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“S.O.C.”

Research* suggests 6 out of 10 Americans identify themselves as “Christian”.

Just over 4 out of 10 American’s claim that they are “actively practicing the Christian faith” (APC).

Surveys have shown that just over 1/3 of those 4 (those identifying themselves as “APC”) – that is between 1-2 of them – strongly support things such as murder (aka: abortion), unnatural sexual perversions (aka: gay lifestyle/same-sex marriage), fornication (aka: living together outside marriage in a committed, loving relationship), and the like.  That means that 28 of every 100 actively practicing Christians is supportive of behaviors that Scripture teaches – unrepented of – will cause them to “not inherit the Kingdom of God”. So, can we assume that the other 72 out of 100 “actively practicing Christians” are firm in their Scriptural convictions regarding righteousness? Unfortunately, no – at least not entirely.

When this same 40% of American’s who claim to be “actively practicing the Christian faith” is asked these 9 simple questions – shamefully – everything changes.

  1. Have you made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in your life today?
  2. Is your faith very important in your life today?
  3. Do you believe that when you die you will go to Heaven because you have confessed your sins and accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior?
  4. Do you believe that you have a personal responsibility to share your religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians?
  5. Do you believe that Satan exists?
  6. Do you believe that eternal salvation is only possible by grace, through faith, and not by human works?
  7. Do you believe that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth?
  8. Do you assert that the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches?
  9. Would you describe God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today?

You, like me, would probably answer 100% YES to all 9 questions, and, for a moment, wonder to yourself: “Isn’t that Christianity 101?”

Yet, would you care to take a guess at what happens to this 40% when these 9 questions become the criteria for a Scriptural definition of “Christian”?  The group is reduced from 40%, to just under 7%!  That’s right, 7 out of 100! There is not a question among these “9” that is extreme or unreasonable for a person who claims to be a Christian (Little Christ)… And yet, for the overwhelming majority of “APC’s” – these are not beliefs that they adhered to.  How can that be?

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So, if we accept that there is a 40% that are called Christian (let’s call them “The Christian 40”) – how do we distinguish the mere 7% who hold to the historic Christian teachings of “The Law, The Prophets and The Apostles”? I propose we call them “Scripturally Orthodox Christians” or “SOC” for short.  (Side note: Jesus called them “Believers” – John 6:60-66.)

And of great concern to me is how prepared these 7% are to face the days we are now find ourselves living in – in which our society has – over as few as 20 years – become not just “Post-Judeo-Christian” – but even hostile towards SOC’s – a society in which the “religious establishment” (“The Christian 40”) will make peace with the ruling government of the day, and will oppose – even make war – against the 7%. As with our Lord – they will call us intolerant radical extremist, who hate & judge – they will claim we are not “Christian” at all.

Consider Acts 14:2, which reads:

“But the Jews (accepted established religion of the day) who disbelieved, stirred up the minds of the Gentiles (governments of men) and embittered them against the brethren (the so-called intolerant radical extremist).

“Are you an “SOC”?

Are you the 7%?

If so, are you prepared to face these defining days in which those whom you have worshiped side-by-side with, will become identified with “The Christian 40” and stir up the minds of the government, and embitter them against you?  Are you ready…?

Stay tuned… Much more to come on “Dressed In Readiness With Our Lamps Lit: Living As A Scripturally Orthodox Christian in a Post-Christian Society”

~

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* Some of the survey results that “inspired” this blog can be found at: https://www.barna.org/barna-update/culture/723-christians-react-to-the-legalization-of-same-sex-marriage-9-key-findings#.VaR1ePlViko

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The Foundations – Fishing is More than Evangelism

Spot on, by my brother & friend, and fellow-sojourner, Rob Streetman.

inLight Adventure

iStock_000014731095SmallLet’s say you are a draftsman, and an aspiring architect. Let’s say an established and highly respected architect asks you to join his team; that he has seen your work and would like to train you to take over his firm. Without hesitation, you drop what you are doing and follow him; for this is your heart’s desire.

Time goes by. You spend three and one-half years with him, being made into the architect that he desire you to be. Then the day arrives for his retirement. With the authority vested in him as the owner of said firm, he commissions you to carry on his good work; work that he has promised will be greater than anything you have seen to date. What do you do next?

Do you go back to being a draftsman? Do you limit yourself to drawing preliminary or conceptual plans? Do you start creating…

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“WAKE UP!” ~ Part 1: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved

(“WAKE UP!” will likely be a 4-5 part blog…)

“Saving Belief”

What do you call yourself? A Christian? A lover of God? A follower of Jesus? A Child of God? The Bride of Christ? The Church? The People of God? All of these “titles” should mean the same thing. Yet, there is an astronomical variance between these titles, and the reality of what they mean to the person that “claims” or “bears” them or declares this to be “who they are.”

No one would disagree that many, maybe even the majority of people who “wear” these titles, are not actually truly living a life that is in keeping with the title they claim. Now, yes, for some, it is immaturity – for others it is ignorance. But, there are those among these who are not immature, nor ignorant, but rather are either “playing games” or are “in rebellion” to the whole truth that comes with such a title. To keep it simple moving forward, I will use the term “Believer”.  After all, when it all comes down to it, we are talking about “being saved” aren’t we? All the key scriptures we have learned from the beginning of our “Christian Journey” tell us that to be saved, we must believe. Right?

    Romans 10:9 – “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
    Acts 16:31a – “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved”
    Mark 16:16a – “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”

Let’s establish up front that I am not talking about intellectual “belief”, nor am I talking about “acknowledging the existence of”. To better define the “believing” that I am talking about, let me use two examples. The first, from scripture: “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:19) The demons believe, but their belief is not “saving belief”. Secondly, a historical example. I believe in Hitler. But I don’t “embrace”, “adhere to” or am otherwise “impacted” & “convicted” to “change” in my life by his teachings. Likewise, belief in Jesus without being impacted and convicted to “change”, is not “saving belief”.

So, how then do we know what type of belief Jesus was speaking of, is the belief that results in being “saved”? After all, there are many “followers” who are not believers – yes, it’s true:

      Read this passage. John 6:60-64:

“Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.”

Did you catch that? Read it again… speaking to “many of His disciples” Jesus said: “there are some of you who do not believe.” And then in verse 66 it says: “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” This is sobering to me! There are/were disciples who do not believe with the belief that is necessary to be saved!!

Jesus here, and in throughout scriptures, is talking about “belief of the heart” – apparently a belief that many who claim to be “Christian” or “Followers” seem to have in short supply. How do we know this belief? Does it have evidences? Is the “Fruit” to this belief? 2 Corinthians 5:17 reds: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” In Acts Peter is recorded as saying in chapter 2, verse 38 “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” And even our verse above in Romans chapter 10, which begins in verse 9 saying: “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” continues on in verse 10 to read: “for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

So in our first passage (Corinthians) we see that the “Born Again” (Conversion/Regeneration) experience is inseparably linked to the saving belief. And with being born again, comes a “New Creature” and this new creature is accompanied by new things, with old things having passed away.

Then, in Acts, we see this saving belief being mandatorily linked to the attributes of “Repentance” and “Baptism” yielding the promises of forgiveness of sins & the “gift of the Holy Spirit”. These are no small things to be lightly accepted or dismissed. If we have “saving belief” we will become “people of repentance” and “people immersed and saturated” in our new life, and be granted the “power” to let Christ’s Life reign in our new man as the power of God unto salvation by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.

Lastly, we see “saving belief” unmistakably resulting in “righteousness”! Not some impersonal righteousness, but the Righteousness of Christ physically manifested in and through our lives! This passage which promises salvation by believing, unmistakably teaches that the belief that saves will be visibly seen in our lives by others, and it will look like a life of righteousness!

So then, with these passages all in mind, it can be said: Saving Belief is a belief of the heart that comes from being born again to new life in Christ, with new things having come and old things having passed away, manifested in a life of repentance, immersion & saturation with the life of Christ, by the Holy Spirit, and an unmistakable visual lifestyle that displays righteousness. If these things are not taking place in your life in increasing measure, I encourage you to get on your face before God, and check your spiritual pulse to see if you have indeed come to a place of “saving belief” in the Lordship of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Coming next on “NoSpectators”? What is this repentance that is linked to “Saving Belief” and what does the resulting Righteousness look like, in layman’s terms?

CHRISTIAN: An Alternate Response to Abortion

I believe there are 3 aspects that we as the Church (the visible Body of Christ on the earth) must carefully consider when we approach the abortion topic.  As a prerequisite for us, I believe it is critical that we keep our heart’s attitude in check with this topic of “sin”, just like any other topic of “sin”, when we are dealing with issues “in the world”/“outside the church”.  Given Paul’s writings in 1 Cor 5, we need to approach any sin “outside the church” in such a way as to NOT be judgmental.  This is NOT to belittle the “sin” or make an excuse for it, rather, simply to remember that sinner’s sin, that is what they do.  They are NOT condemned because of “abortion” (or homosexuality, etc., etc) but rather because they are not “In Christ” subject to His “rule and reign” – as we once were, before we came to the knowledge of Christ.

There is a fine line, I believe, that we have to walk when addressing issues of sin outside the church.  Asking fundamental questions such as “why is this our concern?”, and “Is this our business?” With abortion, I think we need to answer both these questions.  When we determine that it IS our business, then determining “why” it is our business, should be kept at the heart of our addressing the issue.  If we get “off track” in the reason it is our business, we will likely fail at having any positive effective.

With that said, I have found that typically, only one of the 3 aspects that we need to consider, is commonly considered when addressing abortion, that is “the preaching of Truth” or “the calling out of sin, for what it is.”  And it is in this aspect, that I believe it is most important, that we keep our heart in check, and exercise humility, particularly in light of the truths found in Matthew 7:1-5, especially verse 3: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”. But before we diver deeper into this aspect, let’s look at one of the two other aspects.

Aspect #1 – Our Repentance

I am strongly convicted that any addressing of sin in “the world” needs to first be addressed “in the Church.” This aspect I would call “Our Repentance”.  I believe there are 4 areas that we, the Church, need to repent of, before we can “call out the sins of the world.”

First, our abortions.  Yes, nearly 1 in every 5 abortions (18%) are by women who identify themselves as “born again/evangelicals”.[1]  Our wives, our daughters, and yes, our mistresses, are active participants in the slaughter of innocents! That means that 8.3 million abortions worldwide, annually, are had by women who profess to be “our sisters” in Christ!  Taken to the next level (from these same statistics), 68.7% of all abortions are had by women professing “Protestant” or “Catholic” as their religious affiliations (and we thought only “heathen” were killing their babies!). Church going men & women alike, need to repent for our sins of abortion, before we point to the world. The finger pointing needs to being from our Sunday morning pulpits, as godly men preach Holy Spirit power-filled messages that will convict us of “the sin in the camp.”  Then, and only then, when we are cut to the core by our own sin, can we expect to have an effect on the sins out side the Church!

Secondly, we need to repent for our spiritual abortions.  By and large, Christiandom has abandoned the sacrifice and labor necessary to fulfill Jesus’ command of “making disciples”, for the convenience of emotionally-induced raised hands – discarding Spirit enabled repentance, for man- made conversions.  In this way, we commit spiritual abortions, as we birth multitudes to “Christ in their lives & His death on the cross” without raising them through discipleship to “their Life in Christ & their death to self.” We have created fatally malnutrition spiritual infants, born out of “the fear of hell, and the reward of heaven”, rather than nourishing them with the true milk of salvation which is found in “the Glory of God, and the redemption of His Great Name”. The abortion holocaust in the physical realm is only a shadow of the abortion massacre in the spiritual realm.  We must repent of our easy believism and our laziness in obedience to the final command of Christ to “go and make disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all that He has commanded us.” (Matt 28:19-20a)

Thirdly, we need to repent of our failure to be salt & light.  Much, if not most, of the “sinfulness” in our society is a direct result of the Churches’ failure to maintain the holiness, conviction and purity.  Instead of prayerfully exercising the Grace of a “counter-culture to be desired”, we have given over to legalism and compromise as an “offensive subculture to be despised”. We must repent of our failure to gracefully & loving set the pace in our communities regarding holiness, convection & purity.

Lastly, we need to repent for our arrogance in finger pointing.  Not much unlike the opening statements herein, we must acknowledge our judgmental arrogance, as we point our fingers at the “sinfulness” of the world, forgetting that we all started out as “sinners” – talking at “them”, and about “them”, as if we were never among “them”!  Though there is a time, and a place, and a calling, to “call sin, sin”, it is an absolute must that we approach the topic of sin, among sinners, with a humility & meekness, that neither lacks love, nor conviction. We must repent of looking down on sinners, as if we have never been one ourselves!

Aspect #2 – The Preaching of Truth (or Calling Out Sin)

There are those among us who are called to “stand on the street corner” (if you will), and preach to the world, the Truth, that abortion is murder, and murder is a sin against our fellow man, and first and foremost, against God.  Most, however will preach this message using Aspect #1, or Aspect #3.  But all MUST do this with the humility and love discussed in the opening paragraphs.  God will be just when He judges the souls of men.  And it is largely by the Light of the Church – in life, obedience, word and deed – that will insure His justice in judgement. Little needs to be said about Aspect #2, except see Aspect #1 and #3, then, and only then, can we effectively preach truth to a dying world, and expect to be agents of change in our community, nation & world.

Aspect #3 – Faith In Action

The 3rd aspect we need to consider regarding our addressing the abortion issue is the obedient manner in which each of us is to put our “faith in action” regard our response.

There are 3 areas among this 3rd aspect. And they are ALL inseparable from obedience.  And each of them may vary from person to person, as the Spirit directs, but none of us is free to turn a blind eye to the innocent slaughter on millions, as if it is no concern of ours.

First, Activism.  Yes, whether you call it civil disobedience, or a prayer gathering – some among us are called to the front lines of warfare in the natural and supernatural realms, to participate in various forms of activism at the abortion clinic level, including “Silent Sieges”, protests, rallies, sit-ins or interventions.  Not all are called to this arena, but some are – and we must surrender to obedience to the Spirit if we are called to such, and those who are not, MUST avoid the temptation to criticize those who are, while standing in unity with them in prayer. Likewise those who are called to this front-line act of obedience must avoid the temptation to judge those who are not, as if they too should be on this front-line. We are not all called to same area of service – but we are all called to service! Both must remember, just because we don’t understand someone else’s calling, doesn’t mean it is wrong.  We all stand or fall to The Lord.

Second, Volunteering. PRC’s (Pregnancy Resource Centers), Pro-life Clinics, and other anti-abortion ministries, do an amazing work in our communities to raise awareness, save lives, restore lives, and preach Jesus.  In many ways, these organizations are as front line as civil disobedience – laboring love in the trenches of the lives of panicked, hurting and frightened women. This is a huge aspect of the “war on abortion” – an aspect that we all must acknowledge is a priceless treasure in the Kingdom of God.  I would even say that this is a work that, should abortion be made illegal, must continue!

Lastly, Personal discipleship. Practical, real-life, day-to-day, relationships with women, couples, and teens.  Possibly the greatest sacrifice of all, is to act on Jesus command to “make disciples” and become part of the life of women, young and old, who may be considering an abortion, have had an abortion, or might one day come face-to-face with this as a solution to a wrong choice.  This “mentoring” – “befriending” – “pastoring” or “discipling” of women that the Lord has brought into your realm, may be preventative,  proactive, or reactionary to the abortion plite, but when love is shown, unconditionally, to the hurting, frightened, lost or impressionable women, young or old, in our lives, a difference can be made.  When reaching out to the endangered women we know, we can make a huge difference for Christ.  When loving on those who are guilt ridden for the choices they have made, we can inspire change, redirection & hope to them.  Remember – they are us; we were them.

So, in conclusion, I challenge you to “rethink” your response to the statistics that speak the truth that 46 million innocents are aborted annually – and consider that it is not “their problem, for us to point out in judgement” but “our problem, to address humbly while looking in the mirror.”

To God be the Glory.

Let him who has ears to hear, hear.

~ Gary Kienel

I Had An Epiphany

Christian tradition holds that today, January 6th – 12 days after “Christmas” – we observe “Epiphany” – that is, the “Visit of the Magi” to the Christ-Child.

Without debating the accuracy of this “observance” – I want to take a minute to share with you my Epiphany, concerning Epiphany.  That is, the “gifts” of the Magi (or the “Three Kings”).

It seems that the essence of the gifts that were brought to Baby Jesus, were of significant meeting to Him, and to us.

“And having seen the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy, and having come to the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and having fallen down they bowed to him, and having opened their treasures, they presented to him gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh…” (Matt 2:10-11)

First, note that what we typically call “gifts”, they called “treasures”.  They didn’t give Jesus really awesome gifts… they gave him “their treasures”. (Chew on that!)

Secondly, what were these treasures? What did they mean to Jesus, and what do they mean to us?

Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh.

In short: Gold. A precious, valuable, treasure, possessed by Kings. Jesus Christ, the babe in the manger is a “King”.

Frankincense. A precious, anointed, treasured incense used by priests in the temple.   Jesus Christ, the babe in the manger, is a “Priest”.

Myrrh. A treasured, very precious & valuable burial spice, as well as an ingredient in anointing oils. Jesus Christ, the babe in the manger, destined to be the sacrificial lamb, the “Savior”.

So, likewise, for us – we are reminded of this critical truth: Jesus Christ the Lord, is not just Savior – but He is also our High Priest and our King.  No one treasured gift was greater than the others – in fact all three were given together, and in reality, the order, I believe, was intentional: Before He was born, He was King (Gold); in living as the God-man, he earned the right to be honored as High Priest (Frankincense); dying and rising, he because Savior (Myrrh), and now lives to be all 3 for us = King, Priest & Savior.

So next time, the temptation comes to reduce Jesus to “just Savior” – remember “the treasures” that were given as gifts to Him, so that He could become “the treasured gift” to YOU, of King, Priest & Savior. Happy Epiphany 2014!