Archive for May, 2009

The end of the month is always an interesting and crazy time for me!  I have to truck-it all over Savannah attempting to see the families that I had not been able to see, for whatever reasons, earlier in the month.  I have to see each family, especially the children at least once during the month.  It’s not a suggestion but a requirement.  Needless to say, I have been in turbo mode finishing up my contacts this week.  I meet with one family, finish the interview, get in my truck and move-on to the next visit.

This afternoon, I met with a family I’m working with, discussing how life had gone since our last visit.  I completed the interview, got in my truck and left the residence heading to the next place on my list.  I had traveled a couple of miles from the home, and was in the heart of downtown Savannah when I noticed that a car behind me was an unmarked police car with its blue lights on.  At first, I didn’t think too much about it, figuring that they were enroute to a call.  I came to a stop light, pulled over in front of the car in the right lane to let them pass.  But instead of passing they pulled up directly behind me and shouted something over their loudspeaker.  Ummm, that’s odd, I thought!  I then realized that the officer wanted me to pull over.  As I pulled into a nearby parking lot, my mind went through a mental checklist trying to figure out what I had done to warrant this inconvenient interruption into my day….speeding? No.  Run a red light?  Nope.  Seat belt on?  Check.  Tags up-to-date?  Yep. 

Running out of reasons why I was being pulled over, I came to a stop and watched the car circle around behind me.  Out got a female cop sporting sunglasses with street clothes on wearing a highly disgusted look on her face , and approached the back of the truck.  I could clearly see her badge dangling from her neck.  Great, a cop with an attitude!  This isn’t going to go well because I’m pretty disgusted myself by this time.  Before she could get to the truck, I noticed another vehicle pull up nearby in front of me.  A large, balding guy with a tough looking goatee approached as well.  Okay???? I don’t think this is a routine traffic stop.  All the surreal stories I had read about and watched on TV about lives being ruined because people were arrested and sentenced to hard time due to mistaken identities or being framed came flashing through my mind.  At the exact same time I was thinking this, another cop in street clothes approached from the right.  What the…..?

All three met at the side of my truck, several feet away and greeted me.  Before they could continue, I interrupted, asking, “What’s going on here?”

The large guy with the goatee replied, “Were you just on such-and-such street?”

“Uhhhhh, yea.  Why?”

“What were you doing there?”

“I’m a Child Protective Services social worker and I was visiting a family.”

“What was the address?”

“It was blah, blah, blah.”  (I didn’t actually say this, I have to protect family info, you know.)

Showing me a mug shot, he asked, “Did you see this guy in the house or have you ever seen this guy in that house?”

Truthfully, I didn’t know the guy, his name nor why he was wanted but guessed I didn’t really need to know him.  After showing them my DFCS ID, they went on to tell me that they were doing undercover surveillance in that neighborhood looking for this dude, had followed me since leaving the house but waited to stop me because they wanted to protect me from being seen by anyone that may suspect I was talking to them about the fugitive.  We talked for a moment more, they apologized for the inconvenience and allowed me to leave.

Later as I was replaying the scene in my mind, it hit me that we, as Christians, never know when someone may be watching us to see if our spiritual walk is in-line with our spiritual talk.  It’s easy to tell others about our faith in Christ, and what a difference He has made in our lives but it’s not the talk that catches their attention.  It’s how we live our faith that they notice.  Are we compassionate, merciful and grace-filled in our actions toward others?  Are we honest and geniune in our words and interactions with others?  Do we exhibit the joy and peace that we tell them they can have by having Jesus as their Lord and Savior?  Are we slow to hold a grudge and quick to forgive?  Do we speak kindly or do we spew profanities around us like machine gun fire?  Do we hang out at bars and nightclubs, drinking and partying like heathens?  Do we tithe obediently, and fulfill the Great Commission or do we step over the homeless and down-trodden on the way to our spiritual country clubs?

In truth, I had no clue I was being watched and followed by the police but I was… and it was a great lesson for me!  Fortunately, I was showing that I follow the law instead of talking about it, that I wasn’t running red lights and speeding around town.  It’s the same for us as Christians.  No, we’re not perfect and will make visible mistakes  at times but we have a tremendous responsibility to act out our faith on a daily basis to those that are watching in the shadows to see if what we have is what they need.  Just like those cops were hoping that I could give them some piece of information that could help their investigation, those watching from the shadows are hoping we can give them something that will change their lives and give them the forgiveness, hope, healing, joy and peace they’ve been longing to find. 

The smallest act or action on our part can open their eyes, hearts and spirits to the realness and truth of Jesus Christ.  Not only do we have to talk about Christ and our faith, we have to show the world Christ and our faith through our actions.  Remember, people are watching….they are always watching.

Advertisements

“(18)  Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. (19)  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  (20)  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.  And be sure of this:  I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”   Matthew 28: 18-20 (NLT)

This passage refers to the Great Commission given to mankind after His resurrection and before His Ascension to the Royal Throne at the Right Hand of God.  Jesus wasn’t confused about His intention or direction when he gave this command.  He gave it with complete understanding and total power and authority.  It wasn’t a suggestion or debatable passage of rhetoric.  It was His literal instructions to His present and future followers. 

Before continuing though, let’s review Webster’s definitions for Commission:

 1 a: a formal written warrant granting the power to perform various acts or duties b: a certificate conferring military rank and authority ; also : the rank and authority so conferred.  

2: an authorization or command to act in a prescribed manner or to perform prescribed acts : charge

3 a: authority to act for, in behalf of, or in place of another b: a task or matter entrusted to one as an agent for another. 

4 a: a group of persons directed to perform some duty b:a government agency having administrative, legislative, or judicial powers c: a city council having legislative and executive functions. 

5: an act of committing something.   

6: a fee paid to an agent or employee for transacting a piece of business or performing a service ; especially : a percentage of the money received from a total paid to the agent responsible for the business. 

7: an act of entrusting or giving authority

In commission or into commission:  1: under the authority of commissioners  2:  of a ship : ready for active service  3: in use or in condition for use.

On commission:  1: with commission serving as partial or full pay for work done.
Out of commission:  1: out of active service or use  2: out of working order.

 

After examining the definitions for Commission, it becomes clear that this last command by Christ wasn’t a suggestion but a spiritual directive.  In our commissioning by Jesus, we have been granted full authority and power to act on the behalf of God in witnessing to the lost and hurting of this world so that His Kingdom can be built. 

By this authority and power, we have been given the spiritual tools and weapons necessary to engage satan and his army in full confidence.  The Great Commission takes the spiritual water gun out of our hands and replaces it with Soul-Saving Bazookas.  When we place our faith and obedience on a foundation built upon the Great Commission, we transform ourselves into spiritual Rambos.  Satan retreats and the prisoners of this battle (you, me, us) get set free.  We are forgiven, we are healed and we are delivered.  We become front-line warriors for our spiritual Commander-In-Chief. 

When our faith and obedience isn’t built upon the foundation of the Great Commission, we become spiritually ineffective and weak.  We become the spiritual equivalent to a junior high ROTC.  The uniform looks good, we get to march around in parades and even get to play war a little but have no authority or power.  Can you imagine your local junior high ROTC fighting against the Taliban?  It would be a suicide mission.

Not only is the American Church in a slump, it’s on a spiritual suicide mission.  We dress up like Christians, we talk like Christians, we go to church like Christians but we live like powerless heathens shooting at satan’s army with water guns.  Granted, satan may get a little wet and irritated but he dries and then puts a supernatural beat-down on us that leaves us shell-shocked and defeated.   We get up, run fast as heck in the other direction and never look back.

Every time we outfit the church softball team with uniforms and set aside $10,000 annually for church intramurals instead of sponsoring full-time missionaries and sending members on Jesus-centered mission trips, we shoot at satan with a water gun.  Every time we spend millions of dollars catering to our own congregations instead of building Christ-centered rescue missions that snatch lives from the gates of hell, we shoot at satan with a water gun.  Every time we fail to tithe faithfully, we shoot at satan with a water gun.  Every time we buy into the lies of the Prosperity Gospel or “It’s All  About Me” Gospel or the “What Has God Done for Me Lately?” Gospel, we shoot at satan with a water gun.  Every time we deny the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit, we shoot at satan with a water gun. 

However, every time we go to the northeast desert region of Brazil called the Heart of Darkness and tell them about Jesus, we assault satan and his army with spiritual atomic bombs and rockets.  Every time we sponsor a full-time missionary, we assault satan and his army with spiritual atomic bombs and rockets.  Every time we financially support a short-term mission trip, we assault satan and his army with spiritual atomic bombs and rockets.  Every time we sponsor a child in Jesus’ name, feeding their souls with the Water of Life and quieting their empty stomachs, we assault satan and his army with spiritual atomic bombs and rockets.  Every time we risk persecution and death to “run” Bibles into China so the oppressed Christians who are hungry for God’s Word can be fed spiritually, we assault satan and his army with spiritual atomic bombs and rockets.  Every time we tithe faithfully, we assault satan and his army with spiritual atomic bombs and rockets.  Every time we build a Christian rescue mission that snatches lost souls from the gates of hell, we assault satan and his army with spiritual atomic bombs and rockets.

The more we assault satan and his army, the more souls we pull from the fires of hell, and the more souls we place into the hands of God.  All too often though, the American Church treats the Great Commission as the Great Suggestion, and acts like we are hyped-up, sugared-up children at the carnival shooting our water guns at the hole in the little box trying to make our plastic car or duck get to the bell first.  Even if we win, all we get is some cheap, matted-up stuffed animal that busts and spews forth millions of styrofoam balls that we still find years later. 

We are fighting the prince and principalities of evil with toy guns, and the lost are being marched through the gates of hell as eternal prisoners to be forever separated from God.   We’ve thrown down our spiritual weapons because we’ve allowed satan to turn us into spiritual pacifists or spiritual Gandis.  He’s turned us into  spiritual “Make Love not War” christians, or spiritual “Peace Hippy” christians, or spiritual “Let’s Just CoExist” christians. 

I’m not talking about finding a muslim and beating the “hell” out of him.  I’m not talking about beating a Jehovah’s Witness over the head with the real Bible.  I’m talking about getting back to the basics of God’s Word.  The basics of Christianity – the Great Commission.  It is the summation of Christ and where we will find the power and authority that is ours as God’s children, as His Royal Kings and Priests.  If we are to break out of our spiritual slump, and reach lost souls, then we have to put the water guns down, take up our spiritual weapons and march straight into hell and rescue satan’s prisoners of war.  Warrior churches are built on the Great Commission, not the Great Suggestion.

(Matt 22:37 + Matt 22:38) + (Matt 22: 39 + Matt 22:40) = ???????

 

There was no one who figured out the spiritual math equation.  Math is one of those four-letter words that people just prefer to stay away from, even when it can hold the key to fulfilling Christ’s will in our lives.  In fact, only Eddie even attempted and he was “all around it” but didn’t quite get there but I still give him a B+.  I will give everyone else who read my posts the benefit of the doubt that they just didn’t know instead of they just didn’t care (which is what I really believe) so……

So….the answer was J – “None of the above.”  But that doesn’t give you the answer either so here is the real answer:  The Great Commission!!!

Let’s break it down:

(Matthew 22:37 + Matthew 22:38) = “(37)Jesus replied, ” You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. (38) This is the first and greatest commandment.”

(Matthew 22:39 + Matthew 22:40) = “(39) A second is equally important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  (40) The entire Law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

The Great Commission = “(18)  Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. (19)  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  (20)  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.  And be sure of this:  I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”   Matthew 28: 18-20

The Great Commission is God’s GREATEST COMMAND…..   PERIOD!!!  I know there are those that will argue this to the most trivial of nths, spewing forth their extensive bible knowledge, scholarly study of God and His Word and their many degrees as evidence to solidify their point but it’s mute.  Jesus’ last words before his heavenly ascension was the Great Commission.  It did not void the previous passages in Matthew but combined them into Christ’s last command.

The Great Commission is the summation of Christ.  It is who Christ was then and is now.  It is our spiritual job description and responsibility as servants of El Shaddai to understand this and put it into action on a daily basis.  Our failure as the American Church to understand and recognize the spiritual and supernatural importance of the Great Commission is at the core of our ineffectiveness and why we are mired in a spiritual slump that has satan giddy with delight. 

Our ignorance, confusion or outright denial of the Great Commission has spiritual ramifications that affect billions of lives. Why are we redeemed?  Why are we Christians who have been saved by the mercy and grace of God?  It’s not because we deserve it but because Christ came to this earth as God’s supreme missionary.  Christ came to tell us about the Gift of Salvation given by God so that we may be saved by the faith that rests on the death and resurrection of Christ.  His purpose was to save lost souls and build His Father’s kindgom. This is our primary purpose and goal in following Christ.  You cannot claim christian status if you don’t live by the Great Commission.

When we “go” out into our community, our state, our country and the “nations”, and tell them about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we show God by our obedient action that we love him supremely and we love our worldly “neighbors” who are lost and in spiritual darkness.  You cannot, nor will not, share Christ with someone unless you love them spiritually and are concerned about their eternal fate.  You cannot share Christ with someone if you don’t love God.   True, you can always give “lip service” to this command but geniune ministering and witnessing is founded in our love for God and our neighbors on this earth. 

The Great Commission is being fulfilled and carried out all over this earth but I believe the American Church has the responsibility to be God’s torch-bearers and leaders in fulfilling the Great Commission.  It’s no coincidence that God has blessed this nation so abundantly with religious freedom and financial resources.  He expects us to build our churches on this command but there lies the issue.  Most American churches could care less about reaching lost souls.  They’re more concerned with keeping up with the spiritual Joneses, and catering to themselves.  We’ll sacrifice a lost soul in a heartbeat if it means we have the best in audio and video equipment and the largest and most comfortable churches. 

We’ll develop weeks-long sermons built around our fund-raising campaign to raise $12 million dollars to buy land for a “christian” retirement community but we won’t give a missionary (short or long-term) more than 60 seconds in front of the congregation to tell people about how God is reaching lost souls in Brazil.  We’ll have steak dinners for the “men’s ministry” but won’t give an individual $2,500 to go to another country and tell people about Christ.  We’ll staff a church with every pastor under the heavens geared toward the singles, elderly and “special needs” folks in the church but won’t hire “Missions” pastors because of “budget limitations/shortcomings/constraints.” 

Why is this?  Why do we discard or ignore God’s greatest command and who Jesus is?  In some cases, it’s ignorance but I believe it’s because we either don’t love God like we say we do, don’t love others as Christ did or both.  In America, I think it’s both, and God isn’t happy about this.  His judgment is coming fast and hard unless we tear down the walls we’ve built between Christians and the rest of the world here in America, and get back to the basics of God.  The Great Commission is the summation of Jesus and unless we place it at the center of our spiritual lives, then God will never use us as individuals, or churches, to reach anyone.  We’ll never make a difference in anyone’s life and we’ll live spiritually wasted lives.  God has given us our job description, now it’s up to us to fulfill it. 

See, I told you it was as easy as 1+1 = 2.

(Matt 22:37 + Matt 22:38) + (Matt 22: 39 + Matt 22:40) = ???????

So what’s the answer?  It’s really not that difficult; more like spiritual 1+1 = 2.  Okay, here’s some help:

A.  The Prosperity Gospel

B.  The Summation of Who?

C.  The Law of Circumcision.  You mean I have to get circumsized?

D.  The Tithing Command

E.  The Second Coming of Christ

F.  I have no clue!

G.  Who’s Matt?  Is he, like… a reality TV star or something?

H.  Like Jimmy Buffett sang, Math suks!

I.   All of the above

J.   None of the above

(Matt 22:37 + Matt 22:38) + (Matt 22: 39 + Matt 22:40)= ???????????????????

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with math.  When it was easy and I was doing well in it…I loved it.  However, when it got progressively harder….not so much.  But I like this “math.” 

I believe if you can figure this equation out, then you will fully know the heart of Christ, and will be equipped with the knowledge of how to live a life that God can use to build His Kingdom.  Many churches and Christians don’t know the answer to this equation, and it is clear by the fruit they bear for our Lord. 

So, figure it out and then live by it!  Once you do, God will bring you into his supernatural world of blessings, healings, deliverance, fullness, peace, joy, contentment, faith and obedience.

“(14)  Either way, Christ’s love controls us.  Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.”  (15) He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves.  Instead they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.  (16) So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view.  At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view.  How differently we know him now!  (17) This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone;  a new life has begun.  (18) And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ.”  2 Corinthians 5: 14-18 (NLT)

Recently, I began a new series focusing on the spiritual slump that the American Church is currently suffering but put it on hold for a moment.  I would like to continue this series with several posts to come over the next month.  Part I and II discussed who we were before knowing Christ as Lord and Savior and who we are now after accepting His Gift of Salvation.  Part III deals with our inability to live fruit-filled, anointed lives that are effectively used for God because we desperately hold onto our old selves, our old pains and hurts.

                _________________________________________

Recently we had a guest pastor come to The Sanctuary and speak to us during the Sunday service.  He runs a church in the middle of the worst part of town where he lives.  He isn’t pastor to the “Joneses” but to the societal outcasts that walk in the darkness of addiction, homelessness, crime and prostitution.  His “flock” come to church stoned, with weapons, beat up, unclean and stinking.  He’s been told more than once that he’s crazy for ministering to these souls.  “They” tell him it’s hopeless and useless.  But he doesn’t listen to them or anyone of this world.  He was given the burden for reaching these “lost” souls by God, and that’s good enough for him because he knows from where he’s come.  By his own admission, he shouldn’t still be on this earth.  He talked about separating a man, a father, from his wife and kids because of the affair he had with this man’s wife.  He talked about using drugs and surviving by doing whatever was necessary to advance “his kingdom.”  He lived only for himself.

His message was real, honest and powerful.  It wasn’t one of those “bubble-gum sermons” that you often hear from guys like Joel Osteen but one that made you search deep within your soul, asking hard questions about yourself.  He left us with a lot to ponder spiritually.

But it wasn’t the journey that he or his church had taken that spoke loudest to me.  It was the story that he told us about his mother’s personal pursuit to bring him to Christ.  He told us how he was “saved” when he was younger but that it was just “lip service.”  He talked about how getting “saved” was just a brief pause in his sin-filled existence.  He went on to tell us that his mother prayed and worried and prayed and worried constantly for him to find his way to God, all to no avail. 

That was until his mother knelt at the altar of her church one Sunday morning and “left him at the altar.”  He stated that he spoke to his mother a short time after her visit to the altar, and she told him, When I went to that altar this morning, I took you with me but when I left you weren’t with me anymore.  I left you behind at that altar with God.”  She explained to her son that she had wasted too much time worrying over his salvation, thinking that if she prayed hard enough that she could “be the difference.”  That he would find his way back home to Jesus, and begin to live a life centered in God’s grace, hope and love but no matter how much she prayed, he still walked a sinner’s mile.  She went on to tell him that his salvation wasn’t her concern anymore because she had finally realized that God was the only one that could help him cross the spiritual threshold from a condemned sinner to a forgiven child of our Risen Lord.

He told us that two weeks after his mother “left me at that altar”, he was walking two miles home in the middle of the night on an isolated road when he was overcome with the weight of the sins he had committed.  He told us the further he walked the heavier his burden became until he finally told God that he was worn down from trying to live by his own will, so he surrendered it all to God and committed himself to following Christ.

God has brought me from a career in Oceanography to a ministry in Social Services, protecting children from maltreatment.  He has placed me in the center of the darkness found in the world of addiction, physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and mental illness.  Families are living in spiritual oppression, weighed down by the sins they committed and the sins committed against them.  For those that do not know Christ as Savior, I understand why it’s so hard for them to find deliverance into an abundant, peace-filled, joy-filled life but what about those that I come across who profess to be “Christians”?  Why are they allowing satan and his posse to keep them in bondage?   Why are they, and many Christians bitter, angry, depressed, miserable, tired, beaten down and living spiritually oppressed lives?

I believe it’s because we have left the altar with the same hurts, pains and sins that we came to the altar with.  We want to be the new creations that God clearly tells us that we have become when we accept His Son, Jesus as our Lord and Savior but we don’t want to release the things that have weighed us down for so long.  We hold onto them, and play spiritual “tug-of-war” with God himself.  He wants desperately to carry our burdens so that we can become Holy Spirit-filled and anointed disciples that reaches lost souls and builds His Kingdom.  He wants us to be able to walk into the darkness of this world, and wrestle lost souls from the grasp of satan.

But how can we deliver the lost, the hurting, the addicted, the mentally ill and the depressed when we are living spiritually oppressed lives in need of deliverance?  How can we be forgiven when we don’t forgive.  How can we be witnesses to the addicted about God’s healing grace when we haven’t been healed of ours?  We can’t…and we don’t. 

The American Church is in a spiritual slump because our lives as “little Christs” aren’t distinguishable from those that don’t know or even acknowledge Him.  Being a new creation that is centered in the Spirit of Christ means that we now have access to the power and authority that Christ himself whipped spiritual butt with.  We now have access to the healing and deliverance that only Christ can grant.

We are Royal priests and kings of the spiritual world, who can stand before satan himself with absolute victory, power and authority because what God has given us.  So why are we wandering around lost, oppressed, depressed, addicted and spiritually diseased when we could be living lives that would make God’s angels envious?  American Christianity is so weak and ineffective because we are holding onto the things of the world and our old lives.  If we are to live abundantly full and blessed lives, then we have to go to God’s altar and leave the hurts and pains at the foot of Jesus.  We have to then get up, and walk away without them.  Once we do that, we’ll see that God can now begin His Glorious work in our lives. 

God wants us to give our burdens to Him.  He created the heavens, all living things, sent His Only Son to die for us, then raised Him to sit at His Right Hand so why do we think that He can’t take the weight of our burdens onto His Shoulders.  It’s time, it’s time.  Release them, release them in Jesus’ Healing, Merciful, Grace-filled, authoritative and powerful name.