Monday, June 20, 2011 "The Judas Tragedy"... My Greatest Fear "The Judas Tragedy"... My Greatest Fear: "When I was a little boy, I remember being scared of spiders. One of my brothers and I had a bedroom in the basement of our house. O..."

Friday, June 3, 2011

"Use the Confusion"

This article was written recently by our Pastor in response to the "end of the world" hoopla in the news in recent weeks. I wanted to pass it along as I think it puts the whole matter into perspective quite well.

Randy Davis

I hesitate to even mention this subject, but because it is part of our 24/7 news cycle and it has become the brunt of much comedy, it seems necessary to at least consider the warning that was spread throughout the world last week, as sensationalist end time preacher, Harold Camping, predicted that the church would be raptured (literally, “caught away”...the word rapture does not appear in the Bible), and that the world would end on May 21, 2011. He has adjusted his position on that matter now, saying that the May 21st date was correct; just that it was not a “physical” rapture, but rather a “spiritual” rapture. He still maintains that the final date for mankind is on October 21st, 2011.

The Bible is clear on these matters. First, there will be a catching away of the church. It is important to remember that the catching away of the Church of Jesus Christ, and the end of the world are actually 2 different events, separated by at least 7 years, according to most evangelical interpretations of the scriptures. The Word of God tells us: 1 Thes. 4:13-18 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. [14] We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. [15] According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. [16] For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. [17] After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. [18] Therefore encourage each other with these words. This reference is directed to the church since the church is comprised of all true believers in the redeeming, saving grace of the risen Lord Jesus. This scripture means exactly what it says.

Many try to re-write the scriptures to match their own sense of logic or their own ideas, but dear ones, the one safe thing we can do is to take God at His word. There will be a catching away of the church of Jesus Christ at some point.

And, secondly, there will be a time of great tribulation. Matthew 24:21 (KJV) For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. From Old Testament prophecies, through the New Testament Revelation, we are told that there will be a 7 year tribulation period that precedes the end of the world as we know it. Some commentators separate the first 3½ years from the last 3½ years, calling the first half, the tribulation, and the last half, the great tribulation.

It is important to remember that scripture further teaches that the church….that is, believers in Christ, were not brought to salvation to suffer this tribulation, which is the pouring out of God’s wrath upon mankind for its sinfulness. 1 Thes. 5:9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the catching away of the church prior to the tribulation or the pouring out of Gods wrath.

Most successful false teachers mix just enough truth with their falsehoods, to give them the appearance of credibility. Yes, the church will be caught away, and yes, there will be a time of tremendous tribulation. The huge mistake Mr. Camping and others make is that no one knows when that is going to happen. Hear Jesus own words… Matthew 24:36 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." The fact is, the timing of such matters is entirely in the hands of God. This earth will one day end, just as all things of a physical nature must someday end, but you and I can rest assured that the ending date will not happen until God says so, and we will not last one second beyond the times He has determined and set forth for us.

It is most important to remember that while there are signs we can see, and which God intends for us to decipher and take warning from, the catching away of the church can happen at any second. There is nothing on the prophetic calendar which would prevent the Lord from issuing His Loud command…or the voice of the archangel, or the trumpet call of God, from sounding forth, even before you blink again, or finish this Newsletter.

Jesus is coming for His own in preparation for His return to this earth. And, none of us knows the day or the hour. Yes, there are signs everywhere. From the events in Israel, to wars and rumors of wars, to changes in weather patterns. But, dear ones, regardless of whatever else you believe, physical life is temporary. Consider the daily obituary columns. They remind us that physical life is a temporary thing. The Bible says, Hebrews 9:27-28 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, [28] so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. The reality we must deal with is that when your physical life comes to an end, decision making time for you is over.

You and I will go on into eternity with whatever decisions we have already made about Jesus, and they cannot be changed after the physical part of life is over. There is a very important lesson in all of this. We can join in the derision of Mr. Camping and others who make all these erroneous predictions, or we can use these times as an opportunity to help others prepare for the real truth of the love of Jesus, and a future judgment. We can use these kinds of opportunities, and there will be many more, to issue the call to repent and come to know Christ, so that whenever and however you are called into His presence, you will be prepared by having asked Him to be your Savior.

The most important question of life is simply, Do you know Jesus as your Savior? All these other things are mere distractions if you do not know Him as your Savior. Use the confusion, to impart clarity whenever you can. God Bless you...Love to all .

Pastor Dave Albert
Living Hope Bible Church
Eldon, Iowa

Friday, May 20, 2011

"Focus on Responses, Not Experiences"

I would encourage all of those who have been ardent backers of Governor Mike Huckabee to continue in supporting the Governor in fervent prayer as well as in keeping informed and involved with HuckPAC. Governor Huckabee is a unique individual with the wisdom and skills to lead others in a more hopeful direction. He is such a breath of fresh air in this toxic political climate that he truly stands alone as a flashing lighthouse on the shoreline. I realize many of us may seem to be "lost at sea' after his recent announcement, but HuckPAC can be our political refuge.

Remember that "suffering" will often seem to come from the people you would least expect. Our Lord was rejected by the very people whom He had taught and fed and healed. He was put to death by those who were more familiar with the Scriptures than anyone else. Suffering will also open up new sections of scripture to us allowing new insights to be revealed to us. It also can be God's way of freeing us from that which may hinder us.

When the three friends of Daniel were thrown into the fiery furnace, the only thing that actually burned were the ropes that tied them down. God's purpose is the same for us. He wants to free us from the multitude of cares which we think are essential, but which, in reality, only hinder us from true achievement.

When we humble ourselves through the suffering God allows, He gives us more grace both to respond to our offenders and to see new, rich insights in His Word. Humility is the basis of godliness. A godly response to those who offend us would be to recognize that God has only used their actions or decisions to put us through a "fire" that will be for our ultimate benefit if we respond to it and to them in the right way. God is far more concerned with our responses than he is with our experiences.

The reward of going through suffering and responding to it the right way is a new ability to understand the real needs of those around us. Before we go through the "fire" we may tend to regard Christian work or even political activities on the basis of it being merely an "organization" and people functioning as a part of it. But when the fire burns away the stubble of human achievement, we have a new ability to sense the real needs of the people around us. We can sense when they have been hurt, and they are able to sense that we would understand it if they told us about it.

It would be easy for me to look back over these past four years and conclude it has been a "waste of time" since the Governor decided not to run, at least for now. The hours and weeks and months I have put in, could hardly be tabulated. However, I do not see it as a fruitless endeavor. I fully understand the hurt many of you are still experiencing.

However, we must realize that God often works through these times of discouragement for a beneficial reason. As long as we think the person, or "situation" that has hurt us is acting independently, we can hardly help growing disillusioned and bitter. But as long as we realize that God purposely allowed that situation to occur, we will be able to gain a forgiving spirit.

When we go through the humbling experience of having been offended and react improperly towards that person or circumstance, we allow our pride to trample on the grace which God gave for the situation, and we are then left to our "own ways" thereafter since no new grace will be given to us until we humble ourselves again.

Anger is the opposite of meekness. We cannot have both in our life. Either we have one as our basic nature, or we have the other. Meekness is not a spineless kind of timidity. It is the "strength under control" that is needed in our culture. Meekness is where humility and self-control meet. It is the one quality most necessary to tame an out-of-control ego. As arrogance gives way to meekness, it is the cure for the countless ills that often hinder the quest for character. I believe Governor Mike Huckabee displays this rare trait, and we would do well to follow his lead.

Staying together and involved through HuckPAC can perhaps provide a shelter for that "strength under control" movement that America needs in these times that try men's souls.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Growth Comes in the Valleys - Not the Peaks"

I will be honest in saying the recent announcement by Governor Mike Huckabee is a difficult situation every supporter will have to deal with in their own way, and it will take some time to digest.

Please continue to pray for Governor Huckabee and for things to all work out in accordance with God's overall plan and in His time. I knew going into this venture a few years ago that there were no guarantees and risk was involved. The Governor always made that clear when asked about running by the media.

Personally, I think I've had more success in recent days trying to comfort the 400 some people sending me e-mails or leaving me voice messages than I've had with myself . I'm okay - but when I get alone in my office things tend to start crashing down a round me a little. I'm sure many of you know the feeling. I told someone if an alien invaded my office their conclusion would be it must be Huckabee's Campaign Headquarters from the "piles and files" of Huck stuff. I am going to have to do some re-organizing and cleaning. After 4 years, you accumulate lots of stuff. My computer is over loaded with all sorts of data collected over the years. I guess the process will just take time. Less for some, more for others.

If you have ever driven through the mountains, you will notice that most all of the "growth" takes place in the valleys, not the peaks. The peaks are barren, rocky areas with little growth or vegetation. However, the valleys are filled with trees, plants, flowers, and sometimes a beautiful river or lake. And so it is with life.

Many of us found ourselves on a"peak"recently with all signs pointing to a "green light" answer from Governor Huckabee last Saturday night. Although I did not "know" the outcome in advance, I was extremely positive, especially after the e-mail I received the night before from the Governor. Since I have communicated with the him regularly for a few years now, the e-mail simply appeared at first to be personal in nature.

As it turned out, it became known on Saturday in the press as the "inner circle" e-mail sent to a few individuals. Many media outlets discussed it throughout the day on Saturday. I'm not sure how it got "leaked" or who leaked it. Due to the wording of that e-mail I thought we were in an unquestioned "slam dunk" situation. That's why my reaction on May 14 was not one of shock, but one of being utterly stunned. Apparently, I simply misunderstood it along with most other Americans who read it.

If you are a Huckabee supporter who finds yourself feeling a little empty, alone, or confused - I'd like to pass along a few thoughts to consider:

Adversity in our lives can sometimes be God's way of getting our attention. The "cares of this world" (which could include political activism) are usually God's stiffest competition for our time, attention, and affections. If we allow it, they can choke out the Word of God and drown out the voice of His Holy Spirit. (See Matthew 13:18-23)

When we are discouraged, it is very important to evaluate whose reputation will suffer- ours or God's. If "our" reputation suffers, it means that our concerns are mainly for "our human program or agenda" or that we are basically "in charge."

If we can assure God that He led us to do what we are doing and it is His reputation and Word that will be blasphemed, we can then confidently expect Him to show Himself strong on our behalf. We need to always make sure that if we are doing "God's work" that we are doing it in "God's way."

When adversity comes, we are suddenly faced with problems and pressures that are too big for us to resolve. As adversity continues and our human strength is drained, Christ's invitation becomes more and more attractive. (Matthew 11:28) Adversity will always test friendships as well. It will reveal which friends are concerned about giving and which friends are concerned about getting.

It is very easy for Satan to get us to make major decisions or "pronouncements" during times when we may not be thinking clearly or responding by faith. This is one reason why after the Governor's jaw dropping announcement on May 14, I do not want to immediately make lots of "political" decisions or to be too dogmatic on what I will or won't do in the future. During our time "in the valley" we should allow some time for growth and reflection, rather than making it a time for hard core decisions or authoritative judgments.

If we allow resentment and bitterness to creep into our life for whatever reason, it will often reveal itself through feelings of ungratefulness. What are the causes of ungratefulness? One cause is "assuming that God owes us something." Another is "focusing on what we thought we should have received, rather than on what we did receive." Isn't that a prevalent attitude today, always focusing on what we "deserve", or what our rights are?

The pathway of Christianity seems smooth and beautiful when everything in our life is going well. But the power of Christianity becomes most apparent in times of discouragement and disappointment. Like a mountain climber who doesn't know how strong his safety rope is until he falls, a Christian doesn't know how genuine his faith is until it is tested. Never doubt in the darkness what God has previously shown you in the light.

I realize many supporters of Mike Huckabee are hurting, confused, and discouraged. Still others feel helpless and insignificant. Remember however, that God often chooses those who are the littlest, least, and last so He can show His power through them. Jesus could have come into the world with great power as a grown man, but He chose to enter the world as a helpless baby. If we have an exalted opinion of ourselves, we will tend to look down upon others whom God wants to honor. Don't overlook the great value that God has placed in the littlest, least, and last.

I will continue to pray for, respect and admire Governor Mike Huckabee and trust he will continue to be a voice for vertical conservative policies all around the nation and world. No one knows what the future may hold for Mike Huckabee. He is an amazing individual in a league all of his own. There is quite honestly nobody like him.

Our 31 year old daughter Wendy, who has Down's Syndrome - loves Governor Huckabee like she loves her next breath. She has prayed everyday for over three years now that he would be our President someday. She would be considered by most to be in the category of the littlest, the least, or the last. Today Wendy told me in sort of a somber tone, "Well, I guess Fine Mike can't be our President right now, but I still do love him." Sometimes I think our culture would be much improved if we all had Down's Syndrome.

Clear back in 2007 when his chances seemed to be one in a million, I determined to be the "one." I gave it my best shot and have no regrets. I'd do it all again starting now if given the green light. Obviously, I've learned none of us can direct the wind, but we can now try to adjust the sails. I'm just not very good at it yet.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"When Death Comes to Your Vision"

Adversity can be our greatest motivation for spiritual growth or our deadliest means of discouragement. The difference depends on our understanding of God's purposes through adversity. Every person whom God used mightily went through times of great discouragement. God's work in their lives provides an important overview for us. We are able to see our trouble from a bigger perspective and discover God's purposes, comfort, and direction.

For those of you unfamiliar with Oswald Chambers, he was a prominent early twentieth century Scottish minister and teacher born in 1874, best known as author of the widely read devotional “My Utmost for His Highest.” In one devotional he speaks of the believer who desires to truly be a Christ follower by using the analogy of being made “broken bread and poured out wine.”

In 1910 Chambers wrote, “God can never make us wine if we object to the fingers He uses to crush us with. If God would only use His own fingers, and make me broken bread and poured-out wine in a special way! But when He uses someone whom we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, and makes those the crushers, we object. We must never choose the scene of our own martyrdom. If ever we are going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed; you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.”

You see, each of us can expect that God’s major dealings with us will be in harmony with His basic ways. In Psalm 95:10 God said of His own people,

For forty years I was grieved with that generation, and said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know my ways.’

He wants us to know these ways so we can properly respond to the events He brings into our lives. Since each one of us has a special purpose for being here God will often reveal them to us by giving us a special burden, goal, or “vision” for what He may want to accomplish in and through us. Some might call it a “dream” of what we can do or become in life. Man’s way is usually to get a vision - and just plow through and do it.

However, God’s way of doing things is usually not our way. He will often use a sequence or pattern of events that could be categorized as the “Birth of a Vision”—“The Death of a Vision” and then the “Supernatural Fulfillment of the Original Vision.” During the “death of our vision” it is common to become discouraged, distraught and depressed as our commitment is challenged. At this point we can find ourselves in a delicate position. Are we going to hang on to the vision or just throw in the towel and quit? Too often we quit rather than holding on to the hope or vision of our calling. But when we remain faithful in seeking God’s wisdom during these times, He usually fulfills our expectations in ways that we never would have thought.

For example, Abraham had a “vision” of being the father of a great nation. But death soon came to that vision with the realization that his wife Sarah was barren and too old to have children. During the death to our vision, rather than giving up, we sometimes even attempt taking matters into our own hands in order to acquire the fulfillment to our vision, thinking our circumstances confirm the impossibility of God ever fulfilling this dream or vision for our life. Abraham did exactly that by having a child with Sarah’s handmaid Hagar, which not only created more problems for him at the time, but lead to even more problems down the road. God did supernaturally fulfill the original vision in His own time when he gave Abraham and Sarah a son in their old age. Isaac became the father of a great nation.

Joseph had a vision that he would be a great leader and that many would bow down to him. He experienced the death of that vision when his older brothers sold him to some merchants and he became a slave. Later he was falsely accused and condemned to spend his years in prison. (Talk about the death of a vision.) You may recall that God did fulfill that original vision years later, when he allowed Joseph to interpret the dreams of the butler and baker and later the king, whereupon, he was made ruler in the land.

Moses had a vision of leading his people out of the bondage of Egypt. Soon however, he experienced the death of his vision when Pharaoh, as well as his own people drove him out of Egypt after his first attempt to relieve their bondage. In time, that original vision was supernaturally fulfilled when God gave Moses special signs and wonders to convince Pharaoh and his people that God was speaking through him to lead the nation to Canaan.

The Disciples of Jesus had a vision of establishing and being an important part of the Kingdom of God. The death to that vision came when Jesus was killed by the very ones He came to save, and the disciples saw Him buried in a tomb. God supernaturally fulfilled that vision as you know (a few days later in this case) when he raised Jesus from the dead, and great miracles were performed by the disciples until the Gospel had spread throughout the entire world.

It could be said that a grain of wheat has a “vision” of reproducing itself and many more grains of wheat. However, death comes when that grain of wheat is planted because it dies and rots in the ground. That vision is supernaturally fulfilled at a later time when a bountiful harvest springs up out of the very process of “death” in the ground. As Jesus said in John 12:24, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.”

In our lives today, I believe we must see the need for the death of a vision.

This may apply to the spiritual arena of our life, but could involve our occupation, our relationships, or even our political involvement and preferences. When we are finally certain that there is no way we can in our own strength, knowledge, or wisdom, accomplish the vision - it is at this point of “letting go” that God is free to work. As we rest in Him, He expresses His workmanship. This is not to say we should remain “idle or lazy” during the death to our vision. We must actively trust, obey, seek and serve God as we anticipate and expect Him to work out His revealed will in our life, even when it doesn’t seem possible. God always provides for the birds of the air, but they do not remain idle on a tree branch expecting food to be placed in their beaks or for nests to magically appear. Watch the birds, they are always moving, searching, and working.

Since God is far more concerned with our becoming like Jesus Christ in character than He is with our doing good works to further His Kingdom, He uses this time of “waiting” during the death of a vision to accomplish character building. Qualities we are sure to develop during the death to our visions include patience, in waiting on God’s timing; Faith, in knowing what He can and will do; Meekness, in yielding our personal rights to Him: Self control, in not running ahead of God, and many others.

Satan’s purpose or “building program” during the death of a vision is to destroy God’s work in our lives and also as much of the potential for achieving God’s work as he can. He prompts us to try in our own energy and wisdom to fulfill the original vision. He does not want us to learn God’s qualities, and whenever we follow his leading-conflict results. A classic example mentioned earlier is Abraham trying to fulfill God’s promise of a great nation by having a son by Hagar. Conflict has resulted ever since between their descendants. We have read and heard about this Arab-Jewish conflict on a daily basis now for many years.

You may wonder why God has chosen to do things in this way. One reason may be this. If we could accomplish the vision totally on our own, we would. Then we would take the glory for our self. But when we turn it over to the Lord, allow the “seed to die” and wait on Him to fulfill the vision in ways we could have never even imagined, then He gets all the glory.

Many times over the years, I have experienced the death of a vision, and each time have seen the Lord fulfill that vision in ways unlike anything I could have ever even thought of. Using the grape analogy, I wonder what kind of finger and thumb God has been using to squeeze you? Have we sometimes been more like a marble and escaped?

We live in a society that has largely abandoned moral standards and Christian principles. Compromise has become a way of life. Too often we prefer hypocrisy to integrity. Governor Mike Huckabee was and is a genuine example of someone who maintains a commitment to His standards, no matter what the cost. It is truly rare to observe anyone willing to put themselves into the public arena the way Governor Huckabee has been willing to do.

A strong Christian is one who lives by principle rather than whim or opinion. He doesn't always seek the easy path or the safe place of public opinion.

The Governor's decision tonight could not have been an easy one. Even though his decision tonight was not one I had hoped or prayed for, it is a decision I admire and respect. Since he dropped out of the last Presidential race on March 4, 2008, I have worked tirelessly everyday for over 3 years to support and defend his vision for America.

I guess my long term "vision" is that this would have all ultimately lead to his deciding to join the race, gain the GOP nomination, and win the Whitehouse in 2012. That vision came to an abrupt end tonight.

However, I am reminded that David's greatest calamity came just a few days before he was established as the king. Satan often brings to us the greatest discouragements just before God fulfills our expectation. It is for this reason that He warns us not to give up. "...We shall reap, if we faint not." (Galatians 6:9)

God also knows that left to ourselves, many of us would only develop a small portion of the aptitudes, abilities and capacities which He has put within us. Therefore, in order to direct and motivate us in developing the rest, God chooses to bring into our lives certain problems, irritations and discouragements. Our plans and visions must sometimes experience death, so that God can shape us and mold us into the person He wants us to be.

Sometimes we feel reluctant to tell others that we are discouraged. We want others to believe that we are strong and able to quickly overcome setbacks. However, this can be pride in our life. Our honesty in sharing needs will help others to realize that they are not the only ones who experience discouragement. As we humble ourselves, God will give us more grace, and our response will be a living example to those who are praying for us.

Contentment is not the fulfillment of what we want - it's the realization of what we have. As Oswald Chambers wrote over 100 years ago, "If ever we are going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed; Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.”

So when Governor Huckabee delivered his discouraging news earlier tonight, I was reminded yet again, " I can't drink grapes."

Friday, May 13, 2011

"Staying Stuck - While Waiting on the Huck"

Life's most challenging opportunities are often brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems.

I recall reading the story of one of the coldest winters ever. It was so cold that many of the animals in that area of the country died, except for the porcupines. Realizing the harsh weather conditions, they decided to group together. This "huddling together" allowed them to cover and protect themselves.

The downside however, was that the quills of each one wounded their closest companions, even though they gave off life saving body heat to each other.
After awhile, they made the decision to distance themselves from one another, but they began to die, alone and frozen. The porcupines had another decision to make, either accept the quills of their companions or disappear from the Earth. Wisely, they decided to stick together.

In this way, they soon learned to accept and live with the little wounds that were cause by the close relationship with their companions. The heat they received from one another proved to be the most important life-saving tactic. Being "stuck" together allowed them to survive.

The best relationship is not the one that brings together perfect people, but the best is when each individual learns to live with the imperfections of others and can admire the other person's good qualities.

In some respects, this illustration reminds me of those Iowans and Americans who are "Stuck on Huck." We have an opportunity to "huddle together" as supporters of Governor Mike Huckabee in Des Moines, Iowa on June 4 from 2-4 pm at the "Stuck On Huck Pledge Vote Rally & Tribute" to be held at AIB College. The primary purpose of this event is to provide a chance for some of the committed Huckabee supporters to come together for some fun and fellowship and to help fan the flames of other passionate voters across the nation on the eve of the season when the Governor makes his decision.

I agree with my friend Dan Davidson who recently wrote: " There seems to be a preoccupation of political speculation regarding Mike Huckabee's decision to run for president in 2012. The forums, blogs, tweets and Facebook comments are lit up with worries and concerns that Huckabee may not have "fire in the belly" because he hasn't committed yet.

At this point we think as a Huck supporter it's all or nothing - we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by supporting and encouraging him to run and sharing with supporters and others what his vision for America is. It's time to focus on Huckabee's vision - more than his decision."

Since I have a great deal of trust in, and admiration for Governor Huckabee, I am at peace with whatever his decision may turn out to be. Personally, I expect him to jump into the pool at the close of his show this Saturday night, but realize there is always a chance, however slim it may be- that he could decline,and opt for another route of service to America. It would for sure be disappointing news to hear for those of us "Stuck on Huck"- but nevertheless, news that would have to be dealt with.

Of course, those of us who profess Biblical Christianity as our our faith already realize that political solutions alone will do little to solve cultural problems that are at their root, spiritual. As noble as the desire to reform our society may be, we know that these activities are not to be the Christian's chief priorities.

Certainly we have a role to play and should never try to escape the civic duties and responsibilities before us. However, the church will only change society for the better when individual believers make their own spiritual maturity their primary concern, which means living in a way that glorifies and honors His name. If we claim to be genuine believers, yet still convey proud and unloving attitudes toward the lost, our testimony- no matter how persuasive and politically savvy it may be, will be rejected or simply ignored.

Whenever I am tempted to disparage or criticize unbelieving politicians, entertainers or journalists who wouldn't know the truth if they were submerged in it, I try to remind myself as Paul did Christians in Titus 3:3, " For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient,deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another."

We must remind ourselves from time to time as Christians that ungodly opinions and actions are simply to be expected from unbelievers. The sad state of our culture need not hinder us as we advance conservative political principles to continue presenting a godly testimony to people who desperately need to see the gospel lived out and proclaimed to them. It is very likely we were once very much like the unbelievers who so often irritate us.

How are we to live in a pagan society in a God honoring way, in such a manner that we don't alienate the very people God wants us to reach? We must continue to be engaged in the good works, which the Bible says will result from our salvation.

My hope and prayer is that Mike Huckabee joins in the GOP Presidential primary, wins the nomination, and defeats Barack Obama in 2012 in a landslide. If he gets in, I will do all I can to see that he succeeds in this effort. In my opinion, there is no one like him on the political horizon- no one even close. I hope I have this honor and privilege. In about 24 hours or less, we will all know.

At the same time, I realize that it is not my primary calling to change the culture, or to somehow reform the outward moral behavior and political convictions of those around me. We can never superficially remake society into some sort of evangelical Christian blueprint. Again, we can do our best to elect those candidates who most closely identify with the convictions and principles we hold dear, as we constantly remember that the Lord has called us to be His witness before the lost and condemned world in which we now live.

Political activism and involvement needs to be intensely pursued as we allow our voices to be heard, so long as we remember such endeavors may help renovate people's outward lives, but they cannot transform people's hearts and bring them into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

We who call ourselves Christians believe that the journey of life begins and ends with God. Do not try to implement God's vision with human strength. God is always right on time. There are no panic buttons near His throne and the Holy Trinity has never panicked and gone into emergency session. Even though it may not seem like it in today's culture, everything is under control and going according to plan.

When Christ becomes our central focus and our reason for existence, contentment will replace our fears and insecurities. He can and will broaden the dimensions of our circumstances which will give us new confidence. He will also deliver us from preoccupation with others and calm our fears regarding ourselves and our future. Once fear is removed, peace will quickly fill the vacuum. What a way to live.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"The Judas Tragedy"... My Greatest Fear

When I was a little boy, I remember being scared of spiders. One of my brothers and I had a bedroom in the basement of our house. On the other end of the basement was a shower that had been enclosed, we called it the "shower room." When you first went in, there was a little area where the towels were kept and then there was a shower curtain you closed, to help keep the water confined to the shower area.

Sometimes, when you would pull the shower curtain back to go in and turn the water on, there would be a huge hairy spider that had crawled up out of the drain , standing there ready to pounce on your bare feet and looking like he could use a blow dryer.

I suppose this lead to me being afraid of spiders , at least the big hairy kind. I haven't even seen one of these spiders in years, but would probably still jump back a little, especially if I was bare footed. I also didn't particularly care for wasps or snakes, but those huge hairy spiders were probably "my greatest fear" , at least as a young boy.

Now that I am older, I would have to admit I have another "fear" , one of a much more serious nature. This is something that has nothing at all to do with insects, snakes or any of the common childhood fears.

For 24 years now I have traveled to churches around the nation, speaking and drawing with our ministry which is called "Drawing Closer Ministries" ( See )

We have had the opportunity of being in hundreds and hundreds of churches over the years and have literally met thousands of people who would identify themselves as being "Christians."

My "fear" is - and I hope I am wrong, but my "fear" is that there may quite possibly be an alarming number of what could be labeled "false converts"in churches all throughout the nation.

Numerous studies, perhaps the most stunning of which was done by the Southern Baptist Convention of it's own youth....revealed that the lifestyles, values, and the resulting worldview of most of those that attend "evangelical churches" was no different than that of "non-Christians." Plus, the study also found that a huge majority of students leave the church after their high school graduation, never to return.

While studies like this reveal a definite problem, they don't really explain what caused it. My "fear" is that the root of problems like these are created because our churches today are filled with "false converts."

Sadly, "repentance" is not a Christian doctrine that is taught often enough , many churches never teach it. This dire reality should concern every Christian.

Scripture is forthright about how important this is:

The word "repent" and it's various forms is used over 100 times in the Bible.

John the Baptist preached in the wilderness, "Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" (Matthew 3:2)

Jesus preached this same message of repentance. Mark 1:14,15 says, " Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the Gospel."

In Mark 6, Jesus sends out the 12 disciples two by two. Verse 12 states, "So they went out and preached that the people should repent."

Every single day, 150,000 people step off into eternity, and a frightening percentage of them fall into eternal judgment, separated from God for eternity in a terrible place the Bible calls "Hell."

Many will have thought they lived a "good life" as defined by today's standards. They went to church, perhaps even "walked an aisle" or prayed the "sinner's prayer". Maybe they were even baptized. Some may have taught Sunday School and were involved in the work of the church. But, Jesus warned us this would happen in perhaps the most stunning text in all the Bible.

In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus said this..." Not everyone who says to me "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven. On that day MANY will say to me, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name? And then will I declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness. "

This is perhaps the most tragic passage in all of the Bible. Here is the sad reality....there will be people who stand before God ( "many") who will assume they are about to enter Heaven, only to be told they are on their way to Hell. This is without question, the worst possible illusion that someone can have. To be mistaken about your salvation and therefore your "eternal destiny."

Over the years, I have on occasion been asked this question...." Are Roman Catholics Christians?" I would pose this question...."Are Protestants always necessarily Christians?" Or- "Are 'Evangelicals' necessarily Christians?" Or, even more importantly...." Are YOU a Christian?"

Could it be some of us who "profess" Christianity are among the "many" that are self-deceived? I am convinced that in the name of "Christianity" today there are many places that call themselves "churches", that are not churches. There are many men who are leading these people who call themselves Pastors and they are not Pastors. They have congregations who call themselves "Christians", and they are not Christians. They are not churches, they are not Pastors and they're not Christians. Yet, they proudly post the label - "Christian" or "Evangelical."

Matthew 7: 13-14 lists ONLY two possible options, the "narrow road "and the "broad road." Jesus tells us the narrow gate is hard to find and hard to go through because it demands denial of "self", denial of self-righteousness, full repentance, submission to Christ and to obey Him and follow Him no matter what the cost. The true way is narrow and away from the crowd, you must come naked-alone and penitent, plus, Jesus said you must "strive" to enter.

On the other hand, the broad road is filled with the "religious" people of our day, with plenty of false prophets enabling them. False representatives of Christ, the false agents of God, who are really the agents of Satan disguised as the "agents of light."

In all the 24 years of our chalk artistry and Bible teaching ministry, there has been nothing that has come to as high a level of concern as this issue. Of course, it is a terrible tragedy for Hindus or Buddhists to go to Hell. It is a tragedy for Muslims to go to Hell. It is a tragedy for Atheists or Jews, who reject the Messiah to go to Hell. But it seems to me that the "tragedy of all tragedies" is what I entitled this article, what we might call the "Judas Tragedy".... that is, where you "hang around" Jesus , but end up belonging to Satan, that's the REAL tragedy.

I am certainly not "the judge" and hope and pray all of this is not nearly as problematic as it seems to be. However, I'm afraid there are some American Pastors who fit into this category of not even being Christians in the Biblical sense. There are churches who are filled with people, some made up of almost entirely people who are totally deceived about their spiritual condition. So, it is important that we hear the words of our Lord. Believe me, if I'm concerned about it, He is far more concerned about it.

When the Lord said these words He wasn't speaking to "irreligious" people, He was speaking to extremely religious people, people who we might say were "religious to the max" - basically obsessed with religion. It permeated their whole life. These people were as religious as you could get but they had no relationship with God- "religious but lost." They were self-deceived and on the wrong road. We have this today- everywhere! We have it in our culture. Thousands of deceived souls in churches today that are on some kind of "Jesus trip" thinking all is well.

The frightening part of this deception is that it is not just outside on the perimeter in "oddball" churches, it's something I fear is occurring right in what we might consider today as "evangelical churches."

What has contributed to this phenomenon? I think one thing that has played a major role is...

1. A Superficial Understanding of the Gospel

There is an ever increasing failure to understand the true terms of the Gospel. This superficial understanding of the Gospel permeates, if not dominates "Christendom" in our modern day. We seem to have developed such a weak and shallow and superficial and trivialized and emotionalized and physiological approach to the Gospel that many today who would identify themselves as being "Christians" couldn't give you a meaningful explanation of the great doctrine of Redemption. They don't know them. Nor- are they expected to know them, because in many cases the people who teach them don't know them either. The result produced is people who have a false understanding of their spiritual condition because they don't even understand what "saving faith" and the "saving Gospel" are.

Of course, this line of thought is bound to "tread on people's feelings" because it invades the comfortable bed of people's tolerances. To many , it would seem to be "divisive" - but the truth always does that. Much of "the church" today is so ignorant about the Gospel that when the "true Gospel" is presented, the person doing the "proclaiming" may even be vilified.

In the churches effort to become relevant, they have become nearly "irrelevant." For a number of years now, the church has tried so hard to "appeal to the culture" that it now finds itself in a position of being unable or unwilling to "confront the culture."

2. A False Sense of Assurance

The Gospel is often presented as an equitable contract between the lost person and God. "If you will turn to Jesus, He will be your friend." "If you will invite Jesus into your heart, He will provide for you." We sell the Gospel in some cases based on what they will "get from God" in this life, which in turn means their motive for turning to Christ is the impending blessings from God.

The idea is that if you " feel good" about God and have some emotional attraction to God (which might be called "love") and you "want to connect to Jesus" and "associate with Jesus" and be a part of whatever Jesus is doing and you want Jesus to "work with you" and make you what you want to're in ! And, this will be affirmed. You will be told that if you just "pray this prayer", you'll be a Christian. You will be "certified" and in some cases if you come to an altar and pray this prayer you will be "doubly certified."

You will be affirmed regularly that "God loves you" and that His love is "unconditional" and that all He wants is to "fix your life" and fulfill every dream and desire you have in your life. And ," ... since you are here on a regular basis and take part in praise and worship each week you are putting yourself in a position where you are really going to be "blessed" by God. "

This line of thinking lures people into the "dream" that they are somehow "right with God", and they're not. We are telling people who have not reached the Biblical standard of salvation that they are saved. We are telling lost people, whom we have pronounced redeemed, that they can be decision-making members within our congregations. We are leading people, who have no intention of making personal sacrifices for the sake of the Kingdom, to believe they are in "good standing" with God. No doubt, churches are baptizing people who have no intention of choosing the Lord Jesus' will over their own.

Basically, we have reached a day in American churches where we have given ourselves the authority to adjust the Biblical standard of salvation, and we are reaping what we have sown. Most churches that do recognize this problem are trying to "program" their way to a healthier church. However, the problem cannot be fixed through leadership style, church structure or attempting a hip music program designed to reach lost people or the "younger generation." The problem, in my view, can only be fixed at the point of entry into the Kingdom of God
- salvation.

Jesus provides the standard of salvation in His sermon in Luke 14:25-35. The premise of the passage is that a "decision" as significant as becoming a follower of Christ should not be made without first "considering the cost"involved. The decision should not be made emotionally or frivolously, but with serious consideration given to the price that one might have to pay for the sake of the Kingdom. Christ preached this sermon to lost people. While in their lost state they were to consider the price to be paid and if they were unwilling to pay such a price, they were not ready to be saved.

Jesus also modeled this kind of evangelism for us in Luke 18:18 with the story of the rich young ruler. When the lost man indicated his reluctance to obey Jesus, the Lord deemed him unready for salvation. We must maintain the Biblical standard of salvation regardless of perceived relevance or context and we must stop giving a "false sense of assurance" to people who fall short of the standard by telling them that they are saved. Only then will they understand the high calling of the Gospel.

3. A Failure of Self - Examination.

If we could lose our salvation, we would. The good news for the true believer is that God's pencil has no eraser. We can thank God for the assurance and permanency of this precious and costly gift. But, if you doubt your salvation, there is a reason you doubt your salvation. It may not be a legitimate one, but, it "could" be a legitimate one. There are many people living under a massive illusion about their relationship with God and Jesus said there will be "many" in this category.

Of course, we want people to "feel good ", we want people to "like us", we don't like "confrontation." But 2 Corinthians 13:5 commands us..."Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves..." Sometimes we need to go back to the beginning and make certain we are in the faith. Of course, the Lord's Table (Communion) is a great opportunity for this.

4. A Fixation on Religious Activity

Religious activity is everywhere, "feeling spiritual" is in. Just being around others who call themselves Christians, even being in a Bible Study group, being part of some "Christian organization" sometimes can lull people into the deception that this sort of "activity" equals being saved. Just think of all the Christian organizations, Christian books, Christian publishing companies, Christian magazines, Christian television stations, the list of Christian this and Christian that seems almost endless.

"Entrepreneurial churches" are popping up all over the land and are often built around the personality of the leader. I recently read of a new "Techno-Church" on the west coast that featured "break-dancing Jesus boy." Ludicrous and ridiculous are words that are too weak to describe something as idiotic as this.

5. Familiarity with Biblical Morality

This can also lull people into a false sense of security. Example: " Hey- I don't deny what the Bible says, I believe in Biblical morality, I'm not 'pro-homosexual' or 'anti-marriage.' I agree with the Bible. Sexual activity should just be between a husband and wife inside the bounds of marriage - I hold to that morality! I must be on my way to Heaven, I support all that stuff."

There are LOTS of people in this category. ( Example: the Mormons) "I mean - I'm not trying to twist the scripture like liberals do, I don't deny the Bible. I don't really know what it says, but I think these are the type of things the Bible advocates and I'm for them. Besides, I am basically a good person and I believe in God. I haven't raped anyone or murdered anyone. I support my family, I even take my kids to Little League. God is not going keep me out of Heaven."

All these things are sadly just a big deception. None of them have anything at all to do with our salvation. None of them. The real issue is this - the people that are deluded and deceived have failed to come to the "narrow gate." No repentance for sin, no confession of sin, no submission to the Lordship of Christ, no brokenness, no humility, no contrition, no obedience.

The deceived come in several categories....

A. The Superficial

They are the ones that call themselves Christians because at some point when they were a child they "accepted Christ." Or, they say they "believed in God" but are now "uncommitted." Often it is a "past event" of some sort normally reinforced by their parents. It's almost always about a past event, they settled that case back then and put it to rest. They feel they have "taken care" of that necessary item in their life and the only time you'll generally see them in church is on Christmas and Easter so when they roll into church on Easter Sunday you better wish them a Merry Christmas because you won't be seeing them again until then.

B. The Very Involved

They are all through the church. Jesus called them the "tares" amongst the wheat. They know about the church and the life of the church, they know some Bible stories, they know the "Jesus narrative." They know a little bit of theology, just enough to be dangerous. But - there's no real humility, there's no brokenness, there's no Godliness, they're just "there." They are not trying to be deceivers or "false Christians," but they go because of the fellowship and the social aspect of being with "their people."

C. The Hypocrites

They know they are not real believers. They show up at church on Sunday because it's Sunday but can't wait for it to be over so they can get back home and do whatever it is they do. They have given up on trying to pretend to be what they know they are not. They are not so much deceived, as deceivers.

How do we help these people? How do we get to these people, to unmask them for their own sake? What do you look for? How can a deceived person know he's being deceived? How can we spot someone who is deceived? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Look for people who are seeking feelings - blessings - experiences - healings -angels - whatever. They are only interested in the "by-products" of the faith, not in Christ. They are not really consumed with the glory, the honor, the beauty, or the magnificence of Christ. They are not consumed with honoring Him, loving Him, trusting Him, obeying Him, seeking Him, serving Him, submitting to Him, proclaiming Him, exalting Him or confessing Him.

They are only there for the "by-products" which are "attached" to Him. Inotherwords - "Give me blessings, give me spiritual experiences, give me a spiritual high, give me good feelings, give me some nifty music and a "band", give me healing, give me prosperity."

The "prosperity gospel" used to be just a part of the larger 'Pentecostal-Charismatic' movement. Now it has swallowed the entire movement. The whole movement is now predicated on giving people the "products of God" - but not God. The "products of Christ"- but not Christ. They are not looking for Christ.

A dedicated believer of years gone by once wrote:

Let me have Christ whether I am sick or well, Let me have Christ whether I am rich or poor, Let me have Christ whether alive or dead, Let me have Christ for my sins, Christ for my guide, Christ for my King.
I don't care whether I have anything - but Christ.

That's not what you hear today. In fact, if that's your message the crowd will thin out fast in most churches. Remember, in one sermon, Jesus' audience shrunk from 20,000 to 12. The true Gospel does not offer the sinner what the sinner wants naturally. What does a "natural sinner" want ? Good feelings ? Healing? Happiness? Money? Blessings? Riches? Success? A bunch of angels working for him? All unregenerate people want that naturally!

That is not the product of the work of the Spirit in an unregenerate heart. The Gospel doesn't promise the sinner what the sinner already wants! It promises what the sinner does NOT want! That is, righteousness, holiness, Heaven, and dominating all of that - Jesus Christ. What is the attitude of our present world toward Christ? They hate Him. Just turn on the news and listen to left-leaning politicians.

2. Look for people who are more committed to "churches" or "their denomination" than to scripture. Denominations, movements, groups, it's almost like sort of a social thing. Not purely social, but social with a spiritual 'twang'. "......oh - it feels good to be involved in a God - thing." How could anyone actually be committed to God, and not be committed to His Word ?

"Yes - but I really want to "connect with God." Ok - here's what God says. Confess your sin, repent and embrace His Son as your only hope of salvation. And if you don't agree to that the Bible says you will go to Hell. Now- do you want to hear the next thing God says? How about deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me, then you can work on hate your father-brother-mother and even your own life, then we can talk about counting the cost. " What? He's asking all of that?" And by the way - the laws of God never change, God's moral law will have to become your passion. "What?" Which is another way of saying everything you love now you must hate and everything you now hate you have to love. Are you ready for that?

Look for people who have a commitment to some "organization", some "place", some "group of people" that they are far more committed to, than actually committed to knowing the Word of God so they can obey the Word of God. I prefer to go to church for one primary reason, "Tell me what the Word of God says!"

3. Look for those people who see God as a "means to their own ends." Example: "I want to get God in my life cause I got all these things I want to do. I have all these plans and ambitions and if you are telling me God will help me get there, I want in!"

That's typical of a number of high profile TV ministries - but that is not Biblical Christianity. If what they are "selling" is not heresy, it is about as close to it as you can get. God is not the " genie in our bottle" that jumps out when we rub it and says "Tah-da - 3 wishes." That may be filling church buildings today, but that is not Christianity.

We need to help those people who see God as a means to their own ends. People like this are those who will one day say, " Lord, Lord "- only to hear Him say, "depart from Me, I never even knew you." These are the people who "think" they are going to Heaven, but according to God's own Word, they're not.

What about you ?

I will wrap this up with a story that is told of a great violinist who announced he would give a concert using an unusually expensive violin. On the designated night, violin lovers packed the hall to hear the instrument played. The violinist came out on stage and gave an exquisite performance, climaxed by a thunderous ovation from the appreciative crowd. He bowed to acknowledge the cheers, then suddenly threw the instrument to the floor, stomped it to pieces, and walked off stage. The audience was horrified.

A few minutes later, the stage manager came out and said to the stunned crowd, " Ladies and gentlemen, the violin that was just destroyed was only a twenty-dollar violin. The maestro will now return to play on the advertised instrument." He did so, and few could even tell the difference.

You see, it isn't primarily the violin that makes the music: it's the violinist. Most of us are twenty-dollar violins at best, I know I am - maybe even a five-dollar one, but in the Master's hands we can make beautiful music. God uses ordinary people with a variety of strengths and weaknesses. It's not what you are that's important, but what you are willing to become.

I recall the first 26.2 mile marathon I ran years ago. I started out too fast and was getting pretty wobbly by mile 20. That's the way many believers live the Christian life. They start out fast, but, undisciplined and adrift spiritually, they soon encounter obstacles or impediments, slow down, give up, or just plain collapse. The Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. To win a marathon, you must be disciplined to endure weariness and exhaustion. The same is true in the Christian life. Hebrews 12:1 says, "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."

Nothing is more disturbing than to see Christians who have little desire to win. They are content to be saved and to wait to go to Heaven. But that's unacceptable for a follower of Christ. If you claim allegiance to Jesus Christ as your Lord, you need to strive for as much excellence as you can in every endeavor. If you're a Sunday School teacher, be the most excellent teacher you can be. If you lead a Bible Study, lead your flock with excellence. If you're a homemaker, make your home as excellent as it can be.

That is the only way to live the Christian life. It takes discipline, but we must demand excellence of ourselves and run the race to win. No one runs a marathon without some expectation of a reward, even if it is just a personal best time or the goal of finishing. And the same is true of the race of faith - if you don't have something to look forward to at the end of it, you'll likely never start it, let alone finish it.

Jesus glorified God on earth by displaying the Father's attributes and completing His Father's will. We "run" for the same reason Jesus did and we achieve victory in the same way. By following our Lord's example, we glorify God by allowing His attributes to shine through us and by obeying His will in everything we do. The reward at the end thus becomes our motivation to forget "what lies behind and (reach) forward to what lies ahead," pressing on "toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." ( Philippians 3:13-14)

When we get to Heaven, we can cast our "crowns before the throne, saying, Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power." ( Revelation 4: 10-11)

Will you be there ?

Remember, the Truth is the Truth, whether we believe it or not. Our opinion or "personal beliefs" have no bearing whatsoever on the Truth .
The article above was "in part" based upon material in the book "Hard to Believe"...The High Cost and Infinite Value of following Jesus by John MacArthur. Thomas Nelson Publishers