Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Fear of God

In the book of Revelation as the great Apostle John was carried by the Spirit into heaven on Sunday(would to God that would happen to us), he witnessed "things that were, things that are, and things that were to be". In chapter 4 John describes the very throne of God. Of course human words can only give a poor and limited glimpse of this eternal wonder, but even this hazy foreshadowing fills our hearts with awe and worship.

In Chapter 4 verse 8 John describes the four beasts, which the prophet Isaiah identifies as seraphim. These seraphim seem to be angelic beings created for worship. I can hardly imagine such a breathtaking scene, but John hears the seraphim speak. Can you imagine hearing the voices of the majestic angels of worship? Can you actually hear the holiness of God in their voices? What are they saying? If it wasn't recorded in Scripture, there would be a variety of guesses. Some would surmise they are saying "God is love"; some "God is merciful"; "God is gracious"; "God is redemptive"; all these phrases would accurately describe an attribute of God, but that is not what they are saying. They are saying day and night(constantly),"Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come".

Have you ever been frightened in God's presence? Of course there are wonderful times of love, reassurance, joy, healing, and many other episodes where our Great Shepherd carefully reaches down to caress us, His sheep, in tenderness and intimacy. But there should also be times, as there have been throughout the church age, where we experience the awesome fear of the Lord. But what is the fear of the Lord?

When I was a little boy, my grandpa took my brothers and me to see a train wreck. It was a loaded freight train that had derailed and its cars had been strewn on both sides of the tracks. It had happened near a residential section where my aunt lived and some of the people had heard it happen. They had run from their houses and saw what had happened and their initial emotion was fear. Why were they fearful viewing an event that was over and they were safe? One reason was that they were amazed and overwhelmed by the sheer power of the train as they saw thousands of tons laying on the ground like toys. Secondly, they realized that they and their loved ones could have been injured, but they had escaped. As I viewed the wreck I sensed some of that emotion in my grandpa, and I was a little frightened.

Translate that event Spiritually against the backdrop of the words of the seraphim. Have you ever had an experience in the presence of God where you were overwhelmed with His sheer power(Lord God Almighty), and His august Holiness(Holy,Holy,Holy), and His eternality(which was, and is, and is to come), and this has ignited the fear of the Lord inside you?, I know that there are some who believe we should never fear the Lord but they are Scripturally wrong. Remember the apostle John, who leaned his head so often on the chest of Jesus, when he saw the Risen and Glorified Jesus, John fell at His feet as though dead!

It is easy to overemphasize one aspect of God's character at the expense of the others, but it is evident to even to the casual observer(lots of those) that the fear of the Lord and His holiness are almost ignored. If there ever was a time to preach the facets of God's character that would cause people to fear and examine their hearts, would it not be in these "last days"? Not a description of God that leaves out His love, grace, longsuffering, and all His "appealing" attributes, and that misrepresents Him in a one-sided picture. But a full disclosure that Scripturally depicts our Father and God because WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO ALTER HIS IMAGE(graven image) He said,"I am the Lord, I change not!".

Just like the train wreck scene, the fear of the Lord is somewhat parallel. We should sometimes tremble at the unimaginable power of Almighty God, it is so beyond us to comprehend. Knowing, now, that that power will soon turn into wrath directed at this world, should it not create in us a fearfully grateful heart of worship? The great and mighty hand of God's wrath that was meant for me has been stayed, and like Abraham God has "provided for Himself a sacrifice" to take my place. I am sometimes scared of God. Not at the diminishment of His love and mercy, no, my sense of fear only enhances these His other attributes.

Surrounded by your presence, what will my heart feel, will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still,
Will I stand in your presence, or to my knees will I fall, Will I sing Halleluiah will I be able to speak at all

Sure we sometimes dance in His presence, but are we ever in such awe that we are still before Him? Sure we sometimes stand in His presence, but do we ever fall on our knees? Sure we sometimes sing "halleluiah", but are we ever speechless in His presence?

This world is in the cross-hairs of an unimaginable judgment that will come from the very mouth of God's consuming fire. Would it not be reasonable to assume that the church would sometimes experience dread and fear if not for ourselves, then for others? Did we not experience alarm and fear while watching buildings collapse on television? Then consider what vengeance the world will experience when the wrath of God is poured out upon all the inhabitants here. Should we feel any fear of God, if we believe it?

Dear Jesus, it is a miraculous mystery that I can call you Daddy; that I can call you my elder brother; that I am a joint heir with you; that I can say,"I love you"; and a thousand other similar yet distinct sweet and gentle aspects of who you are to me - and yet I can still fear you. I cannot explain it, but Lord I feel your love even in my fear. Only You, Jesus - Only you, Jesus, can do that because you can do anything! Lord, I join with the seraphim right now and say with my heart and mouth,
"Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come!!!!!!!"

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Life in His Spirit

There is much confusion concerning what place and role the Old Testament Scriptures have in the life of the church. Some have removed it from their Bible completely, while others teach the Law is still for the church today. You will need your Bible for this article so I'll wait....hmm....halleluiah...da, da...OK, are you back? Good. Let's go!

What was the purpose of the Law?

Gal.3:24 - Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

So the law had many operations, but its sole purpose was to bring us to Christ, in whom is the end of the law to everyone who believes.

The law was death. Let me ask you this question: When my first born son came into this world I went to the hospital and rejoiced over the new life. My wife had gone through much travail to give him life, and now her pain is dissipating as her brush with death has birthed life. What would you say if I went to the morgue and took a corpse and dragged into the hospital, went to my infant son's little bed, and I laid that decaying corpse right next to him? That is what we do when we bring any part of the Old testament law and place in the New Testament, we place death in the covenant of life.

II Cor.3:7 - But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away with...

When Moses received the law from the hand of Almighty God, he had to cover his face with a veil because the glory of God shone on his countenance so brightly the people could not look upon him. And Paul calls it the ministration (or ministry) of death and teaches that it has been done away with, completely. So when anyone tells you we are still under the law you can reply "Get that corpse away from me, I am under a living covenant of the Spirit purchased by the blood of the Lamb". That is why it is fairly useless for us to fight to hang up the ten commandments anywhere, following them will send you to hell without Jesus. I might be persuaded to be in favor of hanging up John 3:16, but the ten commandments, they without Christ are the ministry of death and now have no glory. Our message has never been national morality, our message is Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

II Cor.3:6 - ...for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.

The law will kill you unless the Holy Spirit uses some of it to "convict of sin" (Jn.16:9) and draw a person to Christ. You see the lost community feels that we are preaching morality when we get involved with these issues when in fact our mandate and commission is to preach the gospel to all the world. The world cannot understand much less adhere to Biblical morality, no, they need Christ and Him crucified, period. Only the entrance of the Holy Spirit can give a person light and life, and only becoming a believing follower can a person receive the Spirit. So the chicken or the egg principle applies here also. And what is more deadly is moral people who claim adherence to the ten commandments who have never been born again. Death...eternally.

Now are we supposed to be moral? Of course, but not because of the law, because of the Spirit.

Rom.8:1-2 - There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

As I travel down the highway before I'm saved I see road signs that say 60 mph and I must obey them or the law will bring justice to me. But after I'm saved there are no exterior road signs, there is the voice of the Spirit inside me saying "You're going too fast". And in a metaphor if I continue to go too fast and I have an accident God does not come to me as a judge to pronounce sentence upon me, no, He comes to chasten me as a Father and in love He also forgives me, although I may bear the earthly consequences of my actions. And what about later when they pull up my record?

Rom.4:8 - Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

My record is hidden in the scars on the figure hanging on Calvary's cross. It is like many sins did Adam commit to experience Spiritual death? The answer of course is one, and it was a comparatively small sin, albeit still rebellion. Do you and I ever sin? Bigger sins than eating a forbidden fruit? Then why do you and I not die Spiritually? Because we are dead already to this world and our life is hidden in Christ in the heavenlies. We have already died and this life we now live, although still outwardly resembling the former person, is not a refurbished or even an extreme makeover version of the former life, no, this is a new man made after Christ.

II Cor.5:16-17 - Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: Yes, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

When we give our testimony we speak of a dead man that had been pronounced guilty before the Judge of all the Universe who was killed at Golgotha. That old man is dead and received in the crucified Christ the deserved sentence, death. Now when we became believing followers of Jesus we were "born again" as a brand new man, and when Christ came out of the tomb a new "us" resurrected also. Made in His likeness but still retaining a unique and personal identity, the life that we now live in the flesh we live by faith of the Son of God, and in a mystery we still live, but not us, but Christ which lives in us. A life now free in His Spirit, free from the judicial punishment by the Judge of all Living but under the loving correction of our Heavenly Father.

Now the implications of this freedom in the Spirit are pervasive across the board when in comes to the church. No more law, no more Jew or Gentile, no more male or female, and only the specific New Testament teachings are to be observed as commandments from Christ to His Spiritual body. That is why it is confusing when churches continue forms of liturgical worship. Gowns, candles, altars, and other outward forms of worship are actually shadows of the law and the Old Testament tabernacle, but we are to worship in Spirit and in truth completely separate from the dictates of a former system that was to be done away with in Christ.

The promise that God gave to Abraham was actually fulfilled in the "promise of the Spirit" on the Day of Pentecost, and only those born of His Spirit are His people and His church. And there is infinite liberty in Christ that frees the spirit to worship and obey our Lord. And to return to the law is not only putting on old grave clothes, it is self righteous at its core because we still break it. Jesus is to be high and lifted up, the fulfiller of the law, and the Author of a new and better covenant made with better promises.

And all this provides a greater understanding of the basis of our praise and worship which, by the way, soars infinitely beyond our comprehension until we are given our bodies of Spirit and can in person bow before our Risen Lord and offer unto Him all the worship He deserves...forever.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Contextualizing the Gospel

II Cor. 11:3-4 - But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 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...

The emergent church and its very loose definitions is in general an ecclesiastical think tank that revolves around new and innovative ways to re-emphasize and re-define Christianity and the gospel. In many corners of the boundary-less movement it goes beyond a different focused presentation, and the open discussion seems to have no ground rules and no well established precedent upon which to build. Truth is smugly acknowledged as very elusive and ever changing through cultural expansion, especially in what they call a "postmodern" world which is loosely defined as this modern, interactive world culture. It is widely accepted in these circles that traditional Christianity has interpreted Biblical truth through the pre-enlightened, pre-industrial revolutionary eyes. And with that identified as an obstacle to effectively communicating the gospel with this postmodern world culture, there needs to be a fresh look at how we understand, translate, and communicate Biblical truth. How do you describe the color red to a person born blind is a good metaphor for how do you communicate the gospel in centuries old linguistic and cultural terminology to a man born in this postmodern world with no understanding of that past culture? The emergents claim there is a built-in disconnect that is failing the world because the church by and large is intransigent in its presentation of truth. For example Spurgeon's mode of communicating truth is rapidly becoming of little use to a postmodern mindset.

Rom.1:16 - For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes...

So one of the core new emergent "truth-sculptures" is their universal agreement in "contextualizing" the gospel. When a missionary was sent to the jungles of the Brazilian Amazon he had to learn, if possible, the language and the customs of the people he was attempting to reach so he could communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. Some tribes had no word for Savior, no concept of redemption, and no knowledge of our definition of sin. So the missionary had to contextualize the gospel message to build a bridge of understanding between him and his hearers. When you read "Through the Gates of Splendor", the story of the five murdered missionaries, you will see the different strategies they used in an attempt to bring the salvation message in way that was germane to the Indians' sphere of understanding, and that is what is generally meant by contextualizing.

So what is so wrong with that, one might ask. In our postmodern culture we still understand religious and Biblical terms, and we are linguistic enough to fully unravel the meaning of some of the more culturally stagnant terms. So in a kind of reverse understanding, when you change (contextualize) the message of the gospel in the midst of a fully conversant culture that comprehends the meaning of Biblical terms, and that can understand common explanations of truths they are unsure about, you not only confuse the definitions of those Biblical truths, you run the risk of changing them. Now the average emergent would again read that and think "so what" because many emergent writers and way-showers believe the accepted definition of the gospel is in need of change, which some would assert is only a contextual representation of the same definition while others believe the standard definition no longer accurately defines God's redemptive message as seen through the prism of postmodernsim. In simple terms, some emergents believe in a redemptive message that is defined in much more humanitarian and communal terms, while still not totally rejecting the "forgiveness of sins" concept. And yet some emergents still hold to the "sin bearing" model of Jesus while seeking to significantly expand the humanitarian role and mission of Christ.

Let us illustrate. Say a map shows the directions from point A to point B. The directions read walk one mile and turn left; go one half mile and turn right; wade the creek and climb the hill and you will be at point B. But in some postmodern maps the emphasis is not getting to point B, it encourages a major focus on the turns, the creek, and the hill. And many of the streams of emergent thought so concentrate on the experience of the journey that they marginalize the eternal destination. As a matter of fact, many emergent teachers claim that traditional Christianity has over emphasized heaven to the neglect of Jesus' earthly ministry before the cross, and that these postmodern dwellers cannot relate anymore to a "pie in the sky" gospel without an earthly engagement that reveals a greater "kingdom" view of redemption which relates to the present human village. And I realize that some emergents would take issue with some of what I have observed and I do not wish to misrepresent anyone, but the spectrum of emergent teachings is so widespread that it is possible you could say almost anything and find some emergent corner that would tacitly agree in a general way while encouraging more dialogue, the gator aid of the emergent church.

So here we are. Most Americans have been raised with a Christian understanding which includes church, holidays, television preaching, and many other cultural seeds of Jesus and His mission. So in cultural terms the gospel needs just a clarification and personalization to be effective, as well as a faithful lifestyle that would help to substantiate our message. And language is no barrier, so by changing the message they have changed the message! (yes, I said that) Jesus prophesied about faith still being proclaimed upon His return, and we humans now want to package the gospel so as to make it appealing and finding a neat fitting niche in our busy schedules. Well the decreasing subset of believing followers that still believe in retaining and preaching the same message as was given the first disciples of the Lord Jesus are hanging by a thread ourselves. If we do not commit to prayer and fasting we will slip unknowingly toward the ecclesiastical morass and the clear and sparkling gospel of Jesus the Christ will still appear the same on paper, but with little if any power...almost like it is now. And we are being marginalized into convincing people with word badminton and comfortable dialogue with men that are quietly being used of the Evil One to teach a contextualized/changed/misrepresented/ reduced/ humanized/culturized/dumbed down/destroyed/blood less/cross diminishing/Word ignoring version of the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is the only hope for the entire world. And as I have wondered before, what will Spencer Burke's grandchildren believe and teach after having been discipled from the cradle with a theology without even semi-orthodox moorings?

And just so we don't put on the suit of self-righteousness, being orthodox in our theology is of little use without an unusual commitment to prayer, fasting, the Word, and an ever present buffer of humility. I can pick up a systematic theology book from my library, place it on a table, and proclaim "This book is orthodox!", and that book will have as much power as many of us in the "correct theology" bastions that have such little fire in our prayer closets that our presence in the world is nothing more than mere words, surely not "demonstration of the Spirit and of power". We can churn out the posts, like this one, but can we churn out elongated intercessory meetings? And we can grind our doctrinal teeth at MacLaren, Bell, and all the usual suspects, but can we weep at the porch for our wayward brothers? And it is to the point as we plumb the depths of the doctrinal melee of the present day church, that many cannot look into the mirror of God's Word and see themselves...they always see someone else. So many times the self righteous spirit in the orthodox blogasphere is palpable and safety from some of the indiscriminate attacks can only be found in congratulating the attacker.

And so the true preaching of God's message of hope seems to have very little anointing on the preachers, and the watered down and man centered versions of what used to be God's message are sometimes filled with excitement and good things. I have some bad news for us, the emergents are not coming back, ditto the seeker/purpose crowd, most of them have left the building and they are not returning. Some of us almost got caught in these growing movements, but by God's grace we remained true to the ancient landmarks. So what we need more than anything else is a massive move of God' Spirit that fills us in a way that will make us instruments of His glory and will use us to powerfully preach the everlasting gospel to the ends of the earth! But I have some more bad news for us...

This kind cometh forth not but by prayer and fasting.

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Top Ten Verse We Do Not Fully Believe

I asked the Lord and myself what are the most obvious verse we do not fully believe as can be judged by our actions. I also asked one of godly friends to help me in rating them. Here is what he came up with and I concur. The number 1 verse at the bottom is actually the most unbelieved verse and so we start with number 10. If you like you can suggest your own.

10. Acts 1:8 - But you shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
God's Word teaches that the Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Godhead, equal with the Father and Son. We are also taught that upon conversion He, the Holy Spirit, comes in a mystery to take up residence inside of us to fulfill His ministry. In this verse Jesus Himself states we will be filled with power to impact the entire world. Where oh where has the power gone?

9. Phil.4:19 - But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
The reservoir that God draws from is His riches in glory, and with that unfathomable security why do we ever worry...about anything?

8. I Jn.4:11 - Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
This might have made it to the top because we are so incapable of true love ourselves and we seldom beg God to give us love, especially for those we do not desire to love. Do I love Rick Warren? Do I love Brian MacLaren? Do I love Rosie O'Donnell? You see what I mean.

7. Jn.14:14 - If you shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
The Scriptures exhort us to ask largely that our joy may be full and it further instructs us to do all things by prayer and supplication. How many of us would have avoided many mistakes had we asked God?

6. I Thess.5:18 - In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Wow, how about this one? Even when we sometimes ask for prayer its in a "poor me" context rather than a "rejoice evermore" atmosphere. Think of all the "bad" things that have happened to you and Give God sincere thanks for either getting you out, pulling you through, or using you to glorify Himself.

5. Jn.6:27 - Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.
Would I be mistaken in observing that most of our labors go to material things?

4. I Thess.5:17 - Pray without ceasing.
Do I even need to comment?

3. Rev.20:15 - And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
Probably the sadest and most profound verse in God's Word. If that verse is true and we believed it would it not significantly alter our life habits and passion?

2. Matt.6:19 - Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.
And we literalists have reduced the essence of this verse to metaphor status and we approach it as what can we keep not what should we have.

And the #1 verse that we do not fully believe is this:
Lk.14:33 - So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
You see, this verse, straight from our Lord's lips, must be tweaked in order not to expose our shallow discipleship. And so what do we do with it? Look out now, you are not going to like this word so buckle your seat belts. I hate to admit it, because I am against doing this. Are you ready? We take the absolute transcendent meaning from this verse and it.
Sorry, but we do.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Life of Sacrifice

In the summer of 1972, 3 years before I was born again, I drove my van to Philadelphia with several other friends and parked at 9:00 PM and walked to the Philadelphia Spectrum, a large sports facility. Being filled with amphetamines, we stayed up all night long conversing with the other people who had camped outside also, of which there were many thousands. When the morning came the ticket windows came alive as they prepared to sell tickets to us, that is why we were there. The stampede to the windows was so violent that the Philadelphia police were called, complete with riot gear, to organize us and bring order. After an hour of arranging barricaded lines by which we would proceed one line at a time, they commanded the first line to go to the first ticket window. Upon seeing the first line start to run to the window, the other lines kicked the other barricades over and rushed again to the window.

After repeating the entire sequence again, the police officers stood in front of the lines with their night sticks held out in order to prevent the same scenario from happening again. Upon calling through bullhorns for the first line to calmly walk to the ticket windows, the line started to run which sparked the other lines to knock over the barricades and the police! At that point the police gave up and the tickets began to be sold. The heat was intense and many people were overcome with heat exhaustion as the thousands crushed against each other and the windows. After several hours I got to the window, still crushed by the crowd and totally drenched. I ordered my allotted four tickets and asked the guy behind me to take my wallet out of my back pocket as I could not get my hands free enough to reach back. After purchasing my tickets I gripped them as tightly as I could and spent ten minutes extricating myself from the crowd.

I was euphoric as I raised my tickets and yelled, I had spent almost 20 hours and endured an incredible amount of pain and discomfort, but I now had my tickets. What tickets, you ask. What did you desire that much that you were willing to go through that sacrifice, you ask.

The tickets were for a Rolling Stones concert.

As I recall that event it seems like a dream. And against the backdrop of that former life memory I now ask myself this question, what today could elicit that kind of sacrifice from me? And to a great degree I am ashamed that I do not have that sacrificial abandonment about the Lord in comparison with some of the worldly things for which I would have sacrificed almost anything. I am writing this post to myself, you are invited to listen in.

Rom.12:1 - I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Wow! What a statement. This scripture is intertwined with so many others. Jesus said,"He that loses his life for my sake shall find it". Paul said,"I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me". Again Jesus said, "So likewise, whosever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple". These and scores of other Scriptures direct us to a life of sacrifice and discipline. Yes, that's right, sacrifice, discipline, and faith. We Biblical literalists live our lives sometimes as if these and other Scriptures like them are deep, symbolic truths that are not to be put into practice literally. Here are some questions I have been asking myself:
What do I sacrifice? I mean really sacrifice? Food? Clothes? Shelter? Vacation? Do I rise much earlier than I have to so I can pray? Do I stay up much later to pray? We joke about how many shoes we have, I do not believe God laughs. Much of the world will never own a pair of shoes, while the net worth of the shoes we don't even wear could feed starving children somewhere. Have I ever given to God's work sacrificially? That means have I ever sacrificed ALL my savings for Christ at any time? Have I ever been so consumed with giving time to Jesus that I sacrifice sports? TV? Have I ever given more to the cause of Christ at "Christmas"(Jesus' birthday) than I have spent on material gifts for family and friends? In fact, have I ever just given all the money I would have spent on "Christmas" to the cause of Christ? That would be a cultural sacrifice that really didn't affect my socio-economic status. Really, what have I sacrificed for Jesus, without conveniently watering down the meaning of the word?
What does it mean to live by faith? I asked my Bible school professor decades ago that same question. I said, "Do you have enough money in savings to cover next month's rent? Do you lock your doors? Do you have insurance? Do you have enough food, clothing, shelter, entertainment, savings, investments, health insurance, and life insurance to last you quite a while?" He said he did. I then asked, "Assuming all the things I just mentioned are right before God, what then does it mean to live by faith?" He could not answer me and I'm still asking that same question. I have never met a wealthy American believer(us) that was content with food and raiment, but I have met some poor African believers that were close(they don't know any better). I have been to a restaurant with a Haitian Christian who was so grateful for his food he almost wept. I have been to a restaurant with American Christians who almost caused a scene over how their STEAK was cooked, or where they were seated, or the lack of prompt SERVICE. Again I ask, what does it mean to LIVE BY FAITH?
Being a follower of Jesus used to cost significantly, because it used to be worth something. Today most of the emphasis is placed on what Jesus can do for us, not what he requires of us! I live in luxury compared with MOST of the world. If all this has actually come from God for my pleasure, than I need not ever question it. It is the blessing of God. But I wonder why God hasn't given the same material blessings to my brothers and sisters in Christ in the Sudan. Honduras. Haiti. China. India. Mexico. etc. The goods of this world, oddly enough, seem to coincide with capitalism and democracy, and, oddly enough, unbelievers are blessed with the same materials that we are in this atmosphere(and many of them a lot more). I am asking myself, is God a respecter of culture? Does He prefer one over another? Will He materially bless unbelievers because they live in a capitalist democracy, while He won't materially bless His own children just because they don't? Or maybe....just maybe, my lifestyle misrepresents my Heavenly Father.
The other view I am contemplating is that we are hording up goods for our own pleasures, while other believers are in great need. I am guarding against judging anyone, I personally have a long, long way to go. I say this so you can let the Holy Spirit speak to your heart through some of the things I share. I want to be a blessing to my Lord and I have absolutely NO grounds for self righteousness or pride. I am a sinner saved by the grace of God, kept by the grace of God, and will one day be with Jesus by the grace of God. But I believe God wants to challenge(convict, correct, chasten) us to a deeper discipleship for the Lord Jesus. As the song prays, "Change my heart O God...".
So then, what is a life of sacrifice? Can we horde money and goods and still claim we have no attraction to this world and that "our life is hid with Christ in God"? And today while so many are preaching from the gospel narratives while neglecting the epistles, let us ask ourselves do we really desire to emulate the "Jesus lifestyle"? Does the "foxes have holes" thing draw us? He even had to borrow another man's tomb, so follow those steps. Even the early disciples confessed "silver and gold have I none", so next time we do a series on Peter let's not just present the typically entertaining and somewhat identifying survey of his strengths and weaknesses, let us look at how he lived. Jesus, our example? Careful, God may one day require that of us. I believe that the Amish, albeit extreme, live outwardly closer to the Biblical teachings of the New Testament than we do. Sorry, I didn't mean to offend the health and wealthers, or the high churchers, or the...well...the us. We have changed the Word, and although I significantly disagree with most of the emergent conclave, I do believe they have put their finger on one examinable observation, we have changed the definition of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
To be a follower of Jesus do these things:
  • Repeat the words someone tells you to (the sinners prayer)
  • Remember you repeated what you were told
  • Go to church (there is a wide variety of accepted consistency)
  • Give some money sometimes
  • Try not to get drunk
  • Get baptized on the special, comfortable, and peer pressure day planned by the church
  • Get a Bible
  • Bow your head when someone prays
  • Cut down on cursing

There you have it. At your funeral a clergyman will take his $100 and place you in heaven because after all you did make a "profession of faith". Sacrifice? Forget about it (New York accent), nobody else is doing it, so cruise right into eternity on the wings of a commitment that was significantly less than your commitment to your dog.

I Jn.3:16-18 - Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

Ja.2:14-17 - What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things that are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone

Ja.5:1-3,5a - Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days....Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth,

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Unique Calling of the Apostle Paul

In these days there is such a lack of "rightly dividing" the Word that any movement and even cult can cull out a doctrinal beachhead from anywhere in the Bible and work their way out. This study is to put in context what I believe is a necessary understanding of the overarching context of the entire Bible. And it is the misuse and melding of the Scriptures that have given way to the modern day falling away, as well as cults.

Now why is this topic germane to the current emergent crisis? Because any investigation as to the source of their theology will quickly reveal a dependence on the gospel narratives as well as the Old Testament at the obvious diminishment of the epistles, especially Paul. When queried about it they will skillfully admit that the narrative of Jesus' life is more authoritative in doctrinal formation than the teachings of Paul. But let us examine the Biblical claims of the Apostle Paul himself, which were never questioned by any of the other original apostles. Look at what Paul says to the church at Galatia:

Gal.1:11 - But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

No other apostle has made that claim. And in reading the book of Acts we find that when Paul came on the scene he had to correct a number of issues that the first apostles had gotten wrong, and they acquiesced to Paul's obvious calling to the predominately Gentile church that was coming. Peter himself had to be convinced that Gentiles could be saved by the experience of Cornelius and his household, but Paul was taught the universality of God's grace by Jesus Himself.

Eph.3:1-6 - For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote before in few words, Whereby, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel.

So Paul claims special revelation from the Lord Jesus Himself concerning the church, and many times he refers to the gospel as "my gospel", meaning the version that he alone received from Christ. None of the apostles recognized the offer of God's grace included Gentiles, much less the pervasive Gentile nature of the body of Christ. In I Corinthians Paul refers to himself as an apostle "born out of due time" because he had not seen Jesus before His resurrection, but Paul was the only one to see Jesus after His ascension, save John. Now if you discount Paul, or even diminish his calling as the revelator to the church, your doctrine can go anywhere you want it to go. (i.e. the emergent movement)

Who was the "apostle" to Israel, the Old Testament children of God? Moses, of course. Even Jesus made the reference, "you have heard Moses say", and Moses is referred to throughout the New Testament. Why? Because Moses was God's instrument of the law, which was in its primary purpose a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. Now consider this, who did God use as His instrument to bring the entire revelation of the Gospel of Christ? So I believe that Paul is to the church as Moses was to Israel. Here are some similarities between Paul and Moses.

  • Both were thoroughly trained in wisdom and dialectics, both were well educated
  • Both were chosen before birth for a special ministry. Moses was preserved from Egyptian slaughter, and Paul states he was "separated from birth".
  • Both had supernatural initial encounters with God. Moses at the burning bush and Paul on the Damascus Road.
  • Both were taught their ministries not by man but "face to face" with God as it were.
  • Both had been murderers
  • Both carried a supernatural burden for their flock and both counted the lives of their people more important than their own. Moses asked God to kill him instead of Israel, and Paul wished himself accursed in place of Israel.
  • Both warned of damnation to anyone who would add or subtract from their revelation.
  • Both were very humble, Moses the meekest man on earth and Paul "less than the least of all the saints".

So the similarities are striking, and this is the point. As Moses was to Israel so Paul is to the church, to diminish Paul's epistles and use the Old Testament or the gospels as the foundation for church doctrine and revelation is to not "rightly divide" the Word of truth. The gospels were primarily to present Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior, and the Son of God. There is much rich teaching and example in them as well, but they cannot be the primary source of church doctrine. Now what do we mean by "church doctrine"? Let's illustrate. Leviticus is an inspired book that is part of the Word of God. Everyone agrees. But how many would agree that we should follow what is written there to the letter? Anyone? Of course not, God uses Leviticus to provide a historical perspective of the law as well as Israel's history that in context of the New Testament helps us realize the severity of sin and the blood atonement that would be fulfilled in Christ. The same with the gospels. Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day in the Temple, should we in the church follow that as church doctrine? Of course not, the gospel narratives were still under law, we are no longer under law. Does that discount any examples in the life of our Lord that the Spirit uses to exhort us to follow "in His steps", no, there are many. But Christ taught us through the Apostle Paul what he desired this new mystery, the church, to look and be like.

Now there are many teachings and revelations that the church takes for granted today that are either unique to Paul or at least more fully expounded through Paul. Here is a limited list of some of those precious doctrines and teachings.

  • The Universal Headship of Christ (Eph.1:9-10)
  • The Headship of Christ Over the Church (Col.2:16-19)
  • The Emphasis of the Cross (Gal.6:14)
  • The Revelation of the Mystery (20 times only Paul)
  • The Teaching of the Rapture (I Thess.4 & I Cor.15)
  • The Body of Christ (Rom.12:5)
  • The Bride of Christ (II Cor.11:2 & Rom.7:4)
  • The Gifts of the Spirit (I Cor. 12 & 14)
  • The Offices of the Church (Ti.1 & I Tim.3)
  • Justification by Faith (Rom.5:1)
  • The Contrast of Law and Grace (Gal. 4)
  • The Contrast of the Old and New Man (Eph.4 & Col. 3)

And on and on we could go to identify the litany of teachings that are directly for the body of believers called the church and which are distinctively Paul's revelation. And if you do not assign Paul the office that Christ assigned him you are doomed to fall into error at the very beginning of your doctrinal foundation. For instance, since Jesus was circumcised as an eight year old boy should we teach that all church members should have their boys circumcised on the eighth day? Jesus entered the temple on Saturdays, should we teach the church that is the preferred day to worship? Jesus observed the Jewish feast days should the church observe them also? The answer to those questions is only if Paul taught the church that Jesus revealed to him that we should.

Now in some future posts I will expand on the truth that the Apostle Paul is the revelator to the church, a conduit of Jesus to be sure, but the primary instrument of Christ nonetheless. For homework do a study in the gospels of events and teachings that are edifying and exhorting but not as church doctrine, or in other words directly teaching and instructing the church as the collective body of Christ. And then, I challenge you, read from Romans through Hebrews in four days and see what the Holy Spirit speaks to you.

Jesus the Christ is my Lord and I His unprofitable servant.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Fox is Officially in the Henhouse

Rom.16:17 - Now I beseech you, brethren, MARK THEM which cause divisions and offences CONTRARY TO THE DOCTRINE which we have learned and AVOID THEM.

Gal.2:5 - To whom we gave place by subjection, NO, NOT FOR AN HOUR, that the gospel might continue with you.

Tit.1:11 - Whose mouths MUST BE STOPPED, who subvert whole households, TEACHING THINGS WHICH THEY OUGHT NOT...
A certain man had ten sons. One day he discovered that nine of his sons had come down with the flu while one son remained healthy. So desiring to see his nine sons healthy he placed all ten sons in one room, supposing that coming in contact with the healthy son would heal the other nine. But after two days the father realized his one son now had the flu also.

A year later this same father discovered that one of his ten sons had come down with the flu again. Remembering the previous year he theorized his mistake lay in the numerical disparity, so in an attempt to correct the situation he placed his nine healthy sons in a room with his one sick son. But after two days the father again saw that all ten of his sons had come down with the flu.

What I am about to write breaks my heart. This is meant as a humble but forceful warning. He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the church. I am in no way a shining example of anything, and my only glory is the cross. Jesus is my eternal Lord and I am his unprofitable servant.

We live in the most dangerous time in the history of the church. It would be impossible to innumerate the many worldly trends that are even now applauded within God's precious assembly, the holiness of God is now a joke. The whole world lies in the control of the Destroyer, and each day brings forth new evidence that we are in the last days. Matthew 24 reads like today's newspaper, and human perversion is widespread with even middle school children forming school sanctioned gay clubs. Children themselves are tortured and reduced to nothing more than lustful targets of demonic predators, and millions every year never breathe their first breath, having succumbed to the treachery of serial killers some call "doctors" who find their unsuspecting victims in a mother's womb, and actually handed over to the well educated murderer by the little boy or girl's own mother. Last days? To have made it this far is a wonder.

The church herself has lost all sense of direction since leaving the Scriptural compass, and now colossal evangelical movements have pulled up Biblical anchors and unfurled their sails to catch the winds of the world that propel them into waters that the prophets of old had warned about. And the ships that refuse to follow those departing vessels are unknowingly becalmed. And because of the lack of Spiritual depth within the Lord's people, and because of the dearth of powerful prophets fearing nothing but God, millions are looking for new and exciting and mostly entertaining ecclesiastical venues that are upbeat, appealing, and of course never reproving or convicting. And most of this massive shift has occurred in the past forty years as the Prince of the power of the air has used television, radio, and the printed page to spread falsehoods and create tens of thousands of fragmented representations of God's Word, many with more fragments than Word.

And God's remnant, those who haven't taken the postmodern mark, are content to hold the fort. With all the seriousness of the wicked things in the world and the church, would it not be safe to assume that faithful churches would be broken and passionately seeking the very face of the Lord Jesus, begging for God's power to use them as Spiritual beacons of permeating light, and transforming their lives with such an unmistakable glory that the world would have to exclaim "We have not seen it like this!"(Acts)? Against the backdrop of the enormous evil, would it be safe to assume that faithful churches would be open 3 to 4 nights a week in desperate and intercessory prayer, and on those rare occasions see God's glory and presence so manifest itself that it disproportionately changes their lives forever? As we witness the legions of our brothers and sisters leaving their first love and warming their hearts with strange fire, would it not be safe to assume that as faithful believers gathered on Sunday mornings many times people would be overcome with broken hearts and many tears, as we weep for the deception that has taken our brethren captive?

If you assumed those things you would be wrong. And as if this scenic panorama of Spiritual departure and lethargy isn't enough, we now see the first sign that the original ship is leaking. Dialogue is the new altar which draws the worship from all regions of doctrinal perspective, including the most fundamental. And to say there is more dialogue than prayer is akin to proclaiming the earth is round. And referencing my earlier illustration, as we all gather in the same room for a wonderful exchange of ideas and perspective about Jesus (He must be so proud of us), the invisible infection spreads and gains strength and credibility even from those who warn against it. And while we all rail against the emergent movement with its chameleon-like metamorphosis, even reformed icons like John Piper invite emergents like Mark Driscoll to speak at Desiring God conferences. Not dialogue, not to be reproved, not to answer questions, but to speak. I can just see Spurgeon offering his sacred desk to an emergent's ramblings, he would rather die. And most of the reformed blogs are silent, choosing to give Piper a pass based simply on his reputation. If Rick Warren had Driscoll speak at Saddleback there would have been a convenient outpouring of denunciation no matter what Warren claimed his motives were, but not Piper because he has "reformed credentials". Well God is no respecter of persons but many have been exposed as choosing their spots. I am a nobody, but I have spoken in open correction about the views and friendships of Billy Graham, and I came to Christ while watching him on television. Do you who have benefited from Piper's godly ministry owe him the same faithful warning?

Do you not believe that a man like Piper deserves a loving rebuke? Where are the wounds of a friend, gently but accurately correcting him? And Piper's example has opened the doors across the evangelical world to follow his leadership, while other brothers who see the futuristic implications of his actions dare not correct a man of his stature which may offend some of their own followers. And to that end I desire no followers.

And I believe this is the last chapter in the final deception to alter the course of Biblical Christianity.
Don't worry, people from all walks of ecclesiastical thought are dialoguing about it, and our children and grandchildren will feel no mandate to avoid almost anyone who claims the Bible as any part of their belief system. And the former hens who left the henhouse and picked up the fox virus came back to the henhouse door wanting back in. They didn't have to burst in by breaking down the door, and they didn't have to sneak in through an open window. No, they talked (dialogued) their way back in, and men that were supposed to be guarding the door opened it "just to talk with them" mind you. And some opened the door to let them speak at the old time hen convention, but reminded them they had to leave the henhouse after they spoke. So they came in and talked and then left. They came in and spoke and then left. Eventually they came in...and never left. As a matter of fact they slowly took over, without a shot being fired.
I might have to find another henhouse.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Person Driven Life

Jn.6:66-69 - From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, "Will you go away also?". Then Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the Words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God".

One of the distinct innermost feelings I had when I was lost, and boy was I lost, was a feeling of unfulfillment and purposelessness. Like wandering in a dark cave without a guide or light, I tried to achieve a purpose. Was it making money? Was it self indulgence? Was it intellectualism? Was it music? I dabbled in all of it (a little light on the intellectual phase), and the interesting thing was that I had a sense of purpose in all those areas...temporarily. Yep, soon the same old purposeless feeling would return and I would try something else to no lasting avail. But then in March of 1975 I was sought by the Redeemer and on one night overlooking New York City I was transformed, as I believed that Jesus was the Savior God, and without knowing much theology, I believed He alone was Lord. I always will.

I cannot fully describe the intensity that became a part of me. People who came to Christ as children sometimes cannot understand some of us who were literally and positionally transformed at one, distinct, and unforgettable moment. Can you imagine not knowing if God even existed, and then on one day, I'm talking ONE DAY, not only realizing that God exists but coming to KNOW Him!? It is a glorious mystery that I recall often, especially when the refuse of all the ecclesiastical, man made stuff collects in my spirit and seeks to drown me in murky and encumbered waters, it is then I go back to a 22 year old, lost sinner sitting on top of Garret Mountain in Wayne, New Jersey on a clear and cold night and feeling, yes I said feeling, the Holy Spirit entering my very being because I had embraced Jesus as my Savior God!!

Now on that day I entered the Person Driven life which, by the way, I am still on that journey that leads to Him. Paul, the great apostle to the church and who saw Jesus face to face, said and prayed, "That I may know Him...". And the word for know there is the same word that in Matt.1:25 declares that Joseph "Knew her not till she (Mary) had brought forth her first born son...". Intimacy unimaginable. So we are supposed to do the work of the ministry of Jesus, but our ultimate purpose is always defined by a Person, the Lord Jesus. Like Mary, Martha's sister, worship is our life. All this other stuff may be good and have its place, and service has its reward, but we are driven by the Person of Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God, the Risen Lamb, Second August Person of the Godhead, the Creator Redeemer. And I am convinced that if we were driven by Jesus Himself the world may be drawn to Him in a greater way than all our so called evangelism strategies. There is nothing like knowing Jesus and have that knowledge keep growing and permeate our inner being, energizing both our inner and outer man to emulate the aspects of Christ that God has revealed to us, promising to add to that knowledge as we keep our eyes on Him.

I guess to lay out the particulars they would include God's Word, prayer, and bringing all the "apocalypse" that God has given you and use it in...worship. A theologian (whatever that is) without a tender heart of worship is as dry as toast without butter, and a worshipper without the Word and an obedient walk is open to deception. But there is absolutely nothing like worshipping Jesus, in private, with others, with music, without music, there is nothing to compare. We are driven by Him and His presence! And like the siren's irresistible songs, we can hear heaven's eternal songs wafting up before the awesome throne of our one and only purpose...Jesus.

Part of me feels sorry for the emergent church converts because they have grown tired of Jesus. The Jesus of Paul doesn't fulfill anymore, and the Jesus that Luther and Calvin knew doesn't yet quench their thirst. Wesley's Jesus? No, not enough. Spurgeon's Savior? Still missing something. And all this post-modern gibberish has been the excuse for expanding and redefining who Jesus is, because, before the wonderful post-modern line of demarcation that "loosed the hounds", He must have been woefully inadequate. And the devil has convinced them that the major shortcomings of traditional evangelicalism (which are many) are really a result of a partially revealed Jesus, a Spiritual panacea that they can fix with new literary pioneers that navigate new waters of Christology.

But I, a nobody, would ask them this honest and sincere question. Will you go away also? We don't need a new and post-modern Jesus, we need to know more of the New Testament Jesus. And in place of business strategies to market Jesus, let us give up our western, hedonistic toys, and let us seek the historic revelation of Jesus with a new passion. John the Baptist was the harshest, most abrasive, and insensitive prophet of the New testament. Can you imagine some religious people coming to a church service and as the service begins the pastor points them out and screams, "Who warned you...!"? And yet the Savior called him the greatest man of woman born. And Jesus Himself knew when He said the Words in John 6 that many would be offended and stop following Him, but He said them anyway. Why? Because they wanted to define unto themselves the kind of Jesus they wanted to follow in the post-John the Baptist era, but that is just a mirage seen by carnal eyes and not Jesus Himself. Is He not worth following as He is in truth?

Are you telling me as you read Spurgeon's many revelations of the Savior, inspired by the Spirit of revelation in the knowledge of Him, are you saying that the tears that fall from our eyes as we read a man's words that so honor Christ, that isn't the real Jesus? Are you telling me that the Moravian boys who sold themselves to a Caribbean slave trader for life, just to share Jesus with the African slaves, are you telling me that wasn't the real Jesus? Are you telling me that as the Wesley brothers endured months of hardship several times to come to America to share Jesus with the settlers, are you telling me that wasn't the real Jesus? Are you telling me that one of the martyrs, just as the flames finally scorched his body black on the stake, he lifted up his hand to heaven as a testimony to those who witnessed his death, are you telling me that wasn't the real Jesus? Are you telling me that the five missionaries murdered in Ecuador by the people they went to share Jesus with, are you telling me that wasn't the real Jesus? Or maybe you're telling me that those followers had not yet entered into the fullness of the revelation that you have discovered. Yea, right.

No, no, it is you who are departing from 2000 years of the Holy Spirit's revelation of the Lord Jesus in His incarnation and heavenly glory, and now many try and transform Jesus to a feeder of the poor that surely will appeal to most everyone. If Jesus wanted His ministry to be defined by humanitarian efforts, He could have miraculously made three square meals for all of Jerusalem on a daily basis. And I believe entirely that the church neglects its calling to humanitarian efforts, so don't set up that straw man, but Ted Turner, Bill Gates, and Bono can feed the world, but only Jesus can save it. But let me bring us back to John chapter six, because after Jesus fed the five thousand many people followed Him because of the food, but Jesus reproved them for seeking earthly food. In John 6:27 Jesus made eternal life, that's right, eternal life the priority.

And to you who read this and have not sought an expanding definition of Jesus, let's seek an expanding revelation and followship of the Jesus we met on the day He first manifested Himself to us. We have nothing, absolutely nothing, to be smug about, we ourselves need to press toward the throne and gaze into the face that shines like the sun. We need to cultivate a thirst that can only be quenched by a daily and deeper reintroduction to the Thone Reigning Lion, seeking His glorious face which changes us from glory to glory. Face time in prayer with Jesus, that is what He himself desires without any reason but love.

To whom can we go? All men are poor fountains of wisdom. All men are poor comforters. All men are poor examples. All men are only men. We go to Jesus, alone. And if He uses a man to glorify Himself, let it be so, but we continue to go to Jesus and His Word, alone. The battle for the faith rages, but let us savor the most precious time with the General Himself, inclining in His Spirit, and listening to His Words, our training and command. And after we've studied His Word, and after we've lifted our petitions, and after we've taught others, and after we've contended for the faith, after all that, wrap it up and put it on a shelf for later, and fall on your face with nothing in your hands, nothing in your mind, and nothing in your heart...but Jesus. And with the awestruck spirit of a little child on Christmas morning...worship Him...and in that He is glorified. Selah, selah.

And to whom should we go, Lord? You alone have the unchangeable Words of eternal life, and by them we were transformed, and we believe and are sure that you are the Christ, Son of the Living God. So how shall we forsake You, Jesus, there is no one who has cared for us but You. To say that You are the greatest Savior is to suppose there are contenders...there are none. You alone are Savior, You alone are King, You alone are Redeemer, You alone are Creator, You alone are Alpha, You alone are Omega, You alone are the Rose of Sharon, You alone are the Bright and Morning Star, You alone are Lord, You alone are God,

You alone are...Everything

Friday, October 13, 2006


Lk.12:15 - ...Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth.
Matt.6:19 - But lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth...

In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus Himself lays out an overview of His Second Coming. In this prophetic teaching He divides the sheep(on His right) from the goats(on His left). But the interesting thing is that the criteria He uses to divide is who ministered to the hungry, poor, naked, sick, and the prisoners. I have always wondered why there was nothing in this teaching about faith, but as I have studied God's Word it has become increasingly clear that ministering and reaching out sacrificially to the poor and needy cannot be separated from the gospel mission of the followers of Jesus Christ.

Now be careful, we are about to go into Spiritual turbulence and the Pilot has turned on the "unlock your seatbelts" sign. You see, God wants His turbulence to shake us out of our comfortable ride. I personally am not the example of anything, God's Word is the mirror. In Luke chapter 3 there is an account of the emergence of John the Baptist as the forerunner to Jesus the Messiah. John calls people to repentance, but in this account he does not call people to repent of adultery, immorality, or other sins we would associate with repentance. No, the people come and ask him what should they do to repent. John the Baptist tells them to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, don't overcharge the poor, be kind, and be content with your salary

Paul's words to Timothy echo John's exhortation to repent. Paul tells Timothy to "be content with food and clothing"(I Tim.6:8) (As soon as I meet that guy I'm going to listen to him!). Let me throw out this question to all of us as if we were in a chat room, "What does I Tim.6:7 mean?". I Tim.6:7 - For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. Doesn't that perfectly parallel the Lord Jesus' Words not to "lay up treasures on earth"? Let's forget about the lost for a minute. How can it possibly be right with God for us to have enormous amounts of money in savings and retirement when there are brothers and sisters IN CHRIST that are in unbelievable need around the world? Not just in need of Bibles, but food, clothing, shelter, and necessities. Our family members in need. Imagine you had won the lottery(hope not) and you were headed up I-75 to Tallahassee to collect 1 Billion dollars! On the way you stopped at a gas station to fill up and you noticed a small fair with a merry-go-round in the lot next door. Although you only had five dollars on you, you wanted to ride that merry-go-round which was five dollars per ride. As you walked over to the lot you noticed your long lost brother, homeless and begging for food. Would you give him the five dollars or ride the merry-go-round?

I think we all would probably answer that we would give the five dollars to our hungry brother in that hypothetical scenario, but in reality we are riding many merry-go-rounds while our brothers are hungry. It is obviously never right for part of God's family to "prosper" for their own pleasure while others desperately need what we have. It goes against ALL the teachings of God's Word(even the ones we attempt to Spiritualize). I can hear all of us quickly buckling up our earthly seat belts. Click, click, click. Don't worry, the flight will be over in a moment and we'll be back at BIA (Babylonian International Airport).

We give out of our abundance to the victims of Katrina, and document(trumpet) what we give(whatever happened to not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing?), but some of our brothers and sisters suffer far worse than Katrina. Approximately 1400 people died in Katrina, but 6000 Africans die EVERY DAY of AIDS. The key word is "Africans" not "Americans". If all the Africans moved to the United States it would be easier to help($wise). Maybe one hundred years ago we could say to the church,"Look out, we're headed in the wrong direction!" Today we are not headed in the wrong direction, we've arrived.

If the body of believers just gave the interest payments on their debt(by getting out of debt!), it would save thousands of BELIEVER'S lives. Hard to imagine isn't it? Let's illustrate. One hundred believers land in the Tampa Bay from Africa after miraculously crossing the Atlantic Ocean and sailing into the Gulf of Mexico and arriving here. All one hundred are hungry, some are sick, and they all need a place to stay. They are all from one small church in Zambia, South Africa and they have risked their lives to come to the believers in America to BEG for help. They inform us that there are thousands of their loved ones that are dying and need immediate help. As a matter of fact, many die daily! Hurry, please! Would you and I help? Would we allow the Holy Spirit to move us into emergency mode? Well these fictional believers cannot come here by boat, but a nobody like me can ask for them. Please help Not just write a nice, comfortable check. No, start praying dangerously - THE SITUATION IS DESPERATE!! The need is so great it is impossible to overstate. The time is short. The martyr Jim Elliot said,"He is no fool who gives what he can't keep to gain what he cannot lose". Just once in my life I would love to see someone who has a lot of this world's goods empty all his savings, investments, and retirement and humbly set the example for all to follow and see if the Holy Spirit would move in other believer's hearts.

Right after the Scripture in Luke 12:15 that I quoted at the beginning, Jesus shares a parable about a certain rich man. This man had a nice retirement account and it was growing. So he built larger barns(retirement accounts) to hold his savings The man even takes comfort that he can now enjoy the fruits of his labor. Now Jesus said he was a fool, and Jesus asks the question in verse 20 "whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?". Jesus sums it up in verse 21 "So is he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God". Now we have taught, especially in the last generation, that you can lay up for yourselves treasures as long as you are rich toward God. That is wresting and distorting the words that came directly from our Lord. Read the entire chapter and the context is clear. Jesus is clearly teaching that he that lays up treasure is not rich toward God. The entire 12th chapter of Luke is teaching that the act of laying up treasure is a foolish act that exposes that we love money and are not rich toward God. OK, you are uncomfortable with that? I am also, but let God be true and every man a liar. Like Luther said, "Unless you can convince me by Scripture...". I challenge you, read the entire New Testament and make a journal of all the verses that deal with money or possessions. Before you do, are you willing to obey what God teaches? If not, you're just auditing a literature class. No credit.

What if God spoke in a dream to a famous Christian leader in America? This leader purchased secular TV time and told the body of Christ that the Lord had spoken to him in a dream. Now in order to remove all doubt that at least this wasn't a gimmick, let us say it was someone who never before had been given to subjective emotions in God's name. Let's just say it was John Macarthur. Now he got on TV and with passion and tears he said God had told him to tell any American believers that would listen to sell everything they owned and place it in a money market account for one year(at least we'll accrue interest, whew). Retirement accounts, savings, investments, houses, everything. Now this would mean families moving to rental dwellings, sometimes much smaller than they were accustomed. All their net worth was in that one bank account for one year. Now during this one year they were to pray, as a family, and seek the will of God concerning foreign missions. This one year would be a sacrificial year of fasting, family altar, brokenness, and allowing the Holy Spirit to personally direct each and every family about God's will collectively and individually. Any family that did not have a father would be assigned to link up with a Godly family(that should be happening now!). At the end of the year every family would come forward in their church and the father would share how God had directed them. Every family was to be either a goer or a sender.

How many of us would do that even if we were convinced it was God? The problem is that we have traveled so far down this cultural road that we would never believe that God would ever ask us to do that. We have heard hundreds of times "It's all right to have things as long as things don't have you"(a saying of man - not God). You want to test whether things have a man? Steal it from him, you'll see! Let the stock market crash, let the real estate values plummet, let Christian's salaries be cut in half, let the banks default, let all that happen and on Sunday morning the church altar will be filled with believers acting as if heaven disappeared! If we could be transported temporarily out of this culture, we would see that we can't take it with us. If just once we were loosed from these red, white, and blue grave clothes we could hear our Lord with Spiritual abandonment! One day Jesus will come, and all the money we have stashed away will burn, useless in the life to come. We even kid about letting the antichrist have it after we go. Sadly, he will. I do not know why we hold onto such amounts of money in the face of the clear teaching of Jesus Himself. I do not know why so many of us refuse to go to the need in the face of the calling of Jesus Himself. I am personally under the teaching/chastening of God as He peals back the layers that have accumulated over thirty years as a follower of Jesus. Sometimes I wonder how I could have been so blind. I know, I've lost my earthly and ecclesiastical moorings. Leave what isn't Spirit to you, but let God give you, maybe, a little nudge.

OK, the Pilot has turned on the "Buckle your seatbelts" sign. Walk down the aisle of the plane, carefully step down the steps, and place your feet firmly on good, old "mother earth". Wow, I didn't like that ride and the movie they were showing was so far out it was not believable. Thank Jesus we are home again...still buckled in. That's the problem!

How to Preach so No One is Converted

  • Preach on every doctrine that centers the attention on man rather than Jesus. Teach every doctrine that makes man the center of God's attention rather than God the center of man's devotion. Tell people only what God will do for them.
  • Avoid preaching about the necessity of a radical change of heart, through the truth revealed to the heart by the agency of the Holy Spirit.
  • Let your supreme motive to be popular with all people, then, of course, your preaching will be suited for that purpose, and not to convert souls to Christ.Avoid preaching doctrines that are offensive to the carnal mind, so that no one should say to you, as they did of Christ, "This is a hard saying, who can hear it?"
  • Make no distinct points, and do not disturb the consciences of your hearers so that they may become truly alarmed about their souls.
  • Avoid all illustrations, repetitions, and expressive sentences that may compel people to remember what you say.
  • Avoid all heat and enthusiasm in your delivery, so that you never make the impression that you really believe what you say.
  • Make appeals to the emotions, and not the conscience, of your hearers.
  • Be careful not to testify from your own personal experience of the power of the gospel, so that you never should produce the conviction upon your hearers that you have something which they need.
  • Do not stir up uncomfortable memories by reminding your hearers of their past sins.
  • Denounce sin in a general way, but make no reference to the specific sins of your present audience.
  • Do not make the impression that God commands your listeners here and now to obey the truth. Do not let them think that you expect them to commit themselves right on the spot to become believing followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Give the impression that they are expected to go away in their sins, and to consider the matter at later time of their convenience.
  • Preach salvation by grace; but ignore the condemned and lost condition of the sinner so that he never should understand what you mean by grace, and know his need of it.
  • Preach the gospel as a remedy or a cure, but conceal or ignore the fatal disease of the sinner.
  • Do not speak of the spirituality of God's holy law (by which comes the knowledge of sin), so that the sinner never should see his lost condition and repent.
  • Make no appeals to the fears of sinners; but give them the impression that they have no reason to fear.
  • Preach Christ as an infinitely friendly and good-natured being. Ignore those scathing rebukes of sinners and hypocrites which so often made His hearers tremble.
  • Do not rebuke the worldly tendencies of the church, so that you should never hurt their feelings, and finally convert some of them.
  • Admit, either obviously or casually, that all men have some moral goodness in them; so that sinners should never understand that they need a radical change of heart, from sin to holiness.
  • Say so little of hell that your people will think that you do not believe in its existence yourself.Make the impression that, if God is as good as you are, He could not send anyone to hell.
  • Make no unpleasant reference to the teachings of self-denial, cross-bearing, and crucifixion to the world, so that you should never convict and convert some of your church members.
  • Make sure you avoid preaching to those who are present. Preach about sinners, but not to them. Say "they," and not "you," so that anyone should never take your subject personally, and apply it to their own life, securing the salvation of their soul.
  • Preach that the new birth is something God deposits in people, not a fundamental change in the ultimate purpose of our lives.Never tell people that they must cease from serving self and serve God and do His will.
  • Preach that a person can be saved without making Jesus his Lord.
  • Teach that holiness is just an option and not a requirement of the gospel. Teach them that they can be Christian without becoming true disciples.
  • Teach Christians that sin is a normal and natural part of their every day life and that they can never truly expect to ever overcome sin through the power of Christ.
  • Preach that no Christian needs to do anything. Teach them that they are safe and heaven bound even if their lives are disobedient and rebellious.

And if you follow those guidlines you can be sure your membership roles won't be clogged with new followers of Jesus Christ. But you just may grow as a church!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

God"s Glory...the Cross

But God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There are no words, there are no thoughts, there are no expressions that can come from a human being that can fully explain or reveal the totality of what was said, suffered, and the cross. Oh we can recall the event and in a general way reiterate the chronology of what took place at that cursed and blessed place outside the city of peace, but we haven't scratched the surface of the infinite depths of what had been planned, carried out, and accomplished. We can understand what a crucifixion is, but THIS crucifixion? It stands unplumbed by any human mind, and in a mystery, only a heart that has bowed at Golgatha can taste the redemption in the blood that drips from that cross and spills through this earthly house, penetrating that suddenly believing heart. At that moment the scales fall from a sinner's darkened eyes and as we again gaze at that cross, the dead, blaspheming Jew that once hung there now appears like unto a Lamb, a spotless and sinless Lamb, covered in His own blood and gory glory. It is at that sacred moment the eternal journey the cross.

The Father has done to His Son what He could have and should have done... to me. And what I could never have accomplished by an eternity of tormented justice, this Sacrificial Lamb has absorbed and has forever satisfied my eternal punishment, unimaginably compacting the eternal suffering that awaited my death…in three hours…three horrifying hours…that belonged rightfully to me.

It might be an old, stale story to some, but to me I will never get over the imagery of what Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, did for someone like me. To say I did not deserve it is to feign humility, it goes way beyond that. I cannot ever imagine how vile a creature I was against the loving holiness of the Creator God, I only know I was vile in my own carnal and excusing eyes. I would not desire my worst enemy to suffer like Jesus did, and to think that “...He made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin...” is so far out of my so called intellectual league that it can only elicit from me brokenness and worship, which is exactly what the Lamb deserves.

No son of Adam can understand how that was completed on the cross, much less what species of love planned and finished it. An earthly heart feels only disgust and repulsion, but when a changed heart peers out through the cleansing blood of the Son of Judah, it cannot help but cry out…

My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior

And one day that has no equal, in the expanse of the place called heaven, all the remedies of earth will be unclothed to reveal them as they really are and always have been,


But look! The celestial beasts are gathering to worship. And the elders gather beside them to bow also. All of heaven is gathering as one to prostrate themselves to give glory to something in the very center of heaven.
Is it all the philosophies? Is it all the medicines? Is it all the psychologies? Is it all the investments? Is it all the kings? Is it all the heroes? Is it all the sciences? Is it all the books? Is it all the inventions? Is it all the meetings? Is it all the wars? Is it all the riches? Is it all the stars? Is it all the nations? Is it all the history of mankind?

No, forever, no.

And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders…

Stood a Lamb, as it had been slain.

So if any man of woman born would desire to see the glory of God you need not look at the highest mountain tops, you need not look across the greatest ocean, you need not gaze into the deepest heavens, you need not be carried to the highest place in the universe and see the immensity of the wondrous creation made with just a Word. No, to see the unveiled glory of Almighty God go to a little hill outside Jerusalem, fall to your knees and lift your eyes, and look fully at the event that completely revealed the express image of His Person and the brightness of His glory…

the cross

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

He That Built All God

Heb.3:6 - For every house is built by some man, but he that built all things is God.
Heb.3:3 - For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath built the house hath more honor than the house.

The world does not fully understand what we mean when we confess that Jesus was and is God. They process that as meaning He was divine, or that He was created special, or some other watered down version of their own making. Part of the misconception pertaining to the Incarnation is the misunderstanding of who God is. The average person imagines God as a universal overseer who is more new age than Bible reflected, and Jesus is from God trying to show us how to live, which usually means how to do what you want without hurting anyone else. But part of the reason the average person misunderstands who the Bible teaches that Jesus is centers around a major fact of His power that we fail to convey.

Jn.1:3 - All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.

Jesus created everything. Yes, I cannot think of a single time in a public forum (talk show, etc.) where an evangelical minister has clearly represented Jesus as the Creator, because most people think of "God" as the Creator and Jesus as a divine messenger. But to comprehend that the New Testament identifies Jesus as the Creator of everything, well, that puts a new and Spiritually confrontational light on Him. Jesus is not just a good person, or a divine messenger, or even a teacher come from God, He is your Creator.

Matt.1:23 - Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Not just from God, not just a god, and not just part of God. The Creator Himself came as a man. Most of us have been taught that and by the Spirit's revelation we fully embrace that, but it is still an imposing mystery. Even Paul observed, "Great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh...". And it is insufficient to just describe Jesus as "God", no, the carnal mind immediately separates Him from the overarching Creator God and it assigns Jesus to a subordinate status of the Divine. The teaching of Jesus must fully engage the reality that Jesus is the Creator God.

When in the company of lost people we sometimes look into the night sky and proclaim "God made those stars", and even an unregenerate person who is not an atheist will nod in agreement. But if you say, "Look at all those stars, Jesus made them all", you may well find that the Holy Spirit has used that to garner the attention of a sinner. Many people will credit Jesus with being a great teacher, a good example, and even a divine man, but when confronted with Him being the Creator they might have to stop and think about that one. From the smallest electron to the largest galaxy super cluster, Jesus created them all by His Word, which also in a mystery is Jesus.

Now since God made everything and Jesus is God, then explain the Trinity. That's right, no one can explain the Trinity. The Father and the Son and the Spirit are different and yet are one. But because the Lord Himself chose to reveal himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit the human mind again relegates the Son as subordinate to the Father and as we have seen in many of the cults they remove or cheapen the deity of Jesus. But when we preach and teach that the Creator of the universe is Jesus we remove all doubt as to who He is.

Col.1:16 - For by Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, all things were created by Him and for Him.

So the next time you are granted the privilege of sharing Jesus with someone, represent Him not only as He came in earthly form, reveal Him as the Creator. And when they say I thought God the Father created everything you can answer "He did". And when they say "But I thought you just said that Jesus created everything" you can say, "He did". And when they say how can they both have created it you can say "Because they are one". Do you know what you have done? You have generated a discussion that revolves around who Jesus really is with the mind-boggling mystery that should accompany Him. Too often we have made Jesus a glorified man who fixes earthly problems, when in reality He is the Creator Lord of Glory.

Any representation less than that is another Jesus.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Romans 13:11-12 - And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed, The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

This article will be more of a Bible study of those two verses than anything else. So "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ", let us ask the Holy Spirit to "open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law" (Ps.119:18).

Look at that first phrase "knowing the time". There has never been a casual and unimportant time in the history of the church, especially from God's perspective. That admonition was to the first century Christians as well as it is to us today. We should "walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time for the days are evil" (Eph.5:15-16). We as believing followers of Him Who dwells beyond time, should always be aware that the clock against which we labor for Christ ticks away irretrievable moments that could be used to His glory. Precious and privileged are the days that have been gifted to us for the glory of the Majesty on High. We know it, we should know it, we MUST know it.

Paul goes on with a statement that resembles getting our teenager out of bed and off to school. "It is high time to awake out of sleep" says the Spirit, and "Awake, awake; put on thy strength..." (Is.52:1). And as the early church had a tendency to settle in and get comfortable, the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul sounds the alarm and calls to a dozing people to "...Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light!" (Eph.5:14). Oh brothers and sisters, have we not been brought to drowsiness by the entertainment lullaby's of this hedonistic world? Are not our eyelids heavy as we worry about collecting and preserving the green paper that captures most of our time? And while we slept the enemy has plowed under the everlasting truths of God's Word and has planted a crop of Spiritual hemlock. It may be too late for the church as a whole, but it is "high time" for all of us as individual followers of the Lord Christ. Awake, says the Spirit, Awake!

Now anyone who teaches that being born again is a process simply is being disingenuous with the Scriptures. Paul says that our final deliverance is closer today than when we "first believed". Like Hansel and Gretel, we who name the name of Christ should be able to trace back an unbroken chain of believing crumbs that lead to that first moment of faith. And as we turn from the past and look out ahead we see the shadow of future crumbs of a believing trail that finds their destination in the Finisher of our faith, Jesus our Lord. And as we stand on this earth and look for the "Blessed Hope" we are in a "straight betwixt two". On one hand we must always be about our Father's business, and on the other hand we long for His return. He is coming, Rejoice! He is coming, Repent!

The sinful darkness of the night that men love is almost over, and the Day that begins forever as the Morning Star arises in the east is at hand. I realize that most every generation thought that they were the final one that will witness the coming of the Lord, and so some try and downplay the significance of our generation. But we do know two things, all the previous generations were wrong, and our generation still could be right. And the list of events that seem to correspond with the things God told us about are happening right before our eyes. And with Israel in place, can you not feel the warmth of a few rays of the Morning Star light ever so gently announcing the preparation of the coming King? If you listen closely to the pages of Scripture can you not hear the snorting of the heavenly horses as they anxiously hoof the celestial stables, ready to carry their Maker and Rider to claim His bounty? And can your ears not perceive the bristling waves of folding wings as the angelic hosts anticipate the King of Kings rising from His throne in all His unspeakable glory? Just the mere thought should bring the shudder of worship mingled with fear and praise.

And finally Paul admonishes us to "cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light". He is saying, Repent!, and enjoin the battle! Brethren, we live in a Spiritual arena that is witnessing no small amount of warfare. It is all around us, and only "the violent take it by force". If we are not engaged in battle, we are in a prisoner of war camp already. The "armor of light" is the powerful Word of the Living God, dressed and fitted with prayer, and covered with the Blood of the Son of God. And the most Spiritually effective acts of violence that can be inflicted against the kingdom of darkness occur in the prayer closet. It is on that battlefield that the blood of demons is spilled and the prince of darkness surrenders! Melodramatic? Absolutely not, if anything, understated.

And so in the great doctrinal book of Romans, the Holy Spirit feels it necessary to exhort and warn God's people. These are not trivial games, these are pivotal and dangerous times. The task and calling to the body of Christ on earth is infinitely more important than what transpires in the halls of any earthly government, and we must awake and be vigilant, inclining our ears to the distant, but louder than when we believed, roar of our Pride Male. And "let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that does so easily beset us", and "put on the whole armor of God", "for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God", for "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against Spiritual wickedness in high places".

The time to rest is not now, and the time to retreat is over. On our knees, and in His might, we go "bearing His reproach without the camp", "until the day dawn, and the Day Star arise in your hearts", and the Mighty Omega calls his troops to His side and destroys all His enemies with the with the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word that proceeds from His mouth. And as the dust settles and all activity ceases, and as the great and terrible day of the Lord ends, and as all eyes are turned as one in adoration and awe to the Majesty of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, a thunderous chorus from all the inhabitants of heaven proclaim with a shout of praise...

"Alleluia, Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God".

It is upon us.......Awake!