Antichrists in the Church

Image result for church

What? No way!

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but antichrists exist in every Bible preaching church.

Last night in our small group, we studied 1 John 2:18-27, and I will be preaching from this passage on Sunday. John writes the following, Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour (2:18).

The word antichrist means “against Christ” and is seen by opposing Christ and replacing Christ. Satan, who will be the engine behind the future Antichrist (Revelation 13:1-8), hates Christ, constantly opposes Christ and the body of Christ both individually and corporately. Furthermore, Satan tempts us as believers to replace the preeminence of Christ in all areas of our life with anything of a temporal nature or philosophy, even things that may be good.

So how do antichrists show up in local churches?

  • When repentance and confession of sin has been exchanged for making the congregation comfortable, then the holiness of Christ has been replaced and opposed by fleshly, carnal, proud living. (1 Peter 1:13-16)
  • When programs of the church mean more to the congregation than exalting Christ and personal discipleship, then He is opposed and replaced. (Colossians 1:18) Programs do not change people; Christ does.
  • When church members think that ministry is to done by the “hired staff” because “that’s what we pay them to do,” then genuine gospel ministry has been opposed rather than expanded. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
  • When sports takes the high seat of choice by church members, then Christ has been replaced by temporal goals that amount to nothing in eternity. (Matthew 6:33)
  • When church members criticize the leadership and gossip behind their backs, they are opposing Christ and doing the work of antichrist by their corrupt speech as they seek to gain a following. (Ephesians 4:29, 31)
  • When prayer gatherings are poorly attended, the gospel ministry is being opposed and replaced because prayer is the power behind all ministry. (Matthew 21:13; Acts 4-6)
  • When a consumeristic attitude of felt needs is the determiner of what church to attend, then Christ is being opposed and replaced by human standards and “following your heart.” (Philippians 2:1-11)
  • When the family is more important than Christ, He is opposed and replaced with the attitude that “family is the most important thing.” (Luke 14:26)
  • When staying home and watching the morning service online, because it’s more comfortable, becomes the norm, then Christ is opposed and replaced because He commands us (His Body) to gather and all the more as we see the day of His return drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25).
  • When music and entertainment takes the place of the preeminence of preaching, Christ, the Word (John 1:1) is opposed and replaced.

Friends, the Church is Christ. We are His body (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12; 5:23) joined to Him in salvation (Ephesians 4:15-16). Christ is the Head of the Church (Ephesians 1:22-23) and is to be the preeminent One in the Church (Colossians 1:15-18). Therefore, if Christ is not the issue, the goal, the motive, the heart, the reason, the life and the head of the Church, then the spirit of antichrist is at work opposing and replacing Christ.

May we exalt Christ by being Word-filled (2 Timothy 3:16-17), Holy Spirit empowered (Ephesians 5:18), God glorifying (1 Corinthians 10:31), discipleship minded (Matthew 28:19-20) believers who long to make much of Christ (Philippians 1:21) and nothing of ourselves (John 3:30).

Be careful, antichrist may be in the pew or chair behind you next Sunday, or he may even walk in with you. Let’s reject the spirit of antichrists and be all out for Christ!!

Prayer Warriors!!

This was one of the best moments of Men’s Prayer Advance 2021.

After our first session on Saturday morning, I went out to my car and upon returning to the church building and entering the foyer, this is what I saw.

What’s so awesome about this picture?

  1. Men praying!!! Jesus said, Men ought always to pray and not to faint (Luke 18:1). How grateful I am for women who pray like portrayed by Clara in the movie War Room, but the leaders of prayer in every church should be the men. Charles Stanley puts it this way, Always remember that God is bigger than any problem you face, and the distance between your success and failure or your victory and defeat is the distance between your knees and the floor as you kneel before your wondrous Lord and Savior in surrendered prayer. You are never taller or stronger than while on your knees!
  2. This is the will of God for men. We read in 1 Timothy 2:8, I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling. We are commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you
  3. This is what real men of God do. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another . . . . The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16).
  4. This is a demonstration of humility; of dependence upon God. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:5-7).
  5. This is spontaneous, “let’s take it to the Lord in prayer.” There was a burden, a need, and one of these men took the initiative to lead these men to prayer. It didn’t matter what was going on around them, they went to the Throne of Grace. Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18). Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
  6. This is an awesome display of the unity of the brethren (Psalm 133:1). Paul encouraged the men in the church at Rome, I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf (Romans 15:30).

Men, may I encourage you to be the prayer leaders in your family, your church, and wherever you go? When your wife has a need, stop and pray with her. When your children come to you asking for wisdom, teach them by your example to seek the Lord’s wisdom through prayer. When you hear of a need at church, gather some men together like this picture and pray. Instead of talking about the politics, perils and problems of the world in conversations at church, pray! Before you pray for your meal at the restaurant, ask your server how you can pray for them.

Men, today, let’s be a warrior on our knees; a real man of faith and prayer!! Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:3)

When a man is at his wits’ end, it is not a cowardly thing to pray; it is the only way he can get in touch with Reality. (Oswald Chambers)

Monday Mind of a Pastor

“Well, I blew that one!”

“Wonder where __________ was today. I sure missed them.”

“I went too long today!”

“Wow! That wasn’t even in my notes. Thank you, Lord!”

“What could I do better?”

“Why would anyone want to sit under my preaching?”

“I’m ready to get back into that passage and prepare for next Sunday.”

“The Word works!”

“Thank you, Lord, for grace.”

“That illustration was a flop.”

“___________ needs to sing that song again very soon! Powerful lyrics!”

“Need to pray more fervently next week.”

“Lord, if you used a donkey to speak, you can use me.”

“Wonder why we aren’t growing in numbers?”

“Thank You, Lord, for being faithful!”

“Who do I need to visit this week?”

“Lord, I am not worthy to be in this position as a shepherd.”

“How good is was to be with God’s people today!”

“All by the grace of God!”

“Lord, thanks for reminding of the call to ministry!” I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, 26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. (Colossians 1:24-29)

Yesterday

Heartbroken. Grieved. Hopeful. Concerned. Saddened. Not surprised. Confident. Driven to prayer.

These and other emotions filled my mind and heart yesterday in reference to the events in Washington, D.C. And, there will be more to come, I’m sure. Nevertheless, along with many, many others who will offer their thoughts via social media, blogs, podcasts, etc., I share these with all sincerity of heart and for God’s glory.

  1. I was born on January 22, 1959 in Marietta, Ohio, at which time I became a citizen of the United States of America. My parents raised me to love and honor our nation, and I do so to this day. While as a five-year-old living in Marietta, I knelt down beside our living room couch at our home located on 318 Sixth Street and received Christ as my personal Lord and Savior (John 1:14; 3:16; Romans 10:9-13; Ephesians 2:1-10). At that moment, I became a citizen of two worlds, the USA and Heaven! The first one is temporal and the other eternal. The first one is made by man and sought to be governed by man and therefore has many flaws. The eternal one is the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10). I say all of that to say this, although I am grieved by the display of sinful men’s hearts yesterday, I am not shaken because my citizenship in Heaven is eternal, righteous and secure in Christ and governs my citizenship here. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself (Philippians 3:20-21). I’m not home yet!
  2. Life has been this way since the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3-4; Romans 1:16-32). There is ONLY ONE remedy and that’s the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. As has been well said for a while now, “The Gospel changes everything.” Life transforming change cannot occur through governmental laws, reform, or programs. They have a degree of moral effect for a period of time but until man’s heart is transformed, laws will change and be added and more programs will be created to address man’s temporal needs. (Here’s a good read on government) That being said, the need of the hour is not reformation but transformation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 precisely spells it out, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. A good example of transformational change is found in 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10, For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. Lives changed by the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) for eternity is the change that is needed.
  3. What I am about to say here is with the deepest of sadness. I am not without fault here but let me bear my soul. While I have called our church family to prayer this week and have noticed that others churches have done the same, I am a bit chagrined and distressed by this call to prayer which is accompanied by a “Really????” in my own heart. As a man and a pastor looking back over almost 62 years, I wish I had given my life much more to a life of prayer (John 15:4-5). Furthermore, one of the greatest disappointments of my life as a pastor is having to beg believers to pray, to attend prayer meetings. We are where we are today because, as a point of reference, the mid-week prayer meetings are the least attended gatherings of the week in a church’s ministry or have been completely done away with. Call for a prayer meeting and a few might show up, and lovingly may I say that when the meeting convenes, seldom is there heart-crying out prayers of repentance, reconciliation and renewal! This link will help us if we will follow Christ and the early church in prayer (Hebrews 5:7; Matthew 14:23; Acts 4:23-31). Prayer is the declaration of our dependence upon God as we understand our desperate condition without Him and without His omnipotent, omniscient work. We as a church are where we are because we have traded the prayer meeting for other religious activities that we must keep propped up by our our wisdom and strength and that meet our felt needs. Suffice it to say, we must begin today to live out 2 Chronicles 7:14; Psalms 4, 40, 42, 86, 102, 142; Jeremiah 33:3; James 5:16-18.

May God help us! May God have mercy upon us!

Listening for the shout, the voice and the trump today (1Thessalonians 4:13-18)!

Sincerely, today, from a pastor’s heart.

The Monday After

“We had six saved today, three baptized, ten join the church, the house was full, and I had great liberty in preaching!” (A fake tweet that parallels the statements of some pastors on Monday after they have had “a ready good” Sunday!)

“We had a small crowd, no one came forward at the invitation, a section of the church was empty due to a group who left the church this past week, and I bombed my sermon.” (A fake tweet that parallels the feelings of too many pastors on Monday after a “rough” Sunday.”)

Before social media, I heard both of these kind of statements when I attended a local preacher’s fellowship or read a bi-weekly preacher’s newspaper. Now it’s in real time on Sundays and Mondays.

Oh the joys and heartaches, the delights and discouragements, the successes and failures, and the highs and lows of Sundays for a pastor!

But every Monday, I have to come back to the Truth. I cannot listen to myself. I must preach the Truth to myself.

My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.
6 He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.
7 In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.
(Psalm 62:5-7)

And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:18-19)

For without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. (Romans 12:15-16)

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:5-11)

And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:18)

The “tweet” that will really matter is when we stand alone before the Lord Jesus Christ at the Bema, and we hear His declaration about the ministry that He entrusted to us. That’s when it will matter.

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

So men, let’s press forward today in the grace of God as we keep the end in mind rather than our viewpoint or other’s tweets on Monday! Christ’s evaluation will be right and eternal.

A Little Bit of Heaven on Earth!

After eleven weeks of meeting through Zoom, the doors were opened yesterday at Boones Creek Bible Church to gather corporately. Wow! What an awesome experience of the grace of God! Indeed, as best as I can say, it was a little bit of heaven on earth (Revelation 4-5)!

Some of the highlights:

  • All the smiling, happy faces!! The laughter of children and adults! Even though many were reserved due to playing-it-safe, there was an atmosphere of joy-filled expectation. We had seen most folk on Zoom through the weeks, but nothing takes the place of being in person! You know, I get a glimpse of heaven through the precious Word of God, but one day, it will be in person! (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
  • Congregational singing!! Pastor Andrew directed us to consider our great God as we began the morning gathering singing, “Behold our God!” From there, we were exhorted to consider the only way to God and our position in Christ by singing “In Christ Alone.” Eleven weeks ago, the last song we sang corporately was “He Will Hold Me Fast.” Certainly, that is what God has done through these days of uncertainty. We finished with looking to the future by prayerfully singing, “Be Thou My Vision.” These songs came from asking our congregation to share a song that would sum up their personal testimony during COVID-19. Normally I sit on the front row and to hear the folks behind me singing was powerful!! Now I sing off-pitch at times, but in heaven, it will always be to God and in tune (Revelation 5)!
  • Visitors! How wonderful to see folks attending that our people had invited. I believe that this pandemic has awakened many to the issue of death. People want the Truth. What a joy to welcome new faces, to pray with them, to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to listen to their stories. The only sad note about today was those who refused to receive Christ as Savior. How wonderful it will be when see all our spiritual family in Glory, those who have received Christ alone for salvation (John 1:12). Visitors, no; family, yes!
  • Prayer! We saw God answer prayer today!! In Heaven, Christ is interceding for us (Hebrews 7:25) for us right now! We have continual access to the Throne through our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Although our hearts are heavy for the current upheaval in the streets of America and the continual effect of COVID-19, the Church should be a little heaven on earth as it exalts the One Who can change everything, Who makes life worth living, who is worship — the Lord Jesus Christ!!

Sunday Guidelines

Been thinking about all the preparations that have been made and are currently being made as churches open their doors to meet again.

Our first Sunday to be “shut-down” was March 22. (The Church was never closed; only the building was empty.) We have been using Zoom for Sunday morning, prayer meetings, and small group meetings. This past Sunday, just the leadership met in the auditorium while the service was Zoomed to everyone else. The purpose for our in-house meeting was to get a first-hand view of the guidelines we need in to have in place for opening our doors this Sunday.

On my way to church, I said to my wife, “Churches are making a lot of plans and preparations for next Sunday to protect folks from the virus. I wonder, how much planning and preparation goes on personally in the heart of man to be protected from the old sin nature so that our worship will be in spirit and in truth (John 4:24)?”

May I offer some suggested guidelines, not in a legalistic fashion, but simply to honor God and help us be ready to gather in His presence?

  1. Have the whole family pray together on Saturday night in heart preparation for gathering on Sunday.
  2. Have clothes and breakfast already planned out and prepared on Saturday night to lessen the stress of Sunday morning.
  3. Get to bed at a decent hour so you are not so tired on Sunday morning.
  4. Be prepared for opposition from the flesh and the devil on Sunday morning. Don’t be surprised. You are in a battle.
  5. Have a season of prayer as a family and listen to worship music on the way to church.
  6. Before you exit your vehicle in the church parking lot, pray and ask the Lord what pew you should sit in so you will be near the person God wants you to minister to that morning (even six-feet apart).
  7. Maybe take a different route to church to add some freshness to the journey.
  8. The trip to and from church should be a blessed, happy time of joy and singing and sharing because you are born again, and you were made to praise the Lord!

We have guidelines to protect from the virus. May we with a right heart follow some “guidelines” to protect us from ourselves. After all, this Sunday’s worship is not about us but about loving God and loving our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39)!

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!” (Psalm 122:1)

Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah (Psalm 84:4)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:16-17)

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Zoomin’ On!!

Singing In Christ Alone, The Solid Rock,  Nothing Ever Can Nothing Ever Will, Be Still My Soul, He Will Hold Me Fast, the reading of Galatians 5:16-26; preaching from Romans 8:5-11, Sunday School & Adult Bible Fellowships, hearing of gospel ministry in Brazil to the deaf, and corporate prayer, these were some of the components of the last time we met in March as a corporate body in our church building.  I’ve intentionally kept the hard copy of the Sunday Gathering Order in the flyleaf of my Bible.  Good memories!

Yes, we have missed the many ingredients of a Sunday at BCBC as well as other gatherings. Nevertheless, God in His grace and mercy has been so very good to us!

In this midst of this quarantine, what have we enjoyed?  What blessings have been graced upon us?

  • Zoom Services.  Thank the Lord for technology that has kept us connected.  With all the push toward social distancing, the Lord has enabled us as a congregation to stay close.  Through Zoom, we see/hear each other, chat with one another, share blessings, fellowship with our missionaries (Asia and Europe), rejoice over the salvation of a precious soul, evangelize those who would not attend a gathering in person, and . . . wave at each other when we “leave the meeting.” 🙂
  • Zoom Prayer Meetings.  What a blessing to hear adults, young people, and children pray for the salvation of lost souls, spiritual awakening in the world, America, and the Tri-Cities, and revival for BCBC!
  • Zoom Small Groups.  Each week when groups have chosen to meet, they have experienced the presence of the Lord as they pray, discuss the Romans passage from the previous Sunday’s message, share burdens, simply chat, and encourage one another. Once again, the grace provisions have been rich!
  • Zoom Sunday School. The upper grade school class has been meeting after the morning service. Last Sunday, they were able to have a “visitor” from Germany participate in their class as they even did an outdoor activity. How cool is that?!?!
  • Zoom Teen Meetings. Pastor Andrew has been able to continue teen ministry through meetings at various times through the week, even reading through Mere Christianity with some guys. So good to see a passion to continue to disciple.
  • Zoom Apples of Gold. My wife loves to disciple ladies through this ministry. The past three Sunday afternoons, she has given a cooking lesson (jam, donuts, biscuits and sausage gravy) for the purpose of creating hospitality and gospel conversation times going forward. There has been teaching and questions from the participants, laughter, encouragement, and even the fulfillment of given opportunities to be a blessing to others during week.

Indeed, there are many other grace blessings that I am not aware of because our God is bigger than the coronavirus and social distancing, and He is fulfilling the promise of Matthew 16:18 around the world! I am certainly looking forward to meeting again in a corporate setting at our building to sing, pray, fellowship and hear God’s Word proclaimed, but in the meantime, we rejoice in how God accomplishes His will and work no matter the circumstances.

Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2 Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord,
or declare all his praise?
(Psalm 106:1-2)

For nothing will be impossible with God. (Luke 1:37)

But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God. (Luke 18:27)

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (Psalm 20:7)

Don’t Miss It!

Could the rapture be occurring today?

Are we in the beginning of the tribulation period?

Is God judging the world; our country?

Was this virus a part of a conspiracy?

These and many more questions have been asked, and we grope for answers. Of those questions stated above, I know that the rapture of the church has not occurred and therefore the subsequent tribulation (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:9). Since there are no signs for the rapture, only promises, we know that it could occur right now. As my wife has said, “It will happen in somebody’s lifetime. It might as well be mine!”

Also, in reference to this virus being the judgment of God, I agree with Thomas Schreiner’s statement, “All temporal judgments are meant to direct our attention to final judgment.” (Revelation 20:7-15)

Nevertheless, from the very beginning of the gradual shut-down, “safer at home” mandates, and face masks, I have had one definite fear. It is not a sinful fear, but one that has driven me to prayer and the Word. It is that when the “pandemic” is over, we will miss what God intended for us personally, nationally, and corporately as in our local churches.

This very desire led me to roll out of bed Tuesday morning at 3:30 and get on my knees in prayer. “Lord, You are under no obligation to reveal to me your purposes in permitting this virus, but if You would be so gracious, would you share enough with me so I don’t miss what You want to teach me?”

After prayer, I began to read the Word. Currently, I am reading through 1 Chronicles, Luke, Psalms and Colossians. Normally, there is one psalm to read each day in my Bible reading plan, and having read Psalm 129 on Monday, I read Psalm 130. Having completed my reading and writing in my journal the things God has spoken to me about, I picked up my phone to record my daily reading in the YouVersion app.

My reading was not complete. Psalm 131 was scheduled for Tuesday as well. God speaking to me was not complete either because Psalm 131 was the answer to my prayer. As I read, I believe the Lord revealed to me one of the reasons for this trial. “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Psalm 131:2). God has seen fit at this time to wean us off of much of what we thought was so important for life to be fulfilled.

This is good. Many said before the virus, “I sure wish I could slow down.” Or, “Life is crazy busy!” Or, “There is so much going on that I can’t keep up!” Well, we got our wish. What will we do with It? What have we been doing with it?

Folks, God is trying to get our attention! We had better be awake (Romans 13:11-14). During this shut-down . . .

  • How are the current circumstances giving you an opportunity to seek the Lord?
  • What has the Lord said specifically to you? Could you write it down; could you articulate it?
  • What changes have been made spiritually that will affect all other areas of your life going forward? What has been “weaned away” from you? (Romans 6:1-14; 8:1-39; Ephesians 4:17-32)
  • Have you given more time to prayer? (Psalm 130; Romans 8:26-27; 1 Timothy 2:1-8)
  • Have you read the Word with a greater passion and hunger for Truth? (Psalm 119)
  • Have you sensed a greater conviction of the Holy Spirit that has led to repentance and transformation into Christlikeness? (Acts 17:30; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Hebrews 4:12)
  • Have you been crying out to the Lord for a spiritual awakening and revival in our land? (Psalms 3:4; 80; 61:2; 85:6 119:126; Joel 2:12-13)
  • Have you found yourself thinking more about prophecy, the end times? (Titus 2:13)
  • Have you come to realize your need of eternal hope; the need of a personal relationship with Christ? If so, listen to the following link: https://vimeo.com/41496372

This Sunday will mark the fifth Sunday in-a-row that we will not be gathering within the walls of brick and mortal as a church to worship our great God and to fellowship together. How grateful I am for the online connection that has helped us to continue to grow and “meet.” No matter, for our congregation and myself, I don’t want us to miss it! I don’t want any of us to miss what God has to say to us; what He has planned for us going forward!

O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
2 So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.

3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
4 Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
5 My soul shall be satisfied as with [a]marrow and [b]fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.

6 When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches.
7 Because You have been my help,
Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.
8 My soul follows close behind You;
Your right hand upholds me.
(Psalm 63:1-8)

I Don’t Want to Go Back to Normal!

COVID-19 has changed all of our worlds around the world!

In short order, our personal calendars have gone blank. Any attempt to reschedule has the word “hopefully” attached to it.

For thousands, there is a longing to get back to “normal” such as work, school, ballgames, shopping, eating out, not wearing a mask, etc.

There is one area of life that I hope does not return to “normal,” and that is what I will call “typical church life” here in America before the coronavirus.

My perception at times over the years has been that the church has been too reliant on programs and “business as usual.” (I remember attending a church growth conference in the 80’s that said if I would spend a $100 to buy their materials, my church would grow to 300 in one year.) With that in mind, there have been occasions where I have desired to announce on a Sunday, “Beginning now, all ministries of this local church are laid aside. For the next 40 days, we will give ourselves to fervent prayer and the reading of God’s Word to discern how Christ, the Head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23), would have us continue His ministry for His glory (Acts 1:1-14; 1 Corinthians 10:31) in the days to come.”

Well, guess what? It happened! We are living it out right now in April 2020. Indeed, these are uncharted waters for all of us. At the risk of sounding heartless for all who have suffered loss, I must say that I am optimistic! I believe God is up to something awesome right now, and because the Church is His vehicle to accomplish His redemptive purposes, and the Church is still here, having not been taken out (1 Thessalonians 4:13=18), I’m on my knees. I’m watching. I’m anticipating. I’m longing. I’m expecting. I’m reading. I’m listening. I’m rejoicing.

You see, who am I, but I will say with a broken, weary heart that I don’t want to return to “normal” if it’s more of . . .

  • Man-centered, convenience-driven, “I’ll serve if it doesn’t interfere with MY life” ministry. In other words, the self-life taking preeminence over the Christ-life. (Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20)
  • Prayer meetings usually being the least attended gathering of God’s people on any given week. (Acts 1:13-14; 4:23-31;12:5-17)
  • Lost souls not hearing the gospel from the redeemed on a regular basis; few coming to Christ; and the baptismal pool having to be swept out because it’s become a den of cobwebs and dead bugs. (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15)
  • Dry, empty altars. Call me old-fashioned, legalistic, and/or emotional, but we need a fresh awareness of the holiness of God, a renewed vision of Christ and a visitation of the convicting power of the Holy Spirit that drives us to our knees in repentance and revival! (e.g. Judges 10:10; 2 Kings 11:17-20; 2 Chron. 15:1-19; Acts 2-5; 10-20)
  • Personal preferences and the fear of man being the driver of ministry decisions as well as the stated “biblical standard” which determines whether we are right or wrong. Since the virus has shuttered our Sunday meetings and weekly ministries, I don’t hear complaining about music preferences, Bible translation arguments, -ism discussions (whatever you wish to use to preface -ism, put it in there). By the way, I don’t think we are going to hear about many church splits during this time!!! (Proverbs 25;29; Romans 12:10; Ephesians 4:1-6; Philippians 2:14; Colossians 1:9-18)
  • Church membership being a take-it-or-leave-it decision. (1 Corinthians 5:1-12; 2 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1-5)
  • Pharisaical, hide-behind-my-looking-good-Sunday-attire and continuing to answer the “How you doing?” question with a “Fine!” Oh, that we would be transparent and genuine in our conversation acknowledging our dependence upon the Lord and His people. Oh, that we would enter into the hurts, sorrows, burdens, and sins of others through prayer and scripture reading to help them take the next step toward Christ during fellowship time rather than being upset that our favorite donut was no longer available. (Romans 14:19; 15:14; Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 10:24-25; James 5:16)
  • Prayerless, powerless, going-through-the-motion preaching and teaching of God’s Word in every area of ministry. Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it this way, “If there is no power, there is no preaching.” (Isaiah 61:1; Zechariah 4:6; John 15:5; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:14; 3:6-7; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 2:13; 2 Timothy 4:2)

Over the past few weeks, I have heard pastors say that they were attempting to keep things as normal as possible while using online services. I totally understand what they are saying. With all my heart, may I say, let’s not seek to keep things normal. Let’s cry out for a fresh touch from the Throne of God! Let’s be willing to go with God and not be timid about asking for a fresh movement of the power of God. And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).

Perhaps we could begin that 40 day prayer movement now so we will be ready to follow the Head of the Church into this new territory of ministry when the Lord opens the doors.

I end this post truly from from my pastor’s heart, with two quotes from Vance Havner:

“Too many church services start at eleven sharp and end at twelve dull.”

“The church is so subnormal that if it ever got back to the New Testament normal it would seem to people to be abnormal.”

I don’t want to go back to normal!