Monday, March 29, 2010

The Moral Crusade of Jesus

Some Christians fight a moral crusade with words, protests, votes, and artillery launched from a platform of self righteousness void of redemptive grace. Jesus fought that same moral fight with a cross. He asks us to use His weapon not ours.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Living Our Christian Imposter

We in the west have been and continue to be deceived. Our brand of Christianity and its practice is a fraud. From the orthodox to the liberal, and from the watchmen to the emergent, we all live and promote a falsehood that claims to follow Jesus but hoards money, incurs debt, bows to nationalism, enjoys a plethera of entertainment whithin a stone's throw of the poor, all but ignores prayer, and in general sacrifices nothing. In general we spend more on our pools and pets than we do on ministering to the poor and worldwide missions, to say nothing on mortgage interest payments for a place to sit on Sundays.

Aside from important doctrinal issues, the form of Christianity we all practice is a self serving construct that cannot claim any resemblance to Jesus or His teachings. We cannot be blamed for being born into such a Christian imposter, however we are to blame as we hand it unchanged to the next generation.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Where is Jesus and His Church?

There are two words that are related. In fact, they are Siamese twins and one without the other is a fraud, or in the metaphor of the New Testament, without each other they are dead. These words are orthodoxy and orthopraxy. The word orthodoxy defines what we believe, and the word orthopraxy defines how we live and act. In short, they outline faith and works.
The relationship between these two components of what we call Christianity must be understood and addressed and respected. Any imbalance runs the risk of a mischaracterization of truth and in fact a mischaracterization of Jesus Himself. The more significant the imbalance results in the greater mischaracterization until eventually there is an actual deception. The imbalance can reach a point where the deception is so profound that redemption is no longer possible within that framework. So let us examine both twins more deeply so we can accurately understand and implement both orthodoxy and orthopraxy in their intended symbiotic relationship.
Orthodoxy is usually defined as Biblical truth that has been understood and taught within the mainstream of the evangelical church throughout history. Now there are wide and varied interpretations of these truths raging from free will to no free will and from all sorts of ecclesiastical structures and practices. To say that the interpretations of Biblical truths have been expressed through many different ways and understandings is to severely understate the width of those parameters. Just look at all the different denominations and sects within Christianity and you can see just how pervasive are the differing perspectives of Scriptural truth.
Many denominations and doctrinal perspectives even argue and debate the most meaningless and insignificant aspects of New Testament theology. Arminians, those who espouse the free will of man, have matriculated into nano-doctrinal segments while Calvinists who may agree on 98% of their doctrinal issues will divide over the remaining 2%. It is quite a spectacle and is to this day a detriment to spreading the everlasting gospel to a lost world. The issues around which Christians will create a doctrinal Maginot line are deeply regrettable; especially when you consider the amount of time and energy it drains from the message of redemption through Jesus Christ.
But as unfortunate and counterproductive are these squabbles, there still is a core nucleus of Biblical truth that surrounds the gospel of redemption and which cannot, and must not be compromised.

I do not believe true and authentic Christianity is being practiced to any large extent in the west. Listen and read as professing believers join hands with political parties and issues, and trash people who genuinely need Jesus, but the political agendas take precedent over their redemption. President Obama is now the target of virulent and caustic attacks from people who profess to believe in and follow Jesus Christ. Morality and money are now the Dagons in western evangelicalism and the message of the cross and its eternal redemption has become a page on our doctrinal statements but is nowhere to be found in our actions and prayers.
Millions worship America and bow before her and suggest that the Creator is somehow concerned with preserving whatever they think was worth preserving in the first place. The “Founding Fathers” are heroes even though many were slave owners, promiscuous, and far from anything that can be considered evangelical. The Constitution has become an appendage to the Bible, and the Revolutionary War is considered an orchestration, rather than an incorporation, of God’s will. The American flag is displayed in most church worship centers, and usually pledged allegiance to on the 4th of July weekend. The entire mess is an affront to the gospel.
The list of sinners that are hated continues to grow: illegal aliens, Democrats and Republicans, President Obama or George Bush, the entire gay population, Muslims in general, and anyone else who does not fit within some patriotic and moral parameters regardless of their desperate spiritual need. It no longer is the gospel of Jesus Christ; it is now the gospel of moralism, nationalism, hedonism, or some concoction of all of them. Some desire to dismantle any sort of Biblical truth while the other side parade their systematic theologies as proof of their membership card to the body of Christ. And when asked which people are remarkable and observably different within the western culture most would be hard pressed to identify anyone outside the practicing Amish. Peculiar people? Clothed in humility? Walking in love? You’d have to be a deceived liar to authenticate any of those monikers in America today as it concerns the overwhelming throng of evangelicals. Even the Joel Osteens and Ed Youngs are unashamed hedonistic profiteers.
And then there are the doctrinal idolaters that are consumed with doctrine on paper and are light with living the epistles they so completely articulate. There are legions of books that outline the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures in a systematic way in order to keep the faith tethered to the actual teachings of those Scriptures. And while that is certainly important, it is not enough just to believe the correct doctrine, it must be lived. When Biblical “scholars” say “doctrine” they almost always mean one of the “ologies” such as soteriology or theology. Rarely do they treat humility, love, mercy, patience, or grace as doctrines. Who says "That man is orthodox in his love?" Who says "That man is orthodox in his humility?"
The entire world suffers every single day. Children are beaten and abused and many will starve to death this very day. Mothers watch with blank stares as their child nears the end of his life simply because there is no water or food. Who in God’s dear name is our neighbor? Our street block? Fellow Americans? Of course Jesus was teaching us that our neighbor is everyone in the world. And yet professing believers get all caught up with issues, moral and material, while much of the world lives in darkness and great distress. Christians even whine about being “persecuted” in America which reveals how little they know of real persecution but are fully versed in complaining.
What does a life that reflects Jesus look like in this western hedonistic culture? Is it enough to avoid smoking or cursing or getting drunk? Are the “don’ts” what really defines a life that overtly manifests the Person and character of Jesus Christ? And is the life and power of Jesus Christ so tepid today, and only really unique to the gospel accounts, that His followers so neatly blend in with their cultural surroundings? Is this unremarkable cultural existence a genuine representation of people who openly claim to have Jesus living inside them, and they themselves sacrificially following in the living footsteps of the Eternal God?
Our commission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ as a witness to who He is and what He has done. But there are other admonitions that are meant to mold our lives. And I would like to address one main and important aspect of the life of the church. This goes beyond being kind on the grocery line, or letting someone pass you on the street, or even helping your neighbor take out his trash. This element of a believer’s life has been largely lost on the church, and in fact, it continues to be countermanded openly by the teachings and practice of the western church both personally and collectively.
At the center of a life that reflects and models the life of Jesus Christ are the poor. They exist as either an indictment that discredits our claim to follow Christ, or authenticates that very claim. There is something about the poor, the downtrodden, and the rejected that holds a special place in the heart of their Creator. Jesus, in His early ministry, entered Nazareth.

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them,
This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

Why would Jesus identify the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind, and the bruised as His redemptive targets? Why not just collectively say sinners? Throughout the Scriptures God takes observable notice of the poor and disenfranchised. And even in the early church there was an acknowledgment that caring for the poor was part and parcel of being a follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus refers to the giving of alms to the poor, and even James says “God has chosen the poor rich in faith”. But the lame and embarrassing ministry to the poor by us western believers is a residual effect of a greater deception; it reveals just how far we have strayed from New Testament Christianity. We have concocted a doctrinal fortress that helps us sleep soundly at night knowing our systematic theology is intact, while living, breathing people are suffering greatly with hardly a thought.
While the local assembly builds a monstrous, high tech edifice to enjoy, complete with an obscene amount of debt, they feel quite comfortable with some paltry food pantry that ministers to the handful that can come and get some help. And the overwhelming percentage of money collected will go to the mortgage and the staff salaries and accoutrements. Watch as they pat themselves on their backs if they can claim 10% goes to missions. And if that assembly considers themselves as “orthodox”, their emphasis will be upon proclaiming and protecting that doctrinal orthodoxy and the needs of people will be given little consideration in the yearly budget.
We western believers have changed and overhauled the entire construct of what it means to be followers and imitators of Jesus Christ either individually or collectively. It is infinitely easier to stop smoking and cursing than it is to give sacrificially of our lives and treasures and go without the camp to seek and minister to those who may never place one dime in our coffers. The one hour religious theatre that passes as meeting with and worshiping the Risen Christ is a redundant exercise in making us feel good and preparing us for a soon following meal and perhaps a televised sporting event. The slightest sound system malfunction becomes an irritant to any artificial ambiance.
And while we meet in air conditioned opulence, even in our own communities, many bear the physical and emotional marks of their social condition arrived at by either events beyond their control or the fruits of their own counterproductive labors. Either way, there they are; stretched out and hidden from our physical eyes so they can be addressed much easier with compassionate words rather than inconvenient and “costly” actions. But the glory of our enhanced worship music, and the erudite offerings of our preachers, and just the ambiance of gathering together with others within the walls of artificial lavishness, soothes the soul and uplifts the spirit to go out from there and live the next week as we have the previous one. And the dogs continue to lick the sores of Lazarus beyond the gates of the church’s existence while we build bigger and more expensive places for people to sit a couple hours every week. Perhaps my words seem too radical?
If this is true Christianity then there must be another Bible since this ecclesiastical construct cannot claim any symmetry with what we now call the New Testament. What did the body of Christ do when it was the original Incarnation? Did that Jesus live in opulence and comfort? Did that Jesus seek out the wealthiest people and raise money to provide a meeting place that would fit their accustomed lifestyle? Did that Jesus go weeks on end without ministering to the poorest among the community? And did that Jesus seek to avoid any contact and interaction with the most identifiable sinners in the city? Did that Jesus borrow money from Caesar to build buildings while still claiming access to the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills? In short, was that Jesus a hypocrite?
Did that Jesus get involved with all sorts of political issues and take either a conservative or a liberal side? Did that Jesus pledge allegiance to any country or government? Did that Jesus heap up money for Himself? Was that Jesus concerned with eternity or with the things of this world? And did that Jesus spend time with the poorest peasants and the vilest sinners? And so I ask you, which Jesus do we claim to follow?
The proof of orthodox theology can never lie exclusively with any systematic extrapolation of the written Scriptures, but there must be the corresponding actions that authenticate what the heart actually believes juxtaposed against what the Scriptures actually teach. Doctrinal orthodoxy without a living epistle that conforms to the living image of Jesus Christ is like a body without blood. And no one can enjoy the luxury of culling out those doctrinal truths from Scripture that do not demand observable evidence such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, the penal substitution, and many others, without also being held accountable to the veracity of those Scriptural truths that demand observable evidence such as love, mercy, humility, and a passion concerning the ministry to the poor and downtrodden.
And against the backdrop of the ultimate compromise of God becoming a man in order to address the needs of His enemies, how deep are we willing to compromise our own personal surroundings in order to be used to meet the needs of others? Are the needs of others given such priority over our own needs and the needs of those with whom we have relationship that we are resolved, and even willing, to forsake our own desires and reasonable objections so as to be a selfless conduit to help the poor without finding some remonstrance which soothes our conscience but leaves the poor just as they are?
No government can either prevent us from doing Christ’s work or enhance that same redemptive labor. We should, and we must, operate in a different and unique kingdom which has no common subset with any earthly government or other organization. God can and does use and incorporate the acts of men, even the acts of unregenerate men, into His sovereign and providential scheme, but without that eternal blueprint we must adhere strictly to what we have been called to do – preach Jesus and live Jesus. We cannot serve two masters. To embrace or assail any particular government is to fight the wrong battle with the wrong weapons against the wrong people. There is little that compare to the compromise that is contained in nationalism.
Millions upon millions of professing believers are more interested in protecting the so called original intent of the country called America than they are protecting and projecting the original intent of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They have become Americans at the expense of being followers of Jesus Christ. It is very tragic, and extremely difficult to see with any objectivism. It is like attempting to view the back of your head without a mirror. Without the help of someone else you cannot see it. And without the help of the Spirit, beginning with a painful and self sacrificing seeking of the truth regardless of what it might reveal, no one can really see what we have become instead of what we should be.
Our salt is tasteless, or hill is flat, and our light is dim. Without a revival we are reduced to sojourning in spiritual obscurity. Have we wandered so far that we cannot return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple? Are we so consumed with Babylon that the Spirit has no access to our hearts?

Oh, that You would rend the heavens and that You would come down, that the mountains might quake and flow down at Your presence--As when fire kindles the brushwood and the fire causes the waters to boil--to make Your name known to Your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Your presence!
When You did terrible things which we did not expect, You came down; the mountains quaked at Your presence. For from of old no one has heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who works and shows Himself active on behalf of him who earnestly waits for Him.
You meet and spare him who joyfully works righteousness, uprightness, and justice, earnestly remembering You in Your ways. Behold, You were angry, for we sinned; we have long continued in our sins prolonging Your anger. And shall we be saved?
For we have all become like one who is unclean and does not know it or care, and all our fake righteousness is like filthy rags or a polluted garment; we all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities and our self righteousness, like the wind, takes us away from knowing and serving You.
And who calls passionately upon Your name and awakens and bestirs himself to take and keep hold of You? For You have hidden Your face from us and have delivered us into the prison of our own iniquities and religious contentment.
Yet, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our Potter, and we all are the work of Your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, or remember iniquity forever. Behold, consider, we beseech You, we are Your people.
But Your holy cities have become a wilderness; Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and our beautiful house, the gathering where our fathers praised You, is burned with fleshly fire, and all our pleasant and desirable places are in spiritual ruins.
Considering our condition and the hardness of our hearts, will You restrain Yourself, O Lord and not come to our aid? Will You keep silent and not command our deliverance but humble and afflict us exceedingly?
For Your glory and none of ours, we pray ourselves to be broken by Your Spirit and remade after the likeness of the Redeemer Lord. We stand in need of Your awakening touch that crucifies us once again and resurrects us in the power of His glory. And use us, O Lord, to reach those in need and to reveal the Risen Christ in such a way that men must say, “We have never seen it like this.”
Oh, that You would rend the heavens and that You would come down and reveal Jesus in us.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Paper Redemption

The western church has morphed into a company of judgmental complainers which only offer redemption on paper.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2010

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Poor

There are millions of poor, sad people whose main goal is just to get through another day. If we do not care with much more than words, we should at least have the integrity to stop using His Name.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Revelation

The Book of the Revelation has been debated over the years concerning the actual time placement and the chronology of the events. How much is metaphorical and how much is literal are subjects that have long been discussed. But let us not forget that the book is the revelation of Jesus Christ.

So the most important question is "Am I"?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Worship

“The worship service was so good this morning.”
“That worship leader is so anointed.”
“That is my favorite worship song.”
We are all guilty of making such statements. They are well meaning and are an attempt to honor Christ, and in our hearts many times they do. But a closer look reveals an insidious detour from Christ and into an experience that is compromised by music, worship leaders, and the ambiance of the event itself. Nowhere in those three statements is Jesus even mentioned, and although it is very possible that we did indeed acknowledge Him at some point, those statements still reveal a tendency to be affected by the structure at the expense of Christ Himself.
Very few of us actually worship Jesus. We may praise Him and we may lift up His name, but very few believers enter in to worship. Even the word “worship” has been diluted by the western church so as to accommodate our busy and hectic lifestyles and still claim to worship. Worship today is seen in terms of music, outward demonstrations, and a designated portion of the gathering. Some modern preachers now teach that we can worship Christ while doing other things such as driving, mowing the lawn, and even taking out the garbage.
But such teachings only diminish Christ Himself, and reduce worship to a modest exercise of praising God with some or even most of our attention directed on Him. They say we can worship God in the grocery line, while making dinner, and even while taking a shower. Perhaps we can and should praise God and give Him thanks in those situations, but worship is not an appendage to our everyday activities. You cannot multi-task worship. Worship requires preparation; worship requires sacrifice; worship requires brokenness; worship requires repentance; and worship requires the entire heart and mind.
Worship must change us. If we are to claim we have entered into the very secret place of Christ, and if we contend we have met with the Risen Christ in the mystery of His throne room, and if that assertion is indeed true, then its veracity will be verified by how we have been affected by it. In fact, a “worship service” may not prove to be so “wonderful” if indeed we have met the Living and Awesome God in spirit and in truth. The deepest and most authentic worship may profoundly break us and remove our spiritual fa├žade in such a way as to render us undone…gloriously undone. It may prove to be some of the most excruciating spiritual experiences we ever have.
That is a far cry from lightly discussing some wonderful worship service over a post service meal at Denny’s. And the subject of the conversation will not be the worship leader or some worship song or even the worship service itself. In fact, if we actually enter into the worship of the Risen and Glorified Lion of Judah, there may be many times we cannot effectively share with anyone the magnitude of that experience. True worship will take you to a spiritual place that you thought you desired, and yet when you arrive you are taken aback and overwhelmed. To come before the Lord Christ is not just some uplifting and encouraging experience. Worship will bring into focus the reality of who Jesus is and the unvarnished reality of who you should be.
Worship brings forth all sorts of strange and wonderful emotions and understandings. You can feel completely grateful while feeling ashamed as well. You may feel exhilaration that elicits weeping and tears. You may experience a personal diminishing and smallness while still feeling a strength not known to this world. Worship can break you down and remove the mask you have worn. Worship can convict and inspire; it can bring low and yet uplift; and worship can strip away another layer of pretense and self caricature and in the pain of that process you are set free. And most importantly of all, worship reveals the Exalted Lamb of God in a clearer and more pronounced and revealed mystery. By His grace God has revealed Himself to you personally and pulled back the veil a little further.
We have shortchanged God with our culture and religious practices. We hurry to church without spending time with Christ and beseeching Him to change us at the gathering, and then we hurry away to dine sumptuously and prepare for fellowship, football, and the afternoon nap. And we have the audacity to claim we met with the Risen Christ in worship. That is not worship; that is repeating a shallow religious oblation that severely lacks the fruits of a disciple and the integrity of such a claim of worship. The western Christian construct continues to insure that, should Jesus tarry, future generations will sink deeper into a tepid, bland, and even embarrassing form of following Jesus.
We must return to worshiping the Living Savior of the Universe. But take heed, the road back to that kind of sacrifice is not paved and not well lit. It is surely lonely and filled with all sorts of temptations to quit as well as temptations of self righteousness and judgment. Prepare to be exalted by being brought low. Prepare for an inner conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. The flesh will present a continuous deception of all sorts of creative evils which are rooted in the wisdom of man, the weakness of the flesh, and the condemnation of others. Your flesh will help you share any experiences God has allowed to you with the express and clandestine motive of exalting yourself.
But if you are willing to suffer, and if you are willing to be mute when you feel like speaking, then you will find the joy and exhilaration of a painful and self denying journey that leads to rivers of revelation of Him. Nothing that is born of God is easy, and the road less travelled is the road hidden in His glory. The accolades of men are stumbling blocks, and when you share some things they will lose what God had intended them to be for you. This idea of worshiping God is not some subject you share over dinner or lunch with a friend. In fact, it may turn out that when you enter into this journey God might just test you. God may not allow you to speak about the particulars of your journey at until someone actually senses a real and substantive change in you and your spirit and inquires of you first.
Only then may He exhort you to humbly share what He has been doing in and through you. And the Spirit will place a watch by your mouth lest you stray into a well meaning exaltation of yourself and your experience and not the exaltation of the Risen Christ Himself. To be more open than is comfortable, I have had fits and starts, and I admit that I am not nearly where I should be on the journey I just outlined. But remember, this is not about, and never will be about, you or me. This must always be about Him and Him alone.

And knowing that, when we truly have just come from worshiping the Master,
we will not be interested in the service or the music or the pastor;
we will have been with Jesus, and the overflow of our hearts and lips will be about Him.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Love of Jesus

Oh the love of Jesus. So wonderful, so deep, so glorious, so enveloping.
So bloody.

Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Sculpture

How can we create a living sculpture without a model? Or how can our sculpture be accurate when the model is wrong? And when we have labored over our sculpture, and when the clay is now hardened, how can we reform it after we realize it has been shaped after our own imagination and not the model after which it was to be commissioned to reflect?
Oh it looks so nice and polished, and we have worked very hard to finish it. And when standing alone it seems beautiful and a wonderful product of our sincerity and skill. But when we place our sculpture alongside the original model we are astounded and aghast, for it looks so unlike the model after which it was to be fashioned. All that labor must be undone? Can’t we at least make a few adjustments that will improve it without dismantling the entire sculpture and begin once more?
We as western believers can continue in the journey to follow Christ personally and collectively as we have sculpted it up until now. We can admire our handiwork and tell ourselves that we are imperfect but our ecclesiastical structure is a reasonable representation of the life, ministry, and Person of Jesus Christ. We can tell ourselves that, but we would be speaking a lie. So what do we do?
If we are serious in serving and reflecting the will of God through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, then we must be willing to begin again. And most of the present day models must be discarded, and before we can create another sculpture we must first place in front of us the eternal model. And that living model can only be found and extricated from the living Scriptures of Almighty God. Not some of the Scriptures, but a powerful mosaic that brings to life the Person of Jesus and the fullness of His gospel, and we must decide then and there if we will go back to our own sculpture or if we are willing to let this eternal Model sculpt us into a living reflection of Himself.
The stone of our flesh does not sculpt easily. And when the rifflers and chisels of the Spirit begin to shape us, our flesh recoils and demands its former shape back again. During this process, both painful and glorious, the flesh will strongly suggest that the Sculptor is removing far too much flesh. And many times during this process we will passionately contend that He should leave us alone for awhile and let us recover. In fact, can’t we just stop here and glory in the past victories without moving forward to more pain and discomfort? We seem to be a better sculpture than we were, and much better than most other sculptures.
And yet we have begun to realize that the Model is also the Sculptor, and even though we suffer pain and discomfort, it is miraculously assuaged by how it pleases our Sculptor. And even more than being comforted, we sense a profound spiritual power that both emanates from and returns to this Sculptor Model. We have found what we were created for and our eternal destiny.
If we wish to participate in that scenario, we must break the sculpture we have created and return like a little child to the Scriptures again. Without preconceived ideas or personal reservations, we must search this mirror with the impressionability of a child and the passion of a thirsty man.
What will we be looking for in our search? Him, Jesus. In the gospels and in the epistles and in the prophetic and in the narrative we are looking for Him. And not just the particulars about Him, but the deepest revelations of Him in all His fullness. And if we are looking like someone who searches for treasure without caring for his everyday needs, then will come across many astonishing and disturbing things we have seen before and yet not seen.
We will come across the Incarnate One standing with spit dripping from His face. We will see the Creator of the Universe washing the feet of vile sinners. We will see Him who has all power refusing to block the fist that will claim His face. We will see the One who can execute justice offer redemption to those who will take His very life. We will see the One to whom all glory honor and Majesty belongs, lower Himself with unspeakable humility and die at the hands of wicked men.
And if we spend time and meditate upon this Messiah with a fresh look inside and out at our own sculpture, we must be awakened by the Spirit to the unsettling but resurrecting challenge that lies ahead. The dying sacrifice draws a living sacrifice from those who have eyes to see Him. And if the things of this world do not grow strangely dim…stop and look again…because you are still missing His glory.

But if the fire is too hot, and if the chisel seems too sharp, and if the sacrifice is too much, then return from whence you came, dust off the old sculpture, and tell yourself again how marvelous it is in your sight.
That is if you can…

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Bridegroom Comes...



It is over. Prepare your heart to meet the King. He is coming. The time is short; the days are evil. The veil is about to be lifted, and the shout will precede His entrance. The glory of all ages will burst upon this world and some will be clothed with His glory while others will be consumed. The Risen Christ along with His angelic entourage descends to take up His throne and begin His everlasting reign.
The world is consumed with every imaginable evil while the church either slumbers, parties, or exercises its self righteousness. No longer do people look for Him; no longer do they long for their Bridegroom; no longer do they wail at the abominations of the earth. But nothing can thwart the eternal plan laid down by the Great God before the Christ spoke the worlds into existence.
But what if the white horse is just a symbol? And what if the trumpet is just a metaphor? Do not fear, beloved, if indeed the gold and silver and precious jewels are just objects to help us understand, the reality of all those things will surpass human knowledge and stretch the imagination far beyond the mind’s pitiful ability to comprehend. The expanse of the place called heaven will shame the greatest imagination and render useless all words that hoped to describe it. All the earthly metaphors and similes will melt under the eternal weight of the vastness of God’s manifested glory. To realize that it cannot be fully known here is to lightly touch the hem of the reality, and in that touch we stand astonished.
And yet have we known the King by faith and not yet by sight and ultimate presence. Upon that day, the day above all days, we will look upon Him with the eyes of perfection and with the God given understanding of Who He is and what He has done. The knowledge we have of those things now is colossal and alters our lives, however the very moment we are ushered into His everlasting and glorious presence we will experience in one moment more than we have experienced in our lifetime. Joy, praise, love, gratitude, awe, brokenness, will all fill our beings with worship that no angel will ever know.
And that one moment will be the first of an unbroken chain that leads forever and forever. Has your mind begun to recoil? Do not fret since these things are for those who have shuffled off their mortal coils and by God’s grace have had their robes washed in the blood of the Lamb. They say our Sun can burn for billions of years still, and we do not doubt it at all. Then how can we ever doubt that God’s Son will not shine upon us forever? Forever is a glorious thought, but He Who created forever possess all glory. And the glory that shall be revealed in us…will be His glory. It will be Jesus Himself.
Look around and fall in love with this world and all its hollow enchantments if you so desire. But the end is gaining upon us; the final chapter has begun; tomorrow is today; and the fragrance of the King, drenched in all the roses of Sharon, precedes His arrival. Bow down your heart and prepare ye the way.


Behold…the Bridegroom comes…

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Defending the Temple
from the Outside

For all of us who by God’s grace have been saved and given eternal life, we must remain thoroughly thankful and filled with praise and worship. And when we see how we have grown in the knowledge of Christ and His Word, we again must be humbly grateful. And God has called us to stand firm in His Word and the redemption that is only found in the Lord Jesus. And from time to time we must address, correct, and rebuke those who teach otherwise.
But there are two things that must consume us: The spreading of the gospel message and the formation of the Person of Christ in our lives. These two issues must be our highest calling. The elements that are inherent in our lives are Scripture, evangelism, and worship. And all these elements and their many tributaries must emanate from knowing and loving the Lord Jesus Christ. He must have all the preeminence in our lives. He, personally, must inhabit the supreme place in our hearts, and that place of unequalled prominence must give us a continuing passion to please and obey Him, as well as a life of broken worship always before Him.
When we use the word “temple” in the New Testament we do not mean an earthly building. In fact, we ourselves are the temple of God since Christ, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, inhabits us in a mystery. The temple to which we refer is a place, a spiritual place of the heart and mind, where Christ’s presence is sought and experienced in a way that leads a believer temporarily out from this earthly reality and dimension and into a tabernacle of communion and worship before the Risen Christ. It is a place of faith and brokenness, and it is a wonder and a mystery that once experienced, it will beckon us to return for the rest of our lives.
Inside this temple dwells the eternal richness of Christ’s presence, and within it are many different levels of repentance, worship, praise, change, prayer, and complete brokenness. If you have never been inside this tabernacle then you cannot fully understand that of which I speak. However, if you have been drawn into it even once, you can identify with the feeble descriptions I have given. I realize that there are those believers who eschew and reject any form of experience or mystery, but that is to their own detriment. The Lord has not left us without any means to know and experience His awesome presence here on earth, and although we must not build our faith upon experience, we should incorporate His presence into our spiritual journey.
Our faith is built upon Jesus Christ and His Eternal Word to be sure. Without the Word we would surely be more divided and scattered than we already are, and without the Word we would be wild inventors of all kinds of divergent and false doctrines. Yes, even more false and wild than are being created in these last days. We cannot stray from the Scriptures, and we must dig deeper and deeper into the treasure they contain for us. But the Bible cannot just be some spiritual Algebra book designed to be studied and outlined with a doctrinal coldness that misrepresents its mystery and eternal glory and life changing power. We are not just some religious engineers that create more and more elaborate and detailed systematic theologies and then step back to admire our handiwork. The written Word is the force of God through which He changes us every day, not just has changed us years ago.
Our belief in the clear and orthodox teachings of Scripture must not be our glory. We must not tout our doctrinal orthodoxy as a badge of our own applause and as proof of our love for Christ and His blessing upon us. Our adherence to Biblical truth cannot be the proof of our discipleship or even our regeneration. There are legions of systematic theology books that are considered orthodox and Biblically sound. Does that make those books followers of Jesus or lovers of Christ or imitators of Jesus? Can those books do the works of Jesus? Can theology live as Jesus lives? Can doctrine alone walk as light in the midst of a dark and lost world? And I ask you this: When God has graciously called you into His presence, and while there your soul has been broken and restored, brought low and lifted up, and you have worshiped the Risen Christ in all His glory and splendor, how often in those moments have you thought about different points of doctrine? Doctrine without the presence of Christ is dead, even though God honors His Word in those dead circumstances.
Just because there are false teachings does not mean that there are no authentic and true teachings. And just because some are misusing experience and even incorporating techniques from other religions does not mean that God will not meet with us in a way that can only be described as a sacred experience. The experience is a residual reward for seeking the face and presence of Jesus Christ, and I am sad to inform you that rarely will that occur during a one hour, scripted meeting on Sunday morning. Perhaps the come and go continuum on Sundays that fulfills a religious obligation is enough to make you spiritually content, but it does not please Christ and that sort of obligatory oscillation will not change us. In fact, that structured ecclesiastical format has petrified the church and deceived us into believing that the power of Christ is so limited and so unremarkable that even within a sinful and dark culture such as ours the church is indistinguishable.
And are we to believe that when believers come together to worship the Lord Jesus that His presence is so bland and so ordinary that even a seventh grade soccer game generates more excitement, interest, and emotion than being in the presence of the Creator does? Let me ask you this question. Let us say that you were there when baseball was invented. And over the next five years you watched and played baseball and saw and experienced many exciting games, some that even went into extra innings. You loved to play baseball.
But one day you took a trip overseas to another country and the people asked you if you wanted to play baseball. Of course you accepted that invitation and you were all excited as you rode to the baseball field. Your team was up to bat first and one member of your team went up to the plate. The first pitch was a strike. The second pitch was a strike. After that second pitch the team that was in the field began running toward their dugout and your entire team began collecting all their equipment and headed for the cars. Immediately you asked what was happening and you were told the game was over and everyone had just played baseball.
You were astounded to learn that these people thought that two pitches was the entire game and that this five minutes was considered an entire game. But you knew that what they had just done was not really baseball and was, in fact, a creation of their own culture that greatly misrepresented the genuine game called baseball. When you attempted to inform them as to the game of baseball that was played in its original format they seemed interested but could not see that long, nine inning game being played in their culture. They had grown accustomed to the two pitch variety and had even formed a liking for the kind they practiced. They loved their kind of baseball.
The early church gathered together to sing, worship, pray, fellowship, give, and even break bread together. They were not constricted by time and schedule, and their desire for Christ was insatiable. They separated themselves for an entire day just to be with those who believed in and followed Jesus the Christ. Most gatherings were held in people’s houses, and there were no gimmicks or advertisement techniques used to attract people to their gatherings. They had no schedule except to follow the Spirit’s leading. Each Lord’s Day would bring a new and refreshing spirit of love, brotherhood, and worship, and they would leave the gathering changed by the Spirit of God. Many times they met with the knowledge that if they were caught they might lose their lives.
Now go back in time and bring one of those early disciples of Jesus into the church realm of today. As he walks through the door of a palatial building, still burdened by massive debt, he is taken aback by this monstrosity. He hears people speaking of sports and politics, cars and houses, and money and things. As he looks around he does not see any group of people in prayer before their God, and he is handed an order of “service”. He is very uncomfortable as he sits in padded pews, and in a few moments the music begins and the service starts. As the services wades through music and welcomes and announcements, a perfunctory prayer precedes the message. He listens to 30 minutes of polished oratory complete with jokes, relevant stories, and a redundant form of post sermon evangelism which seemed to be out of place given the “How to be a success” theme of the message.
And now I ask you. Would that person consider what had just taken place as a true Christian gathering? If that believer had as his reference his early church gathering, would he believe that what he had just experienced the same thing? And if idol worship is defined as giving your time, efforts, and thoughts to something, what would be the western idol among professing believers? It becomes obvious that we have slowly and not so slowly drifted into a comfortable Christianity that sacrifices very little and still enjoys the emanates and hedonistic lifestyles of her unbelieving neighbors. We have lost our way and are not even looking to, much less desiring to, find our way back to a Christ reflecting life.
And yet we who would embrace the moniker “orthodox” so often feel that our calling is to confront false teachings and heresies, and in that we are drawing closer to Jesus. That is a deception in and of itself. Amidst the growing apostasy there are millions that have taken up the banner of redemptive truth and held it up against the tide of error and compromise, but so many have left it at that. Listen to the preaching, the books, and the conferences and hear orthodox preachers protect the temple of doctrine and castigate the purveyors of error and heresy. But where are the voices crying aloud and sparing not against the sins and the stagnation of we who are orthodox?
Again, we are like Samson who was ignorant of his own condition and assumed that his past would suffice for his present. And while some are attempting to destroy the Temple, we must defend it. But just as the defenders of God’s Temple under Nehemiah, we must also be about building that same Temple in our personal lives. In fact, the devil has stolen much of our spiritual power by having so many obsess over false teachers and become blind to the consistent spiritual drift in the orthodox evangelical community. The elephant in the ecclesiastical room is that the only genuine and effective way to stem the tide of apostasy in the western church is if the remnant of orthodox believers seek God’s face for a massive revival in our own midst. No amount of blog posts or books or conferences will slay the dragon of apostasy in our midst. And if we truly desire repentance for others, and if we are not experiencing a fleshy enjoyment in exposing others, then we must allow the Holy Spirit of God to shine His light of repentance upon us without the diluting distraction of seeing the sins of others.
We are certainly at a crossroads, and we seem to be in the midst of the generation that Jesus spoke about when He asked if He would find faith when He returned. And our own self righteousness has convinced us that we could not possibly be included in that assessment. The apostasy has been identified and will continue to grow, but that cannot be our spiritual mainstay. Our journey, our pursuit, and our passion must be Jesus and His gospel. For too long we have sacrificed the best on the altar of the good, and we ourselves are in desperate need of a deep awakening to our own sin and lethargy and profound compromises.
So as we point out the grievous errors and false teachings by men like Osteen, Bell, McLaren, Warren, and a laundry list of others, the Spirit would agree but with one major caveat. God would say to us, “Those things you confront you do so rightly and with sincerity, but what about you?” Do not assume that defending the Temple is the same as entering the Temple and worshiping the Lord Jesus. The orthodox community has lost its way as well and in a destructive symbiotic relationship we have let the pied pipers of apostasy lead us away from Jesus Christ. Oh we have not joined in their doctrinal heresies, but we have left our first love and we now are married to our systematic theologies, our original language credentials, our Biblical knowledge, and the narcotic affects present in the self congratulatory atmosphere of the “We are orthodox” world.
We have defended the Temple of truth, but we have left the sacrifice. In Genesis 15 God makes a covenant with Abram. God instructs Abram to take a cow and a goat and a ram and a pigeon and turtledove, and Abram divided them in two pieces. God then communicates to Abram in a dream of the things Abram and his people will face and the mighty hand of deliverance that God will extend to this people. But before Abram fell asleep verse 11 tells us that Abram spent some time chasing the birds away from the sacrifice. This was probably necessary, however this was not Abram’s calling. Abram was called to listen to, obey, and worship the Lord his God. Had he spent all his time chasing birds he would have missed what God was saying to him.
There will be much time to identify heretics in the future, but let us return to our Master and allow Him to speak to us about our condition before Him. There are very few interested in hearing God address their own sins, and there are fewer still willing to pay the price for obedience and drawing close to Christ. What did God require of Abraham? A total change of scenery and a complete leaving of his former life. All Abraham had was God’s promises, and that was all the guarantee God would give to him. Even before Abraham arrived in Palestine, he would lose his aged father. And even though God would fulfill His covenant, it would have been much easier for Abraham to remain in Ur.
The church is sleeping. Even the watchmen and town criers are in slumber. Unless we hear the Spirit’s voice we will continue to enjoy our spiritual sleep in many forms. Battling the enemies on the east side of Jordan requires much less sacrifice and brokenness than battling west of the Jordan. Why? Because the enemy of the west side of the Jordan River will also be a formidable and familiar enemy. It will be our own flesh and our own spiritual plans. And God doesn’t just want to deal with Jericho and Ai, He wants to deal with us. So as we come against the Bellites, and the Warrenites, and the McLarenites, and the Osteenites, and the entire array of “ites”, are our ears bent toward hearing God about ourselves?

Judging by our own prayerless armchair perches we have yet to have ears to hear.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Compromised Christianity

I am a significant compromiser in several areas, so I do not speak from any spiritual perch. But I consider nationalism and patriotism to be draining the essence of following Jesus.
If we considered everyone our neighbor, and if we considered everyone higher than ourselves, we would view the Palestianians differently, the gays differently, the Muslims differently, the Democrats differently, and most importantly the scope of the ministry of Jesus differently.


Rick Frueh circa A.D. 2010