Wednesday, November 29, 2006

An Emergent Conversation

On an emergent leaning blog there was a post which questioned if people could be saved even if they’ve never heard the gospel. The following is a conversation I had with someone who claims to be an emergent Christian. I have included it in its entirety so you may see exactly what is at stake. The very foundations of the faith are being treated as questions with multiple choice answers, and I was the only one of scores of commentors to confront this person’s obvious departure from Biblical truth. And therein lies the major problem, the emergent format.
Some of the emergents are somewhat orthodox personally, but all of them have signed off to a formatted dialogue in which there are literally no boundaries. If you think homosexuality is a sin you still welcome others who don’t. If you believe the Bible is inerrant you still welcome those who don’t. If you believe a person must hear the gospel to be saved you still welcome those who don’t. And if you believe not all will be saved you still welcome those who believe everyone who ever lived will be saved.

So here is our conversation (I will call the person Bill, that is not his name):

ME - But whatever the absolute truth is in Christ on this issue, the command to go throughout the world is the same. So it leads to this question: Why do men argue and philosophize about it? The answer is that whether overtly or subliminally, if men can be saved without hearing, or if God only chose some, it affects the missionary fervor.
It is easier for us to share theologies than to go and share Christ. Lord help us all.

BILL - I was musing on this and other questions yesterday in the shower. -Do the rest of you get the problems of the world solved there? How could Jesus dying for all diminish his sacrifice? It does nothing but point to the lavish generosity of his love, the same love that created countless Galaxies so that we could contemplate, with wonder and adoration, the awesome night sky!
And it is the adoration that is pivotal. What if our iconic restoration is the result of that worship? What if God wasn’t determining who “the elect recipients of the benefits of atonement” would be? What if God through Jesus on the cross, with the Holy Spirit present there too, was simply (!) removing everything that could possibly get in the way of people worshiping him- bowing to him as the origin, condition and goal of being- sweeping it all off the table in the embrace of graced forgiveness? What if what humans need to do is “opt in” wherever they are and with whatever knowledge they have- and why can’t we be faithful to tell and live the story (this is not as easy as it might sound) and let God decide about who belongs to him?
To me, the responsibility for proclamation of the good news is even more weighty because of these questions. We had better be sure of what we’re proclaiming as the good news. Jesus said “Make disciples- immersing them in the fullness of the reality of life in the Triune God.” (Willard) What does the fullness of the reality of life in the Triune God look like for humans?
These are way more pressing questions for me than the Calv/Arm debate or which -ism constitutes what it means to “be saved”. I do think that one of the important things emerging people are doing with this question is “deconstructing” it, if you will.

ME - “What if what humans need to do is “opt in” wherever they are and with whatever knowledge they have”
The desconstruction you mentioned began a long time ago. Is a moral person who has never heard the gospel and who worships one God he calls Allah, and attempts to treat others kindly, and provides for his family, and prays every day, is he saved? And if he is, then on the day he meets a missionary for the first time and hears the clear gospel about who Jesus is and what He has done, and if that religious man rejects that truth, does he suddenly become lost? If so, the missionary becomes an emissary of death rather than life.
Is this not clear, “How shall they believe in whom they have not heard”?
The things about the emergent movement that resonate with many of us is the rejection of hedonism, some methodology metamorphosis, and a revival of humanitarian efforts. But the central and choking issue that stops us in our tracks is the dialogue about expanding the parameters of salvation. That is a “do not enter” flashing sign for many believers.

BILL - Henry,What does “saved”/”salvation? mean?What is “a clear presentation of the gospel?”What is “the gospel?”What does “lost” mean?What does it mean “to believe”?Why is it up to us to judge about a “righteous Muslim”?
Have you ever read Lesslie Newbigin’s “The Gospel in a Pluralist Society”? He served for many years as a missionary in India. I value his insights.

ME - if after two thousand years and the entire New Testament at our disposal we still do not know the answer to the questions you raised, then let us go around the world and honestly tell people “we do not know how to be saved”. At least we would have honesty as a platform.
Calvin, Luther, Edwards, Finney, Wesley, Moody, Carey, the Moravians, fools all of them if they claimed to know the answers that you claim no one is able to discern. And what you place on the table of dialogue is exactly what we reject about the emergent movement (to be fair many men who would call themselves emergent would disagree with your premise).

BILL - Henry, I make no claim that we are unable to discern. I believe God wants us to know and be able to discern. I do claim that the categories have become restrictive, and that we assume a lot. I think the good news had better be so for all people in all times and places, and each generation must grapple with it anew. I think we had better become, in a sense, more biblical. Here’s just one example: What does Jesus say the good news is, in most places where he says some form of the word euangelion, or it is described what he is talking about, particularly in the Synoptics? (By this I am not meaning to make Jesus and Paul, or the Synoptics and John, adversaries; this is just the biggest and most obvious example that comes to mind.)

ME - If you are saying that we need to more closely and broadly emulate the Lord Jesus I say amen. But He has provided the only payment for sin (archaic, I know) and the Holy Spirit is well able to translate truth over cultural barriers, He has proven so over the centuries.
I do not think that every generation has to re-grapple with certain issues, and Paul warns us from leaving the simplicity that is in Christ. Go ahead and grapple with innovative ways to communicate and connect with people, but when you “grapple” with the historic understanding of the sin-bearing atonement you ultimately don’t grapple, you change.
But at least you are honest, Bill, some emregents have a foot in every camp with each foot front and center depending on the audience.

BILL - Well, Henry, I’m trying to be honest. It’s why I started asking these questions, for essentially the same reasons T articulates, when I got into my 40s. I believed the “historic understanding of the sin-bearing atonement” for most of my life up until then. And in honesty I couldn’t answer a lot of the questions that came up for me with that understanding. I’ve listed some of them above. That understanding more and more often left me with, “But what about…” and I honestly could not ignore those issues any more. Because I believe that God wants us to understand what he left for us in the bible, I was very frustrated with those “hanging questions”.
I have found something that approximates an integrated theology with very few “hanging questions” by going back beyond the Reformers and looking at “big picture” questions with some help from Willard, Newbigin, Webber, Eastern Orthodox thought and NT Wright. I still have questions, but not too many any more. The most important thing to come of my questioning journey is that my heart is bowed before Jesus in worship in a much deeper way now. I am inexpressibly overjoyed to be a Christian.
I believe God does not despise my questions, or anyone else’s for that matter. I believe that following Jesus is simple, but it’s not easy. I believe it means, among other things, being safe enough in God’s love to ask questions. If you are safe in God’s love and don’t feel the need to ask so many questions, then be blessed and at peace there. I don’t need to argue. I trust God’s mercy for us, both and all. Thanks for the kind tone of the discussion.

Does it not shock you and break your heart when you see the list of things that this person said could not be completely discerned as truth? Maybe fifty years ago if this movement had been identified in its infancy, we might have confronted it with a barrage of communication throughout the evangelical world, but the walls have now been breached and these teachings are espoused by thousands of preachers who describe themselves as evangelicals. Many conservative preachers secretly read and are edified by their books, and some of the major streams of doctrinal departure are secretly woven in many Sunday morning sermons with the listeners none the wiser. And thousands of preachers who would reject these views still are complicit with either their friendship with the purveyors of these falsehoods, or their deafening silence. I will not become obsessed with chasing them all down, but I will not, I cannot remain silent. The integrity of God’s Word still has thousands of voices and may they all be to His glory not ours.

So what must be our duty before our Lord in the midst of what can only be described as the blasphemous beginning of the final falling away? We must fall in love again personally with God’s Word to a deeper degree than you could imagine. Not primarily for a rebuttal to these doctrines of demons but to ingest so much of the engrafted Word into our spirits that we are changed into the image of its Personhood by its Author. Let us remove the emperor’s clothes, it is significantly easier to confront such blatant heresies than it is to spend upper room time with our Lord, seeking His face and repenting before Him of our own sins and pride. And let us proceed even further into the restricted area about which we wish no one knew. I have sometimes felt a smugness and a fleshly power when dispatching God’s truth against obvious error, and humility easily disappears when in absolute reality I am no more than a Biblical water boy for the King of the Word. May we all stay on our face no matter what mighty truths God shares with us by His sovereign grace.

Additionally let us ask God to Spiritually infuse us with a prayerful intercession for these deceived people, many of them brothers and sisters. The amount of time we spend before the throne beseeching the Father on their behalf is shameful, and I would guess that the amount tears that are shed would indict all of us. We need a revival of prayer because without prayer how can we know what to say and how to say it.

And we must educate our children both with our words and our attitudes. This falling away is world wide and it will continue to grow in immensity and depth, and without being vigilant as well as dedicated to grow in our own lives we will become stale and cold at the very least, and many will succumb to the exciting and revolutionary new teachings that like strong drink will relieve us of the truth.

We are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. While continuing to reflect His love, we have no room for the dismantling of His Words. Thirty-one years ago I was born again and I met Jesus Christ. I will not leave Him for the doctrinal free for all and although the intellectual melee may be stimulating to some, it is nothing more than foolishness to God.
Let us stay true, broken, and continue to worship Jesus alone in Spirit and in truth.
Amen and Amen.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Jesus Arrives

Lk.2:11 - For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

We rightfully concentrate on Bethlehem, it is the city of David that was given by the prophet as His birthplace. Gloriously simple and majestically humble, it shall forever hold a place of amazing brilliance as the city where Christ drew His first breath. The house of bread opened its arms to the Bread of Life.

But Bethlehem was not the place where Jesus actually arrived in this world, no, it was Nazareth. Right after Gabriel came, or perhaps while he was speaking to the vessel Mary, the Holy Spirit visited her carrying with Him a Seed of the Spirit which housed the eternal Word. At this juncture remove your human reasoning and rise up on the wings of eagles lifted up by the wind of faith. And this Seed entered the single cell of Mary and in that womb Jesus rested and began a human journey which would lead Him from the miracle of God's conception to the miracle of God's death. Did you ever wonder what exactly took place in God's throne room as Jesus prepared to submit to the Holy Spirit, the ordained courier? How did God the Father say good bye, and how did the glorious Word become obedient to the future design He had planned for Himself? Who can know it and who among us can pull back the sacred veil and reveal it in its fullness, nay, not one among us, for the final preparatory steps that would send Heaven's Prince to the Earth are hidden within the Godhead. God is now here and his ministry and mission in the embryonic stage has become a glorious reality hidden in a virgin's womb. Gasp for breath all you earth bound sons of the living God, today your ears have heard the voice of heaven speaking through an infant's beginning as God the Creator now abides in the womb of His chosen creature, and with every divided cell the human building blocks were set one upon another to come forth in Bethlehem as God, revealed in the newborn stable boy.

"...but a body thou hast prepared me..."

We cannot tell how limited the Lord Jesus agreed to be as an infant, but I believe that He had entrusted everything to the watch care of His Father, culminating with the Spirit's anointing at His baptism and the Father's own testimony of His only begotten Son. What a privilege it was to be dispatched from heaven's glory on the day of His birth and announce with shouts of praise that God the Son had come to earth. The heavens part and the glory of God descends upon a sheep filled hillside, and as the shepherds cower they suddenly hear a sound they've never heard, full of angelic voices and drenched in the aroma of heaven, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men". And in the presence of a multitude of the heavenly hosts I believe the shepherds could hear it, and see it, and smell it, and taste it, and feel it, and other emotions that Paul said are "unlawful to utter". But only a few miles away the Lord of these very angels squirms in a feeding trough, and only candlelight illuminates the face from which the heavens and the earth would one day flee. But on this night these shepherds will make their way inside the city, and with the angelic visitation still all over them, they quietly enter the straw filled tabernacle and are immediately sent to their knees. These earthly shepherds bow in worship before the Great Sherpherd. Shortly death would come seeking Him, but the Heavenly Father was eternally way ahead of these hapless baby killers sent by that fool, Herod. Jesus was protected by the ministry of the angelic beings sent from the presence of the Father to penetrate the dreams of Joseph, and as the child grew He could not help but seem special to those closest to Him, and especially that humble, chosen vessel Mary. She pondered much in that precious heart that sought God's will.

Now man demands pomp when he is announced, but God is willing to appear common. Can you imagine the Father allowing His Son, His Equal, to come to this sin ravaged world with only the recognition of some insignificant shepherds? What kind of love are we dealing with here, and what lengths will this infant go to prove His love for us? "Bless the Lord my soul, and all that is within me bless His Holy Name". The mystery is upon us, and although the world has twisted this story to fit their sentimental and hedonistic ways, the truth still towers above all the "Christmas" observances. Jesus the Christ, the everlasting Messiah, has come to this Earth and through Him we are saved, forever. So go ahead you shopping malls make merchandise on His back; go ahead you churches and charge admission to present His story; go ahead and light token Christmas trees in Washington without mentioning His name; go ahead you believers and spend much on each other without purchasing a single gift for the birthday Boy; and go ahead you preachers and teach on some humanistic topic while spurning the greatest story ever told.

Oh but not me, by God's grace. I am as imperfect as anyone you may think of, but I refuse to surrender any honor or glory or majesty or power or worship to anyone or anything, but Jesus, the Incarnate Infant of Bethlehem. And to you the followers of that child, make this coming observance a showcase for Him with our words and lives being "apples of gold in pictures of silver" for Him. And instead of "Merry Christmas" I will continue the tradition I began last year by saying "Praise to the God Child". People will ask you what you mean and by their own words elicit a wonderful witness for Him.

Praise to the God Child!!!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

His Followers

Eph.5:1 - Be ye therefore followers of God...

God has always had His followers. From the moment the dust coagulated around the creative Word in Genesis and Adam was formed, God has always had a following. From the ark of reeds carrying baby Moses to Solomon's Temple, God has always had His followers. From the boldness of John the Baptist to the secret seeking of Nicodemous, God has always had His followers. From the day of Pentecost to the third millennium, God has always had his followers. From the largest television gospel presentation to the smallest Chinese house church, God has always had His followers. And when years and days are no longer observed, and when time is swallowed up in eternity, God will have His followers. And God's Name is Yahweh, Jehovah, Yeshua, Joshua, Jesus, and an innumerable amount of attribute revealing names. Jesus steps into earth at Bethlehem, walks as a man for thirty three years, completes His eternal work in six hours, returns to the Father from Jerusalem, and all of history will forever be His entourage out of which He has gathered and separated for Himself a bride. Jesus always had and always will have His followers. But why?

His Will.

Above everything in the universe is God's will which is God's Word. When God has willed something it is etched in stone waiting to be unfolded in reality at the time stamped upon that spoken Word. God's Word is reality and everything else is a pretender no matter how it appears. Appearance is a poor player who struts across this event horizon masquerading as reality, but appearance is the bond slave of the Word of God. The blue skies were the appearance but in obedience to God's Word the flood was the coming reality. Sarah's womb was the appearance but in obedience to God's Word Isaac was the coming reality. The tomb holding the body of Jesus was the appearance but in obedience to God's Word the resurrection was the coming reality. When God's Word manifests itself man made appearance is consumed with the brightness of the celestial power of God's immutable Word. God has spoken before the creation of the universe that Jesus would have His followers, His bride, and nothing in heaven or earth could ever come between that Word and its fulfillment. So God willed that His Son would be glorified with followers.

His Love.

God's love is so deep and powerful that it defies definition. It usually is defined by its accompanying and revealing acts, but its essence is beyond us. The Scriptures declare that God actually is love, and that love inherently draws followers to itself. People are invisibly drawn by love to joyously become followers of the Lord Jesus. Well said the song, "Oh the love that drew salvation's plan", and that same love pulls upon the hearts of men to follow the One who so loved He "gave Himself a ransom for many". What kind of love creates when He was self existent and sufficient in Himself? What kind of love creates this race with the full knowledge of awaiting treason and rebellion? What kind of love leaves the splendor of the divine throne to be found in the likeness of one of these accursed creatures? What kind of love accepts the label scapegoat, and willingly becomes the sacrificial murder victim for His very killers? This love, my friends, demands followers.

His Power.

What kind of man is this that can even command the wind and the waves? And most of the evangelical world, much less the world, are unaware that Jesus Himself was the Creator and is the sustainer of the entire universe. Look at your hand, Jesus created it. The mind you are using to read right now, Jesus made it. Jesus Himself proclaimed, "All power is given unto me, both in heaven and in earth". There is no power but Christ's power, and His power is unimaginably absolute. Jesus doesn't have the greatest power, no, He has all power. And although creative power is awesome and mind boggling, power over death is ultimate. The Scriptures rightly observe that man has always had a fear of death, and all the spurious religions of the world try and give false hope to a darkened world. But Jesus has power and authority over death itself, and especially the second death which is eternal death. Sometimes a person becomes so fearful of his coming judgment, and so frightened about his eternal destiny, that the Holy Spirit can lift up the powerful Christ as the only Refuge and Rock that is strong enough to hold eternally. And it would be safe to assume that legion are Christ's followers who have embraced Him in part as their powerful Rescuer.

His Spirit.

No one becomes a follower of Jesus unless the Spirit draws him. The work of regeneration is exclusively a work of the Spirit, and the works of man are not only irrelevant, they are poison. Anyone who is truly born again can recall a strange and different mental and emotional aura that came upon him or her before salvation. I can recall in the days leading to my conversion everything seemed to remind me of the Person of Christ. A bumper sticker, a cemetery statue, a radio program, and many other little "coincidences" that would only have been significant to me because of the progressive revelation ministry of God's precious Spirit. No one is smart enough, no one is clever enough, and in reality no one is even interested enough to pursue Jesus Christ apart from the gracious calling of the Holy Spirit. (And all the reformed group said Amen!) In the end we all owe everything to the Spirit of God who called to us generally and eventually gave us personal attention in leading us to Christ. We have become followers by the Spirit.

His Word

We have become so used to accepting an earthly definition of the "Word". Ink on paper or the sound of vocal chords vibrating as the air rushes over them, those are to the earthly mind a word, and with all the different translations and interpretations I fear we have compromised the essence of God's Word in our own minds. But God is His Word, and the Word existed before there were angels, mankind, or creation itself. I had heard Bible verses before I was saved, but when the Spirit began His mission of love to me I began to hear these verses differently. You see, I began to see and hear Jesus in the Bible verses I was hearing, and it wasn't until after I was born again that I learned that Jesus was the Word. And even He said the Scriptures speak of Him. The Word is like a Sword of lightning that cuts within the human heart, slices it wide open to its repulsive sin, and upon the first sign of repentance and faith, the Word Jesus rushes in to take up eternal residence in a brand new heart. To say it is a glorious mystery is to infinitely understate the eternal power of the Word of God, Jesus.

His Nature.

To say that Jesus has many different natures is to confine His glorious Personhood. Of course He is perfectly kind, merciful, patient, and all the other attributes that we can understand on an earthly level, but He is infinitely more than those. Jesus is divine, holy, and without sin. And after a meditation on that fact, His incarnation becomes all the more a staggering condescension that cannot help but fully speak to the selfless and loving nature of the Savior. The cross. Just the words remind us of the nature of our Lord. And if you take all the mercy of Christ, and all the grace, and all the longsuffering, and all the compassion, and all the sacrifice, and all the love, and you took all the attributes of His majestic nature and distilled them all down to one fine point, you would have an eternal treasure chest that sparkled with blinding glory. And all over that divine chest would be the Names of God from Alpha to Omega and everything in between. And if perhaps you became overwhelmed by the sheer splendor of this treasure chest of God's glory and nature, and in a state of pure worship an angel whispered, "Would you care to open the chest and see the very heart of God", and you replied, "yes, if I may". And as you were granted this privilege you reverently and respectfully opened the lid. And when you gazed over the side and looked into the inner chamber of God's heart, you would see engraved in living and eternal gold leaf..."His Followers".

Now you know, Jesus will always have His followers.

"Follow Me"
Speak Lord, your servant obeys.
The Empty Blog Throne
Col.1:18 - ...that in all things He might have the preeminence.
Lest I forget Gethsemane, Lest I forget Thine agony,
Lest I forget Thy love for me, Lead me to Calvary

I have whittled my blog reading to a precious few. Throughout the Christian sector there are many and varied topics. Some deal with revival. Some write about the falling away of the church. Some are dedicated to reformed theology. Some are political. Some journal personal experiences. Some reference historical theologians. And on and on. Some are very edifying and informative. Some are well written while other are more colloquial. But after six months (my blog experience) I now feel as though something is missing.

As I visited some emergent blogs I could not believe the things that were posted and presented as important Scriptural issues. I mean moral issues like homosexuality were treated as if we needed to take a second look about defining them as sin, and most shocking is the idea that salvation could be expanded to include people who were followers of another religion who presumably had never heard of Jesus. The world was treated as some post modern sculpture, there to be admired and figured out. Like walking through a modern art museum and everyone surmising what each painting was saying to us, that is how some of these blogs look at this world. The rapidly transforming global culture combined with the breathtaking technology is studied as if it was the paramount issue concerning the gospel. And secular authors and experts are quoted as sources for Spiritual truth.

And then I visited some reformed blogs. Now there are many blogs that are presented by a Christian with a reformed perspective that are well worth the read. But I discovered that there are many whose unswerving mission is to refute Arminianism and continue to bang the chimes of Calvin. To be honest with you I can take a little of that, but after a while it grows old and clearly comes across as self righteous. Some of these blogs act as if they are the guardians of the Holy Grail, and most of the writings are meant for the consumption of the Calvin choir anyway. To be fair I still am greatly edified by several blogs who sometimes post about election but have allowed the Holy Spirit to widen their menu to feed people like me. To those brothers I say "Amen!".

And then I visited some watchman blogs. These are the blogs that are dedicated to inform the body of the different heresies and departures within evangelicalism. By way of full disclosure, it was at one of those sites that I first became informed and alerted to the Emergent movement. But after a while my spirit began to stir within me about the uncharitable nature of many of those sites. Never a call for prayer for the men they criticize, never an acknowledgment of any good being done, and never an inspection of their own sin. And the writings come across with an "ek cathedra" flavor to them, almost as if they were speaking infallibly for God Himself. And with all the references used, both Christian and secular, it became evident that many of the authors were consumed with search and destroy details. And in addition some of the most high browed and vitriolic sites were overseen by unordained women, a clear unbiblical usurpation of authority to gain the ecclesiastical right to rebuke and correct ordained elders.

Well after months of perusing many sites I felt a growing emptiness in my spirit as I read all the different blogs. I remember seeking the Lord about what I was feeling, and I now believe it was due to my consumption of much junk food and not enough edifying health food. And suddenly I recognized something very startling. The person who is most overlooked in the blog domain is...Jesus. That is correct, for every article about the Person of Jesus there are literally hundreds about Warren, MacLaren, Bell, MacArthur, Pink, Spurgeon, and on and on. In many high schools the principal develops more intimate relationships with the problem children rather than the honor students because of the time he spends with them. The same has become true with the church, we have been caught up with many things like Martha, but we have neglected the better part.

So in an attempt to "heal thyself" I am going to make a conscious effort to allow the Holy Spirit to speak through me concerning the Person and work of the Lord Jesus on a consistent basis. Oh I will still address some other issues as before, but I want brothers and sisters who visit this poor blog to go away with a deeper love for our wonderful Savior. He should have all the preeminence and He should be held high in worshipful adoration. Jesus should be the strong thread running through the Christian internet regardless how the church as a whole departs. We should not allow the purpose/seeker/emergent movements drag us from our first love while critiquing their doctrinal issues. Our hearts should remain soft and broken before our Lord, and while John the Baptist preached repentance he bowed in humility before Jesus the first time he met him. So let it be with us.

So here it is, Lord Jesus my life, I rededicate this blog to You. May You and You alone receive all the glory and honor. Keep me from my disgusting self, and in whatever You give me to share may it be revealed wrapped in the Spirit of Grace as well as the Spirit of Truth. And I ask You, Holy Spirit, to take these poor words and make them life to those who read. Let everyone who visits here leave with the fragrance of God's Son, so that others may take notice that "they have been with Jesus".

To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Is.57:15 - For thus says the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity...

Only God is eternal, but He has chosen to share futuristic eternity in His creations. Why, we can only surmise, but it must be woven throughout the unfathomable character and love of the Creator God. And with eternity as the backdrop, the redemptive story sheds its earthly ties and soars past Adam, past David, past Bethlehem, past Calvary, past Revelation, and lifts up on eagles wings flying into the loving certainty of the Heavenly Father's care. And when the Eternal One Himself says, "What should it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul", well, Jesus accentuates the eternal as opposed to the temporal. The Holy Spirit through Paul tells us to "look on the things that are not seen, not the things that are seen" and "the things that are seen are temporal and the things that are not seen are eternal".

Being a child of the sixties I can remember the growing emphasis on social issues and earthly relationships, all of which were a "show of will worship" but only to the satisfying to the flesh. It was well intentioned but not eternal. If a man slips over a cliff and is hanging on to a little bush trying not to fall into the abyss, and if someone recognizes his plight and rushes to his aid, leans over the cliff, and lowers him a cold drink, and while he watches him quench his thirst the man slips to his death, what good did he do? There is a giant, sixties like movement within the church to bring humanitarian and social justice issues to the forefront at the expense of the everlasting gospel. For the record the American church is in the hedonistic bed of capitalism and greed, building great buildings with state of the art everything and with every micro-ministry to each segment of the western church. All the while Christians and unbelievers alike starve and are in great want throughout the world, but most churches now have large screens within the sanctuary so as not to miss the most entertaining vantage point. God wants our children to have large gymnasiums but he declines to feed His African children. We are so blessed.

Now several movements have recognized this colossal waste and in the process of attempting to right the ship they have left the message, which is "that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life". Christ did not die on a Roman cross to pay for a better and more productive earthly life, and in some cases men and women were significantly better off in this world before they became followers of Jesus. We now are hearing people "put into context" the eternal consequences of heaven and hell, you do your own definition. Let us agree that whatever the particulars of heaven and hell after death, they are forever and heaven is infinitely more desirable than hell. People go to great lengths to remove any apprehension and fear of their coming eternity and in that they do a great disservice to people and disdain to the cross of Christ.

Word studies, cultural compromise, new understandings, and a wider definition of God's mercy that doesn't even include the name of Jesus is the theology du jour. And the truth is no one wants to think about eternity, this life and this world are front and center and a rearranging of salvation parameters is necessary to remove the archaic moorings that have suffocated the church for centuries. It is now a "roll of the dice" and from so many corners teachers today have more questions than Biblical answers. And here we stand, two thousand years later, and we still are hashing over the paramount question of the ages, "What must I do to be saved?" And if the answer to that question is so intricate and complex, and if it depends on the situation, and if it must be extracted from the intellectual writings of the modern literary theologians, then we are doomed. All have a view, all have a doctrine, all have a question, and all can pull the rug out from under the sturdy and proven foothold of orthodox redemptive teachings with just philosophical words that present hypotheticals which leverage uncertainty. Great essays, great literature, great philosophy, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

So here it is, simply told by a simpleton. Does every person born exist for eternity in either heaven or hell? If the answer is yes, then the question becomes how can I arrive in heaven? If the answer is "it depends" then save your breath because it depends upon you and your interpretation. And if all the different emerging streams of thought concerning salvation only muddy the waters and expose our departure from basic historical teachings concerning the born again experience, then let us quit being hypocrites and publicly go on television and say like the Pharisees said to Jesus "We cannot tell". At least we will have honesty as a foundation.

But if we are convinced that as much as within us lies, that the road to eternal life passes directly and only through faith in the finished work of the Person of Jesus the Christ, then let us lovingly, powerfully, and exclusively proclaim that to a desperately needy and dark world. And let us guard against allowing all the other fragmented issues cloud the eternal message of hope itself. The church is the ark of the New Covenant, and our responsibility is infinitely greater than rearrainging the chairs of this Earthly Titanic without offering a life saving course correction.

Eternity is the high prize than can only be won through the Eternal One, Jesus the Christ. And six quintillion years from today, as we are gathered in worship before the unspeakable sight of the glorious majesty of the Risen Lion of the Tribe of Judah, will we not realize that all was vanity and vexation of spirit - except the knowledge of Him?

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Have a blessed Thanksgiving! Remember, most of Paul's references to giving thanks to God were never about material things. Paul never had much of this world's goods, nor did he seek them. His thanks always centered on Christ and all the inherent Spiritual benefits that come with knowing Him. Everything was "dung" compared with knowing Jesus, as it should be with us.

Think about the catch-22 of materialism. Everything we own requires our time, maintenance, thought life, and has a tendency to keep us earth-bound both in heart and practice. It never satisfies, and we are on the treadmill of bigger houses, bigger cars, bigger televisions, bigger salaries, bigger everything that reveal our desires. How about bigger prayer lives, bigger Word lives, bigger mission lives, bigger and deeper surrender to Jesus and His Lordship?

A suggestion: take 5 minutes and spend it just basking in the shadow of His cross with brokenness and thanksgiving. Many servants of Jesus will give thanks for the cultural emendates that we are "entrusted" with, but let us honor Jesus for that which should completely captivate our hearts. Remember, everything of this world was created by just a spoken Word, but our Spiritual heritage cost God the death of His Son!! Thank you Jesus, we could never know how much it cost you on that cross, but we repent and release all the THINGS of this world in the light of knowing and following you, our Lord and King. THANK YOU FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT!!!!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Outrage in West Virginia

Monday, January 2nd, 2006 at 6:31 a.m., Sago, West Virginia.An underground explosion causes a power outage at Sago Mine as two crews entered the mine to resume production after the holiday. All 13 members of the first crew are trapped. Then came the news that 12 of the miners were found alive. It turned out to be false, and in the end only one miner was saved.

Miscommunication, that is what they are calling it. After 13 miners were trapped deep within a coal mine in West Virginia, the news came that 12 out of the 13 had escaped death and were saved alive. Oh the joy and thankfulness that spread throughout the community and especially the relatives. But several hours later it became apparent that the news that they were alive was tragically erroneous. All but one of the 13 miners were found dead. The outrage of the miscommunication almost eclipsed the feeling of loss that the close knit community had felt, and it would have been better if the information that they were alive had never been given to the families. For several hours they had rejoiced with false hope that would cruelly be taken from them by a tragedy compounded with the incompetence of a communications debacle. Grief mixed with anger.

Think about what is being communicated throughout American Christianity. There is an eternally irresponsible communication given to millions that they are saved and on their way to be with the Lord Jesus Christ forever. Miscommunication with Spiritual implications. Just like what happened in West Virginia, we must investigate the reasons for this false and cruel assurance. Personally I believe there are some identifiable reasons for this current phenomenon.

The lowering of the gospel threshold in order to accommodate today's "quick stop" mentality. Salvation is by faith alone, but God warns that "the devils also believe..."(Ja.2:19) and thereby He warns us against "easy believism". We must place our entire faith on the Lord Jesus Christ and in that become a follower. A person who has never been a follower of the Lord Jesus is not saved, and the person who used to be but presently is not must be solemnly warned that his eternal condition is questionable, not because of the lack of works in a person's life fails to save him, but because without being a follower of Jesus Christ as Lord his conversion should not be trusted. Spurgeon warned that it is dangerous for anyone to trust a past time and place conversion but rather we should live every day following Christ and crucifying our flesh.

The overemphasis on eternal security in today's teaching. Not that millions are losing their salvation, but that millions are being assured of their eternal salvation who are not saved. Remember, eternal security deals with the back door but today it is used to describe the front door - wrongly. How can we possibly tell anyone that they are surely saved and on their way to heaven, much less someone who has just repeated what you just told him to repeat? His assurance MUST COME FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT, NOT US!!! We dare not speak for God concerning someone's eternal destiny. Jesus Himself said that we are not to pull up the tares because we cannot always discern between the wheat and tares. Here is a suggestion to say to someone who has just professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, "You have just become a follower of Jesus Christ, the rest of your life will reveal whether you really meant it. I will pray for you and help you in any way I can." The New Testament has more Scriptures warning people to make sure they have come through the right door than it does to teach people that there is no back door to salvation!

Church membership. This a-scriptural practice has become a dangerous idol. Not only is it used as an expression of the non-Scriptural and culturally assimilated practice of democracy in God's church, but it gives some people false hope that they are saved. A person cannot be a "church member" unless he is saved and baptized, therefore adding to the "you are saved" communication to all members. How many evangelists have said, "You may even be a member of this church but are not saved", expressly implying that church membership has given you false assurance? They are openly saying that the church has said you are saved but maybe God is saying you are not. WOW!

And so millions of church members who never pray, never read God's word, never witness, some full of lust, many caught in earthly hedonism, walk and talk like their "unchurched" neighbors, live their lives with the false hope they are headed for heaven based on a prayer they once repeated. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe they are all followers of the Lord Jesus, maybe they all will wind up in heaven, maybe eternal security is not the by-product of eternal followship. You decide. Which is a more dangerous Scriptural path to walk, millions winding up in heaven who battled with false doubts - OR - millions who wind up in hell who enjoyed false hope? By the way, we are the first generation to walk in the latter(read church history!).

This isn't theological badminton. This isn't negativity. This isn't some Spiritual fairy tale. This is life and death and people's souls are in the balance and we must lovingly, urgently, and passionately warn people about their eternal destinies, as well as our own. We have made eternal punishment clean, neat, and appropriate in mixed company so that we all can nod in theological agreement while feeling less emotion than when our electric bill goes up! The revivalist Charles Finney once observed that "How can we preach hell(they used to do that-how archaic!) and at the end of the service we smile and shake hands as if it was a performance. People don't even believe we believe it!"

Oh the seriousness of it all exhorts us to greater heights of surrender and commitment. At the end of 2005 in Iraq there was a vicious battle that killed many in a certain platoon. One particular sergeant was severely wounded and the medic assigned to work on him did all in his power to save his life, but after six months the medic had lost track of him, actually believing he had died. The medic had now finished his tour and he was back in the states to experience what the military names "Operation Homecoming". The returning men meet up with all their fellow soldiers in a gymnasium and then they are escorted outside to reunite with their families. As this medic walked into the gym someone observed that this particular sergeant was shaking hands with the returning men on the other end of the gymnasium. The medic could not believe his eyes, he had been sure that his sergeant could not have lived, but he worked on him with all his might and even prayed for him in the vehicle that took him away from the battlefield. As these two grown men embraced and wept uncontrollably, and while the sergeant stood with one leg missing, I could not help but wonder how many will we see in the glorious homecoming of heaven who we witnessed to and prayed for but had forgotten about and even never thought we'd see them in God's presence?

And then I thought how many have been assured that they will be with God one day only to discover they have been lost forever. This is not some "Biblical Trivia" game, this is for the eternal souls of men and women. We owe it to the Author of truth and the Savior of the world to make His message clear, and we must never promise anyone eternity based upon a one time shallow prayer without the test of time. It is so dangerous to play assembly line salvation because it makes us feel so good to see people make professions of faith in Christ, no, we are after God's heart not building His church. God will build His own church by the power of His Spirit and through the truth of His Word. The standards of Biblical salvation and its accompanying life changing fruits have been so diluted that they for the most part do not exist. And how many preachers have falsely comforted a grieving family that their loved one is in heaven based simply on a one time profession of faith?

So while we question how the false communication happened in West Virginia, let's remember that we are engaged in a far more serious communication that has eternal consequences for millions. One day millions will stand before the Judge of all the Universe, and as they are "cast into the lake of fire"(Rev.20:15 - which is not hyperbole!), many will say "I was told I was saved. I wasn't warned". Brothers and sisters, let us fall upon the grace of Almighty God and admit before Him that "We don't really believe that!" and its Siamese twin "We don't really care!", and that will be this first yellow brick in the road that leads to the Emerald City of Revival!!

Send revival Lord, for your glory alone.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Spiritual Leadership

There is a lot of talk about leadership these days. I can remember seeing rows of books in the bookstores exclusively on leadership from all kinds of perspectives. Five steps, four keys, seven principles of leadership. And if you attend a typical evangelical church for any length of time you may very well hear a sermon series on leadership. Now the world's definition of leadership is based on common sense and what works (translated who made a lot of money leading that way), but it is obvious that the Biblical model of leadership has absolutely nothing to do with worldly success or monetary gain, and sometimes Spiritual leadership falls short in both those categories - according to the world.

Actually a concise Biblical definition of leadership centers around being an example before the human audience, which at its core is servanthood. And that type of leadership comes from the Holy Spirit and pleases the Father while reflecting the Son. It cannot and should not be measured in financial terms, and many times a good financial or corporate leader is not one in God's sight. Spiritual leadership may sometimes appear weak and non-assertive, when in actuality it is bold in the Spirit realm. Spiritual leadership can look insecure and defeated, when in the heavenlies it is decisive. Spiritual leadership can sometimes offer reconciliation to an enemy that resembles compromise, and sometimes offer unexpected correction to a close friend that resembles harshness. Spiritual leadership can ground one girl for being ten minutes late, while restoring another with an unwanted pregnancy. You see leadership is actually Jesus in human clothes.

Spiritual leadership by definition cannot be kept within predictable parameters, and there are no neat steps to be an effective (God pleasing) leader in the Spirit. The leader is the Spirit Himself, and the man an obedient and humble conduit. Organization is a plus, but it cannot define a Spiritual leader. Good communication skills are good, but they are not the substance. Spiritual leaders come in all sizes and shapes, many different personalities, withdrawn and gregarious, loud and soft spoken, and a myriad of styles. A Spiritual leader readily admits his knowledge is limited and he learns to listen, store, and later pray and meditate upon good advice. Many times a Spiritual leader does not consider himself to be one, and he does not verbalize everything he thinks. A Spiritual leader will constantly war against manipulation, even when it is the straightest line between two points.

A Spiritual leader draws others to follow Who he follows, simply by his magnetic Spiritual life. While others may only know Christ on a doctrinal basis, his intimate relationship with the same Savior generates a thirst in those who watch him and become desirous of whatever he has. Sometimes what he says creates desire, sometimes it's what he doesn't say. A Spiritual leader isn't leading somewhere, he is leading to Someone and the fragrance of that Someone rides with him. Many times the leading journeyman is so taken by the Person of the path, that he doesn't realize others follow him. And when the leader reaches his final destination he hears the words "well done you good and faithful servant", which is God's definition of a Spiritual leader. And Paul makes it clear that women can and should be Christ modeling leaders to other women and to their own children. It is not the Biblical design but many women are by default the Spiritual leaders in their own home. May God bless these Godly ladies who so often put men to shame!

Broken - humble - selfless - prayer - love - driven - Christlike
A leader in the Spirit.
Hitler can be a leader of men, but only followers of Jesus can lead people away from themselves and to the Living Water. Great leadership is when you are such an example and so diversified and unexpected in your caring that you never even need to write a book about you and your teachings, millions of others will write about you and your reflecting passion. You may write books, but not about you. Now pure leadership, as a matter of fact, can be when You are so obscure and hidden that no one can tell where You come from or where you go (Jn.3:8), and Your labor is sometimes attributed to men when indeed it is all You. And when You are recognized You (Holy Spirit) speak of Someone else (Jesus). I believe that is called leadership masquerading as servanthood.
Lord, we all are dumb, blind sheep without Your leadership. And in reality true leadership is followship. We desire to You. Keep calling.
Your servants are listening.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Mary - A Priceless Gem of God's Grace


Lk.1:46 - My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
Mary...A little insignificant peasant girl from the loins of David and from the loins of Judah, from which the Lion will spring. Just being faithful in her walk with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and not expecting anything special. Humble and obedient and obscure, but Jehovah had been watching. Jehovah had been guiding. Jehovah had chosen...her. The human ark of the New Covenant Lamb.

Mary...Before Jesus was born, before the shepherds worshipped, before the wise men brought gifts, before Simeon blessed Him, before Anna prophesied, before John the Baptist identified Him, before the Roman soldier knew who He was, before all of those and other declarations of who Jesus was, Mary identifies Him as "God my Savior" while He was still in her womb.

Mary...God borrows Mary's virgin womb with the unspeakable blessing of Himself. Not "a" miracle but "THE" miracle. The divine seed of God and the human egg of Mary combine to give life to the sinless "seed of the woman" as first prophesied in Genesis. Mary was obviously a Godly and Spiritual young woman and even though she must have been incredibly unsettled by the chain of events, she humbles herself and praises her Lord. God must have granted her a wonderful and unique covering of His grace that He had planned before He made the worlds.

Mary...The rumors, the embarrassment, the wonder, the pondering, all must bow as her soul magnifies the Lord. Just an angelic visitation must have been an amazing event, but when she as a 14, 15, or maybe 16 year old young virgin is told that she will be pregnant, she immediately asks "how can this be?". Pregnant? She truthfully confesses, with a quiet, trembling voice, that she has never been with a man and Gabriel confirms that as true. You see, not just "an" angel but the arch-angel Gabriel. Imagine the splendor, the brilliance, the beauty, and the aroma of heaven that must have been experienced by Mary in the presence of Gabriel.

Mary...Now, as she has been told she will be pregnant, Gabriel informs her that the baby will be a boy and His name shall be called Jesus(Joshua-"Jehovah saves"). Gabriel says that He will be called "the Son of the Highest". After she asks how, Gabriel tells her it is the Holy Spirit that will perform this miracle, and as Gabriel leaves he calls her baby the "Son of God". Wow. Mary has just had a one-of-a kind church service created just for her. With Gabriel the preacher, God prophesies to Mary about His will for her life and she surrenders. As she metaphorically comes down the aisle she bows at the altar and says,"be it unto me according to thy Word".

Mary...Just a righteous girl, chosen by Jehovah, invaded by God's Spirit, kept by God's grace, blessed among women, the earthly mother of God. Mary will be with Jesus throughout His life. She is with Him in Jerusalem at 12 years of age; she is with Him at His first miracle at Cana; She follows Him during His ministry; she is there as He stands before Pilate; she watches Him carry His own cross; she stands at the foot of the cross and watches her son be murdered, crucified; she is there as he is taken to a borrowed tomb. Beside the natural horror of seeing your son murdered, what must Mary have thought Spiritually. Did she think it was over and the Romans had killed the Messiah?

Mary...It is significant that when Jesus is resurrected we find no accounts of Mary being there. The risen Christ is now stripped of all earthly ties and Jesus tells His disciples to go tell the brethren. No mention of Mary. The sword that Simeon had prophesied about has pierced her heart, and she is now just a disciple of Jesus. The maternal miracle is now over, but a new one is on the horizon.

Mary...The Day of Pentecost. The disciples are praying in the upper room and God feels it necessary to mention that Mary was among them. The last mention of Mary. She has fulfilled the mission God gave her and she is now a follower of Jesus. A humble, broken, Spirit-filled follower. And one day she dies, and as she enters the presence of Jesus she bows with the other saints and worships the King of Kings. That's right. This is not a mother-son reunion. She received a breathtaking reward for her earthly faithfulness, and she places it at the feet of, in her own words, "God my Savior". God broke the alabaster box of Mary's life, spilled it out on His Son, and the aroma of her humble faithfulness will last forever.

Mary...a priceless gem of God's grace.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Narcotic of Preaching

Ti.1:3 - But God has in due times manifested His Word through preaching...
Ti.1:7 - For a bishop must be blameless as the steward of God, not self-willed...

To all of you who have never preached to a group of people who have come to hear and for the most part affirm what you say, I am going to slide the curtain back ever so gently. To speak to people in a convincing way can be somewhat of a self energizing experience, but when you portend to speak for God it goes to a much higher level. When the Word of God is preached through a humble, prayer filled, and anointed servant of the Most High God, it is a glorious and mysterious ministry of the Spirit that redounds to the glory of the Almighty. To fully reveal the sacred and accountable honor given to a called human being to handle the unchangeable Word is impossible. It may sometimes be to only a hand full of listeners, and it may sometimes deal with somewhat practical issues, and it may sometimes seem mundane and redundant, but it is still the most important event that will happen on planet earth.

When the Congress of the United States of America meets to decide whether to go to war or not, that is important. But that can never compare with a faithful man with a tattered suit, fresh from the presence of God and filled with the precious Holy Spirit, who stands to proclaim God's Holy Word to five little AIDS infected African children. The importance in the heavenlies of any man called and in obedience preaching the eternal Word is paramount, regardless of the number of listeners. I am convinced that if a preacher was shipwrecked on an island, and every Sunday morning for two years he rose and preached to himself and the ocean, that the audience of heaven would be listening and God Himself would receive glory from this faithful prophet of God, isolated in the earth but surrounded by a cloud of invisible witnesses.

God is His Word and the Word is God. Go ahead and try and capture that with human words and thoughts and we do nothing but detract and confuse the eternal mystery. A loving, redeeming, caring, sovereign, and glorious mystery, but a mystery none the less. And the oxy-moron is that the more of the mysterious essence of God's Word we perceive, the more of the Word we understand. The breath of God Himself inhabits His Word and while it is the fine china of Christ's body on earth so many today are making it the paper plates and plastic forks of man. To exhale and speak God's Word to eternal souls is the most sacred and trembling responsibility any man can claim. It is the finite proclaiming the infinite; the sinful proclaiming the Holy; the partial truth proclaiming the whole Truth. You see what I mean? Where can I find the words that can fully unfold the gracious and powerful calling of preaching God's Word? My words are poor carriers to your minds, only the Spirit of God who wrote His Words can make them alive in your spirit.

But within this calling lurks a loathsome and hideous temptation that all preachers have sometimes succumbed to unknowingly and knowingly. The chameleon like characteristic of our flesh adapts over time to appear religious and can subtly inject into us a feeling of invincible authority and unassailable justness of what we say and, yes, even who we are. There is a spiritual endorphin rush that can accompany a man preaching to a group of listeners with an acceptance that he speaks for God, and the format can easily lift up a man while even repeating Biblical verses. And when the number of listeners grow, the man can systematically add his words and ideas to the very Words of God and then they become impure and he becomes lifted up in his own eyes and in the eyes of his followers. And if it goes unchecked by Spiritual repentance and humility, the preacher starts to become addicted to the sound of his own voice and the acclamation of his people. What began as a God exalting ministry of heralding the Word of Almighty God, becomes a self aggrandizing exercise in human manipulation and the returning feeling of prideful power he receives from his agreeing listeners. None of that is of God.

What are the warning signs of this transformation? When a preacher speaks carelessly and publicly about any and all subjects, that man has himself as an idol. When men speak openly about their sex lives and give advice for men and women, he is carnal and probably has some type of imagery addiction as well as desecrating God's Word and his calling. When you hear or read a message on humility from a preacher and it seems so incongruous to the atmosphere of his overall teaching, that is a warning sign. If a preacher never weeps, his heart may be cold. When there is always an upbeat quality to a man's messages, that man is entertaining not preaching. If a preacher allows himself to become rich, he is compromised. When a preacher speaks the truth of God's Word but he is puffed up and prideful, he has been seduced by his own voice and personality. There are many more signs that only the Holy Spirit can make application to each individual man. And many times I have taken pride in an article I have offered here, disgustingly assuming that I came up with the thoughts and words, when it is all the Spirit and none of me if it is truth. And if any are not truth, let them burn on the trash heap of all the other works that were of me.

Humility to us preachers is very elusive, and many times we claim it because we know we should but not in the uncomfortable and stinging reality that obviously crucifies our flesh and makes us the off scouring of the earth. Attend a Bible conference and listen as each preacher is introduced as if he was Gabriel himself. If you hear of a conference which will have no fancy advertisement, no registration fee, no four star accommodations, no tapes or albums sold, no list of coming preachers, no frilly introductions, no workshops, and suggests three days of fasting for all who come, let me know. Boldness and humility are two siblings birthed by the same Father of Spirits, but I confess I have yet to concoct the right mixture, and if I thought I had, that would probably be a good sign I hadn't. I believe we need a revival of contrition and brokenness, led by preachers. This bellicose and caustic rhetoric that flows from blogs, pulpits, books, and on television needs a strong dose of "physician heal thyself". That doesn't mean that God will not speak a strong Word through someone, he often does and especially in these days. But where are the strong words about us? Forget about the usual and deserving whipping boys, what about us? Are we so humble and bowed before our Maker, and are we so sensitive to our own flesh, and are we so addicted to the presence of God in our prayer closets that we don't need a Word of repentance from God? We think way too much of ourselves, and when a man thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. So what does that tell you? We have tens of thousands of deceived preachers speaking their own words which they substantiate by wresting God's Word. And we have lost the definition of humility long ago, not to mention the lifestyle and example of it. Oh we can teach humility and brokenness, but who actually lives it, and the preaching ministry has long ago adapted those terms to mean what they say they mean, not what God says they mean and certainly not what the earthly life of the Lord Jesus revealed. The mirror of God's Word has become a looking glass to others, and oftentimes the branch filled eyes seem articulate about the speck filled eyes of others.

This call is to all of us.
Let us not live on the narcotic of our own preaching and creeds, however Biblical. Let us humble ourselves and pray, and turn from our wicked ways, and let us seek the very face of God Himself. And let us reject the satisfaction of anything in this world and follow hard for the Living Water of the presence of God. And if you truly enter the very presence of Jesus Christ, you will be humbled and broken. If you are not, it wasn't Him.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Dagon Falls Again

I Sam.5:4 - And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord...

God will not share His glory with anyone or anything. Not Allah, not Moses, not Buddha, not Mohammed, not Democrats, and not Republicans. How did evangelical Christianity ever get caught up with politics I'll never know. It stems from an attempt to create morality without the cross which is not only impossible, it is a stench in the nostrils of Almighty God. There is now something I call depraved morality. It is legislating morality that disguises and whitewashes the inside mausoleum of dead men's bones piled up individually and nationally.

For instance if Hugh Hefner tells the truth that is called depraved morality, a morality motivated by the depraved flesh and not the Holy Spirit. We are not called to preach morality or conservative politics, it is all an illusion that appears well intentioned but it is a Christ-less work at its core. Democracy was invented by the humanistic Greeks and we have attempted to Christianize it and God will have none of it. And not only does the church participate, we allow - get ready for this - we allow unregenerate people to trample into our churches and vote for abortion and gay marriages, the same issues that so many are worried about. Yes, some churches are used as voting places and some people vote in rebellion against God in the very house that people use to worship the Lord Jesus. To say it is a disgrace is an understatement.

OK, imagine Moses says to God's people "This Tuesday I am going to open the Tabernacle for everyone to come and vote. It will be open for Israelites, Assyrians, Philistines, Moabites, and anyone who desires to vote for whoever they desire to lead us. I've decided not to ask God who should lead, I'm going to let all of you decide. Now when you enter pull the sacred badger skins around you so no one sees who you vote for and use the golden candlestick light to see your ballot. I'll have extra showbread on the table as a courtesy and some nice incense for your enjoyment. When you have voted, proceed into the Holy of Holies, lift up the mercy seat, and place your ballot in the Ark of the Covenant."

Do you feel a little sick after reading that? We should because that is how God feels when we let the heathen come into the building we have separated to worship Him and we let them in essence vote against God himself in His own place of New Testament worship. Why don't we feel offended? Because we were born into this modern religious right genre and we haven't really thought about it in those terms. We have placed Dagon in the room with the presence of God and by that we have desecrated the house of worship. And last Tuesday the political Dagon bowed before God's will again. Does it make us feel sad? Let us repent.

If we want to see the glory of God we will have to seek the face of Jesus Christ, if we want to see politics we'll have to visit Gehenna. Politics is a filthy business filled with braggadocio, false promises, name calling, compromise, and lots and lots of money. There was more money spent on this mid-term than any other while brothers and sisters in Christ in Darfur go without food and shelter. Politics is the church where Muslims, Jews, atheists, Humanists, Roman Catholics, Mormons, and evangelicals pray to the same God of the Universe, together. The stench of our earthly games must rise up before our Heavenly father, especially when he sees His children spend more time in the voting booth than the prayer closet.

King Uzziah sincerely entered the Temple to thank God for his political success and offer up incense. Upon learning of this, Azariah and eighty priests demanded he leave God's house, and when the King got mad God struck him with leprosy until the day he died. It is interesting to note that in the same year that King Uzziah died the prophet Isaiah saw the revealed Christ high and sitting on His throne, after the politician died. Let the politics go and let us pray that we see the Risen Christ, high and lifted up and sitting on a throne, and His presence filling our houses of worship. Away with the religious right, away with the legislated morality, away with politicians coming into our worship seeking votes not God. And what of the election results, did we not pray enough or vote enough? No, God is calling us to our knees to seek Him, not elections, and we should come out from among them and be separate. The Lord has put a difference between us and the Egyptians.

God has piped and we have not danced to the pipes of His glory, no, we have danced like marionettes to the hedonistic melodies of the world and not the shofar of the Archangel calling us to worship. The Israelites cried, "We have no king but Caesar", and we have echoed those blasphemous words as the church has willingly washed herself in the melting pot of carnal politics again and again. Well, look at the work of your worldly hands you who trust in politics, look and howl as God haters now completely rule as God Himself is sending us a warning to seek Him. Pinocchio's political strings have been cut and he lies outside the city in the embers of Gehenna. Watch as the Supreme Court is packed with unregenerate God haters, God isn't worried, He who sits in the heavens laughs and He will have them in confusion. Let them place nine playboy bunnies in the Supreme Court, it doesn't affect the Sovereign Throne of Yeshua Adonai one bit. God rules in august sovereignty unaffected by the plans of man, so release these foolish dreams and look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith! Not the electorate but the Elector Himself!!!

But remember God is eternally interested in His bride. Let us cleanse ourselves of all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. The time for games is over, everything but the gospel is sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. The "America is a Christian nation" lie has been exposed, the emperor has no clothes. We have no king but Jesus and to Him alone we bow. It may be time for such a sweeping separation that is so significant that it astonishes the world and moves the Hand of God. And if the world was so shocked by us they asked the reason for our hope, and when we told them, would they not wonder why we ever were drawn by the sirens of this present world system. We have no kingdom but God's!! Would God graciously grant to us weeks of fasting, consecutive nights of intercession, weeping, mourning, open confession, believing the Word, living Jesus before the world, sacrificial giving to missions, self denying humility, and a sensitivity to the moving of the precious Holy Spirit of Almighty God? And after deep and burning repentance, the apocalypse of the Lord Jesus Christ, with seven stars in His right hand, and with a sharp two-edged Sword going forth out of His mouth, would be revealed in His body, the church. And we could see what we've been told was possible but up to now was only history, not current events. And we would not have to verbally convince our children that we believed in the power of Almighty God, they would witness it!!

If not, then let's get ready. 2008 is coming and we need to defeat Hilary, whoever she is.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Elder Blogs

Some blogs are devotional while others are missions oriented. Some give personal journals while others address political issues. Some minister to women while some come from specific denominations. Some are from an emergent dialogue and others deal with reformed perspectives. There are revival blogs and there are church history blogs. But I want to address something that doesn't seem to be addressed Scripturally in the blogasphere.

There are blogs that correct men and their ministries. They deal with doctrinal and methodological issues and they use the blog format to preach correction to whomever they chose. In reality these blogs are electronic pulpits which not only serve to preach the Word, but they in fact serve in the elder capacity especially given the corrective nature of their ministry. They actually Biblically correct men who they usually name, and in that vein they act as an elder. The Scripture is clear that preachers, evangelists, and pastors who need correction doctrinally and even morally should be confronted by other elders in the body of Christ. That is my point.

I have only posted a blog for less than a year and I have been edified by many others. There are others with which I disagree in doctrinal perspective and I have outlined my reasons via some of my postings. On Following Judah's Lion I post a variety of types of articles which range from verse by verse Bible study, devotional, correction, prophetic, pastoral, and a mix of all these. I enjoy reading many blogs in those different genres, and there are a number of devotional blogs that are overseen by Christian women that I have found edifying both personally and to the body.

But there are a number of blogs that act in the office of elder in their doctrinally corrective nature that are written and overseen by women. Now men and women are equal in Christ as children of the Father, but God has specifically taught us that women and men do not have the same callings in the church. How is it Scriptural that a woman can take doctrinal authority over men in the church? It is not, and it is clear that a woman cannot be an elder in the church therefore she cannot Scripturally correct another man much less an ordained preacher. It is blatantly against Biblical teaching for a woman to act as an elder no matter whether in a church building or in a blog capacity.

These women may even be correct in many of their assessments of certain preachers and movements, but they are outside the confines of Biblical calling when they speak as a doctrinal elder. The elders were called to prayer and the ministry of the Word, and we now see women acting as male elders behind the shield of a blog. It is unscriptural at its core, and because many of them hold to some of the same beliefs as orthodox teachings they have flown under the radar. Christian women have been an incredible blessing to the church of Jesus Christ over the centuries, but they are not to be in ecclesiastical leadership. That is not bigotry, that is Bible. And some of these same blogs that criticize woman like Paula White and Joyce Meyers because the Bible forbids woman preachers, are not only preaching but publicly correcting other ordained men. And many of the comments on these very blogs come from very orthodox men, some of them real "fire breathers". And by their comments, which have in the past included me, we have given doctrinal support to an unscriptural forum.

In our church if a man disagrees with my doctrine or methodology he doesn't send his wife to rebuke me, can you imaging that? It is obviously wrong and completely out of character of the New Testament teachings. And having only been a blogger for less than a year the question comes to me why do orthodox men of God, who sometimes fight over the smallest issue, allow and even support women who are overtly disobeying the Word of God and openly rebuking ordained pastors and preachers? I have come to the conclusion that compromise rides inside the Trojan Horse of the "same enemy fellowship". That means that if you and I see the same doctrinal compromise in Rick Warren, then I'll look the other way concerning your disobedience because we are shooting at the same enemy.

I am a nobody who was called by the Lord Jesus Christ, but if we are going to honor our Father and the truth of Scripture, we must correct our sisters in Christ, which I believe they are. We as elders in the body of Christ are doing them a disservice by not guiding them in this issue and we will be accountable for it. I may stand alone on this, but so be it. If a blog is going to speak correction to other men, including ordained men, then it should come from an ordained elder who runs the blog. This is not meant to be corrosive but corrective. We cannot stand on God's eternal truth about other issues while we look the other way on such an historical Biblical standard. And if we ever hope to call this compromising evangelical church back to repentance, we must do it God's way, not ours. Most of these women have a heart for Christ and a burning desire for revival, but they must come under the covering of God's will.

Let us "speak the truth in love", but let us speak the truth. And as I have said so often, those of us who do speak out in correction of other men let us have grace and a Christ-like spirit. I am still trying to understand the exact mixture between the John the Baptist spirit and the spirit of Jesus. I guess they are both the same, but maybe we should err on the Jesus side until we get to ask Him personally.

An unprofitable servant, Rick

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Brother's Sins

Gal.6:1 - Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you which are Spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself, lest you also be tempted.

And another famous preacher has fallen and the sharks gather. No matter how we disagreed with this or any brother on doctrinal and methodolgical issues, we must be repairers of the breach. The world will do its best to expose and destroy him and his family, but we as fellow believers must close ranks and minister correction, discipline, and restoration to one of God's sheep, our brother. Never, never take your eyes off the real enemy of our souls, the Destroyer himself. I would like to address some issues that will become more and more important in the coming days should Jesus tarry.

First. We should never discuss a man's sins publicly. We who confront doctrinal departures must be careful not to mesh a brother's sins in the same boat. Just in the last several months the secular world was astounded by the forgiveness shown by the Amish community in the face of the murder of some of their very children, and now we go on "lost TV" and discuss the sin's of a brother in Christ as if the world has a say. The world has no part of us, this brother should be dealt with by the elder body and by the Lord himself, not Larry King (et. al.).

Second. The body of Christ is so segmented and even competitive that we are prone to show partiality in how we view different men's sins. Read some (not all) of the reformed blogs and they are all over this story with almost an effervescence because this brother was of the mega-church variety. Had it been a famous reformed preacher the same blogs would have taken a much different tone. That is a respecter of persons and is shameful and not worthy of the Lord's church.

Third. A church should have many equal elders that teach and preach individually to the body. When a church is "run" by one man he has set himself up as unaccountable and a target for failure. Many preachers spend far too much time under the radar as they travel either locally or around the world. Given the right circumstances with no hedge of protection we all can fall and bring disgrace to the cause of Christ.

Fourth. A pastor should not be involved in politics at all. His calling is infinitely higher than American political issues and that is just more time spent away from his prayer closet. How does a pastor who has a wife, five children, a 14,000 member church, and is the head of a national political group, find time to pray and devour the Word. The sad answer is that he doesn't.

Fifth. The Scriptures are clear that men that sin publicly must be dealt with and restored by Christ's body in the spirit of meekness lest we also are captured by the Destroyer. We should weep over this man's plight, I'm sure he didn't start out to be a disgrace to Christ. He may never preach again, but he could be used of God to warn people and expose the works of darkness.

Sixth. Should we not feel much grief over his wife and children? The down the road implications are mind boggling and we should pray for them and keep them in our hearts and guard against finishing the job the devil started in their husband and father.

Seventh. Many times sheep scatter during these times. Some who liked the pastor are so devastated they will never attend any fellowship again. Some who didn't care for him will experience a sinful satisfaction that can only hamper their Spiritual growth. And some who may have been in the process of considering the claims of the gospel through that church may be turned away by the Accuser.

Sin is no game, it is the highway to hell itself. James taught that sin gives birth to living deeds, and many of those siblings will kill their parents (Ja.1:15). When a brother sins we should ask the Lord how to prevent it in the future. There are men across this country who preach in evangelical pulpits and are right now involved in serious sin. The American church has been set up like small companies with individual CEO's overseeing shareholders and we are seeing the harvest of that unscriptural organization. But when a brother sins, let us correct him, bind the wounds of his family, and continue to staff a humble sentry duty around our own lives. And for the Lord's sake let us never allow the dark world any part in what we do, we are in this world but never part of it. God does not follow a Darwinian "survival of the fittest" model, no, He ministers to a sheepfold not a wolf pack. The same Lord that will administer the stripes of correction on one of His own, will also apply the healing salve of His love into those same chastening wounds. How unlike us Jesus is.

Lord Jesus we pray for this man and his family. We know he will endure the results of his sin until Jesus changes us all, so we intercede for him and his family. We remember Moses stood in the gap for your people and their sins, we ask for mercy for him. May the overseers deal with him in the exact way which will bring forth the fruit of repentance in his life. May he come completely clean about what he has done and may he be completely forgiven. I thank you Lord that you have forgiven us for our sins, may this brother's life not be destroyed.

A bruised reed shall He not break...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Glory of God In My Choice

It has often been asserted that if man was given a free will, a free choice if you will, that somehow that would detract and interfere with the sovereignty of Almighty God. Well the Scriptures are absolutely clear that nothing can abrogate the glorious and eternality of the sovereignty of God, so if God Himself chose to allow man a free choice concerning Himself it in no way defiles or tarnishes the pristine and august sovereignty of God Himself. In my view it glorifies the amazing sovereignty of the only God of all creation.Did the Father allow Lucifer and his angels a free choice and was God's sovereignty compromised? Did God allow Adam a choice and was God's sovereignty compromised?

The scriptures are replete with "choose you" commands to man. The New Testament exhorts us to "examine yourselves to see whether you be in the faith". How can a lost person discern that he is not in the faith unless by God's Spirit he can see the distinction and thereby can obey or reject the "whosoever will" offer of the gospel. Jesus Himself observed that He so often wanted to gather Jerusalem like a hen gathers her chicks, but "you would not". And in II Thess. chapter two God says he will "send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie that they might be damned", referring to those who rejected the truth. Now why would God have to send strong delusion if those people could never choose Him in the first place?

Now it is true that without the power of the Holy Spirit no one could ever comprehend the gospel truth and subsequently become a believing follower of the Lord Jesus. But the universality of the offer (the whole world) makes it clear that God's plan was to "whosoever will", not only who God wills, because as we know He is not willing that any should perish. And in a mysterious act of faith, granted and empowered by the Father, I chose to follow Jesus. I say that with abject humility and gratefulness, since I did not exercise the power of choice that I earned, no and God forbid, I exercised the free choice I was given by the Father Himself. And with that God given choice I glorify the sovereign and august God of all creation. I was not a Spiritual slave on the end of a tractor beam, no, I was granted a choice and I glorified my Savior Jesus, I chose Him because He chose me.

Now since the free will men have watered down the gospel in these days I find much brotherhood with the various segments of the reformed camp, but I retain my "free will" credentials and I rarely get into an argument about any of it. It is a marvelous mystery which will one day be revealed to all of heaven. But in this article I want to let the entire universe know that I, by the power of the Spirit, chose my Lord and Savior Jesus. And since that first day in March of 1975 I have chosen Him thousands of times in a continuing confirmation of that first born again day. I haven't always been faithful, but He has. I haven't always loved Him with all my heart, but He has always loved me with His. He hasn't always been pleased with me, but I have always been pleased with Him.

And so, Jesus, I glorify You with the free choice You gave me. I chose you, I believed on You, I chose to become a follower of You and then You birthed me into Yourself by Your power. I had no power but that which You gave me, the power to place my faith on You. And as I received You, You gave me the power to become a son of the living God (John). There is no other name but Yours where I find salvation (Acts). Your name is exalted above all names forever (Phillipians). Only You, Jesus, are the express image of the Godhead (Hebrews). So here by faith I stand (Romans). There is no one else so to Whom shall I go (Matthew)? Who have I in heaven but You (Psalms)? You are my Alpha and Omega (Revelation).

I do not consider my free choice as a work, oh no, it is a glorious mystery through which I was given an avenue to eternally glorify You. Lord, you could have created a race without a free will and You would not have had to suffer the humility and indignity of the cross to redeem a rebellious creation. You didn't even have to create anything, but for a reason far beyond my poor ability to understand, Your love is so intense and eternal You made me. I have let You down an innumerable amount of times, and in my most obedient and worshipful moments I still fall short, but by Your grace I still choose You. And You still choose me.

I count myself as nothing and all I have as dung, and You as the only pearl of great price I have ever found. I am nothing but an earthen vessel filled with You, the only treasure. I can never completely verbalize my love for You, my words seem so unworthy of the love You really deserve. And so I take the precious gift that You gave me, the gift I gave back to You 31 years ago, and I again kneel before Your Holiness, prostrate myself at Your feet, and I worship You again with that which gave me life eternal.

I choose You, Jesus. Forever.