Saturday, November 22, 2014

Jesus - The Symphony of Truth

JESUS - THE SYMPHONY OF TRUTH

Absolute truth can be dangerous when parts are culled out and presented in a vacuum. For instance if we were to present a few verses from Leviticus apart from the revelation of Jesus then we can provide a platform for hatred and violence. I do not pretend to understand some of the Old Testament revelations of God, however I do know that in these gospel days we are to view and understand all truth through the prism of Christ. And unless we present Jesus completely attached to all His teachings then we are prone to present an incomplete and even a misleading picture of the Redeemer. This phenomenon is prevalent within the western evangelical community.

When the revelation of truth revealed in Christ Jesus is either compartmentalized or has varying degrees of focus, then we are launching out with our own caricature. Jesus is truth. I am the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus not only speaks the truth. He is the truth. And that truth when presented in all its fullness presents an eternal symphony. But if we redact His teachings we redact His Person. And in so doing we many times make truth a self righteous weapon and not the light which illuminates the Son of God.

So many preachers are like one of the ten Chinese men who described the elephant according to the piece they held in their hand. Not only were they incomplete, but they were inaccurate. Like listening to a symphony where only the drums played or only one flute played. So are these pitiful caricatures of Jesus which not only fail to uncover the mystery of His eternal fullness, but they force feed Him into some cultural or relevant box which satisfies the pew dweller and keeps them from seeking the depth and mystery of His Person.

This kind of talk is viewed in today’s pragmatism as esoteric and ethereal and really not beneficial in this temporal world. And yet if we collect truth in our hearts and allow the Spirit to piece it together in a way that only He can, well then, we begin to see Jesus. The entire Bible can be summed up in one word – Jesus. It all fits together. And if we have ears to hear we can enjoy and embrace that symphony which draws us and changes us.

Carefully we search out every note and every chord and every harmony and every key change, and then as the sheet music begins to take shape it jumps off the page and invades our hearts. Is it not a miracle? Jesus is revealed within our hearts and we not only fall in love with what we see and hear, but we long to be like Him. To be like Jesus is not like desiring to be like some mentor or earthly family member. This goes way beyond just imitation. This is the mystery of sanctification which allows the Spirit to literally change us into His image.

But that image cannot be one of our making or even some culling out of a few attributes which in reality require nothing more than some doctrinal genuflects. If we truly desire to allow the Spirit to conform us to His image it must be the entire and clear image. And if that image is truly Jesus then the conforming process will be slow and painful and will require a sacrificial allegiance to His Word as well as a denying of self. Those words are so easy to say and yet they present a monumental challenge in which the journey will provide ample opportunities to embrace a compromised contentment because we seem to have achieved a blending in with our respected peers. And our flesh will convince us that it should not really be this hard and that God understands our weaknesses and He knows our hearts.

But that would be an unfinished symphony, and if that is what you desire you can have it without much effort at all. I mean after all heaven awaits you one day so why all the labor now? Oh yes, my flesh speaks the same language as does yours. But is that what our Savior deserves? Is that what He desires? And if there is an intimate place where His revelation can enter our hearts are we to ignore it while we listen and enjoy the discords of this world? Do we really want to know Jesus? So often we understand truth as a set of absolutes and written doctrines and we fail to understand or perceive that all truth finds its source and its destination in Christ Jesus. “Learn of Me” exhorts our Master. Can that be an audited class which is offered in one semester and can be learned in our spare time?

But quiet time alone in deep prayer is a lost discipline. We must be entertained both in and out of church. Prayer, if any, has spiraled down to a “bless Aunt Minnie” type which cannot compete in length to the average television show. The early church for the most part was illiterate. They did not even have a Bible or spiritual books, and while the gatherings had times of teaching and corporate worship it was dedicated to much time in prayer.  And it was this life of prayer which so dramatically changed their lives that they were persecuted for His sake. And it wasn’t because of some moral stand or some offensive literature or some political organization. They were persecuted because they humbly but unambiguously followed Jesus and allowed their lives to demonstrate Him.

This was the symphony of truth known as Jesus.
Where is that symphony today?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Christian Television - An Epic Spiritual Blight

CHRISTIAN TELEVISION
AN EPIC SPIRITUAL BLIGHT

There have been many dark days which are categorized as a part of church history. After the early church most of the visible church coalesced into a rigid systems of works and fraud called the Roman Catholic Church. There have been a season when liberal theologians came upon the scene and presented all kinds of falsehoods. And even today there are the prosperity hucksters who make merchandise of people.

But there is another season of darkness which crept silently over the evangelical landscape. It is called “Christian television” and the phrase has turned out to be only half accurate. Like a poison carrying bee, this brand of media has floated into millions of households and deposited its spiritual arsenic. It would be impossible to identify the depth of its impact or the profound negative impact it has had upon the visible church in the west. But to say it has been devastating would be an understatement.

The construct as well the obvious manifestations of that construct are undeniable, but the deception is so strong and so entertaining that millions willingly subject their hearts and minds to some of the most bizarre teachings one could ever imagine. When you control information you have power. And television makes heroes out of hucksters and makes wise teachers out of fools. Nothing is beyond the pale. There is no teaching so weird or so out of the mainstream, and there is no theatrics and embarrassing elongated appeal too much for Christian television. And when the season for station fundraising comes there are no promises too extravagant used to leverage the viewers.

But the entire thing revolves around and actually bow before the world of money and material things. It is a spectacle of immense sacrilege practiced openly for all to see, and yet people sit mesmerized by their favorite thespian who looks directly in the camera and spews lies upon which he attaches Gods dear name. This, my friends, has been for many decades a blight upon the cause of Christ. How many souls who might have considered Christ Jesus have associated Jesus with these masters of illusion? What might these snakes face when they stand before Him who is holy beyond our wildest dreams? We are living in an age where millions are dancing around this golden calf.

Even the so called orthodox ones like Stanley and Rogers and the others have been made partakers of their evil deeds because the allure and the wellspring of money via television is far too enticing. The entire phenomenon is a false cult and many have followed their pernicious ways. And dare any of the more orthodox preachers speak a word against these heretics they would surely lose their precious spot immediately so they play the game. And by their mere presence on these heretical canvasses they lend them credibility and therefore provide more stumbling blocks to the blind. But they feel satisfied with a more orthodox compromise.

And there is enough money to line everyone’s pockets from each individual preacher as well as the station owners. These stations sell time to Roman Catholic shows and exercise programs and nutritionist experts while the gospel cannot be found except in some worn out phrases necessary to keep the gullible happy. These television networks are expansive panoramic stages when monstrous and damnable lies can be sent around the world, but the western church is so dead and filled with dead men’s bones that it cannot see nor hear.

But again, it all revolves around money. And so does that phenomenon spill over to each local branch. It is where the financial report is king. It’s where people sit in pews and worry about money and making money or losing money. And Christian television leveraged that spiritual weakness and built kingdoms upon it. In fact Christian television made God the money changer who was willing to move in their lives if the money was right. Oh I know they bandy the word “faith” about but that is also nonsense to the Christ seeking disciple and it is blasphemy to God.

Can you possibly wrap you mind around that says the proof of your faith is not a humble life of prayer and dedicated witness, but it is a monetary gift? The concept is foreign to everything Jesus lived and taught as to be absurd and too antithetical to New Testament truth that one can now understand the colossal wickedness which lives inside human hearts. In fact, if you dissect it you will find that men are offering a faith called Christian without Christ. Now if someone stood up and claimed George Washington was not a founding father most of the evangelical church would loudly recoil and castigate such a falsehood.

And yet they will embrace men who preach another Jesus. Christian television has been an epic spiritual blight.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

The Sad Story of a Nationwide Church Community

THE SAD STORY OF A
NATIONWIDE CHURCH COMMUNITY WHICH FOLLOWS MAN
AND NOT CHRIST

Mark Driscoll, now former pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, has recently resigned amid a flurry of accusations of financial mismanagement, bullying church members, and a palpable self righteousness concerning the role of pastor as well as his own absolute authority. He seems to have admitted to much of that. The entire network/kingdom of Mars Hill Churches which spanned across the area and in which they viewed Driscoll’s sermons each week was disbanded. He was also known for his provocative “teachings” on sex which he claimed he got from Scripture but to most of us he made out of the whole cloth of his own mind. Many of them were too bizarre and too offensive to even repeat. He was appealing to the younger set and was a kind of a "Gene Scott"  self absorbed provocateur.

But this is just another case of celebrity evangelicalism. It is heavily weighted by the power of a person’s personality and oratorical delivery. Before long it has morphed into a well oiled machine complete with intelligent use of media, books and CDs, and all kinds of “Christian” paraphernalia. And in almost every case the founder/idol becomes very wealthy and holds power and persuasiveness over many people. Many times going to hear them speak has a rock star atmosphere. By the way, this same phenomenon can be seen among orthodox communities who may teach a more Biblical perspective but who also have their heroes and are willing to spend great sums of money and much time and energy just to hear them in person. Many times people leave that kind of aura claiming their lives have been changed. Although sometimes that may be true, but are they changed by the Spirit or by the power of a man’s image?

The interesting thing about all this is that it is diametrically opposed to the ministry of Jesus. Sometimes the crowds would swell as they came to hear Christ, but then He would challenge them with words and truths which would make them turn away. How many preachers say things that turn people and their wallets away? But all across the evangelical landscape there is a tangible sense of self righteousness and personal pride revealed in an aura of Biblical authority. You can see how major conferences are orchestrated and how certain men seem to embrace their popularity. Even the auditoriums are sometimes decorated and the events are adorned with the most polished music.

Sometimes you have the guest speaker rise to speak after his colleague has just introduced him as though he was one of the apostles. The crowd is not there to be broken or to attend long seasons of prayer and repentance. They are there to hear this man or woman articulate usually what they already know and believe. And some have a few well known "theologians" sit on the stage and field questions as though they had the Urim and the Thummim. And the crowd listens to their favorite preacher speak words of wisdom and many times that elicits applause. Again, it is hollow idolatry.

But the entire construct, whether it comes from the prosperity realm or the orthodox realm is a humanistic construct designed to elevate man. It seems every corner of the evangelical community has their heroes, and when they come to town they draw crowds similar in excitement to those drawn by a Papal visit. How did we ever allow such a spectacle to become a part of a church which is supposed to follow and emulate Jesus? The answer is simple. The church sees and emulates the culture, and men and women seek wealth and notoriety just like the secular world.

But Mark Driscoll is just one of many hundreds if not thousands of men and women who have become particular darlings of their evangelical sphere of reference. The minute preachers and teachers began to make money from the gospel and increased their bank accounts the trap was sprung. It is irresistible. You see, the average professing believer has those same lusts only the preachers have found a way to capitalize on those lusts. With television, mail outs, conferences, CDs, books, and other media outlets they have tapped into a resource that had until now had been fallow and unreachable.

And every preacher must have some gimmick or some provocative way of communicating and a subtle way of suggesting, many times without words, that he or she has an intimacy with God unavailable to the average pew dweller. That in and of itself creates an atmosphere of celebrity and spiritual exclusivism. The entire spectacle centers around certain people and what they know and how they can share it. And when you attend these evangelical gatherings which herald a person or persons you can be sure the messages are hardly ever about Jesus, His teachings, or a challenge to follow Him. Oh they many have a message about the exclusivity of Christ which is a well crafted treatise, but it usually lacks the spiritual essence abut Christ and the cross which should provide an opportunity to make a profound application upon our lives and lead us quickly to the threshing floor of repentance. And without that element being a major component then the entire thing is little more than attending a Broadway play about doctrine.

Paul warned us of being known as a follower of men. Apollos and Paul and Cephas have been replaced by Osteen and Warren and McArthur and others. Yes, we now are divided into cliques which are identified by men’s names. And the entire thing is centered upon men and what they teach rather than Jesus and who follows Him. The conferences are not about obedience. They are about knowledge and more knowledge and exciting messages that reinforce beliefs you already have and they lend an air of doctrinal superiority. Doctrinal self righteousness muscles out the challenge to die and pursue a crucified life which is manifestly remarkable within a carnal church community to say nothing of a fallen culture.

I am literally a nobody. But I cannot help but be shocked at how believers by the millions from all camps cannot see the wave of self righteousness that is open and public and unmistakable in the community of faith. I have seen it in blogs where people rant about this sinner or that politician or the gay agenda and without an ounce of love or redemption in their words they climb a pedestal of self righteousness and yet no one notices? Sometimes it is so offensive and so blatant that it would take a strong deception not to see it even if you agree with the sentiment being expressed.

I believe this has destroyed the faith that once sought to follow/emulate Jesus. The faith has become man centered even among those who lambast a man centered gospel. It is not enough to have a “God centered” statement of doctrine. If it does not find its way painfully and remarkably and dramatically into our lives then it is just sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. And that is what we have today. A structured faith with a lot of money and noise, but who looks around and says, “Wow! Those people are so different than we are. I guess they are following Jesus.” We have been led astray and have grown accustomed and even fond of this deviant path.

What am I suggesting? I am documenting that the evangelical church is wandering in a cultural wilderness and has completely left any hint of searching for the Canaan land where Jesus dwells. In fact, in order to return to His teachings without compromise and cultural ingredients the entire ecclesiastical structure and practice would have to be scrapped and we would have to begin all over with only the Chief Cornerstone as our foundation. And then before placing anything upon that Cornerstone we would have to fast and pray carefully with a searchlight to guard against any hint of man’s glory or ingenuity as well as any diversion from the New Testament plumb line.

But make no mistake. That may sound exciting to some and ludicrous to others, but it would be a massive undertaking which would consume the lives of those who desired to please Christ. And many, if not most, would fall by the wayside because of some disagreement or some pressing family issues or the sirens calling to a return of the familiar or just through spiritual exhaustion. And it would take excruciating repentance that stripped us of us and allowed the Spirit to enter with the Sword of God’s Word and slay many dragons we have fed and housed and petted. It is a very painful thing to have your idols toppled over when you have spent so much quality time on them. And our flesh would scream and wail and reason, and the Spirit would inflict much damage to our pride and self worth. It would be a spiritual blood bath and I do mean a blood bath with His blood!

But even if there is no gathering of likeminded people who see what you see that does not excuse us from attending our own funerals and seeking and begging the Spirit to do in us what we can never do in and through ourselves. There is only one thing that keeps us from the glory of a personal repentance clothed in humility.

Ourselves.

Friday, November 07, 2014

To Become as Selfless as Christ

TO BECOME
AS SELFLESS AS CHRIST
Matt.16: 24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

These words have been completely lost to the westernized church. And if and when they are addressed it is with a cultural context which allows for a stream of selfishness which eviscerates the implications of its teaching. To deny self. How can we unravel that kind of spiritual disciple if we do not seek it with prayer and fasting and with a relentlessness that not only will not be denied, but with a complete openness to anything and everything the Spirit may reveal? The question is do we truly desire to follow Jesus? And if we allow our lips to claim such a desire are we willing to open our hearts and search the Scriptures and consume them into our hearts and submit our lives to their open admonitions? Or will we alter a miniscule part of our lives by avoiding drunkenness and adultery and with that recline in a self serving mirage and claim we are following Jesus?

If a man ordered an expensive bottle of wine at a restaurant and the Sommelier brought him a bottle of grape flavored Kool-aid and the man tasted it and declared it acceptable would you not call that man a fool? Well what do you call a church which drinks a watered down, culturally flavored faith and yet declares it to be the true wine of His Word? But the church receives it wine from the Sommelier of this world and not the Sommelier of the Spirit.

Everything associated with denying self makes the flesh recoil with indignation. There is nothing sensational about denying ourselves and it will not bring any accolades or even encouragement within this ecclesiastical culture of self indulgence. But to be like Jesus must begin with denying yourself. And if that is so then what does denying yourself mean within your heart and outwardly manifested? Why is that not almost an obsession with the visible church which so easily uses His name as a doctrinal tattoo? Well the answer is simple.

Many years ago the church decided that the New Testament picture of Jesus was way too constricting and unreasonable, and the kingdom of darkness would not receive such a picture without some cultural modifications. And so a new and improved version of Jesus was sculpted, and even though He remained somewhat the same in our little doctrinal portraits, the way we lived and practiced the faith changed dramatically while still clinging to our doctrinal scraps. It was an unconscionable sleight of hand.

This is no round table discussion or a minor difference of perspective. No, this cuts to the very core of who Jesus is and how His followers should emulate Him in spirit and in truth. And given the depraved nature of our culture any true imitation of Jesus would have to be startling and even stunning when revealed within that culture. But as it stands the Jesus now preached and practiced fits in very nicely in a fallen culture, and even can comfortably join hands with unbelievers in any number of earthly causes. It should shake us and cause us to run to His Word and His prayerful presence.

To deny self in the spiritual essence goes much deeper than avoiding certain sins. It goes to the thoughts and intents of the heart. And only the Word can accurately and powerfully assort all those kinds of things which so often come with built in compromises. Our self demands attention and acknowledgement and it will use all kinds of subtle and open techniques which are designed to cut in the front of the line without being observed. This is no easy battle. This requires spiritual labor and a heart which is willing to submit to the inspection of the Spirit. Things like sincerity and Biblical knowledge and doctrinal prowess are used as conscience salves and keep us from the sacred treasure of penetrating repentance. And the comparison with others always gives us a skewed perspective of ourselves and provides a false comfort which suggests we can reduce the speed of our spiritual gait from a gallop to a showboating cantor.

Of course the pristine looking glass into self denial is the cross. If we hold our lives to that standard what changes would have to be made? If the sinless Son of God endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself, then where is any wiggle room for us? You see, unless we are willing to pursue that kind of selflessness then we must lower the bar to where we can achieve a manageable facsimile that awards a gold medal for finishing in last place. Is the example of Christ achievable? No. Is it pursuable? Yes and amen!

The mind and heart of the flesh must be uncovered and then crucified by a systematic diligence which does sentry duty to see and bring down every thought which rears its ugly head against the knowledge of the Lord Jesus. Few have the stomach for such things. The labor is intense and the road gets weary. But the glory is rare and unmistakable. The devil will repeat his offer to Jesus and tell us we can have the kingdoms of this world. He will even openly lie to us that God desires us to have such things. Yet we must be prepared to refuse him and deny the alluring aspects of this world which will already have a prominent place in our flesh. Read Romans chapter 7 and see just how vicious is this inward battle.

Picture a battle is raging and there is dust and swords and screams and even bloodshed. But in the middle of this battle is a shadow of peace which cannot be touched. And in an astounding mystery there sits a soldier within that pocket who wields a Sword but who also simultaneously rests from the battle. It is a picture unknown in the temporal but available in the Spirit. But look more closely and see the sword he wields is not made of steel with a fancy handle. It is made of light which is the Word of God and this soldier does not wield it with his hands. He wields it with his heart.

And all around him the battle rages, fighting for personal rewards of gold and silver and the recognition of this world. But look! All those things find no interests in our soldier’s heart. He has found eternal gold and silver and precious jewels within the Savior and he has no need of that which perishes. He denies his flesh which pushes and tempts and tries many ways to seduce this soldier into leaving the shadow of God’s wings and enjoying the leeks and garlic of this present life. Oh once in a while this soldier has strayed from that shadow and tasted of this world only to realize it is a sweet tasting poison.

And when he repents and runs back to that shadow the Spirit welcomes him and cleanses him and he once again lifts his eyes above the fray and sees Christ who has already won the battle and the war. And this soldier refuses the labor of his own hands and embraces the finished labor of God’s Som. And there in the midst of atrocious violence and profound temptation and seducing spirits, this soldier finds peace that the world could never give him. He has denied himself and found Christ to be his all in all.

Oh that we all may die so we may truly live.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Betrayal

BETRAYAL
Matt.17: 22 And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men:


These words were spoken about the coming passion and crucifixion of our Lord. We understand that. But the spirit of that betrayal remains today. We have become callous in some ways to the monstrous betrayal all around us and especially by those who claim His name. If we were to be transported back to 1960 and made to sit in front of a television set and listen to so called Christian preachers we would literally be broken, horrified, and immobilized in disbelief! And yet today it has become so commonplace that we can label them as heretics and false teachers without the corresponding righteous emotion which should be felt deep inside of our hearts.


There is a leviathan of betrayal in our midst that is growing with each passing day. It should shock us much more than it does. The kind of betrayal which is being exhibited within western evangelical circles cannot be completely put into perspective except to say it is completely within the lineage of Judas and his betrayal. It is not enough to feel immensely offended at the betrayal of heretics. This betrayal has many tentacles and influences that may not completely imprison us as they do others, but they can and do seep into our thoughts.


In the end the entire concept of the faith which follows Jesus has been compromised. And the breach widens daily until it is a full blown betrayal whose connection to the true faith has been stretched so far it breaks. And now that which is defined as the “Christian faith” is completely different than what the Scriptures clearly and definitively teach. It has become a well oiled ecclesiastical machine which runs on organization and a business model. But it is a betrayal nonetheless.


And here is an ingenious part of the betrayal. Within this betrayal there is a discernment group which clearly identifies false teachers and heretics. Do you see what has happened? Those who are active citizens of the betrayal reveal the monstrous betrayal of others and in so doing are blind to their own compromise and betrayal. Just because we can printout and point to an “orthodox” doctrinal statement in no way insulates us from being under the spell of the betrayal. We may not be a part of Joel Osteen’s betrayal, but how many of us spend sacrificial time in a prayer closet? We may never embrace the compromises of the prosperity message but how many of us consume the Word as if it was our life? We may reject the Rick Warren’s of this world but how many of us deny ourselves of anything?


Let us be painfully honest here. The overwhelming majority of western evangelicalism is never coming back. The monster is so large and so hungry it will never let go. But these are the days of the individual believer. We are responsible for our own lives before God. The hirelings are busy with buildings and activities and conferences and with building their own little kingdoms. Preachers see collections of sheep and not individual sheep. And churches are so large that most shepherds do not spend any time in prayer and fasting for their own spiritual health as well as begging God for His anointing and power.


Just the way the western church practices its faith is an amazing betrayal and is in no way a reflection of Scripture. These are also confusing times. When a young believer or even a shallow believer tells you they are attending and enjoying the large church down the street we need wisdom. We cannot just pull the carpet out from underneath them, but inside we still grieve. It presents us with a conundrum.


But to be honest how many believers are even interested in knowing anything about investigating the elements of their own betrayal? We are much too busy in Martha’s kitchen as well as all the demands of a western culture. Our daily schedule has been laid out for us in terms of years. And when we do see some daylight we can always squeeze in some entertainment. Let’s say you and I were whisked away by the Spirit and allowed to spend two hours in heaven before the Risen Christ. Upon our return our lives were revolutionized and the things of this world literally meant nothing to us. We were consumed with serving the One on whom we had gazed. Now the difference between our commitment then as opposed to our commitment now is the exact quantity of our spiritual compromise, or in other words our unbelief.


And every ounce of unbelief is an ounce of betrayal.


Let us acknowledge the diabolical genius of constructing a faith practice which loudly proclaims to believe in Jesus and yet whose practice does not follow Him at all. That is some spiritual magic. But if you are weary and tied of the same old religious practices then perhaps you are ready to look deep into a mirror which can reveal your own betrayal and which can lead to fresh rivers that run with the waters of life. Perhaps you are ready for a far more dangerous and less popular path. Perhaps you are ready for a new beginning in which you leave the comfort of the known for the uncertainty of the unknown. Perhaps you are ready for two things that have been lost to the western church.


Repentance and Jesus.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Your Heart - His Cross

YOUR HEART – HIS CROSS

Lk.14: 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

There is nothing more deceptive than organized religion. With all its buildings and mortgages and activities and denominations and celebrities, it hides Christ and the self denying simplicity which must be found in Jesus. But the Roman Emperor Constantine claimed he saw a cross in the sky and heard a voice tell him that if he used that cross he would prevail in wars. He then began a crusade to accept Christians and protect them from persecution, and he even built great church building where they could meet.

That began a compromise which continues today. When the church embraced the acceptance of the government on its terms then the faith began to change substantially. And what used to be a close fellowship marked by humility, prayer, house meetings, and an agape love not seen until then became an outward religion marked by buildings, government alliances, participation in wars, and more and more organization.

But over the centuries the deception has become very sophisticated and slippery. The clandestine nature of this deception hides within ecclesiastical structures which mirror corporate America. It hides behind well educated pulpiteers. It hides behind slick fund raising programs. It hides behind once a year missions conferences. It hides behind new building euphoria. This deception hides deep inside the fabric of the western church construct. And because the deception uses Biblical terms and pastes the name of Jesus upon itself the church practices an ecclesiastical model rather than a self denying path for a disciple which is illuminated and laid out by Holy Scripture and the undeniable life and teachings of Jesus.

So if you do your due diligence and read about how Constantine altered the course and makeup of the church, and if you still cannot see where the axe head fell, then you will continue on a path that is well lit by the bright lights of a self centered culture. But I believe the historical markings are undeniable and obvious. And when you take the time necessary to juxtapose the teachings of Jesus upon this western ecclesiastical mongrel you cannot help but see a serious and grave distinction between the two. And if you do see something disturbing, well, then you are presented with a profound question: What will you do now?

That question is not an easy one to answer immediately, and most of us who have walked down this path knew something had to change, but we could only walk as far as the Holy Spirit could enlighten us. No one takes the entire bottle of prescription pills all at once, and when you see the deception your walk will be one step at a time. This new path which should elicit no self righteousness at all with be filled with doubt and misunderstanding and many times loneliness. And if you do not fill the void with a new and vibrant devotion to Christ then you will find yourself halted between two opinions and not fully dedicated to either.

Let me warn you to count the cost. It is much easier to remain in the system which offers you so much and about which you are familiar. The uncharted territory of coming out will be a major challenge. You will have to consume the Word and through repentance you must practice a prayer life more deep and more profound than you even knew existed. This is no game or turning over a new leaf. And this path must not br embarked upon fueled primarily by your disgust for your former church or even the compromise you see in most of the visible church. That might be a part of your new path, but it must be fueled by your own repentance and your own hunger and thirst to understand and experience more of Christ Himself. Some things with which you have become fond may have to go. This will not be a sprint…it will be a lifelong commitment. Do not let the effervescence of the “new” blind you to the mountains that lie ahead.

But there will also be an unspeakable glory which will enter your life. It will change the way you think, it will change the way you feel, and it will change the way you love. Resist the temptation to use this path to change others. It is designed to change you, and you will have ample opportunities to speak apples of gold in pictures of silver. The real challenge will be to seek diligently a humility which removes any hint of pride and reflects the incomprehensible humility of the cross. I am not anyone’s example. I am only a small voice telling others where they can find what they might be looking for. Millions upon millions of church members journey back and forth from a building and are deceived into believing that is following and knowing Jesus. It is not. But there is a path which can lead you to Him if you are willing to stop and spend time with the Spirit and listen for His voice. I do not speak of some spooky kind of faith. On the contrary, I am speaking of a holy and sacred encounter which gives you something absolutely new.

It is called your heart. It is called His cross.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Governments - Are They Ordained of God?

GOVERNMENTS
ARE THEY ORDAINED OF GOD?

Rom.13: Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
6 For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Let us at the outset present what is the semi-orthodox interpretation of these verses. The overarching theme is obey your government because God has put it in place. I realize that is an over implication, but it still is what is generally taught from these verses. But I would like to address certain inconsistencies as well as certain hypocrisies that arise from that interpretation.

If you believe God has ordained every particular government then you must believe God set up Hitler, Stalin, and Mao to name just a few. And if you actually believe that then you are at least consistent with your view of government even if that seems grossly inconsistent with what we know of the heart of God. There is no wiggle room if you suggest God directly ordains all particular governments throughout history. And for all you Republican-esque believers, that means that God has ordained the Obama administration including his infanticide policies.

Again, if that is what you believe than so be it. But if that is your view, then how can you moan about it? How can you say that God ordained the Obama administration and then complain and murmur about it? That either means you really do not believe it or you are a hypocrite. To me that view is preposterous. How can God ordain Hitler and then command us to obey him? And does God suggest that Hitler was a “minister of God to thee for good”? Come on, let us get real here. It is disingenuous with Scripture to take a few verses and make them lord over the preponderance of New Testament teaching.

Even in the Book of Acts believers disobeyed the dictates of the government and went to prison because of it. The Foxes Book of Martyrs is full of believers who were put to death because they refused to obey the government. And if they were not supposed to do so, then that book is about evil doers. The entire notion is unreasonable and at odds with what we know about following Jesus. You cannot follow Jesus and follow fallen, earthly governments as well. We are to be law abiding people who humbly go about living the gospel of light within the culture of darkness.

But read again those verses from Romans chapter 13 and in them you will find no admonition or even suggestion that we as believer participate in government. It seems reasonable to interpret them as God having ordained the concept of human government, but not that He ordains each and every single government. How can we stand for righteousness and believe God ordains unrighteousness? No, human government is ordained by God but of course as in all things man has manipulated it and changed it in order to achieve his fallen goals. God ordained marriage but do we believe God ordained each and every single particular marriage? And do we believe God approves of what has become of marriage?

Luke was a physician but do we believe God has ordained physicians to abort the unborn? Just because God has ordained offices and principles does not mean that man has not taken them and made them his unholy tools and at odds with the divine plan. God ordained and made man with hands but that does not mean He ordained us to use them to commit violence. You see, God ordained human government but man has taken that and made it an affront to God’s holiness and plan. But when possible we are to live quiet lives of humility and grace. And when the government commands us to do that which is against God, we must be willing to humbly refuse. And when the government restricts us from serving God, we must humbly disobey. All things in humility.

But nowhere does God say He desires His people to get involved with the earthly governments of man. It is a noble idea to place believers in government in order to influence it towards God’s desires, but however noble it is not according to the New Testament. When we get invloved with the fallen systems of this world they invariably change us. In fact God seems to specialize in shining His light the brightest through His people when they are persecuted for His sake. Many times the most oppressive regimes have produced the most vibrant expressions of Christlikeness in believers. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Some of Paul’s epistles were written in prison.

But fast forward to today and here in America. Much of the evangelical community believes it is their duty to participate in this fallen American system. They huff and puff about all kinds of things, money being a mainstay. And every two or four years the church gets all worked up and involved about the politics and their candidates. And when pressed they refer to Romans chapter 13. But that is an inconsistent interpretation, and the American political landscape allows both sides to suggest that there candidates need to be elected. How can believers suggest God elected the present government but only because He couldn’t find enough evangelical votes? The entire concept is illogical and more importantly unbiblical.

II Tim.2: 3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
5 And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.

The third verse not only exhorts us to sacrifice, but defines us as His soldier exclusively. No one can fight for two countries and wear two uniforms. And if we are His soldiers, we wear a different armor and we fight with the weapons of the Spirit and not of the flesh.

But look at verse four. There we find an exhortation to not get entangled with the affairs of this world. Well we know that we are supposed to work and support our families, so what are these “affairs” about which Paul speaks? These are the world’s systems which are trusted by man to effect change. These are not prayer closets, these are not fastings, these are not the gospel witnesses. These are politics and war. And Paul tells us that these do not please Him who has enlisted us in His spiritual army. The governments of man are not the battlefields of God’s army of light. We do battle with the gifts and callings of the Spirit. And our allegiance is to Christ and Christ alone.

Be not deceived, anything earthly that demands our allegiance is antichrist. And it is a great mystery as to how and where the western church has pledged its allegiance to an earthly government while attempting to suggest it still pledges its allegiance to Christ. No man can serve two masters. No man. Can you imagine an earthly soldier storming the beaches of Normandy. And when he reaches France he begins to frequent the French bars and clubs and theatres while the battle still rages. And in a startling display of duplicity, he enlists in the German Wehrmacht because he feels like he can effect change in that wicked army. He would be considered a traitor!

The problem with American believers is that they fail to see the utter duplicity in their enlistment in earthly affairs and specifically this earthly government and the cesspool of politics. And many, if not most, view this nation as beginning as godly and having strayed off course. And that is in fact patently false. Even Israel in 1948 was not a godly nation. So here are millions of professing believers who have been told not to get entangled with the affairs of this world and yet they attempt to wear the armor of light along with the uniform of Americanism. And in effect, they are spiritually AWOL. They have put on the enemy’s uniform and have abandoned Christ. Yes, it is that significant and that diabolical.

And all this stems from two distinct falsehoods. One is the misinterpretation of Romans chapter 13, and the other is the fanciful view of America and its origin. And impacted by those two deceptions, the church which should only live in America has become the American church. America has impacted the church and the church has had precious little impact on America. And the visible church still insists that through political leverage, voter registration, education, Supreme Court appointments, and a massive influx of evangelical participation the tide can be turned. It is a fool’s errand.

Let us return to Christ with our whole hearts, and being clothed with humility, let us live and share the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ.
That, brothers and sisters, is the only answer for each and every soul regardless of which nation they happen to inhabit.

Wisdom

WISDOM
I Cor.1: 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

We sometimes love the theology of righteousness, sanctification, and redemption because we can assign it all to Christ without any practical manifestation which makes us responsible. But Christ is also made wisdom unto us. Now what does that actually mean and just how does that translate into our earthly lives? Let me ask you this question as we attempt to sort things out: How can professing believers listen to hate filled and self righteous talk shows hosted by unbelievers and actually be influenced and support them? Think again about the word “wisdom”.

From Websters:

: knowledge that is gained by having many experiences in life

: the natural ability to understand things that most other people cannot understand

: knowledge of what is proper or reasonable : good sense or judgment

But that is the world’s definition of wisdom. The Scriptures address such wisdom.

I Cor.2: And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Please read these verses carefully and you will find by revelation of the Holy Spirit that the wisdom of this world is completely at odds with the wisdom of God.

Jam.3: 14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

How many believers listen to arrogant tirades which demonize people and set up others as idols? How can those who claim Christ feed their souls with such vitriol and viciousness and mocking? It is as James says, “earthly, sensual, devilish”. Wow! The Spirit calls it demonic. So in effect when we listen to such things, to say nothing of supporting and agreeing with them, we open ourselves up to demonic activity. But alas, we have relegated demonic activity to exorcisms or Haitian voodoo or Satanic rituals. But in reality Satan comes as an angel of light, not the light of God’s Word, but the light of common sense, earthly reason, and worldly allegiances.

This lack of spiritual wisdom has caused the visible church to spiral downward into a net of worldly thoughts and intents. We must be aware that so much earthly good is part of a demonic strategy. The devil is sublimely clever and uses earthly issues and alliances to lead many a professing believer away from Christ. And the church which sees itself as “American” has succumbed to his deceptions. Without the wisdom of God’s Word, illuminated by God’s Spirit, and processed without any cultural compromises and dilutions is the only wellspring of wisdom we have.

Christ is our wisdom. It is He and His teachings which must guide our thoughts and beliefs and actions even if it means we will become outcasts to the church and enemies of the culture. Consider this: How is it possible that those that follow Jesus can be welcomed partners with unbelievers and idolaters? How can we who follow Jesus walk along side those that deny Him and think we are in God’s will? That is a colossal feat of deception which stepped through the door of national allegiance. That door has allowed many strong and Biblically deviant ideas to find refuge inside the hearts of professing believers.

In the past “come out from among them and be separate” centered on smoking and drinking and the theatre. But it goes much deeper than any of that. We as believers must beseech God for wisdom in every area of our lives. In fact, it would do us all good to lay out our entire lives before the Lord and ask the Spirit to identify anything that displeases our Lord. How many believers have ever even considered such a thing?
 
The wisdom that comes from above is not where to invest your money or what foods to eat or the like. Even the unbeliever can have that kind of wisdom. But spiritual wisdom involves discernment and must be gained without worldly influences. many can identify false teachers and false teachings, but spiritual wisdom goes deeper than that. Spiritual wisdom sifts through everything that seems good and allows the Spirit of God to make startling revelations which could never be made in the natural. Some of these revelations may even seem outlandish and unreasonable, but arguing with the Spirit is futile and counter productive.
 
I exhort all of us to embrace a wisdom that can only come from the Spirit and assess everything through the mind of Christ which is the spirit of wisdom alone.