Israel, Egypt & The American Church

For years my heart has become increasingly burdened for the American church. I have sought the Lord, prayed and wept as I have examined my own life and the state of things in “Christian” America. I was reading Isaiah 30 this morning, and though this word was originally spoken to Israel during a time when they were looking to Egypt for deliverance from their oppressors, I truly believe it is an applicable word for the American Church today.

It is my humble and sincere prayer that God’s Spirit will speak to you as you read the following words:

“’What sorrow awaits my rebellious children,’ says the Lord. You make plans that are contrary to mine. You make alliances not directed by my Spirit, thus piling up your sins. For without consulting me, you have gone down to Egypt for help. You have put your trust in Pharaoh’s protection. You have tried to hide in his shade. But by trusting Pharaoh, you will be humiliated, and by depending on him, you will be disgraced. For though his power extends to Zoan and his officials have arrived in Hanes, all who trust in him will be ashamed. He will not help you. Instead, he will disgrace you…

Now go and write down these words. Write them in a book. They will stand until the end of time as a witnessthat these people are stubborn rebels who refuse to pay attention to the Lord’s instructions.

They tell the seers, ‘Stop seeing visions!’ They tell the prophets, ‘Don’t tell us what is right. Tell us nice things. Tell us lies.Forget all this gloom. Get off your narrow path. Stop telling us about your Holy One of Israel.’

This is the reply of the Holy One of Israel: ‘Because you despise what I tell you and trust instead in oppression and lies,calamity will come upon you suddenly— like a bulging wall that bursts and falls. In an instant it will collapseand come crashing down. You will be smashed like a piece of pottery— shattered so completely that there won’t be a piece big enough to carry coals from a fireplace or a little water from the well.’

“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.’

You said, ‘No, we will get our help from Egypt. They will give us swift horses for riding into battle.’ But the only swiftness you are going to see is the swiftness of your enemies chasing you!One of them will chase a thousand of you. Five of them will make all of you flee. You will be left like a lonely flagpole on a hill or a tattered banner on a distant mountaintop.

“So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.

“O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries.Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes.Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.

Then you will destroy all your silver idols and your precious gold images.You will throw them out like filthy rags, saying to them, ‘Good riddance!’”

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“Jerry”

I had a great time of 21st century fellowship (telephone) with a dear brother last night. It’s always encouraging and not a little sobering when another brother or sister shares their heart with you, and it is similar to what you are experiencing.

While we understand that the prophets of the Bible spoke to a particular audience, in a particular historical context, their words are so often multidimensional. Look at the scriptures from the “Old Testament” that the Apostles quoted and applied to Jesus or their immediate context. They definitely did not adhere to a strict historical/grammatical biblical interpretation paradigm.

With that being said, here are some words from Jeremiah that I think we would do well to prayerfully consider:

“My heart is broken within me;
all my bones shake;
I am like a drunken man,
like a man overcome by wine,
because of the Lord
and because of his holy words.
For the land is full of adulterers;
because of the curse the land mourns,
and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up.
Their course is evil,
and their might is not right.
Both prophet and priest are ungodly;
even in my house I have found their evil,
declares the Lord.
Therefore their way shall be to them
like slippery paths in the darkness,
into which they shall be driven and fall…
In the prophets of Samaria
I saw an unsavory thing:
they prophesied by Baal
and led my people Israel astray.
But in the prophets of Jerusalem
I have seen a horrible thing:
they commit adultery and walk in lies;
they strengthen the hands of evildoers,
so that no one turns from his evil…
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shofarshall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”

” For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord
to see and to hear his word,
or who has paid attention to his word and listened?
Behold, the storm of the Lord!
Wrath has gone forth,
a whirling tempest;
it will burst upon the head of the wicked.
The anger of the Lord will not turn back
until he has executed and accomplished
the intents of his heart.
In the LATTER DAYS [emphasis mine] you will understand it clearly…

“I did not send the prophets,
yet they ran;
I did not speak to them,
yet they prophesied.
But if they had stood in my council,
then they would have proclaimed my words to my people,
and they would have turned them from their evil way,
and from the evil of their deeds…
““Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another. Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the Lord.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord.

“Then I said: “Ah, Lord God, behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’” And the Lord said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.”

Revival

Lately, I’ve been thinking about revival . Interestingly enough, I read a post on Face Book the other day about just that. The author said that he believed that the reason the “church” isn’t seeing revival today is because of a lack of unity. Others I have talked with have their own views on the subject as well. While I am respectful of the opinions of others, I find that my own take on the subject of revival is quite different from those with whom I have spoken. You see, I believe massive revival is happening right now, here in America and across the globe. The trouble is that it doesn’t look like what most folks think it should.

I believe there are striking similarities between 1st century Judaism and the religious system(s) of modern day “Christianity.” One of the largest, and perhaps most obvious has to do with expectation. Jesus was not the Messiah that the majority of people of his day had come to expect. And likewise, he is not “behaving” in the manner that many believe he should today. Consequently, revival runs contrary to the expectations of many in the “church.” Centuries of Jewish tradition had integrated itself with the true worship of YHWH, and as a result, the vast majority failed to recognize the appearance of Messiah. In like manner, centuries of religious tradition within the “church” have blinded many to the move of God’s Spirit today, i.e., revival.

Biblically, revival is defined as : Rawge's Cross Revival Photographlive again, recover life, to be restored to a correct life, regain strength and vigor, be restored to life or health, to cause to grow. And this is happening in the lives of God’s people right now.  Countless are those who are crying out to the Lord, falling in love with Jesus like never before, seeing the body of Christ in a “new” way, desiring to be increasingly filled with his Spirit, and saying, “I consider it all loss that I may know Him!” They are considering anew what it means that they are in Christ even as He is in them. They are experiencing revival! Where it becomes “problematic” is that as the Church is experiencing revival, she more often than not finds herself at odds with the “church.”

Just as Jesus turned the religious world of his day upside down, revival within God’s people is having the same effect upon the religious system(s) of today. Jesus challenged his listeners to separate themselves from the accepted religious norm, and to begin worshiping God in spirit and  truth. And so it is with the revival in the Church today. Perhaps we are not seeing disunity in the “church” as much as we are a separation. We would do well to remember that while Jesus  may not revive systems, he is definitely reviving his people.

Allow me to leave you with the following pericope; I believe there is a correlation:

“Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.’ He answered them, ‘And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, ‘What you would have gained from me is given to God,’ he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:

 ‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
 in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

And he called the people to him and said to them, ‘Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.’ Then the disciples came and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?’ He answered, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up.’ “


Time Well Spent?

Calvinism or Arminianism? Strange Fire vs Authentic Fire. Cessationism. Acceptable Worship Styles. Pre, Post, or Mid Trib? Young Earth vs Old Earth. Immersion vs Sprinkling. Christian Protests. Stand up for Chick-fil-A! I want my guns! Church Growth Programs.Traditional Church vs Home Groups. Prosperity. Dominionism. Kingdom now. Seven mountains. Apostle so & so. Prophet so & so. And the list goes on and on and on and on! Congratulations to us all!

And what have we accomplished with all of our dalliances?

Trim The Fat

Many medical authorities are asserting that Americans have a definite obesity problem. We Americans are quite simply among the most overweight people groups on the planet. Along with this excessive weight comes increased risk of disease. Diabetes, hypertension, and cancer are just a few diseases that may be triggered by “a bulging belly.” I think that perhaps we who make up the “American Church” also suffer from an obesity problem and that rampant false doctrines, heretical teachings, immorality within the leadership, etc… are the diseases this obesity has produced and perpetuated. 

Here in America we are inundated with Christian programming, Christian radio, Christian Bookstores, mega-churches, how to do this & how to be that instructional teachings, and all of this has served to produce an overweight, self-indulgent body more concerned with her own glory and beauty than that of the Lord who purchased her with His own blood. We have fed to the point that we have come to resemble the “fat cows of Bashan” spoken of by the prophet Amos. 

All of this “feeding” has produced a people who worship the way God makes us feel instead of worshiping God Himself. We scramble to and fro to find the preacher with the “fresh word”, the worship leader with the “heavy anointing”, and we feed upon that which only makes us fat and diseased. We have ceased to eat the “true Bread which came down from heaven” and crave the “raisin cakes” of our own idolatry instead. Sure, we are to come together, be built up, be encouraged in the Lord, exercise our gifts for the building up of the church; but, that’s not where it ends.

The Church is not designed to be a “social club” comprised of people who have received their “get out of hell free cards” and now, while waiting to be raptured out of here, indulge themselves in an endless feeding frenzy. No, we are called to the work of ministry. There is a world filled with people who need to hear of the love of God that is only found in Jesus. There is a hurt and desperate world (not to mention those who fill the pews) waiting for someone to minister to them. Can we not push ourselves away from the “table” long enough to feed someone else?

Just like the physical body has to have exercise and proper diet to combat obesity, the church must also utilize these elements in a spiritual fashion. Hebrews 12 tells us, “let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” Perhaps the sin which so easily entangles the American church is the sin of gluttony, and this constant feeding has produced an over weight body wrought with disease. 

Let us pray that the Lord will grant us mercy, that we may again fix our eyes solely upon Him, that we may be filled “with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit [instead of fat] in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.”