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Podcast 234:  Return to Me and I Will Return to You

Podcast 234: Return to Me and I Will Return to You

The book of Zechariah begins with one of the most challenging and frightening conditional promises found in Scripture.

First, there is God’s statement of their condition:  “The Lord has been very angry with your fathers.”

Then, the wonderful and frightening promise:  “Return to Me,” says the Lord of hosts, “and I will return to you,” says the Lord of hosts.”

But the flip side of this promise is also true.  If they won’t return to Him, then it logically follows that He won’t return to them.

Sounds like much of the church today.  Keep listening.

The following is a study of Zechariah 1:1-6.

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Reading Between the Lines

Reading Between the Lines

gracetoyou-200A number of years ago I received this monthly newsletter and resource offering from John MacArthur’s Grace to You Ministry.  The offer is a teaching called, “When Believers Stop Believing: Portrait of an Apostate.”  And, quite honestly, it was pretty good.

But what intrigued me was the intro to the letter promoting the offer.  It went like this:


Dear Friend,

It grieves me to bring you sad news from within our own ministry family about someone who has walked away from the Lord.  Several months ago, we received a shocking, heartbreaking letter.  It was from a long-time listener and supporter of Grace to You named Steve.  His short note explained in stark, simple language that he has rejected Christ, turned his back on the church, and wants nothing further to do with our ministry.  He wrote:

Over many years I have been blessed to receive free tapes, CDs, and books from your ministry.  Thank you.  At the time, I really appreciated them.

Now I no longer believe in the God of the Bible or in Jesus Christ.  Ten years of full-time ministry proved to me that there is no God and that the God of the Bible does not care. I now reject Christianity and have come to peace.  What was at first a great loss has now turned to joy, peace, and freedom.  I did not leave the faith because of some extreme sin.  I left because the God of the Bible, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are all a fantasy.  I’m happy I now live in the real world.


He goes on for a couple more paragraphs stating that he feels guilty about those he led to the faith in the Lord back when he was deceived and asked to be taken off all mailing lists, etc. MacArthur, rightly so, then springboards into a discussion of apostasy and ends with offering an hour-long Q & A with Phil Johnson about the very question at hand— Why Do Believers Stop Believing?

macarthur-225Great question.

But something else bothered me about Steve’s letter… other than the obvious account of a man rejecting the saving grace of our Lord.  No, there was something more.  There was another question— a nagging question, just under the surface, that needed to be answered.  And not with some theological discussion about the definition of or the signs of apostasy.

But something simple, just one word. “Why?”  Yet, the answer was so deceptively sinister.

“What caused Steve to lose faith in the God of the Bible?  Did God somehow fail him in his time of need?  Did Jesus lie to Steve, betray Steve, ridicule Steve, or abandon Steve?  Did the Holy Spirit refuse to give Steve the gifts that He seems to give to everyone else?”

I don’t think so.  There must be more.

“Did Steve find errors in the Bible?  You know, passages that have been fraudulently inserted into the Scriptures by others to lead us astray into believing that Jesus is, in fact, God?  Maybe Steve found the body of Jesus buried somewhere in the Judean countryside?  Maybe he has proof that the resurrection was staged, or that Peter and Paul were fictional characters, or that the Gospel is nothing more than feel-good pabulum?”

Maybe.  But I still think it was something else.

Did you see what Steve said proved to him that there is no God or the God of the Bible doesn’t care?  Let me show you once again.

Now I no longer believe in the God of the Bible or in Jesus Christ.  Ten years of full-time ministry proved to me that there is no God and that the God of the Bible does not care. I now reject Christianity and have come to peace. What was at first a great loss has now turned to joy, peace, and freedom. I did not leave the faith because of some extreme sin. I left because the God of the Bible, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are all a fantasy. I’m happy I now live in the real world.

That’s right.  It was ten years of full-time ministry.  Ten years of working in a church or para-church organization with believers just like you and me.  It was ten years of seeing people who profess to know and love Jesus treat others so shamefully.  It was ten years of gossip, slander, backbiting, broken promises, political intrigue and all the other hurts that take place within the walls of ministry.

Ten years— ten long years of all the stuff Love Jesus, Hate Church is all about.

But for Steve, his final story will most likely be Hate Jesus, Hate Church, not because God failed, but because of the horrible, degrading things good people do to good people— all in the name of the Lord.  And Steve concluded, probably after weeks and maybe years of agonizing prayer, that God doesn’t care.  That God won’t, or can’t, take away Steve’s pain.  That God just turns a blind eye to what takes place in full-time ministry.

Or, that God must not exist .  Because if He did, He would do something about all the hurt and pain and disappointment Steve, and tens of thousands just like him, suffered those ten years.

Pain, most likely caused by Christians Steve had to deal with during 10 years of ministry.


The following excerpt is from Love Jesus, Hate Church:

ljhc-book-175For most of us, the idea of church often conjures up the image of stately red brick buildings with tall, white, majestic steeples that point like an arrow straight into the heart of God.  For others, church gives us the warm, cozy feelings of nostalgia, the pleasant memories of good-times long past.  We fondly think of Sunday school with its Picture Bibles, flannel graphs, warm cherry Kool-Aid, and hard oatmeal cookies.  We remember Christmas plays and living nativities and shepherds’ costumes made from mom’s best bath towels and dad’s favorite pale-blue robe.  There was VBS and sword drills and Tootsie Rolls and Labor Day picnics and… well, the list can go on and on.

Church was portrayed as a place of safety and security, a living sanctuary where Christians could take shelter from the oppressive hurt and abuse the world tends to dish out on its inhabitants.  It was a place of worship, a place of love, of acceptance, and mutual ministry.
The Church was the one place on earth where you never feared being hurt or mistreated or misunderstood or belittled or needlessly offended or persecuted or slandered or wronged or berated.  Why?
“Because church is just like one big ol’ happy family.  Right?”

Well, not always.  Not really.
Every Sunday, hidden among masses of people that dutifully file in and out of church services across the land, there is an ever-growing army of disgruntled and disillusioned Believers that carry with them the battle scars they received on the frontlines of Church.  This group of walking wounded, their Purple Heart in hand, are interwoven into the very membership fabric of our congregations.  They’re disguised, cloaked, concealed behind a well-dressed façade that smiles and says, “How are you today?  Just fine.  And you?” and then moves on.  They’re detached.  Wary.  Reluctant to allow the pain they’ve experienced in Church be inflicted upon them, and their families, again.
“Don’t come any closer.  Stay back.  I don’t want to be hurt again.”

And this group just keeps getting larger.
Church splits, moral failures, deacon’s meetings, gossip, financial budgets, “the pastor didn’t call me when I was sick”, arguments, hymns versus choruses, young versus old, family church dynasty versus the “new kids on the church block”, building programs, tithing, pride, the annual Church Business Meetings, “look, those people sat in my seat”, and King James going one-on-one with everybody else… ah, you name it.  They all take their toll.
It’s like a young man or woman who has lost their virginity and is desperately trying to right the wrong, trying to turn back the clock in a futile attempt to make things like they were once before.
Well, you can’t.  You can never go back to the way it was before.
Once the bottle is broken and the innocence is spilled, you can never put it back into the bottle again.  You never move from Love Jesus, Hate Church to Love Jesus, Love Church.  There’s no round-trip ticket.  No return fare.  It’s simply a one-way ride from intimacy to disengagement, from reckless abandon to cautious reserve, from child-like delight to disillusionment and despair— or, in other words, from love to hate.
And every day it seems the ranks of the Love Jesus, Hate Church army swells. *


So what do we do about the church?  Nothing.  We just live our lives out the way Christ called us to and allow Him to take care of His church.

We pledge to be different— and we do it for His glory!

Adveho quis may.  Come what may.
Will you join with me? Come what may.

To read Love Jesus, Hate Church, click – HERE

* From the chapter, Rescue Those Who Are Perishing, page 94.



Praying for Judgment to Fall on America

Praying for Judgment to Fall on America

elijah-lgHe came from nowhere.  No warning, no advanced notice, nothing.  One day, he just showed up and spoke a few words that brought an entire nation to its knees… literally.  Without any fanfare, pedigree, entourage or press agent, this strangely-clad man with intense, piercing eyes stood among the lunchtime traffic, raised his arms, and bellowed:

“As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”*

And just like that, the sky dried up, the three and a half year drought began, and our lives were changed forever.  Thus was our introduction to Elijah the prophet— the Elijah of Mount Carmel fame.

You must understand that a drought in Elijah’s day was much different than a drought today.  There was no water rationing or voluntary restrictions.  There were no, “You may wash your car on even numbered days and water your lawn on odd numbered days”— type of official pronouncements.  No, it was nothing like that.

drought-cattleA drought in Elijah’s day meant crop failures, the death of all livestock, systemic famine, and disease that ran unchecked among a starving population.  It meant that people, innocent people— the young and old and infirmed, died.  It meant the loss of homes and farms and families and futures.

It meant an economic upheaval many times worse than the Great Depression or the plagues of Europe.  Drought brought prolonged suffering to tens of thousands of people with no end in sight.  It led to hopelessness, depression, despair, and suicide.

When Elijah spoke those 26 words of divine judgment he literally pronounced a death sentence on their society and culture.

But, why?  What was his reason for shutting up the sky for an indeterminate amount of time?  What was he trying to accomplish by calling for the destruction of Ahab’s kingdom?  What was Elijah, and God, trying to do?

You know the answer.  As the late Paul Harvey would say, “And you know the rest of the story.”  Elijah was hoping to bring the land of Israel to repentance and back into fellowship with the God of the land— the God they had long ago rejected and abandoned.  He was hoping, once the people of the land were stripped of their pride, sin and self-sufficiency, they would repent “in dust and ashes” and be drawn back into a dependant relationship with the Creator of the land.

Elijah’s goal was not destruction, but repentance.  And that’s just what happened in 1 Kings 18.

Did it ever dawn on you that, like Elijah of old, God may have some of His holy ones praying for judgment to fall on America in order to bring her back to repentance?  That maybe, after a three year drought, we as a nation may experience our own Mount Carmel encounter with God?

Remember the words of Elijah to the nation of Israel, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions?  If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” *  In other words, now is the time to choose… for them and for us.

Are you praying for the same?  Should you be?  Should I?

*1 Kings 17:1; 18:21


Listen while we look at Praying for Judgment to Fall on America. This is a study of Revelation 14:8-11.

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Truly Saved, Always Saved.

Truly Saved, Always Saved.

The doctrine known as eternal security or the perseverance of the saints is one of the cornerstones of Reformed Theology.  It can be defined as follows:

The perseverance of the saints means that all those who are truly (the operative word) born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives, and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again. *

For the Calvinist, it is the “P” in their TULIP acronym.

T – Total Depravity.  Man is fallen in nature and, therefore, in total depravity.  This means that (1) man cannot do anything or any work that is good, (2) man cannot, by his nature, comprehend what is good, and (3) man cannot have, by virtue of his fallen nature, any desire for good. He is totally depraved.

U – Unconditional Election. This can be defined, according to the Puritans, as such:

Unconditional Election is defined in this manner: God did, by His most wise and holy counsel, of His own, freely and unchangeably ordain some men to heaven and some men to hell by the nature of His good pleasure.  In eternity, God has predetermined the course of everything and everyone.  He had foreordained the eternal destiny of everyone whether to heaven or to hell for His glory.  Men are unconditionally elected by God for His purposes without any prior works (good or evil) by which God would judge them good or evil.  The election of men rests solely on the counsel and purposes of God.  God has not decreed anything which he foresaw in the future, for that would place His decree upon foreseeing something in the creature.

L – Limited Atonement.  In a nutshell, this means that Christ’s death actually paid for the sins of those whom He knew would ultimately be saved— for the elect.  In essence, God imposed His wrath, and Christ paid the penalty for the sins of:

1.  All the sins of all men— which would mean that all men are saved, which we know is not the case.
2.  Some of the sins of all men— which would mean that men are still in their sins.
3.  All of the sins of some men— the elect, the chosen, those He foreknew and predestined from the foundation of the world— which is the Biblical position. Hence, limited atonement.

I – Irresistible Grace.  Which is a term that refers to the fact that when God calls a person He also gives them regeneration, both of which guarantee that we will respond in saving faith. In other words, when the Spirit of God moves in the heart to change a person, that person will be changed. Period.

P – Perseverance of the Saints.  This is one area in which many evangelical Christians have differed over the years.  Many within the Wesleyan/Arminian tradition have held that it is possible for someone who is truly (again, the operative word) born again to lose that salvation.  Reformed Christians have held, and rightly so, that it is impossible for someone who is truly born again to lose their salvation.

But did you know the book of Revelation has something to say about the controversial “P” point in the TULIP acronym?  Actually, it has much to say about election, the sovereignty of God and eternal security or the perseverance of the saints.

Take a look at the following two passages of Scripture:

When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long , O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also. – Revelation 6:9-11

Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’ ” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.” – Revelation 14:12-13

* Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, page 788.


Do you see what I see?  Do you see what the Lord is teaching us about the perseverance of His saints?

The following is a podcast from April of 2009 that deals with those very issues.  It is a study on Revelation 14:12-13.

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The Long Slide from Ephesus to Laodicea

The Long Slide from Ephesus to Laodicea

Ephesus.  The first of seven letters the Lord wrote to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3.  Remember?  Do you know what the name Ephesus means?  It means beloved.  It carries with it the sense of love – but not just any kind of love.  Ephesus conveys the kind of love you have for your spouse.  Passionate.  Trusting.  And above all else, faithful.

heart-240Maybe that’s why Jesus said,

“I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.” *

Ah, good words.  A very good affirmation to a struggling, but loved church.  Feels good to hear the Lord say that about them, doesn’t it.

But He also said this,

“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” *

Uh, now that’s not a very good word from the Lord.  It’s not a very good affirmation for a church that was beginning to slide from the heights where it once stood.  And it doesn’t feel so good either.  It hurts bad.  Down deep.  Down close to the heart.

But there was more…

“Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place – unless you repent.” *

And from there the letters get, with one exception, progressively worse.  Until we reach the letter to the Laodiceans.

mud-225Laodicea.  Do you know what Laodicea means?  Sadly, it means, “the people rule” or “the rule of the people.”  Far cry from beloved, isn’t it.  And therefore the Lord said to them:

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” *

By the way, the term “spit” in our vernacular means something more like vomit.  Projectile vomit.

What happened?  Can what happen to the seven churches also happen to us as individual believers?  You bet your sweet Bible it can!  And it has!

You do know, don’t you, that the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 accurately picture all of church history in startling detail?  But did you also know that the same seven letters also paint a sad, harrowing portrait of a church’s, or an individual Christian’s, slide from spiritual fervency to… well, lukewarmness.  From being the beloved to being what the Lord vomits out of His mouth.  Ouch.

Let me suggest you take the time and study the seven letters of Jesus to the church today.  It will change you life… guaranteed.

* Revelation 2:2-3, 4, 5; 3:15-16