Monday, April 30, 2007

Embracing the Glorious Mystery

Col.2:2 - That their hearts might be comforted; being knit together in love, and unto all the riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;

There are many new age and old age meditation techniques being taught today and many of them attempt to keep a link to the Christian faith. Opening one’s mind to everything and anything is sometimes embraced as a way to enter the spirit realm and even to commune with Jesus Himself. These mind melding practices are worldly at best and demonic at worst. They should be avoided and renounced by any believing follower of the Lord Jesus who desires to be faithful to God’s Word.

But this post is not about those mysticisms, no, this post is about the knee jerk reaction that has some Christians avoiding the Christian practice of meditation and being challenged and edified by continuing to be aware of the spiritual presence of the Lord Jesus not only in our everyday lives, but in a special time of communion in our prayer lives. Do not ever remove the mystery that supernaturally interacts with born again followers of Christ Jesus because if the eternal mystery is brushed aside then what you are left with is a dry and earthy religion that resembles more of a theology lesson and less of a powerful and intimate and sometimes fear instilling relationship with the Creator God Himself.

Now before you light the candles and get into the lotus position keep reading.

Now when we as Christians speak of meditation we in no way mean an opening of our minds to thoughts and impressions from unknown sources, and we surely don‘t mean go see what the Hindus and Buddhists do and copy them, God forbid. We mean meditating primarily on God’s Word, its truth, its essence, its power, its application, and even its glory. And then there is the meditating upon the Lord Jesus Himself, His majesty, His cross, His resurrection, His second coming, His love, His mercy, His power, His authority, and many, many other attributes that the Holy Spirit will use to draw us to a clearer revelation of our Wonderful Lord. And these meditations should translate into surrendered worship and acts of love and obedience, for if they do not then they are just useless musings of a distracted mind.

And all the meditative thoughts will always exist within the parameters of God’s revealed Word and if there comes new and extra-biblical revelations they come from the fleshly mind of the person or worse yet the spirits of disobedience. And meditating upon the Lord and His Word should be an enhancement to study and prayer, not an easy and lazy replacement. But there is a place in the Spirit that can lift a believer out of the usual and minister to his spirit in a miraculous and even mysterious way.

God is a Spirit. Go ahead and just define for me a spirit. Invisible smoke? Tangible material or intangible presence? And if we agree that God’s Spirit is everywhere at all times, explain how then the Holy Spirit reduces a part of His presence to enter into the spirit of a believer while retaining the omnipresence He has always had. Alright, stop, please, we think more highly of ourselves when we attempt to capture an infinite mystery in the puny mind of a man. That is why it is so entertaining to watch us try and explain, for instance, the Trinity. Three persons but one God. One God in three revelations of the same person. Egg shell, yoke, white. Again, stop, it is a mystery that is beyond human explanation and as a matter of fact it is one of the mysteries God either chose not to explain or couldn’t teach us on our level. God Himself is THE mystery Who has condescended to reveal Himself to us on our level but is still a mystery none the less.

So let us not approach God as a collection of doctrinal facts that complete a chain without any links that are missing from our intellect. And let us also not separate Him from His own Word and let our meditations serve as any authority. We know what God has written to us and with that we can be sure, but the glorious mystery of it all should always remain in our hearts. And sometimes, when we are praying and meditating about knowing the Lord Jesus in a deeper and more meaningful way, the Holy Spirit may just lift the veil ever so slightly to let us understand a little more about Christ and at the same time allow us to see more clearly how much we can never know this side of His throne room. There always will be a mysterious nature to our God and Father and His Son the Lord Jesus, known and yet ever learning, and the Scriptural journey matriculates the knowledge of the spirit into human communication that is sometimes simple but will ever have the fragrance of the eternal mystery which will one day be revealed to all those who love the Lord Jesus and are the called according to His purpose.

So believe on Him as Lord and Savior, offer up your petitions, witness his gospel to the ends of the earth, but always, always remember and experience the mysterious wonder of it all. He is, and was, and always will be. Oh yea, we’ve got all that cornered, just read my doctrinal statement.

Great is the mystery of godliness…

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Man of Sorrows

Is.53:3 - He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…

The new and improved, post modern version of Jesus has Him upbeat and relevant with a great sense of humor. Laughing and bubbly, He is reinvented in the image of corruptible man with all the flippant eternity-less attributes. And if the Biblical descriptive parameters are now erased then anyone can create their own Creator. Like a non-Biblical Mr. Potato Head you can mix and match any parts your little heart thinks and desires, and the finished product is as powerful as Mr. Potato Head even if some call him “Jesus”. That is another Jesus and those who are systematically dismantling Him from any Biblically recognizable form are anathema. Ultimately it makes man the Word of God which, of course, is blasphemy.

Smiling men with no real burden and whose prayer closet is the kitchen table with coffee and a Danish, stand before God’s people and present an entertaining dialogue that is contoured to do anything but warn about the gathering storm. Jesus is an upper class cosmic yuppie whose lot in life is to make your life better. Jesus could be Dr. Phil and most would gladly accept Him as such as long as their situation improved. All the prophetic warnings and the Biblical alarms have become outdated if not already completed in the first century and any mention of hell or judgment is a real downer and you run the risk of losing members to the upbeat crowd down the street. And just as they came they leave feeling blessed and satisfied, ready to get some rest and prepare for Monday when they will again meet with their real god, money. And of course the so called preacher will take Monday off because the exhaustion of speaking on Sunday has taken its toll on him physically as well as spiritually. What a powerless narrative of the present day perfunctory drama we call “church”.

And yet the Word Himself reveals Himself as a man of sorrows.

If we are to accurately live the Christ life we will feel many times of sorrow over any number of things in this world. Not just the things that affect everyone like the loss of a family member, or the experience of a financial hit, or even health issues. We will feel the overwhelming sorrow that comes from seeing the whole world lying in the Wicked One and at war with their Creator. We will feel the pain that comes with knowing that millions continue to march into a Christless eternity with no hope of recovery. We will weep over the massive falling away of our brothers and sisters in the evangelical world and with the eternal consequences that the apostasy carries with it. But missing in this new and always upbeat and modern Christianity is the man of sorrows.

And yet the Word Himself reveals Himself as a man of sorrows.

The world is starving for food as well as God’s Word. It would be impossible to fully reveal the awful suffering that is now taking place in so many forms throughout the world. From the horror of AIDS, to the unwatchable suffering of children, to the living filth in India, to the physical and emotional subjection in the male tyranny of Islamic societies, to the sexual exploitation of women and children everywhere, to the breathtaking violence in many African countries, these and many more realities are “out of sight out of mind” to us but are seen to God. And Sunday after Sunday after disgusting Sunday well dressed as well as casually dressed professing followers of the Lord Jesus come and go without a single tear shed for anyone, anywhere. How is it possible? How can we say we have the Spirit of Christ in us and have no tear producing compassion for that which Jesus Himself wept over? Let our dog die and for him we shed tears, but for the suffering of pitiful humanity our eyes are dry. And we are not even concerned. Oh yes, we have the correct doctrine, but not the very heart and pathos of the man of sorrows.

And yet the Word Himself reveals Himself as a man of sorrows.

And when we look into the mirror of God’s Word we run a quick brush through our hair and run to the next appointment on our busy schedule. Can we not see that our Lord and Master requires so much more of us and in the face of our prideful and abject disobedience it is only by His mercies that we are not consumed? Not even a little sadness that our flesh is in such control that we must force ourselves to spend time in His precious Word and after a half hour we are through, full to the brim, the world of Martha demands attention. Does it not grieve us, maybe not yet change us, but at least bring some moisture to our eyes watered from our broken heart? Or is our heart so calloused and worldly that we have become practiced at avoiding the pain of allowing the Spirit free inspection and inventory in our spiritual walk, much less our inner man? Godly sorrow that leads to repentance has been lost to the church for decades and like Sampson we don’t even know it is gone. No conviction, no repentance, no sorrow.

And yet the Word Himself reveals Himself as a man of sorrows.

And finally have we no sorrow for the church herself? The money changers lead openly the applauding flock, feeding them from the hedonistic compost heap and very little of the sincere milk and meat of the Word. For every message about the coming judgment of the Lord Jesus, if any, there are 50 on all different ways to improve your marriage. And still the church divorces at the same rate as the world while the so called shepherds cover their eyes and cash their checks. It’s a beautiful system if you’re the anti-christ. And even that isn’t enough to satisfy the fleshly desires of the mixed multitude, they must also have an exhilarating new journey that has a cerebral guide that relies on maps etched by serotonin not the Word of God. On the front of these new maps they say “The Word of God” but turn it over and it reads “made in the cerebellum”. And when we see such deception that cannot be overestimated does it move us to beg and cry out to God to anoint us with the power necessary to rescue the fallen brethren?

And yet the Word Himself reveals Himself as a man of sorrows.

Heb.5:5-9 - So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an high priest; but He that said unto Him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten Thee. As He saith in another place, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchesidec. Who in the days of His flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared; though He were a Son yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.

This Scripture speaks of God, God the Son. The Creator of everything in human form and the Second Person of the Godhead prayed. God prayed to God. Look out now, you are already in over your head. Jesus prayed to the Father and with that knowledge we must confess ignorance of such a glorious mystery. Just to realize that Jesus prayed is an astounding revelation that widens the confounding essence of the interaction between the Trinity. It has often been said that if the Son of God prayed how much we who are mere mortals?

But look closer at the phrase that says that Jesus “offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears”. Who today offers up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears? And why the divine tears, for whom were they shed? God was sobbing and are we not even curious? Do those tears that roll down the beard that would soon be plucked out move our own spirit? And those supplications, can you imagine for whom they were asked? And there He is, at the doorstep of His eternal purpose, and lo He weeps uncontrollably.

The Lamb of God that is about to take away the sin of the world is now immersed in such sorrow that leads to strong and unashamed crying before the Father of Glory. When was the last time you were immersed in your own tears before the Heavenly Father? Is there nothing to weep over and is your heart so dry that tears are rare? Do the souls of your children ever open the floodgates of your heart and bring forth tears of love and supplication on their behalf? Do you ever cry over the spectacle of your own sin before the Father? Does the wretched line of lost sinners marching toward an eternity of tormented justice, do they ever move you to tears?

So what moves us to tears? A sad movie? A lost dog? Physical pain? A demeaning insult? So we have tears for those things but where are the tears that fall before the throne of God and actually touch His heart? Some of the Jews thought Jesus was the prophet Jeremiah returned because He wept so often. Oh how our hearts are captured by the things of this present world while all around us the invisible battle rages for the souls of men. And before the Captain of our salvation goes to the final battle, He weeps. A strange preparation for a battle, is it not?

The battle is won on the battlefield of God’s grace, assaulted with the Sword of the Spirit, securing the territory by faith, and clothed with humility. And like our Lord we should allow the Spirit to break our hearts and come before our Father begging and beseeching Him to glorify Himself in our very lives. And on a boat, in the Sea of Galilee, the disciples asked their Lord, “Don’t you care that we perish?”. How could they ask the Author of all care that question?
And could God ask us today, “Don’t you care?”. And we would reply with a flippant and indignant, “Of course we care!”.

Well, if you care, where is the evidence? If you care, where are the prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears? I know, it is not sophisticated and it shows weakness and especially us men, we are strong, let the women and children cry. Jesus stood looking over the city of Jerusalem and He wept at what He saw.

Brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus,
Look at this world. Look at the church. Look at people. Look at Calvary.
Pray, weep, and lift your broken heart up to God, He only receives broken and contrite hearts that can be filled with Him.
Grace...So Misunderstood

Jn.1:16 - And of His fulness have all we received grace for grace.

The common and general definition that has been used to satisfy and sometimes placate the masses is that grace is “unmerited favor”. Although in a surface and most shallow sense that description does touch the absolute fringe of the gift of grace but in so many ways it misleads and falls painfully short of even challenging the heart to allow the Spirit to bring us deeper than just a toe testing understanding of God’s amazing grace. Let us dissect these two words and see if they pass the Biblical smell test when gazing at grace, while embracing a desire to honor God with our description because in the final analysis only the revelation of the Spirit can even give us a glimpse, everything else is nothing more than cerebral gymnastics usually designed to bring convenient closure so we can add it to our theological dictionary.

Unmerited. That seems so humble and yet it abandons the core of who we really are. It appears so antiseptic as the word attempts to remove all our good works as the reason for God’s gift of grace, but again this word fails to filet our inner man and lay wide open for public inspection and, yes, humiliation about the depravity and absolute rebellious nature of every single cell of our being. We not only refused to make any attempt to gain God’s favor but we made every single possible attempt to discredit Him and our very driving purpose was to blaspheme His Lordship and His Holiness openly and finally and daily declare ourselves as “god” of our own existence. We were His declared enemy and our lives were a magnificent expression of our hate and disgust toward our Loving Creator. So the word “unmerited” is a comfortable effort that only tells half of the story, the more pleasant side that we can more easily embrace and teach.

Let me share a disturbing illustration that I hope will rearrange the theological furniture of our hearts and force us to re-examine the very nature of God’s grace. In the country of Uganda there is a civil war, we don’t hear much about it in America because they don’t have oil and they also are not white (sorry but let’s be honest). One of the uniquenesses of this war is that the rebels capture and kidnap children and teach them to maim and kill their enemies. They equip some with razors and the children, some as young as 6, are trained and forced to cut off ears, lips, and other parts of people’s bodies or else they themselves will be killed. Now this forces millions of children in Uganda to hide and constantly move in groups to avoid being captured. It is common for a group of one thousand children from age 3 to age 16 to huddle overnight in an abandoned building only to rise before daylight and move again in a relentless effort to escape the ruthless rebels. Not a story but a reality.

Let say you wanted to help the children and so you organized a group to go over to Uganda. You collected food and clothing and you took money with which to build strong buildings to protect these children. So you went and helped feed and clothe and protect these children and with that you felt good. Now these children did not deserve your help based upon anything they had done before but due to your sense of compassion you desired to help them. They had received unmerited favor from your hand.

Now as you got off the plane you immediately saw what these rebels had done. People all over were horribly maimed and there were mass graveyards marking their victims, and they presently were still engaged in enslaving children to carry out their violent acts. So you unloaded the cargo with all the materials that you had brought to help and minister, and instead of the helpless children you took them to the rebels and gave them to those killers and child abusers. All the Africans watched in confounded horror and unbelief as they saw these rebels being showered with these wonderful gifts. No one could explain it. Why? Because, brothers and sisters, they were witnessing an earthly representation of the grace of God. And the spiritual reality of the grace of God is impossible to fully understand in the natural and when it is reflected in such an illustration as this, we finally are awakened to the fact that we have been fooled into believing a shallow and self serving understanding of the glory of God’s grace.

Favor. Let us examine what that word means when it comes from God Himself. We sometimes get this idea that God’s favor is something akin to letting someone butt in line ahead of you or waving a car to pull out in front of you. Or we think it correlates to giving someone a promotion who really doesn’t deserve it. It is those carnal understandings that rob us of the glorious and eternal nature of God’s favor of which there are an infinite number of components. Just a dust particle of God’s favor would be beyond what anyone could fully absorb or comprehend, but God has not given us a dust particle of His favor. Open the ears of your understanding, you will not be able to completely fathom the truth of this, but God has given us His complete and perfect favor that contains no limits and holds no restraints either in blessing or time. One more step, please, because God has actually bestowed upon us all of His available favor which of course is eternally infinite. Now you must remove your shoes for this final step crosses the threshold of unimaginable glory. God has granted unto us….the same favor….that He has shown….His own Son.

You can breathe now. My poor mind and my poorer pen can never do justice to that revelation, but as a theological woodpecker I can only peck and peck at it attempting to go further into God’s heart all the while realizing that this side of heaven I will only see small chips that in themselves leave me broken and spilled out before Him Who is the Author and Finisher of all of it. And one day I will know even as I am known which is a colossal act of favor in itself, and on that day I will see Him from Whose face the heavens have fled away. And as I, in my new favored body, fall to my knees in immobilized worship, I will then fully realize what grace actually was.

What will we do, what can we do, when we come to terms with the fullness of the truths we now believe in part but then fully face to face? How will we feel and act when the grace that we so lightly defined on earth now reverberates throughout heaven and to the glory of God and we alone, we alone, have been the recipients? As I write this I am beginning to weep as I am overwhelmed at the prospect of seeing the Author of this grace and being granted the eternal privilege of glorifying Him who purchased it all for me. I am at the end of words, if you are a believing follower of the Risen Incarnation of Grace then you will understand.

In Revelation 7:17 the Word describes the Lamb in the midst of the throne and wiping away all our tears as He leads us to the living fountains of water. In the very next verse, after our tears have been wiped away, the Word says there was silence in heaven for one half hour.
I have wondered if that silence represents the first time we see clearly the Lamb of Grace and we are rendered speechless. All of heaven glorifies the Risen Christ with the silence of a holy and speechless worship.
Unbelievable, Jesus in Whom is all of God’s amazing grace.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Shadow of the Law

Heb.10:1 - For the law having a shadow of good things to come…

There is a movement afoot that is an attractive and clandestine path back to the Church of Rome and ultimately back to Leviticus and the law itself. It is completely out of God’s will for His New Testament bride to adorn herself with the grave clothes of that which is dead and gone. Paul clearly teaches that the main purpose of the law was to expose our sin and bring us to Christ. All the symbols, all the observances, all the priestly clothing, all the candles, all the incense, and all the shed blood of animals were symbols, precursors, and object lessons that were a weak rehearsal that would one day be fulfilled in Christ Jesus. When the New Testament was cut and fulfilled through the blood of God’s Son the Old Covenant and all the beggarly elements were to be done away with to give way to the exceeding glory that was in the Lord Jesus.

So now the bride was to worship her Bridegroom in Spirit and truth and not bound by the visual furniture of the Tabernacle, and in truth, WE are the tabernacle. If the purpose of all these Old Testament accoutrements were to bring us to Christ, why would present day believers who have found Christ set up their worship as if they were still looking? And if Christ is found today in the Spirit why would we let visual representations that came from the law compete for the invisible worship of the Spirit? It is an unhealthy and unbiblical mixture that keeps alive that which was created by God with the inherent ingredient of death. To be done away with was its glorious destiny. In a metaphor it was John the Baptist whose ministry was to point to Christ and then decrease and eventually die. The law is dead, leave it alone.

If you go to a church where the minister wears a robe have you ever wondered why? Well it comes from the Roman Catholic Church who not only wanted to visually exalt the clergy, but they shaped themselves after the Old Testament law. But today there is no order of priests, we are all priests and Christ is our High Priest so why the robe? It is evident that it comes from the law not the New Testament. Does your church light candles? Same principle, a shadow of the law that supposedly now represents Christ’s presence. An altar? That is also a modern representation of the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat which is actually sacrilege because it attempts to steal the invisible glory which is in Christ Jesus. Today's holy altar is not made with hands, it abides in the sanctified heart of a true believer of the Lord Jesus.

When the minister turns to the altar and prays he is in his posture representing the intercessory ministry of the Old Testament priesthood but Paul tells us we no longer need a mediator between us and our Lord, Jesus is our one and only mediator. By the way, when you see the television preachers ask you to send in your prayer requests and they will bring them before God they are also digging out the Old Testament usually for filthy lucre. And when you see churches baptizing babies they are again attempting to portray the Old Testament circumcision in an observance of the Old Testament covenant ceremony which is no longer valid in the New Covenant. Today’s covenant is purely by grace through faith which the infant cannot exhibit. And the parents are to train their children in the gospel, so baptism is again the Roman way of salvation which some protestants have mistakenly adopted.

And today there are teachings that now include things like Advent wreaths and observances of Lent and other man made holy seasons. These too are reaching back into the graveyard of Old Testament commandments and attempting to sanctify them in the New Covenant which is the Covenant of the Spirit, not the commandment. And when we do these things we not only dilute the glory of Christ in the midst of His bride, we resemble the Roman Catholic Church which was actually the originator of many of these fleshly rituals. Paul again is clear in Colossians not to blend our worship and obedience to Christ with any observances of holy days, and moons, and sabbaths, and all the other things that had their place in God’s redemptive plan but now are obsolete and not worthy of the glory of His blood washed bride. We are not only free from the law we are to discard it. Of course that doesn’t give us license to sin but our obedience is to Christ not the Old Testament. We are not of the carnal commandment, we are born of the Spirit and God’s law is now written on the fleshy tables of our hearts not the tablets of stone.

So when you see and hear some modern Christian movements begin to incorporate more visual and Roman Catholic things into their services, beware, they just might be heading down a path that again leads into bondage and the shadow of the law. I was raised in the Lutheran church which had many of the things I’ve mentioned because Luther retained many of the Catholic traditions he had been taught. Have we not had sufficient years from the Reformation to completely shake off the Roman influence? And what ritual do Lutherans observe as the sacrament of becoming a member of the church? That’s right, your first communion. Why? Because the Roman Catholic church believes that the actual blood and body of Christ is eaten in communion and with that you receive more and more grace that will one day help you to get to heaven. So the Lutherans have compromised saying that it isn’t the real body and blood but it is more than just a representation. More grave clothes.

Why would a person who was let out of jail set up his new freedom with visual reminders of his former incarceration? He wouldn’t, and neither should we. That doesn’t mean we can never have a candlelight service or a cross or other symbols, but they must not ever be the conduit for worship to our Lord and Savior. And the movements that advocate incorporating these things in the gatherings as worship enhancers are going the wrong direction. Thirty years ago if you had told me that evangelicals would again return to the Roman Catholic Church I would have said you were delusional. It turns out much of the evangelical world is delusional.

Christ is the end of the law for everyone that believes. Even orthodox preachers get so afraid that believers will stray in their freedom they teach that although the law doesn’t save you it still has a place in today’s evangelical world. No, it is dead and gone for everyone who believes, Jew or Gentile. Do not be afraid, the Spirit is well able to translate the Word of God into living deeds of obedient love in this New and final Covenant. Jesus is all in all, He needs no Old Testament help and all the shadows only obscure the glory that is rightfully His. And all the New Testament commandments come from our Lord through the Spirit, not from the law through Moses.

So today we can enter His throne room by grace and commune with Him directly. We have access into His redeeming blood, there is no need of a bronze wash bowl. Christ in us is our hope of glory so there is no need of the ark made with hands. But we are free to sing His praises, free to bow our heads, free to lift up holy hands, free to kneel in His presence, and free to lift up our worship in the Spirit before His holy presence among His people. Thank you Father for the Old Testament and what it teaches us about many things, but we praise your Holy Name that we have been born of the Spirit, washed in the redeeming blood of the Lamb, sealed with Your Spirit, and we are standing fast in the liberty wherein Christ has made us free.

Whom the Son has set free, is free indeed.
And in case you want more I recommend reading this post about The Scarlet Woman at Possessing the Treasure.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Narrow Way

Matt.7:14 - Because straight is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth to life, and few there be that find it.

It seems we have forgotten an important statement from the Creator’s lips that when taken seriously and without modern interpretive dilution should be startling and bone chilling. It stands as the doctrinal plumb line by which all gospel presentations should be measured. We continue to play fast and loose with the very Words that alone can put in eternal context the gravity and exclusivity of the gospel message.

Oh many have taken it upon themselves to widen and broaden the scope and meaning of what Jesus said, but they are lying spirits that are sent to damn many to an eternity in the fires of God’s judgment. That sounds like someone from the 1600’s but it is in fact coming from the lips of a living follower of Jesus Christ who was saved under Billy Graham but who has been awakened to the crumbling demise of the truth and the gathering storm of God’s violent return. This is no game and the implications of the current status of gospel presentations echo in the halls of God’s throne room and reverberate in the caverns of the tormented souls who thought they had been assured of their eternal safety.

Jesus once said that many would come to Him claiming to know Him and even presenting arguments of good works as their evidence and He will send them away as workers of iniquity informing them that He never knew them. They said they knew Him but He never knew them. Do you not think that such a statement would deserve more than a passing reference maybe once every five years from the average pulpiteer? Can you not feel God’s heart grieved over how His Son’s sacrifice has been presented and offered as an earthly panacea to our hedonistic problems. And to implement a short and perfunctory prayer as the glorious door into the born again experience is nothing short of manipulative blasphemy.

Becoming a believing follower of the Lord Jesus is completely by faith, given by the Spirit of God, and completed by that same Spirit. And it is all by God’s grace. But the object of that faith must be on the Lord Jesus, not His abilities to fix your problems, but His finished work on Calvary for your sins. And you must be willing to submit to His eternal leadership and Lordship in your life. Can you fully understand all the implications of what that entails? Of course not, but you cannot become a believer without becoming a follower and you cannot become a follower without becoming a believer. And surely this is a magnificent mystery that is carried out in the spirit realm by the will and direction of the Father.

But again God says the way is narrow and few there be that find it. Why few? Is it because we don’t have enough stadiums in which to hold meetings? Is it because we don’t try hard enough? No, it because of the hardness of people’s hearts, their love of sin, and the deception of the devil. People are not an eclectic group of well meaning but stumbling sinners who are attempting to find God. On the contrary, the whole world is filled with monsters of iniquity who love their sin and are quite content with being their own gods. God would be completely just if Christ had never come to earth and He condemned the entire human race to an eternity in hell, his justice would be forever unquestioned.

And so Jesus, the Author and Finisher of salvation, teaches His followers that the gospel road is very narrow, it has no shoulders and no alternative routes. And millions upon millions of people who have been assured of their salvation continue their unbiblical journeys with little or no warning concerning the exhortation to examine yourselves to see whether you are actually in the faith.

In the end, the gospel is being presented and defined today with broad and wide ranging parameters that not only are not Biblical, but are much more open and “generous” than most of the previous generations. We have leveraged the eternal souls of millions upon a new and tantalizing gospel of an earthly self help variety rather than a “take up your cross” version which, of course, is what the Author of salvation said.

A super massive black hole is when matter equivalent to a billion of our sun’s mass is compressed down to a speck of dust. So all the incredible matter is contained within that one speck and the gravitational pull from that speck is so powerful that the escape velocity is greater than the speed of light. In laymen’s terms, even light cannot escape from the power contained in that one speck.

So the next time you hear a man present the gospel as a wide and generous way that can easily be found without any real sacrifice and self denial, remember this: All the philosophies, all the self helps, all the psychology, all the strength, all the good works, all the religions, and all the knowledge of every man who has ever been born can be distilled down to one exclusive, simple, all powerful, and eternally narrow truth. And in that one simple and august truth lies all the power of the Lord God Almighty from which nothing escapes.

Matt.7:14 - Because straight is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth to life, and few there be that find it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Shaft of Light from Heaven

Jesus said, I am the Light of the world.

The metaphor can symbolize many things and many times in the life of a believer. Can you remember that something hit you and you paused for a moment in your hedonistic walk through darkness and a shaft of invisible light penetrated your consciousness and in a moment you thought, “What is this life all about?”. That was not the first time you heard about eternity, but it was the first time that divine shaft caused you to think about it in a way other than a passing thought. There is a difference in the realm of the mind that separates a general gathering of facts from being in possession of truth.

That moment began a process that the Spirit would build upon in the coming days. The residual thoughts that were with you as you continued your life would become your friends and would re-introduce themselves to your mind and heart as you went along. While driving or before you fell asleep or while listening to a song, that shaft would reappear and again you could not escape the question, “What is this life all about?”. Things along the way would invigorate that shaft of light. A cross on a church, a snippet of a preacher’s words on the radio, a bumper sticker, or even someone sharing Christ with you. The shaft of a past moment would again remind you of the possibility that it was not just an anomaly or coincidence, it just might be communication.

Then one day as that light was drawing your thoughts, another and much more powerful shaft of light singed your inner being. This time it brought with it another thought that carried with it eternal and serious implications in its very nature. This time your mind stopped and you thought, “What if Jesus is the Son of God, and what if He is Who He claimed to be?”. Alright, now this light is beginning to get scary, and as you give substantive thought to the question that now is rattling around your mind you feel a number of emotions. Fear, unsettling, excitement, wonder, doubt, and many other emotions start to gather in one spot and you go back and forth between thinking you are becoming unbalanced or knowing you are starting to come out of being unbalanced. Jesus, you have heard about Him most of your life but this is different. Could it possibly be true? Oh well, you move on but these thoughts brought by that shaft of illuminating light never leave you no matter how you try and occupy your mind.

Then came a day, a wondrous day, a life changing day about which words can never fully describe. A royal and glorious shaft of light penetrates the innermost part of your being and reveals to your spirit and mind that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God, and that He is the only way to eternal life. For a moment it takes your breath away and you are immobilized. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Suddenly all the Bible verses you heard by accident throughout your life come alive, they actually mean something now. Even the name of Jesus takes on an incredibly new and sacred place in your heart, and you have just begun to know Him. You will realize in future days that this shaft of apocalyptic light was the single most important event in your life and that it not only came from God, it is Him in the Person of the Holy Spirit. You will never be the same, that shaft of light now lives in you.

Time is now passing and that same shaft of light penetrates the hearts of sinners all over the world and the events of many are personalized mirrors of each other. Different but the same. But there is coming a day about which the world is dangerously unaware. This day will see a bright and violent shaft of light break through the dense darkness of this sin cursed world. It will blind the eyes of billions and will create immeasurable fear in the hearts of all the earth dwellers. The games have come to a screeching halt and the fearful attention of all the inhabitants is summoned. In an instant, with no more warning or second chance, the brilliant shaft of glory illuminates the four corners of the earth and the darkness that men loved flees now before this beam of incandescent wrath. Millions upon millions are now burned alive and their souls are sent screaming into the judgment that has awaited them before the worlds were made. God’s justice now comes riding with the Lamb as He now makes war with all who know not God and obey not His gospel. A dreadful spectacle that wreaks of death both physical and spiritual, forever.

Do not think my words are melodramatic or exaggerated, far from it, when the Lamb’s light arrives upon mankind on that day it will be the nightmare that had hung over mankind since Adam, and a prelude to the Great White Judgment itself. Does it seem like a fairy tale? Like a science fiction picture from Hollywood? An archaic religious fable that intelligent people have long since cast off? If that is what you believe than you will not see it, you will experience all its eternal horrors. Please repent, and allow the first shaft to penetrate your heart and let your ears hear what the Spirit will speak to you, not what you speak to yourself.

But to us who have experienced the brilliant shaft of God’s light of eternal grace, we fear for those who will stand in His path. But we bow before His glory in brokenness and worship, and we say,

We await your glorious and triumphant return to take up your rightful throne, and on that day there will be no need for a temple made with hands,
“for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.”
A nail pierced shaft of light.

Monday, April 23, 2007


The word itself is an exited expression of praise to Almighty God. I sometimes get so overwhelmed that I am a believer and follower of the Risen Christ. Nothing but filth did I have to offer and disgusting was my prideful and self consuming life, but He sought me. Oh my, I cannot even approach explaining how I feel when I realize the completeness of His Person and the abject worthlessness of mine, but He sought me. I was nothing and acting as my own god and lord without a thought to Him, but He sought me.

I have been gifted with eternal life with all the surrounding features that can be imagined this side of heaven, a sinless existence without pain or sorrow, living in an indescribable dwelling place that is of course fit for a King, and He wanted me. In the natural my presence in such a place is infinitely incongruous and surely would stick out like a sore thumb, but He wanted me. The angels, the streets of gold, the Seraphim, the glorious throne, the gates of pearl, the robes of linen, the precious stones, the atmosphere of holiness, and He wanted me. All these things and a million others that cannot even be thought of, and then there is…Him.

And which attribute should I cull out from among the infinite list and with that worship Him? Grace? Mercy? Love? Joy? Life? Which can be separated from the rest? None, they are all interconnected and seamless in His exquisite Person. For all of them, each and all, I speak incomplete words of praise. I will never reach a point in eternity that says, "It is enough, you have fulfilled the vessel of praise". Each expression of praise will give birth to a million more, and each new room of worship will contain a million additional doors that lead to larger and more boundless oceans of deserving worship. It is without measure.

Where are you words that do justice to Him? Why does my mind grasp for any communication that is lofty enough to use for Him and yet I find them still shallow? Why can I imagine myself broken and bowing before Him and still I desire to find a deeper posture to reflect my inward worship? And when I open my mouth to sing forth His praise, why do I search for songs that are louder and softer, holier and more glorious, more expansive and yet more personal, and living expressions straight from a heart that has been changed by the Spirit of Grace?

And how do I see Him? I see Him in a grateful remembrance of one night in March of 1975 when I saw first Him with the eyes of faith. I see Him as an exquisite revelation of the One I had preached and heard preached for all my life but which words now do not even touch the hem of His majestic garment. I see Him in august authority and infinite power, all of which was distilled into and made operational through the redeeming love of Calvary and made perfect in death. I see Him as the personification of grace, the grace I received in my condition of utter unworthiness and was crowned with His inward presence as His eternal seal. I see Him as love, pure love, holy love, divine love, and as Solomon wrote, my love.

To speak in such personal terms seems so common and disrespectful and yet He taught us to call unto Him in endearing terms of both intimate love and Lordship, which are mixed by the Spirit Himself. So I search for a word to encapsulate all the spiritual emotions I feel about my Lord and Savior. If I had to chose just one word and I was allowed to speak only one word before Him, it might be…

Hallelujah !!!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Ram's Horn is Sounding

Hos.8:1 - Set the trumpet to thy mouth…

Hosea was a prophet called by Go to speak to the ten northern tribes, the largest of which was the tribe of Ephraim. Now God’s people had been bewitched by the prosperity of the heathen and soon after they went seeking these things they began to leave the precepts of God and quickly they went into Spiritual adultery. God instructs Hosea to marry a woman named Gomer, who was immoral and a harlot, because God wanted Hosea’s married life to reflect Israel’s spiritual life. Throughout his ministry Hosea would warn God’s people of impending judgment but to no avail. They continued in their treachery against God and eventually they were carried away in chains to Assyria, never to be seen again.


In verse one the trumpet is the Ram’s horn and God has used it for several purposes. It is blown sometimes as a call for God’s people to worship. Sometimes it is blown to call God’s people into battle against the enemy. It is blown in times of great celebration. And sometimes it is sounded as a warning, not about the approaching enemy, but as a warning about God’s judgment. These trumpets are blown in Rash Hashanah as a representation for Israel to repent. It is in this way that God says to put the trumpet to Hosea’s mouth as a warning to the people of God as they have slid into a deep state of compromise and hedonism.

Hosea 8:1 - ...because they have transgressed my convenant, and trespassed my law.

Verse one sets the stage for all of Israel’s sins because it identifies the foundation for all backsliding and worldliness, the transgression of God’s Holy Word. This transgression comes in various forms, sometimes openly and recognizable, but sometimes in a well meaning but clandestine form. While the scribes of old attempted to be painfully careful in how they put God’s Word on paper they were well aware that sometimes a slight deviation in the transfer could result in the change of the meaning which they considered an anathema. And even with their obsessive attention to every detail they sometimes made mistakes in their copying which had to be corrected. Of course the Spirit was mysteriously overseeing the entire process and preserved His Word for generations to come.

Now if we have the preserved Word of the Creator today, how should it be interpreted? As the scribes were so careful in transferring the written Word from paper to paper, how careful should we be in transferring it from paper into the hearts of men? That is the question that surrounds the evangelical community today because many preachers espouse the veracity and accuracy and even the inerrancy of God’s written Word in their doctrinal statements, but in practice and presentation and obviously in emphasis they stray far from what others have taught in the past. So indeed, how should we interpret and then spread the Word of God today? It is the ultimate question that again confronts believers. Of course there are also those who now teach that the Bible is an overall story with no specific, doctrinal authority. It is not inerrant, they say, but they claim to adhere to the core redemptive teachings. That, my friends, seems legitimate to the natural man but it is the beginning of the end for Christianity itself in those circles. Maybe not for this generation but for generations to come, and the effect of that thinking has rapidly pervaded many theological circles to such an extent already that some are beginning to claim that God’s overall story includes all the other faiths. I am just putting the Ram’s horn to my mouth, you must open the ears of your heart.

So what about we who believe that God not only spoke to man, He was also powerful enough to preserve His Words? Some now believe that the Bible must be interpreted within the framework of the present culture. All the Biblical absolutes are to be contoured to adjust and mesh with the western cultural thought processes. They assume the average American for example can not connect with the theological terms that many of us have learned throughout church history and our own personal journey. Redemption, holiness, substitution, and even salvation are terms which have been lost to the post modern vocabulary so they insist that new and more relevant expressions of Biblical truth must be sought out. That again sounds legitimate to the well intentioned mind, but it is a path that quickly is leading to an unrecognizable form of Christianity that seems disjointed from past evangelical movements.

Keep listening to the warning of God’s horn, this situation has gotten so bad so quickly it is bound to deepen disproportionately in the coming years. And it is heralded by learned and well meaning men and many of them are humble and friendly men who are willing to engage in polite and respectful discussions about almost every deviant strain of Christian thought. The situation gets worse by the day and the doctrinal morass like volcanic lava continues to consistently take over more and more of the evangelical landscape.

And then there are those who say that the all encompassing purpose of the church is to mold the Word in such a way as to appeal to the lost and dark world. They have become quite adept at presenting God’s Word in a format that everyone will enjoy and without any sacrifice or conviction of sin people by the millions are repeating a neat little prayer and immediately being told, on the authority of God’s Word no less, that they are saved and on their way to heaven. The Sunday messages are centered on these earthly lives and how to overcome problems and let God fix your problems because that is why He came into your life in the first place. Most of the church gatherings resemble nothing more than a place of entertainment and after the show they exhibit little or none of God’s power. And like the children of Israel people are running to hear how they can better their earthly lives and enjoy the abundant life God has promised. Bigger houses, bigger cars, better clothes, bigger church buildings, bigger staffs, bigger televisions, and bigger salaries are sought after, not bigger prayer lives, deeper holiness, financial sacrifice, and broken hearts over how we have treated God’s Word.

So God tells Hosea that His very people have transgressed His covenant and His Word. They are supposed to hear this divine lament through the Ram’s horn of God’s warning, judgment is coming. And today God’s judgment has come but we still do not understand. God has written Ichabod over most of the church saying “The glory of the Lord is departed”. Where, you ask, is the judgment of God in our midst? How did God judge His people in the Old Testament? He pulled back His presence and He allowed the heathen to overrun His own people in punishment and discipline. Has your blindness so overtaken your eyesight that you continue to sleep unawares as the heathen come over the hill to pillage, destroy, and deceive God’s people?

Look at how our children are being bombarded by the heathen with every evil work. And where is the church, where are the anointed prophets that are calling us to repentance? No, our prophets take the easy and carnal way, they scold and speak out against the heathen. What if Hosea spoke about Assyria and not to Israel, would God have been pleased with him? Oh, they say, the world is full of abortion, full of pornography, full of child molestation, full of immorality, full of divorce, full of greed, and full of sin in general. And while they rail against the godless world God’s people say “Amen” while they themselves are full of these very things. And if the prophets of God would speak God’s Words to whom God intended would they be applauded by God’s people or as the Lord they seek to emulate would they be without honor in their own communities?

Hosea 8:9 - For they have gone up to Assyria, a wild ass alone by himself...

In verse 9 God says that Israel has gone up into Assyria and is like a wild donkey with no care and frolicking about without any restraint. The church is now the world. How many unregenerate people sit Sunday after Sunday in the congregation without any thought about their eternity? And why? Because the preacher isn’t talking about eternity, he’s talking about things that appeal to the unregenerate. The average “service” is nothing more than a place to enjoy a neat little oratorical presentation by a man who sometimes has spent more time on the golf course than the prayer closet. And the glory of God has departed from their midst and like Samson they don’t even know His presence and power has departed. And if what I am sharing from my soul isn’t accurate than relax, eat drink and be merry, but if what I believe is happening is true than incline your ears to God’s trumpet and repent. Run out of Assyria and return to God’s presence.

The emergents have left the building, they are not returning. The same with the relevant seeker crowd, they have invented a system that will appeal to the Assyrians themselves but is not what God desires.

Hosea 8:4 - They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes and I knew it not; of their silver and their gold have they made them idols...

In verse 4 God says that His people have set up their own leaders but they are not the ones God has chosen. In that verse God identifies what these preachers will be presenting for worship, idols of silver and gold. Does it not astound you how trans-generational God’s Word is? We don’t need a new and relevant version, we don’t even need to wring our hands over the Hebrew and Greek, let us start by obeying the ENGLISH in brokenness and contrition, begging God to live His life through us not invite Him into ours.

Hosea 8:2 - Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee...

And probably most sad and striking of all, in verse 2 God says that Israel will not heed the trumpet’s warning but they will respond by saying, “My God, we know You”. What are they saying? Oh my, they are using their very knowledge of the Lord as an excuse to stop up their ears from hearing His voice. I said - They will use their knowledge of the Lord as an excuse not to hear His voice !!!? So today people are saying “We are Christians also so do not correct us from our worldly ways because we know Him too”. And so the wild donkeys continue to frolic wildly throughout the church world and the world’s church. Keep sounding the trumpet to all of us.

And before we get puffed up and allow our hearts to grow disdain and hatred toward our wayward brethren, let me show you God’s heart. In Hosea 4:17 God says “Ephraim is joined to his idols, let him alone”. Oh yes, God is angry. Israel has closed her ears to God’s correction and gone a-whoring after her own idols so God gives up on her. But draw your attention to Hosea 11:8 where God’s great heart overwhelms Him and He declares, “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?”. If you have hatred or disdain in your heart for Warren or Bell or Kimball or for that matter anyone else, you do not have God’s heart and you are no better than the heathen.

Let us all hear the Ram’s horn as it blows a sound of warning to all of us, and let us beg God for the power that we need to change our lives forever.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

For a while I will have to moderate comments because I got some crazy anonymous comments about lawsuits concerning the Jehovah's Witnesses. Does anyone know how to block a certain commenter or must you screen them all? I am still in kindergarten when it comes to this blogging stuff, mostly right brained and sometimes people claim "no brain".
The Shelter

Ps.61:3 - For thou has been a shelter for me…

There are many types of shelters in this present life. There are physical shelters of wood or brick that can keep people safe from the elements. There are friendship shelters that help to support people in times of need and trouble. There are family shelters that rally together as they grow and provide comfort and love. And many other shelters both small and great that people use to provide safety and sometimes escape. People use alcohol and drugs for shelter from the pressures of this present life. Some use work, some use entertainment, some use immorality, some read books, some use sports, and again an array of other things that provide some temporary relief and shelter from this world and the uncertainty of their own minds. Many shelters, all temporary, all incomplete.

Many times I need a shelter and the Psalmist makes that same claim. What do I need a shelter from and also to? Sometimes I see the long sad line of earth walkers, hurt and bruised, sinful and cursed, living unfulfilled and empty lives that will eventually culminate in a Christless eternity. It is sometimes overwhelming to me while other times I am blind and indifferent to it, right? But in those times where my spiritual eyes are opened by the Holy Spirit to catch just a glimpse into the real picture, the one that the Lord sees, that is the time that I need a shelter. And in those times there is only one shelter, Jesus Himself.

There are times where I feel I could have done so much more for the One I love and follow. I begin a self destructive inventory of the last 32 years and I begin to condemn myself for countless opportunities that were missed. I see my fleshly desires as sidetracking the desire for a complete and utter surrender to the Father’s will. Realizing that I belong to Him, completely and wholly, I wonder at myself. Why do I not always dwell on Him and His precious Word and why is my soul sometimes downhearted? How could anything in this world have any attraction for someone like me who has seen the Savior and experienced the power of His life giving and life changing conversion? And the all or nothing mindset sets in and I am tempted to give up. And in those times there is only one shelter, Jesus Himself.

I see the utter fragmentation of the body of Christ and the doctrinal morass that runs rampant through even the so called evangelical community. Teachers who question the spiritual absolute of the Scriptures while others claim it but exhibit something much different in their teachings. Whole movements bringing in spiritual thoughts that completely move away from the core tenants of the historical church and many now teach that in order to move forward we must jettison all that we thought we knew or what the church in the past has taught. And in those times there is only one shelter, Jesus Himself.

Christian lifestyles continue to change in acceptability and practice. So many Christians now drink alcohol and even preachers openly admit that they enjoy a cocktail now and then. Years ago people like me who never believed it was an outright sin would all agree that it was best to avoid the appearance of evil in this over indulged culture, but now those archaic ideas of self sacrifice are unsophisticated. Preachers attending R rated movies, Christians regularly cursing, millions of professing believers secretly viewing pornography, women dressing provocatively even in church, and preachers involved in immorality both heterosexual and homosexual and still preaching. And in those times there is only one shelter, Jesus Himself.

The entire country going after the hedonistic pleasures that God hates, and while the entire politic system is one open cesspool Christians still believe there is some redeeming factor in a man made system of carnal promises and power. I have watched the church become more and more politically involved and less and less spiritually involved in the last 32 years. We have seen the sickening sight of so called evangelical leaders reveling in their political power and actually joining hands with infidels just because they may or may not espouse some moral issue. And the church tries to obey the governments observance of a national prayer day while the president allows Muslim clerics, Roman Catholic priests, Mormon leaders, Buddhist monks, Universalist women, and any other spiritual mongrel pray together and even lead in prayer in the White House while the president bows his head in reverence as they pray to demons. And in those times there is only one shelter, Jesus Himself.

I’ve seen believers treat doctrine not as a teaching tool based upon the written Word of God but as an idol. And on the other side some believers recoil at doctrine preferring rather to come up with their own thoughts based upon earthly observations and post modern thought. Written creeds would restrict future revisionism. Doctrine is explained truth, but Jesus is not just doctrine. Jesus is a Person, the August Risen Christ and the Son of Almighty God, and doctrine is important to understand Who He is, but doctrine is not Jesus. I listened as some talked about Jesus in a non personal and doctrinal sense and many times they have all their doctrinal i’s dotted and their t’s crossed but speak of Him always as if He remains encased in Luther’s ninety five thesis’s still posted in the sixteenth century. Some seem so much more able to express written doctrinal battles than any passionate and intimate written expression of their own walk with the Savior. Others are always picking apart people like Luther or Edwards because their writings seem to inhibit the modern journey of doctrinal metamorphosis. And in those times there is only one shelter, Jesus Himself.


So let me close with Him, the Shelter. What does it mean to receive shelter from the Shelter Himself? The Scriptures are replete in their reference to finding safety and comfort if Christ. Under His wings, in His presence, and other phrases give us the revelation that we can not only be “in Christ” doctrinally, but we can find Him as a dwelling place personally. As I outlined my own need to escape in Him and find a shelter I am guessing some things were familiar to your own experience. The path is simple but must be serious and with a thirsty desire.

We must be absolutely in earnest and not only will our desire be to escape other things, it must be equally to seek Him. As you begin to run to the Shelter you may well discover you have cluttered the pathway with the things of this world. Your earthly schedule will demand you punch a time clock and if indeed you do the shelter will only be partially available to you. Is that what you desire, only part of Him? Now if you are given wisdom by His Spirit on how to clean your daytimer, then you have reached the shelter’s door. The Spirit will now insist you allow Him to carry your baggage to another location. What baggage you might ask. The baggage of your own sin. Sorry, this may sting. So as the Spirit opens the door to the precious Shelter that is in the Lord Jesus, you are filled with repentance, cleansing, and a flood of forgiveness through the blood of the Shelter Himself. Do not look back, but allow the Spirit to capture all your thoughts as He begins to slowly turn up the light that will reveal more and more of Christ Himself.

Now something wonderful will happen. In the past you have heard God speak to you through His precious written Word, and you have felt the voice of direction in your spirit. But once inside the Shelter you will begin to hear the Lord Jesus, your Savior and Friend, speak to you. Not an audible voice, no, it will be much more real than that. There is nothing more meaningful and soul refreshing than being in an intimate time of communing with the Lord Jesus. In those times the Spirit will build your faith and give you more understanding about the One with whom you pray than you ever dreamed possible. Later, as you read His Word, you will see confirmation of those things in the deepest possible way. It will seem as if you were dreaming but the Word will substantiate every intimate moment. Wings of eagles will lift you up, and these times of refreshing will be your very life which is of course the life of Christ Jesus.

Finally, as you leave that incredible place called shelter, you will realize it was actuality in Him, Jesus. Do not attempt to explain the experience, just learn of Him. Some things you can share, with other things there will be no words. But if indeed you met with Him in Him, and if God’s grace granted you an intimate and personal experience within the Great Shelter of God’s Son, then you will always desire to return. This place of a looking glass into the heart of God is unique, and is not just passed around to any believer like so many forks and knives, no, this place will always remain bordered by sacrifice, protected by surrender, on the other side of thirst, and through the portal of the closet of prayer.

You must desire to meet Him there with all your heart. You will be challenged and distracted at every turn. Excitement and discouragement will interchange and you will think you arrived sometimes only to find it was just an oasis of grace along the way. But no one who has every spent one moment in that Shelter has every thought themselves shortchanged, and no one has every believed the sacrifice was too weighty. One real and intimate moment with Jesus Himself is worth all the lives of all the people who have every lived.

Ps.27:4-5 - One thing have I desired of the Lord, that I will seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion, in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me, He shall set me upon a Rock.
Seek Him with all your heart, and when you find the place of shelter in His very being, take off your shoes and enter on your knees, it will change your life.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Scene of Violence

And again the country and even the world has become mesmerized at the blood letting that came from the hand of a deranged killer. Columbine and Virginia Tech, Son of Sam and Charles Manson, Bundy and Gacy, and every future event of wanton savagery will grip the attention of the civilized society. Riveted to the next newscast to hear the latest details of the downward spiral of this and other men and hoping to see hand held phone images of fear and panic during the blood bath. Like slowing to see a car wreck, our attention slows to take it all in.

But on a hill outside Jerusalem there once was an awful spectacle, gruesome and repugnant in its appearance and terrible in its viciousness. And the contrast between innocence and deserving punishment infinitely outweighs even the undeserved nature of the murder of the little Amish girls. Holy and blameless hangs the Lamb who was now physically carrying out what had been already seen by God’s prophetic vision. The depth of what was happening at this bloody event can never be fully experienced, it was His and His alone.

The Spirit has shared its meaning to the finite intellect of man, and that same Spirit has illuminated the hearts of believers who see their sin bearer, but to be completely immersed in its suffering majesty is for Christ alone. Whenever the world is fixated on the blood of earthly victims, we as followers of the bloody Lamb must turn our gaze to Golgotha, the place of divine death, draped in crimson, wondered by angels, but glorious in essence. And just as He was slain before the foundations of the world, His amazing sacrifice continues to flow through the sinful hearts of believing saints, washing them clean again as it had on that first believing moment.

The bloody scene at Calvary is a living event, finished in time yet continuing to pour its sin cleansing stream throughout the following days. The cross was our beginning and yet our end, our opening and our closing, our indictment and our release, our guilt and our innocence, our shame and our glory, and our death and our life.

Who can know it? The world in its carnal attempts to explain history misrepresents Him and even blasphemes His name. And even when they accurately portray the human aspect of His crucifixion they completely miss the divine purpose and expression. And the church sets aside a day they call Good Friday to quickly remember the event and then go on about their business never realizing that we should meditate and worship before the suffering Lamb daily, humbly acknowledging that this earthly victim is our Heavenly King. Let the world have their serial killers and their awful and deadly rampages, we have Christ. Let them study and dissect the different reasons why someone must die at the hands of angry men, we know why our Lord died. No one forced Him and no one took His life, He laid it down for the sins of many and the many sins of each.

The blood that gushed from the Savior’s body is the only blood we can love. Truly love. Oh we can Biblically explain it but mere words can never communicate what our hearts say and feel. In a mystery, every sinner who by faith embraces the cross as his only payment for the God separating sin that has pronounced him guilty, he is forever drawn to the place of redeeming love.

The scene of violence becomes a scene of peace to the blood washed sinner. Man can walk on the moon, he can see distant galaxies, he can view atomic particles, he can transplant human hearts, and he can wrap the entire human experience up and cover it completely with his own philosophy about its meaning and importance. But he can never understand the cross without the Spirit. The world in all its growing knowledge about everything, still sees a dead Jew on a Roman cross. And if one day they invent a way to implant all the knowledge from all the computers into every man’s brain so that he knows everything that can be known, and if that same man fails to understand only one thing, the cross, that man knows nothing.

Praise God for the scene of violence that struck an eternal blow to death itself, for us. And while we all watch the constant reliving of another bloody scene of purposeless violence, let us remember the scene which had the eternal purposes of the Creator woven within its bloody wounds…forever.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Two Tragedies

On the campus of Virginia Tech University a lone gunman murdered at least 32 people and wounded many others. His motives are unclear and his identity has now been made public as a student with South Korean heritage. No one can fully enter a mind that is encompassed with rage, hate, and unimaginable emptiness. This scene will be much more frequent as the demonic activity increases worldwide as Satan’s last gasp materializes on the front page. Do not espouse the “random act” definition, these are orchestrated straight from the counsel of the demonic dwelling places which seems too unsophisticated for this intellectual post modern world. But there was an obvious lapse in judgment that may have caused many students their lives.

The gunman killed two people in a dorm room at approximately 7:30 A.M. and immediately the police were summoned. They cordoned off the crime scene and waited until approximately 9:30 A.M. before e-mailing some students of the danger. At that point there still was no general and urgent lockdown order that would have protected many students within safe, locked walls. Others would not have even come to class if the networks would have broadcast a general alarm to stay away. The oversight was due to a misguided assumption that the first two killings were domestic in nature and that the gunman probably fled the community in an attempt to escape. That was a deadly mistake. In two hours the gunman would reappear in unsuspecting and unwarned classrooms with murder on his mind and ultimately his own suicide.

There is another more massive, more diabolical and deadly sin taking place within the evangelical church community. Preachers by the thousands are remaining ominously quiet about a coming event that will not only take the earthly lives of billions, but it will eternally kill their souls. God is coming. God is coming in wrath. Unbelievable and unimaginable wrath. The wrath of the Creator cannot be overestimated and Paul tells us that it will be in “flaming fire taking vengeance on those who know not God and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

Go ahead, ask an unbeliever if that were actually true, would he expect those who know it to warn them. Ask him as he assumes that to be true, what should the preacher tell people. The judgment of a Holy God, a consuming fire, is headed for this world and none will stand in His path. The objects of His eternal wrath are busy playing games and making money while the prophets that should be crying aloud and sparing not have become as wind. The mouthpiece of God, the body of Christ, is consumed with doctrinal battles, name calling, pontificating, Christian cruises, micro-managing everything, and they remain shamefully silent about the monstrous event that we say we believe is coming, maybe soon.

Why does the world ignore us and count our belief system as nothing but sounding brass and tinkling cymbal? Why don’t they believe what we believe? Because we do not believe it either. If we really believed it we would live differently and our demeanor would be much more passionate than the “blend in with the neighbor’s” life we now enjoy.

And once in a while, I’m just asking for once in a while, we would arrive at church recognizing that something was wrong with the preacher. He would seem solemn and tired. His eyes would be red and he would come in during the service, avoiding the usually salutations. And as he stepped behind the pulpit he would begin to cry, having just come from a terrible and awesome scene which was granted him in an all night prayer closet. The usual bristling would cease and every eye became riveted upon this man as the room would become uncomfortably quiet. The preacher begins.

He tells everyone that what he is about to share most have heard before, but God has just visited him with that same truth only this time with a fire that burned through his very soul. He says he knows that visitors may feel uneasy, but he prays that all would feel broken and uneasy before God’s Words, not his. As he expounds upon the coming fury of the living God his words seem to echo throughout the room and into people’s hearts. At first many are unusually attentive due to his change in demeanor, but soon it is the Holy Spirit that grips everyone’s attention. The preacher goes from anxious and loud warning to soft pleading through sobs. People begin to cry as they are confronted with the reality of God’s approaching vengeance and convicted by how their mundane lives have misrepresented God’s truth.

The preacher only gets through half of what he had planned to say, but it doesn’t matter, the building is now full of Christ followers on their face weeping between the altar and the porch in serious tears of repentance. Unexplainably, the children are moved to tears both by the emotion in the room and the mystery of the Holy Spirit’s ministry directly to them. Their games have ceased also. Time passes but no one notices and in that very room heart changing miracles happen in time and in place. Many will never be the same and the message of God’s impending judgment has been transformed from a doctrinal questionnaire into living clarions of the Word of Almighty God. Their family members, their friends, their community, and even the ends of the earth will now hear in a startling witness from this little group. They now count their lives as nothing and Christ as everything. Their hands will now be washed of the blood of unconcerned sinners. They will need constant reminders, and once in a while, once in a while, please God once in a while, God will set their preacher on fire and everyone will be singed by the holy flames…to the glory of God.

Does that resemble and mirror what takes place in the average church that claims to believe God’s judgment is impending over the inhabitants of this world?
I know, you don’t have to answer. Like I said, some see one tragedy today,
God sees two…

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Will He Come Tomorrow?

Lk.12:40 - Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.

Have you ever stood on the roof or balcony of a tall building and looked down? As you looked down with guarded fear, have you ever imagined jumping? Not really jumping, but imagined really jumping? As you stood there, did an exhilaration that was "exited fear" run through your heart? It sometimes makes you back away and adjust your position.

Now imagine for a moment that Jesus Himself will return for you tomorrow. Imagine it, really. Think on it; meditate on it; imagine it as a possible reality until something stirs inside you Now you will never really jump off a building, but Jesus really will come back. Now when you imagine that tomorrow really is that day, it will cause you to adjust your life. The deeper you reflect on that possibility, the deeper your life will change.

Jesus' return is a two-sided coin. One side is joy unspeakable and full of glory. The other side is an embarrassing, heart rendering sorrow that begs for another chance as we see our Wonderful and loving Savior and wish we had a thousand lives to serve Him! Let us constantly imagine His return at any and every moment, and with submission, love, and surrender live in a way that will honor His glorious return! Dear Jesus, my life is totally yours, bought with a price, so speak to me, your servant is listening!!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Emerging Orthodoxy

The title caught you, didn’t it? It was meant to, like so many others. Here is the opening premise of this post - there are two general camps within the evangelical world. To say this is over generalizing would be obvious, but here is what I see.

One camp is made up of a mixture of methodologies and a mixture of theologies. This particular group is much more flexible and mobile in their approach and in their belief systems. They are very open to new ideas about almost anything and many have lifestyles that would make many conservatives uncomfortable. Some are orthodox in their written creeds, but even those are open to dialogue and discuss basic Christian thoughts about issues that fifty years ago would have been thought untouchable.

This group is comprised of evangelicals who are searching for relevancy and change, new believers who have no evangelical history, liberals who interact with evangelicals, conservatives who have embraced wide open methodology, and a whole host of methodological and theological mongrels (not a slur). Picture a giant ship packed with passengers lined around the rails of the ship and as this ship slowly leaves the dock they are all waving. This defines this new group who are collectively leaving some of the moorings that others are still tied to. To be sure there are people within this group who are true believers and love Jesus, but also to be sure they are parting company with many others who remain on the dock. And by the way, there are many more on the ship than remain on the dock.

Now I cannot speak definitively about all the different streams and eddies that journey throughout this group, I doubt whether anyone can given that by definition that is what they are trying to avoid. There is so much variation and difference in their midst one really has a hard time crystallizing in any organized way some of the major departures. And sometimes when you describe someone as an emergent they will turn around and claim he is not emergent but emerging. OK, you get the point, it is very murky and mercurial in nature and confusing to many, even those who wish to understand. Most of the writings speak to each other and no one has stepped forward to offer some corrective guidelines.

And with that over simplification and observation from an outsider I want to give some thoughts about where the orthodox group is and should be. What does it mean to be orthodox? Again in a generalization, being orthodox means you believe the cardinal doctrines of the inerrant Scriptures which would be espoused by a list of accepted Christian preachers and writers of the past. I mean if you believe what Calvin or Wesley or Spurgeon believed you probably are considered orthodox in your theology. But there is also another part of the term orthodox that has become accepted as an ecclesiastical colloquialism, it is your methodology. If you can pass a Calvinic test on paper but you preach in a clown suit, you are not considered orthodox because your methodology is so aberrant that it affects your standing as orthodox even if you claim to believe the orthodox checklist. I know, this label thing can get a little tedious but it helps in identifying people’s Biblical identity which in these days cannot be known without a scorecard.

So let’s examine us, the orthodox group.(I can hear everyone put down the sword and pick up a smaller and less painful scalpel) Within our group we have our own set of very real problems that have in some ways fossilized our effectiveness and rendered us without much power. And now as the emergent/purpose/seeker movements are sailing away with a full cargo we have attempted to steer them back to some semblance of Biblical orthodoxy which admittedly varies even among us, and in this scene we have been exposed. I can feel the self righteous hairs begin to stand up on our sometimes stiff necks and we do not take kindly to correction.

Look around, do we not write extensively about everything and anything? Do we not share among ourselves the awful state of the compromising church? Do we not have our leaders who can articulate what we are thinking? Do we not have our own books, CD’s, websites, blogs, conferences, and all the rest? Have we not sufficiently flogged Rick Warren? Brian MacLaren? Rob Bell? Etc., etc., and etc.? Do we think we need more of the above or can we now realize it will take more than just the same, same, same? Are we witnessing great numbers returning to their moorings or are they continuing to stray? And by the way, if you’re interested, while all this continues the lost still march to a Christless eternity (hell for the orthodox) with so little impact from a wealthy and doctrinally learned church that it is a disgraceful exhibition of the dearth of God’s power so evident in the book of Acts. Go ahead and hide behind your elect theology, God is not impressed.

We are powerlessly orthodox. Listen, can you hear the low grade hum running through the electrons pulsating within the internet as orthodox believers, gifted by God, continue to write extensively excoriating the falling away of the church while drawing deceptive comfort in their doctrinal towers of ivory. We accurately point out that so many churches today have exchanged the eternal power of God for the temporal activities of man. Very true, and if every church stopped all activities except Bible study and prayer for one year they wouldn’t be able to pay the enormous note on the building and the Jehovah’s Witnesses would take it over since they don’t have to borrow and won’t.(another connected subject) Now stop for a moment. Can we not see that much of our writing and commenting and conferencing are just mirrors of what the mega church down the street does. Literary activity that seems to result in very little dividends in the spirit world.

It will never change until there is an unexpected and remarkable movement of prayer, individually and collectively. And I personally believe it should start with Sunday morning. You want orthodoxy? You want the early church design? You want to emulate the church fathers? Then we will have to come to the meeting place on Sunday mornings prepared to fall collectively on our faces before God and allow the Spirit to dictate the time He desire us to pray. There may well be mornings that the actual “service” never materializes in the face of an unusual move of the Spirit among praying people.

It is light years easier to be doctrinally orthodox than to have elongated seasons of prayer. Picture this, in the year 300 A.D. in the city of Thessalonica there are many meeting places in many homes that we will call “churches”. As people gather on Sunday morning they begin to pray and call out to God. This practice of believers coming together for prayer marks and identifies the meetings and is a carry over from the Temple which was a place of prayer. This praying part of the gathering is commonplace and very important. Now as the gatherings became larger some of the houses decided to cut down on the prayer in order to save time. Eventually some churches only had an elder lead in a one minute prayer to open the meeting while some still had a couple of minutes within the “service”. You see, as the churches grew and as newcomers came in there wasn’t enough time for much prayer and besides, the new comers didn’t like it and they wouldn’t come back. I mean how would a visitor feel as he entered the house and saw people on their faces before God praying? And what about the nice clothes, they weren’t meant to wallow around on the floor in prayer.

Well some of the churches who considered themselves orthodox decried this practice and they rightly observed that they were giving way to the culture and compromising what had been historically God’s chosen methodology. They rebuked the prayerless churches for conforming to the crowd and for being relevant to a post Roman culture. They said it didn’t matter what the world did, we should continue to spend much time on Sunday mornings in prayer for a host of reasons. These new three hour gatherings were designed to be short so everyone could go home and enjoy the day and that was an affront to God.

Now some of the more relevant churches still had a time issue, so they decided to only take the Lord’s Supper once a month instead of every Sunday morning. Well that really set the orthodox groups off, how dare they cut out the Lord’s Supper because of time. They would remain faithful to God and receive it every Sunday. In addition, the orthodox churches passed out scrolls that told everyone to avoid these new, streamlined gatherings and they named the leaders of this new movement.

Zoom to today. When you get to your place of gathering on Sunday morning do you see a throng of believers strewn throughout the auditorium in fervent prayer? Wait, I know. After the pastor has greeted people and a few songs have been sung he calls for prayer and for the next hour everyone comes before the throne of grace in brokenness and repentance. And of course you all cry out to God to rescue Rick Warren and Brian MacLaren and all the others, and I’m sure you plead the Blood of Christ over them and yourselves. I’m sure your church does that every Sunday morning, right? And once in a while the Holy Sprit grants such grace in the midst of prayer that the planned service must give way to a great and Christ honoring season of prayer which becomes a testimony to our children that this is what we believe in and what God desires. And when we get home our children ask us why everyone was crying and how come people were kneeling and lying stretched out on the church floor and we can take that opportunity to tell them about the privilege and power of prayer. You see, children, that is how the churches prayed in the early years and God did many great things among them and we are begging Him to do it again.

Or, when you get to the church are people greeting one another politely as they scurry to the worship center. And as you enter the auditorium people are chit chatting and perhaps the instruments are practicing. Quietly most are sitting looking around or perusing the bulletin and generally letting their minds wander. Now perhaps as the service begins there is an opening prayer or a prayer in the midst of the service, how nice. You call that orthodox in light of the early church? We are hypocrites with giant motes in our own eyes and while the evangelical world departs for greener pasture we have long since departed from powerful pastures that from time to time shook continents. And after approximately two hours we again greet one another as we head for a favorite restaurant for a Sunday meal. Most of the time our services are tearless as well as prayer less (they are related). Why? Have we no tears for our captured brethren? Have we no tears for the lost? Have we no tears over our own lethargy? Oh, but we are orthodox!

Orthodox in what? Does your prayer closet resemble that of Praying Hyde? Would your children remember you as man or woman of prayer, and if so, doesn’t it grieve you that there are more announcements than prayer? Ladies and Gentlemen of the Orthodox church, we have left our own spiritual roots. Our forefathers in Thessalonica would consider our meetings a convenient gathering to soothe our consciences and designed to make us think or bless us or even learn something but certainly not designed to offer up a collective voice of elongated intercession into the very throne room we doctrinally believe we have access into. So if we are going to loudly point out the departure of our brothers and sisters today, let’s not forget to loudly confess to anyone who will listen that we have departed ourselves. Don’t you just love this? Does it scratch your orthodox back?

I know you’re thinking “When is he going to get on the emergents?”. I just did but maybe you weren’t listening. Don’t you see it? We are the emergents who emerged from a first millennium culture and made our churches relevant to the culture of this new millennium. We have jettisoned the prayer and the Lord’s Supper and the reading of God’s Word and the eating together in favor of a new culture that must get on with their own business so we will lend God two or three hours which doesn’t include much time for those things. So we’re orthodox? In our own minds.

When a segment of God’s church repents and falls on their faces before our Lord in many sacrificial times of prayer and fasting, then and only then, may God grant us the power that will mirror the great swelling words that so easily drip off our pens and mouths. Until then, the great crowds will continue to walk away and we will pat ourselves on our backs, glad that we are not like other men...

You see, we’re orthodox.