We Need A Revival, Not A Moral Crusade

I made this statement rather emphatically in the Important Part section of my Case For A Creator: true Christianity is belief, not behavior. The belief will (naturally and obviously) influence and change your behavior as God works to conform you to the image of His Son, but belief is where it all starts. That’s the foundation. You don’t decide to “live better,” you surrender to God, believing that Jesus has paid the price for your failures, and then trust God to change you into what He wants you to be.

There are a couple of great examples that I want you to consider.

One of the recurring themes in the Bible is how the Children of Israel, having been rescued from Pharaoh (rather miraculously, too), then whined and complained and rebelled and whined and fussed and groused and whined the whole time they were in the desert. Then they refused to enter the Promised Land. “Too much work, too dangerous,” they whined. “The people there are giants and they’ll smish us. Oh, why’d we ever leave Egypt?”

Yes, I’m paraphrasing rather freely, but that’s the gist of it.

Hebrews 3:16-18 (NASB) — For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient?


That seems pretty clear, right? They were disobedient. They sinned. They provoked God … but wait a minute! The passage ends with this intriguing verse:

Hebrews 3:19 (NASB)So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief (emphasis mine).

True belief will change your behavior, but changed behavior will never, ever result in a true belief. (Re-read that sentence a few times.) You need a second example? I’ll share one that kindof stunned me the first time I ever read it. I won’t quote the entire passage; once again, I’ll do a rough paraphrase.


2 Kings Chapter 23 is the story of King Josiah’s reforms in Israel. Prior to Josiah’s reign, a couple of really evil kings had ruled: Manasseh and Amon. Manasseh turned the entire nation of Judah over to idolatry, including child sacrifice. He was a cheerleader for evil: as it says in 2 Kings 21:9, “Manasseh seduced them to do evil more than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the sons of Israel.” (NASB) Amon, who followed him, was just as bad.

When Josiah took over, a 180-degree, polar-opposite change took place. He embarked on a moral crusade like none ever seen before. The account in 2 Kings Chapter 23 says that (a), he first rededicated himself to the Law and forced the people to do the same. Then, (b) he cleared the idols from the temple, and ran amok tearing down all of the “high places” (i.e., places of idol worship) scattered throughout the land. He killed the false prophets and people who’d led Judah astray — and more. (Read the account.)

Finally, (c), he celebrated Passover, the forerunner of our modern Communion. A perfect end to the most moral crusade in Scripture, right? But the account ends with this (2 Kings 23:26, NASB): However, the Lord did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath with which His anger burned against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him.


Belief, folks. Not behavior. If you read between the lines of that account in the Bible, it’s obvious that the people were trying to change behavior, and not belief. Jesus quoted this passage from Isaiah to describe Judah in his day (Isaiah 29:13-14, NASB):

Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me,
and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; and the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.

In other words, they were simply repeating the same mistake they’d made all along. God gave them a Law that they couldn’t possibly keep, and instead of crying out for mercy, they said, “no problem, God! Got it! We can do this …”

Their hearts were far from Him. But we have this promise, and we should all take it to heart (2 Chronicles 7:14, NASB):

[if] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.


Note: God doesn’t require that everyone do this, just “His people.” Revival always begins with the guy or the gal in the mirror, and it will always represent true repentance. The Greek New Testament word translated “repentance” (metanoeo) is perfect: at the end of the day, it simply means, “I change my mind.”

A moral crusade without a change of hearts won’t do a lick of good. But a change of hearts toward God will lead to repentance.

Nuff Zedd!

How Faith Works

In Daniel chapter 3 (NASB), we have the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. King Nebuchadnezzar had built a giant gold-plated statue. When you heard music, you fell down and worshiped the Big Gold Idol. If you didn’t, you were thrown into a furnace and roasted.

But Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, being devout Jews, refused to have anything to do with it. King Neb’s advisers got word of this and immediately tattled: “hey, your kingship — these three Hebrews won’t bow down to the statue, no matter how sweet the music is! (We even tried some classic rock and they just stood there!)”

King Neb looked at the three Hebrews and said, “OK, I’m gonna play some music and you’d better hit the deck! If not, we’ve got a furnace over here that’s nice and toasty, just waiting for you!” (Insert Evil Overload cackle here.) “What god will deliver you from my hands?”

Ah. When ol’ Neb said that, he deliberately placed his will against that of God, who had clearly told His children: you will have no other gods before Me. This was now a spiritual battle: a false god against the One True God. If he’d kept up with his nightly Scripture reading, the king might have known what would happen: the three Hebrews went into the furnace, were protected by a “fourth man” (heh) and were then pulled out, completely unharmed.

Nebuchadnezzar had to acknowledge that their God was special (Daniel 3:28-30).


The key for us here is what Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego told Nebuchadnezzar after he said, worship the Big Gold Guy or get cooked. “Look, Neb old boy, our God is able to deliver us. Don’t doubt that for a minute.” Then they finished,

even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. (Daniel 3:18, NASB)

There you go. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego said: (a), we ain’t gonna do it; (b), our God is able to deliver us; and (c), even if He doesn’t deliver us, we still Ain’t. Gonna. Do. It.

That, my friends, is true faith. Some people believe that, once you ask God for something, you’re not supposed to add qualifiers. The “Name It And Claim It” crowd (more on this in a moment) seems to feel that saying, “if it be Thy will” shows doubt or a lack of faith.

But people who say that don’t really understand how this works. We’re back to the principle of submission: you trust God implicitly to know what’s best. If God really means for you to have something, you’re going to get it. If He doesn’t, you can practice all the mind control tricks, positive thinking and mental exercises known to man … and it won’t make a bit of difference. You’re going to be disappointed.

Even If He Does Not

In the past few decades, a subset of Christianity has sprung up that has variously been called, “Word of Faith,” “Kingdom Authority” or “Name It And Claim It.” There are variants and degrees, but all seem to center on the concept that, having been freed from the law of sin and death, and being partakers in Christ’s divine nature and the fact that He has overcome the world, we can use our “kingdom authority” to believe God for anything that we need.

I happen to agree that God will supply all of our needs, “according to His Riches in glory, in Christ Jesus.” (Phillipians 4:19, NASB) Where we might disagree is in defining that all-important word, need.

The fact is, folks, a good bit of my ministry has been dealing with people who’ve been badly disappointed, who have prayed for something, but who didn’t receive it. It doesn’t help that, if they’ve been part of one of these Word of Faith groups, their own friends turn on them and insist that they must have done something wrong, or didn’t have enough faith, or … something.


Some of you aren’t going to like this, but I’ve kind of made a career out of saying things that no one else wants to. (Heh.) You’ve probably heard inspiring stories about (for example) the old woman who prayed for her son; who was then told that her son had died in prison; and she refused to believe it. In time, a big mistake was uncovered, her son was not only saved, but came home to her. Praise the Lord!

Do I believe stuff like this happens? You better believe it!

But I’ve also dealt with those who’ve read stories like that, and who then (against all objections, or even common sense in some cases) have continued to believe for something … only to be badly disappointed when it didn’t come to pass.

The Word of Faith crowd believes that these folks didn’t have enough faith, or that there was sin in their life. Go away with that light and shine it somewhere else, because they don’t want to hear it. But I assure you, these people are out there and they’re heartbroken. They think that God doesn’t love them or that they did do something wrong.

What we should be telling them is that God works all things to the good of those who love Him. All things. Not just some things; ALL.

Name It And Claim It?

Some poor folks take the idea of “name it and claim it” to mean that physical health, financial wealth and material possessions are ours for the asking. The truly radical ones will come right out and say that if you’re sick, or if you’re living in poverty, then (once again) there must be something wrong with your faith. “If you’re in Christ, sickness can’t dwell in you! By His stripes we are healed!”

I hope you realize that this is almost exclusively a Western theology. If you go into those parts of the world where Christians are routinely persecuted and killed, those saints will just stare at you blankly if you tell them, “the reason why you’re being hounded is because you haven’t stood up in boldness and claimed your Kingdom Authority in faith!”

(And don’t get me started on some of the downright weird, hoop-jumping, oddball and incomprehensible explanations that some of these Word of Faith folks have applied to the book of Job. That book clearly says that Job — a righteous man — lost everything and that God allowed it to happen. Job’s friends kept telling him, “you must have done something wrong, even if you don’t realize it!” … but Job kept proclaiming his innocence. In the end, God told Job’s friends that they were wrong. Go read the book for yourself.)


Contrast this entire “Name It And Claim It” approach with the late Watchman Nee, who suffered and was then executed in communist China for his faith. Instead of looking for material possessions here on Earth, Brother Nee worked toward eternal wealth in Heaven.

Watchman Nee knew the truth of what Jesus had once said:

Matthew 6:19-21Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (NASB)

People like brother Watchman are the real heroes. He’s walking on streets of gold now, and I can only hope that when I get to heaven, I’m counted worthy enough to shine his shoes.

Abiding In Him … And His Will

Jesus says in John 15:7-8 (Amplified Bible), “If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.”

The name it and claim it folks often quote that verse, but they miss the most important part: “if you abide vitally united to Me … and if my words remain in you.”

If you are truly walking with God, united with Him and abiding in Jesus Christ, attuned to His plan for your life, you will want what He wants. His desires will fill your heart and you will find yourself praying for what He wants.


Here’s another key verse:

Matthew 18:18 (NASB) Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

Many of you have heard this verse. (The complete passage includes — in verse 19 — the well-known phrase about “two of us agreeing together” for anything.) However, most translations render the Koine Greek incorrectly: it uses an very odd and uncommon future perfect participle for “bound” and “loosed.” The NASB gets it right. The Amplified Bible goes farther, rendering it this way:

Matthew 18:18 (Amplified Bible) Truly I tell you, whatever you forbid and declare to be improper and unlawful on earth must be what is already forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit and declare proper and lawful on earth must be what is already permitted in heaven.


I’ll state the obvious: there’s a world of difference between God giving you blanket authority to “name and claim” whatever your poor, limited brain thinks is appropriate … and God promising that if you abide in Him, and follow His Word, you can ask for something, knowing that you are asking for and within the furtherance of His Plan.

Folks, my brain simply isn’t as good as God’s. (To put it mildly.) I might pray for something that, in the long run, might hurt me … or even worse, be at odds with God’s plan. That’s the last thing I want, so I trust that He knows best. I’ll try to get as close to Him as possible, to “abide” in Him and then pray according to what He has revealed to me.

Now, God knows that we need food and shelter. I believe that He even knows that, in today’s society, we need transportation, and depending on your ministry, maybe even Internet access, radio/television and/or printing presses, to do the work that He has called you to do. Don’t misunderstand me; if that’s the case, these things WILL come to you, and there’s not an army of two-legged men on this planet that can prevent it.

Further, I rejoice just as loudly as you when I read inspiring stories of how God has met needs like these.

But when you pray for something, it’s actually simple. You should say, “God, I ask that You give me what I need to fulfill Your plan for my life, and if what I’m specifically asking for isn’t in your will, protect me from being stupid!”

In Sum …

I certainly believe in miracles. I myself have been blessed beyond measure; my life has been one miracle after another.

But rather than seeking these “wow” experiences, I’ve been trying to get closer to God, to find out what He wants for my life. Rather than believing Him for a new SUV or a new house, I’m asking Him how I can better serve him and fit into His plan.

I trust him — implicitly — to meet my needs so that I can do this. I’ve never gone without, either. But I believe that God is in control …

… and frankly, I’m glad of that. He’s a whole lot smarter than me!

Thoughts About Death

I’ve hesitated to write this for a couple of years now. The reason? Because I know, as surely as my name is Stephen, that someone will think that I have specifically targeted this to them. But the truth is that a number of people known to me — both family and friends — have passed away, and each time, I’ve felt that I ought to do this.

Most recently, I attended the service for a saint, co-worker and friend named Wayne Wallace, who lost his long battle with cancer on Memorial Day, 2013. That spurred me to finally write this.

If it seems that I’m answering a question that has been bothering you, then that’s good. But the questions that I’m answering here have been asked repeatedly, each and every time that someone has passed away. You’re not alone.

The only other thing that I need to make clear is that throughout, I am speaking of and to true believers — those who know God personally through His Son, Jesus Christ; those who have accepted and have received Him as Lord and Savior.

First: God’s Point Of View

Psalms 116:15 — Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones. (NASB)

We view death as separation. We can’t help it; we’re human. We lose a wife, a mother, a grandfather or a best friend. From our point of view, all we know is that they are no longer here. We miss them.

But God doesn’t view death as we do. To Him, when one of His children dies, they are finally leaving this brief, silly existence in a thoroughly unreal world and entering the real world, which is eternity with Him. (Note the terms “unreal” and “real;” they’re important.)

We will not live forever. You are going to die. I am going to die. Most of us understand that, so actually, the question that most of us have when a loved one dies is, “why now?”

Why not later? Why did my loved one have to die right now?

Second: God’s Purpose Isn’t Our Purpose

Isaiah 55:9 — “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. (NASB)

Again: we can’t help it. We’re human. We are limited to what we can see, feel, hear, smell and touch. Trying to imagine a spiritual struggle that literally takes place worldwide and on levels that we can’t even sense, much less understand, is very hard for us.

We’re like toddlers who are playing in a small wading pool, annoyed when our parents put a stop to the fun.

“Kids! Time to come inside and clean up! And your friend John needs to go home!”

“Awww, mom!”

So it is when God looks at one of us and says, “for my own reasons, most of which you couldn’t even begin to understand, it’s time for you to come Home.” All we know is that we were enjoying John’s presence in that wading pool with us and now he’s gone.

No, I cannot tell you why your young child died of cancer … and I especially can’t tell you why another child across town might have been healed of the very same disease. I don’t know. I can certainly sympathize with you and my heart can break for you, but underneath it all, I must accept that God knows what’s best.

Third: Trusting God

Romans 8:28 — we are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. (Amplified Bible)

“Submission” is a term that we don’t use much nowadays. But the Bible makes it clear that (a) we are only on this Earth for an eyeblink out of eternity, and that (b) if we really believe Him, we trust that He knows best. We submit to His will and authority, understanding that God is working out a complex and eternal plan involving billions of people across multiplied thousands of years of human history.

Do you really believe that, or do you just give it lip service in church services once a week?

Our modern definition of terms like “lord” and “prince” are nothing like what they were when the Bible was written. (Likewise terms like, “fear of the Lord” … but that’s for another discussion, elsewhere.)

Now, I certainly have no desire to return to rule by aristocrats(!). Men are fallible, God is not. Men with unrestrained power make terrible Lords; God, on the other hand, who loves us to death and died to prove it, is ideal.

But it’s still a fact that people years ago immediately grasped the concept of “lord.” The key principle was submission. Fealty. You served your lord and that was the end of the matter.

Fourth: Why Didn’t God Heal My Loved One!?

Psalms 34:19 — Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. (NASB)

Many (if not most of you) have heard the above verse. It’s one of the cornerstones of the Word of Faith/”Name It And Claim It” movement, if nothing else. You won’t listen to Christian radio or watch Christian television for long without hearing it.

Most of us understand that we won’t live forever. (We’re back to that, “why now?” question.) But how do we reconcile this clear promise with the fact that some people — including young children — become very sick and die, long before what we’d consider “their time?”

God may heal your loved one. But if He does, it will be for His purpose and His plan. If you yourself have had a close brush with death and have lived, the question you should be asking is, “God, you spared me for a reason; what is it? What do You want me to do?”

This question has been debated at length and for many centuries; I can’t possibly cover every answer and objection here. Instead, I’ll just point out the most important principle of all: Folks, the ultimate healing is death. The ultimate deliverance is when we finally shed this sinful mortal flesh and move into eternity, to live in God’s presence forever. If you are still here, it’s for a reason. If you’ve lost a loved one, God must have known that it was for the best.


1 Corinthians 15:54-55 — But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (NASB)

I’m going to have much, much more to say in the future, Lord willing. For now: if you’ve recently lost a loved one, I certainly feel for you. I hope that God will heal your heart. But this isn’t just an empty platitude — it really is true, and you need to embrace this: if that loved one died in Christ, he or she is in a much, much better place now.

In fact, if that loved one could come back and speak to you, they would be the first to tell you that. Not only is Heaven a lot nicer than this junky, stinky ball of rock, but God is awesome and His plan is absolutely perfect. It doesn’t focus on one or two people, but on all of His Children through all of history.

All that remains is for us to make sure that we’re part of that plan. I refer you to the Important Part in my Case For A Creator.