Sunday, April 26, 2009

Seeking You, Jesus

Where is the Lord God of Elijah? And where is the pursuit of the Risen Christ that burns the heart and is a holy irritant that relentlessly creates a discomfort with our present spiritual state? How is it we can live and breathe without the glory of His presence that both quenches and creates a thirst for Him? While the strength of things of this world chain us to this kingdom, we will never walk in a kingdom whose King makes Himself known to His following subjects.

God’s people are consumed with issues and morality and politics and money, and while we are entangled with the temporal the eternal is a lifeless musing expressed upon paper but void of the personal experience that might generate living manifestations that are completely at odds with this present world. In effect, we have become what we are supposed to help rescue. Why would a person in chains accept a key to those chains when it is offered from another person still in chains?

When and where did we lose the axe head of our pursuit to know Him? How could we be satisfied with meeting Him and receiving His redemption and then, as did Joseph and Mary, leaving Him behind? Does He receive honor from our weekly gatherings, scripted and time constricted, and never allowing the Spirit to move in our midst and most certainly in our hearts? Can a little more than an hour provide the necessary season for God to plow up the fallow ground that has been set aside in our hearts? When have we ended the day and slipped into bed only to realize we forgot to eat that day? And when have we slipped into bed, closed our eyes, and fallen fast asleep without even realizing, much less caring, that He has waited for us only to be disappointed?

Jesus, forgive and help us.

Who have I in heaven but You, Lord Jesus
What in this world can capture my heart but You, Lord Jesus
To whom shall I go to receive forgiveness but You, Lord Jesus
How can I live but through You, Lord Jesus
My comfort comes from You alone, Lord Jesus
All creation draws me to You, Lord Jesus
I have nothing but You, Lord Jesus
There is none like You, Lord Jesus
My breath comes from Your Spirit, Lord Jesus
My life is in You, Lord Jesus
All my hopes, all my dreams, all my desires, all my cravings, all my wants, all my needs, all my yearnings, and all my everythings are in You, Lord Jesus

I was, I am, and I will be nothing without You. It is no secret that You alone have made me into something different, someone that can actually know You, and someone who can actually serve You, and someone who can actually worship You. Apart from You I am a dead man walking in the midst of other dead men without a place to rest. There is nothing to return to, nothing at all.

So I will seek You with a thirst for You and Your presence. I realize some cannot understand and cannot comprehend the depth and meaning of Your presence. But one moment in Your tangible presence is worth more than living with kings and queens, and worshiping You is worth more than many ships of gold. Jesus, so often we speak and write of You as if You were still in history and stand far away, detached and observing as a disinterested spectator.

But in this post I speak directly to You and You alone.

I do not care who does or does not read this, and I am not embarrassed to come before You as a foolish child who is uncomfortably attached to his father. I desire You to take my heart of stone and create in my a heart of flesh that cannot help but seek Your very face. I have met You and I have spoken with You, but it is never enough and my spirit cries out for more, more of You. Captured within the confines of this world only strengthens my desire to be with You.

Houses and cars, money and things, and everything good that has come my way in this life vanishes as nothing when I am in Your presence and when my heart is completely set upon You, Jesus. When I first met you in 1975 it was so transforming that I could not communicate fully what had happened and Who I had met. You have been faithful to me through these 34 years and even through the worst of times You have been my stronghold and even my friend. I am consumed with being with You both here and someday in Your dwellingplace.

We have asked for signs and experiences that could serve as motivations for our spiritual journey, and yet what sign could be greater than the sign of the bleeding Messiah hanging dead on two Roman planks? All the far flung galaxies and all the wonders of this world could never approach the glory of your atonement. Let that atonement possess me in a way I can never imagine. I must only see your face through the crimson prism of your wounds and in my longing gaze I not only feel love, I see love; I see My Love. And that Love is my life.

I cannot be content with speaking about You or speaking about Your truth or even sharing Your gospel message, I must have You in my life as a spiritual reality, one that pursues me relentlessly and both draws me and creates a hunger for You as well. And all the daily tasks of this world as well as the sometimes endless Christian discourses do not satisfy, and in fact so often hinder me in my walk with You. I cannot enjoy this life without You and You ARE in a divine mystery my life completely. Everything seeks to tear me away from You, and even my own mind desires to wander around the worthless things of this world. Forgive me, Lord Jesus, you deserve total surrender from such as me who has been lavished upon with Your endless grace.

All these things I have written are genuine expressions of part of my heart, but in a part of my heart they are lies. But I will continue to pursue You, even in part, hoping that along the way my life will be consumed by the fire of Your presence and the reality of all You are. There can be no other way…

but You.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Attractive Words of Deception
Enticing Words of Men's Wisdom

I have just watched this interview of a man named Peter Rollins who comes from Ireland and is associated with the emerging movement on some level. It would be necessary and important for you to watch this interview since it will give you context concerning what I will share in this post.

Peter Rollin’s view of Christianity showcases a growing turning point in Scriptural Christianity, and with subtlety and deft of language he and others are steering people into a place of spiritual nebulousness. And in fact, as evidenced by Rollin’s words themselves, he and others would embrace that description of their movement. They seek to dismantle truth, claiming that if it is truth it will be reconstructed, but all the while they treat truth as a vacillating pursuit that cannot be fully understood, much less captured. His and other’s views of spiritual truth are an intangible paradigm that defies paper and pen and only serves as a philosophy in theory which is believed by behavior rather than believed and then revealed by behavior.

If you read or listen to other interviews or writings of his you will find he relies on clever stories or modern day parables that accurately identify some obvious fallacies and inconsistencies in all of us, but give no answers. Many of his stories are designed to undermine the concept of certainty and even the concept of seeking certainty itself. In Rollins’ world of spirituality he offers a reverse metamorphosis of regeneration. He suggests doing humanitarian works first, and as you do them they will change you and ultimately lead to belief, which he never identifies.

Rollins believes that the event of the resurrection is not as important as human beings reflecting the resurrection, which again means acts of humanitarianism. He both subliminally as well as overtly, suggests that people who do not necessarily believe in the event of the resurrection, but are deeply committed to caring for others, are in fact part of the expression of the original resurrection based solely on their care for others. And when politely asked what would he tell someone who asked him who is God, he politely replied that he never wanted to give that answer but he just tells people to go care for the needs of others and that is where you will find God.

Peter Rollins is an engaging and intelligent man. His theology is a disarming philosophy that magnifies the shortcomings of the church and uses that mechanism to leverage the church away from the central truths that are foundational to Christianity itself. In short, his engaging treatment of the careless behavior of the church juxtaposed upon the physical needs of the world is a clandestine technique which is employed to ultimately suggest that doctrine is a barrier to an authentic expression of Christ upon the earth. And combined with the guilt and compassion we should feel for needy people and the often excessive squabbles over fringe issues within the church, his new way seems like a breath of fresh air and a way to ease our conscience. But in the end, the redemption Rollins projects is found in human works and not in Christ’s cross.

I would suggest that the most brilliant strategy for deception can be found in using something that is good, unarguably good, and use that as a means to divert attention from redemptive truth. Delilah used marital intimacy to deceive her husband. The beautiful singing of the sirens deceived the sailors. The logic of Satan deceived Eve. It is not the overtly wicked that usually deceives; deception is most effective when it comes wrapped in goodness, logic, and peace. Peter Rollins is just one of many people who have become unwilling pawns in a spiritual transition within the visible church. His winsome way, his Irish brogue, and his informal appearance add to his attractive spiritual ambiance.

The essence of this new emerging movement is change, and by using the obvious shortcomings of the mainstream evangelical church this movement has been able to capitalize on many people’s discontent with traditional expressions of the church. And empowered by this discontent, this movement has begun to challenge not just church gathering constructs, but the mainstream truths that have been at the center of Christianity for many centuries. The teachings are in question form, and although they avoid these exact words, this movement suggests that the church has always had it wrong. Of course their verbiage would be more in line with saying Christian truth and expression is malleable with each generation, and with that they avoid saying anyone is wrong.

There are three distinct deceptions for us who would never entertain the direction of the emergent movement. The first is that we are blind to the shortcomings and sins that are indeed prevalent in our own church and lives. Some of the things that people like Rollins points out concerning mainstream evangelicalism, especially in the West, are true. We need to allow God to deal with them regardless of who brings them to light. The second deception would be to get so embroiled with watching and examining the emergent church and their teachings that we lose sight of our true calling, the gospel of Jesus Christ. We should take heed on both these issues.

But the third deception is if we ignore the growing apostasy that looms large on the horizon. By any standards, the Scriptures clearly indicate a coming period of turning away from the faith and the rejection of truth. Although there have been significant periods that may well have fit that description, they, by the passing of time, have proven not to be the last days. Perhaps those last days are here, and perhaps the deception has increased in volume, nuance, and growth. The Scriptures are not Christ, however without the truth they convey we cannot know Christ, and in fact God has suggested a power He has incorporated into the preaching of those words, or at least those truths, that may be used of the Spirit to change sinful humans.

What then happens if we change those truths? Where will we be led if we are following words that do not reflect the words and truths that are revealed in the written Scriptures? And if we cannot discern at least the core redemptive truths from Scripture then how will spiritual thought and ideas be tested? Who can we assume is the author of such theological confusion? The church must be humble and loving, gracious and merciful, and we must open our hearts to divine correction as it concerns our pitiful humanitarian outreach, but we must not ever be moved from the core of our faith. Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world and resurrected bodily from the dead, and through that gospel alone can sinners find eternal life. Salvation can only come from faith in Christ, who must be preached to the ends of the earth until He comes again. That is and always has been our faith and our mission.

As you watched that video, if you did not feel an unease and even a concern for what Peter Rollins was saying, you may have already been affected by the spirit of the age in which we live. I feel no animosity for Peter Rollins and in fact he seems a brilliant and charming person who may be very sincere in his thoughts. But thoughts cannot be the final arbiter of truth, God’s Word has been and must always be the absolute reference source of truth. And although we may disagree with some points of interpretation, we must all agree on the core revelation of the gospel of redemption, simple and profound.

Stay humbly vigilant. Here is conference , sponsored by Rob Bell at Mars Hill Church in Michigan, in which Peter Rollins will be speaking several times. This is another example of how the different networks of associations can reveal things about men’s beliefs that would not ordinarily come out. It is indeed on some level guilt by association, as well as guilt by agreement. And make no mistake, Peter Rollins is just 36 years old; there will be those who come after him and those like him who have never been tethered to or maybe never even been exposed to mainstream evangelical theology. Like everything else, this emergent movement is not stagnant, it continues to progress into new frontiers of doctrinal thought and redemptive perspective. The gospel will continue to be unrecognizable amidst the musings of men like Peter Rollins and his supporters.

The emergent leaders no longer feel the necessity to include the gospel narrative within their brand of intellectual humanitarianism, and they have reconstructed another gospel which ministers to the earthly plight of mankind and ignores the eternal implications of John 3:16. It embraces God’s love for the world but ignores and in many cases rejects the “shall not perish” portion of Christ’s great proclamation. And by wrapping their theology exclusively with God’s love, they have effectively insulated themselves from criticism since they suggest, via a strawman, that any criticism of their gospel presentation is a criticism of God’s love and uncovers an ambivalence concerning the sufferings of people.

To the charge of us being less than we should be we plead guilty. To the charge of us not reaching people’s needs as we should we plead guilty. To the charge of us being too intransigent in some of our ways we plead guilty. But we can never, ever change the gospel of Jesus Christ into the works of men. The works of believers are the expressions of Christ within our lives, but those expressions are not the way to salvation. The only way to eternal life is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Humanitarian works are either manifested expressions of God’s love that enhance the preaching of the gospel, or if they stand apart from the gospel they are deceptions.
An atheist provides food for the hungry.

A Christian provides food for the hungry.

There is no difference unless one is provided in Jesus’ name.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Lowly Masterpiece

For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He has no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we his as it were our faces from Him; He was despised and we esteemed Him not.

Jesus came in the likeness of sinful flesh with no outward beauty that would draw us to Him, but sinners were still drawn to Him. Men look on the outward appearance, but God sees the heart. This 47 year old woman, never married and never been kissed, had a talent which she would reveal when given this one providential chance. As you watch this video, try and discern the spiritual lesson that can be learned from this one, humble woman.


Monday, April 13, 2009

For the Time Will Come...

From the very instant of creation to this very moment, God’s redemptive narrative has been a steady, woven thread into the fabric of man’s existence, culminating on Pentecost with the miracle called the church. Founded upon Christ Himself, built upon the death and resurrection, and empowered by the Spirit of God the church continues until this very day. She is alive and she is God’s bride, but in the visible reflection of God’s church, which is all we can see, she is not well at all. And lest all the different camps say “amen” from their perspective which is aimed at the “others”, let us assess her plight with humility and introspection.

To avoid generalization is impossible since the visible church is a cavern of nuances and a confounding collection of incongruous doctrines as well as nebulous statements of faith. To further generalize, on one hand churches have strict doctrines which cannot be compromised and on the other hand are an array of expanded doctrines which have no core and some churches who avoid any statements of faith at all. And, may I add, everything in between.

Some camps are filled with angst and hatred, others with acceptance and tolerance, some with an overly expansive view of salvation, and still others with an extremely constricted view of God’s redemptive offer. Yes, the absolute assessment of the visible church must be left to God Himself, especially as it concerns who belongs to Him and who does not. We can take inventory of methods and Biblical teachings, but we must resist becoming the final arbiter of people’s standing before God. That must always be His and His alone.

I have made my feelings known as it concerns the self righteousness that is sometimes openly reflected in the “orthodox” crowd, as well as the visceral hatred they sometimes exhibit for sinners and saints alike. It is many times unchristian and leads to a clique type of entrenchment that gives way to common camp revelry concerning truth, almost like an inside joke. It strips away compassion and ignores the requirements of grace and humility. And in that atmosphere God’s Word is reduced to an instrument of destruction wielded by the arm of man rather than a lifeline of eternal rescue cast abroad by the power of God’s Spirit.

It is most unfortunate, though, that within that atmosphere some legitimate issues of truth are obscured by the unnecessary rhetoric that employs hyperbole, demeaning labels, and a disdain for people themselves. The enemy of our souls has his strategies in all camps and they are most effective when disguised as “instruments of God”. We must maintain a healthy and holy wariness of our motives and attitudes, and it must be ourselves that are first brought to the Spirit’s scalpel. When we ourselves remain unbroken, we may easily become unbridled vessels that break others with little or no redemption in our words and spirits. God resists the proud, even the pride of the most orthodox among us.

But having said that, and admitting I could have and will say more, I want to turn to the other general side of the visible church. This is all the different movements that have either neglected God’s Word or twisted it to form an ecclesiastical sculpture that neither resembles the Biblical Christ nor even strives to achieve His image. Sometimes they have good intentions and sometimes they are constructs of hedonism and merchandising. These tortured ecclesiastical models range from the health and wealth models all the way to the most aberrant emergent frameworks and everything in between. In my mind there are wide parameters between which evangelical churches can live and exist, but there are many today that have stepped outside what even fair minded believers can adopt as acceptable.

Some churches proudly proclaim that is doesn’t matter what you believe as it concerns salvation and your standing before God. They suggest the Scriptures and the truth they project are malleable and flexible according to the dictates of the era. These go beyond employing methodological conduits with which to convey these truths, these churches suggest a foundational reworking of truth itself by juxtaposing God’s Word against the current cultural practices and adjusting God’s Word to accommodate whatever behavior is at odds with the ancient scripts. Going further than just compassion, outreach, and extended redemption, many of these churches relieve the doctrinal tension by surrendering God’s truth to human behavior. Well intentioned though it may be, it creates an atmosphere which removes eternal redemption and replaces it with finite accommodation, and which can ultimately lead to spiritual death. It is tragic.

Now as we address some of these things we must be vigilant of our own complete standing by grace, and we must not succumb to an attitude of disgust that opens the floodgates to self righteousness and makes any hope of correction useless. Many times we have been guilty of viewing others as pawns in a spiritual game of Gettysburg that attacks the enemy with the carnal weapons of human swords and when the dust settles many lie wounded and dead while we congratulate ourselves in a work well done. Take a good, long look at the cross once more and see the challenge that lies ahead. How can we rescue the deceived that are drawing others into their deception while maintaining an attitude that painfully sacrifices our own motives and strategies? If you believe that can be done easily you are deceived as well. If you believe that will take much labor and will be very difficult you are still deceived.

To speak for God’s truth in the power of the cross is a human paradox, and if we cannot feel pain and our own unworthiness we have chosen a wrong path. If we are not drawn to tears, and even bouts of weeping, we are still speaking God’s truth in our own power. If we cannot feel desperate compassion for others, be they professing believers or not, we are just playing at God’s truth and not surrendering to the battle that can only be won on Mt. Humility. This is God’s battle, not ours, and we are His servants for Christ’s sake. We carry His truth, not ours, and must wield His Sword with love and wisdom, always attempting to slice the cords of deception while avoiding the throats of sinners.

I would like us to examine a specific example, although not alone and probably not the most grievous, of how far off good intentions can take us. One of the more well known expressions of an emergent church is one in Minneapolis, Minnesota called Solomon’s Porch. It is pastored by a man named Doug Pagitt who is an active participant in most things called emergent. The structure of the Sunday meetings is somewhat odd, but that is actually not what concerns me. What I would like to address, using Solomon’s Porch as an example, is the focus, the teaching, and the Biblical essence of this church and others like it.

Here is the video I am addressing.

And here are some direct quotes from that video:

” We just knew that the way we had done Christianity all of our lives was no longer a viable option anymore.”

“The issues Jesus would deal with today would be …racism, the environment, it would be globalization, and it would be feeding the masses….it would be these sorts of things.”

“I see the Bible changing…i do not see it stagnant and so for us, as a community of Christians to say, we need to believe this one thing and hold it tightly and make sure that it is never questioned?…That is a real waste of energy with all the things we could be doing in the world.”

“I have no agenda to go around and convince people of things they don’t want to be convinced of. That seems to be the least gracious, kind and loving thing you can do…is go and disturb someone who chooses not to be disturbed. I think places like ours are hope producing for people who are already disturbed and gives them another option.”

“There is no…like..statement of belief at this church or statement of not like a set in stone theology that everyone in this church has to adhere to.”

“I have heard that the kingdom of god is supposed to be like a party house so let’s do communion like a house party.”

The question is not the creativeness of the “way of Jesus” terminology, it’s what exactly does that mean? Does attempting to live your life like you think Jesus lived His actually provide you with redemption? Is salvation a process or is it an event? Is it a way of life that slowly but surely constructs redemption or is it a moment of regeneration ignited by faith, which then begins a process of living out the realities inherent in that event? That difference is not a parsing of words or semantical disputes that refuse to see the oneness of each description. No, this is the difference between salvation purely by faith and salvation by adjusting one’s life, usually defined by being nice and meeting the needs of others.

If indeed the way of Jesus, and not the redemptive work of Jesus, is salvation then the cross is purely an example of selflessness rather than the very core of redemption. If our lives can save, then His blood is simply the blood of a man and powerless to redeem. It seems that some have become disenchanted with the self righteous, doctrinal idolatry of many entrenched camps, and so they have misguidedly become doctrinally unhinged in an attempt to exhibit compassion for the earthly plight of so many. It is a noble endeavor; however it minimizes and almost ignores the very essence of gospel truth.

A man stands on one side of a great chasm and sees another man on the other side with a raging fire coming toward him. The man who is safe starts to call to the man and point him to the bridge, the only bridge that he himself took to safety. But before he directs him to this bridge the safe man sees the man in jeopardy has no shoes and he throws him his own shoes across the divide. With a feeling that he has demonstrated compassion, the safe man turns away and leaves the man without any instructions concerning the bridge. This a rough metaphorical narrative of what happens when the church replaces faith with works and raises humanitarian works as supreme at the expense of the gospel.

Many churches are attempting to meet the needs of westerners by offering a place of experience, a place where people can come and paint, interact, make things, and a host of activities most of which are not part of the gospel and God’s mission. You may visit the website of Solomon’s Porch and you will find a kind of community fair atmosphere with some religious verbiage mixed in. Many churches now hold dances and beer making workshops and other activities that are not usually considered part of a gathering of believers. The statement of faith at this church is called its dreams, and it is a list of very nebulous statements that lack any clear Christian mission, much less any gospel. The closest statement dealing with the Great Commission is this – “People who are not Christians become followers of God in the way of Jesus”.

Of course anyone who takes issue with that type of description are sometimes considered as nitpickers, however that expression lacks any mention of redemption through faith in the work of Jesus Christ both on the cross and in His resurrection. It is important to note that the New Testament was very specific, and the early apostles did not shy away from boldly proclaiming the gospel even among hostile Jews and ignorant Gentiles. I am not one who demands harshness or who refuses any methodology to reach the unsaved, however many churches are becoming so unclear, so nebulous, and so cultural in their verbiage that they can no longer be considered Biblical at all.

Now as you watched the video you saw people giving their opinions as to what a church should be. Some said beliefs are unimportant, one said communion should be a “house party” which the video shows as nothing more than a little cocktail party, and one woman said that if Jesus were here today He would be concerned with globalization and hunger and global warming and all the current issues. Although this church might be considered “cutting edge” emergent, it is being replicated throughout the country. No longer is the preaching of the Word held as central, and no longer is redemption by faith heralded as the only way to eternal life. The concern for people’s earthly needs is noble, and it would have been a wonderful movement if they had added that emphasis to the Christian message without tampering with the gospel itself, but as we can see that is not the case.

This kind of evangelical shift is seismic and cannot be dismissed as just methodology. Even one small step away from gospel centeredness is dangerous and can only lead to doctrinal mischief; however these types of churches seem to have moved completely away from the gospel. It is sad and tragic to see how the gospel has become irrelevant and uninteresting to this growing group of post modern communities. The mission now seems to be go and solve the world’s problems rather than go and preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Throughout church history Christians were persecuted and martyred for preaching the gospel of Christ, not for any humanitarian works they performed. The church used to preach “Come as you are” but some now preach “Come as you are and stay as you are”. The life changing gospel of Jesus Christ has given way to a community workshop/support group framework that views the Scriptures as good Christian literature and not the very Words of life. Most Christians know very little of the emergent movement, but it will continue to grow should Jesus tarry. It is God’s will that we as the body of Jesus Christ should go. We should, we must, be stirred from our stagnancy and lethargy, and surely our doctrinal entrenchments, however pure and right, must be given expressions through our very lives. But we must never downplay the fact that only through works-less faith can a sinner be born again into the family of God Himself.

I am shocked, saddened, embarrassed, angered, and emotionally affected in many ways when I see how the glory of the cross is being silenced by those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. I have no inside information concerning the salvation of anyone but myself, but I grieve to think that so many have been drawn to a Christian fad, a facsimile, and a powerless replica of what God intended for His people to be. We will never stem this tide by studying its many facets, or by becoming conversant with its errors, and certainly not by using demeaning invectives which make us fixated on the error of others and make us blind to our own Samsonesque weakness.

But it is also true we can never allow these trends to infiltrate the mainstream body of Christ. We must take up a sword in one hand with which to keep error at bay and a hammer in the other with which to build ourselves up in the faith. In must not go unnoticed that stripped of these types of doctrinal deviancies against which we appear much better, we would be exposed as the lukewarm people that we are, powerless as compared with other generations and comfortable to live well within this hedonistic western lifestyle. And let our words be of concern rather than caustic, and let our hearts be grieved rather than self righteous. We must resurrect our pathetic prayer closets until we bombard heaven beseeching our Great God to reign down His power upon us all. Our calling is not to be consumed with studying the enemy as he sows his tares, ours is to keep our eyes on Christ, hear His voice, and trim our sails to follow His direction.
Wise as serpents, but harmless as doves.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Cross
The Eternal Agent of Change

And so the seasons change, bringing forth the revelations of a new world and the whispers of a kingdom. The old wineskins plead to remain and the new wineskins softly sing a new song. The sky looks dark, ever darker, and yet morning moves within her darkness. The eyes cannot see and the ears cannot hear, and yet the spirit rises to this morning that approaches without the evidence some demand.

The new heart hears music unplayed and sees glory unrevealed. Illuminated by faith alone the lone believer must succumb to its calling, wholly dependent upon the unseen promise of a life to come. Tethered to and yet free from here, the Christ traveler continues safe on this resurrected journey of faith. His missteps are woven into this journey by the wisdom of His Guide Who knows his plight and plans his way.

The victory hides in utter defeat, and the glory is covered in blood. Suffering is a step and persecution is a crown. Do not despair you pilgrims, the Lord of the Harvest will bring in His sheaves and reward His laborers far greater than they deserve. The King of All knows no slumber and has no weakness, and worry is foreign to Him. The end is the beginning, and the road to the City of God is paved with the branches of humility and love.

Trust not in the ways and words of men, but incline your ears to hear the steps of blind soldiers that carry out the divine will but who know not Who they slay. Who can separate us from this crimson covered act of love? If God Himself gives this kind of gift, what indeed will He withhold from those who receive it? This holy massacre reveals a love whose strength is without limits and whose length is without measure.

The grace that pours from these veins can and does cover the vilest among us, and this bloody shepherd knows who are His and answers not to the inspections of men. Walk through the door of faith once more, reacquaint yourself with His redemption, and you will find the room of grace without walls. Rejoice in His blood and revel in His sufferings for He has won. We have not won, He alone has risen victorious and we are made sharers in a victory that was not ours and a suffering that we had indeed caused.

Does it seem like a fairy tale to you? Oh, but it is! The story we tell today is a pitiful narrative told by sinful lips and finite minds. One day this fairy tale will vanish in the glory that cannot be described, and the reality will eclipse the fable. And on that day, in His glorious presence, we all will consider ourselves grateful fools as we see the ignorance of our best preaching, our best teaching, and our best understandings.

So do not despair, we play today in a sandbox of our own making, but one day we will be covered in the skin of glory which is Christ Himself, and we will be like Him. But until that day, let us keep looking forward together, to thirst and to hunger for that day, no, to thirst and to hunger for Him alone. He has made us one, with all our faults and misguided certainties; He has made us one…in Him, by the fellowship of His sufferings and the power of His resurrection.

The event we commemorate today caught me unawares in 1975. I had grown up in a Lutheran church with my mother as choir director. I attended catechism for three years and was confirmed as a believing member when I was 13 or 14 years old. I was profoundly lost. To say I was a used rose would be demeaning to used roses. I was a disgusting rebel who set about to expand the boundaries of personal hedonism. I resist revealing the extent of my drug and alcohol use but suffice to say I am fortunate to be alive. Not content with consumption I sold drugs into the high school at age 20 through my senior high girl friend.

At 6′4″ and 220 pounds I was violent and intimidated everyone I could and rode my van and/or motorcycle through the community recognized by friend and foe alike. I have a police record as well. So during a street fight I was seriously injured and had to lay up at my aunt’s house to heal. It was there I saw Billy Graham on TV and in March of 1975 I was saved by God’s grace. When I returned to the community to face some lingering charges against me the entire courtroom was mesmerized at my appearance.

No longer the biker look, I now looked like some choir boy. By some miracle I was acquitted of these last charges, and I went to one of my former friend’s apartment where about 10 of my friends gathered to drink beer and smoke pot. In that setting I shared my faith and having been the absolute ringleader they all listened intently to my story. I pleaded with them to investigate Jesus Christ apart from formal religion and see if He is the way to life eternal and abundant. Later on several of my friends came to Christ while others went to jail or even died.

I cannot fully project in words the change that God brought in my life. Words fail to showcase the work of the Spirit. But I was a rose with no petals and with a broken stem. But even though I do not observe days, today most of the Christian world commemorates an event that saved my life forever. I must testify of the saving power of that cross. Argue all you want about this view or that view, but a profound sinner like me knew nothing of those arguments, all I knew was that Jesus was God’s Son and He died for my sins. I have preached about that cross, I have shared about that cross, I have written about that cross, and I have read about that cross, and it has never lost its newness, its luster to me.

I have nothing but that cross and it’s captive. All my so called literary prowess is just worthless bluster compared to the Christ and His cross. I stand naked of any good works against the work of that cross. I cannot but speak of that which reached down and rescued a rebel like me and allowed me to even speak of Him. I would not desire Charles Manson to speak well of me, and yet Jesus allows me, and is pleased to hear me speak well of Him. It is a spiritual dream to imagine who I was and who I am, and sometimes it would do us all well to take a respite from all the doctrinal squabbles and return to that simple day when God found us.

Call me what you will, point out my many compromises, identify my living inconsistencies, accuse me falsely and accuse me rightly of sin, to it all I embrace my guilt as I embrace my Savior. Today is the day in which I will live forever.

May the Lamb that was slain receive the rewards of His suffering!!!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The End Times
I Pet.4:7 - But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

It has fallen out of vogue in many evangelical circles to speak about, much less suggest the thought that we may be in what the Bible refers to as the “end times”. Indeed the segments of the church that have grown are those whose focus is on practical living, wealth, repackaging of the church to accommodate either the past or future, and other issues that leave any discussion of prophecy as fringe. And in many quarters the chronology and sequence of coming prophetic events consumes the arguments rather than a passionate and burning message of hope and warning. Look around us and assess the global events that literally consume the front page of our news stories.

The collapse of the global economy has been foretold by both famous and insignificant preachers for decades, and with lightening speed we have seen breathtaking prosperity turn into a shocking economic meltdown. The word “billions” as it applies to debt is now obsolete and has given way to the word “trillions”. And the leaders among us believe that accruing massive debt, more debt than can actually be imagined, will be the answer to our problems. This situation did come by the hands of Republicans or Democrats, this crisis is a revelation of the greed and hedonism of all men and we have believed the lies of the devil spoken through the lips of other deceived men who have told us we deserve to be kings. The consequences have only just begun.

In the midst of this grave situation, Iran continues to build a nuclear weapon and North Korea has just launched an intercontinental ballistic missile disguised as a communications satellite. Wars and rumors of wars traverse the airwaves, and disease, poverty, violence, and wickedness expand daily. All these things can be explained and overlooked as just part of the global process and the birthpangs of the new age, however this scenario may be too obvious to be recognized for what it is. Sadly, the church feels no urgency or unction to be stripped of our graveclothes and rise up in resurrection power.

There is no hope but Christ, and the age in which we live will continue to more violent, more perverse, more greedy, and more narcissistic in its pursuit to achieve a new level of human nirvana. And while this tidal wave of prophetic events continues to cover the world, God’s people have become enamored with America, politics, buildings, systematic theology, and all sorts of self gratifying expressions of so called orthodoxy. Some churches are consumed with gimmicks, others are self absorbed, others have constructed themselves as truth warriors, while others seem ambivalent to truth. And the overarching truth that indicts almost every corner of evangelicalism is the powerless state of the church.

We used to be just prophetic spectators, but now we cannot even claim that. Is there nothing that will awaken God’s church? Ride through your community and pass a score of evangelical churches at night. Pass the seeker churches, the mega churches, the reformed churches, the liberal churches, the Baptist churches, charismatic churches, go ahead and pass them all some weeknight and you will see one thing they all have in common. They are all practically dark and empty. While the world disintegrates and collapses upon itself God’s people are asleep. Where are the all night prayer meetings? Where are the nightly watches of intercession? Where is the feeling in the community that the Christians are stirring and repenting of their cultural bondage and are spiritually energized with God’s love and God’s warning?

And in this age of economic crisis we begin to see more sermon messages about finances and how to survive the economic crisis which completely countermands what the Spirit want to do and say during this crisis. God doesn’t desire to show us how to survive, He desires to change us and fill us with His Spirit so that we may preach His gospel in power and passion. Is that all we have in Christ, the ability to survive? Is that what the kingdom of God is all about, just wading through the ebbs and flows of this world? Are we as God’s church just supposed to bail out the water from our own boat or are we called to throw out the lifeboat to those already drowning?

The fear of terrorism has been largely a distraction from the underlying power of human sin. It has provided a nice strawman upon which we can be fixated while the enemy is sowing his deeds all around us. And while Americans proudly pronounced a success in no more attacks since 9/11, the entire economic foundation was decaying right under their self righteous noses. If you have any discernment, you will begin to see more violence, more workplace rampages, more mass killings, more high school murders, more corruption, more lying, more stealing, more adultery, and more open manifestations of sin that anyone could have imagined.

And during these coming days some in the church will proclaim it was just as bad in centuries gone by, some will say it will get better, but most will say very little of any value. God is calling His people to deeper waters, some will hear, but most will remain in spiritual Babylon, soothed by mini-victories that can be duplicated by self help groups, Muslims, and moral support groups. The call of the gospel will continue to bow low to accommodate a response without any inconvenience, and some will offer the gospel packaged in the demands of the law. Some will condone sin while others will hate sinners. Some will make truth irrelevant while others will make it a religious icon.

And during the decades some have used prophetic warnings to their own profit, while others have used them as self righteous tools to castigate sinners and saints alike. And Satan will use that to deceive us into believing that there is nothing to fear and every warning is a cry of “wolf” or an overreaction to current events. You may believe that if you wish, but perhaps something much more sinister is afoot here, and just perhaps the situation is desperate. But obviously we are not.

A knowledge of these things alone is as useless as being ignorant of them. Just enunciating the warning, like this post, is equally as impotent without corresponding action and Holy Spirit power. Warning a man that he is drowning without throwing him a lifesaver and having the strength to reach him is hollow. We need a massive awakening throughout every corner of evangelicalism. The question is this:
Is our desire for it even strong enough to energize a pursuit?