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“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
(2 Chronicles 7:14)
 
If you move in Judeo/Christian circles you have heard this verse quoted by pastors, politicians, and proselytes more than a few times, especially in times of regional tragedy or national sorrow. Although an encouraging portion of Scripture that strikes a harmonious chord with all true believers, let us be mindful that it is primarily a directive and an admonition from God.
 
A Promise to Israel
 
Cite the verse or post it on social media, and it won’t be very long before some imperious theologian, qualified or amateur, chimes in that the verse is contextually a promise for Israel and not for the United States or any other nation. Well, we can’t argue the point; it is a conditional promise that God made to Israel.

Here’s the entire account in the New Living Translation:

 
“So Solomon finished the Temple of the LORD, as well as the royal palace. He completed everything he had planned to do in the construction of the Temple and the palace. Then one night the LORD appeared to Solomon and said, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices. At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you.”
 
God continues:
 
“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart. As for you, if you faithfully follow me as David your father did, obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations, then I will establish the throne of your dynasty. For I made this covenant with your father.”
 
God’s final warning:
 
“But if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the decrees and commands I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods, then I will uproot the people from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor my name. I will make it an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations. And though this Temple is impressive now, all who pass by will be appalled. They will ask, ‘Why did the LORD do such terrible things to this land and to this Temple?’ And the answer will be, ‘Because his people abandoned the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and they worshiped other gods instead and bowed down to them. That is why he has brought all these disasters on them.’” (2 Chronicles 7:12-22)
 
For the Church or Not?

Clearly, both contextually and historically, these words of God were for Israel. So the question then becomes, is God’s wise counsel and warning applicable to us today, and more specifically, are they applicable to the Church? The answer is, of course they are.

 
First Things First
 
When God said to King David, “One of your descendants will always rule over Israel,” it was a ‘now-fulfilled,’ prophetic reference to our Messiah, Jesus Christ. Because Jesus is the integral part of this equation, and because Christians are grafted into the vine that is Israel, the verse applies to the church. There is no question about it: if Christians, as in the warning to Israel, abandon their namesake Christ Jesus, and disobey His decrees and commands, we will be uprooted and rejected. 
 
“But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.”
(Romans 11:17, NLT)
 
Healing for Israel Only?
 
No one in the body argues that if believers anywhere or at anytime, humble themselves, and pray, and seek God’s face, and turn from their wicked ways, that God will hear those prayers, and forgive their sin. The issue with some folks is the implication found in the final portion, ‘that God will heal their land.’ 
 
Let’s back up. What does God mean when He says that He will heal their land, and what’s wrong with the land that it needs healing to begin with?
 
For starters, God cursed the land back in Genesis because of Adam’s dirty deed, but arguably that is not what’s being referred to here. However, and as it pertains to our scriptural reference, God said, “If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people,” (2 Chronicles 7:13).

In other words, on occasion and for varied reasons known and unknown, God allows turmoil, and God-allowed turmoil is not unique to Israel. Therefore, when God says He will heal the land, and when Christians apply His promise to the land they happen to be most closely associated with, it is a proper application. No one is saying anything more than that and certainly no Christian I associate with is suggesting that the United States is somehow replacing Israel as the apple of God’s eye. That notion, along with replacement theology in general, is a sick interpretation of the Bible (a discussion for another time, perhaps).  

 
Simply put, and as it pertains to the Vine of American, if folks who are called by His name, get off their high horses and humble themselves, if they would pray and seek God’s face, His guidance, His equipping, and His power, and if they repent from their wicked ways, then God will hear us; He will forgive us, and the turmoil of the land will be healed. Take note: the agnostics, the atheists, and the followers of false gods and idols don’t have to do anything! The admonition is to the church alone. If we would just start acting like the church, that is to say, in a God-prescribed manner, the promise will come to pass.
 
And the Naysayers Say…
 
“It’ll never happen!”
 
And of course they cite Biblical prophecy that God’s wrath is ultimately going to be poured out on America and the rest of the world. I get that and cannot dispute the prophetic and specific inevitability of those words. However there is another element that cannot be disputed: we do not know God’s timetable; we do not know the day or the hour of Christ’s return, and nowhere in the Bible is it suggested that we should abandon every good work and wait for His return. The mere thought of that is absurd and dare I say, blasphemous. God would never have us reject our Christian duty! Never!
 
So with that, let us humble ourselves, and pray, and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways, and see what God will do! To ignore God’s warning is to reject God Himself.

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In Bill Hybels opening talk at this year’s Global Leadership Summit (GLS), he listed 10 Rules of Respect, adding that they are great words for leaders to live by. Really?

The first thing that jumped off the page is that Hybels makes no mention of God or Bible Scripture. Does Bill Hybels actually believe that he can say it better than God?   I’m absolutely sure that he cannot.

PROOF

 

Here are Hybels ’10 rules’ followed by Bible Scripture. You decide who said it better.
1) Hybels: “Set the example of how to differ with others without demonizing them.”
GOD: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)
2) Hybels: “Model how to have spirited conversations without drawing blood”
GOD: “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Colossians 4:6)
3) Hybels: “Never interrupt others who are talking and do not dominate the conversation.”
GOD: “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.” (Proverbs 19:20
4) Hybels: “Limit your volume level and refuse to use incendiary or belittling words that are guaranteed to derail a discussion.”
GOD: “He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.” (Proverbs 13:3)
5) Hybels: “Set the example of being courteous in word and deed
GOD: “And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, [do] all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)
6) Hybels:”Never stereotype.”
GOD: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)
7) Hybels: “Apologize immediately when wrong instead of denying or doubling down.”
GOD: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
8) Hybels: “Form opinions carefully and stay open minded if better information comes along.”
GOD: “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” (Proverbs 18:13)
9) Hybels: “Show up when you say you’re going to show up and do what you say you’ll do.”
GOD: “If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.” (Numbers 30:2)
10) Hybels: “Set rules of respect for everyone in the organization and enforce them relentlessly.”

GOD: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

 

To make matters worse, every year Hybels adds a bevy of popular speakers who are typically outside the realm of the church. You won’t hear God or Bible Scripture from them either.

Here’s this years list:

1) Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook, woman’s rights activist, believes abortion is ‘comprehensive family planning.’
2) Laszlo Bock, Sr. VP Google,“All it takes is a belief that people are fundamentally good.”
3) Fredrik Härén, business creativity expert, “I am rooted in the world!”
4) Bryan Stevenson, black activist, lawyer, BLM supporter “If you tell a lie, you’re not just a liar. If you take something that doesn’t belong to you, you’re not just a thief. And even if you kill someone, you’re not just a killer.”
5) Marcus Anthony Lemonis, CEO Camping World, “We are all entitled to our own opinion. Here is mine. I am my own man, with my own belief system.”
6) Juliet Funt, daughter of Allen Funt (Candid Camera), “Our teachings have impacted some of the top brands in the world including Nike, P&G, Wells Fargo, Hershey’s and Hyatt. We’ve enabled them to feel fueled, focused, and ready to create the spectacular.”
7) Marcus Buckingham, author, “Talent is the multiplier. The more energy and attention you invest in it, the greater the yield. The time you spend with your best is, quite simply, your most productive time…Spend the most time with your best people.”
8) Angela Duckworth, professor of psychology, author of “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” Says grit is the key to success in work and life.

In Conclusion

Simply put, the Church does not need the likes of Bill Hybels or the Global Leadership Summit, but you know what?

GOD SAID IT BEST

“[T]he whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19)
“[D]o not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God…. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:2, 9)
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
“Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36)
“Friendship with the world is enmity to God.” (James 4:4)

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“The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness (adultery and lust), not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:12-14)
 
sdMany people believe in parachutes. That is to say they know what they do and believe (for the most part) that they’ll perform as advertised, but they would NEVER put one on. Myself included.
 
And for many people, it’s the same way with Jesus. They believe Jesus is who God says He is, but they’re not going to ‘put Him on’ because to do so would mean to alter their lifestyle.
 
Some believe that they can put Jesus on just before they die. That’s like saying they’ll jump out of the plane just before it crashes, but having no idea when that will occur or that it’s happening now.
 
When the Bible talks about belief (or faith), it’s with the understanding that the ‘believer’ trusts to the point of obedience. In other words, if you truly believe (if your faith is real), you will do as Jesus (God) has commanded.

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Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee. Joshua 2:18

threadThe world is enormous and it is wicked, and her ruler is the evil one, but through it all there runs a scarlet thread. And while it is true that Christians are not of this world, it is upon, yes upon this fine and delicate thread we trek.

All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies. Psalm 27:10

For certain this thread is fine, but only in the sense that it is elegant, beautiful, and splendid. It is not paltry, gaunt, or slender. It is only a person’s posture and position that could create such an illusion, imaging ourselves larger than actuality, and being of a distance whereby large things appear small. If this thread seems slight, it’s our vantage point that is askew — we stand afar off thinking we are bigger than we are.

The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him. Psalm 27:14a

Nor is it delicate; it is of the strongest something men will ever know. It cannot be stretched, twisted, or broken. It is immoveable. Neither is it a tightrope whereby we must acquire great agility and balance. It is, as we move closer (acknowledging our smaller stature), an able path, not so broad we lose sight of its borders. It is the thread we tread, narrow yes, but a safe and trustworthy thoroughfare where if we stumble there is no risk of falling off, and where we’ll always find a helping hand to get us back upon our feet. Of course if we desire to exit, it is our choice.

Mine eyes are ever toward the LORD; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net. Psalm 27:15

This passage, this scarlet thread, runs through everything we encounter. In the good times it might seem wide and in bad times it may appear slim, but before these occasions we know nothing about it has changed. This route, this path, this Way is of the Lord and all who travel it will make it safely home.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:30

It is also upon this thread we are changed. As we begin to move forward upon it we have a strong sense of its difficulty. Others along the way are perceiving the same thing, and they endorse the sensation. It’s not unusual to hear someone say, “Well you know God said in this life there will be trials and tribulations!” This is so true, but it does not (and will never) contradict what Jesus said.

If the word’s of our Lord and Savior our true (His yoke is easy and His burden is light) and we’re not in agreement, then something is wrong with us: we’re walking in our flesh and not by His Spirit. Understand, this errant sensation is supposed to happen. It’s within this occurrence (and upon this path) that Jesus is allowing us to see the weakness of our flesh and simultaneously the strength of the Holy Spirit. So if we sense this walk of faith is difficult and burdensome, that’s great news! Jesus is letting us know that our flesh is still in control. Let us stop saying how hard the walk is and start thanking God for the changes He is making in us. The Christian life is not difficult, but walking in the flesh as a Christian is.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good,and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:1-2

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“My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.” Daniel 6:22-23

Everyday approximately 250-300 Christians (on average) are caaamurdered simply because they believe and follow Jesus Christ. I have often wondered why Jesus doesn’t *spare His faithful as He spared Daniel or as He protected Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. Despite occasional bewilderment, to this truth I cling: Jesus saves — He always has and He always will. Daniel could have been eaten alive that day, but he would have still been saved. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could have burned, but yet saved.

The reality is that Daniel did eventually die and Jesus spared him again (and permanently this time) from the lion; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego all died, and again they were spared from the fiery furnace, but this time for eternity. You see, the lion’s den and the fiery furnace, although quite real to Daniel and the boys, is a picture of hell for us; a visual depiction of God’s promise to protect His children. However, for those unrepentant souls who falsely believe they can destroy a Christian, there is no such sparing. For them the lion waits and the furnace burns.

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. John 3:36

Rejoice Not

Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth , and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth; Proverbs 24:17

As you pray for the persecuted church, pray also for those who persecute. Remember, the Apostle Paul was once a vile persecutor of the brethren, but he turned away from evil, turned to Jesus, and his life was spared. Everyday there are stories of evil men rejecting the gods and tenets of their false religions and being saved when they turn to Jesus Christ. I’m not certain how our prayers fit into the equation, but nevertheless, the Holy Spirit is coming along side these men and convicting them by their own wicked deeds, and they are repenting!

Remember to also pray for how the Lord wants to use you in your religious freedoms, I should add, ‘while you still have them.’ Christian persecution has arrived on the shores of America and has taken root. I say that, to say this: it will never be more easy to share your Christian faith as it is right now, as tomorrow brings more detractors and new deterrents. Do not fear the mouth of the lion or the heat of the furnace, for from these things we have been spared.

I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish , neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one. John 10:28-30

*Note: Jesus does still occasionally  ‘spare’ his children from earthly atrocities. I remember hearing first hand from a Christian pastor (in India) who himself was tied to a tree to be burned. They piled wood about his feet and doused it with kerosene. When the match was struck and tossed upon the wood, it did not ignite. Match after match, nothing happened. In frustration, they left him tied to the tree with the promise to return in the morning to finish the job. In the middle of the night one of these men, convicted by his evil deeds, returned and cut him loose.

We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven (Colossians 1:3-5a)


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“Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.” Numbers 14:9

breadRemember Joshua?

To him, the giants of life were more than obstacles to overcome, they were nourishment for spiritual growth. That narrow path we walk is not a place free of trials and hardship, but rather a place of refinement where adversities are but fuel for our sanctification.

Truly our giants are bread for us!

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger ; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst . John 6:35

Of course it was Jesus who said that He is the bread of life — we are sustained eternally when we feed on Him and His word. It could also be rightly said that when our lives are submitted to Christ, we are positioned to be nourished by everything that comes down the pike, be it good or evil. The adage is true: in Jesus everything is either a bless’n or a lesson.

But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Genesis 50:20

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