Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Painful Truth

“We know much less than we think we do, and we practice much less than we do know.”

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

The following two posts deal with the differing views on war, and in general violence in a Biblical perspective. The first post is by my friend Chris Lyons of the blog "Prophets, Priets, and Poets", and the second post is by me. We both desire truth and we both hope you will meditate upon all perspectives. Both these posts are also up on Chris' blog as well.
Biblical Pacifism
by Rick Frueh
Blessed are the peacemakers…
A Short Introduction

If I may borrow from the language of Dickens, “There is no doubt that the Old Testament has passed. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing good can come of the truths I am going to relate”. The way God did things in the Old Testament are decidedly different from the way God interacts with man in the New Covenant. The writing of Hebrews distinctly informs us that “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds…”. It is disingenuous and self serving to cull out portions of the Old Testament and suggest that they are life patterns for followers of the Lord Jesus. The Old Testament Scriptures are mainly revelatory shadows that speak of the coming Christ. The horrific violence that took place in the Old Testament must remain a mystery, but it cannot be dragged into the gospel of grace.
Christ Himself laid out principles that helped us place the Old Testament in its rightful context. “You have heard it said…but I say unto you” is one of the teachings that awaken us to the superiority of the Words spoken by the Incarnate Christ, and they clearly indicate a difference. Abraham, Moses, and Solomon are just a few of the Old Testament figures to whom Christ openly claimed to be superior. I do not believe it is necessary to present a litany of things that God did in the Old Testament that are a mystery and outside our present understanding of God through the perfect prism of the Incarnation.
If you see the Old Testament dealings by God as a partial template for us today, well then you not only have carte blanche for almost any kind of violence and revenge, you have a colossal problem with the teachings of Jesus. The Old Testament must be seen as transitional and we must by faith trust that God in His wisdom was always moving toward Christ, even though many things were violent and without mercy. How could God do what He did in the Old Testament and yet now reveals Himself in Christ? As Hammerstein once observed, “Fools give you answers, wise men never try”.
So here we are, firmly planted in the New Covenant and with the perfect revelation of God in the Person of Jesus Christ. It is His life and teachings that are foundational, and the recorded teachings of the apostles must be viewed as ancillary and a further unfolding of those same teachings. But let me suggest on the outset that any reading of all twenty-seven books of the New Testament in one continuous reading will present an overwhelmingly non-violent message. Give a New Testament to a brand new believer who has no nationalistic allegiances, place him for one year upon a secluded island, and after one year ask him if he sees Jesus’ teachings as supporting violence in any form.
So why do we as believers make allowances for violence, even violence on a massive scale when it comes to some scenarios upon this world? Again from Hammerstein,


You've got to be taught to hate and fear,

You've got to be taught from year to year,

It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear,

you've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid, of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade, you've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late, before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate, you've got to be carefully taught!

Of course those words refer to racism, but the principle is the same. The reason we modern believers have made a space for violence in certain situations is because somewhere in the past decades the concept crept in and we have been taught the same since birth. Violence is appreciated and lauded in our western society and somehow the church has adopted that as well.
And let us be perfectly clear; nationalism and national allegiance alters everything we think about being followers of Jesus Christ. The church lives with divided loyalties and that dualism distorts our view of many things in Scripture and indeed dilutes the teachings of Jesus and makes them compatible, if not subservient, to the dictates of our national perspectives. Please do not think that non-violence will make sense in this present world, and many times if the teachings of Jesus do fit nicely into this western culture then they are bastardized versions.

It isn’t just our view of violence that has been diluted and made palatable to the church, it is almost all the teachings of Christ, which if we haven’t softened them to accommodate our western lifestyles, we teach them in purity but compromise them in practice. The teachings of Jesus are without question non-violent if we receive them according to the understanding of language. The only way we can suggest exceptions is to interject nationalism which is usually under the heading of “self defense”. The theory is that when it comes to self defense, either personal or national, violence can be God’s way in some situations. And I will readily admit that principle seems reasonable and even logical, especially when you project a spirit of restraint and using violence as a last resort.

For a moment, let us examine how the early believers thought and behaved. There are statements from the the Didache (AD 60-130), as well as from Ignatius (about 110) and Polycarp that have been used to support pacifism, however the statements are more direct warnings against hate than they are dealing with non-violence. Justin Martyr gives more substantive statements that seem to support non-violence, including, “We who were filled with war, and mutual slaughter, and every wickedness … have changed our warlike weapons – our swords into ploughshares, and our spears into implements of tillage.”
That still is not a significant treatise on pacifism. But there were many pagans in the first two centuries who castigated Christians for refusing to enter the military and for their pacifism as well as their allegiance to Christ at the expense of patriotism. The early Christian writer and theologian Tertullian, considered the father of the doctrine of the Trinity, taught that converts to Christ should immediately resign from the military. That was probably a mix of pacifism as well as a more clear manifestation of one’s allegiance. Origen, another early Christian theologian, wrote that Christians do not serve as magistrates or soldiers; rather they fight by prayer. They refuse public office in order to keep themselves "for a diviner and more necessary service … the salvation of men”. He did exhort prayers for soldiers that fight in a just cause. Augustine and Luther both accepted the notion of just wars. So to be accurate, the issue was a mixed bag.

However it is apparent that there were many believers who were unashamed pacifists. When Constantine comes upon the scene, he sees an apparition of the cross in the sky and interprets that in many ways. Two Constantinian interpretations are that God will be with believers in war, as well as his refining of the doctrine of anointed earthly empires. This teaching in several forms has continued until today. Most of American evangelicalism espouses the notion that God birthed the nation of America for a special purpose, in addition to the truth that God uses all things to accomplish His will. In short, the overwhelming majority of Christian schools teach that America was formed as a Christian nation and that patriotism is part of being a good Christian. Portraits of Washington, Jefferson, and others are common in evangelical schools, even though Washington was a slave owner and Jefferson was a heretic.

The concept of divine favoritism manifested in certain nations has pervaded the American church and over the many decades it has become an important tenant. Hidden and overt in this teaching is the acceptance of war and violence as God’s earthly instrument of justice. To be sure the nation of America has war and violence in its constitution and practice, but our mission is to compare that with the teachings of Christ. And the teachings of Jesus must have superior status and they must be authoritative over any and all other teachings and practices. This is difficult within a culture that thrives on viewing their nation as superior in many ways, including a tortured divine favored status. This is a short background and partial history of pacifism as viewed and practiced in Christianity. There are many teachers throughout church history who reject pacifism and teach different levels of divinely accepted violence and even war. But both sides must withstand the scrutiny of New Testament teachings. . I do want to express my appreciation for Chris Lyons allowing my point of view to be posted on his blog; his posts will be on my blog, and I also want to shred myself of any judgment of believers who sincerely disagree with my views. I believe there are very committed followers of Jesus who see things in this area differently than do I.


You Cannot Serve Two Masters


And now I am going to address my views as I understand and interpret Scripture. At the outset, in order to suggest that Jesus allows and supports violence of any kind, you must have a dual kingdom view. What I mean is that almost all believers who support certain kinds of violence due to circumstances, do so in the context of a national kingdom. These believers support war because they have an allegiance to a certain nation, usually the one in which they live.
In order to support some wars you must believe that some wars are “just”, or in other words, justified. And that view emanates from an earthly kingdom view that believes that God favors different nations, depending upon the war. This just war opinion must always be formulated through the conduit of second hand information and usually through secular sources that are almost always slanted by allegiance or political bias. So we receive information from a biased secular source through the television, magazines, the internet, and the general chit chat of public discourse. And wholly based upon that information, we are to form an opinion about the whether it is God’s will for men and women to die on both sides because the nature of the conflict is just, at least from our view?

It is true that governments have the power to punish criminals and declare war, but that should not be the business of God’s church. Let us not forget that we are the collective body of Jesus Christ and collectively we are to minister life through Christ to the uttermost parts of the world. When Jesus speaks about doing good to our enemies and blessing those who curse you, He never gave a caveat that suggested you could abrogate those commands if the nation in which you were living decided a war was necessary. That is the dualistic view of which I formerly mentioned.

Many believers will suggest a difference between murder and killing, and they will say that when God said “Thou shall not kill” that He meant murder. Of course to those who are murdered and to those who are killed the difference is moot – they are all dead. But again, the exception is made through a nationalistic prism, and in fact, if a believer has no allegiance to an earthly nation he cannot make that argument. The conundrum goes further when you realize that many times believers are killing believers in wars. Which side is God on in those cases?

I will openly admit that being a pacifist is revolutionary and radical, especially when you realize how culturally entrenched are our thoughts on the subject. I am 57 years old and I had never met or heard a pacifist until this last decade, although I know there were many. The conscientious objectors were the closest thing to pacifists I had ever known. And since becoming a believer in 1975, not only had I never met a Christian pacifist, I had only heard and believed that violence was sometimes God’s design to solve international disputes. The classic argument went something like this, “What would have happened if we had not stopped Hitler?”

There are a couple of things wrong with that theory. The foundational fissure for the believer is that we can never subscribe to the end justifies the means formula, and we must obey God outright without the thought of consequences. This applies in our personal lives as well. Along the same line, could it be possible that we missed an incredible opportunity to shine a light amidst great darkness? Sometimes the “what ifs” compromise a remarkable commitment to God’s Word.

The Hitler question also illuminates how we as believers have come to think. We think as Americans and many times not Christians. Because we are politically active, and because we salute the flag and say the pledge of allegiance, we have become Americans who happen to be Christians. We must think as followers of Jesus Christ, or at least aggressively attempt to think as one. There are many wars that have been fought since WW II and many wars continue today. Why are we not fighting in some of those wars since many people are being killed at the hands of evil aggressors? The reason is obvious – they are not killing us, which is a larger form of the American walking past the man who was robbed in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Do you see the unchristian and duplicitous nature of such things? In essence, let the Angolans die, it is not a national security issue for us.

I do not wish to belabor the point, I believe you can see my perspective. I will leave you with many passages of Scripture that when taken literally are in stark contrast to the nationalistic violence promoted by western evangelicals. I have yet to hear a believer who lives in American say that violence is approved in some cases, but his reasoning is not in any nationalistic vein. It is always tethered to nationalism, which is another deceptive compromise on many levels. But if we are followers and imitators of Jesus, we are presented with a mountain of teachings that fly in the face of what we have been taught. In this New Testament context, it seems to me that Jesus and His teachings are clear, albeit counter cultural, about how we should live among the darkness.

Many times Jesus did something that was astounding to His followers since it seemed to go against the vision that they had for the Jewish kingdom. You can read about an account in Matthew chapter eight when a Roman centurion, one who was over one hundred men, came to Jesus interceding for his sick servant. Now this soldier was part of the occupying Roman Empire which was one of the most brutal forces in any time. Jesus offered to go to this man’s house but the man refused because he considered Jesus a rabbi and felt it was inappropriate for Jesus to enter his home. It was a sign of respect.

Remember this man was the enemy of the nation of Israel and of God’s people, and he did not come to hear Jesus, he wanted something that would benefit him. He desired his servant to be healed. Jesus did heal the servant with His word, but he also made these interesting statements:
Matt.8:10 - When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

What? What kingdom did He mean when He said they would be cast out? And what kingdom would come from around the earth and sit down with Abraham? It doesn’t take much thought to realize that Christ was speaking prophetically about the coming kingdom living in the church. In the context of a “just war” the Jews would be justified in killing this centurion, but notice how he dealt with the earthly, nationalistic, and ethnic kingdom. Instead of directing the Jews to kill this enemy combatant, Jesus dealt with him in a supremely gracious way – He healed his servant.
This might have been the same servant that polished and took care of his sword and garments of war. So not only did Jesus not lead His followers to kill this aggressor, He indirectly helped that centurion in his mission to occupy Israel.

One man who followed the “just war” principle was Barabbas. He was active in a “just war” by being involved in attempting to overthrow Rome. And Barabbas had killed Romans and was described by Mark as a murderer. And yet, when one of Jesus’ followers attempted to murder a Roman, Jesus rebuked him.

Look no further than the Garden of Gethsemane in which Peter picked up a sword to defend Jesus and surely himself. Peter even cut off one soldier’s ear and Jesus healed this man who was a violent and butcherous tool of Rome. And Jesus addressed Peter with these words:
Matt.26:52-54 - Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?
A
lthough the words are couched within this unfolding redemptive event, the overall principle should be striking to us. Jesus indicates that He could provide enough power to kill them all, but God’s will is not accomplished by violence through His followers. In fact, to suggest God’s will can sometimes be accomplished through violence smacks of Islam. But in a spectacular paradox, the Prince of Peace presents Himself to the crosshairs of the Prince of Darkness, and Satan’s violence crucifies the sinless and passive Lamb, and redemption is accomplished and the violent king of demons is defeated through his own violence.
I Cor.2:7 - But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Selah.
Let me close with a listing of Scriptures that openly suggest humble pacifism that is self sacrificing and is in direct contrast to the human aggression that the church has surreptitiously united with the teachings of Christ. Perhaps the Spirit can lift your heart above the trappings of this world and you will be set free from the teachings of men.
Matt.5:9-12 - Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Matt.5:21-22 - Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Matt.5:38-39 - Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Matt.5:43-48 - Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Matt.6:14-15 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Matt.6:24-34 - No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
(Pre-emptive war is based on worry and fear that someone might attack first)

** All of the above Scriptures are taken from the Sermon on the Mount. Many evangelicals suggest that the truths in this sermon are abrogated and superseded by national interests and allegiances.

Jn.3:16 - For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Mk.12:31 - Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these
Lk.6:27-33 - But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
II Tim.1:7 - For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (Many times war arises out of fear)
I Thess.3:11-13 - Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
Rom.13:9-10 - For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

** The above Scriptures deal with love of the brethren, love of the lost, and love of your enemies. Again, many evangelicals suggest that these truths are abrogated and superseded when national interests and security are at stake. In essence, when it is convenient.

Rom.12:19-21 - Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

** The above Scripture outlines for us how to treat our enemies. But many evangelicals suggest that these commands are only applicable to certain enemies.

I Cor.4:11-13 - Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
Phil.1:29 - For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;


** The above Scriptures provide for us an expectation of suffering and persecution. But many evangelicals believe that personal persecution should be endured gracefully, but that national persecution demands a violent response, approved by the same Lord that said the above Scriptures.
Either these Scriptures are to be taken literally and applied completely, or their application is to be decided by each individual as to the appropriateness of the situation, the superior jurisdiction of national interests, or just a general situational ethics template. No one fully adheres to the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, but if we limit their pervasiveness we categorically dilute and compromise the divine essence of their teaching and lower the obedience bar to a culturally convenient level. In short, you have created manageable suggestions and lofty sermon outlines that are far more storybook fiction than truth goals that factually represent the Person of Christ living through His followers.
There are many more New Testament Scriptures that clearly represent a pattern of non-violence and behavior that is counter culture, in fact, I could just print out the four gospels in their entirety. Does it seem odd that Paul commands us to suffer persecution for the cause of Christ without returning retribution but many churches teach retribution is God’s design for national persecution? And think on this: If a nation is allowed to go to a “just war” does that still include the support or participation of the followers of Jesus? Again it is imperative that one stakes out a nationalistic position in order to justify a violent Christian and to completely abrogate the clear teachings of the New Testament. Of course no such delineation was ever given in any of the 27 books of the New Testament.
So we are left with this: Are we Christians completely devoted to following and imitating Jesus Christ? Or are we followers of Jesus but somewhat under the direction of many unsaved and carnal men who dictate which wars to fight? We are to obey the law where it does not conflict with God’s Word, but how much allegiance do we owe any government? And if we owe the government allegiance, even to the point of killing for them, where does this allegiance come from? Do we borrow it from the reservoir of allegiance we have for Christ?
We are given no spiritual flexibility to compartmentalize certain aspects of the life of Jesus Christ as it is mirrored in our lives. The writer of Hebrews alludes to the divine communications through the Old Testament, but he openly reveals that in these days God speaks through Jesus Christ alone. Does the New Testament indicate a coming divine judgment upon this world? Yes, but that is God’s business alone while our calling is the gospel. To get entangled with the affairs of the kingdoms of this world, including the suggestion that it is God’s will for us, not only dilutes the power and distinctiveness of our Savior and His gospel, it has led to an unholy meshing that significantly clouds the real message of the gospel.
The same nationalism that blinded the Jews to the mission of the Messiah, has in many ways blinded the church in the same way. But, you ask, what will happen if we as believers withdraw from the systems of this world and America falls to her enemies? Well, we might just be forced to trust God completely, which in this culture, would be somewhat of a spiritual resurrection.
On 2/13/91 – Two stealth bombers flew to Almeria in the Bagdad suburbs and released two laser guided bombs at approximately 4:30 AM.. The bombs went down the ventilation shafts and went deep inside the bunker, just as planned. But over 400 civilians were sleeping in that bunker, many of them children, and most were killed. From every indication this was unintentional, but such is the nature of war which is resigned to "collateral damage", which is a sterile way of describing human carnage.
In the Old Testament kings went to war with their armies. Today kings watch their men and women die on flat screen televisions; even some kings who previously had maneuvered their way out of direct combat when their time came. In the end, even though God's involvement in violence before Christ seemed obvious, God did not allow King David to build the Temple since he was a man of war. Interesting, no?
If it is God's will to violently resist oppression then that is a direct indictment of a long line of martyrs who eschewed violence and willingly chose martyrdom. If it is God's will to espouse such allegiance to your country that you are willing to kill for it, then all believers should at some point be directly involved with the military. And the church in America should supply the Chinese church, the Venezuelan church, the Sudanese church, and all other churches living in oppressive regimes with arms that will help them violently overthrow their governments, just like America did the British.

If a man was being brutal and killing people in your community, would it be Christian to demand he stop or you would murder 100 innocent people in his neighborhood? That is exactly the construct of the attack on Hiroshima. There is little doubt that overall more lives would have been lost by an invasion, but is the “end justifies the means” the principle that believers should follow when it suits our needs? And are we to make "quantitative" choices concerning death?

Every teaching of Jesus runs counter to what nations do, and with that in mind who do we obey? Is it God's will that the Russian believer gives allegiance to his government while the American believer gives allegiance to his? Where can the unity of the Spirit be found when believers give their allegiance to different secular governments and are committed to kill each other to forward their particular government's cause? Can we lay aside the teachings of Jesus when your country calls? Everyone would say “No!”, which is why many have had to make exceptions to His teachings. I sincerely hope everyone would at least give a little thought to what I have shared regardless of how radical it may seem and how it is in direct conflict with what you considered “settled law” within your own heart and mind.


Blessed are the peacemakers…

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Martin Luther
and the
Holocaust

I am writing this post not to suggest that Martin Luther was not a saved man, I believe he was. But his words against the Jews were profoundly hateful and disgustingly unchristian. Here are just a few:

“Therefore the blind Jews are truly stupid fools...”

“Now just behold these miserable, blind, and senseless people.”

“Therefore be on your guard against the Jews, knowing that wherever they have their synagogues, nothing is found but a den of devils in which sheer self-glory, conceit, lies, blasphemy, and defaming of God and men are practiced most maliciously and veheming his eyes on them.”

“Moreover, they are nothing but thieves and robbers who daily eat no morsel and wear no thread of clothing which they have not stolen and pilfered from us by means of their accursed usury. Thus they live from day to day, together with wife and child, by theft and robbery, as arch-thieves and robbers, in the most impenitent security.”

“One should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.”

“Eject them forever from this country. For, as we have heard, God's anger with them is so intense that gentle mercy will only tend to make them worse and worse, while sharp mercy will reform them but little. Therefore, in any case, away with them!”

“Do not grant them protection, safe-conduct, or communion with us. . . . With this faithful counsel and warning I wish to cleanse and exonerate my conscience.”

“Therefore we Christians, in turn, are obliged not to tolerate their wanton and conscious blasphemy.”

“My advice, as I said earlier, is:
First, that their synagogues be burned down, and that all who are able toss sulphur and pitch; it would be good if someone could also throw in some hellfire...
Second, that all their books-- their prayer books, their Talmudic writings, also the entire Bible-- be taken from them, not leaving them one leaf, and that these be preserved for those who may be converted...
Third, that they be forbidden on pain of death to praise God, to give thanks, to pray, and to teach publicly among us and in our country...
Fourth, that they be forbidden to utter the name of God within our hearing. For we cannot with a good conscience listen to this or tolerate it...”

“If I had power over the Jews, as our princes and cities have, I would deal severely with their lying mouth.”

“The government must act like a good physician who, when gangrene has set in proceeds without mercy to cut, saw, and burn flesh, veins, bone, and marrow. Such a procedure must also be followed in this instance. Burn down their synagogues, forbid all that I enumerated earlier, force them to work, and deal harshly with them, as Moses did...”

** All taken from Luther’s Book “The Jews and Their Lies”.

I have published these statement for two reasons. The first is so that you can see how idolatrous it is to revere a man, and Luther is a prime example of a carnal man, given to wine and temper, and a hater of men. Without the grace of God, John’s first epistle would render Luther unregenerate. To use his name as someone whose example we should follow is breathtaking in its ignorance, and it disregards many of the commandments of God. Luther was used of God as a conduit for the Reformation, however his life and practice were decidedly unbiblical and a misrepresentation of Jesus Christ Himself. While boldly defending a doctrine on paper, his life and practice denied Christ. Much of that goes on today as well.

Secondly, Luther’s anti-Semitism contributed greatly to the climate which gave rise to the mistreatment of the Jews, and which ultimately led to the Holocaust. Martin Luther bears some significant responsibility for what happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany, and it is important to note that there were approximately 35 to 40 million Lutherans in Germany among a population of approximately 65 million. O course there were many Lutherans who would have strong objections to what happened in Nazi Germany, but the climate that Luther ushered in allowed anti-Semitism to incubate and fester.

Does it strike you odd that those who follow and rever Luther are so silent about the horror of his language and hatred? That is symtamatic of huamn idolatry when one attempts to dismiss or whitewash a man's detestible transgressions. The words of Luther make Louis Farrakhan blush. And his overt hatred for the Jews was contagious in Germany and embedded itself in the fabric of their culture. Building upon that deep seeded hatred Adolf Hitler murder 6 million Jews, and in fact Hitler openly expressed his admiration for Martin Luther. While it is true that Hitler's disgust for the Jews came from Roman Catholic upbringing, Luther influenced the German populace. Hitler said:

"Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord."

So the next time you see a church that bears Luther’s name instead of one of God’s names, remember that Luther’s hands have much Jewish blood upon them. Luther is not an example of Christlikeness and Christian charity; he is more an example of God's amazing grace.

Monday, December 21, 2009

More Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

I would like your attention. Some consider the emergent movement as an innocuous attempt to bring the gospel to people with a more modern and effective communication. They rightly assume that emergent teachers are sincere people and they wrongly assume that sincerity translates into truth. I have written about the errors of Peter Rollins and others that make deeds, other than Christ’s, redemptive to sinners. And many suggest that sincere Muslims, Buddhists, and followers of other men can be saved without personal faith in Jesus Christ. They manipulate the Scriptures with metaphorical fantasies and torured logic while ignoring and rejecting the open meaning of words.

When I was attending Bible college in the mid 70s we learned about “liberals” within the Southern Baptist seminaries that denied the inspiration of Scripture, the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection, and even the deity of Jesus Christ. There was no “emergent” church back then, but these liberals may as well have donned that moniker since these emergents are the sons and daughters of the liberal lineage. You are not convinced?

Read this article that was written by an emergent leader named Tony Jones who is a “theologian” who attends the church named “Solomon’s Porch” which is pastured by Doug Pagitt. Both men are friends of Peter Rollins and Rob Bell, and Bell has had Paggit preach at his church. This article was written to question the importance, and in fact the necessity and validity of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. You will find that like many emergents Jones uses the similarities of pagan religions to suggest that the account of the Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary may be just borrowed from other myths.

This brings into question everything the Scriptures teach. If Jesus didn’t need to be born of a virgin, then maybe He didn’t need to be sinless as well. If God could have accomplished His desire without the virgin birth as Jones suggests, perhaps God could have done what He pleased without any of the other attributes that the Scriptures teach were inherent with the Incarnation. And if we begin to pull one important doctrinal thread, how long will it take until the entire theological sweater disappears into emergent thin air? As I have addressed in a previous post here, this is one more instance of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

Jones says, “What you can see in my theological rationale above is that I do not consider Mary’s virginity to be important primarily to preserve the doctrine of Jesus’ sinlessness.”

Notice the words “theological rationale”. That is emergent code speak for unbelief and blasphemy and a general poo pourri of the “what do you think” vehicle for arriving at “Biblical” truth. In fact, it makes the Word of God subservient to Jones’ theological rationale, and it renders God an open and blatant liar. And of course Jones is not content with an open blasphemy of God’s Spirit, he must make this creative and sensationalistic statement,

“Suffice it to say, I think that God is capable of creating and maintaining Jesus and a sinless person without needing a lack of semen to do it.”

I personally have come to the place where I must evaluate all my dealings with brothers and sisters who would give implied, tacit, or open support to men like Jones and all his friends. We are entering a deeper level of apostasy, but I fear God knows that statement could have been written decades ago. Walk in love; walk in grace; walk in humility; walk in personal brokenness; but always walk in truth.

II Jn.4 - I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.

HT: Wittenburg Church Door

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Preparing for Eternity

Is.57:15 - For thus says the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity...

Only God is eternal in both directions, but He has chosen to share futuristic eternity in His creations. Why, we can only surmise, but it must be woven throughout the unfathomable character and love of the Creator God. And with eternity as the backdrop, the redemptive story sheds its earthly ties and soars past Adam, past David, past Bethlehem, past Calvary, past Revelation, and lifts up on eagles wings flying into the loving certainty of the Heavenly Father's care. And when the Eternal One Himself says, "What should it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul", well, Jesus accentuates the eternal as opposed to the temporal. The Holy Spirit through Paul tells us to "look on the things that are not seen, not the things that are seen" and "the things that are seen are temporal and the things that are not seen are eternal".

Just the length of this life compared with the life to come separates the greater from the lesser. The Scriptures themselves describe this life as a “vapor, here today and gone tomorrow". Being a child of the sixties I can remember the growing emphasis on social issues and earthly relationships, all of which were a "show of will worship but only to the satisfying to the flesh". It was well intentioned and intoxicating, but not eternal. If a man slips over a cliff and is hanging on to a little bush trying not to fall into the abyss, and if someone recognizes his plight and rushes to his aid, leans over the cliff, and lowers him a cold drink, and while he watches him quench his thirst the man slips to his death, what good did he do? There is a giant, sixties like movement within the church to bring humanitarian and social justice issues to the forefront at the expense of the everlasting gospel.

For the record, the American church is in the hedonistic bed of capitalism and greed, building great buildings with state of the art everything and with every micro-ministry to each segment of the western church. All the while Christians and unbelievers alike starve and are in great want throughout the world, but most churches now have large screens within the sanctuary so as not to miss the most entertaining vantage point. God wants our children to have large gymnasiums but he declines to feed His African children. And which God would that be?

It is to our shame that we live such lavish lives consumed with consuming and busy about the business of making our lives “better”? Where is the compassion that is revealed in the life ministry of Jesus? And if we have no such compassion concerning the staggering suffering around the world, can we not at least use humanitarian deeds for the purpose of evangelism? Many of us in the west live a video game life that can click on any channel and see how others agonize and are in desperate need, but we are able to click on another channel and enter another more pleasant and entertaining reality. We are a culture of enormous hedonism.

Now several movements have recognized this colossal waste, and in the process of attempting to right the ship they have left the gospel message, which is "that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life". Christ did not die on a Roman cross to pay for a better and more productive earthly life, and in some cases men and women were significantly better off in this world before they became followers of Jesus. We now are hearing people "put into context" the eternal consequences of heaven and hell, you do your own definition. Let us agree that whatever the particulars of heaven and hell after death, they are forever and heaven is infinitely more desirable than hell. People go to great lengths to remove any apprehension and fear of their coming eternity and in that they do a great disservice to people and disdain to the cross of Christ. Word studies, cultural compromise, new understandings, and a wider definition of God's mercy that doesn't even include the name of Jesus, is the theology du jour.

And the truth is no one wants to think about eternity because this life and this world are front and center and a rearranging of salvation parameters is necessary to remove the archaic moorings that have suffocated the church for centuries. It is now a "roll of the dice" and from so many corners teachers today have more questions than Biblical answers. And here we stand, two thousand years later, and we still are hashing over the paramount question of the ages, "What must I do to be saved?" And if the answer to that question is so intricate and complex, and if it depends on the situation, and if it must be extracted from the intellectual writings of the modern literary theologians, then we are doomed. All have a view, all have a doctrine, all have a question, and all can pull the rug out from under the sturdy and proven foothold of orthodox redemptive teachings with just philosophical words that present hypotheticals which leverage uncertainty. Great essays, great literature, great philosophy, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

So here it is, simply told by a simpleton. Does every person born exist for eternity in either heaven or hell? If the answer is yes, then the question becomes how can I arrive in heaven? If the answer is "it depends" then save your breath because it depends upon you and your interpretation. And if all the different emerging streams of thought concerning salvation only muddy the waters and expose our departure from basic historical teachings concerning the born again experience, then let us quit being hypocrites and publicly go on television and say like the Pharisees said to Jesus "We cannot tell". At least we will have honesty as a foundation. But if we are convinced that as much as within us lies, that the road to eternal life passes directly and only through faith in the finished work of the Person of Jesus the Christ, then let us lovingly, powerfully, and exclusively proclaim that to a desperately needy and dark world. And let us guard against allowing all the other fragmented issues cloud the eternal message of hope itself.

The church is the ark of the New Covenant, and our responsibility is infinitely greater than rearranging the chairs of this Earthly Titanic without offering a life saving course correction. Eternity is the high prize than can only be won through the Eternal One, Jesus the Christ. And six quintillion years from today, as we are gathered in worship before the unspeakable sight of the glorious majesty of the Risen Lion of the Tribe of Judah, will we not realize that all was vanity and vexation of spirit - except the knowledge of Him?

So how does one prepare for eternity? There are Sunday School classes for a wide and varied range of subjects. Finances, relationships, marriage, prophecy, and all sorts of subjects have a class, but where is the class that teaches us how to prepare for eternity? Of course we are living in eternity now, but there is coming a life on the other side of this one in which we now live. What does it mean to prepare for eternity?

The first step, of course, is to trust the Lord Jesus with all your heart as the only Savior and Lord. We must see Him as the exclusive door to eternal life and His sacrifice as unique and without equal or even different. When a sinner believes on Christ he becomes a new creature and his entire life is no longer his, and he is now on an obedient journey to be with His Lord.

The New Testament is replete with admonitions and warnings for believers to be watchful, vigilant, and prepared to meet the Lord Jesus. We are on a direct journey to eternity and we should not be distracted by anything in this world. If you are married, it is imperative that you both are lovingly committed to the same journey. You may not fully agree on all the particulars, but you must encourage one another in looking toward the eternal and using the temporal in moderation and gratefulness. If you are not both in spiritual agreement it will affect both your spiritual walk as well as your relationship with each other. On the other hand, if you are unconditionally committed to hear and obey the Lord Jesus personally and for your family, there is almost nothing as strong for God’s kingdom as a committed marriage relationship.

The Scriptures command us to purify our hearts. Many times Bible teachers concentrate exclusively on the purification from the obvious sins, but they miss the broader implications contained in that and other exhortations. So much of the church is chained to this world, and so many spend much time on the cultural, financial, and political rat race. The western lifestyle and the accepted capitalistic construct, if examined by the light of Scripture, is decidedly against the teachings of Jesus and the writers of the New Testament. Not one of them pursued wealth or even their own comfort.

This is a significant mental bondage in America. One of the main reasons we are so bound to lifestyle lies is that most believers, to say nothing of entire fellowships, will ever even consider the prospect that Jesus has something to say about how we live and what we pursue. And even amidst massive debt and discontentment among believers we still refuse to take inventory of our overall principle of living. And most local churches model an unbiblical example by borrowing vast amounts of money from the unbeliever in order to finance buildings (not missions, etc.), and they even have special “financial evangelists” come in whose “calling” is to organize gigantic building campaigns and giving increases that are usually leveraged with “faith promises” in direct violation of “let your yea be yea” teachings as well as the warning concerning vows.

All of this and more stems from an insatiable need for bigger, better, and newer. And it is that desire that places families in financial bondage and pressure, and many times it is that very financial pressure that leads to divorce. Picture a man that has a rope around his neck; the rope goes up and over a tree branch and comes down again and is held by that same man’s own hand. The rope begins to tighten around his neck, but that man suddenly realizes that it is his own hand that is pulling on the rope and hanging himself. And so it is with so many problems such a divorce and debt in the church; we are hanging ourselves.
How can you prepare for eternity? Let go of this world.
Col.3:1-3 - If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
These are not helpful words designed to help you get through the day; these are profound truths that should, when believed and implemented, change the course and pattern of all who profess to be obedient following of Jesus. When the lives and thought patterns of believers are indistinguishable from those who do not know Christ, then we have become believers in the historical Jesus but not His Word. That paradox is not only hypocritical and fallacious, but the implications are frightening. And can you see the church in these words:

Lk.6:46-49 -And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.
But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.
Could it be, brothers and sisters, that the reason the church of Jesus Christ is in such disarray and even apostasy is that we have wandered so far from believing, much less obeying, the words of our Lord that we have crumbled? Have we been carried off to Babylon and now are deceived into believing that the Babylonian way of life is what God desires from His people? Have we settled down into a comfortable lifestyle that has no sacrifice, no inconvenience, no passion, and are we contented to have no contentment? When the Spirit tells us to be content with food and clothing do we actually pretend to believe that?

Please do not search for inconsistencies in my life to soften the message, for I do not speak the words of Frueh, God forbid. If all I do is preach what I perfectly exhibit I would have much less to say, but my words come as a challenge to us all. Let us readily admit that if the church remains upon the same course she will soon exist in spiritual oblivion, if in fact she hasn’t walked through that door already. Either way, our only hope is a revival that seethes with repentance, humility, prayer, and a shedding of the grave clothes we now wear with pride. You see, preparing for eternity is much more than singing “When we all get to Heaven” at church with smiles on our faces and lunch plans already dancing in our heads. Preparing for eternity is like a cocaine addict whose has become proficient at doing his work while his mind is elsewhere.

A limited metaphor, I know, but it gives us a glimpse into what we as believers should be like. We should attend to our earthly lives with faithfulness, but our hearts must be attending things above. Every decision we make, whether it be financial, physical, or anything, must be made in the light of eternity and held up against the Word of God. One slogan that has captured many believers is “What Would Jesus Do?” But so often that means avoiding things like stealing or lying or adultery. But if we are to embrace that principle it will dig much deeper than that. And while avoiding the self righteous trappings of legalism, we must change, or at least start looking for, areas of fallow ground in our lives that are incongruous with an eternity bound saint.
Perhaps I will again revisit this subject, but for now, I personally have addressed my own life with much more than I can say grace over. Turn your eyes upon Jesus…

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A New Breed of Fundamentalist

The word “fundamentalist” is used for several different religions including Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. The term usually denotes someone who takes his religion seriously, and even more seriously than many others within his particular religion. And many times the term is used to portray someone who is inflexible, judgmental, and who seems to speak and behave in a decidedly acrimonious and sanctimonious way. And as I have said, that caricature moves between different religions.

We as Christians have heard the word “fundamentalist” as it pertains to a certain type of believer. Although the term has been nuanced within the Christian doctrinal community, it still has both a demeaning as well as a sense of honor connotation. Some use it as a rock, while others wear it as a badge. Of course the word does not appear in Scripture like many other words used by evangelicals (also not in the Scriptures).

But these fundamentalists are known principally by their doctrinal beliefs and their willingness to defend those beliefs aggressively. The deity of Christ, the bodily resurrection, the inerrancy of Scripture, and salvation by faith alone are some of the primary doctrinal beliefs that usually define a fundamentalist. Some refer to them as “fighting fundamentalists” since they are prone to militancy, not only in the core beliefs, but in many others that may not be tethered to salvation. And many times their infighting defines them as well.

But some of us have reached a point where we believe a new breed of fundamentalists is long overdue. Not a breed that rejects the doctrinal beliefs of the former fundamentalists, but a kind that is recognized and defined by a different standard. These fundamentalists are known for their militant stand on love; and their militant stand on grace; and their militant stand on forgiveness; and their militant stand on redemption; and their imperfect yet continuing pursuit of luminous humility within a culture of boastful darkness.

When people refer to “fundamentalist Christians”, why aren’t they acknowledging their implicit and explicit lifestyles and speech that are overt revelations of the teachings and life example of Jesus? In short, why is there not more identity associated with life doctrines rather than an overwhelming dependence on written doctrines? And when our written doctrines define us significantly more than our lives, then we have reconstructed the tablets of Moses at the expense of living, breathing epistles of the Spirit.

It is a tragedy of the Spirit when some believers set up a doctrinal fortress and train and retrain incessantly using the same set of important truths but never leave that fortress robed in other important truths that disarm sinners with the weapons of love and faith. I am not sure anyone ever came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ because someone told him about the Trinity; however I believe many have been converted through an imperfect believer who reached out in love and compassion, even when the unsaved sinner was disgusting and demonstrative.

I was an associate pastor in New York City in the early 1980’s, and one of the other pastors had been a member of the motorcycle gang called the Pagans. They are a large and notorious gang that has a record of violence and drugs. This man, named Tom, began to date a backslidden Christian and led her into a sinful lifestyle. The girlfriend’s mother was a strong believer, and God had burdened her heart not only for her daughter, but for this man Tom. One day, led by the Spirit, this little woman marched right into the Pagan’s clubhouse and asked for Tom. When someone pointed him out, the lady walked right up to him and said,

Tom, you are dating my daughter. I want you to know that Jesus loves you and so do I, and I am going to pray that you meet Jesus.”

As she walked out of the clubhouse all the bikers were astounded at her boldness. Three months later Tom was saved, left the gang at great risk, and entered Bible College to become a preacher. This little woman could have castigated these men, and she could have looked for and found news clippings about their sinful ways and recent arrests. But instead, she walked in redemption rather than moral outrage; she walked in Jesus rather than the accuser.

And a true “fundamentalists” should be known for an active life of redemption and the ministry of reconciliation. The doctrines about which we will not compromise must include more than just a list of five or six “cardinal” doctrines. We must be militant about our love; nonnegotiable about our grace; and fierce about our forgiveness. Our humility must be aggressive, and unless we are recognized by our projection of the gospel-Jesus rather than an Old Testament Jesus, we are in fact compromisers.

The pride and self adulating aura that is sometimes present in fundamentalist circles does despite to the gospel and the manifestation of the ministry of Jesus. Of course the Lord has revealed truth to us and has every right to expect us to adhere to and teach those truths, however there are more truths than just those which have an “ology” as their suffix. It is past time that Christian fundamentalists are not lumped in with those from other religions. It is time we are known for our fundamental and unwavering expression of the life and character of the Lord Jesus, as well as our commitment to His exclusive offering of redemption through Himself.

Unless God raises up a new breed of “fundamentalist”, the world will continue to view us as truth warriors rather than Jesus mirrors.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

God Loves Adam Lambert
(Subtitled "God Loves Lady Ga Ga" etc., etc.)

And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Adam Lambert is a 27 year old Jewish man. He is openly gay and came to some notoriety in the television show “American Idol”. Anyone who has heard him recognizes the amazing vocal talent he has, and he is ├╝ber theatrical. My mother was an off Broadway actress and a stand up comedian (so now you know where I came from!) so I do appreciate the arts and the theatre. I play the piano, trumpet, and the guitar and I write and sing and have been the worship leader as well as pastor over the years.

I want to go back about 15 years and offer some perspective in the form of confession. I used to preach aggressively against homosexuality as well as homosexuals. Back then I still voted and was deceived into believing America was somehow a “Christian” nation. I also bought into the political game and I misguidedly thought legislation had some spiritual benefit. I, of course, voted the straight Republican party line (Am I speaking to some others as well?). Against my better judgment I was shamed into voting in 2000 for George Bush, and that will remain the last time I ever vote.

But back to the issue of homosexuality. The Bible is very clear as well as God’s physiological design. The practice of homosexuality is sin. But let us climb down from our moral perch and look at the issue through the lens of redemption and also the lens of the pharisaical American church. First let us consider how hypocritical the church is about the issue of sin. Our churches and pulpits are filled with practicing sinners. Oh yes, the only difference is that some sins have been elevated to trump card status while others are excused and many times not even recognized as sin.

It is impossible to participate in the American political and economic system without being an active player in sin. The entire system is constructed upon humanism, even to the point of worshiping past and present leaders and heroes. We as believers should not disparage people but neither should we exalt them. All men have feet of clay, and many of our so called “heroes” were men that had significant moral issues and some were not even believing followers of Jesus Christ. Let us compare today with another time in history.

When God’s people were carried away into Babylon they quickly assimilated into Chaldean culture. They were only there for seventy years and yet they had made friends, created business opportunities, and even had been elevated into governmental positions. And when God called them back to Jerusalem a precious few were willing to leave their new found lives of pleasure and comfort. When a small segment left to repair Jerusalem it also became evident that the Jews in Babylon had forsaken even the feasts and the reading of God’s Word. They had become Babylonians with a Jewish ethnicity.

Here we are today, living in modern day Babylon. And not only have we assimilated into the hedonistic culture of pleasure, wealth, and decadence, we have constructed a fairy tale that suggests that America was and should be a Christian nation. The words Jesus Christ appear nowhere in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, and the early signers were a mixed multitude. In some ways we are worse than the Babylonian Jews. And we boldly profess a solid belief that the Bible is God’s Word and is to be obeyed without question. And yet just a cursory reading of the Sermon on the Mount, the words breathed our directly from the Savior’s mouth, reveals our poor excuse for obedience.

It is significantly easier to not be gay when you have no struggle than it is to not save up money for yourselves in direct violation of Christ’s words. The pews are filled to the brim with professing believers who have unforgiveness in their hearts while others march right in to worship God while holding on to a spirit of judgmentalism. Many believers boldly confess that their worship service is divinely approved, and their style of music honors God. Others play secular music that has a decidedly anti-christian message in an attempt to draw sinners.

What percentage of believers spent more time preparing their bodies for church than their spirits? How many believers walk right into the gathering without even meeting with God that morning? Several years ago I set out for 8 weeks to listen closely to all the little conversations that took place at church. I heard sports, cars, family, sickness, politics, money, vacations, children, and everything else you can imagine. In 8 weeks I did not hear one conversation about Jesus in any form. None. And that was at a church that averaged 3000 in morning worship. Doesn’t that relegate the worship service as a performance and the members as spectators?

Are you beginning to see the hypocrisy that should remove any moral legs upon which to stand and judge others? I will not even mention the enormous mortgage payments that many churches have which include vast amounts of interest that the lending institutions use to lend to some of the same institutions we castigate. The way churches use money and build buildings is a convoluted mess that reveals a decidedly Babylonian mindset. Can I again use my own hypocrisy as an example so you do not think I have a higher vantage point.

Just last week my oldest son was in the enclosed patio cleaning our pool and he came in and shared these thoughts. My pool takes 15,000 gallons of water and needs at least $100.00 a month for maintenance. Think about that! How many Africans are desperate for water to drink and yet I have a tub of thousands of gallons, not for drinking or bathing, but for recreation. And to put a cherry on it, my health precludes me from using it. See, these types of things and more go on without any notice of their hedonism to say nothing of the many commands in the New Testament. And all this is because we have separated the church into geographical, cultural, and economic categories and with that we have become numb to our own lifestyle sins.

So tell me, follower of Jesus, which platform do you stand upon when you cull out certain sins and batter them publicly and claim you are imitating the Lord Jesus? The present western ecclesiastical construct is a monster of compromise and hedonism. We splash in pools or play basketball in million dollar church buildings and yet brothers and sisters are in dire need of common necessaries and wants. And do you think God places his children in different rooms and allows some to starve and die with sickness while he blesses others with comparative opulence? What kind of a God would do that?

Believe it or not we are all blind to the depth of our lifestyle hypocrisies since we were born in Babylon and we only know the church as it is. This man, Adam Lambert, apparently was on television and mimed some sexually explicit actions along with kissing another man. I will admit I cannot even watch such things, however how many believers will attend some movie theatres this very week who offer such things for your entertainment, as long as you pay for it? And the television is filled with sexual content and simulated sexual actions, some of which are acted by professing Christians whose testimony is sought throughout the country. The same believers who would castigate Lambert’s actions have sat and watched heterosexual entertaining similitudes. It is all so hypocritical.

But let us move on to the issue of the gospel of redemption. We are great and bold proclaimers of the gospel when it is comes to parading our orthodoxy, but when that redemption comes in contact with various unacceptable sins we rush to project our judgment and thereby accentuating our moral superiority. We have compassion to our unsaved uncle who is a heterosexual hedonist, but we recoil at the Adam Lamberts of this world who operate in a genre of sin of which we have defined as a transgression ghetto. The redemption of Christ’s gospel is the sacrifice given freely for just such sins.

When we organize sins and sinners we do despite to the gospel of grace. Jesus didn’t just reach out to such sinners, He took their sins upon Himself. He became sin for every sinner and should that not be our example? Instead of displaying self righteous outrage, we should run to such sinners with the love of Jesus Christ and the offer of eternal life. We have improved upon the model of Phariseeism shown to us in the Scriptures, because we now claim the Messiah aggress with us. We operate post-cross and yet we refuse to look deeply upon that bloody and ripped frame and see its implications. The Adam Lamberts of this world are not in need of condemnation; they are in dire need of redemption.

In the final words of Jesus, just before He left this world, He instructed us to be witnesses of Him and preach the gospel to every creature. Nowhere did He command us to search out people’s sins and hoist them upon the gallows of our self righteous judgment. Our calling is not sin, our calling is the gospel. It may seem like news to us, but God loves those who we do not love, and He offers salvation to all those whose demonstrative sin is repugnant to us and provides a platform for moral outrage and superiority. Bad news alert: Without the grace of God you and I are no better than Adam Lambert.

How dare we treat the gospel of grace like a military chow line, dumping portions out to whom we like. We have despised the word grace and turned it into a theological term but stripped it of a powerful and daring manifestation in the real world. And those who are partakers of God’s grace, but turn around and create a textbook of moral issues designed to both damn certain sinners and re-establish their own moral credentials, are perhaps the greater moral miscreants.

Every once in a while a sinner does or says something that is outrageous. And the religious crowd drags that sinner before the church and says, “We have caught this sinner in the very act of sin – stone him!” The church has two choices. We can verbally stone that sinners and receive the accolades of others and the self serving satisfaction of “taking a stand”. Or instead of taking a stand we can take a knee, and we can intercede for that person’s soul and exhibit the outward expressions of God’s love that would authenticate the cross we portend to preach.

The more vile the sin – the more glorious the redemption; at least from our perspective.
God loves Adam Lambert and so should we.
What should really surprise you is that God loves you.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christ's Redemptive Love

If you do not love the vilest and most demonstrative sinner among us, then what you call love is not Christ's at all.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2009

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Radical Redemption

So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
Redemption is extreme and radical. In 1987 a baby named Jessica fell into a back yard well and got stuck. Immediately a community organized to extricate her, and 58 hours later she was rescued with very minor injuries. The event was made into a television movie and made international news.

But every time a sinner is rescued from eternal punishment and death, why don’t we make more of it? Could it indicate we believe it more on a doctrinal basis rather than a tangible reality? But if we actually process what redemption is in quality, quantity, and eternally, it is profoundly more radical than anything else on earth. Sadly, though, we have become experts in fruit testing and amateur fruit bearers.

Sinners repulse us, and yet they are the redemptive targets of the Spirit we claim lives within us. What a paradox, the Holy Spirit seeks the redemption of sinners and yet many Christians castigate and demean lost sinners, the same sinners the Spirit inside them seeks for Jesus’ sake. Let me investigate another aspect of redemption.

A man buys a lottery ticket and wins 30 million dollars. He puts the money in the bank and until his death years later his lifestyle doesn’t change. In fact he is unrecognizable in the midst of society. He has just experienced a radical change in his financial status and yet with no tangible residual effects. But Jesus says “forsake all”. What??

A sinner believes on Jesus as his Lord and Savior. And after that eternity changing experience his life is no different than the Mormon down the street, or the conservative good guy, or even the affable humanitarian. The radical nature of his redemption doesn’t seem to translate into a radical lifestyle. He still borrows money; he still overeats; he still judges others; he still saves up lots of money; and he generally lives the quintessential western experience.

And we love to read the inspirational stories of the persecution of early believers and their God honoring stories of faithfulness and martyrdom. But the inspiration dissipates quickly without any residual effects. We are blind to our calling in this generation. We may not be called to be eaten by lions, but we are being called to a passion to live and love like Jesus Christ. Our lives should be conspicuous by their material temperance, kingdom focus, and a remarkable projection of Jesus and His attributes. To be known for what we are against is a self righteous construct that countermands the cross of Christ itself.

Jesus will one day be the Judge of all creation, however in this age we are followers of the Redeemer. We should be radical in our projection of Him. We should have a fire of redemptive love burning in our bosoms for all sinners. Do we passionately love Rosie O’Donnell? President Obama? Madonna? Barney Frank? The vilest gay sinner? If these people repulse you then you are void of Jesus and His cross. Do you suspect that you were any better before God’s grace found you?

But instead of being radically redemptive, we are interested in protecting our moral perspectives. That is not radical; that is safe self righteousness. How many believers today are accused of consorting with known sinners? Which orthodox pastors are being attacked because they fellowship with notorious and repulsive sinners who are even targets of religious castigation? Think of what would be said of a famous “orthodox” preacher if he was having dinner from time to time with Rosie O’Donnell, Marilyn Manson, or Madonna? He would be roundly roasted as a compromiser. Jesus would not be considered “orthodox” in this morally elitist evangelical climate.

Jesus said if He would be lifted up He would draw sinners to Himself. And even while quoting that we run from sinners, raining verbal stones down upon them. Why have we constructed a religious system that is diametrically opposed to the gospel itself? And instead of walking a life that resists the culture and is radically apolitical, in favor of the physical and spiritual needs of people, we have assimilated into a western society that rewards power, wealth, and superiority in many different genres. In short, we have become a segment of western culture that is mostly a curiosity, an irritant, or even just another political seat at the overall table. In reality, based upon what we believe and Who we follow, we should be a demonstrative revelation of Jesus Christ through a combination of the shared gospel and the power of an idiosyncratic lifestyle that is remarkably different than the cultural norm. By definition – radically redemptive.
Are we radical? Are we redemptive? Who are we, really?
What would you consider radical among our culture?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Sin
that God's Grace Cannot Reach

In words that are both true and yet disturbingly shallow, God’s grace is defined as God giving us what we could never earn and will never deserve. That definition is actually a verbal doorway that leads to an infinite expanse of expressed love by the Creator to His creation. God’s grace has become a truth that is attacked by many projectiles, all of which have their roots in legalism. And legalism is just manifested self righteousness.
So much of the church has taken God’s grace and burdened it with a set of rules that must be followed to warrant or at least substantiate the presence of God’s grace in a person’s life. Grace is an ethereal truth that is both rugged and stalwart but yet delicate and exquisite. Its very essence can withstand the vilest of sins and yet shrinks at the slightest hint of good deeds. Grace is so unlike us that we can barely embrace it without some addition, some refinement, or some minor assistance.
Grace can cover all of our sins, past, present, and future. It scope is timeless as well as comprehensive. It strips us of our insatiable need for significance and role, and it disarms our oft presentations of exculpatory evidence on our own behalf. Good deeds are irrelevant and bad deeds are never entered into evidence. In a world of competition and comparison, grace has forever leveled the ground beneath all human feet. There are no laws that govern this grace regardless how many men attempt to create. Justice runs from grace; love rides upon its wings; condemnation melts from the heat of grace; mercy introduces grace; and punishment is swallowed up in the fathomless ocean of grace.
If you don’t see God’s grace as “too good to be true” then you do not understand it; it is too good but it is true. And if you ascend to the millionth level of grace and believe you’ve reached its zenith, then look around, your journey lies further than your mind can apprehend or even appreciate. God’s grace, covered in blood, is the only door to eternal life. It cannot be purchased; it is only given. Those who deserve it cannot have it and only those who are unworthy can receive it. Grace searches out those who can offer nothing, and grace circumvents those whose religious hands are full.
Give your mind a rest and send in your heart. God’s grace seeks sin, and finds its mission in the presence of any sin or sins. Our sins conspired to kill us, but grace burst through and served death with an eviction notice of life and life eternal. Please do not pull out your purse and attempt any pitiful remuneration. Grace is offended by any payment other than that which has already been paid. The price for this grace was way beyond our pay scale, and in fact our wages only added to its extravagant cost.
But there is one, and only one, sin that grace cannot reach. It is not homosexuality and it is not adultery. It is not murder and it is not rape. It is not child molestation and it is not greed. The only sin that can avoid God’s grace is the sin of unbelief. And it is within this sacred truth that grace is uncovered in all its breathtaking majesty along with its profound pragmatism. Exactly what am I saying, here? Am I suggesting that God’s eternal and unmerited favor can be gained simply by faith? Is grace activated personally and eternally just through an act of faith?
I realize that our carnal minds are drawn to religious ceremonies and acts of human compassion in an effort to at least be included as ancillary in the awarding of God’s grace. Of course we do not demand top billing and we give God the glory due His name, but surely God must appreciate our attempts, however feeble, to please Him and gain His favor. But friends, not only does God not appreciate them, but He rejects them. Our good deeds, whether viewed individually or collectively, can never penetrate the aura of God’s grace.
Receive it by faith or reject it by works, God’s grace can never be earned. Every sinner who has experienced the life changing grace of Almighty God entered into that grace by faith and by faith alone. As difficult as it is to believe God loves us, when we realize that He offers His redemptive grace freely by faith we are overwhelmed. And this knowledge sometimes leads men to infiltrate the gospel with human additions, sometimes slight and sometimes colossal. Since we are so selfish, it can be so easy to reach out and help God in our redemption. But without faith, God cannot be pleased.
The sin of unbelief takes many forms. Most forms of unbelief do not shout “I don’t believe!” No, most forms of unbelief are much more subtle than that, and many times unbelief hides within professions of faith and belief. And in full disclosure, all of us have areas of unbelief in our hearts and lives. But the sin of unbelief as it pertains to Jesus Christ and His gospel stands alone as the one, unmovable bulwark that thwarts the effectiveness of God’s grace. God is willing and ready to apply His grace to any and all sinners who accept it by faith. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
This has many implications as we consider the evangelical landscape. There are times where I believe that most evangelicals are not born again, and then there are times where I see God’s grace as expansive, but that knowledge is His alone. What I do know is that faith in Jesus Christ is the exclusive path to eternal life and that is not something that ever should be challenged or altered, as well as something that no one should take lightly. It is a life and death issue. So when you hear someone mix works with saving faith you can most assuredly reject it and reject that messenger.
Suggesting that any works, regardless of how righteous and humanitarian, can lead to eternal life is a bold faced lie and possibly the single greatest deception of all time. There is only one sin that God’s grace cannot reach.

Unbelief.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Crucified with Christ?


No one desires a cross. No one. We all want affirmation and recognition. We pursue security and life. We all need affection and friendship. But no one wants a cross. Of course we love the cross upon which our wonderful Savior died for us. We all love and appreciate that cross. But no one wants a cross for themselves. No one.
But the cross is what we are called to. A sinner realizes he is lost. The Spirit illuminates to him just Who Jesus is, and that sinner believes that Jesus is the Savior and the only way to eternal life. The sinner is born again and his life and eternity is changed forever. That sinner is now a child of Almighty God. God is his Savior, his protector, his sustainer, his provider, and his everything. So the rest of this believer’s life on earth will be strewn with material blessings, fame and recognition, and all the accolades this world has to offer. Right?
Like every believer, this one is called to a cross. The cross of Jesus is the foundation of his faith, but there is another cross to which this believer is called. This is the cross where he is called to die to himself. This cross will not be easy or pleasant; this cross will prove to be painful and rewarding. We, as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, are called to die to ourselves, which is a spiritual cross. Our thoughts, our desires, our perspectives, and our lives must all die upon this cross. The task is daunting, but the reward is pleasing our Master.

I wrote about it here.
Convenience and a culturally formed cross is not at all what this cross is to be. This cross will strip us all of any pride and will open us up to ridicule and shame, even though this same cross will not allow us to respond with anything but forgiveness. And any persecution will not come because we are outspoken and belligerent, and it will not be because we are fierce and argumentative. This cross prohibits that kind of fleshly projection. And if we are to die to ourselves it will not come quickly and without much pain; the pain which accompanies this cross is both for the glory of God and for the sake of sinners…exactly like the cross of Jesus.
If this western culture is so unlike Christ and is in fact against almost everything Jesus lived and taught, then why are we not so different than our surroundings? The answer is embarrassingly obvious. The many caricatures of Jesus that believers have created are to serve their own misguided agendas and not the Scriptural template which is much more radical and extreme. And just a reading of Matthew chapters 5 thru 7 present a challenge which has been softened through the years in order to make it fit into our established lifestyles.
But the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount are nothing less than editorial facets of the cross which we are commanded to bear and die upon. You would think that a group of people who sacrificed themselves and their wills in such a hedonist culture would be a remarkable light in the midst of such darkness. But yet the church that numbers itself in the millions in this country are no more than an undistinguished segment of this western culture. And the most notice we get from the world is when some preacher is asked to be on one of many television talk shows, usually to give another perspective on gay rights or abortion. The glorious cross of Jesus Christ has been relegated to one of many voices about social and moral issues.
But looming large is this question: Do we believe that every sinner that dies spends a conscious eternity in one of two places? And if so, do we believe that only those in Jesus Christ will spend eternity with Him? And do our lives mirror our lips when we say, “Yes, I believe that.”? And if we believe that we will spend a glorious eternity with the Lord of all Lords, then why does this world mean so much to us? Why do we return evil for evil because our reputations have been sullied? And why do we attack lost sinners when we say we know they are headed for damnation and they need to read some living epistles that speak of Christ and redemption?
Lofty words, lofty thoughts, and lofty truths. Most of what should be obvious in the New Testament has been repacked for the western consumption and causes little if any spiritual expenditure. Living the Christian life has become easy and mundane, and even the most hedonistic, debt ridden congregation is charitably called “evangelical”. Jesus had no place upon which to lay His head and yet we have ornate edifices that we pay for with borrowed money from institutions that use our money to lend to all sorts of evil enterprises.
See, just a cursory examination brings up all sorts of uncomfortable places that are obviously incongruous with Biblical teachings unless we redefine those teachings all the while professing we espouse the literal interpretation of Scripture. And yet there are many Scriptures we absolutely do not believe regardless of how passionate our protestations to the contrary. Here are just a few verse that make nice plaques but are not even targets for which to strive anymore:

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:”

“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”

“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”

“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”

“And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

Now how in God’s dear name can we bring those truths out of abstract belief into living faiths?

There is only one way and that way is the cross. We must die to ourselves and become alive to Christ. Taking up our cross involves a daily death to our desires and a daily reaffirmation and modeling of God’s truth. And if indeed we die to ourselves, who is it that lives on?

Gal.2:20 - I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

How different would our lives be if that truth was demonstrably observable in our lives? What aspects of our mundane and nondescript western lives would be radically different if we actually were crucified with Christ and Christ Himself was living through us? So often we have taken a verse like this and made them pitiful and powerless by diluting them so deeply that they are just convenient life helps and not the dynamic exhibitions of the Christ? Some teach that a verse like this means that we should not respond when a car cuts us off.
How tragic and how pathetic are those watered down teachings. Of course we should not respond in those situations, however there are many unbelievers who exhibit such patience. To be crucified with Jesus Christ goes far beyond situational ethics and response readjustment. And using that scenario, we are supposed to relinquish our rights, and when we truly embrace that issue we are exempt from offense. And we are called to immediately forgive that driver, love him, let him move ahead of us, and pray for him as well. And that is just one small example.
To walk in the desolate place with the life of Christ being our life force we can see everyone through the prism of divine love and the divine will that none should perish. What are my rights and feelings when compared with the eternal destination of others? The plight of others should be my motivation, especially when I am fully aware of my eternal standing by God’s grace. And in those circumstances, where should we find our “self worth”?

Gal.6:14 - But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

When we stand before the Nail Scarred One in God’s throne room will we draw anything from this world? Spurgeon once observed that when we see the Risen Christ “We will think ourselves a thousand fools for ever having any affection for the things of this world”. With what can the world tempt a man who glories in the cross of Jesus Christ? If that cross is what energizes his life, and if that cross is his boast, the glitter and glamour of this world has no power over him. He is willing to be demeaned; he is willing to be maligned; he willing to be lied about; and he is willing to suffer any and all indignities for the sake of the One whose cross is his glory! Nothing compares with this cross, and in fact, all personal sufferings because of this cross are just incandescent opportunities to illuminate that same cross!

The world believes that life comes by avoiding death, while in the Spirit the truth is just the opposite.

Matt.10:37-39 - He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

Losing your life for Christ’s sake is finding it again. How many of us are still experiencing a treadmill life experience that is hardly different than the good man next door who isn’t the least bit interested in Jesus Christ? And Jesus teaches that our love for Him should make our affection for our family appear as hate. That, my friends, is a vicious indictment of the modern western church. We have thousands upon thousands of teachings, videos, books, and conferences on how to love our spouses, but how many conferences are there on how to love Jesus?
We are exhorted to have three hour “date nights” with our earthly spouses but how many three hour prayer dates do we have with Jesus? How many three hour Bible dates do we have? Whose love do we work at more? And yet Christ Himself stated emphatically that if we love the things of this world more than we do Him we are not worthy of Him. And given that last statement in those verses, how many believers are living lost lives? Now here again is a verse that must mean something:

Lk.14:33 - So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

Ok, you can breathe again. Since Jesus asks us to give to the poor we can safely assume he doesn’t mean for us to sell all that we have and never accumulate anything else. Whew! What a relief! But that verse must mean something. I have heard preachers say that “You can have anything as long as it doesn’t have you.” Almost inevitably the more you get the more it gets you. In a practical sense this verse would probably exhort us to live way below our means and allow the rest to forward God’s kingdom and the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we already should know that we should consider ourselves as unprofitable servants and just grateful slave/sons to the One who showers us with His redemptive grace.
In the end, there is precious little teaching of the crucified life, and much of the teaching is very guarded and reserved and lacks the powerful challenge of the Spirit. The salt has turned to sand, the light has been extinguished, the hill has become a valley, and what should be profoundly conspicuous has quietly taken an insignificant place in a culture of darkness. We need a massive revival of the cross, both His and ours. Print all the literature you can, and build all the building you can, and organize all the political movements you can, and write all the books you can, and write all the blog posts like this one you can, but if we do not return to the resurrected life of Jesus Christ via our own death on the cross we will continue on the unassuming path on which we now walk. And we will continue to project a fraudulent and counterfeit manifestation of Christ and His kingdom, and we His contented imposters.

Lk.14:27 - And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.