Forgiving Friendly Fire

Forgiving Friendly Fire

Scripture: Mark 8:27-33, Matthew 5:44, 1 Peter 5:5-7
The devil makes sure that people will hurt us and let us down. How do we deal with that when it is someone at church?
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In 2008 a survey was done and they discovered in North America that 40% of the people who were married, got divorced. In 2009 though the statistics went down, the divorce rate was reduced but they also found out fewer people were getting married. The experts realized that people who had been involved in one failed marriage were frightened to get involved in another marriage and so more and more people were just living together because they were afraid to trust and to love again. You know that same dynamic is playing out in people's church experience. Sometimes people are hurt in church and they leave and they're afraid to give love another chance and come back. But friends I believe the Lord is calling you. This is the time to renew your faith.

Nobody was there to defend me. Nobody was there to protect me. My question was, “Why did that happen to me God? Why didn't You intervene?” Once I hit my teenage years everything just started coming out. I felt embarrassed of what had happened because for so long I felt it was my fault. There were times that I prayed but it was prayers of resentment and anger and just yelling at God. I was so confused, so depressed and I could not bear any more of the pain. You know what's the point of living I might as well just die. I started cutting myself but I heard a small, still voice and it said, “Stop. Give Me a second chance.”

And right there I just felt something completely different I felt a presence there and I put everything down and I went to my room. I just started crying. I realized that me and God connected so well and I no longer saw Him as just a God that no longer cared but I actually saw Him as a Father and I continued praying. One day I was sleeping, my mom came to the bed. She said, “Connie, he's here. He's in town, and the Lord impressed me that you need to face the situation. It's time for you to forgive.”

When something so drastic and so painful has happened, forgiveness is very hard because you're vulnerable. You let go of that ego, that pride that has taken over you for so many years. I prayed and when we confronted the situation it was the most amazing moment where we could pray, he could cry, and we could forgive. And because of that I'm able to help others and tell others that there is hope and there's Someone that does care. My name is Connie Gomez and I reclaimed my faith.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to Reclaim Your Faith. My name is Jëan Ross. I'm your host for this special series, and a special welcome to those of you joining us via satellite across the country and around the world. We'd like to thank you for joining in as well. Reclaim Your Faith. You might be wondering, “Well, what is that all about?” Well did you know friends that 90% of New Year's resolutions never make it past the month of January? But you know now at the beginning of the year what a great opportunity to make the most important resolution that we can ever make - that resolution of connecting with Jesus and connecting with His church.

This series is about encouraging people to give God another chance, to give church another chance. Perhaps those of you who are watching, those of you who are listening, maybe you know somebody that needs to be reconnected to Christ, reconnected to His church. Maybe you need to be reconnected with Jesus. Now is the time to make that new resolution and say, “Lord by Your grace I want to be connected to You closer than ever before.”

You know we have a special website called Reclaimed – FaithReclaimed.com, and for anyone watching, those of you here in the audience, you can go take a look at that website. It's filled with all kinds of great resources. FaithReclaimed.com, there is information there you can download. You can send us an email, send us a question, and we'll try to answer as many questions as we can on the air.

We also have a special theme song that we’re going to be singing at the beginning of each of our programs. I'd like to invite Dunbar to please come forward. Wonderful Words of Life, join us as we sing this song together.

Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life

Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life

Words of life and beauty teach me faith and duty.

Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life

Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.

Father, we invite Your presence again to be with us during this service. Let everything that is said, let everything that is done, may Your Holy Spirit guide and direct it so that each and every one of us are fit vessels to be used by You. Thank You Lord. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

When I was 18 I decided that being a part of a worshiping body of believers in Christ was no longer of interest to me, and so I walked away and I stayed away for many years. And about 10 years later I was invited to come back and to be a guest pianist at a morning worship service and I returned to do that. We heard from Pastor Doug last night that many times people come to church and being a part of it because they are involved and that is definitely my testimony. I was invited to be involved so I came back and that began the process of gradually, gently God leading me back into a joyful fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

We've heard some wonderful stories of the miracles that God does in our lives. But today I want to talk to you any of you here and any of you watching who have ever asked yourself the question, “Why would I want to go back and be a part of a group of people who are so unkind, and who are so critical, and so judgmental? They think they're upholding the standards of God and they are being just absolutely awful to each other. Why would I want to be a part of those hypocrites?”

God has given me the opportunity to serve in music. It may come as a surprise to some of you but music is a very controversial topic in some parts of the country and I have received some of that criticism. The music is too soft. It's too loud. There's too many hymns. There's not enough hymns. It's too fast. It's too slow, and so on and so forth, and some of those criticisms have been delivered very unkindly. When that happens, when I see how people treat each other in a way that God does not approve of, and speak in ways that God does not speak, when that happens, God has gently taught me to go in my mind's eye to the foot of the cross and to stand there and ask the Holy Spirit to bring to my heart such a vision of His grace that it will change me.

When I stand there and I look at God who sent His only Son who is hanging there and dying for my sins to reconcile me, when the Holy Spirit puts that vision of grace in my heart it transforms my mind. It provides a different perspective on those words and on those people. And it provides fresh encouragement to go back to those places where people don't always treat each other well. To go back and be the words of grace to them. Sometimes when I've been criticized what has helped me is when a brother or sister has come alongside me and said, “You know Kelly, they don't speak for all of us.”

This church has many people saying many things but the critics and the unkind words - they don't speak for me. They don't speak for Pastor Doug. And so the grace of God transforms me to want to go and come along someone else who might be be hurting and be an encouragement to them. The head of the body speaks for the body and I want to go and use the words of our head to be an encouragement and to be a comfort to those who have been hit by criticism or by those who are judgmental or unkind.

Secondly, when I stand at the foot of the cross and that grace begins to transform me, it brings to my heart the conviction and the understanding that I have no right to use the word hypocrite applied to anybody except myself. And God transforms me to want to pray for those who are unkind. He puts in my heart a desire to intercede for them and He's changing me to be more and more like Him. If you are watching and if you are here contemplating and considering why do I want to be a part of a body of believers who is critical and unkind, I ask you to ask the Holy Spirit to bring to your heart a picture for a moment of what we would look like, all of us here, without the robe of Christ's righteousness covering us. It would be a pretty sorry, ugly lot.

But then ask the Holy Spirit to show us clothed in Christ's robe of righteousness, the free gift of His salvation, His beautiful bride, and that transforms us and brings us together to grow as the body. When the disciples went to Jesus and said, “Lord teach us to pray.” He gave them a prayer that started with a pronoun that encompasses many. “Our Father which art in Heaven”. As I play that song now please be praying it with me and asking the Lord to strengthen each of us to be agents of His grace.

(piano music)

Thank you so much Kelly. What a blessing. It has been a privilege working with Kelly over the years at numerous camp meetings and Net programs and we sure appreciate her good spirit and ministry. Well Pastor Ross in a moment we're going to do some Bible questions, but we just want to take a minute again and welcome those who may be viewing the program with us right now on how to reclaim your faith. And during this series we're trying to encourage people who have become disconnected from the church to reconnect with their church family again to give church another chance. Now obviously this program has some expense involved in it. Amazing Facts would like to thank Hope Channel for broadcasting this program. And of course there's expenses involved in our building the set, in the production, and if you would like to help with those expenses we're just going to do something very simple. Most of you know the websites for HopeTV.org or for AmazingFacts.org. If you'd like to make a donation to either ministry we appreciate it. We just wanted to mention that before we go into our question time.

Alright, thank you Pastor Doug. You know before we go to our first question I'm holding two books in my hand. This one is brand new, and then here's a book Pastor Doug that you wrote. I like the title “How to Survive and Thrive in Church”. Now for those who are viewing we have a special offer with reference to these books. You want to tell us about it?

Yes. The book “How to Survive and Thrive in Church” we're doing something on the honor system. We've never done this quite this way before. We're willing to give that book to anybody who is watching if you have not been attending church. We'll send it to you for free. You call the number on your screen. All you've got to do is promise you're going to go back and visit your church one more time and pray for the Holy Spirit to make things right and we'll send you the book. That sound like a good deal? It's just a little bit of sanctified bribery. And so we're just trying to encourage people any way we can to come back to church. And there's good information in the book and there's more about it for anyone that wants it at the website, but for those who haven't been coming we'll send it to you for free.

Okay. Well we do have some questions that have been texted in and right now we'll take a few of those questions. Our first question is, “What is the best way to approach a parent who has stopped attending church?” Alright, well, that's a little of a different scenario than just approaching a friend. A parent, of course, you want to honor. You want to be respectful. Sometimes mom will gather the brood together and take them off to church and dad stays at home. Maybe he used to go, and the children especially as they grow up, they want to see dad come to Christ. Everyone wants their loved ones to be saved. How can you, without being annoying, you can't really nag somebody into the kingdom. How do you encourage them?

Well, one thing is tell them what - tell your parent what the Lord is doing for you in church. The wonderful thing is that you're learning. Sometimes if you're involved in the program - maybe you're doing a little special music or some presentation – say, “Mom, Dad, please come and hear the grandchildren sing, or hear me do this program. It would mean so much for me to see you there.” And try to pray them in and encourage them to come in a winsome, positive way. Got any ideas?

Setting a good example. If parents can see that it's made a difference in your life and that you love going to church, and it means something to the family, they'll be more open to going along with you when you invite them.

If they see you're happy when you go and you're still happy when you come home.

That's a good thing.

If you come back nicer.

Absolutely.

Might encourage them.

Let's take a look at our next question. Next question is, “I stopped going to church because I saw so much compromise in the church. What should I do?”

Well, if you stop going because of that you just add to the compromise. Best thing to do is to go and try to be salt and light. Be a good example while you're there and then look in the Bible at the example. For instance, I'm assuming some of you know your Bibles. You know the story of Hannah and Samuel. Talk about compromising the church! The pastors were getting physically violent with the members, taking their sacrifices and doing unmentionable, immoral things with the ladies that came to church to worship. And in the context of that incredible compromise Hannah and Elkanah were still bringing their sacrifices. They were still being positive. They were still coming in praying. They gave a very great offering in giving their son to a church like that.

You know as long as it's the church of God let God deal with the hypocrites that are there. That is never an excuse for you to withdraw. You keep coming.

You know, it's also important, Pastor Doug, to mention that despite the corruption in the church when Hannah went and prayed in church God heard her prayer.

That's right. God still answers prayers in churches where there's compromising hypocrites.

Let's take a look at our next question that we have. The question is, “The Bible says an eye for an eye but it also says to turn the other cheek. Which one is right?”

Well I think that means you're only supposed to hit someone on the cheek with your eyeball. So. No, one is a civil law. An eye for an eye is a civil law. Government cannot operate under the principle of somebody steals and you just turn the other cheek. Governments need to operate on the principle of there is eye for eye, hand for hand, foot for foot, wound for wound, tooth for tooth. As I think the whole thing it says. You're going to pay for your crimes and there needs to be civil law to deter evil. In our interpersonal relationships we can choose to forgive those slights and to try to win people by kindness. And so Jesus is really talking about in our interpersonal relationships turn the other cheek. It's a choice that you can make. When it comes to civil things that was really eye for eye, tooth for tooth.

And of course when it comes to the church and sometimes there's conflict in the church. Somebody might hurt you. In that situation we apply the principle of turning the other cheek, forgiving. We don't apply the civil law in that situation although sometimes we attempt to apply the civil law but that's not what God.

Well, you. Let me just add a little something to that Pastor Ross. I think that everybody should be shown grace in the church but sometimes there are times where if a person has a chronic problem and you see that grace is not changing their heart, sometimes the most redemptive thing you can do is to allow them to experience consequences. So, we're not saying if someone keeps robbing the church you just turned the other cheek. You finally might need to call the police. You know what I'm saying? It's not always the loving thing to do and it helps them.

Alright, well, let's take a look at our next question. This question is, “How do I get that fire and desire in my life to live for Christ and consistently to attend church?”

How many of us would like to have more enthusiasm and desire in our experience? You know I think one of the most important things is it doesn't really begin in church it begins every morning when you wake up by surrendering your life in your heart to the Lord, having personal devotions. What's happening when we come together - a church should really be the result of what you've been doing with your heart and soul through the week. When the Children of Israel came out of the wilderness, came out of Egypt, and they were in the wilderness God rained manna down from Heaven how many days a week? Six days a week. On Sabbath they didn't get any. They were feeding their souls all week long and they had to go out and gather it and they had to either bake it or knead it, or whatever they did with manna and prepare it. And we need to do that with the Word of God. “Give us this day our daily bread.”

We need to be feeding our souls. As you nurture your relationship with Jesus then you're going to bring that desire and that new love to your church experience. You'll get a lot more out of your church experience if you're feeding your soul through the week. One reason some people stop going to church, a big reason people stop going to church, is they are trying to live all week long on what they're hoping the pastor or local elder is giving them once a week, and you can't survive that way. You really need to be feeding your soul all through the week and having a personal relationship with Jesus.

In other words Pastor Doug, you’re saying that true worship begins on your knees next to your bed in the morning, in the evening.

That’s right.

And then when you go to church on Sabbath it's just the outflowing of what God has done for you throughout the week.

Absolutely, that's the fountain running over at that point.

Let's take a look at our next question. This question is, “I have spent many years in and out of the church and now I feel that no matter how hard I try, God is done listening to me.”

Well that sounds a little bit like the question we had about maybe I've gone too far and I've committed the unpardonable sin. But you're assuming that you're a better sinner than God is a Savior when you say that. You know how many parents if you've got a child that is in trouble and they're, you know, in and out of jail and they keep making the same mistakes, do you stop loving them? No. God is so patient with us. He loves us desperately. You think about Jesus hanging on the cross and how much He wanted to save every soul, and then you ask yourself “Does He still want me back?” He desperately wants you back. He desperately wants you to be saved and so don't, don't doubt His love. You will get tired of repenting before God gets tired of forgiving.

Amen. You know I’m reminded of a verse in scripture where Peter says God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. God is willing. He's waiting. Really it's, it's us. We need to respond.

You know you reminded me of another verse. Yeah someone's asking I felt like I failed. I came back. I drifted from church. I came back. People are laughing now when I come back and say I want to renew my commitment. They say, “Oh yeah, we've heard this before.” But Peter asked Jesus, “How often shall I forgive my brother? Seven times?” Jesus said, “Seventy times seven.” And is Jesus asking us to do less than He said He'd be willing to do for us? Of course He's going to forgive you if you come back sincerely. Come back. Don't worry about what people might perceive as inconsistency. You know many times I quit smoking before I quit smoking? But I didn't quit quitting and I finally quit for the last time. And how many devils did Jesus cast out of Mary Magdalene?

Seven.

Seven. It's not seven at once. Seven times she fell back into her old patterns and she came back to Jesus. You might have thought Jesus would say, “Oh you know I don't want to hear about it anymore. You keep saying you're sorry but you keep doing the same thing.” He kept forgiving her and ended up honoring Mary by being the one who was first to see Him when He rose and first to take the message of salvation to others because she understood grace better than anybody. So don't get discouraged with your failures. Keep coming to Jesus.

We have another question. We'll take a look at that. The question is, “How do you know if the church you are in is the right church?”

Well, as long as it’s not the left church then you know you're in the right church. Sorry. We, now, we talked, one of the biggest challenges that we have is dealing with the many doctrinal issues that are reasons why people get discouraged and stopped going to church. And I want to remind you at this time we do have a website where you can get involved in Bible study and it's free and it's called BibleUniverse.com. BibleUniverse.com and I think they'll probably put that up on the screen for you. If you go to this website there are a number of different Bible studies that take you through a series of Bible teachings in several different languages and it'll help you understand what churches are really following the scriptural definition of Bible teaching, Christ centered preaching, and you know clear, sound, solid theology. And there's so many different forms of Christianity out there, we do want to know, “Am I in the right church?”

One lesson, if I'm not mistaken, specifically deals with how do you pick a church and it gives you the Bible criteria. So I hope you go to BibleUniverse.com and study. Good place to go for everybody.

Now Pastor Doug you mentioned last night in the presentation reasons why people go to church. Some of the reasons why - the church is close to their house or it's a charismatic preacher, but you highlighted the most important reason that is the teachings of the church are firmly founded upon the Bible. So that's a good starting point. If your church is not teaching the truth of Scripture, well then you probably need to prayerfully say, “Lord where do You want me to go?” You want to find a church that is preaching Bible truth. Take a look at the website BibleUniverse.com.

One more thought on that Pastor Ross. Now Pastor Ross and I both pastor churches and in California and so we're sharing this and doing these meetings because a lot of our experience and our yearning to see people come back. While you want to be in a church that has solid theology there are some issues of theology that are not the pivotal, foundational doctrines. If you find that the folks in your church you may not agree with them on what their interpretation of the hundred and forty-four thousand is, or the seven trumpets, or Daniel 11, you know what I mean? There's nuances we all struggle and study. There are mysteries. We're talking about the foundational teachings that you for instance might find in a baptismal certificate. Those are the things that are really the mountains you want to die on but don't say, “Oh you know they've got a different view on what color Jesus hair was. I'm leaving.” And you know but you and I've met people like that. That's not the reason to leave.

I believe we have one more question that we can take now. The question is, “What should you do if you don't agree with the way the services are conducted especially the music.”

Bring earplugs. Well, I certainly don't want to give people the idea that music does not matter. You just heard Kelly's testimony. It's a very controversial subject. It does matter and worship is very important. Understanding biblical worship is very important. In the last days the final issue is going to revolve around those who worship God and those who worship the Beast. Isn't that right? So we need to understand how we should worship God. But that doesn't mean as soon as the song leader in your church picks a song or a tempo that you think that this is just over the top, that you storm out and don't come back.

I think the way to deal with that is first of all have good communication in your church family. Talk to the pastor. Talk to the music minister first and the pastor. You may need to write a nice letter – Christian, do it in a Christian Way - to the board and say here are the scriptures. Can we try to use these as guidelines or if I'm wrong please show me? And I think communicating with truth is one of the best ways for music not to tear churches apart but to bring them together in studying how do we worship God. I think more churches need to get together and study it and you'll find a lot more harmony.

So you’re emphasizing the spirit in which we approach the issue?

Mm-hmm.

Sometimes that can turn it off right there. If we approach with a judgmental spirit people don't want to hear us but if they know that you're involved in the church, you're committed to the church, you're a loving caring member.

Right.

And you bring a concern they'll be more apt to listen to your concern and try and resolve the situation.

That’s right.

Well thank you for all of your questions that were sent in and those of you who are watching you can send us any question that you might have with reference to coming back to church or getting connected with Christ. We're going to give you a text number. The text number will be on your screen. You can send us your question via text send your text question the number is 760-523-2287. Again that number is 760-523-2287. You can also go to the website FaithReclaimed.com and you can also send us an email with your question. Pastor Doug that's it for our question time this evening.

I think we're going to have another testimony. We've been encouraging testimonies so you see people who have come back to the Lord, and at this time we have another to share with you.

My mother passed away when I was three and my paternal grandparents decided they would care for my two older sisters and I so that my father would have time to mourn. We never really had a mother or strong fatherly figure, and I'm not blaming my dad I'm just saying that's how things worked out. When I was in high school my oldest sister got into an argument with our father, and my sister and I decided that we would take her side and so that caused a split in our family. For four years we lived in the same house, we ate from the same pot, we used the same restroom, we walked by each other, but we never said anything to our father and he never said anything to us.

A year later I had decided I would move out for college. He was very happy with that. We are booted out the house. We went back to apologize but we weren't really accepted back. I have felt so alone a lot of my life. I felt like I've had to fend more for myself. I've been missing a fatherly love. I don't have family with me. I don't have a lot of things but uh I have God and I've been fulfilled. I've been satisfied. God has been my father. My name is Luisa Manu and I've reclaimed my faith.

You know many of these testimonies that you're hearing are people who actually went to the AFCOE program. There were people from all around the country and the world who came to Amazing Facts and they trained in how to share their faith with others. And we were surprised what a large percentage of people that were all of a sudden filled with a burning desire to share their faith with others. They had drifted away. When they came back they realized the key to life is receiving Christ and sharing Christ, and their whole perspective changed.

Well, we'd like to welcome you once again to Reclaim Your Faith, friends. And want to thank you for those who have come here in the Maryland area and those who may be watching all over the world and all over North America. And we're very thankful that you've tuned in. We're talking about some of the different reasons that people become discouraged and stop going to church and what the solution to those things is. So, what's the right view that we should have regarding some of the issues that discourage people and get them to jump ship, so to speak.

One of the principle things when we interview people is dealing with what we call friendly fire. Somebody in the church did something to hurt them or some group or some clique in the church hurt them. Sometimes they’re even upset with God so they've pulled back because they've been hurt. You know I understand that during the Gulf War in 1991 that first invasion -by the way our son Daniel was there then in Iraq - that of the 131, I'm sorry no 148, young men and women that were killed during that time in that war, 31% were as a result of friendly fire. There's no other war like that where you've got 31% of the casualties were friendly fire. They were accidental deaths.

Now you might be thinking, “Well, but Pastor Doug, at least they were accidents. What these people did to me in church that was on purpose.” I might also mention at this time of all the calls that police get, you know what the largest category is of police calls? Domestic problems. Family fights. You know I've just learned that when people get together you're sometimes going to have problems and you see that was true also in the Bible. Do not get discouraged. Do not leave church because someone in the church hurt you. This is exactly what the devil wants to do.

Think in the Bible of all the characters that struggled with friendly fire. The first murder in the Bible is Cain killing his brother Abel. You've got the story of Joseph in the Bible. What happened to him? His brothers just couldn't get along with - did he do anything wrong? Wasn't his fault. By the way, with Abel, Cain was upset with not his badness but his goodness. With Joseph his brothers were not upset at his badness they were upset at his dreams and his goodness. King David - he had his problems and he had a lot more problems with his own son and his own King than he had from Goliath. Goliath he took care of pretty quickly. For years he ran from King Saul and his own son tried to kill him. Problems in the house. Friendly fire. And David left for a while, fled to the land of the Philistines. And then God said, “What are you doing here?”

You know I think what will help us, some of you who are watching, you say, “Oh, Pastor Doug, you don't know what they did to me. I know generally that might be true but what they did to me.” I think you've got to realize this is exactly what the devil wants us to do. He wants us to be hurt by this friendly fire, by the horizontal problems that we have so we turn away from Him or we blame God.

Picture if you will for a moment, some people pay to go on a safari through a jungle - South America or Africa - and they're looking at the rainforest. They're going single file through the jungle and they're looking to the right and they’re looking to the left, and there are monkeys in the trees, and these are bad monkeys. And the monkeys are throwing nuts and branches and fruit, and one of the men - but he doesn't know where it comes from and he turns around. He thinks it's the person in line behind him. He says, “Why did you do that?” “I didn’t do anything.” “I know you did. You just bonked me on the head with a piece of fruit!” “I didn't do anything!” So they turn around. They’re walking down the trail. They all both looking off at the flowers again and - Bing! “Why was - what did I do?” And pretty soon they're all fighting among themselves and the monkeys are laughing in the trees

Are there devils and demons out there? Do they do everything they can to accent and accentuate our disagreements, manufacturing things that really aren't real sometimes because our slighted pride, and they get magnified. And the devil is working all the time to create division and cause friendly-fire. This is his plan. He is trying to cause problems.

I didn't, like I said a minute ago you might be thinking, “Well Pastor Doug, this person - it wasn't imagined - they really did something very mean to me. All right, another scenario. Nice family invites you over to their house for dinner some day after church. And you've never been there before. They seem like sweet people and you sit around while dinner is being prepared. You visit, you're having a wonderful time and they say, “Well we're gonna go sit down at the dining table. We're gonna eat.” You say, “Do you have somewhere I can wash my hands?” “Sure there down the hall to the right.” And so you meander through their house, you find the restroom, you wash your hands. And as you come out of the restroom there is this grumpy old man there. And he said, “What are you doing here? You're not - this is my bathroom. Don't you use my bathroom.” He said, “And by the way, you're ugly, and I don't like strangers in my house, and I have nothing left to eat when all these strange people come over eating my food, and I hope I never see you.” And then they begin to hurl insults and curse at you. Just as mean as you can imagine.

And, boy, your heart starts to race and you get all upset, and pretty soon you go to the hall and you're going to get your coat. And your host says, “What's happening?” You say, “I'm leaving.” “What's happening?” “Oh this man - I've never been spoken to like that before in my life!” And they say, “You didn't run into Grandpa, did you?” “I don't know who he is.” “You ran into Grandpa. Please don't get upset. Grandpa's not well. Grandpa has dementia. He used to be the nicest guy in the world but just part of his brain isn't healthy and he just, now we don't know what's going on but…” And as soon as you realize that Grandpa's sick you say, “Yeah I guess I understand now. They can't help it. They're not well.”

There are people in the church who are sick and they do mean things. If they are not filled with God's Spirit they've got a diabolical dementia and they're doing exactly what you would expect them to do, and so don't take it out on Jesus. Don't take it out on the other members of the church. In your relationship with the church just say, “All right brother, sister, sorry you feel that way.” And then you can walk off and you can say to yourself, “Spiritual dementia. They’re, they're just not well. They don't have that love in their heart.”

We all do selfish things. Even in Jesus’ day. One moment Jesus says to the apostles, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter jumps up. He says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus gives Peter the greatest compliment he ever had. He says, “Simon Peter, flesh and blood did not reveal that unto you but the Holy Spirit. God spoke to you.” Before 20 minutes go by Jesus says, “I've got to go to Jerusalem. I'm going to be betrayed there. I'll be crucified. I’ll rise the third day.” Peter comes over he says, “Lord don't talk like that. this is not God's plan for you.” That same Jesus turns to Peter. He says, “Get behind me Satan. You got dementia.”

Jesus looked behind his friend Peter to who was operating through Peter and he didn't blame Peter he blamed the devil. People in the church hurt each other because the devil often speaks sometimes through those closest to us. You'll always have your best fights on your way to church, with your loved ones. Isn’t that right? Because the devil is working overtime like the monkey in the trees to try to create division among us on the ground. We're all sinners.

It's interesting the Bible tells us that we're to love our neighbor. Neighbor is a “nigh” brother. Nigh brothers are not any closer than those in your family and those in your church. It says love your neighbor then Jesus says, “and love your enemy.” I think it's interesting that He says we should love our neighbor and love our enemy. Is it because - is it possible that our neighbor often becomes our enemy? It's sometimes our nigh brother or a sister can, can become our greatest adversary. Jesus (David) comes home from praising the Lord in the street there's a parade with God and His ark, and everybody's singing. He's on cloud nine. He walks through the door and his wife said, “Boy you made such a spectacle out of yourself today.” Bring him right back down again.

Sometimes it’s those right in the family. Don't be discouraged by that. 1 Peter chapter 5 verse 5 through 7, “Likewise you younger people submit yourself to your elders. Yes all of you be submissive to one another” - be submissive to one another - “and be clothed with humility.”

I've done more marriage counseling that I'm qualified to do or than I want to do, but one thing I found in most cases there is an element of selfishness and pride involved. Somebody's being - usually both - there's some selfishness and pride. And we'd have a lot fewer conflicts in the church family if we would humble ourselves before the Lord and before each other. Submit yourselves clothed with humility because “God resists the proud but He gives grace to the humble.” So did you leave? You were out working for God, you were doing all the right things and then they still mistreated you.

After years of patience Elijah tried to bring revival to Israel, praying for revival. God even answered his prayer through - the famine was an answer to prayer. And then later he had this incredible miraculous experience on Mount Carmel, fire comes down from Heaven. Then he prays again and rain comes down from Heaven and after the rain from God and the fire of God, people in the church still want to kill him. And Elijah says, “I'm out of here.” I mean, you can only take so much, and he gets up and he runs. And you can find this in your Bible if you look in the first book of Kings chapter 19 verse 9. I can start at verse 4 “Elijah himself went a day's journey in the wilderness” and then he prayed he might die.

Here's a servant of God. He leaves Israel, starts just heading as far away as he can. You don't even know if he knows where he's going at first. “I'm no better than my fathers.” And you know God still speaks to him there even though he's running the wrong way. Does the Lord still try to reach us when we're running the wrong way? Angel appears to him, gives him food and gives him water. And in the strength of the food the angel gave him he takes that instead of going back to Israel he runs further in the wrong direction.

It says in verse 9 he goes to Mount Sinai and he went to a cave and he spent a night in that place - and I've done that before - and he beheld the word of the Lord came to him and it said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” translation “Why did you leave? I told you everything you were supposed to do. I answered your prayers. I've been guiding you, but I don't remember telling you run from your people. What are you doing here?” And he then began to give the Lord his excuses. You talk to a person that's left church and they usually have a list because the Holy Spirit's bothering them so they've got to get a list to calm their conscience. And they got all these rationalizations for why they don't go to church in spite of the fact Jesus tells us that this is His body.

He said, “What are you doing here?” He says, “I've been zealous for the Lord God of hosts” - I still got a relationship with God – “and for the children of Israel but they’ve forsaken Your covenant,” They've compromised. “They've torn down your altars.” They're not worshiping right. “They've killed your prophets.” They don't respect the true preachers and they persecute the true ones and install the false ones. You ever heard people stop going for those reasons? “and I'm the only one left and now they tried to take my life so I'm out of here.” I tried to stay and I was the only person excited, on fire in that church and I left.

And then God said, “Go out and stand on the mountain.” Then Elijah went out and stood on the mountain. It says the Lord passed by and there was a great and strong wind and it tore the mountains, it tore the rocks - good thing he was in the cave. But the Lord wasn't in the wind. And afterward there was an earthquake and the Lord was not in the earthquake. And it says there was a fire and the Lord was not in the fire. And after he heard it he went and stood in the mouth of the cave and God says to Elijah - after all of this He says, “What are you doing here?” You can see all kinds of powerful things that are happening but none of them might have the Lord in it. Sometimes we can confuse powerful things that are happening for the will of God and God was saying to Elijah, “Just because you see the fire in the earthquake and the wind, I wasn't in those things. I was back in Israel and I wanted you back there. I brought you in to bring revival.

By the way, have you noticed it's hard to clean a house when you're not in the house? If you've got a boat that's filling up with water, you're out in the ocean - a little sailboat - and it's got a little hole in it. It's hard to bail the boat when you're in the water. You've got to be in the boat. And so after all this happens God says to Elijah another time, “What are you doing here?”

Finally, verse 15, God says, “Go, return” - matter of fact would you say that with me? “Go, return.” Some of you who are listening or watching out there that's the Word of God when He says, “What are you doing here?” “But Lord, after all they've done to me I'm the only one left.” And you know what the Lord said to Elijah? “I've got seven thousand knees that still haven't bowed to Baal. Don't think that you're the only one that still loves Me out there, that you're the only true believer still left in the church. You're not the best judge of people's hearts. Go, return. I want a revival and it's not going to happen if you're not there.”

One of the things that's going to bring revival is if God's people pull together and we got to stop fragmenting and running for the hills like Elijah. Elijah was a good man of God, sincere and honest but he went the wrong way. Go and return - and he did. You know we have a tendency sometimes to be hurt and because we're hurt we withdraw like a turtle. You know you bonk it on its shell and it pulls in. Any of you ever play with those little sow bugs when you're a kid? We called them roly polies. You know what I’m talking about? They're pretty harmless. They have a thousand little legs around the edges and you dink them and they curl up in a ball and you can just you know play marbles with them at that point. They just stay curled up because they don't want to get hurt. They crawl into their shell. Or like a snail. You just flick it – it withdraws.

And there's something about human nature that when we've been hurt we pull back. I mean if you touch a stove you pull back if it's hot. It's an, it's a protective mechanism and some people who are hurt in the church their instinct is get out of there quick. I don't want to be hurt anymore. Some are hurt in their relationships and their marriages and they think the answer is to run. Get out. You know we don't learn love that way. We don't learn salvation that way, but we learn it by learning to be committed and staying together.

I remember hearing an interesting story from history. I like history. One of my favorite presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, might never have been president because he went through an extremely painful experience. He was the rising star in New York politics - young man, brilliant man. And he fell in love with a beautiful lady named Alice, Alice Hathaway - beautiful in every way, beautiful character, dedicated Christian, beautiful to look at, sweet, selfless. They were engaged, got married. After a few years of delightful marriage she was expecting her first child. Teddy's father had died so his mother was living in the house with him. He was away on business. He came home and wanted to be home in time for his wife to give birth and the day he came home, which happened to be Valentine's Day, happened to be the anniversary of their engagement, his wife died giving birth to their first child. The baby girl survived and his mother died the same day, and he was absolutely devastated having already lost his father. He almost never spoke of his first wife again for the rest of his life. In his diary, and he was a very verbose writer, on the page that this happened he put a big X through the page and he said the light of my life has gone out. He did write one thing to the family and he said she was beautiful in face and form and lovelier still in spirit. As a flower she grew and a fair young flower she died. Her life had always been in sunshine. There had never come to her a single sorrow and none ever knew her who did not love and revere her for her bright, sunny temper and her saintly, unselfish, fair, pure, and joyous behavior. She was a tender maiden and happy young wife and when she had just become a mother, when it seemed that her life had just begun, and the years seems so bright, then by a strange and terrible fate death came to her. And when my heart's dearest died the light went out from my life forever. Big X in his diary.

Well, you know what Roosevelt did? He said, “I'm out of here.” He left New York. He went to the Badlands of Dakota, and he said, “I'm going to run away.” He stayed there for two years and they said he was a pretty tough cowboy. Someone would make fun of the way he talked because he was from Back East - he’d just slug him. He was angry. He got a reputation for being pretty tough. Tried to go into the cattle business but you know New York politicians don't make the best cowboys and they had some bad freezes and he had some setbacks with his ranch life. He learned a lot that actually helped the country get the National Park System. But he started to get a call from his friends in New York and they said, “You know you get you can't run away. You've got too much promise. You've got to come back. What are you doing out there?”

And he finally realized, “You know, I'm just mad at God and I've got to stop. God's got a plan for my life.” And he came back. He married a girl that he knew from childhood and they had many happy years together and then he became the greatest Governor of New York. After that became one of greatest presidents, served two terms, and he's enshrined at Mount Rushmore. It’s because he learned not to run away forever. He decided to turn around and come back. He’d got hurt and he was mad at God and he withdrew.

You don't know how many people I know they stopped going to church because they've gone through some tragedy and they're angry at God. They're mad at Jesus or they're mad at somebody else. You know we need to be sensitive, too, because some people are hurting and we don't know. We're always going to church wondering how people treat us. We ought to be thinking more selflessly and saying, “Lord, when I go to church I want to go and minister. Give me that sensitivity to ask how is this person feeling? How can I minister to them?”

We've got to get out of ourselves and think about caring for and consoling and comforting one another. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore comfort each other edify one another, just as you are also doing.” Galatians 6:2 Paul said, “Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Confess your faults to one another and pray for one another. We need to care about each other's health because if you're doing poorly the whole church is doing poorly and then I'm doing poorly. Your spiritual health and welfare is going to affect all of us. If my toe hurts the whole body limps, and so we need to really care about each other because as a whole we’re much stronger. We're part of an army God says, and it's important that we know we've got each other's backs and we're not stabbing each other in the back. Gotta care for one another. Lord Nelson, that famous Admiral of England, when they were involved in the Battle of Trafalgar there against the French. There was thousands of ships. And two of his principal officers were in a bitter dispute with each other and all the ships were out there rolling on the sea facing off ready to go into battle. Nelson called them up on the deck and he had one officer on the right and one officer on the left and they had been in a bitter fight with each other dividing the men. He said, “Gentlemen,” - pointing to the French. He said, “there is the enemy.” he said. Now shake hands and get along.”

Sometimes we forget who the enemy is. Jesus came to save me. I always like to remember me first. He came to save you just as much as He wants to save me. He loves you just as much as He loves me. I ought to love you because I love Him and if He loves you I ought to love what He loves, right? And I have learned that the Lord kind of cares about how we treat each other and when we slight each other it pains Him and it hurts our relationship with Him.

Let me just say something I feel impressed to say. I don't speak in any official capacity for the church except that I am a pastor but maybe you're staying away from the church because you've been hurt and you're waiting for someone to apologize. Well I don't know who it is that hurt you and I don't know if they're ever going to apologize, but in their behalf would you accept my apology?

Please forgive us if the church has not treated you right. I know the Lord wants you to come back. Don't be chased away by the friendly fire. Don't be mad at God. I've met people before, “Why'd you stop going to church?” Talked to one gentleman, grew up in the church, mother was a Christian teacher, went to Christian school. Then his brother in his adult life came down with cancer. He had drifted from the church and he started praying for his brother and he prayed like he had never prayed before. And he made promises to God and said, “Lord if You'll just heal my brother I'll come back.” And his brother died. And he became very angry at God and very bitter and he said, “You know I'm never gonna pray again.” He made a silly vow.

You know, God will forgive you if you make those silly reckless promises. Just say, “Lord I'm sorry I was speaking in anger. Forgive me.” And He will. “I'm never coming back to church again.” If you made a dumb promise like that friends, it was a dumb promise. Don't keep it. The devil wants you to make those kind of vows. And he said, “I'm never gonna pray again. I'm never gonna ask God for anything. I'll thank God for His blessings but I'm never gonna ask Him for anything because I wanted that more than anything and He didn't heal my brother.” And they were angry and bitter at God.

Or people who stopped going to church, married for years, got a family, loved their family and then something happens in the family and they pray like they've never prayed. “Lord I'll come back to You. I'll do everything, just save my family.” And their spouse divorces them. They get angry at God and they say, “Oh I'm not going back to church anymore.”

Now when you think about it sometimes, sometimes we want to hurt those who hurt us. Well come on now ‘fess up. Those of you in families, you're married, you know spouse hurts you. You say, “OK if you’re going to be that way. time for the silent treatment. Because I know you hate the silent treatment and so I‘m going to now punish you.” Or she says, “I'm gonna punish you. I know how you hate when the laundry piles up. Wash your own clothes.” We try to retaliate. Now I'm not speaking about any particular family I can think of. We try to hurt those who hurt us. And you know it's really goofy when you think about it, that people actually think God hurt me and so I'm gonna get even with God and I'm gonna hurt God. I know God wants me to be saved and the best way for me to hurt God is I'm gonna be lost. And then when Jesus comes back and I'm out there in that lake of fire and it's creeping up around my ankles I'm gonna say, ‘Now how do you feel God?’” As though you're going to find some consolation in that.

No, really, people think that way. God hurt me so I know God loves me I'm gonna hurt Him back. The same kind of thing people do in their families or their parents and their spouses and their children. We try to retaliate and so we think we're gonna retaliate against God by being lost - which is exactly what the devil wants you to do. That's silly. Are you really gonna feel better standing in the lake of fire saying, “Huh! Get the last word. See I'm lost! Now how do you feel?” That's what people do, isn't that right? They're trying to - they want to hurt God because they've been hurt.

God doesn't want you to hurt and God didn't want to hurt you. The devil is in the trees throwing fruit and sticks and nuts. He is trying to divide us. We are supposed to all be part of that temple of God. We are all part of that household of God. The Bible says we are living stones. He wants to build up a church. We are His body. Jesus said, “Destroy this temple that is made with hands and in three days I will make a temple without hands.” And he later explained He was speaking of His body. And what is the church called? It's the body of Christ. You can read in Ephesians chapter 2 - this is a good verse – “Now therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners but fellow citizens with the saints.” We're not strangers. We're all part of the same country now. Fellow citizens.

You know it's, it's always nice when you've got some kind of an identity and you feel like you belong somewhere. I, you know I'll be traveling overseas and nobody speaks my language and all of a sudden I'll hear a little bit of American and you kind of go, “Oh, hi! You're from here!” “Uh-huh I’m from here.” “Oh really that's neat. Where are you from?” “I'm from California.” “You're from California. I'm from California!” “Hey I've got a brother in California! Do you know him?” People - I get the dumbest questions when people hear that I was from New York. “I got a brother from New York!” So I’m going to know – you know, 20 million people there.

But we just, you know, we feel like we're looking for identity. We want to belong, right? Well you're part of a new country when you're a Christian. You're part of a new people. And we ought to feel that camaraderie of saying we are “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows in a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you are being” - notice you're not all built yet – “you are being built together for a dwelling place…”

1st Peter 2:5 “You also, as living stones, are being built up into a spiritual house.” Now you know when God gets the stones first from the quarry they're not all shaped the right way to begin with. If you want to be a stone in the temple of God He digs you out of the hill and we don't all come out square and fit and ready. We need to be prepared to be jewels in that temple and that sometimes takes um a little bit of the chisel and a little bit of the work.

Pastor Ross and I, a couple of times we've gone on these camping trips where we ride around in the backcountry of Nevada. We go places where no man has been before. I mean just way out there and, and you run into some hills. We go on these four-wheelers where you find jewels and gems. They’re, they’re, you know precious stones and there's all kinds of interesting, bright colorful stones but they're usually in a very rough form, sharp edges. And you'll see when you drive across Nevada they got rock shops and you can take the stones that you found, these pretty stones but they're they got sharp edges. Like obsidian is like glass you give them to the old geezer who's there in the rock shop and you give him a few dollars. He takes all of your little stones and he puts them in a rock tumbler and he pours in a grinding solution and he turns it on. It makes the most awful ruckus that you've ever heard and you know what he's doing. Polishing the stones. Makes a lot of noise.

Churches are like a tumbler where we're being polished and any stone that falls out of the tumbler doesn't get polished. It's got to stay in there and as they bounce off one another and the solution is mingling and circulating among the stones. It's taking off the rough edges. Its polishing the dullness away, and pretty soon he dumps them out and he cleans them off and they're shiny. But you got to stay in there and tumble with everybody else and it makes a lot of ruckus. And a church is something like a stone tumbler. So we've got to stay together.

We got this idea that church is supposed to be a resort where everybody's nice, everybody's just gonna be nice and love me. But that's not what the church is. The church is actually a laboratory where God is refining us through it. We're being sanctified. We are being built. We’re being refined and chiseled and polished. Church is a hospital. Not everybody in the hospital is well and sometimes even the staff in the hospital gets sick. That’s why they call it staph infection, right? Isn’t that where that comes from? Our planet is quarantined because of sin that's why we don't talk to aliens from other unfallen worlds. We’ve got a disease down here and the church is a hospital where God is healing us. But we've got to work together otherwise we just, we tear each other apart.

You know, there was a man that went to visit a friend who was guarding an asylum. He was a security guard in an asylum and he went to see his friend. And he was out there and there's this field and all of these people who were really mentally ill are out roaming out on the fields, and under the trees, and doing very bizarre things, and there's a hundred of them or so and he's the guard. His friend says to him, he says, “You're guarding all these people.” He says, “All they give you is a stick?” He says, “Aren't you afraid that they're gonna organize and overpower you?” And he said, “No, that's one of the characteristics of being insane is they can't get organized.” He said, “I don't ever have to worry about that.”

And you know one of the characteristics of sin is that God (the devil) tries to make us where we just can't work together. But with the Holy Spirit we're supposed to be working together. When we just can't get along the devil is zapping us all with this spiritual insanity and that's exactly what his plan is. Friends it's time for us to press together.

When I was a kid and we played doctor - I don't know about you but I always wanted to be the doctor. I wanted to use my little hammer and beat him on the knee, and I wanted to use my stethoscope, and my Fisher-Price plastic saw to amputate. And everybody, but you know when we play doctor with our friends everybody said, “I want to be.” “I want to be doctor!” “I want to be doctor.” But you know in the church I find everybody wants to be the patient. Everybody says, “I'm the one that wants the attention. I want you to massage me!” And that's why we have so many problems. We've got to realize that all of us come in because we're supposed to heal and care for one another. 1 Corinthians 5:4 ”In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We're to come together in His spirit. “Oh, but Pastor Doug there's so many hypocrites in the church. I stopped going because there's all these hypocrites in the church. Have you ever considered that if you let a hypocrite get between you and God, who's closer to God? You're gonna let the hypocrite be closer to God than you? If you aren't going to church because the hypocrites in the church well you could at least be consistent, and you could go and there's just one more. Because we all struggle with hypocrisy, pretending things that aren't genuine.

Were there hypocrites in the early church? Even after God poured out his spirit, and God is working in magnificent ways among the disciples, you had Ananias and Sapphira. Acts chapter 5, you know pious profession they go and said, “We're making this big offering. We've sold all our property. We're gonna give a hundred percent.” Lying through their teeth. And did God deal with the hypocrites back then? Can God still deal with them? Some of them are converted. Peter was a hypocrite when he denied knowing Christ, wasn't he? And some who won't be converted, ah, well they were - the Lord took care of Ananias and Sapphira. There are Achans in the camp and God can take care of them.

God also knows how to separate the wheat from the chaff. But not coming to church because there are hypocrites in the church - you never would have gone to the church in Jesus’ day if that's your excuse for not going. He wants us to be together, to stay together. But Pastor you don't know there's, there's actually leaders in our church, they're just unconverted. I can't stand to be there. It's so hard to sit there and to listen to them pontificate as they teach the lesson or as they preach and they're just not converted. How can I go there? Were there unconverted leaders in Bible history? Were they still God's people? I mean in the days did Aaron - he was the high priest. Did he make some bad decisions and start worshipping wrong? But did he finally come around?

Be careful not to prejudge anybody and consign them to eternal torment. You don't know how the Lord might change them later. Some people who I thought this was hopeless, nobody, you know you think they've grieved away the Holy Spirit. The Lord is never going to reach them. Then all of a sudden they go through a radical conversion and they become the nicest person you've ever met. So don't write anybody off. You're under estimating how God can change people. All of us are in process. Remember that they may be in a different place along the process than you're in.

Furthermore, God predicted there would be these problems in the church. He warned ahead of time that in the church there were going to be the devil's representatives. Was that a reason not to go? Acts chapter 20, Paul, Paul knows he's getting ready to go to prison and the Lord gives him a prophecy. He said, Acts 20 verse 29 “For this I know, that after My departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” You ever seen wolves among a flock? They don't just go pick off one sheep and drag them off. They almost seem to revel in biting and taking down. It's like entertainment for, “Well we got that one down and wounded, let's go get another one.” And if you ask a shepherd that has wolves running among their sheep they don't just kill one and eat it. They'll sometimes go kill several and eat parts of several. They’re savage. And the devil sometimes has his representatives - they get into the church and they go circulate and it causes problems and, and carnage. God said that would happen. The devil wants to destroy the church because the Church is the object on earth upon which God bestows His supreme regard.

When Jesus looks down from Heaven if there is a group or a body on the planet that He is intensely interested in, who is it? It's His church. It's His bride and you know how He cares about His bride. And that's why He wants us to stay, stay in the church. He said, “I know savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” Notice He said, “also from among yourselves.” Even He said, “from among some of you men are going to rise up, speaking perverse things,” Not to teach the truth or bring people to Jesus but to draw away disciples for themselves. Some people go to church and they're predators because they're trying to find followers for themselves.

You know, I uh, we had some evangelistic meetings in Sacramento and wherever you got a crowd salesmen seem to show up. And we had one person came to our meetings and we found out that they were selling some multi-level marketing product. And every night during the meetings they would sit down to some, by somebody else in the meetings and they'd start to talk about this product that they had for sale. And we noticed a person wasn't able to listen they were just out there peddling this ware and trying to engage them as to buy the product and as a salesman for the product. And, and it was just - they were wolves. They were the devil's representatives that were coming. They didn't care about what the preacher was saying. They came to sell their product and they'd sit in a different place every night. You know, as pastors we had to tell them thank you but don't come back anymore because that's not what we're doing here. So, you know the devil's got his people

I've heard that if thoroughbred horses are surrounded by a pack of wolves that what they do is they form a circle and they put their heads together. And as the wolves try to come in they kick at the wolves and they can build a barrier that the wolves cannot get through. But on the other hand, I've not seen this but it's what I've read, is that when donkeys get together and they're threatened by wolves or some mountain lion or predator, they put their heads out. They all individually think I'm gonna watch for the wolves and then they get nervous and they kick each other. They also form a circle but they got the heads going the wrong way and they kick each other. Maybe the solution in the last days is for us to get our heads together and to pray together and don't be kicking each other but be kicking the enemy.

We've all been hurt but the Lord wants us to stay together. Oh Pastor Doug but there was a scandal in my church. If, if you knew what they did with the money. You ever heard that one? Well, first of all, whenever you've got money and projects there's going to be an element of risk and waste. I suspect after dinner there might be leftovers at your house, too. Whenever you do anything sometimes there's that risk.

Did Jesus have problems with somebody in His church mismanaging money? If Jesus was alive and walking the world today would you want to be part of His church? If you lived 2,000 years ago, even though you knew there was a Judas in the group, would you walk with Jesus? Don't let mismanagement of resources be the lame excuse. Pardon me, don't want to be too hard on you but that is a lame excuse. I'm not going to church anymore because they wasted the money. Someone absconded with God's money! I gave a very generous tithe and offering and the check was cashed and it never went to the church. I never got a receipt. Someone, they stole it from me! I've heard people say I'm pulling out for reasons like that. You will get your blessing for giving to God. Other people will pay to God and answer to God if they've mismanaged the money. So don't worry, you weren't robbed. You need to be faithful with what God has given you.

You know, one of the temptations that the devil brought to Jesus, he tried to get Him to jump from the church. You know, not only did he say turn these stones into bread and not only did he ask Him to worship him, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world. The devil took Jesus to the temple and then he said I want you to jump from the church. Does the devil still tempt people today to jump from the church? He wants us to leave. This is the devil and Jesus said no I am not going to tempt the Lord. And when we turn away from Jesus and when we say I think I'm going to go out there in the world and I can, I can be a Christian without being in God's house, we are playing with eternal life. We are tempting the devil. we've got to be where God's word tells us we need to be. We need to be together in the house of the Lord.

You know friends we've all been hurt. Some of us are mad at somebody. Some of us are mad at the Lord. You are not the only one that's been hurt. Was Jesus ever hurt? Was Jesus ever hurt by a friend? What did Judas do? Betrayed his friend. David, Joseph, many others in the Bible, they were hurt by friendly fire. There's a prophecy that you can read in Zechariah 13:6 speaking of Christ, “And they will say to Him, ‘What are these wounds that you have in your hands?’ and He will answer and say, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’” Wounded in the house of His friends.

You know, Jesus was wounded. He told us that when Judas came to kiss Him in the garden Jesus said, “Friend do you / are you betraying the Son of man with a kiss?” He said ‘friend’ and sometimes friends hurt each other.

You know, you take a risk whenever you love somebody, whenever you open yourself up and you develop a relationship and you choose to trust somebody, you choose to love somebody and you share who you are with that person, there's always the risk that they're gonna betray that confidence, that they're going to slight your love and you're going to be hurt. So what's the answer? Run off to South Dakota? To just go to Mount Sinai and hide in a cave? Maybe you've been running from God. Jesus is wanting you to know I am your friend and I will never let you down. I will never betray you. Do you know that Jesus is your friend? He's still your friend. He won't let you down. He'll never hurt you.

I'd like to invite Kelly and Dunbar to come and they're going to be singing this familiar song “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. And I'm going to make an appeal for both those of you who are here and those of you who may be watching we have a card and you can go to the website that is called FaithReclaimed.com. Any of you who are watching, like to encourage you download this card right now. This takes a moment or two and make a note of the website and download the card. We'd like to invite you to make a decision now to come back to Jesus. Here in the hall the cards will be circulated. Please take the cards and I'll tell you in a moment about filling them out.

What a friend we have in Jesus. All our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. Oh, what peace we often forfeit. Oh, what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

I'd like to encourage you as you get your cards here local, locally and those of you when you get them and you download them from the website. One more time that website is FaithReclaimed.com. We'd like to ask you some very simple but very important decisions and I hope you're praying at this moment right now. Some people I think are on the threshold of making an eternal decision that could affect their eternal life, to come back. The Lord might be saying to you, “Friend, what are you doing here?” “Oh, but Lord you don't know how they've hurt me!” What are you doing here? He wants us to go and return, to come back and be part of His people.

There's really value in your answering these questions and so just take a moment and let me read them to you as you get your cards. Hopefully you have a utensil to write with. First question is - I believe that the Bible is God's truth and I want to follow its teachings. I mean that's where it really starts. Do you believe the Bible? Do you want to follow Jesus’ teachings? Mark that spot please. Second question - I believe that salvation comes only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. I think that most of us who are watching believe that basic truth. Mark that.

Now here's where we get more specific. I was once faithful in attending church and worshiping Christ with God's people but I have since drifted away and I now want to recommit my life to Jesus and His Word. And you know what that means, you want to come back. Would you give it a chance? Are you willing to give it a chance? Give Jesus a chance. He's your friend. Check that mark. Some of you, next question, you recognize you've been away for a while. You might need to pray and think about being baptized. Might have been raised in the church but never baptized or rebaptised. Please mark that on your card appropriately. And then finally you maybe like someone to talk to you or pray with you about your decision. We're willing to do that. We'll have a process to get someone in contact with you through your local church, your pastor. Please mark that on your card. Fill in the appropriate information as Dunbar sings another verse and then we’ll have prayer together.

Are we weak and heavy laden? Cumbered with a load of care. Precious Savior still our Refuge, Take it to the Lord in prayer; Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer; In His arms He’ll take and shield thee, Thou wilt find a solace there.

Do you believe Jesus is your Friend? Earthly relationships may sometimes disappoint you and let you down. Jesus still loves you. He will always be your Friend. He is always a prayer away. Friends you can come back to Him right now. We'd like to encourage everyone here please fill out your cards and you can pass them to the aisles here in our hall. You can email your response right there online but we want to take it to the Lord in prayer right now.

Father in Heaven we trust that Your spirit has been present. Please speak in a mighty way to the hearts of those who are struggling with this decision to come and to return to be part of Your people again. Move on them. Remind them that You love them all with all of Your heart, You gave Your life, You sent Your Son to save them, that you are a friend that can be trusted. Bless each - bless these meetings Lord that they may help people reclaim their faith. We pray in Jesus‘ name, Amen.

God bless you, listening friends. Don't forget our next presentation will be this evening. We look forward to seeing you.

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