Wednesday, May 31, 2006

What Will We Tell Jesus?

Ez.33:6 - But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand.
Go ahead and argue about its origins. A widespread polio vaccine grown in monkeys in the 1950's was involved. We know it came from monkeys and was spread disproportionately by gay men in North America, but it originated and was spread in Africa by heterosexual sex. That conversation is now moot and self righteous on some level. Now listen to the situation today.
7000 Africans die every day of AIDS. Now compare that with the 1500 total people that died in New Orleans because of Katrina. Compare that with the 150,000 people that died in the tsunami. The number of people that die of AIDS in Africa in one month eclipses that number. The 200,000 monthly AIDS deaths in Africa leave some 100,000 orphans behind. Some are infected and some are not. Many Africans believe that having sex with a virgin will cure you and so there are hundreds of thousands of rapes of girls all the way down to 8 years old take place every year. Not only does that traumatize the girl, it usually infects her.
The physical death of an AIDS infected person is one of the most excruciating anyone can imagine. In Africa most AIDS infected persons are rejected by their families due to superstitions, as a matter of fact most Africans refer to them as "sick people" rather than admitting what they have. They die alone and in unbelievable pain.
Now aside from the indescribable horror of their physical deaths, the Spiritual implications are mind boggling. 7000 people die and go to a Christless eternity every day. Since their families abandon them, they are wide open to someone coming to help them. The government is so overwhelmed with the disease that they don't care if you preach Popeye to them as long as you give them water, sheets, and general help. It is the largest and most wide open mission field in history. Most are not Muslim and they have Bibles in their language. The only segment of the body of Christ that is equipped to reach them is the American evangelical church. We have the people, we have the money, we have the transportation, and basically God has made us the stewards of His resources to use for His kingdom. The wealth we have is for His use not ours.
If the American church stopped spending the billions on new buildings, individually lived well below their means, and made reaching these helpless people the major focus of their calling we might be able to "rescue the perishing". We are content with conferences, books, tapes, buildings, houses, clothes, restaurants, entertainment, Christian cruises, and many other cultural entrapments. Even while we speak out against the doctrinal falling away in its many forms we must open our eyes to the Spiritual holocaust. Nehemiah's workers carried both a hammer and a sword.
Now I wonder, what will we tell Jesus when He asks us "Why did you lay up for yourselves the treasure I specifically told you not to?". "How often did you weep for the perishing?" Why did you peruse the internet on a 50 to 1 to prayer ratio?" "Why did you let the unsaved rock stars show more compassion?" "Where were the all night prayer meetings to bring down my power?" "Why did you cry at seeing portrayals of my Son's death but it did not move you to sacrificial acts of ministry?" "Why did you read this article and still do nothing?"

What will we tell Him...

Monday, May 29, 2006

YOUR Cross

At 2:00AM this morning, for the third straight night, I was awakened by the Lord and was unable to return to sleep. Each night I have been personally ministered to by the Holy Spirit, much of which has been quite uncomfortable. At approximately 3:00AM I began to write and this is what I received:
Before you read this open your Bible to Gal.6:14.

Gal.6:14 - But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
As Paul penned these words he was making a declaration that stood out as foolishness in the midst of an intellectual, self-serving, and religious society. In a world that loved itself, he was saying that the world was dead to him, and to the world he was a dead man.

Listen more closely. Not only was death involved, but the death of the cross. We have grown accustomed to hearing this reference to crucifixion as it is lightly, tastefully, and selectively sprinkled in pulpit oratory. Not to be discussed among us, we have heard it used as a metaphor for "not letting the things of this life bother us". But Paul, under the God-breathed ministry of the Holy Spirit, used it in an infinitely more direct and confrontational way. Just as our Lord was crucified publicly, Paul publicly proclaims he "glories in the cross".

Gal.6:15 - For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision...
The Spirit now teaches us the passing inadequacy of circumcision as it now is overshadowed by the cross. The few drops of blood that spilled as a male foreskin was cut away now just reminds us of the present uselessness of adherence to the law given to Moses in the incredible light of the glory of the shed blood of the Lamb of God! But go further, if you dare. Remember, you will give an account for what you are about to hear(Mk.4:24-25). So do not read any further unless your heart is willing to open its door to the nails, the hammer, the blood, the agony, the shame, and the cross that has YOUR name on it.

O yes, we've been ever so comfortable to gaze, infrequently and sometimes just sentimentally, at our Savior and Lord on the life-giving cross, but are we anxious to arrive at the foot of a cross, complete with all the necessary and gruesome accoutrements, and realize that it has our name on it?

Gal.6:17 - From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
The original word for marks is "stigma". The message of such imagery is obvious. Paul is saying,"don't bother me, I'm dead". Dying to this world, other people, our family, our dreams, our flesh, and the entire cursed universe is no "die in your sleep" proposition. It requires a vicious and bloody death; the death of the cross! It is a writhing of the flesh; a deep groaning of pain; a begging for enough; a ruining of appearance; an indescribable shame; an elongated torture; a daily, moment by moment, excruciating event that Paul says he experienced daily. Like a prisoner arriving at the penitentiary who is commanded to empty his pockets, and then is subjected to the most complete and embarrassing search before entering his place of confinement, the candidate for crucifixion must be stripped of all, and God means ALL, his or her belongings. Far beyond the visible material of this world, the Holy Spirit conducts a complete and embarrassing search of the heart which reveals worldly contraband that are a part of the arsenal of the enemy of God. Greed, unforgiveness, lust, malice, envy, and a host of other offspring of the flesh are laid before us, surrounded by the most disgusting of all - pride.

You have now arrived at a place that most of the church don't even know, or care, exists. Your flesh regrets ever allowing the Spirit to lead you to this place of death. You glance over your shoulder and again see your Lord on the cross, and your heart is filled with love and gratefulness, but the Spirit interrupts your momentary serenity and returns your focus to the decision before you. THIS IS YOUR CROSS! Now you realize that like your Savior, no one can force you upon this cross. You must lay down on this cross willingly. But where is the power you need? More Word, more prayer. More Word, more prayer. More Word, more prayer. Then desire meets power, power meets humility, humility meets repentance, and your knees buckle under the weight of your "body of sin". You fall upon the cross and suddenly you are in a new perspective. For the first time you are looking out from a cross, not just being a cross spectator.

The Spirit takes the first nail, raises the hammer, and you cry out in anticipated pain. You are alone. No husband. No wife. no pastor. No friends. It is just you at death's wooden door and you begin to feel inward and outward pain as the life of this present world is being torn away from the place it has held in your heart. You are dying to this world. Look down at the foot of your cross and listen to the crowd. Listen to those who've never been to Christ's cross as they say,"What is he doing and why? He used to be such a fun and wonderful person, but look now". Listen to your brothers and sisters say,"Now he's gone too far and he's become a fanatic. Our Lord never wanted this, let us leave this offensive place of death and let's go to the empty tomb where we can celebrate without pain." As they leave the devil whispers in your ear,"Is it worth it? Go with your friends and avoid all this. Remember, Jesus died in your place so you could enjoy life like the rest of the world."

Your wife and children call to you,"Come down from there and meet our needs. We don't understand. Please come down, we love you." Somehow the Spirit gives you the grace to go on, and everything becomes dark. Where is your family? Where are your friends? Where are your pleasures? Suddenly you laboriously lift yourself up and draw your last breath. You are now resigned to your fate and void of any strength, you quietly bow your head and lose the living consciousness you have lived with since you were born. Death has finished the work you desired.

At almost the same moment consciousness enters you as you slowly open your eyes. Light gently greets your face and you hear a voice calling from within and without. "Arise, and follow ME!". You get to your feet, aided by a strength you've never known. You follow the light and the voice, and as you emerge from the tomb you experience a new life that is "unspeakable and full of glory". The Same Spirit that helped crucify you is now your teacher and guide. "Come this way", He says, and you joyously follow. Looking down you see footprints that seem to draw every one of your steps. The Spirit puts His hand on your shoulder to steady you, and He whispers,"You are now dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. You are walking in His resurrection power, so keep looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of your faith. You have this treasure in an earthen vessel, that the excellency of the power might be of Him and not you. Lay aside all your weight and your sin and run the race with patience."

"But what if I fall?", I ask.

"Remember", teaches the Spirit, "You have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. He will pick you up and clean you up, and of course I will always be with you. See", He said, "Jesus has left us a trail that you should follow in His steps. Don't trust your eyes, WALK BY FAITH!"

The further I walked, the stronger I got. I felt completely detached from this world. In the distance I saw my family, my friends, my possessions, and all the other things that can be seen. As I approached them I humbly but confidently said, "Henceforth, let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the stigma of the Lord Jesus!!"

PTL-Rick May God help us to lose our lives for Him!!!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Conversion Story

I grew up in the mainline Lutheran Church in which my mother was the choir director and my father attended at Easter and Christmas. I went through the three mandatory years of catechism and was confirmed as a member and took my first communion. I was absolutely as lost as Hitler no matter what the church said about me. After high school I entered a life of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I quickly spiraled downward until in 1974 I conspired with several of my friends to rob a bank. We had chosen a rural bank which had one elderly guard and we were committed to kill the guard as we were agreed that we didn't want to go to prison for the twenty mandatory years that New Jersey law required. Before the robbery took place I was involved in a street fight in which my finger was almost bitten off(pretty tough fight, huh?). Since my mother was deceased and my father would have no part of me, who could blame him, my aunt in North Jersey took me in. So in 1974 my mother's sister, who was an atheist, took me in to live.
At the outset I was still healing from the injuries I incurred from the fight and I took some welding classes provided by the government. It was during that time that my brother took me to Broadway to see the play "Godspell" which even with all the things that it could be criticized for God used it to start a searching in my heart. I mean I reasoned in my heart that if Jesus was who He said He was I wanted to know Him. For the next several months everything I saw spoke to me about Christ. A bumper sticker on the car in front of me; a statue in a cemetery; a radio station I accidentally turned to; and finally a Billy Graham crusade on television. Now this was before the advent of "clickers" and you had to get up to change the channel. As I ate my sandwich I decided to wait to change the channel until after I ate. As I listened I became mesmerized by the topic he was preaching on because I had never heard it before. He was proclaiming that Jesus was coming again. I had never been told that before, and it put a totally different light on my search. If He was returning to this earth again it meant two things to me, first it meant that Jesus was real and alive. Not just a historical figure that taught us to love our neighbor, no, He was all that He claimed He was, God in the flesh. Secondly, if He was returning, what implications did that have for me? Needless to say I was consumed with the Spiritual reality about the Lord Jesus that transcended religion.
I couldn't escape it and it was in my heart constantly. One night in March of 1975 I climbed up the face of Garret Mountain in North Jersey overlooking New York City and I said out loud "Jesus, if you are the Son of God and the only Savior, than I want to know you". The Scriptures declare that "whosoever comes unto me I will in no wise cast out". On that night the Holy Spirit revealed to me who Jesus was and by faith I became a follower. Now I was as theologically unsophisticated as one could imagine. I had never heard the term "born again" but when I first heard it I thought that was a great phrase because it described what happened to me, I didn't even know it was the Lord Himself that had said those words. My witnessing approach back then was to ask people "Do you know Jesus?" and when they said yes they knew Him I would respond "No, I mean really know Him. He is alive!". People would then look at me with the discomfort that something in me was unbalanced. My atheistic aunt would chide me that it was alright to let Jesus help you get off drugs but don't get fanatical about Him. But I couldn't help but be fanatical, after all, if it was true that everyone that dies will spend eternity in either heaven or hell what else really matters. And that will be the topic of my next article dealing with the changes I have witnessed in the last 31 years since I have become a Christian and what should be our response to these changes. These are serious times with serious issues that need to be addressed. But let us not lose sight of one of the serious issues that needs our attention is our own need of a major revival that will Spiritually impact our world.

Lk.14:33 - So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Seeking Jesus

Everything in the Scriptures is written for a reason. In Luke chapter 2(vs.41-51) there is an account of Mary and Joseph, as well as their 12 year old Jesus, leaving Nazareth and going to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. Only the men were required to go, but Mary made the pilgrimage as well(reminiscent of Hannah). The Feast itself lasted seven days, and the trip took approximately 2 long days from Nazareth to Jerusalem. As the entire large company left to return to Nazareth, Mary and Joseph accidentally left Jesus back in Jerusalem. After a day's journey they realized their mistake and returned to Jerusalem to find Jesus. They found Him in the Temple asking and answering questions with the most learned theologians. They then returned to Nazareth together.
Lk.2:45 - And when they found Him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking Him.
Let's put the whole event in perspective against the general backdrop of today's experience both collectively and personally. Think about it. Joseph and Mary took TWO WEEKS every year and went to Jerusalem. Not as a vacation, not on a cruise to see the Holy Land, and not continuing to earn a salary while they were there. They lost two weeks of wages, and the journey was approximately 60 MILES of walking over hard terrain with no accommodations(bathrooms, showers, restaurants, walk in clinics, hotels). And the entire trip was spiritual, not sentimental. It was an incredible sacrifice unto Jehovah.
Which of us would do such a thing today? Which of us would take two weeks out of our year, sign over our paycheck to missions, and go to a secluded camping place to do nothing but seek God? No recreation or traveling, just seeking Jesus. We would all think we were being punished by God.
OK, now they have observed the Passover, and they are leaving Jerusalem without Jesus. Hmm...religious people leaving the church and leaving Jesus behind. Does it bring up any present day parallels? Let us not assume that all the people that made that trip to Jerusalem were completely motivated by a desire to seek and please God. No, many had long since settled into a stagnant and perfunctory observance that Paul describes as "Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.". Look at today. So many "professing"(whatever that means) Christians continue to "go" to church, even give, maybe even serve in some capacity, yet their secret Spiritual life has long since died out and they are sadly just "going through the motions". Many, if not most, evangelical church goers have spent as much quite time in prayer and Scripture devotion this week as has Hugh Hefner(whoever he is). How do we know that? Because we all have experienced that on some level and we know that it is a war to remain intimate with our Lord! And we do not sense the spirit of urgency among believers today about their devotional life!?
LK.2:46 - And it came to pass, that after three days they found Him in the Temple...
Now Mary and Joseph return to Jerusalem and they search for THREE DAYS. How many of us can claim we have searched for Jesus for three days? One Day? A half an hour? This three days just adds to their inconvenience, but they are motivated by their love for Jesus. Motivated by their love for Jesus? Whatever does that mean in today's Spiritual world? Excluding the "inconvenience" of getting up early on Sunday, where is the sacrifice? Food, clothing, money, sleep, entertainment? No, we believe today that God wants us to have all those things and that we are to give out of our abundance - never sacrifice. What do you think Mary and Joseph AND Jesus were doing on their way to Jerusalem? Praying, reading the Scriptures, and preparing their hearts for worship. What do we do before church? Most people barely make it to the building on time, much less pray, read the Scriptures, and prepare their heart for worship. So if we are not sacrificially preparing our hearts and seeking God early on Sunday mornings before corporate worship, can we assume that Sunday is an anomaly and Thursdays are better? Tuesdays? Saturdays?
The great preacher, Savanarola, refused to preach unless he was filled with the Holy Spirit. This would sometimes make the congregation wait and pray(good for them) before he would come out and preach. One time in particular he sent a deacon out to inform the people that he would not come out of his prayer closet until God filled him with the Spirit. The deacon dismissed everyone with prayer and asked everyone to pray. He told them that as soon as Savanarola came out he would call the church together. THREE DAYS later, the word was sent throughout the community, the preacher was coming out to preach. The church overflowed with believers and non-believers alike waiting to hear this "eccentric" preacher. As Savanarola preached the Word of God, the anointing of the Holy Spirit was so strong that believers repented, scores were saved, and revival broke out throughout the community for almost a year! (As a side note, Savanarola was martyred - by his own church!)
LK.2:48 - And when they saw Him they were amazed...
Mary and Joseph were amazed at the 12 year old Jesus. How amazed are they now, in 2005, while they bow before the risen Christ in worship and adoration? That's right, Mary and Joseph are right now worshipping their Lord and Savior! Do you ever wonder why we are moderately moved by worship music in church, and when it's over we all return to our homes(Nazareth?), change our clothes, and return to our former lives unchanged? I wonder what would happen if we all refused to leave the church building until we were filled with God's Spirit, and were AMAZED at Jesus? You know what? It might take THREE DAYS! But, sadly... we don't have that much time.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

God is a Spirit

Jn.4:24 - God is a Spirit...
I have often wondered about just what a spirit is. I know, you all have it completely figured out, but I still wonder. Since God is everywhere we can deduce that a spirit is not material. No cells, molecules, or elements. We sometimes imagine transparent or invisible smoke. There is another realm, coincidentally call the realm of the Spirit. Now we are cells, atoms, molecules, and flesh and yet we are exhorted to "walk in the Spirit". We have diluted that and a hundred other Scriptures to mean that when we don't lie, or swear, or willfully sin we are walking in the Spirit. But an unsaved man can accomplish those things but he cannot walk in the Spirit. Then we say that if we do certain things like witness, read the Word, or go to church we are walking in the Spirit. But again, an unsaved man can do those things also, be he cannot walk in the Spirit. So what does "walking in the Spirit" mean then?
Our brains are made of atoms and molecules that make up cells that make up the gray matter that we call our brains. That is the fleshly organ. But how does the mind operate with that organ? The brain is such a magnificent creation of God that the brain itself is limited in its understanding of itself. Basically the mind is a labyrinth of billions of electrical impulses which create, store, and retrieve information. The mind can call for information from a thousand different storage places and accurately blend all of the different pieces of information to produce a single accurate thought - in a millisecond! Now where then does the personality come from? Where does morality abide? And where does the spirit reside and how does the mind and spirit interact with God's Holy Spirit? Take a deep breath and don't worry, I'm not getting mystical on you but there is a mystery and Spiritual quality to our minds that should be investigated in order to open ourselves to the full revelation of what God desires to communicate to us.
Now before we go any further, any revelation that comes from the Spirit is basically a deeper understanding, application, and unfolding of His written revelation, the Word of God. Think about it, though, as your electrons race around the bloodstream in your brain where and how does the Holy Spirit invade that domain with His divine teachings, promptings, and leadings? What an incredible and glorious process! The Holy Spirit does not exist in fleshly form, He is a Spirit. And yet He has the power and ability to input information into our physical minds. Now the depth to which the Spirit can input God's information into the physical mind of a believer depends on two basic variables. The first is how much of the Word of God has been inputted into the storage cells and how active they are in the everyday activity of the mind. The Scriptures are replete in admonishing us to "hide God's Word in our hearts". Do not expect the Holy Spirit to connect fully with a carnal mind that has placed any Word it has received into a religious compartment and only called for in a church setting. That is nothing more than a teenager who receives some history lessons in school, never thinks or studies that information outside of class, and then asks his mind to find those storage cells when he arrives at that class for a test. After the test his mind automatically places those cells back in the "of no practical use" compartment. That, my friends, is how most Christians treat God's Word.
Now we tell that teenager that don't ask God to help you on that test with information that you haven't studied, He won't help you. We are such hypocrites. We sit in a service, take out a Bible, and we ask God to help us when we haven't even read it, much less studied it. Do we believe the Holy Spirit will invade our storage cells and facilitate Spiritual lethargy and thereby reducing the worship gathering into a religious curiosity that ends with the final amen? And what is worse the preacher hasn't fasted and prayed and opened his mind to the searching illumination of the Spirit of God(just hypothetical) but offers a neatly packaged oratorical lesson complete with jokes, stories, and many times visual aids. Think about it, what does the Spirit of God have to work with in that atmosphere in order to enlighten people to God's Word? Where is the repentance producing, piercing, and penetrating work of the Spirit that should be active in a "church service"? The mind is well equipped to collect religious information and process it and even enjoy it without the help of the Holy Spirit. Do you and I desire more?
OK, the second variable that deepens the Spirits opportunity and access to our minds is how much time do we spend in prayer. It seems that the more time we spend opening and training our hearts and minds to communicate with the Father, who is a Spirit, the more our physical minds become receptor friendly to the Holy Spirit. And ladies and gentlemen, there is the battleground. Our fleshly minds and physical cells don't easily receive from God, it requires sacrificial time before Him. Sacrificial time, what is that? Let us be honest, the church by and large has lost the desire and even the vision to get on our faces before God and fast and pray - for hours. Even that description seems a little fanatical, but there were times in the Scriptures and in church history when it wasn't. The Industrial Revolution and the consumer based hedonism has all but wiped out any substantial hunger for prayer, and therein lies the obstacle to the Spirit's open door to our minds. The church no longer gathers for prayer(unless the government calls a day), and if there is a "prayer gathering" it is usually short and petition based. "A form of godliness but denying the power thereof".
With the anemic and shameful state of the average Christian's prayer life we can forget about being supernaturally invaded by the Spirit of God in our hearts and minds. The gifts of the Spirit? We'll have to invent our own and call them His. Spiritual power? We'll have to fill that vacuum with illustrations, creative and relevant speaking, expensive audio visual equipment, matching shirts, activities, cruises, golf tournaments, Monday night football fellowships, step programs, and thousands of other very clever and well done advertising techniques meant to gather large numbers of people to finance huge salaries, expanded staff positions, and wonderful debt ridden buildings which provide the forum for the above mentioned. A carousel of religious progress! If only the apostles had those things at their disposal they could have reached the world! Those were different times, you say. You are correct sir, those were very different times!
"God is a Spirit, and those that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth". I am just a mouthpiece, and sometimes more mouth than piece, but I desire more. More than a habitual pilgrimage to an uplifting performance using the latest technologies. No, I've seen that, it doesn't last. I desire to see the "glory of God in the face of Jesus". I desire to see how God would respond to a group of people turning off their lives for a while and seek Him with all their hearts. I desire to become aware that God's Holy Spirit is moving in my mind, knocking on doors, and leading me further into an intimate fellowship with God's Son my Savior in direct proportion to my surrendered diligence. Along with my fundamental and literal interpretation on God's Word, I desire to know and experience Him in the Spirit. I do not fully know what that means and I do not fully know what that requires.

I do know requires more than I'm offering now.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Unsearchable Love

Rom.5:8 - But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Such a nice, tidy little verse that we've all used as a witnessing tool and yet the true depth of its meaning cannot truly be grasped until we "know as we are known". In order to fully realize that expression of love we must fully understand and know the Lover. The Lover is holy, never having being tainted by sin. Sin is so repulsive to this Lover that He can never even look upon it, and eventually He will cast all of it into hell itself. We as humans can understand sin-tainted love, sin-tainted mercy, sin-tainted peace, sin-tainted power, but there is no such thing as sin-tainted holiness. God is perfectly holy, and in human wisdom He should never desire, much less love, any sin cursed human being.
So a completely holy God "demonstrates" His love to a perfectly unholy man. Notice that word "commendeth" which can be translated proved, offers, shows, demonstrates, unveils, and unfolds. Our God didn't just let the truth of His love stand alone with no substantiation. This is no lip service, no, God takes His love and puts it on display throughout eternity so that no one can deny the evidence. Jesus Himself keeps His nail scars to forever prove His love for us. We would be embarrassed to admit we loved Hitler much less parade around a visible proof for that kind of love and yet Jesus is not ashamed to wear the wounds of love for sinners like us for all of heaven to see. Even the angels will never understand.
The stage of history is littered with events from the totally insignificant to the supremely important; from the revolving electron to the revolving galaxy; from the birth of a slave to the birth of a king; from the glow of a lightning bug to a supernova; all creation shouts "The Creator is!". But center stage of all history is an event that shouts "The Creator loves!!!!". The cross. Unimportant in the affairs of man but the only seam that leads to life everlasting took place on a little hill in Judea. To the natural mind that cross blends in with the millions of other men and women that have met the same fate but to the eyes of the Spirit it is the triumph of eternity. Let's admit it, we have faith in measure about the coming events in eternal glory, but when it actually unfolds before us and we are granted a new body and we are like Him and we see Him face to face, not for a season but for eternity, we will experience something we can't even imagine. All because of that cross.
And today the cross is on the very "back burner" of the church's theology. Can you imagine that? Money, success, health, power, jokes, stories, and OUR happiness in this life has crowded out our Savior's cross!? It has become stale and unsophisticated in this "intellectual" culture and in this fleshly ecclesiastical genre. Preachers are invited on Larry King to discuss politics, morality, but never a show on the cross. Why? It is an offence to this world and it has become an offence to the church. Shame on us!! And if you peruse the internet you will find article after article about all the so called preachers that are taking the church further and further into Spiritual cotton candy but we ourselves need to preach, meditate, describe, lift up, and exalt the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ for it is foolishness to the world but the power of God to us who believe.
It is beyond me that Jesus would love me much less die for me on a cross. It is way beyond reason and logic and I will never understand why He demonstrated such love for a disgusting sinner such as I. And while He died on that cross He knew I would let Him down thousands of times even after I found eternal life in Him, and He still died. What kind of love has no reason? What kind of love shows no vacillation for eternity? What kind of love gave everything? I know it is out of vogue today to say that I am a disgusting sinner saved by God's grace. I know preachers tell us we are little gods and we have as much authority as God Himself, but they are deceived. Without being seen through the prism of God's divine Son and His saving love, I would be a shipwrecked enemy of God walking toward judgment. The more I meditate on Christ's love for me, the more I am ashamed of my love for Him.

Widen the corridors of my heart, Lord Jesus, and fill it all with love for You.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

You've Got to Want it!

It doesn't come to you on a silver platter, you have got to want it above everything else. That means you have got to pursue it above everything else while you are doing everything else. The first step to desiring it supremely is recognizing you don't. Everything else will fight you with every distraction, attraction, endurance, conflict, time, and with all that is in the world.
You can memorize the entire Bible and not reach it.
You can know all the Greek and Hebrew and not have it.
You can write your own exhaustive systematic theology and be far from it.
You can preach on every verse in the Bible and not arrive at it.
You can witness and not progress toward it.
You can be doctrinally pure and be far from it.
You can teach a Sunday School class and not have it.
You can post blogs and not arrive at it.
Nothing is born of God without travail, and this will take a lifetime. It will cost you inordinate amounts of time. It will require deep focus. It will require some early mornings and some late nights. It will require limiting social interaction and discipline of the tongue. Total forgiveness is a huge prerequisite and the foundation must be built with humility. You will suffer misunderstanding and you will sometimes be considered aloof. It necessitates pursuit when you are Spiritually exhausted. It is tangible and yet ethereal. It will satisfy and yet produce desire for more. There will be times you will not be able or capable to effectively communicate your experiences with anyone. Some experiences won't translate into words. Sometimes God won't let you share it. A personal desire for holiness will be part of the process. The search for truth is a door. Inconvenience must be accepted and flexibility practiced. You must surrender any comparison to anyone else and you must reject legalism and performance. You will be required to capture and direct your mind through conscious and sometimes frustrating discipline. behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His temple...He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High...Seek the Lord...they that wait upon the Lord...that diligently seek Him...Looking unto Jesus...


To know Jesus, that is the disciple's journey. Not just know about Him but with an insatiable thirst pursue Him as if you will die if you don't go deeper and deeper in intimate fellowship with Him. As Lord and as Friend. As Master and as Helper. As fearful and as comforting. We will have to take quantum leaps in quantity and quality in our prayer lives. We will have to both devour the Word and chew it over and over, and we will have to be able to during those times not read it looking for truths to buttress any doctrinal argument but as our living Spiritual food. Oh it will take more than the pro-life position. Much more than a ban on same sex marriage. Light years more than electing conservative politicians. It will take a slow and self-crucifying journey that will be accompanied by hills and valleys, victories and setbacks, and a frequent desire to feel content with where you are and stop pressing toward Him. Don't look for a group to go through it with you, real pursuers are rare, and comfortable nay sayers are legion. The devil will remind you that you will see Jesus when you get to heaven so why go through all this trouble now. Discouragement will sit on one shoulder and self righteousness on the other.

So, as someone once said, count the cost. But if you agree to start a painful but unspeakably rewarding journey that seeks the heart and face of the Lord Jesus Himself, you will find Him. Not fully, for He is infinite, and not just as an efficacious object for salvation, no, you will find life. The abundant life cannot be found on this earth. It is only found in Him, and the deeper you go the more abundant the life. You want contentment and peace? You want joy and satisfaction? You want patience and hope? You want faith and love? You want an array of Spiritual emotions that transcend earthly definition and bring your inner man into a depth in Him that cannot be plumbed? Seek Him with all your heart, mind, and soul. But if you want material, fame, corporate advancement, treasures, and worldly'll have to look elsewhere. But be encouraged, that road is glamorous and wide, and it is easily and well traveled even within the church.

But if you still desire're going to need a cross.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

What Changes You Now?

II Cor.5:17 - Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are becoming new.
So you became a follower of Jesus years ago. Some of us quit smoking, some drugs, some immorality, some cursing, and we started to experience a hunger for the things of God. We read the Word, we prayed, and we worshipped the Lord among other believers. It was a dramatic change which resulted in a change in our eternal destiny and accompanied with many behavioral changes. But after those first few years what changes us now? When was the last time God impacted our lives to such an extent that we were significantly changed again? Have we settled into a nice, habitual, and lazy Spiritual walk that is so predictable that we have to refer to experiences years ago in order to share any significant metamorphosis that the Lord did in our lives? I mean what changes us now? It is not enough to critique the latest paradigm shift by the modernist church in all of its subtle forms, no, we must never be satisfied with being used of God to warn people about false teachers. We ourselves must press to know Him!!
If the abandoning of certain sins in the early stages of our Spiritual journey is pretty much it, then we've stopped moving from glory to glory and we've stagnated in our pursuit of knowing Him. Can you remember after you came to know Jesus waking up some mornings with a warmth in your inner being as you reacquainted yourself with the knowledge of Him? Does that ever happen today? Can you recall when you first met other believers and you shared about the Lord and felt that new kinship? Can you remember when you first started to understand God's Word and you were exited about even the simplest truths? Do you recall your first stumbling words as you prayed to the Lord and felt as if you were actually talking to Him and He was intently listening? I can remember first hearing someone preaching on the rapture for the first time(I was so new I didn't even know what the rapture was) and as I left the service I felt as if I was about to be raptured right then. Do I feel that now? Do you remember being almost overwhelmed with the thought that God had completely forgiven all your sins? Do you ever get overwhelmed anymore?
Think about how we enter and ride in an elevator. The door opens and there is a person already inside heading up. You step inside, turn around, and look up at the changing floor designation. Usually no words are spoken between you and the man already inside with you even though you are only feet apart and heading for the same floor. He's not interested in you and you don't desire to know him. You are strangers to each other.
But one day the door to salvation opened and by faith you stepped into Christ. There was Jesus with you and headed to the same place you are going. Why would we treat Him like a stranger? Why don't we fellowship with Him constantly? Why aren't we absolutely drawn to know Him more intimately? I know, sometimes Christians get passionate over moral issues and politics, but what about being absolutely passionate about pursuing Jesus? When was the last time you were accused of being "over zealous"? When was the last time people asked you about the recent change in your life? Is it unreasonable to expect there to be from time to time some quantum leaps and focus sharpening in our pursuit of "knowing Him"?
I am sometimes humbly used of the Lord to expose and challenge this ever shifting evangelical climate. The "ancient landmarks" have not only been moved, they've been destroyed. But brothers and sisters, I will not let these "itching ear" preachers rob me of the greatest journey of all - to know Jesus my Lord. He is so much more than I could ever know this side of heaven, but the pursuit is the most fulfilling desire of my life. My preaching is my calling; my teaching is my ministry; my correcting is my mandate; but knowing Jesus is my life.
We are called to be like Him which can only come from worshipping before Him in Spirit and truth. I need to continue to change in substantial ways that result in noticeable outward differences that reflect Christ Himself. Paul's admonition for us to "cleanse ourselves from all sins of the flesh and the Spirit" lets all of us know that our pursuit must always be of Him.

Looking unto Jesus...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Who is Like You?

Ps.113:5 - Who is like unto the Lord our God...
Jn.7:46 - Never man spoke like this man...

There is no reference point when we meditate on the greatness of our God and Savior. With whom or what can we compare Him? We "see through a glass darkly" about even the things God has prepared for us, much less fully and completely realize the majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end and everything in between. Why did Creator of everything care about redeeming me? I didn't care about Him. And why did He come to me as one of us and allow Himself to be treated like He was - and crucified. I can't even watch deer hunting so crucifixion is way beyond me. I couldn't watch a man, the worst of men, be crucified. And yet, I am inexplicably drawn to watch the cross of Jesus of Nazareth.
When I see portrayals of the crucifixion I somehow am able to endure the visual horror because I am mesmerized by the combination of Who He is and what He is doing. No one who is not a follower of this grotesque figure can appreciate or enter in to what we experience when we gaze at the Tree of Life. I don't deserve even the smallest kindness from the hand of The Almighty much less the death of His Matchless Son.
Who, Lord, is like You? No one, never. You, Lord Jesus, have no one who even deserves consideration much less someone Your equal. Power, holiness, love, grace, judgment, and eternity are all embedded in You. Lord Jesus, I can hardly believe that You wanted to spend forever with me, much less pay for my way. I am ashamed that I find so much happiness in anything but You, and knowing I will be with You forever and yet I worry about the refuse of this world. I feel the whole world beginning to violently shake and I lift my eyes toward you. Everything has changed; the ancient landmarks have been moved; Your Word has been diminished; man and money have taken Your place; but You and only You are exalted.
My life would be meaningless without Jesus. My most surrendered act has to still be covered by His blood to make it acceptable. If Jesus had just forgiven me and not sent me to hell it would have been undeserved. If He had forgiven me and prepared a place in eternity for me to live just with other saints it would have been undeserved. But for Him to have forgiven me and prepared a place for me to spend eternity with Him is so far beyond our human ability to fully comprehend we've had to compartmentalize it as a theological truth because if we ever really believed it we would travel the world like drunks telling everyone we met about this eternal and undeserved blessing that has been given to us by God's grace. As a matter of fact, there were some people who at one time did that but, of course, most of them paid with their lives so we could live high off the hog.
I can recall the story of that great Jewish preacher Hyman Appleman. After he was saved as a teenager he was called into the ministry. Now when his father had heard that he had become a follower of Jesus he gave Hyman one week to renounce his faith or be disowned as a son. You don't hear that very often today. As Hyman boarded the train that was to take him away to a Bible school his mother, who he adored, held on so tightly to his hand that Hyman had to pry his mother's fingers off his hand as the train began to pull out. I do not believe Hyman ever spoke to his father again. That "count the cost" type of commitment was much more prevalent years ago. Sadly, today a person is not asked to sacrifice anything to become a follower of Christ, as a matter of fact he is promised that he will gain material, relationships, and in every worldly way.
I often feel, and rightly so, that I don't sacrifice anything for Christ. A merchant man went looking for goodly pearls, and when he found one pearl of great price, he sold all that he had and bought it. Jesus is that Pearl of great price. He has given to us eternal life! Forget about this life, we have eternal life. Like a man who found a winning lottery ticket for 1 billion dollars, and on his way to the capitol to collect he complains about the conditions he has to endure during the trip. We have eternal life with Him who is our life but we interpret "abundant life" to mean grab all the gusto on our journey here. One glimpse, and I mean one initial glimpse, of the face of the Risen Christ and I will feel completely astounded that I desired any of this world.
Jesus, who is like one and nothing can ever compare with your matchless beauty in my life. I have let you down a thousand times and yet you are still faithful. I look forward to seeing you one day and worshipping you in the presence of all the angels. Until that day receive my blood washed praise as an incense of worship before your throne, and make my life a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable before you. You have been my beginning, and you will be my end.
There is no one like you...Selah

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Da Vinci

In the sixties it was wildly believed that if you played certain records(remember those?) backward there was masked messages. Now we get some guy who wants to make money and creates a fictional conspiracy surrounding Leonardo Da Vinci's painting The Last Supper and the church gives credibility to this ridiculous fairy tale by dissecting it as if it needed to be disproved. And by doing so we not only give more publicity to this story, it again puts evangelicals on the same side as the Roman Catholic Church which completely muddies the entire message of the gospel. We love a good conspiracy and we love to be right. I'm sure, by God's grace, some people may come to the true knowledge of Christ during this controversy, but doesn't it say something about the true church when after two thousand years we must warn believers not to believe that Jesus was married and that He was just a man?
Our mandate from the true Christ Himself is two fold, know Him and make Him known. If we continue to jump through fictional hoops provided by the spirit of anti-christ we will lose the power of the message itself. The average Christian is so Biblically shallow that we ourselves need to experience a major revival among our ranks before tastefully presenting shared arguments to counter the devil's latest lies. Even the most seeker sensitive churches have their "Breaking the Da Vinci Code" sermon series. People enjoy it and they leave with a "us verses them" feeling of victory. Do we pray more? Do we send out more missionaries? Do we spend hours more in the Word? Have we significantly impacted our city for Christ? Are there less affairs? In six months, after the Da Vinci Code movie has made its hundreds of millions(they must tithe to get that kind of return), the church will move on to respond to the next offering from the world. Let's see, we went through Jesus Christ Superstar, to The Last Temptation of Christ, to Harry Potter, and now The Da Vinci Code. What's next? Maybe some kook will write a book that Jesus was actually an alien and he'll prove it by Christ's own words that "I am not of this world". It will be centered around a cryptic message from one of Picasso's paintings which you have to have special glasses to see. And our rebuttal sermon series will be entitled "Alien Jesus? It's alien to me!".
Remember, judgment must begin at the house of God. It is time to seek the Lord with all our hearts, He is coming soon!!!

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Purpose of Evil

Matt.6:13 -...but deliver us from evil
Evil can loosely be describe as the opposite of holiness. As holiness is the very essence of Almighty God, so evil is the essence of Lucifer, the chief fallen angel also called Satan. It is by no means to be considered equal with holiness and thereby give the impression that God and Satan are equals at different ends. No, God created Lucifer and Isaiah tells us God created evil. God created everything. We are sure that God created the potential for evil and hence the truth that God created evil. On the "last day" it will become eternally evident that God's power was and always will be the greatest power in the created universe and that all other "powers" were counterfeit and mirages.
But evil has a purpose in this world and especially in the souls of men. The bottom line purpose of evil is to damn the souls of men and women so that they will spend eternity separated from God in hell. Clean it up any way you want, put it on the back burner, make it sophisticated, strip it of the justified fear that should accompany its truth, make it fit in 2006 as a church doctrine that never sends anyone running toward God to see if they are "in the faith", but in the end the truth of damned souls being cast into a lake of fire is the overarching purpose that evil is sent to accomplish. That is Satan's "purpose driven" life. It is a complex and powerful force that entwines itself in the hearts and minds of men with lies, doubts, suggestions, confusion, half truths, pride, and a "connect the dots" logic that began with "Hath God said?"(Gen.3:1) and will finish in the lake of fire.
I know, it sounds like a narrative that is loosely based on symbolic passages of the Scriptures but it is in supernatural reality a prophetic story in which everyone has been given a "lead" part. We sometimes get wrapped up in petty battles as if they were the war, but the universe is at war - real war! In an unseen world there are millions upon millions of angels and demons warring over power and influence in countries, cities, all the way down to an AIDS infected 8 year old little African girl - the war rages! Now Satan will even orchestrate a battle to appear as though we are fighting him when sometimes we are spinning our wheels(to his delight). He even gets us to overemphasize areas of Biblical truth in order to create chaos, division, and ineffectiveness within the body of Christ. The vast majority of Christian television, which of course God desired to use to spread His Word, is now mostly relegated to appeal to the earthly life of American Christians. They even have cooking shows and the supposed "prophets" of God hawk nutritional supplements on time purchased by people who gave to further God's Word but now instead of the Gospel they can buy "God's pill". These preachers have their reasons($). Ditto the church. But every intricate strategy is wickedly woven, like an eternal spiral of damnable DNA, to produce living creations of God that will be separated from Him and be forever sentenced and punished - simultaneously.
"The Philistines are upon you" was shouted to Samson, and as he got up to fight them Samson did not even realize that "the Lord had departed from him". Brothers and sisters, evil is upon us, the church, as in no other time in history. Like Samson, the church has found a wife of the Philistines(The World) and we have loved her and as in the 16th chapter of Judges we have "told her our whole heart"(Jud.16:18). Evil is a Spiritual narcotic whose spellbinding power becomes stronger and more disguised over time until like Samson it chains us into bondage while actually deluding us into believing our strength from God remains, and in some cases we believe our strength comes from God through Delilah. But eventually this friendship with the Philistines will lead to total Spiritual blindness(Jud.16:21), chains(Jud.16:21), ridicule(Jud.16:26), and finally powerless, or worse, camaraderie. This isn't some kind of game that seeks to "gatcha" in the competitive sport of Christian separation, this is all there is and eternity will one day unfold like a time lapsed photograph of a blooming rose and all of us will have pangs of remorse that we didn't do more because we didn't believe more.
Whenever and however evil entered into God's perfect universe is a mystery, but its poison continues to spread. We love to illuminate the sins of the flesh and even the sins of the spirit, but don't be fooled into thinking that those manifestations are the visible evil. No, this massive evil force looms invisible and has found its home in the being called Satan, or Lucifer, or the Devil, or many other names that refer to this hideous and butcherous Spiritual entity. Evil can be ugly and evil can be beautiful. Evil can be a child molester or evil can be an elementary teacher. Evil can manifest as Satan worship or evil can manifest as Christian pageantry. Evil can ridicule the Bible or it can preach. Evil can kill the poor and evil can feed the poor. Evil can cause war or evil can produce peace. Evil can plague or evil can heal. All these infinitely shaded areas that evil can masquerade in are a continuing fabric throughout man's history, and its patient objective is to attempt, relentlessly, to discredit God by dragging the souls of mankind into the Bottomless Pit. But even hell will glorify God and His justice.
So the next time you see on TV, or read in the paper, or hear a sermon that correctly identifies sin, remember, there lies behind those sins an incalculably vicious power of evil that is right at that moment overseeing a world-wide war against the Lamb of God, and you and I are targets! Watch evil, like a worldwide mudslide, coming ever so close to the day of judgment already written into the prophetic calendar of Almighty God. To speak of such things in today's Spiritual climate makes people think you are a madman, but on that final day, before the Great White Throne of God, no one will be considered a madman. No, on that day, we will all stand in stupefied amazement, wondering how we could have been so emotionless and timid about the event that we are now witnessing, yet verbally professing we believed it. On that day the disheveled man holding up a "turn or burn" sign on a street corner will look in hindsight much closer to the truth than the seeker sensitive message ever was. On that horrible day all the imagery and fantasy will be removed and the stark, chilling event will be completed before our presence. You and I, by God's grace, will watch as millions of others are cast into the lake of fire. Mothers, fathers, children, Hitler, Mao, Mohammed, preachers, deacons, healers, popes, theologians, church members, and a long, sad line of souls whose prayers are empty now; whose repentance is unavailable; forgiveness has been lost; some crying, some screaming, some accusing, some cursing, some saying good bye to recognized loved ones, some shouting blasphemies at the Great White Throne itself. And then everyone who had died without Christ was gathered together in front of the Great White Throne and a holy hush filled the heavenly universe as we watch the lost souls, in preparation for their final judgment, bow down on one knee and like a great thunder they all said "JESUS CHRIST IS LORD TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER". And while they were still kneeling, with the sound of a million tornados, and a million freight trains, and a million earthquakes, and a million thunders ... they are all cast into the lake of fire, never, ever, ever able to be retrieved again.

Evil will have completed its purpose...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Lion is Ready

I Cor.14:8 - For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for battle?
Have you ever watched a documentary on the animal channel about lions? I found it interesting and shocking when the camera followed a particular pride of lions for one year. During that year the pride male along with the females will chase younger males out of the pride as they reach a certain age because the pride male will not share his pride with anyone. One day a younger and stronger male came and defeated the pride male and he left in defeat. Now the new pride male goes throughout the pride and kills all the male lions whether they are adolescents or tiny cubs. He now is king and he will only tolerate cubs that he himself sired.
There is coming a day when the Lion of Judah will search all of history for any person not born of Him and send them to eternal destruction. It was difficult to watch a lion destroy cubs on television and it is extremely difficult to imagine people suffering and being tortured - forever. I mean many people would love to see Bin Laden captured and the tortured for his crimes. But if we were forced to watch him being systematically and severely tortured to where he screamed and cried like a little baby there would come a point where we turn our heads and say "Enough, just kill him". So it is hard to imagine people being systematically and severely tortured forever. Think about it, right at this moment there are people that you and I knew in excruciating and horrible pain - right now. Now even though we know it is true, the reason we find it hard to comprehend is because we cannot understand God's justice emanating from His holiness. And this punishment comes not only from the Father, it comes also from Jesus Himself.
Oh yes, the Jesus that we have portrayed as only gentle and meek, unassuming and eager to beckon to our every whim is one day going to judge all humanity and cast all those who He hasn't sired into eternal punishment. Wow. I am right now almost overwhelmed by the grace I have received when I think that I will be a blood bought spectator at that awful event and I feel frightened just imagining it. The Scripture declares "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling". That doesn't teach that salvation is by works, oh no, but it does declare that even though we are under the blood and free from the wrath of Almighty God we still should stand in the fear of God when we meditate on who He is and what could have been in our future had Jesus not found us. I was walking oblivious to the wrath that was coming and by God's grace I was plucked from the fire!
Now think about what passes today for Bible preaching. Have you ever wondered why the message series that was preached at your church seems to pop up on message boards on the front of other churches as you drive by? It's because thousands of "God's messengers" purchase their sermons from the internet from other ministries complete with illustrations and accompanying screen presentation. I thought they were paid to pray and seek God's Word and deliver God's message fresh from heaven and burning in their bones! I guess that is old thinking but that is surely why no one feels any fear and trembling about God Almighty and the coming judgment. Here we are on the verge of seeing the culmination of the prophetic calendar and there is so little powerful and broken warning to everyone that people don't believe it. Come on, be honest, if the church really, and I mean really, believed that we were only a few years from seeing Jesus coming from heaven with His mighty angels to wreak divine wrath and destruction on this very world wouldn't we act different? If the astronomers told the world that an asteroid was going to destroy the earth in three years the whole world would panic even though they themselves had not seen the asteroid. They would take the astronomer's word for it. Why? Because they would be holding press conferences, going on ever talk show, appearances on ever news program, and urgently telling people about the coming destruction. So why is there no one panicking about the coming destruction that actually IS coming to this earth at the hand of God? Because the ones who say they believe it aren't panicked and concerned about it, so why should the world be? Through Jesus' ministry He warned us to "Watch and pray" because His judgment is coming.

Before I was saved I had never entered an evangelical church. Come with me now as I imagine what it would have been like today if I had:

As I enter the worship center it is different to me. I am used to people coming in and being very quiet supposedly to show reverence to the presence of God and also to prepare their hearts(supposedly). I sit down and I hear people discussing work, their health, football, and all sorts of things that have nothing to do with God. I am confused because I thought they were here to worship God but the atmosphere seems like that which I've experienced as we waited for a rock concert to start. The music guy asks us to stand and we begin singing. The music was pretty good and it made me feel uplifted. We sit down and a man comes and welcomes everyone including visitors, and he proceeds to give about ten minutes of announcements which I can't really follow. We sing a little more and then the pastor gets up and my ears perk up. Maybe now I'll hear a little bit about God. I sure am searching.
Now the pastor tells everyone to prepare for the offering and he talks for a while about something called the "tithe" and he says that if you give it God will give you more money - guaranteed! I feel a little disconcerted because I've never heard that before, and my expectations drop. Maybe I'm in the wrong place but I'll have to endure it until the end. As they pass the plates I'm embarrassed because I have nothing to put into the plate and I feel like everyone is watching.
Now the pastor gets up to give a message titled "You will live forever". He says that all of us will live forever in heaven or hell. I've heard of hell and if it really exists I don't want to go there! It is an enlightening sermon and by the end I am uncomfortable with my present Spiritual condition and I think hell might be real. I do not have enough courage to go forward during the music but after the service I timidly walk forward to ask the preacher a couple of questions. As I stand to the side I listen as he speaks with several people about a few different things. They banter back and forth about scheduling things for the week and other things and his secretary confirms a number of things that are to be taken care of, and as one of his friends leaves he excitedly calls out to the preacher about the afternoon playoff football game involving the local team. The preacher smiles and gives the "thumbs up" and he is cheery and light, and as I stand there I get the impression that the sermon was a performance that is now over. Like a theatre production that ends and the players, still with their makeup on, are mingling and greeting people in the audience. I suddenly come to the conclusion that it's not real at all. I mean who could tell people about this place of eternal suffering, expounding on the people that are there now screaming, and within minutes you are laughing and joking? Wow.
I walk out of the church and I notice nobody is moved emotionally and no one is even talking about God much less praying. This has been a waste of time.
Now fast forward to the Great White Throne judgment. I now know I am lost and I am about to be cast into the place I heard about. I look in the surrounding throng and I see that preacher. I scream out to him, "You knew this place was real and you could laugh as you were telling about it? You knew this lake of fire was real and you were so emotionless? You taught about this place like you were teaching a history lesson and I didn't believe you and now I'm condemned forever. Why didn't you show some urgency? Why didn't you beg and plead from the pulpit, perhaps many would have given your words more weight?"

You know what? When I said the message was on "You will live forever" I used a little historical reference because most people today would never hear a message on that. Here's some titles that have been discarded, "You Must be Born Again", "Heaven or Hell", "The Coming Judgment", "The Lion of Judah", and many others that the old time prophets of God preached. They were so outdated. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Jesus is airy and light, maybe He wants us to downplay the negative and frightening aspects of His Word. Maybe He agrees with our happy messages and dry pillows. Or maybe the Awesome Lion of the Tribe of Judah is ready to destroy all who He did not father. Well, go ahead all you happy, seeker sensitive, purpose driven, health and wealth preachers, go ahead and keep tickling the ears and making people feel better about themselves. Go ahead and tell them about how God wants to financially bless them for their own consumption; go ahead and tell them about enhancing their sex lives; go ahead and tell them that God is a good God and is never angry; go ahead and spend millions on buildings while millions don't even have food including brothers and sisters in Christ; go ahead and spend tens of thousands on "Christian" cruises and by the time you return hundreds of thousands have perished; go ahead and put the hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars you make from your salaries, books, tapes, and your guest appearances in other churches in your own bank account. Go ahead. You will answer soon...

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Sufferings of Jesus

Phil.3:10 - That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings...
Jesus suffered many things during His earthly ministry. Mocking, ridicule, unbelief, hunger, rejection, betrayal, and a host of other sufferings that substantiated both the Old Testament prophesies and the fact that He was human as well as divine. A magnificent mystery, God, birthed through a human womb, appears physically as a human being but was also God in the flesh. The intertwining of human and divine, incomprehensible.
The Scripture makes special references to His sufferings in death, on the cross. We are now proceeding through a hallowed archway of astonishment and reverence which is so holy the angels will never understand. Why? Because God's faithful angels have never known depravity or redemption and the demonic beings have known depravity but not redemption. We have known both, and the breathtaking offer of eternal redemption has only been extended to us. Why God Almighty, in all His Holiness, ever held out the olive branch of His Son is unsearchably embedded in His love, but the actual cost that The Branch would have to endure is infinitely past our complete comprehension, but the Holy Spirit allows us some humbling glimpses that deepen our broken worship before Him.
Since our lives were formed in that first cell inside our mother's own body we have known sin. The Scripture declares we were, "formed in iniquity". The sin of Adam came through our father, contaminated that first cell, and we subsequently and quite willingly embraced it. We weren't satisfied to carry Adam's torch, no, we built upon his foundation and paraded around our own living, growing, and personalized exhibition of sin which became an enemy of God Himself.
Now against that horrible backdrop comes the sinless Lamb of God. Do not shortchange the word "sinless", for in it lives a purity and righteousness that dwells in a bottomless ocean of holiness. These words are foreign to the natural man, who is much less able to fully absorb their Spiritual meaning and completeness found in the Son of God. Now as Jesus walks through about 33 years of this place of rebellion against His Father and thereby Him, He remains untouched by sin. It is impossible to know the exact moment that the Father placed our sins and iniquities on His Son. Was it as He was scourged? Was it at the first nail piercing His hand? Was it during the final three hours? No one knows but God, but the Scriptures clearly declares that, "The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all". Selah. Hush. Meditate. Bow. Wonder.
He was completely innocent and He never had been touched by sin. The first Sacred cell in Mary's borrowed womb was thoroughly Holy and the infant named God was born from a faithful yet sinful handmaiden's body, but He was Spiritually pristine. The sufferings of this Lamb had been pictured by every turtledove, every goat, ever bullock, and every lamb that was sacrificially slain over thousands of years. Does your heart go out to a twitching young lamb as it suffers in the pain of death at the hands of the High Priest? How would you feel to see your own dog's throat slit and hear it cry out in excruciating pain? We could not bear even the thought. Now imagine your oldest child, their body mutilated, being tortured to death as they cry to you, "Why aren't you helping me?". Oh how we tend to make our Father somewhat emotionless in this and yet the pain that must have ripped through His being is beyond us. Sure He knew His Son would resurrect, but we know our saved loved ones are headed for heaven yet we grieve to see their pain.
The sufferings of Jesus, in the flesh and in the body, quantity and quality. If you spent an eternity being punished in hell for your sins you couldn't ever fully satisfy the justice of God, but Jesus did it in six hours and for the entire human race. All the sins of Hitler, Mao, Mohammed, Manson, You, Me, everyone. He became sin and became the scapegoat. "He who knew no sin, became sin..." In six hours He suffered eternally for every man. Not at the hand of the Jews, not at the hand of the Romans, not even at our hands. After the "Passion of the Christ" came out there was a big controversy as to who killed Jesus. Some said the Jews, some said the Romans, but most Christians said we did through our sins. All of those are theologically incorrect. Isaiah 53:10, 11 - Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him, He has put Him to grief. Take off your earthly sandals you are on Holy ground. It was The Father that caused Jesus to suffer. I cannot imagine such horror, revealing such love - for us? In a tiny portal of future revelation Abraham's hand is stayed just before killing his son, but this event only shadows a coming, disturbing scene that confounds the entire universe. The Creator murders the Creator - for the creation. Now we've really gone beyond our ability to understand, this is pure faith.
A bloody, mutilated, twitching, grotesque, and suffering Lamb.
Lying, adultery, homosexuality, pride, child molestation, stealing, rape, cannibalism, blasphemy, murder, all on Him.
The perfect and Holy wrath of Almighty God - poured out on this innocent Lamb, God's Son.

Our Older Brother, our Lamb, has endured the punishment that should have been ours. You think you suffer? We're way out of our league.

Lord Jesus, we bow in holy reverence and worship at your sufferings. The canvas of your cross has painted a scarlet masterpiece of pain and suffering by which we have escaped. As you exhale your last breath we see your tortured, unrecognizable frame. Dead. We realize that this is what the Father would have eternally done to us but we have been declared innocent, at your expense.

Halleluiah to the Lamb - You are Worthy!!

Friday, May 12, 2006


Who could really love us? I mean the real us, the us that nobody sees, the selfish, judgmental, lustful us. The us that thinks we're better than we really are. Who wants to love that? Paul tells us that God's love,"passes knowledge". Why? We cannot understand love that has no reason in its object.
It is strange when a woman visits a serial killer in prison and for no apparent reason falls in love with him. There are a number of possible reasons- the excitement, his charm, her need, and a thousand other human reasons. But God has no needs, and we are somewhat less than charming! God has no blinders on, and He sees how vile we are against His holiness. In the natural we have no redeeming value, but seen through God's unconditional love, He desires us. Wow. Unthinkable. We can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but never can we fool God, ever.
We stood before our Creator horribly lost, fully permeated with sin both inherent and practiced. Without hope in this world, in other words - HOPELESS. There is only one place for people like us - Gehenna. What is that, you ask. Jesus turns to the Valley of Hinnon outside Jerusalem which is called Gehenna and calls it the eternal fires of hell. Gehenna was the place where Jerusalem burned all their refuse, and they kept it always burning to avoid the spread of bacteria. Our Lord uses that visible metaphor to imprint the reality and awfulness of the place called hell.
If Jesus had just paid for us to avoid hell, it would have been incredible. To fully understand what we missed when Jesus saved us is impossible in the natural. It is the bottomless pit guarded by Appollyon; it is a place of pure darkness; it is a place of intense burning; it is a place of the shrieks of the damned; it is a place of death, yet never dead.
Imagining visiting a dying man. He lies on his bed in excruciating pain. You leave and return in a month, and there lies that same man, still dying. A year later he still is in the unbelievable throws of death, and yet he still lives. Ten years later and that man still cannot die. One hundred, one thousand, one million years and still that poor man writhes in pain but still cannot die. The universe rolls up like a scroll and there remains that same man, dying. That is just a poor picture of the second death called hell. That would have been you or me had it not been for Jesus!
Now imagine that man is someone you loved. A father, a brother, a son, a husband. Or suppose it was a woman; a mother, a sister, a daughter, a wife. One day we stand before our Lord and ask,"Wasn't there anything we could have done?". What if the Lord says,"Yes, there was. I kept the Holy Spirit speaking to the hearts of my people, but you would not hear. You were interested in the things of the world. How often did I hear you pray? Were you concerned enough that it altered your life? The treasures you stored up, what good are they now? Yes, there are people like this man that could have been reached if only you had harkened unto my voice and received the revival I wanted to send".
If the illustration of that man is anywhere near a representation of the truth, what are we doing? In many ways we are serious about this present life and only half-hearted about the life to come. Pray for revival. Millions of souls hang in the balance!!


Originally published March 15, 2006

I Pet.1:13-16 - Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as He which has called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Holiness is an incredibly difficult truth to fully comprehend. We, by faith, have been made holy. God has always been and will always be holy. But our holiness does not come in ANY part from us, it is imputed(given) to us through Christ. Still, understanding completely what holiness is will not be fully possible until we are given our new bodies and minds.
For example, how do you explain the color red to a person who has been born blind? How do you even explain color? To bring it further into the abstract, how does the color red sound? You see, the concepts are incongruous and cannot make sense. In the same way, asking a fallen man to understand holiness is impossible this side of heaven. Here are some misconceptions about holiness:

* Holiness is refraining from activities such as drinking, smoking, cursing, stealing, and other objectionable behavior.
* Holiness is moving to a monastery and praying and meditating.
* Holiness is never associating with sinful people.
* Holiness is spending your entire life feeding the poor.
* Holiness is denying yourself any pleasure.

While some of those things may be right, they can never achieve holiness. Man can show love, mercy, grace, patience, but how can we show holiness? Holiness is God's alone, and it is what makes Him God. It is a sacred, powerful, and divine essence that is much more than just being without sin. By definition, it's separateness and distinctive quality hinders us from a complete comprehension. But we do know that Scripture teaches that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord"(Heb.12:14). John tells us that one day "we shall be like Him"(I Jn.3:2). When a sinner realizes he is lost and separated from a holy God, and he by faith becomes a follower of Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord, God imputes(gives) to him His holiness. We then, as followers of Jesus, are holy by the gift and grace of God Himself. There is no other way.

Now if we are holy by God's grace without any good deeds on our part, why does Scripture exhort us to live holy? The overarching Biblical principle of holy living is that we are to live with the constant and permeating knowledge that we are now different, and this knowledge changes our behavior. You see, we are not just different outside, but we are fully different inside and we are to renew that difference daily. Peter says,"Gird up the loins of your mind", which is symbolic for saying,"Think about this". We must live a life that absolutely reflects the divine essence(holiness) that has been given to us and has changed who we are.

Here are a few Biblical principles that could help us practically reflect His holiness:

* Living, speaking, and exhibiting the hope of His coming.
* Living in joy, the emotion that when shown in different circumstances, enhances our Spiritual claims.
* Refraining from sin and confessing it when we do. It shows that holiness and sin don't mix.
* Living in the Spirit and showing Spiritual fruit which showcase what holiness brings.
* Living in love for all other followers of Jesus.
* A private Spiritual life that is such a priority that it substantiates our profession that we are different.
* A corporate Spiritual life that draws enrichment from the gifts and fellowship from other followers of Christ.
* Subtle yet obvious way in which we view, own, and use material blessings

We are different; We are ambassadors; We are strangers; We are peculiar; We are servants; We are chosen; We are epistles; We are preparing to go to be with Jesus, and we are trying to bring others with us. I Pet2:5 says to,"offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ". This is a clear comparison to the Old Testament Levitical priest. But what was written on the headpiece of the high priest? HOLINESS TO THE LORD(Ex.39:30). Around his mind, on the headpiece, was written HOLINESS TO THE LORD. Does "Gird up the loins of your mind" seem to correspond to this picture? There are a myriad of Spiritual applications that the Holy Spirit can make personally to all of us. Just ask Him!

PTL-Rick P.S. - If you are not currently reading in a particular book of the Bible, may I suggest I Peter?
The Resurrection
Originally published March 29, 2006
Although I am not one for overemphasizing one day over another, let us take this Sunday and celebrate our Lord's resurrection as if it happened that very morning!
There can be a crucifixion with no resurrection, but there cannot be a resurrection without the crucifixion. The resurrection substantiates, vindicates, and illuminates the cross. Without the resurrection Golgatha is a dead Jew on a cross. With the resurrection He is the Savior of the world! Without the resurrection death is the victor. With the resurrection death is defeated! Every Sunday, not just once a year, is a celebration of the resurrection. The resurrection is the most powerful event in history. The strength of the natural was broken by the strength of the supernatural. Look what Paul says in I Corinthians 15 about witnesses. He doesn't provide witnesses to the crucifixion, he lists witnesses to the resurrected Christ. And finally he substantiates his own apostleship based on the fact that he himself saw the risen Jesus. The entire chapter is an essay on the resurrection of Jesus Christ which is the foundation of our faith and provides the subsequent resurrection of every believer.
The moment my spirit separates from my body I go to be with my Forerunner until the final resurrection of the church. Let us put morality, abortion, homosexuality, and the myriad of other talking head issues on the back burner, and let us lift high the glorious message that "The Lord has risen! He has risen indeed!

The defining moment in eternity

Even the Romans didn't dispute His birth, His miracles, or His death, but they attacked His resurrection.

Matt.27:62-66 - Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while He was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night, and steal Him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as you can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

The Jewish religious leaders went to Pilate and actually admitted that Jesus had prophesied His own resurrection. Incredibly, Pilate puts a military watch over the sealed tomb. The Scriptures teach that God catches the wicked in their own snare. You see, in the attempt to keep anyone from stealing the body of Jesus, they have proven no one did!

Matt.28:11-15 - Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole Him while we slept And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

They even paid the soldiers to keep quiet about the resurrection. How awful! But how awful it is when we keep quiet about Jesus' resurrection and we're not even paid, we do it for free! Without the resurrection Jesus is dead. If a basketball player hits a last second shot at the buzzer to give his team a one point victory, but after review the basket is not allowed, then all the baskets that his team had scored are meaningless - THEY LOST. If Jesus did not resurrect than everything else is meaningless - WE'RE LOST. But hundreds of people saw Him alive by "many infallible proofs" (Acts 1:3). Paul says He is "declared to be the Son of God, with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom.1:4). The message of Pete's first sermon in Acts chapter two makes the resurrection the focal point, as did the entire ministry of the apostolic martyrs.

Now in revelation chapter one Jesus Himself refers immediately to the resurrection saying, "I am He that liveth, and was dead!" (Rev.1:18). Paul says that in order to be saved you must "believe in your heart that God hath raised Him from the dead" (Rom.10:9). We must believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, it is the foundation of our faith. Now when Paul says He was "declared to be the Son of God", He was clearly stating that Jesus was God. While we recognize our limited ability to comprehend the Trinity, hence the name Son of God, we can fully embrace that there is a God and Jesus IS GOD. And based upon that truth, everything He said was and is absolute and unchangeable truth, to be studied, listened to, believed, and obeyed!

How about you and me? How does the resurrection of Jesus Christ affect us on Tuesdays? Thursdays? Saturdays? You see my point? The early church used to greet one another throughout the week with the salutation "The Lord is risen!", and the other would reply, "He is risen indeed!". When do we hear about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ? Sometimes Easter - sometimes not. Why do we meet on Sundays? To celebrate the resurrection! Here is something that I personally haven't tried yet, but I am going to soon. Next time you witness to someone begin like this, "You may think that I'm little strange, but have you ever thought about whether Jesus really did rise from the dead, you know, the resurrection?". That question is the door to salvation and many skeptics have tried to disprove it and in so doing became followers of Christ! I loved "The Passion of the Christ" movie but it only gave a small time at the end for the resurrection (I'm glad even for that!). Now the world discussed the excessive violence and the wrongly perceived anti-Semitism, but there didn't seem to be much discussion about the resurrection because the part was so small.

What if the entire community of American followers of Christ had an orchestrated attempt to spread the message of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead? I mean bumper stickers, tracks, TV, church campaigns, all proclaiming the resurrection. In every city there were believers on every main intersections holding posters saying "JESUS HAS RISEN FROM THE DEAD!". Ministries across the country joined to purchase prime time television slots to preach and proclaim the resurrection. Churches began to have special prayer meetings to ask God to fill us with His resurrection power as we preached it. Talk shows begin to address it and Americans become increasingly confronted with the one issue that matters - eternally. Not abortion, not homosexuality, not school vouchers, not school prayer, not any moral or political issue. The question that begins to rise on the horizon of American culture is:


OK, now come back to earth. Does it strike anyone how far we have moved "off message" or am I the only one? I will tell you one thing, I am personally asking/begging God to resurrect my Spiritual life and part of that is reacquainting my heart with the dynamic truth I've always claimed to believe - The Resurrection! Would I be more exited about Jesus' resurrection if it had happened yesterday? There it is, how can I convince someone in 2007 about the resurrection when it isn't powerful and fresh to me because it happened so long ago that it has found a comfortable place on a shelf in my theological library? If a man stood on top of his car in a Wal-Mart parking lot and hollered "There are hundreds of twenty dollar bills blowing in this parking lot!" everyone would come running. But if that same man hollered "Jesus has risen from the dead!" people would call the police. But what if millions hollered out on a given day that Jesus had risen from the dead? When I became a follower of Jesus in 1975 I would ask people if they knew that Jesus was real (polished approach?). Many would casually reply yes, thy did. Not being instructed in the finer points of personal evangelism, I would press them with "No, I mean He is REAL!". At that point people would become uncomfortable with the perception that the dialogue was not only getting too personal, but my provocative zeal seemed out of place. People don't seem to be uncomfortable with me anymore because I have grown uncomfortable with them. It's time to preach the reality of the resurrected Christ to anyone and everyone - again! Reaching beyond the fear, lethargy, and worldliness into the realm of the Spirit and proclaiming Jesus to people, who just like I was, are heading for eternal disaster. Am I willing to become a fool for Jesus and by His amazing power lift up the Risen Christ? If Jesus has risen from the dead...somebody needs to know!!

What a novel and fresh idea, preach the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ like the early church did no matter what the culture. Think about it this weekend, did Jesus really resurrect from the dead? And if you and I get a new and powerful revelation of that truth and its far reaching implications, let's see what it does in our lives. See you at Wal-Mart!!
Jn.11:25 -


Originally published April 7, 2006

Jn.8:51 - ...If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.

What is death? We have come to fully embrace the world's definition of death as the cessation of the body life. But the Word of God from the mouth of the Lord Himself says that "He that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live". Even in some of the raising of the dead miracles that Jesus did he stated that the person was only sleeping. The Scriptures declare that all unbelievers even if physically alive are "dead in trespasses and sins".
It is a deep mystery, the deepest of mysteries, that frightens all men. Have you every seen someone die? I have seen several people take their last breath, including my own mother. It is an unsettling experience when the person is not a follower of Jesus Christ, and it is a faith building experience when they are. Of course one of the tragedies and phenomenons of today is that many people who die are marginal Christians whose death evokes mixed emotions. Leaving the body is the most important time in anyone's life. It is at that moment that our eternal destination is revealed. It is serious business, and it should be considered frequently. Not in a morbid sense, but every person should examine their own mortality in the light of their relationship with Jesus Christ, and all preaching and witnessing should always have at its foundation eternity. What should it profit a man if he gains money, career, and a "blessed life" and lose eternity.
Now consider the most glorious death ever witnessed, the death of Jesus of Nazareth. Either this death was a grotesque massacre of a deluded Jew from the loins of Judah, or it was the apex of the Creator's plan to provide an escape for His doomed creation. It cannot be both, but it must be one or the other. If it is only a man's death than it needs no further inspection or consideration. It is irrelevant. But if it is indeed the sacrificial offering of the Son of God provided by the Heavenly Father Himself, and if it is the ONLY door to eternal life, then it deserves a lifetime of inspection, consideration, and adoration.
To say that Jesus of Nazareth was innocent is an infinite understatement. He was eternally and wholly pure. Beyond words or thoughts. Spotless. Holy. White. Sinless. Unselfish. Blameless. Loving. All descriptions fall short of illuminating the celestial glory that God's Son walked in. Revealed as the Son, but also the Father God Himself. As Paul says, "Great is the mystery of godliness, that God was manifested in the flesh". The Scripture uses the metaphor that Jesus was "led as a lamb to the slaughter", but that imagery can only reach so far. An earthly lamb unknowingly goes to his death, but the Lamb of God willingly goes to His slaughter. For you and me. It seems to us to be such an insignificant reward - us. But that dilutes the unimaginable love of God. To die is the truest expression of one's love, but to die for one's horrible enemy is unthinkable. The death of our Savior, God's Son, propels us to worship the Risen Lamb with all of our hearts. I sometimes cannot believe my amazing fortune, to actually know Him and receive His eternal life! To say I don't deserve it is actually false humility because it is such an understatement. You and I are vile and accursed creatures that had not only forsaken God but had enjoyed being His enemy. Not only did we deserve an eternity in the lake of fire, we actually deserved never to have been created. We even from time to time display some of those repulsive attributes today. And Jesus knew all this as He was being nailed - NAILED - to a wooden instrument of death for me, and publicly ridiculed, mocked, and murdered for us. And the creatures that had most brought shame to their Father, have now been transformed by the grace of God through the cross of Christ and now bring glory to the Risen Lord. It is an unworkable equation that can only be understood by childlike faith.
What can we say? What can we give? How can we ever repay Him? We cannot repay, but we can please Him. He desires us. If you and I could receive a record of how many times over the last five years we turned on the TV, or went out to dinner, or talked on the phone, or went on a trip, or fishing, or golf, or all recreations, and over the next five years we spent time with our Lord at the same intervals and the same durations, I believe we would bless the heart of our Father. And the Spiritual benefits would be incalculable! But in order for that to happen we would have to die to ourselves. This weekend is Passover. This weekend changed the universe. This weekend changed me. May the Lamb that was slain receive the full reward of His suffering. WORTHY IS THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN!!

The New Covenant

Originally published April 10, 2006

An agreement. A commitment. An understanding. A contract. A promise. An arrangement. A declaration. An oath. A pledge. A vow.
A covenant.

God has offered a new covenant, an eternal covenant to "whosoever will" and God Himself lives forever to see that its provisions are kept(Heb.7:25). Now this covenant is more than any human definition can fully engulf, but our agreements on earth can serve as shadows to give us a glimpse into the divine covenant which is called the New Covenant and it is the final one. There is no alternative and indeed why should there be? With the benefits being eternal life and all blessings that attend such a gift, not the least of which is living in Jehovah's presence, what need would there be for other plans? The absolute glory of this covenant is that Jesus has desired to spend the rest of eternity with us, sacrificed to make it possible, and has prepared everything for the culmination of all things withholding nothing from us. He has "freely given us all things". And the thread of glory running through it all is not just the wonder and magnitude of His power, but it is also that it has been done without one human work. Not one behavioral requirement. Not one feeding of the poor; not one ounce of a mother's love; not one kind act; not any missionary's sacrifice; not one philanthropic gift; nothing, nothing, nothing...but Him and Him alone. You see, there are no good human works.
Prostitutes, drug addicts, drunks, adulterers, prideful, greedy, selfish, murderers, child molesters, rapists, liars, all changed through no work of their own. And not just forgiven and cleaned up. No, we will be made "like Him", Jesus. The loftiest imagination cannot help but cheapen its grandeur. The absolutely depraved made absolutely glorious. And why? Now we begin to drown while just testing the water as we think on the love of God. Our God. Like throwing a rock at the moon, or hearing a sparrow on Saturn, or traveling to the center of the Sun in a rickshaw, to say it is impossible to fully understand the love of God is beyond an understatement. Deserving? Oh my. Every cell, every molecule, and every atom of our entire being is not only undeserving of God's love, we were fully at war with our creator - with no deserters. And with the Father's entire earthly creation arrayed in battle against Him, recruited by Lucifer and grandfathered in through Adam, the love of God offers the articles of peace. I mean with one word God could have consumed everything and started over, but He offers a covenant which somehow benefits only us, costs Him His earthly life, but from which He receives glory. To use the word love seems so meager and yet God in His love lets us use that word for Him.(Don't think too much about that statement you might overheat!)
A covenant. We've heard about God's side of the covenant, what is ours? Faith. And even that will be a gift from God. No, no, there must be something we can do. Baptism - communion - church membership - a prayer - the poor. Just a little help so we can be involved. No, nothing. Anything we do, in fact, poisons it all. The glory of it all is that it is all Him. Free will, yes, but still all Him. How does that work? In your theological scrabble game this would be the best time to play the word "mystery". We do know one sure thing, Jesus is the mediator of this covenant(Heb.12:24). Jesus is the Sacrifice that paid for the covenant by His blood, and He now mediates it all(did I mention He resurrected?). The Mediator of this covenant distributes accurately the inheritance just as the maker of the covenant desired. His Word is unshakeable and eternal, and all whose names are in the covenant book of life will receive what is coming to them. These truths about God's covenant are holy to Him. They are not to be altered or taken lightly, and to be outside this covenant will one day prove to be unimaginably costly.
One day all will pass away. The Sun, Earth, moon, stars, everything will be gone, but still standing and holding will be God's everlasting covenant. We are being held by the invisible cord's of God's Word, never to be severed. One moment in time we were fully persuaded that Jesus was the Lord, the Savior of the world. And in an instant we placed our faith in Jesus alone, and in that moment we entered into a covenant with the Heavenly Father through Jesus His Son. Forever. Not only did we not deserve it then, we never have deserved it in ourselves. The strength of God's covenant is God's Word, and the strength of God's Word is God's love. It all seems like intangible imagery sometimes, but there will come a time when this present reality has been eclipsed by an eternal reality and we stand before God, ushered into His presence by His love, secured by the blood of Jesus, and changed by the Holy Spirit.
And how strongly do we hold on to the beggarly elements of this passing world? Like devouring cotton candy, no sooner in the mouth than gone. Everything in this world will one day burn. And at our first gaze upon the Lamb Himself, resplendent in glory, worshipped by angels, and the author and guarantor of this Blood Covenant, will we not be astonished that we could have ever desired anything but Him? Our covenant destiny...Him. Selah.