Therefore say to them, Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. - Zechariah 1: 3 (ESV)
I rarely place a prophetic tag on things I write because I try not to be presumptuous with the Lord. I do feel however that this might very well be one of those messages meant to convey the seriousness of the times we are facing as the body of Christ and prophetically what is needed in the days ahead. Those who follow my writings know that while I believe in the gifts of the Spirit, I believe they are mostly abused in the church today. Prophecy has become a game of personal clairvoyance, where congregants greedily line up to hear a psychic prediction over their life about something God is "birthing" or how special they are. True prophecy for the church today is to point the believer back to the Word of God and back to Jesus Christ. Anything else is a sham. A cheap knock-off imitation. With that said, I point us back to the opening of the Book of the Prophet Zechariah. The people had drifted far away from the Lord; as they have today and the Word from God is as simple today as it was back then. Return to me says the Lord of hosts - and I will return to you.
As we stand on the precipice of 2015 we know what will soon flood the Christian airwaves and pulpits. There will be nostalgic look backs at all the "work" we have busied ourselves with and of course a look ahead into the future and what it holds for the church and us individually. We can expect a lot of silly false prophecies as we see every year. Last year false prophetess Cindy Jacobs declared that because seven is God's number of completion, 2014 will be the year of double blessing. I wonder how that worked out for everyone. Then there will be the well intended Christian leaders who will have their lists of the things the church must do but they will be filled with the same human logic and carnal wisdom that drives the church to begin with:
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. - Colossians 2: 8 (ESV)
The hard reality for us today is that the church is largely led according to the philosophies of this world, empty deceit, and human tradition. I know that is a bitter pill to swallow but we cannot expect to breakthrough some of this spiritual malaise if we stick our heads in the sand and pretend there are no problems to address both corporately and individually. Just look across the Christian landscape. The most prominent leadership conferences are always headlined by secular leadership experts teaching carnal principles to our leaders. Most pastors today view themselves as business leaders as opposed to spiritual leaders. CEO's instead of shepherds. Most churchgoers identify with their church instead of their Savior. Don't believe me? Just try correctly criticizing their pastor.
I make no silly grandiose prophetic predictions here. I do not call for revival. Why? Because revival indicates something that was once alive to begin with. We have to start to come to grips with the facts that narrow is the way that leads to heaven and few find it. Not mega church loads of people but few. That is why the Bible teaches us that heaven rejoices when one person comes to salvation. Along with no calls for revival, I also make no silly prophetic calls for this nation to be saved. It will not be saved; the same as every other nation on this earth. God will stand in judgment over all the nations the Bible teaches us and America is hardly excused. A great deal of the morality slide in this world starts with and is propagated in this country - regardless of what political party is in power. Our object should be what our Lord has instructed us to do from the beginning. Share the Gospel so that some might be saved before the end comes. Along with these two non-calls, I also make no silly prophetic predictions about the church itself. Not the true bride of Christ mind you, but the imposter that claims to be the church. No beloved, the true bride will be a remnant that comes from each of the mainstream denominations. Those who have not bowed their knees to the Baal's of this world. Those who have truly pursued Christ and not the baubles this life offers. Those who seek God and not to be entertained. The only true prediction God has given me is that the apostate church will continue to be apostate and His people must come out from among them. It may not happen in 2015 but the time is coming beloved when the people of God will have to choose between the world system and the God they claim to serve. We can expect the apostate churches to line up with the world - believe it. God expects His people to line up with His Word - period. We need to return to the Lord. I do not mean in some vague Christianese way. I mean with everything within us. Personally and corporately. In our lives and in our church. This is my simple list of fundamental things we need to return to as we head into 2015. I make no promises of blessed lives and overflow nonsense. I say humbly that the more we strive to do these things, the closer we will be to God and that is always a good place to be found.
1) We need to return to the Word of God. I know this may sound obvious or even rhetorical but we need to recognize how marginalized the Bible has become in the mainstream church and in the lives of individuals. Most believers do not have a regular daily Bible reading plan. Why would they when the churches they attend do not emphasize the Word of God? Joel Osteen has said he will not apologize for not bringing in Scripture until the end of sermons. Usually when he does it is ripped out of context anyway but it is no wonder then that one congregant of Lakewood said that Pastor Joel gives her just what she needs to get back there the following Sunday. Besides being a lousy way to live a life the real problem is that Joel Osteen does not have the words of eternal life:
Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." - John 6: 68-69 (ESV)
Despite this fact, the vast majority of seeker friendly, purpose driven churches today do not exposit the Word of God every Sunday. Instead, the pastor/CEO chooses a topic and they then strip mine the Bible to find verses that can prop up the positions they already wanted to preach on. For example, many vision casting preachers will be preaching this week on their new vision for the upcoming year. They will do a word search and come up with Proverbs 29:18, which says that without vision, the people perish. OK, what's wrong with that? Well that is not what God is saying in this proverb because the rest of the verse was ignored:
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. - Proverbs 29: 18 (KJV)
God is not saying here that the church needs some carnal vision from the shepherd. We already have a holy vision and it is called the Bible. The word vision in this proverb does not mean how we use it today. It means a revelation of the Word of God! Despite this however, the majority of preaching today is done in this slipshod, humanistic model that minimizes what God actually wants to say to His people. Expositing the Word, verse by verse, allows God to speak to the preacher about what God wants His people to hear. The Bible is still the primary way that God communicates with us beloved and the church is in the business of shutting down that avenue of communication. In 2015, we must commit to a return to the Word of God. In our own lives and in the lives of our churches. Do not tolerate these five part sermon series on something that is so temporal it has zero eternal value. God desires a personal relationship with each one of us and it starts with His Word.
2) We need to return to prayer. Not what we have reduced prayer to in latter day Christianity. I have been to all night prayers that start at 8 PM, end at Midnight, have an intermission, three worship sets, two offerings and a partridge in a pear tree. The Bible says in everything we are to pray. It says that we are to pray without ceasing. Here is the cold hard reality facing the modern day church. Most believer either do not pray regularly or will readily admit they do not know how to. The church needs to be instructive in prayer and encouraging their followers to build a strong prayer life. Next to the Word of God, prayer is the way the Lord primarily communicates with us.
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4: 6-7 (ESV)
Many will insist on wanting the peace of God. The peace that surpasses all understanding. Not many realize the previous verse which says we must pray first. We must present the things that rob of us of our peace and give them to God in prayer. Our hearts and minds are guarded in Christ Jesus when we pray. The church must return to that again, especially as these end times darken all around us for our weapons are not carnal.
3) We must return again to worship. I do not mean the irreverent and unbiblical things that pass for worship today. I have written about this before but in just a few decades we have gone from How Great Thou Art to How He Loves Us. I understand that it may be catchy but it is not worship to tell God how much He loves us. Or how much we are His portion. Likewise, it is not worship to over-romanticize or sexualize worship. Besides being downright creepy it simply is not worship. This is not worship: