What a joy for me as a Christian: it’s Christmas Eve! Above any other presents on Christmas, I will rejoice afresh over God’s gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, given to me and all mankind over 2,000 years ago I received personally on April 10, 1977 (Isaiah 9:6-7)! God’s gift of His Son must be received on purpose by faith to be unwrapped into salvation. As the Lord leads me to write in this edited 2013 repost, choosing God’s gift of His Son is to do so in the midst and to the exclusion of all other ostensible gods, religions and ways to God. Reflect and rejoice if you have received God’s gift of His Son; be challenged to receive Him if not. Lord willing, my next post will be on January 7, 2018. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Originally Posted December 1, 2013
The times we live in spiritually are not unlike those in the first century A.D. Then as now there were thousands of religions that featured the worship of unseen spirits as well as images and statues representing men, women, animals, celestial bodies, things of earth’s natural order and man’s creative invention. Then as now the religions spanned the spectrum from moral restraint to complete license including all manner of sexual immorality. Then as now, men made choices as to which if any of all the religions they would embrace. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was introduced then and remains as the exclusive message from the living God summoning men to relationship with Himself.
As the apostle Paul waited in the great city of Athens, Greece many students of the New Testament believe sometime between 49 and 52 A.D., “his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols,” (Acts 17:16, NKJV). Rather than immediately attacking the idolatry which God in His longsuffering forbearance has temporarily permitted, he began to share the Gospel with Jews and Gentile converts to Judaism (who had in common with him a belief in the God of the Bible as it existed then as the Old Testament) and in the public marketplace. Some philosophers invited him to share more in a place called “Mars’ Hill” (Acts 17:17-21, NKJV).
On this platform where all new religious ideas and philosophies were given a hearing, Paul commended how ‘“religious’” the Athenians were in that they even had an altar dedicated ‘“TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.’” The Athenians and others were hedging their religious bets and covering their bases in presenting this altar among the thousands of idols, religions and philosophies of that day. Many today are attempting the same kind of approach by affiliating themselves with multiple faiths citing similarity of teaching and tolerance. After this, the great apostle of the Lord declared, ‘“Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you,’” (Acts 17:22-23, NKJV).
Paul goes on to depict God the way He speaks of Himself in Scripture as the Creator and Lord of the heavens, earth and everything in it including man from whom He needs nothing (Genesis 1:1, 1:26, 2:7; Isaiah 42:5, 45:18; Acts 17:24-25). From the one man, Adam, created in the image and likeness of God, God made every race and tribe of men who live before Him as image bearing offspring--though that image has been marred; felled by sin (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-11, 17-19, 22-24; Acts 17:26-28). Because men are the created offspring of the living God, Paul asserts they certainly should not "think" to devise art images or craft inanimate objects from earth’s substances to represent His nature (Acts 17:29, NKJV).
The Jewish apostle to non-Jews declares the idols, religions and philosophies of man’s devising; ‘“these times of ignorance God overlooked’” have come to an end spiritually speaking and in days soon to come, all dimensions of existence. For God ‘“now commands all men everywhere to repent’” and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ--that He died on the cross for our sins, was buried and on the third day after rose again--so that He might righteously forgive our sins and cause us to escape the Day of His wrath to be brought by Christ which His resurrection from the dead guarantees (Acts 17:30-31; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11)! This is that same Jesus; God in the flesh born at Bethlehem in Israel who Christians celebrate at Christmas (Luke 2:1-20; John 1:1-18)!
The Lord Jesus Himself declares, ‘“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me,’” (John 14:6, NKJV). Consistent with the Ten Commandments, He taught redeemed men are to ‘“love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength,’” (Deuteronomy 5:6-10, 10:12-13; Mark 12:29-30, NKJV). Surely, this is the heart of every aspiring strong man of God in the image of Christ!1 For a man to love and honor anyone including his parents, wife, children, siblings, his life or anything more than Jesus Christ is idolatry and disqualifies him from being His disciple (Luke 9:18-26, 14:25-26; John 14:15).
Similarly, the Lord also taught that a servant cannot be fully devoted to two masters. Both would rightly require love and loyalty. But because the servant is not able to give total love and loyalty to both masters, he ends up hating and despising one of them (Luke 16:13). There is also the matter of mental health consequences since James later writes, “a double-minded man” is “unstable in all his ways,” (James 1:8, NKJV). All of the first century Spirit-filled apostles of the Lord fully devoted themselves in love to and faithfully preached the Gospel about Him. They were also willing to suffer and die standing on the truth that the name of Jesus was the only name by which men can be saved from the coming wrath of God (Acts 4:1-22, 5:12-42).
Therefore, while God has given free willed men the privilege to choose if they will obey the Gospel and be saved or not, He does not allow a man to hedge his religious bets to serve Him and other gods too in that demon inspired Athenian spirit. He calls everyone to make a choice: Christ or the gods, religions and philosophies of men? In the likeness of Joshua, every aspiring strong man of God in the image of Christ elects to serve Him alone understanding the ‘“gate”’ to eternal life is not wide, but narrow and sparsely populated (Joshua 24:14-15; Matthew 7:13-14, NKJV)! Such men also rejoice in having made the right decision seeing by faith the aftermath of God’s Day of wrath foretold in His Word (Psalm 96-98; Zechariah 14:9). The risen, living Christ continues His cry among American churches, “Who is on the Lord's side?”
1 Learn more about the heart of the aspiring strong man of God in the image of Christ in my book, The Strong Man Of God: Back To Basics, available at all major internet
booksellers and in the Strong Man Store.
In the final paragraph of my December 3, 2017 post, “Pastors And Developing Men” under the category, The Cause, I lamented as I do in my book, The Strong Man Of God: Back to Basics, that another important reason many pastors do not teach and develop their men is because of being weak in sin themselves as professing Christians. In this edited 2012 repost, I elaborate further on this tragic reality which I have seen and experienced in my own journey from the pew to the pulpit. As I stated in that previous post, this is not about anyone being perfect, but God’s expectation of spiritual maturation among all of His sons including pastors and our zeal to pursue it (Philippians 3:12-16).
Originally Posted November 11, 2012
As a babe in Christ, I had no idea at the time that His burden for the churches He placed in my heart during a commanded seven day fast without food or water in February of 1979 was a formal calling to serve Him in the gifting of a watchman/prophet and teacher (Acts 11:27-30, 13:1-3; Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, 28-29, 14:1-5; Ephesians 4:7-16). I did not seek the associated gifts, calling and ministry nor did I initially embrace them. All I know is that as the Lord discipled me I gained an insatiable desire to know His Word and was drawn to the Old Testament prophets and their prophetic utterances with amazing understanding.
I also boldly spoke out against the wickedness in the churches that I only later began to realize I had been seeing since I was a child! After the thoroughly disappointing and humiliating Fort Worth, Texas launch of Open Door Communication Ministries, Inc. in the fall of 1985 that included calling pastors and churches to repentance with no result, by the spring of 1986 I was broken before the Lord and about to quit. He took me to Ezekiel 33:1-9 and made me understand the biblical and spiritual grounds of my service on His behalf and at His exclusive pleasure (Revelation 1:9-20). I surrendered in obedience and have been faithful ever since in His strength through many trials.1
In those early days, a number of pastors--a few well intended--told me I was not being heard because I was young, not a pastor and did not understand what pastors have to go through. Then the Lord made me a pastor and I was told you only have a small church and are not impressive enough for pastors of stature to hear you. Now, it is I have no standing to be heard by or to instruct pastors because I was not a successful pastor after having the most recent church I shepherded close its doors (Matthew 11:16-19).2 In the meantime, what the Lord has taught me in over thirty years of service to Him in the churches is that pastors are sinful, fallen mortals as all other men.
Pastors can and many do allow their sinful flesh rather than the Holy Spirit to rule their lives and impact the way they pastor (Galatians 5:19-25). Far from crucifying the flesh and its passions they even indulge it. Prominent is pride, lying, dishonesty, selfish ambitions, covetousness, stealing, envy, jealousies, evil plotting, lording it over the people, heresies, sexual immorality, alcohol and drug abuse. Rather than holding each other accountable for righteous conduct, many even celebrate each other’s sinful deeds. In the same way the outwardly religious people they shepherd do not want to hear and obey the truth of God from His Word that rebukes their sins, so also many pastors.
As I write in my book, The Strong Man Of God: Back To Basics, it is a great tragedy that many pastors are not aspiring strong men of God in the image of Christ.3 Not answering the call themselves, these pastors will surely not teach their men to become such men either. Therefore, as I have from the beginning in obedience to the Lord’s call on my life, I warn and strongly appeal to pastors that are guilty of being willfully weak in the flesh to repent and turn back to Him in all brokenness that the Lord might forgive and restore you. It is a lie from Satan and you have been greatly deceived to believe that because you are a pastor, somehow you have a judgment “get out of jail free card” from God (Deuteronomy 7:6-11, 10:17; Colossians 3:23-25).
If He has not yet severely dealt with you because you have failed to develop as a Christian before Him and to develop other men, chalk it up to His longsuffering, patience and forbearance not your indispensible position as a pastor (2 Peter 3:9). Thus, it was not because I was unfaithful to the Lord or had forsaken my own spiritual development that I know the pain of a disbanded church as the Lord’s judgment on His house. But I was too faithful in standing on and preaching His Word uncompromised along with growing mightily in it to suit folk steeped in religion so that a number over time departed from under my leadership (as even some depart as offended readers of this blog), while the Lord left me standing strong (Jeremiah 23:28-29; John 6:41-71)!4
Now, if my burden to proclaim the Word of God uncompromised and in growing spiritual maturity to live out biblical righteousness destroyed a local church in God’s will (2 Chronicles 36:15-16; Revelation 2:1-5), what really is holding together the one you shepherd, brother pastor, as you willfully sin against the Lord? How much longer do you have before His judgment finally catches up to you if it has not already (Numbers 32:23b; Jeremiah 23:1-2, 9-40; Micah 3:8-12; Matthew 7:15-23; Hebrews 10:26-31; James 3:1; 1 Peter 4:17-18; 2 Peter 2:4-22)? And if it is all like that for the men God actually does call to serve as pastors, where from His Word is your comfort, sister? The risen, living Christ continues His cry among American churches, "Who is on the Lord's side?"
1 The Lord keeps having me repeat the story of my awakening to His calling to the end, I am sure, that sooner or later someone will realize it is biblically consistent and
authentic since by His will, all New Testament spiritual gifts continue to be given by Him until He comes and ends this present, mortal Church era (Zechariah 13:2-6;
1 Corinthians 13:8-12). Without biblical declaration otherwise, the denial of the ongoing display of prophecy among all spiritual gifts is only of sinful human suppo-
sition and suppression in rebellion as is typical of those practicing a manmade form of religion, their proud and arrogant religious leaders and educated elite (Mark 11:
27-33). Other posts with my calling testimony include the October 2, 2016 post, Gifted With A Prophet’s Heart under the category, Call To Repent and more recently
on October 1 this year, Not A Market Driven Work under the category, Glory To God!
2 Read the August 30, 2015, post, When Strong Men Of God Weep under the category, Glory To God! and the one that follows to learn more about my most recent ex-
perience as a local church pastor.
3 The Strong Man Of God: Back To Basics is available at all major internet booksellers and in the Strong Man Store.
4 Because of my experience, the Lord has given me a tender and empathetic heart for faithful small church pastors and their struggles. If I can encourage, pray for or
serve you in some way, pastor, please contact me through this Ministry. Stand strong; you are precious to our Lord!
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