“…That we may be like all the nations.” (1 Samuel 8:20)
Nobody likes to not fit in. Billions of dollars are spent on advertising each year, in fact, to tell us how to fit in. You need these clothes, that video game, this music CD, these shoes, that car. Culture does not create the marketplace. The market creates the culture. We are told on a continual basis what we need to be cool, the “it” thing, successful, healthy. And the more we do things to be “different”, the more we look just like the rest of the herd.
One thing I love about God is that He doesn’t want us to be anything but what we are – who we are – in our hearts. I wish we knew this.
Christian music is getting weaker and weaker because we “want to be like all the nations.” Unless a miracle happens, I may have bought my last Christian CD. I can’t stand the shallowness of it anymore. It all sounds just like the world’s music, only with insipid, shallow Christian feel-good lyrics. In our desire to create music the world can “relate” to, we’ve left out the Creator who can make music the world is ASTOUNDED by.
When is the last time you played a Christian CD for an unbeliever and they were astounded, or said, “Wow! That got my HEART!”
There was a time, you know. There was a man named Keith Green, who was about to become a music superstar. He found Jesus and poured his life into writing and singing about Him. He sounded and wrote like NO ONE ELSE, not in the world, not in the church. His songs burned with the convicting power of GOD. People left his concerts angry or changed forever.
There was a band called “The 2nd Chapter of Acts.” It was three skinny kids, who, when they sang, leveled audiences. Everyone knew their lyrics and harmonies were not human. They were angelic. From the moment they sang, the power of God descended and crowds were caught up in devastating worship. They weren’t slick, they didn’t dress cool. They were just VESSELS OF THE HOLY.
I weep when I listen to what is produced today. It is STERILE. It is lifeless. Well-intentioned, but lifeless. In striving to sound like the world, we have succeeded fabulously. But there is no power to redeem.
Music and worship are so important to God that He sent the worshipers first onto the battlefield. How can we expect to see lives changed if we don’t create music with that kind of gravity? How can a Christian musician hope to be anything but a passing fad, unless they come close enough to the Holy of Holies to at least be brushed with the wings and winds of the Holy Angels?
No, we can only have it two ways; either to “be like other nations” or cry out for His anointing on our music, career or not.
You won’t make many friends that way. One of the other “prophets of music” was Steve Camp, whose first albums were wildly successful, fun things. Then he got serious. He wrote songs about commitment, sacrifice, suffering, and the cross. I went to a concert here, watched the 500 or so people party while he sang his fun stuff – then watched ¾ of them get up and walk out when he sang and challenged them to surrender everything. By not “being like the other nations”, he lost his shallow audience – but gained a Friend.
There’s no space to write extensively about Christian books, but it’s the same concept. Shallow, fun, sensational and romantic sell. Books with depth tank or never see the light of day. Secular trends become our own, and our best sellers are “just like the other nations”, but nicer, with a nice “Jesus touch.”
The church has grown trendy, hip, multimedia, seeker friendly, more comfortable. It’s hard to tell many church services from an Amway convention these days. We wanted to reach (impress) the world using their methods and their tools, but there is little conviction, there is no challenge, there is no sacrifice. Just a nice place to go once or twice a week, a place we leave unchanged.
We recently had a youth Bible study where God walked in totally unexpectedly and began to put His finger on things we were holding on to from the world. It wasn’t fun, it hurt, it was scary. But it was real. I left thinking, “This is what’s missing.” Most youth ministries are bent on attracting the world through fun, excitement, and a cool trendy youth pastor, so we can “relate” to the world and they to us. “Just like the other nations.” But what is needed is the power of God present and working in youth groups through real worship and the pure Word. If we do not set a higher standard, it’s just fun and games, youth babysitting. Lives will not be changed. Just modified. Nicer kids, but not transformed kids.
God has called us to be a “peculiar people.” Not weird. Although, if we take Him seriously, we’ll be unlike anyone or anything the world has seen. We cannot become life-changing people until we LET GO of the longing for success, popularity, likeability, numbers or acceptance. We must give up all the desire to be “like the other nations.”
God is calling a generation who want to be NOTHING like the other nations, who despise their trinkets, deny their lures, and have no desire to imitate their trends. He’s calling those who will enter the Holy Place to receive eternal music and worship, write with the words of the prophets, preach like Paul and walk in supernatural miracles like it was a common walk. Come up higher, saints. Let go of the world and all its loves. Give Him all, and expect His all – and watch God change the world!
So many Christians are bound by a “rapture mentality” that they have consistently failed to see the wolves at the gate. It has been so for generations. I remember clearly Corrie ten Boom telling of a Chinese pastor that wept as he told her, “I preached that the church would be raptured before the tribulation. Then the communists came and my people were not prepared for suffering and even death because of their faith.” He could hardly live with himself.
I truly hope Jesus comes back before the tribulation, but for the suffering church worldwide, it is hardly an issue – they are already suffering in a way we cannot fathom here.
This is not about theology, but about being prepared. And we are not.
Having been a believer since 1969, there have been many times when world events were so out of control that I anxiously wondered, “Is Jesus about to return? Is this it?” He did not then, but mark my words, He WILL come. After a number of years, one learns to discern the times better. We are near. Believers who can discern the times and the intent of God for our age will be crucial in the days ahead. So I want to share with you what I see.
This was a political year, but so much more. If we had seen “beyond the veil” we would have seen a clash of angelic and demonic so savage it would have terrified us. It is bigger than Iraq, the war on terror, or the economy. It is about our national soul. The only thing preventing judgment is the prayers of the believers.
One of the things we consistently heard during the campaign was, “This nation is deeply divided,” That is correct, Let’s talk about that.
Centuries ago, Israel too was deeply divided. A man named Elijah came to divide it right in two. In fact, he came to clarify and finalize that division. The country was so corrupt that God sent Elijah to draw the line – a dividing line: “Who is on the Lord’s side?” Fire came from heaven and consumed corrupters and corrupted alike – those who chose their corruption over God Himself. Not exactly the candidate of unity, was he?
And that’s where we’ve gotten it wrong. After the Passion of the Christ, I constantly heard, “Jesus came to preach peace.” He certainly did not. He said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace, but a sword, For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother….and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” (Matthew 10:34-36)
In the church’s zeal to attract the world, imitate the world and not offend the world, we have lost our fire. We’ve forgotten that we are called to be separate – spiritual troublemakers – ones who turn the world upside down! We are called to be – dare I say it? Dividers. Dividing truth from lie, reality from fantasy, righteousness from sin and corruption. Who we are are, what we believe, who we belong to will put us in direct opposition to the spirit of this age, the antichrist spirit. Get used to it. It’s about to get a lot worse.
But, you say, aren’t we supposed to love people and bring them to Jesus? Of course. But we aren’t a tourist bureau. “Come to the Kingdom – great views, great food, friendly people!”
No. Better to see it as a house on fire while people sleep. You don’t knock and say, “Sorry to bother, but, uh, come over to our house – it’s not on fire. And we LOVE you!”
No, love dictates that we use any and all means to wake people up and get them OUT of the burning house! Don’t ask firefighters to be polite. And don’t ask a true Christian to be inoffensive. The cross, Paul said, is an offense to those who are perishing.
In these last days, people will be saved not because they find it fun but because they find it a matter of life or death.
This was a year that was politically divided – and decided – by the Christian vote. I was taken aback. All my years I’ve seen elections come and go and Christians largely took an, “It doesn’t matter, Jesus is coming back” attitude. I guess we finally realized that while we basked away in our comfortable churches, the devil had been taking our most precious liberties, our beliefs, and our children. This year it got serious. The ten commandments were banned from public places. People were demanding the right to have a doctor pull a 2nd trimester baby from the womb, jam a metal tube into its brain and suck its life out. (It’s called partial birth abortion.) And to top it all, gays were demanding marriage rights and some courts gave it to them. In one year, satan moved his three favorite issues to the front of the line – the elimination of God’s law, the slaughter of babies (infant sacrifice, like the old testament) and the destruction of sexual wholeness for our children.
Perhaps Christians heard the anti-God, antichrist rhetoric and began to see the handwriting on the wall. Perhaps some remembered Nazi Germany, where Christians largely did NOTHING until it was too late. Perhaps they saw into the future, and realized that if we did not act, our future liberty to preach the Gospel of truth will be in danger.
In any event, Christians did respond this time. And clearly, the prevailing issue that turned the tide was neither the economy or the war. It was morality.
Almost as soon as the election ended, the angry cries began: It’s the Christians who ruined this election. The “Jesus freaks”, as one politician and several activists called us. Michael Moore blamed “Jesus Land.” If you are too dull to detect the demonic venom in these reactions, you are in real trouble.
There is a backlash coming. Take advantage of the next 4 years to do everything possible to further the Kingdom of God. The storm is gathering in wicked human hearts, and before it is over, a raw hatred for believers will explode and rage to destroy those who will stand for truth, cost what it may.
And this is where we are at the crossroads. It has been easier to be a Christian in this country than anywhere on earth in history. Think about that. We go to church when and where we want, talk to people about the Lord without going to jail or being beheaded. In former bastions of liberty like Europe and Canada, anti-Semitism and persecution for believers are forcing Christians to count the cost of true discipleship. Europe, in fact, is very much shaping up to be the antichrist government we once envisioned only in last days books and movies. The fiction is becoming fact – fast. Even the EU financial system has been given a chilling name – OCCULT.
What does that have to do with us in the States? The tide will begin to rise against believers. We believe in the good news of Jesus; but if you read the book of Acts, repentance was preached. In addition, idolatry and sorcery were opposed and immorality decried. Paul opposed a sorcerer and he went blind! Not exactly our modern version of “friendship evangelism.”
The crossroads we face is a crisis of the Word of God, the holy Scriptures. It is time to get past “devotional reading” and seize the Word of God for revolutionary LIVING. It is time to stop treating the scriptures like a comforting pillow and take it up as a life transforming sword.
The other day I was attempting to eat a pomegranate that had sat too long. As I cracked it open, I found half of it was ripe and half was rot. If any of it was to be edible, the rotten half had to be cut away and discarded. If I had not done it then, the rotted half would have quickly infected and destroyed the healthy fruit.
In a moment, I saw the church. For the sake of “unity” we have kept the church “whole.” But as we have sat idle, the spiritual rot within has begun to infect the whole. Believers standing for corrupt moral-political spokespeople, the pursuit of prosperity rather than godliness, the softening and watering down of the offensive message of the cross in order to be “seeker friendly” – and worse – the publication of corrupted versions of the scripture such as “Good As New” to accommodate licentious lifestyles, the acceptance of occult literature as messages about God (see “Looking for God in Harry Potter”), and that which no church in history has ever dared do – ordain homosexual priests.
The devil loves a void, and he has come into our midst and sown his rot, and it is becoming a cancer to the parts of the church body that, although healthy, have been spiritually apathetic, idle, content and unused.
The Sword of Truth will be wielded to sever the corrupt from the whole – to cut off the leaven of compromise from the unleavened that remains.
Every believer must decide whether the Word of God, and the truth of it – every word – is true – and if true, to be willing to speak it, live it, and use it, to fight for the truth, cost what it may.
Because the church has idly rested, contented, avoiding the battle for our nation’s future, the wolves are at the gate. Seizing on the opportunity of our sense of ease and invincibility, the devil is coming to challenge our very ability to preach the Word of God with liberty in our churches.
In Canada, you can now be charged with a hate crime for reading scriptures against homosexuality in a negative way and be jailed. Some already have.
Last week I was visiting some of our college kids at Starbucks. While standing in line, I realized there was a couple engaged in a passionate kiss right in front of me. It was two young MEN. My world spun. I went home in shock. “Where have I BEEN?”, I said aloud. Then I realized the gay issue (which I have had to address more times in the last month than in the last ten years with youth) is going to be the first volley in this war. It’s as if I could hear the devil say, “Yes, just try to oppose this. You’ll go to jail for this if you do.” In fact, even trying to reach the gay community for Jesus is going to bring furious opposition.
It was then I realized that I had to make my own decision at this crossroads: Will I let anyone, any man or any law forbid me to preach any scripture from the Word of God? NO! A thousand times NO! If I do not have the guts to preach ALL of the Word of God, I am not fit to preach ANY of it. My decision was made: I will not be silenced. I will proclaim the truth in love, cost what I may. It may one day cost everything. So be it.
The first issue may be homosexuality, but on its heels, the time may come when anyone who speaks the truth about witchcraft, drug use, fornication or adultery will be violently opposed and perhaps charged with a hate crime. Remember, John was beheaded for opposing Herod’s adulterous marriage. It may not come tomorrow. But it WILL come.
And what of these coming days for us? Israel continues to be the flash pan and focus of Biblical and prophetic human history. With the Sanhedrin reseated for the first time in nearly 2,000 years, all things point to the coming of Jesus and the fulfillment of all things written in the Book.
And how do we respond? Recently I shared my excited response concerning prophetic events with some folks – excited because even though hard times are ahead, our redemption draws near.
The response from one person downplayed all I had said, casting questions on my interpretation of prophecy, comforting everyone not to be afraid because, they said. GOD WOULD NOT LET US BE HURT BY ANYTHING. But the blood of the saints and martyrs past and present are testimony against such false security. He said He would sustain us THROUGH – not AROUND – tribulation. And, I realized, in my call to prepare believers and raise up young warriors who can stand the test, the opposition will come from within as well as without – from those frightened of suffering, from those refusing to follow the Way of the Cross, from those unwilling to give up comfortable lives to enter into the Battle of the Ages – from those who read the Word of God as pick-and-choose words of comfort (and they are comforting) rather than a manual for battle and a call to total surrender.
We are soon approaching another mount of decision where the mad prophets of Baal will face the true Elijahs of God, and all must decide: “Who is on the Lord’s side?”
At this crossroads lies the Word of God. Pick it up. Embrace it to your heart. Absorb it. And then speak it, preach it, believe it and use it – and to you will belong the strength to stand, the power of God to do miracles, the message of salvation and the Hope of Eternity,
Any other road in this hour of decision is spiritual insanity.