The Enduring

We are all doing this now, what is wrong with you? How dare you question authority and collective wisdom.”

“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.” Acts 15:28—29

Do this

Those words from the book of Acts represent the final verdict that came out of the Jerusalem council, presided over by James as to what the Gentile believers in the Jewish Messiah should do to remain in good standing. This was the extent of the religious requirements placed on those who had confessed Jesus as Lord and turned away from their demonic false gods.

Simple, concise and easy. But these simple requirements made the former pagans stand out like sore thumbs—because everyone else was doing them and expected everyone to participate. If you refused you were seen as ignorant, judgmental, narrow minded and deemed a threat to society. We are all doing this now, what is wrong with you? How dare you question authority and collective wisdom—we have a consensus!

The same was happening in Jerusalem where the followers of Jesus no longer supported the temple worship and threatened the power and financial base of the priests and Pharisees. Things were getting ugly, you didn’t just buck the system—not the Roman system nor the Jewish religious system—without paying dearly. The church was forced into civil disobedience as they had to choose over and over again whether to listen to God or to man.

So this called for endurance, as they were often beaten, imprisoned or worse.  

Proclaiming “Jesus is Lord and there is no other way to the Father but by him” was not okay. They were constantly swimming against the current, but this just served to make them stronger. When Jesus is all you have, you learn that Jesus is all you need. And then you are fearless and unstoppable. Even your death becomes a witness that cannot be stopped and a testimony that cannot be silenced.

Job

You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord”

—Job’s patient endurance in the face of his misery, robbed of everything he loved by the devil himself, his health, his wealth, his children and his dignity live on as a testimony equal to none. But he refused to give in to the temptation to forsake his God and concede that maybe he was wrong about a loving and merciful God who seemed so far away in his pain. But he didn’t. He was counted among the enduring and was ultimately blessed beyond measure.

James is telling his church; ‘Don’t despair, don’t give in to the shrill voices of the deceived and ignorant who demand that you condone and accept their debauchery and corruption. Don’t succumb to their insistence that right is wrong and good is evil. Don’t sell your soul for the false peace promised to those who fall in line with the ever changing norms of a culture that has no set standard by which to measure good from evil aside from how the mob feels that day.’

Don’t set aside who you are to conform to who they demand you be. Be patient—be patient and endure.

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James 5

Establish your hearts, strengthen them, defend the hill on which you stand and watch and be ready for the coming of the Lord.

The more things change, the more things stay the same. James could have written his yesterday and it would all mean the same thing. God’s word is truly eternal and the enemies’ tricks are always the same.

Societal Pressure

All of this, this pressure on the early church to conform to the norms of a sick culture, should sound very familiar.

If you are trying to live by the basics of right and wrong, to honor God and his word, to abstain from the lewdness, rudeness and crudeness—from the drunkenness and the pervasive everybody must get stoned mindset that is being openly and aggressively promoted, then you will stand out like a sore thumb and you will be targeted and attacked as ignorant, judgmental, narrow minded—and deemed a threat to society.

And this is no longer just on a street level, this mindset is now pervading mayors offices, governors mansions, judge’s chambers and the halls of congress.

So this call to endure and persevere is no longer just an abstract concept that we have to manufacture perceived slights, and feign offense at whispered back biting, to relate to. It is now very real and it is being codified into law and popular culture.

I’m going to say this once, and I’m going to say it plainly. The only firewall we have right now between us and the spirit of the antichrist legally obliterating the church in America— is sitting in the Oval office.

Very few Christians know or care how many arrows our president has taken for the church and frankly, it is shameful that we are not more appreciative and supportive.

Is he perfect? No, he’s a Celtic barbarian from the mean streets of New York and he behaves as his blood and his upbringing dictate. But he is God’s chosen warrior, the one who stepped up, to buy his church time to repent and regroup. And we either have 5 months or four more years to do that. Trust me on that as a pastor who pays very close attention to all of this, and to what the Spirit is saying.

I don’t say this lightly because I know it will offend many people and probably cost me some readers. But, that is what happens when you speak honestly in the name of the Lord.

People who don’t cause offense don’t suffer and need no patience. But that is not us is it? If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ve learned critical thinking, how to question everything and not to accept everything just because someone else said so. And you’ve learned not to be offended by truth or challenges to your spiritual status quo.

Barbarian

There’s no contented stagnant pools in my church because I’m always stirring the pot with my sword to keep it fresh. I told you, and them, long ago I’m just a barbarian with a bible and God keeps challenging me to keep that straight forward—fight the enemy in front of you—spirit, while living in total obedience to my king.

Barbarian prophetic preachers don’t draw big crowds or get invited to preach in big churches. But then Jesus only had a handful of people left in his group after three years, and they changed the world—forever.

We are the fruit of their sufferings and patient endurance and we are far from done. We will endure.

I referred earlier to the only firewall between us and the true church being outlawed as sitting in the White house.

There is another firewall, a spiritual firewall, that must be built up and reinforced because the Law is only as good as the people who adhere to or enforce it. The president can only buy us time. That time must be used to reclaim this country and this culture for Jesus.

That will take patient endurance yes. It will take boldness and may involve suffering, yes. It may involve civil disobedience as we are forced to choose between obeying God and obeying man, yes.

But none of that will have a lasting or meaningful impact unless we become people of prayer.

God had shut up the heavens when ancient Israel turned its back on him and it did not rain for 3 1/2 years. It took the fervent prayers of just one man, a man who was willing to stand in the gap between blessings and curses, right and wrong, God and idolatry, and pray for blessed rain.

He alone prayed because he alone heard God speak to him, Elijah, it’s time—pray for rain.

Elijah was just a man, one with a nature like ours, who had bad days, lots of bad days, and good days. Imagine if there had been an army of Elijahs? There is, we are they.

We are the people called by his name. We are the enduring.

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

1 Peter 1:23

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Tag, You’re It!

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What if everything we are doing is for the next generation. Are we okay with that? Therein lies the problem. I think we have a tendency to be shortsighted— ‘I don’t want to cause my kids any grief’—while we are ill equipping them for the future. And we are still primarily focused on what we can get out of it, I want the best for my kids!— maybe so, but you also want the best for yourself—right here, right now, no conflict, no patience required.

We are all about Instant gratification. No one saves money anymore, no one writes and mails letters, no one lays up stores for the winter.

A lot of people can’t even wait for their coffee to perk anymore, they’ve got to have a Keurig or a Starbucks drive thru and the most popular shows on TV are the ones where people become instant superstars like American Idol, The Voice, America’s got Talent—because who wants to work their way up to the top like those poor saps Johnny Cash or Dolly Parton had to? We can’t even wait until their scheduled air time, we have to download and watch them when we want to watch them on a four inch screen that gives us the world on demand. Anyway, I digress.

The less we miss the more we miss.

Coming

Those who can muster the patience to hear, know there is something big coming down the pike. God has told us, we see it in his word, we hear if from the prophets of old and of today. I have spoken it myself and have spoken about it at great length lately, that we are going to see a great outpouring of his Holy Spirit as the final act of this age is played out. I believe we are being prepared for the final battle— good against evil, believers against the purveyors of evil—those supernaturally empowered, perhaps, by Satan himself to deceive and frighten the world into submission and ultimately destruction.

12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Tim 3:12—13

We must not be among those deceived. But it is going to take great patience and forbearance as we anxiously wait for the fulfillment, and as we realize that the battle is frightening and prolonged.

And at this point we don’t yet know if we are going to be the champions or if we are simply charged with preparing the next champions for Christ.

What we cannot do is say, veterans of the battle, “This is the way it is, this is the way we did it and it is as good as it gets, just try to replicate it and pray that you are as good as we were.” No, a good teacher, a real mentor always seeks to teach his charges to think beyond him and exceed him.

I believe the Lord is going to use the next generation to shape the final battle, to help usher in and be the long term benefactors of the next great outpouring. And—I’m talking to Baby boomers—they will do it with us or without us, with our help or without our help. If it is without us it will be a tragic and sad end to our generation, that we were too busy, too tired, retired or apathetic to step up and use our gifts and talents, our experiences and anointings, our God given remaining days, to affect the fight, to come alongside and then spur on ahead— the warriors coming up.

I think one of the great hinderances to this is perhaps pride, like I alluded to earlier, we think we have seen it as good as it gets, like the Israel and Judah that Isaiah was prophesying to, ‘we have reached the pinnacle, we are blessed and have the favor of God, nothing can touch us, nothing can better us—just do everything we do and you too will be blessed.’ Then along comes the Isaiahs, the Jeremiahs, the John the Baptists, trying to tell them otherwise until God destroys both kingdoms from top to bottom and rebuilds them as new generation is prepared while in captivity in Babylon, those like Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea and Esther.

That’s what the promise we see here would come to mean for that later generation.

And it will be said in that day:
“Behold, this is our God;
We have waited for Him, and He will save us. Is 25

 

But today, we have a new generation, the church, waiting once again for the fuller and final fulfillment of the larger part of this same prophecy.

He will swallow up death forever,
And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces;

And it will be said in that day:
“Behold, this is our God;
We have waited for Him, and He will save us. Is 25

 

But we cannot rest yet, we cannot get arrogant and say, ‘This is all there is, the book is closed, the final chapter written and all you can do is wait for it to end with a bang.’ ‘Rapture me up lord before it all hits the fan.’ ‘I went to the biggest church in town, worshiped you with smoke machines and light shows, participated in Broadway quality dramas and saw thousands of people give their hearts to you!’

‘I used my vacations to go to third world countries, help at church camps—I mean, we’ve reached the pinnacle—we have our own TV stations, radio stations, my face is on the cover of bestselling books and I have a million Twitter followers, look at what we’ve built!

Let’s build a tower that reaches the heavens! –Oh wait, that’s a bad thing.

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Well, that’s all great, but what about the next generation? Are we building them? Or are we setting them up to fall short because we have gotten this church thing so polished and professional that the pressure that they watched kill many of us off is nothing they want anything to do with.

Is this what we waited for?

No, this is just the precursor to what God is doing next. Now is the time to stop looking at what we built, and start looking at who we can build.

That takes patience, that takes time, that takes commitment and most of all, that takes humility. When we point others to Jesus, we then have to get out of the way so they can see him and so that they can follow. Can you say John the Baptist?

So I say to the next generation— Tag, you’re it!