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The Dark Side of Being a Pastor

The Dark Side of Being a Pastor

The following are a list of concerns, complaints, problems, and heart-felt cries of anguish that many Baptist pastors submitted to the question:  “What are some of the problems you face being a pastor?”

The results of this anonymous post are chilling.  Read and consider how you view and, more importantly, treat your pastor.  For the sake of brevity, I’ll only list three of them.

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thumbdown-210-1I suppose my problem, or perhaps my heartache, is a seeming lack of understanding my church has of spiritual things, even those things I have taught on.  For instance, we recently did a study of the book of Revelation; we spent about four months on it, going through it chapter by chapter, verse by verse.  We do it in a somewhat informal setting, to allow for questions and further explanations in difficult areas, (which is, I guess, about all of it).  To help, I illustrated many things to give a visual aspect for further understanding, as well as lots of hand-outs to take home, and so forth.  At the end of the study, I decided to see how well the information sunk in, so I gave a 12 question quiz.  Sadly, not one could even tell me how long the Great Tribulation period would be, with answers ranging from 10-1,000 years.  My questions were very basic, nothing hard: Who are the 144,000?  How long is the Millennial reign of Christ, (some got this one right)?  What do the four horsemen represent?  Things like this, that we went over and over.

Some of these folks have been in church for 50 years!  What are they doing when the teaching is going on?  They come, they sit, they open their Bibles, but nothing seems to get in.  Sometimes I wonder why I spend the time when no one hears or responds.  Hence, my heartache.  Can’t even get them to read their Bibles on their own.

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After 27 years of full-time ministry, the thing that troubles me the most is that I have come to the place where I know better than to trust anybody.  Eventually, they all will turn on you, even if it is only for a short time, and even if they get right with you afterward.  You cannot really rely on anyone.  The only thing I trust everyone to do is to eventually betray my trust.

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A pastor friend once said that the difference between the church member that loves you the most and the one that hates you the most is…… 10 years.

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Pretty sobering, aren’t they?

Remember the words of Paul to his young son in the faith, Timothy:

“The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” – 1 Timothy 5:17.

This coming year, how about trying to be different when it comes to your pastor?  After all, I think we’ve got enough people who love Jesus and hate church.  The last thing we need is for those people to be behind the pulpit.  Don’t you agree?

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The Wal-Mart Brand of Church

The Wal-Mart Brand of Church

I have recently been reflecting on some things in our society, especially in the church, that seem so out of kilter.  There are a couple of questions that have been rattling around in my head that have to do with what we are willing to sacrifice to achieve what our society has determined to be success.  You know, “success” in the old “bigger means better” mantra popularized by Peter Drucker and the hordes of church grown entrepreneurs that have tried to merge secular management philosophy and Spirit-filled living.  Uh, try again.  Bad fit.  Simply can’t be done.

Question:  Why is the larger church deemed more desirable than the smaller church?  Who made that call?  Or, to put it another way, why are the Rick Warrens and the Bill Hybels and the Joel Osteens the mainstay of the “How to Do Church” conference circuit and the Robert Settles aren’t even allowed in the building?  Oh, never heard of Robert Settle?  I didn’t think so.  He is just a Baptist pastor that recently retired after 50 plus years of faithful ministry.  He never was at the helm of a large church, but he stood strong and finished the race well.

But obviously, that kind of legacy doesn’t attract a crowd, does it?  Most mega-church wannabes are not interested in learning how to stay faithful over the long haul, but only about the latest tricks for quick, superficial growth.

“What kind of music really packs them in?  Tomlin or Crowder?”
“What kind of movie clip do I use to illustrate my theme this week?”
“How can I give them what they want and still be out in under 55 minutes?”
“Aw heck, just tell me how to pack the house!”

Who said that mega-churches are more blessed by God than smaller ones?  After all, it’s God’s blessing that really matters, right?  “Well, mega-churches offer more programs to the people that go there.  They have bigger facilities and their services are much better than the smaller church.  You know, they have a better band and sound production.”  In a word, correct.  But is that what church is all about?  More programs, bigger facilities and a better Sunday show?

wal-martIt’s like the difference between Wal-Mart and your neighborhood grocery store.  Wal-Mart offers almost an unlimited selection of stuff and it offers it at a better price.  Joe the butcher on the corner of Fifth and Main simply can’t compete.  He doesn’t have the room for all the stuff Wal-Mart can carry and he has to pay more wholesale than Wal-Mart does for the products that he does carry.  Let’s face it, if price and selection is all you’re interested in, then Wal-Mart’s your best bet.

But for me, I love community.  I like to know that Joe the butcher is, in fact, Joe the butcher.  I like the fact that I know about his family and where he goes to church on Sunday.  I like the fact that I can wave at him when our paths cross at our son’s Little League game and that he can wave back.  I like knowing that Joe lives in the same town as I live in and that we are, by that fact alone, somewhat connected.  Actually, we’re neighbors.  And hopefully, someday, friends.

Can’t get that from Wal-Mart, can you.  And you certainly can’t get that in a wannabe mega-church either.

Oh yea, bigger facilities, a Broadway style Sunday production with theme generated props, and a tight, well-rehearsed, “I really wanna be on the radio” worship band singing all the latest covers…

Sure.

But community?  No.  You’ll not find community at Wal-Mart.  And you’ll not find it at the local wannabe mega-church either.  You’re just another number, another customer, another consumer of their religious wares.  Herd ’em in, and herd ’em out.  Everybody serving the machine.

I don’t know about you, but I want more out of church than that?  Don’t you?  I want to know the people I worship with?  I want to know about their families, I want to have them over to my house, I want their kids to be friends with my kids.  In other words, I want to live in community.  Just like they did in the book of Acts.

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Spiritual Resolution for 2014

Spiritual Resolution for 2014

georgemuller-200On April 13th, 1832 George Muller received a letter from Henry Craik, his friend and co-laborer in ministry, to come to Bristol to join him in the work there.  One week later, on April 20th, George Muller left for Bristol encouraged by the preaching, teaching, witnessing… you know, all the ministry stuff— that he was soon to be engulfed in.  The air was full of excitement and anticipation, much like we are as we plan for a two week summer mission trip.

“Boy, when we get to the mission field, we’re going to win the area to Christ!”  Right.

Question:  But what about now?  What about your preparation for that mission outreach?  How are you preparing today for the harvest tomorrow?

Answer:  Oh I know, it’s the classic “bloom where you are planted” thing.  “I’m looking for every opportunity to tell people about Jesus right where I live.”

Good.  Excellent, in fact.  But what about your private time with the Lord?  What about your personal accountability and relationship with Him?  Are you too enamored, too giddy with the “doing” that you have neglected the “abiding”?  And if so, what are you prepared to do about it?

Be encouraged, for this is exactly the lesson that our friend, Mr. Muller, learned on his way to Bristol.  In fact, Arthur Pierson, Muller’s biographer, reflects on this very lesson the young man of God learned and, so it seems, never forgot.

The following is from Pierson’s book, George Muller of Bristol:

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On April 20th, Mr. Muller left for Bristol.  On the journey he was dumb, having no liberty in speaking for Christ or even in giving away tracts, and this led him to reflect.  He saw that the so-called ‘work of the Lord’ had tempted him to substitute action for meditation and communion.  He had neglected that ‘still hour’ with God which supplies to spiritual life alike its breath and its bread.  No lesson is more important for us to learn, yet how slow are we to learn it: that for the lack of habitual seasons set apart for devout meditation upon the word of God and for prayer, nothing else will compensate.

We are prone to think, for example, that converse with Christian brethren, and the general round of Christian activity, especially when we are busied with preaching the Word and visits to inquiring or needy souls, make up for the loss of aloneness with God in the secret place.  We hurry to a public service with but a few minutes of private prayer, allowing precious time to be absorbed in social pleasures, restrained from withdrawing from others by a false delicacy, when to excuse ourselves for needful communion with God and his Word would have been perhaps the best witness possible to those whose company was holding us unduly!  How often we rush from one public engagement to another without any proper interval for renewing our strength in waiting on the Lord, as though God cared more about the quantity than the quality of our service! *

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Wow.  Point blank, slam-dunk, “slap-ya-up-side-da-head” for me.  How about you?  I am guilty of this very act— continually.  So much so that I’m beginning to realize that I must crave the pleasure and acceptance of men, mere humans like myself, more than the pleasure of God.  I must be a card-carrying man-pleaser and not a God-pleaser.  Ugh.  Like how stupid is that!

Resolution #1 for 2014 – actually for the rest of my life.

I will strive to keep the good subordinate to the best.  Let’s flesh that out. It means that ministry, being good, will always take second place to intimacy with the Lord, which is, obviously— best.  I will seek His face first, and allow ministry to follow as an after effect or a result of that intimate relationship.  I will place abiding where it should be in my spiritual life and try to live the years I have left as a Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus, and not as a Martha, working in the kitchen too concerned about putting Cheese Wiz on Wheat Thins.

After all, as an old preacher once counseled me years ago, “Son, you take care of the depth of your ministry (intimacy with God) and let the Lord worry about its breadth.”  Exactly.  Couldn’t have said it better.

* George Muller of Bristol by Arthur T. Pierson, page 90. Proverbs 29:7,18,23.

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Proverb for Today:

The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor, the wicked does not understand such concern.

Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law.

A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor. *

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Podcast 233:  The Timeless Message of Haggai, Part 2

Podcast 233: The Timeless Message of Haggai, Part 2

The entire message of Haggai can be summed up in these three words: Consider your ways.

After all, consider this warning given five times in Haggai:

Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!” – Haggai 1:5

Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!” – 1:7

“And now, carefully consider from this day forward.” – 2:15

And again, “And now, carefully consider from this day forward.” – 2:17

There is something – something important – the Lord is trying to tell us through the words of Haggai. Keep listening to find out more.

The following is a study of Haggai 2:1-23.

Download this episode (right click and save)

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Podcast 232:  The Timeless Message of Haggai, Part 1

Podcast 232: The Timeless Message of Haggai, Part 1

After 14 years of doing nothing the Lord finally sent the prophet Haggai to confront the apathy and laziness of His remnant. First, the Lord rebukes them for their excuse.

Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying: “This people says, ‘The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.'”

Really? But the Lord responds to their excuse this way.

“Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?”

In other words, you can’t find the time to build My house but you have plenty of time to build your own house.

Sound familiar? I thought so. Keep listening for more of Haggai’s message to us today.
The following is a study of Haggai 1:1-15.

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The Seeker-Sensitive Sham

The Seeker-Sensitive Sham

martiynlloydjones-200In the midst of the current onslaught, the hostile takeover of mainline churches by the seeker-sensitive hoard of mega-church devotees, the following quote rings clear and true.  It stands as one of the many unheeded warnings from those a generation ago who looked into their crystal ball and saw the logical outcome of a church who has lost its bearings – a church swimming in the sea of cultural acceptance.

A church living large in the land of Laodicea.

“The world today is laughing at the church, laughing at her attempts to be nice and to make people feel at home.  My friends, if you feel at home in any church without believing in Christ as your personal Savior, then that church is no church at all, but a place of entertainment or a social club.  For the truth of Christianity and the preaching of the gospel should make a church intolerable and uncomfortable to all except those who believe, and even they should go away feeling chastened and humble.”

– Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Christian entrepreneurship has infected our seminaries to such an extent that we now mass produce, in assembly line fashion, an army of current and wannabe church CEOs and not Spirit-led men of God.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones reminds us of just how far we have fallen.  For me, it’s sobering to see what we, as the salt and light of the world, will do to prostitute ourselves for the prize of worldly acceptance and cultural relevance.  “After all,” we say to the laughing world, “we just want to be loved.”

Pray that you will be different.

Note: This quote is from The First Forty Years 1899-1939; Banner of Truth, p. 142

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What happens when false prophets actually deliver?

What happens when false prophets actually deliver?

Good question.  What does happen?  What does it mean when false prophets actually do what they claim they can do?  What does that mean?

What happens when “signs and wonders”— no, real signs and wonders accompany the preaching of a false prophet?  What are we to think?  What does that say about what they are saying?   The implications are mind-boggling.

For example, does it mean that maybe, just maybe, they aren’t false prophets anymore?  Maybe they’ve repented and finally seen the light and God is confirming their ministry with “ooo la la” kind of stuff.  Or maybe we were too judgmental towards them in the first place and had them all wrong.  Worldly logic would conclude, “If God weren’t blessing what they say, then their churches wouldn’t grow so large and they wouldn’t be so popular.”

So, maybe the problem is with us, and not them.  After all, as the mantra of false prophets go: “Touch not the Lord’s anointed!”  Maybe we’re just too blind and deceived and misguided and don’t recognize that God is moving and doing a new thing in our generation.  Or possibly God just lowered His standard of truth so as not to offend the post-modern culture in which we live.  Remember the enlightened by-line of most false prophets, “Doctrine divides, but love unites.”  Maybe the Scriptures are not the standard of truth today and God is using these men to teach us that He is not the same “yesterday, today and forever” but actually changes with the times and adapts, like a divine chameleon, to whatever culture He finds Himself in.  Maybe the false prophets are right.  Maybe God is nothing more than a cosmic genie in a bottle waiting to serve us, bless us, prosper us and make us the “head and not the tail.”  And maybe, just maybe, these men the Scriptures define as false prophets are really God’s pied pipers to the New, and better, 21st Century Christian.

Maybe.  Then again, maybe not.

So, if a false prophet delivers the goods, does it mean that we slide them into the category of “Former False Prophets” or rename them as “Prophets formerly known as False”?

I think not.

Have you ever read the following words from Moses?

“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods whom you have not known and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” *

Oh, so it could be a test— a testing from the Lord to see if we love Him more than we love the cool things the false prophets are saying about us, our finances and our future. Looks like another classic battle against our flesh, doesn’t it?

Are you prepared for that battle?  Are you prepared to win?  Because the age of false prophets is upon us.

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Bad Day at Black Rock *

Bad Day at Black Rock *

A report was just released from the Barna Research Group.  Among other things, the new data from Barna shows, based on the most recent stats from a random sampling of more than 1,200 adult respondents across the country, that one of every five households has decreased its giving to churches or religious organizations in recent months.

What does this mean for the future trend of ministry today?  Simply this.

For the compromised church, the church living large in the land of Laodicea, this trend could be the beginning of bad times.  And I mean, real bad times.

rich-poor-250Think about it, the entire modern, mega-church movement was born on the back of unbridled prosperity and rabid consumerism.  Only in the land of plenty can masses be coaxed into attending a religious service (or show) where personal accountability and individual relationships are neither fostered nor encouraged.  How could they be?  How do you build a lasting relationship with someone you really don’t know?  With someone you only meet on Sunday?  Maybe?

When one group is ushered into the auditorium, like docile cattle, as another quickly exits, where is the format for building relationships, for bearing one another’s burdens, for… well, anything other than… “Here’s your playbill, enjoy the show, pay for your ticket on the way out.”

People become little more than the proverbial ships that pass in the night, totally unaware of each other’s presence.  They are like commuter traffic at rush hour.  All going in the same direction, they suppose, yet totally disconnected from those in the other cars.  A wave, a smile, an occasional nod and relationship building is done.  How sad.

Over time, they end up serving the machine, the monster, the professional troop on stage and never each other.  Or the Lord, for that matter.

Odds are you won’t even sit next to the person you sat next to last week.  So even the patented, “Hey, how are you?  Just fine, and you?  Great!”  type of deep conversation cannot build from week to week.

But what happens when the casual Christian, the core base of most mega-churches, has to sacrifice in order to attend?  Oh, one’s true priorities will always rise to the top.  Vacations and designer jeans will win, church and non-profits will lose.  After all, “Why should we give to the church?  We don’t really know anybody there, do we?”

Nope.  You really don’t.  And that’s been OK with them, thus far.

But as giving declines, tough decisions must be made.  Business decisions.  Management decisions.  Cuts and budget readjustments.  Cost and benefit analyses.  And they must be made by men who haven’t had to make tough decisions in the past and, quite honestly, are ill-equipped and ill-trained to make them.

“We’ve never had to cut back before?  What are we to do?”
“We’ve always budgeted expenses, not income.  I thought people would always give.”
“Whaddaya mean no Christmas bonus this year?  That’s unfair.  It’s not Christ-like!”
“Yada, yada, yada… whatever.”

Enough said.  I’ll let you be the judge of what the future may bring.

Just think, the days of unbridled consumerism may soon be over.

I sure hope so.  Don’t you?

* Just in case you were wondering, Bad Day at Black Rock is the title of a 1955 movie with Spencer Tracy and Robert Ryan.  It’s a great little film.  If you saw the movie, you’d understand why I chose it for the title of this post.

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Podcast 231:  The Mistake of John the Baptist

Podcast 231: The Mistake of John the Baptist

When John the Baptist saw the sky crack open and the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove all he could utter was, “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” And then John sent two of his disciples to follow Jesus.

Did you ever wonder why John didn’t also follow his Lord? Did you wonder why he continued to baptize after he revealed Jesus to the world? And did you ever wonder why his message changed from, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” to “Herod, it is not lawful for you to take your brother’s wife as your own.”

How is that preparing the way for the coming of the Lord?

Want to know more? Then keep listening.

The following is a study of John 1:19-37.

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Reasons to Stop Evangelizing My Friends… Not!

Reasons to Stop Evangelizing My Friends… Not!

By now you have probably guessed that I firmly believe we are currently living in the Laodicean age, the last and final age of church history.  Every day I am bombarded with more evidence of that fact.

megachurchToday is no different.

Think about it, the Laodiceen church age is defined by its glamorous and perverted view of itself and its desire to worship God in a way that is pleasing to the worshipper, and not necessarily to the One being worshiped.  The church in this age talks a good game, has all the bywords and slogans down pat, yet is so offensive to the Jesus of the Bible that He literally “vomits them out of His mouth” (Rev. 3:16).

That’s some pretty strong words from the Lord Himself.

First, the perverted view of the church as it evaluates itself:

Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing” (Rev. 3:17a).

Did you get that?  The church in this age, the very age in which we live, the health and wealth and favor age, says they are rich and wealthy and need nothing.  They are successful, self-sufficient, influential, dependent on no one, and growing with an entrepreneurial spirit not seen since the days of the dotcom craze.  We have mega churches that remodel basketball arenas and pack in each Sunday enough people to fill half a stadium at an NFL playoff game.  We have purpose driven authors that sell millions upon millions of books and promote their latest “40 Days of Lukewarmness” programs in churches world-wide.  We, the self-proclaimed religious elite, now rub elbows with the likes of Bono and Oprah and Obama and dine at the table with the the upper echelons of society.

“No more hiding in the catacombs for us.  We’ve arrived!  Change is coming, baby!”

Yes, it is.  But not the change you may be counting on.

The church is no longer offensive to the culture because its self-help message could be just as easily preached during prime-time without making the viewing masses feel uneasy or uncomfortable.  Words like sacrifice, sin, crucifixion, atonement, hell, holiness or the exclusivity (one way only) of the message preached by Jesus have been carefully edited from our Laodicean church vocabulary.  In their place, we now speak of favor, financial blessings, divine healing, getting the best parking spot at the mall, praying for God to bless your 401k, and having Your Best Life Now.

evangelismWe don’t need the Bible and its cumbersome commands to restrict our personal freedoms.  Why?  Because it’s all about us!  We’re rich and wealthy and don’t need anything.  No doctrine, no moral imperatives, no righteous living, no absolute truth, no right or wrong, no consequences for our actions and, of course, no guilt-producing compulsion to share our faith with others or be the “salt and light” of the world.

“Nope, none of that stuff.  If we preach that message, people won’t come and we’ve got a building to pay for.”

We are truly living in the age of the Laodicean church that, if you read the Scriptures, turned our Lord’s stomach to the point He wanted to spit or vomit them out of His mouth.  I think He was pretty sick at what He saw.  And you know… so am I.

Yesterday I ran across the following post that seems to be resonating with Laodicean church-goers (I will refrain from calling them Christians for reasons that should be quite obvious by now) because it is cloaked in deceptive spiritual language and just plain feels good.  It’s simply another pitiful picture of the perverted, self-centered mindset the church has now adopted.  Rather than obey the command of Jesus to “go into all the world and preach the gospel”— we now come up with felt-need reasons not to evangelize and feel-good excuses to justify our disobedience.  And as you read these reasons you’ll see, as I did, that they are all about us and how we feel.

Because after all, we’re rich, we’re wealthy and we don’t need nuthin’.  Remember?

The post goes like this…

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Years ago, I decided to stop evangelizing my friends. Here are 14 reasons why you might consider doing the same:

  1. It makes them uncomfortable.
  2. It makes you uncomfortable.
  3. It makes you think about how to twist every conversation to Jesus rather than seeing how Jesus is already there.
  4. It makes you believe you’re bringing God to them, rather than seeing how the Holy Spirit has already been active in their lives.
  5. It pressures you into showing an unrelatable happy, plastic face rather than letting God’s grace shine through your struggles.
  6. It makes you focus on talking rather than listening.
  7. It leads you to answer questions they aren’t asking.
  8. It makes you think about what to say rather than how to love.
  9. It makes you think faith is a list of statements rather than a different way of living.
  10. It puts you into the role of “teacher,” causing you to miss things your friends can teach you.
  11. It makes them see you as a religious salesman rather than an apprentice of the Master.
  12. It hurts your friendship.
  13. It robs you of a good time.
  14. It makes you think their lack of interest in your evangelism means they are not interested in Jesus or spiritual questions.

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Wow.  More post-modern drivel.  A whole puddle of it.

Lord, I will willingly disobey Your commands and not do what You have told me to do because it makes me and my lost friends feel uncomfortable, and we can’t have that.  Plus, if I obey You it will rob me of my friends… and then what will I do?  ‘Cause I obviously value their friendship more than I do my devotion to You.  And, most important, it will also rob me of a good time and hinder what I want to do.  “Hey, if I’m with my lost friends and we’re doing something fun… geez, the last thing I want to do is interject You into the conversation.  You’re such a kill-joy.  No fun at all.”

But the second part of the verse we began this post with says something altogether different.  Whereas the church sees itself as rich and wealthy and self-sufficient— the Lord sees us as we truly are.

Finally, the view of the Laodicena church from the vantage point of the Lord:

“And you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17b).

Did you get all that?  Wretched, pretty strong word.  Miserable, even stronger still.  Poor and blind and naked… uh, that kind of flies in the face of riches or wealth or self-sufficiency, doesn’t it?

Be Warned

Be warned: God will not sit back and watch His bride, the church, be turned into a brothel or a secular, self-promoting, feel-good show.  He will always defend His honor and His glory.

Always.  Without fail.

If you are part of the church system that puts more emphasis on the people rather than the Lord, I have two words for you: Leave Now!  Like Lot fleeing from Sodom, you need to leave that church now and seek out true Christian fellowship.  Why?  Because His day of judgment is coming and you won’t want to be connected at the hip with those whose future can be described as vomit on the floor.

Leave now!

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