Fourth Quarter: Time to Wake Up

When I played basketball in high school we would have games where it seemed as though we were sleeping through the game, but then the fourth quarter would come and the coach would yell at us, “Wake Up” – she was telling us to pay attention and look alive so maybe we would finish the game well. This is the picture the Lord has been showing me of the Church (The Body of Christ made up of those who profess to believe in Jesus, the Son of God who died on the Cross and whom God raised from the grave…). The picture of a sleeping Church, a comfortable Church. The problem with sleepy, comfortable churches is they are more susceptible to deception, false teaching, unbiblical ideas, methods and concepts. We have got to wake up. We have got to start paying attention to what is coming into our churches and even to who and what we allow to influence us in our personal walk with the Lord. The past few weeks the Lord has been reminding me of the importance of ‘influence‘ and those we allow to influence us…even on a more personal level, who I allow to influence who I am as a Believer. It goes beyond us. Think of one or two people you allow to influence you as a Believer. Do you know who influences them? Do you know who they are attaching themselves to and what do those people reflect in what they believe as ‘Christians’? Does this really matter? Absolutely!

Who you spend time with the most is who you will become.

Who we allow to influence us as Believers, they are going to be who influence our thinking, our beliefs, how we live that out. So, what happens when the people we allow to influence us begin to drift from sound biblical teaching because of those who influence them?! We will find ourselves heading into deception. Influence can be good, but it can also be like yeast infecting the entire loaf of bread. In Matthew 16:11-12 Jesus is talking to the disciples, cautioning them about the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees – influence. Their influence and teaching (doctrine) would be harmful to them. What happens when you have been influenced by someone who is being influenced by others who are not teaching sound biblical teaching AND you begin passing that same unbiblical influence on to other Believers? We are accountable for that – Guess what?! This IS happening in the Church. It is happening with people who influence thousands of Believers daily! It’s happening in local churches all over the country and it is ALL because of the influence of others who even though they are not walking in Biblical truth, they are given room to influence.

It’s the Fourth Quarter Church, if we want to finish well we have got to WAKE UP! Are you teachable enough that the Lord has the ability, the freedom to show you who or what you are allowing to influence you as a Believer that is not inline with sound Biblical teaching? Are you willing to ask Him to show you and then remove those influences? (Honestly, I have had to do this over the past couple of weeks as I have come across some things with people I enjoyed learning from, but they are clearly not walking in Biblical truth and I can’t walk right with the Lord if I continue to allow these people a place of influence in my life. It is so disappointing.) We need to get back to being influenced by the Word of God most and to cut the threads of anything that is not biblically sound. That’s it. StraightUp!

A Small Dish of Poop in the Brownies

My last post was about deception in the Church (Poop in the Brownies). Deception looks like false teaching, using the Word of God out of context and just flat out heresy.

We would never eat a pan of brownies knowing there was a little “poop” in them, so why is the Church so accepting of it in the theology of some who are going out training and teaching in the name of the “gospel” or in being “missional”? If you aren’t familiar with the concept or methodology of being “missional” or “incarnate” you might want to do some research. Here is a question for you; do you know the Word of God intimately enough to recognize what is almost right in someone’s theology? We as Believers don’t need discernment to recognize right from wrong, we need it to recognize right from almost right. Should we tolerate or accept this kind of teaching or theology in the Church? Absolutely not! (1 Timothy 6:3.) We have the whole counsel of God – the Bible is complete! (Acts 20:27) So really we have no excuse to be “tossed here and there” as (Ephesians 4:14) mentions because we should be reading, studying God’s Word that we will recognize anything that is out of line with it. Jude 3 tells us to contend for the faith, we need to recognize even the slightest unbiblical teaching, we need to speak up and “contend” for truth not accept it or tolerate it.

So, what might “poop” in the brownies look like today?

When we reduce Christianity to a negative system where fasting becomes more sacred than feasting, law wins out over grace, and correct theology becomes more important than Divine encounter, we in effect become the modern – day pharisees whose ministry Jesus was set against.” –

Truth is narrow, but grace is wide.” –

That makes me want to vomit! I didn’t put the name of who said these, but I will tell you they are impacting hundreds of churches and Christians regularly. If you don’t see the issues with the above statements, you don’t know truth. Those are “poop” in the brownies of theology that is flooding churches EVERYWHERE. We should not accept it, we should not tolerate it and we should not partner with it. That’s it. StraightUp! (I hope you share this one)

Poop in the Brownies

How much poop could be in a pan of brownies before you would decide not to eat them? We will come back to this later, but in the mean time think about it.

There are “Christians” out there today that want to teach your kids that God simply wants to be their best friend forever.

There are “Christians” out there today who take scripture and stretch it so that it fits their formula of how Christians should be doing the Christian thing. They talk a lot about the gospel, incarnational missional community (Christians and non Christians), discipleship (disciplining even the unbeliever). They teach going out and being like the culture to reach the culture. Go eat and drink and party because God loves a good party.

There are “Christians” today who will tell you its okay to just be you, your only human so go ahead drink, smoke, cuss, watch the Bachelor, etc. God still loves you.

Here’s the thing, all the things listed above are poop in the brownies! It’s deception! God doesn’t simply want your kids to think He wants to be their best friend forever. No! God wants them to know they are sinners in need of a savior, and that Jesus is that Savior through faith. They need to know this as early as possible. They need to be filled with the Holy Spirit, learning, growing into who God created them to be so that they can stand against the lies of the enemy. The Christian life is not a method, movement or formula. It’s a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. You can’t stretch His Word or take it out of context to make it fit how you want to live as a Christian. Christians are called to live different than unbelievers (the world, culture) we are not told to be like them to reach them. Christians are called to preach the gospel, make disciples and baptize them – you don’t baptize unbelieving people, therefore you don’t disciple them either.

The gospel isn’t telling “God’s” story, (a nice gentle story comprising the entire Bible in a nut shell) the gospel is that Jesus, the Son of God, came, lived, died on the cross and rose again defeating death and sin. The gospel is the Kingdom of God is near, repent and be baptized. Jesus called out sin and told people to go and sin no more. When people “soften” the gospel so that the unbeliever won’t be offended, that’s poop in the brownies. The gospel is offensive to an unsaved world. We don’t get to change the concept of what the gospel looks like so that we aren’t afraid of being rejected or persecuted for sharing it. Guess what! The gospel requires a natural tension, it requires the hearer to either accept it or reject it. Anything else is poop in the brownies. The gospel requires sacrifice on the part of the Believer, we know from the Word of God that preaching the gospel, sharing it with unbelievers requires us to be willing to be rejected, persecuted, unpopular etc. it requires us laying down self for the sake of the Cross of Christ. Anything else is poop in the brownies.

Let’s go back to the starting question, how much poop could be in a pan of brownies before you would decide not to eat them? Hopefully, you are saying, “Uh, none.” Have you caught on that the poop is deception? Deception is EVERYWHERE! The enemy is gaining so much ground and it’s because the Church has grown lazy, it’s sleeping. We are told to be on guard, to be watchful, alert and sober minded, but we’re not, so we are okay with a little poop in our brownies. Church, deception is darkness. There cannot be a little poop in God’s Truth. You can not have a mix of good and evil. God is a holy God, he isn’t going to use deception, even a tiny bit of it, for the purpose of His Kingdom. To think a little deception is no big deal, is a lie from the pit of hell. STOP eating poop in the brownies! That’s it SraightUp!

Always Possibility

Crab Apple Tree starting to blossom!

One thing I really love about living in the Upper Midwest is that there are actually four seasons unlike California where I grew up. However, I am not a fan of winter being the longest of the four seasons. Winter here was brutal this year and LONG! I noticed last week when we went to church everything was still just so dead looking, except for grass, then on Monday we had a warmer day and lots of sunshine (it was almost like a Narnia moment where Aslan walks through and everything blooms and comes to life) as I drove more and more trees seemed to bloom and pop out little green buds! So, what’s my point? There is ALWAYS possibility! For those who put their faith in Jesus, there is always possibility! (Mark 9:23) And Jesus said to him, ” ‘If you can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” (Matt. 19:26, Mark 10:27, Luke 18:27)

So, as I drove along amazed out how in 24 hrs. time trees went from looking dead and ugly to alive with the new life of little green buds breaking forth! It made me whisper a prayer of gratitude to the Lord for the changing seasons, but even more for the way He reminds us through His creation of His goodness, His love, His power. I found myself thanking Him that no matter how challenging a situation in life may be, there is always hope, there is always the possibility of something new. He is the One who can make dead things come to life again, (marriages, relationships, churches, businesses, physical well being etc.) He is the One who saves, rescues, restores, and heals. When we grow weary in the challenges, He will renew our strength. (Is. 40:31) When we feel as though things won’t change, they won’t get better, we will never accomplish what He has put in our hearts to do, if we will trust and believe, then there is ALWAYS possibility, because we have a God who is not limited like we are – He is always working, always making something new, I think we just have to remind ourselves to look for Him in all things at all times and find hope in the fact that He is making things new and one day there will be the ultimate realization of the newness of life in Christ. That’s it. StraightUp!

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new.”

Time to Wake Up and Grow Up!

For the past week and a half the Lord has kept talking about complacency in the Church. This is a hearty topic, at least in my mind it is, so I have given it quite a bit of prayer. What is complacency? According to Websters, it is self satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies; smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc. The word that really jumps out at me is ‘smug’ – smug people are usually arrogant or prideful people. Individual believer’s make up the Church so for a church body to become complacent, it first begins in the lives of the individual believers. If as believer’s we have become satisfied in our spiritual journey, or with the way programs are working in our “churches” than we are becoming comfortable in our faith in Christ. We might be becoming stagnant in our individual walk with the Lord, this is a dangerous place to be as the Church. Complacency implies a lack of spiritual growth, a lack of growth means a lack of maturing believers, a lack of maturing believers means a lack in multiplying more mature believers. This can open the church up to deception and deception is alive and well.

When I think of the complacency of the Church, a scene from a movie my boys used to watch keeps coming to mind. In the scene, three teenagers are on the hunt for a pearl and they end up in a casino where there should be a third pearl, while they look around for it they are constantly offered a cookie, so as they eat these cookies they become more and more comfortable in the environment of the casino, and they begin to forget what their mission was, the whole purpose as to why they were there in the first place. Their enemy used tainted cookies to deceive them, they had to wake up. We have to wake up! Church, complacency is a sin. If we have forgotten who we are and what our purpose is we are in TROUBLE. Look what Christ has to say to the church in Laodicea regarding their complacency. “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other.” (Rev. 3:15) I hope that stings a little! We can not be lukewarm. We can not straddle the fence. We are either all in with Him or we are not! They were more satisfied with their material well being to the point they were completely unaware of how great their spiritual need had become. We cannot grow in spiritual maturity if we are only living for worldly things and are lazy in our pursuit of knowing Jesus deeply and intimately. Hebrews 5:12 “You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again about the basic things of God’s word.” We have to wake up. We have to start growing up. Today is the day of salvation! Today is the day to repent! (2 Cor. 6:2, Mark 6:12, Luke 24:47) If you have been living your walk with the Lord in a stagnant, self-satisfied state, you are complacent, and you need to repent. That’s it. StraightUp!

“Jesus calls us to his rest, and meekness is His method. The meek man cares not at all who is greater than he, for he has long ago decided that the esteem of the world is not worth the effort. “ A. W. Tozer

All In

All In- those are two words the Lord highlighted to me almost two years ago and I have been thinking and praying on them ever since! When the Lord brought them to mind, He did so in the context of what it means to follow Him. Being a Christian isn’t just about praying a prayer and being baptized, it means so much more! The problem is that when the Church evangelizes or when Christians share the gospel with others we don’t really tell people that saying yes to Jesus as Lord and Savior is going to cost them. Instead, we let people believe that now their lives are going to be nice and happy. We should be giving people a disclaimer that says, “If you chose to put your faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you need to understand that it may very well cost you everything!” But we don’t. Why? Well, I believe because most Christians don’t really know, understand or believe that themselves. Just look around at the Church. Do you see a Church that lives as though they believe following Jesus means costing us everything? I don’t. Is our relationship with Jesus costing us anything? Reputation? Loss of clients in business because we live the gospel out loud? Family or friends? It should be. The cross would be a heavy, 200 lbs. to be carrying on a daily bases, it would certainly make our lives stand out from everyone else, we would definitely be abnormal in today’s society. Living All In every day should be costing us something.

‘All’ means ALL (the whole amount, every individual) I have never looked up the definition for ‘in’ so I thought, let’s do it.There are a couple different definitions, but I want to focus on this one – on the inside; within. It makes so much sense! If you look at it in the context of following Jesus, we are suppose to be ALL IN, no half way, it’s all or nothing. How can I say that? I can say that because Jesus put out a simple call to those who would choose to follow Him, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” Those words ‘Take Up Your Cross’ those are words of being ALL in, there is NO half way. (Matt. 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:22). If we look at the definitions of All and In, Jesus calls the Believer to follow, to be “in” with Him that means our whole life, every area, every detail, each one of us. If we are not willing to be All In with Jesus as His followers, as His Church, then we most likely are not living as followers who have heard His call to “deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me.” Living ‘All In’ requires us to surrender our lives, our plans, our schedules, our comfort, maybe some relationships etc. for the sake of Jesus. The Church today has become about people who go to a place once or twice a week, sing songs, listen to a sermon, do some activities. We as followers of Jesus, we are the CHURCH – it’s time for us to start living it and it begins with taking up our crosses and being ALL IN. That’s it. StraightUp!

“The cross not only brings Christ’s life to an end, it also ends the first life, the old life, of every one of His true followers.”– A.W. Tozer

Believing God or Believing in God

Is there a difference when it comes to believing God and believing in Him? I think yes! There is a BIG difference! There are a lot of people that will tell you that they believe in God, but if you watch how they live, act, speak etc. it becomes easy to see that just because a person believes in God doesn’t mean they BELIEVE Him. Just look at today’s Church – the people who claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Christians or Believers, obviously they believe in God, but do we really believe God? Do we believe He is who He says he is? Like “I AM who I AM” (Exodus 3:14) Do we really believe Him when He tells us that anger towards another is considered murder? (Matt. 5:21-22) Do we believe Him when He tells us that the sexually immoral, the adulterous, the idolaters etc. will not inherit the kingdom of God? (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Do we believe Him when He tells us that love for the world is hatred towards Him? (James 4:4). Do we believe Him when He tells us that He loved us (mankind) so much that He gave His Son for us? (John 3:16). Do we believe Him when He tells us that salvation comes only through a personal faith in Jesus Christ that it isn’t found in our goodness or our works? (Eph. 2:8-9). Do we believe Him when He tells us that we can do ALL things through Him? (Phil. 4:13). Do we believe Him when He tells us that we are His sons and daughters? (2 Cor. 6:18). Do we believe Him when He tells us that we are chosen and set apart? (1 Peter 2:9) actually, read through the rest of that passage as well! (Col. 3:12). Do we believe Him when He tells us that we are to love one another as He loved us? (John 13:34-35)

So, what’s my point? If we actually believe God and not just in Him, than we should live differently. Our lives should look different from those who just believe in the existence of God. Look at the verses the Lord brought to my mind – there is a whole tapestry of imagery that comes just from a few verses of what our lives should look like as people who believe God. Yet, most often we live as those who are content to believe in Him, but don’t really give weight to all that He says. We need to wake up and listen! We need to hear His words and BELIEVE them! In Exodus He tells Moses, ” I AM WHO I AM” The I AM is the ultimate statement of self sufficiency, self existence, and immediate presence. In Revelation 1:8 he says, ” I am the Alpha and the Omega – who is, and who was, and who is to come.” Do we believe Him?! He is it! He is coming again and it is time to live as those who BELIEVE HIM! That’s it. Straight Up!

What’s Missing?

I love the book of Acts, especially Acts 2. I read the account of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and it leaves me just mind blown! As you read through this chapter, you see the call to repentance and baptism, and then you see the belonging of the Church, the way they drew together to learn from the apostle’s, to fellowship (the new believer’s desired to be with the people of God), breaking bread together (most likely this speaks to both sharing in communion with each other as well as common meals), and they prayed (this was a regular practice of the early Church and it expressed their total dependence on the Lord) together. They did these things daily! Could you imagine if the Church today still desired all of these things? So what is missing in the Church today? Well, I believe it is the presence of the Holy Spirit. Before anything else, before Peter preached this amazing sermon that essentially began the Church as 3,000 people repented and were baptized in faith in Jesus Christ, before gathering together, before breaking bread together, before praying together – It ALL began with the presence of the Holy Spirit! We have to get back to a place of desiring the Presence of God through the Holy Spirit in our lives, so that His presence is alive in the Church. We have to stop being afraid of the Holy Spirit and invite Him in!

“One of the most telling blows which the enemy ever struck at the life of the Church was to create in her a fear of the Holy Spirit.”– A.W. Tozer

As believers in Jesus Christ we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit the moment we profess saving faith in Jesus – we are sealed. Being sealed by the Holy Spirit is God’s way of marking us as His, but it is also His way of equipping us and empowering us to live the life He calls us to live in Christ. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit continually. How do we do this? We must be in God’s Word, studying it, applying it, meditating on it. We need to be people of prayer, seeking and listening to God. We must be people who are living in obedience to the Lord. This doesn’t just happen. It takes intention. The apostle Paul encourages the Church to be filled with the Spirit. Galatians 5:16 “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” “Flesh” everything in us that opposes God and His will. Why does Paul encourage walking in the Spirit? Because the flesh and the spirit are always contending with each other and the only way for us to overcome the desires or lusts of the flesh in our lives is to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. Today’s Church is more reflective of a church that wants ‘saving’, but not transformation. Today’s Church wants the benefits of the Holy Spirit in ways such as healing people of sickness, but it doesn’t want the fullness of His presence because it might be weird or uncomfortable. Here is the thing- we either want the Holy Spirit or we don’t. There is no half way. We have to have Him continually filling us, equipping us, empowering us, or we will never accomplish what He has called us to do. We also need His conviction when we are living in ways that the Lord does not desire for us. Have you ever considered that walking in the Spirit and experiencing His presence is only weird and uncomfortable because we don’t do it?

Maybe you take vitamins every day. Why? Most likely you want to be healthy, strong, and be able to function the best you can day to day. For the believer who is filled daily with the Holy Spirit, it’s the same concept. He enables us to live and accomplish the things that God has put before us to do and He helps us to be spiritually strong. Jesus needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit, so how much more do we? That’s it. StraightUp!

What’s On Your Mind?

About three weeks ago we had a guest speaker at our church and he said something about the need to renew our minds. Well, it was actually a confirmation for me to write this post! What’s On Your Mind? Because what’s on your mind has a huge impact on everything else in your life.

Every now and then I hear women say that they don’t have time to spend in the Word (Bible) on a regular basis, but yet they are struggling, stressed, full of anxiety etc. Other times I hear “Christians” swear like it is no big deal – this was the case about two months ago as I was talking to a believer and they kept using cuss words. It might be one thing to let a word fly because we stub our toe on the foot of a table or something, but to use swear words like every day normal language, that is not what the Lord desires for His people. What we think tends to impact what we say. We are told in the Word that our speech should be good and it should build up and encourage others. So why is this? Well, some of it is because a large part of the Church still prefers to be influenced by the culture we live rather than by the Holy Spirit and some of it is because of a lack of spiritual growth in the Church. We see in scripture that we are not to conform to the world (culture) we live in, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Why? Because, if we don’t allow the Word of God which is a living, active word transform our minds we are going to have a difficult time knowing and understanding what pleases Him, what He desires of us and for us, and we are going to have a hard time thinking the way He thinks. This transformation comes through spending time in His Word on a daily basis. How do you get to know someone if you never spend time with them? We can’t know God without spending time with Him, talking with Him, listening to Him – an important part of that process is reading what He has said to us in His Word.

In 2018 only 15% of surveyed Christians spent time reading their Bible on a daily basis. Yikes! 26% spent 15 – 30 minutes in their Bible when they did read it, and only 7% spent 45- 59 minutes in their Bible when they read it. Yet, on average people spend 3.5 hours on their phone or device daily and spend on average about 5 hours watching TV (it’s more if they are watching things that are on DVR). Maybe you are thinking, “I spend 5 minutes a day reading Jesus Calling” or something like it – Here is the thing. Even if we read a few minutes of scripture a couple days a week, even daily, the Word is still the least of what is being taken in and processed by our minds. We only think that we are ‘renewing’ our minds. In order for the Word of God to transform our minds it has to be what is taking up the most space in our minds! If I spend 20 minutes reading scripture then turn on secular radio for the next 3 hours of my day, what do you think is having more impact on my mind? Not the Word of God that I just read.  Ephesians 4:23-24 Paul talks again about our old nature being gone and being renewed in the way we think! It’s not that we don’t have time to spend with God in His Word, it’s that we are NOT willing to make time to be in His Word. The believer’s relationship with the Lord is just like any relationship they have with a spouse or friend…to develop them takes intentional time. If we want our minds to experience the transformational power of God’s Word, we MUST be intentional in making that time! If we do this we will be amazed to find that we are less stressed and have more peace rather than anxiety. So, what’s on your mind? That’s it. StraightUp!

“Finally brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest (noble), whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are praise-worthy, THINK on these things.” Philippines 4:8