Sunday, September 30, 2007


Nine years ago I brought home a six week old German Shepherd. We named him “Chopper”. My wife did not want a dog and for a while domestic tranquility was suspended, but it took only one day and she fell in love with Chopper. Now if you are not a dog (or animal) lover you will never understand how an animal can become a part of your family.

We tend to assign them anthropomorphic thoughts and emotions, and they become an outlet for our need for unconditional love. A dog greets you without question, his affection is constant when you are broke or just inherited millions. He is the object of your children’s love and with that relationship they learn to care. The children learn compassion and concern when the dog is sick, and they learn to share with the dog.

I realize dogs are animals, but there are many attributes about a family pet that can be used to teach about God’s love and our response. Needless to say we are heartbroken about Chopper, especially my wife and youngest son. Providentially in July, I had purchased another German Shepherd puppy named Rudy (Notre Dame). Again my wife was totally against it but I knew that when Chopper died I would not desire another dog so my thought process was that in 3-4 years Rudy would be grown and be there when Chopper died. I had no idea that Chopper would be healthy one day and put to sleep the next.

On Saturday morning as I prepared to take Chopper and Rudy to a scheduled check up I noticed Chopper was listless and with no appetite. After a days worth of tests in two animal hospitals he had deteriorated with inoperable cancer and was bleeding internally. He was put to sleep at 6:00 PM this past Saturday while in my oldest son’s arms, the rest of the family could not bear to be there. I usually do not share things like this but please pray for us and especially my wife. And is this how God feels when someone dies without Christ?

I do believe Rudy will begin to help us heal.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Where is the Outrage?

Somewhere around 52 A.D. a man living in the city of Corinth began to have an immoral relationship with a woman who was known as his father’s wife. It is not clear exactly what her relationship was to this man, but the general feeling is that she was his stepmother. It was scandalized throughout the community and yet the man remained a welcome worshiper in the church. Somewhere between 53 A.D. and 57 A.D. the Apostle Paul wrote a scathing letter to this church chastising them for their carelessness in dealing with this man. “You are prideful”, Paul says, and he goes on to tell them that things like this need to be “purged out” from among the believers who are faithful to Christ.

Paul goes on in I Corinthians chapter five to rebuke the believers about their cavalier attitude and that they should judge sin in the fellowship of believers not the unbelievers, and that by letting this kind of sin remain within their gathering they were exhibiting a fleshly pride that was dishonoring to Christ and that like leaven would eventually have an affect on everyone and everything they did. Paul concludes by saying, “Put away from among yourselves that wicked person”. Paul was outraged at their lack of outrage concerning this man and his sin.

In a recent message at a gathering of Baptists a man named Mark Driscoll spent some time delineating some of the concerns he had about the direction of the emergent/emerging movement. He mentions a man named Doug Pagitt who pastors a church named “Solomon’s Porch” in Minnesota and Driscoll considers this man a friend and likes to fellowship with him. He describes Pagitt as a great guy, “as cranky as I am” and says he is “great to argue and debate with”. Driscoll says when he fellowships with Pagitt they both “have a great time”. Driscoll troubles me and is on some level complicit.

But this article is not about Driscoll, it is about our reaction to Doug Pagitt's words. From the book “Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches” Driscoll quotes Pagitt as saying “We must explore new ways of being sexual”. Now just digest that statement for a minute and realize it didn’t come from Dr. Ruth it came from a man who claims to be a minister of the gospel. Driscoll builds upon that by relating a public debate in which he openly asked Pagitt whether homosexual “practice and conduct” was incompatible with the Christian faith. Pagitt replied that being gay and Christian was not a contradiction in anyway. That is a distinct departure from Biblical truth.

In that same book, Pagitt makes the claim that making a distinction between matter and spirit or the creation from the Creator is being “reconsidered”. Of course Romans chapter one distinguishes that view as idolatry and paganism. Did you hear clearly what I said? Paganism and idolatry, which was exactly what some were bringing into that same Corinthian church without any concern much less any outrage. That is what witches and spiritualists and some deists believe, that God is His creation. And since God is creation then all creation is good and can be worshiped, and most of all the human body and its sexuality. Do you see the reason now why Pagitt has no problem with homosexuality? At this point do not lose me and stop here with just Doug Pagitt, it goes way beyond this one individual.

This thinking begins to invite new considerations about lesbianism, trans-gender, and even much more deviant avenues of sexual conduct. Environmentalism, as you can see, takes on a deeper meaning than just helping to take care of God’s creation, it becomes a form of worship to God Himself. It doesn’t happen in a generation and some of the men today still could provide evangelical beliefs, but the train has left that station and while the church is sleeping we will soon arrive at a station that looks and sounds very foreign to many of us. As a matter of fact, the coming station will promote things that go far beyond methodology and well into accepting things that all previous orthodox generations had considered sin and even anti-christ.

Now just recently Doug Pagitt and John MacArthur had a television debate over the Christian use of yoga which has pagan roots. I personally did not find it very important because Christians can just change the name and do the exercises, but in light of my research of Pagitt and others and their subtle and nuanced approach to paganism I no longer feel unconcerned. It isn’t yoga itself that makes it disturbing, it is that yoga is a link in the chain that is using pagan practices to pull the church into pagan doctrines. I do not believe these men intended to be used in this way, but they now are.

Perhaps most telling of all is the conversation that occurred after the debate. During the exchange Pagitt claimed that yoga was just a way to relive stress and MacArthur was asked how he relieved stress. His reply was that he went to the Word of God and thereby his stress was relieved. After the debate Pagitt was recorded speaking with a woman about the debate. She was not impressed with MacArthur and they both enjoyed some giggles about the starchy old MacArthur and his archaic thinking. And Pagitt remarked in a mocking way that it was almost unbelievable that MacArthur would claim that “God’s Word” would relieve stress. How antiquated and foolish. And Pagitt posted an article on his blog that defended his position while also using offensive language that is no longer considered offensive, the same language Driscoll has used.

I’ve related all that as a backdrop to my main point in this article. Where is the outrage? A man says these things and life goes on? And this man preaches at other churches as an invited guest, most recently at Mars Hill, where Rob Bell is the pastor. He is invited to preach to other believers and without much outrage except from the watchmen whose blog is so cluttered with garbage about everyone that when something like this comes along their voice is just seen as the same old static. Where, church, is our outrage? Has your pastor preached on this? And Driscoll is hardly any better, he is friends with these heretics so avoid him also. But he has lifted the corner of the tent he claims to no longer sleep in so his words give some insight, but in many ways he seems to desire it both ways.

How many times has the Word of God ministered peace to my soul and relieved the stress of this world and the anxiety of my own flesh? And yet “preachers” laugh at such a claim? I have known thousands of people who can stand and testify of the miracle working of the Word of God, able to strengthen and give joy and peace in the midst of the storm. The man who wrote “It is Well With My Soul” didn’t have yoga, he had God’s Word ministered by God’s Spirit! How are the mighty fallen and yet there is so little substantive outrage. And the speaking engagement that the Southern Baptists had extended to Pagitt has now been withdrawn, but that is not nearly enough. There should now be conferences held across the country to expose these men and their teachings. And these conferences should not be back slapping pride fests, no, they should be marked by prayer, fasting, tears, and an anointed call to repentance for all of us. Forget about “Why I am a Calvinist” or “Why I am an Arminian”, we need to preach messages that explore how we can be used of God to bring the church to repentance. We act like we’re standing on a street corner and watching a predator force a little girl into his car and doing nothing about it, and after it happens we go home without much emotion about what you’ve just witnessed. Where is our outrage?

And men are not our enemies, the devil is. Adam was not our enemy, the serpent was. But before we can have any impact on the situation we must be outraged about two things, the devil’s kidnapping of the truth and our powerlessness to do anything about it. Must we continue to live tomorrow as we have today and will the slide continue to pick up momentum having only the echo of our words to deal with? Outrage about others is self serving without a corresponding outrage about the state of the evangelical corner we inhabit. We have books and CD’s and radio and conferences but still the slide away from Scripture continues with creativity and energy. We need more than talk, we need heroes of prayer who will lead us into the unimaginable power of the prayer closet, now filled with cobwebs and dust. As we’ve made great and swelling advances in technology we’ve left the authentic old ways that used to bring revival to entire cities.

No wonder the world is drawn to these new ways and new truths, they have more demonstrable power than the hollow words of correction that correct nothing. If we are to glorify our Heavenly Father we must allow the Spirit to rend our own hearts and not just rend our garments. Our protestations not withstanding, we are spectators who kibitz and mock and reject the notion that we are in need of a mirror ourselves. Why could Paul say his ministry was not with “enticing words of man’s wisdom” but it was “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power”? And that was to the same Corinthian fellowship who were so moved by Paul’s words and prayers they repented under his chastening voice. Where is that power today?

Our words don’t cause anyone to repent, our words of correction draw applause from the spectators but have little affect on those to whom we speak. When the switch is turned on and nothing happens we check the breaker box to see why, and when our words have no power it is time to seek the Lord for our own situation. It is very easy to draw fleshly satisfaction from espousing the correct doctrinal position without having any real pathos for the deceived, much less fasting and praying for God to use us to DELIVER THEM. And without any tangible, life changing outrage that goes beyond engendering more words like these we will be tomorrow as we are today. The situation is desperate, but we are not.

This is not an isolated pocket of falling away, no, it has been happening for decades now. We laugh and are comfortable with the health and wealth deception and have long since lost any real outrage. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are making breathtaking strides world wide and yet we rejoice in buildings of mortar. Gays have their own churches and yet we have no more prayer gatherings than before they came, what does that say about us, not them? And now the emergent movement, with the same human idol worship set up as do we, has opened the doors to truth and invited the thoughts of other religious expressions to mesh with sacred Scripture. And men mock the notion that those same Scriptures can provide what the modern man needs in today’s post modern community and culture. The whole thing crumbles right in front of us and we sleep well at night. We are much more prone to wrestle with a merchant over our treatment in a store than wrestle with God in the night watches.

Unless WE repent and turn from OUR wicked ways and PRAY with an unquenchable fervor, you might want to take some pictures so you can tell your grandchildren what Christianity used to look like, because, the train has left the station and the scenery is changing every day. So let’s laugh at the posters, let’s pretend that we are waging the truth war with more than words, let’s keep shaking our heads in disgust, let’s keep our eyes dry, and let’s keep driving back and forth on Sunday and Wednesday presenting a form of godliness and demonstrably denying any power. It’s not God’s truth that is without power, it’s the buckets in which He desires to carry it. They leak and not only refuse to go to God to patch the leak, they refuse to admit they leak at all.

Look in the mirror and see if you’re outraged…

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

God's Unsearchable Sovereignty

Sovereignty. The dictionary defines it as the “freedom from outside interference and the right to self-government”. Now of course that refers to earthly nations and rulers and is completely limited in its scope, limited by the mind of man and the measurable operations in this world. But the sovereignty about which I will be dealing is the sovereignty of Almighty God, an eternal and complete sovereignty that is separate from any and all examples of what we consider sovereignty upon this three dimensional planet called earth. It is basically defined as God does whatever He pleases without any consultation from any outside sources. He sees all, knows all, does all, directs all, and the greater revelation about sovereignty is beyond human definition and understanding, it will always remain within the Godhead. God is all in all forever.

So against the backdrop of that disclaimer I write as a dog scratching at a door but without the means to turn the knob and enter. Whatever we can glean about God’s sovereignty will be as a gracious revelation of the Spirit and surely not by getting our heads together and by compilation figure God out. The glory of God’s sovereign essence resides not within the cerebral kindergarten of man, neither can it be discerned by the mental apparatus affected by the residual disobedience of one called Adam, no, it is a mystery of the Spirit and God condescends to let us feed off the crumbs that fall from His sovereign table. But He beckons us to “come” and with only that in a whisper we press toward the knowledge of the Most High.

How sovereign is God? I fear every description is in and of itself a limitation. The entire treatise of God’s sovereignty is an exercise of apples and oranges by men and women who have an incomplete knowledge of those fruits much less the One represented in that comparison. God is august and sovereign, needing nothing and being everything. Creation is a major expression of His glory to us and just a manifested word to Him. We labor, He speaks. Ours bring thorns, His brings forth the universe. We sweat, He rules. We think, He knows. We reach up, He bends down. God’s sovereignty exists infinitely above all the possibilities that we can present as serotonin puzzles to us but foolishness to Him. Our wisdom, a tongue in cheek satire, is His foolishness. So please open up your confined definition of any parameters that you have come to terms with about the Sovereignty of God, your mind is just a drag on the majestic reality.

God can and does whatever pleases Him. If it pleased God not to create anything the answer would be sovereignty. When people tell you the reason God created they are incomplete at best and wrong for sure. In so many ways describing God and His reasons for most things remind me of Rogers and Hammerstein’s words,

“Who can explain it, who can tell you why, fools give you answers, wise men never try”.

So that means if God so desired He could create everything as His own personal reflection of His own glory with all things directed and orchestrated by His own will with no other will allowed to interfere either directly or even as an apparent alternative. And avoiding having to incorporate any or all the events into His perfect will, all things could have been just for His own pleasure with no interwoven story and with every atom’s movement scripted and empowered by Him and Him alone. His sovereignty surely could have accomplished that if He so desired.

God could have created the universe and all the inhabitants completely apart from Him and His interference and free to go its own way eternally. He could have abandoned it and just observed all the goings on here as an amusement or curiosity. We would be left to our own devices without even the opportunity for the Creator’s help and wisdom, and maybe even the knowledge of a Creator, and if God so desired He could have accomplished it that way. Adrift in the waves of our own sin and hopelessness, and God if He so desired could have effected the story of creation in exactly that way. God answers to no one and is not under any responsibility to give an account for anything. He is God, and that generic name only applies to the One true God, YHWH.

And so God could have created a reflection of Himself, ever so diminutive in comparison, but tiny points of life that speak of Him individually and collectively. The shadow of His image inherent in each and every life, and with a gift that both gives this life a choice while still tethered to His immutability and sovereign authority. And perhaps our definition of a "free will" presents a verbal stumbling block which could be removed by a description of man's choice as an intregal part of God's sovereign will while openly embracing the theological tension inherant in that finite view. A colossal mystery to be sure, far beyond the dissecting abilities of the “greatest” theologians who ever lived or who ever will. This sovereign Creator need not be bound by any “systematic” theology especially when it pertains to His workings before the first creative Word, and to insist that one has realized a full and detailed knowledge of God’s orchestrated plan is to reduce one’s credibility and openly reveal a pride that abrogates the very sovereignty that is supposedly espoused.

Oh yes, God is majestically sovereign in ways about which our knowledge is so deficient it cannot even engender knowledgeable questions since we are so completely ignorant about our ignorance. Explain holiness and if you do not stutter you are a pretender. Explain God’s love and your lips are finite deceivers. Explain God’s wrath and you have no template with which to compare. Explain heaven, explain hell, explain Christ’s sufferings, explain the resurrection, and with all these we are blind idiots strutting our limitations as if they themselves were sufficient answers, and yet, we pretend to outline God’s sovereignty as precise as a schoolboy's science project. Masquerading the paraphrases of men as revelations we “explain” the essence of God, handling Him as everyday earthenware without admitting we only have the gracious glimpse we have been afforded by His Spirit of the eternal fine china of His glory.

God’s Unsearchable Sovereignty.
Do we even know what we're looking for?

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Claims of Mark Driscoll

On Friday, September 21st, 2007 a man named Mark Driscoll delivered a message to the Convergent Conference of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Pastor Driscoll founded the Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington and he remains the senior pastor there today. He is championed by some and rejected by others and it is safe to say although he professes a reformed theology he is unconventional to say the least.

He had a association with the emergent movement for a season during the 1990’s but now has distanced himself from the movement. He is sometimes crass and has even been known to use off color and inappropriate language in the pulpit and in other public places. He seems to have a cavalier and detectable arrogance in his demeanor, and even admits to having a temper and an abrasive personality that can be noticed without much trouble. He seems at home with that, and admits it as if a disclaimer rather than a request for prayer and something he should be very troubled by, because Christlikeness is not a pursuit in the realism of today’s evangelical world.

By his own admission he is still friends with and likes Brian MacLaren and Doug Pagitt, and does not know personally Rob Bell but thinks highly of him. I have said all this in order to present a backdrop for the message that Driscoll delivered to this particular convention. He is no flame throwing fundamentalist or doctrinal watchman, in fact he has joined hands with these men and still admits to fellowshipping with at least Pagitt. So if Driscoll would stand and publicly, and with the knowledge he was being recorded for distribution, denounce the teachings of these men would it hold more credibility than those whose every breath seems to center on reproof and rebuke? And if he is actually telling the documented truth about the resources that these men use for their teachings what does that mean to anyone who hears and believes his claims?

I have been always cautious and suspicious about the teachings of these men because they seem purposefully elusive and aware of what open pronouncements bring with them. Couched in “musings” or “what if’s” they can introduce certain redemptive uncertainties without actually endorsing them and the questions that would follow such endorsements. It is dishonest to stand and toss out things you say you don’t believe later and through speaking techniques you carelessly plant lies and heresies in the suggestive minds of many Christians who are already being bombarded by theological flying objects from every corner of the ecclesiastical world.

To unravel their teachings is a non-exact science simply based on their mercurial nature and the implied notion that somewhere under all the philosophical coyness was a solid evangelical belief system. And if indeed there wasn’t a solid orthodox base, then these teachings would be a toxic mix of gnosticism, spiritualism, intellectualism, and even humanism. And now someone “emerges” from within the very boardroom of these doctrinal persuasions and openly rejects their teachings and encourages everyone else to do like wise. I exhort you to listen to what one of their own has to say about the extent to which the emergent movement has now moved away from solid Biblical teachings. I have two sons in a solid evangelical Bible school who I would immediately remove if any of these men were on the faculty.

Listen to the resources these men use for truth. I must distance myself at the same time from those ivory tower watchman who have no tears and collect methodology, doctrine, music, and any and all things not approved by them and relentlessly attack with names of derision and enjoy a good round table mocking. This is no time for self righteousness about ourselves no matter where we stand theologically, this seems to be a time to gather the women and children and run for cover to the prayer closet and the safety of Biblical truth. Listen and get a peek into their world, listen closely to their sources, and then hear Driscoll give insight into what we’ve dared not think they might actually be saying.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

There is Only One Hope
Ti.2:13 - Looking for that Blessed Hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.

Hope. What is hope? The dictionary says this, “to have a wish to get or do something or for something to happen or be true, especially something that seems possible or likely”. And so is earthly hope. I hope to get that job, I hope he’s not hurt, I hope I’ll be able to make the party. All these are utterances that use the term hope, but they are poor shadows of the word when used in a Biblical sense.

The hope that God references in His Word has eternal and glorious implications concerning God and His eternal kingdom. How can we compare the hope of employment with the hope of salvation? The hope of Christmas with the hope of eternal life? The hope of seeing a friend with the hope of seeing the Risen Christ? Gather together all the fulfilled hope of every person that ever lived and it could not compare to one single second in the presence of the Lamb of Glory. We are sometimes so attached to this present world that we fail to recognize that our hope is not of this world, not in this present time, no, our hope is a surpassing hope that overshadows any and all areas about which we may have hoped.

And there is only one hope. And this hope is the portal that leads to all other hopes that live forever. Jesus Christ, the Creator of the universe and Savior of the world, He alone is hope. What? Am I saying that Jesus is the one and only way to eternal hope and even well meaning religious people who do not believe in Jesus are without hope in this world? I am not saying that myself, I am sharing what God’s Word itself declares. Jesus by His own earthly mouth declared Himself to be the only way to the Father, and the Father declared Him to be His Son. Do not question or doubt it, embrace it.

The great Apostle was going about the business of murdering believers in Jesus and destroying their hope, or so he thought. On his way to Damascus he came into the presence of the One he sought to persecute and in one glorious encounter Jesus became the hope of Saul, now Paul, of Tarsus. And all the skeptics cannot explain what happened to Paul and why he suddenly became a follower of the Hope he once sought to destroy. There is only one explanation, Paul met Jesus, the Hope of the World. For the rest of his life Paul would go throughout the world preaching the hope in Christ to all who would or wouldn’t listen until he finally went to be with his eternal Hope, even at the hands of men who had no hope.

When a person descends emotionally and spiritually to where they have absolutely no hope whatsoever they are suicidal. But when a person meets and believes on Christ they are resurrected with His own life. It is an experience that only the redeemed can understand, but it is a hope that is offered to whosoever will believe on Jesus, His hope is that pervasive. Come unto me all you that labor and are heavy laden is a call to the hopeless. Jesus gives hope to all who call upon His name, it is a miracle that transcends words. I have personally seen severely depressed people come to Christ and have their whole emotional lives transformed. I have known criminals with no hope believe on Christ and find a tangible hope they never knew existed. I have seen sinners whose lives were not worth living come to Christ and be completely full of the most demonstrative hope that only God can give. The Scriptures command us to be ready to give an answer when people ask us why we have such hope inside us and the answer is simple and glorious, our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. And it is this hope that makes us not ashamed. We cannot help but speak the wonderful works of God as they did on Pentecost. The Lord has done so much for us it would be impossible to list, but the world needs to hear that only Christ gives eternal hope. All other hope is a mirage, passing with the world.

On Monday, January 2nd, 2006 at 6:31 a.m., Sago, West Virginia an underground explosion causes a power outage at Sago Mine as two crews entered the mine to resume production after the holiday. After 13 miners were trapped deep within a coal mine in West Virginia, the news came that 12 out of the 13 had escaped death and were saved alive. Oh the joy and thankfulness that spread throughout the community and especially the relatives. But several hours later it became apparent that the news that they were alive was tragically erroneous. All but one of the 13 miners were found dead. The outrage of the miscommunication almost eclipsed the feeling of loss that the close knit community had felt, and it would have been better if the information that they were alive had never been given to the families. For several hours they had rejoiced with false hope that would cruelly be taken from them by a tragedy compounded with the incompetence of a communications debacle. Grief mixed with anger.

Just what had happened in West Virginia? False hope was given and later revealed for the tragic lie that it was. That is exactly what all hope without Christ is, a false hope with eternally tragic consequences. How many souls will pass in front of the Great White Throne judgment seat and wail that they had been promised hope, secure hope that now has been taken from them? Some had derived their hope from Joseph Smith, some from Charles Russell, some from Mohammed, some from Mary, some from their church, some from their baptism, some from their good works, and some just relied on some intangible hope that things would work out somehow. And now on this day of unspeakable horror they are marching toward the reward of believing a lie, a damnable lie that can never be undone. And on that day the echoes of God’s justice will reverberate throughout the infinite expanse of God’s dwelling place saying, “There is only one hope and it is in Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God!”.

And so those of us who have found an everlasting hope in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ know that we have been delivered from all the hopes and dreams of our own flesh, we stand alone by faith in Christ who is our hope, and that hope dwells within us and at the same time in heaven itself. And now this hope abides for us and our children and our children's children and yea for the whole world! And on the first day of completed hope all God’s recipients of His offer of hope will kneel together before the Incarnate Hope. Every nation will be represented, men and women from every race, educated and unlearned, kings and serfs, rich and poor, and in one colossal chorus of worship we will bow and proclaim that “Jesus Christ is Lord.

There always has been, there is, and there always will be only one hope, and that hope is in God’s Christ, world without end, amen and amen.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Journey to Truth
Jn.17:17 - Thy Word is Truth.
Jn.14:6 - I am the way, the Truth, and the life.
I Tim.2:4 - Who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the Truth.
Eph.4:15 - But speaking the Truth in love, may be able to grow up into Him in all things.

There is one certainty that eclipses all others and that is the Person of Jesus Christ, His work of redemption, and His offer of salvation by grace through faith. The core, the heart, and the one foundational truth that can stand alone, whole and immutable, and it is the throne of truth around which all other truths must bow. This is the truth that binds or separates people, that heals or destroys, that redeems or casts off. The eternal plan of God’s redeeming love is contained wholly within the Person of Jesus Christ, Who He is, and what He has accomplished alone.

There are so many levels of truth that are important and yet cannot be held to the same pinnacle as Christ Jesus and His gospel. Now we as believers are so concrete in our beliefs that we have a tendency to assign answerable certainty to almost everything we believe. There are some Christians who spread tracks all year long about the evils of Halloween and cannot even fellowship with anyone who might see it differently than they do. They live and die the Halloween issue and in their demonstrative energy they have placed it on the same level as the gospel itself. It consumes them.

That is just one example, there are others. Some believers hold to the opinion that every Christian couple should have as many children as possible and they are equipped with an arsenal of facts and surveys and Scripture verses about the will of God in this area. Some, not all, can really only fellowship with others who are as aggressive as they are about this subject. The same goes for some about Biblical foods and vitamins. Inadvertently some believers have taken issues, sometimes important issues, and brought them into the center core of their Spiritual persuasion. Not only does that injure the credibility of that particular person, it diminishes the redemptive truths of God’s Word by diluting them with a comparable importance with much less important truths.

Mental subjectivism is what we battle in order to come to a fuller and more complete understanding of Scriptural truths. All of us are in possession of many different idiosyncrasies that tend to steer our thinking process in certain directions. This is also why different witnessing tools can be helpful. Farming illustrations do not work as well at a doctor’s convention as they do at the 4-H gathering. We all are molded to an extent by our surroundings and about which we have knowledge, and also the mental bent we were born with. All of it is called subjective thinking and we all do it.

Stephen Hawking, the renowned cosmologist who fills the seat once held by Isaac Newton, was accused of subjectivism when he revised his black hole theory after having been proved wrong. But instead of coming to the other side, he invented his own view and was roundly criticized. So if the physicists engage in subjectivism we certainly can understand how that occurs in all of us. So how do we attempt to minimize our own subjective influence while studying the most important subject of all, God’s Word?

First, the Bible must speak for itself in a vacuum. What I mean is that no other voice can influence our understanding of Scripture. We all are so prone to lean on someone else’s understanding other than the Scriptures themselves. All of us have gained particular books, writings, and men or women of God who we give more credibility than others and in fact sometimes rely wholly on their views and teachings. That is not isolated to one or two systems of Christian thought, that happens to all of us. And once that happens it soon becomes apparent that we are entrenched in our seeking of Scriptural truth and if we are not careful we petrify. We are no longer seekers who have found truth and want more and even purification or correction of the truth we now hold, we are simply defenders. That is easy and even lazy.

Engaging in discussion, reading, and even dialogue about truth that you and I would never compromise is a strengthening process, like witnessing. We witness to a person and he asks questions about the truth we are sharing. His view of truth is very different from the Bible, but we continue to share. After one half hour, sitting and sharing back and forth with someone who rejects truth, we walk away refreshed and renewed and not compromised. Why? Because we have used truth, engaged with truth, and shared not just defended truth. Our hearts were desirous of seeing that person come to truth, not just defending our truth and with that be satisfied.

And is it not possible that God’s truth is capable of being sifted, presented, shared, and thrown into the lion’s den of modern humanistic thought without being consumed? Did not the Lord command Aaron to cast his rod before Pharaoh and it became a serpent, and as the Magicians cast their rods and they also became serpents did not Aaron’s rod swallow them all up? Truth, if it is truth, can withstand testing. If two and two equals four, it can withstand the test of division. And God’s truth can stand in the midst of any onslaught, whether it comes from friend or foe alike.

When I was first saved I went into Manhattan and purchased my first Bible. I brought it home and would take it out of the box every day and read the letters in red and then safely place it back in the box. I was horrified the first time I saw a person actually write in their Bible. That is not how we should treat God’s Word, like a museum piece and we are all His chosen curators. And when some particular truth is attacked we should lovingly and boldly present the truth of God’s Word, without malice and certainly without pride. It sounds simple but in practice it is daunting. Our life in the Word should appear as an old, ruffled Bible, pages torn and written upon, evident tear stains of joy and compassion on its pages, and used to share, correct, edify, reprove, and most of all exalt the Author Himself.

But as important as how we communicate truth is how we arrive at truth. This is where we must all take a fresh look. The Word of God, the Old and New Testament, is the source of all truth when revealed by the Holy Sprit. But that still does not eliminate our personal subjectivity, hence all the different beliefs within even the true body of Christ. So first we must decide what are the core truths of the Christian Faith, ones that have a direct link to issues of redemption and salvation. Those issues can never be compromised and must always be presented in the clearest terms while continuing to be wrapped in forceful humility, a lost art. While standing our ground in the life giving issues of truth, we must still be charitable in reproof, bold while humble, unmovable yet reaching, and always have understanding at the very heart of our endeavor, not just rebuke or correction or most of all “winning”.

And it is a dangerous practice to quote someone else as the example or template for our behavior or speech, all men have feet of clay and even the greatest of all God’s servants were not perfect. One can find the flesh of Luther or Spurgeon or Wesley and upon quoting them in a culled out snippet insist that this supports our view on Christian speech or even doctrine, it does not. That at best is using their subjectivity to support our own subjectivity and elevates the acts of man to a level that should only be afforded Scripture and the acts of our Lord. God desires His Word to be fresh to all generations and we must not rely like baby wolves on the already chewed Word to be our main course. Some insight, some edification, and some exhortation comes from the Lord’s committed conduits, but their words are still not God’s and their interpretations are wrapped in a degree of their own subjectivity. Past saints, mightily used of God, should for the most part exhort us to serve the Lord Christ and be comforted by their example, but we should never rest upon their visions and teachings, everything should be continually sought after as if it was a treasure chest containing brand new truth.

When we read books and commentaries we must continually ask the Spirit to help us divine the truth and lay aside the opinion of man. That, my friends, is also what we must do when searching the Scriptures ourselves, lay aside our own opinions. And once we have been led to God’s truth, what then is our calling and responsibility concerning that same truth? Are we to present it as a proof of our spiritual post graduate work, implying that we have arrived upon this truth in large part due to our own energy and intellect? Or should we humbly carry this precious truth to all who are in need, lovingly but forcefully reproving all who would attach it, and attempting as much as within us lies to remove ourselves from the presentation?

Have we lost the power of Spiritual confrontation and humble discourse about God’s eternal Word, and have we also lost the trust that when presented alone it can stand on the basis of its own inherent power? And when rejected do we feel indignation that indicates our own flesh and not the patient ministry of the Spirit? God is well able to protect His Word and His honor, our attempts to serve Him must not be misconstrued as attempts to defend the Creator with our puny and convenient efforts. At the end of a great presentation of God’s Word, Stephen’s words and the truth they represented were rejected. He was stoned, and instead of hating and mocking and desiring revenge, this man who was seconds from seeing Christ asked God not to hold this against them. Have we considered this as our template?

So the different denominations have scattered on the basis of issues of such Scriptural importance that fellowship and worship must be separate. And common enemies will bind together brothers and sisters who seemingly have substantive issues of doctrine but which are sacrificed on the altar of attack. Their issues separate them from united worship but unify them as defenders. And many have congregated in the theological balconies of dead and living Christian teachers and have become complacent and content with those servings of interpretations without continuing a rewarding and fresh searching of God’s Word that very well may unearth new and spectacular facets of the established truth they have locked away.

With every generation comes error and even apostasy, it comes with this fallen world. We are no different and the cults and liberal streams will continue to flow downstream, picking up passengers as they flow. But God’s Word must not be kept as a keepsake, free from the dust of the conflict, no, God’s Word demands a place in the dialogue and discourse. It demands confrontation and examination, it demands to be used and presented, it demands an unashamed pronunciation in the power of God’s Love and Spirit! We need not fear God’s honor, it is secure forever, we must be the repairers of the breach here on earth, rebuilding the walls with the bricks of God’s truth, not our interpretations of other’s interpretations of other’s interpretation. Humbly, painfully, sacrificially, we must live Christ, and if we are always comfortable we need not wonder, we are not living Him.

Some will hate and some will love but both are without merit in our quest to serve and even live Jesus Christ in the midst of an eternal tragedy that begs redemption. Our pride is as much an enemy as is the devil and we must be as vigilant as a king’s sentry concerning our own pride and flesh, it must be destroyed daily. Asking and giving forgiveness will be our practice, brokenness must be our wholeness, prayer must be our first language, and His reflection should be in our spiritual mirror. Brothers and sisters, we have strayed from the road and paved our own path and called it His. There is so much fallow ground to be unearthed and cultivated in our hearts revealing good soil which can receive the seed of His Word again.

Do not be afraid for God or His truth, He is not fearful, be afraid that you will interject your own will and poison into that which must be His alone. The city we seek is Revival, we have not reached its outskirts as of yet, most have not even broken camp yet. Pray for yourselves, examine everything in His light, reject the teachings of friends, reject the teachings of men, and most of all reject the teachings of your own understanding, only the Words that He speaks must be your life and bones. This might require a cleaning of some cupboards, but He will not leave them bare but fill them with the life giving food that alone can both strengthen a pilgrim and glorify His Guide. Set a course, shed the weight and the besetting sin, and with our face like a flint start a determinative journey that not only enjoys Bunyan’s narrative, but lives it. You and I are not nearly where we should or could be, He awaits our renewed pilgrimage that leads away from us and only to Him.

Make sure you have good shoes, ones with one nail pierce in each…

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Limited Atonement
A Great Heresy
The doctrine that is called "limited atonement" is a heresy that is only eclipsed by salvation through works and the denying of Christ's divinity. It teaches that the Lamb of God, Jesus the Christ, only died for a very few upon the cross. God chose a "few" that would "find" the narrow path and Christ came only to die for them and no others. So you can never have the assurance that when you witness to someone that Jesus actually died for that person. Jesus may not have died for your children, your husband or wife, your mother or father, only God knows who Jesus died for and by His own admission the total pool of sinners that Jesus suffered for is very small.
One of the great mysteries in the theological metamorphosis is how can anyone really believe that since the Scriptures are very clear about who Jesus came to provide a ransom for? So read these verses and without attempting to make them fit into any preconceived doctrine what do they openly teach? Would a saved man stranded on an island, new in his faith, and with only a Bible and a dictionary, ever come to believe this teaching?

Matt.11:28 - Come unto me ALL you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you(all) rest.
Jesus beckons all who are under the labor of their sinful condition and promises that He will give rest to all of them.

Jn.1:29 - The next day John sees Jesus coming unto him and says, Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the SIN OF THE WORLD.
John proclaims Jesus as the world’s sin bearer, not just the sin of a few.

Jn.3:14 - And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness even so must the Son of man be lifted up.
Moses tells us that the serpent was lifted up for “every one that was bitten”(Numbers 21:8), just like Christ is lifted for every person bitten by sin.

Jn.3:16 - For God so loved the WORLD that He gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
It is disingenuous to torture the clear meaning of the word “world” as meaning just the elect.

Jn.3:18 - He that believes on Him is not condemned, but he that believes not is condemned BECAUSE HE HAS NOT BELIEVED in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
The Word says that part of the condemnation is that of unbelief in Jesus and His atonement that was sent (vs.16), but according to the limited teaching they must be condemned because of something that was never offered.

I Tim. 2:4-6 - Who will have ALL men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one mediator between God and MEN, the man Christ Jesus who gave Himself a RANSOM FOR ALL;
All men means all men. And after Paul reveals God’s will he shows who it was that is a ransom for all. How can this be misunderstood?

II Cor.5:18-19 - And all things are of God who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit that God was in Christ RECONCILING THE WORLD UNTO HIMSELF, not imputing their trespasses unto them;
Jesus has reconciled the world unto Himself, so what keeps the world from receiving that reconciliation? Unbelief, not God’s own refusal to offer most reconciliation.

Heb. 2:9 - But we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, that He by the GRACE of God should TASTE DEATH FOR EVERY MAN.
Come on, it takes unscrupulous twisting to misread this clear statement.

II Pet.2:1 - But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, EVEN DENYING THE LORD THAT BOUGHT THEM, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
How can they deny the Lord who bought them if He didn’t?

I Jn:14 - And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the SAVIOR OF THE WORLD.
I cannot see that to mean “Savior of the elect” unless you already have a preconceived theology gleaned from other books.

I Jn.2:2 - And He is the propitiation for OUR SINS: and not for ours only, BUT ALSO FOR THE SINS OF THE WHOLE WORLD.
John wants the saints to be aware that not only is Jesus the propitiation for their sins, but for the sins of the whole world. Again, I feel like I understand not only English, but I understand the point John is making. Simple.

Jn 3:16 - For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the WORLD through Him MIGHT BE SAVED.
The greatest verse in the New Testament clearly states the obvious unless your theology demands a tweeking of the word “world” when necessary. It is dishonest.

With overly sufficient evidence to reveal that the Savior of the world suffered for every man, let me just list these additional verses.

John 3:36, John 5:24, John 6:35, John 6:37, John 6:44, John 6:47, John 7:37John 8:24, John 9:35, 38, John 10:9, John 10:26-30, John 11:25-26.

I would also suggest reading the entire New Testament in one week with an open mind without any redefining of words and see if the Spirit reveals the open redemption that our Lord so lovingly and graciously has offered to all who believe.

A couple of observations that further complicate what is a gloriously simple truth.
The limited atonement does the following:

*Destroys the teaching of holiness in life as important and as a proof of one’s election. If you are elect than you are elect and if Jesus did not die for you than you need not attempt to live as Christ has instructed us to. If you struggle with sin perhaps that sin wasn’t forgiven at the cross.

* Destroys a person’s inclination to believe on Christ since the devil has convinced him Christ did not die for him. People who struggle with faith and are taught that perhaps Jesus did not die for them would be great fodder for the devil’s lies.

* It presumes that as Jesus was nailed to the cross to die for sins, He was well able to die for everyone and provide a redemption for the entire world, but he chose not to. Can you imagine Jesus is about to be nailed to the cross and He has the power and capacity to die for everyone, but He chooses not to? The greatest act of love is not offered to all from the God who is love?

* The early apostles believed in limited atonement until they were corrected by the Apostle Paul and Peter’s testimony concerning the conversion of Cornelius. The counsel at Jerusalem affirmed that Gentiles were included in the atonement of Christ without James, Peter, or Paul ever teaching that only certain Gentiles were chosen of Christ and not others. They powerfully went out in the secure knowledge that every person to whom they would witness Christ had died for.

There is so much more, but I have always believed if the Scriptures were clear about anything, they were clear that Jesus died for every man. Even some reformed have doubts about that particular petal. Do not believe it, it is a lie.

Jesus the Son of the Living God shed His blood for the entire world and we humbly praise His matchless name.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Legitimate Warriors

Rom.12:1-3 - I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present yourselves your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.

We as followers of the Lord Jesus are called to a life of detachment from the world and a journey that seeks to be transformed into the image of Christ Himself. We are in the world, but not of the world. This is not an easy journey, and much will be of self denial. Not of food or water or other necessities of this earthly life, but of emotions and revenge and pride and so many other distasteful revelations that substantiate us and not Him. But as Paul exhorted us to not be conformed to this world, and as he spoke of being transformed by the renewing of our minds, so he also comes to this statement.

For I say through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of yourself more highly than he ought to think.

Just after he leads us to a God pleasing detachment from the world and an experiential proving of God’s perfect will, he immediately places an important caveat meant to guard against our own inflated mirror. Are we not as human followers of the Lord Christ so adroit and well versed at taking what is God’s and God’s alone and enjoying a self inflated analysis of our own importance, while of course giving lip service to Christ? And we further have an incredible inclination to overemphasize much of our personal service to Christ in terms that should be adjectives to other less known and less observed servants of the gospel.

As you read this there are tens of thousands of faithful followers of Jesus who have left the enormous comforts of this western world and have offered up their very lives as a sacrifice in the far flung corners of this world. I have sat on a dirt floor in a jungle while visiting missionaries, but I, mind you, was just visiting. Christians all over the world have no electricity, no clean water, and many have lost one of their own children to disease who might have been saved if they had lived in America. No television as we know it, they do not follow sports, no movie theatres and no ice cream parlors, and most do not consider themselves mistreated by God. But let the littlest thing happen to us and the endless stream of complaining begins that reveals it was just beyond the dam that stood quietly between a day of contentment and a day of inconvenience.

How many words of mistreatment and contempt have we endured which will first be revealed in heaven, having never been shared to anyone no matter how great the temptation, all in a sacrificial incubation that one day will rise as incense before His throne? Oh how tragic it is that we bow to our feelings and not His glory! And many missionaries are spit upon with no one to sit and listen to their bruised feelings and yet let a waitress come up short of meeting our western requirements and our offense must be manifested, no standing silent before the shearers for us. This culture has consumed so many, and yet so many violently protest their complete rejection and sterility from its grasp. We as the followers of Christ must pursue an outward manifestation that seems weak sometimes in this “I want my rights” western culture. There is power in weakness says Paul, and many times that weakness will be seen by others as timidity and will not minister any earthly feeling of self enjoyment and satisfaction. Often times it will make the flesh feel uncomfortable as your mind continues to rehearse the event with scripted pages of retorts that might have suited your own cause better, but that is not the Spirit, my friends, that is the flesh.

To be like Christ is so often not our usual and everyday goal, and a semblance of some of His nature is easily displayed among the comfort of bonded friends and family, but let the waters be troubled and what of Christ’s nature comes forth? Servants of Christ in adopted cultures in unfriendly atmospheres exhibit love when hated, silence when attacked, and mercy when treated with contempt. And He, the Almighty He, answered not a word before His accusers. If you desire to see the absolute core of the heart of Christ do not go to His rebuking of the Pharisees and doctors of the law, don’t settle in on His scourging of the Temple, no, the revealed core of the heart of the Lord Jesus came as He was allowing Himself to be impaled by ungodly sinners for ungodly sinners and He, the Great I Am He, cries out, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. With one of His last remaining breaths He says that, and we are so willing to return civilized evil for the evil that men might do to us. An unkind word, some less than stellar service, or something that simply does not meet our standards are often met with something far less than “Father forgive them”.

So we use the cross in our doctrine but we do not want it in our lives. What is meant by taking up our cross, is it when we stop smoking? Or stop drinking? Or stop swearing? Or stop some kind of sin and with that we are satisfied? Or is it taking up our cross in a joyful self denial that inwardly substantiates and outwardly measures the life of Jesus Christ, and after a journey of death, finally gives off the sweet fragrance of His life wafting from our smoldering grave. How I despise my own appetites for my own appetites, they are the most shameful expression of how lacking my love for Him is so often. And can I gaze at the precious cross, glorious and gory, and yet not desire a cross of His choosing for me? If that be the case then I am not seeing Him, I see His payment for me alone and by that I seek to use the cross and not embrace Him who was on the cross. My heart is sometimes broken desiring more love for Him and desiring more desire itself.

And so, let me take us one step further so we may once and for all see ourselves in the light of reality and not the caricature we have created. There are servants of Christ whose lives are imperiled this very day. They have no day timer for tomorrow, for tomorrow may not come, and if indeed tomorrow comes it will be as imperiled as yesterday. Many have their beloved children in schools hundreds and thousands of miles away from the comfort of their arms, and their faith must be totally in the care of the Heavenly Father. Some have narrowly escaped death and some will die this very week. Did you hear that, my brethren, some will die this week? And yet we are tearless and fancy ourselves as the warriors of God's truth? We give our air conditioned writing they give their lives. Selah.

Some have been tortured and removed from their families and thrown in prison for naming His name. Some continue to physically rot in some prison, unable to see their families, and yet singing praises to the glory of the Risen Christ in the midnight hours. Some are quietly transporting Bibles to some needy souls who live in a country that restricts any Scripture, and yet they transport the Word of God, hazarding their lives for the gospel’s sake, and with no name on the church bulletin, and no blog to be recognized by, and no voice with which to gather a following. They do it because they have been to His cross, picked up their own, and followed the only voice they will obey. They will obey the Great Shepherd, not for any notoriety or praise, but simply for Him and His glory and their pure obscurity.

And we label our self righteous mouths as great defenders of Biblical truths while they are great doers of Biblical truth. We declare a truth war while they carry truth into the war. We argue doctrine they live doctrine. We pretend to speak for Spurgeon while they speak for Christ. And we discuss about hell and who might and should go there while they are laying their very lives across hell’s doorstep so that the Lamb that was slain might receive the reward of His mighty suffering. Pen and paper are not the armor of true warriors, and a keyboard and a screen do not a martyr make. And to say that we often think much too highly of ourselves is to so understate our sin that it must offend the English language itself, much less God’s truth.

So when we here dialogue and write and make such a pretence of our importance, remember, compared with so many others we should not think too highly of ourselves. We are believers and we are followers and we serve the Lord Christ to be sure, but let us refrain from wearing the self given monikers that suggest far too great a position of our own service. Our lives are a Disney ride while others suffer, a pleasure cruise while others serve in joyful misery, and we boast in many words while they boast in many deeds. And when ultimately compared to the Son of the Living God and all His Majesty, we are completely undone. And if you listen carefully, you can hear the servants of Christ around the world who suffer for his name, as they bow before the Lamb of God, say also,

“We are undone as well”.
Halleluiah, what a Savior!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Call to Prayer
Jn.15:7 - If you abide in Me, and My Words abide in you, you shall ask what you will and it shall be done unto you.
Lk.11:10 - For everyone that asks receives, and to him that seeks finds, and to him that knocks it shall be opened.
I Thess.5:17 - Pray without ceasing.
Hos.10:12 - Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy, break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord till He comes and rains righteousness upon you.

There is so much today to be bandied about concerning standing for truth. And further many now have created a new ministry that not only stands for truth, it assumes God’s calling to search out every vestige of impure Biblical teaching. Men make reference to John the Baptist or Elisha or even Paul as their template. Paul rebuked rarely and taught often, even though it was he who was given the revelation of the church by Christ Himself. His humility, in the face of such honor and revelation, was astounding. He claims to be the least among the apostles, the chief of sinners, and he accepted the thorn in the flesh as from God to maintain his humility. He stood for truth, but far from being some type of "warrior" he became known as "our beloved brother Paul" from the pen of the very one he rebuked.

Paul taught about false teachers that were to come, but his ministry was to spread the gospel and edify the church. And the question must arise, to what proportion do we spread the gospel compared to studying, reading, hearing, speaking about, and rebuking others? The so called "watchman" moniker seems to be a ministry dedicated to rebuking, but I see no such calling in the New Testament.

Anyone can take the imagery of the Old Testament and create some "Knights of the Round Table" persona and go riding through the kingdom cutting and slashing the evil dragon, but the New Testament describes no such calling or anointing. And amidst all the gladiator ambiance where is the gladiator that forcefully and violently exhibits Christ in His humility? Where does he endure in silence the wrongs of his friends without drawing his ear slicing sword immediately? Where does this gladiator rust his armor with tears of pain and love over the church in our confusion and wayward folly?

We are not given license to pick the attributes we desire to emulate, while letting others display the ones which are not suited to the caricature we live inside. And contrary to our personal perspectives, we all are guilty. How can we know that we are all caught within the confines of our own limited spiritual cubicle? Why is it obvious that we represent our own interests and not God’s heart? And what clues do we have that our pursuits are disproportionately mingled with our own competitive spirit and not the absolute glory of God? And finally, with what test can we be certain that we are relying upon our own flesh and intellect and not the demonstration of the Spirit and of power?

With one pointed glance we should be able to, if we are honest, discern where we have been found out. Our prayer lives strip us of our self righteous robes of protestation concerning the falling away of the church, our Lord’s very body. And when God’s light of truth, the same truth we so carelessly claim we defend, shines upon the dust of our prayer closets we are left with no hiding place. We quote Wesley and Calvin and Tozer and Edwards and others as if they were our cognizant collaborators, and yet their words sprung from a much more formidable stream that ran down the mountain of their prayer lives. And we now bend down, collecting their words in broken cisterns, and pretend the same power from which they were born is still ours. Throwing ink back and forth does little more than dirty the landscape of communication, but where oh where is the power that once shook nations?

Are we still so blind that we cannot see that if we are in earnest in our desire to see the Lord’s eternal truth crowned again on the brow of His bride, that are words, our metaphors, our rebukes, and even our scholarly hermeneutics are not sufficient for speaking His glorious truths much less stemming any tide of departure from the same? But who is sufficient for these things, asks the great apostle Paul. But our sufficiency is of God, he answers himself. Like the rescue efforts at the coal mine of Utah, until we are resolute to pray until heaven comes down we will remain imprisoned within the walls of our own well intentioned thoughts and ideas, but certainly not the demonstrative power of the Creator of the Universe.

The anemic commitment to prayer is the one tie that binds all the different movements that swirl around in God’s church like dry, lifeless tumbleweeds being blown here and there. Oh sure some have energy and newness, some reflect the Scriptures in orthodox plummage, and some disply enticing words of men's wisdom, but where is the undeniable power that made the early communities exclaim, "We have never seen it like this!". Do people still come to Christ, yes, and do some lives still get changed by God, yes, but God’s grace cannot and should not be used as a protective curtain for our self reliant prayerlessness. Some camps tether their theological wagon to the preachers of old quoting and copying their words as proof of the church’s departure and of their own solid orthodoxy. Others reject the old and are addicted to the new as proof of their creative ability to reach out and identify with the culture. One studies and studies to be approved while the other molds and creates to reach others. One looks down and rebukes on the basis of departure while the other looks up and rebukes on the basis on intransigence. And all the while it has become apparent that neither has much power, only words and positions.

Books and books and more books, cd’s and mp3’s and the internet are the conduits for the overload of Biblical perspectives and thoughts. And those who are on television or who write books soon get iconic status and many believe most everything they say. And it may change some beliefs and even the fellowship they now associate with, but has it drastically changed the seen and unseen power of God’s people that can only be found in prayer? Who stays up late to pray? Who rises early to seek His face. A man who reads the daily bread and says a little prayer for ten minutes is comparatively on fire in this fast paced post modern society. Where are the church’s that sometimes get so thirsty for God, or so burdened for the church, or so moved with compassion for the lost, that they open their doors for prayer for an entire week, day and night? And still we are satisfied with our insignificant chatter?

There is more chit chat on Sunday mornings than intercessory prayer, and we claim to seek God. We are much more worried about what visitors might think than we are what the Spirit desires. People parking their car on Sunday morning ready for church who haven’t spent one minute in prayer to the Heavenly Father and His Son. That isn’t church, that is a religious meeting that has such little power that the afterglow is more chit chat and a bite to eat which ends in time so as not to miss the football game. And we arrogantly claim to have met with the Creator God. And the traditional question, how was the message, reveals our focus and our hearts. Who asks, “Did the Spirit of God move in the meeting and what did God do in your life?”. And if the authentic Spirit of the Living God moved in our churches would we consider it an inconvenience or emotionalism or even fanaticism?

So these are not Swords we are wielding, they are shameful and dull butter knives that cut with little more power than it took to punch the keyboard, including these I write. But I am convinced that God’s Spirit is speaking to some, maybe many, and opening our eyes to what is and has happened to God’s glorious church. So if you think the main problem is the emergent movement you are deceived. If you believe the main problem is the seeker services you are still deceived. If you assume the problem is the fundamentalists or the orthodox crowd you remain deceived. If you embrace the notion that either the watchman or their targets are what is wrong with the church you are again under a false impression.

The problem with the church is you and me together and yet individually. It is the church collectively and yet each believer alone. I am the main problem. You are the main problem. And just as Luther nailed the 95 thesis to the door of Castle Church in Whittenburg, Germany, so must the handwriting of God’s Spirit be nailed to the door of our own hearts. Until repentance starts with us our words are as wind, and until our hearts are broken over the day-timer prayer lives we lead we will remain comforted by the words of the men we admire but cold to the Spirit’s call. The prayer closets remain antiseptic and dry, and the church houses only keep us from the rain, both the earth‘s and heaven‘s. Where is the Lord God of Elijah?

You may have your praise music, you may have your Bible study, you may have your conferences, you may have your fellowships, you may have your etymologies, you may have your building programs, you may have your children’s ministries, you may have your teen ministries, you may have your drama presentations, you may have all of that and much, much more. But without prayer, elongated and sacrificial prayer whose focus and intensity eclipses all those other activities combined, you and I will still have a form of Godliness but denying the power thereof.

And we thought God was speaking about some others.
I know…we always do.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Atonement
Rom.5:10-11 - For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled unto God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by Hi slife. And not only so, but we aalso joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the atonement.

We must go back into the hidden glory of the Old Testament to tether the redemptive plan of God modeled within the sacrificial system of animal blood, and with that foundation leap by faith and revelation into the New Testament which was what every animal symbolized within the law.

The High Priest would, on the Day of Atonement, take two goats without blemish. On one he would lay his hands with a symbolic gesture that placed the sins of God’s people Israel upon that goat. The goat would be let go to be lost in the wilderness thereby testifying that Israel’s sins were in God’s forgetfulness and upon the scapegoat.

Now the High Priest takes the second goat and carefully slits its throat wide open. As the blood gushes from the animal’s wound he catches it in some type of bowl, probably stirring it to keep it liquid, and he proceeds into the Holiest of All where the Ark of the Covenant resided. Slipping around the veil he saw the brilliant presence of God Almighty, the chikinah glory, that dwelled between the overlaying wings of the cherubim.

It is often thought that a rope would be placed around the High Priest’s leg in order to pull him out of the Holy Place in case God did not accept the offering and he was killed. The High Priest would begin to sprinkle the blood upon the golden mercy seat that was the very top of the Ark. When he came out alive, the people knew their sins were forgiven for another year. That was the Day of Atonement, holy and sacred, and yet foreshadowing a glory that cannot be imagined. Now the atonement was available for every person in Israel, but it was only applied by faith. But there was no blood shed that was lost, it covered completely every true follower and believer in Jehovah. And so in that sense the atonement was limited, but not as far as availability, but as far as by faith that blood was applied.

And so is the Atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. His blood was shed for the sins of the whole world, but when the last person is born again the redeeming blood of God’s Son will have covered and washed away all the sins of the redeemed, fully and completely. There will be no blood left over and no blood that was shed for the unsaved sinner in hell.

Let us go to Matthew 25 and the parable of the talents. The Lord provides talents for all, some five, some two, and some one, but all had some talents (something of value). Now the Scriptures teach that God has given every man the measure of faith and there is nothing more valuable in God’s sight than faith. It is impossible to please the Lord without faith. So when the Lord returns He finds that the ones with five and two talents have used them wisely, but the ones that had one had planted them in the earth. A striking metaphor, the earth, would you not agree?

So what does God do about this situation? He takes the unused talents away from the unprofitable servants and gives them to the faithful ones. Yes, none of the talents are wasted, all will find use in the faithful servants. And what does the Lord do to the unprofitable servants who refused to use their talents but invested them, as it were, in the earth and not the Master’s Word? He casts them into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Astounding, he casts them into hell. But do the talents go with them? No, they are safe with the faithful servants.

If you invited 100 people to a dinner and you cooked 100 ears of corn, one for each of them, and if only 50 people showed up would you throw the other 50 ears away? No, you would give each guest 2 pieces of corn to eat. When Jesus shed His blood as an atonement for sins, it was available for every man. Just as in the parable of the great feast the invitation went out to all, but only a few showed up. Did that limit the feast? Only to those who refused to come and dine. And so was his shed blood enough to cover whosoever will, but when the last person is born again by faith His blood will be limited to the redeemed alone. No one will go to hell with their sins forgiven, and none of Jesus’ blood will have been unused for its atoning purpose.

But the limited atonement will be because of unbelief, not because of any lack of availability, and surely not because of any limited offer from the loving heart of God Himself. No one can accuse the Savior of the world that He offered an insufficient atonement for anyone or for everyone, His blood was sufficient for all. But like the parable of the talents, the blood of God’s Lamb will be used in its entirety to cover and forgive the sins of the redeemed, none will be wasted, none will forgive sins without faith. So shall everyone who hides his life in this earth, living for themselves, and refusing to hear His voice. This world will soon end, and all the redeemed with gather around the Passover Lamb and worship. His blood was eternal and the supply was for all, but in the end the atonement will only be for the elect, chosen before the foundations of the world, precious in God’s sight, and without one single work of man’s goodness about which to boast. And if you were the only person who believed, then all of Christ’s blood would have covered you, but even though you are not the only believer, all of Christ’s blood still covers you. Don’t ask, it’s a mystery. The supply and availability of the atonement is universal, it is only limited by unbelief.

Abraham believed God and it was accounted unto him as righteousness. Amen.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Understanding the
Emergent Movement

Before I expound what I believe is a balanced approach to understanding why the emergent church was birthed and where some are headed, let me run up the flag pole a few disclaimers before the stake is lit and I'm skewered on the end of a pike. There are some within the movement who have slipped over the edge in their attempt to be edgy. Some have slid so far off the cracker that even many emergent teachers who are very expansive in their thinking have come out in correction. Maybe not the “God will boil you and your children and encourage all His children to laugh at your misery” type of correction, but to be fair it was printed correction with some open concern.

I believe the emergent movement began as a reaction to the stagnation and the sometimes shallowness of the evangelical church world. As a generalization you have one side on an ever increasing attempt to be relevant and recreate Christianity into a self help program with a tinge of eternity connected with it, and on the other side you see the battle gear laden warriors that protect the core of Scriptural truth while many neglect the weighty matters of Christlikeness. So fuzzy but friendly verses fundamental but furious. And what do you do when you are faced with that choice? Viola…the emergent movement.

Now in any movement there are excesses no matter how Biblical the intentions. In the great revivals of the past there were always excesses of emotion and sometimes teaching, so if indeed God can use some fresh anointing to break up the fallow ground it would be unreasonable to expect perfection and a seamless transition. The danger being leaving the safety of Scripture and sailing on the waves of subjectivism. Like the great disappointment of 1844 which started with a genuine learning about the Lord’s return but ended with a misguided date setting, so could the emergent movement start with a genuine desire for more of God and end with a subjectivism that deviates from Scripture altogether.

And that deviation is prevalent in some circles of emergent thought, some with overt deviations and others with an ulterior focus on world issues and streams of post modern thinking that render Scripture as a side issue. That direction can only lead to the dissolution of truth as we know it and an entirely new brand of Christianity with no sextant with which to set a course. Excitement and the thirst for new can easily replace the gospel truths and that is the danger that must be faced by the leaders in the movement or it will deceive an entire generation. And using the obvious self righteous viciousness of some of the fundamental crowd as an excuse for Scriptural laziness is of no value.

But understanding the general movement must be sifted through the prism of “why“. Are we so blind that we can be satisfied with criticizing without taking inventory of the overall powerless stagnation of the evangelical and fundamental world? Where are the prayer meetings that are visited by God’s presence in such a way as to elicit a wonder from our children? Where is the forbearing love among us that so demonstrates Christ’s love for His church that the world takes notice of such brotherhood? The orthodox church has fallen in such petrified love with their doctrines of paper, regardless of how true, that we have left the painful journey that seeks to live Christ in a tangible way. Some derive most of their spiritual energy and personal Christianity from the criticism of others.

And the tearless march of the doctrinal soldiers continues to massage each other with the assumed knowledge of Biblical orthodoxy but refusing to include an imitation of Jesus as orthodox. What is truth? Spiritual truth, Biblical truth. Is it just knowledge showcased in a vacuum or must it be presented within a context of faith? When the devil believes and trembles is he in possession of truth or is it just a shadow, a mirage without life?

We know God’s Word is truth, but how can that truth be communicated in a way which retains the power inherent within God’s truth? Is a printed page of the New Testament the same as an anointed preacher of the gospel reciting those same verses? Can God’s truth be presented in drama? Can His truth be presented in song? Can God’s truth be communicated through sign language? Object lessons? Movies? And most intriguing of all, how can God’s truth be presented through the life of a believing follower of Christ?

Now here is the question that has been going through my limited RAM. How do we live the Trinity? How do we live the virgin birth? How do we live justification by faith? How do we live the cardinal doctrines of Scripture? I mean how does your neighbor come up to you and say, “I’ve been watching you for six months and now I believe in baptism.”. We cannot live those doctrines, those things can only be taught by God’s Spirit.

But surely we can allow the life of Jesus to live through us and be used to draw people to ask about the hope that lies within us. Is this what some of the emergent leaders are saying? With some not denying the core truths of Biblical teachings, are they challenging the church to seek to live as Jesus did as a witness for Him and a magnet toward truth? Is there something to a revival of being like Jesus in the church itself? Our lives cannot save anyone, only faith in Christ can, but our lives can be the bucket in which the Spirit brings the message to people who up until they met you didn’t even realize they were thirsty. Have we lost that amid our own little cloistered group or more poignant yet, have we lost Him while being the church?

I find unsettling some of the things I hear from some of the emergent corners, but I find also distasteful the smugness that emanates from some of the fundamental corners. So one group moves away from the truth while others make the truth so unattractively self righteous that the result is basically the same. I believe God’s heart and desire is for the church, the body of Jesus Christ, to not only believe the right things but to display the right things. And all those right things can be summed up with one glorious word - Jesus. I am a believing follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, but I have a thirst to be so much more than I am now. Not just to know Him, not just to pass a doctrinal test, but to have Him so take control of my earthly life so as to project Himself in my mortal members and in my attitudes and in my emotions. Is that not what being a follower of Christ is all about, sharing the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ in the majesty of the message, accentuated by the fresco of our lives?

What we do is what we believe…everything else is religious talk,
of which there is plenty.
The Pre-Creation Dialogue

I have a great admiration for many people who humbly believe in the doctrine of limited election, and some are my friends in the area in which I live. So this is no attack on them, but it is an expose on the teaching which I strongly believe provides a limited and constricted view of God and His heart of love for His creation, us. Some people, not all, with a predeterminitive and narrow view of God's redemption have a teeny weeny problem with pride (along with the rest of us). Even the names like "doctrines of grace" (as if we didn't believe in grace) or "When I learned of God's sovereignty" (as if we haven't) display a little arrogance. The search for God and His truth is the noblest one of all, and if there is a distinguishing feature of this theology it is the sacredness of God's Holy Word. However, in the midst of the search the redemptive plan has been minimized. The following is a little fictional narrative that provides some insight into why I believe the love, mercy, and grace of God, not to mention the cross of Jesus Christ, is sometimes shortchanged by the intellect of man.


So God leans back (metaphorically) and says to Himself "I'm going to create a race that I love with a perfect love, no respecter of persons, that's Me. They are not going to love Me, but that will not change My love for them, equally, to a person. I will provide an escape from an eternal hell for some. Now the "some" will be very few and the "others" will be very many. What do ya think, Gabe?"

Gabriel says, "Good plan. I especially like the part where You could have provided an escape for them all but You're not going to. It shows You have restraint and discipline. I mean You didn't have to provide it for any of them, so by throwing a bone to some...well...I think it shows how good You are without getting carried away and letting them all have a chance to get away with what they've done!"

Michael pipes in, "Lord, can I ask You a question about Your business?"

God says, "No! Don't ever ask Me about My business!"

Mike says, "Please, just this once?"

God says, "OK, but just this once I'll let you ask Me about My business".

Mike says, "Why did You only choose a few when You could have died for them all, I mean after all You were in the area, might as well died for them all, right?"

God looks at Michael and says, "Because that is how I wanted it, deal with it!"

And so ends the story of the pre-creation dialogue. So now, kick back and enjoy the show, God's playing a little solataire here and He's turning over a few cards and leaving the rest in the deck. He happened to have chosen you and me to wind up and go, so as God told Mike, get over it and pass the popcorn, we have front row seats!!

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

What Can a Lost Person See?

If you are of the persuasion that God alone chooses who He wants in heaven and for some reason that group is miniscule by His own admission, then it surely doesn’t matter what the body of Christ projects to the lost world. In that case any hatred, any vitriol, any malice, any demeaning humor, and any hyperbolic name calling does not hinder the evangelistic effort in any way. That my friends is a very dangerous bus to ride to heaven to find out if indeed some of our behavior actually did turn away some for whom Christ died.

But if you believe that Christ died and tasted death for every man then our behavior before a lost world matters. Eternally. Can a lost person understand the essence of Scripture? Can he understand the Trinity? Can he understand justification by faith? Can he understand any substantive doctrinal issues that are continually revolving around the ecclesiastical neighborhood? The answer is no, they can only be Spiritually understood and that can only come with the inhabitation of the Holy Spirit after conversion.

But one thing a lost person can see and understand is how people interact with each other in love and grace. Jesus Himself gave a new and revolutionary mandate when He said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That you have love one another; as I have loved you, that you love one to another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.” The lost person cannot see your doctrine, he cannot see your denomination, he cannot see your knowledge of Greek, and he cannot see which theological camp you hold membership in, but by the Master’s own mouth he can see if we have love for one another.

One news article that displays the repulsive underbelly of the body of Christ as verbal incendiaries are tossed carelessly at other brothers without regard for the collateral damage it may do in the hearts and minds of lost people, just might have eternal consequences. But like a husband and wife so engrossed with fighting they do not even care that their children are now watching, so are some brothers and sisters that are so caught up with their own agendas that they refuse to even consider sharing the same issues in a more civil and even Christian manner. If we have lost love, and not just the “telling them the truth is love” embarrassing justification, we have lost everything. And not just among ourselves as painful as that is, but the dark world keeps marching to a lost eternity confident that the squalid mess they see in the church family certainly cannot have the answer. You see, they live in the midst of bitterness and hatred and strife, they don’t want to just change uniforms, they need to see a place where the love of Christ is demonstrated, not just listed on a paper creed, but as living deeds of sacrificial love, self denying love, and love that cannot be explained in human terms.

Love that is so supernatural that when witnessed by the world they say, “Look at how they love one another, they must be followers of Jesus”. They’re still waiting to see that love. Can we pray that the day will come, when after seeing the movie the Passion of the Christ, the world exits the theatre saying that the love in that movie reminds them of the love that Christians have for one another? And to remove any apprehensions everyone gets to keep the doctrines they believe while loving each other.

Novel, huh?