nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. (Revelation 9:21)
As I write in the quiet stillness of a new day (04/23) the News & Social Media is all a buzz concerning the death of Prince. I must confess I do not recall ever listening to a single song that he did. Not my musical taste.
Having so stated, it is always sad when one dies. Death is a consequence of the curse of the Fall. Like all others following this event, I know very little of the facts surrounding his death. I refuse to speculate. The autopsy will shine the light of Truth on that cause. If the reports that have circulated to this point are true, it will show a relationship to/with narcotic drug use.
Note the verse of Scripture above. The word translated in the ESV ‘sorceries’ is pharmakown, drugs; (medicine, remedy, drug – Greek Lexicon of The New Testament, Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich, #3, p. 862). This is in the context of the Trumpet Judgments, number 6 as found in Rev. 9. I cite this simply to say that the rampant use of drugs will be an issue when the judgment of the LORD comes.
I my lifetime famous people (Elvis, Michael Jackson, and now Prince among others) have died as a result of attempting to find peace and purpose in life through the futile and empty pathway found in drugs and a variety of other mind numbing substitutes.
While I lament death, I grow weary of the celebratory atmosphere that is consistently ramped up when such a figure dies. If the cause is indeed an over dose of a narcotic, this is a self-induced consequence. It is the reality associated with a life style that incorporates such practices. No surprise here. Just a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’! The use of opiates and narcotics is an out of control reality in our nation. Thousands of people are addicts and there is a growing litany of deaths each and every day. Rather than celebrate, we should focus on the TRUTH – fulfillment and peace will never be found in a syringe that delivers a short term buzz and ultimately addiction and death. The user becomes a prisoner, a slave, to the pseudo savior of pharmacological deception.
Jesus said, I am The Way, The TRUTH, and The Life. Repent and yield to Him unconditional surrender. Peace is not found in pharmacology or circumstances. It is in the Person of Christ. Each one who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved. That is true PEACE!
but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. (Acts 26:20)
The passage quoted above is from the Apostle Paul’s message to King Agrippa. Please note that in Paul’s theology of repentance and redemption there is more to repentance than a mere verbal expression. In the case of genuine repentance there will be corresponding deeds that are consistent with repentance. Repentance is a turning from sin and that turning is validated by changed conduct. It is being made new by the indwelling presence of the Holy spirit who enables the believer to put off the old life and put on the new.
The quote that follows is from a review of some of Joel Osteen’s writing. He persists in equating repentance with a simple verbal confession.
Perhaps with a nuance here and there, this kind of appeal rests right at the center of the standard perceptions of what is involved in repentance and faith. Repentance consists of saying the words “I repent.” Faith consists of an invitation to Jesus to come into one’s heart, and sincerity in the process is sealed by the supplicant making Jesus “my Lord and Savior.” So confident of the saving efficacy of such a decisional transaction is the preacher, that he continued, “Friend, if you prayed that simple prayer, I believe you have been ‘born again.’ I encourage you to attend a good, Bible-based church and keep God in first place in your life.” The new birth constitutes God’s response to our act of repentance and faith.
Why do I raise this issue? There are thousands of people that are members in good standing in the churches of America. They have uttered a formulaic response to the gospel. This includes a statement concerning repentance. But, there is not one scintilla of Transformation evident in their life – NONE!
The validation of Regeneration is Transformation. No Transformation is sure and certain objective evidence that there has been no work of grace, no new birth, no Holy Spirit initiated and completed work of salvation. Such persons are flat out lost and on their way to a Christ-less eternity.
When the message we proclaim harmonizes with what the text says we will see a Reformation and Renewal in the American church. Give due diligence to the preparation and delivery of your message. It must correspond to ‘What the text says’, not what a popular consumer driven distortion has morphed it into.(Selah)
I write in the quiet serenity of Good Friday Morning. The bright sun shines in the window of my Study.
I am filled with mixed emotions.
In one sense my soul jubilates and dances. Jesus died but He is Risen! His substitutionary sacrifice purchased my redemption from sin. His declaration of forgiveness is a forensic certainty that I am free for time and eternity. What JOY!
In another I am grieving. On Social Media I encounter a plethora of trinkets associated with His death. No ‘bookstore trinket’ could ever begin to capture the sheer weight of His Holiness and Sovereignty as LORD of all.
So, for this glorious morning I choose to focus on the former. He is RISEN and I am FREE. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!!
Decide or Die!
The data is irrefutable. The church in America is in decline. That decline is evidenced in both spiritual impotence and declining numbers. Reversing this trend requires a decision. Here are three options that people embrace. I encounter these when working with pastors and church leaders. Where do you stand on this matter?
1. Denial – this posture ignores reality and concludes no change is needed.
2. Delay – this posture recognizes the need but postpones a decision indefinitely.
3. Decide – this posture musters the wisdom & courage to engage the change process.
There is genuine wisdom in addressing the decline early rather than later. The following is a quote from the work of Jim Collins in How The Mighty Fall. I urge my readers to secure this title, read it carefully, and apply the principles his research has developed. He makes a cogent case for avoiding the ravages of delay in making critical organizational decisions. The future existence of the organization depends on wise, prudent, and timely decision making.
I’ve come to see institutional decline like a staged disease – harder to detect but easier to cure in the early stages, easier to detect but harder to cure in the later stages. An institution can look strong on the outside but already be sick on the inside, dangerously on the cusp of a precipitous fall. (p. 5)
When you make a decision, you can do one of two things. You can spend a lot of time, effort and energy considering what it would have been like if you had made a different decision and searching the internet for more tips on decision making processes. Or you can spend that time, effort and energy on making your decision work. You get to decide.
So, will you Decide or Die?
Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, (Proverbs 27:23)
The following quote is from John Gill’s Commentary of Proverbs 27:23:
In what condition they are; what health they enjoy; how fat and fruitful they be; what pasturage they have; and that they want nothing fitting for them that can be had and is necessary; and also the number of them. The calling of the shepherd is here particularly mentioned, because valiant, honourable, innocent, and useful; but the same diligence is to be used in all other callings and business men are employed in, that they may provide for themselves and their families. It is in the original text, “the face of thy flocks”; perhaps the allusion is to the exact and distinct knowledge some very diligent careful shepherds might have, so as to know each sheep in their flocks distinctly; see ( John 10:3 ) ; The Septuagint version renders it, the souls of thy flock, as if it was an instruction to spiritual pastors or shepherds, who have the care of the souls of men: and certain it is, that if it is the duty of shepherds in common to be diligent in looking after their sheep, and doing everything the duty of their office requires; then it must become the indispensable duty of pastors of churches to take heed to the flock of God committed to them, and to look into their state and condition, and provide for them, and feed them with knowledge and understanding, ( Acts 20:28 ) ; [and] look well to thy herds; or, “put thy heart” to them: show a cordial regard for them, and take a hearty care of them, that they have everything needful for them; and which is for the owner’s good as well as theirs.
Proverbs is classified as Wisdom Literature. Indeed! Every pastor-shepherd would do well to prayerfully ponder this passage and apply it in ministry. A reasonable application of the principle stated in this passage would include the benefits of an objective assessment that displays the true condition of the flock. It is not possible to provide optimal pastoral leadership apart from this knowledge.
So, why is it that nearly all pastors and church leaders absolutely refuse to submit to such an evaluation? This post will offer five possible reasons. Do you use these excuses to avoid submitting to a solid assessment?
#1 – Fear Pastor-shepherds with their eyes open know intuitively the condition of their flock. They are aware of broken relationships. They are aware of the failure of the church they serve to reach the community around them. They monitor the declining attendance and offering figures. But, they would rather witness the slow decline than risk the turmoil generated by strategic intentional change initiatives that they are responsible to lead.
#2 – Substitutes Activity, frenetic activity is a smoke screen used to hide reality. The idea is this. Since we are so busy, have so much activity we must be effective. Wrong. Activity alone does not produce transformation. That requires intentionality with purpose, persistence, and accountability.
#3 – Incompetence 75% of pastors who participated in a survey done by the Francis Schaeffer Leadership Institute indicated they had no training or equipping from their college or Seminary in leadership. They know deep down they are not equipped to tackle the rigors required in the transformation process. This is sad. Hiding from reality is not the solution. Be bold and courageous. Get some equipping and enlist an outside voice that will guide the process.
#4 – Cost The persistent decline in churches includes the decline in available funds. However, cost is not the real issue. There is a net net increase in the contributions to a local church when that church becomes healthy and effective. When a church is healthy they have new people that become members. Redeemed people live in obedience to the LORD and contribute financially. Refusing assessment that enables the church to become healthy and effective perpetuates the inadequate funding required for ministry.
#5 – Comfort This is not pretty but sadly true. I have been told that while things are not well, they will be OK until I am gone. What? That is the attitude of what Scripture calls a hireling not a faithful shepherd. Leading the change process of necessity includes tension and perhaps even outright conflict.
Be that as it may faithful shepherds that know the condition of their flocks lead on, embrace assessment, and respond appropriately to what the assessment tells them about the condition of their flock.
If you please God, it does not matter whom you displease. And if you displease Him, it does not matter whom you please. (Steve Lawson)
I recently responded to a post on Face Book. There was a picture of a young lady wearing a long sleeve green t-shirt. One word was printed on the shirt – ‘Whosoever’ in large letters. In much smaller letters under that word was the reference John 3:16.
I responded to that post and pointed out that there is no such word (whosoever) in the text in the original language in John 3:16. WOW! The free-willers went ballistic. Hundreds of people cited the NIV, the KJV, etc. as proof that whosoever is indeed in that passage.
It mattered not that I gave the following interpretation from the text in the original language:
In this manner, God loved the world that he actually gave his unique one of a kind son with the express purpose that the believing ones will not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
Emotions and tradition trump exegesis. Many virtually attacked my person for even stating such. I graciously thanked each person for their response and once again cited the textual evidence for this interpretation.
Why do I share this incident? Because our culture is swimming in biblical illiteracy and it is evident that no amount of sound interpretive evidence changes anyone’s mind. Private interpretations (2Peter 1:20) rather than the authority of the text reign supreme in what they want to believe the Scripture says. Take note of this pastor as this is what you are facing.
God uses the message of Special Revelation to transform people. He does not honor the distorted and privatized preferences of ill-informed people clinging to their traditions.
I post this hymn to encourage and lift up those faithful men who are weary in the battle. Read the words of this hymn over and over. Sing them in the night season. Let them penetrate the deepest fiber of your pastoral being. And remember, JOY comes in the morning!!
Author: Leonard Swain
Swain, Leonard, D.D., was born at Concord, New Haven, Feb. 26, 1821, and educated at Dartmouth College and Andover. In 1847 he became a Congregational minister at Nashua, New Haven; and in 1852 of Central Church, Providence, Rhode Island. He died July 14, 1869. His hymns, “My soul, it is thy God” (The Christian Race), and “My soul, weigh not thy life” (The Good Fight of Faith), appeared anonymously in The Sabbath Hymn Book, 1858, and their authorship has only recently been determined. The second hymn is the more widely used of the two. [Rev. F. M. Bird, M.A.] — John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907).
Percent of Americans who usually make New Year’s Resolutions
Percent of Americans who infrequently make New Year’s Resolutions
Percent of Americans who absolutely never make New Year’s Resolutions
Percent of people who are successful in achieving their resolution
Percent who have infrequent success
Percent who never succeed and fail on their resolution each year
People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions
In 1962 I served on the USS Independence, CVA 62, an air craft carrier. In April we deployed to the Mediterranean for what was to be a period of nine months. Near the end of August we returned to Norfolk, crossing the Atlantic Ocean in 3 days, a trip that under normal circumstances takes 8-10 days for a carrier.
In early September we deployed to the Caribbean. We circled Cuba for 6 weeks. We now have learned the reason for our rapid return to the East Coast – Russia had deployed missiles on Cuban soil, 90 miles from the USA.
We had 96 planes and a crew of 5,000 on that ship. One afternoon in late October we went to General Quarters, a condition of battle readiness. The launch of those planes was scheduled for 4 PM. Normally such drills ended after one hour. 3:15 – still on. 3:30 – still on. At 3:40 the launch was canceled. We came within 20 minutes of nuclear war with Russia! John F. Kennedy was our President at that time. He crafted a deal with Khrushchev that prevented the outbreak of war.
Fast forward to November 6, 2015. We visited the Arlington National Cemetery. Kennedy is buried there. We viewed his grave site and the flame, etc. Several weeks ago I watched Bill O’Riley’s movie Killing Kennedy. I relived much of what took place in 1962. In the mid 90′s Peggy & I visited Key West Florida. I stood by the pylon that marks the southern most point of land in the USA. It is 90 miles to Cuba from that spot. It was then that I grasped some of the geographical significance of the missile crisis.
It is no secret that Jack Kennedy was a carouser and an adulterer. At one point Bobby Kennedy is speaking to Jack in his office. He covers several issues and then says – - ‘Jack, you have a ‘woman problem’. It is a matter of record that some of the females in Jack’s philandering very well may have presented security risk to our country.
Jack turned his back, walked over to his desk and said indignantly – - ‘is that all’? In that scene he was dismissing Bobby’s rebuke and demonstrating a lethal flaw in the character of any leader. The refusal to hear and respond appropriately to a well placed rebuke.
Real leaders listen. What kind of listener are you?