AUDIO Courtesy Calls

By Rev Bill Woods

2 Corinthians 2:11: “lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.”

I’ve been getting plenty of these pushy telephone solicitors who don’t want to take “NO” for an answer. – In fact, one just now called me while I was working on this sermon.

Wow, was he a smooth talker!

“Mr. Woods, this is a courtesy call on behalf of Blah, Blah, Blah Credit Card Company and we’d like to tell you about a limited time offer…”  – “Medicare supplements,” or a “free vacation”…….

Sometimes when they’re extra persistent I tell them, “I’m going to hang up now, but you can keep talking to my phone line if you like.”   Or maybe, “I’m busy and not really interested, but my dog’s right here and he may be interested in what you’re selling, let me put him on.”

“I’m not interested.” Click. The receiver went quickly back into its position. You see, I wasn’t about to listen to this guy’s “offer.”

Why? Because I’ve learned one thing about telemarketers…
    – …if you don’t hang up on them quickly, you might buy something you don’t really want.
                                                                                                                                                                
Telemarketers are clever. They try to convince you that they’re doing you a favor, thus the “courtesy” call.

They want you to believe what they’re about to share is really in your best interest and they’re trying to be a help…
   – …yeah, they want to help you right into making a decision that you don’t really want to make!

I’ve got to credit telemarketers with one thing, though. When you quickly hang up on them, they usually don’t call you back again that day.

The guy that called me didn’t. Oh, he may call me again tomorrow or some other day, but for now he’s leaving me alone.
                                                                                                                                                                 When we lived in Seattle, I had a couple of unique experiences.

We needed a car because the one we had was nickeling and dimeing us something terrible.  – Everything that could go wrong was going wrong!

I went to one car dealership and the salesman said, “Let me take the keys to your car so our appraiser can see what we can offer you for a trade-in.” – I handed him the keys and he would not give them back until I bought one of their cars.  – I literally had to steal my car keys back when I saw them laying in his cubical. 

I went to another dealership and told the salesman I liked the car he offered me, but would have to pray about our decision whether to buy it or not. 
    – The car dealer said, “I’ll help you pray about it.”  I asked, “Pray, or Prey?”

I especially love the presentations for time-shares…………………

The last one Marty and I suckered into was trying to sell us vacations.  – I told the lady that we didn’t take many vacations and really were just curious. – She asked me if we were there just to receive the gift they were giving out for listening to their spiel admitted that we wanted something to do that afternoon and we really weren’t that interested in buying into their program.

She said, “Please follow me.”

We had no idea where she was taking us.  She led us to a door, opened it, and we stepped through to find ourselves in the alley.  She slammed the door shut and we had to walk clear around the building to find our car.

I DIDN’T EVEN GET ONE OF THE DOUGHNUTS THEY WERE SERVING!
You know, Satan’s a master telemarketer. His skills are razor sharp. His technique is flawless, precise and well rehearsed. He knows his stuff. And, wow, is HE a smooth talker.

“Brother Christian, this is a courtesy call on behalf of SSI” (Satan’s Systems International…but he doesn’t tell you what it stands for!)

“We’d like to inform you about a limited-time offer.  If you act fast you can avoid giving your tithe by…(use your money to get something  you want) We’ve got a really great deal on unforgiveness and ill will, you can develop a lifelong grudge in just seconds, it’s so easy. Oh, let me tell you about the special of the day…little white lies, why you can get a whole case of them for all kinds of occasions. 

What about these handy little devices…excuses. Why we’ve got plenty of them for you to choose from. There’s one to keep you from reading your Bible each day, here’s one to help you avoid prayer time, this one will allow you to sleep in on Sunday mornings, there’s one for…”

You see what I’m saying? Satan’s a master telemarketer.

He’s smooth and silky. Let him keep talking and you’re asking for trouble! If you don’t hang up on him quickly, you might just buy something you don’t really want!

There’s good news, though. There’s a way to get him to shut up, at least for a little while…

The Bible says in James 4:7, “resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”In other words, hang up!

Oh, he most definitely will call again, but at least for now he’ll leave you alone.

Make no mistake about it, Christian. Sometime this week that spiritual telephone is going to ring. Satan will call, you can count on it. When He does……tell him you’re not interested and hang up the phone!

1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

PAY ATTENTION TO THIS WARNING:  The strength of a temptation lies in how long you play with the thoughts of yielding to it.  The longer you play with the temptation the stronger it gets and the more apt you are to yield to it.

As a small boy, my Grandma used to read to me every evening.  One of the selections she read to me was Laura Wilder’s, “LITTLE HOUSE” series which I enjoyed thoroughly! – One incident from the books that I remember was when Laura and Mary’s Pa and Ma had to go to town for supplies.  Pa had just harvested the hay for the animals for the winter  and piled it into a haystack.

– He specifically told the girls not to jump on the hay because they would knock down and scatter the hay. –  It looked like it would be so much fun that Laura decided just one jump wouldn’t hurt the  haystack. – That was fun!  One jump led to another and etc.

When Pa got home the stack was scattered all over and Laura and Mary were in trouble!

The problem came when the girls didn’t walk away, but stayed there thinking about how much fun jumping in the hay would be.

Satan knows if he can get you thinking about the temptation long enough that he can defeat you and cause you to yield.  THE POWER IN THE TEMPTATION IS IN HOW LONG YOU WILL THINK ABOUT IT!

The way to defeat Satan’s enticements is to get away and quit thinking about it.   

There are radio towers all over our country.  Each is putting out a signal on a certain frequency.  If you don’t like what they’re offering you can switch the station and find something more suitable to your taste.

When Satan is bombarding you with a temptation you can switch the station!

Mark Twain said, ‘YOU CAN’T STOP BIRDS FROM FLYING OVER YOUR HEAD, BUT YOU DON’T NEED TO LET THEM NEST IN YOUR HAIR!”

How do I change the station when the Devil is tempting me?

Memorize scripture: Psalm 119:11  “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.”

Learn hymns and choruses to remind yourself how good God is to you.  By the way, Satan doesn’t enjoy you singing them to him.

Testify to Satan.  Tell him what Christ has blest your life.  Ask what he has done for you.

When he knocks at the door send Christ to answer.

You don’t have to fall if you don’t give him a foothold. – The comedian, Flip Wilson used to get a laugh every time he said, “The Devil made me do it.”

Listen, as funny as that line seemed to be it was totally inaccurate.  The Devil can’t make you do anything.  He can present the temptation, but you are the one who makes the decision.

James 4:7-8: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

There is something I need to clarify.  Some people think if they are tempted that they have sinned.  TEMPTATION IS NOT SIN!

TEMPTATION IS WHEN THE DEVIL SAYS, “WILL YOU?”

SIN COMES WHEN YOU SAY, “I WILL!”

Every Christian faces temptation, but every one of us has the ability to say “NO!”

Remember:  1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

 Put God first in your life and He will show you the way to be victorious!

Remember: When Satan solicits you it is not a Courteous call!  You don’t have to be courteous to Satan.  What he’s trying to sell you will destroy you if you buy into it!

Keep in mind that the pleasures of sin are only temporary.  The guilt and consequences of sin are long lasting and far outweigh the pleasure sin brought for you.

If sin persists it will lead you to an Eternity in Hell!  YOU DON’T WANT THAT!

There is a courtesy call that you ought to take.

The best courtesy call you will ever get comes from God.  There are no hidden clauses, no small print that you will regret later. – He is just offering you straight forward the opportunity to find forgiveness from sin and guilt, He wants to make you part of His Family, a joint heir with His Son, Jesus, and He wants to provide to you Eternal Life in His home in Heaven!

John 14:1-3 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.                                                                            

The benefits and joy of obeying God last forever.  GOD’S WAYS ARE BEST!


PODCAST COURTESY CALLS

https://www.buzzsprout.com/824359/8437130


Christ and the Churches: Part 3 (Revelation 3:1-6)

Pastor Joe Quatrone, Jr.

Churches are people and human nature has not changed. As we continue our study, we must not look on these letters as ancient relics. On the contrary, they are mirrors in which we see ourselves!

Sardis, the Feeble Church (Rev. 3:1–6)

Sad to say the city at that time was but a shadow of its former splendor and the church, unfortunately, had become like the city—it was alive in name only. The message to Sardis is a warning to all “great churches” that are living on past glory. Dr. Vance Havner has frequently reminded us that spiritual ministries often go through four stages: a man, a movement, a machine, and then a monument. Sardis was at the “monument” stage.

But there was still hope! There was hope because Christ was the Head of the church and He was able to bring new life. He described Himself as the one possessing the seven Spirits and the seven stars. There is only one Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:4), but the number seven demonstrates fullness and completeness. The Holy Spirit gives life to the church and life is exactly what the people at Sardis needed. The sevenfold Spirit of God is pictured as seven burning lamps (Rev. 4:5) and as seven all-seeing eyes (Rev. 5:6).

All of the church’s man-made programs can never bring life, any more than a circus can resurrect a corpse. The church was born when the Spirit of God descended on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and its life comes from the Spirit. When the Spirit is grieved the church begins to lose life and power. When sin is confessed and church members get right with God and with each other, then the Spirit infuses new life—revival!

Christ also controls the seven stars, the messengers of the churches (Rev. 1:20), referring most likely to the pastors. Sometimes, it is a pastor’s fault that a church is dying and the Lord of the church must remove the star and put another in his place.

The problem in the Sardis church was not heresy, but spiritual death. The church was infested with sin. Its deeds were evil and its clothes soiled. The Lord has no words of commendation for this church, which looked so good on the outside, but was so corrupt on the inside. Nor is there any mention of opposition or persecution. The church would have been better off had there been some suffering because it had grown comfortable and content, and was living on its past reputation. There was reputation without reality, form without force. Like the city itself the church at Sardis gloried in past splendor, but ignored present decay.

In fact, even what they did have was about to die! Why? Because the believers had gone to sleep. It is when the church’s leaders and members get accustomed to their blessings and complacent about their ministry that the enemy finds his way in.

The assembly in Sardis was not aggressive in its witness to the city. There was no persecution because there was no invasion of the enemy’s territory. No friction usually means no motion! The unsaved in Sardis saw the church as a respectable group of people who were neither dangerous nor desirable. They were decent people with a dying witness and a decaying ministry.

Our Lord’s counsel to the church began with, “Be watchful! Wake up!” (Rom. 13:11) The people were asleep! The first step toward renewal in a dying church is honest awareness that something is wrong. When an organism is alive, there is growth, repair, reproduction, and power; if these elements are lacking in a church, then that church is either dying or already dead.

The Lord warned the Ephesian saints He would come and remove their lampstand if they did not repent (Rev. 2:5). He warned the church at Pergamos He would come and make war with the sword of the Spirit (Rev. 2:16). If the believers at Sardis did not follow His orders, He would come as a thief, when they least expected Him; and this would mean judgment.

However, a remnant of dedicated people often exists in even a dying church. The Christians at Sardis had life, even though it was feeble. They were working, even though their works were not all they could have been. The Lord admonished them to strengthen what remained and not to give up because the church was weak. Where there is life, there is hope!

What was different about this dedicated remnant? They had not defiled their garments (Rev. 3:4). The remnant in the church at Sardis had not compromised with the pagan society around them, nor had they grown comfortable and complacent. It was this devoted spiritual remnant that held the future of the church’s ministry.

“Wake up! Be watchful! Repent! Remember the Word you have received and obey it!” This is the formula for revival. It is good to guard our spiritual heritage, but we must not embalm it. It is not enough to be true to the faith and have a great history. That faith must produce life and works.

Is there a warning here that a true believer might lose his salvation? I don’t think so. Revelation 13:8 and 17:8 suggest the names of the saved are written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world—that is, before they had done anything good or bad. By God’s grace, they have been chosen in Christ before the beginning of time (Eph. 1:4; Matt. 25:34). They are enrolled in heaven because they have been born again (Heb. 12:23) and no matter how disobedient a child may be, he or she cannot be “unborn.”

The warning here is that we not grow comfortable in our churches, lest we find ourselves slowly dying. The encouragement is that no church is beyond hope as long as there is a remnant in it, willing to strengthen the things that remain.

In Part 4, we will look at Christ’s message to the church at Philadelphia, the faithful church.

https://joequatronejr.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/christ-and-the-churches-part-3-revelation-31-6/

AUDIO Why Revival is America’s Only Hope!

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

 March 22, 2021  by Shane Idleman

The results are in: America’s stage four cancer has metastasized to the family and the church as well as to the government and the schools. We are more depraved than ever before. Animals are guarded but innocent children are slaughtered. Porn is protected and sex-trafficking is on the rise. Cardi B’s lyrics get a pass but Scriptures are banned on social media.

Words cannot express this outright lunacy. Like the bungee jumper who plunged to her death because she thought she heard “now jump,” when, in reality, her instructor said, “No jump!” America thinks that she is hearing from God, but she is not. We are drowning in a cesspool of moral filth: “The wicked freely parade and prance about while evil is praised throughout the land” (Psalm 12:8).

Recently, a father was arrested for referring to his biological 14-year-old daughter as “she” after she transitioned to a male gender (more here). “But that’s in Canada,” you say. Trust me, we are not far behind. Most on the liberal left would have no problem imprisoning anyone who disagreed with them, and that’s exactly where the Equality Act is going—unless you accept, rejoice in, and validate sin they are coming after you. Revival is our only hope. 

THERE IS ONLY ONE REMEDY

We see throughout the Bible that there is only one remedy—one solution—one cure to reverse the judgment of God: Revival. During times of crisis, the cure for judgment was to return back to God: “Consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord” (Joel 1:14).

Revival changes a nation from the inside out. Benjamin Franklin, commenting on George Whitefield’s preaching, said this about the revival sweeping the land, “It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious.” Revival must begin in the pulpits as well as the pews.

“The greatest tragedy is a sick church in a dying world” Leonard Ravenhill

WHAT REVIVAL IS AND IS NOT

Revival is not adding more church services to the calendar. Revival is not having a guest speaker host an event. And revival most certainly is not acting weird and loud. Revival is a sovereign act of God: “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Psalm 85:6).

In the same way that we cannot produce a bumper crop by making it rain, revival cannot be planned, organized, or scheduled, but you can till the soil of your heart: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15).

Revival is when we till the soil through brokenness, humility, and surrender via fasting and prayer. God responds by rending the heavens with a downpour: “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you” (Isaiah 64:1)!

REVIVAL HAS A COST

The cold hard truth is that many are not willing to pay the price. Gone are the days of John Wesley, George Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards who would fast and pray as if America’s future depended upon it (because it did and still does). It’s no surprise that Edwards’ famous sermon, Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God, was preached at the tail end of his three-day fast. Today that title would be labeled offensive and many pastors would be too ashamed to preach it—too ashamed because they lack the fire of the Spirit.

Gone are the days of David Brainard who spent nights in agonizing prayer, as well as “praying” John Hyde, William Bramwell, and countless others who prayed fervently for our nation. Instead of carrying the baton and running the race, we are captivated by American Idol, love our porn, and over-indulge. King Stomach is clearly on the throne.

“It’s too hard to fast,” we say. The problem isn’t fasting; it’s addiction. We can’t fast because we’re withdrawing from our favorite addictions: coffee, sugar, alcohol, processed food, and so on. Let that sink in. And we wonder why we aren’t experiencing a massive move of God in our nation. We abort revival before it’s even been conceived.

When revivals spread across our landscape, Christians spent countless hours praying and fasting. They paid the price! When pastors stood at the pulpit they preached boldly about the cross, sin, judgment, and repentance. They could say, “Thus saith the Lord,” because they were filled with the Holy Spirit, not Hollywood. They didn’t work revival up, God brought it down because His Word was honored.

PROPHETS CAN’T BE POPULAR

Today, most pastors want to be popular and most Christians want their ears tickled. If you doubt this, just look at the top sermons on social media today and their attire. The messages are soothing rather than convicting. As in Israel’s day, the people still say, “You must not prophesy to us what is right! Speak to us pleasant things and smooth words, prophesy [deceitful] illusions [that we will enjoy]” (Isaiah 30:10 AMP).

Granted, we need to hear uplifting messages, but we have a huge problem when pastors don’t want to ruffle feathers and Christians don’t want to hear controversial topics. America’s stage four cancer was caused by a bad diet of frivolous preaching. The cure will require a complete diet change back to whole life-giving food from the Word of God.

I don’t say this in arrogance; my heart breaks for the church. This article is more of a plea than a rebuke, but the truth is, “We have too many puppets in our pulpits and not enough prophets” (Leonard Ravenhill). Pastors and Christians must lead the way, but the way won’t be popular and wide, it will be narrow and difficult. We must fast like it matters, pray like we mean it, and seek God as if everything depends upon it, because it does.

YOU DON’T WANT REVIVAL, DO YOU?

Nearly a decade ago, I prayed, “Lord, bring revival to the churches,” but I was not ready for the response that followed. I share the response and the sermon below as often as possible to reach as many people as possible.

After I prayed, it was almost as if God was saying: “You don’t want revival—it will ruin your schedule, your dignity, your image, and your reputation as a person who is ‘well balanced.’ Men will weep throughout the congregation. Women will wail because of the travail of their own souls. Young adults will cry like children at the magnitude of their sin. With the strength of My presence, the worship team will cease playing. Time will seem to stand still. You won’t be able to preach because of the emotions flooding your own soul. You’ll struggle to find words, but only find tears. Even the most dignified and reserved among you will be broken and humbled as little children. The proud and self-righteous will not be able to stand in My presence. The doubter and unbeliever will either run for fear or fall on their knees and worship Me—there can be no middle ground. The church will never be the same again.”

Do you truly want revival? It will cost you. National revival begins with personal revival when we look in the mirror, repent, and turn toward God. He is our only hope. 

https://shaneidleman.com/2021/03/22/why-revival-is-americas-only-hope/

Christian leaders call for repentance, overhaul following Ravi Zacharias sexual abuse report

By Brandon Showalter, Christian Post Reporter

Christian leaders and a former associate of Ravi Zacharias’ ministry are calling for repentance and an overhaul of organizational practices after a report released Thursday detailed the late apologist’s pattern of sexual abuse.

In an email to The Christian Post on Friday, Carson Weitnauer, who previously led RZIM’s U.S. speaking team, said he now believes that Zacharias was not only a fraud, as he articulated in an earlier op-ed published by CP, but that the organization bearing his name is as well. He further asserted that the ministry’s apology is unacceptable in light of the revelations released in the report. 

“The organization’s apologetic-sounding statement was released by an anonymous board, is incomplete in its scope, avoids calling on the Zacharias Estate to release the Thompson’s from the NDA, and announces no resignations or removals of those most responsible for this tragedy. 1 John 3:18 instructs us, ‘Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth,'” said Weitnauer to CP. 

“I pray that many churches and nonprofits will decide to learn from this catastrophe and take immediate action to mitigate the risk of personally repeating it,” he added. 

RZIM issued an apology Thursday with the announcement of the results of an extensive independent investigation in which victims claimed that Zacharias had engaged in “sexting, unwanted touching, spiritual abuse, and rape” over the course of many years. 

The ministry hired the Atlanta law firm Miller & Martin to conduct the independent investigation. In the apology statement published as the report was released, RZIM said it was “shocked and grieved” by the actions of the late apologist and that “corporate repentance” was needed. 

Weitnauer said it’s crucial that churches and ministry organizations appoint senior leaders who bear responsibility and that they establish or strengthen policies against abuse of every kind — provide training on toxic cultural dynamics, and ensure board members and community leaders are informed and watchful advocates for survivors and other vulnerable members of their communities. 

“The continued prevalence of sexual abuse within the church, and the weak response to it by church leaders, is a great discredit to our witness,” Weitnauer said. “For the sake of the Gospel and the honor of God, and our commitment to the wellbeing of victims, may we instead courageously resolve to build communities that are full of truth and goodness.” 

Other Christian voices and thought leaders have expressed a variety of emotions. Many said they are disgusted and shaken, but noted that news of respected evangelical leaders falling has become common. 

“I’ve thought about this a lot since it all came out and I guess it sucks to say that I’m not surprised when this happens anymore. Because it just keeps happening. God, have mercy,” said author Jackie Hill Perry, tweeted Thursday.  

She added in a subsequent tweet-thread Friday that she had attended the funeral for the late apologist last year and that the news of his misconduct left her feeling “thrown.” 

“Not because I’m surprised per se’ but because it’s disorienting. I’m reminded that giftedness will never translate to godliness. Neither is orthodox teaching the proof of righteous living…Ravi’s ministry was a gift to most of us but his fall is a warning to all of us. Take heed lest we fall too.”

Teacher and popular speaker Beth Moore said in response to the report that, at base, “in every situation where a Christian leader has lived in gross hypocrisy, carrying on a double life, for years on end: They are out of fellowship with Jesus. Period. YOU CANNOT SUSTAIN THAT IN FELLOWSHIP.”

“The Holy Spirit convicts of sin. Every believer has and will fall into strongholds of various kinds of sin but, in fellowship with Christ, we cannot bear to remain in it. We will repent. We can implement all the accountability systems & MUST. But what we’ve got on our hands are people using piety and outward appearances of righteousness to hide the fact that they have little to no intimacy with the Father and Son through the Holy Spirit,” she added. 

The board of the Zacharias Trust, the U.K. branch of the ministry, also put out a statement announcing that they had made the unanimous decision to separate from RZIM. Although the organization has always been a separate entity in terms of governance with its own trustees, the Trust said that current circumstances have led them to conclude they must operate without any link to the organization. 

“The UK entity will also choose a new name. This process will take time to complete but the UK Board is convinced that this is the best and only way to ensure that the ministry can continue to serve the UK church with integrity. This will also give us the opportunity to review the lessons to be learned from these awful events,” the Trust added. 

COMMENT:

Part of our mission is to “… help the abused, the abuser and those affected by abuse to heal…just not all in the same setting.” Please contact us if you need assistance. If it is an emergency dial 911.

https://www.christianpost.com/news/christian-leaders-call-for-overhaul-after-ravi-zacharias-report.html

10 Things It’s Tough to Confess (and, in Fact, to Recognize in Some Cases)

By Chuck Lawless -November 12, 2020

confess

We are to confess our sin to God and trust Him to forgive us (1 John 4:9). My experience as a pastor and professor, though, has shown that some sins are tougher to recognize and confess. In fact, my personal experience suggests the same. Here are some of those things:

  1. Idolatry. We know how strongly the Bible condemns idolatry, and we don’t want any part of that problem. It’s just that we still sometimes put people, things, choices, and actions above God.
  2. Ego. I’ve met very few egotistical people who admit their ego. I have met some who “brag” about their humility, however—which is just another sign of their pride. Many of us don’t quickly recognize our ego.
  3. Selfishness. The natural inclination of selfishness is to “bow up” and defend our choices—to protect our turf, to claim our “rightness” and our privilege. Whenever you put yourself on top, it’s tough to confess that issue.
  4. Lukewarmness. Few of us want to admit that we’re not as on fire for God as we once were. In fact, lukewarmness is so much the norm now that we think it’s okay.
  5. Apathy. I’m thinking particularly about our overall commitment to walk with God. Sometimes we’re just not committed to ongoing, continual, intentional spiritual growth.
  6. Greed. After all, it’s the American dream to get as much stuff as we can—and then compare what we have to what others have. We’re hard-working and blessed, we assume—not greedy.
  7. Laziness. Again, I don’t think I’ve ever met a lazy person who admitted it or who didn’t quickly run to an excuse for his or her inactivity. Other people are lazy; not us.
  8. Gluttony. We might see habitual overeating as not good for us, but we don’t always see it from a spiritual perspective. Recognizing there might be other issues involved, apparent gluttony is often idolatry.
  9. Ingratitude. We’re coming up on a week of thanksgiving, but we do that because November comes around again. Too often, we’re like the healed lepers who received God’s blessing but never returned to thank Jesus (Luke 17:12-19).
  10. Unconcern. We have neighbors, co-workers, family members, friends, classmates, etc., who don’t know Jesus. Billions have never heard His name. Our lack to attention to getting the gospel to them is a sign of our unconcern—and it’s tough to admit.

Please pray for me – and let me know how we might pray for you.

This article originally appeared here.

AUDIO The Ant and the Grasshopper, Modern Version

Romans 13:1 (NKJV)
1  Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

George Bernard Shaw said, “Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.”

Dan 2:20-21 “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. And it is He who changes the times and the epochs. He removes kings and establishes kings. He gives wisdom to wise men, and knowledge to men of understanding.” (NASB)

God gives us good government when we deserve it, and He gives us bad government when we deserve that. Ultimately, He gives us what we demand. He gives us what we think we want, as seen in the story about Israel demanding a king in 1 Samuel 8:4-22.

I found a classic illustration that was written over 25 years ago using Aesop’s story of the Ant and the Grasshopper.  I have updated it for our current times and thought it appropriate to use during this election period.  The only thing I claim credit for is adding up-to-date names.  

The Ant and the Grasshopper – Modern Version.

THE CLASSIC VERSION

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks he’s a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed. The grasshopper has no food or shelter so he dies out in the cold.

THE MODERN VERSION

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.  The grasshopper thinks he’s a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving. CBS, CNN, NBC and ABC show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food.

America and the world is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can it be that, in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Then a representative of the NAAGB (National Association of Green Bugs) shows up on Nightline and charges the ant with “green bias”, and makes the case that the grasshopper is the victim of 30 million years of “Greenism.”

Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah with the grasshopper, and everybody cries when he sings “It’s Not Easy Being Green.”  Joe Biden and Kamala Harris make a special guest appearance on the CBS Evening News to tell a concerned David Muir that they will do everything they can for the grasshopper who has been denied the prosperity he deserves by those who benefited unfairly during the Trump summers, or as Biden refers to it, the “Temperatures of the 2020’s.”

Chuck Schumer exclaims in an interview with Norah O’Donnell that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and calls for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his “fair share.”  Finally, the EEOC drafts the “Economic Equity and Anti-Greenism Act”. Retroactive to the beginning of the summer, the ant was fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the government.

The story ends as we see the grasshopper finishing up the last bits of the ant’s food while the government house he’s in, which just happens to be the ant’s old house, crumbles around him since he doesn’t know how to maintain it. The ant has disappeared in the snow. And on the TV, which the grasshopper bought by selling most of the ant’s food, they are showing Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez standing before a wildly applauding group of compatriots announcing that a new era of “fairness” has dawned in America.

We who are voting about our Nation’s future need to spend time in prayer seeking God’s Guidance as to how to vote.  A lot is riding on the outcome of this election.  You need to take seriously how you think God would have you vote. Some have called this the most important election of our lifetime.

Voting is a privilege that we Americans have and we shouldn’t take it for granted.  We thank God and all the heroes that have sacrificed and shed their blood and laid down their lives to insure our freedom to vote and express our opinions at the polls.  Don’t let what has been handed to us through the price our Patriots have paid be wasted!  Exercise your right to vote while you still have that right.

GOD BLESS AMERICA!

WE WILL EITHER HAVE THE GOVERNMENT WE WANT OR THE GOVERNMENT WE DESERVE! 

THE ONLY WAY WE CAN ASSURE THAT GOD WILL BLESS AMERICA IS IF AMERICA TURNS BACK TO GOD!

I’m not telling you how to vote, but I am asking you to seek God’s guidance in exercising that right and vote accordingly! 

2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV)
14  If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

There is certainly a need for God to heal our land today and bring us back to being THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!


PODCAST: THE ANT AND THE GRASSHOPPER, MODERN VERSION

https://www.buzzsprout.com/824359/6043966


VIDEO The Whole of the Christian Life Is Repentance

 Nathan W. Bingham Oct 24, 2019

We don’t just repent once. In this brief clip, Sinclair Ferguson explains that the Christian life requires daily repentance and submission to the authority of Jesus Christ.

This Reformation Month, watch a short video every day on the history and insights of the Protestant Reformation. And don’t forget that for this month only, you can request your free digital download of R.C. Sproul’s video teaching series Luther and the Reformation plus the ebook edition of The Legacy of Luther, edited by R.C. Sproul and Stephen Nichols at ligm.in/Reformation. Offer ends October 31, 2019.

Transcript

Most of you know the story of Martin Luther nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. The first of these theses was this: When our Lord Jesus said “repent.” He meant that the whole of the Christian life should be repentance. You ever heard somebody say, well I repented twenty years ago, thirty years ago, ten years ago, it’s done and dusted. No it’s not done and dusted for Jesus. It is the whole of the Christian life. This transformation, this newness, this difference that is the Christian life, takes place only when we find ourselves bowing down to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.

https://www.ligonier.org/blog/whole-christian-life-repentance/

VIDEO 5 Things Pastors Need to Stop Doing Immediately

Shane Idleman
Contributor to ChristianHeadlines.com Sept 10, 2019

5 Things Pastors Need to Stop Doing Immediately

Pastors, we are not just cheerleaders, we are game-changers. We are called to stir and to convict so that change takes place. Granted, there are many wonderful pastors and churches—I appreciate their ministry, but, as a whole, the church has drifted off course. They have lost the compass of truth – many are more concerned about wine tasting and craft beers than truly seeking the heart of God.  

The pulpit regulates the spiritual condition of God’s people which affects the nation. A lukewarm, sex-saturated culture (and church) simply reflects the lack of conviction in the pulpit as well as the pew.

Pastors and Christian leaders alike must take responsibility for the spiritual health of today’s church, and the nation. We don’t need more marketing plans, demographic studies, or giving campaigns; we need men filled with the Spirit of God.

This is not a letter of rebuke (I’m in no position to do that) – it’s a tear-stained plea that we once again seek the heart of God. Here are five issues we need to overcome:

1. Stop watering down the gospel. The truth is often watered-down in the hope of not offending members and building a large audience. Judgment is never mentioned and repentance is rarely sought. We want to build a church rather than break a heart; be politically correct rather than biblically correct; coddle and comfort rather than stir and convict. The power of the gospel is found in the truth about the gospel – the edited version does not change lives.

2. Stop focusing only on encouragement. We all need encouragement, that’s a given, but most people feel beaten down because they’re not hearing more about repentance – “repent and experience times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord” (cf. Acts 3:19). To truly help people, we must preach the difficult truths as well as the joyful ones; preach the cross and the new life; preach hell and preach heaven; preach damnation and preach salvation; preach sin and preach grace; preach wrath and preach love; preach judgment and preach mercy; preach obedience and preach forgiveness; preach that God “is love,” but don’t forget that God is just. It is the love of God that compels us to share all of His truth.

3. Stop getting your message from pop-psychology or the latest fad. All of us must return to the prayer closet where brokenness, humility, and full surrender take place. God prepares the messenger before we prepare the message. Without prayer, “the church becomes a graveyard, not an embattled army. Praise and prayer are stifled; worship is dead. The preacher and the preaching encourage sin, not holiness…preaching which kills is prayerless preaching. Without prayer, the preacher creates death, and not life” (E.M. Bounds). “Without the heartbeat of prayer, the body of Christ will resemble a corpse. The church is dying on her feet because she is not living on her knees” (Al Whittinghill).

4. Stop trying to be like the world. If a pastor fills his mind with the world all week and expects the Spirit of God to speak boldly through him from the pulpit, he will be gravely mistaken. “The sermon cannot rise in its life-giving forces above the man. Dead men give out dead sermons, and dead sermons kill. Everything depends on the spiritual character of the preacher” (E.M. Bounds). Who he is all week is who he will be when he steps to the pulpit. We are called to the separated life guided by the Holy Spirit not Hollywood.

When God brings change, separation and prayer have been the catalyst. The dry, dead lethargic condition of the church simply reflects our lack of being filled with the Spirit. While 5-minute devotionals and prayers are good, they aren’t going to cut it in these dire times. We need powerful times of prayer, devotion, and worship. Again, God prepares the messenger before we prepare the message. It takes broken men to break men. Unplug the tv, turn off Facebook, and get back into the Word, prayer, and worship.

5. Stop asking, “Will this topic offend my audience?” and start asking, “Will my silence offend God?”A paraphrase that is often attributed to Alexis De Tocqueville—a Frenchman who authored Democracy in America in the early 1800s, helps to better understand this point: “I looked throughout America to find where her greatness originated. I looked for it in her harbors and on her shorelines, in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and in her gold mines and vast world commerce, but it was not there…It was not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her success. America is great because she is good, and if America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Is your pulpit aflame with righteousness – it all begins here.

More at www.ShaneIdleman.com.

Watch, I Remember When the Church Prayed

Photo courtesy: Getty Images/4 Maksym

Video courtesy: Shane Idleman

https://www.crosswalk.com/church/pastors-or-leadership/things-pastors-need-to-stop-doing-immediately.html

8 Steps in Psalm 51 for Real Repentance

Catherine Parks

8 Steps in Psalm 51 for Real Repentance

My brother and I had a childhood ritual of asking one another’s forgiveness for a laundry list of vague sins from our beds each night. I would lie there after the lights were out, look across the hall to his own open door, and let my voice carry my contrition to his sleepy hearing. Having been warned not to let the sun go down on our anger, we made sure to cover all possibilities of sins we may have committed during the day. “Aaron, I’m sorry for yelling at you, hitting you, being selfish with the Nintendo, and tattling on you today. Will you forgive me?” His answer, along with his confession of the typical older-sibling sins counter to my own (pestering, bossing, manipulating) came back to my room in return. Thus we slept in the peace of the slightly remorseful.

When I read Psalm 51 (written by David after his sin with Bathsheba), I realize how lacking my childhood confessions were. Actually, even many of my confessions in adulthood leave much to be desired.

Often we treat repentance as a statement—an “I’m sorry, please forgive me” that checks a box and (hopefully) alleviates our guilt. But if we look closely at Psalm 51 we see that repentance is a turning away from sin and a turning toward God—a process that doesn’t merely alleviate guilt but cultivates deep joy.

And that’s not the only pay-off. I wrote my book, Real: the surprising secret to deeper relationships, to show that repenting and receiving forgiveness from God leads to real relationships with others, because it leaves us with nothing left to hide.

So how do we grow in a joy-giving habit of repentance? Here’s how.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Ayo Ogunseinde

Rule 1. Define the sin.

Rule 1. Define the sin.

The first step to meaningful confession is understanding what sin is. David uses three different words for it in Psalm 51: “Iniquity,” “sin,” and “transgressions” (v 1-3). Each term has been deliberately chosen for its unique meaning in Hebrew. “Transgressions” implies a rebellion against God’s authority and law, “Iniquity” means a distortion of what should be and “Sin” is a missing of the mark. David is making it clear that his sin is deep—there is no minimizing or excusing it.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Evelyn Mostrom

Rule 2. Appeal to God’s mercy

Rule 2. Appeal to God’s mercy

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love” (v 1). Here, David appeals for forgiveness based on what he knows about God’s character: that God is merciful. David knows that God is committed to him in a relationship (or covenant) of “unfailing love”—and when we come before God in repentance, we do so on the basis of his covenant with us through Christ.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Rule 3. Avoid defensiveness and see God rightly

Rule 3. Avoid defensiveness and see God rightly

David’s sin hurt multiple people. He committed adultery, orchestrated a murder, and tried to cover it all up. And yet he says to God that “against you, you only, have I sinned” (v 4). How can that be?

Well, if we think of sin as failing to hit the mark, then we have to ask, “Whose mark are we missing?” The answer, of course, is that it’s God’s mark. So although our sin does hurt others, and repenting to those people is important, sin is ultimately against God, since it’s his ways that we have failed to live up to, and his image-bearers whom we hurt.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Wang Xi

Rule 4. Look to Jesus

Rule 4. Look to Jesus

David’s reference to hyssop in verse 7 is not accidental—”Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean”. He knows hyssop signifies purification (see Exodus 24) with blood, and he knows that blood alone can make him whiter than snow. What he doesn’t know is how this will be done fully.

But we do. Instead of relying on an animal sacrifice, we look to Jesus, who “has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9 v 26). His blood is enough to make us “whiter than snow” (Psalm 51 v 7).

Photo credit: Thinkstock/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Rule 5. Ask God to break you and heal you

Rule 5. Ask God to break you and heal you

David prays, “Let the bones you have crushed rejoice” (v 8). When God reveals our sin to us, it’s painful. David was already a sin-broken man; he just didn’t fully realize it until God sent the prophet Nathan to show him his sin and break him all the way. Like a doctor resetting a fractured bone, it is God who breaks, God who sets, and God who heals.

And this is all mercy: 19th-century British pastor Charles Spurgeon wrote that seeing our weakness, and experiencing God’s power to save, teaches us “a heart-music which only broken bones [can] learn …”

Photo credit: Thinkstock/mbolina

Rule 6. Be comforted by the Spirit

Rule 6. Be comforted by the Spirit

Next David prays, “Do not … take your Holy Spirit from me” (v 11). But the very fact that David is grieved over his sin is a sign that God’s Spirit is at work in him. This is true for you as well. Have you ever been so discouraged by your sin that you’ve wondered, “How can God love me? Surely I’m not really a Christian.” Take comfort in knowing that the very grief you’re experiencing is a sign that you have the Spirit of God working in you, causing you to hate what God hates.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Gabriel Lamza

Rule 7. Rejoice and proclaim truth

Rule 7. Rejoice and proclaim truth

In verses 12-15, David is asking God to make him so joyful about his salvation that he can’t help but teach other sinners the forgiving ways of God—”Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise”. This is important, because so often we do the opposite—we’re inclined to wallow in our sin and draw back from serving others, whether in church or in our communities, because we think we’re unworthy. But here David says the joy of forgiveness for sin should compel us to speak of that good news with friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Guillame De Germain

Rule 8. Resolve to obey

Rule 8. Resolve to obey

We can check all the boxes, do all the steps above, and say all the right words, but if in the back of our minds we’re planning to sin in the same way again, then grace isn’t truly taking root. What God desires is the mark of true repentance—a heart that is “broken” by sin and truly “contrite”.

As Puritan pastor and writer Thomas Watson wrote, “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet” (The Doctrine of Repentance, p 63). If we come to God with a heart like that, he “will not despise” it; he will accept it, and accept us, because of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf (v 17).

Photo credit: Thinkstock/Wenping Zheng

Time to respond

Time to respond

What sins are weighing on your heart? What guilt have you been trying to cover with distraction? Or are you submerging yourself under the weight of it as a form of penance, rather than taking your sin to the cross, where it’s already been paid for?

Take some time now to work through the steps above, and rejoice in the incomparable grace offered to you in Christ!

Catherine Parks shows us that the secret to growing the relationships we crave is in developing a biblical habit of repentance in her book Real: The Surprising Secret to Deeper Relationships. By being honest about our sin before God and receiving his forgiveness, we’re freed be honest about our sin with others. Buy the book today.

This article was originally at thegoodbook.com. Used with permission.

Photo credit: Thinkstock/Jacoblund

https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/8-steps-in-psalm-51-for-real-repentance.html

Is It God’s Goodness that Leads to Repentance?

by Cameron Buettel Friday, July 12, 2019

In the lead-up to the Truth Matters conference in October, we will be focusing our attention on the sufficiency, authority, and clarity of Scripture. Of our previous blog series, none better embodies that emphasis than Frequently Abused Verses. The following entry from that series originally appeared on September 30, 2015. -ed.

We live in an age that demands short bursts of rapid-fire information. The day is fast approaching—perhaps it’s already here—when the number of Twitter followers will hold the preeminent place on a pastor’s resume. Sermon lengths are going the way of our shrinking attention spans. Modern pastors are tempted to replace exegesis and exposition with sound bite sermons and slogan theology.

But Bible verses are not slogans or sound bites. They are eternal truths that find their meaning within the overall story God is telling. Uprooting a verse, or even a biblical phrase, from its native habitat can lead to all kinds of mayhem. That is especially the case when, independent of their proper context, verses are enlisted as the supporting cast for someone’s opinion or agenda. Romans 2:4 is one verse that is regularly misused that way—carelessly sprinkled into sermons, interviews, and social media.

For example, in January 2013, Rick Warren explained to his legions of Facebook followers how the verse factored in his evangelistic methods:

In that particular case, Warren was quoting Romans 2:4 (actually only about half of it) as justification for downplaying sin and soft-peddling the threat of judgment. But is that what Romans 2:4 is really all about? Was Paul telling his Roman readers to jettison the parts of gospel preaching that lack curb appeal?

Joel Osteen is even more explicit in his use of Romans 2:4 to defend his feel-good messages:

Listen, don’t dangle people over the fires of hell. . . . Listen, that doesn’t draw people to God. They know what kind of life they live. They know how bad they’ve lived. What you’ve got to do is talk about the goodness of God. Listen, it’s the goodness of God that brings people to repentance. [1]

Joel Osteen may think that people know they are sinners and that we therefore don’t need to warn them or preach about it, but does Romans 2:4 really back up his point?

Moreover, is his point biblical at all? Just as prisons are full of convicts who will proclaim their innocence, Scripture is clear that sinners reject the guilt of their sin. As Solomon explained, “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 21:2). And even those who do acknowledge their sin have little grasp of the depth of their wretchedness, or the eternal cost of their transgressions.

In fact, it’s ironic that Osteen and Warren would use Romans 2:4 to excuse themselves from discussing sin and the need for repentance, since that verse is plucked from Scripture’s most profound discourse on man’s depravity.

Romans 1–3 is undeniable proof that Paul began his exposition of the gospel by first addressing the universality of sin and the justness of God’s wrath against sin. John MacArthur points this out:

The biblical order in any gospel presentation is always first the warning of danger and then the way of escape, first the judgment on sin and then the means of pardon, first the message of condemnation and then the offer of forgiveness, first the bad news of guilt and then the good news of grace. The whole message and purpose of the loving, redeeming grace of God offering eternal life through Jesus Christ rests upon the reality of man’s universal guilt of abandoning God and thereby being under His sentence of eternal condemnation and death. Consistent with that approach, the main body of Romans begins with 1:18, a clear affirmation of God’s wrath “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” [2]

It is actually our guilt and the justness of God’s wrath that provide the all-important context for Romans 2:4:

And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. (Romans 2:2-5)

Now you can see why Romans 2:4 is so frequently divorced from its context, and why it’s usually paraphrased instead of quoted. In the full context of Paul’s writing we see clearly what he means by God’s goodness—it is “the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience.” And Romans 2:2-3 explains how God demonstrates that tolerance and patience—by withholding the wrath we deserve. God’s goodness is the reality that we have not yet experienced His judgment. MacArthur adds:

Forbearance [tolerance] comes from anochē, which means “to hold back,” as of judgment. It was sometimes used to designate a truce, which involves cessation of hostilities between warring parties. God’s forbearance with mankind is a kind of temporary divine truce He has graciously proclaimed. Patience translates makrothumia, which was sometimes used of a powerful ruler who voluntarily withheld vengeance on an enemy or punishment of a criminal. Until the inevitable moment of judgment, God’s kindness and forbearance and patience are extended to all mankind. [3]

It is impossible to preach the goodness of God without talking about sin and judgment because its very meaning is bound up in those terms. When we see our sinfulness and rebellion against God, and when we see our hypocrisy in condemning others for committing the same wrath-deserving sins, then we can also marvel at God’s goodness in patiently and tolerantly withholding the wrath that we deserve.

That is what leads us to repentance. And it is entirely consistent with what Paul taught elsewhere in Scripture:

I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B150930