Harbinger Emotions

Sometimes God puts challenging people in our lives to remind us that, without Him, we are broken too. Lest we get too puffed up in our spiritual growth, sometimes God will place people in our lives to serve as a reminder to us of everything we have been forgiven.

In 2 Corinthians, Chapter 12, Paul spoke of a, “thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” (v. 7).  We are never told what Paul’s thorn was and although many speculations abound, it could have been anything from a particular emotion he may have struggled with, or a particular person, or both, or neither.  However, in my own personal experience, it is my emotions and the people that incite those emotions in me, which seem to be my thorn of torment, reminding me of my own weakness toward sin.

It is no casual confession for me to say that many times, the people that seem to torment me the most, are those who have the very same flaws that I have overcome or may continue to struggle with myself. To which God must continually remind me, I would never have overcome those flaws if not for His grace and His grace alone, which is the very same thing He reminded Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” (v. 8).

For example, when I feel like someone is manipulating another person for their personal gain, I feel contempt. I feel great contempt against manipulation because God has placed in my heart a raging desire for truth. Thus, in my quest for truth, my contempt against all things non-truth is a thorn in my side because it is an emotion that can easily and seamlessly turn into resentment, bitterness, rage, criticism, condemnation and grudge-bearing, all of which are sinful.  Contempt, which is disapproval tinged with disgust, is not necessarily a sinful emotion in and of itself.  It is quite likely Jesus felt contempt when He overturned the money changer’s tables in the temple (Matt 21:11-13).  However, my personal temptation towards contempt is a messenger of Satan in my flesh, reminding me of my own personal proclivity towards sinful emotions.

Jesus had full mastery over His emotions and although He may have been superficially tempted by sinful emotions, He never, ever indulged in them because He was utterly sinless and always in control of His thoughts, emotions and behavior. I, however, am not, therefore, for me personally, contempt is a harbinger of other emotions crouching at my door (Gen 4:7). It is a thorn that pierces my flesh to remind me that I am vulnerable to temptation, which makes me vulnerable to sin.

Why make such candid, intimate confessions and expose myself? Because when we expose our flaws, we give the enemy nothing to work with. When we acknowledge and confess our sins and areas of weakness, we shine the light of truth upon any potential foothold for the enemy in our life and rob him of the opportunity to do his work in secret. I feel very strongly that this was one of the many reasons that Paul himself was so candid in his confessions about his own shortcomings. He was simply exposing any potential within himself towards sin, and in so doing, fully submitting himself to God to work in those areas in his life.

We all have thorns in our flesh.  For some of us, those thorns may be harbinger emotions that easily and quickly lead us to sinful emotions crouching at our door.  For example, admiration can be a harbinger of lust, immoral arousal, covetousness, envy, dissatisfaction or ingratitude, all of which are sinful emotions.  Confidence can be a harbinger of pride, insensitivity or narcissism.  Harbinger emotions are thorns in our flesh, messengers of Satan to remind us of our own sinfulness, our own weaknesses, and our desperate need for Jesus every moment of every day. They are thorns of temptation which serve to sharpen us, refine our flesh, and drive us into the arms of our loving Father Who is mighty to save and always eager to pour out His endless grace upon us.

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:7-10)

Our Form Of Godliness

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1)

As I meditated on this scripture this morning, God impressed upon my spirit that rather than dwelling in the shelter of the Most High God, Who so many of us claim to worship and follow, we are, instead, dwelling in the shadow of the world.

Jesus reiterates in the New Testament, that to truly be His disciple, we must abide in Him:  “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch is not able to bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither you, unless you abide in Me… If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:4-10).

Far too many of those who claim to belong to Christ, are living spiritually fruitless lives because they are not dwelling in the shelter of the Most High by reading, studying and living according to His word, fellowshipping with other mature Christians, nor spending significant, heartfelt time in prayer seeking His presence and will for their lives.  But rather, our thoughts, desires, likes and dislikes are all shaped by the world.  Instead of being products of the life-changing, transforming power of the Holy Spirit, we are products of our culture.  A genuine relationship with Christ is supposed to free us from all that.  When Jesus said, “Follow Me”, He was calling us to an act of surrender that would lead to our freedom.  But truly, “All of us, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6).

The foundation of the Gospel is repentance that leads to salvation.  Jesus’ first recorded words in the Gospel of Mark, when He begins His earthly ministry, are:  “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15).  Jesus preached the Gospel by saying, “Repent.”  To repent means to turn away from one thing and turn towards another.  And Jesus said to be His disciple, we would have to do it every day, for the rest of our lives (Luke 9:23,24).  Despite all our efforts to repackage the Gospel, to make it “culturally relevant”, or more appealing and “seeker sensitive”, the foundational message remains the same.  We have confused “relatability” with “appeal”.  Jesus never sought to make the Gospel appealing, but He did seek to make it relatable.  People are affected by the Gospel of repentance and Lordship salvation because they can relate to it, not because it appeals to them.

On the contrary, the Gospel, in and of Itself, is wholly UN-appealing to sinful men.  The Gospel accuses us of treason against God and convicts us of our guilt as sinners condemned to hell.  The Gospel forces us to look at our desperate, lost condition, magnifying the warts of our flaws and weaknesses.  It is an eternal reality-check that reminds us that we are but clay vessels, broken and shattered, useless and dead in our sins.  Yet at the same time, it gives us the single, solitary answer to our wretched condition:  Jesus Christ.  The hopelessness of our condition is remedied through our surrender to follow Christ, Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6); The Light of the World to those who live in darkness (John 12:46); The Gate for the lost sheep (John 10:7-9); The Fountain of Living Water to those thirsty for truth (John 4:10; 7:38); and The Bread of Life for those hungry for righteousness (John 6:35,48,51).

However, the transformation to newness of life offered by Christ can only come when we truly follow Him.  And to truly follow Him, we must repent and turn away from the brokenness and sinfulness of our world and culture.  We must die to our self so that Christ can live in us to do His work through us.  Salvation in Christ is the free gift of grace offered to all mankind, through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord of our life (Eph 2:8).  Which begs the question we must all ask ourselves:  Is my faith in Christ simply an intellectual awareness of Him, or have I truly let go and surrendered to Him as Lord?  Is my faith based on an ideal?  A denomination?  A concept?  Or do I truly know Christ as a person?  Can I recognize His voice over my own?  Do I have intimate knowledge of His commands and teachings?  Do I long to apply His words of truth to my life?

The Apostle Paul warns young Timothy of the characteristics of many of those who will call themselves Christians in the last days.  Among those characteristics, he says that they will be “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” (2 Tim 3:4,5).  Of this verse, Arno Froese asks, “What power are they denying?”  To which he answers, “The power of turning a sinner into a saint; the power of turning a saint into a sacrifice; the power of the Gospel to take away my rights, my self-assertion, and replace it with total servitude to the Lord.  That is the power of the Gospel being diminished and denied today.”

Snotty Tissues

As I sit at my computer this morning and cry, I ask God to write something beautiful. Something that will spiritually feed me and others. I ask God to write it because I often get to points in my faith where I simply don’t have any words. Overwhelmed with weariness, all I can do is cry. I cry because I am a sinner. I cry because I don’t have the answers. I cry because this world is broken. I cry because I want to serve God with my life, but I’m still not sure what I’m supposed to be doing. I cry because I don’t want to get it wrong. I cry because I don’t want to be prideful when I get it right.

The reality is, we are all a mess and we all need Jesus every second of every day. Some days will seem more desperate than others. It is on those days that we are reminded of just how fragile and insufficient we are to fight this battle in our own strength. I can’t tell you how many times I have just wanted to throw my hands up in the air and walk away– frustrated, disgusted, defeated. But then I remind myself of Jesus’ words, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm and endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:12,13). I remind myself that I fight this battle because it is a battle worth fighting.

I have cried out to God so many times, asking Him why He made me the way He did– a woman with the heart of a lion, with the resolve of a steel beam, with the determination of a mule. He made me in such a way that all I know how to do is fight and stand firm. Just like a vase was made to be a vase, or cup was made to be a cup, I only know how to do what I was made to do. The devil screams in my face that there is no place for such a woman in the church, he beats me over the head with scriptures that say a woman is to be silent and gentle (1 Cor 14:34; 1 Tim 2:11,12). I am not quiet, nor gentle, so I often find myself wondering where I belong. The devil knows our weaknesses, so he sweetly whispers in my ear, “You don’t belong anywhere.”

I may not know my end-game purpose and I may still be figuring out my place, but the one thing I do know is that the devil is a liar. I also know that God is perfect in mercy and perfect in love and I cannot base my relationship with Him on my feelings and misperceptions. God’s word says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4). The desires of my heart are to change lives, save souls and pierce people’s hearts with the truth of God’s word, and I believe that God will use me to do that, even if my only weapons are a box of Kleenex and a pile of snotty tissues.

Jesus never promised us that our commitment to follow Him would be easy. On the contrary, He warned us that the world would hate us (John 15:18; John 17:14; 1 John 3:13), that we would have many trials and sorrows (John 16:33), that our hearts would be troubled and to not succumb to fear (John 14:27), and that we would endure many hardships to enter the kingdom of heaven (Acts 14:22). But God has promised that we wouldn’t have to fight alone (Deut 31:8; John 14:16-18) and that we would be more than conquerors through our great, mighty and capable Savior Who loves us (Rom 8:37).

“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him;” (Psalm 37:3-7)

“For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God. You will pray to Him, and He will hear you;” (Job 22:26,27)

“Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22)

“Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation.” (Psalm 68:19)

“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17)

The Only Thing

One of the questions I have been asking my group of ladies that regularly attend weekly Bible study is, “Is God’s Word enough?” I asked them what their motives are for coming to our church, why are they here, what are they looking for? Because if we go to church for any other reason besides fellowship that honors God, worship that honors God and humble service that honors God, then God’s Word will not be enough. Unless our motives for going to church are purely centered around seeking God and Him alone, then His Word will not be enough for us. I put it to them this way: If our building burned down and we had no music, no pews, no TV monitors, no kitchen, no coffee pot, no nursery, no air conditioning, and all we could do was meet together in the parking lot, would they still be drawn here to assemble together with other Christians simply to worship together, discuss God’s Word and learn?

We have this erroneous idea that we need to look for a church that has a lot to offer us, like we are shopping for the best insurance plan or retirement package. Like, God somehow owes us the most pleasant worship experience He can muster based on our entertainment-idolizing culture. Our lives are filled with the empty busyness of daily mundane necessity and the deceptive vanity of selfish pursuits, therefore we reason that anything we expend our “free” time upon must give us the most bang for our buck.

Yet, on the other side of the world a room full of spiritually hungry Christians meet in a room that possesses a lone, bare light bulb and twenty to thirty metal chairs.  Forsaking all, they meet at the peril of their own lives, craving each other’s presence, hungry for God’s Word, thirsty for righteousness, compelled to seek each other out, drawn together by the Spirit within them that has sealed them for the day of redemption. For them, God’s Word is enough. For them, God’s Word is everything. For them, God’s Word is the only thing.

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by Whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Eph 4:10)

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it pierces even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb 4:12)

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16,17)

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)

“The congregation of believers was one in heart and soul. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they owned.” (Acts 4:32)

“Join one another in following my example, brothers, and carefully observe those who live according to the pattern we set for you. For as I have often told you before, and now declare even with tears: Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and their glory is in their shame. Their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,..” (Philippians 3:17-20)

Paradox Mine

I live a paradox. I have an irresistible compulsion to speak the truth of God’s word and nothing else gives me greater fulfillment in the depths of my soul, however nothing else causes me greater distress and social chastisement. Believe me when I tell you that I have no grand delusions of self-righteousness, I am acutely aware of my own sinfulness and shortcomings. However, sometimes the narrow path of truth can be lonely. When you preach grace you fill a church, but when you start preaching righteousness people lose their minds. I’ve estranged family members and lost friends because of my relentless pursuit of God and His call upon my life. I have counted the cost to follow and serve God, He will always be first in my life, regardless of the consequences, because that is the kind of radical devotion Jesus actually demands from all of those who call upon His name as Savior and Lord.

A few weeks ago during a conversation with the interim pastor for our church, he said, “I preach sin and hell.”  Like, he wanted to make sure that we wouldn’t be surprised by such a thing.  I can honestly say that the only thing that bothered me by his statement was that he felt it was necessary to make us aware that he preached the full counsel of God. I felt great compassion for him because I wondered, was there a time somewhere along his tenure as a pastor that he was given grief for his dedication to the full Gospel of Christ? His question only made me love him more because that is something that I can totally identify with. His question only made me even more thankful that it was him who God has sent to pastor our church during this time of our loss.

When we claim Jesus Christ as our Savior, what do we think He is saving us from? Jesus didn’t die to forgive us for our sin, He died to save us from it. Scripture tells us, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tim 3:12). How many of us are being persecuted for our desire to live Godly lives in obedience to scripture? The stark reality of Western Christianity is that most of the persecution comes from those within our own faith.

As I pondered these things in my heart today, as I wrestled with God– on the one hand, compelled by His Spirit to preach righteousness; on the other hand, compelled by my flesh and my own reasoning to make my case for compromise– I felt Him lay on my heart: “You need to be preaching righteousness like I’m coming back tomorrow.”

Indeed. We should all be preaching righteousness in eager anticipation to stand before the great and terrible judge.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive his due for the things done in the body, whether good or bad. Therefore, since we know what it means to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is clear to God, and I hope it is clear to your conscience as well.” (2 Cor 5:10,11)

“Therefore, since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us be filled with gratitude, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. For our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:28,29)

“Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, Who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and encourage with every form of patient instruction. For the time will come when men will not tolerate sound doctrine, but with itching ears they will gather around themselves teachers to suit their own desires.” (1 Tim 4:1-3)

“Then I saw heaven standing open, and there before me was a white horse. And its rider is called Faithful and True. With righteousness He judges and wages war. He has eyes like blazing fire, and many royal crowns on His head… He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is The Word of God… And from His mouth proceeds a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with an iron scepter. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God, the Almighty.” (Rev 19:11-15)

A Spoonful Of Toilet Water

As I was making my 18 month-old’s bottle this morning, I wondered, “How much turd-laden dirty toilet water would be okay to put in here? A teaspoon? A half-teaspoon? A quarter-teaspoon? Five drops?” How much dirty toilet water would you say is okay to put in my baby’s bottle? Most sane people would recoil in horror and say, “Absolutely none!” For you to understand why I thought this, let me give you the context of what I was thinking about prior to my musings about how much dirty toilet water would be okay for my child to consume.

As Christians, our faith demands that we, “‘Come out from them and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.'” (2 Cor 6:17). Notice that verse doesn’t say, “…says Kalli” or “…says the Baptists” or “…says the Catholics” or “….says the Pentecostals”. That verse says, “…says the Lord.”  Yet for a vast majority of contemporary Christians, we have no problem being double-minded or having a divided-heart when it comes to walking out our faith. We have no problem allowing the dirty toilet water of the world into our lives.

How much of the world is it okay to bring into our new life in Christ? Five rated-R movies? One pornographic image? Three afternoons of gossip? Two drunken weekends? Ten secular songs glorifying the things of the world? How many times must I hear, “That’s legalistic….I’m only human….it’s only a t.v. show….we’re going to make mistakes…”? No, a mistake is something you do by accident or because of overwhelming weakness. God gives us grace for our mistakes and weaknesses.  God gives us grace for our ignorance as we are growing in spiritual maturity.  Rebellion, on the other hand, is something you do with full knowledge and understanding that what you are doing goes against the basic tenets of your faith. God may give grace toward rebellion for a time, solely at His discretion. But for the most part, rebellion forfeits God’s grace and brings a person into judgment, saved or not. In all circumstances, rebellion requires repentance, confession and forgiveness:

-“If we deliberately go on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins remains, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and raging fire that will consume all adversaries.” (Heb 10:26,27)

-“Anyone born of God refuses to practice sin, because God’s seed abides in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil can be distinguished: Anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:9,10)

-“Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God–I say this to your shame.” (1 Cor 15:34)

What do we do with verses like that? Where do they fit in our comfortable, excuse-laden version of Christianity? How do they reconcile with our buddy-version of God, Who winks at our sin and is utterly devoid of fearsome wrath? Here’s the deal: We can claim the Christian faith all we want, we can make excuses, we can continue our lame attempts to justify our behavior, but after it’s all said and done, the Lord we claim to worship and serve said that it is our faith which manifests itself in obedience that makes us His:

-“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)
“Whoever has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me.” (John 14:21)
“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him.” (John 14:23)
“If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.” (John 15:10)
“By this we can be sure that we have come to know Him: if we keep His commandments.” (1 John 2:3)
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)
“And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments.” (2 John 1:6)

Wow Jesus, You’re so legalistic.

Our obedience doesn’t save us, but it is our obedience that distinguishes the authenticity of our faith and sets us apart from the world as belonging to Christ. Our obedience does draw us closer to God, our obedience does serve to protect us from the fiery darts of the enemy, our obedience does help us to hear God’s voice more clearly, our obedience does make us a sanctified vessel fit for use in God’s kingdom to bear Him fruit, “God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord must turn away from iniquity’… Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the Master of the house, ready for every good work. Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Tim 2:19-22).

Do you belong to Christ? Then live a lifestyle of repentance, daily turning away from iniquity, daily bearing your cross to your own death, daily seeking God’s presence and asking Him to fill you with a hunger for obedience and a thirst for righteousness. We must daily surrender to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to pull us out of this world, because even a little leaven (or toilet water) works through the whole batch of dough, “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?.. A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” (Gal 5:7,9). Pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, because that is what it truly means to be a Christian.

“But just as He Who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written:  ‘Be holy because I am holy.’ Since you call on a Father Who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives in reverent fear during your temporary stay on earth.” (1 Peter 1:15-17)

“Little children, let no one deceive you: The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Christ is righteous. The one who practices sin is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the very start. This is why the Son of God was revealed, to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:7,8)

“But you know that Christ appeared to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin. No one who remains in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has seen Him or known Him.” (1 John 3:5,6)

“We know that anyone born of God does not keep on sinning; the One who was born of God protects him, and the evil one cannot touch him.” (1 John 5:18)

“For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that when you offer yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey, whether you are slaves to sin leading to death, or to obedience leading to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you once were slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were committed. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Rom 6:14-18)

The Grievances Of A Nobody

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church. These 95 Theses were written because of Luther’s fervent belief that scripture dictated two truths that had been wholly perverted by the Church in his time:

1.  The Bible, not men, is the central religious authority
2.  The salvation of a person’s soul is only by God’s grace through their faith in Jesus Christ and cannot be earned by any deed of men

Luther’s 95 Theses were written as a response to the Catholic Church selling “indulgences” to absolve sin– which basically means people were encouraged by the church to purchase their own forgiveness, all proceeds of those purchases benefitting the Church. It was these 95 Theses that eventually led to the Protestant Reformation, which led to the division of the Christian Church even to this day.  Once again, in this Laodicean Church age, the Church finds itself in gross neglect of obedience and adherence to scripture. Once again, the larger portion of the Church has given precedence to the traditions, formulas and programs of men, over Jesus’ simple plan of discipleship and Lordship salvation. Agenda has become more important than relationship, the sheep are starving and they don’t even know it.

Once again it has become necessary to hammer a ledger of charges against the church door. And although I am a lowly nobody, tucked away in a quiet corner of the Southern US, I bring these charges against the church to bear record in heaven. And although these charges do not total 95, they are the sum total of what has been laid upon my heart in grievance.

  1.  We want to follow a Jesus that doesn’t require anything from us. We want a Jesus of convenience, rather than One of personal sacrifice. Even though Jesus clearly articulates in His teaching that we must not only be willing to forsake all we have to follow Him, but also be willing to die to ourselves. (Mark 8:34; Matt 16:24; Luke 9:23)
  2. We appoint and elect spiritual leaders in the church out of convenience or necessity, rather than according to the requirements of scripture or the genuine leading of the Holy Spirit. Men who have never even read the Bible in Its entirety, who have exhibited no consistent dedication to their own spiritual maturity, neither consistent management of the spiritual growth of their own family, are put in positions of spiritual leadership in the church. It is far better to have a vacant position of leadership, than to fill it in desperation, according to whim or to those simply seeking authority. (1 Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9)
  3. We seek teachers who will empower us, rather than convict us. We have authority in Christ, but we are not in control, He is. Preachers who promise empowerment through Christ are teaching people to substitute themselves in the place where Christ should be. We are at His feet, He is the only One on the throne. (1 Cor 15:27,28)
  4. We want changed circumstances instead of changed lives. We don’t mind submitting our circumstances for Christ to work on, but we do not want to submit to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit working within us developing and refining our character…..because inner transformation costs too much.  (Phil 2:12,13)
  5. We are not coming to the cross broken and in desperate need of a Savior, longing to be free from the tyranny of sin in our lives. We want to be saved from the punishment for our sins, but we do not want the necessary personal death that goes along with it, drawing us out and away from sin. We want new wine in old wineskins. (Romans 6)
  6. We are Biblically illiterate which has led to a gross lack of discernment within the Church as a whole. We follow ministries because they tell us what we want to hear. Someone who truly hears the voice of God will not appeal to your ego or personal agenda. When we follow ministries simply because they appeal to us, any spiritual changes made within us are not by the Holy Spirit and will ultimately lead us further away from the truth. (2 Tim 4:3,4)
  7. We do not recognize our Shepherd’s voice because we spend little-to-no time listening to Him in intimate, daily prayer or consuming scripture. (Titus 1:16; John 10:27)
  8. We spend far more time pursuing and managing our own kingdom, rather than pursuing to learn about and understand God’s kingdom. We are damned by distraction and spiritually crippled with busyness that produces fruit for our own kingdom, eating up any opportunity for us to bear fruit for God’s kingdom. Our time is wasted and consumed day-after-day building with straw and hay on a foundation of sand. (1 Cor 3:12,13)
  9. We measure our relationship with God according to the tasks we perform within or for the church, rather than the time we actually spend in personal fellowship with Him. We pursue ministry over relationship. (Rev 3:1)
  10. We have littered the Christian landscape with the half-built towers of those who began to build, but failed to fully count the cost of what it means to truly follow Christ. When you preach half the Gospel, you will only build half the tower. (Luke 14:28-30)

We are a nation of empty lamps and dirty cups, claiming Christ as Savior but full of worldliness and devoid of any inner transformation by the Holy Spirit. God does not operate according to our own personal agendas. God isn’t simply whatever we imagine Him to be. The Gospel cannot be found in our cartoon version of Christianity. Neither is the Gospel found in our denominational associations and conventions. We want Christ, but we want Him to operate within our Sunday morning program. We want Christ, but we want the world too. This is why we have found ourselves in this putrid stench of pond-water Christianity that kills us when we drink it. Jesus said He came to give us rivers of living water (John 7:38), but we want the water to flow into our neatly enclosed area, where it can no longer flow, but it sits and turns to scum.

If you find yourself at a point in your life where you feel inexplicably pulled into a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God, I encourage you to surrender. I encourage you to pray for God to send you the people that He will work through to quench your thirst, and the church that He will work through to feed your soul. I encourage you to pray for Living Water. That is God’s will for His children, and He always answers prayers according to His will.

“Jesus stood up and called out in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. To the one who believes in Me, it is just as the Scripture has said: ‘Streams of living water will flow from within him.'” (John 7:38)

“If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers. Such branches are gathered up, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, proving yourselves to be My disciples.” (John 15:6-8)