Saturday, December 30, 2006

Who is Jesus?

This will be a study centered around Hebrews 1:1-3

The first word of the book of Hebrews is “God”. This book was written to first century Jewish Christians who were very young and vulnerable in their faith and of course at the center of their vulnerability was the issue of who was Jesus. The divine nature of the Lord Jesus has been a particularly favorite target of the enemy and the Jews who espoused the “The Lord our God is one God” doctrine needed much teaching and reassurance in their embryonic faith concerning the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth. There were many Jewish teachers who dabbled about Jesus by accepting His prophetic status while rejecting His divine incarnation and so many obstacles were placed in front of these Jewish believers sometime in the very first century after Pentecost and this book of Hebrews was written to address some of the most important ones.

Heb.1:1 - God...

So it is fitting that the first word in Hebrews is God because one of the main themes throughout this book is that Jesus was God in the flesh. This is an extremely hard truth to embrace especially for Jews and only the Holy Spirit can enlighten a person to who Jesus really is. I personally believe Paul wrote Hebrews with the help of a Jewish scribe but the book offers no author. Suffice it to say that the Holy Spirit is the author as He is of all 66 books, so with that in mind the writer begins with a truth that every Jew would agree with and understand.

Heb.1:1 - ...who at sundry times and diverse manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

All of Israel knew and accepted Moses and the prophets as the voice of God and so they could jump on this line of truth and be open to the coming teaching. You see while some Jews taught that Jesus was to be integrated into the law, others taught that the Old Testament was to be completely thrown out. Both views were wrong and extreme, the Old Testament and its law were schoolmasters to bring us to Christ and they are to be studied as prophetic revealers of the Messiah Jesus but never to meshed with the freedom found in the Lord Jesus. So the writer of Hebrews establishes the prophets as true communicators from God. Noah, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, and all the rest were incorporated as prophetic voices that were used to shepherd Israel and the whole world to the present culmination.

Heb.2:2 - Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son…

Wow. Right off the bat the writer follows that historical path of the Old Testament prophets to the person of Christ who he identifies not as Jesus of Nazareth but as God’s Son. This, as we have seen in the gospels, would be considered blasphemy by the Jews because it makes Jesus divine as God’s Son. Notice the verse doesn’t say that in these last days God has spoken to us through His Son along with the coming prophets and teachers, no, because as we will see in Hebrews all the gifts and callings within the church speak for, about, and from the person of Christ Jesus. He is the last voice through which God will speak and Jesus even proclaims that the coming Holy Spirit “will speak of me”.

This is very difficult for the Jewish people to accept and be comfortable with not just because of the mystery of the incarnation but because they were used to thousands of years of structured religious observances that included days, moons, feasts, and hundreds of other outward adherences to Spiritual customs and commandments. Now the Spirit wants to bring them into the Spiritual realm which is Christ Jesus and those former observances were a shadow to be abolished because the body, the substance, is Christ Himself. (Col.2:16-17) Remember Jesus prophesied that the Father was seeking those who would worship Him in Spirit and in truth, not outward tokens of religious patterns that spoke of the weakness of the law. Think of how difficult it was for Jewish believers to leave behind those customs that had been a part of their lives for thousands of years. And even today there are movements to bring back Advent wreaths, Lent observances, priestly clothes, and other outward customs that are man made and again speak of the things of the law and will eventually bring people into bondage. Paul says in Colossians chapter two that we should not allow people to judge us who use no outward artifacts to aid in worship because that is the way God desires it because after Jesus came we no longer need things to worship, we have the Spirit. We should worship with our whole hearts, free in His Spirit, and without any accoutrements that shadow the law which was an especially difficult transition for the Jews. God has spoken to us by His Son.

Heb.1:2 - …whom He hath appointed heir of all things…

Jesus has inherited all things by the will of the Father. For us to dissect the fullness of that truth is like a month old infant doing brain surgery. The Father God has revealed Himself in three distinct persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Now I immediately confess my total inadequacy in teaching this mystery that deals with the essence of the Triune God. The Scriptures teach very little of the Trinity, they just reveal God in those three persons. But the relationship between the persons of the Godhead and the interaction between them is somewhat explained for our benefit and edification as well as our example.

Heb.1:2 -…by whom also He made the worlds.

Let’s try and piece these two thoughts together. Jesus was the Creator of all things, we sometimes mistakenly believe that it was the Father but the Scriptures are clear, it was Jesus. (Jn.1:1-3) But are not Jesus and the Father the same and didn’t Jesus say that “He who has seen the Son has seen the Father”? Throw out the life raft we might start to drown in a deep ocean of glorious truth which by the way the Spirit helps us discover and is pleased when we diligently seek the Lord. Well, if Jesus created everything then why did He have to inherit it if it was already His? I believe the submitted relationship that our Savior had with His Father indicates that He created everything according to His Father’s will (I do the will of My Father) and it was for His Father’s glory (The heavens declare the glory of God). But because of the love relationship the Father had with the Son He made Jesus the heir of all creation for the Son’s glory. And yet they are One with the Spirit. These glimpses into the Godhead are like making the element Californium, it comes with a lot of preparation and only exists a couple of seconds. No one can ever enter the Tabernacle in which the Trinity dwells and fully comprehend the depth and length and width of the eternal mystery, but the Spirit has been sent to both quench our seeking hearts with glorious glimpses and create thirst for more to those who diligently desire it.

Heb.1:3 - Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person…

Just when it seemed it could not get any more sacred, the Spirit beckons us into a deeper chamber of the knowledge of the Almighty. To put it succinctly, Jesus is God. God’s glory is not limited to just a brilliant, golden light, but it goes much deeper than that. The brilliant light that often shines from and around the Lord actually serves as a revelation of His glory, but this verse explicitly says that the very being of Jesus is not only that glory but He is the brightness of that glory. Do you desire to see God’s glory, well look at Jesus and you have seen it in all its fullness. His birth, His miracles, His life, His teachings, His sufferings, His death, His resurrection, and the totality of who He is and always has been and always will be and you have seen the brightness of God’s glory. And do you wish to clearly see the invisible God, look at Jesus and you have seen God. Not a copy and not an exact replica but the express image of His person. As if God was hiding behind a celestial tree in the Old Testament and only speaking through His prophets about Himself, God steps out from behind that tree and then by the mouth of angels one night in Bethlehem proclaims “Here I Am”, come and learn of Me for I am now among you. Make no mistake about this one truth from which all others must come, Jesus was, is, and always will be the Creator God, Jehovah and Elohim, Savior and Lord, existing from eternity past to eternity future, and reigning for all those who will bow down and worship Him. All other revelations of Jesus are man made caricatures created by the spirit of anti-christ and will one day be consumed by the Word of His power and the brightness of His amazing glory. Halleluiah!

Heb.1:3 -…and upholding all things by the word of His power…

Jesus did not just create everything and leave them to their own devices, no, He continues to support all creation with the power of the same Word that originally set them in motion. In actual fact, there is no power other than the Word of God which is in a mystery, Jesus Himself. (Jn.1:1) The Word is Jesus and Jesus is the Word, inseparable. Jesus Himself said, “All power is given unto Me” so never get the impression that Jesus is the Captain of one powerful army and Satan is the captain of another powerful army with both of them fighting as equals. Never. Satan has no power and he masquerades his suggestions and whisperings as power when in fact they are just powerless lies which are given worthless substance by those who listen and believe them. Everything in the universe continues only through the sustaining power of the Word of the Lord Jesus and the only reason that the Lord Christ has not consumed everything by now is His patient love that endures until the last sheep is brought into the true sheepfold. The moment the last name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life and Jesus removes His power from this present creation everything will perish and be rolled up as a garment. And this truth which should be heralded as a warning throughout the world and the church seems to be marginalized so as to give so many a false sense of security when in reality the Word that now offers life will soon speak eternal death to all those outside the fold.

Heb.1:3 -…when He had by Himself purged our sins…

Alone. Jesus purged our sins by Himself, alone. Willingly, lovingly, completely, and alone. Another cavern within the sacred mystery of that which pertains to the Lord Jesus is the infinite and divine loneliness that accompanied the solitary, isolated, and even quarantined sacrifice on salvation’s tree. It was Him and Him alone without the aid of even His Father. There was never such aloneness, such desertion of someone who was giving His own life for those who had abandoned Him. The Spiritual depth of this isolation will only be understood by Jesus Himself, and with that loneliness He had assured that no one else could claim even a small part of the glory of His salvation, it is His work alone. The only sacred head now wounded was His; the only offer of grace was His; the only sufferings were His; the only blood was His; the only redemption was His; and the Author of our salvation was also the Finisher. Works? Denominations? Baptism? Communion? Church membership? Good intentions? Self sacrifice? Feeding the poor? Away with all of them into a cesspool of impurities that can never have a part of “so great salvation”, no, Jesus and only Jesus will forever be the Lamb that was slain for our eternal salvation. And as His blood flowed, the offer was made, look and live, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, no man comes to the Father but by Him, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Not just any blood, His blood alone. The blood of God. (Acts 20:28)

Heb.1:3 -…sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high…

It is finished. In the original language it is one word, tetelestai. The Greeks used this word to mean several things. When an artist had been working tirelessly on a masterpiece, and after many touch ups he finally puts down his brush, stands back and admires his work, he proclaims "Tetelestai!". When a war had been waged on a far flung battlefield and the victory had been won, the general would dispatch a fleetfooted soldier to run with every ounce of energy, and as he arrived at the king's palace he would collapse while shouting "Tetelestai!". When a man owed a great sum of money but was unable to pay it he was cast into prison. Now if a rich benefactor took pity upon him and paid the debt in full, the clerk took the paper that posted his debt and he wrote "Tetelestai!" across the debt and the man was set free. And when Jesus had completed His crucified masterpiece, and had won the battle, and had paid in full our debt, He says "Tetelestai", it is finished. God has completed the labor of love that He walked through Mary’s womb to accomplish because God has so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Ps.24:7-10 - Lift up your heads O ye gates, and be ye lift up ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up ye everlasting doors and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.

I often wondered about the setting for those prophetic verses because obviously Jesus is the King of Glory, but why is He coming into the celestial gates, where has He been, and what battle has He won? And then I realized they speak of The Lord's return to heaven after His ascencion, fresh from His eternal victory, and in all His glory. He, the Lord of Hosts, sits down upon the empty throne that had awaited His triumphant return, and reigning from that Majestic throne all of heaven bows in utter awe and worship. The King of Glory has conquered over death and hell forever. King Jesus, the Lamb, the Lion, the Word, the Christ, the Morning Star, the Root of David, Faithful and True, the Alpha and Omega, the Resurrection, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Son of the Living God, and in one word of eternal truth………..


Friday, December 29, 2006

The Exalted Christ

He is the start, the journey, and the destination. He is everything to all His followers and in Him we live and move and have our being. He is our life and our death and He dwells in heaven and simultaneously in the heart of every believer. He has no equals and no competitors. He is the first among His brethren and He is the vine while His brethren were grafted into Him. He must be the pursuit of every blood bought saint of God. He is the object of all our worship and all the angels of heaven worship Him with us. He is the Creator of time and yet eternal.

To say He is important is to capture Him in human terms which minimize Who He is. He is not just important, He is all in all. He is everything. Do we think the blood washed waves of heavenly saints would consider Him important? They are consumed with Him and being made like Him they actually reflect Him as they worship Him. His dwelling place is beyond words, how much more He Himself? And for all eternity the Seraphim surround the glory of His throne and worship Him with heavenly chants of “Holy, holy, holy…”. And they, the angels, were not redeemed. How do you think we will feel when we set our eyes upon the glorified Savior who purchased our eternity?? We were not angels, we were disgusting rebels who thought of no one but ourselves. We were not content with Eden’s perfection, we had to have the forbidden fruit, and when God the Son came to this desolate place that was permeated with Spiritual death, we murdered Him.

Do not think that any Hollywood producer can actually portray the sufferings of the Lamb, His agonies are a sacred mystery which eclipse human understanding. And when I speak of the love inherent in the crimson cross we must all bow and shake our poor heads in wonder and unworthiness. Why? Why? Me? Why? The glory of the Savior God and His death is that the love that motivated His sacrifice cannot be defined. There was absolutely nothing, I said nothing, lovable about us. So God’s love is absolutely pure of any object impurities and His love was never drawn by anything on earth but it emanated from He who is love. We can never know why until the moment we are changed in His presence and we know then even as we are known. I cannot describe it, but when we see the Risen Lamb of God we will be able to understand more deeply that it is all of Him and none of us.

Jesus is neither renaissance nor industrial nor modern nor post modern, and all attempts to present Him in those terms tarnish the revelation He has so graciously given to us. To bring Him into this world and capture Him in our man made descriptions obscure His glory and run the ever increasing risk of creating someone else than the true Risen Christ. He is the deepest of all mysteries and at the same time the divine simplicity for our sake granted by the looking glass of the Spirit. The Lord Jesus sits above all creation, that which He Himself has made, and all things continue at the behest of His power. Human words can describe Him but only the Spirit of God can unveil Who He is to any woman born sinner. He is the great I Am.

He has been relegated to the back of the modern theological bus only to be discussed usually in musings about different perspectives of Who He is in this world today and, oh yes, how He relates to us today. But Jesus relates to us today the same way He related to those on the Day of Pentecost, the same way He related to Luther, the same way He related to Whitefield, the same way He related Moody, the same way He related to Tozer. We should not be so consumed with dissecting how Christ relates to us, we should be desirous to learn how we should relate to Him. Indeed. And I challenge you this Sunday, as you arrive on the grounds of the church and exit your car, restrict your conversation to small greetings and listen to the conversations taking place before and after the service. I had done that several weeks in a row and I had not heard one, not one, conversation about Jesus. How often is He spoken of in our phone conversations, our dinner table, our car discussions, our blogs, and the preponderance of all our words never mention Him. So there He sits on His reigning throne, above all the universe, powerful and merciful, august and yet reaching into our cursed world, magnificent and glorious, and His own people barely talk of Him in their everyday lives. If God would transport you, me, and 100 other people to spend 3 hours before His magnificent throne, worshipping Him in all His glory, and granting us remembrance as we returned, would we speak of Him?

Well we will not be afforded that miracle but we have been given many other miracles that should translate into an uncontrollable urge to speak of Jesus. He has saved us from eternal judgment. Oh my, how can we ever cease to praise Him? Standing in the grocery store and the Spirit brings to mind how He has saved you from hell, do you praise Him regardless of the so called embarrassment? When listening to a worship song and the Spirit again brings to your mind that you have been eternally rescued do you suddenly worship Him with your voice even if you are alone. When do we make a phone call just to share with a brother or sister about something the Spirit showed you about our Wonderful Savior? Who gets more mouth time than Jesus in the life of an average believer? Bush, Clinton, Trump, Shaq, MacArthur, and list goes on and on. And the One Who should have the preeminence barely is the topic of discussion on Sunday mornings. Let us repent before the King of Kings and the Beautiful Lord of Lords.

Finally Jesus is the center of everything. And when we think about His resplendence and magnificence, we must ask the question “What is man that Thou art mindful of him??”. He has accomplished for us what we could never attempt to gain for ourselves, and He has secured it for eternity. Our future is no time framed vacation, no, it is captured in the eternal realm and He has included us in His plans. And think of this, would it not have been gracious for Jesus to have prepared an eternal paradise where we would go to live forever? But instead, remove your Spiritual shoes, our Lord has summed us to spend eternity in HIS VERY DWELLINGPLACE. If that ever really soaks into our Spiritual realities, we will never be restrained from speaking “those things which we have seen and heard”…about Him.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Continuing the Journey

Once the light surrounded a man and his eyes saw clearly in this light. One day the light began to dissipate ever so slightly and little by little the darkness began to creep into his world. Year by year the darkness grew around him until one day he lived in complete darkness. Now during this process his eyes adjusted to the darkness until this man felt quite at home in the darkness. At this point light was again brought to his eyes and the man recoiled because his eyes had become uncomfortable to any light. You see, light to a man who has adjusted to living in darkness has become evil and irritating to him.

A great and thick darkness has shrouded much of the church. This has happened over many years with such small steps that the church barely noticed. And now the eyes of the church have become so used to the darkness that they recoil at the pure light of God’s Word because their eyes now are at home in darkness and turn uncomfortably from any light. And true to Jesus’ own Words, “If the eye is evil your whole body shall be full of darkness”. And most of the body of Christ, even those who have not succumbed to the different streams of the falling away, still have little or no discernment about what is taking place within the church.

During the time of the apostasy of the children of Israel, and in the midst of the Babylonian captivity, Jeremiah spoke these words that are applicable for today, “The prophets prophecy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their own means; and my people love to have it so; and what will you do in the end?”. This rebuke could be translated today as, “The pastors and teachers teach and preach error, and the church leaders have authority by their own manipulation, and God’s people not only put up with it, they love it. What do think will happen in the end if this continues?”. It is heart breaking to see what has happened and what continues to happen to God’s church and the blindness that has come upon much if not most of the eyes of God’s people.

I have come to conclusion that it is worse than we can imagine and that it is not getting better but worse yet. Oh how the Spirit of the Living God must be grieved, and how the Glorious Name of the Lord Jesus is dragged through the carnal designs of man and his self serving ecclesiastical methods. The only hope is a massive and sovereign move of the Holy Spirit that breaks the hearts and spirits of the people of God resulting in a penetrating repentance that can only be viewed as miraculous. Even that must be as a result of the sovereignty of God because it surely will not be in response to the meager fasting and prayer of the ones who still see in part.

When the Children of Israel were carried to Babylon they eventually found a home in their exile. They were industrious and soon began to prosper in Babylon and their children intermarried with idol worshippers. So when men of God like Nehemiah, Daniel, and Ezra were used of God to call His people back to Jerusalem most of the Jews decided to stay in the comfort of Babylon. They were used to living in the darkness and the brilliant light of God’s Word hurt their eyes and ears. So only a remnant heard the Spirit’s call and went to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple.

So it is today. Only a small remnant hear God’s Spirit calling for a Spiritual rebuilding of God’s church and to rediscover, as did Ezra, God’s Holy Word. Just railing against the false prophets and the pitiful leaders without a revival on our part will accomplish little. Do you not see that our words mostly reach the ears of those who agree and fall dead in the streets having never reached those who are now captive? All the books, all the sermons, and all the blogs serve mostly, and with some benefit, to strengthen those who have refused the sirens of error. And on my own blog I have noticed something very interesting but sad. Many times I have received e-mails from people who wish to have their names removed from the list not because of the devotional posts, no, they like them. It is because of some of the warning articles. They have recoiled at the light, not even wanting to see it.

And conversely many of those devotional posts seem to garner little interest while the warning posts gender a ravenous effervescence among those who already agreed with the premise. It is us who need a revival that allows God to endue us with His power that can rescue the captives because we should be able to see that all the talk and writing is not going to stem the tide. We must give ourselves wholly to seeking the Lord’s face in Spiritual sackcloth and ashes while committing completely to seasons of prayer and fasting. We are in a crisis which no carnal weapons can touch and all our information about the growing darkness only helps to identify the Spiritual departure but will not deliver the captives. Let us not deceive ourselves into believing that writing about what is happening will bring revival, no, God wants us to rebuild the walls of our own Spiritual lives.

When God called the remnant from Babylon to bring revival to Jerusalem they had to leave their lives in Babylon and make an inconvenient and uncomfortable pilgrimage back to the City of Zion. And when that company reached Jerusalem they didn’t just document what had happened, and they didn’t even spend their time rebuking the ones that had stayed in Babylon’s deception. No, they worked according to God’s command and spent much time in fasting, prayer, and the hearing of God’s Word. Remember it wasn’t the works or words of man that brought restoration to God’s City, no, it was “not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord”. What we need today is a move of God’s Spirit. God says He pours out His Spirit upon those who are thirsty and upon those who admit their ground is dry.

Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy, break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord till He comes and rains righteousness upon you. This kind comes forth only by prayer and fasting. And shall not God avenge His own elect which cry day and night unto Him? If you being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him? And you shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you. Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.

The western church still resides in Babylon, prosperous and happy, but God is calling out a remnant that will hear His voice and seek His face. Not a prideful remnant that act as if they had found the truth by their own strength and intellect, and not a remnant that spends most of its time researching the redundant sins of the Babylonian residents, but a remnant that gives herself completely to the battleground of the prayer closet which gains God’s favor without the accolades of man. The secret place is the Holy Place where God’s presence waits and beckons for His children. It must begin individually and in secret, and then in conjunction with corporate prayer meetings with seeking and humble believers. If the Lord would gather us before Him and ask us “How many prayer meetings did you call to fast and pray for Warren, Bell, MacLaren, and all the others you had rightly reproved”? The Lord could rightly observe that for every word of intercessory prayer for them, we printed and spoke thousands more about them. Whose power does that indicate we trust? And so many of the books and blogs that see the falling away of the church do not see the disgusting pride that drips from their self righteous words. Where is the prayer, where are the tears, where is the fasting, where are the broken hearts, and where is the utter humility that demonstrates the grace of God. Everyone wants to be John the Baptist but few want to be Hosea. Many Peters but few Barnabas’s.

OK, we have left Babylon but we haven’t reached Jerusalem yet. We have pitched our tent between Babylon and Jerusalem and have fed our souls with regurgitating the offenses of those who remain in Babylon. We must still speak rebuking words of truth but we must also rebuke our own lethargy and follow hard after the Prince of Jerusalem. We should never let the sins of others and the documentations of doctrinal unfaithfulness take the place of Spiritual dedication to our Lord and Savior. And if we all remove our phylacteries and become honest before the Lord and ourselves it is light years easier to criticize false preachers than to spend hours in the prayer closet. We have correctly spoken against the post modern departure but we have allowed that to be our Spiritual nutrition and we rarely hear the Spirit correct us. It is a deception of the evil One, the same One that deceived the multitudes that remain in Babylon.

How shall we then live? Let us personally give ourselves first to prayer, and in that Spirit led quantum leap, let us pray for everyone who we reprove. Jesus instructed us to pray for our enemies, how much more deceived brethren? Let us pray and make sure that we hold no bitterness in our hearts even for those who wrest the Scriptures, and before we speak about false teachers let us be sure we are filled with the love of God as well as His truth. Let us humble ourselves before the Lord repeating the obvious truth that we are what we are by His grace. Let us cleanse our hearts from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit, and let us pray for personal revival, ready to obey whatever the Spirit commands. If God directs us sell all that we have and preach on a street corner, we are prepared to say Yea and Amen.

Today, we pick up stakes and continue the journey of humility and discipline, ever seeking the face of Jesus Himself and with our faces set like a flint to the New Jersusalem.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls; Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

Monday, December 25, 2006


Matt.1:19-20 - Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.

Joseph...The Scriptures call him a "just man". He was from the tribe of Judah and of the house of King David. He was in all likelihood looking forward to the wedding to his fiance Mary. In Jewish law he was considered, as verse 19 states, Mary's husband. It was customary for the husband to be busy preparing("I go to prepare a place") a place for his future wife and him to stay, and he was waiting for his father's approval to go and get her("only the Father knows the time").

Joseph...All his community knew him and probably shared his happiness at being engaged to such a Godly woman as Mary. He was a keeper of the law and he trusted in Jehovah God. He undoubtedly felt that Jehovah had blessed him with Mary, and I'm sure he offered prayers of praise and thanksgiving at the Temple. All was well and God was good.

Joseph...Now the news apparently is brought privately to Joseph that Mary is pregnant. According to the law in Deuteronomy at the very least Joseph has the right to publicly divorce Mary, without any sin on his part. But Joseph had a tender heart of mercy and wanted to divorce her quietly Can you imagine the pain, disappointment, and anger Joseph must have felt? God had let him down after he had served Him and he must have been devastated.

Joseph..Now an angel appears to Joseph in a dream and informs Joseph of how Mary got pregnant and, most importantly, who Jesus was. Joseph rises from sleep and takes Mary for his wife. What must his friends thought? His mother? His father? At this point Joseph did not care what others thought, he had a Word from the Lord. How incredibly gracious of God to let Joseph in on the miracle of Mary's pregnancy, God must have trusted Joseph.

Joseph...After the wise men gave the young Jesus their gifts, God again sends an angel to warn Joseph to take his family to Egypt to avoid the wrath of Herod. Upon Herod's death Joseph is instructed by an angel to return to Israel and then again warned to go into Galilee the city of Nazareth. Joseph was a father, a husband, and a man of God who was used greatly by the Lord to be a leader of his family that God gave him. After he arrives in Nazareth we hear nothing more about Joseph. He has completed the will of God for his life.

Joseph...What a kind, gentle, and Spiritually sensitive man. He has a limited role and he has been gloriously obscure. It is speculated that sometime during Jesus' lifetime Joseph dies. If that was the case he went to a holding place called Paradise. Now when Jesus died He visited this place, preached the gospel to all who were there, and after they believed on Him He led them into heaven. Joseph, saved by the shed blood of Jesus, enters heaven and worships the risen Christ along with all the other saints. I am sure he received a special reward for his faithfulness, which he placed at the feet of the King of Kings.

Joseph...the most faithful stepfather of all!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

You Will Have to Fight

We live in the midst of a vicious war being fought in many battlefields with an array of weapons and armaments. Do not be deceived, most professing Christians are content to attend a local church which meets their needs and the needs of their family, but as far as entering and participating in this Spiritual war they are blissfully and voluntarily ignorant and absent. This is not a battle over moral issues no matter how serious. Abortion, gay marriage, and all the other convenient issues that are political fodder every four years are only a mirage compared with the larger and eternal issues that are slipping away before our very eyes and with which the church has become complicit. You and I will one day give an account before the Master and Author of salvation.

Again, we live in the midst of a doctrinally ignorant and pacifist church that has mistaken love for the acceptance of grievous error that is tearing the very heart out of the gospel. You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. The truth is changing within the church without much resistance from the ones who should be the guardians of truth, God‘s servants. Bible study, if any, centers on us rather than Him. What can God do for me and my situation is the self serving teaching not what God commands from me and the privilege it is to be His servant. But what many don’t know or wish to know is that the message of salvation is slowly and not so slowly being redefined, repackaged, and ultimately rendered eternally useless. And there seems to be a slumbering spirit that has enveloped the church while the spirits of anti-christ boldly plunder the faith once delivered to the saints.

If you want to please the Heavenly Father and be found a faithful follower of Jesus Christ you will have to fight. Oh yes, the enemy is upon us and the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and only the violent take it by force. Does that mean we are to become abrasive and unkind? No, we are still to have the aroma of God’s Spirit in our speech but we must make a glorious and unswerving commitment to God’s Word that sends us voraciously to the dining room of the Almighty’s feast of truth. Reading, praying, meditating, learning, comparing, memorizing, speaking, sharing, and living the uncompromising truth of God’s Word must be our lives, if we truly believe it is the Word of God. Awake, says God’s Spirit, and pick up the Sword of the Spirit to both circumcise our own hearts and to wield it in battle. How can the majority of pew dwellers arrive at the building on Sunday mornings with a clear conscience about treating God’s Word so despicably during the week, much less that very morning?? And they leave the service happy and content with their Spiritual walk after having listened to a sermon purchased on the internet.

Oh yes, my friend, what we are doing will never win the victory either personally or ecclesiastically. We will have to push away from the world’s table, rejecting its entertaining delicacies, and put on the whole armor of God and His Word. And do not think that because blogs like this one speak against the falling away that it can serve (you or me) as a substitute for personal devotion and obedience to the Word, no, that is another deception of the evil one when we feel that because we have spoken against the deteriorating truth within the church that it relieves us from following hard after the Savior in our personal lives. In so doing we become as sounding brass and tinkling cymbal and our words are fleshly echoes of a hollow Spiritual life. The Spirit is calling all of us to enjoin the battle by drawing closer to our Wonderful Lord and Savior by sacrificially committing our time to His Word.

Here are some of the issues that have doctrinally veered off course and now lie broken in the streets:

The Incarnation.
Men of theological ill repute are questioning the divinity of the Lord Jesus by removing the essential nature of the incarnation and allowing for different perspectives.
The Word.
Many now view the Bible as an overview narrative of God’s dealing with mankind and rejecting the specific doctrinal teaching essence of the Scriptures. They enjoy the gospel narratives and the Old Testament history but soften the specific, apostolic teaching of the Apostle Paul. And inerrancy is a non-essential.
The elements of true salvation are vague and nebulous at best, and the salvation of people who never heard the gospel is now a possibility. The Roman Catholic Church, liberal mainline Protestant denominations, and unbelieving Jews are now part of the body of Christ.
Many now teach that we should not concentrate so much on the divinity of Christ and His redemptive mission, but we need to start to accentuate His humanitarian efforts and downplay the cross.
While we slept the enemy has come in and sown seeds in God’s own fields over which we were to be watching and plowing. Just outrage will not please God, no, only personal repentance with a corresponding revival will please the Father. And one of the main battlefields, the prayer closet, has been fully captured by the enemy which has cut off the supply line to our only power. Without me you can do nothing. Go ahead and consider this little post “melodramatic” and “ over the top” but eternity will show that it is far worse than we can all know. The Word calls us by the Spirit, will we hear and heed the call? If you desire to follow in His steps you’re going to have to fight. It is a glorious fight that started way before we arrived at His camp, but it is now on our watch and passivity means defeat. We need an awakening that allows the Spirit of God to interject Himself into our self-centered lives and break up the fallow ground in order to furiously plant a harvest of God’s Word.
God has given us His Word, His Son, and graciously put Him in written form so that we might understand Who God is, namely, Jesus the Christ. How can we allow strangers to play intellectual checkers with the Holy Scriptures? And more personally, how can we treat God’s Word as a Spiritual curiosity rather than our very life? Before the creation was spoken into being, God made a promise which He swore by Himself. Before the dust swirled into Adam, God had made a promise. Before Bethlehem, God had made a promise. On Bethlehem’s night, God kept His promise. Through Moses, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Matthew, Mark, Paul, John, and others God taught us about His promise, the Word. From the seed of the woman in Genesis to Isaiah 53 to John the Baptist's identfication of God's Lamb, God has kept His Word. Through the scrolls of the New Testament writers, the sacrifice of faithful scribes, all the way to Gutenberg’s press, God was diligent in offering His Word, keeping His promise. From the early church, to the reformation, to the first and second awakening, and through many small revivals, and using many faithful servants both renowned and unknown, God was continuing to keep His promise, His Word. From the first creative Word to the year of our Lord 2007, God has faithfully kept His Word and continued to offer it to those who desperately need it. God has kept His Word…but we have not. And when the modern church movements tamper with and wrest the Holy Word they are in reality attacking the Lord Jesus Himself while the church plays the lethargic fool.
Make no mistake, you are going to have to fight to follow.
But first you will have to surrender...

Friday, December 22, 2006

Arminian Highjack

The bottom line difference between Calvinism and Arminianism is that a true Arminian believes that Christ died for everyone and that everyone has a chance to be saved. But in the evolving theological stream in these modern times some professors of Arminianism thought it best to help God out by contouring the message of the gospel to appeal to the cultural masses and tilt the probabilities in favor of sinners choosing salvation through Christ. They have assumed that the reason that so many reject Christ is that the message is unwieldy and unattractive to the average hedonistic westerner and therefore by molding the gospel with flowery language and earthly promises and removing the distasteful elements of sacrifice and cross bearing many if not most would run to believe in Jesus. And they measure their success by numbers, quantity as opposed to quality.

Now the end result is massive amounts of shallow believers whose conversion experience resembles nothing more than a hypnotists stage trick who manipulates unsuspecting members of the audience to repeat his suggestive commands. And when they awake from their momentary illusion they have forgotten what everyone else saw because it really wasn’t done with the power of their own will but the will of the hypnotist. The same is true with millions of these sinner’s prayer conversion experiences that were done in the power of the well trained “soul winner” and not in the power of the Holy Spirit. And after so many of these false conversions never exhibit the fruits of authentic conversions the church turns an unconcerned head with little if any question about their methods as they head for the next parrot. Now the implications of these theatrics are staggering. How many millions of people that were given assurance of their eternal destiny based simply upon their recitation of a form prayer will eventually wind up in the lake of fire? Serious business, no?

But this was not always the Arminian way. The great preachers of old presented the true gospel complete with the forsaking of all and the taking up our cross to follow the Lord Jesus forever. Some of the Arminian preachers were borderline legalists, and they would absolutely reject the watered down and unrecognizable message that passes as the gospel today. But the message has been high jacked and carried into the cesspool of humanism and relativism with no mention of sacrifice and little reference of eternal life. So we now have a church that doesn’t actually believe in eternal life and desires the fruit of this present world, giving no thought to the sufferings of the Messiah. The stripes, the thorns, the punches, the spit, the beard, the nails, the mocking, and the spear just translate into God helping me climb the corporate ladder and making me successful in this life. That, my friends, is blasphemy at its very core. A false Jesus is presented as an agent of earthly makeovers which always are painless and advantageous to man while not mentioning the glory of God.

Who is this Jesus? Why was He rejected of men and we are applauded? Why was He poor and we heap up treasures? Why was He acquainted with grief and we want no part of it? Why was He called Beelzebub and we desire honor? Who has the right to transform the incarnation into a hedonistic tool for our benefit?

The goats and sheep started herding together unnoticed decades ago, sharing and mixing food and listening to many different shepherds with many different pastures. And today the goats are told they are sheep and the sheep receive the goats into their fold. And after a while, after much mixing and intermarrying of herds, the community of believers was no more than a mixed multitude. Could it get much worse? Yes. Not only have goats infiltrated the sheepfold, but grievous wolves have been invited to show us the way to Jesus, the Great Shepherd, when they themselves have never met Him. Oh yes, millions will flood church pews this Sunday to celebrate the Christ child who are no more born again then Judas himself. Watch as the crowds sing Hosanna to Jesus only to walk away and return to their lives of selfish pleasures and Spiritual death. And the false teachers will stand in front of many sheepfolds and spew utter nonsense in the name of the Savior.

For every congregation that is brought to tears of true repentance, there will be tens of thousands that leave with an earthly effervescence that they claim is God’s joy. Oh brothers and sisters, I can feel the love that brought Bethlehem’s birth, but can we not feel the grieving of the Spirit of Almighty God? Who are they preaching, who do they pray to, who are they worshipping, who is this one they call Jesus? Why doesn’t this Jesus change; why doesn’t this Jesus convict; why doesn’t this Jesus bring us to our knees in utter contrition and awe? Could it be because this Jesus is the creation of man and not the same Christ that made John fall as though dead? This is not the same Jesus whose face was transformed upon the mount. This is not the same Jesus who sits upon the majesty on high and awaits the final moment when He will bring the judgment that this world so richly deserves. This is not the same Jesus from whose very face heaven and earth fled.

So amidst the festivities of this “season” let us not forget that the gospel is the only hope of escape from the wrath that is at the door. Do not be fooled by these well groomed ear ticklers that preach a Jesus that is palatable to the carnal mind and will gladly take up a small part of your busy life. No, a thousand times no, He is the Lord and He deserves and demands all. Look around and see the multitudes of religious professors who know more sports stats than they know about the Savior. Who never read God’s Word, never have seasons of prayer, never fast, never witness, and feel positive about their Spiritual standing and confirmed by shallow men in earthly clothes.

And in the end, if you believe that Jesus died for every man, be careful and guard the message of the everlasting gospel and keep it pure and unchanged. For if a man embraces a false Jesus, ultimately, he might as well be an atheist.
Jesus, reveal Yourself to us and give us the power to follow hard after You. We desire You and You alone. Not what man says, not what the world presents, not what we want, but just You.
You, Jesus, You.
The Birth of God (christmas)

Back in those days Caesar sent out an order that a census should be taken of the entire Roman Empire. This was the first census taken while Quirinuis was governor of Syria. All the people went to be registered in their home town. And Joseph went to Bethlehem, the city of David, because he was of the tribe of Judah. So Joseph and his wife, Mary, who was about to give birth, went to be registered in Bethlehem. And when they arrived in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary, who was still a virgin, to give birth. And when Mary gave birth to her first-born Son, she wrapped Him in household cloths and laid Him in a cattle trough, because their no room for Jesus in the inn.

Now in the area around Bethlehem there were shepherds watching their flocks that night. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the visible glory of the Creator of the universe was all around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them,”Don’t be afraid, I have a wonderful message of unbelievable joy from Almighty God to every person. This very day a Savior has been born to you in Bethlehem. This baby is Jehovah, the Messiah“. And this is how you will recognize Him. He will be wrapped in household cloths, and He’ll be lying in a cattle trough.

And suddenly there appeared a multitude of the angelic army of heaven, and they were praising God and shouting,”Glory to the Most High God, and on earth, He has shown good will to men”.

Ah, Christmas. That's what the world calls it, but it is, in truth, the fulfillment of a promise God made before He ever created the universe. GOD HAS KEPT HIS WORD! God leaves His glorious dwelling place to not only visit OUR cursed dwelling place, but He comes disguised as one of US. There can be no human mind that can fully understand the magnitude of this event, and so the apostle Paul calls it a mystery(I Tim.3:16). No one can believe this glorious birth unless God’s Holy Spirit helps him.

Read the account of God’s birth in Luke chapter 2. With all the details before and after His birth diligently recorded by the Holy Spirit about the actual birth of His Son, God gently pulls a sacred veil over the event and only reveals,”And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger.” That’s all God reveals. We don’t need to know the details of His physical birth, we need to fully embrace the profound truth about WHO this infant was and WHAT He came to do!

Let us repent of all the sentimentalism that surrounds this observance, and let us revel in the event that changed everything, and most importantly everyone who follows this infant who now sits high upon a throne, not as an infant, but as King of Kings and Lord of Lords! The time for families, feasting, and all other parts of this time that the world celebrates should be overshadowed completely by our corporate and PRIVATE worship of the Lord Jesus Himself.

The birth of Jesus was probably close to if not on the Day of Atonement. This is based upon the ministry of Zechariah which was in the early summer months and doing some math we see the Savior’s birth in late September or early October. But the exact time is irrelevant, suffice to observe that eternity has arrived in the subset we know as time. God has come to give Himself a ransom for many and if you like me are one of the ransomed ones we can rejoice in the love that drew salvation’s plan. I realize that the story of a divine infant being born in a stable and as the only hope for man is unsophisticated in today’s intellectual genre. And even further the unsightly and repulsiveness of the cross is rejected by the carnal mind of human reason. But the deepest truth masquerades as the simplest revelation. The apocalypse begins in Bethlehem and will culminate in Jerusalem. So can we capture the exhilaration of those first shepherds and bow down before this God child?

The ultimate glory of God will not be found in the incredible make-up of the human body. It will not be found in the molecular design of all creation. It will not be found in the wonders of this earth. It will not be found in the indescribable expanse of the universe. It will not even be found in the place called heaven. No, if you desire to see the true glory of God, crawl on your knees in a spirit of worship over to that cattle trough, place your hands on its side, lift your head up and look over the side of that manger; clear your eyes, push away the hay, and look full in the face of that baby and you will see God Himself, “UNSPEAKABLE AND FULL OF GLORY”. You now see, "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ".


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The World's Politics

During the first years of the Christian church certain cities began to emerge as centers for Christianity. Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, and Rome were some to be noticed with Rome becoming the first among equals. It was during this time that the bishop of the church of Rome gained power within the church which eventually led to that office becoming the pope of the Roman Catholic Church. This power was at first wielded within the confines of church authority, but in progressive generations the pope would gain political power which translated into the actual Roman government. Some popes would hand pick the Roman governmental leader and some popes became the civil leader themselves. They would even wage war with other countries while thinking they were fighting with God on their side. This was the first evolution of the combination of politics and church in the New Testament.

Regardless of the Scriptural teaching to keep ourselves separate from the world the church would through the ages try sometimes to find power and influence inside the confines of human government. But never forget the road map to that thinking was drawn by the Roman Church and today’s continued venture into politics by the “religious right” simply mirrors the path taken by the early papal fathers. When Paul exhorted Timothy to “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” he also observed that “no man that warreth entangles himself with the affairs of this life”. But the evangelical church which is part of the invisible body of Jesus Christ still attempts to affect change through the political process while still preaching how things continue to get worse without coming to the obvious conclusion. And the elephant in the room continues to be that the only true change comes through the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Politics is a dirty business that necessitates obscene amounts of money spent to convince people to elect you, and if you are appealing to the evangelical vote you must convince us that you embrace the same closed set of well defined moral issues such as abortion and same sex marriage. And after you are elected and serve, those same issues remain intact and unchanged and in some cases get worse. And on and on goes the political merry-go-round with the coming election in 2008 being no different. We even believe that it is our God given duty to participate because we believe that democracy is God’s government of choice. The church even has business meetings that include a voting process sculpted after the government and ignoring the teachings of Scripture. And when a man is elected president that professes to be a Christian he gets a free pass in all he does because he says he prays and loves Jesus.

And I want to digress into the earthly realm in order to show the utter foolishness of mixing the flesh and the Spirit:
Anyone who is a serious and well read student of history and human behavior can easily see that the tribal and religious barriers that have existed for thousands of years in Iraq will never be unified under one democratic government. And the demonic strongholds that have infested themselves in that region are not even mentioned much less believed. And in the end this present war will cost one trillion dollars with thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of injuries with the end result being that we removed Sadaam Hussein from power and many thousands of Iraqis losing their lives. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees have fled to Iran, Syria, and Jordan. And with Sadaam’s ouster the balance of Middle East power has shifted to Iran and the entire region is destabilized. And with the situation in total collapse the American government presses on ignoring the shadow of Vietnam. (remember I am dealing in the natural)
Now I remember going to a Southern Baptist church three years ago just before we invaded Iraq and the preacher’s message was entitled “It’s right to fight when the fight is right”. His premise of course was that God was on our side in this war because we were in the right. Do I need to identify for you the dangers of that kind of thinking that equates America with God's will without any Scriptural evidence? How can we ever be sure that God is for us going to war, and since when does God speak to governments? And if America is a Christian nation then by all means let’s elect a pope who will speak for God and inerrantly lead us. But brothers and sisters, America is a country in which it was God’s will we were born into to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to become infused into this system. It may be right to go to war sometimes on an earthly level, but we must never attach God's will to it for in that we blaspheme His name. We are not of this world and we are called to a heavenly mission which requires us to separate from this world’s system in order to sanctify ourselves for the battle. How the heart of our Father must grieve when he sees the sacrifice of His Son become Americanized and His people become mixed with the multitude marching under the banner of nationalism.
Can we not see that God’s kingdom is invisible and He endorses no country except Israel in His final plan? What would happen if millions of believers that live in America would suddenly be scurrying about in prayer meetings, memorizing and praying God’s Word, doing humanitarian deeds aimed at bringing glory to Christ, having elongated seasons of worship with little restraints of time, and boldly preaching the Word of God with Jesus being held high? And with the empty lives of the lost multitudes going further and further into darkness, would the Holy Spirit be able to use the fulfilled light of our lives to point them to Christ instead of us joining them in their earthly pursuits? Have we not tired of the pointless cycles of political swings that are full of sound and fury while signifying nothing? And while we have played at the world’s games the enemy has come in and sown doctrinal poison within the church itself, and these great swelling waves of falling away within the evangelical community can never be cast out with votes. God is calling us to Him and His work so let us cast off the bondwoman of this world and diligently seek the Lord while He may be found, redeeming the time because the days are short.
So what should our position be concerning these matters as Christians? We should have no position except that we are to be salt and light in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation. And our power should never come from the ballot box but from the love of God as shown through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We should not speak against or for the government and its leaders which is respecter of persons, but we should pray for them. That is correct, in the coming election in 2008 let us pray for Mrs. Clinton, and Barak Obama, and all the politicians that the Spirit of God would miraculously open their hearts and change their lives. And ultimately we should fast and pray that the Holy Spirit would again gain entrance to the church of the living God and change us all. Let us remove the giant mote in our own eyes and show forth the cross of Jesus Christ which is the only hope for us all. It is an offense to Almighty God to see His children whose lives are hid with Him to get into all these verbal bashing political forays and claim that God is on our side. God is on no one’s side, He beckons us all to come to His side. Let’s prayerfully run to His side and as 2008 comes to a close we can hear the echo that we should so desire to hear,
“Well done, thou good and faithful servants“.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

What is the Purpose of This Conversation?

Acts 4:12 - Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Mk.16:15-16 - …Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned.
Rom.10:17 - So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.
Rom.10:14 - How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?

One of the most prominent conversations that takes place within the emergent movement as well as many of the seeker/purpose circles is the question about can a person be saved without the gospel? To simplify the question it surrounds this general scenario: If a person in another country never is reached with the saving message of Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross, can that person be ultimately saved if he acts upon the religious light he has? If he believes in a God, a Creator, and lives his life accordingly, does he have a chance to be saved?

As a preface let me observe that this is the first generation of orthodox evangelicals that have given place to this notion and that this is an extremely serious and eternal question that has implications for hundreds of millions of souls. And let me add that if we believe that is necessary for a person to embrace the gospel to be saved, but if a person dies without ever hearing the gospel he never could have been saved anyway, then the premise is the same. What is that premise?

That a person’s opportunity for salvation doesn’t necessarily depend upon his being reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And ultimately what both schools of thought promote, whether subliminally or overtly, is that it really doesn’t matter if people are reached. To say that it is better if they are reached even though their eternal destination may not fully depend upon it is hollow no matter how you dress it up with “we go to glorify God” verbiage. Without realizing we have been given the ministry of reconciliation and that people need to hear before they can believe, the intensity and burden we should have for the harvest is severely compromised regardless of our protestations to the contrary.

Here is my question concerning this question: What is the purpose of asking or contemplating this thought? If indeed the Great Commission is to preach the gospel to every creature throughout the world, then what purpose do these questions serve? Is it just speculation? Is it to soothe our conscience? Is it to protect God with a conjured up sense of fairness? Is it to smooth the roughness of exclusivity from the gospel? And if it turns out in eternity that no one could be saved without hearing the gospel, then how do you think God Himself feels about people who even surmise that some could be saved without hearing? And if it turns out in eternity that everyone could have been saved, then how does God feel about us writing off hundreds of millions to unelected status? Beliefs affect behavior, and the protestations of some not withstanding, the belief that men can be saved without the gospel affects the way and the fervency with which we attempt to spread the gospel. The same for the belief that those who die had no chance anyway. Even if we refuse to acknowledge it, what we believe has a direct correlation to our behavior.

Now one must invent some tortured and modern understanding of the clear teaching of the Scriptures to say that someone could be born again without believing on the Lord Jesus Christ according to knowledge. And if those who will not be reached were never chosen to receive salvation anyway, well that gives us insightful evidence into the choosing process of God. We then know God chose geographically. Not many Iranians will be reached, not because of radical Islam but because of God. Not many North Koreans will be reached, not because of Kim Jon Il but because of God. Not many from India will be reached, not because of the government but because of God. And ultimately all who will not be reached will not reflect the hedonism and lethargy of the western church, but because God did not will it. I suggest both thought processes misrepresent the length and breadth and depth of God’s desperate love and the fullness and uniqueness of His offer of eternal deliverance through His Son’s completed sacrifice. And the absolute clear teaching of the New Testament is that every person throughout the world needs to hear the only saving message of Jesus and His cross. And it is astonishing that this information obsessed generation refuses to recognize the eternal importance of spreading the most important information of all!

And so I ask again, what is the purpose of such theological surmisings? Why is there so little dialoguing about the prospect that no one can be saved without hearing the gospel, and that the offer of salvation is for everyone which is the expanse of God’s love for the world, and that we must be in loving crisis mode to spread the everlasting gospel ignoring the sacrifice. As I asked myself why people would be asking these questions on a consistent basis it occurred to me that they only served to diminish the sacrificial fervency that the early apostles showed in spreading the gospel. And we have settled into a comfortable theological niche that salves the conscience and ultimately dilutes the missionary effort regardless of how much we do now. No matter what you believe, the command is the same, but what you and I believe about the consequences of that command will affect how we obey.

150,000 people will die today, most of them to enter a Christless eternity. Now if those who never heard the good news might still be saved, well, save your tears. If those who never heard the good news could not have been saved anyway, well, save your tears. But even if you embrace either of those positions, and you are open enough to admit that just maybe you may be mistaken, then let us together fall on our knees and ask the Heavenly Father to revive us with a renewed sense of the Day of Pentecost which not only seals us, but empowers us to preach the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth. How could it ever be wrong to passionately tell the entire world about the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and leave the eternal results to the Father Himself? But how could it ever be right to prejudge the eternal results of lost souls via theological badminton, and all the while claim we are sacrificially and vigorously trying to reach everyone. We are only deceiving ourselves. Let us reach everyone throughout the world as if their eternity depended on it and as if they could not be saved without it. One day we will know even as we are known, but until that glorious day let us preach with an urgency that communicates to the world that this gospel is not just to help people here and now, but their very souls are at stake.

May our obedience to the Great Commission be such that the Lamb that was slain will receive the reward of His suffering!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Blood in Spirit

On Wednesday, December 6th, after four days of severe bleeding (I will let you guess where I was loosing the blood) I went to a specialist who upon taking my blood pressure sent me by ambulance to the hospital. During my stay at the hospital I received 9 units of blood and I got used to seeing massive amounts of blood. Of course I began to think of the incredible blood transfusion I had received thirty-one years ago when I became born again. Although I was very ill and weak I asked the Lord to help me see things in the Spirit that He would help me share later, if He would let me live. Well here I am and here are some things I experienced.

I can sometimes imagine the scarlet horror of seeing the Son of God covered and dripping in His own blood but my human eyes only see the unsettling vision of seeing someone who has lost great amounts of blood. Many surgeons in M.A.S.H. units have witnessed soldiers who have arrived in their tents with most of their blood outside their bodies. I have even seen massive amounts of blood due to an automobile accident. But the blood of God is substantively and qualitatively different than can be comprehended by any human eye.
Tangible yet intangible. Immutable yet mercurial. Seen yet invisible. Crimson yet transparent. Given in time yet timeless. Shed on earth yet applied in spirit. Sacrificed by the Son yet carried by the Spirit.
Think about it. Those who watched as Jesus drew His last breath and committed His Spirit to the Father, they saw His blood. They saw it on His face and hands, on His legs and in His hair, pouring from His side and flowing from His back, they saw pints and pints of blood that outlined the journey from Pilate’s whipping post, through the Via de la Rosa, up Golgotha’s hill, and colored the place beneath His cross. It was a drawn out butchery and they saw all that blood.
But today that very same blood cannot be seen, it is now spirit. Like boiling water changing to mist while retaining it’s same core essence, the blood of Jesus is now applied to a believing sinner’s heart as spirit by the Spirit. You may feel the need to remove your Spiritual shoes at this point, we are on holy ground. There is nothing that has the power of redemption but the blood of Jesus, and every sinner who in repentance places His God given faith in Jesus and His finished work is washed in that same blood. Not some other blood that wasn’t spilled at Calvary, no, it is the same blood in spirit form. And in a mystery of regeneration the Holy Spirit invisibly carries that same blood into the soul of any person who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. And only God can actually see the blood applied to the doorposts of our hearts, but the world can witness the transformation of our lives as the death angel is denied his prey and we have been made living, blood bought followers of the Passover Lamb.
The invisible blood has birthed visible worshippers to the glory of God. And now the scrolls of Revelation pull back the glorious curtain to give us a glimpse of the majesty on high.
Rev.1:5 - …Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.
Rev.5:9 - And they sung a new song saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou was slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.
Rev.7:14 - …These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Rev.12:11 - And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…
So look and wonder, all the saints that have been washed in the blood of the Lamb are dressed in fine, white linen gowns of worship. The blood of the Lamb has changed the spotted robes of sin into the holy robes of His righteousness. So picture the throngs of worshippers, wave after wave, shouting the awesome praises of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah as He sits regally upon the throne of the Risen Christ of God. But wait, look…
Rev.19:13 - And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood…
And the word for vesture is the same word used as Pilate’s men placed a purple robe upon Jesus in mock kingship. It is the same word used for the robe they cast lots for at Golgotha. But those robes were purple and perhaps the other drab in color. But this robe says it is dipped in blood. Now I believe personally that the only robe in heaven that will appear as red will be the robe of the Lamb, all others are white. He wears several garments but this one is dipped in blood. So throughout the expanse of heaven, with all the angels, and with all the white robed worshippers, the striking robe that stands out and which draws every eye, is the brilliant and majestic crimson gown of the Risen Lamb. And there is a hue around the throne of emerald green, but in the center shines that scarlet vesture, not just any color of scarlet, but the color of blood. John tells us that He appears as a Lamb that had been slain. That is right, a Lamb adorned by His own blood. And in heaven it is the perfect color of blood that drapes He who is our Lamb that was slain before the foundations of the world. And throughout eternity as we worship our Risen Savior, as we gaze upon our Victorious Lord, we will always see that blood.
Yes, the blood of Jesus saturates His own vesture. And on that very vesture, perhaps written in gold, are the words in great capital letters,
Go ahead and bow your head, it is scene we never deserved to see but have been granted eternal admission to, by God’s grace through…
The Blood of the Lamb
Halleluiah to the Lamb...Forever.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I'm Back!

I have just returned from a ten day stint in the hospital. Some very serious issues that might have ended my earthly journey, but God was merciful. I am weak from significant weight loss and I will post about it shortly.

Whether in life or death, let Jesus Christ be praised!


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Bethlehem's Cross

Bethlehem's Cross

Mic.5:2 - But thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel…
Lk.2:7 - And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger…

As Mary, exhausted by the birth, watched as Joseph laid the Son of God gently into the support of the wooden trough, it pictured a day in which other hands would violently place the Son of God upon the support of the wooden cross. Perhaps somewhere two other infants slept who would one day be lifted up on either side of this baby, Emmanuel. Only God is capable of using everything to point to His Son and all the facets of His loving ministry that had brought Him to this accursed world. While the Lord Jesus lay in that manger men were blaspheming and committing adultery and becoming drunk in that very city. The world was surely not anticipating His coming, and even the Jews had changed the Spiritual quality of His Messianic ministry into a national victory for Israel rather than a death destroying victory through the atonement. And the thought of Israel’s Messiah being born to a peasant girl in of all places a cattle stall was unthinkable.

But even in the candlelight of the moment, the shadow of the cross hovered over the infant’s resting place. These wooden beams provide for Him sleep, but the coming wooden beams would provide for Him death. And the humble teenage virgin mother must have gazed at her child in amazement. Do you think she must have gone back again to Gabriel’s words and tried to understand just who He was. Did the words “save His people from their sins” mean that He would bring them out of Roman bondage, or was it deeper than that? And His humanity seemed to mask the Spiritual realities of His divine Personhood from everyone but the keenest seeker whose hearts can hear the Spirit of Truth. And soon the prophet Simeon would warn Mary about the coming piercing sword that would impale her very heart. Who would have believed this infant was destined for the cross, and if the prince of darkness himself had known they would not have crucified Him. No one knew.

But never forget in the joy of His birth that He would be a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, and ultimately rejected of men. As the Eternal Word walked though this sin cursed world His heart must have broken, for He saw Adam fall and He witnessed all the consequences throughout the ages from heaven‘s glory, but now he sees through the eyes of man. But here He is, entrusted to a handmaiden of Judah, and safe in the care of His Father’s angels. The incarnation is the greatest of all mysteries as Paul rightly observed, and to see the Word as a baby is especially past our finding out. How many of us have wondered at what age Jesus became aware of who He was? It seems evident that at the age of twelve as He taught in Jerusalem’s Temple that He began to fully inhabit His calling, but to what extent did He willingly allow Himself to be subservient to the understanding of a little boy? But we do know that as this newborn slept in the innkeeper’s afterthought, he began a thirty-three year incubation that would culminate in the gruesome and glorious work for which He came.

Bethlehem has become the waiting room for Golgotha. This new life has an appointment with the place of the scull, and the world will see a justified punishment for a blasphemer, but the eyes of the Spirit see a spotless Lamb who knew no sin, slaughtered for those who were thoroughly practiced and inhabited in sin. Many times we have thought about when did Jesus actually pay for our sins. Did it begin with the scourging? Did it start will the crown of thorns? When He was nailed to the cross? The spear? Did it begin upon the lifting of Him on the cross? Just maybe, on that humble night in Bethlehem, the Infant of Sacrifice was born with His little face fixed like a flint eastward toward a little hill outside Jerusalem and to a pair of cruel Roman planks, somewhat like the planks that held Him now. A story of God’s eternal plan that resists human intellect but grows in the nurturing arms of faith, also His gift. And the recipients of this child, His adopted family, must bow in reverence and whisper “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable Gift“.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Warning to Emergent Blogs

This particular post will be a little longer and more in depth than usual. Over these past 8 months I have tried to understand the emergent movement which is difficult seeing they abhor labels and creeds and they are quite articulate in the arena of the philosophical. I have read many emergent blogs and I have participated in several comment sections of about six different blog forums which identify themselves as emergent. There is now a kind of movement within the movement to disassociate with the term emergent which is designed to let everyone know you even reject the label emergent because you happen to be even more free than they are. Great.

Well this week I was commenting on an emergent blog named “Jesus Creed” overseen by a brother named Scot McKnight, a nice and seemingly orthodox believer who has authored several books and speaks at some of these emergent meetings. He is well known throughout emergent-dom. The post was about the rightness of labeling people. What I will share is of the utmost importance, and it cannot get any more serious. Remember this blog is a little more conservative than many of the emergent forums. Below is the transcript of my participation as well as a woman named Vynette and McKnight himself.


ME - Labels are used, however inaccurately, to describe the theologies that the labelee is purported to espouse. I suppose that they began in the Bible. Evil beasts, slow bellies, the circumcision, enemies of the cross, carnal, dogs, evil workers, the concision, and a few more.
I agree they must be prayerfully tempered and led of the Holy Spirit, but when a man openly teaches, for instance, that Jesus was not born of a virgin he is a heretic (another Biblical label although used many times inaccurately). When a man teaches most of the orthodox doctrines of salvation but is pro-choice and believes homosexual acts are not sinful he is at least a liberal ( a non-Biblical label that at least indicates a problem). Labels have been used as vicious cannonballs to hurt people, but I submit there is a loving informational ministry for them to perhaps “mark” a person’s teachings and to warn that person of his error. The fleshly aspect of labels is the “scalp counting” within the church. The exact balance is very difficult, and I again would submit that we only come forth with a negative label after a complete dialogue with the person to whom we are labeling.
Thanks all you slow bellies! (sorry, satire!)

(one commentor questioned the word heretic)

ME - The word “heretic” is a Biblical word and in the context it refers to someone who teaches things at discord with the core teachings of salvation (i.e. salvation by works). I personally abhor the careless and profuse usage of labels that are not sufficiently documented and in which the personal attack overshadows any legitimate and humble Biblical question. Even in the face of growing rejection of historically accepted salvation particulars we must remain lovingly anchored in our confronting as well as that rarest of all attributes, humility.

McKNIGHT - Henry,
Where do you find “heretic” in the Bible?

ME - The heretic reference is Ti.3:10, but false teachers or false apostles and others can just as easily be interchanged. My point is that there does come a time when certain teachers throughout church history so strayed from Biblical truth that they and their teachings must be humbly labeled.
That does not excuse the misuse and “rush to label” spirit that is prevalent today. Additionally it seems that the labeler many times enjoys a fleshly sense of bravado along with the accolades of his commentors when he is “bold” enough to label someone with a descriptive tag. Rarely have I seen a thoughtful, heavy hearted spirit when someone is labeled, there usually is a joyful dance on his theological grave.

(after several other comments I added this)

ME - One aspect about the label machine is the piling on that is common in the great white throne bolgasphere. If someone happens to see compromise in (for instance) Rick Warren’s approach, many times some blogs become candid camera for everything he does, even if it does not reflect on the issue but is in someway negative about him and can be erroneously used to pile on. Personal shortcomings are used as evidence for doctrinal error.
The recent example of Pastor Haggard’s sad and sinful situation was used by some blogs to prove the unscriptural nature of the mega-church. Did they call for prayer and fasting for him and his family, or did they exhibit an obvious effervescence because one that they disagreed with fell? That, my friends, is sin by any definition. So does that mean that if MacArthur fell morally we could say that Calvinism is somehow disproved? The vicious self righteousness that masquerades as “watchman” ministries is counter-productive to any worthwhile doctrinal correction that is sometimes needed within the loving confines of the church.

(I have come across this woman Vynette before and she quotes me from a past confrontation)

VYNETTE - I have been labelled on many blogs and I raise no objection as long as there is a prior full and frank dialogue about the topic in question. The substance of my comments is seldom addressed, however, and this is the typical response I receive:
“Vynette is an obvious heretic and should be immediately banned from comments. She is promoting the spirit of anti christ and the Holy Spirit is grieved.”
There is one commentor on this thread who will recognise these words but how do others feel about these tactics? Are these labels justifiable if a person, such as myself, claims that there is no scriptural evidence for doctrines such as the Miraculous Incarnation and the Trinity?
Should these claims be dismissed out of hand or should they be investigated?

ME - You are referring to me, Vynette, and you openly teach that Jesus was not born of a virgin and that he was not divine. I call you a heretic based upon your denial of the clear teachings of the Word of God, and the Bible declares that anyone that denies the deity of Christ (that he has come in the flesh) is the spirit of anti-christ.
Some blogs have rightfully blocked you from presenting your heresies. I would recommend others do likewise. Jesus, the divine Son of God, stands ready to forgive and save you if you will seek Him. I pray for you.

McKNIGHT - Henry and Vynette,
You are welcome to engage one another on another site, but this post is not about specifics but about labels.

ME - I will respectfully bow out, Scot, but I believe that labels without specifics was the problem. Thank you for the forum.


Can you imagine that McKnight said we can engage one another somewhere else, and with that statement reveals the exceedingly serious flaw with the emergent dialogue. They encourage conversation with anyone including the spirit of anti-christ. I really feel bad for people like McKnight who is probably on the conservative wing of the emergent conclave, but even he will not directly confront, much less rebuke, a person who has obviously come under the influence of the spirit of anti-christ. Jim Bublitz of the blog “Old Truths” blocked Vynette as soon as he realized what she was saying and I’m sure she was rebuked and blocked on many sites. But not Jesus Creed and a handful of other emergent leaning blogs I’m familiar with.

Now here is the question, what does the Bible say to do with such people, and do we believe the Bible more than our good intentions? I do not question Brother McKnight’s good intentions, but good intentions can be the enemy of the Word of God. Our hearts and lives should seek to be in concert with the Word of God which is absolute, not our good intentions which are subjective at best and sinful at worst. So let us examine the clear and unmistakable teaching of the New Testament concerning giving platform for serous error.

I Cor.16:22 - If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.
This is referring to those who openly reject the Lord Jesus Christ, not just a person who deals with some doubts.

II Cor.11:4 - For if he that comes preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if you receive another spirit which you have not received, or another gospel which you have not accepted, you seem to give him a place.
II Cor.11:19 - For you suffer fools gladly, seeing yourselves are wise.
This is a rebuke from Paul concerning the Corinthian practice of letting heretics speak. And Paul hits the nail on the head when he sarcastically implies that they allow this discourse because they consider themselves smart. Are you listening emergent?

Gal.1:8-10 - But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men I should not be the servant of Christ.
A firm rebuke of any believers that would hear a false gospel from a person who God says is accursed. Additionally Paul says if you allow dialogue with them even to please them, you are not the servant of Christ. Strong and clear, no?

Gal.2:4-5 - And because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privately to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage. To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
Paul doesn’t give a forum to false brethren who snuck in without notice. How then can it ever be right to invite false brethren in openly and allow them a place at the dialogue table? The answer - it never is.

Eph.5:10-11 - Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
Again interaction with the works of darkness is confined to rebuke, not dialogue. The works Paul mentions would surely include heretical teachings.

I Tim.1:19,20 - Holding faith and a good conscience, which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck. Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan that they learn not to blaspheme.
Here Paul doesn’t just label, he names the men personally. And instead of dialogue with them, he sends to dialogue with Satan which he prays will lead them to repentance. When was the last time you heard a preacher get up in the pulpit and in his prayer he delivers someone by name unto Satan hoping for their salvation? Today that would be considered hate speech.

II Tim.2:14-18 - Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings, for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as a cancer; of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already, and overthrowing the faith of some.
Again Paul says don’t trust dialogue, trust God’s Word. His prophecy of profane and vain babblings has been fully realized in our generation, and these detestable open forums will, as Paul put it, overthrow the faith of some. I would surmise that there are many people like Vynette who once were evangelical in their beliefs but have now through dialogue become shipwrecked. Can you not understand what God is saying and why, all you emergents, or do you not even care?

II Tim.4:14-15 - Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil, the Lord reward him according to his works. Of whom be aware also, for he has greatly withstood our words.
What was the great evil Alexander did to Paul? He resisted the gospel and probably convinced others to reject Christ. Paul not only did not have a friendly cup of coffee with a warm exchange of ideas, he asked that God would punish him.

Ti.1:15-16 - Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure, but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God, but in their works they deny Him, being abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
Let me address the Rick Warren doctrine of cooperation with unbelievers and liberal professing Christians to do good works. God says all their so called good works are reprobate, and to God they are abominable and disobedient. Same thing applies to a cooperative dialogue with the same people. Oh the good intentions of man, again, the enemy of the Word of God.

Ti.3:9-11 - But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing hat he that is such is subverted, and sins, being condemned of himself.
If God says quit arguing (striving) about the law, how much more about who Jesus is? The inerrancy of Scripture? The virgin birth? Salvation by grace through faith? And here Paul labels someone who teaches error as a heretic and that not only should we avoid dialogue, we should rebuke him twice and then reject him completely. These verses are the overarching Biblical principle that reveal the unscriptural and destructive nature of the emergent dialogue format.

II Pet.2:1-3 - But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who secretly will bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their shameful ways, by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with false words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingers not; and their damnation is not asleep.
These false teachers came in secretly, today their damnable heresies are gladly welcomed as a viable topic for thoughtful people. And again Peter says this type of teaching will lead many away from Christ. How many people do think someone like Vynette has led away from Jesus? And Mr. McKinght, you are a partaker of her evil deeds. Have you no conscience even about letting the most blatant and obvious heresies go unchallenged and even blocked? Your well meaning attempt to get people to think has become a conduit for the evil one. Do you care?

I Jn.218-19 - Little children, it is the last time: and as you have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
I Jn.4:1-3 - Beloved, believe not every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know you the Spirit of God; Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God. And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof you have heard that it should come, and even now already is it in the world.
How can a preacher not only refuse to recognize that spirit, but actually give place to it. Do you think God winks at allowing that spirit on your blogs? Don’t you understand you grieve the precious Holy Spirit which is extremely serious business. God doesn’t care about your good intentions, obedience is better than sacrifice! And the thousands of people who see how you conduct your dialogue begin to emulate that style and in so doing they are poisoned in their faith. We should never converse with the spirit of antichrist no matter how pleasant they are, they are blasphemers. You have become pioneers of shipwrecked faiths. Will you not even consider some of these verses and fast and seek the Lord, or perhaps as Paul said you have become wise in your own eyes.

Jude 4 - For there are certain men crept in secretly, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into uncleanness, and denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jude 8 - But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.
Jude says that even Michael the Archangel didn’t speak evil of Satan, but rebuked in the name of the Lord. These false brethren speak evil of the Lord Himself, openly and unashamedly on the very blogs that have Jesus' name in them. Only in this generation would that have been tolerated. God must be so impressed by our dialogue about Him, even including those who not only deny Him, but turn His offer of grace into something unclean.


I believe God has spoken clearly and forcefully about the kind of dialogue that allows Satan to teach his heresies. I do not believe that most of the emergent blogs set out to accommodate these false teachers, but without any discernment and any accountability that is exactly what transpires throughout the emergent blogasphere. I implore men like McKnight who is well respected by many to take a hard look at some policing on his site. It seems that a cranky orthodox believer is more likely to get blocked than a friendly spirit of antichrist. And, yes, I label them as God has. Not in a haughty spirit, but Jesus the Christ has so mercifully and graciously extended His salvation to me, I will never give space to any spirits that blaspheme and the Scriptures commands all of us to silence their evil teachings. If we cannot agree on that, well, we have nothing else to dialogue about in a forum which facilitates false and heretical teachings. I do not wish to pick a fight, neither do I wish to be melodramatic, but the core of the faith is at stake and the faith of probably millions will now be affected. Will Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Moonies, and the Church of Satan be allowed to participate in the future?

And as you might notice the number of people who visit my blogs is miniscule compared to some of the emergent blogs, so I am officially a nobody and an unprofitable servant. But if God can speak through a donkey, so let it be with me, all for His glory alone. Amen.