Welcome to Leaving LaodiceaThe Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church
God never wastes an experience in our life, good or bad. When we sin, for example, God uses our failure as a ministry to help others struggling with the same sin. He allows us to share the times we fell flat on our face to encourage others who are doing the same. It seems that’s what Jesus was teaching Peter.
In the upper room, during the last supper, Jesus told Peter He was praying for him. But His prayer was not to remove the temptation and inevitable fall from Peter. No, His prayer was that when Peter fell and suffered the consequences of that fall, that once he repented and returned to Jesus, he was to strengthen his brothers by that experience. Consider the following:
Luke 22:31-32 – And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
Jesus didn’t tell Peter he would deliver him from the temptation, the sifting. He promised Peter that after he fell and recovered and returned to his faith, Jesus would use that experience to encourage and strengthen others who were struggling in the same way. That’s why, in John 21, we see Jesus restoring Peter by saying, “Feed My lambs” (John 21:15). Even after Peter’s epic denial of Jesus, his ministry was not finished. In fact, it was just beginning. And so it is with us.
Does this thought encourage you? It does me. If you want to learn more about your usefulness after your failure, then keep listening.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus equates anger with murder (Matt. 5:21-22), in much the same way He equates lust with adultery (Matt. 5:27-28). Later, John adds the following:
1 John 3:11-15 – For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love (agapaō) one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his (Cain) works were evil and his brother’s (Able) righteous. Do not marvel (wonder, be surprised, astonished), my brethren (fellow believers), if the world (kósmos) hates (to detest, an active ill will in words and conduct, a persecution spirit) you. We know (eidō) that we have passed from death to life, (how) because we love (agapaō) the brethren. He who does not love (agapaō) his (personal) brother (fellow believers) abides (rest, make their home) in death. Whoever hates (to detest, an active ill will in words and conduct, a persecution spirit) his (personal) brother (fellow believer) is a murderer, and you know (eidō) that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
Anger + Hatred = Murder
John also equates anger and hatred with murder. And he states that “no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” This is a profoundly important point. Which raises a couple of questions:
Have you been angry with a fellow Christian?
What was the cause of your anger? Was it the holiness of God? Or some personal preference about which you felt slighted?
Are you still angry with that person? And if so, why?
Did you know that, according to the Scriptures, you are guilty of murder? Why? Because the one you hate and murmur about was created in the image of God. And to hate someone created by God, who is also made in the image of your God, is to hate God. You cannot love the Creator and hate His creation.
The Scriptures call this murder. Are you confused? Do you think hatred and murder are two different things with two different penalties? Do you want to know what the Scriptures say about anger and murder? Then keep listening.
In John 21, we have the account of Jesus revealing Himself to a few of His disciples while they were fishing. As soon as it was revealed to John that it was Jesus on the shore, he said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (John 17:7). And in perfect Peter style, he overreacted and jumped into the water to swim to Jesus.
But by the time he swam the 100 yards to where Jesus was, something happened. You can see it in Peter’s demeanor. You can almost feel his reluctance to approach Jesus. Why? Maybe Peter was afraid Jesus was angry with him for his denial in the courtyard. Or maybe Peter was ashamed he had drawn the others away and gone fishing, back to their old life, like nothing important had happened these last three and a half years.
Or maybe Peter hadn’t forgiven himself for his denial of Jesus. Maybe he was ashamed. Who knows?
Change is Not Always for the Better
But something changed. Not just with Peter, but with all the disciples. They had excitement and passion that can only come from belief while on the boat. But once ashore, it seems more like calm reservation. In fact, John goes out of his way to tell us what the disciples weren’t thinking. It was his way of trying to explain the strange way they approached Jesus.
John 21:12 – Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord.
There are life lessons to be learned in these fourteen verses. Profound lessons. Are you interested? Then keep listening.
Today, I am amazed at how Proverbs 18 shines light on the current situation in this country. Just turn on the news and you’ll find the truth of Proverbs 18:2 splattered all over your screen. Does this sound familiar?
Proverbs 18:2 – A fool (dull, stupid, arrogant) has no delight (pleasure, desire) in understanding, but in expressing (venting, revealing, disclosing) his own heart.
We watch these pundits shoot their mouth off about any and everything that comes into their minds as if it dropped from the lips of God. As if they, and they alone, had the keys to all truth. They consider themselves wise in this age because of the platform we’ve given them. That’s right, we’ve elevated them to where they are by giving heed and importance to the words that come out of their mouth. We, by our continued involvement in watching them vent the foolish bile that flows from their heart, have given credence and credibility to what they say. If we watch and listen to them, their platform inevitably grows. And if we turn away from their foolishness, they will soon be gone. We hold the power to their influence in our lives, not them. Maybe it’s time we began to use it.
This proverb sums up their life and motivation quite well. Their delight is not in understanding the issues of today or the truth of those issues. Their delight and pleasure comes from venting what they think or feel or what seems right in their own eyes. They tirelessly promote their agenda and twist the facts to support their talking points. They assume that they alone are the standards of truth and we are too simple to understand the facts ourselves. We obviously need them to tell us what to think and what to do. Yet we forget the Proverbs call these type of people fools— dull, stupid, and arrogant.
As Forest Gump would say, “Stupid is as stupid does.” But is he talking about us? Or them?
Toxic Verbal Waste
The words that come out of a fool’s mouth are designed to stir up fights and foster controversy. There’s no value in speaking truth unless it pushes forward the agenda. Consider the following:
Proverbs 18:6 – A fool’s lips enter into (to go in, to bring) contention (strife, controversy, quarrels, disputes), and his mouth calls for blows (strikes, or a slap to correct insolent behavior).
That’s exactly what happens with the media today. They pour out the anger and hatefulness in their heart, criticizing everyone and everybody who does not think like they do, and create contention for the sake of stirring up controversy. But, as the Proverbs say, what they need is a punch in the mouth, a fist in their face, a belt in the chops. A classic John Wayne moment.
But maybe we need the same thing. Maybe we need a slap in the face for listening to the dribble that comes out of their mouth. Maybe we need a wake up call. Maybe we need someone to slap us back to reality. Maybe we’ve become just as arrogant and stupid as they are by listening to the arrogant and stupid things that come out of their mouth. Maybe we also delight in contention, quarrels and strife.
Maybe we’re no better than they are. Maybe we’ve got blood on our own hands.
These are just a few of the encouraging truths found in Proverbs 15. I pray they will be a blessing to you today.
Truth One: God is Sovereign
In your times of trouble, remember these encouraging words:
Proverbs 15:3 – The eyes of the LORD are in every place (He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and so much more), keeping watch (beholding, guarding as from a high tower) on the evil and the good.
After all, He is sovereign. And nothing catches Him by surprise. As someone once said, “Has it ever occurred to you that nothing ever occurs to God?” Rest in this truth today.
Truth Two: Actions Matter
How important is prayer and a life of striving to live righteously before Him? It’s the key to becoming the beloved and delight of the Lord. Consider the following:
Proverbs 15:8 – The sacrifice (offering) of the wicked is an abomination (disgusting, unclean, wicked, horrendously offensive) to the LORD, but (by contrast) the prayer of the upright (straight, just, pleasing, in a moral and ethical sense) is His delight (pleasure, will, deemed acceptable).
It gets more intriguing.
Proverbs 15:9 – The way (path, journey, manner of life) of the wicked is an abomination (disgusting, unclean, wicked, horrendously offensive) to the LORD, but (by contrast) He loves him who follows (to chase, run after, pursues) righteousness (blameless in conduct, integrity).
Note the distinction. The difference between becoming His delight or being horrendously offensive to the Lord is the condition of your heart. Wickedness brings pain and rejection. Living upright, holy and righteous, as He is upright, holy, and righteous, bring His pleasure and delight. And He loves the one who pursues, in both actions and attitude, His righteousness. You see, actions do matter.
And just in case you’re not yet convinced your actions and attitudes have eternal consequences, look at who gets their prayers heard:
Proverbs 15:29 – The LORD is far (distant, remote, far away) from the wicked, but (by contrast) He hears (to listen, have regard for) the prayer of the righteous (just, those blameless in conduct both morally and ethically).
God hears the prayers of those who live like Him. But for the wicked? He’s moved on, out of town, not interested. That’s scary.
Truth Three: We Don’t Have All Day
Looks like it’s a choice we make to determine which team we want to play on: the righteous or the wicked. I don’t know about you, but my desire is to live righteously for Him and to become His delight. Is that your desire also? Are you chasing after Him in hot pursuit? Then let’s get to it. We don’t have all day.
Maybe this will give you something to shoot for this week. After all, nothing else really matters, does it?
Life teaches us that anything worth having has a price attached to it. Nothing of value, other than salvation, comes free. “No pain, no gain,” as the saying goes. Jesus spoke that same truth in Luke 14:26-33.
And the same principle applies when it comes to understanding and experiencing spiritual gifts. There are some things we must do and some things we can expect. Let’s look at our part first:
You must have a desire for more of the Lord. A desire for the Spirit’s gifts. But that desire means more than calm, wishful, thinking. Consider the following
1 Corinthians 14:1 – Pursue love (agápē), and desire (zēlóō – to burn with zeal, to be heated or to boil with envy, to lust, covet) spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
Then you must cultivate a vibrant prayer life. This takes time and effort. But the rewards are life-changing.
And finally, you must be willing to fast. Why? Because the Lord links fasting, for some reason, with prayer and spiritual fervency. They seem to come in a package. Two for the price of one.
Do you want to know more about growing deep in your intimacy of the Lord? Do you want to begin living in the realm of the gifts the Spirit has given you? Do you want to let Him manifest HImself to the world through you (1 Cor. 12:7)? Great. Then keep listening.
In my devotion time today, I discovered some words of wisdom I would like to share with you:
Proverbs 5:1-2 – My son, pay attention (listen carefully, give heed, obey) to my (not the world’s) wisdom; lend (extend, stretch out) your ear to my (not the world’s) understanding, (why) that you may preserve (watch, keep, guard) discretion, and your lips may keep knowledge.
The Proverbs are all about wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. And the key to living in these blessings is to forsake the wisdom of this world, which is moronic (mōría) at best, and embrace the wisdom that only comes from God (1 Cor. 3:19). It’s a daily choice, sometimes an hourly choice, we can make.
So how ’bout it? Are you up for the challenge?
And one more:
Proverbs 5:21 – For the ways (path, journey of one’s life) of man (each man, you and me) are before the eyes of the LORD, and He (the Lord) ponders (to make level, to weigh, to guard or watch carefully) all his (each man, you and me) paths (goings, the circle of a camp).
Did you catch the meaning of this proverb? Our life’s journey, our life’s choices are laid out before the Lord. Nothing is hidden from Him. He sees all. Everything. Good and bad.
Is that a good thing that nothing is hidden from God? Or not such a good thing? That depends on your view of God as your Father.
What is Your Heavenly Father Like?
There are two ways to look at this proverb. And they are basically determined by our perception of what God the Father is like and how we choose to interpret the word, ponder (pālas). One way is to focus on the part of the definition that means “to make level, to weigh.” The image would be of a large legal scale, with our actions on one side and God’s righteousness on the other. We would then see God as a great Judge with a mighty hammer waiting for us to cross the line, to do something disappointing to Him, something embarrassing to His character. And once the scale becomes unbalanced towards our sin and not His righteousness, WHAM! – down comes the hammer. In essence, “All our lives are before the Lord and He is waiting, just biding His time, until we mess up. And when we do, geez, out comes His iron fist.”
This is a picture of an abusive father who is head over a dysfunctional family. This is not what our God is like.
How Can Grace Become Sin?
For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation,
ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the
only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this verse, Jude tells us four things about these “certain men who have crept in unnoticed” in the church: (1) their condemnation or judgment was determined long ago, (2) they are ungodly, (3) they turn the grace offered by our God into a license to sin, and (4) they deny the Lord Jesus Christ.1
This is the inevitable outcome of someone who only sees one side of God’s character— grace. When we only believe the nature of God is grace alone, we tend to see Him as an all-forgiving Father who puts up with the sins of His children and is either too afraid, weak or insecure to confront their behavior. He becomes nothing more than a Get Out of Jail Free card whose only purpose is to clean up our mess, pay for any damages, and continue to give us access to His unlimited American Express to fund our carefree lifestyle.
He becomes, in effect, a bad parent by showing only grace to the willing sins of His children and not demanding repentance, accountability, responsibility, and retribution.
But God is anything but a bad parent.
When Jesus confronted the woman caught in the act of adultery, He first offered her grace, then repentance.
John 8:10-11 – “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, (grace) “Neither do I condemn you; (repentance) go and sin no more.”
Grace is only one side of the character of Christ. The other side has to do with the consequences of rejecting grace.
Wrath of the Lamb
There is a chilling verse in the Revelation that should strike fear in those who take the grace of God for granted and use it as an excuse to sin. This verse shows a different side of Jesus. There’s no more “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild” as the children’s song goes. Jesus, referred to as the Lamb of God, now comes with something we’d never expect from a lamb— wrath.
Revelation 6:15-16 – And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!”
Did you catch that? Those under condemnation for the sin and rejection of the truth were trying to hide from the wrath of the Lamb, the wrath of Jesus. In fact, Jesus said, “the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22).
Jesus, with His judgment, also brings wrath.
If you’ll take the time, you’ll find the core message of Jesus was about the kingdom of God. Over and over again we find summary verses like this one:
Matthew 4:23 – And Jesus went about all Galilee, (1) teaching in their synagogues, (2) preaching the gospel of (what) the kingdom, and (3) healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.
In fact, Jesus said the object of the gospel He preached, and commanded us to preach, is the kingdom of God. Consider what Jesus said in His olivet discourse:
Matthew 24:14 – “And this gospel of (what) the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
There are also certain kingdom characteristics in the lives of believers that the Scriptures point out to us as signs of His kingdom. In essence, when believers manifest certain characteristics of the kingdom in their lives, we can know the kingdom of God is present. And, conversely, when a believer doesn’t manifest these kingdom characteristics, we can also safely assume the kingdom of God is far from them.
This is a sobering thought. Character, holiness, and sanctification matter. Do you want to discover more about the signs of life in the kingdom? Then keep listening.
We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us
For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation,
ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the
only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Churchill once said, borrowing from an old African proverb, “When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.” While there is much truth to that proverb, the opposite is also true. “When the enemy is within, the enemies outside can hurt you.” And they can hurt you bad. Often permanently.
This was the situation Jude was warning the church about in his letter, and the same situation we find ourselves today. The enemy has breached our walls and is now inside the camp. What are we to do?
Who Are These Certain Men?
Jude, after calling believers to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3), begins to tell us why it’s so imperative to defend our faith. He says, “For certain men have crept in unnoticed” (Jude 1:4).
There are several words that need further scrutiny.
The first of these is certain. The Greek word is tis and means “a certain one, some person whom one cannot or does not wish to name.”2 In other words, “It’s one of those guys. You know who they are. I don’t even need to call them by name.”
These certain men have crept (pareisdúō) into the church unnoticed, or by stealth. The word means to “enter in craftily, under cover of darkness, like a thief.”3 They, like a terrorist sleeper cell, blend in with the others waiting for a time to attack from the inside, from the unprotected underbelly of the church. They are most sinister.
But who are these guys?
Jude describes them as those “who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4). But we’ll look more into this at a later time.
They are, in effect, pastors void of holiness.
Businessmen, masquerading as pastors, who see the church as their next current startup.
They’re entrepreneurs, building their own product, brand, and empire within the church.
Jesus called them “false prophets”— ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15).
And we don’t seem to care they’re among us, spreading like kudzu.
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…