Sunday, January 28, 2007

Praying for Pentecost

Acts 1:8 - But you shall receive power after the Holy Ghost is come upon you…

I fully realize that the day of Pentecost as experienced by the group of followers in the book of Acts was a fulfillment of the prophecies of God and that it was unique in its experience and substance. So it would be doctrinally unbalanced to pray for a recreation or even something like a mirrored outpouring of God’s Spirit because in a tangible sense that day was the beginning of the Spirit sealed body of Christ and we as believers were grafted in collectively on that day and personally the moment we believed. There was one and only one day that fulfilled the “promise of the Spirit” and that day happened almost two thousand years ago.

But the accompanying power that fell upon and filled the first born again believers is something that is available for each believing generation, the “generation that seeks His face”. And even more importantly it is available for each individual believer who sets his heart to wholly seek God’s face and the Spirit’s power. Now if a person is going to seek God’s power and anointing for his own importance or his own enjoyment then he might as well never begin for the Lord God of the Harvest guards His power like a jealous husband and only an empty and broken vessel will He fill.

I realize some will doctrinally recoil at the terminology and if so you are welcome to call it whatever suits your doctrinal persuasion but we are openly disingenuous to deny that the body of Christ is in desperate need of a mighty rushing wind of the Spirit of God. And which camp of the current Christian genre do you think God is interested in using as a vessel of His glory? The Purpose Driven camp? The seeker sensitive camp? The emergent camp? The prosperity camp? You see my point?

Picture a walled castle with lookouts stationed high atop its huge walls and one day these lookouts see an enemy approaching in the distance. At first they are skeptical but as time goes by the enemy comes closer and closer with ominous weapons that will obviously endanger the castle and its people. So the lookouts call down to the inhabitants of the castle to prepare for battle immediately. Well the people of the castle reject the reports that any enemy is approaching and they go about their business as usual which frustrates the lookouts and they continue to detail the movements of the coming enemy while increasing the volume of their rebukes and warnings to the careless castle dwellers. With this scenario in place who is most responsible to prepare for battle, the unsuspecting people or the lookouts who have seen the enemy and are well aware of his eminent coming? And is rebuking the general population the extent of the responsibility of the lookouts to prepare for battle or are they responsible to take up the castle arms regardless whether the common people help or not?

And here lies the predicament that the body of Christ largely finds itself in today. The vast proportion of the body of Christ goes about their business uncaring and willingly ignorant of the enemy that has not only approached but now runs openly throughout the church and its preachers. And by God’s grace and the illumination of the Spirit some have warned about the insidious attack without much success among the evangelical world. But our calling is not just limited to “inform” but we are to “take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them”. Where does the power come from to spoil the enemy and set the captives free? Well many of us claim to be doctrinally conservative and Biblically sound but the wave of apostasy continues to build battled with mostly words both spoken and written. And if just spreading the written Word would defeat the modern deceptions then like the Gideons we could just throw a New Testament on everyone’s front lawn and “poof”, victory. And if just speaking the Word would engender the same victory then we could just stand on every street corner with a megaphone and preach the Word and “poof”, victory.

But throughout the New Testament and the church age God has empowered broken vessels with an anointing that produces unusual power in His Word spoken and lived out through totally surrendered followers who have “loved not their own lives unto death”. And on the Day of Pentecost, after the first believers were born again, Peter stood and preached the foolishness of the cross to thousands who had gathered at Jerusalem for an Old Testament feast not to hear the gospel. Why would these Jews actually listen to hear about a dead criminal named Joshua and that He was the Messiah and the only way of forgiveness of sins both now and forever? That doesn’t make sense to most people who have heard it today and it surely didn’t make sense to the gathering at Jerusalem more than two thousand years ago, so what was the reason they listened and responded on such short notice and limited information?

The answer is of course the power of the Holy Spirit. Now what preceded this great outpouring of God’s Spirit? Jesus had instructed His disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they were filled with the promise of the Spirit and the Scriptures tells us that these baby followers were praying together. No TV, no restaurants, no radio, no trips, no sports, they were given wholly to prayer. Now granted the Day of Pentecost and the birth of the church was already etched into pre-history by God Himself so it was not predicated upon the acts of man, but the example is evident and telling for the modern church. Why is there little genuine power of the Holy Spirit in the church today and why does the sales strategies of man pass as the “power of the Spirit”?
The word for “pray” in the New Testament is easily translated to ask or desire so the essence of prayer is to petition God with our requests in brokenness and faith. Now there are many accounts in the Scriptures and in church history where God’s people gathered for prayer to seek God for an outpouring of His Spirit and were rewarded with a move of God’s power in their midst. In Luke 11 the Lord Jesus gives an enlightening teaching that centers on prayer. He begins with the form we have labeled the Lord’s Prayer but in verses 5 through 13 Jesus tells a story of a person who is so desperate for provision he knocks upon his neighbor’s door at midnight asking for some bread. Now the owner of the house is awakened and gets up and gives his friend the bread he desires. Jesus tells us that the man gave his friend the bread not because he was his friend but because he realized that his friend was desperate because he was willing to ask him in the middle of the night.

What is Jesus saying to us and why has he included this parable in the context of prayer? It is obvious that our Lord is teaching the church about desperate prayer that is not only elongated and intense, but it takes place in the nightime hours that reveal the urgency of the requests and boldness of a desperate heart. And continuing in this same teaching Jesus wants us to know that God is ready to grant us our petitions more than our earthly fathers are willing to help us. And in the 13th verse Jesus makes a remarkable statement that has been misused by one segment of the church and ignored by the other.

Lk.11:13 - If you then being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?

We know that every person who by faith repents and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ receives the gift of the Holy Spirit the moment he is converted. So what is Jesus saying here about believers asking the Lord for the Holy Spirit? Just like the Old Testament the Lord by His grace sometimes endues a person or persons with a special visitation of His Holy Spirit. I would call that a revival. These events sometimes are without explanation and come unexpectedly by the sovereign hand of God, but there are times where God moves at the earnest beseeching of His children. Jesus openly revealed that the Father would give a greater anointing of the Holy Spirit in direct relation to desperate prayer that even takes place in abnormal hours when most people sleep. And in accordance with the parable Jesus shows that God is moved by a desperate heart that reflects that we are absolutely dependant upon His Spirit exclusively for our provision no matter what it is.

Be careful though, the man who asked for bread at midnight was asking for his friend not himself, so the false teaching that through certain incantations we can motivate God to give us material things is fleshly and misrepresents the nature of God. But I believe God is always looking for a person or people who so diligently seek Him in prayer and fasting that He can entrust them with His power for they will be conduits of His glory not their own. That is why it is evident that the church of Jesus Christ stands in desperate need of a strong visitation of God’s Spirit that as on Pentecost filled the followers and reached the whole world with God’s glory. We have no power of our own and much of what we do sometimes resembles debating the truth rather than the “demonstration of the Spirit and of power”. We should be convicted that the relevant crowd prints books, makes tapes, holds conferences, has television programs, and teaches on every subject under the sun - just like we do. So like sitting on a see saw it goes back and forth, up and down, but where is the substantiating power of the Holy Spirit that should abide upon those who are preaching and teaching the truth of God’s Word?

Should we not get off the information train for a minute and look in the mirror and let the Holy Spirit speak to us in conviction and clarity so that we may awaken to the fact that God is not pleased with our devotional and prayer lives that are so compromised by our cluttered Martha experience. When we drive by the church building during the week and see it uninhabited and prayerless you would think there was no crisis and that we didn’t need God except on Sundays and maybe Wednesdays. And yet we can see exercise gatherings, committee meetings, music practice, children’s activities, teen enjoyments, cleaning crews, etc., etc., but where are the crowds on their face between the altar and the porch imploring God to bring His power to answer the crisis that permeates our very lives and the lives of those around us?

In November we watch as the body joins with the heathen and like lemmings walk to the voting booths in a human effort to affect change in the outward behavior of men but why don’t we see that same long and determined stream of believers marching like ants to the church building to fall on their faces to humbly repent before the Heavenly Father and beg Him to move in glorifying power and remove the disgusting and sinful attachment we have for our own lives and this fallen world? Many churches hand out “voting guides” with how the individual candidates say they stand, but where are the prayer guides that are handed out to document where God stands about our present condition? Why don’t the restaurants ever wonder on Sunday afternoon, “Where are the church goers today, the place seems empty?” only to later discover that the Holy Spirit so moved in the gathering that the believers were constrained to “wait upon the Lord without distraction”. Not only would that type of unexplained alteration in our Spiritual behavior get the world’s attention, but it would send Spirit filled believers out into the darkness with more than just a different doctrine but the power of God Himself.

Maybe I am wrong, maybe we don’t need any more power from on high. Maybe this is all there is and the book of Acts is ancient history having no example for today. Maybe the accounts of revivals are no more than literary embellishments that are nothing more than fiction. Maybe edifying each other is the extent of God’s power and God doesn’t desire to bare His sleeve and show forth His glory through His church. Many of us have gathered this week in a church setting and have returned home. Were we changed? With the judgment of God continuing to approach this world like a runaway locomotive, did it affect the Spiritual ambience of your service? Were there any tears of either repentance or compassion? Has everything remained the same since the fathers slept? And on Sunday are we all preparing our hearts for a prayer gathering tonight? And if the extent of prayerful acknowledgment of God's presence in the "service" was for the President, the troops, and God's nebulous blessing then save your breath because most people spent more time greeting one another than greeting the Holy Spirit. God will not be used, ignored, or conveniently placed among the time constraints of this present earthly life whether in church or out. He is Lord, and we have somehow learned to live and be content without the exhibition of His life changing glory being more than a doctrinal truth but overflowing with rivers of power that capture us in the eternal and dramatically affect the darkness of this present world.

These are either the musings of a doctrinally unbalanced madman or it is…
The heart of God.
It cannot be both.
Pray for another Pentecost.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Uniqueness of Man's Sin

How repulsive is it to you when you think of a child molester who systematically rapes a two year old little girl and when the child screams once that same man murders her and burns her little body? How about this - Hollywood has made a sensitive documentary called “Zoo” that gives an understanding view of American bestiality with special emphasis on how the men love their “mates”. Does that repulse you? How about a man who lures young boys into his house, tortures them, and finally murders them and eats their dead flesh. Does that repulse you? OK, I’ll stop, you get the picture.

But that is just the point, we do not fully understand the depraved horror of our sin. You see how you feel when I’ve just described some of the monstrous sins that man commits, just imagine how you would feel if you were forced to watch those very heinous acts take place. And you cannot even imagine how you would feel if you were forced to participate in those same gruesome acts of sin. When my two year old grandson falls in our midst we all cringe and come to his aid, so knowing that some predators get satisfaction by torturing little ones like him is unthinkable.

Sin. Think about the uniqueness of man’s sin that began with Adam and has run its course through the blood of mankind even until today. When a male and female dog mate other dogs do not pull up chairs on the grass and watch, getting sensual ecstasy while observing. Female dogs don’t sell their pups to some predator in order to satisfy her drug habit. The sin of man is unique in its depth and depravity and well said the Scriptures that we are inventers of evil things. In Manhattan there are clubs where women dress as nurses and attend to the men administering enemas because that happens to be the fetish of these fallen perverts. OK, I’ll stop, you get the picture.

But wait, we do not fully get the picture. All those sins I’ve described and the billions of others that I could not even imagine, those sins were all present at Calvary. And though it is true that the sins of the world were placed upon God the Son, it goes further than that.

II Cor.5: - For he hath made Him to be sin for us…

I can put this into words but I can never surround it with my mind, it is a sacred mystery. Jesus became sin for us. How could this be? I do not know, I just know it is true. And although some sins are worse in a horizontal and comparative sense, in a vertical sense every sin is an infinite affront to a holy God. What sin doomed mankind? Murder? Adultery? Child molestation? No, one bite of a forbidden fruit. Nothing in the fruit caused the horror we see today, no, it was the open rebellion against the Word of the Creator God. And in reality the depraved ingredient in every sin that brings death is the defiant disobedience to the eternal Commandment of God Almighty.

We have made the word “sin” so antiseptic and doctrinally colloquial that most believers fail to fully fathom the shame, disgrace, and Spiritual death that comes with all sin. And in our willing ignorance we make peace with our own sin and dishonor our Savior. Jesus, who knew no sin of His own, became sin for us and endure the justified wrath of the Father, for us. He was punished completely for us. And back to the former descriptions of sin that I described and asked if they repulsed you. You are acquainted with sin, you and I have known sin. But Jesus was spotless and pristine so how repulsed was he when the sins of the world were placed upon Him and in a mystery He became sin? When I meditate on His sacrifice it is almost blasphemous on one hand but it is the magnificent love and glory of God on the other.

And so man loves his sin and refuses to see his need of redemption. The most wicked and incredulous sin of all is to deny the authority of God and His Word and refuse His offer of eternal grace. The poor unregenerate man will one day come face to face with Him who is his Judge, and on that day men will cry for mercy and there will be none. And if I read the prophetic Scriptures accurately we will be there and watch. And after I see billions cast into the lake of fire I will understand many things. I will understand that God was justified in casting all rebels out of His presence forever. I will understand that eternal punishment for sin is just and right.

And when the last sinner is cast into hell, I will understand what Jesus did for me, for I deserved to follow all of them to hell also. I was comparatively worse than most of them and I myself had absolutely no claim to righteousness. And as I turn again to the glorious Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Risen Lamb of God, I will, I MUST, fall on my face and worship Him saying,

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain…”.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Jude 2 - …that you should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

If you will stick with me I will tie the loose ends together about what this subject has to do with Christianity today.
Sandemanianism is a word that comes from the name of Robert Sandeman. Sandeman was the son-in-law of a preacher named John Glas from Scotland during the early 1700’s. John Glas became convinced from the Scriptures that God desired no state church in the New Testament and that the body of Christ was a Spiritual entity which was to have no league with any earthly governments. His teachings eventually centered around these principles:
1. that there is no warrant in the New Testament for a national church
2. that the magistrate or secular ruler as such has no function in the church
3. that national covenants are without scriptural grounds
4. that the true Reformation cannot be carried out by political and secular weapons but by the Word and Spirit of Christ only.
Now these teachings by Glas were good and true teachings but were against the convictions of the of the Presbyterian church of Scotland and the Westminster Confession. The Spiritual essence of the church apart from earthly governments was actually the only part of the Westminster Confession with which Glas disagreed, but it was substantial enough that he was summoned (1726) before his presbytery, where in the course of being investigated, he affirmed his belief that every national church established by the laws of earthly kingdoms is antichristian in its constitution and persecuting in its spirit, and further declared opinions upon the subject of church government which amounted to a repudiation of Presbyterianism and an acceptance of the puritan type of Independence. To put it simply Glas believed that the church of Jesus Christ should be separate from any government and only under the Lordship of Christ alone. For this he was stripped of his ordination.
Now Glas’s daughter married a man named Robert Sandeman who became a follower of John Glas’s views. Now these views would be embraced by most evangelicals today and they are in line with the Puritan view of church autonomy. But after Sandeman became the leader of the movement he brought the teachings in a new and dramatic direction. Sandeman taught that salvation could be achieved by only a very slight intellectual assent to the sacrifice of Christ. He wrote that even the slimmest of faith just lightly touching upon the gospel, even if not resulting in any life change, was still effective salvation. This was not what his father-in-law John Glas believed.
Now the Scriptures are absolutely clear, a sinner must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. To be sure many if not most believers did not fully understand the Biblical doctrines when they were saved, but as in my case they completely trusted Jesus as Savior and Lord by the power of the Spirit. Lordship salvation does not mean that a person becomes fully surrendered to Christ at his salvation for that is very rare, but it does mean that upon conversion a process has begun that will bring forth fruit that substantiates the experience. John MacArthur’s book “The Gospel According to Jesus” is in my opinion the most accurate teaching on the subject.
But this teaching called Sandemanianism is alive and well today in many parts of the church world. Some still teach it openly, and some even teach that if a person believes that a life change is necessary to substantiate a person’s conversion that is heresy and a false gospel. But more widespread is the ritual that has at its roots the teachings of Sandeman. When in the course of sharing the gospel to a person he expresses a desire to believe on the Lord Jesus, and then he is led to repeat a form prayer that varies with the counselor, and upon the completion of that prayer that sinner is told he is saved without question, that is Sandemanianism. Many of us would roundly reject such a man made formula invented to make the conversion experience succinct, immediately measurable, and able to be counted for publication. But beyond that there continues an eternally dangerous practice that does not attempt to root up any tares which Jesus commanded us not to do, but this practice within the church accepts the tares as wheat and spends much time and energy convincing them of their salvation.
There is no such thing as a born again conversion that shows no outward sign that a change has taken place inside a person’s heart. A changed heart, changed and inhabited by God’s Spirit, will bear fruit and alter the course of a person’s life. It is absurd to claim that no change takes place when the burden of sin has been lifted, and when a new man has been created, and when the third Person of the Trinity has come inside and taken eternal residence, and when a dead man has now been made alive, and when the gift of eternal life has been received, and with a myriad of other Spiritual blessings that accompany salvation are given to this sinner now made a saint. That is heresy and gives people false assurance which will result in millions standing before the Great White Throne who were told they were saved.
And so the book writing, sugar prophets of today never warn people to examine themselves, rather anyone who doubts their salvation is given a course on how to have assurance regardless of the absence of salvation accompanying works and a heart that goes after the Savior. Robert Sandeman will have to answer for his watering down of the gospel and his easy believism teachings, but so will thousands of preachers today who desire crowds rather than crowns. Would the Lord not desire one authentic conversion than a million false ones? Man counts the heads while God looks upon hearts. And when we read the account of someone who surrendered everything to follow Christ we feel as though we are reading somewhat of an exaggerated narrative whose author is using literary license to enhance the dramatic. But when we read the Scriptural admonitions we see clearly that the call to surrender is given to every true follower of Jesus Christ. To be sure we fall short of that call but we must continually hear that call and press toward that mark. Is it just possible that tens of millions of evangelical church goers are living shallow lives of Spiritual deception and in reality have never been born again?
So when someone professes to be “saved” ask them “Are you following the Lord Jesus today?”. When they reply that they are not right now you should warn them of their precarious situation. Spurgeon once observed that one of the devil’s most effective deceptions is to have a person rely on some former time for their salvation experience at the expense of their present Spiritual walk. It is eternally dangerous to not be following, obeying, and worshiping the Lord Jesus today while counting on an elusive former experience to substantiate your eternal destiny. It is impossible to discern the backslider from the unregenerate, and the pews are well stocked with both. The Scripture declares that if we do not warn a person of their sinful condition we are culpable. How careless and upbeat are the pillow prophets of today to the damnation of many?
A man is trapped and dangles from a balcony on the twentieth floor of a burning building, and as he looks down he sees his only escape as several fireman are holding a canvass in which he can jump. As they exhort him to jump he realizes that his legs are dangling and so he cannot jump of his own strength, he must simply release his grip on the balcony and he will fall to the safety of the canvass. But what if he only releases one hand will he be saved? What if he beckons the canvass to come up to where he is and catch him, will he be saved? What if he mentally believes the canvass will save him but his position does not change, will he be saved? What if he desires to be saved from burning but he still wants to hold onto the balcony, will he be saved? And finally the man cries out “canvass save me” but continues to dangle on the balcony and subsequently the canvass is removed and the fire chief hollers to him “you do not need to worry now, you have been saved”. And as the crowd walks away leaving the building burning and the man dangling, is he saved?
A man is holding on to his sin and this world and he hears that he is condemned and will be burned in the fires of hell, and he then hears that his only escape is in the Lord Jesus. He realizes he cannot save himself and that he must fall by faith into the saving grace of Jesus Christ. What if he offers partial faith in Christ and retains his faith in himself and the world, will he be saved? What if he beckons Christ to come where he is and save him without releasing his grip on his sin and this world, will he be saved? What if he mentally believes that Jesus and his sacrifice is the only way of salvation but he refuses to surrender to the Lord Jesus personally, will he be saved. What if he calls out “Jesus save me” without ever loosening his grip on his sin and this world, will he be saved? Now after he calls for salvation he still is holding tightly to his sin and this world but the preacher tells him “do not worry, you are now saved”. And as the people walk out of the church the man is still in his sin and loving the world, is he saved?
This isn’t about when the rapture will take place, this isn’t about how old the earth is, this isn’t about which Spiritual gifts still operate today, oh no, this is about the eternal destiny of millions of souls and the greatest deception ever perpetrated upon the church of the Lord Jesus.
This is truly contending for the faith once delivered to the saints.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Are We Thirsty Yet?

Is.41:17-18 - When the poor and needy seek water and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forake them. I will open rivers in high places and fountains in the midst of valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water and the dry land springs of water.

Today we know the place called Ulster as a strife torn part of northern Ireland that is more Protestant than Roman Catholic, but there is a story of the moving of God’s Spirit that should create in every born again believer a thirst for God to do the same in our midst.

There had been great movings of revival in America during 1857 and 1858 and reports of those Spiritual awakenings had made their way to Ulster and began to be read in Christian circles. This was used of God’s Spirit to create a thirst for God to move in their midst and prayer meetings were born. These meetings began to stir up a Spiritual deepening among the believers, but the catalyst can be identified in a lady named Mrs. Colville. She had a burden for souls and came to the area with a God directed purpose of bringing souls to Christ. As she passed out tracts and witnessed to many people she was met with some obstacles. It was during one of those obstacles that a young man named Jeremiah McQuilken overheard her and another lady speaking.

It seems as if Mrs. Colville had been sharing the gospel with this lady who seemed to want to discuss predestination rather than a living and vital walk with Jesus Christ. Finally Mrs. Colville said to the lady, “My dear, you have never known the Lord Jesus”. Now whatever the affect upon the lady was, Jeremiah heard those words and they pierced his own heart and for two weeks he wrestled with God about his own conversion and was gloriously saved. After leading his friend to Christ they banded with two other believers in intercession for the souls of Ulster and the revival of the church.

For months they prayed and the number of intercessors grew as the Spirit drew many kindred spirits to join them in prayer. During 1858 God answered their prayers and many sinners were brought to Christ as the fires of revival began to burn. Bible studies along with the prayer meetings helped strengthen the gatherings and sometimes the prayer would last all night with saints imploring the mercy of God. Repentance and conviction of sin grew mightily and when the church services would end the congregation refused to leave. Just as the preacher would pronounce the benediction fresh prayer or the cry of people over sin would again break out and the Spirit would descend upon the meeting as in the beginning. The services would become elongated and protracted as God’s glory would visit His repentant followers. So many hundreds of meetings would be going on simultaneously and so many people began to be Spiritually affected that the nuisance of loud drunken parties in the street ceased and gave way to hymn singing and shouts of praise.

It was recorded that everywhere people were singing the songs of praise and that if a stranger asked directions from a police officer he would stop singing just long enough to give the directions only to continue the song where he had left off. Houses by the hundreds with their windows open were singing and shouting praises to the Risen Lord. Soon all the churches and meeting places were so filled that larger buildings were secured for Spiritual gatherings and even they were not sufficient to hold the crowds. The meetings were also marked by testimonies of sinners converted and saints awakened. On a particular night in Broughshane an old man looking every bit a drunkard rose to speak in the midst of several thousand people. Many recognized him as a notorious drunk and every ear inclined to hear his words. He began,

“Gentlemen, I appear before you this day as a vile sinner. Many of you know me, for you have but to look at me and recognize the profligate of Broughshane; you know I was an old man hardened in sin; you know that I was a servant of the devil, and he led me by that instrument of his, the spirit of the barley. I brought my wife and family to beggary more than fifty years ago; in short, I defy the townland of Broughshane to produce my equal in profligacy, or any sin whatever; but gentlemen, I have seen Jesus! I was born again on last night week, and am therefore ‘a week old’ to day. My heavy and enormous sin is all gone, the Lord Jesus took it all away, and I stand before you this day not as a pattern of profligacy, but a monument of the perfect grace of God. “I stand here to tell you that God’s work on Calvary is “perfect. Yes, I have proved it His work is perfect. He is not like an architect who makes a drawing of a building, and then takes out this line or that, or alters “the whole, and even while the building is going up makes some further change. No, but God drew out the plan of salvation, and it was complete, and He carried it out with His blessed Son Jesus, and it is all perfect, for had it not been so, it would not have been capable of reaching the depth of iniquity of myself, the profligate of Broughshane.”
I personally had a hard time reading that because my eyes kept filling with tears. Oh God, where is the power today that produced a glorious testimony such as this man’s? Is it gone forever? Was it just for those old times or is it still available for today? Are we relegated to just speak correction to compromisers and false prophets or will you visit us with a fresh wind of your power?
And so the revival continued. Almost all the mothers of the Broughshane district were converted and they held their own prayer meetings interceding for the children of the entire area of Ulster. The Roman Catholic priests of the area greatly opposed the revival because many hundreds of Catholics were born again. The priests called it “a satanic delusion” which prompted one convert to stand up in the midst of the priest’s talk and exclaim “If it is the devil it must be a new devil for the old devil surely would not approve of the changed lives and all the new followers of the Lord Jesus!”. At a city called Ahoghill people gathered at the First Presbyterian Church in order to hear accounts from converts. So many people packed the church that the pastor feared the balcony would collapse so he brought the meeting to the town square. The rain began to pour upon the three thousand listeners as the first unknown convert began to speak of the greatness of God, and by the scores the people, men and women alike, fell to their knees in the mud and wept uncontrollably before a Holy God. Without regarding the rain the meeting went late into the night with God changing thousands of hearts.
Some of the meetings were so solemn and filled with the awesome presence of God that no singing or preaching was possible since hundreds of people would spontaneously cry out for God’s mercy and salvation. And like the upper room repentant saints would be praying all over the church house with some from time to time praying out loud for the Almighty to move in a way that glorified His Son. And these meetings were not just on Sundays but every night of the week. As preachers would proclaim the sufferings of the Lamb and His atoning work on the cross cries would come from the congregation “My sins, oh my sins” and the sermon would halt and people would gather around the seekers and pray and quote the Scriptures.
Of all the stories of Revival blessing, none is more striking than that of Coleraine. The movement first became evident there in a huge assemblage of people, drawn by no alluring announcement of magnificent oratory, but simply to hear the testimony of a few rural converts, upon the Fair Hill. As the thousands gathered to hear some converts it became evident that the crowd was too large for any one person to speak to all of them. So they divided into several groups and as the different speakers spoke the wonderful works of God the Holy Spirit fell upon the multitude. Hundreds became born again and hours passed. Suddenly a small murmur began in one section. It grew louder and louder and spread throughout the whole crowd until it became a swelling anthem singing the chorus from Psalm Forty -
He took me from a fearful pit
And the miry clay,
And on a rock He set my feet,
Establishing my way.
In the subsequent days the Spirit blew through the entire town bringing many sons to glory. The whole town was dramatically changed not by petition or politics but by the mighty force of the Holy Spirit. All the secular buildings were used for repentant believers and sinners alike, and on one night a segment of people began to run toward the Evangelical Society building. The preacher took off after them to see why they were running there. His own words described what he saw,
“There, on their knees, were one hundred children, and beside them, ladies and gentlemen of position, who had been ‘too genteel’ to attend the extraordinary meetings, or who had been prevented by delicate health, prostrated together before the Throne of Grace. The godless and worldly-minded man of business was there; old and young of the higher classes were there, all crying out for grace and pardon.”
From county to county still the movement spread. Of a scene at Newton Limavady, an eye-witness said:
“In a field, in front of my own house, an immense work of God, and that in wonderful power, was presented to the astonished eyes and hearts of a vast concourse of beholders. Not fewer than a hundred souls were brought under conviction of sin. Some of the women and children were conveyed into the house; others followed to assist them; and shortly, nearly every room in the house was crowded with persons crying out and praying for mercy. The lawn was literally strewed like a battle-field with deeply wounded ones under conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit, who was revealing Christ to their souls.”
It would be impossible to even attempt to give all the accounts of the working of God’s Spirit during the year 1859 in Ulster. Doctors, lawyers, rich men, poor men, educated, uneducated, the Spirit drew no lines and invaded every corner of Ulster. Many men quit work never to return again so they could give themselves completely to serving the Living God. And from the children that witnessed God’s miraculous moving many became preachers, teachers, and missionaries as the Spirit directed.
And so I ask us, are we thirsty yet? Does it not stir our hearts to read what God has done among others and do we pant like the deer to drink from that brook? Does the world mean so much to us that we can live without the demonstration of God’s Spirit moving unusually through His own body? Am I content to just write this article and not fall on my face and beseech the God of Heaven to descend in power on my own life? Are you content to just read this account and walk away without seeing the mirror the Spirit holds up before your face?
Lord Jesus, there is so much to confess but to find the power to overcome the Spiritual inertia that has us immobilized your people is not yet with us. We beg You Spirit of the Living God, rend the heavens and like a mighty convicting wind fall on us, all for the glory of the Risen Christ, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Powerful Love

Matt.28:18 - All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.

II Cor.5:11 - Knowing the terror of the Lord we persuade men...

Recently I again watched the discovery channel do a special on the Nile Crocodile. It was fascinating as it showed an almost one ton beast pulling down a zebra with its massive jaws and subsequently twisting and ripping large chunks of meat off the carcass with those same jaws. And then it documented a female crocodile laying her eggs, protecting those eggs, and then gathering her hatchlings into those same colossal jaws ever so gently. And the little crocodiles would peer out from behind her teeth as they swam in her jaws and felt at home inside the same jaws that the rest of the animal kingdom greatly feared and in whom some found violent death. The irony was striking and the Spiritual metaphor was obvious to me.

There is no power and no wrath like God Almighty’s. He could destroy the universe in a nano-second so when he pours out His wrath upon this earth He adjusts its force so as to allow for suffering rather than an instantaneous annihilation. That wrath was placed upon His Son upon the cross as a holy and just response to sin which should have been ours, the real sinners. But the Holy One became sin for us and all who wish to avoid the colossal wrath of the Father God must by faith hide inside His sacrifice. Do you begin to see the image of the crocodiles?

Many are already in an eternal state of perishing at the justice of God in an indescribable place of punishment. Who can understand the enormity of the place called hell and why God would chose not to annihilate but to elongate the torture and suffering? Just the thought of being captured in the very teeth of God’s wrath forever should make us cringe but in a holy act of grace and mercy God has offered an eternal escape that not only saves us from hell, but saves us to live eternally with Him in His dwelling place. Halleluiah to the Lamb!!

We no longer should fear our Father’s wrath but as we learn what He has saved us from it should bring us to our knees in gratitude and worship. Can you imagine, the God of all power will one day destroy all of the material universe with the brightness of His glory, the same glory that will be revealed in us. If we truly meditate on that truth our hearts become filled with a worship and praise that cannot be fully expressed in human words. God’s destructive power that will come upon the entire earth is the same power that is our protection in Christ, and the same glorious power that seals us in His hand from which we can never be plucked. Now only blood bought saints will be able to identify with this, I am fearful of the Lord but I am not afraid. That cannot be explained but those of you who are in Christ know exactly what I mean.
The little crocodiles do not realize the monstrous strength of the jaws they call home and neither can you and I fully comprehend the awesome power of the Lord God Almighty. And when we realize that His power is past our finding out we are humbled into broken and grateful worship. And now God’s power is my resting place, not my impending doom. It is that power that protects us as the bride of God’s Son against any and all enemies and in that assurance we are in peace.

Finally, we are fully dependant on our Heavenly Father in everything. When a new born baby comes forth he is absolutely helpless. He cannot eat by himself, he cannot clean himself, he cannot drink himself, and he surely cannot protect himself. He is completely dependant upon his parents for his survival. And just like that baby, we are completely dependant on the Lord for everything. The attitude that some believers have that they can chart their own course by the strength of their intellect is not only wrong it is dangerous. Many times it leads to destruction.

So let us all crawl up into the mighty and awesome power of our Father and in Him we will find safety, assurance, and a love that transcends explanation.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Personal Moment
I believe only once before have I used blog space to share something personal (my illness). But on Tuesday my daughter gave birth to my second grandchild, a boy. Both mother and son are doing fine, he was 9lbs 9ozs and his name is Mark Henry (!). I rejoice in another life that God has granted and Jesus died for. Thank you for the indulgence.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Three times in the New Testament the word trance is used and all three are in the book of Acts. Let us examine each of them.

Acts 10:9-11a - On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the house top to PRAY about the sixth hour: And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a TRANCE, and saw heaven opened,
Acts 11:5a - I was in the city of Joppa PRAYING: and in a trance I saw a vision,
Acts 22:17-18a - And it came to pass, that, while I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I PRAYED in the temple, I was in a trance; And saw Him saying unto me,

If you look closely you will see that all three have a connection with each other. All three began with prayer, went into a trance, and resulted in a supernatural vision from the Lord Himself. The other connection is that the word for "trance" in the greek is the word from which we get "ecstasy".

The word ecstasy in the Greek language means to be in such wonder and amazement that you are temporarily separated from the normal reality of your mind. In the case of the word in Acts, it describes what happened when these apostles were praying and the Holy Spirit came upon them in such a way that they were temporarily rendered useless in the natural and became "captured" by the supernatural presence of God. The world would say "they are out of their mind", but we would say they have entered the Mind of Christ.

Now except for contrived religious theatre, why don't we see anyone experiencing a God given trance today? Well, the easy and shallow answer is that "God doesn't do that anymore" since the whole Bible was written. Remember, though, these trances were in the church age and there is nowhere in the New Testament that teaches that after the Scriptures were completed the Holy Spirit backs off from anymore of the miraculous. The tortured interpretation of the last part of I Corinthians chapter 13 is only accepted by some American Christians, most of the world wide church have seen the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit!

Another reason for not seeing this kind of phenomenon is that there is some spurious and counterfeit manifestations of the Spirit and it has over the years led most Christians to avoid them altogether. True enough, but who are we to put the Holy Spirit in a box because others contrive their own unbiblical doctrines? Do you really believe that what we have heretofore experienced as believers is all that God has and can do?

In the late 1940's two elderly ladies received a vision from the Lord while they prayed. God told them that He wanted to send a revival to the Hebrides Islands, off the coast of Scotland, and they should go tell their pastor. They told him and he asked what he should do. They told him God wanted him to start prayer meetings during the week and pray for revival. Two and three times a week he and the leaders of the church met in a barn and prayed for the Lord to send revival. For six months they prayed without anything really happening, until one night a young deacon rose in their midst and said,"This is of no use to pray while we ourselves are not right with God!". He then quoted Ps.24:3-5, and promptly fell into a trance before all their eyes. From that meeting began a three year revival that was felt throughout the world.

So why don't we experience those kinds of visitations from God Himself in our midst? You could say it's because of our lukewarmness; or our worldliness; or our hedonism; or our ambivalence; or a hundred other descriptions of the Laodicean condition of the church. But the central reason that the Holy Spirit does not move in such a power that it sweeps through us like a "mighty wind" is because we HARDLY PRAY! Go ahead, lie to the Holy Spirit and see where that takes you. The emperor has no clothes - WE NEED A REVIVAL OF PRAYER!!! All of us need for God to break us in Spiritual repentance so He can bring us figuratively and literally to OUR KNEES!! Look back to the three passages in Acts; the catalyst was prayer. Not only have we forsaken prayer, we have forgotten how to pray.

We now believe that praying for the President, our troops, and for God to bless us is the kind of prayer they had in Acts. Most, and I mean most, believers spend more time in the shower each day than they do in prayer. Let us not even go into the time spent on TV, golf, eating, phone, sports, and a hundred other activities which by themselves would not be wrong, but compared with the incredible lack of time for prayer these things have become our idols. I personally will confess that I am in desperate need for the Lord to move in my life and bring a revival of personal prayer that will accurately reflect what I say He means to me. Will you join me? Careful, count the cost. The first step is to start praying: significantly. You might find as I have that God is having to teach me about intercession, warfare, worship, confession, travail, fasting, and other aspects of true prayer that are no longer offered as spiritual courses on earth because there aren't many teachers who can teach by example.

Dear Jesus, I humbly confess I need you. I ask you, as did the disciples, "Teach us to pray". I read so many times that YOU got alone to pray, how much more do I need to pray. My life at its present state is a daytimer filled up with stuff and the things of this world. I need you to do in me what I obviously cannot do in myself. Help me to be willing to pay the price which I know will result in a Spiritual ecstasy that will not only separate my heart from this world, but will glorify YOU!! I am not yet desperate...

I Pet.4:7 - But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober,

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Christian Cruise

About thirty years ago a new phenomenon began to appear in Christian circles. It was called the “Christian cruise” and it was a trip upon a cruise ship that was set up as a Christian get away. This recreational opulence knows no bounderies and it is offered by liberal and orthodox, Calvinist and Arminian, Jew and Gentile, Warren and MacArthur, and is populated by all levels of the American social strata except...uh...oh yea, the poor. It usually costs thousands of dollars for each person and it includes speakers and singers and sometimes entertainment such as plays or comedians and in some cases dancing and “moderate“ drinking. The food of course is extravagant and the ship itself is colossal. Most times a famous preacher heads it up which is also a drawing card and he and his wife go for free while regular passengers pay. Books, tapes, and cds are for sale during the cruise which means that the preachers and singers not only went for free, but they made money on the trip not to mention the preacher still received his wonderful salary back home. And the gluttony that is accepted on the trip shows how little we think of God’s Word.


Now I will humbly attempt to describe what a Christian cruise used to be like.

On Tuesday, October 14, 1735 John Wesley, then 33 years old, set sail from England headed for the colony of Georgia. His mission, along with most of the passengers, was to preach the gospel to the new world settlers. Almost four months later On February 5, 1736 the ship arrived in Georgia. I have read several times the personal journals of John Wesley that he kept on this journey and I would like to present a condensed form in order to give you a Spiritual as well as practical flavor of what these missionaries did while on their Christian cruise.

Accompanying John Wesley on this cruise was his brother Charles, many Christian friends from England, some assorted sailors, and 26 Moravians from Germany. Upon meeting the Moravians Charles began to learn German so he could communicate with them as well as a few of the Moravians began to learn English. Wesley says in his journal that what they had in view on this trip was “not to avoid want (God having given them plenty of temporal blessings), nor to gain riches or honor, but singly this: to save their own souls, to live wholly to the glory of God“. It is strange, but significant of the state of Wesley's mind at this time, that he does not here give prominence to—does not even mention—the purpose of being useful to the colonials in the new settlement of Georgia, or to the Indians beyond it. His heart was on God’s will alone and to preach the gospel in the new world. The friendship with the Moravians would change Wesley’s life for he was profoundly impacted by their faith, fervor, and their fearless pursuit of souls.

On the first Sunday at sea Wesley held the morning service on the ship’s deck and he observed the Lord’s Supper with all the believers. Wesley and the Moravians believed that self denial gained the favor of God and further sanctified them to His service. He would refuse meat during the trip and ate mostly vegetables, rice, and biscuits. Their cabins were little more than closets devoid of any comforts and their daily schedules were dedicated to the preparation of the mission.

A typical day was described by Wesley:

From 4 AM to 5 AM they would give themselves to private prayer.
From 5 AM to 7 AM they read the Scriptures out loud together, carefully, said Wesley, also reading the ancient teachings so they might avoid straying to their own understandings.
From 7 AM to 8 AM they ate breakfast.
From 8 AM to 9 AM they prayed together out loud.
From 9 AM to 12 AM he learned German with the Moravians. During this time Charles Wesley taught the children (That’s right, children)
From 12 AM to 1 PM they fellowshipped together about what God had done in their lives.
From 1 PM to 2 PM they ate dinner.
From 1 PM to 4 PM they discipled the one that had been put under their care.
From 4 PM to 5 PM they prayed.
From 5 PM to 6 PM they continued in prayer while the children were taught the general catechism. (Bring up a child...)
From 6 PM to 7 PM Wesley read to a gathering of the English passengers.
From 7 PM to 8 PM was the evening service.
From 8 PM to 9 PM was a time of exhortation and Spiritual encouragement.

And then Wesley writes “Between nine and ten we went to bed, where neither the roaring of the sea nor the motion of the ship could take away the refreshing sleep which God gave us”.

Now that was typical day in the life of Wesley’s Christian cruise. Where were the lobster trays? Where were the comedians? What about the professional singers? Golf platforms? Shuffleboard? Dancing?

The Wesley brothers and the other two men who were going with them to Georgia wrote this pact during the trip:
"In the name of God, Amen! We, whose names are underwritten, being fully convinced that it is impossible, either to promote the work of God among. The heathen, without an entire union among ourselves, Or that such a union should subsist, unless each one will give up his single judgment to that of the majority, do agree, by the help of God :—first, that none of us will undertake anything of importance without first proposing it to the other three;— secondly, that whenever our judgments differ, any one shall give up his single judgment or inclination to the others ;— thirdly, that in case of an equality, after begging God’s direction, the matter shall be decided by lot".
John Wesley
Charles Wesley
Benjamin Ingham
Charles Delamotte
As they neared North America they were caught in a great storm in the Bay of Biscay. The waves crashed upon the deck of the ship with such force that most on the people began to fear for their very lives as shipwrecks were common in those days. Wesley remarks that he fell asleep at 11 PM not sure he would wake up alive. Now during the trip John Wesley had been much impressed with the overall Christlikeness of the Moravian missionaries. They were very meek, always serving the needs of the other passengers, and patient even when provoked. In the morning the entire ship held a service while the storm continued to rage and as they sang a Psalm a huge wave broke over the entire ship and the mainsail split into pieces covering the deck. Water began to seep into the lower rooms as if the ship was sinking. The entire English congregation began to scream and cry loudly but the Moravians continued to calmly and joyfully sing praises unto God.
After several hours of repairing what they could on the ship, Wesley approached the Moravians and asked them if they had been afraid. They replied they were not afraid for their trust was in the Lord. Wesley asked whether their women and children had been afraid and the Moravians told him that neither the women nor the children were afraid to die. That incident deeply impressed Wesley and bore fruit in his life from that time forward.
So on February 5, 1736 they sailed into the Savannah River and set foot on a small uninhabited island prepared for the preaching of God’s Word. That my friends was a real Christian cruise. Get the brochure, there are plenty of cabins still available.
So now I humbly ask you, who were these people? They were either legalistic and unenlightened travelers who wasted much time in archaic religious observances and self discipline - or - they were Spirit-filled messengers of the most High God who served their Lord and Savior and cared for nothing, not even their own lives.
So now I humbly ask you, who are we? We are either educated and enlightened believers who have shuffled off the bondages of sanctification, sacrificial commitment, and material moderation and we are traveling much closer to God’s will than Wesley and his ilk - or - (I guess I don’t even need to fill in this blank, do I?)

God help us, we need it…
The Architecture of Influence

Rom.16:19 -...but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good and simple concerning evil.

We know that only God has true power and it is His Word alone that will stand for eternity. Then how is it that the devil wields so much influence (counterfeit power) in the earth today and specifically what are the building blocks he uses to create the architecture of influence within the church itself?

Of course at the foundation of the devil’s deception is the undermining of the accuracy, substance, and clarity of God’s Word. That has always been his aim and he continues to be effective in getting the church to compromise or outright change God’s Word to suit their own purposes leaving the eternal purposes of God in their carnal wake. That has become obvious to the students of God’s Word as they hear the metamorphosis and vacillation of the modern teachings as compared with the tested truths that had been handed down through centuries of orthodox church teachings. But by what methods does Satan use to gain entrance into the doctrinal teachings of today?

The devil has created an architecture of influence that he uses to channel his lies and half truths. This system uses several very effective tools that now roam open and freely within God’s own church. Let me first illustrate by paralleling the prostitution of the church with the prostitution of the government.

Lobbying in the government used to be when a person or persons had a grievance and went to Washington to redress their concern to the lawmakers. A basic definition of a lobbyist today is anyone who accepts money from a third party to go and directly persuade elected officials on that clients behalf. And in recent years the lobbyists have become more than just agents of redress, they have actually become a fourth branch of government that wields more power sometimes than the elected bodies. From the year 1961 the United States government has grown and expanded to include almost every area of our lives today. And with the expanse of the government came the corresponding expanse of lobbying which in the last forty-five years has gone from a relatively small number of registered lobbyists to an obscene amount. During the time from 1961 to 1984 the number of corporations that had lobbyists in Washington increased by 10 times. In 1971 there were 175 businesses that had full time lobbying branches in Washington and by 1982 there were 2444. By the mid nineties Washington was home to approximately 10,000 registered lobbyists and by the year 200 that number increased to 15,000 and the number today is 36,135. That is compared with 635 members of congress.

Would to God that we could experience that same rate of increase in kneeling lobbyists that intercede at the horns of the golden altar!
Today there are so many former elected officials that have turned to lobbyists that you could reconstruct a full congress of lobbyists who were former lawmakers. These lobbyists have infested themselves in the pocketbooks and hearing of the representatives that were elected to represent the people, not succumb to the monetary advances of the special interest lobbyists. Because of the architecture of influence created by the overwhelming lobbying cartel the government has become a prostitute for the most attractive and financially generous lobbyists, otherwise known as political johns.

Now look at what has happened to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church from 1961 to today has grown and expanded to include all types of political and financial power. Soaring building programs, incredible salaries, and an overall affluence by many of the professing American Christians. And in direct proportion came the lobbyists. What are lobbyists within the church itself? They are anyone who attempts to gain Spiritual influence within the community of believers. What are the lobbying channels that are now used?

There are many avenues that create the architecture of influence that now permeates the church. The book market is now flooded with books that are well packaged with attractive covers and catchy titles and they lobby for the hearts and minds of God’s people. Recently we received an advertisement through the mail from a large Christian bookstore outlet that was presenting scores of their current book offerings. I took the time to look at all the books they had pictured in their paper and there were many topics that dealt with self help, marriage help, financial advancement, and many topics dealing with this life. But there was no title that gave any hint of the eternal and most conspicuous of all was the absence of any mention of the Lord Jesus. The so called Christian book market is consumed with lobbying for the things of this world and they are part of the architecture of influence.

And some of the most interesting and gifted writers are from such movements as the seeker, purpose, and the Emergent church perspectives that are energetically lobbying for the direction of the church. Great literary influence peddlers that contribute to this architecture of influence while padding their own pockets. And these authors gain popularity because of the new perspectives they so cleverly write about that appeal mostly to the new “Starbucks” Christians that have become bored with the ancient landmarks. And if they happen to write about something like prayer they strip it of its priority and sacrifice by wonderfully giving tips on how to incorporate it into a busy lifestyle without adversely affecting your career. Such keen insight.

Another stream that vies for the hearts of God’s people is television. Most, and I mean most, of what passes as Christian television is abject heresy. But it is so magnetic and done with such professionalism that it has become an accomplished lobbying tool. A person once asked me “With so many different teachers on television who do people believe?”. I replied “The last one they listened to”. People have been so influenced by many of these theatrical performers that they believe anything they say. And with them offering another part of this influence machine, tapes and cds, they have grounded their listeners in their own sphere of control. How can we avoid getting pulled into this theological quagmire? Refuse to listen, period.

As you can see the architecture of influence is built on the beams of different communication networks. Books, tapes, cds, television, internet, and other ways to communicate are used of the evil One to create deceptive influence. We are inundated with such an avalanche of error that is so neatly packaged and presented by articulate men and women that the body of Christ has abandoned using the spirit of discernment. It is irresponsible and displeasing to our Lord to act like a sponge and soak up every wind of doctrine, but most of the western church has allowed themselves to be influenced and even enslaved by these deviant doctrines. Even the most vigilant believers surely are not perfect in the totality of their beliefs so can you imagine how quickly a sheep can stray when following blindly anything that sounds good and sincere? How many American Christians (oxymoron) have cemented a list of authors and speakers they refuse to listen to, and when confronted with an unknown source how many seek information or even lay it before the Lord before they open their spirits to influence?

The hearts and spirits of the body of Christ are being bombarded by a continuous blanket of influence peddlers through many mediums and with intense oratorical and literary prowess. And much of the attraction is not only a fleshly message but the brightly colored and professionally produced teachings. Today the Gutenberg Bible would remain un-purchased on the shelves due to drab nature of its packaging but in God’s eyes it was one of the most important Bibles ever printed. The day may have arrived that God’s exhortation “Come out from among them and be ye separate” means come out from the western church as much as it does to the world, and in many cases the western church is nothing more than the world with a little religious talk. Open your hearts to the influence of the Spirit of God and give no place for any other thoughts, He will faithfully guide us to the celestial city by the journey of His choosing. Praise the name of the Lord!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Fix-It Christianity

What would you think if one Sunday morning as you sat in your pew the Pastor got up to speak and his introduction went something like this:

“Today I begin a series on having a successful marriage that glorifies God. This series will last five minutes and it will guarantee that your marriage will be approved in God’s sight”.

Now as you hear these words the five minute part caught your attention. What possibly could he teach in five minutes concerning the complexity of marriage? There are so many subjects to dissect such as personalities, conflicts, sex, in-laws, money, and a host of other things that need to be micromanaged in order to have a successful marriage. The Pastor continues:

“Alright, here it is. You can have a successful marriage that glorifies God if the husband and wife individually make it their personal life long priority to seek the Lord Jesus with all their hearts and walk in His will regardless of what the other spouse does.”

What? What did he just say? That’s it? What about my insensitive husband? What about my nagging wife? I mean come on, I came here to get my marriage fixed and this guy doesn’t even address my problems. I want my marital problems fixed! The Pastor continues:

“Now this Spiritual journey will begin with the cross. Now I know most of you have believed on Jesus as you Lord and Savior, and I understand that you know that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. But this personal journey of faith will begin at the cross of Calvary with you nailed to it, not just your sins. You must suffer and die.”

Oh come on, we all know that we are alive, what is he talking about? I wouldn’t mind if my spouse died, but why is he suggesting that I die, most of the problems are my spouse's fault anyway. The Pastor continues:

“This is the first step, the beginning through which all other Spiritual progressions begin. If you will not die then you can not glorify God in your marriage even if you stay married for sixty years. You can tweak your marriage and resolve conflicts and better your physical intimacy but remember, the world does that also. The distinguishing feature of all Christian marriages must be that each spouse is engaged in the pursuit of knowing Christ, serving Christ, walking in love and obedience, and daily dying to themselves and allowing Christ to be their very life. This Spiritual pursuit will be defined by more than a five minute glance at Open Windows or Our Daily Bread, it will entail more than just praying over your meal, and it will include much suffering and self denial. If you are unwilling to embrace this journey I cannot help you and God will not be pleased regardless how many psychological and sociological principles you successfully incorporate into your relationship, and in the end they are just the works of man that happen to help the flesh. They can never, ever glorify God no matter how many comparative accolades man bestows upon them.”

I came here to learn about marriage and he continues to talk about Christ and learning about Him, doesn’t he have the cart before the horse? I’m so confused. The Pastor concludes:

“So in closing I am going to pray that the Holy Spirit will enlighten you, lead you to repentance, and that many of you will see the futility of the wisdom of man and that Jesus is all in all. And I am asking you to fast and pray throughout this week and next Sunday morning I will begin a discipleship group which will seek the Lord Jesus with all our hearts, be accountable to Him and each other, and we will trust the Lord in this journey to accomplish His will in all areas of our lives. Please don’t become a part of this group because you want your marriage fixed or even strengthened, just be led of the Holy Spirit that God wants to revolutionize your personal Spiritual life. See you next Sunday.”

Now what would you think? The average evangelical church has one to three series’ during the year on how to have a successful marriage, or how to affair proof your marriage, or even how to increase your intimacy. And when was the last time you heard a six week series on eternal life? The Great White Throne judgment? Hell? The resurrection? The Lordship of Jesus? The cross? It seems we can find a mountain of facts and ideas about marriage, but the cross needs only some token references during the year because there certainly isn't enough there for a series. Many times the cross is only an appendage at the end of a shallow altar call designed to attract people who want God to solve their problems.

Where are the calls for total surrender to Christ and His cross and where are the calls for cross carrying discipleship? Do we not believe that if both partners in a marriage would individually seek the Lord with prayer and fasting and an aggressive consumption of God’s Word that their marital relationship would grow? Why does the personal walk with Jesus take a back seat to the ideas of man? Some marriages are fixed through some of the suggestions, but without Spiritual revival and a deep pursuit of our Savior it is sounding brass and tinkling cymbal disguised as success. By the way, examine the statistics and anyone with half a brain can see what we are doing isn’t providing the desired results because the results we desire are our own not God's. More series‘, more seminars, more valentine banquets, more retreats, more tapes, more date nights, and more and more of these things without calling for a massive repentance of everyone and a resolve to serve Christ individually without conditions.

We live in a fix it Christianity that spends the majority of its time on the pursuit of happiness in all we do. A marriage that lasts fifty years but without much happiness is considered a failure. But if that same marriage divorces at year fifteen, and each partner marries again and follows some “marriage help” principles and are happy, that second marriage is deemed a success even if the Spiritual lives of each spouse remains the same as in the first marriage. In God’s eyes both marriages are failures. God is not interested in creating happy marriages between two very marginally committed Christians, but we are. God is interested in creating new creatures in Christ who hunger and thirst after Him and in so doing they find contentment and love in each other which is the residual benefit of seeking Him. So we are at odds with God’s will in much of what we do in the church and in the end the Lord Jesus desires hearts that seek Him diligently, that is the cart and the horse.

Someone once said
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you”.
Oh yea, now I remember, Jesus said that.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Ps.126:1 - When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like those that dreamed…

This Psalm refers to God releasing Israel from different bondages such as Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and other times that the Jews were enslaved. But it is also prophetic in that it refers to us who have been freed from the bondage of sin and we are so overwhelmed with the power of God’s saving grace that we seem as though we are dreaming.

To whom are we like dreamers?

To others.

After I was saved people in my own family called me a dreamer with my head in the sky. Since I was born again when I was twenty-three I could understand how they were confused because having a memory of when I was lost I could identify with their perspective. As a matter of fact anyone who truly is born again should be considered off balance, weird, and a dreamer. The frightening aspect of today’s converts is that not only are they not much different from the world, they are taught to be like the world so you can reach them. I remember in the 1970’s almost every evangelical church taught on how to be separated from the world on a consistent basis. How many of us can recall entering church on Sunday morning and being so convicted of worldliness that we rushed to the altar in repentance? But today the church entertains the congregation. Entertainment? I remember being astounded when any Hollywood person who was in very questionable movies would profess their faith in Christ, the life changing faith that cost so many so much. I would think “How can they do those love scenes and still be a Christian?”. How can they perform on the “Solid Gold” program without being convicted by the Spirit? How can they be best friends with some of the Hollywood crowd and still believe the Bible?

Well the dreamers today are few and far between. While some abstain from the movies the overwhelming majority of professing believers sit and enjoy the entertainment they already know will not please God. And the preachers are not only silent, they participate. Where are the dreamers that guard their relationship with Jesus as if was their very life? Where are the dreamers that separate themselves from the world’s system and entertainment while still being humble and loving? Where are the Hyman Appleman’s who got saved as a teenager and was thrown out of his Jewish home by his father, and as the train pulls away to Bible school he has to pry his mothers hand away from his, all for the cause of Christ? As I worked my way through Bible school at a restaurant my faith became known by many of the workers because I would not serve alcohol, I was a dreamer. Others should know us as full of love, full of mercy, but sanctified to serve Christ and Christ alone.

Today, the dreamers have awakened and in the tradition of Lot’s wife they have gazed lovingly at Sodom and shunning the persecution that comes with walking in His steps many have dressed themselves inside and out with this world’s garments. Come out from among them and be ye separate says the Lord. Take your eyes off this world, look up, and dream of Him.

To whom are we like dreamers?

To ourselves.

Do you ever consider yourself a dreamer? I don’t mean dreaming of earthly success, or corporate advancement, or financial gain, but do you ever dream of the eternal? When I say dream I do not mean that which sometimes comes with sleep, I mean do you ever so think about and meditate on things eternal and the Lord Jesus Himself that you feel as if you are a dreamer living in the midst of earthly players? And sometimes if you share with some professing Christians about just how deeply you feel about our Savior and the unseen world you are looked at as impractical and weird. I remember a preacher once said “You don’t want to become so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good”. Well, I’ve never met that person and frankly I do not believe it is possible to become so eternally minded that God would chasten you to come back to earth. This world sticks and clings to us like cobwebs, and only prayer and God’s Word can cleanse us from not only sin, but the carnal and earthly mind that God says is His enemy. Oh how we should be Spiritual dreamers, not loosed from the moorings of Scripture, but as God’s Word grows in our hearts it should more fully capture our minds. Dream about eternity, dream about Christ, dream about heaven, dream about the fulfillment of every jot and tittle ever spoken by the Lord God and be grounded in the immutable truths of Scripture but unfettered by the cares of this world. The world is not looking for more of the well worn ways of this world just packaged in religious terms, they are unknowingly thirsty for the clear water of eternity that lifts their eyes above what man can see and by God’s Spirit they climb up into the crow’s nest and see the promised land.

It is so easy to experience the new life of the Spirit only to fall back to earth after many years. Well God wants our hearts and minds so captured by the wind of His Spirit that it overwhelms the ballast of this present life. Our lives on this earth should be looking glasses into the realm of God’s kingdom through Spiritual dreamers in earthen vessels living by God’s Spirit in the midst of earthly prisoners. Every follower of the Lord Jesus should climb into the basket of God’s Word and then lifted by the balloon of God’s Spirit we should be on an adventurous journey of seeking Him who reigns in the heavens only landing on the earth to invite earth bound sinners into the same transporting basket designed for all blood bought travelers. Our life is hid in Christ and we are to see the unseen not the seen, the eternal not the temporal, the Spiritual not the carnal, the heavenly not the worldly, and yes we are dreamers who are looking for a city whose builder and maker is God.

To whom are we like dreamers?

To our Lord.

We must dream continually of things that are of Him. We dream of streets of gold and gates of pearl. We dream of linen gowns of righteousness and colossal waves of worship before a Celestial Lion from the loins of the tribe of praise, Judah. We dream of eternity where there is no time and there is no sin and there are no tears. We dream of an eternity that is filled with the Savior, high and lifted up, sitting on His throne, and His glory fills the expanse called heaven. We dream of being forever forgiven and forever released from all our sins and being granted the privilege of expressing our eternal gratitude to the One who forgave us. We dream that our eternal habitation will be infinitely greater than can ever be described or thought and that the emotion we feel upon the first glimpse of the Glorious Lion Lord will never dissipate but continue to crescendo throughout the halls of eternity. We dream that being in His presence will banish all meaningless talk and open floodgates of worship heretofore unknown. And the greatest dream of all is that when we awaken on the other side of the death/life experience we will realize that our dreams were reality, and that the eternal reality has far exceeded all the dreams of all God’s children combined, eclipsing all that we could have asked, or thought, or even dreamed. Only God is greater than anyone can dream.

Lord all our hopes and dreams are in You. Jesus, You alone define our dreams, and Spirit help us to walk as dreamers, meditating on the Word which defines our dreams, and transforming us into a peculiar people that light this world, that salt this world, and that beckon downward to the sin bound earthlings, “Come up hither, and bow before the Lord, and He will lift you from the dunghill and place you on the highest ground. Release all your earthly and selfish dreams, repent, and believe on the one true God, Jesus the Christ and in Him all your dreams will be yea and amen”.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Unrestrained Worship

Jn.4:23 - But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.

True worship emanates from the heart but results in behavior that reflects that our minds, hearts, and spirits that are, in that moment, in the supernatural presence of the Almighty God and His Christ.
3 Levels of worship:
1. Thanksgiving and praise for what God has done
2. Thanksgiving and praise for what God has promised
3. Praise and worship for Who God is.
Mind - The mind is a most unruly organ. It can scan the congregation and make hundreds of recognitions and observations and at the same time bring up the weeks coming events and a rolodex of things to worry about - all while in a "worship service". How much true worship occurs in the average believer's life when he awakes on Sunday morning, spends much time grooming the outward man, organizes his family for the ritualistic pilgrimage to the religious edifice, drives the family filled car with a smattering of small talk, enters the "worship service" without spending any time with the Father in prayer, the Word, or private worship, chit chats with familiar faces, and as the worship leader beckons everyone to stand and the first song begins he starts to sing the song he knows. And so the earthly mind arrives at the church fully in charge, respectfully religious, spiritually superficial, and blending in nicely with the overall atmosphere of well orchestrated singing. I've been there, have you?
Heart - Through the week the average believer's heart is allowed to roam free, searching out its own desires. More money, better cars, bigger houses, more business, better wife, better husband, vicarious sporting victories, career advancement, new or old restaurants, political talk, new clothes, exercise, and all the while lacking the surrendered thirst to seek and know the Lord Himself. So the heart arrives at church with a compartmentalized belief in Jesus that is far from broken, surrendered, or ready for worship, but it can be "uplifted and blessed" by singing. This heart has been allowed to wander during the week and it resists being wholly given to worship at a moments notice. I've been there, have you?
Spirit - When believers arrive at the "worship service" in the Spiritual condition that we've come to expect and accept, true worship is impossible without deep repentance (whatever that is). Good singing, yes. Encouragement, yes. Fellowship, yes. Relevant oratory, yes. But Spiritual worship? And the sad part of it all is that if we've attended a gathering of believers and left without truly worshipping the Lord, we've wasted our time since the gathering then was about us and not Him. Several centuries ago, when the church began to set time parameters for the service, the manifested presence of the Lord started to leave. When cars and watches became the norm, we were doomed. If you have been a follower of Christ for many years you probably have been in a service where God's presence manifests in an unusual way. In those times I've noticed that most believers don't care how long the service extends because the Spirit of God is tangible and the desire for more of God's presence outweighs the passing of time. What does that say about our nicely packaged events? Let me give you a hint: It says the manifested presence of Almighty God is not there. I've been there, have you?
Let's ask ourselves some probing questions that will give answers to others. If you and I opened a door and walked into a room that the Risen Christ was in, and we spent twenty minutes singing and worshipping Him, and we opened the door again and walked out of that room would it change or impact us? Would we leave that room with the same demeanor as we entered? Would we talk about football to the first person we met? Would we immediately discuss lunch plans? Let's go even further, would we discuss how great the music was? No? Well then what would we do in that scenario? We would be filled with a myriad of emotions with many of them out of our natural character. We would feel the Spiritual residual effect of repentance followed by forgiveness and cleansing. We would experience the overwhelming power and desire to walk holy. We would wonder why that room wasn't open every night. But most of all we would want to talk about Jesus to unbelievers and believers alike. We would desire to talk with Him and about Him continually as we rehearsed that glorious experience of His very presence. The more we went into that room with Him, the things of this world would lose their attraction when compared with Him. Talk to Him; talk about Him; think on Him; and strive to exalt Him in every way. We couldn't get away from dwelling on Him!!
But we talk about church We talk politics. We talk sports. We talk food. We talk vacation. We talk money. We talk about music. We talk morality. We talk America. We talk preachers. We talk TV. We talk work. Etc., etc., etc................ But how often do we talk about JESUS???
So who did we really meet in our nice little church service? I'll make you a deal. Let's go into that Spiritual room with the exalted Son of the Living God, and when we leave you can talk about anything you want. Deal?
You would think that because of the stand I take about the doctrinal collapse in the evangelical world that I would be a little starchy in my worship. I am sorry to disappoint some of you but I am a free and demonstrative worshipper. I have been known a few times in my thirty years to even dance before the Lord in a church service. Uh-oh, the emperor has no clothes!
There are no Biblical restrictions on worshipping the Lord except a broken and contrite spirit. Raising your hands, clapping your hands, weeping, shouting, kneeling, and yes even dancing are all acceptable in God’s sight. I know, I know, many of you are much more staid then I am and some of you would object to the wide parameters that I’ve described. And so many equate demonstrative worship with some objectionable doctrines within the charismatic churches but the Bible makes no such connection.
I will never understand how blood bought, redeemed sinners can sing some of the songs and/or hymns and not get a little emotional and even sometimes a little out of their comfort zones. God is worthy of extravagant worship that is sometimes solemn, sometimes joyous, sometimes convicting, and sometimes accompanied with Spiritual emotions that are difficult if not impossible to put into earthly words. Hymns? Sure. Spiritual songs? Sure. Loud? Sure. Soft? Sure. Upbeat? Sure. Slow? Sure. The words and the message must be clear and Christ centered, that is the only Biblical admonishment. The only approval we seek is the Lord’s and we must never be hindered by man’s evaluation. So often we combine personal preference with Biblical teaching. The Scriptures never address music styles, they just command that we sound a certain sound.
Now to be sure our walk and obedience has an impact on the genuineness of our worship, but I feel quite at home in an orthodox Assembly of God worship service. And our worship should begin at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning so that the garments of praise are already upon us as we enter the building. It amazes me that we are always able to stand before His holy presence and some look around the room as if they are at some class reunion and they are trying to recognize who is present. The Lord of the Universe, the Savior of our souls, is present with us and He who dwells between the cherubim has descended to be among us, inhabiting our worship. I owe Him everything and I cannot help but be moved by His person and presence.
So go ahead and judge me, it matters nothing to me. You see I cannot grant to you that which I have promised to Him alone. I have given Him my heart and all my attentive worship, so I care not what some may say about me, I am nothing and He is all in all. Go ahead and write your opinions about how worship should be and what kind of music is approved by God. That is the spirit of Michal, the daughter of Saul, but I would much rather have the spirit of the psalmist David on my praise and on my worship. And the older I get the free-er I become before my Lord.
So there you have it, open and unfettered. God is looking for worshippers and I have been made one by His Spirit through His grace. Do we not realize who we are before? Can we not sense the holiness of His awesome presence? Can we not weep tears of joy when confronted with the redemption He has purchased for us? Is it wrong to feel like dancing when we are moved by the freedom we have in our glorious Lord? Do our knees never buckle under the weight of His glory when in His presence? Don’t our hands clap with praise and gratitude when we sing the songs of Zion?
All must bow before Him. All can rejoice before Him. All should praise before Him. All should weep tears of overwhelming gratitude before Him.
Release the spirit of worship before an eternally worthy Lord. Worship the Lord thy God with all your heart, soul, spirit, and strength. He has granted us access into His very throne room for the express privilege of worship...unrestrained worship...
for Him alone.