Dangerous Times

I am extremely concerned about the state of the Church, the perception of Christianity and ultimately where things are headed if we (Christians) do not rise up and take a stand. We are constantly being inundated by an overly aggressive media with all sorts of negative images, i.e., fallen Christian leaders; individuals committing heinous, terrorists’ acts being falsely labeled as Christian fundamentalists; Christians being blamed for violence against other religions, people groups, etc.. These are merely a few of the issues fueling the trend toward a global hatred being directed at us and undoubtedly attacking the very core of our faith.

This attack, however, is not entirely external (outside of the church). It has indeed reared its ugly influence in the Church. Instead of the Church making an impact on society, the ways of society have infiltrated the Church. Can you believe in some services, it is taboo to say the name “Jesus” in the pulpit? The Pastor and leadership do not want to cause anyone to be uncomfortable or offended in any kind of way. Some faith-based organizations have removed the word “Christ” from their titles; many religious organizations no longer refer to themselves as “ministries” and we are in a day and age where people are offended by Christianity and the basic tenets of our faith at unprecedented levels. Christians everywhere are being prodded by fear (both subtlety and directly), to tone the message down and carefully choose words so non-believers and even those who claim they are believers will not be put off.

The majority of the churches I’ve had exposure to are devoid of the power, presence and the purpose of God. If you feel like I am being judgmental, please read about the early church in the book of Acts – what we see today does not even remotely compare in terms of His power, His manifest presence, and His mission. I have visited some grand buildings (here in Texas) during Sunday services and in a few of them, the name “Jesus” is rarely if ever mentioned (I have literally been in a service where His name was never mentioned (I wish I were joking here); some sparingly use the word “Christ” when referring to Jesus; people are encouraged to drink and eat in the sanctuary (like attending a movie); and what disturbs me most are the churches where the Pastor or speaker does not invite people to come into a personal relationship with Jesus (this is not a priority for them). They are obviously more motivated by filling seats, raising money and having their egos stroked. The messages are watered down and are nothing more than motivational speeches, communicating what people want or like to hear and not challenging and/or inspiring us to first and foremost be better, more committed followers of Jesus (and genuinely loving and caring for all people). We were entertained by the rock bands, pyrotechnics, and cool video presentations. These church buildings/services seem to be nothing more than social clubs: hip, trendy places to gather on a Sunday morning or Wednesday night where the preacher/speaker dare not challenge our thinking, confront our sinful actions and behavior; or communicate the uncompromised, full gospel of Jesus Christ.

None of this surprises me as Paul warns us in II Timothy 3 and I recommend reading and meditating on the entire chapter. Verses 1-5: (CJB) Moreover, understand this: in the acharit-hayamim (the last days) will come trying times. People will be self-loving, money-loving, proud, arrogant, insulting, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, uncontrolled, brutal, hateful of good, traitorous, headstrong, swollen with conceit, loving pleasure rather than God, as they retain the outer form of religion but deny its power. Stay away from these people! Harsh words, yet without being self-righteous and judgmental, we can clearly see the handwriting on the wall. Paul goes on to warn us in verses 12-13: And indeed, all who want to live a Godly life united with the Messiah Yeshua will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived themselves. We (those who are striving to live all out together with Jesus) cannot get around troubled times. And what makes it worse is the institution where we should be able to find refuge is oftentimes the greatest problem. Nevertheless, thank God for encouragement. Verses 14-17 reads: But you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, recalling the people from whom you learned it; and recalling too how from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which can give you the wisdom that leads to deliverance through trusting in Yeshua the Messiah. All Scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living; thus anyone who belongs to God may be fully equipped for every good work.

We must develop an audacity and determination to stand up and contend for our faith regardless of the consequences. I encourage you as the Word of God encourages us in Jude 1:3-4: Dear friends, I was busily at work writing to you about the salvation we share, when I found it necessary to write, urging you to keep contending earnestly for the faith which was once and for all passed on to God’s people. For certain individuals, the ones written about long ago as being meant for this condemnation, have wormed their way in – ungodly people who pervert God’s grace into a license for debauchery and disown our only Master and Lord, Yeshua the Messiah. Let’s move away from man-centered religion, denominational and racial separation, and all of these tactics created by man and for man to be exalted, and let’s progress into a genuine, authentic, intimate, personal relationship with Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). Society, although they do not know it, needs us!

AB

Please read 2 Timothy 3, Jude 1. If you have not received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, simply invite Him into your heart. Romans 10:9-13: that if you acknowledge publicly with your mouth that Yeshua is Lord and trust in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be delivered. For with the heart one goes on trusting and thus continues toward righteousness, while with the mouth one keeps on making public acknowledgement and thus continues toward deliverance. For the passage quoted says that everyone who rests his trust on Him will not be humiliated. That means that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – ADONAI is the same for everyone, rich toward everyone who calls on Him, since everyone who calls on the name of ADONAI will be delivered.

When You Feel Discouraged

Lately, I have had lots of conversations with people, especially men, who are at a point in their lives where they feel depleted mentally, physically, and spiritually. These difficult times have caused some to lose all hope and, in their estimation, appear to be doomed to a lifetime of misery, disappointment and failure. One person shared how he knows what the Word of God says about what he needs to be doing (and saying), but, “I have to keep things real and am telling you Audwin, I am in a very, very dark place.” It is extremely hurtful to see a strong brother and friend devoid of strength and without any “fight” left in him.

Have you ever been so low where you literally thought God was not there; that He turned His back or had given up on you? Perhaps, you are in this low place now. You have a family to provide for and are out of work. You’ve exhausted every avenue and means at your disposal to find employment (sent countless resumes, filled out applications everywhere – even for positions where you are clearly overqualified, attended networking events and conferences, talked to countless people), and the phone is still not ringing. Maybe you have a job and the stress and the pressure is so great, you are considering walking away even in this grim market. Perchance you are headed into foreclosure or have a notice of eviction on your door; have had or are close to having your car(s) repossessed; have a sick or gravely ill relative(s) or you are physically ill; have accusations being hurled at you (some possibly warranted and others not)? Maybe you are going through one of these scenarios or some combination simultaneously and you pray, cry, scream and surrender all of who you are to God, only to have your prayers seemingly go unanswered; you cannot hear His voice or you cannot get a response then you find yourself sinking to a place where you cannot and do not want to pray. It’s even difficult to listen to people as they try and encourage you with the Word of God. You just do not want to hear it!

You share the urgency and severity of your situation with a few family members and/or friends, especially those you know to be faith-filled Christians (some with the means to help you – at least financially), only to have them turn a deaf ear on your cry for help or they simply act as if they are completely oblivious to the fact that you are hurting, depressed and, in the worst case, having thoughts of ending it all.

I want to express to you, I have been there! I personally know what it is like and fully understand where you are. For those who want to thumb your noses, you keep living. Being a nonconformist is not easy – striving to genuinely live a life pleasing to God, not being ashamed of your faith, and having principles and morals while living and functioning in a crooked and perverted world where right is wrong; where what is bad is considered good; where neither honesty nor integrity are highly regarded; and where the most idiotic, nonsensical foolishness is esteemed, rewarded and praised. When you hit this low point, you are NOT faithless and you are NOT without hope. God is dealing with you! He is cleansing and purifying your heart by exposing and removing bad habits, wrong thinking, and changing your focus from the things and the cares of this world to a focus and dependency on Him. There is a greater responsibility God has for you and you cannot get to the place where He is taking you by remaining as you are!!!

This low place is where you will learn about yourself and those in your circle. You must remove all pride and egotism and be entirely open and honest with God and with yourself (at this point, you have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain)! You will also need to utterly renounce and repent of sin (in your life) and let some things and some people go. This is about you and God’s purpose for your life! He uses times like these to show you the error of your ways revealing how you were walking in idolatry (although you may not have recognized it); how there was no difference in your character and behavior as someone who claims love Yeshua (Jesus) versus those who are in the world (who are NOT living for or acknowledging Him); how you lost sight of your purpose and have been sucked in to conforming to the world’s way of existing (borrowing – not lending; pursuing dreams, aspirations, titles, status, materialism, covetousness, etc., and NOT being relentless in pursuing intimacy with Him and genuine in your love and care for the lost). He will also use this time to reveal His plan and purpose for your life as you take your eyes off of your situation. Change your perspective. Figure out what God is doing in each and every circumstance. Be open to His correction and obedient to His instruction. Find at least 1 Spirit-filled person who you can talk to openly and pray with regularly. If you do not have anyone, contact me and I will walk with you. We need each other and can accomplish more together.

Read the book of Job, Psalm 42, Ephesians 6:12-14, Romans 12:1-2, Matthew 16:24-25, Jeremiah 29:11, 2 Chronicles 7:14-15.

AB

Family Discussion

My family became engaged in a conversation last night regarding the hubbub around the prediction that judgment day or the rapture of the Church is going to occur on May 21, 2011, and the end of the world is going to take place on October 21, 2011. I posed the question to everyone “if this prediction is true, what does this mean to you?”

For the sake of clarity, I do not accept the notion that any man knows the exact day and time of Yeshua’s (Jesus’) return.

Everyone expressed how they would want to repent of any sins they have committed; those wrongdoings they were aware of; and those acts they may not have recognized as sin before a holy God. My older children communicated (if this prediction is indeed true) they would want to take this period of time (between yesterday and May 21st), to “get things together.” After inquiring about what “things” they needed to “get together” and having a time of repentance, I took the opportunity to share with them…

The greatest concern with providing a specific date and/or time regarding Messiah’s return is this: What makes any of us so certain we are going to wake up and see tomorrow (let alone May 21st)? As a matter of fact, how do we even know we are going to rise up from this table at this very moment? What guarantees do we have that Jesus is not going to part the sky tonight and return for us? James 4:13-16 (KJV) Go to now, ye that say, today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) reads: Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such-and-such a city, stay there a year trading and make a profit”! You don’t even know if you will be alive tomorrow! For all you are is a mist that appears for a little while and then disappears. Instead, you ought to say, “If ADONAI wants it to happen, we will live” to do this or that. But as it is, in your arrogance you boast. All such boasting is evil.

What authority do any of us have to think we have the exact timing of His return determined? Was the precise date given by revelation of the Holy Spirit or were these calculations formulated by man’s so called intellect? Far too often people spend too much time claiming to understand the things of God from an intellectual standpoint. 1 Corinthians 2:14 (CJB) Now the natural man does not receive the things from the Spirit of God – to him they are nonsense! Moreover, he is unable to grasp them, because they are evaluated through the Spirit. I do firmly believe Jesus’ return is imminent (Mark 14:61-62)! No one can accurately articulate the exact day or hour.

The main point I wish to convey here is – stop taking things for granted! The only way to be prepared for either His return, or your departure from this life, is to accept Yeshua (Jesus) as your Lord and Savior. Confess this with your mouth and believe this in your heart that Jesus became the sacrificial Lamb for your sins and that He paid the complete penalty for you (Romans 10:9-10). Acceptance of Him and His sacrifice is the only way you can be reconciled to God! Invite Jesus into your heart right now! Make Him Lord over every area of your life! Renounce and repent of your sins and, while you are here, live (daily) a lifestyle that is pleasing to God. Do not ever assume you have time to get yourself together – you may not. Jesus said in Matthew 25:13 (KJV) Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

AB

Being Christian in a Corporate Environment

More than a decade ago, I accepted an offer from a prestigious corporate employer. After going through a lengthy interview process where we discussed literally everything (including faith and what that means), the Executive Vice President extended an offer to me with one condition…  I was not allowed to proselytize while at work. My response was I was there to fulfill my responsibilities and I would apply all of my efforts and energies to take care of all the employees and protect the organization.

Afterward, I pondered the offer and my response sincerely concerned whether or not I compromised my faith and I searched the Scriptures to guide my thinking.  I read Colossians 3:22-24 (KJV) Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God; 23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men; 24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. The Message Bible reads: Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ.

I recognized the fact I was/am required to work vigorously in all things as to the Lord, and not to men. While I was not allowed to walk around the office conversing about religion or religious issues, I was able to “let my walk do the talking.” In that particularly intense, highly demanding environment, I was able to be a calming presence; to treat employees fairly and help them through their problems and issues; provide sound guidance to the leadership; influence positive change; mentor younger Associates; and demonstrate God’s love without quoting scripture or verbally trying to convert anyone. Eventually, employees found out I was a minister and they oftentimes sought me out for help, support and direction for themselves and for others. I respected and complied with my employer’s wishes and never had any of those discussions during office hours or on their premises and I believe God honored my obedience.

In conclusion, follow the rules of your employer! Be the man or woman God created you to be and as the old saying goes, “talk is cheap!” Your best witness is not what you say, it’s how you behave. How do you respond to circumstances (whether they are positive or negative)? Are you a person with integrity? Are you putting forward your very best effort each and every day in the workplace (as unto the Lord)? Do you realize in these tumultuous times, you are extremely fortunate to be employed? I cannot express to you enough how many very qualified and experienced people are not able to find work period, let alone in their areas of expertise, and many would give their right arm to be in your position. Keep everything in its proper perspective and glorify God in all you do!