“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and you be caught by surprise like a trap. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Excerpts of Principles Spoken by Christ, from Luke 21:34-36 NASB)
I am no prophet… moreover, some of my dearest CHRISTian brothers and sisters would struggle or even oppose my suggestion that I have a “Word from the Lord” regarding the new year: 2015. Others of you would think nothing of that phrase or suggestion, and eagerly read on to see what I sense the Spirit is speaking. For those who might struggle in any regard with this, let me assure you that I am not “making prophetic predictions” nor am I in some way attempting to “add to the fullness of the revelation our Lord” given us in the Scriptures. Let simply say, I am prompted to encourage the Body of Christ with the following thoughts and words for the coming year.
First, there are multiple references throughout scripture to the principles that direct the “Ecclesia” (the called out ones of God) to be “vigilant”, “alert”, “sober-minded”, “on their guard”, “prepared”, “diligent” and the like. It is with these general Scriptural Truths in mind, that I share the following thoughts for 2015.
Let me say as well, as my predominate awareness and experience is with the “church in the west” (or Christendom in America), that this is the primary audience that I have in my heart, as I write this. Let me clarify regarding this phrase: “Christiandom in America” – I am including here a group of individuals that range from those who would check “Christian” as the answer to the question “What is your religious affiliation?” – to those who would most assuredly, but humbly, say of themselves, “I have experienced a life altering encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ and have been redeemed, regenerated and restored to relationship with my Heavenly Father” – and everyone in between. Within this group, I believe, is found the True Church of Jesus Christ… the Ecclesia, as He called it – His called out and chosen ones – the “Sons of the Kingdom.”
In The Year Of Our Lord, 2015. It takes little effort – whether on Cable News Networks, or Internet News Feeds, or Cell Phone Breaking News Alerts – to witness that our entire planet is experiencing dramatic changes – as the pains of Child-birth. In some ways, we have never seen greater days! In other ways, there is so much hurt, pain, loss and devastation, that it seems we are in humanities worst condition in modern history.
Around the globe, CHRISTians are being martyred at an alarming rate. (The Center for the Studies of Global Christianity in the United States reports: “About 100,000 Christians die every year because of their religious beliefs.”) Persecution of CHRISTians around the world is alarming, and become far more blatant and commonplace. (Voice of the Martyrs reports that “The Christian Faith is illegal in 53 countries around the world”.) And here in the west, particularly America, we are quickly losing any hope of leaning on our “constitutional rights of religious freedom” that Our Lord has allowed to protect us for the better part of 225 years. There is no rational denial that we are seeking an increased rapid decay in Judeo-Christian morals – both globally and domestically – and we are fast approaching a day when “things will be different” than we have ever known in our lifetime, even here in the west. The assault on “Christian Religious Freedom” in America is rapidly on the increase – both from freedom to practice our faith, and freedom to speaking publicly (or privately for that matter) regarding our convictions of faith and belief.
Deceptive doctrines taught by false teachers is becoming rampant – and clearly taking on more of a “perversion of truth” than an the outright cultic foolishness of years gone by. Truth mixed with lies, and palatable intrigue, lead the list of deceptions – while taking Truths foundational to the Christian Faith and perverting them, as to both lead astray, and mock the very essence of their principle counsel.
Say what you will, but there is already a “great falling away” that is taking place in our midst, as the faith of many is being shipwrecked & derailed, with these perverted and deceptive doctrines; accompanying that, is a gospel message that is weak, fruitless and ultimately, inadequate to save.
“You know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation [trial, testing], for when he has been proved, he will receive the Crown of Life that he promised to those who love Him. (James 1:3, 4, 12 NASB)
It is my personal conviction that this coming year will be a time of great trial and testing for Christendom in America. The time is near that we will begin to see greater persecution of those “true to their CHRISTian faith”, here in these very United States. To the Saints among us, I plead that we get established in our faith now. Settle your matters and affairs of assurance, trust and allegiance – for when then testing comes, it will be too late. If you are not grounded now in your faith in Christ – when hard times come, you will certainly sell your soul for a loaf of bread, or a bag of rice.
Be prepared. Be Alert. Be vigilant. Take time in prayer now to insure that you have oil in your lamps, and plenty of “oil to spare”. There will come a time when it will be too late to acquire more. I am NOT talking of stockpiling in the natural – but, rather, stockpiling in the Spiritual. There are 4 places the Holy Spirit will cause this to happen:
- in Scripture,
- in prayer,
- in true worship, and
- in godly, committed, accountable relationships with other faith-filled Saints.
We have, for the most part, experienced years of plenty, years of ease and years of comfort. If we are not solid in our faith – rooted and grounded in who Christ is, in whom we trust, and where we are placing our allegiance – then there is little chance that we will get solid when the times of trial and testing come. For it is in trial and testing that our faith is proven – it is in Christ, thought the Holy Spirit in us – in Scripture, Prayer, Worship & Fellowship – that our faith is built and established!
Won’t you join me now in falling before our Lord & King and crying out to Him to generously & lovingly, cause our individual faith to be rooted & grounded, solidly, in Christ as the one whom each of us trusts with all our heart, and pledge our sole allegiance to? And should storms of trial and test indeed come our way in the west in this year, 2015 – we who are the Ecclesia of Christ, indeed stand firm and honor our Lord & King!
If I am mistaken – you will have lost nothing, and still gained everything!
May it be so, Maranatha, Lord Jesus!
“She considers herself a Christian, but…” This line from a recent Atlanta news station article brings to light the antithesis of one of the greatest problems with modern-day, western, CHRISTianity. Whenever you find it necessary to follow-up your statement declaring your Christian “affiliation” with the word “but”, I can assure you that you are NOT of the CHRISTian “faith”, rather you are only loosely associating yourself with the christian “religion”. And, a loose association is guaranteed to result in one of 2 responses from the Lord of CHRISTianity:
1) His words: “I never knew you” (Matt 7:23); or
2) You will be vomit from His mouth (Rev 3:16)
It is unfortunate indeed that we humans, particularly in the west, have both misused and abused the term: CHRISTian. And what we are to do about that varies in speculation – but all who are concerned and aware, agree, something must be done.
There is little that can be done about those who insist & persist in associating themselves with a the watered-down, man-made, powerless religion of “christian” as nothing more than an answer to a question on a survey “What is your religious affiliation?” They will always have “buts” to include in their religious claims, as they associate themselves only with the kindness and love for mankind that CHRISTianity teaches, but refuse to get to know any more about the other substantial aspects of the foundational Truths of CHRISTianity. These folk are not a real threat to true CHRISTianity, as they are simply misusing the term – and most folks will see that for what it is: “an answer on a survey”.
But, beyond that, what about those who are abusing the term – living a much closer association – likely deceived into believing that there is indeed substance to this self-affixed “Christian” label they wear? A brief word study will reveal that nowhere in Scripture (something that “misusers” know little about; and something abusers have only intellectual knowledge of) will you find a “CHRISTian” calling or labeling themselves, a “CHRISTian! No, in fact the very term is only in Scripture 3 times:
Acts 11:26 – “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” In this passage the simple point that must be noted, is that the disciples DID NOT call themselves “CHRISTian”, but rather THOSE WATCHING THEIR LIFE called them CHRISTian. Critical distinction for those who have ears to hear.
Acts 26:28 – “Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Here, Agrippa, not a disciple, nor follower of Christ, MAKES REFERENCE to others as CHRISTian.
Lastly, 1 Peter 4:16 – “if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, instead, glorify God on this behalf..” Here the Apostle Peter lays out for us the deep Truth that the misusers and abusers don’t want to talk about – if, by your CHRISTIAN LIFESTYLE, you SUFFER – then Praise God that others are mistreating you because THEY have LABELED you as a CHRISTian!
Had a survey been offered to the early Church regarding their religious affiliation, they would have likely been given the choices to answer: “Disciple of Christ” – “Follower of The Way” – “Believer in Messiah” – or possibly – in the Jewish arena that they were in: “Heretic”. If these were our choices today – I am afraid most would check “other” or “none of the above.” Or… write in “Christian” (as if it is somehow different from the choices provided) – How sad is that?
So, what do we do? I propose that there are 4 approaches to our response to the misuse and abuse of the term “CHRISTian”:
1) Disregard it all together. Maybe it’s not a problem. Maybe I am overreacting. Maybe we need to just leave it alone. In the end we know that Matthew 13 teaches us in several different ways that the untrue among us will be separated from the true believers in the end.
2) Attempt to redeem it from our society. Maybe we should actively speak out about the misuse and abuse of the term CHRISTian (as I am doing in some ways herein), in an attempt to raise awareness to this problem. Or maybe, our redemption of the term should simply look like #4 below.
3) Call ourselves something else. In some ways this is a pretty radical approach – but John 6 teaches us (as does much else in Scripture) that those who the Father seeks – those that are His own – are Disciples who are True Believers. Not just fans. Not just followers. Not even merely disciples – nor just believers (there is another abused term) – but Disciples of Jesus, who Believe with a belief that has changed everything! Are you…. Am I… A “Believing Disciple of Jesus”?
4) Leave it as it was in the Bible. True Believers will not need to “call” or “label” themselves anything. If we are surrendering to the Life Of CHRIST in us – they will see it – they will know it – and THEY will “call us CHRISTian”!
Personally, I lean towards a whole lot of #4, with an emphasis on the principle truths of #3. May I live my life so surrendered to the Life of Christ – that I will be a Believing Disciple, active in both my belief and my discipleship – that those who watch my life, might say of me: “Now that, is a true CHRISTian” (Matt 5:16)
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“Sin is not harmful because it is forbidden; it is forbidden because it is harmful!” Thank God that Grace doesn’t just “cover my sin”, but by His Spirit indwelling & inhabitation my life – and by a *grace-driven* surrender & yielding to His Life – Grace empowers me to be RID of sin, to His Glory!!!
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4 things that we need to have/be to experience “Deeper” in Christ: 1) Humility, 2) Childlike Faith, 3) Determination, & 4) Unashamed. Consider both the woman with the issue of blood, crawling to Christ & Blind Bartimaeus, crying out without regard. (Inspired by Blake & Perri at Everburn 8/10/12)
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“Heaven is not a place for people who do not want hell; heaven is a place for people who love God.” ~ Matt Chandler
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“The characteristic of a man who has come to God is that you cannot get him to take anyone seriously, but God.” ~ Oswald Chambers
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The Gospel of The Kingdom is likened unto this: The front walkway, the front steps & the front door are of first-most importance to entering the domain of another. In fact, it could be said that they are the ONLY WAY to lawfully gain entrance. However, the purpose of them, is not themselves alone, but to ALLOW entry to the domain of another, where the Owner of that domain resides. If we only admire, accept, or otherwise embrace the “entry” alone – never utilizing them as a means of entrance – we render them of no effect! So is it with the Death, Burial & Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Let him who has ears to hear, hear. ~ Grrr
I believe it is critically important that we have a vision for the coming year. Yes, some might call this vision, “resolutions”, but I think it is far more than that. I believe that the Lord is busy speaking to His Own, and giving us direction, focus & “vision” for the days ahead. Despite the fact that there is no “New Year” in the realm of our Lord, I do think that He does minister to us, in times, moons, festivals & seasons, as we understand and measure time.
Annually, Shelley & I seek the Lord as the New Year approaches, asking Him for insights & direction, into the day ahead. 2013 was no exception as the Lord laid an unmistakable foundation in Shelley & my life with “A Call to Holiness”, a call to “Personal Discipleship” and “A Return to Absolute Scriptural Authority”. This manifested in our ministry opportunities, general relationships, our personal lives, and all over my Facebook page! We also experienced an exciting & significant re-focus on our family (adult children & grandchildren); all the while sadly, witnessing far too many of our friends and disciples, fall into the deceptions of “permissive grace”, “un-scriptural liberties” & “justified sin.” As a result, the year was a roller-coaster of joyous times & disappointing realities; all of which left Shelley & I praying more diligently than ever: “Hold us close Lord; and keep us from deception.”
As for 2014, I would encourage each of you to specifically ask the Lord for “vision” for the upcoming year. I don’t mean to get a “feeling that will merely result in “I wish ________________” or “I resolve to ______________”, but rather, “In the Lord Jesus, I envision ______________________”. For the Lord has given “vision” to each of His children for the days ahead. However, to have “faith” in a “vision” for the coming days, you have first heard from the Lord. And, you are likely hearing, but may not recognize His voice, or you may be distracted, or you might just be fearful and doubt that it can be so. I encourage you to listen to Him. Get still before Him, with pen and paper and your copy of the Scriptures. Listen and be prepared to write. Then, get excited.
By way of example, I share with you what Shelley and I, in the Lord, are envisioning, with great anticipation, will come to pass in 2014:
1) That we will search out, together, the scriptures to know Him more & to love Him more
2) That we (specifically me, Gary) will increase our faith – taking significant, deliberate steps, in response to what He has clearly spoken to us
3) That we see victory in the lives of those who are near us, that have hungry hearts to know & love God
4) That we will increase our prayer life, together and individually
5) That we will continue to disciple those the Lord has brought our way, both in Christ, and those searching for Christ – primarily, it seems, with other couples.
6) (And again for me) That I will faithfully use this blog, as prompted by the Holy Spirit, as a means of advancing His Kingdom in the earth.
We will envision what the Lord has shown us, and look forward to it with great anticipation in the coming days, weeks & months.
I encourage you to do the same.
For The Kingdom!