Faith

7 Ways to Endure to the End

I don’t know about you, but over the past year, I’ve experienced moments of just about every emotion imaginable as I’ve walked through the various evil events filling up our 2020 calendars. Anger. Outrage. Offense. Depression. Anxiety. Fear. Frustration. Incredulity. Grief. Maybe you’ve had those moments too.

I’d like to give all of you a hug and say “Cheer up! Everything’s going to be fine!” – temporally speaking.

And maybe it will be.

But I don’t think so.

Sure, there are going to be times of blessing and happiness in our future, just like there were last year and every year before. But as far as the general trajectory American society and government are on, things are going downhill at breakneck speed. And unless we stop and think now, get prepared now, we’re going to be caught unawares and fail at what could be a crucial moment of decision.

Trials and persecution – real persecution – are coming. And coming sooner than we think. How can we be prepared to endure whatever comes our way until Christ returns?

1.
Go to church

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25

I get it. “Go to church” isn’t as easy as it used to be. I get that some of your churches are closed. I get that there are health concerns.

But I also get that when the Holy Spirit inspired the author of Hebrews to pen these words, He knew full well, and, in His sovereignty had pre-ordained, all the details surrounding Covid and the restrictions and hassles that go along with it. And still He said that as the day of Christ’s return gets closer, we need to meet together (face to face, in person) more, not less.

Do we believe Him? Do we trust Him? Will we obey Him?

I don’t know you. I don’t know your situation. So, I can’t tell you what to do. All I’m saying is that as Covid restrictions drag on and on and on, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your church attendance in light of this command from Scripture:

  • If the primary reason you’re not attending church now is that your own church is closed, consider a friendly, loving chat with your pastor about his thoughts on the possibility of opening back up in some way, even if only partially. You can also check around and see if any other doctrinally sound local churches are meeting. If you find one, hang out with them until yours opens back up. Family is family, and you need the fellowship, teaching, and encouragement. Get to know the “cousins” down the street.
  • Are all the doctrinally sound churches in your area shut down due to government regulations and that’s the main reason you’re not going? Find another way to meet together with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Get on the phone with the members of your Sunday School class or a few others you know from church and plan to meet together for worship, prayer, and Bible study at your house, the park, wherever you can gather. I realize your local government may frown upon that. Governments all over the world have been prohibiting Christians from meeting together for 2000 years, and they meet anyway, underground. Looks like it might be our turn. Prayerfully consider whether it might be time to start walking out “we must obey God rather than men” in your context.
  • Perhaps it’s legitimate health concerns for yourself or your family that is keeping you away from the Lord’s house. Listen, I’m not a doctor, so I’m not qualified to dispense medical advice. All I can say is, check back in with your doctor (not the internet – your personal doctor) and ask if there are any new or different precautions you could take that would make going to church or gathering with a few others possible. Prayerfully and wisely weigh the potential health risks against the very real spiritual damage that occurs when you don’t gather with the Body.
  • Finally, take some time alone in prayer with the Lord and carefully and honestly examine your heart and your motives. Is the real reason you’re staying away from church laziness or an ungodly fear that stems from refusing to trust God? Only you can answer that. If you find that those are the actual reasons you haven’t been going to church, repent, and get your posterior back in the pew this Sunday.

God gave the command for the Body to gather knowing it would cost many Christians their lives and their freedom down through the years. But He gave that command anyway. That should tell us how utterly crucial it is for us not to neglect meeting together – out of obedience to Him, and for our own good.

2.
Realize that the rules have changed

There used to be a general sense of consistency, fair play, and “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” logic in America.

That’s gone, and we need to get used to it.

As I write this, I could throw a rock out the window and hit a dozen tweets, articles, and podcasts decrying the hypocrisy and inconsistency of liberals. I’ve remarked on it myself. How there is one set of rules for them, but another set of rules for others, whether we’re talking about governors having Thanksgiving dinner with their extended families after telling you not to, or liberal evangelicals supporting BLM riots while decrying peaceful conservative protests and church gatherings. And they have absolutely no shame about their double standards.

Don’t expect that to change. Stand for what’s right, keep pointing out hypocrisy, but don’t expect people who support torturing babies in the womb to death and sexually abusing children via genital mutilation surgery to suddenly have an attack of conscience about holding themselves to one (or no) standard, and holding everybody else to another. They don’t care one whit about being fair and consistent – especially toward Christians. And if we keep expecting them to, it’s going to drive us mad.

These people are depraved, and this is spiritual warfare. Believers are unwelcome trespassers on the Devil’s playground, and he doesn’t play fair.

3.
Expect betrayal

Give the gospels a good study again, keeping a special eye on Jesus’ enemies. Who were they? What positions did they hold? What tactics did they use? What was the real reason they wanted to destroy Him? When you have the answers to those questions, you’ll better understand who your real enemies are, and why they’ll turn on you when you least expect it.

Who was it who wanted to destroy – kill – Jesus for speaking the truth? Not the Roman government. It was the powerful and influential “church leaders” of Jesus’ day, the scribes and Pharisees. It was they who pursued Jesus, made false allegations against Him, and cajoled the government into executing Him because they wanted to preserve the position, power, and wealth they maintained by sleeping with, and fearing, the Roman enemy

If we let [Jesus] go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.”

John 11:48-50

And who was it who betrayed Jesus into the hands of those bent on His destruction? His closest of friends and protégés – Judas. Judas, who, for the price of his greed, would give Jesus the kiss of a brother while thrusting a traitor’s knife into His back.

Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

Matthew 26:14-16

A servant is no greater than his master. If this is how “God’s people” treated Jesus, we can expect no less. Expect to be betrayed by those closest to you- a brother, a friend, a cherished member of your church family. Expect false teachers and influential evangelical leaders to cozy up to governmental leaders so they can hang on to their multi-million dollar “ministries,” minions, and mansions. Expect them to make sacrificial lambs of true sheep and shepherds. After all, better that one, or a hundred, or thousands of genuine Believers should die than that their nation or way of life should perish.

Those we hold dear will turn on us. Those we thought we could trust with our lives will deliver us up.

4.
Count the cost

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 10: 37-39

Count the cost, Jesus said. When He spoke these words, Jesus meant them – and His audience understood them – literally, not metaphorically. A cross wasn’t bearing up under insults on social media. It was a cross. Rough-hewn wood that real human beings were nailed to (after a thorough flogging, of course) to hang on for hours or days until they succumbed to one of the most agonizing deaths imaginable. “That’s your future if you follow Me,” He said to them – and to us.

Is staying true to Jesus worth losing your job…your closest loved ones…your freedom…your health…your dignity…your home and possessions…even your life? When you sing “I Surrender All” do you actually mean it? All? Do you love Jesus more? If you’ve never taken the time to sit down and seriously think about whether or not you’d follow Jesus all the way to a cross, do it now.

Count the cost, because the cost is a cross.

5.
Embrace suffering

If you believe in your heart that robustly and unashamedly following Jesus is worth any cost, be prepared to suffer for it. Yet know that what man means for hurt and humiliation, Christ means for honor and high regard.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5:10-12

and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 

Acts 5:40-41

Suffering for the name and sake of Christ is an honor.

6.
Know your Bible

When oppressors want to stamp out an ideology – like Christianity – that threatens their agenda, the first thing they do is quash speech about that ideology. And then they come for the books.

Over the last few years, how many times have you heard of Christians getting in some sort of trouble for sharing the gospel? For refusing to call a “he” a “she” or a “she” a “he”? For saying homosexuality is a sin? For declining to “repent” of racism they haven’t committed?

We’re already seeing the suppression of speech. The written word is next on the chopping block. Bibles will be confiscated and disposed of. Publishing houses that produce Bibles and other Christian materials will be shut down. Big tech will de-platform Bible apps, Christian podcasts, Christian bloggers, and all other forms of doctrinally sound Christian media.

And we’ll probably even see something worse: the powers that be changing the written word of God to fit their own agenda. How easy would it be for someone in power to stroll through the back door of your Bible app and begin changing, adding, or deleting whole verses and passages until the “Bible” says what they want it to say? Think that kind of thing could never happen here? It’s already happening in China.

Make sure you have a good, reliable, hard copy (the kind with paper pages) translation of the Bible on hand. (You might even want to start stockpiling them to quietly give away when owning God’s Word becomes illegal.) Study it forward, backward, and inside out until you know what it says so well you could spot a modification a mile away. Memorize it. Because they can take away the copies in our hands, but they can’t touch the Word hidden in our hearts.

7.
Believe God

Pressing on in the face of all these daunting circumstances would be impossible if God were not who He is. But because of all that He is, we can hope in Him and endure anything that comes our way.

When you don’t know what to do, He says: Trust Me. I’ll give you wisdom and guide you.

When you have to do hard things, He says: I’ll strengthen you and help you.

When you’re weary from fighting the good fight, He says: I’ll give you rest.

When you’re afraid, He says: Fear not. I am with you.

With our pampered lifestyle of freedom and ease, many of us have never experienced a moment in which our only option – for provision, for protection, for help – was to cry out to God and trust Him to take care of us. I daresay, in the days ahead, those moments will come with increasing frequency. And that’s not a bad thing.

Because God loves you. He cares for you. He can be trusted. You can depend on Him.

What’s coming our way next? It’s hard to know exactly, but we can see the handwriting of persecution and trials on the wall. So gather with the Body and encourage each other. Be wise to the ways of the enemy. Ready yourself for betrayal and suffering. Know God’s Word. Trust God to carry you through.

Because Christ’s return is drawing near. It’ll be here before we know it. And we can endure ’til then.

Faith, Trust

Fear Not: 9 Biblical Ways to Trade Worry for Trust

Originally published April 24, 2015fear not

Did you have any fears as a child? Monsters? The dark? Dogs? When I was a little girl, I had this record of the story of Peter and the Wolf, and I was afraid of wolves at night (Look at the picture and listen to him growl. Can you blame me?). I just knew they were skulking around my bed in the dark, black as midnight, drooling rabidly, ready to shred me to ribbons should I stick so much as one toe out from under the covers. It was terrifying.

As adults, we look back on those childhood fears with some degree of smugness or embarrassment and think about how silly it was to be scared of something that was never a threat in the first place. But even if we don’t like to admit it, fear is something we grown ups still struggle with, at least from time to time. Finances, health, and our children’s futures may replace wolves, darkness, and the boogeyman, but fear is still fear, whether you’re four or forty.

And God is well aware of that fact.

In my Bible, the phrases “fear not,” “do not be afraid,” and other similar expressions appear over 75 times. Fear is a normal, God-given reaction that can be healthy and keep you safe in the event of a real threat. Fear is a blessing when it motivates you to jump out of the path of a speeding truck or stay away from a rattlesnake, but just like everything else affected by the Fall, fear can often be misdirected and thwart our growth in Christ.

Most of our fears as adults have nothing to do with tangible, imminent, life or limb danger. Usually, we are fearful of “what if’s.”

“What if I get a bad report from the doctor?”

“What if I get fired?”

“What if my teenage daughter gets pregnant?”

In other words, we worry about what might happen.

It’s really easy to sing “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” on Sunday, but much harder to actually do the work of trusting Him on Monday. Worry almost seems woven into the fiber of our DNA. In fact, worry has been such a common theme in the human experience that Jesus took time to address it during his Sermon on the Mount:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Matthew 6:25-34

Clearly, it is not God’s will for us to worry. No matter how strangling our fear may feel, God wants us to trust Him in everything, from the most dire situation to the most mundane. But how?

1. Make sure the object of your trust is the right one.

A popular false teaching from the Word of Faith (prosperity gospel) camp these days is that it’s never God’s will for you to be sick, poor, or experience tragedy. If you just have enough faith, and decree and declare enough, you can yank whatever outcome you want right out of the hands of God. Do you know why that’s not true?

Arguably the mightiest men of faith in history, eleven of the twelve disciples were martyred. So was Paul. David, whom God said was “a man after His own heart” suffered tragedy after tragedy. Jesus Himself prayed in Gethsemane that God would keep Him from having to go to the cross, and God said no.

Like these godly men, as Christians, we do not place our faith in positive outcomes. We place our faith in Christ, and His sufficiency for us in all things, regardless of the outcome. Make sure you’re trusting Christ, not what you want Him to give you.

2. Get off the guilt train.

Sometimes we can fall into Satan’s trap of believing that if we’re really saved or really trusting the Lord or really have faith, we’ll never fear anything. Then, when those worries creep in, we start feeling guilty. We’re not supposed to have those feelings.

Have you ever read the story of Gideon? Gideon was one scared dude, and he had good reason to be. But even though he was scared and fumbling, he believed and obeyed the Lord. And the Lord commended him for being a man of great faith.

Trusting Christ doesn’t mean you’ll never be afraid of anything. Trusting Christ means you keep believing Him, keep loyal to Him, and keep obeying Him even when you are afraid.

3. Take reasonable precautions.

Trusting God doesn’t mean you should be careless. Eat healthy and exercise. Be frugal. Watch your children carefully. God gave us a whole book about using wisdom, and He gave us brains, so let’s use them.

4. You’re not in this by yourself.

God has promised never to leave you or forsake you. He has promised to give you the strength to deal with anything you come up against. He has promised you a way out of temptation. Trust that God is with you and will help you.

5. Rehearse your trust instead of your fear.

A lot of therapists will encourage you not to “repress” your fears but, rather, talk about them, write about them, examine them, etc. In other words, rehearse them (which only leads to more fear, because fear feeds off itself). But the Bible never says to do that. It says, “do not fear” and “trust in the Lord.” Period. No analysis required.

Those worries may start creeping in, but you don’t have to set the table and turn down the bed for them. Push them right out of your mind, slam the door behind them, and say (out loud is helpful), “No. I’m not going to worry. I’m going to trust the Lord.” You’ll still feel worried at first, but “fake it ’til you make it.” Your feelings will eventually follow.

6. Replace fearful thoughts with biblical thoughts.

After you’ve pushed those fearful thoughts out of your mind, consciously redirect your focus to trusting the Lord. Spend a few minutes in prayer asking God to help you trust Him. Put on some biblical worship music that focuses on the goodness of God, and sing along. Be thankful- start listing all the ways God is good and has blessed you. Recite and meditate on Scripture about trusting God. Some of my favorites are:

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3

For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112:6-7

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

 7. Get your mind off it.

Watch a good movie. Have coffee with a friend. Better yet, serve someone who needs your help. Share the gospel with someone who’s lost. Get your mind off the worries and on to something better.

8. Get physical.

Go running or do some physical labor around the house or something like that. Either you’ll get some endorphins going and you’ll start feeling better or the shin splints and backache will completely erase any memory of whatever you were afraid of.

9. Repent and get a fresh start.

Sometimes (often, if you’re like me), you’re going to blow it. You’re going to give in to fear and let it control you instead of trusting God. You’re going to act on your fears and disobey God instead of trusting and obeying Him in spite of your fears. When that happens, don’t run away from the Lord. Run to Him. Repent and be forgiven. That’s what His mercy and grace are all about.

Worries are a normal part of life in a fallen world, but, in Christ, we are not to be enslaved by them. We have a Savior who is sovereign over all things. He clothes the grass with lilies. He feeds the wild birds. And He cares oh so much more for you. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and fear not.

How do you deal with worry in a godly way?


Additional Resources:

Do not let your hearts be troubled at A Word Fitly Spoken

Faith, Second Coming, Suffering

In the Mean Time

I am caring for my mom as she gets settled in at home after a lengthy hospital stay, so this article came to mind. With everything going on in the world, I thought we could all use this reminder. If you have a moment, I surely would appreciate your prayers for strength and wisdom for me, and that my mom would be able to sit and stand without assistance by the end of the week.

Originally published August 21, 2014In the Mean Time

 

When I was a little girl, around three or four years old, my mother occasionally needed to drop me off at a daycare center so she could run errands or attend to other things you can’t take care of with a pre-schooler in tow.

I hated it.

Even 40+ years later, I remember being terrified. I wasn’t a regular, so I didn’t know any of the other kids or the teachers or the routine or where anything was located. I didn’t want to be there because I didn’t fit in. I wanted to go home. I felt completely uncomfortable the entire time I was there. In fact, I remember crying unconsolably. When would my mom come back and get me out of this God-forsaken place?

Don’t cry. Your mom’s coming back for you soon.

I’m sure some kind teacher whispered that in my ear as she put her arms around me, the same way I’ve whispered it in the ears of children I’ve comforted over the years.

And, finally, Mom would come back, take me away, and everything would be all right.

Today, I still feel like that tiny child sometimes.

There are days when the evil and sadness of this world overwhelm me. When problems in my own life terrify me.

I hate it.

You see, I don’t fit in here. This isn’t my home. I don’t want to be here. And sometimes, I cry inconsolably…

When, Lord? When will you come back and get me out of this God-forsaking place?

And that’s when the kind and precious Holy Spirit wraps the arms of the Word around me and whispers…

Don’t cry. Your Savior’s coming back for you soon.

Soon, little ones. Dry your tears. He’s coming back for us soon.


Out of honor to my mom, I just wanted to say that I totally understand why she had to take me to the daycare from time to time. I would have done the same thing with my child. I’m sure it was a fine daycare with loving teachers. I’m just the kind of person who never outgrew stranger anxiety. This was my brokenness, not anyone else’s unkindness.
Faith, Obedience

Throwback Thursday ~ Obedience Matters

Originally published April 7, 2010

He who turns away his ear from listening to the law,
Even his prayer is an abomination.
Proverbs 28:9

Can you believe God would ever call prayer an abomination?

Imagine you have a teenage son or daughter (not such a stretch for some of us!) who always says the right thing (OK, that’s a stretch):

“I’ll be glad to clean up my room, Mom.”

“All right! Liver and onions for supper again! Mom, you’re such a great cook!”

“I love you, Mom.”

“I’m so thankful to have you and Dad as parents!”

“Mom and Dad, I appreciate you. Keep up the great work!”

“My parents always make the best and wisest decisions!”

Granted, that’s not going to happen in this lifetime, but wouldn’t you receive such praise gratefully if it were offered? Would you be more inclined to extend curfew? Lend out the car keys more often? Buy that new outfit she’s been begging for?

Now what if you found out that, while your child was saying all these wonderful things to and about you, she was cheating on tests at school, lying to you about where she had been, using drugs, or sneaking around with a boy you didn’t want her to see? How much would all that praise mean to you then? Would any of it matter if your child were living in willful disobedience?

How much more are our prayers, our praise, our worship, an affront to a holy God if they are drawn from the well of a rebellious heart?

The call to take up our crosses daily and follow Him is a call to complete surrender and obedience. It’s not:

“I’ll obey if I feel like it.”

“I’ll obey if it doesn’t conflict with what I want to do.”

“I’ll obey if it’s convenient.”

“I’ll obey if it’s fun.”

“I’ll obey if people will praise me for it.”

It’s doing what God tells us to do when and how He tells us to do it. Trust me, Jesus didn’t feel like dying on the cross. It wasn’t convenient, it wasn’t fun, and, in that moment, nobody praised Him for it.

But He did it anyway.

Because He was obedient.

How can we who bear His name expect that He would call us to less?

First Samuel 15:22-23a says: “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry…”

May our prayers, praise, and worship spring from a consecrated lifestyle, in full submission to the Savior, so the Lord will not say of us:

“…this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me…” (Isaiah 29:13)

Go ahead and get your praise on…but get your obedience on first.

Church, Faith

Throwback Thursday ~ Cleaning House

Originally published May 5, 2010

 

Hezekiah became king when he was twenty-five years old;…

He did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done.

In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them.

He brought in the priests and the Levites and gathered them into the square on the east.

Then he said to them, “Listen to me, O Levites. Consecrate yourselves now, and consecrate the house of the LORD, the God of your fathers, and carry the uncleanness out from the holy place.

“For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done evil in the sight of the LORD our God, and have forsaken Him and turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the LORD, and have turned their backs.

“They have also shut the doors of the porch and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel.

“Therefore the wrath of the LORD was against Judah and Jerusalem, and He has made them an object of terror, of horror, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes.

“For behold, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this.

“Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel, that His burning anger may turn away from us.

“My sons, do not be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand before Him, to minister to Him, and to be His ministers and burn incense.”

Then the Levites arose…
They assembled their brothers, consecrated themselves, and went in to cleanse the house of the LORD, according to the commandment of the king by the words of the LORD.

So the priests went in to the inner part of the house of the LORD to cleanse it, and every unclean thing which they found in the temple of the LORD they brought out to the court of the house of the LORD. Then the Levites received it to carry out to the Kidron valley…

Then they went in to King Hezekiah and said, “We have cleansed the whole house of the LORD, the altar of burnt offering with all of its utensils, and the table of showbread with all of its utensils.

“Moreover, all the utensils which King Ahaz had discarded during his reign in his unfaithfulness, we have prepared and consecrated; and behold, they are before the altar of the LORD.”

Then King Hezekiah arose early and assembled the princes of the city and went up to the house of the LORD.

They brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs and seven male goats for a sin offering for the kingdom, the sanctuary, and Judah. And he ordered the priests, the sons of Aaron, to offer them on the altar of the LORD…
The priests slaughtered them and purged the altar with their blood to atone for all Israel, for the king ordered the burnt offering and the sin offering for all Israel.

He then stationed the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with harps and with lyres,…

The Levites stood with the musical instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets.

Then Hezekiah gave the order to offer the burnt offering on the altar. When the burnt offering began, the song to the LORD also began with the trumpets, accompanied by the instruments of David, king of Israel.

While the whole assembly worshiped, the singers also sang and the trumpets sounded; all this continued until the burnt offering was finished.

Now at the completion of the burnt offerings, the king and all who were present with him bowed down and worshiped.

Moreover, King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to sing praises to the LORD with the words of David and Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with joy, and bowed down and worshiped.

Then Hezekiah said, “Now that you have consecrated yourselves to the LORD, come near and bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the house of the LORD ” And the assembly brought sacrifices and thank offerings, and all those who were willing brought burnt offerings…

But the priests were too few, so that they were unable to skin all the burnt offerings;

There were also many burnt offerings with the fat of the peace offerings and with the libations for the burnt offerings. Thus the service of the house of the LORD was established again.

Then Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced over what God had prepared for the people…

Excerpted from 2 Chronicles 29

You know the history of Israel: bad king, good king, bad king, good king (actually, there were a lot more bad kings than good kings). The bad kings would come in and establish idol worship. They set up altars and made sacrifices to false gods, introduced cult prostitution, and even desecrated God’s house with idol worship and paraphernalia.

Ahaz was one of those bad kings. Second Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28 tell us he not only burned incense and made sacrifices to his gods, he “even made his sons pass through the fire” in worship of these idols. He took the gold and silver from God’s house and used it to try to bribe another king to come help him fight against an enemy. He desecrated God’s altar and tore down parts of the temple. He cut to pieces all of the temple utensils used for making sacrifices to the Lord. He had altars to his own gods placed in the temple, “in every corner of Jerusalem”, and “in every city in Judah”.

Ahaz was one bad dude. In fact, he was such a pustule of a human being that when he died they didn’t even bury him with all the other kings of Israel. That’s pretty bad.

And Hezekiah, Ahaz’s son, became king in his place.

Hezekiah was one of the most Godly kings in Israel’s history. He had seen with his own eyes the evil perpetrated by his father, which had infested God’s holy house and spread throughout the land, and God put it in his heart to turn things around and lead his people back to God.

See any similarities between God’s house then and God’s house now? Between God’s people then and God’s people now? Is it time for us to grieve over the holy things that have been destroyed or taken out of God’s house, and the filth that has been brought into His house?

We’ve got to sweep around our own front door.

Notice that Hezekiah didn’t just go out and get a bunch of guys together and say, “All right, boys, we need to clean house. Let’s get to work.” He went specifically to the priests and Levites – the church leadership, if you will – and said, “consecrate yourselves”.

Consecration was a process of ritual cleansing. As the priests and Levites went through each step of the outward, physical cleansing, they were also setting themselves apart from worldliness and seeking God’s hand of purification in their hearts.

Notice also that the priests and Levites had to consecrate themselves before they would be able to consecrate the temple. Just as Ahaz’s own personal evildoing had trickled down and infected the people, so the temple leadership would have to cleanse themselves personally before God in order for a pursuit of holiness to pervade God’s house and His people.

Those who study revival have noted that the majority of churches which experience revival do so under the leadership of a pastor who has experienced personal revival. If a pastor senses it’s time to clean house at his church, step one is to make sure he has consecrated himself and is walking blamelessly before God. Step two is to get his leadership together for times of cleansing and much prayer, that they may consecrate themselves before leading the people.

Once their personal cleansing was complete, the priests and Levites began to “carry the uncleanness out from the holy place”. The evil done in the temple in Ahaz’s day had harmed families, stirred God to anger, and made His people “an object of terror, of horror, and of hissing” in the eyes of the world around them. Likewise, the worldliness and sin – from gossip and jealousy all the way up to pedophile clergy – we have allowed into the church has brought tremendous harm to countless families and has made the body of Christ an object of ridicule and hatred in the eyes of many of the people we seek to reach for Him. Can we expect that His anger towards us would be any less than his anger towards the Israelites?

When the priests and Levites began to cleanse the temple, they did so completely and permanently. In the same spirit of Jesus’ own remarks that if your very hand or eye causes you to sin, you should remove it from your body, the priests and Levites removed everything – no matter how small, no matter how valuable it may have seemed, or how much its removal might have offended someone – that didn’t belong in God’s house.

Verse 16 tells us they carried all these unclean things out to the Kidron valley. The Kidron valley (or brook, as it was sometimes called when water was running through the valley due to heavy rains) was an area outside Jerusalem where, under Kings Asa, Josiah, and Hezekiah, all manner of unclean items used in idol worship were disposed of, usually by burning. That’s permanent. They weren’t taking any chances that someone might come across these items and bring them back into the temple.

Not only did the priests and Levites take all the unclean items out of God’s house, they purified and brought back all of the sacred items used for worshiping God that never should have been removed.

Is it time to carry the unclean things out of your church and down to the Kidron valley? Maybe it’s an unbiblical doctrinal tenet of your denomination. A program that brings glory only to the church members involved and not to God. A person in a position of church leadership who intentionally lives in sin and rebellion. An attitude of your own heart.

What about the holy items of worship that have been taken out of your church? Have sound, Biblical sermons been replaced by ear tickling pep talks and skits? Have Scriptural and doctrinal worship songs been replaced by the vain repetition of fluffy, feel-good jingles? Has prayer become simply a way to bookend your worship services or even disappeared altogether?

Our churches are in captivity to worldliness due to our disobedience. God has chosen our pastors to minister before Him; to lead His people to be consecrated to Him and worship Him. Dear pastor, please do not be negligent about cleansing His house. For the sake of us, the sheep God has entrusted to you, won’t you go into the innermost part of the house of God – your heart, your family, your staff – and through humility, prayer, study of the Word, and sound biblical action, remove every unclean thing, and bring back the sacred things with the help of your church leadership?

Only when God’s house is clean will we be able to offer Him the sacrifices He truly desires:

Thus the service of the house of the Lord will established again, and the people will rejoice over what God has prepared for them.