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Podcast 303: Our Bonhoeffer Moment
With our society and culture crumbling all around us it behooves the church to assess its commitment to Christ. Are you hot or cold or lukewarm? Is Christ on the outside of the church knocking, waiting, for us to open the door and allow Him into His church? (Rev. 3:20).
These are scary times. But not unprecedented times.
In fact, it’s these very times that bring out the best in the church. It’s times like these where true men and women of God step forward to take their stand for truth.
It’s the time of Daniel, Elijah, John the Baptist and Gideon.
The following is a study on the call of Gideon.
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Podcast 293: Credibility and Character
What’s the big deal with pastors today calling themselves apostles? Why are they doing that and how can that be justified from Scripture?
Or, better yet, what are the qualifications for the office of apostle? And, once we determine the qualifications, do any of these pastors meet them? Can anyone meet them today? Anyone?
The lesson to be learned in all of this is that credibility is not communicated by titles or degrees. Credibility is communicated by character. True, God-like character. And the fact we have men calling themselves apostles today shows us how much we still need to learn as a church, doesn’t it?
The following is a study on Colossians 1:1-2.
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Podcast 261: Down with the “D” Word!
In the latter half of Malachi 2 God employs some strong words to convey His feelings about His people and their attitude towards Him. He uses treacherously five times in 8 verses. We also find profane or profaning, abomination, and God saying He literally hates something.
Those two words alone, God and hate, should get our attention.
But what does God hate? Ah, that’s where the “D” word comes in.
Want to hear more? Then keep listening.
The following is a study on Malachi 2:10-17.
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Podcast 259: Believers with Dirty Faces
One of the most sobering and frightening statements by God to the priests, clergy, and believers just like you and me is found in Malachi 2:3. There God says:
“Behold, I will rebuke your descendants and spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your solemn feasts; and one will take you away with it.”
Just so you know, refuse means dung, fecal matter, excrement. That’s right. God is saying He will spread or smear excrement on the faces of His priests or clergy or you and me.
Do you want to know why God would do something as drastic as this? Then keep listening.
The following is a study on Malachi 2:1-9.
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Malachi: The Burden of the Word of the Lord
Message from Malachi
A Prophetic Warning to the Church
It Was the Best of Times, it Was the Worst of Times
The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.
We are about to undertake a study of the last book of the Old Testament, the last of the Post-Exile prophets, Malachi. This small, four chapter book holds a unique place in the Scriptures because it stands at the end, the last call if you will, of the Old Testament and also at the beginning, as an introduction, to the 400 year period where God was silent and closed the door on any future revelation to His people. The 400 years of silence, as it is known, began with this two verse warning at the end of the Old Testament: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6) and ended with the coming of John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Some people believe Malachi was the last of the Old Testament prophets, like Daniel or Ezekiel or Isaiah or Jeremiah. But that’s not exactly true. Jesus Himself stated that John the Baptist, the greatest man who ever lived (Matt. 11:11), was the last of the Old Testament prophets (Matt. 11:13, Luke 16:16). But we will take a deeper look into all of that, and its implications for us today, at a later date.
For now, we’ll stay focused on Malachi.
The Name: Malachi
The name Malachi, in the Hebrew, means “my messenger.” Malachi came as a messenger from the Lord. Some believe Malachi was the personal name of the prophet, like Bruce or Frank or Tom, while others feel it may be a title of some sort, maybe of Ezra the scribe, or of someone else. The weight of Biblical evidence, however, points to the fact that Malachi was the personal name of a prophet of God who spoke forcefully, almost brutally, to the sins of his day and to the sins of ours. Rest assured, there’s much in Malachi to challenge and rebuke and offend the church and the clergy today. It’s a most timely book that needs to be preached from pulpits all across our land but, unfortunately for the church, seldom is. As we dig deeper into his message, you’ll understand why this book has fallen out of favor in the Laodicean church of today (Rev. 3:16).
Not much is known about the personal life of Malachi other than what is revealed in his prophetic words, which isn’t much. Tradition tells us he was from the tribe of Zebulon and he most likely died young. After reading his words, I think you’ll agree we could learn much from Malachi, the man, in regards to his passion and boldness and especially his love for the Lord.
The Background: Malachi
Malachi ministered during the fifth century B.C., about a hundred years after Cyrus had, in 538 B.C., issued his decree allowing the Jews to return from the Exile to their own land.
Yes, you read right. Yawn.
I know, at this point, many of you will begin to glaze over as we did during High School history class. Why? Because history is boring and we, in the church today, have been constantly force fed from infancy a steady diet of lights and sounds and pulsating music and drama and dance all designed to keep us excited and entertained, but not necessarily instructed or matured in the Word. Look around at the church today— it shows.
Plus, most of us are not students of the Old Testament and especially of Old Testament history. We could pretty much care less about Cyrus and his decree and some exile from somewhere for a bunch of people whose names we can’t pronounce nor care to even try.
“Just keep telling us about Jesus and showing us the flannel graph cut-outs of the Bible stories and we’ll be just fine.”
Actually, you won’t. But that’s a conclusion you’ll have to come up with on your own.
Dates and Such
Anyway, to bring us up to date, all the prophets of the Old Testament fall into three basic categories: Pre-exile, or those before the exile or captivity (e.g., Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah); Exile, or those who wrote their prophecy during the 70 years of captivity (e.g., Daniel, Ezekiel); and Post-Exile, or those who wrote after their return from captivity into their own land (e.g., Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi). As you can see, Malachi belongs to this last group. In fact, he was the last of the last group.
Let me give you some dates to help put all of this in perspective.
In 605 B.C., some Jews were taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon. This would include, for example, Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. This is known as the First Deportation.
In 597 B.C., ten thousand more Jews were carried away, including Jehoiachin the King of Judah and Ezekiel the prophet (2 Kings 24:1-6) in what is known as the Second Deportation.
In 586 B.C., the Third Deportation took place where Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city of Jerusalem and took all the remaining citizens, including King Zedekiah (2 Kings 25) into captivity.
This captivity was to last seventy years.
In 538 B.C., the Babylonian captivity came to an end when Cyrus, the king of Persia, conquered Babylon and issued his decree permitting the Jews to return to their land. This ushered in a new phase in the history of the Jewish people.
As the deportation took place in different phases, so did their return.
In 536 B.C., a remnant of 50,000 Jews returned under the leadership of Zerubbabel, grandson of King Jehoiachin (Ezra 1:5-2:70, Neh. 12) to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and re-establish the system of sacrificial worship. This was known as the First Return.
In 458 B.C., the Second Return took place, led by Ezra the priest.
Thirteen years later, in 445 B.C., Nehemiah led still another group back to the land. Nehemiah was then appointed governor of the Jewish nation by King Artaxerxes of Persia. Under Nehemiah’s leadership the walls of Jerusalem were built and a spiritual renewal or revival took place. But between 432-425 B.C., Nehemiah was called back to Persia and Jerusalem was left without their governor. It was during this time that Malachi came onto the scene.
The Spiritual Temperature
You would think, after 70 years of captivity, the Jews in Malachi’s day would have remembered God’s chastisement and not fall back into the same old sins that brought about their exile in the first place. But that’s not what took place.
It seems the famous quote by George Santayana was as true then as it is today: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
The Temple was rebuilt and the people could freely worship the Lord, yet they had fallen out of love with Him and slowly drifted back into stale formalism, religion by rote, much like the church at Ephesus.
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4).
Their passion had grown stale as they became increasingly comfortable with just “doing” their religious thing one day a week and offering a pittance of their life to Him, rather than enjoying the love of God in a vibrant, living relationship. Sound familiar?
They had grown insensitive, almost callous, to the love of God lavished upon them and, therefore, had grown cold, selfish, and egocentric in their response to that love. In fact, they now even doubted God loved them, or had ever loved them, in the past.
Additionally, they had become numb, almost anesthetized to the truth, and had lost their ability to recognize the enormity of their own sin and just how far they had drifted from His Word. It was a classic case of the “frog in the kettle” syndrome.
And, most of all, they no longer had any reverence for God. The sacred was now secular and the “chief end of man” was their own happiness and selfish pursuits.
How could this have happened to them? How could they have fallen so far? And how have we allowed this to happen to us?
For them, the answer was simple. They had unfulfilled expectations that were based on their own faulty view of God.
When they returned from captivity and began the task of rebuilding the Temple of God they held fast to the words of Haggai as their very motivation to persevere and complete a task beyond their ability and under extreme hardship and persecution. They believed these words to be prophetic, which they were, and to be literally fulfilled in their day, in their own lifetime, which they weren’t. Haggai 2:7-9 states,
“For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
But year after year dragged on and nothing like this ever happened. The Temple they built was not as glorious as Solomon’s Temple and the “shaking of heaven and earth ‘ never took place. They understood this prophecy was to be fulfilled by the Messiah, which was true, but the Messiah never came.
And these unfulfilled expectations gave way to disillusionment, and disillusionment to anger, and anger to apathy, and apathy to sin. The people of God, especially the priests, stopped believing in the faith, the hope that had carried them through their 70 years of suffering. And now, back in their own land, they forgot and no longer needed the God who had brought them there.
We look at the book of Acts and see the vibrant, dynamic lives of the early church who were willing, at a moment’s notice, to jettison all their earthly possessions for just the hope, the slim, outside chance of being used by God (Acts 2:44-46). Then we compare what we read in Scripture to the selfish, materialistic, narcissistic, self-promoting, always “about us” attitude of the church today and we wonder what happened. We experience out own unfulfilled expectations regarding the “abundant life” Jesus promised (John 10:10). Jesus spoke of true, Spirit-filled, eternal life as “abundant” and the church then redefines “abundant life” as being a life filled with trinkets and toys to enjoy: cars, money, houses, fame. And these unfulfilled expectations gave way to disillusionment, and disillusionment to anger, and anger to apathy, and apathy to sin.
Again, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Before we plunge into the text, can you see any parallels with the Jews in Malachi’s time and the church today?
Both have lost their fervency for God. In fact, we spend our time in corporate worship trying to artificially counterfeit a move of God simply because we’ve never seen God move in our midst and have no idea what it would look like if He did.
That’s beyond sad. It’s tragic.
So we fill our senses with loud music, aerobic worship, spandex clad dancers, rock bands, R-rated movie clips, rotating lights, Starbucks, and the like hoping to satisfy the masses with an experience, something that will “keep ’em comin’ back” — but not a move of the Holy Spirit. Whenever we “feel” something in church, whether it’s goose bumps, a tingling up our spine, happy or sad emotions, laughter or tears, we immediately attribute it to the Holy Spirit and can’t wait until we can come back and “feel” it again. And in doing so, the church creates a congregation of adrenaline junkies who pile in Sunday after Sunday to get their next fix. And if the church doesn’t deliver the high they crave, then they’re out the door to try to find something or someone that will.
A sure recipe for failure and hurt.
Malachi’s message to the Jews of his day is the same as his message would be to the church today.
One, their suffering was linked to their sins and the judgment of those sins was to begin with the house of God and with the priests (1 Peter 4:17). As we see our society crumble and implode all around us and scratch our heads and wonder what happened, it may be the unraveling of our society is the direct result of sin in the church. The sin of omission, not doing what God has called and saved us to do, and the sin of commission, the flagrant disregarding of the holiness of God, both on a personal and corporate church level.
Two, how can you say the Lord doesn’t love you, or has never loved you? The continued, unselfish and forgiving love of God was manifested to them in His very choice of the Jews as His own people, the apple of His eye (Deut. 7:6-8). Therefore, they are without excuse. For the church, the oft-debated, maligned and rejected doctrine of election also shows the depth of His divine love in His choice of those who make up His church (Eph. 1:3-6). We, for no other reason than God’s “good pleasure” (Eph. 1:5), have been chosen to be adopted as “children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). Does it get any better than this? What more could God do to show us His love that what He has already done?
Finally, Malachi tells us the Day of the Lord is coming (Mal. 3:16-4:6). Make no mistake, that Day is on the way. Therefore, understanding what the Day of the Lord means, what are we do to? How are we to act? How does this coming reality change us today?
Peter asks and answers that very question. I’ll let him take it from here.
Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, (question) what manner of persons ought you to be (answer) in holy conduct and godliness. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, (answer) be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless (2 Peter 3:11, 14).
Are you ready to explore Malachi? Then you’d better fasten your seat belt and get ready to be confronted with the Word of God from the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi.
Because a prophet of God is about to speak in our midst today.
Note: Image is from Ellsworth, R. (2007). Opening up Malachi (p. 9). Leominster: Day One Publications.
Coming Next – The Sovereign Love of God – Malachi 1:1-5
The Coming War on True Christianity
The following is a must-read article regarding the future for Christians in this country. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
To download the article, click – HERE
246: A Warning to the Shepherds of His Church
Today we often forget the condemning indictment God levels against those shepherds of His flock, those pastors of His church, that have forsaken the call and left their first love and followed after the things of this world. We forget God’s anger against them, but we see this kind of church apostasy and defection all around us.
So what does God say about a shepherd that cares not for the flock? And, more important, what does God promise to do to those shepherds?
The answer is both chilling and frightening. Keep listening to find out more.
This is a study on Zechariah 10:1-12 and Ezekiel 9:1-11.
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239: Time to Prepare for the End
The AFA recently sent out an email detailing 7 common careers that Christians may no longer hold in America. I am afraid they may be right. Let me list them for you.
Photography – A Christian photographer in New Mexico was fined $6700 for politely declining to photograph a lesbian commitment ceremony. The Supreme Court allowed this fine to stand.
Baker – A Christian baker in Oregon is facing both civil and criminal penalties, including jail time, for politely declining to bake a cake for a gay wedding ceremony. Her business has closed.
Florist – Baronelle Stutzman, a Christian florist in Washington, is being sued by the state attorney general for politely declining to prepare an arrangement for a gay wedding ceremony.
Broadcasting – Craig James was fired by Fox Sports Southwest after only one day on the job for expressing his support for natural marriage while he was a candidate for the United States Senate.
Counseling – Jennifer Keeton was dismissed from the counseling program at Augusta State University for her religious reservations about the homosexual lifestyle.
Innkeeping – The Wildflower Inn in Vermont was fined $30,000 and forced to shut down its wedding reception business after politely declining to host a lesbian ceremony.
Teaching – Ms. Gillian John-Charles was kicked out of a doctoral program in education at Roosevelt University for expressing in class her belief that homosexuals aren’t born gay.
Reminds me of the chilling words of German Pastor Martin Niemoller who was sent to a concentration camp in 1937 for his faith. He said:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me— and there was no one left to speak for me.
Time to Prepare
So what are we to do today? In a word, prepare. The church today, and you and I, need to prepare for God’s judgment to fall on our nation and persecution to break out against true Believers. How do I know this persecution will take place? Because it is promised in Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:12 states: “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” You see, it’s in the cards, it’s a promise, a fact. If you desire to live godly in Christ Jesus, expect the agents of darkness to wage war against you and your family. According to Scripture, it’s a given.
With this understanding, we need to prepare:
1. Prepare Spiritually – We are to mature as Believers and take nothing for granted. Our lives are to be about Christ and His Kingdom and not about us and our small, puny, temporal earthly kingdom we are trying to create. We are to love, forgive, minister to and pray for those God has placed around us. We must separate from the world and live like the God we claim to serve. We must put selfish and childish things aside and live like children of God. And me must do this now!
2. Prepare Physically – We must get in shape, get out of debt, and store food and supplies for our family and neighbors who may not be able to do the same. In other words, we are to view our life like Noah did during the 120 years it took for him to build the ark. Build, prepare and preach. Build, prepare and preach. Build, prepare and preach. Get the point?
3. Prepare Vocationally – We must prepare and train ourselves and our children to learn some practical skills, to produce a product, to work for themselves, to be their own boss. Why? Because just like the Jews in Nazi Germany, the day may come that we will not be allowed to work where we do now and still hold on to our Christian views. Seem implausible? Just watch.
4. Prepare Socially – We must move beyond our comfort zones and open up our homes to others, to get to know our neighbors and our fellow Believers more than once a week on Sunday. We must learn to take vacations together and to prepare to live like most of the Christian world lives today— in community, in families, together as one.
And we must start doing this now. Remember the words of Jesus:
He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.” (Matthew 16:2-3).
The following is a study of Zechariah 4:1 – 5:4 that addresses these issues.
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Getting Even Closer to a Cult
One more post about Elevation Church and pastor Steven Furtick.
The following are 30 reasons affirming to their employees that Elevation Church is the Best Place to Work. Pay close attention to numbers 1, 3, 7 and 16.
1. We serve a Lead Pastor who seeks and hears from God.
3. We serve a Lead Pastor we can trust.
7. We serve a Lead Pastor who pours into us spiritually and professionally.
16. We serve a Lead Pastor who goes first.
I find it beyond disturbing that the employees of Elevation Church are encouraged to serve a man, Lead Pastor Steven Furtick, and not the Lord Jesus Christ. Does that bother you? Does that seem to be getting pretty close to man-worship manipulation and idolatry? It does to me.
Oh, and don’t forget number 23.
23. Two words: game time— we love competition.
Really. But who are you competing with? Other churches and other Christians? Boy, talk about unity in the body of Christ. Oh wait, my bad. I forgot that you defined unity as all falling in line lockstep to the vision and leadership of Steven Furtick… at least that’s what you’re teaching those innocent and impressionable young minds with your children curriculum.
And if that wasn’t enough… well, there’s always Steven’s Hey Haters video. Just what I adore in a pastor, true humility.
Getting Dangerously Close to a Cult
The following from Elevation Church and their pastor, Steven Furtick, is frightening. This is a page from the materials Elevation uses to teach their children. Note what it says at the bottom:
Elevation Church is built on the vision God gave pastor Steven. We will protect our unity in supporting his vision.
Question: Whose vision are we protecting? God’s or Steven’s? And what if Steven’s vision differs from God’s vision? Where does our allegiance lie? I understand that it’s Biblical to follow Steven as Steven follows Christ… but what if Steven stops following Christ? What do I do then?
According to what Elevation’s children are being taught, follow the man, follow Steven, support his vision.
Reminds me of the Wehrmacht Oath of Loyalty to Adolf Hitler, issued on August 2, 1934:
“I swear by God this sacred oath that to the Leader of the German empire and people, Adolf Hitler, supreme commander of the armed forces, I shall render unconditional obedience and that as a brave soldier I shall at all times be prepared to give my life for this oath.”
It could read:
“I swear by God this sacred oath that to the Leader of Elevation Church and its people, Steven Furtick, supreme pastor and visionary of our church, I shall render unconditional obedience and that as a brave church member shall at all times be prepared to give my life for this oath.”
But that’s another post for another day.
It’s Elegantly Responsive
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