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516:  School’s Out— Time to Do Something

516: School’s Out— Time to Do Something

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You Shall Receive Power – Acts 1:8

We have two key objectives in mind.  One, to grow closer to our Lord and experience the Higher Christian Life, or at least try to understand what the Higher Christian Life looks like in real-time.  And two, to have our faith grow to the point we will be spiritually prepared for the chaotic times coming our way and the trials, tribulations, and persecutions, that will most certainly follow.  These, in my opinion, are noble endeavors.  And both of them can be fulfilled by studying the book of Acts and focusing on the powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit in common men who lived under times far more chaotic than ours.

But if it is true the Acts is a training manual for His church and His revelation of what church should look like, then we need to ask some questions about what we read.  For if we don’t ask questions, then how will we know when the Lord answers them?  Here are some pressing questions we need to ask.  We’ll start with chapter one.

•   Who were the 120 in the upper room?  What were they like?  Where did they come from?
•   Where were they when Jesus ascended into heaven?
•   What, if anything, made them different from us?
•   And what made the church in Acts different than the church in America today?
•   In what aspect were they followers of Jesus?  Was there a part of their life they kept for themselves or had they surrendered all to Him?
•   Are we followers of Him in the same way they were followers of Him?  Or do we follow Him differently today?  And if we do, is it better?
•   What was the overriding command they were given?  How were they to fulfill that command?  And did they even want to?
•   What kind of power did they have that we seem to have lost?  And how can we rediscover the power that lies dormant in the church, and in you and me, today?
•   Do we really want to fully receive the “Promise of the Father” Jesus spoke about?  Or is that a bit too radical for us?  And if we do receive the promise, how would that change our lives?
•   Do you think it is still possible for a small group of committed believers to “turn the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) as they did back then?  Or do you think that ship has already sailed?
•   And if you do believe it is still possible, are you aware of the cost of being that kind of believer?  Is it a cost you are willing to bear?  Or a sacrifice you are willing to make?  Is it something you want to do, something you are willing for Him to create in you?  Or would you rather just pass?
•   And finally, would you want to be a member of the early church?  Or would you find it too intimidating, too convicting?

Whew.  And these are just a few questions we want to know about the lives of those who made up the early church.  For if we can see their commitment and sacrifice, maybe we can begin to be more like them.

All That Jesus Began to Do and Teach – Acts 1:1

But there is one other thing we will look at today.  And it is found in the insightful phrase that describes the ministry of Jesus, “do and teach.”

The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach – Acts 1:1.

Note the order.  Ministry first, theology later.  Jesus was always doing first, and then teaching later.  For our Lord, ministry preceded and produces theology, not the reverse.  And His ministry was to do the will of the Father and out of this ministry emerges theological activity… later.  It was never the other way around.  Not for Jesus, and especially not for us.  Or at least it should not be.

But that’s not how we do church in the West.  It seems we have become teaching connoisseurs, and ministry wannabes.   We learn, and learn more, and go from Sunday school to graduate school with all our church degrees, yet fail to put most of what we have learned into practice.  Especially in the ministry of evangelism.  Ouch.  I know.  That one stings.

So let’s look at what “do and teach” implies regarding the ministry of Jesus and see if we can understand the passion and power of the early believers to glean from them something we so desperately need.  After all, they knew far less than we do.  Yet they did so much more.  How is that possible?

Let’s find out together, shall we?

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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515:  How to Experience Freedom From Your “Besetting Sins”

515: How to Experience Freedom From Your “Besetting Sins”

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Forgiveness:  Past, Present, and Future

If we were honest with ourselves, most of us would admit it is sin that keeps us from experiencing the Higher  Christian Life.  And it’s not our horrible, gross, never-talk-about, sin that grieves His Spirit the most.  It’s the sin we commit over and over again, the sin we have long since given up hope for ever gaining victory over.  It is the sin, no matter how small it may seem to others, that has now become part of our lives and defines our inability to claim what is rightfully ours, the Higher Christian Life.  “I know things would be different spiritually if I could just quit (you fill in the blank).  But since I can’t… and oh, how I’ve tried… I guess this lukewarm spiritual existence is my destined lot in life.  Ahem.”

But nothing could be further from the truth.

In Hebrews 11, we have a list of Old and New Testament saints that overcame incredible hardships and suffering by simple faith in God and His Word.  As such, this chapter has been affectionately called the roll-call of faith.  And it ends with the epithet of these men and women, “of whom the world was not worthy” (Heb. 11:38).  It is a truly amazing tribute to what faith can accomplish in the life of a believer.

But then we ask ourselves, “Why can’t we seem to live the same types of lives as they did?  What is holding us back from experiencing overcoming faith?  How can we be more like them?”

And as usual, the Lord was anticipating our questions and provided His answer in the very next sentence, found in Hebrews 12:1:2.  Consider these words from our Lord.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (we are not alone, drifting in uncharted waters), let us (our action) lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares (euperístatos) us, and let us (our action) run with endurance the race that is set before us, (how) looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God – Hebrews 12:1-2.

But the most important phrase in this statement is “easily ensnares” or euperístatos in Greek.  This word means “to surround or encompass, easily besetting.”  Ah, it’s a besetting sin.  And a besetting sin is defined as one we “continually struggle with and have a weakness towards, one we commit over and over again seemingly without relief or victory.”

Sound familiar?  I thought so.  You may have a few besetting sins in your own life.  Most believers do.

Sanctification:  Past, Present, and Future

After a time of trying only to fail, and fail again… only harder, most believers grow frustrated and prone to give up ever thinking victory is possible over their besetting sins.  And at some point, usually after utter despondency, they come to the conclusion either Christ is not sufficient, or their flesh is too powerful, or they are just too much of a loser to amount to anything more than a nominal Christian plagued by besetting sins no one else seems to be struggling with.  And this, after a time, leads to believing the Higher Christian Life is for others, but not for losers… like us.

But God has provided victory over besetting sins, and His victory is found in our commitment to trust Him at His Word.  He has provided for us a great promise of forgiveness and sanctification if we trust His Word to be true.  It is an if/then promise from the Lord.  We do our part (if) and He will do His part (then).  It is really that simple.  All we have to do is believe He will do what He promises to do and the victory is ours.  Consider this if/then promise:

If (our part) we confess our sins, (then – His part) He is faithful and just to (1) forgive us our sins (salvation) and to (2) cleanse us from all (pás) unrighteousness (sanctification, victory over besetting sins) – 1 John 1:9.

The forgiveness part we freely accept, no problem.  But the cleansing from all unrighteousness (our victory over our besetting sins) is a bit more difficult to swallow and stretches our faith.  So let’s look at this promise in a little more detail.

If we confess (to admit, concede, to openly acknowledge) our sins (plural), (then) He is faithful and just to (1) forgive us our sins (what we just confessed) and to (2) cleanse (to purify from the power and guilt of sin, to be free from filth and defilement), us from all (pás) unrighteousness (what is wrong, wicked, impure, an offense to God) – 1 John 1:9.

Simply stated, what you just read is true, from the Lord Himself, who is faithful and true.  What is left is the hard part.  Now you must choose to incorporate this path of victory into your own life, regardless of past failures, by faith.  And when you do, God will follow through and “cleanse you from all unrighteousness” and give you victory over your nagging, besetting sins.

If you are unconvinced, why don’t you test God in this?  After all, He has told us to test Him in other matters of faith (Mal. 3:10).  So commit to believing His Word, no matter how little faith you have in yourself, and see if He won’t bless you in such a way that the Higher Christian Life will become a reality, and not just a lofty dream.

But don’t delay.  Do it now.

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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514:  Religion = Serving God Without Power

514: Religion = Serving God Without Power

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Acts:  God’s Training Manual for His Church

As we begin to study the book of Acts, we will be doing so with new eyes.  No longer will we be satisfied with the status quo, the academic understanding of simple facts about the early church and not about the power they exhibited in their lives.  No, we want to know what the early church was like on the inside.  What was their motivation for giving up all to follow Jesus?  How and why did the Lord use them in such a powerful way that seems to be missing in how He uses us today?  What did they have that we don’t?  Or, what do we hold on to so tightly that they so willingly gave up for Him?

What are we missing?  What are we not seeing in the Acts?

For openers, we fail to see the Acts as God’s Training Manual for His Church— which is exactly what it is.  And if we view it as a training manual, then God must want our lives and His church to resemble the lives of those He reveals to us in the Acts.  If you look closely, you will see Jesus commands His followers in the Acts to declare war on the kingdom of darkness, on Satan himself, and to be active in combat with the enemy just like He was while He was with us on earth (1 John 3:8).  War is not pretty.  It is not something we look forward to.  It involves training, difficulties, fighting, weariness, injury, and often casualties.  Yet, unfortunately, many of us today view the Christian life as a trip to Disneyworld, and not as a battle between light and darkness.  And I’m not sure where our thinking about our life with Christ ran off the rails.

Secondly, we also miss the part about His Kingdom.

Acts:  Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done

The Acts both begin and end with teaching about His Kingdom.  First, the introduction:

The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God – Acts 1:1-3.

And the last two verses in Acts:

Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him – Acts 28:30-31.

In fact, most of the preaching of Jesus was about His kingdom.  But it was a kingdom endued with power from the Holy Spirit, the “promise of the Father” Jesus spoke about (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4).  It was not a kingdom of mere words alone, but words backed by only what God can do and only through the power of God.  And when  God’s eternal kingdom collides with Satan’s temporal kingdom, we have war.  Not a big war, more like a skirmish.  Because God has already won.

And finally, to supposedly worship and serve God without the power He promised us through the Holy Spirit makes us not much more than the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.  We know the Scriptures, as they did.  But knowledge void of power makes our faith mere religion.  And Jesus didn’t die to start a new religion.  He died to defeat the kingdom of Satan and make all things new.

This takes power.  It takes the same power Jesus has and the same power He gave to the early church in the person of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).  And it is the same power that rests dormant in many of us today.

So join us as we begin to look at the book of Acts and pray for an awakening of the power of the Holy Spirit to turn our “world upside down” as they did in the early church (Acts 17:6).   Rest assured, it should be a wild ride.

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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Tyranny is Coming… Ready or Not, Here it Comes!

Tyranny is Coming… Ready or Not, Here it Comes!

Behold Our Future

The following is from the Tucker Carlson show that aired on Wednesday, December 1, 2021.  I would strongly urge you to invest a sixth of an hour and watch this segment.  What Tucker predicts will probably soon happen… unless somebody does something.

Could that somebody be you?  I sure hope so.

Because we’re running out of time.

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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513:  Choose This Day Whom You Will Serve

513: Choose This Day Whom You Will Serve

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We’re Running Out of Time

There comes a time in everyone’s life, at least everyone who accomplishes something of value, when they quit making excuses and commit to an ideal greater than themselves.  We see this in sports, in the financial arena, and in the life of faith.  Almost all of our spiritual heroes sacrificed their comfort and security for something they could not see, for some ideal beyond themselves that only their faith could grasp.  And their life was defined by the very moment they stepped out in faith, regardless of the outcome.  We see this in the summary of the life of Able, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham in Hebrews 11.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth – Hebrews 11:13.

These men, charter members of the Hebrews 11 Roll Call of Faith, all died holding fast to the promise, to the ideal they committed their lives to by faith.  Dire circumstances didn’t sway them.  Neither did pain, suffering, disappointment, or betrayal.  And their unwavering trust and commitment to the Lord and His Word is why they are so highly revered as champions of our faith.

Yet in each one of their lives, there came a point where they went “all in” and everything in their life changed from that moment forward.  Their priorities were re-aligned.  Their definition of success re-defined.  Their motivation for life was no longer in themselves and their happiness, but in Him who called them.  They found themselves, like Paul, “forgetting those things which are behind and racing forward to those things which are ahead” they “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).

I know what many of you may be thinking right now.

“Ok, but that was them.  What about me?  Do I have what it takes to make the same commitment they did?  And if so, when do I go about doing that?  When should I make that commitment?  Does something have to happen to me first?  Do I have to reach some sort of spiritual zenith before I give my all to Christ?  Or is this something I can do today, right now?  Or should I wait until tomorrow?  Or maybe next year?  Or whenever I think I’m ready?”

But the time is now.   Not tomorrow or next week.  But now.

Or Maybe, We’ve Already Run Out of Time

It is time for each of us to no longer be a hearer of God’s Word but to do what it says.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was – James 1:22-24.

It is time to move beyond hearing and knowing, to becoming and obeying His Word.  After all, Jesus did not die to give us spiritual knowledge, but to transform us and make us new.

There comes a time in each person’s life when they say, “Enough is enough!”  With everyone we admire, they came to a point of no return, no compromise, no backing down.  For them, it was all or nothing, no matter the cost, “come what may.”  And it is time for you and me to do the same.

It is time for each of us to come to a point when we take our faith seriously enough to face what all of us will soon face, whether we’re ready or not.  And it is time for us to get ready to meet our King and live like we truly believe He is coming.

Are you ready?

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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