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Posts Tagged ‘Laodicea’

The Hebrew Roots Movement’s often unstated belief (but seen in practice and focus) is that the greatest gift to man was the Torah itself.  So much so, that for an HRM follower, Jesus Himself must be equated with it – as the living version of the stone tablets and scroll.  This is how we justified in our minds, venerating a piece of wood with paper round around it, containing Hebrew writing.  Regardless of how old it is, where it came from, or who owned it last  –   it’s nothing more than wood and paper that was sent out into the world to say, “Look for the One who is to come and hear Him!”  It didn’t bleed and die on a cross, or come back to life, and it most certainly doesn’t forgive me.  No amount of adoration ever helped my black wool turn to white.  It just lies there on the table, or goes where it’s carried.

The main character in the story of Sinai isn’t a Law, but a living God who spoke and lived in a pillar of fire!  God Himself was with them!  In fact it was precisely when they begged God to stop speaking that Moses had to go up the mountain and get the message for them.  The written Law was necessary in part, because the living relationship was too terrifying.  Not that God didn’t have a purpose in how things transpired.  I’m not one who believes God is surprised or has a plan B in His back pocket.

While Moses was gone to get further instructions, they immediately set out to do exactly the opposite of which they had just promised God they would do, which was chiefly to love and worship Him only.  As a consequence of this bold and immediate disobedience, God threatened to not go with them anymore.  He said He would send His angel ahead of them to fight their battles, but He wasn’t going to follow along or lead because, He explained, the result would be consumed people, not chosen people.

But Moses steps in.  He intercedes, and he implores.  And God listens.  I have always loved this part of the story

For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you.'” Therefore the people of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.  

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp.  Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.

When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.  Moses said to the LORD, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’  Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”

And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”  And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.”  And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.  

Exodus 33:5-19 ESV

There are so many gems in this passage, it’s tempting to dig them all out.  Firstly though, they now had the book of the Law, (as soon as Moses was sent to make another set of stone tablets) but it as not in this that they found their comfort and direction.  No, they knew their Living God must be with them or they were nothing in this world.  An angel wasn’t going to be enough for what they had waiting for them on this journey, or in the Promised Land.  A book could not tell them in a moment to turn to the right or to the left, and it could not bring water from a rock or manna from the sky.

He made His presence known at various times throughout their history.  The goal of the temple worship was to have the offering accepted and blessed by His presence.   This factor alone is what precipitated the detailed instructions for the priests, and why Aaron lost two sons in a day for not realizing the magnitude of what His Presence meant.  Without it, there would have been nothing to obey, nothing to fear, and certainly nothing to desire or love, as we see Moses here begging God – to really know Him and His ways, and see His Glory!

This was our desire in Torah Observance above all things.  We believed that through this definition of obedience, we would finally know God as we desired.  But in order to experience the Presence as Moses and ancient Israel did, you must have a temple and an Ark of the Covenant, and sacrifices.  Oh, and a priesthood.  Modern Judaism has none of these, and neither does any Torah Observant person.  They have replaced the Presence with a document.  The goal of the book was the Presence, and this goal was met most fully in Jesus.  To go back to the Law and miss Jesus as the fullest way to know God, is tragic.

But what a bold a request Moses made!  He wanted to KNOW God, and His ways.  He wanted to see His Glory.  And this AFTER he had heard the entire book of the Law the first time.  What knowledge of God and His ways did he still lack after this experience of receiving the Torah? I think the answer might be somewhere in the word “mercy” there at the end.  But Moses was already exhibiting the mercy and self-sacrifice of His Maker, because he was bathed in the light of His presence.

I have had the deep yearning for God’s presence and been saddened by those who didn’t even know there was something to miss in their churches, or felt they needed to manufacture the illusion of it instead.  There is the emperor who doesn’t know he hasn’t any clothes, and one that clothes himself with falsehood, and remains naked still.

I can’t take credit for this post really because it was inspired by a sermon on the radio this week, and it’s been well over a year I think since I even turned on a preaching station.  He didn’t make the same applications here as I have, but the implications began to grow in my mind as I listened.

The first thing that came to mind as I heard this sermon (will share an excerpt below) was not the Hebrew Roots Movement, but a young person who doesn’t see anything that portrays God as a reality rather than an idea.   I faced the same struggle at that age.  We as the Church have forgotten what makes us distinct among the peoples of the earth.  His purifying Presence.  There is so little evidence in most congregations of lives being transformed in repentance to God and His apage love for one another.  (Let’s start here before we even move on to signs and wonders please!)  These things can come only through His Spirit in us and with us.  Without Him, we are a facade, a cheap imitation, and a wizard with nothing more than a microphone and a big screen.

The Hebrew Roots Movement cares little for the Presence.  Many come from charismatic circles, and leave behind the excesses of that movement for something more concrete in this one.  Soon the Trinity and the Spirit are relegated to heresy and little more than “wind”.   Others come from churches where immorality and worldliness are rampant with no reverence for the things of God.  Soon they believe they can start a Law-observing campaign to address this heathenism in the ranks. The church has abandoned His Law!!  And yes, it has.  But the Law of Christ.  It cares not for His Presence or His words.  This sermon brought in a parallel New Testament verse that I never saw in this way before.  “

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”  Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  John 14:21-23

He can lead us by an angel, or we can ask for His Presence.  We can seek to know Him and His ways. Jesus said, “my commandments”.  (If you think He didn’t say anything Moses didn’t say, try reading Him again.) The really awesome thing here is that God gave Moses what he asked for!  And I believe this is His heart for us also.  The other verse that comes to mind is “By this will all men know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  The pillar of fire made the Israelites distinct among the nations.  Love is supposed to be our identifying mark in the world.  And that is where we must begin and never end.

Here are the words of the mighty preacher with a delightful accent (sorry couldn’t type that in), who is far more eloquent and educated than I… and a link if you would like to hear it all.

 (quoting Moses) How will anyone know you are pleased with me and your people UNLESS YOU GO WITH US?

That’s the great question of the New Testament.  That’s why the promise of Jesus is, “If a man loves me he will keep my commandments, and I and my father will come to him and make our home with him.”

How will anybody know unless Your presence is with us?
Is there anything remotely tangible about God in my life? That’s the question.  
Is there anything distinguishable about me? I fear lest the answer is, “no.” 

He (Moses) says the only way that people will know is if you are with us. If You’re not with us we’re on our own. And the same is true as you go to your office tomorrow and as we gather here to worship. This is the cry of our hearts, “God, show us that you’re with us.” Otherwise how will anyone be able to distinguish between this and any other event. The only thing that will make it a reality is if you show yourself to be here.

Oh we can get together and have a shindig.  We can get together and sing songs. We can get together and have revelry. We can sing everything on a horizontal level, and make the bystanders walk in and say, “You know, that is a wonderful time.” But we will not see men and women turn from their sins. We will not see men and women broken-hearted before God, unless God comes by His Spirit among His people.

Do you pray for revival in church? Do you pray for the Spirit to be poured out on our congregation? Are you telling me you are content with things the way they are? Are you content to take your place while our neighbors and friends are lost without Christ? Or maybe you’d like another kind of leader, someone who would say simply kind things to you, and tell you, “Listen, it’s just fine.” Loved ones, it is NOT fine. The night comes when no one can work.

….  And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the thing that you ask because I am pleased with you, and I know you by name.”   And Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” It is for this then loved ones, that we long, that God would honestly respond to the cries of our hearts and that He would show us his glory, the revelation of His goodness and his name, a glory that will be seen far more in his mercy than His majesty. A mercy that is fetched from within Himself, and not from any merit in His creatures. I can’t ask God to be merciful on the strength of who I am because who I am is a can of worms. The only way we can ask God to show His mercy is because He fetches His mercy from within Himself. Because He is mercy.

Prone to Wander – part B

Alistair Begg

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Japanese Garden – Fort Worth

This morning I woke up with a view of tree branches swaying gently, directly overhead.  The first light of the sun illuminated some branches at the tops of the trees, while the lower ones were still shaded.  Morning breaks loudly around here as a flock of crows and a young litter of squirrels compete to be heard above one another.  About a month ago I set up our tent in the backyard as a sanity preservation technique.  The intense heat of our summer began to break, and my craving for being outdoors won out over my inability to go on a camping trip.

We are so blessed to live in a neighborhood of huge, old pecan trees.  Our yard is one of the best camping sites in our whole region, complete with a nature trail out the back gate, and a river to fish in.  (Someday, I’m actually going fishing!) But these old trees come with their hazards too.  As I looked up this morning, I saw a few more dead branches without leaves, and thought of the folly of sleeping under them.

Recently my youngest daughter and I were enjoying a delightfully breezy afternoon in our lawn chairs when one of these branches came crashing down in front of us.  This one however still had all its leaves.  We would have never noticed they had dried up and died because they were still green and blended in with the rest of the tree.  I assume it must have been damaged in the last windstorm and its connection to the tree compromised.   After the shock, we observed it fell from a very high place in the tree and would have caused a substantial injury if we had been standing under it.

While enjoying my backyard paradise this morning, praying for all the tree limbs to stay put, I realized I have been shocked and saddened by the spiritual equivalent of these crashing branches several times.  People I have looked up to.. (the higher I esteem them, the harder the shock), and trusted, have let me down.  Maybe I wasn’t looking closely enough, but I thought they were really connected to the Tree.  The leaves were green!  They had an amazing testimony, or a thriving ministry. Then one day – crash!  I feel let down, betrayed, angry, and saddened by the ensuing injury caused to those around them.   As I observed a few years ago in a post called Ending Well, this is not at all uncommon.  Many begin with life, but then move out of His Life and into the flesh, living on yesterday’s revelation and move of  God.  They sound genuine because they are talking of real things that happened in the past.  But they are no longer being moved or directed by the Spirit.

Why am I shocked?  Why do I put my faith in a human or an organization?  Why do I think I’m immune to the same fate?

Christianity is full of teaching on how to make our life better with Jesus.  But the Royal Law…(love God with your whole heart, mind, and soul, and one another as Jesus has loved us)… doesn’t say anything about following Jesus to make ourselves happy.  I won’t say He won’t bring us peace, joy, and contentment, but there is a greater purpose to our lives when taking on His name.  We are created as branches to beautify the Tree, and to bear fruit.  When we crash and fall, we not only mar the image of the Tree that the world sees, but can potentially cause spiritual and emotional injury to those around us.

Some have entered seasons of severe doubt through these downfalls of prominent Christians.  People wonder, “If they were false, maybe the Tree isn’t real either?”  We can fault their misplaced faith, yet at the same time, Jesus spoke very clearly about religious hypocrisy.  The Church loves to make excuses for it, and demand that the world accept them in this state.  But I believe our Bridegroom desires us to be real, so we may be healed.  (See the message to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3).  Hypocrisy comes not when we sin, but when we pretend we don’t.   And we have a horrible blind-side when it comes to our own heinous sins, while we point our fingers at how badly our culture has spiraled into depravity.

Are the green leaves on our branch dead – just having the appearance of what we think a Christian is supposed to look like?  Or are we rooted and grounded in our Tree, to have His mind and Spirit in us – to be one with Him?  In all our self-serving religion, and all our busyness, and all our pride, it is so easy to forget for what purpose we have been redeemed.  Except for His grace, I am also a dead branch pretending to be hanging on the Tree of Life.  It is all of faith in Him, or it is nothing, and I am nothing.

The Good News is that God can do what we can’t do to a natural tree.  He can graft a dead branch back in and bring it to life.  He can heal, restore, and bring us all to forgiveness of ourselves and each other.  I pray to look only to the Tree for my strength and inspiration!

“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.  Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.”  Revelation 3:2,3

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God has at last answered our prayer for the privilege to not just read and talk about faith, but to walk in it actively.  Inspired by the witness of Bible heroes and those who have marked Christian history since the time of Christ, I have yearned to not just give lip service to this realm, but to live in it.  While more of a halting crawl than a walk at the moment,  I have found that proactively following Christ is teaching me things I have never learned just by studying or listening to teachers.  Jesus said,

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24

Learning Truth through the experience of walking with Him (not independent of the Word… but in obedience to the written and living Word) goes deeper than abstract concepts and the Christianese cliche we throw around without recognizing the depth of what we are saying.

We have found a certain person who likes to give till it hurts.  Although my inclination is to hold on to some things “just in case”, as if the supply line might stop at some point, this man pours it all out.  He gives like Jesus, and ironically, that’s his name too!  Jesus Ruiz, Executive Director of 3 Things Ministry.  Yesterday, on his direction, the ministry took nearly the entire contents of a clothing pantry, along with household goods, and set up a yard sale in a church parking lot.  Except…. Jesus gave it all away.  He provided grilled hot dogs and bottled water.  A huge mountain of toys gradually disappeared as the day wore on.  Younger members of the team enthusiastically shared gospels and tracts.

Repeatedly, faces expressed shock which turned to joy as they heard, “It’s all free!”  One woman commented, “I’ve never seen anything like this.  This is an amazing thing you are doing.”  Another man, holding a baby so his wife could find clothes, mentioned how thankful he was for this because their need was great.  On the street in front of the church, the police impounded a car they had pulled over for speeding, providing an unexpected ministry opportunity.

But even so, one man who could not accept this agreement.  Out came the wallet and a few dollars offered for the toys his granddaughter had picked out.  He was insistent.  He must pay for what he took, so he did.

I love this ministry because it shows me the power of grace, how it softens and opens hearts.  People stop, talk, and share their joys and struggles.  They gladly take the Word of God, suddenly interested to know why these crazy people would just give it all away.  And it also shows in some, the first inclination of our hearts to disbelieve all that Jesus has done on our behalf.  He has prepared the table and says, “Come and eat freely… my blood and my body which have been prepared for you.”

I have a facebook friend that feels a need to always qualify the grace statements I post.  He is on fire for God, and I admire his zeal and envy his boldness.  Yet, grace is a scary substance.  People might get the wrong idea.  He is overwhelmed with the lukewarm “whatever” attitude of modern Christians, and I understand.  But neither have they seen Grace, because it was probably presented to them without a true picture of the Cross.  They at some point believe they are entitled and seem unappreciative of the true cost of what they are offered.

On the street, we sometimes see these kinds of people too, not quite happy with what has been given – seeming unthankful, and petitioning for something we don’t have to give.  Although not the norm, it happens.  Yet we still give.  And so does God, as He rains on the just and unjust.  In this life, His grace and mercy  allow us all, even those who hate Him, to take in each breath.

I recently read through Malachi, and found the often-quoted passage by law-keeping sects… “For I, Yahweh change not.”  They sling this phrase around in support of the premise that if God does not change, the Law as given to Israel must be as eternal as He is.  Yet… the very next words are, “therefore you are not consumed O children of Jacob.”  Mercy is the constant attribute of God in this equation.

Yes, a day of reckoning will one day come, but no one will be able to say they could not afford price required to attain Life.  Don’t doubt, but believe and lay your soul on Him to save you.  No one else offers this gift at any price, although they may claim to have another way.  You can’t earn it, buy it, or bargain for it.  It’s free.  Return to Him, and thank Him.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22:17

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"All I Want is You" by Ramone Romero

Jesus loves His Church, His Body – as man and wife become one, so is our Lord with His Bride.  But I have stepped back and realized that very little of what is called church is the actual Church.  Many dear children of God are within the walls of its institutions, but at this point in time, I personally am not able to stay there (but have not forsaken the gathering of believers in true fellowship).  I have not yet been able to find one close enough to attend which is aligned with the heart of Christ, or following His will and commands.  He said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” John 14:15.  And in another place… “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” John 15:14.   Jesus didn’t teach salvation by works, but a salvation that does work.  And it does not take a scholar to discover what this salvation looks like in action according to Jesus and the Apostles.  The sad truth is that those who wish to obey this call often meet resistance in the local church, or are pushed out altogether.

I am not saying it’s right or wrong – or a black and white issue – to belong to an official “church” organization or not.  For those coming out of cults and deception, the structure can be very beneficial and fellowship among believers  is absolutely essential no matter what.  The important thing is to be where God leads you, and at the moment we have been led to step outside for a time.  Maybe not forever.  We did not want to, but this has been the result of seeking to follow Jesus alone.  I read in the scripture where He said, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also…” John 12:26.  I prayed for Jesus to show me where He was working in this world, where was His heart?  When He showed me, it was not in the traditional church.

Yesterday six teenagers and some adults stood for hours out in the sun on 105 degree day to host a fundraiser carwash.  As they stood at the road waving signs, they could see the temperature on the bank sign down the road rising one degree at at time.  Yes, complaining abounded from time to time, but no one abandoned the job, and the joy at the end of the day in loving fellowship was worth every drop of sweat.  All this, not for a ski trip, or a prom, but to have money to go out in two weeks to take a meal and clothing to those who have nothing.  And they didn’t raise enough to cover the single meal they wish to take.  They will also sacrifice from their own resources.  I am not telling this to lift them up, but to draw a contrast between the desires and love God has put on their hearts, and the most obvious love and desires of  the visible church (generally speaking).  Jesus also said, “But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out IN GOD.” John 3:21 – (emphasis mine) – because clearly no one can boast of these desires which God planted, and the fruit is of Him, for His glory.  In fact no one would be crazy enough to do something like this with no personal payback involved unless God put an unstoppable love in his heart.

Why did Jesus care about “the least of these”?  Why did He ask us to minister to them?  I believe because in this we see His heart and identify with Him more than in any other act.  He in fact says we minister to HIM, when we serve THEM.  He asks us to offer grace and mercy to the often undeserving just as we have received freely from His hand.  And just as His love has opened our hearts, love opens the door in the hearts of others too.  The end goal is not to fill a stomach or cover a body, but to glorify God as our Lord by our obedience, and call others to follow Him as well.

The contrast:  This group worked within a stone’s throw (tempting imagery) of a church that has just built a beautiful new addition to their small building with exquisite architecture and marble counter-tops.  The cost of this gorgeous work of art was over a million dollars, most of which they still owe.  But even if it was debt free, what is the value of this in God’s eyes?  I won’t go any further with this point, although I could give endless examples of decadence, as well as stories of churches turning away those in need, because it wasn’t “their ministry”.

I write this out of urgency to call people to see God’s true REALITY.. not what we have imagined it to be.  The dream I posted a few weeks ago still haunts me.  I cannot stay in buildings that will burn or walk with those who do not have  heart for those that will be brought into judgment with themselves.  As Paul spoke of the coming vengeance of God on two groups of people; those who do not know God, AND those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (II Thessalonians 1:9)

I am not the only one sensing these things deeply.  This following message resonates with me as well.  Test all things… including my words and these – but I must share this:

DEATH of the USURPER CHURCH by Stephen St. Louis

"Your Bride" by Ramone Romero

God has ever kept for Himself a remnant who have not bent a knee nor kissed Baal (1 Kings 9:18). We may be looking at that even now. Several months ago, the Lord gave me an insight during worship that I felt compelled to write down. I shared it with my pastor. The jist of it was that God was going to deal harshly with the Usurper Church and her leaders so that His true bride might take her rightful place once more. Whether this will happen before Christ comes back or when He comes back I can’t tell you, nor do I believe it is particularly important. The main focus (and the reason why I gave it to my pastor in the first place) is that we need to make sure we are part of the Bride and not the Usurper.

The PROPHECY ITSELF

I was in church having listened to an announcement about the money needed for the elevator ($30,000) thinking to myself, “Do we really need it? What else could that money be used for? If they can raise that money that fast to put an elevator in, why can’t they do the same to put towards missions or helping those in need in our own community?”

As worship started again, I felt this welling up inside that just had to come out so I wrote it all down (hence the desire to have the actual words). It started off with almost a rebuke about not doing those things which the Bible clearly calls us to:  looking after the needs of the poor, the lost and the hurting.
Then it went into what God was going to do about it. Firstly, he was going to deal harshly with, as I said before, the Usurper, meaning the people that call themselves The Church but are not. He was using words like “expose her ugliness” and the image that I had was of a beautiful bride in a veil who is discovered to be ugly and fat and diseased when the veil is lifted. God said He was going to remove the usurper and restore His true bride to her rightful place. Now as for the bit about the usurper’s leaders I believe the words used were “fall by the hundreds and by the thousands.”

I came across another “word” that I’d written down about a month before (dated April 18th 2010). The two go surprisingly hand in hand. Again I was sitting in church during the worship. I believe I had my Bible open to 1 Samuel 5 (either that or the Lord brought that story to  mind).This is what He said.

“… How much time do you think you have? Repent. Repent of substituting my idea of church for yours. I did not build my church with bricks and stone but with hearts and minds… I am going to crush the idol of mammon like I did Dagon only worse. Those that worship that idol will be crushed beneath it. Those whose hope is in mammon will be devastated by its destruction.”
The image that I had in my head while I was writing this was of an idol of stone being exploded violently such that only the tiniest pieces remained. It was shattered beyond description or repair.

Source:  http://www.johnthebaptisttv.com/

More Hebrew Roots Movement postings soon!!

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I woke up anxious.  Fears came on me about many things, especially anxiety about making a wrong decision.  I prayed for God to ease my mind and to really show me the right path to take.  I fell back to sleep and had this dream.

A pastor and his wife were spending the night at our house.  The next day was Sunday but we all overslept.  We made sure they were able to get ready to go first (only one bathroom) and they left.  When it was time for us to go,  I realized I had not had a chance to get cleaned up, put on make-up, or get dressed.  I thought… I can’t go in looking like this, so I will just stay out in the car.

As we were driving to the church..  it was dark like night.   (The whole dream took place in a night setting)  We turned a corner to go down the road where the church was and there were buildings on fire everywhere.  Off in the distance was a huge grain silo and it was burning up with flames going way into the sky.  Several other buildings were also on fire.  I was shocked and afraid to see so much fire and wondered what could have caused all of it.  I looked down the road, and the church was meeting in one part of a long building.  Their end was near the highway and the opposite end was a restaurant which was also on fire.  I saw alot of activity – people coming and going out of the church – so I thought it wouldn’t matter how I looked, considering the current crisis.  We went inside, but none of the activity I had seen from the road was related to the crisis.  No worship service was taking place and no fire-fighting, but alot of chaos.  I found a room with merchandise.. kids running everywhere… but just chaos.

I tried to go back outside to see what was going on and in front of the building there was a river of black water between the building and the highway, which had  bridge over it.  I looked and there was a big semi parked on the bridge, and there the road ended.  In front of the truck was a cliff and the same black water was at the bottom of the cliff, kind of like a coastline.  A woman got out of the passenger side and went to the edge.  She looked at me and said…. “It’s painless this way.” And she jumped.

I was trying to get around to the other side of the building to check on the fire situation, but there was not enough room on the bridge between the truck and the drop off down into the river to get by.  I started to slip into it and I knew if I did I would die, so I stopped trying to cross the bridge.

I went back into the building and found the pastor and asked him if he knew the other half of the building they were in was on fire.  He seemed surprised and and not terribly concerned.  I couldn’t understand how he didn’t know what was going on outside.  We found a side door and went out.  Next door an old traditional style church building was also on fire, but no one was there.  I felt urgent that someone needed to call and tell them their building was also on fire.. but no one seemed concerned about any of the fire.  That’s all I remember.

This week I have had so much grief seeing more and more the state of the American church.  I go between wanting to throw up and wanting to weep.  It’s heavy and I can’t shake it off.  And it feels like hardly anyone sees or cares.  I know some do.  Our country is full of churches but we have fallen into so many ditches.  False teaching, complacency, profit-seeking, fun-seeking, status seeking, political influence… and people are indeed heaping up for themselves teachers that will tell them what they want to hear.  Ironically,  I woke up from this dream to read in my devotional time, I Thessalonians 5 about the Day of the Lord.  I found the parallels about night and sleeping interesting as they were elements in my dream.

1Th 5:1  Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.
1Th 5:2  For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
1Th 5:3  While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
1Th 5:4  But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.
1Th 5:5  For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.
1Th 5:6  So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.
1Th 5:7  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night.
1Th 5:8  But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
1Th 5:9  For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
1Th 5:10  who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.
1Th 5:11  Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
1Th 5:12  We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,
1Th 5:13  and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
1Th 5:14  And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
1Th 5:15  See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
1Th 5:16  Rejoice always,
1Th 5:17  pray without ceasing,
1Th 5:18  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1Th 5:19  Do not quench the Spirit.
1Th 5:20  Do not despise prophecies,
1Th 5:21  but test everything; hold fast what is good.
1Th 5:22  Abstain from every form of evil.
1Th 5:23  Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1Th 5:24  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
1Th 5:25  Brothers, pray for us.
1Th 5:26  Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.
1Th 5:27  I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.
1Th 5:28  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

The sleeping, and the not being dressed for action – that is a huge problem.  I sense it deeply.  We (myself included) need to wake up and “come clean’ with God and each other.  We need to recognize the urgency of the time…. have some concern for those under judgment around us, even if we have ourselves managed to escape it.  The black water.. a false Holy Spirit that people are seeking to escape what is coming… the painless way… the way that offers what we want, not what God wants.

It’s time to wake up.

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I am increasingly concerned that adapting Jesus culture to business culture transforms faith into following a fad.  I am fully aware this didn’t just start yesterday, nor does it describe the whole of Christianity in America, but it’s becoming endemic.  Here are some of my personal observations, which may or may not be worth a plug nickel.

1 – Business culture seeks most of all to succeed on terms which are incompatible with  how God defines success.

Worldly success values that which has a wide appeal, fulfills a demand, generates a profit, and can be multiplied or duplicated through packaged franchise methods.  Do I need to explain how this is counterproductive to the foundational principles of faith Jesus taught?

2 – Innovation drives business and technology but destroys doctrinal foundations.

We are a culture driven to find something new and our gadgets are obsolete before we even get them home from the store.  Marketing companies are always looking for ways to reinvent the same product to appeal to the bored consumer.  The nature of the human separated from God is seeking to fill up a void with something.  Nothing but God can satisfy that longing, so the search for a new thing goes on endlessly.  This same obsession is described in Acts.

Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.  Act 17:21

The “old time religion” isn’t good enough for us either.  It has become archaic, boring, and too simple-minded.  We have to reinvent the gospel, deny the authority of scripture, turn Christianity into a motivational self-esteem campaign, and seek to make it compatible with other World Religions.  Many things can and should change – but never the Gospel.

3- Hero/leader worship of pop culture (a tool of business culture) lends itself to creating widely accepted icons…

…with mega churches and best-selling books.  A sign that says billions and billions served must prove the product is great!  Or does it?  The documentary “Super Size Me”  seems to indicate that the food billions have consumed is actually lethal, yet it’s the single most successful restaurant in the history of the world.  In Christianity, if these icons stray from the truth – few will dare question them because of their popularity.  Truth can never be determined by popular vote.  There are some really great pastors with huge churches, don’t get me wrong.  But often success in numbers will over-rule the need to discern.

4 – Marketing success of one product generates a merchandising frenzy of many others.

Even if the initial offering had some value, the ensuing effort to capitalize on the success wave is often banal and funnels valuable financial resources away from areas where they could have eternal impact.  You can tell this is a problem when authors drivel on about nothing to get a book-length manuscript when they could sum up their point in ten pages.  Sequel books are often as disappointing as sequels to movies.  But then so much would be missed in the way of journaling editions, study guides, simulcast events, t-shirts, bobble heads, and children’s products with the same name, etc.. etc… etc….

5 – Relying on business marketing methods (mass mailings with pithy slogans inviting people to gimmicks, limited-time promotions in shopping-mall like churches)  demotes the gospel and our Savior from Life itself to a competing product in a world of possibly equally valid ideas.

Some people justify all this based on the success alone.  They say the goal is to maximize the profit.. (er…impact, sorry) and it’s only right to seek the most effective ways to draw people through the doors of a church.  This last Easter the efforts of churches to outdo one another in my small town for the largest Easter attendance reminded me of the retailer frenzy the day after Thanksgiving.  From a 15,000 eggs at one Easter egg hunt to a free Barbecue dinner, it seemed strange to me that Jesus overcoming sin and death for us – having been raised from the dead – isn’t a big enough draw?!  Makes me wonder how much we believe it or think about it.  Instead, we have to bait people in with something more appealing.

6 – People attracted to Christianity via these methods will demand a steady supply of such to remain interested and pumped up.

This will probably not be easy for people to swallow – but I was sickened when I investigated the Women of Faith website recently.  I’ve never seen such shameless marketing, even to the point of offering a Women of Faith VISA card!  I lost interest about a nanosecond later.   Evidently this traveling mega convention isn’t enough to really satisfy because yesterday I got a flier in  the mail for a “Women of Joy” conference!  I think I’ll hold out for “Women of Peace” when it comes along.  That’s probably what I need the most.  (obviously! ha.)

Each woman spends hundreds of dollars to attend these conventions.  I’m sure they have fun.  I’m sure women are touched.  But I wonder why the demand and success of such events when we have churches on every corner?  Don’t we have enough ministry in this country to keep women encouraged?  I guess I just don’t get it, so I apologize to those who do.  I am greatly edified by the 3 women I meet with for Bible study once a week, my Godly husband, my church fellowship, the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit.  I would rather send my money to the native missionaries in India who are walking barefoot from village to village to tell people about Jesus who have never heard of Him.  K.P. Yohannan of Gospel for Asia is very vocal about how American Christianity spends 99% of its ministry income on itself rather than to reach the lost and hurting.

7 – Vendors of Commercial Christianity will be tempted to not speak the whole truth if it means they will lose fans or revenue.

Jesus said you can’t serve God and money at the same time.  The problem there is pretty obvious.  My son is disgusted with “Christian” bands who do not use their influence and platform to share the gospel.  What are their priorities? (i.e. gods?)

So how is it working?

Are the lost being saved and lives changed?  People picking up their own cross and following in the footsteps of their Savior?  Are we really expanding the Kingdom of God with all this?

In spite of generating churches with memberships equal to some city populations, rumor has it Christianity in America is not growing, but shuffling.  Church growth has been found to come from church transfers, not from evangelism of the lost.

Christian divorce rate is equal to the general population according to this study.   I have been tempted to blog on this topic all by itself.  How can we follow what Jesus said to love one another as He loved us, if we can’t even sacrificially love our spouses?  This one is HUGE to me.  I have seen so many Christian marriages dissolve just from pure worship of self.  There was no biblical right to divorce.  Before coming to Christ, I too chose divorce and the consequences of a broken family on your children have to be lived with.  My husband and I both come from divorced families.  Many of our grandparents were married multiple times.  The Word says God hates divorce, and so do I.  It has caused me so much pain, and no one is untouched by it anymore.  If the Body of Christ looks the same as the world in this area, we have a deadly problem.

Only 1 in 5 of those who say they are  Evangelical actually hold to the foundational beliefs which define Evangelical Christianity.  Truth isn’t sought after because now even Christians have adopted relativism.

The seeker friendly movement at Willow Creek which generated a revolutionary church-growth strategy admitted openly a few years ago, that according to their research, all their programs were not affecting lasting transformation in people’s lives.  They drew people but failed to make disciples.  Their solution?  Do some more research and start over with a clean piece of paper.  Hmmm..

Incredibly, the guru of church growth now tells us that people need to be reading their bibles and taking responsibility for their spiritual growth… Bob Burney … See Full Article

Mass marketing seems to generate a great income, but it looks like a steady diet of  this type of religion is leaving the church in the state of spiritual emergency, not emerging health.  It’s not that I am against great programs and ministry conventions – just people trusting in them to do the work only the Holy  Spirit can do.  The biggest problem with Laodicea is she thinks she can manage just fine on her own.

With God even a rich man can get through the eye of  a needle and a Laodicean church can repent and buy gold tried in the fire.  We won’t be changed however until we see ourselves as we are, or all our man-made devices are taken away from us in God’s mercy.  When Christ applies the eye salve (Rev. 3), we will be compelled to pray, repent, seek God and His ways instead of the world and its way, because we will finally realize there is no alternative.  Well, there is one other option actually – something about being “spewed out.”  I trust this is not God’s will for Laodicea.  He knows what it will take.   It’s not something an outward reformation in form or method can fix.  The root problem is a body severed from its Head, and a heart drawn after idols.

If you see clearly – please pray with me that others will too, and pray with each other.  We so desperately need to pray.

(Picked up a book recently by Michael Horton called “Christless Christianity – The Alternative Gospel of the American church.” I am only in Chapter 1 so far, but standing and cheering …  other people far more qualified to speak out are seeing it too!!)

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Truth is simple
but simple doesn’t sell.
We complicate God
making converts for hell.

The business is easy,
we just say it on T.V.
People fill their eyes
and believe what they see.

God’s words are lost
in the mass of men’s lies,
changed into something
that never satisfies

But gives us a reason
to not trust our Lord
can teach us his Truth
from knowing his Word.

So we give our minds
over to some leader
forgetting God promised
He’d be our Teacher.

The fruit is plain
and it brings great pain.

We carry His name
but bring Him shame
acting like
He never really came
we and the world
act just the same.

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Yesterday I heard the testimony of a woman who realized she had a problem after twelve years in missions and ministry with a husband who preaches with a fire like John the Baptist.  I have seen this man preach in person and I don’t know how anyone leaves the building not saved.  The Holy Spirit is on this man like none I have ever heard.  But as hard as it is to believe, she says that in those first twelve years, she herself was not converted.  She had grown up in a Christian home and raised her hand for Jesus at a meeting once in the Christian school she attended.  She did all the churchy things, along with her friends.  They were all good kids and she married a missionary.  She says people try to tell her, “Well, you really were saved, but you have just had this experience of coming closer to God.”  Her reply was, “I live in here… and I know where I was, and I know what happened.” (paraphrased from my memory)

She goes on to describe how over the course of three years God began to deal with her about her heart.  During the “How to know if you are a Christian” sermons, she would squirm in her seat and struggle SO HARD to do the things that seemed to come naturally to others.  She performed, following the Christian “to-do list” but that was where her motivation to seek God began and ended.  She could not overcome known sins in her life and grow more like Christ.  One day God opened the door for her to spill her heart to her husband, who told her the honest truth.  (He specializes in the honest truth.)  He said, “Based on what you are telling me… I can’t tell you that you are a Christian.”  She had come clean and stopped putting on the act, an act so convincing no one around her knew the truth, deceiving even her own eyes for many years.  A pivotal moment came when she saw a prostitute on the street and she knew in her heart that even though she looked good on the outside, on the inside she was no different than her.  We are all that kind of woman (or man) if Adam is still our father.  She tearfully said she realized she did not have the strength to keep up the act and took that new honesty to God in prayer.

Does this story sober you?  Does it raise questions?  She said reading 1 John convicted her deeply.  The tone of this letter seems to be encouragement for those having their assurance threatened by a false teaching or obligation.  John is telling them, “Look, this fruit is the evidence of your true faith in Jesus, not what these other people are claiming.”   He warned them earnestly against false teachers, told them how to spot them, and affirmed, “I write to you because you know the truth.”  He was encouraging them not to waver from the foundation they had been given in Jesus.  But for someone who has not yet received a new birth from God, this book can be difficult to understand, or read.  Religion has many external tests to determine who is a Christian.  But God has always looked on the inside when men are evaluating the outside.  We can fit the outward mold while our hearts are trying to figure out how to find the point in going through the motions.

John deals with the most crucial fruits of faith, the ones we can’t fake.  God knows if we lust after the world, hate our brother, hide habitual sins, or feel little or no conviction for them.  We might be able to hide all that from others and even lie to ourselves, but God sees the real us.  The greatest gift we can receive from God is to see ourselves as we really are.  John is definitely not talking about being perfect, but he IS saying true salvation has fruit, just as James explains.  The New Creation DESIRES God, despises sin even though tripped up by it from time to time.  It loves, simply because it is an extension of God Himself in this world, a residing place of His Spirit.  It’s not about doing, but being.

The two biggest lies of false religion are:  You are okay just the way you are OR  You are not okay and it’s up to you to fix it, or keep it fixed. The TRUTH is, in your natural born state, you are NOT okay and there is NOTHING you can do to fix it.  In the absence of this revelation, we have owned a mental historical fact only, and have not entrusted our whole being into God’s hand – to die with Christ on the cross and be raised to New Life (represented by our water baptism).  If we do not at some point come to terms with both of these truths about ourselves, we will keep trusting in either our own innate “goodness” or our ability to become good, or uphold God’s work in our own efforts.  This deception can invade any heart in any pew of any Bible-teaching church.  False teachers capitalize on these two tendencies, but we don’t need them to believe these lies.  We believe them very well on our own, which explains why we so easily follow them.  We would rather go either direction than face our own helplessness and depravity.

People who leave cults often see the exodus as exchanging wrong facts for true ones, but some don’t realize what they really need – to fall helpless before God to save them and give them a brand new heart.  Thankfully most I know have also been broken by the truth they have found, but if we leave it on the intellectual level and do not “examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith” as Paul exhorted, we can still be terribly deceived.  This wife of a powerful preacher knew “the truth” but until she made it HER truth, she was not actually free.  I am SO thankful for the helpless brokenness God has brought me through, first to trust Him to save me, and also to continue to change me.

As you read this, if you have any doubt whatsoever, read 1 John in prayer and ask God to reveal your heart, not just doctrinal facts.  If John’s message does not bring you comfort and assurance as a child of God, then I urge you to take that honesty to God.  He knows exactly what to do about it.  Some evangelists like to use the Ten Commandments to confront people with their sin.  True confrontation goes much deeper than wrong behaviors.   The Words of Christ Himself along with this short letter both expose our true nature and desires.  The problem of Adam’s children isn’t that we do bad things, but rather at the core of our identity, we are enemies of God.  Does a tree branch strain to pop out an apple?  It simply does, as a result of being connected to the tree.  This is why you can’t try harder to be a Christian.  You are one, or you aren’t one.  No middle ground.  Is it time to find out for sure where you are abiding?

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This came to me from Andrew Strom’s list.

THE MOST EXTREME MAN or WOMAN in the CHURCH

The most extreme man in the church today is the man is the one who
stands on God’s Word alone.

He is the “voice crying in the wilderness” of modern churchianity

It is he who dares to ask not, ”Is this okay? Can we “get away with
it”?”, but “Is this honoring to God Almighty?”

Here is one who refuses to engage in frivolity while the world slides to hell.

Here is the man who isn’t afraid to stand before men and be laughed
at; he is afraid only of standing before God and being condemned.

He stands for truth in a time of compromise.

He constantly searches out the Word of God and demands a “thus saith
the Lord” in a time of me-centered, watered-down, cotton candy
teachings.

He believes that there is one way, God’s Way, and he is willing to
give up home, income, reputation…indeed, he is willing to give up all
that he has, all that he is…in order that it may be taught.

Here is the one who knows “doing for God” must grow out of “being with
God” and not the other way around.

Here is the preacher who isn’t afraid to “step on toes” or make
someone uncomfortable when the need arises.

He is one who will preach boldly against sin in all of its manifestations.

He is a man who constantly invites his Lord to “search me…try me…see
if there is any wicked way in me”.

He is one who knows Jesus wasn’t just “meek and mild” but also the
Lion of Judah Who was zealous for God’s house and he tirelessly seeks
to follow his Master’s example.

He is the husband, the father, who leads his family to go against the
world–no matter how unpopular, how uncomfortable the position–rather
than ride the flow that leads to hell.

Here is the young man who seeks out a woman of true loveliness, one
who loves God and shows much growth in godliness, rather than one
whose beauty is only skin deep.

The most extreme man in the church is the one who unfailingly takes
God at His Word and then, believing, acts on it.

He teaches truth even when persecuted for it.

He sees the times and, understanding the dangers ahead, beseeches God
on behalf of the people who are failing Him.

Here is one who will lose sleep to “stand in the gap” for his family,
the church, the nation.

He is not afraid of censure, of unpopularity,of ridicule but only of
displeasing his Lord.

He is one who has obviously ”been with Jesus”.

He knows intimately the throne of grace and lives at the foot of it.

He knows the Cross of Christ for he makes his home in its shadow.

He loves God and thus loves the unlovely–even those who would cause
him harm for his “extreme” positions.

Here is one to whom praying is as natural as breathing.

He is known in hell and hated for his prayers aren’t prayers for
personal comfort but for God’s will to be done–and then, when the
prayers are momentarily complete, he gets up and makes himself
available to be the instrument through which God’s will can be
accomplished.

One who knows sleepless nights spent crying out to God that He may be
known and honored among men.

A man who has absolute faith in God that His Lord is able to do all
that He has promised.

Here is a man to whom the thought has never occurred to not “accept”
Jesus as His Lord.

One whom, knowing his own sinfulness, is humbled by the grace-filled
opportunity to serve His Lord in any and every fashion that God
bestows upon him.

A man to whom God Himself is more important than any other gift that
God could bestow.

Author: Anna Wood from the blog “The Cross is all”

http://annawood.wordpress.com/

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Thomas Boston as quoted in sermon notes by Charles Spurgeon.  1884

The sermon outline was “Where is the God of Elijah?”

1.  The God of Elijah gave him the sweet experience of keeping warm and lively in a very cold and dead generation; so that he was best when others were worst.

….. But where is the Lord God of Elijah in these dregs of time, wherein professors (believers) generally are carried away, with the stream of impiety, from all their liveliness and tenderness that aforetime have been among them, when the more wickedness sets up its head, the more piety is made to hide its head?  It is a sad evidence that God is gone from us, when the standard of wickedness makes advances, and that of shining holiness is retreating, and can hardly get hands to hold it up.

2.  The God of Elijah gave him the sweet experience of the power of prayer: James 5:17…

….. But where is the God of Elijah, while the trade with heaven by prayer is so very low?  Alas, for the dead, cold, and flat prayers that come from the lips of the professors (believers) at this day, so weak and languishing that they cannot reach heaven!

3.  The God of Elijah gave him the experience of the sweet fruits of dependence on the Lord, and of a little going far, with his blessing: I Kings 17:16

…..But where is the God of Elijah at this day, when what we have seems to be blown upon, that it goes in effect for nothing?  Our table is plentifully covered, yet our souls are starved; our goodness sometimes looks as a morning cloud, it blackens the face of the heavens, and promises a heavy shower, but so quickly proves as a little cloud, like unto a man’s hand, which is ready to go for nothing; yea, this generation is blinded by the means that have a natural tendency to give light.  Ah!  “Where is the God of Elijah?”

4.  The God of Elijah gave him the experience of a gracious boldness to face the most daring wickedness of the generation he lived in, though it was one of the worst.  This eminently  appeared in his encounter with Ahab: I Kings 18:1

…..But where is the God of Elijah now, while the iniquities of our day meet with such faint resistance, while a brave brow for the cause of God, a tongue to speak for him, and a heart to act, are so much wanting?  The wicked of the world, though they have an ill cause in hand, yet they pursue it boldly; but, alas!  the people of God shame their honest cause by their cowardice and faint appearing in it.  If God give us not another spirit, more fitted for such a day, we shall betray our trust, and bring the curse of the succeeding generation on us.

5.  The God of Elijah gave him the experience of a glorious and powerful manifestation of himself, in a solemn ordinance, even at the sacrifice on Mount Carmel, which was ushered in with the spirit of prayer in Elijah:  I Kings 18:37-39
…..But where is the God of Elijah when so little of the Spirit’s influences is found in ordinances, even solemn ordinances?  Here is the mantle, but where is the God of Elijah?  Here are the grave-clothes, in which sometimes the Lord was wrapt up, but where is he himself?  Communion days have sometimes been glorious days in Scotland, and sometimes the gospel hath done much good, so that ministers had almost as much to do to heal broken hearts as now to get hard hearts broken; but where now is the God of Elijah?

6.  The God of Elijah gave him the experience of being enabled to go far upon a meal:  I Kings 19:8

…..But where now are such experiences, while there is so little strength in the spiritual meals to which we now sit down?  This is a time wherein there is much need of such an experience; the Lord seems to be saying to his people, “Rise and eat, for the journey is long”; and what a hard journey some may have, ere they get another meal, who knows?  Oh, for more feeding power in the doctrine preached among us!

7. The God of Elijah gave him the experience of the Lord’s removing difficulties out of his way, when he himself could do nothing at them:  Jordan divided.  So Peter had the iron gate opened to him of its own accord:  for when the Lord takes the work in hand, were it never so desperate as to us, it will succeed well with him.  Sure we have need of this experience this day.  How is the case of many souls so embarrassed at this day that they cannot extricate themselves, by reason of long and continued departures from God, so that all they can do is that they are fleeing and going backward!  Ah! where is the God of Elijah, to dry up those devouring deeps?  Enemies have surrounded the church, and brought her to the brow of the hill, ready to cast her over; where is the God of Elijah, to make a way for her escape?

My Sermon Notes, Genesis to Proverbs, p. 88-90

Charles Spurgeon

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