermore he states in 2 Timothy 4:1-5:
"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, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."
In a sinful and fallen world, where people are starving for self-worth while battling with depression and anxiety it is easy to be led away from the hard but necessary truths of Scripture. The Word of God declares that the human race is sinfully rebellious, and that it is only through the power of the gospel that life is transformed. It is the gospel message of dying to self and living as Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling in the believer that one can have the peace of God.
The desire of God’s people ought not to be to hear some special revelation from God so that we might feel significant, but our desire ought to be a devotion to bringing Him honor and glory and knowing that our significance is found in that very task.
The prophet Nehemiah did not plead with God to speak to him while he was mourning his captivity, rather he cried out to God in Nehemiah 1:5-11:
“O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father's house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”
Nehemiah was not looking for some “fresh revelation” from God, he was repenting of sin and standing on the authority of God’s Holy Word. The vast majority of those today that wish to “hear from God” are those that are not satisfied with the Word of God. For instance, one of the most popular Christian books today is a small devotional entitled Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. This book is the result of a woman who was dissatisfied with hearing from God through the Bible and wanted more. In this work Young claims to have received revelations from Jesus through dialogue journaling (something she learned from the authors of a book entitled God Calling). Young states in response to the authors of God Calling, “I began to wonder if I, too, could receive messages during my times of communing with God. I had been writing in prayer journals for years, but that was one-way communication: I did all the talking. I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more…” If you have ever read Jesus Calling then you are well aware that Young writes her book as if Jesus is speaking messages directly to the reader. This is nothing short of blasphemy as she is essentially writing new scripture.
In closing, is God speaking today? Yes, He most certainly is speaking through the pages of His Holy Word. Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, once said, “No one ever outgrows the Scriptures. The Book widens and deepens with our years.” If you want to hear the voice of God, read and study the Bible, for if it cannot be found in the 66 books of the Bible, you can rest assured that God did not say it. In the words of Justin Peters “If you want to hear God speak, read your Bible. If you want to hear God speak audibly, read it out loud.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."
Last Tuesday began my favorite month of the year, October. A month that is often associated with things such as the season of autumn, football, doughnuts, apple cider, bonfires, corn mazes, and many other things that I thoroughly enjoy. However, what most often is associated with the month of October is the holiday Halloween. For anyone who is at all familiar with the origins of Halloween, it is not a God-honoring holiday, but much more of a demonic-inspired one. The origins of Halloween date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived roughly 2,000 years ago in the areas which we now know as Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day for them marked the end of the summer months which is associated with light and life, and it likewise marked the beginning of the dark and bitterly cold days of winter, a time that was often associated with death. The Celts believed that on the night before their new year (Halloween) the spirits of the dead returned to earth to cause chaos and torment. To supposedly ward off such spirits, the Celtic druids and priests would build large fires and dress in animal skins, wearing the faces of animals as masks, and attempt to predict the future. While Halloween in America has developed its unique traditions, it is still a night of darkness. Not only are thousands of people roaming the streets dressed in horrific and gruesome costumes, but it has been reported that crimes are up by 17% on Halloween night as opposed to other nights of the year. Needless to say, my wife and I do not celebrate Halloween with our children, instead, we take the opportunity to celebrate something we believe is far more glorifying to God, the Protestant Reformation.
On All Hallows Eve (Halloween) in 1517, an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther shook the world of Christendom by taking a stand against the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther had no intention of rebelling and sparking a revolution but only sought to hold the church accountable for their deviations from the clear teaching of God’s Holy Word. Creating an uprising within the church was the last thing that Luther had on his mind, he simply believed that his 95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences would serve to course-correct the church back to fixing its eyes solely upon Jesus and its mission of discipling the nations. Seeing as how the Roman Catholic Church was not fond of being corrected, Luther’s 95 Theses was not well received. Standing on the authority of the Word of God, Luther was also unwilling to back down and as a result, the Protestant Reformation was born. As a result of the Holy Spirit of God working in the hearts of His people, the Five Solas (Sola is Latin for “only” or “alone”) of the Reformation were drafted to keep the focus of Christ’s bride upon Him and fulfilling the Great Commission. The Sola statements are as follows: Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone), Sola Christus (Christ Alone), Soli Deo Gloria (Glory of God Alone), and Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone). In other words, mankind is saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone, according to the authority of Scripture alone.
Studying and celebrating the Reformation is important for the Church to be reminded that we are capable of erroring and that we ought to desire for the Church to be discerning and for God to be glorified. It could be argued that today the church is in even greater need of being reformed to the Holy Word of God than even those days when the Protestant Reformation began. When we look at the landscape of Christianity in America today, there are far more deviations from the truth, and a greater need to call for renewing our minds and reforming our hearts to the clear and authoritative teaching of God’s Holy Word.
Therefore, I would encourage you all with the words of the Apostle Paul when speaking to the Church in Rome,
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:1-2
And rather than spend the month celebrating a wicked holiday like Halloween, which embraces sin and the world, I would strongly encourage you to research the Protestant Reformation and begin a tradition of celebrating Reformation Day!
Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Justin Myers is an avid student of God's Holy Word and received his M.Div. in biblical studies from Liberty University School of Divinity. Pastor Justin considers himself a family man who loves his wife and children dearly. He has been married for over nine years and has four children.