Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Life in Christ

Regardless of how successful, how prosperous, and even how philanthropic a life may seem to be, if it is not built upon faith in Jesus Christ, it is hollow. A life lived without Christ is a tragedy and a mirage that will continue in eternity separated from God Himself forever. The implications of that are beyond human understanding, but we as believers must never lose sight of the plight of the lost as well as the glorious treasure that is ours through Christ.
Eternity awaits while this present vapor moves relentlessly toward its Redeemer.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


The highest level of knowledge is Jesus. All truths find their source in Him, and He is the source of all creation. As Solomon discovered there comes a time when some men realize their lives are hollow and without any eternal substance. It is during that time when the Spirit presents Jesus. And in a moment, an instant, that heart believes upon Jesus. That is a moment of glory unequalled upon the earth. And a soul that climbed out of bed that morning dead in trespasses and sins, has been changed into a living, breathing child of the Living God. To say that is a miracle is to diminish the significance of that event.

Perhaps we will get some perspective when we see the Risen Christ one day. But until then, until we are like Him, just the foretaste of that day and the limited knowledge we have now sustains us and allows us to soar above this present world. To know Jesus is to know life.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

At Calvary

At Calvary - Willaim Newell

Oh the love that drew salvation’s plan
Oh the grace that brought it down to man
Oh the mighty gulf that God did span
At Calvary

We may never fully know, much less understand, just how far God had to go to purchase our salvation. And when our hearts and minds come to understand the enormity of God’s redemption, and the enormity of our comprehensive limitations, it must elicit the greatest demonstrations of worship as well as unrestricted service. If I was outlining the path to divine redemption for mankind, I would have God just issuing a decree and with that be done. However the mystery of grace, juxtaposed against the mystery of iniquity, demanded an incredible sacrifice beyond all reason, logic, and understanding.
We cannot fully explain the making of a “spirit”, which is what God is, to say nothing of dissecting the makeup and operation of the Trinity. But God has not required of us to explain all mysteries or to be fully versed in all things invisible. But He has granted to us a knowledge so wonderful and so profound that we can never exhaust its depths or capture all its infinite facets. We are so limited in our view of love, and so subjective in our assessment concerning who deserves love. But God has loved His enemies before He ever made them. And God is, in fact, love itself. God not only exhibits the verb form of love; God is the noun itself. He is the essence; the epitome; the source; and the quintessential substance of all love. And it was by the power of this love that God Himself came disguised as one of His enemies.
And the provided grace was birthed through that love. And oh how expansive is that grace. There is no sin that is outside the power of this grace when it is made alive through faith alone. Indeed, only unbelief inhibits that grace and only the works of man rise as false and powerless counterfeits. God’s grace is antithetical to human reasoning and understanding. And when a sinner is required to leave everything he believes might help, however small and insignificant, at the door of grace he often recoils. How could God reject sincere attempts to serve Him and his creation? Why would He discard honest efforts to perform works of compassion to honor Him? And these questions crystallize our fallen understanding of God’s grace which are actually attempts to elevate ourselves. Grace is only for the dead man; dead in his sins and without any life.
The monkeys in India are captured many times by a simple technique. The man places a peanut inside a pot whose neck allows the open hand of the monkey to enter, but when the monkey grasps the peanut and cannot get his fisted hand free he is often captured. And so is fallen man when he continues to cling to his baptism or church membership or his philanthropy or his comparative goodness. God’s grace will not share an apartment with any works other than that of Calvary and the empty tomb. And the only difficulties in God’s grace are not any religious or moral hurdles that some claim it requires. The difficulty always lies within the stubborn and self righteous heart of man who demands a part in that grace.
And the gulf to which the song refers is gaping and irreconcilable without the grace of God. We pitiful humans have absolutely a limited view of sin and a negligible concept of holiness. We tend to think of holiness as something we do not do in order to remain pure and something we do to attain it. In reality rocks do not sin and yet they are not holy. Holiness, God’s holiness, is a state of being known only in essence by the Majestic Being named God and it is an absolute power that emanates from impeccable purity and exhaustive moral virtue. God’s holiness cannot be measured in degrees or levels. It is universal and eternally constant. And any holiness attributed to any man is wholly through imputation and without one iota of his own strength or effort. The difference between our condition and God’s holiness was a shocking and spiritually redoubtable chasm that no amount of human sincerity or works of earthly labors could ever constrict by the smallest whit.
And yet this gulf was not only constricted, it was eliminated without residue by the finished work of the Risen Christ! God did not just shorten the span so we could attempt to leap its breadth. In fact, just that thought reveals how little we understand about the magnitude and eternal devastation our sin had caused. When Jesus died for our sins, and when He arose from the dead as the victorious proof of who He was and what He had accomplished, the might gulf that separated us from God was closed without a seam. And this was done not with technology and higher human learning; this was done at Calvary. And what appeared to the carnal eye as a dead Jew on a Roman cross getting what he deserved, was to the spiritually enlightened eye the Redeemer in prophetic fulfillment receiving what we deserved.

Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.

I can fully recall the general time in which my soul was set free. Since I did not walk down an aisle to believe on Jesus I do not recall the exact calendar day, but I can recall that night when overlooking Manhattan at night I became a son of the Most High God. And what a night it was! I knew no theology and little doctrine. I owned only one Bible that was given to me at a religious obligation they called confirmation. I could not have told you anything about what concerns the church nowadays, and I believed in evolution, smoked cigarettes, and had other bad habits. But that night, that glorious night, I was no longer who I used to be. I was now a rough piece of clay that God would begin to mold and still is molding with the same power and patience it required in March of 1975.

Years I spent in vanity and pride,
Caring not my Lord was crucified,
Knowing not it was for me He died on Calvary.

I cared for nothing but my happiness before I met Christ. And I would not have been swayed by political debates or even moral scoldings about my lifestyle. I am fully convinced that the core of evangelism is to present the Lord Jesus and His work in all its majesty along with exhibiting that same person through a loving and humble life. And we must not forsake eternity in our witness as if Jesus died to make our lives better and more prosperous upon this earth, Many are the saints whose lives became worse and even became poorer and more dangerous because they professed the Lord Jesus. Just as the Levites were not given a share of the land, our reward is not of this world. We await His appearing and a reward that far outweighs any pitiful offerings this world has to give.
God told the Levites that He Himself was their inheritance and reward. And make no mistake about it. Our reward for all eternity will not be our new bodies; it will not be the removal from the presence of sin; and it will not be the presence of the holy angels. Our reward will always be the Lord Jesus. And all this was purchased at Calvary.

Now I've given to Jesus everything,
Now I gladly own Him as my King,
Now my raptured soul can only sing of Calvary!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Avoiding Gossip

There is a secular source, the National Enquirer, that claims that a famous male televangelist and a famous female televangelist are having an affair and provided pictures as proof. Some Christian blogs have used that source to print the story and even scanned the photos. Even if that story is true is our calling as believers to spread such salaciousness and gossip? That kind of publicizing of such disgraceful behavior only encourages unhealthy voyeurism within the Christian community. And to use such filthy news sources as the National Enquire is reprehensible.

The cause of Christ is hindered when professing believers commit sins like adultery, and the same cause of Christ is hindered when professing believers feel obligated to market the sins of others.

God is redemptive, and in fact, He is THE Redeemer. Everything about God centers on redemption, and in the end all eternal judgment will take place in spite of God’s desire for all to be redeemed. Even the law was not meant for judgment, but its core purpose was to point sinners to redemption and ultimately the Redeemer. This divine redemption comes with no strings attached and without any kind of works. This redemption is empowered by love, saturated with grace, and effective through faith alone. There is no other eternal redemption then that which comes through faith in Jesus Christ. None.
Why creation? That is a mystery known only within the Godhead, but we can be assured it had everything to do with redemption. And redemption is fully in the hands of the Redeemer and the redeemed are at His mercy. Even the faith with which we believe on our Wonderful Redeemer was a gift from God so boasting for our sakes is without merit and hollow self righteousness. All the glory and praise must be adorned upon the Person of the Redeemer who eternally deserves more praise than we could give Him.
When a sinner is redeemed through faith and becomes a child of the living God, that new creature must exhibit and shine the attributes of the Redeemer. We must live within the Redeemer and both share His gospel and live His person. Our very calling is redemption and we must never dilute or compromise that calling with the works of man or with moral hurdles. Eternal redemption has already been purchased and our message is to present that good news to those who are in need. Getting embroiled with politics and other distractions just dulls and even sometimes changes the message of redemption. What must a sinner do to receive eternal redemption? Believe, only believe.
What an offer from the Creator who had every right to withhold that redemption but because of His very nature not only offered it, but paid for it as well. Redemption, salvation, and deliverance are all related. Man volitionally rebelled against God, and even a redeemed man sometimes volitionally rebels against God. That not only reveals God’s loving commitment to His redeemed church, both individually and collectively, but it reveals the eternal love of God manifested through His Son the Lord Jesus. The cross was for us not God even though it still glorifies Him. There are a lot of things about God that remain a mystery, but there is no mystery about His commitment to redemption. He is not willing that any should perish but that all should be redeemed.

And what does the Redeemer ask of His redeemed?
He asks us to die and for Him to live in and through us.
That, my redeemed friends, is a labor of love.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Bible

The sixty-six books we call the Bible are the bedrock and power of our faith. The words are life and the fountain of all wisdom and knowledge. The Bible is also one of the most significant idols in the world, and especially among religious people. It can be used to manipulate others, and it can be used to support deadly falsehoods through deception and through treacherous linguistic engineering. Even when presenting and teaching the very truth it reveals, it is often used in self righteousness.

But the two predominant thrusts of Scripture are to present Jesus Christ and draw sinners to Him, and to remake believers into the image of that same Jesus.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Deceived - Part II

Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

I may not be deceived about salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ, but if there is self righteousness in me about that then I am deceived as well. Deception is a spirit and is not confined to roam among the Rob Bell’s and Brian McLaren’s of the religious world. It wanders with ambition and design. It seeks victims. And deception does not introduce itself before entering, in fact, it fabricates its identity and plays the friend. If this spirit cannot leverage an outright denial of Christ and His gospel, it aids in constructing a denial of the same with compromise and ingenious doctrinal manipulation that seems to be compassionate and even Biblically profound, but in reality strays away from that same gospel. That can and does end up in heresy and eventually apostasy.
But there are those of us who have not only not strayed from the simple gospel of Jesus Christ, but we have seen and identified the teachings of some who have become false teachers. This is necessary, of course, but do not believe that we are free from deception simply because we see deception’s stronghold in others. And just because we are not deceived about the gospel does not mean we are immune to deception in a host of other areas including, and most significantly, thinking and living as Jesus Christ. And within the “orthodox” community there is an unspoken understanding that assumes that if you believe the true gospel then you are not deceived or at least your deception is commonplace and not noteworthy and serious. This is a grievous error in thinking and in practice, and it is a hindrance to the gospel we believe and a blemish on the Person and character of Jesus Christ.
And many times the orthodox community, especially those who become obsessed, if not enchanted, with searching out and exposing error, have no stomach and little energy to search for error in their own lives. They consider their own “shortcomings” as par for the course and they merrily dispense with them through routine “repentance” and redundant acknowledgment before God. And that is one of the residual dangers of seeking out the deception in others and having that become your dominant purpose and your constant drone. Your sin does not look so horrid when you spend your time reviewing, investigating, and uncovering the sin of Charles Manson. The same is true when we are preoccupied with the doctrinal error of others and become blind, or at least ambivalent and contented with your own sin. And the passion that you have to find the sin and error in others seems very measured and lethargic when it comes to your own sin and areas of deception.
Many times this scenario emerges because the orthodox community has compartmentalized error, become complacent about their own life’s revelation of Christ, and believes it knows much more than it actually does. It is a heart problem that that has become a willing host to a parasite that feeds on self righteousness but gives off a fragrance of doctrinal soundness. Make no mistake, it is entirely possible, and demonstrated regularly, to be fully orthodox on systematic theology and fully unrecognizable as a believer. Now there is a paradox, brethren. And it is that paradox that confounds the sinner and even pushes some saints to seek men like Bell and McLaren since they have become disenchanted with mainstream evangelicalism and the toxicity displayed by many in the orthodox community. Some false teachers and heretics exhibit remarkable humility and charm which is used by the spirit of deception to lure the unsuspecting and the disillusioned.
But to pitch your spiritual tent within the self satisfying campgrounds of the errors of others is spiritual death. And to be clear: We in the western orthodox community are deeply deceived in many, many areas and in fact have changed the template of what it means to live for Christ so drastically that we are a significant stumbling block to the gospel itself, and like the Pharisees we block the door to the kingdom with our unremarkable and self absorbed lifestyles. But we remain contented with that situation because we hold up the scalps of false teachers and heretics as our trophies, and we are galvanized by who we are against rather than taking a deep and uncomfortable look into how far we ourselves are from a living representation of Jesus Christ that should be far more glorious than receiving an “A” on our doctrinal thesis or the “Discerner of the Year“ award. In short, we are deceived.
I truly believe that if the church took one entire year and sought the face of God and beseeched the Spirit to filet our hearts and illuminate our souls we just might see a spiritual landscape that lies substantially desolate. If for a while we turned our attention and energies into investigating our own sin and shortcomings, and our own spiritual straw men we use to supposedly represent Christlikeness, we might see a revival. Did it ever occur to us that one main reason that heresy and false teachers have sprung up so aggressively is that we have lost our saltiness and vigor, and that we have strayed from Biblical Christianity while clinging to doctrinal orthodoxy?
Deception is a wild ride and overcoming it requires much prayer, both personal and corporate. And with the situation as it stands, why are the church houses dark during the week? Why do the orthodox folk file in on Sundays with their well worn Bibles and versed in what they should believe and yet with dry eyes and cold hearts? And most believers spend more time washing their bodies on Sunday morning then they do washing their souls. Do believers rise early at least on Sunday mornings in order to spend an hour in intimate prayer and heart preparation before they go to a corporate worship service? Have they fasted some time during the month? Have they gone out of their way to witness to a lost person? Have they prayed for an hour the past week for missionaries? Have they wept with compassion over the plight of the poor and the lost? And yet these are the people who claim they are not deceived.
Is being unloving considered heresy? Is being self righteous a form of heresy? Is prayerlessness heresy? Is caustic and personal attack language considered heresy? Is hedonism heresy? Oh my brethren, let us draw back and examine ourselves to see whether or not we are in the faith. And after, by God’s grace we have found an assurance in our hearts about belonging to Christ, let us examine ourselves to see whether we are living the faith.

Whatever is unlike Christ is heresy and reveals a definite deception in all of us.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Being Christ

If you are willing to communicate the gospel by words to an illegal Mexican, but you refuse to feed, clothe, and help him because he is illegal, then you, my friend, are living as an American and not a Believer. There are many more Christians whose lifestyles are American rather than Christian. It will cost you little to minister to those who need help. You will be accused of being liberal; you will be accused of breaking the law; you will be accused of being unpatriotic; you will be accused of sinning against God; you will be accused of sedition; and you will be accused of disobeying the Scriptures.
In the end though those accusations should mean nothing to us. Christ Himself was accused of these things and it cost Him His life. Perhaps, if we lived as did He, it would cost us ours as well.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Deceived

And if the deceived are being discerned by the deceived then they both have fallen into a ditch.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Almost all wars have at their core a “national interest”. Rarely, if ever, will a nation go to war against their own national interest. The war believers are called to is very different. It is a war against the rulers of darkness, and this war is fought in the Spirit and not with carnal weapons. Paul shows us our armor which is Christ Himself and His gifts and callings. Our sword is God's Word. Our war is in the interest of Christ and His gospel. Let us fight the good fight.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The World and the Church

The further the world spirals downward into darkness and godlessness the brighter and more remarkable the church should appear. Picture a large ship sailing across the horizon from the left to the right. The people aboard this ship are having a large and loud party including much violence and immorality. This is the world. There is a rope stretched from the boat’s aft (rear) and attached to a small dingy with a few people. This represents the church and the distance from the world that the church maintains. As the large ship continues going further toward hell and wickedness, the church follows while maintaining basically the same distance.

But as both vessels travel from left to right on the horizon, the dingy continues to occupy the same place in the world that the larger ship occupied just a few days before. And even though the church claims to be detached from the larger vessel they are following close in its wake and living in the world's historical path. So basically the church is the world as it was yesterday.

Even more tragic is that many who are partying on the large vessel claim to be passengers in the dingy. And those who are gathered in the aft (rear) part of the dingy so they can be farther away from the world feel self righteous about their seperation from both the world and the others on the dingy.

God is calling out humble seafarers who are humble and broken vessels of the Most High God and whose sails are filled only with Christ and the power of His grace. It is not that we are in the dingy that is our glory. It is that we are in Christ and that by grace alone.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Our Only Hope

Once we were without God and without hope. God is the exclusive source of eternal hope and without Him all is vanity and hopelessness. Men commit suicide when they believe they have no hope. And the world places their hearts on all kinds of false hopes that lend some temporary satisfaction, pleasure, and purpose. I was once like that. You were once like that. But when we came to know and believe in Jesus we found authentic and everlasting hope. Only another believer can truly comprehend the experience called hope that comes with being born again through faith in Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans chapter 5 that our hope makes our love for God expansive in our hearts and provides for us a boldness that is generated by this hope. Christ in us, the hope of glory. Many times this hope brings forth emotions that are truly unspeakable. What human words can completely capture the experience a sinner has when the God of the Universe and the Redeemer of all mankind comes to take up residence in his very being?
And even though we have been grafted into the divine family through Christ, and even though we are a new creation in Jesus Christ, we are still sinners who live, move, and have our being in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and not in the power of our own works regardless of how pious. Anyone who has walked with Christ for any length of time knows how easy it is to lose your joy and the reality of Christ’s presence in your life. And yet God cannot deny Himself and is so faithful to each of us, and even in the face of disobedience or even just spiritual coldness He refreshes and restores us to Himself, and sometimes with a greater spiritual depth that speaks volumes about His grace which can never be earned.
I cannot express to you how much I love the Lord Jesus and how much grace He has afforded me. If God would remove His grace over my life for one second I would be consumed. And if you gathered any and all my works of righteousness over these past 35 years, and if you multiplied them by one million, I still could never stand before His Majesty based upon that spiritual résumé. We all are in utter need of His matchless grace and all our works of righteousness reflect that grace and not our skill and energy. God’s grace has given us hope that cannot fade away, and in fact, that hope grows with each passing moment as it nears its complete fulfillment.
The coming of the Lord draws nigh. Behold, the Bridegroom comes! We must not be like those who slumber and take no notice of the signs of this generation. I do not know what day or what hour the Savior might come, but even a blind man can see that the world is being tossed to and fro and that the words of Jesus, spoken for our understanding, are being fulfilled daily. And although the days are evil and the signs are ominous, they speak of hope for those who look for and love His appearing. The events that echo the words of Jesus cannot be stopped or assuaged by human ingenuity or even fleshly talk of peace. Like a speeding train they are barreling down through history and with a destination that begins with a shout!
And with that shout hope is realized. It is not Jesus who lies. It is us. It is not Jesus who breaks His promises. It is us. It is not Jesus who is unfaithful. It is us. It is not Jesus who gets distracted. It is us. What shall we say, what can we say, when we stand before the Risen Christ and the Fountain of all Grace!? God will have provided for us new bodies for surely these temples of flesh would melt before Him. And what will be our experience when we exist completely in eternal hope and not only realize that we have inherited eternal life but that our gaze will always be transfixed upon the Lamb that was slain…for us!? And in the midst of such unimaginable wonder, we also will have spiritual temples that are capable of worship and praise without ceasing.
This is our hope; this is our life. Let us cherish this hope and never settle for a portion of pottage that the world offers. Hold fast to that which you have learned and known. Do not waver and do not surrender. Jesus is coming and the hope of the church will be exalted for the entire universe to behold. It seems like a fairytale and some religious mythology, but in reality there is more surety in the return of Jesus than there is in you and I drawing our next breath. Our hope is in the Lord and not in man.
Two men looked at the wooden planked bridge that crossed over the deep gorge. The fire was approaching and they knew that was the only way to escape. One man confidently strolled onto the bridge hoping for the safety of the other side. The other man tested each step, halted a few times, and walked nervously on that same bridge. Which man made it across? Both. Why? Because their journey relied entirely upon the strength and integrity of the bridge and not the skill or confidence of their own legs.

Looking for that Blessed Hope
and the glorious appearing of the Great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.
Growing in the Faith

But you, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Liabilities of
Discernment Obsession

A phenomenon which has grown over the last several decades is what is called the “discernment ministry”. With the advent of the internet, along with the accessibility of sophisticated personal computers, this type of Christian ministry has become very prevalent. There are many different and varied approaches and tones in this genre with some being restricted to doctrinal issues while others include gossip and still others are embroiled in the political arena. Some are reasonable while others are caustic; some use harsh words while still others are measured in their verbiage. It has become a spectacle to say the least.
I understand the motivation for such ministries, however I have never seen such a ministry calling in the New Testament. Some use the “watchman” metaphor and make the correlation to such a ministry. But that is a stretch at best. We all are called to some level of discernment when it comes to matters of truth, however we must show humility, restraint, and we must avoid being obsessed and consumed with discernment. Just a perusal of the many online discernment blogs will reveal a fixation on heretics from all stripes which far outdistances and even eclipses any fixation of Christ Himself. Over and over the same issues and the same men are dealt with ad infinitum until it becomes apparent that the writer spends an inordinate amount of time scouring for error. He or she has become preoccupied and many times has embraced a narcissistic view of being an anointed defender of truth. And to be fair, many times what they say is altogether accurate.
Now the political and nationalistic aspects of these ministries is carnal and spiritually void. And the gossip elements that report the latest Ted Haggard or Myley Cyrus debacle are carnal and self righteous. But what I would like to address is much more nuanced and actually alters a person’s spiritual makeup substantially. And it is at this intersect that the subtleties become counter productive to the life of a believing follower of Jesus the Christ. If the eye is whole then the entire body is whole; but if the eye is compromised, then the body (life) follows. Increasingly many believers have cultivated an eye for error rather than an eye for Jesus, and many now view truth, including the truth that is Jesus, in the doctrinal abstract. What this produces in a believer is manifold.

1. It is a clandestine form of self righteousness.

When an obsession about others and their distortion of the truth becomes a motivating force in a believer’s life one of the results is an obvious lack of self examination. In fact, an adherence to doctrinal truth is usually counted as being a faithful follower of Christ. That systematic theology litmus test becomes the standard for the depth of one’s discipleship and God’s approval. And this kind of perspective becomes pronounced when those who espouse it form cliques and fellowships, both organized and informal, and treat each other with overt deference mostly on the basis of common enemies. Even such important doctrinal issues such as baptismal regeneration or transubstantiation are overlooked when they have common targets.
And the personal failures and shortcomings of discernment people are usually only acknowledged in a doctrinal mantra fashion that concedes personal sinfulness in a dispassionate regurgitation, but they become much more passionate and demonstrative when dealing with the sins and shortcomings of others. Repentance is dealt with as a regeneration necessity and in the chronology of the born again experience. While they call a broad swath of men and women to repentance, they themselves limit their repentance to the common frailties of believers and not significant when juxtaposed against the sins of so many others. That is blatant self righteousness and stagnates spiritual growth regardless of one’s doctrinal purity.
We are all horrid sinners who even after receiving Christ continue to fall short openly and in secret; willingly and by nature. And even though men like Rob Bell and Brian McClaren dismantle redemptive truth, we are no less sinners then are they. If this is not acknowledged and even uncomfortably embraced, then we are no better than the publicans. And without that confession, especially within the sacred confines of a prayer closet, then we are destined to be very shallow in our dealings with our own life while being disproportionately energetic about dealing with the lives of others. And when we are teachers, then we influence others to think along the same lines and cultivate a heart of self righteousness but defining it as standing for truth.

2. It is an addiction.

I speak from experience. Once you become preoccupied with researching and uncovering error, heresy, or moral failures it becomes an addiction. You cannot get enough and any blog or book that uncovers new and startling information concerning doctrinal compromise or outright heresy feeds your soul and becomes great topics in the evangelical realm and even at the next Sunday gathering. Stand and listen to what believers discuss at church. They speak of football, car repairs, the latest heretic, upcoming conferences, children, work, vacations, Obama, and a steady stream of the commonplace. And if they even happen to mention the name “Jesus” it is almost always in the doctrinal abstract. If you find someone speaking of Jesus in a personal and intimate way, and if you find someone quietly praising and worshiping the Risen Christ alone, remember that as an anomaly.
In addition to scouring the internet to find the latest sensational heresy and/or heretic, many discernment bloggers invite and receive e-mail reports from a host of readers who effervescently provide details of some startling doctrinal compromise or personal failure. And some even subscribe to secular news updates in order to have real time information about such things, including many carnal and secular talk show hosts. This is nothing more than gossip and has no redemptive value whatsoever. But this is an addictive fascination that continues to detour those who embrace it away from the Living Savior and His gospel, except as it is revealed in systematic theology.
You cannot be addicted to Jesus without truth. But you can be addicted to truth without being addicted to Jesus.

3. It is unreceptive.

When you are the corrector you often become unreceptive to correction. When your “calling” is predominately to correct others then it becomes difficult to receive correction yourself. While you are loudly expressing outrage you often become deaf to the still, small voice that is saying, “Thou art the man.” Do a search of the discernment blogs and you will be hard pressed to find posts that correct other discernment blogs, to say nothing of self correction. In fact, every once in a while some discernment blog offers a correction to the institute of discernment blogs in general and there is a hue and cry of objection. Even when a discernment blog uses a secular news report as their source and it turns out to be false, they blame the news source and take little if any responsibility themselves.

4. It is impersonal.

Dealing with truth in the abstract is a delicate matter and one that always needs some ancillary garnish that makes the discussion personal and spiritually intimate or you run the risk of teaching Jesus like you might teach algebra. To win the approval of God it takes more than just winning the doctrinal debate. It takes more than just proving your doctrinal orthodoxy and providing your systematic theology as proof of your authentic and passionate pilgrimage to believe in and be like Jesus. There is a time to confront error, especially redemptive error. But God is not impressed with regurgitating that which should be obvious and our reasonable service.
But when you distill truth primarily into discussions, then you, however unintentially, minimize the life manifestations of that same truth. Truths such as the Trinity, the virgin birth, and the reliability of Scripture are easily defended by words. Truths such as love, mercy, and humility require much more than just words and quoting verses.

5. It diminishes the Person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is more than a collection of Scriptural truths. And although the Scriptures provide for us the bedrock of our faith, Jesus transcends what we now know about Him without ever abrogating the Scriptural revelations about Him. The Person of Jesus is most effectively “defended” by most effectively manifesting Him through a humble and living prism that strives to avoid any subjective refractions. Jesus is not just the tree upon which truth can be hung as ornaments. He is truth. Period. And that truth is a living Person who has chosen to live within every believer in an eternal mystery. And what we say we believe is belied by how we live it.
If, in truth, the Creator dwells within us in all His fullness, then why are we so unremarkable in the epicenter of darkness? And what many of the discernment ministries have done is change the subject. The subject is not that Rob Bell is changing the gospel, although that seems to be true. But the more personal and parochial question is how can we as believers, supposedly orthodox, live with such little power and sacrifice? How can we read the life of Jesus and be so proud and arrogant and still claim to believe the Scriptures? How can we see God’s heart upon the cross and be so critical and uncaring toward sinners?
And with all the protestations about being orthodox, and with all the tantrums about liberals and emergents, and with all the neatly arraigned doctrines of the faith, are we believing in truth or are we believing in Jesus? And if we say both then why doesn’t our practice seem to mirror the revelations of Christ in the gospels? It surely seems like we have reinvented our own Jesus who is orthodox in His theology, born of a virgin, died on the cross and resurrected bodily, but who lives in stark contrast to the Jesus who walked the earth for three years.

Theology without practice diminishes the Person of Christ.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Moral Causes

Moral causes, especially when taken up by believers, are nothing more than unredemptive energy spent to fix society through legislation, information, and democracy. There are elements of self righteousness woven through all such endeavors which misrepresent the gospel as cleaning the cup’s outside first with fleshly adherence to a morality that, which without Christ, leads to eternal death.
The gospel is not a spiritual scolding. It is wonderful news to a lost and dying race of sinners. And at the center of this message is Jesus. God is born as a man, dies as a substitute and a forgiving sacrifice, and resurrects from the dead. So often we have been divided into two over generalized groups. One side castigates sinners for being sinners and believes that is appropriate gospel garnish. The other side leaves the cross completely absent from their gospel because they believe it to be much too archaic and without relevance in this post modern mindset.
What sermon would be a looking glass into what the Spirit desires to preach to sinners? In the 2nd chapter of Acts we find a Spirit filled Peter delivering the very first evangelistic message after the resurrection. And just what was the theme of His message? Jesus - anointed, crucified, and resurrected! Not one mention of sin at all and yet their hearts were convicted and convinced concerning that person named Jesus. Where was the law of Moses in his gospel? Gone! Where was the careful exposition to convince them that they were sinners? It is not there. The Spirit Himself has been commissioned to convince men of sin, and when we pounce upon sinners, or even feel it necessary to deal extensively with sinners about their particular sin and sins, we abrogate His divine ministry.
On the other side of the coin some of you who believe that men like Rob Bell, Brian McClaren and Doug Paggit are just using a different and more intellectual approach, read Peter’s message which is permeated with teachings and references about one thing - the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus must be lifted up, and when men attempt to downplay and even erase Jesus and His death and resurrection from their teachings then they are misguided at best and heretics at worst. And please let me be perfectly clear about something. Some of my Calvinist/Reformed/Doctrines of Grace brethren use the law mixed in with the gospel and suppose it is necessary. I disagree, but I still consider them true brethren in Christ. With men like Bell and others I have no such confidence either way. Only God knows.
But this post is written to address the meaningless and often counter productive moral causes that many believers, either individually or en masse, take up and present themselves as advocates for such causes rather than believing followers of Jesus. This genre is actually a form of humanism and seeks to make man and society better by moral alignment. Fighting with the same carnal weapons that unbelievers use, they become embroiled in a war which is not Christ’s and cannot be won until He comes back to win it. Believers line up to object to strip clubs opening, and yet they have never prayed for, wept over, or gone into the highways to compel these girls to come to Jesus. That is not redemptive Christianity; that is moralism.
Believers spend millions to address the horror called abortion. Abortion is indeed murder, but the answer is us being Jesus and spreading His gospel and not spending time, energy, and money to overturn legislation. Some of these crisis pregnancy centers do a wonderful work that both cares for the mother’s situation as well as care for that mother’s soul. They are heroes in my eyes.
But the absolute worst cause that has become popular in these modern times is political and it deals with money. Many believers object to President Obama and other progressives because they are worried about the eradication of their wealth. Listen to the conservative talk shows and their battle cry centers on issues of personal wealth. Some of them even have as sponsors companies that sell gold, suggesting that is the best way to “protect your personal wealth”. And many of these men are supported and quoted by professing believers in Jesus Christ. Just which Jesus would be aligned with such hedonistic self righteousness?
We all have our opinions and feelings about things and issues, but dealing with morality and certain sins are meant as part of a journey of discipleship and are to be dealt with among believers and not part of a force feed ministry to the lost. And while we have been busy pointing out the sins in the world and the political arena, sin has become rampant within the church itself. While we trumpet “traditional marriage” divorce is raging in the church. Even the term “traditional marriage” leaves out the gospel, or even the Scriptures, and suggests that the reason for it is because we have always done it like that. And like screaming at a dead man we have come to believe that dead and lost sinners can change simply because we inform them or because we make them. What a twisted mess that mirrors nothing of the gospel.
But let us turn to our exclusive cause, the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ by lifting up Jesus Himself. We have no alternate “cause” than that of Jesus Himself. And the ministry of reconciliation that comes with preaching and living the gospel of Christ cannot, and must not, be diluted with subordinate causes that detour the hearts of the lost to things that cannot save. Look at the cross and with that we see the one and only cause we call redemption. Jesus did not die to make the world more moral, that is an impossibility. He died to reconcile sinners to God through the redemption that is only found in His blood. Abortion, homosexuality, and all the other issues have their place in teaching the church, but to the world we must lift up Jesus Christ and He must have all the preeminence. The gospel is not the tree trunk from which other branches grow as side issues that minister to the dark world. The gospel is the entire tree from which life can only come, and inventing pet issues and battling with the lost over issues that they cannot possibly understand just puts more nails into their coffins.
The dead man does not need his tie straightened, no, he needs a transfusion of life that places a new heart within his dead chest and see it beat a life giving flow of blood once more to all his extremities. Of course these causes make us feel righteous and valiant, and true as they may be, they are still detours and stumbling blocks to the grace of our Lord Jesus. The world doesn’t need to be pro-life, and in fact they never will be. And if the entire world became pro-life all at once it would not alter the eternal destiny of one single sinner. Only Jesus can change a sinner into a child of the living God, and that change has nothing to do with changing your view on any issue except for the issue of who is Jesus.
Jesus did not come to make people change their morality, that is residual to His mission. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. In fact, sometimes the good, at the expense of the best and needed, can lead to death. Imagine a medical doctor whose training, expertise, and calling is in heart transplant, and yet he seems preoccupied with selling mosquito repellent. And when we propagate issues and morality we have, however unintentionally, left the gospel of redemption and entered the gospel of condemnation. And the New Testament tells us that the ministry of condemnation is death. Brothers and sisters, lift up those hands, lips, and hearts and let them exclusively lift up the Lord Jesus and His offer of eternal life by faith in His finished work. That is our one and only cause.

Sunday, July 04, 2010


Some men live by words; some men live by principles; some men live by national allegiance; some men live for themselves; some men live for women; and some men just live. But believers in Jesus must not only live for Him, He must live for them.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2010

In April of 1975 I went across the street to a liquor store and purchased a small bottle of wine for $1.00. It contained approximately 6 ounces of red wine in a round, little bottle. I also had a few salt less soup crackers which I had placed in an empty watch case. I then proceeded to scale the front of Garret Mountain and reached the summit in about ten minutes. I sat down on that clear night and gazed at the Manhattan skyline outlined against the starlit sky. I prepared to observe my first communion after I had been born again in March of that same year.
I had taken many communions before, including my first communion after I was confirmed into the Lutheran church. But all those past observances were nothing more than a religious snack. I do not believe there is anything special about the bread or wine, and they are just emblems that represent the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Eating them does not provide anyone with more grace or favor with God. They are purely symbolic.
However, I do believe that the observance itself provides a seeking and contrite believer with an opportunity for deep fellowship and worship before the Risen Christ. You see, the spiritual element in the Lord’s Supper is not in the bread and wine; the spiritual essence can only be experienced in the heart of a partaking believer. This communion should never be a perfunctory observance which occurs the first Sunday of the month, and is accomplished with the necessary haste so as not to interfere with the regular “service” items, and doesn’t extend the length of that service to such a degree that the “worshipers” are inconvenienced.
This communion must be observed with the commensurate sacredness that reveals the depth of its spiritual nature as well as the reality of the presence of Christ and His Spirit. How often have I been in a communion service where the ushers are well organized, and after a few brief minutes the communion is over and the preacher begins to rattle off some message about finances or morality or even about finding your life’s purpose? And the spirit and subject of that message is so disjointed from that communion observance so as to relegate the Lord’s Supper as having no more importance than the announcements. And Christ Himself is dishonored when His Supper is nothing more than an equal part of a believer’s gathering.
The early church observed communion every Sunday and sometimes more. Why then do we not continue such a practice? It is purely cultural and our services must now bow to the dictates of convenience and the restraints of times. Americans are not given to protracted services, and each service must be well planned, well carried out, and with an acceptable target time for its end. We spend much time preparing the body for church, and when “church” is over we look to satisfy that same body with food, relaxation, and more entertainment. It is a religious cycle that has imprisoned the church and stripped her of God’s power and the reality of the Risen Christ.
And to a large extent we have lost what it mean to receive communion and experience the repentance, the grace, and the worship that accompanies that glorious gift to the church. But it is in concert with almost everything else the church does and does not do. Do we live with the observable behavior that screams the return of Jesus Christ? Do we handle money as if we were God’s sacred conduit and refuse to collect it for our own pleasure? Is prayer the hallmark of the Christian community including weekly gatherings dedicated to nothing but seeking God and interceding in passionate prayer? And with all those indictments it would follow that the Lord’s Supper would be reduced to a nice fit in a once as month church service.

But I exhort you to reignite such a sacred and glorious meeting with Christ, even if it means observing it yourself and allowing whatever time it takes to meet God in a new and fresh way.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Sovereignty of God

The sovereignty of God is expansive. It knows no parameters and it knows no levels. It is everlasting and constant, and it does not have to reach everywhere since it is already there. There is no escaping it or even competing with it. God’s sovereignty permeates the entire universe from the largest quasar to the smallest atomic particle. Like the fish that swim and live beneath the ocean depths, so do all things material, invisible, or energy exist beneath the sovereignty of God. And from the moment a human egg is fertilized it awakens to life embedded in the ocean of God’s sovereignty. And when the aged lungs breathe their last, they expire underneath that same sovereignty. The course was run completely within the sovereignty of God.
The fish can only swim, and indeed only live, underneath the ocean. And even though they are affected by streams and currents, storms and waves, the Creator still allows those fish some latitude with the direction of their swim. They have a brain that is geared to function as a guide to food, safety, and knowledge of things that they were never taught. And every man, operating with the limitless sovereignty of God, has been given a free will that is never in competition with God’s sovereignty and is never a threat to the integrity of that same sovereignty. And such is the capability, mystery, and the surpassing glory of God’s sovereignty. No human act can abrogate God’s sovereignty even though many human acts are against the divine template. They still are seated at the table of His sovereignty.
Why would a good God” allow all these unspeakable acts of horror and violence? And therein lies the mystery, at least from this side of eternity. All we know about God, and especially all we know of God through the Lord Jesus, leads us to faith in all we do not understand, which is far greater than we are prone to admit. And although things are said and done that are antichrist and at conflict with the nature and will of God, we still believe God is in complete control. His sovereignty has never been in danger or its limits stretched. And given the monstrosity of man’s rebellion and the grisliness of his sin, we still must believe what we cannot see or understand; namely, that God’s sovereignty is intact and still in full force. The better question is "Why would a good God want us?"
But God cannot deny Himself. And if God is the direct author of all sin, from the rape of an infant to the torture of an elderly woman, then His sovereignty is nothing more than a platform for all kinds of acts that are in direct violation of His teachings to His own creation. The world would be like a garage where a deranged serial killer captures his victims and delights in their fear, pain, and death. And even a basic understanding of the unfathomable evil that lives and ravages the human race must at least draw us to the conclusion that God’s sovereignty has allowed man to operate with a God given level of freedom. But if God derives pleasure from sin, and if He is the orchestrator of that sin, then His nature is not love, good, and holy. And that scenario would render Him a demented puppeteer, not unlike a child pulling the wings off of flies.
And God has seen, and knew afore time, that man would use his freedom to get himself into an eternal mess from which he can never extricate himself. The Creator came down as one of us and has colored the ocean red and beckoned all fish to breathe in this life giving blood. It is not God’s nature to take on a miniscule project; He has offered salvation to all sinners. But as it is we have a role to play and an ocean to swim completely within the depths of God’s sovereignty. For if God orchestrates everything, and if man has no will of His own, then God seems to be an unfit overseer of this world. The entire universe is a colossal mess and is only getting worse, yet God derives pleasure from watching as the inevitable continuing to unravel?
God’s sovereignty is not at odds and inconsistent with the free will of man. And if indeed God is wholly and completely responsible for the entire history of creation with no substantive participation from the choice of sinners, the He must take responsibility for it all. The history of mankind is nothing to put on one’s resume and claim competency in ruling and reigning. Unless you factor in the free will of man, God is left with an incredible failure of His own doing, and as understood in some corners, clings to the miniscule few He has chosen to save as His glory. Oh no, dear ones, man is responsible for all of this mess. And the glory of God is redemption, paid for on that cross, and offered to every single sinner. And the fact that only a mere handful will find eternal life cannot be attributed to the myopic redemptive will of God, no, mankind will have to bear that burden as well.

And in the end, when all is revealed, we will worship Him with the eternal knowledge that
“He does all things well!”

Friday, July 02, 2010

Preach the Gospel
If you believe that God directly places each government in power, then you must believe that America was formed in open rebellion to the God ordained government of King George. And you also must believe that President Obama is in God's will. (See how ridiculous and duplicitous it is when the church attempts to ascribe divine will to politics?)

Patriotism is a forum for self righteousness, divisiveness, and in some cases racism. It is antithetical to the call of Christ.

Preach the gospel and leave the politics and nationalism to those who know not Christ.