Welcome to Leaving LaodiceaThe Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church
Some of the hardest questions in the Christian life have to do with God not answering our prayers— no matter how much we pray or how much faith we can collectively muster. Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? Why didn’t God do what I prayed He would do? Why doesn’t God love me? Because if He did, He would not have let happen what happened? Where was God during my time of deepest need? I prayed to God for ________ and it did not happen.
Which inevitably leads us to ask this: Why God? Is the problem with me? Am I not doing enough to get my prayers answered? Or is the problem with You? Are You showing favorites and am I on the bottom of Your list? What’s the problem? Help me understand this, God, because this is hurtful and doesn’t make any sense.
You’re Right, It Doesn’t Make Much Sense
And the reason for that is our reliance on Cliff Note theology. We grab a few Scriptures, usually out of context, and hold on to them like a life preserver vainly trying to get them to say something they don’t. Consider these:
1 John 5:14-15 – Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
Did you notice something? The key, according to this verse, is praying “according to His will.” When that happens, badda bing, badda boom, prayers get answered. But when we ask for something not according to the will of God, all bets are off. The answer will be, “Not today, not ever.”
Matthew 18:19 – “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.”
First, this statement by our Lord has nothing to do with prayer, but with dealing with a sinning believer. And even if it did give us a prescription for prayer, can two people agree for world peace and the end of all wars, and it be a guarantee from the Lord? I think not. Why? Because God has already revealed to us that in the future we “will hear of wars and rumors of wars” (Matt. 24:6). God has already spoken prophetic truth to us and won’t violate His Word because of our prayers.
Do you want to know the reason God often doesn’t answer our prayers? Because the reason will change the way you look at God and prayer from this point forward. If you want to know more, then keep listening.
You want some great advice? Good. Then “do the next right thing.”
When we’re faced with depression, chilling disappointment, or numbing loss, what are we to do? What happens when all our dreams come crashing down around us like Jenga pieces scattered on our dining room floor? What happens when the intimacy we once felt with our Lord evaporates right before our eyes— and we don’t know why? What do we to do when the only voice we hear is our own doubt and paralyzing fear? What happens when our pain compels us to sleep 18 hours a day, and we forget who we are and Who we serve? What are we do to then?
“Do the next right thing?” Simply stumble forward.
Do you realize that if your goal was to run 5 miles and all you could do was stand and then fall flat on your face, eventually you’d get there. One body length at a time. That’s exactly what our Bible heroes of old did. They stood on their feet and did he next right thing. They chose to not doubt in the dark what they believed in the light. After all, truth doesn’t change. But our circumstances do.
What did Moses do when decades passed and it looked like God had forgotten and forsaken Him? He did the next right thing. And remember Elijah, who was struggling with self-doubt and depression to the point he wanted to die. What did God say to him as they met at the mouth of the cave? Essentially this, “Do the next right thing.” How about David when he learned his son was dead due to his own sin with Bathsheba? What did David do? The next right thing.
The Scriptures are full of those, just like you and me, who stumble forward in the dark faithfully doing the next right thing, even when we don’t know why or how. They just did what was right. And they made sure it was the next thing they did. Do you want to know more about putting one step in front of another and doing the next right thing? Then keep listening.
The ladies in our church are going on a women’s retreat in a couple of weeks and the theme of their study will include the abundant life found only in Christ and the idea of true worship. And, as would happen, just today I discovered a blog post by Jeff Kinley that addressed some of the issues I have personally struggled with when it comes to true worship (as compared to the lame stuff we call worship today).
I pray this will be a blessing to you as you prepare this Sunday morning to worship our Sovereign God.
Read ‘Em and Weep
The following are 10 reasons many of us rarely experience true worship. See if you can relate to a few of these.
1. While most Christians struggle with the challenges of life, many live defeated lives, never achieving the “more than conquerors” victory that Scripture claims is the normal experience of those who have been redeemed.
2. Many professing Christians simply stop growing after an initial burst of interest and enthusiasm. Bibles gather dust and heart-fires start burning out. As a result, the process of sanctification (becoming like Jesus) is often short-circuited, fueled by sin, Satan or self. These people end up as spiritual children living in adult bodies. Churches are FULL of these folks.
3. Many have never taken the time to really understand salvation— studying what actually took place at the cross, contemplating their dark, sinful condition and future outside of Christ, and learning to regularly bath in the infinitely deep ocean of God’s grace and love. Understanding how and why God saved you is the key to contentment and joy in life.
4. Most Christians have little clue about how great their Lord is. I mean, how could they? They rarely, if ever, crack open the only Book God wrote to reveal Himself to them. Ignorance of the mind-blowing truths in Scripture concerning who God is and how amazing His attributes are is a guaranteed one-way ticket to Bland Land. Bank on this: true theology and doctrine is never, ever boring. Rather, it infuses our hearts with awe and wonder, inspiring pure, explosive heart-worship.
5. Face it. We like comfort and often choose the path of least resistance when it comes to our faith. Living for Jesus is hard, and few American believers have the lungs for the long, uphill race. So we rest comfortably by the wayside, occasionally admiring those “Super Christians” who run by on their way to maturity.
6. We refuse to exercise faith in the daily challenges of life, and almost never branch out and trust God for something truly supernatural, especially if it could cost us a bundle. We treat sacrifice and suffering like tax season— with a sense of dread and avoidance. Fear rules many of our life decisions, not faith. Safety and security becomes our style, influencing everything from friends to finances. And that makes Heaven yawn… and grieve.
7. We love the idea that God is loving and compassionate, but fail to grow past those sentimental attributes. Godly discernment, on the other hand, may lead us to actions that others may interpret as unloving. So we continue enabling people in their immaturity and sin— and do it all in the name of love. But in reality, hidden behind this “love” is simply a weak and impotent heart. Boring.
8. We ignore the direct application of God’s Infinitely-Wise Word where it really matters— on the job, at home, in our marriage and in our parenting. And we wonder why we’re so screwed up. We trust in ourselves because having faith seems to be complicated and intangible. We settle for “what works”— expediency, pragmatism and peace. And when we do look for advice and counsel, it’s usually from someone just as messed up as we are. Logical?
9. The average American Christian checks into church 2x a month, way too little for it to ever have any real, life-changing impact on their lives. Like working out 2x a month, there is never any real progress or growth. Truthfully, there’s always a “good reason” to prioritize something else over gathering with your spiritual family – sleep, work, friends, fun, movies, sports on TV, etc.
10. Honestly, we want a God who entertains and serves us. We prefer that He act like we want Him to and at the time of our choosing. And when He fails to deliver or meet our expectations, we lose interest and become bored with His “ways”.
Do any of these resonate with you? They do with me. Ask our Lord to give you His “living water” and teach you to be the kind of worshipper He seeks. And remember these wonderful words of Jesus to the Samaritan women He encountered at the well:
“But the hour is coming, and now is, when (who) the true worshipers will worship the Father (how) in spirit and truth; (why) for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must (what) worship in spirit and truth” – John 4:23-24.
Strive to become the worshiper the Father actively seeks to worship Him. Because that, my dear friend, is the abundant life in Christ (John 10:10). And begin that faith journey with Him today.
The word Pergamos comes from a combination of two Greek words that mean “mixed, objectionable” and “marriage.” Pergamos therefore means a “mixed marriage” that is “objectionable” to God. Prophetically, it represents the marriage of the church and state where the state elevates the church to a place of acceptance or political correctness at the expense of the church’s devotion to God.
Look at what the Lord had to say about this church:
“But I have a few things against you, because you have there (in the church) those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those (in the church) who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate” – Revelation 2:14-15.
The Sin of Compromise
The church, although commended by Christ for the fact they have not denied His name under severe trials and suffering (Rev. 2:13), nevertheless dropped the ball and allowed those into the church who were heretics and sought to drive the believers away from God and into sin. And the church did nothing about it. Why? Because, like the church of today, they allowed themselves to compromise with the world and allow all sorts of worldliness into His church. And they also showed a glaring lack of discernment and church discipline.
Sadly, the same can be said of the church today. Which raises a couple of questions:
How should we, as His church, respond to compromise and worldliness in the church?
What can we do as a congregation to foster a spirit of holiness in our time together?
What can you, as a member of His body, do to present yourself before Him spotless?
What areas of your life need to be addressed?
And what are you prepared to do about it?
There’s a time when the Lord gives us what we want: freedom, autonomy, independence, and to have no authority over our lives but ourselves. That’s right. God gives us over to our selfish, carnal attitudes and allows us to experience the consequences of our sins. It’s like He says, “Ok, you want to go your own way? Have at it. I’ll be here when you come to your senses.” It’s the story of the prodigal son played out in our lives in real time.
This is called the curse of God’s abandonment. It’s when He removes His protecting grace from our lives and our nation and let’s us see how we like life without Him. And the results are catastrophic.
Samson, after having his hair cut by Delilah, woke up to confront his enemies still believing he had the same strength as before because his God was with him. But that was not the case. He said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him (Judges 16:20). Samson was experiencing the abandonment of God.
God Gave Them Up
In Romans 1 we see three examples of this very act of God’s abandonment:
Therefore God also gave them up – Romans 1:24.
For this reason God gave them up – Romans 1:26.
God gave them over – Romans 1:28.
But who are the “them” in these verses? The lost? The unregenerate? Those nations that reject truth and justice? Yes. But if you will study these verses closely you will find the object of God’s curse of abandonment is also the church. It includes His wayward believers. It includes you and me.
Does this seem strange to you? Maybe hard to believe? Then I suggest you keep listening and find out the truth for yourself. And remember, “judgment begins at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17). Are you ready?
greedy businessman, or the government. How are we supposed to follow that command?
Another example deals with how we respond to a personal attack. Jesus said, “But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also” (Matt. 5:39-40). How does this play out in real life in real time? If the church followed this command the future of the legal profession would be in great peril.
But one of the hardest teachings in Scripture, especially to an opulent, narcissistic church like we have today, is the idea that suffering or persecution could be a good thing. That sentiment is hard to swallow, let alone believe. How could persecution be a good thing? Ever? To anybody?
The Church at Smyrna
In the second of our Lord’s seven personal epistles to His church, found in Revelation 2 and 3, He has nothing but kind words to say about the church at Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11). And the primary characteristic of this church was their faithful perseverance under extreme persecution that lasted centuries. We would be well advised as a church, and as individuals, to emulate in our life what brought this church such praise from our Lord.
To find out more about the Lord’s letter to the church at Smyrna, and what we can learn about our own view of suffering, then keep listening.
Baptism has fallen out of favor in the church today. Many people are confused about baptism. And since there seems to be such a wide diversity of opinion about what baptism means and how important it is, many in the church have relegated it to an archaic, antiquated ritual and not much more. And that is a grave mistake. Why? Because baptism is your first act of obedience as a Christian.
Many in the church who call themselves Christians have not been baptized according to the New Testament baptism. That may include some of you who are listening to this podcast. But think, if we are unfaithful to the first command of obedience to our Lord who saved us, it makes it much easier to disobey His other commands. Does this describe you?
The question we ask today is why don’t people get baptized? And there are at least five reasons: ignorance, pride, indifference, rebellion, or because they are simply lost. In this message we will look at each of these in detail.
Are you confused about baptism and why it seemed so important in New Testament times but not so much today? If that describes you, then keep listening.
In Proverbs 4 the Lord reveals to us some promises that come with wisdom. They are simple, direct, pointed promises, and each has a condition that must be met. Fulfill the condition, receive the promise. Refuse the condition, and you walk away empty handed and promise free. It’s that simple.
The Proverb begins with the father once again giving sage advice to his young children. Watch how this unfolds.
Proverbs 4:1-2 – Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; (why) for I give you good doctrine: (therefore) do not forsake my law.
The father then reminds his children about his own upbringing and the words his father told him that he is now passing on to his own children. He says:
Proverbs 4:3-4 – When I was my father’s son, tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, he also taught me, and said to me: “Let your heart retain my words; keep my commands, and live. Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.”
Get Wisdom! Get Understanding!
The point the father is trying to impress on his beloved children is the importance of getting wisdom and understanding. In fact, you can almost feel the urgency in the father’s words: “Get wisdom! Get understanding!” (Prov. 4:4) Later, he adds, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7).
Wisdom (ḥoḵmāh) is defined as “skill, experience and shrewdness; with the beginning of wisdom and the supreme wisdom being to properly fear and reverence God.”1 Understanding (biynāh) means “comprehension and discernment, which is accompanied by righteous actions and it carries a strong moral and religious connotation.”2 So when the father says “in all your getting, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7), he is imploring his children to add righteous actions to their reverence and fear of God. It’s not a theological point to be debated. It’s not a mere mental exercise. It’s living in real time a life that corresponds to a reverence of God. Like Jesus later said, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Great question. How would you answer Him?
The First Promise
Then comes the most exciting part of these few verses. Wisdom is now personified as a woman and each of these promises about wisdom (her) is connected with a condition that must first be met. There are three do’s and one don’t. Let’s look at the don’t first.
Proverbs 4:6a – (condition) Do not forsake her (wisdom), and (promise) she will preserve you.
To forsake (ʿāzaḇ) someone is to “leave, neglect, or abandon” them, usually for someone or something else.3 And the idea associated with the word translated preserve (šāmar) means “to keep watch, to guard, to watch over carefully like a mother over her young child.”4
So the first promise from wisdom is that if we do not abandon wisdom or neglect the wisdom found in God’s Word, then wisdom will guard our life and watch carefully over us like a loving mother to her cherished young child. Wisdom will become our protector, our safety, and our security in troubling times of trials and temptations and persecution. She will preserve our life during the attacks of the enemy and reveal to us what is true and trustworthy. And in doing so, we will be strengthened against the schemes of our enemy who speaks to us lies disguised as truth (John 8:44).
Wisdom will also protect us from falling prey to our own ideas about things. She will help us bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) so we won’t confuse our selfish, carnal thoughts and feelings about ourselves and others and vainly think they come from the Lord. If we hold on to wisdom and do not abandon her to our own self-centered sense of right and wrong, then she will guard us against the temptation of trying to create God in our own image by believing He thinks and feels like we do.
And nothing could be further from the truth. Why? Because He doesn’t. God doesn’t live in our box.
As the Lord says in Isaiah:
Isaiah 55:9-10 – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
I think that should settle it, don’t you?
The first of Jesus’ seven letters to the churches in the Revelation reveal more about each of us than we often care to admit. The letter to Ephesus has this chilling assessment from the Lord:
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4).
Ouch. In spite of this church standing firm against heresy and faithfully persevering under great trials, the Lord holds something against them. He is hurt, angry, almost unforgiving. He must feel rejected and forgotten. Why? Because the church in Ephesus, the early church, the church that still had members that knew the Lord personally had left and forsaken the very one they claimed to love. He said, “Nevertheless I have this against you, (what) that you have left your first love.” And that first love was Jesus.
Do you remember what it was like when you first came to Christ? Do you remember the joy, the exuberance, the passion and full commitment you felt towards Him? Do you remember the promises you made in sheer gratitude for what He had done for you? Do you remember any of this?
Now look at your life. Are you still as passionate? Are you still giddy in love with Him? Are you closer to the Lord today than in any other time in your life? If not, you’ve done more than simply plateaued. You’ve left and forsaken your first love. And in doing so, the Lord now has something “against” you.
If I were you, I’d not rest until I made this right with Him. Do you know how? If not, then keep listening.
We will not all be equal in heaven. Now we’re not talking about salvation, but of rewards. All of us are equal in regards to salvation because it is a gift given freely to those who believe. In this, there is no question. But what we do with our salvation is another matter. And we will be rewarded for our faithfulness to Him in this life. Consider the following:
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 – For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with (1) gold, silver, precious stones, (2) wood, hay, straw, each one’s (personal) work will become clear; (how) for the Day will declare it, (how) because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s (personal) work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures (gold, silver, precious stones), he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned (wood, hay, straw), he will suffer loss (of reward); but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Charles Stanley also spoke of this in his book, Eternal Security. He said, “Some believers will be entrusted with certain privileges; others will not. Some will reign with Christ; others will not (2 Timothy 2:12). Some will be rich in the kingdom of God; others will be poor (Luke 12:21, 33). Some will be given true riches; others will not. Some will be given heavenly treasures of their own; others will not. Some will rule and reign with Christ; others will not. Privilege in the kingdom of God is determined by one’s faithfulness in this life. It is true that there will be equality in terms of our inclusion in the kingdom of God, but not in our rank and privilege.”
Does this sound troubling to you? Maybe confusing? If so, keep listening to learn more.
The following is a study on the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Marriage Ceremony of the Lamb.
Something About Us
This is a collection of the many questions I have struggled with and the answers I have found regarding the relationship between authentic faith in Christ and much of what is portrayed today as Biblical Christianity. Especially with the coming darkness looming over all of us, including the church.
Come with me. It should be a wild ride!
To find out more about us and what we believe, just continue reading…