Friday, March 30, 2007

Time to Testify

I would like to take some blog space for a moment, put down the conversation about the emergent church, release the weapons against the purpose driven movements, and just completely look full into the face of my Lord and give myself wholly to Him in testifying worship.
I was such a sinner, so dedicated to my own pleasure and completely unconcerned about my soul and the Creator of the universe. I wasn’t seeking anything but the next night’s festivities and how to top the mind altering state of the former party. I surely wasn’t aware that I was deservedly on my way to a Christless eternity of justified suffering and callously ignoring the only escape provided by the Son of God. And then one day, one glorious but inconspicuous day, the Holy Spirit cracked the door of my heart ever so gently and I for the first time in my life pondered the claims of Christ and my situation.

And in March of 1975 I embraced Jesus with a committed faith that I never knew was available. Now those of you who were raised in the south have no idea what it was like to grow up outside the Bible belt and never to have heard the gospel. So the term “good news” does not touch the hem of the garment of the inward exhilaration that comes with realizing that there is life eternal and it is for whosoever will. And when Jesus goes from a religious and historical figure to a living and transforming Savior and Lord the change is enormous and somewhat overwhelming.

So today I want to testify that Jesus, the Son of the living God, is by comparison the only thing that has ever happened to me in my life. I am still amazed that heaven awaits me and life is eternal. I can never get over how I was saved and that who others knew me as has died and the man that most know me as today is surely imperfect but a transformed man from the former one. Jesus, simply Jesus, is the love of my life and because of His love I can love the other people that God has brought into my life.

But there is nothing on this earth that can be deemed worthy of comparing with the Lord Jesus, He is incomparable. I love my wife of almost 29 years, I love my three children, I love my two grandsons, but the love I have for Jesus is beyond words. So I praise Him, I worship Him, I Spiritually prostrate myself before His Graciousness, and I testify to anyone who will listen, Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. He is before all things, He is above all things, He has made all things, and that in all things He must receive the preeminence. Halleluiah to the Lamb, the Author and Finisher of my faith, the Suffering Substitute Who took my sins upon His own body, and Who continues to work in and through me to His own glory, to Him I say Halleluiah.

I testify that my worthlessness and His worthiness met and in that meeting grace birthed faith and faith birthed a new creature who some say is me, but in a mystery, I died and this life is now Him. I hope that by His continuing grace and power I will reflect the glory that only comes from Him and in so doing He can use me as a conduit to testify of Himself which is His ultimate desire and He has also made it mine.

Halleluiah and Selah.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Egyptian Emergent Church

Ex.12:11-14 - And thus shall you eat it with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand, and you shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where you are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.

So the Lord had spoken and commanded all his children to place the blood of a lamb upon the doorposts of their house, eat the Lamb entirely, and be ready to go when He gives Moses the command. But certain men of Israel had gathered and talked about what Moses had said the Lord had told him. After much talk they had agreed that how Moses had interpreted what he said God told him was now open to other views. After all, this lamb’s blood stuff was very archaic and needed to be brought into a place of acceptance in the midst of an articulate and advanced Egyptian culture. How can we relate, they said, to the Egyptians without making it relevant to their culture.

So these new Egyptian emergent men began to write some very interesting views about what God had told Moses and how God wanted them to redefine God’s words into Egyptian language. They decided first that the use of the word blood did not relate adequately to the Egyptians so instead of blood the children of Israel could use other things. Paint, mud, oil, or anything would do as long as their heart was in the right place. As a matter of fact if they felt it unnecessary they could leave the doorposts bare because it wasn’t the blood that was important, it was the intent which had a wide parameter.

Now this open discussion about the Lamb’s blood produced many scrolls of varying thoughts. One scroll suggested it wasn’t the blood itself but the color that was important. Anything red would provide the correct signal that they were on God’s side. Another scroll surmised that the lamb was interchangeable with any other animal, monkeys, dogs, cats, and any animal would provide the blood that God would accept. Another scroll of higher criticism stated that what God really desired was the faith that didn’t need the blood but could prove that they were on God’s side without needing any blood. That was the greatest and most intellectual level of faith. So the blood was an interesting topic for different perspectives which provided great dialogue throughout the Jewish community.

As Moses explained that God would murder the firstborn of every Egyptian the Egyptian emergent scoffed and came to the conclusion that this was just a metaphor, a teaching tool without any literal application. How could God kill anyone, and the Egyptians could not be held accountable, after all, they didn’t even know the Lord. The emergents had been friendly with many of the Egyptians and they knew that although the Egyptians worshiped other gods most of them were good, dedicated, and sincerely religious people. Surely the Lord would take that into account and besides, that “destroying the firstborn” warning had to be taken in context. It was said to a culture that would understand what God was really saying. If God was going to kill children He would be no better than some of the angry, false gods of the Egyptians. Come on guys, think!

So as these new and reasonable views began to be embraced by more and more Jews, and these emergent teachers became more enlightened and prophetic. All of them saw what was coming and many now wrote exciting scrolls that encouraged the children of Israel to prepare for a post-slavery culture that would need higher and more articulate communication of the story of God. What worked in Egypt would not work in the wilderness so they would have to repackage and upgrade the entire story to include issues that the wilderness culture could relate to. The grass that appealed to Egyptian sheep will not taste good to wilderness sheep without some additives.

Now the emergents also revealed that the wilderness people would include many different types of God followers. Some would have come across by going through the Red Sea on foot, but some would have come across on boats of their own making. Some would stick with Moses and that was alright, but some would now espouse more current and younger prophets. They agreed Moses was used of God in his day but now God had moved on. God now could use Moses’ daughter, or Moses’ gay son, or really anyone who could present some cogent perspective about the general topic of God. The dialogue was wide open and exciting.

Now when Moses’ congregation heard these new views being spread by the Egyptian emergent they resisted them and went back and read the scrolls of Moses to see if these things were true. After reading Moses’ scrolls they found that these new views were in conflict with what God had said. But, said the emergents, you cannot rely solely on those scrolls and most of what is written is open to wide and varied interpretations and after all they are just Moses‘ words, not God‘s. So the emergents convinced many that the whole Passover story was instructional and metaphorical in essence, so they need not go through all those commands about the blood. Your sincerity and journey will be sufficient.

And so the night of Passover arrived and as the darkness fell many of the children of Israel went to their doorposts and applied the lamb’s blood as God had instructed them. The emergents continued to dialogue as they watched the others go through these backward and outdated observances which by now should have been discarded by any enlightened Jew. As the emergents sat outside in front of their bloodless doorposts they could smell the scent of cooking Lamb. They ignored the voices that called to them to repent and sacrifice the lamb God had told them to. No, we used to believe what you do but now we have moved on. God will understand.
At midnight the death angel visited Egypt and just as God had warned all the firstborn of every bloodless house were slain.

Now this little piece of fiction with some fact interwoven within it is in reality a picture of the modern day emergent movement that has left historical orthodoxy and continues to lead a journey through untested and uncharted spiritual territory. There is no map and no guide, and the compass is every man’s opinion and interpretation of the direction. We are still in the embryonic stages of this movement but it has picked up substantial speed and acceptance in just a short time. Many of the leaders were solid evangelicals who became disenchanted with the modern church and once they loosed the moorings they began to stray significantly from God’s Word. That was not their intent and many would disagree with my assertions, but that is the nature of deception. You do not recognize it as deception while you are in it, and your good intentions are proof that you are not deceived. Besides, there are many good and learned men who agree with you and with that take comfort. Although, there are many others who do not.

Who, you might ask?

Edwards, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Moody, Wycliffe, - do I need to go on? Oh I forgot one other person who disagrees with you…
You will one day see, not because I say so, but because He said so.
Repent quickly, we pray for you.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Look What They've Done

In the early 70’s a movie called the “Godfather” came out. It has been on TV many times since and it depicts the sordid lifestyle of the Mafia. One of the scenes has haunted me after I became a Christian.
The Godfather’s son, Sonny Coreleone, is murdered on the parkway. Since the mortician owes his father a favor the body is brought to this particular undertaker. Vito, the father, comes to see his son’s body and as he enters the room for preparing the body he pulls down the sheet and is aghast as what he sees. As he sobs he says,

“Look how they’ve massacred my boy”.

Even though Vito Coreleone has himself murdered others, you could feel the pathos in his voice as he grieves over his son. After I became a Christian that scene brought me to a parable by Christ Himself.

Matt.21:33-44 - Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast [him] out of the vineyard, and slew [him]. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out [his] vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

The liberals have reduced Him; the seeker sensitives have dressed Him down; the purpose driven people have pragmatized Him; and the Roman Church has marginalized Him. And now comes the emergent church movement. This mercurial movement seeks to redefine who Jesus is and what role He plays in salvation. As far as anyone can tell they present Jesus through the prism of a post modern culture with the New Testament as a helpful resource. I must remind the emergents as to what the New Testament teaches about Christ, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

When a person believes on the Lord Jesus Christ and is born again he enters the life of Christ and he leaves his former life. Preachers have erroneously taught that you can ask Jesus to “come into your life” and he will help you live your life. That is false. Jesus will help you live His life. What part of Gal.2:20 was left out of the emergent Bible?

This emergent movement is probably liberal theology all dressed up and ready for this post modern culture. I must credit Ken Silva for sharing the information that opened my eyes to the emergent church before which I was happily ignorant of. It is one thing to alter your view of certain sins such as homosexuality, and it is one thing to change the method of preaching the gospel to accommodate the unconcerned, but it is the highest blasphemy to alter the truth about the Eternal Son of God.

In today’s evangelical cross culture there is not just another Jesus, no, there are many other Jesus’s defined by the carnal flesh of man and not the absolute authority of God’s Word. And what is going to be the climax of such movements? It is none other than the Anti-christ himself who is behind all these new theologies and he will be the stream into which all these error filled tributaries will flow. And it will not be difficult for people to accept him, by then they will be used to new and creative ideas about everything. He is either the same yesterday, today, and forever or He is not.

So today many movements have taken the Lord Jesus for an unfettered ride in a doctrinal merry-go-round. It wasn’t enough that our Savior had to endure the open shame of a Roman cross, no, He now must endure the vacillating definitions of man which are sculpted to mesh with man’s fleshly imaginations. Like a character in a fairy tale they have stripped Him of His sacredness and made Him a man with an earthly mission with eternal redemption as an aside. That is abject blasphemy.

So what must the Father think about all of this spiritual witchcraft? Do you think He just lets it pass? Does He ignore it? Does He think, oh well, everyone is entitled to their own opinion? Does He enjoy a good dialogue about who His Son is? Or does He say,

“Look what they’ve done to My Son!”

And here is where the Godfather analogy departs. In the movie the father calls for peace. But the Heavenly Father offers no olive branch when the door of the ark finally closes. No one has witnessed vengeance like the kind that God will unleash upon this world. And God doesn’t refer to the most evil spirit as an anti-salvation spirit, or an anti-Holy Spirit spirit, or an anti-Father spirit, no, the most hated enemy of the Lord is an anti-christ spirit that comes against the Lord Jesus, the only begotten Son of the Living God. I warn you, all you who treat the Lord Jesus as recreational dialogue, you should repent before it is too late because the night is far spent. It is impossible to over deify Jesus but it is commonplace to strip Him of the Creator God status that is His. This is a cavern you should never enter, and while the Old Testament saints would avoid the very mention of His name today’s hip hop theologians bandy His name about as if they were trading baseball cards. It is anti-christ from the beginning to the end. To revisit the theology concerning Jesus is to visit God’s judgment on yourself and you and your humanistic Christology will be ground to powder.

The Holy Spirit said that anyone who brings or preaches another Jesus is to be anathema maranatha. Now most of us recognize the word maranatha which means until he comes but the word anathema is a very serious word. It means an object that has been especially set apart for divine wrath and judgment. So anyone who changes the Scriptural revelation of the Lord Jesus is now targeted as an object of God’s divine wrath until Jesus comes back. And then what? Am I saying that a once orthodox follower of Jesus who is now preaching another Jesus will wind up in hell? Careful, I'm an Arminian so you don't want to know what I believe could be a possibility. (See Hebrews 6 & 10 complete with my interpretation) But I know one thing:

I would not want to be in emergent shoes on that day.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Elusive Humility

Acts 20:19 - Serving the Lord with all humility…

Humility. There, I’ve said it, but where is it? Here we go saying we are walking in humility and when someone says something about us we feel indignation rise up inside so whatever it was we were walking in it wasn’t humility.

Humility is unattractive to the flesh and by its nature it will stand on the sidelines and never get called into the game. It is many times treated like an illegal alien and it is hard to embrace. It is the indispensable ingredient in pleasing God and it is at the very heart of Christlikeness. There are many reasons why humility is so often not even considered. Humility is painful to the flesh which is consumed with self image and self esteem. Many times humility will force you to accept and embrace shame.

There are no major conferences on humility because it is repulsive and runs contrary to the course of this world. Humility attracts God while pride repels Him and to us it is the opposite. We love accolades and we hate criticism. We will appear humble when praised but we will respond with venom when maligned. We will construct humility in the prayer closet but tear it down as soon as we leave God’s presence, but make no mistake, God is not fooled.

So humility is a rare and fleeting commodity. Like a hot potato very few will dare to hold its uncomfortable heat in their own hands. Now if you do not want to be challenged by God’s Spirit then you are free to exit this post now because what I am going to share will be uncomfortable and God willing convicting and ultimately crucifying to the flesh. Several times I have been asked not to comment on some blogs because I feel that God would have me challenge us not always them. Who are them? It is the purpose driven, seeker friendly, and emergent church movements that have cast off the Word of God and have gone their own way. They deserve to be exposed and rebuked and sometimes with bold and even caustic language. I wrote a post several months ago entitled Spiritual Pedophiles and I stand by that metaphor. So I am not saying that we should never have the mantle of the fearless prophet, no, I am saying that we are infinitely lacking in the area of the shining God’s exposing and convicting light upon us.

It is difficult to rebuke and correct without over time developing a veneer of pride and fleshly indignation. I know from personal experience that while I hold the standard of God’s Word to others, however true, I can easily ignore that same Word that is attempting to expose the thoughts and intents of my own heart. I have no corner on the truth, it is God’s alone and I am an unprofitable servant. It remains an invisible and insidious weight that can so easily beset us when we have the warrior spirit and yet we reject the suffering servant spirit. Our Lord embraced the shame. Oh my, what a thought…He who was without sin became obedient to shame, and mocking, and rejection, and betrayal, and scourging, and spit, and thorns, and yes even death, the death of a barbaric cross. He, for the joy that was set before Him, embraced and endured it all, for us. And He has asked us to do the same for Him. Selah.

Go ahead and search the watchman blogs and see how many will consistently, if ever, post an article about their own horrible sin. How many speak in bold and forceful tones to their own camp? Oh yes, the Warren, MacLaren, Bell, and all the usual suspects will be whipped beyond recognition and with that we are all content. We don’t need serious correction, oh no, just a slight course correction will do for us. Rick Warren gets a cat-o-nine tails but for us, well, a little and pleasant rebuke. As God’s children we sometimes and maybe often need a cleansing via repentance especially when some of us have been given the awesome responsibility of speaking for God against his enemies. If there ever was good soil for a harvest of pride it is that garden.

And if you listen closely you can hear the hoof beats of the golden calves that are being guided around the evangelical as well as the orthodox world. Is it not obvious that sometimes we hold certain men in such high esteem that it becomes a level of idolatry? I do not care what camp you are in, that calf is well fed in every theological stall. And in many arenas it is very difficult to have a humble discussion about reformed or Arminian theology without it getting nasty and self righteous. And if one day you get to heaven and discover that your theology was completely correct on all points, well, you will also discover that is was all by grace and the instruction of God’s Spirit and you never had any basis for pride or indignation.

Another pyrite (fool's gold) calf that is well purchased at the orthodox market is our calling. Listen as the Apostle Paul says “I am what I am by the grace of God’. Hear him call himself “the least of all the apostles”. Again he says “we are the off scouring of the earth”. “The chief of all sinners”, says Paul. And yet Paul was the Apostle who wrote most of the New Testament and studied under Christ Himself.

“I am a watchman for God”, you say. Let me bring all of us down a peg, God does not need you or me. We are insignificant and only used by God’s mercy and grace. So you are a watchman, fine, but who watches you? As we go plundering the enemies camp and return to mutual congratulations, who plunders the flesh in your tent? Oh we are such weary warriors because we have argued for God, well that smacks of self indulgence and pride. You want to see real warriors, study the martyrs. Listen to the cries of the Pakistani family whose father was slain for his faith right before their very eyes. Hear the tesimony of faithful missionaries who left this splendor and served on fields with little harvest and no earthly recognition. They are warriors.

Brothers and sisters, we live in a critical time and God is calling us out of Babylon and into the truth of His Word. We will continue to speak boldly about the anti-christ spirit that continues to harvest millions, but we must more than ever listen to the correcting voice of the Spirit toward us. Truth without humility is pride and it obscures much of the essence of that truth. God’s Word is the glorious foundation, but the vessel counts. Let us beg God for his power which can only fill an empty vessel.

So the Spirit’s message to us is “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”

What mind? Kneel down and lift up your head. Before you is the image of an innocent man, nailed to a cross and bleeding profusely. He has been abandoned by His friends and He hangs almost naked before His earthly mother and the entire world. He has already assured that this shame will be recorded so His humiliation can be documented throughout history. Dried spit and a bloody beard adorns His face. Listen and you can hear the religious leaders mock him. The soldiers treat Him like a criminal and in the spirit world demons rejoice at His predicament. He is a poor and pathetic figure paying the price for others, others who do not even want Him. Mere words can never do justice to this humility.

So go ahead and take your own cross and nail your own hands and feet on that cross. Embrace the shame, endure the mocking, forgive your tormentors, feel the pain, and speak the truth boldly through parched and bloody lips. Sound out the truth through lungs that labor to breathe. And before you can receive resurrection power, you must die. And no matter what we speak, be it reciting actual verses from the Bible, if we are any part of it, if we draw any self congratulations, if our flesh has enjoyed the correcting of others, well, then it is an abomination in the nostrils of the God we purport to speak for. And when you pick up the Sword of the Spirit and it isn't covered with your own blood and sharpened on your own flesh than it will be dull.

It all must be the Spirit of God who speaks of Christ and not Himself. Let us all not only engage the enemy, let us embrace humility which, contrary to popular belief, has become very elusive.

Lord, we are nothing before you except that which you have graciously granted to us. We can only understand by your Spirit and we can only communicate by that same Spirit. And if at the end I have stood strong and have spoken your Word I still do not deserve any praise. Let it all go to You.
I humble myself before Your Gracious Splendor, and as an unprofitable servant, I worship You and You alone…

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Wonder of it All

I Pet.1:8 - Whom having not seen, you love, in whom, though you see Him not, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Acts 3:10 -…and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.

Peter knew of Whom he spoke.

Think of the times in this life that we are filled with joy and emotional ecstasy.
There have been numerous times of extreme excitement, joy, and happiness in my life. Marriage, graduation, ordination, and many other significant occasions. But I believe there have been only four occasions of pure wonder.

In the summer of 1969 I watched as a man stepped out onto the surface of the moon for the first time. I felt a sense of wonder.

In September of 2001 I watched live as the twin towers crumbled to the ground killing thousands. I felt a sense of wonder.

On January 12th 1980 I witnessed the birth of my first child. I felt a sense of wonder.

Now these three events have passed and I can only remember the sense of wonder I felt back then.

But the fourth occasion was in March 1975 when I first met and became a follower of Jesus Christ. I was overwhelmed with a sense of wonder that infinitely eclipses all other events in my life. The wonder of finally realizing what Bethlehem really meant. The wonder of Jesus' sinless life. The wonder of His miracles. The wonder of His scourging. The wonder of the thorns, nails, punches, spit, mocking, rejection, spear, and the one word that God gave us to sum it all up - the Cross. The wonder of His death. The wonder of His resurrection. The wonder of His ascension. The wonder of His coronation. The wonder of His love, mercy, grace, patience, goodness, and His salvation. The wonder of His Spirit. The wonder of His holiness. The wonder of His throne. The wonder of the coming day in which He stands to His feet, mounts His heavenly steed, summons His angels, gathers His saints, and in breathtaking power and glory bursts into this world once more, and by just the brilliance of His Person He reclaims the throne of David to rule and reign this entire universe - FOREVER!!!

Now these thoughts can only be understood by another follower of Christ but they seem mysterious and intangible to someone who is lost. The reality that we have been given eternal life is beyond our ability to fully appreciate and we know that any imagery about our eternal destiny falls infinitely short of the coming experience. And knowing that only adds to our joy which is actually unspeakable. To think of Almighty God is mind boggling. To think of the Glorified Christ is unbelievable. To think that one day we will be with God in heaven forever is beyond us but it should and does create a joy that cannot be explained to a lost person and sadly to many who claim to be saved. The reality of who we were and who we are should sometimes bring such joyful praise that it is sometimes hard to contain and really, why should we contain it?

And if you will quiet your spirit for a moment and carefully listen you may well hear something that will so rapture you with grateful worship that you may have to withdraw yourself from others and sacredly enter within the veil and bow before Him. What is it that could so affect you? What could your earthly ears hear that so captures you that it alters your heart and demands your full worship? Listen, and you can hear God say,

I love you.

But there is another kind of wonder that approaches the entire planet. Jeremiah prophesied about this event that will even bring prophets to wonder even though they have seen its coming.

Jer.4:7-9 - The Lion is come up from His thicket, and the Destroyer of the Gentiles is on His way; He is gone forth from His place to make thy land desolate; and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant. For this gird you with sackcloth, lament and howl: for the fierce anger of the Lord is not turned back from us. And it shall come to pass at that day saith the Lord, that the heart of the king shall perish, and the heart of the princes, and the priests shall be astonished, and the prophets shall wonder.

I find it very hard to put into understandable context in describing the coming holocaust at the very hands of the Sovereign. For all who are in Christ the wrath that was our due was poured out upon God’s Son in our stead, we are safe. But for all who are outside of Christ, God’s wrath has had thousands of years to reach this point and they are the targets of this disturbed Lion.

In Old Testament terms God uses the word Gentiles to define all His enemies and of course the use of the word Lion is the Lord Himself. Picture the Pride Male resting under a shady thicket and watching over His territory. He has witnessed rogue lions come and ravage His own pride but He has had patience in the hope that they would cease and give homage to Him. But as the assault continues on His pride and specifically His very bride, His anger grows. His whiskers are now twitching and His tail nervously moves. His gigantic muscles ripple and the jaws of His vengeance salivate. His eyes of fire are trained upon all His enemies and His massive heart beats within His powerful breast.

We have seen male lions spring from their resting place and with great strides and viciousness they have taken vengeance upon the enemies of the pride. Well the Lion of the Tribe of Judah is now twitching. He has witnessed His enemies ravage His pride and lead them astray, and His own pride has turned against Him. But do not remove the horror that is about to be unleashed upon the inhabitants of the Earth. It is beyond our ability to comprehend and describe. The Lord Christ will arise from His rest and fulfill His Words about His return.

Forget about politics and superficial morality, only those who by faith have been born again by the Spirit will ever escape. And the Scriptures say that even the prophets, those who have warned about the coming event, will wonder. The blood that will be spilled, the pain that will be felt, the punishment that will inflicted, and the wrath that will grind to powder those who have not known Christ will astonish the world. Why were we not told about this Lion? We thought Jesus was all loving and never given to violence, why were we not told?

If we actually caught a vision of the wrath of Almighty God we might well go on our rooftop and warn people at the top of our lungs! A horrible reality that we have yet to fully comprehend. The enemy of our souls is telling everyone how wonderful everything is and will be, but they are not God’s prophets, they are the ear tickling prophets of men.

Look! Look! The Almighty Lion stirs. His warnings have gone unheeded and His Word treated as nothing. He will not share His glory with another and He is well prepared to visit every last particle of disobedience that has blasphemed His matchless name. There is no time to run and resistance is futile. The shelter of His cross is still open but approaching a day in which the door locks. The Day of the Lord will cause all of us to wonder. Why?

I will wonder why He would ever love someone like me. I will wonder why I was spared. I will wonder why He allowed me a rout of escape that led right through His own sufferings. I will wonder at His power and magnificent justice and when I see His vengeance I will gratefully bow in worship and tearfully and frightfully wonder.

His love, His mercy, His grace, His holiness, His power, His beauty, His cross, His throne, and His eternal dwelling place , all a sacred and eternally pristine mystery that will cause me to wonder with joy unspeakable and full of glory. In my most obedient moment I never deserved any of it, but there I will be, changed forever and belonging only to Him. I can scarcely imagine it and though my faith sometimes feels like less than a mustard seed I rejoice in that it is not based upon my faith but fully upon His ability to keep His Word.

And with that, I joyfully and humbly wonder.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Wind of Man
Jn.3:8 - The wind blows where it desires, and you hear the sound of it but cannot tell where it came from and where it goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

I have listened to a message by Mike Ratliff of Possessing the Treasure and he was speaking about the teaching of Jesus in John chapter three. In that chapter Jesus is attempting to describe the ministry of the Holy Spirit by using something that men could understand. Of course the ministry of the Holy Spirit cannot be fully captured by the mind of a man but His ministry is important for us to not just understand on our level, but to depend upon Him for our lives.

Jesus compares the movement and ministry of the Spirit of God to the movement of the wind. No one can see the wind but everyone can see the effects of that same invisible wind. And as Mike observed man cannot create natural wind just as man cannot manipulate the ministry of the Holy Spirit. But as I listened to Mike’s message it hit me that although man cannot create natural wind, he can create wind of his own making. Of course all of us have watched the propellers of an airplane make a huge amount of manmade wind. We all have felt the wind as a train came speeding by the platform. And most of us have felt and enjoyed the cold air generated from our air conditioner created by a man made fan. We even have folded a piece of paper and fanned ourselves by the strength and movement of our own arm.

And with that metaphor we are witnessing a massive amount of manmade wind that claims to be the divine wind of the Holy Spirit. Wind that travels at the behest and direction of man and not the desire of God. Strategies that have been well thought out without consulting or even taking into consideration the will of God and the parameters of Scripture much less the invisible nature of the Holy Spirit. God’s Holy Spirit has been misrepresented as a pragmatist and very predictable when in reality He moves according to the will of the Godhead to accomplish God’s purposes certainly not ours.

But, you ask, doesn’t God desire everyone to be saved? Yes, I believe that. And I certainly believe that the Holy Spirit generally reveals Christ in the world, but that revelation is general in nature and speaks to the whole universe. Without getting into the eternal perspective concerning the choice of man I will contend Biblically that the Holy Spirit will not try and force anyone to believe. And He runs to and fro watching for anyone who even slightly pauses in the midst of this earthly life and wonders. With that the Spirit of God will reveal more of Christ who responds to the drawing of God’s Spirit.

Where we get into trouble is when a person is not responding to the Holy Spirit and we make our own wind molded to what we perceive will interest the person and not what God demands. Like jingling car keys in front of an infant we jingle money, marriage, success, and many other worldly things to garner a sinner’s attention. We reject the command of Jesus Who said “If I be lifted up…” and also when He taught us that when the Comforter comes “He will speak of Me”. These new preachers are well aware that the person of Christ has no attraction to most people so they must wrap up an attractive offer with Jesus hidden well inside this earthly package that they have passed off as true Christianity. So they have created their own man made wind in a fleshly attempt to blow a person to Jesus without the sinner even realizing it.

No one can come to Jesus unless the Holy Spirit draws him. No one. Only the Holy Spirit can illuminate a person’s spirit to the Person of Christ and all the worldly accoutrements only cloud the issue. And a dangerous thought, if people “make decisions” for Christ based upon what He can do for them on this earth they have not been drawn by God’s Spirit but their own lusts. And at the end of that man made wind is a man made Jesus who cannot save.

The wind of man that leads to eternal destruction.

Monday, March 19, 2007

We Have Let it Slip
Heb.2:1 - Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard lest at any time we should let them slip......................

What would you think of a man who was allowed to cross over a bridge to safety and as he arrived on the other side the Builder of the bridge instructed him to care for the bridge, keep it clean, and the Builder gave the man all the power he would ever need to take care of the bridge that had been his salvation. Years went by and sometimes bugs would start to eat away at the bridge, the weather would erode parts of it, and men themselves would attempt to dismantle it. Well this man who had been entrusted to protect and take care of the bridge would scold those who were damaging the bridge sometimes with loud and bold words but the men would ignore the man’s words. The man would write articles about these destructive men that were damaging the bridge but the men would respond with writings of their own that claimed that they had also heard from the Builder of the bridge and they were following His orders. They claimed they were enhancing the appearance of the bridge.

Well, the man would have none of that and he kept telling the men to stop because the bridge was perfect just the way the Builder had made it and what they were doing would confuse people. As the years went by the men who were changing the bridge began to multiply and soon they were many more than the man who was scolding them and telling them to stop. Now the man was no match for these men and for every article he wrote they would write one hundred. People were drawn to their new bridge because it looked so fresh and new and people by the millions wanted to cross it. The man was faithful and he never accepted this new bridge.

Now what could that man do to stop these new men from destroying the bridge? He was outnumbered and anything he said or wrote they responded in like kind. A stand off. But he had forgotten one thing, the Builder had given him power to not only rebuke these new men but to overpower them. But where was the power and why then did the new men multiply so fast?


We have let it slip.

We have held tightly to our orthodoxy but we have allowed the enemy to climb the walls and overtake much of the evangelical landscape. Look no further than the mirror and you and I will see who is to blame. Just as Luther nailed the 95 thesis to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, so could the blame be nailed upon every orthodox church in America. We stand so powerless as we watch and document their movements to report to each other and lament and commiserate with each other. We have become adept and proficient at researching them and providing the necessary information to our shrinking camp with the hearty “amens” to provide a spiritual reward. Somehow I do not think that Rick Warren or Rob Bell or Brian MacLaren do much research on us, oh no, they are busy repainting the bridge and shaking their heads at any of our rebukes. The truth retreats and error advances.

We have let it slip.

There were times where prayer meetings were held and men and women gathered with humility and tears and beseeched God to rain His power down upon them so they could do His work with power. Prayer is a museum and for the most part the observance of prayer barely resembles the all night upper room version. Where are the prayer tears that always flow from the eyes that have gazed upon His face and realized that we are in need of a massive revival? Where are the loud prayers that call upon the living God to rend the heavens and come down with His Spirit and power? Have our children seen us in extended seasons of prayer and seeking or have they seen us about this world’s work? Have we by our actions displayed openly that we no longer need God’s power, just give us His truth and we can handle it from here?! Our writings can suffice, Lord, keep your power to Yourself and we will battle in our own strength! Back and forth we will speak to each other and once in a while we will give you a little space in a powerless and hollow recreation of the kind of prayers that shook kingdoms and defeated the armies of hell itself!!

We have let it slip.

We’ve bowed at the feet of the great Republican god and became awed at his power. We organized for him and we learned his conservative commands and while hell burned we sought to establish his moral kingdom by joining hands with Christ‘s enemies. And even now we are amazed that this great political god has put forth his emissaries that seem to stray from the morals that we thought he wanted. We have taken our eyes off of the Lord of Glory and have placed our faith in the clay feet of men.

We have let it slip.

Scour the blog system and listen as the orthodox camp (like me) continues to hang up posts that revile and castigate the purveyors of the spirit of anti-christ and yet forward they march but where are the posts that rebuke us and call us to repentance? Go ahead, comment all you want about Warren and MacLaren, but if you speak a word of correction to us you may well be banished. Humility is just a Bible study without the necessary fruits that scream out “Oh Lord, I have sinned!”. Do we question how it is that God’s truth seems to have so little power in our hands? Martin Luther’s prayer life was legendary and God used him to spread the reformation fires across an entire continent and today Christian books are legion without a trace of revival fires.

We have let it slip.

In the end the Scriptures themselves convict us. The writer of Hebrews tells the early church not to let the things that we have heard slip or we will not escape if we neglect so great salvation. Well we stand indicted before that salvation’s Author and in Hebrews 2:4 God recalls that He bore witness to the faithful with His power. On the one hand we have become entangled with the affairs of this world and on the other hand we have become disgustingly content with rehearsing the virtues of our theology to each other while the bridge has been dissembled in front of our pompous eyes.

I believe the only thing that will stand against this rebellion against God is revival. And the only thing that will bring revival is an unusual move of prayer. Not just “Poly want a cracker” type of prayers. Not just asking for our own needs. Not just gathering at a convenient time to quietly one by one politely ask God for His help. No, we’ve done that and we’ve embraced it and added it to our outward liturgy and most times we‘ve left just as we came. What we need is a commitment to seek the very face of God in intercession, not to enhance our own Spiritual lives, but to bury our faces before His throne and stay there for many early mornings and late nights until we know that God has sent us with His glorious power. The churches will not hear this call so we must open our hearts and then our homes.

Time is short and God is worthy.
Listen, and hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
To those who will hear He says, “Repent and draw near to Me!”.
Who does He say this to?
You and me.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

It Will Cost You

It doesn't come to you on a silver platter, you have got to want it above everything else. That means you have got to pursue it above everything else while you are doing everything else. The first step to desiring it supremely is recognizing you don't. Everything else will fight you with every distraction, attraction, endurance, conflict, time, and with all that is in the world.

You can memorize the entire Bible and not reach it.You can know all the Greek and Hebrew and not have it.
You can write your own exhaustive systematic theology and be far from it.
You can be Calvinistic or Arminian and still be on the sidelines.
You can preach on every verse in the Bible and not arrive at it.
You can witness and not progress toward it.You can be doctrinally pure and be far from it.
You can speak out against the falling away and still not get it.
You can teach a Sunday School class and not have it.
You can post blogs and not arrive at it.

Nothing is born of God without travail, and this will take a lifetime. It will cost you inordinate amounts of time. It will require deep focus. It will require some early mornings and some late nights. It will require limiting social interaction and discipline of the tongue. Total forgiveness is a huge prerequisite and the foundation must be built with humility.

You will suffer misunderstanding and you will sometimes be considered aloof. It necessitates pursuit when you are Spiritually exhausted. It is tangible and yet ethereal. It will satisfy and yet produce desire for more. There will be times you will not be able or capable to effectively communicate your experiences with anyone. Some experiences won't translate into words and sometimes God won't let you share it. A personal desire for holiness will be part of the process. The search for truth is a door and inconvenience must be accepted and flexibility practiced. You must surrender any comparison to anyone else and you must reject legalism and performance. You will be required to capture and direct your mind through conscious and sometimes frustrating discipline. behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His temple...He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High...Seek the Lord...they that wait upon the Lord...that diligently seek Him...Looking unto Jesus...THAT I MAY KNOW HIM

To know Jesus, that is the disciple's journey. Not just defend Him against attacks and cults, but to know and embrace Him as your personal life. Not just know about Him but with an insatiable thirst pursue Him as if you will die if you don't go deeper and deeper in intimate fellowship with Him. As Lord and as Friend. As Master and as Helper. As fearful and as comforting. We will have to take quantum leaps in quantity and quality in our prayer lives. We will have to both devour the Word and chew it over and over, and we will have to be able to during those times not read it looking for truths to buttress any doctrinal argument but as our living Spiritual food.

Oh it will take more than the pro-life position. Much more than a ban on same sex marriage. Light years more than electing conservative politicians. It will take a slow and self-crucifying journey that will be accompanied by hills and valleys, victories and setbacks, and a frequent desire to feel content with where you are and stop pressing toward Him. Don't look for a group to go through it with you, real pursuers are rare, and comfortable nay sayers are legion. The devil will remind you that you will see Jesus when you get to heaven so why go through all this trouble now. Discouragement will sit on one shoulder and self righteousness on the other. The Deceiver will attempt to comfort you with the message that you are orthodox in your theology which is meant to keep you from pursuing.

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

But if you want material, fame, corporate advancement, treasures, and worldly'll have to look elsewhere. But be encouraged, that road is glamorous and wide, and it is easily and well traveled even within the church.

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

Friday, March 16, 2007

God's Apologetics

I recently heard a famous apologist who I enjoy listening to and he was speaking at a secular university. The format was that the students wrote down their questions and the most often asked were organized and read to this man. Here is a list of the questions that were asked:

What is the meaning of life?
How can God’s existence be proved?
Aren’t all religions accomplishing the same goal?
How can we know there is an afterlife?

As I listened to this apologist recall this seminar and how he responded to the questions that were submitted to him I began to wonder how much benefit there was in that approach. I began to pray about it and I will share with you what I believe the Lord showed me.

There is no calling or office that is called or defined as apologetics. Loosely defined apologetics is someone who defends the accuracy of the Bible and its teachings by use of reason and outward support proofs. The actual word comes from the Greek word apologia (απολογία) which is someone who defends a position on something and an apologist can be defending any number of secular and religious positions, but for this discussion it will mean someone who is an orthodox believer and defends his views by means of logic, reason, and the things that seem obvious in creation.

As I listened to this gifted man address the questions I mentioned he skillfully used logic and reason to reveal the weaknesses in some views while he used the same reasonable arguments to buttress general Biblical teachings. He was articulate and well versed in many of the philosophical perspectives that revolve around those four questions that were presented to him. By his own admission this man traveled the world and spoke in many forums that were similar to this one. While I listened I was of course in agreement with most of what he said and coming from my perspective it was easy to be edified by his speaking and his using of human behavior and revelation of creation’s realities to support his truths.

But as I listened I began to question first myself and then the Lord as to certain other questions concerning the way in which we are to approach and answer spiritual questions and inquiries that could be put to us. Now I realize that we can and should have wisdom concerning any person’s culture, language, education, and their general level of understanding. Even things that they could identify with in attempting to communicate truth could be used by the Holy Spirit in our method of preaching the message of God’s Word. And I also realize that God has used people like Josh MacDowell, Ravi Zacharias, and others to spread the gospel and many times to bring sinners to Christ. But as I listened here are some questions that were brought to my mind and my spirit.

What is our divine calling?

On the surface that seems like a question about which we can all agree but in practice how many times has the church strayed? Our calling is to preach the gospel to every creature and then to make disciples or informed and committed followers of Jesus Christ. Now how can that be accomplished and with what method are we commanded in obedience to this command? There is only one way, the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. Nowhere are we instructed to defend it and nowhere are we instructed to have it make sense to the carnal mind. The Scriptures do not tell us that God’s Word will be considered as something to think about by the carnal mind, no, God’s own Word tells us that the carnal mind will consider the truths of God’s Word as foolishness.

When we attempt to use carnal methods to make Biblical truths more palatable to the carnal mind no matter how logical and reasonable we then are doing what the seeker sensitive movement is doing, making the Word more relevant. Now if we use some understandings that will open doors of communication to our audience upon which we present the Word of God then we have been guided by wisdom as long as the essence of the Word has been preserved. But when we use the principle of “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” then we are guilty of creating a thirst and response to sugar not God’s Word. That “sugar” can be sensual, practical, hedonistic, and yes intellectual in nature but it has diluted the Word and in so doing this “medicine” has lost its effectiveness and although the patient might ask for more he is addicted to sugar not truth.

Our calling is to skillfully, boldly, lovingly, and with God’s anointing present the Word of God. We ourselves have no message and the philosophies of this world are all anti-christ. For example for us to use some people’s after death experiences as the basis to support the existence for the afterlife is dangerous and leaves the door open for many unbiblical experiences to be used as proof for falsehoods. We are not called to organize different worldly and philosophical evidences in order to convince people. This brings me to my next question.

What is the teaching of the Scriptures about how people can believe?

There is one way alone that can truly cause a person to believe in Jesus Christ and along with that the divine nature of the Scriptures. That way is the Word itself. I realize that there have been some people who have read apologetical books and by reading them they eventually have become followers of the Lord Jesus, but those books were used by the Holy Spirit to allow the Word to come into their hearts. Only the Word of God can bring faith in a person’s heart. Other things can bring a person to stop and consider but only the engrafted Word will transform and save and also lead a person to maturity in Christ.

One of the dangers about dealing with truth on a non-biblical way is it may sway people to believe some truth on a carnal level and not with a deep and Spiritual way which must come from the Holy Spirit. For instance, many a forum has been held to present documentation and evidence that the theory of evolution is not true. A person becomes convinced that evolution is not true after hearing the different arguments and reasonings based upon paleontology, the lack of skeletal evidence, and the law of probabilities. But just because he has changed his mind about evolution based upon scientific reasonings does not mean he has been taught by the Holy Spirit and in fact there are many unsaved people who reject evolution. The same can be said for abortion, homosexuality, and other issues that can be espoused by people because of earthly arguments but not Spiritually discerned.

Why are we prone to supplant the Word with the enticing word’s of men’s wisdom? It is because we live in the age of cerebral idolatry and to be honest the pure and unvarnished Word of God seems unsophisticated and archaic to this post-modern world. So we end up defending the Word rather than preaching it in the power of the Spirit and leaving the results to God Himself. Are we embarrassed to have the world mock us because we preach what they think is foolishness? Why are we so accommodating when we agree to debate issues with the intellectual world but we soft-pedal the Word of the Living God? When the world presents their case for abortion why do we try and prove that the baby is alive by showing sonograms and scientific evidence that proves the baby feels pain? Should we not stand and say, “Thus says the Lord God you should not spill innocent blood!”.

But, you say, they do not believe the Bible so we cannot use that in our debate. Since when do we not preach the Word just because some will not believe it? David goes forth to meet Goliath who certainly was not a believer and David says to him, “Thou comest to me with a sword and with a spear and with a shield, but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts…”. Now in today’s accepted Christian warfare David would have invited Goliath to appear with him on Larry King and he would ask him to present scientific and historical evidence that the land of Shochoh belonged to the Philistines. But David proclaimed the name of the Lord of Hosts whether Goliath believed it or not.

When the Apostle Paul entered a gentile city he said he knew nothing among them but Christ and Him crucified. And today there is much said about Paul on Mars Hill and some seem to twist that event into teaching that Paul stood and debated the unbelieving Greeks when in reality Paul stood and declared them ignorant and preached the Messiah unto them. He reveals that Lord commands all men to repent and expounded about the resurrection from the dead so forcefully that they mocked him. The Word of God is the vehicle through which men can be converted and by which men grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Which leads me to my final question.

Is it not obvious that when we put the truths of Christianity and the Lord Jesus on a dialogue platform we bring it down to a level that makes people see it as one of many opinions?

Like a game in which there ten teams and every team has a different color, that is how it appears when we present Christ in a round table discussion with all the other opinions of man. And many times the presenter of error is more articulate and personable than the Christian. I remember taking a youth group to a debate between an agnostic who believed in evolution and a Christian apologist which was being held in a high school auditorium. Well the agnostic happened to be a learned paleontologist who was very articulate and convincing and when the debate was over the air was gone from the room because most of the audience were Christians and they recognized that the debate was won by the agnostic even though he did not have the truth. On the bus ride back to the church I felt led to stand up in the front of the bus and call for everyone’s attention. I admitted that the paleontologist had seemed convincing in the debate but he did not alter one iota of God’s Word. I loudly proclaimed that no one who was a heroin addict ever became a believer in evolution and was immediately free of drug addiction. I continued that no one ever was homeless and by evolution they found purpose in their lives. I said no one ever discovered evolution and left all the comforts of home to go and spread evolution. And finally I said that no one ever became a believer of evolution and after death wound up in heaven. You see, he convincingly presented error, but he was only debating another man. As far as truth is concerned, that man did not change the Word of God at all.

So I have come to the conclusion that although we must combat error we should always proclaim God’s Word no matter what the forum. Let God’s Word speak for itself and let the preaching of the Word, instant in season and out, be the established conduit for reaching mankind with the truth. God’s Word is truth and contains within it the power to deliver. Away with all the wisdom of man, away with all the common sense, away with all the age of reason, away with all the politics of morality, away with it all. We need not defend God’s Word, we are commanded to believe it and preach it.

For all flesh is as grass and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withered and the flower thereof falleth away. But the Word of the Lord endureth forever.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

He Shall Strengthen Thine Heart

Verse 1 - The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

David proclaims the Lord as his very light and his salvation. There is no light but God Who is light and the Word that comes from and is Him is pure and illuminating light sent to draw all men to Himself. This divine light comes in many forms. It comes as truth which can be guidance or correction, or it comes as revelation about Who God is to the universe as a whole or Who He is toward the least of us.

So before we came to know the Lord as our salvation we walked in total darkness even while sometimes acting out a religious part. As a matter of fact we thought darkness was light and light was darkness. We could never follow the light because we did not see it and until God drew us by the Alpha light of salvation led by the Savior we were immobilized in a very dark world indeed. Destitute of hope and immersed inside a personal world of depravity we went through the motions as if we knew something when in fact we were clueless.

And then after a period of preparation planned and carried out by the Holy Spirit we were confronted by the light of truth that shone from and through the Lord Jesus and His glory. Those words may seem like Spiritual hyperbole but in reality they do not do justice to the event that unveils Jesus the Lord and Savior to a desperate sinner whose only hope is the light that now shines upon his heart. The Scriptures declare that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. And not just any light which could resemble earthly light, no, this light is divine and penetrating even to the innermost parts of any sinner and saint.

When people are frightened by the darkness what do they call for? Yes, light. The Psalmist David exhorts us that we should not be afraid of anything and anyone. This Psalmist, the Patriarch David, knew something about fearlessness. Bears, Lions, and other Kings were no match for his courage because he knew the Light, the Lord God Almighty. We serve the Creator and Master of all the universe so how can we be afraid of anything? The Scriptures declare that men are afraid of death but when the Lord of Life gives us the Holy Spirit and with Him comes the eternal regeneration of God’s power.

Are you afraid of bills? The future? People’s opinion? Or possibly death itself? I echo the words that were spoken to the shepherds on that first incarnate night, “Fear not!”. Is it not the greatest feeling of knowing that we are completely held in Jehovah’s hand and no one can pluck us from His eternal hand of redemption? So I leave you with this thought, take a deep breath, look around at your circumstances, and let the faith in the Lord Jesus fill your soul. God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. We have eternity within us, not of works of righteousness which we have done, but by the blood of the Lamb and His amazing grace. Rejoice and be glad!!

Ps.27:14 - …and He shall strengthen thine heart…

And here is a post from Possessing the Treasure which Mike wrote almost at the same time as I wrote mine with neither of us aware of the other. All to His glory!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Guilty or Not
Rom.8:1 - There is therefore now no condemnation to them which in Christ Jesus...

As I am brought into the Universal Courtroom I am overwhelmed because I have just witnessed a man, who I believed was not nearly as bad as I was, sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in a prison of unbelievable torment. I surely did not think that just because I had become a follower of the Lord Jesus several years earlier that it would make any difference, after all, I had broken the Judge’s laws for thirty years and I did not have enough time to make amends even though I was now living very differently.

The clerk calls the court into session and the Accuser calls his first witness, an angel. The Accuser ask the angel,
“State your name for the record”.
“I am Rick Frueh’s guardian angel. I was assigned to him at birth.”
“So you have watched him since he was born”, said the Accuser.
“Yes, I have”.
As the Accuser’s eyes start to glisten with anticipation he continues, “Have you ever seen Rick say something he knows he shouldn’t have said?”
“Yes, many times.”
“Have you ever seen Rick look at something he knows he should not have looked at?”
“Yes, many times”.
“Have you ever witnessed Rick deliberately disobey God?”
“Yes, many times”.
The Accuser turns to the Judge and contently says, “No more questions your honor”.
The Judge motions to the Defense Attorney and says, "Your witness”.
The Defender asks the angel, “Was Rick sincere and trying to be a good Christian?”
shouted the Accuser as he leaped to his feet. “His intentions are irrelevant”.
The Judge agreed and with that the Defender had no more questions.
I sat there feeling so very guilty and I was rapidly losing hope. Even an angel of the Most High God had testified against me before the entire universe and even I could not disagree with him. I looked back and saw the next witness approach the stand.
“State your name for the record.”
“I am the Holy Spirit”.
“Are you also called the Spirit of Truth and isn’t it true that you cannot lie?”
“Yes, that is true”.
“How long have you known the accused, Rick Frueh?”
“I have known him since he was born and I came to live inside him two years ago”.

“Well have you ever witnessed Rick saying or thinking or even doing something he knew God did not want him to do?”
“Yes, I have”.
“Tell me, Holy Spirit, have you ever told Rick not to do something and he did it anyway? And have you ever told Rick to do something that he refused to do even when he had heard your command?”

“Yes, I have witnessed that.”
“A few times or many times?”
“Many times”.

“No more questions.”
My Defender rises and asks the Holy Spirit, “Since Rick has become a Christian has he been sincere and has he tried to do what God wanted?”
, said the Accuser. “The intentions of Rick are irrelevant, his sins are the only pertinent evidence in this court.”
Again the Judge agrees and my defender asks no more questions. Finally the Accuser calls me to the stand.
“What is your name?”
“Rick Frueh”, I sheepishly reply.
“Mister Frueh, you’ve heard the testimony against you. The angel and the Holy Spirit have testified in open court that you have broken God’s laws many times both before and after you became a Christian. Do you dispute any of their testimony?”
“No, I cannot.”
“Well let me ask you Mr. Frueh, is it not true that you have sinned against God this very day?”

“Yes, it is true.”
“As a matter of fact has there ever been even one day that you have not sinned against God?”
“No, there has never been even one.”
“No more questions”.
My defender rises and asks me, “When you became a Christian were you sincere and did your life change from that day forward?”
“Objection!”, declares the Accuser. “The intentions of Mr. Frueh are irrelevant and by Rick’s own mouth he has sinned against the Holy God even after he became a Christian.”
The Judge agreed and my Defender sits down. I am now feeling completely guilty and depraved before this Judge and in despair I wonder if there is anyone who can come to my defense.
The Judge speaks up, “Before I rule is there any other evidence to be presented?”
The courtroom gets quiet and everyone prepares for me to receive the same punishment as the man before me. Suddenly a voice strongly says, "You Honor, I have one last piece of evidence that I wish to bring before the court".
“All right then, come forward”
, says the Judge.
“I object”, shouts the Accuser.
“Overruled!”, says the Judge. “You are to keep quiet now”!
My defender rises and walks to the front of the courtroom and as He faces the Judge He raises up both of His hands, shows them to the Judge and all the universe, and He says,
“I offer as evidence the nail scars in my hands. I offer as evidence the nail scars in my feet. I offer as evidence the stripes on my back. I offer as evidence the wounds on my head. I offer as evidence the blood that I shed as payment and absolution for all the sins that Rick Frueh has committed. With that, Your Honor, I rest my case”.
The Judge looks around the courtroom. He says,
“I believe the testimony I have heard today from all the witnesses. I believe that Rick Frueh has committed grievous offenses against Me and my law. I believe the evidence has shown him to be guilty and deserving of death.”
I feel hopeless as I look over and see the Accuser laughing at me.
The Judge continues,
“But in the light of this new and bloody evidence I find that there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. And with that I find Rick Frueh not guilty of the crimes he was accused of and I pronounce him accepted in the Beloved and completely justified. Mr. Frueh, you are free from the eternal penalty of sin.”
With tears of gratitude I say, “Thank you, Judge”.
The Judge looks at me and replies, “Do not call me Judge anymore. Call me Father and call your Defender, Lord. He has presented an eternally concrete case.

Rom.8:1 - There is therefore now no condemnation to them which in Christ Jesus...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Testimony of Jesus

Rev.1:2 - Who bare record of the Word of God and of the testimony of Jesus Christ…
Rev.1:9 - I John, who also am your brother and companion in tribulation and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Rev.6:11 - And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony…
Rev.6:17 - And the dragon was wroth with the woman and went to make war with the remnant of her seed which keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.
Rev.19:10 - And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, see thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: foe the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

What is a testimony? It is an eyewitness account of someone or some event. In a court of law they call a witness to the stand to testify about what he knows. And so it is with a Spiritual testimony. We call upon a person to give his testimony which means he stands in front of a congregation and tells about what happened to him when he got saved or the changes his life has undergone after his conversion. Now all this is great and it glorifies Christ and everyone should from time to time share his or her testimony. But notice the verses I have given above, they do not refer to our testimony but God specifically pronounces that the power comes from the testimony of Jesus which must be the foundation of any testimony concerning the changes in our lives.

Lives have changed through many different channels. People have pulled themselves up by their own strength, many have been freed from drugs and alcohol by AA and NA and other self help groups, some have changed through eastern mysticism, some have joined cults and been changed, and the list of worldly conduits that have affected life changes is legion. You see a true salvation conversion will always result in a changed life, but it is not the changes in our lives that is the ultimate testimony, it is the testimony of the Changer, not the changes. It may seem like a small difference but in reality is the greatest chasm of all.

People who are unhappy with their lives listen as a person shares how miserable he was before he became a Jehovah’s Witness and he expounds on how much peace and purpose he now has since joining the Watchtower. Some members of the audience are desirous of a new life and they are drawn to this cult because they want their lives changed also. So there are many ways that can change a life and they camouflage the claims of Jesus Christ because so many true churches now concentrate on the changed life and obscure the testimony of Jesus Christ. So people have the impression that God can change lives through many different channels and in so believing people now seek their personal aggrandizement rather than surrender to the Lord Jesus. Sadly the church not only offers earthly change through Jesus but today many don’t even emphasize the sin rejecting aspect of regeneration but they hold up the worldly success aspect claiming that Jesus wants to make your life prosperous in every aspect. And with that offer many are taken in and some even have a change in their lives based upon the superfluous nature of their belief that God is helping them climb the worldly ladder.

But a changed life through Jesus does not always result in positive changes and in eras gone by and in some parts of the world it can very well cost you your physical life. No one in Darfur or Pakistan or China could legitimately stand up and claim that if you become a follower of Christ your life will prosper in every way. Everyone who becomes a follower of Jesus Christ has their very lives changed but many time it results in the sacrifice of worldly things rather than the accumulation of them. I hope you see the tragic difference between American Christianity and Biblical Christianity.

Now God over and over emphasizes the testimony of Jesus as the foundation of the believer’s life. Jesus Himself said, And I, if I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto me. Paul said, For I was determined not to know any thing among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Jesus Christ is the Chief Cornerstone and in all things he should have the preeminence. That is why any gospel and any teaching ministry that concentrates on our lives and minimizes or even uses the Lord Jesus and His work and testimony as a way to enhance our earthly existence is actually another form of the spirit of anti-christ. It is another gospel and another Jesus and it is a fleshly and demonic way to remove the glory of our Wonderful Savior’s testimony.

Notice the phrase in Rev.19:10 that says, The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. The word prophecy simply means the proclamation of God’s truth through God’s Word. And as you will notice that without the testimony of Jesus their can be no spirit of prophecy. OK, let’s turn the beacon of God’s convicting light into our own camp and our own lives. Even in the orthodox and Biblical camps the testimony and preaching of the Lord Jesus continues to diminish. Many are the topics that have crowded out the testimony of Jesus and to find an entire post on nothing but a revelation of the work, ministry, and testimony of the Lord Jesus is rare indeed.

Is it not sad that He has taken a back seat of the preaching bus and topical Christianity, even orthodox Christianity has relegated Him to somewhat obscurity. You can find volumes of information about conservative values (man made), you can find much about having happy marriages, you will have no trouble finding testimonies about man and his work, and if you thumb through the tape libraries we can find hundreds and perhaps thousands of topics that deal with truth but are not caught up with the testimony of Jesus. And if you are searching for information about Warren, MacLaren, Bell, and all the other usual suspects you can find a veritable plethora of well documented and well researched indictments concerning these men.
But somewhere in the mix is the rare and almost token teaching about the One whose testimony is the spirit of prophecy. I also am guilty so put your stones down and allow me to stone myself.

So let me pick up in the middle of the essence of the testimony of Jesus. He has always existed and He is God which sounds so simple but is eternally deep and powerfully mysterious. Now the testimony of Jesus began with the creation and specifically the creation of man who He made in His own image. Creating something out of nothing but His Word is another praise to His glorious testimony and in that we are rendered as nothing and He is everything. But on a certain night in Bethlehem an event unfolded that signaled the beginning of the eternal plan that had been inside the Godhead before creation itself. God, Jesus, Wonderful, Counseller, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace quietly burst into the world with an entourage of angelic hosts proclaiming His glorious testimony. He would carve out a ministry within the parameters of the Palestinian landscape and He would one day leave a few miles away in the City of Peace.

His testimony could never be fully captured by the pen of man and if all the books in this world had been written of Him there still would not be enough room for His testimony. Never think that His testimony is limited to the miracles He performed while He walked as a divine man, oh no, His acts were eternal in scope and the written narrative of His earthly life is taken by the Holy Spirit and broken as bread to nourish many a hungry soul who seeks Him. Come unto Me was His offer and all the miracles were looking glasses into Who He was and why He came. His testimony has gripped the soul of all who by the Spirit have become His worshippers.

So in the space of thirty-three earthly years He has systematically and mercifully revealed His glory to anyone who had ears to hear. And then came Calvary, Golgotha. Now again remind yourselves that this was the Creator in earthly form who had the power in just a word to consume all of the universe, but here He comes into Jerusalem with the full knowledge of where He would end up. Willingly and for the joy that was place before Him He comes to be scourged of sinful men. He was holy and without sin and yet His testimony was that He loved us even unto death. They spit upon God. They whipped God. They mocked God. And God humbled Himself unto death, even the death of the cross.

No simple death. This death held the punishment for all mankind and the sufferings were beyond comprehension. Every single moment of His testimony that began with the first creative word until now were seized in this death. Look at Him, pitiful and in pain, and yet still faithful to His testimony and fulfilling the spirit of prophecy that He had foretold about this very event. High and eternally glorious Jesus is lifted upon a Roman cross and what sinful men and their father had meant for evil God changes into the glorious testimony of His only begotten Son. And this was not just for nobles and kings, this was for all who would humble themselves and by faith embrace the One who has offered Himself for the whole world.


And fast forward to the year 1975 and to a mountain in North Jersey they call Garrett. Notice a real live sinner sitting high atop a cliff overlooking the skyline of Manhattan. He is lost and hopeless and wandering. He doesn’t realize why but he has come to wonder about this Jesus and His testimony. So he sits and wonders and finally he asks this Jesus, like John the Baptist, if He is Who He said He was. And in a Spiritual moment of revelation Jesus unveils Himself to this totally insignificant sinner and at that instant this man is changed. A laundry list of sinful habits will eventually fall and his life will be changed.

But this story is not about this sinner. When the trees bend in a storm it is not about the trees but about the power of the wind. So I want to give a testimony today about the testimony of Jesus. My testimony and what God has done to and through me will always be the moon reflecting the light of the glorious Son. I have no light and I have no testimony but Jesus. He and He alone is my testimony and He is my everything. I cannot offer you the specifics of a changed life for you but I can lift up and offer you the Lord Jesus and His testimony.

So all you who are followers of Jesus I exhort you to rest in Him. Do not get so caught up with the doctrinal battles that rage today that you have forgotten the glorious and intimate time that you can spend with the Master. God does not need you but He desires you. Look over there, can you see that shady place? If you can go ahead and walk over to it and slowly sit down. Close your eyes and clear you mind of the things of this world. Open your eyes and look around for Him. Do you see Him? No? Well look up and discover the object that blankets you with the shade. Do you see now? It is the everlasting shade of the cross and He who once endured it for you wants to share His testimony with you.

Speak Lord, we are listening…

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A Carnal Religious Fanatic

I Cor.3:1 - And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.

Let us get something straight from the beginning, the Word of God teaches that a Christian can be carnal. Now in this post I want to deal with the difference between a carnal Christian and an unsaved person who professes to be a Christian. They sometimes appear very similar and undistinguishable to the natural eye and many times only God knows who are his. Another category of Christians are those who appear spiritual but are in reality carnal. I want to deal with some of these different blends of believers and non-believers because I believe the lines have been blurred between Christians, carnal Christians, and unbelievers.

Now we get this impression that an unbeliever has to be someone who openly rejects the Lord Jesus and is almost a Satan worshiper. Nothing could be further from the truth and in fact the Word tells us that “the devils also believe and tremble”. This is clearly warning us that even demons believe but are not saved and people can believe on some level and not be saved. “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light”. And in the end Satan will transform himself into an image of Christ Himself which the Bible calls the anti-christ so it is no wonder that many people who profess they are Christians, go to church, believe in Jesus on some level, and even do acts of devotion but are not authentic believers. Unsettling but very true.

But let us examine the phenomenon today where little children and adults alike are led in a prayer that is designed to ask Jesus into their hearts. Many people are saved by praying this prayer but it is not because of the prayer and in some cases it is in spite of this prayer. The Holy Spirit in His power and graciousness many times will draw a person to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus even while overcoming these modern day man made techniques. In America everyone calls themselves a Christian if they are not atheists or Muslims or Jews or Buddhists or any other non-Christian ethnic or religious class. But what exactly is a Christian? I have in recent years more and more used the term follower to describe a true Christian because saving faith will result in a person forsaking his former life to follow Jesus.

So today we have millions of church goers who never hunger for the Word, never pray, never witness, never are convicted of their sin, and have no outward much less inward display of being a follower of Jesus the Christ. And yet these people have been told they are Christians and that heaven is their eternal destination. This is no game and it is not a fringe issue, this is the very core of the Spiritual battle that began with Lucifer in heaven. Does it not grieve the heart of God that so many are not only unconcerned with their Spiritual condition, but that so many have false confidence that has been given to them by the leaders of the church. These are not carnal Christians, these are lost people who have a form of godliness (even that is shallow) but are in the very lifestyle that denies the power of God and His salvation. Their desires are for the flesh and it dictates their thoughts and lives. This situation is more serious than anything that has ever taken place in the oval office or the United Nations and yet the conscience of millions are being soothed while they happily journey to the lake of fire.

Now let us examine what the Bible describes as carnal Christians. Besides the Bible describing some as carnal Christians how else do we know that there are carnal Christians? Well, all of us have at some point been one. By God’s grace we haven’t stayed in that state but we were there for a while. What is a carnal Christian? It is a person who hast lost the desire to serve and worship Jesus and he now walks and lives by the desires of his own flesh. This person once did follow Jesus and was a growing believer but he now languishes in a lethargy Spiritually but gains fleshly momentum. The Word no longer excites him and he leaves it alone. Prayer has long since ceased and he no longer speaks of Jesus and His kingdom. This person still may attend church but it is strictly a perfunctory exercise that no longer offers him any vibrant and broken worship and he doesn’t care about or seek the presence of God.

He may be a preacher, a deacon, a teacher, or an elder in the church but he is still carnal. He may use some excuse to soothe his conscience like "everyone is a hypocrite" and with that he continues his reckless slide away from God. This person may be a Martha, full of activity but lacking the intimacy and humility that accompanies sitting at Jesus’ feet in adoration and worship. This person is done changing and he is never convicted of personal sin and therefore his conscience becomes seared and hardened. Now except for going to church this carnal Christian lives like an atheist. Let me ask you this question: How can you tell a carnal Christian from a lost person? The answer is you cannot. And a carnal Christian if left on that journey for a while loses the witness that he is a Christian because the Holy Spirit will not give assurance to a disobedient child.

We all battle carnality and its pull on our hearts, but a carnal Christian is one who has stopped battling, stopped pressing, and stopped seeking to please His Savior. A carnal Christian can appear spiritual. Many a preacher has ministered from the pulpit only to be revealed as a practicing adulterer during the time he was pastoring and preaching. He was carnal but appeared as spiritual. But it doesn’t have to be that blatant. A person can be an outspoken defender of the Lord Jesus and His gospel but if that person is filled with pride and shows no humility that person is a carnal Christian no matter how versed he or she is in Greek and Hebrew or how many degrees he has or how many people support his ministry. Pride automatically creates an atmosphere of carnality in our hearts and lives and if it goes unrepented of it leads to habitual carnality that appears spiritual.

So carnality is so insidious in nature that it can camouflage as outward spirituality. And now we arrive at the statement that was penned by my friend Mike Ratliff.

“Our hearts contain a horrible religious fanatic who maintains an idol and altar complex there that is dedicated to self worship“.

That man (not Mike!), that carnal but religious man, is us. He is born of Adam and works at the behest of Satan. But this fanatic is cleverly religious and has assembled an array of religious artifacts that appear to be spiritual but are nothing more than dead shells that not only cannot bring life but are continually bringing death. He claims to honor Christ but dishonors Him in everything he does. Where altars of surrender should be there are now altars of self esteem. Where the table of showbread was this fanatic now serves the carnal cake of his own words and rejects the eternal Bread of Life that can feed the spirit. The glorious light of the golden candlestick that once stood giving off the regenerating power of the gospel has now been replaced by the humanistic light of this world and all its pleasures. The altar of incense that once provided the spiritual fragrance of prayer is now replaced with the activities and dead strategies of man. At the very entrance where the bloody sacrifices were offered unto a covenant keeping God there now stands a bloodless and painless altar into which this fanatic offers his best life now and his purpose driven life and his emergent dialogue, all of which he demands that God accepts.

And do not look for the holy of holies for this religious fanatic has removed it altogether. The awesome and holy presence of Almighty God and His Christ was for former days and in these post modern days we do not need the very presence of our Lord and Savior. Watch this religious fanatic as he puts on the new and improved priestly garments. Loud and making a fashion statement this fanatic breaks the mold for priesthood. He jumps, he jokes, he tells stories, he laughs, he promises, he entertains, and he tells God’s people that God is passing out money for all of them. This kind of priest does not speak of atonement for he never speaks of sin so atonement is unnecessary.

This fanatic is pride personified and rather than openly rejecting the teachings of the Scriptures he twists them and ever so craftily changes them so as to mesh the world with the eternal and the sacred with the profane. He acknowledges God’s Word as part of the equation for truth but he subtly rejects it as the absolute authority because that view certainly places many inconveniencies in today’s modern world. And on a personal level this fanatic removes the simplicity that is found in Christ and he arranges a complex of subtle altars that operate under the radar and whose system of worship is based upon sacrificing truth and exalting each person in his own eyes.

I have heard my fanatic tell me good things about myself when all the while the Spirit was calling me to repentance. I have heard my fanatic tell me how spiritual I was and that I was so, so wonderful in my ability to point out error and prosecute false prophets. I’ve heard him many times assure me that I was very important to God and that in the kingdom battle I was indispensable. And there have been times when I have believed his lies until the Spirit of truth exposed me as prideful and through God’s forgiveness and cleansing I was made useable again. So call him what you wish, the old man, the old nature, the carnal nature, or the flesh. But I embrace Ratliff’s systematic theology which calls him a “religious fanatic”.

Nevertheless we can never look upon this fanatic as a curiosity or a well meaning but somewhat misguided fellow, no - NEVER, he is a monster of iniquity who hates God and is His sworn enemy and if given enough rope he will try and destroy and even kill you. Do not attempt to reason with him, never listen to him, there is only one way to deal with this religious fanatic - death by crucifixion. This crucifixion must be carried out daily and the two wooden planks of this cross are the double edges of the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Read and reckon yourselves dead and raised again to walk in newness of life. And if you look inside your spirits you will find the tomb of that religious fanatic and... what’s this? Here is someone in his place…

Christ in you the hope of glory!!
I am crucified with Christ nevertheless I live, yet NOT I, but Christ lives in me…