Saturday, January 30, 2010

Elizabeth Edwards

I do not know if Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of John Edwards who fathered a child with a mistress, professes to be a Christian. But I was moved when Ms. Edwards went to give a Christmas gift to Quinn, the baby her husband had fathered. I wondered how many believers could have shown such a selfless expression of love and acceptance. In the midst of stage four cancer and the demise of her thirty-two year marriage, Elizabeth said she desired to show an example to her children.

May those of us who profess to follow Jesus be challenged by such a wonderful act of sacrificial grace.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

To Everyone Who believes in Hell:
A Question:

Is it ever God’s will that a sinner be killed by a saint in a war or otherwise and send a lost sinner to hell for eternity defending a country?

(Calvinists do not count since they have an insulated theology that protects them from such questions.)
Grace and Law

Grace is much more demanding than the law of Moses ever was, however grace demands through love and life while law demands through fear and death.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Politics Again

Politics is a dirty business. It treats people as positions, it demeans perspectives, it inflates personal achievements, it lies and manipulates, and it wastes obscene amounts of money. When a man on your political side falls into immorality, it is a cause for serious concern and prayer. When one commits adultery on the other political side, it is a cause to attack and investigate thoroughly and attempt to hide your glee. I could go on in great detail concerning the absolute self serving and self righteous festival we call politics, but I would like to concentrate on one major aspect of its affect on the witness for Christ.
One recent and well publicized event brings this issue into sharp relief. Brit Hume was the senior political analyst for Fox News and he has recently announced his retirement from Fox to pursue, among other things, a more active participation in the Christian faith. By his own testimony he has drawn closer to Christ because of the suicide of his son who was also a journalist. Now he was leaving an active role at Fox to seek more religious study and ministry. A noble cause to be sure.
However Hume had been a prominent part of a news organization that employed men who although professed Christ on some level, but made a very prosperous living by attacking and demeaning people who they considered “liberals”, with their most eloquent and effervescent evisceration reserved for President Obama. It could rightfully be said it was the reverse of what MSNBC used to do with “conservatives” and President Bush. As I have observed, politics instinctively divides and constructs carnal battle lines, but as repulsive and uncivilized as that may be in the secular marketplace, it is extraordinarily hideous when it comes from men who profess Christ.
And so Mr. Hume announces his intention to draw closer to Christ and His ministry but with a significant amount of baggage that must be seen and rejected. But politics is a demonic strongman that doesn’t let go easily, and in today’s world many attempt to straddle Christianity with the political side of the straddle usually getting nine of the ten toes. It is very sad and I believe Mr. Hume to be sincere.
But during a conversation about the sins of Tiger Woods, who happens to profess Buddhism, his mother’s religion, Hume suggested Tiger turn to Christianity since his Buddhism.

“"The extent to which he can recover seems to me depends on his faith," Hume said. "He is said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. My message to Tiger would be, 'Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."
I will not address the “life aid” aspect of Hume’s message just yet, but as you can see it is a tepid and a misrepresentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But I would like you to consider this: A Christian man lives with six sexually active Playboy bunnies. He fellowships with them and approves of their occupation. That man then points Tiger Woods to Christ because of the seriousness of his sins and his deteriorating life, but he never points his housemates to that same Christ.
That is how I see Mr. Hume’s spiritual overtures to Tiger; they lack any teeth since he approved and supported men who made a living castigating and tearing down other men. By God’s standards their sin was and is every bit as heinous and serious as is Tiger’s. A secular reporter made this observation. There are many Christian politicians and even preachers whose lives revealed secret sexual sins. Would a Buddhist have the same platform to say Governor Sanford of South Carolina should try Buddhism since his Christianity did not seem to be working for him?
Believing on Jesus Christ is not so you can benefit in this life. In fact, many people overseas place their very lives in jeopardy when they profess Jesus Christ. The point is that politics is antithetical to all that belongs to and defines the Person and work of Jesus Christ. In the coming days, should Jesus tarry, that will become more and more evident. However if you have ears to hear you will have no problem in concluding the worthlessness and unredemptive nature of politics based on the available evidence this very day.

I do pray God will use Mr. Hume in the future.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Worship (updated)

There are many ways to serve the Risen Christ in this world. We can witness and give and help and all sorts of manifestations of His love and care. Preachers preach, ushers serve, singers sing, teachers teach, men help with parking, and a host of other things that are dedicated to serving Christ. But even in service our souls long to meet their Maker and connect with Him Who has given them life eternal. This life we have is not just some sterile gift meant to elongate our existence. This gift is Christ, and it is Him Who we worship.
In this age of self the gift and gifts have replaced the Giver. We spend so much time with our gifts and an embarrassing little with He Who has given us everything. Worship takes its place on the order of service pamphlet and sure enough it comes and goes with the same predictability as it did last week. The constraints of time and order choke any hint of the Spirit’s control, and many of the pew dwellers let their eyes dart around the room as they sing the songs projected on the screen or written in some song book. This, my friends, is not worship.
There are songs of praise that are filled with vocal presents rising up to showcase the Savior framed by lofty words that attempt to capture His Person and fill the air with His glory. There are songs that speak words of gratefulness for all the God has done for us and for all creation. There are songs of celebration that release exceptional expressions of joy and effervescence because of Who He is and what He has accomplished on our behalf. All these and more are a part of a gathering of believers as they meet with their Redeemer and seek to please Him.
But then there is worship. A believer cannot get up on Sunday morning and spend the time getting his body ready to go to the gathering and expect to worship God. If you enter the building unprepared you will miss out on many things God would have for you including a deep and profound worship experience. And if you portend to worship without an experience, you have not met the Risen Christ. We do not need less experience – we need more experiences with Christ Jesus. And by the infinite grace of Almighty God He has allowed us to worship Him even though we were once His enemies and our rebellion demanded the death of His Son.
We do not worship 24 hours a day. Our lives are cluttered with all sorts of activities. Some are germane to normal life; some are germane to self indulgence; and some that are germane to directly serving Christ. But true worship is different. Worship calls the spirit away from those things. It prepares the heart to meet its lover, its redeemer, its Creator Lord. It leaves the good of the kitchen and sits or kneels at His feet.
Worship opens the windows of the soul to experience the fragrance of God’s presence. It presents the worshiper as a branch, willingly bending in the wind of the Spirit to both experience His glory and to be changed by it as well.
Time goes without notice and worries disappear. The inward divine presence of Christ soars, and the One before Whom you worship burns within you as well. There will be time to witness and time to serve, but at that moment you are transfigured within and becoming transfigured without.
As Paul says, you come to present your bodies a living sacrifice and your spirits as purchased worshipers. There is no greater zenith for a redeemed sinner than to bow before Him with faith, hope, love, and worship. It is a glimpse of heaven, and in that moment we are in concert with the spirits of just men who are worshiping Him in heaven that very moment. Do not think that worship, true worship with the whole heart, can have any competition. The things of this world, both good and bad, must give way to undivided worship that sees nothing but Him in all His glory and wonder.
There will be time to serve Him, but when you come to worship, you must come with nothing in your hands. You must hear and obey the call to come before Him, which in some ways is a trial run for an event that can never fully enter the human mind until that day appears.
But until that day comes, we can and we must worship Him in spirit and in truth. I cannot imagine the natural strength it takes for people to get up Sunday after Sunday and sit in a meeting without personally meeting and worshiping the Risen Christ. And yet here they come, expecting the same as last week and seeing their expectations fulfilled. Does the Spirit never desire to break open the alabaster box of God’s presence and perfume the entire room with the presence of Christ? Is the Spirit content with the process of duplication that changes no one and actually never changes even the service order or length?

We have become quite content to meet each other and imitate some form of worship.
However if we ever allow the Holy Spirit to manifest Christ in our presence, the demonstration of worship may just authenticate the reason we profess to be there.
When we encounter the Risen Christ in worship, what drives us to tears? Or to kneel? Or to wonder? It is His recognized presence. It is not enough to be in the presence of Christ, all men live in the midst of His omnipresence. But we as believing followers must seek to see Him and His face (or presence). Is it possible that men can rise Sunday morning, spend most of their time preparing their bodies, drive to a building, meet with other professing believers, drive home and change clothes, and claim they have just met with the Lord of Lords but have no discernable alteration in their beings? Is that possible?
As much as we attempt to define worship we can only go so far. The act of worship is a sacred mystery, but true worship has an effect of those that worship. Emotion is residual, but always residual when worship is taking place. The Beloved Apostle had rested upon the chest of Jesus, but when he encountered the Risen Christ he fell at His feet as though dead. Who John saw had to change him; what John saw overwhelmed him as it would any mortal. This act we call worship has been so maligned, so redefined, and so diluted that many times a church service appears no different than a meeting of an Irish American club where fellowshipping and singing are the hall marks.
See people, supposedly worshiping Christ, looking around the building or following the song leader like a sing along with Mitch gathering. And in our doctrinal statements we say that Christ actually lives inside the believers in that gathering, and added to that He is meeting in a mysterious yet powerful way with all of them. And we say we ourselves are actually meeting and encountering the Creator King and Redeemer of our Souls and yet we show more emotion at a football game, or at a birthday party, or even while watching a sad movie. I can never believe that.
So I am left with only two general options. I must believe that worship is so unremarkable both in practice and in effect that the redundant ritual that takes place on Sunday mornings is actually what God had in mind when He allowed us to worship Him on this earth. Or I must conclude that because of time restraints, the need for organization and control, and a palatable fear of the Holy Spirit, the church has slowly but surely navigated the act of worship into an ecclesiastical compartment so confined and so powerless and with so little awe and mystery, that the gathering comes together with infinitely more ritual than spiritual worship.
When I became a Christian in 1975 I would climb Garret Mountain many nights and sit before my Savior. Sometimes I would shout, sometimes I would sing, and many times I would cry. There was no praise music and it was just me and Jesus. There have been times where I have gone to and even preached in church services where I came out the same and had not experienced anything during the “allotted” time. In those times I did not meet the Resurrected Lord. But there have been many times where I was broken or revived or brought to tears and repentance and a litany of other effects that were made manifest in me. I submit to you, brothers, that I have no inside information on worship, but one thing I do know, when a saved sinner worships God something happens, sometimes something great and sometimes something small, but something always happens.
The fear of excess and the fear of false doctrine are legitimate concerns, but so many times that fear imprisons us and keeps us from deep and penetrating worship of our Lord. We must not seek emotion and experience, but if we are truly seeking Jesus, both of those will be present.
I say again,
We do not need less experience…we need more.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Road to Redemption

The road to redemption has many exits but only one destination. It is a toll road that is free.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2010

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

His Face Awaits

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Those words came forth from the mouth of God’s psalmist Patriarch, David. King David knew what is was to have trouble and great distress. He knew the betrayal of his own family; he knew the betrayal of friends he had helped; he knew spiritual loneliness; and he knew the shame of personal failure. David was a relatively young man when he wrote Psalm 27, but later in Psalm 37, after he had been through so much, he said:
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand. I have been young; and now I am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken…
o David through the inspiration of the Spirit writes “hide not they face far from me”, and then, “When thou sadist, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.”
avid feels far from the Lord, but God assures him that He is not hiding His face from David. He beckons David to seek His face because when he does he will find it. We use such terms so lightly, and because seeking God’s face seems so ethereal and airy, we feel the need to crush the sacred mystery of its spiritual essence and distill it down to some form of behavior. Going to church, tithing, reading the Bible, and praying are usually what passes for seeking the face of God. And indeed, mostly we ignore the subject altogether.
We seek all sorts of things in this life and culture. We seek success; we seek affirmation; we seek love; we seek promotion; we seek health; we seek entertainment; and of course we seek money. We attend church and we become a part of that church’s community, and we give and participate in that local church’s particular mission on some level. And that kind of Christian behavior becomes a substitute for seeking God’s face. Unwittingly, we have climbed aboard the ecclesiastical people mover and we are going for a ride to, well, somewhere.
A day becomes a week, and a week becomes a month, and months become years. Turn around and see the path we have worn on this journey. Do you find that these weeks and months and years of footprints look fairly similar? We have been a part of God’s grace and we have seen Him do many great things in and for us; but have we seen, or even sought the face of Christ? Has our journey become very predictable and mundane? Are we prisoners of this culture, and worse yet, this ecclesiastical construct? And yet when the bills are paid, and the job seems secure, and our health is manageable, are we walking along at peace with the world and content with our spiritual walk? Do we even examine our spiritual walk with the mirror of God’s Word, and with a thirsty knowledge that there must be more to knowing the Creator than what we have manufactured?
Have we seen the face of Christ, or at least a tiny glimpse that empowers us to seek with a greater intensity and passion that face that changes everything? The man in the television commercial asks the little girl if she wants a horse and she says that she does. The man gives her a little toy horse. The next little girl gets a real pony, and the other little girl says, “But you didn’t say did I want a real one”. The man replies, “You never asked for one”. We have ceased to ask our Lord for a greater depth of devotion and life changing experience. My testimony goes something like, "I used to drugs and all sorts of sin but Jesus changed my life”. And that is glorious.
But can I say, “God has dramatically changed my life again today”? Can we say, “By God’s grace I am passionately seeking the face of Christ and allow His glory and presence to continue the metamorphosis in me that will more and more look like Him”? The Christian experience has been seriously tailored to fit nicely into a well rounded western lifestyle, and it is unremarkable not only in the midst of hedonistic darkness, but in the midst of other believers. In fact, what would be the single most distinguishing feature of a professing believer’s life today? He doesn’t smoke or drink? He doesn’t use profanity and he isn’t promiscuous? He goes to church a few times a week? There are millions of unbelievers who would accurately fit that description, to say nothing of many cult members.
And what do people find so attractive about a cult? It is because these people have such a commitment, regardless of how misguided, that so alters their lifestyle they are a curiosity to many of us. And when we watch a documentary on television about some cult who follow a man they believe is the Christ, we shake our heads in disbelief that people could be so gullible. But do we shake our heads in disbelief as to the shallowness of our commitment to the True and Living Christ? The Creator Himself lives inside us and yet we appear very similar to those who know not God. We are religious, but are we spiritual?
So what does it mean to seek the face of Christ? You would think that this topic has been beaten to death, and that every week someone new in our church arrives Sunday morning with an uncontrollable need to share his dramatic experience with Jesus that very week. And the entire gathering is empowered and encouraged by this man’s overflowing exuberance, because even though they did not have that same glorious experience last week, his testimony inspires them to continue to passionately seek Christ’s face. You see, the entire congregation is seeking the face of God. Considering the Person and power of Jesus Christ, that would not be an unreasonable expectation, would it?
So it comes down to this: What are we passionately seeking? Are we spending some time in the midnight watches seeking the face of Christ? Are things robbing us of the precious time with our Father and the time that is necessary to press through the veil and experience His glory? I am not speaking of some self serving experience that some use as a self elevating platform for spiritual recognition and sometimes become a communal irritant, but I do speak of an experience that breaks us and opens up expansive chambers of spiritual reality where Christ actually dwells in the spirit.
It is past time for a complete housecleaning that strips away the dross that has gathered and petrified around our spiritual walks and indeed our hearts. Jesus is coming, possibly soon, and should we not be fervently preparing ourselves to meet the King of Glory? This is not some precious religious story meant to warm our hearts and sing us to sleep. This is the culmination of all of creative history and this is the day in which our Redeemer calls us to Himself. This is not a time for conscious soothing and continuing the same mundane walk as yesterday; this is a time for awakening and revival that grabs hold of any heart willing to admit they need it.
This is not easy because many idols must fall and much fallow ground needs tilling. Do not expect swelling numbers of eager believers becoming committed to at least give some effort toward seeking Christ, for most the well worn paths of measured spiritual activity will still satisfy whatever thirst they might have had years ago. The familiar will continue to be their strength, and the companionship of the like minded many will chase out any thoughts of leaving their spiritual reservation. They will continue to live in a petrified state of duplicated religious practice, and indeed, non-practice. The strength of such existence is insurmountable by the sheer strength of our own wills; this deliverance comes only through a mighty move of God’s Spirit. And if you are not considered odd or at least uncomfortably driven, you will not reach Him.
I have dispatched the message I was given, and if you have read this you are accountable. Do not look to me or Wesley or even Paul; look to yourselves. It doesn’t matter what the common herd of believing wildebeests do, you will either continue the endless and sometimes mindless migration to nowhere, or you will allow the Spirit to separate you for His purposes. And if you are culled out from among the indistinguishable herd, you must not allow the smallest particle of pride or self righteousness to find a home or you will die quickly. The roaring lion makes quick work of such targets.

And what is our reward?
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness,
hath shined in our hearts,
to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
What would you give to see and experience the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ?
Well, dear saint, I have good news and bad news.
The bad news is that it will cost you everything.
The good news is that it will cost you everything.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Let Us Stop the Charade

Let us stop the charade. Webster defines a charade as “an empty or deceptive act or pretense”. We who believe in and voice a desire to follow the Lord Jesus are faced with a very great challenge. We in the west live in a time where Christianity is no more than religious words spoken in lofty terms and creative ways, but without the dramatic translation into visible acts and behavior that would substantiate our continuing claims about Jesus. Humility is no longer understood or even sought. Bitter and biting speech directed at lost sinners is considered taking a bold stance, and demeaning satire against brothers and sisters in Christ provides entertainment for the evangelical flesh.
Let us stop the charade. There is hardly a modicum of charity and love manifested by God’s people that would accurately reflect the life of Jesus to say nothing of the cross. The church for decades has positioned herself as a political force and a moral sheriff, even while continuing the hollow mantra of redemption by grace through faith. The church has chosen certain sins with which to confirm her moral high ground, and within the “culture war” the essence of the true Christ has given way to the essence of the very Pharisees Jesus opposed.
Let us stop the charade. We are absorbed with our own situations in life, and many if not most believers willfully participate in the debt cycle of the western culture. Whole segments of western Christianity profess a wealth centered theology while others are blind to their own financial sins just because they are not one of the wealth crowd. We see other westerners as our “neighbors” and most of the other world as “others” or even “enemies”.
Let us stop the charade.
Matt.28:18-20 - And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Mk.16:15 - And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
he mission is global, the command is global, and our responsibility must be global as well. We have become prisoners of our culture, our understanding, and our local sphere of interaction. This myopic existence leads to apathy, contentment, and self indulgence. Imagine collecting all people from every part of the world and place them in one state. We will assume the state is Texas which would easily accommodate the entire population of the world with everyone living on 1000 sq. ft. of space. The entire world would be within driving distance of everyone else.
So there are now 6 billion people living in Texas, and of that 6 billion, 1 billion are hungry or starving. Some are 30 minutes from where you live, and the farthest away are 10 hours of driving time away. So the “uttermost parts of the world” are one half day’s drive. And 1/6th of the population of Texas are in dire need of food. Now as you drove down Main Street in Dallas and passed one restaurant after another and one grocery chain after another, would you ever think about the people that were starving in Texas? Would wasted food and overeating be any more of a concern for you?
There now is a “food channel” on television that makes food an idol. There are even competitions to see who can make the most intricate and alluring cakes and pastries regardless of the cost or nutrition. And after many hours of decorating these cakes with all sorts of inedible enhancements that make them seem like modern gingerbread houses, they judge them as to their creativity and visual entertainment value. Watch and see if food has become an idol indeed. As followers of Jesus Christ living just minutes and hours away from starving people, would the food channel be acceptable entertainment then?
Let us stop the charade.
James 2:15-17 - If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
ur sin would be gone if we admitted we do not see, but because we claim to see our sin remains. We are surrounded by great needs that cry out for justice and mercy. Much of the western church lives in comparable opulence and stuffs itself with food, entertainment, education, and every diversion imaginable in order to satisfy our insatiable and relentless desire to find meaning to this life. Our children play sports in million dollar church facilities while the children of our brothers and sisters barely have enough water to drink and many will die today.
Let us stop the charade. We are called to be a living sacrifice, but where pray tell is the sacrifice? Do we cut down to once every two weeks at the Outback and claim a form of sacrifice? The world lies in the darkness of the wicked one and yet where are the throngs of western believers, called by the Spirit, that are being made ready and set apart to go into the whited fields? Like a well worn path through a dense jungle, the footsteps of western believers trot to and from their houses of worship each Sunday as a repetitive custom, but without the community shaking power that would either change cities or bring persecution.
Let us stop the charade. Our churches hold few prayer meetings, if any at all. And the prayer meetings that are held must fit snugly into the overall time allotment that must respect the intricate schedule of the particular local assembly. Activities are at the core, and prayer seems to be an aside, if indeed not sometimes treated as an elderly uncle; cherished but still a nuisance. We preach and teach the power of prayer in very lofty and elegant verbiage, but in practice it remains a curiosity and significantly unnecessary. Pass each local church at night during the week, and if the lights are on it is to accommodate some activity or some meeting.
Let us stop the charade. The western church has become extremely adept at dissecting Scripture and constructing an entire sermon series or even an entire book on topics that interest the western culture. And just name the topic and regardless the limited teaching in the Bible, we can find all sorts of Old Testament examples that substantiate what we desire to hear, in spite of other commands that forbid such practices. We hoard up great sums of retirement money because that’s what westerners do; we attend all sorts of fleshly entertainment because that’s what westerners do; we spend exorbitant amounts of money for food and clothing because that’s what westerners do; and we have made the Bible bend to our lifestyles so we may feel spiritual and saved without altering almost anything in our lives. As long as we do not get drunk and use drugs we are behaving as a Christian.
Let us stop the charade. Each of our little denominations has its particular idiosyncrasies when it comes to doctrine and practice, and these distinctions, regardless of how insignificant as it pertains to redemption, build wonderful walls that keep believers from interacting, much less fellowshipping, with each other. We have invented “church membership” whose requirements vary from church to church. And even if you are saved and baptized, some denominations even require “re-baptizing” before you can join their particular church club. They have made baptism the divine pathway to church membership instead of the divine witness of redemption.
Let us stop the charade. The western church has made Christianity part of a well rounded cultural experience instead of a remarkable journey of love, grace, and sacrifice. People who profess Jesus walk and interact in the darkness with very little notice, much less any light. We must orchestrate different campaigns designed to drum up church membership and with the direct knowledge that more people means more toward the mortgage. Most services are drenched in entertainment value while retaining the parameters of time so as not to interfere with tight schedules, the lunch lines, and of course the opening kickoff. The announcements usually dwarf the allotted time for the “Bless us and bless our troops” prayer mantra. If there are any tears they are usually because the cute little kindergarten kids sang “This little light”.
Let us stop the charade. If this is what it means to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, then almost everyone, knowingly or unwittingly, is following Jesus. If being in debt, attending questionable entertainments, using careless and coarse language, and generally exhibiting a normal hedonistic lifestyle is following Jesus, then the martyrs were fools. With the doctrinal side our mouth we tout prayer as paramount and of great spiritual power, but with the practice side of our mouths we gossip more than we pray. Like a 400 lb. man who claims he believes in exercise, so is the church when she says she believes in prayer. And when the government does something that the church considers unbiblical we organize petitions, phone banks, and pamphlets shouting our outrage. But still the churches are dark and God goes to sleep at night without the inconvenience of listening to passionate calls for mercy and power. But Leno and Letterman will fill in the gap.
Let us stop the charade. Preachers are gaining world wide popularity through the modern mediums. A growing number are suggesting that God will save everyone regardless of their lack of faith or even rejection of Christ. Some are suggesting that the virgin birth of Jesus was a myth and unimportant, while other say the resurrection is a metaphor. Many are “preaching” a mumbo-jumbo of words that are erudite in their expression but spiritually bankrupt in their substance. And we who claim the golden calf called “orthodoxy”, are blind to our own powerless state because we soothe our consciences by identifying heretics. But isn’t one who lives a culturally compromised lifestyle, powerless and anemic in prayer, and who suggests that is actually following Jesus, isn’t that heresy as well?
Let us stop the charade. We are not fooling God. Let us be honest, let me be honest, and stop the charade…Rick.

Friday, January 01, 2010

God's Final Word
In the past,
God spoke to our people through the prophets.
He spoke at many times.
He spoke in different ways.
But in these last days…
He has spoken to us…
through his Son.
There is a television show where contestants are asked questions, and with each successful answer the amount of money increases for the next question. But as they contemplate their answer to each question, and when they give an answer, the host asks them, “Is that your final answer?” The verse I quoted above gives a short history of how God dealt with and spoke to His people, and the entire world, in the Old Testament. Let us for a moment examine the wonder, the glory, and indeed the mystery of the Old Testament.
There were many prophets who God used to communicate many different truths in the past. Some, and probably most, were never completely aware of the future implications of their words, as well as the eternal weight that some of their words carried. Many prophets spoke words that dealt directly with the nation of Israel but embedded in those words were glorious truths of a coming Messiah. And sometimes God used the actions of His prophets to provide a visual metaphor for that same coming Messiah. And sometimes God spoke through a prophet with words that exclusively foretold the coming of His Messiah.
And then there were the priests. God institutes the priesthood through Aaron and they are given a priestly office and role within the nation of Israel. Their duties were many, but their central calling was the sacrificial system of the blood offerings, of which the Day of Atonement was paramount. But it is safe to assume that although the priests understood that through the blood there was forgiveness, they certainly had no knowledge of the coming sacrifice offered through the Incarnation. The thousands upon thousands of gallons of animal blood all spoke of a few pints of blood that would offer forgiveness to all mankind.
And there were many things that God did in the Old Testament that seem almost incredible. God destroys all but eight souls in the flood because violence and debauchery consumed the earth. God kills the sons of Korah because they questioned the authority of Moses. God strikes a man dead for attempting to steady the Ark of the Covenant. God smites a king with leprosy just because he lit some incense to honor God. God destroys entire cities for various reasons, and God instructs Israel to kill every man, woman, and child in some circumstances. Moses labors for decades and endures the sufferings of leading the Children of Israel, and yet just because he struck the rock twice God forbids his entrance into the Promised Land. These are just a few ways in which God communicated with His people in the Old Covenant.
The dealings by God to His people and mankind in general in the Old Testament are a mystery to be sure. The violence is shocking, and even many of the things in the law are bewildering. People were forbidden to wear clothing made with two or more kinds of material, and even picking up sticks on the Sabbath was forbidden. Rebellious children were to be stoned to death. The law was detailed and seemingly cruel. When the entire panorama of the Old Testament is viewed without the prism of the New Covenant and its Author, Jesus, we are left with quite a portrait of who God is. But I want to give you a little illustration that may aid us in understanding the seemingly incongruous revelation of God in the Old and New Covenant.
A 14 year old girl falls over a ten foot wall and goes into a large lake. This girl cannot swim and she is wearing a heavy coat. She sinks immediately and begins to drown. A man sees what is happening and he jumps in after her. He swims down and searches for the child, and after feeling her flailing legs hit him he grabs her. She resists and he has to wrap his arm around her neck to try and bring her to the surface. She continues to display amazing strength and pummels the man with her arms and legs, and he is forced to hit her, not once, but several times in an effort to knock her out and allow him to bring her to safety. After much battle he drags her by her neck to the surface.
On the ground the girl is revived. After coming to her senses she is introduced to the man who saved her. He kneels down and strokes her hair and speaks gentle words of comfort to her. The girl bears bruise marks on her body from this man’s fists and from the event in general, but now as she meets this man she realizes that he is kind, gentle, and was willing to risk his own life for her. The actions he took were not meant to hurt her, they were meant to save her. But the man she has now met on the surface is who the man really is.
And we must understand our Master in this way. The actions God took in the Old Testament were meant to bring mankind to who God really is, Jesus. Paul calls the law God’s “schoolmaster” which was solely designed to bring us to Himself, namely Jesus. And God used many extreme measures in His mission of reconciliation. But as we journey past the cross, gone are the tactics of the Old Testament in this age of God’s gospel of grace. And after God has spoken and communicated with people in the Old Covenant through various methods and people, He now gives His final Word. And that final Word is Jesus. That final Word is Himself.
But meditate upon this cross. In the natural, it is the death, albeit excruciating death, of a man. And many hundreds of thousands and even millions of men have died painful deaths, even the death of crucifixion. In the natural it is unremarkable. But in the supernatural, and with the understanding of Who this Person was, this cross becomes something infinitely greater and more expansive than one man’s torturous death. This death brings life. Yes, this death brings life…eternal.
Just who is God? Like the blind men who each assessed the elephant by feeling different parts of his body, the human race has attempted to describe God through the prisms of their limited knowledge. And when Jesus comes He claims that He is God, and the writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the “express image” of God. In other words, although God is a spirit and cannot be seen, when He decides to reveal Himself to mankind He comes as Jesus. Jesus is God, and He is God’s final word to the human race.
Let us prune away all the other words that religion attempts to place into God’s mouth. Politics, morality, wealth, and everything else are lies that smear the image of Christ to this world. After a sinner has been born again by God’s grace in Jesus Christ, then are the teachings of morality and behavior modifications through the power of the Spirit applicable. But to the world of darkness where men and women wander aimlessly and with little more than an insatiable desire to fulfill their own desires and lusts, the word of Almighty God is Jesus. There is no other word than Jesus, and in fact all believers are to obey God’s Word, which in essence is to emulate Jesus.
Our mission is Jesus. Our calling is Jesus. Our lives are Jesus. And what does it say about us when we are “persecuted” for moral and political issues? What does it say about us when we complain about taxes and social entitlement programs? What does it say about us when sinners recoil from us because we have openly and aggressively condemned them? And what does it say about us when we demand that the Ten Commandments be placed upon school walls and not John 3:16?
All those things and more say that we do not know Jesus in His fullness. It says that we as believers have discarded Jesus as THE means of evangelism and are using the law, the words of Moses, and the corrupt political machine as our power to save. That, my friends, isn’t Christianity, that is moral religion with a sprinkling of Jesus dressed in Old Testament vestments. There is no more Old Covenant, it is dead. And the Old Covenant was nothing more than an incubation of faith that would one day die to make way for the greater glory of Christ.
God’s final Word to mankind is not the pro-life movement; it is not about gay rights; it is not about capital punishment; it is not about rock music; and it is not about the culture of America.

God’s final Word is Jesus, Who IS the Word.
Believe Him and you will have life everlasting.