Judgment begins in the House of God!

Repent of being purpose driven instead of “Spirit led.” Repent of using God as a means to a selfish end, repent of “having church” instead of being the church. Jesus said, “My House is called to be a House of Prayer.”

What would be His testimony of His House today? You have made it a den of entertainment? Seeker friendly, cross-void and tolerant, flattering places of self-help with sooth saying mantras absent from the Word of the Lord,” where prayer is “cliché?”

It seems that our best praying today is for a “good service” instead of just seeking His face. We’ve lost confidence in the very thing that God has ordained as the power of God unto salvation─the preaching of the cross! Jesus Christ crucified is rarely mentioned because it’s not attractive to carnal man.

I know that statement probably comes across judgmental. I pray it’s heard for the way its been laid upon my heart, to realize from where we have fallen. Hey, I grew up in church, I can “play the part.” We’ve learned that well in the “Bible belt” but it has allowed for a modern day “golden calf” to be erected. Church in a lot of ways has replaced God. And it’s another thing to repent of…We need to get back to the heart of God. 

 “You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-38).

What does that look like in our daily walk? How do you fall in love with someone you hardly know and how you do know someone without spending time with them?

I’ve heard it said that love is spelled: T. I. M. E. and TIME is an altar that needs to be rebuilt in our homes, in our prayer closets and in our church gatherings! 

Faith vs patriotism

I fear greatly for those who have married their faith with their patriotism in this hour. I fear that just because God isn’t performing miracles on behalf of the patriotic cry that many will “turn and follow Him no more” because they were taught that this is “our best life now.” And that if they prayed based on 2 Chronicles 7:14, that their best life was still available in the here and now they are going to be greatly disappointed to find out that no matter how hard they pray God has already spoken that in the last days perilous times will come! We can’t pray that away.

We have to awaken to the sobering truth that earth is the Titanic and Jesus Christ is the only Ark of salvation. 

God’s Word says that He isn’t willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance, but despite God’s desire, many more will perish than will be saved! As Jesus has taught us…

“Broad is the gate that leads to destruction and many go that way” and “narrow is the way that leads to eternal life and few go that way.”

In just doing that math, we can understand why more and more we are going to be feeling surrounded on every side, almost feel like we are losing. And if it’s longing for this place to get better, to go back to what it once was…we are losing! But that is good news!

This is NOT our home, we are just pilgrims here. If our praying starts to line-up with the Spirit of God it will begin to be more and more: “The Spirit and Bride in agreement crying Come Lord Jesus, Come.”

doing good for God?

Nothing you do is of your own goodness or strength.  Christians are often guilty of  feeling like they are doing good for God.  They are righteous and it is their own accomplishments for God.  Humility is acknowledging that God or the Holy Spirit enables you to do everything. 

It is tough to stay focused on God with all that life throws at you.  Work, family, relaxation in those few moments, even our daily Bible study,  all demand our attention.  We get so busy that we forget to “take God with us.”  One of the worst co-workers I ever had was a self righteous person who dutifully did a Bible study every day, but somehow forgot to bring those self learned lessons to work.  It was like a Jeckle and Hyde. 

We often have little idea how much God does to protect us from the attacks of our unseen enemies. We sometimes feel that we are overwhelmed in a present spiritual struggle, but we may not know what it would be like if the LORD pulled back His protection.

Bible Evidence for the Sabbath

The Sabbath is not about a worship day, since we worship daily. It’s about Honoring Our Father for His creation, by not working on the 7th day He rested. (Isaiah 58:13) Not works unto Salvation, but to show Him our Love. “The Love of The Father is to keep His Commandments, & they aren’t grievous.” (1 John 5:2,3) “The Saints keep the Commandments of The Father & the faith of Jesus.”(Revelation. 14:12)

We can have a church service every day of the week but that does NOT negate or do away with the Sabbath of the LORD; mankind does NOT have the authority to change any of the Commandments / Laws of the LORD; in fact, the LORD HIMSELF, said that HE does NOT change; HE Says what HE Means, HE Means what HE Says and HE does NOT change

In the fourth century A.D the Christian church took a left turn. King Constantine changed the seventh day Sabbath, to the first day of the week on Sunday. This was done with the auspices of the Roman church. The pagans, that they were converting, had worshiped the sun god on that day which is known as Sunday.

Some of the church doctrine of today say because the Apostle Paul preached on a Sunday when they came together to break bread and that’s one reason why they keep Sunday. (Acts 20:7) Others say, Christ rose on Easter Sunday morning, but no one saw Him rise. That just happens to be the most pagan day of the year when they worshiped the Easter sun goddess with their sun rise service.

Many believe He rose in the evening before sunset on the Sabbath. When all the Jews and Christians were at home keeping the Sabbath. That Day is Sanctified, made Holy and the foundation of Christianity. In fact The Apostle Paul preached in Acts over eighty times on the 7th day Sabbath.

(Luke 23:56) “The women rested on the Sabbath according to the Commandment.” After Christ’s resurrection.

(Mark 16:1) “When the Sabbath was past, the women brought spices to the tomb.”

(Acts 13:14,15) “Paul went into a synagogue on the Sabbath. The Law and the Prophets were read.”

(Acts 13:27) “The Prophets were read every Sabbath.”

(Acts 14:42) “The Gentiles begged the Apostles to preach to them on the next Sabbath.

(Acts 13:44) “Almost the whole city came to hear the word of Yahweh on the Sabbath.”

(Acts 16:13) “The Apostles went out of the city on the Sabbath and preached to the women.”

(Acts 17:2) “Paul went into a synagogue and preached for three Sabbaths to the Thessalonians.”

(Acts 18:4) “Paul preached in Corinth’s synagogue every Sabbath to the Jews and Gentiles.”

(Acts 18:11) “Paul continued there for a year and a half, teaching the word of Yahweh.” (78 Sabbaths)

(Mark 2:27) Yeshua said, “The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath.

(Matthew 12:8) Yeshua said.” He is the Master of the Sabbath.”
(Hebrews 14:8) “Yeshua is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”

(Acts 1:12) The Apostles returned to Jerusalem from a Sabbaths day journey.

(Isaiah 58:13,14) Yahweh said, “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath. From doing your own pleasures on my Holy Day, and call the Sabbath a delight. The Holy Day of Yahweh Honorable, and shall honor Him, by not doing your own ways. Nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words. Then you shall delight yourself in Yahweh.

(Romans 10:12) “There no difference between Jews and Gentiles. The same Master over all is rich unto all that call upon Him

(Hebrews 4:9,10,11) “Therefore there remains a rest for people of Yahweh. For he that has entered His rest has himself ceased from his works as Yahweh did from His. Therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall after the example of disobedience.” (As Israel did)

The Apostle Paul said, “Be followers of me, as I also am followers of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

What Is Your Treasure?

What was it that Jesus said in Matthew 6:21 and Luke 12:34?

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

This is a question for you: What is your treasure? Or, what is really important to you? Some may already know the answer to this question straight away, whereas others may need time to consider it carefully as to what it actually means to them. And there will also be others who will ignore it for as long as they can, mainly because they don’t consider this relevant or important enough to think about.

This is a question that all of us have to give serious thought to and answer truthfully .Why? Because our eternal futures depends on the correct answer being given, and seriously, there is only one right answer to this question—if we want what Jesus has offered to us.

This is not like a game show host asking you a difficult question and then you win a prize like a brand new dishwasher or freezer. This is not something that you can pass off flippantly with a shrug of the shoulders or with verbal responses such as: Whatever; not important; or I’ve got other things to do at the moment; or maybe later.

You should not pass this off at all, because nobody knows what might occur in life. All sorts of terrible things are happening to people that are so sudden and final. There may be no tomorrow for some, so yes, it is a very important question for all of us to give serious thought to it while we still can).

As human beings we are the only species on the planet to be set apart exclusively from the rest of creation, to be given this rather unique and special ability of free will; to be able to perceive and make decisions on our own utilizing some wonderful heavenly attributes that God has made available to us all such as: Wisdom, patience, mercy, understanding, compassion, forgiveness and love, just to name a few.

We are able to consider all sorts of matters that come before us both small and great, and then make judgments on those matters, just as our wonderful Father in Heaven originally had the ability to make judgments that come before him as well.

Even Satan, the serpent in the Garden of Eden when talking with Eve, did say in Genesis 3:5:

“For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

He was manipulating Eve into giving serious consideration that she and Adam could be like the Almighty, to be as gods, knowing good and evil. Eve was enticed by this, not realizing that this was indeed a very powerful choice that she was making. And Adam would also make that choice soon after with far reaching ramifications that would anger the Almighty greatly. And as we all know now, had terrible consequences for all of creation from that point on.

The way that Satan put this before Eve was very crafty, he virtually waved it in front of her, enticing her with the “prize.” He put it within her reach, to take it with a simple choice. This is exactly what Satan has always sought after and worked toward from the beginning. To sow as much discord and chaos amongst the creation that he could possibly do with free choice, to deceive and entice as many as he could get his hands on, so they would die in their sins as well, again by their own free choice.

It is fair to say that for most of us, our own common sense levels in life are supposed to get better with age as we grow older, and we learn from our mistakes by remembering our own personal experiences. A young teenager for example, might have little or no wisdom dealing with certain issues, compared with an older more experienced person who has already dealt with those same issues in the past.

If for example, somebody chooses to participate in an extreme sport like Windsuit Flying, essentially, what they do is put on a birdman type outfit with a parachute and jump off high structures like tall skyscrapers or towering mountainous formations. They swoop downward at well over 100 MPH, and fly really close to these lofty structures on the way down to the ground. 

All it takes is an error in judgment or a sudden gust of wind that can’t be seen, and the participant can be dead in seconds (or at the very least seriously injured), and sometimes with life changing consequences that will ultimately affect his or her family as well. Sadly, these risk takers forget about how it will affect them too when serious injuries or death occur.

They know, or should know that potentially they can and will sustain deadly injuries if they make a wrong move, but often they have already made up their minds that the risks are worth it. This is because they are always looking for that adrenalin rush by doing dangerous activities like extreme sports. 

They have already used their free will in weighing up the risks relatively quickly, and then justify their decision by saying, “A super experience awaits me man, I’m just going to do it.” Remember this, our free will is a very powerful thing. We can potentially live or die on what choices we make.

Jesus said in Matthew 4:4:

“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

And also in Matthew 6:33:

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

These two verses are the key to this very important question at the top of this article. It is precisely because we are flawed and imperfect by our sinful natures, that we really do need the guidance and patience of Jesus when we make our choices in life, because everything in and of this world was delivered cleanly into the hands of Satan with the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

For everyone here who does not have “the kingdom of heaven and his righteousness,” that is Jesus, as his or her personal treasure, Satan already has the upper hand. He can and will tempt anyone into doing whatever he so desires, ensnaring and trapping them easily, with the pleasures and distractions of this world when they least expect it. We must have a Lord-focused viewpoint in our hearts, no question about it.

The stark reality for all of us is this: The further that we are removed and the longer we spend away from the presence and source of where these wonderful attributes come from (that is wisdom, patience, mercy, understanding, compassion, forgiveness and love), that originates from our Heavenly Father, the more we will spin off aimlessly into oblivion—lost and without hope.

We truly cannot stay away for long from that which is perfect without terrible consequences. We all need to spend every single moment close to our Creator through his son, because he genuinely cares for us and wants to hold us close, as a loving father does to his beloved children.

If that doesn’t bring tears of gratitude to your eyes, then nothing will.

[Jesus said,] “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

These are powerful and comforting words that say to all of us who have gone through our own personal suffering, that Jesus has already overcome the world on His own, through his own blood, sweat and tears. Jesus Himself went through the greatest temptation that a human being could ever endure successfully, and was crucified and raised from the dead for our benefit, so we could walk with him, in the presence of God without blemish.

He has personally defeated Satan’s plan. This means that he can and will help us through anything or anyone that Satan can throw at us, if we ask Him. We must learn to depend on Jesus for everything we need; in good and bad times—so we can be victorious against the powers of darkness.

Remember, when you are down and vulnerable, Jesus will help you up onto your feet with love and a smile in his heart. Whereas the world will kick you in the head while you are down and spit on you with all the venom of a poisonous snake.

Yes, the consequences are indeed too terrible to consider otherwise.

There are so many different things of this world that can potentially capture and enslave us and suddenly throw us off guard unexpectedly at some point in our lives. We must learn a valuable lesson from the One who has walked every hard step on this earth (with a burning desire to fulfil his Father’s will). His attributes such as compassion, mercy and forgiveness are available for everyone who sincerely asks for them. Jesus has personally experienced the pain of a world groaning under the terrible weight of sin.

This message is for those who know that they have a problem with something in their lives or someone that they have been caught-up with that takes their focus off of Jesus.  The Activity may not be “bad” but it removes our eyes off of spiritual living.  Gaming, Facebook, job, lake, hunting, …

This message is also for those who know that they have a serious problem with something evil in their lives or someone that they have been caught-up with; perhaps it is an obsession that they crave for every day, or an activity that has brought out the worst in them. Something that they have been able to keep hidden for many years from their family or loved ones.

It may be a destructive way of life that some are heavily involved in and so obsessed with, that it is the last thing they think of when they go to sleep, and the very first thing they think of when they awake form sleep. Something that they are very much ashamed of but don’t know how to stop.

The bottom line is this: If you are really serious about getting out from under whatever it is that has you trapped, all you have to do is put Jesus first at the top of your life. You can make Jesus your treasure right now, it is as simple as that. You only have to want to do this and Jesus will take up the fight for you, so you can and will be victorious through your darkest hours.

You will be victorious if you genuinely move the crosshairs of your heart from whatever it is that has you in its grip, and lock it firmly onto the crucified and risen One, and His hard fought victory will be all yours by His grace.

Who Were the Nicolaitans, And What Was Their Doctrine and Deeds?

But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. — Revelation 2:6

Have you ever wondered who the “Nicolaitans” were, mentioned in the book of Revelation? Whoever they were, Jesus loathed their doctrine and hated their deeds. Let’s delve into this subject today to see if we can ascertain the identity of this group. What was their damnable doctrine? What deeds were they committing that elicited such a strong reaction from Jesus?

Let’s begin in Revelation 2:6, where Jesus told the church of Ephesus, “But this thou hast [in your favor], that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”

Jesus was proud of the church of Ephesus for their “hatred” of the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which He also “hated.” The word “hate” is a strong word, so let’s see exactly what it means. It comes from the Greek word miseo, which means to hate, to abhor, or to find utterly repulsive. It describes a person who has a deep-seated animosity, who is antagonistic to something he finds to be completely objectionable. He not only loathes that object, but rejects it entirely. This is not just a case of dislike; it is a case of actual hatred.

The thing Jesus hated about them was their “deeds.” The word “deeds” is the Greek word erga, which means works. However, this word is so all-encompassing that it pictures all the deeds and behavior of the Nicolaitans — including their actions, beliefs, conduct, and everything else connected to them.

The name “Nicolaitans” is derived from the Greek word nikolaos, a compound of the words nikos and laos. The word nikos is the Greek word that means to conquer or to subdue. The word laos is the Greek word for the people. It is also where we get the word laity. When these two words are compounded into one, they form the name Nicolas, which literally means one who conquers and subdues the people[ . It seems to suggest that the Nicolaitans were somehow conquering and subduing the people.

During this time, the Church was changing from house assemblies, to the “State Church” of Constantine.  Some believe the sin of the Nicholatians was the institution of Clergy and the Formal Ordination and licensing of the Preacher, thus setting them up as a better class, or more “Holy” than the ordinary people.

Clergy vs laity.  Nicholatia instituted the Clergy mentality and ruled over the laity…Clergy had to be “qualified, and set apart (ordination).  Thus they were one step better than the lay people.

According to the writings of the Early Church leaders, Nicolas also taught a doctrine of compromise, implying that total separation between Christianity and the practice of occult paganism was not essential. From Early Church records, it seems apparent that this Nicolas of Antioch was so immersed in occultism, Judaism, and Christianity that he had a stomach for all of it. He had no problem intermingling these belief systems in various concoctions and saw no reason why believers couldn’t continue to fellowship with those still immersed in the black magic of the Roman empire and its countless mystery cults.

With the concept of Ordained leaders it was much easier to lead the Sheep astray.  Lay people could not (or should not) question their authority… At least in the world of ordination and it’s implied meaning…  In ordination, the minister is set apart from the congregation in a “special priesthood” to preach, teach, lead in worship, administer the sacraments of the Holy Communion and water baptism, and shepherd the flock. In the same way that a person does not let a plumber do his income tax returns, the church must not ask a person without training and authority to perform the tasks that a minister is specially trained and gifted to do.”

What does Scripture say about church government? Disagreements over this issue once split denominations—but few 21st-century Christians have a solid understanding of the principles that determine their own church leadership. There are four main approaches: Episcopalianism, Presbyterianism, Single-Elder Congregationalism, and Plural-Elder Congregationalism.  (These will be discussed in a later article)

What does the Bible say about ordination?”

The modern definition of ordination is “the investiture of clergy” or “the act of granting pastoral authority or sacerdotal power.” Usually, we think of an ordination service as a ceremony in which someone is commissioned or appointed to a position within the church. Often, the ceremony involves the laying on of hands.

However, the biblical definition is a little different. The word ordain in the Bible refers to a setting in place or designation; for example, Joseph was “ordained” as a ruler in Egypt (Acts 7:10); the steward in Jesus’ parable was “ordained” to oversee a household (Matthew 24:45); deacons were “ordained” to serve the Jerusalem church (Acts 6:1-6); and pastors were “ordained” in each city in Crete (Titus 1:5). In none of these cases is the mode of ordination specified, nor is any ceremony detailed; the “ordinations” are simply appointments. The word can even be used negatively, as an appointment to punishment (Luke 12:46).

Acts 13 includes a good example of a ministerial appointment: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia” (vv. 2-4). In this passage, we note some key facts: 1) It is God Himself who calls the men to the ministry and qualifies them with gifts (Acts 20:28Ephesians 4:11). 2) The members of the church recognize God’s clear leading and embrace it. 3) With prayer and fasting, the church lays hands on Paul and Barnabas to demonstrate their commissioning (cf. Acts 6:61 Timothy 5:22). 4) God works through the church, as both the church and the Spirit are said to “send” the missionaries.

Paul regularly ordained pastors for the churches he planted. He and Barnabas directed the appointment or ordination of elders “in each church” in Galatia (Acts 14:23). He instructed Titus to “appoint elders in every town” on Crete (Titus 1:5). Titus himself had been ordained earlier, when “he was chosen by the churches” (2 Corinthians 8:19). In the above passages, the ordination of elders involves the whole congregation, not just the apostles. The Greek word used in 2 Corinthians 8:19 for Titus’s appointment and in Acts 14:23 for the choosing of the Galatian elders literally means “to stretch forth the hands.” It was a word normally used for the act of voting in the Athenian legislature. Thus, the ordination of church leaders involved a general consensus in the church, if not an official vote. The apostles and the congregations knew whom the Spirit had chosen, and they responded by placing those men in leadership. 

When God calls and qualifies a man for the ministry, it will be apparent both to that man and to the rest of the church. The would-be minister will meet the qualifications set forth in 1 Timothy 3:1-16 and Titus 1:5-9, and he will possess a consuming desire to preach (1 Corinthians 9:16). It is the duty of the church elders, together with the congregation, to recognize and accept the calling. After that, a formal commissioning ceremony—an ordination service—is appropriate, though by no means mandatory. The ordination ceremony itself does not confer any special power; it simply gives public recognition to God’s choice of leadership.

So, in conclusion, while Ordination in the Biblical sense is not a bad thing, the Church and the Authority usurped Leadership perverted the Ordination into meaning a Ruling Class above, and That I believe is the real Sin of the Nicholatians.  The sin of the Nicholatians was the institution of Clergy and the Formal Ordination and licensing of the Preacher, thus setting them up as a better class, or more “Holy” than the ordinary people.  This set the Church up for error in Doctrine at the whims of the Ordained as they so desired.

If It Be Your Will

R.C. Sproul

When we come before God, we must remember two simple facts—who He is and who we are. We must remember that we’re talking to the King, the Sovereign One, the Creator, but we are only creatures. If we will keep those facts in mind, we will pray politely. We will say, “By Your leave,” “As You wish,” “If You please,” and so on. That’s the way we go before God. To say that it is a manifestation of unbelief or a weakness of faith to say to God “if it be Your will” is to slander the very Lord of the Lord’s Prayer.

It was Jesus, after all, who, in His moment of greatest passion, prayed regarding the will of God. In his Gospel, Luke tells us that immediately following the Last Supper:

Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:39–44)

It is important to see what Jesus prays here. He says, “Not My will, but Yours, be done.” Jesus was not saying, “I don’t want to be obedient” or “I refuse to submit.” Jesus was saying: “Father, if there’s any other way, all things being equal, I would rather not have to do it this way. What You have set before Me is more ghastly than I can contemplate. I’m entering into My grand passion and I’m terrified, but if this is what You want, this is what I’ll do. Not My will, but Your will, be done, because My will is to do Your will.”

I also want you to notice what happened after Jesus prayed. Luke tells us that an angel came to Him and strengthened Him. The angel was the messenger of God. He came from heaven with the Father’s answer to Jesus’ prayer. That answer was this: “You must drink the cup.”

This is what it means to pray that the will of God would be done. It is the highest expression of faith to submit to the sovereignty of God. The real prayer of faith is the prayer that trusts God no matter whether the answer is yes or no. It takes no faith to “claim,” like a robber, something that is not ours to claim. We are to come to God and tell Him what we want, but we must trust Him to give the answer that is best for us. That is what Jesus did.

Because Luke tells us that the Father sent an angel to strengthen His Son, I would expect Jesus’ agony of soul to have been alleviated. It appears, however, that with the coming of the strength from the angel came an increase in the agony of Christ, an increase so profound that He began to sweat so profusely that it was “like great drops of blood.” In a sermon on Luke 22:44, Jonathan Edwards said that this increase in Jesus’ agony was due to a full realization of the will of God for Him in His passion. He had come to the garden with the fear that He would have to drink the cup. Once He knew it was indeed God’s will that He drink it, He had a new fear—that He would not be able to do it. In other words, Jesus now was in agony that He not come short of complete and perfect obedience to the will of God.

But He did it. He drank the cup to the last drop. And in that moment, Jesus didn’t give us words to show us how to pray; He gave us His life as an example of praying that the will of God would be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

The Unexpected Answers of God

Article by  Jon BloomStaff writer, desiringGod.org

In John 16:23–24, Jesus makes a stunning, sweeping, glorious promise to us:

“In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

So we ask the Father for things we long for because we want the full joy he offers us. And we don’t ask for trivial or fleshly things, because we know what the Apostle James says: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3). No, we pray for greater faith, love, holiness, wisdom, discernment, experience of God’s grace, boldness, and joy in God, while praying for less satisfaction with worldly things.

Unexpected Answers

Such longings and prayers are sincere, and God loves them and loves to answer them. But we do not know ourselves very well, or the depth or pervasiveness of our sin, or what it really requires of us in order to receive what we ask for. We can’t help but have unreal, romantic imaginations and expectations about what God’s answers to our prayers will be.

Therefore, we are often unprepared for the answers we receive from God. His answers frequently do not look at first like answers. They look like problems. They look like trouble. They look like loss, disappointment, affliction, conflict, sorrow, and increased selfishness. They cause deep soul wrestling and expose sins and doubts and fears. They are not what we expect, and we often do not see how they correspond to our prayers.

What Should We Expect?

If we ask God for greater, deeper love for him, what should we expect to receive? Answers that give us a greater awareness of our deep and pervasive sinful depravity, because those who are forgiven much, love much, but those who are forgiven little, love little (Luke 7:47).

If we ask God to help us love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31), what should we expect to receive? Answers that force us to give unexpected attention to a neighbor (whom we might not put in that category [Luke 10:29]), which are inconvenient and irritating.

If we ask for God’s nearness because we believe that it is good for us to be near God (Psalm 73:28), what should we expect to receive? Answers that break our hearts, for God is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).

If we ask God to make us living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), what should we expect to receive? Answers that break and humble our hearts because the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit (Psalm 51:17).

If we ask God for a deeper experience of his grace, what should we expect to receive? Answers that oppose our pride and humble our hearts (James 4:6).

If we ask God for his kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10) in our own lives and in the world around us, what should we expect to receive? Answers that reveal our deep spiritual poverty, because the kingdom is given to the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3).

If we ask God to satisfy us with himself so that we aren’t so easily satisfied by the world’s mud puddles, what should we expect to receive? Answers that cause us to be increasingly aware of the evil and suffering and injustices of the world, because those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6).

If we ask God for greater wisdom and discernment, what should we expect to receive? A steady stream of mind-bending, confusing answers that are difficult to understand and work through, because our powers of discernment are trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:14).

If we ask God to “increase our faith” (Luke 17:5), what should we expect to receive? To be repeatedly put into situations where we discover that our perceptions are not trustworthy so that we are forced to trust Christ’s promises, “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

If we ask God to help us “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Colossians 1:10), what should we expect to receive? Answers that require more humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2) than we thought possible. Answers that might result in destitution, affliction, and mistreatment, the common lot of many saints throughout history “of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:38).

If we ask God to help us stop serving money so that we can serve him more wholeheartedly, what should we expect to receive? An uncomfortable amount of opportunities to give money away, expenses that deplete reserves we’ve been stashing away, maybe even a job loss — answers that push us to us despise (ignore, turn away from, release) money and cling to God (Luke 16:13).

If we ask for our joy to be made more full (John 16:24), to experience more happiness in God, what should we expect to receive? Answers that cause earthly joys we once thought gain to become empty, hollow, and loss and that push us to search for the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:8).

Expect the Unexpected

When God begins to answer our prayers, we often find his answers disorienting. Circumstances might take unexpected courses, health might deteriorate, painful relational dynamics might develop, financial difficulties might occur, and spiritual and emotional struggles might emerge that seem unconnected. We can feel like we’re going backward because we are not clearly moving forward. We cry out in painful confusion and exasperation (Psalm 13:1Job 30:20) when what’s really happening is that God is answering our prayers. We just expected the answer to look and feel different.

This being true, we might be tempted to not even ask God for such things. I mean, who wants unpleasant answers to prayers for joy?

Don’t be deceived into this short-sighted thinking. Remember Jesus’s promise: “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). If the path to full joy is sometimes hard, and Jesus tells us it is (John 16:33Matthew 7:14), that is no reason not to take it! What do you want? Low, shallow, thin joys? No! Go for full joy! And remember what the writer of Hebrews tells us:

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)

With regard to God’s answers to prayer, expect the unexpected. Most of the greatest gifts and deepest joys that God gives us come wrapped in painful packages.

Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He is author of three books, Not by SightThings Not Seen, and Don’t Follow Your Heart. He and his wife have five children and make their home in the Twin Cities

Church Buildings: a few potted plants or a forest?

Jesus commanded us to preach the gospel of the kingdom to all nations and to make disciples. He did not command us to construct church buildings.

The only “church building” we see in the New Testament was the Jerusalem temple courts where the believers met.

Acts 5:42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

Then something highly significant took place in Acts 8 following the martyrdom of Stephen.

Acts 8:1 And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.

Why did God allow this terrible persecution which resulted in the believers being scattered and no longer able to gather together to worship the Lord and be taught in the temple courts?

Perhaps the believers wanted to continue enjoying the comfort zone of worshiping God and being taught in the familiar confines of the Jerusalem Temple. And it was very convenient for them to go from house to house in their home town of Jerusalem to proclaim the gospel.

But Jesus had commanded them to preach the gospel not only in Jerusalem, but after that in Judea, Samaria and then unto the ends of the earth. Being human, it was natural for them to forget the Great Commission, staying in Jerusalem as one big family to worship God within the warm confines of the temple courts.

And what was the result of the persecution and subsequent scattering of the disciples?

Acts 8:4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there.

After being scattered in all directions they could of course no longer meet together in the Jerusalem temple courts. As Jesus had commanded them, they began to preach the gospel wherever they had been scattered.

After this there is no more mention of “church buildings” in the New Testament. Believers rather met in house churches which could easily multiply—as they have done in China.

Building a church facility is like planting and confining a tree to grow in a pot. As the tree inevitably grows, you keep moving the tree to successively bigger pots. Is this a good approach if you want to grow a forest? Of course not. Let us seriously consider this analogy.

In obedience to Christ’s Great Commission, we want to preach the gospel and extend the kingdom of God to all nations. We want to proclaim and plant the gospel everywhere in the whole world. But if we put up a church building in a certain area, the growth of the gospel will be limited mostly to the area where the building sits. Constructing a church moreover will take up much, much time, effort, and fund-raising on the part of the pastor. Servants of God are not called to that. But having a church facility will inevitably cause him to focus his ministry within the four walls of the church. His ministry will consist mostly of programs and meetings he holds inside his church. Sadly, that is what “Christianity” has become in the America and the West.

Then when physical expansion of his facility becomes necessary as the congregation grows—which is “moving the tree to a bigger pot”—more time-consuming effort will be required by the pastor, again taking away from his calling of feeding the sheep and taking care of the Lord’s lambs. So what about having different campuses each with its own facility in order to extend the reach of the gospel? That will result in similar time-consuming challenges and disadvantages for each campus. If we have six campuses we’ll have six pots each holding a tree. Shouldn’t we rather have a forest of trees, thus obeying the Great Commission?

But extending the kingdom of God by planting and multiplying house churches is akin to sowing and planting a forest outside in an open field. There’s no need for fund-raising and hiring an architect, a contractor, subcontractors, etc. The servant of God spends his time and energy going from house to house, teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. He trains other disciples to shepherd the house churches which will multiply naturally—just like trees in a forest. There is no “pot” to limit the growth and spread of the forest. There will be no limit to the growth of the body of Christ.

During these Last Days, let us follow the pattern we see in the New Testament regarding the question of building churches. Are we called to plant sickly trees limited in their growth and spread to a few man-made pots, or in open fields prepared by God for us to plant and to fill with mighty oaks for the gospel?

“Church-hopping”: a sign of “peace and prosperity”

“Church-hopping”: a sign of “peace and prosperity”

by The Elijah Challenge 

Among believers in the Christian West there has arisen a preference called “church-hopping” where they are not committed to any church or fellowship, but rather go from one church to another tasting and sampling. In such a way they might find something which will satisfy their needs—whether spiritual or otherwise. Like nearly everything else in the prosperous free-enterprise West, the Church is market-driven. It’s a marketplace where consumers are free to pick and choose, and the winners are the churches with the best marketing embedded in their teaching and preaching.

Believers in the New Testament of course did not have the luxury of “church-shopping.” At that time believers often had to pay the price of persecution for following Jesus Christ: rejection, loss of possessions, even death. There were no church buildings on every street corner, no welcoming church billboards along the byways, and no radio or TV broadcasts advertising the earthly blessings of following Jesus to draw people to the church or ministry. (But, as Bob Dylan once sang, “the times, they are a-changin.”)

The lyrics of Steve Green’s “No Surprise”

He was a man of sorrows, who wept in human pain
He knew the grief of parting and His hunger was the same
He felt the sting of insults, and he bore the weight of sin
He humbly drank the suffering God set before him

And it should arrive
As no surprise
That tears are gonna come
If you’re called by his name
You’re sure to suffer some.

He did not seek his happiness, He made no earthly claim
For the joy set before him he endured the cross and shame
He was born into the darkness, to shine the light of truth
And if the world hated him, the world will hate you too.


But consider it joy when you share in his pain
For you’ll share in the glory to come

The early disciples suffered through trials, and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit composed the epistles we have in the New Testament. They urged us not to set our hope on what earthly blessings we could receive by faith in Jesus, but rather to set our hope fully on the eternal glory to be given us when Jesus Christ is revealed. In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul taught about the eternal reward to be awarded to each disciple—beyond and in addition to salvation—according to the fruit of his or her labor while on earth. Regarding the fulfillment of our earthly needs, Jesus taught us simply to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.”

For most Christians in the West today, however, the promise of eternal glory and ruling with Christ in the coming Age takes a back seat to what many preachers today promise to their people. Here in the West Christians have the luxury of “pie in the sky” and enjoying it here as well. We can have heaven on earth since Jesus came to give us “abundant life.” The preacher or church which can deliver the best goods is the winner in terms of fame and size of congregation.

The Church in the West today is of course not the Church we see in the New Testament. What can be done about this?

Probably very little.

Yes, we can pray for revival. But it is very likely that given human nature and the nearly irresistible promise of prosperity around us in the West, only a few believers today will be able to imitate the early disciples.

The pure gospel is not meant to thrive in the conditions we enjoy in the West today. It thrives when like Abraham we “strangers and aliens” on earth look forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

What should we as committed disciples then do?

We should focus on reaching hostile, gospel-resistant nations where the Lord Jesus Christ has never been preached. When we do so we will see the New Testament in action. We will raise up disciples like the early disciples of Jesus Christ. We will witness the miracles as recorded in Acts—the powerful healings which resulted in great harvests for the kingdom of God.

The reality is that the primary harvest for the gospel in the West has already been reaped; what remains now is the only gleaning of the harvest. The primary focus of the gospel has now rightly moved on to those regions of the world where it has never been heard even once. After this gospel of the kingdom has been preached in the whole world as witness to all nations, then the end will come.

History has a beginning, and it will have an end. The gospel was born in Israel, it then spread throughout the Mediterranean world and beyond to impact Western civilization. Now its focus has shifted to the Third World currently dominated by Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and idol-worship. Following the reaping of the harvest there, the end will come.