Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Requiem for the Western Church

Approximately 18 years ago my friend and I, while lamenting on the embarrassing and immoral way the church was using the money it was collecting, struggled to find some answer to the issues we were identifying. If the ways of the western church had been foretold to God’s people a century ago they would have been aghast, and perhaps they would have refused to believe it was the authentic church of the Living Christ. But what were we to do besides expostulate the behavior of the present day church?
We decided to form an independent missionary organization which had no staff and no overhead and just raised and sent money overseas to missionaries, especially those working among unreached peoples. This past Sunday one of the men we have supported for over a decade, a pastor from Togo who has started 16 churches, spoke in a church here in America. Within his message he gave a stark and revealing comparison between the American churches and the churches in Togo, Africa. It was obvious how wide and growing is the gulf between how believers gather together in Togo and how we gather here.
Besides some specifics about the length of the service and the church disciple that exists over there, there was one major component that seemed to be the core difference. It was the emphasis, or lack thereof, of the practice of prayer. We do not need to pray more here in the church in America, we need to pray period. What is called corporate prayer here is an affront to God. And if God’s people do not pray with conviction and passion, with tears and repentance, then we have a form of godliness while denying the power thereof.
I do not need to rehearse the doctrinal falsehoods and the self righteousness that is prevalent within the community of faith. It is unnecessary to present a long list of the carnal practices and the pleasure seeking mentality within the western church. I can refrain from repeating the divorce statistics and the pervasive promiscuity within the youth groups. It would be redundant to expose the pitiful subject matter and powerlessness of the pulpiteers across this nation. And the political entanglement is obvious and unfortunate. All of that is just symptomatic of the church’s condition.

All I need to do is to communicate how little the church really cares about prayer.
Until that changes the die is cast.
Let the requiem begin.

Monday, August 30, 2010

An Explanation

As you view the western evangelical landscape, and with all the many voices and teachings, and in the context of our hedonistic lifestyles, many of us conclude that New Testament Christianity has died years ago as a bone fide Biblical kingdom in the west, and specifically America. There are always 7000 who have not bowed the knee, however the majority of what passes for “church” in the west has been consumed and assimilated by the culture wherein it lives. We cannot serve two masters. The average western believer does not attempt to do so anymore; he only serves one, and he has convinced himself it is Christ.
How do you describe the color “red” to a person born blind? You cannot. And how do you reach a believer who is blind in one area and this blindness has been nurtured all his life by those he loves and respects? You cannot. Only God’s Spirit can open a closed heart that assumes what he has always believed is true and spiritually productive. The day has come when many individual believers, not many pastors or entire churches, are seeing something so disturbing and so overtly unbiblical and idolatrous that they have become awakened to at least the prospect of examining and reassessing something they have always believed and actually never questioned. Nationalism, and its Siamese twin patriotism, is at odds with the New Testament and spiritually poisonous.

And what are the stumbling blocks to seeing nationalism for what it really is? Let us carefully, and humbly, examine these issues.

First: One of the greatest hurdles to overcome as it pertains to the idol of nationalism is the length and depth in which this teaching has been accepted and promoted. When we are taught from birth something, and when this teaching is accepted by almost everyone we know and love, it is most difficult to get anyone to independently juxtapose it against pure New Testament teaching with no preconceived ideas about it. It has been entrenched in our thought process, and it has been given a solid place in our religious and cultural understanding. In short, it is viewed as settled law in and out of the church and anyone who questions it is considered a rebel or an extremist.

Second: The way in which the church has woven America into its theology has made it quite problematic to address. Even when a church does not espouse a replacement theology per se (America is the new Israel), it still often treats America as a divine entity that God birthed directly for His glory. And given the amount of professing believers and missionaries that were American citizens, it has become very easy to make a case based upon statistics and not based upon truth.

Third: Another hurdle is the fanciful way in which the founding fathers are usually portrayed. To insist that the founding fathers were all evangelical believers whose lives reflected the Lord Jesus is not just a stretch, it is a bold faced lie. They may have been brave in the nationalistic and military sense, but they were not examples of spiritual and moral purity. Some, of course, were not believers at all, and even men like George Washington were of questionable morals and used slaves to line their personal pockets. But the church has succumbed to these implausible caricatures and that has made it all the more formidable to suggest any genuine reevaluation.

Fourth: If we actually embark upon an evaluation of our lifestyles and assess them in light of Scripture, we quickly arrive at many uncomfortable and incongruous issues. If we take a vulnerable look at what the New Testament teaches about how we should live and what it means to follow Jesus in the spiritual and practical, we will experience a tension between a capitalist structure and a Jesus kingdom structure. And if we see a disconnect between the teachings of Christ and the economic culture in which we live, then we must either ignore it, manipulate the Scriptures, or we are faced with a great challenge.

Fifth: Many believers have family members and friends who have served and even died in military service. And although their service and courage cannot be denied within a nationalistic context, it remains a stumbling block in the same way as a lost person resists the gospel because he has loved ones who have died without it. A person may feel he or she dishonors the memory or service of their loved one who was in the military by rejecting nationalism, and specifically taking a completely spiritual view of the country in which they live. They cannot bring themselves to release any affection or support for a country and humbly place all allegiance upon the Lord Jesus.

Sixth: The church has acquiesced to the idol of democracy and now believes that is God’s plan. God favors no earthly governmental system and in fact uses them all for His glory. The case can be made that the church has prospered spiritually under oppressive regimes much more than when she enjoys the ambiance of so called political freedom. When being a believer costs you nothing then over time it loses its value however involuntarily. And within this democratic structure, the church has learned to be a practicing participant while still retaining a semblance of the gospel. The church has compartmentalized the gospel and in so doing she has eviscerated its meaning and power.

The western church is asleep. We have invited America into our beds and kicked out prayer, fasting, humility, and a lifestyle that is remarkably different and more modest than that lived by unbelievers. And in an effort to be comfortable with such adultery, the church has constructed a false theology that affords us the luxuries of the culture and the self gratification of nationalistic self righteousness. And with the current nationalistic fervor, I expect the church will not be moved anytime soon without a sovereign and unexpected move of the Spirit. We must not hate or despise any nation, but we must despise our own idolatry and compromise. To whom much is given, much is required. We as believers have been given the greatest gift of all: eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ. We must worship Him without any competition.

You cannot do anything about others, but you can allow the Spirit to change you.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Astonishing


If an entire nation can be redeemed through rallies and speeches, then we do not need Jesus. And when those rallies are pluralistic, with Glenn Beck encouraging people to pray at “peaceful” mosques as well as churches and synagogues, then even a shallow discernment can identify the enormity of the deception. Many of us were warned several decades ago about the coming one world religious system, but instead the enemy is creating a one nation religious system. I believe the Spirit will open hearts to this deception even while many more are swept into it.
Will you not just fast and pray and search the New Testament concerning this issue? Can you not even consider the possibility that nationalism and patriotism are at odds with the kingdom of God, and that the entire concept is western self righteousness? Where is humility when believers claim that this is the greatest nation on earth? And on what basis do they make that claim? It is not the nation that should concern us, it is the church. And with this new nationalistic momentum, fueled in part by a dislike/hatred for President Obama, we as believing followers must lengthen the cords and deepen the stakes of our humble but unwavering faith in Jesus alone.
Those who have consistently, and sometimes harshly and obsessively, sounded the alarm to the dangers of the emergent church and other diluted forms of the true faith, they are blind to the deception that has enveloped them. And in some ways the opportunity for deep deception and compromised fellowship are greater in this new “bring America back” movement than some of the doctrinal movements. Roman Catholics, Mormons, Jews, and agnostic hedonists are joining with professing believers and bowing before a golden calf that has nothing to do with Jesus and His gospel. And at rallies of this kind, when some speaker does give lip service to the gospel, it only increases the deception and blinds people further to the Risen Christ and His exclusive mission.
The western church is a spiritual whore that desires any kind of new and exciting cause. Be it abortion or gay marriage or socialism or national morality or even Islam, the western church gladly leaps into bed with those deny our Lord Jesus Christ and leave the Great Commission. Even the most “orthodox” among us, including the “online discernment ministries” are willing participants, even though some identify Beck as a Mormon. That misses the point altogether. It isn’t just the pluralistic nature of such movements, it is the entire concept of changing a nation without the gospel and through moral causes and a nostalgic call to former and better days.
The whole world lies in the wicked one, and America, just like all nations, was created in spiritual Egypt. To suggest we should return to the “founding fathers” is idolatry and misses the fallen nature of those times. Many discerners will castigate men who do not pray or overtly use the name of Jesus, but they gladly accept the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as divinely inspired without a mention of the Christ. There are 27 grievances outlined in the Declaration of Independence, none of which have to do with Jesus Christ. And if we suggest that God ordains violence when believers are oppressed, including the oppression of taxation, then the New Testament is irrelevant to our faith.
How can believers revel in violence of any kind? And if self defense demands violence then the martyrs were fools. The pursuit of happiness for the believer is the worship and obedience to the Living Christ, not political and economic freedom. No one can take away our spiritual freedom which resides in the chamber of our hearts. Paul and Silas sing praises while imprisoned, but this new Christianity complains, rallies, petitions, and refers back to the Constitution as it basis. We have no basis at all but God’s Eternal Word, and that Word commands us to be clothed with humility and be imitators of Jesus. As a believer there is a vast difference between suggesting that this is “our country” and acknowledging that God’s providence has placed us within this culture to live and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

(And to all you "orthodox" believers, men like Kenneth Copeland, Jesse Duplantis, Creflo Dollar, Richard Roberts, and most of the healh and wealth genre are open patriots and teach basically the same things about America as do you. Does that not give you pause?)

How in God’s dear name can believers join hands with darkness and Belial and not even be concerned? It is because nationalism, ingrained into our spirits from our first breath, is a powerful and destructive spiritual force. Wars of all kinds usually have a strong national component. And in a shocking display of spiritual adultery and hubris, believers have taught their children that God is on the side of America and somehow the founding fathers are examples to us all. Of course it is difficult to gain perspective on this issue because even questioning it seems like treason. Like a Roman Catholic convert who has been so indoctrinated that he finds it unthinkable and fearful to contemplate leaving the church of his childhood and youth, so is American nationalism.

Ask your church children “Who is…”

John Huss
William Tyndale
Jonathan Edwards
William Carey
David Livingston
Charles Finney
George Whitefield
D.L. Moody
John Wesley

And then ask them to tell you about George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and other historical figures in America. What you may find is that we are training our children to be Americans rather than believers. We pay taxes to Caesar and the wave banners in his name. We have assigned flags, and colors, and birds, and stars, and songs, and many other things to honor and even glorify this nation. And not only have we assigned parts of God’s creation to represent a nation rather than God, we have openly constructed a fictional narrative that suggests that this has been divinely favored from the very beginning. Profound idolatry.
I humbly ask you to seeks God’s face on this matter. Although this may seem radical and out of step with the preponderance of American evangelicalism, it is an indication of just how fare we have strayed from the true faith of Jesus Christ. The discernment blogs are correct in this: We are being spiritually attacked from all sides. But, sadly, they are blind to the attack of which they are so often a part.

Break up the fallow ground and come out from among them. Seek Him and Him alone, and allow His gospel to change you again just as it did on the day you were saved.

The time for compromise is past, and the time for revival is here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Today - Deception on Display

UPDATE*** - I saw and heard many disturbing things at that rally (on TV). Besides the nebulous "we are all God's children" references, the most disturbing image was a cross with an American flag pinned in the center.


The entire premise of such things as the Glenn Beck rallies is idolatry and dishonors the Risen Christ and His gospel. It does not matter that Beck is a Mormon, that only adds to the compromise of this particular event. But treating any country with the love and mystique and even sacredness that these people do is antichrist and is a modern day golden calf. The country known as America has found its way into the church and holds a place of allegiance and love within the hearts of many who profess Christ. Here is a story of another nation whose king attempted to suggest divine approval:

II Chron.26:9-20

9 Moreover Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the corner gate, and at the valley gate, and at the turning of the wall, and fortified them.
10 Also he built towers in the desert, and digged many wells: for he had much cattle, both in the low country, and in the plains: husbandmen also, and vine dressers in the mountains, and in Carmel: for he loved husbandry.
11 Moreover Uzziah had an host of fighting men, that went out to war by bands, according to the number of their account by the hand of Jeiel the scribe and Maaseiah the ruler, under the hand of Hananiah, one of the king's captains.
12 The whole number of the chief of the fathers of the mighty men of valour were two thousand and six hundred.
13 And under their hand was an army, three hundred thousand and seven thousand and five hundred, that made war with mighty power, to help the king against the enemy.
14 And Uzziah prepared for them throughout all the host shields, and spears, and helmets, and habergeons, and bows, and slings to cast stones.
15 And he made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal. And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong.
16 But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense.
17 And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men:
18 And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the LORD God.
19 Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar.
20 And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him.
21 And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house, being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the LORD: and Jotham his son was over the king's house, judging the people of the land.

The nation of Israel was strong and prosperous. But when King Uzziah felt that God’s favor was so strong upon him he ventured into the temple to light some incense unto Jehovah. That privilege and calling was reserved for the sons of Aaron. The priests ran in and cast the king out and God struck him with leprosy. He had begun as a godly leader but when he meshed the government with the church God’s wrath came quickly.
But in today’s ecclesiastical atmosphere you have politicians allowed to greet the congregations from behind pulpits. You will have pastors today speak at Beck’s rally and herald the gospel of America and tell a fairy tale about the founding fathers and the so called divine destiny of this nation. They will take the nail scarred hand of the Risen Christ and place it in the hands of George Washington and proclaim that this honors God when in reality it blasphemes his Name. Spirituality will be measured by material prosperity and national freedom, and yet the church in China, poor and oppressed, prospers spiritually and is a convicting example of humility and prayer to the “rich and increased with goods” American brand of Christianity. Treating any secular nation as a direct offspring of Jesus Christ is to do damage to the gospel and teach the church to be Americans at the expense of being a follower of Jesus Christ.
Listen to the talk show hosts, millionaires all, as they suggest a loss of freedoms and a need to protect our personal wealth. Beck exhorts people to buy gold from a certain company (from which he is paid) and he now has stockpiled a year’s supply of food in his basement. Some believers have now separated themselves from Beck because he is a Mormon, but they still quote and support the rest. They are missing the point completely. Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, and the rest are only symptoms of the “Uzziah-like” idolatry that makes the holy into the profane. How deaf are the spiritual ears that cannot hear the voice of God’s Spirit calling us into a separate kingdom? Men like Limbaugh live unbelievably lavish lifestyles of private jets and mansions and yet supposed believers in Jesus and the New Testament listen to and support such a man?
I will probably watch some of the rally today, but I will do it with a tear in my eye and an ache in my heart. How can believers be so blind? Well, the children of Israel, fresh from a miraculous dry land crossing, clamored for a return to bondage very quickly. And so the church which lives in America exhibits a spiritual Stockholm Syndrome that falls in love with and takes on the cause of its captors. We are in bondage and not only are we not ashamed for our treachery, we herald it as a badge of divine honor. And should Jesus tarry much longer the next generation will fall deeper and deeper into deception. I suggest, as have I, that you sit your children down and let them watch this rally with you. It will be a wonderful teaching moment. They must not mock or hate, but they must be pointed to Jesus and taught that this nation is no better or worse than any other.
Our children must discern between the exclusive gospel of Jesus Christ and the nationalistic fervor that is pluralistic and includes all faiths and cults. Some of the founding fathers were brave men, but bravery does not make a person a Christian or spiritual. George Washington was our richest president and his wealth was accumulated on the backs of hundreds of slaves. Although he released most of them in his will, he bought and sold men and women like merchandise and even broke up families. I believe he may have been a believer, however he is no example to the church and our children. He was a drinker on occassion and had a sailor's vocabulary as well. Military valor is not one of the fruits of the Spirit and his martital faithfulness has always been in question. In light of this and the checkered lives of many of the other founding fathers, what honor is Beck going to restore? Beck is claiming a "great awakening" is beginning with him. He claims God has anointed him to bring America back to God. In some ways this kind of movement is more dangerous andf more insidious than the emergent movement and other redemption compromises. Deception on display.

Glenn Beck said, "If you put your faith in God and not man, I ask you to consider buying gold from my sponser Goldline."

And believers only have a problem with Beck's Mormonism? I look forward to what you will see today. If we really want an awakening then let us not have it at the Lincoln Memorial built to honor a man; let us have it at the cross which was erected to lift up the Redeemer and provide an eternal escape for sinners through His immeasurable sufferings. That is the memorial pictured by the Lord's Supper and that is our holy place.



I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

Friday, August 27, 2010

But We Have Promises to Keep

Christianity as taught and lived by the early followers of Jesus has disappeared in Babylon, otherwise known as the west. That does not mean no one is saved because that is completely by grace through faith, but the practice of New Testament Christianity has disappeared from the western culture. In its place is a bastardized version of Christianity that centers on money, politics, entertainment, and an ecclesiastical culture of narcissism. Christ is only the center in name and doctrine, however that which He held dear is no longer given a place of prominence. Prayer, real and sacrificial prayer, is not practiced or believed.
This western culture is consumed with entertainment; it wastes obscene amounts of food; it spends billions on pets; it drives automated houses called cars; it keeps thousands of gallons of water just for recreation; it has a multiplicity of televisions; its cell phones are now mobile electronic centers; it uses clothes as personal ornaments rather than necessities; it spends outrageous amounts of money on makeup, hair products, and other items designed for the outward man; it stores up much money to be lavished upon itself in the future; and in a stunning display of ignorance and spiritual blindness, people have given the country known as America a divine birth and a divine purpose above all the rest. Suggesting that America has divine favor is like suggesting Charles Manson was from God as well.
We, as believers living within this culture, have been blind to the decay and spiritual destruction that has taken place all around us. Even our churches have lifted up others as heretics and false teachers in order to placate ourselves. The theory being that if we see error and heresy then we must not be involved with any ourselves. But, in fact, the debt ridden churches with their well off pastors are poor reflections of the New Testament. We do not even teach a Jesus lifestyle anymore much less follow Him. Refusing to be angry with someone who cuts you off on the highway is considered an act of discipleship. We laugh and joke about it. The entire Christian genre has become a stench and a willing prisoner of the culture in which it finds itself.
But even though the organization called the church no longer follows the teachings of Christ, this is not the time for despair, little children. We are not called to complain about our circumstances, and we must not hide our light under a bushel of political and moral concerns. Our calling, our anointing is the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. That must define us and must not be forced to compete with earthly issues. Let us not compartmentalize the gospel. Our gospel has always been the only message and the only answer for all the many ills of this world.
Eternity has arrived and it is gathering all. Only those who believe the gospel will see life while all the rest, without exception, will see an eternal death whose horrors cannot be fully known this side of death. We are so prone to get entangled with the affairs of this world and by our passion and involvement place a value on issues that hold nothing in eternity. And as the years pass the gospel has become an aside and sits as a religious spectator that watches believers as they prance about doing the business of this present world. The gospel, in many ways, has become a lifeless relic.
But it is precisely that gospel and its Author which must capture our full attention, passion, and heart. Sinners must see something conspicuous within us that manifests dramatically in our outward lives. Our speech must be salty communications of the heart that is wholly surrendered to the living reality of Jesus the Christ. The Spirit’s task does not lie in the carnal machinations of men, regardless how relevant and how noble. But we, as lanterns of the Spirit, must shine with the unmistakable incandescence which lifts up Jesus as Redeemer and Lord.
All the rest is wood, hay, and stubble and deserves to be thrown into the fire. God will not hold us responsible for the backsliding of the western church, but we will give an account for our own actions. Pray, pray, and pray some more. The end of all things is very near. We will soon stand before the Risen Christ in all His glory. How much of this life that He has given to us have we wasted? How entrenched in this culture have we become? What do we worry and fret about? Are our pillows stained with tears over the lost? Do we fast in order to crucify our flesh and glorify our Blessed Redeemer? Are our lives so filled with anticipation of the Lord’s coming that others take notice?
If we do not pray, we do not need God. And the measured passion with which we pray reveals just how much we need God, and indeed believe in Him. Read the bulletins and listen to the announcements and you might see the importance placed upon prayer.

The culture is lovely, dark and deep.
But we have promises to keep,
And miles to go before we sleep,
And miles to go before we sleep.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Talk Show Host Heretics

This post is in response to several communications from believers who are growing increasingly unsettled and concerned for their brothers and sisters who are entrenched in nationalism and patriotism.

I have come to the conclusion that nationalism and patriotism is every bit as deceptive and insidious as is the emergent church movement. Many “orthodox” believers are marching in lockstep with unbelievers and cult members, joined by the common desires to elevate the country known as America, the political system known as democracy, and the economic system known as capitalism. The man named Glenn Beck, a professing Mormon, is holding a rally that he claims is a result of “divine providence”. This rally is designed to solidify people in their patriotism and set up the “founding fathers” as idols.
I ask myself, “Why cannot believers see the open idolatry and deep gospel compromise in such things?” But I can understand because only ten years ago I too was caught in the deception. Perhaps not as deep and visceral as some, but still I was blind. God favors no country and no kingdom but that which has His Son as its Monarch. To have a fondness for this nation dilutes our allegiance to the Lord Jesus Himself and His kingdom. There cannot be two masters or two kingdoms, there must be only one. We are not called to hate any nation or people, but we are called to come out from among them and be separate. We are in this world/nation but we are not of it. And one great reason for the continuing downslide in this particular nation is the saltless essence of the church due in large part to the affection the church has for this nation.
To see professing Christians waving red, white, and blue banners must grieve the heart of the One to whom all banners should fly. And to see believers place their hands over their hearts and pledge allegiance to a nation is open rebellion and spiritual adultery. And when that nation is one that murders the unborn, allows all kinds of perversion, and is married to any and all forms of wealth, then this allegiance defies the very definition of what it means to be a believing follower of Jesus Christ. The suggestion that America was ever a Christian nation is a lie, and Christian schools throughout America have carnal and adulterous leaders posted on their walls for their children to emulate.
And when the government levies taxes that seem unfair and extreme, are believers allowed to take up arms and murder their leaders in order to form a “more perfect union”? If so, let us take up our guns today and storm the gates of Washington. But of course the New Testament lays out a much different and much more glorious path for those who are known by the name of Jesus. Our kingdom demands everything, so there is never a raising of any taxes. We are bought into a glorious slavery that not only anoints us with power and redemption, but it makes us a child of the Creator God. And if we actually believe that, what could possibly unnerve us concerning the government and nation in which God’s providence has placed us? Should we be different than the mixed multitude of patriot throngs that spew hatred toward those with whom they disagree and tell a fairy tale of days gone by?
I sat for several years behind a couple in church with whom we spoke during the greeting time. They both were very nice and friendly. But he was never demonstrative during the worship times and would not attend any Sunday School class. But every July 4th celebration in church he would get emotional and demonstrative during any patriotic songs. That, my friends, is very sad and wreaks of idolatry at the very gathering supposedly to worship the Risen Christ. Watch the news clips of the rally held by Glenn Beck and see if redemption, love, mercy, grace, and humility seem to be prevalent. The energy and emotion given to a nation is carnal, but when exhibited by a blood bought disciple of the Lord Jesus it is obscene and even sacrilegious. I still am ashamed at my former expressions of love for the inanimate and the worldly.
But we must guard our hearts against hatred toward those who are still ensnared in the deception of nationalism and patriotism. We ourselves were once caught up in such unproductive matters that diluted our discipleship and commitment to Jesus Christ. It is easy to be self righteous after deliverance, but that too is carnal. We must mourn for our brothers and sisters who are imprisoned and blind, and we must pray for a glorious and mountain moving revival that shakes us all to our very foundations. And if the tens of millions of professing believers who live in America would turn away from all idols and turn wholly to Christ Himself, well, what glory and power would sweep this nation and possibly the nations of this world. This is our heart’s cry and it must begin with us.
But be aware that many of these patriotic rallies and movements claim a divine element of approval and “destiny”. This is extremely dangerous and deceptive, and it just may be that those who watch for deception in others are being rounded up in one themselves. Many fear the “one world” movement, but they are profoundly blind to the “one nation” movement which is a mirror of that which they fear. We are not called to one world or one nation. We are called to,

“…one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

This is not a time to take up other causes. This is a time for believers to humble themselves before God and beseech Him to fill us with His Spirit. This is a time to live the gospel of redemption as we preach Christ, crucified, buried, and risen. This is a time to repent and once again seek His face. The people who live in this country do not need a return to the values of our founding fathers. They need to see Jesus, high and lifted up, and living through those who claim His name. Only then can they inherit eternal life and only then can God be glorified.

May God have mercy on His church.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Who Are These People?
by Rick Frueh

Their journey continues outside well worn others
Few are the followers who call themselves brothers
Hearing the Spirit and heeding His call
Great is their work, themselves being small

(Chorus)
Who are these people and why do they pray
Why do they listen and run to obey
Believing in grace and what must be true
These are the children whose mystery is You.

Humble before Him and marked by His seal
Gladly they hail Him and gladly they kneel
In Him they have trusted, in Him they confide
He is their Bridegroom and they are His Bride

Who are these people and why do they pray
Why do they listen and run to obey
Believing in grace and what must be true
These are the children whose mystery is You.

Grace has adorned them, a gift from above
Outside lives a servant, inside lives a Dove
Who can explain them, people of Zion
Who follow a Lamb as well as a Lion

Who are these people and why do they pray
Why do they listen and run to obey
Believing in grace and what must be true
These are the children whose mystery is You.

Their mothers are many, their Father is One
They’re sealed by His Spirit, they’re bought by His Son
Seeking no wealth and seeking no fame
They’ve surrendered all things to be known by His Name

Who are these people and why do they pray
Why do they listen and run to obey
Believing in grace and what must be true
These are the children whose mystery is You.

Something is different when weakness is might
And darkness must flee in the presence of light
They all now have suffered a glorious loss
But all have a treasure, a glorious cross

Who are these people and why do they pray
Why do they listen and run to obey
Believing in grace and what must be true
These are the children whose mystery is You.

Jesus, their Shepherd, their Savior, their Lord
Redeemer and Healer, eternal Reward
Dying to live, and living to die
They lower themselves so He can be high

Who are these people and why do they pray
Why do they listen and run to obey
Believing in grace and what must be true
These are the children whose mystery is You.
These are the children whose mystery is You.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Real Tragedy

On 9/11/01 19 wicked men flew airliners into the World Trade Centers in New York City. Many people died including those same terrorist. It was a senseless tragedy.

I have been inside and on top of those same buildings, and in fact, I was saved in March of 1975 while gazing at that skyline which included those buildings. But let us come to a greater perspective. Those buildings were used primarily for financial business, and in New York City men buy and sell and make obscene amounts of money in any way they can. Inside those buildings men committed adultery, lied, did drugs, and manipulated investors in order to steal their money. Inside those building were people who professed to follow Jesus, and some who followed Moses, and some who followed Mohammed, and some who were Hindus, and some who were agnostic.

It is very sad to see believers in the Lord Jesus leave His glorious gospel and get all entangled with the doings of the world and treat something like an idol. And some think they do God a service by blocking the building of an Islamic center several blocks from southern Manhattan. We should grieve, not join, with the lost as they rally and parade against this or that while they are still dead in their sins. The piece of dirt called “Ground Zero” should have no importance to those who walk in the Spirit. 2600 people in America will die today in lockstep with the 2600 that died yesterday. Their death is usually not as dramatic as an event like 9/11, but in God’s sight their deaths are just as tragic.

How high does the rate of death increase when there is a war or a dramatic event like 9/11? It doesn’t. The rate of death is constant; 1 to 1. Every person born will die. And so the men of this world and this kingdom choose who they will honor and which events they will hallow. From Valley Forge to Gettysburg to Pearl Harbor to Normandy to Iraq and to Manhattan, men continue to mark events while being completely and pitifully blind to what is actually happening. Sinners are dying without Christ, and in spite of the how and why of their death, the truth remains. Those who know not Christ die into a Christless eternity forever. That, my fellow believers, is the real tragedy. Let us mourn for the second death more than the first.
The Paradox of Time

In many ways, the end and the beginning are now meeting on the horizon of time.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Victory?

The United States has claimed “victory” in the Iraqi war. But 100,000 dead Iraqis in a Christless eternity disagree, day and night.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Do You Thirst?


One genuine moment spent in the glorious presence of the Risen Christ can effect more personal transformation than years of ecclesiastical expenditure. If servanthood is not birthed in the delivery room of His presence then it is nothing more than a set of obligations carried out in the energy of the flesh. There is a vast and defining difference between a servant who has met his Master and fallen in love with Him and a servant who serves out of duty and the expected chores of a slave. One is constrained by the vigor and power of his Master’s presence, and especially those glorious times of refreshing, rekindling, and refashioning. With each new encounter this servant comes to know his Master in ways beyond what he had previously known and yet it is an expansion of that previous knowledge. This servant serves from the energy of God’s glory and in his highest service he worships as a son.
The other servant moves in the energy of the Master’s description. He knows what should be done and the outlined tasks that are commonplace within the community of faith. Coming and going, speaking and listening, this servant does help others within the scope of his spiritual ability. But he can only lead others as far as he himself has gone. And since his journey has been largely confined to written knowledge his work is noble but restricted. And when asked if he has met the Master he enthusiastically replies that he has, although his finest and most profound meeting was his first meeting, years ago.
But just as Dorothy had an initial breathtaking encounter with the wizard, her subsequent meetings were much more utilitarian and pedestrian. But she was satisfied with what the wizard could do for her. And what was her wish? She desired to return to the dictates of her earthly home and familiar surroundings. There was no place like home for her. But this world is not our home, and our desire should be much, much higher than just a divine blessing upon what we do, which is usually what everyone else does as well. Of course we are called to the mundane tasks of everyday life. And these tasks elicit the bulk of our attention and energy, and this is all the more reason to seek out seasons of fasting and prayer and personal times of worship. Not just perfunctory observances that fit nicely within the framework of everyday life, but sacrificial seekings that cannot be satisfied with the usual “Poly want a cracker” prayer times.
The boy has fallen in love. And while he is at work he thinks primarily of his new found love. He has new found energy, and he cannot wait to punch out and run to be with his beloved. Even some of his senses have been affected, and he is willing to wait until he is with her before he even eats. Even his friends, some of which he has known for many years, are now in submission to this relationship. Spending time with her ignites his life and fulfills almost every desire he has ever had. His entire being has been changed. He is in love. He will spend money on gifts for her, and gladly run her errands. But his greatest joy and longing is to spend time in her presence.
To move within the mystery of the Christ is a privilege of the Spirit. And as you go on your way and proceed along life’s redundant path, please remember, there is a realm that opens its doors to those who diligently thirst and seek after Him. Are you thinking I am speaking of a mystical experience? Does that make you uncomfortable and uneasy? Retreat quickly to the safety of the mundane and wrap yourself with the blanket of the past and shut out any semblance of that which challenges the soul and lifts the spirit to soar. Go ahead and fear an encounter with the Risen Christ, but be assured you have missed a gift of glory.
This meeting with Him does not come with a pursuit that shares its energy with the things of this present life. The door is ready to crack open when and if a saint separates himself for an elongated period of fasting and earthly sacrifice and diligently, carefully, and even dangerously seeks the face of Jesus the King. You must be thirsty for more of Him; much more of Him. And if your thirst can be quenched by something other than a personal revelation of Him, it will. The poison of distractions will kill the journey unless they are quickly and completely confronted and ignored. The entirety of your heart must press in to see and hear Him in a way that cannot be expressed in human words. Oh yes, does that unnerve you?
Perhaps you have been feasting on crumbs that fall carelessly from the table of this present world. And perhaps you have been caught up with the redundant and predictable doings of the religious organization we call the church. Have you been busy slaying dragons? Have you expended your energies in a spiritual kitchen and neglected the glory of the place before His feet? This Jesus we so glibly speak about is real and tangible. And built upon the truth of God’s Word, and without adding or subtracting one jot or tittle from its pages, the Spirit calls us into a sacred Succoth. How tragic it is when we teach an inhabitation of Christ Himself in our very beings and yet we remain aloof and enchanted with almost anything but Him. Go ahead and teach truth, and go ahead and present an unabridged and perfect theology concerning God, and if that is all you have and all you suppose there is, then you are sharing concepts and principles that are void of His life.
Of course I realize the misuse of such teachings, and I acknowledge that evil spirits have used meditation to deceive many. But what many do not realize is that those same evil spirits have deceived many by suggesting there is no such thing as experiencing the very presence of the Christ in a arresting and startling way. And many of us have learned much theology in seminaries, as well as Greek and Hebrew, but you will not be broken and poured out until you seek Him in the night watches and until you hold onto His garment with all your heart. Have you ever sought Him with your whole heart? But “How long” you ask. As long as it takes until you can get up and know that you have met with the Risen Christ and like Jacob He has touched you in a way that cannot be denied.
If you are grounded in God’s Word, then do not fear His presence and do not resist the Spirit’s calling to seek Him. What you should fear is being satisfied with what you now have and the meager and convenient place He has been given in your life. There is a well whose water is rarely dipped into and more rarely drank. The church is very busy and able to do great things in the eyes of men. When the Chinese pastor returned to his home church in China he was asked what impressed him most about the church in America. He replied,

“I was impressed with what the American church can accomplish without God”.

And if we can live and exist without a chronic need to experience Him, then we have constructed our own religion that gives lip service to His name but is void of His presence. It is difficult to even muster up a desire, much less a thirst, to seek Him and His face. There are no more prayer closets and the all night prayer meeting is in the Museum of Ecclesiastical History. The days of fasting have passed and weeping for the lost is now considered melodrama. And if a person reads for ten minutes from a copy of Our Daily Bread he is considered on fire for God. The entire world lies in the Wicked One and is headed for a lost eternity, but the church will sleep well tonight and maybe try out the new technique on marital intimacy they learned from carnal men.

Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

How do we repent before our Wonderful Savior and confess our sin? With what words do we use to tell Him how sorry we are for the neglect we have shown Him and yet called it commitment? And let us not even say those words just to soothe our conscience if we are not set like flints to seek Him and His face. If what we have is all there is, then good night to us all. But if there is more…much more, then we must open our hearts to hear and heed the Spirit’s call. The mystery of iniquity must bow to the mystery of the Lord Jesus. Always.
That which we know for sure is a certain mystery which invites us to press in and experience this Person in whom we have believed and are persuaded. But if your encumbered life makes you content and spiritually satisfied, then you need not give a moment’s thought to any of this. Live on.

But…
Astonishing

It is quite astonishing how many talk show hosts can complain and castigate and create an atmosphere of fear on a daily basis. But it is most astonishing how believing followers of Jesus can listen and support such unchristian rhetoric while still claiming Jesus as Lord and His words as truth.
If Jesus is Exclusive - Are We?

In the midst of the human experience there are all sorts of mental and emotional metamorphosis’s that claim to fulfill some longing or sense of purpose within the human conscience. All religions have their list of devotees who profess a completion through that particular experience and usually through the particular knowledge taught by that religion or system. Some are so convinced that they will even die for that which they claim changed them and made them whole. The array of this kind of phenomenon is almost endless, and new ones arise all the time. And many of these human experiences are in competition with each other and are incompatible simply based upon a conflict of creedal truth espoused by each. In short, they cannot all be true and therefore the experience, although genuine in the mind and outward manifestation, is a result of being mentally persuaded and is the fruit of that persuasion and not the actual result of truth itself. The truth becomes what a person believes and not the truth in abstract.
And so a changed life is not necessarily the proof of the truth that life embraces since so many believe different “truths” and change their lives accordingly. But the search for place and meaning is so strong that it produces many answers that are deviations from the actual truth. People follow all kinds of men and all kinds of emotional, spiritual, and mental strategies that are designed to convince and reinforce the human psyche that its existence is meaningful and even divine. And voilĂ , we arrive at a host of different religions and systems that capture the fancies of segments of humanity. And in these systems, religious and otherwise, many humans have found satisfaction and cling to them lest they feel lost and untethered to any sort of fulfillment. Humans desire safety and attempt to avoid danger and uncertainty.
But squarely in the midst of all this confusion lives a group of people who say they believe that a man named Jesus of Nazareth was the Creator in human flesh and that His mission was to rescue the human race from death and destruction…eternally. Now that, my friends, is some contention. And seemingly more arrogant is their claim that all other religions and systems are frauds to varying degrees, and that only Jesus is the truth. This assertion is both immensely simplistic and yet utterly profound, as well as overtly presumptuous. We who believe in this Jesus and who have entrusted our eternities into His hands have involuntarily placed ourselves in a superior position, not because of anything in us, but because we have placed this Jesus in a superior position. And if superior was not enough, we have placed Him, in accordance with His own words, in a position of exclusivity. In other words, He is the only way, the only truth, and the only life.
And let us draw the necessary conclusions that must accompany this exclusivity as it pertains to life and life eternal. As it pertains to all other systems of thought and truth, there can be no compromise and there can be no compatibility with Jesus. His words demand a decision without any negotiation or vacillation. He offers no wiggle room and although His offer is unencumbered and debt free, He demands all. He is not playing some cosmic game. He is not attempting to coddle or oblige; He has pronounced His identity and intentions without ambiguity, and He offers Himself freely to all who desire eternal truth and life. Jesus is the one enigma to all other religious systems since His very words place them as more than worthless; they are lies.
While other religions and thought systems suggest everything from a universal mind to a divine consciousness to a higher power, this Jesus claims to be the one and only Creator. And just what caused Him to be hated and eventually sent to death? It wasn’t His teachings on love, or His healings, or His teachings of forgiveness. The issue that brought about His death was His insistence that He was God - the I AM.

I AM the door.
I AM the Good Shepherd.
I AM the way, the truth, and the life.
I AM the resurrection and the life.

Do not be blind to the wording of all the “I AM” metaphors. The use of the words I AM are not coincidental; they are profound and revealing. They refer back to the question Moses asked to the glory in the burning bush. “Who shall I say sent me?”, asks Moses.

And God said unto Moses, “I AM THAT I AM“, and he said, “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.”

How obvious it is if you process it without preconceptions and prejudices. Jesus is claiming to be the same God that spoke to Moses in that burning bush. He is claiming to be Jehovah, Elohim, and the I AM THAT I AM. No ambiguity and no uncertainty. And presented with those claims we are faced squarely with a decision. We either believe and follow or reject and turn away. There is no middle ground; there is no compromise; there is no negotiation. Does it seem authoritarian to you? Does it seem so exclusive and unyielding to your rebellious and stubborn heart? Do you wish to have some say in the matter, and are you desiring to make some case for alterations in what Jesus is presenting? Perhaps you do not wish any major changes, mind you, just some minor understandings that can accommodate sincerity and some other, less stringent interpretations. Does that soften the blow and reduce the tension?
Jesus offers no room for compromise on the issue of Him. And yet He comes full of grace and reaching out with the love that was revealed upon the cross where He gave His own life. It is finished and He now offers that finished work. There is nothing left to do and nothing left undone. Believe and rest. Of course there are still competing schools of thought and competing religious figures who have ushered in new systems of redemption and higher learning. You can always follow Buddha, or Mohammed, or the Hindu gods, or even Moses, or the god that most people follow regardless of lip service to another - themselves. Or you can parse out your allegiance and let Jesus have a percentage as a safety valve while you allow yourself the luxury of following other gods and other paths to earthly fulfillment and spiritual enlightenment; all while retaining a semblance of Christian belief and minimal outward obligations. And you may feel a sense of satisfaction when you compare yourself with others and discover a reassuring similar experience and life quintessence. Thankfully you are one of many unremarkable lives that profess Jesus is the only way to eternal life and yet live the same as the unbelieving neighbor with a few moral stance differences. There, done and done.
But that is not the faith that actually believes and follows the Lord Jesus. His claims, if believed, require a life that substantiates our faith. And when lives that follow false gods are changed, what are we to make of lives that say they follow Jesus and are not changed? If we pause and reevaluate the claims of Jesus, and if we reevaluate the veracity of our personal faith in Him, are they congruous? What would a life look like that was absolutely convinced it had eternal life - eternal life - through Jesus Christ? And upon that conviction, unashamed and unwavering, that life set out on a journey to emulate Jesus in every area with some minor cultural adjustments that never did violence to the revelation of the Person of Jesus Christ. Let us ask ourselves this question:

Would that same exclusivity that we say we assign to Jesus manifest itself in the lives that profess to emulate Him, or would those lives be passive, unremarkable, and living insignificantly well within the framework of the culture in which God’s providence had placed them?

And when I suggest an extraordinary lifestyle that is culturally conspicuous I surely do not mean a caustic, self righteous, and politically active life that is much more a thorn than a light. I do not mean being the moral police instead of a redemptive force. The life that emulates Jesus must be loving and gracious, truthful yet humble, and dedicated to the redemption in which it found life itself. I speak of an exclusive life that reveals the redemption, the exclusive redemption, that is found in Jesus Christ and Him alone. The Amish are known for their difference because of their outward appearance and cloistered lifestyle, but where are the lives that project a majestic humility and an unusual love that may not lead everyone to Jesus but cannot be refuted? We should not only be noteworthy, but we should be a phenomenon against the backdrop of such cultural and spiritual darkness. And yet we blend nicely.
If Jesus is who He says He is, and if He is exclusively the only Savior, and if we say we believe those truths, then our lives are in desperate need of a compliance that actually substantiates such a outrageous claim. If we already have the gift of eternal life, then why are we so entangled with the affairs of this world?

It is time for us all, individually and collectively, to take a painful inventory of just how compromised and diluted are our lives when juxtaposed upon our professions of faith.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Christ and Nothing but Christ

Believers in Sudan should be concerned with the same things as believers in Uruguay as believers in China and as believers in the United States. That concern is the glory of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. The distractions of politics and nationalism have choked the western church and removed all vestiges of God’s glory. Most of evangelicalism lives well ensconced in its hedonistic culture and pays attention to anything they deem a threat to their lifestyle. They even invent enemies and imaginary wars that lend themselves to a warring mentality and elevates themselves in their own eyes.
Make no mistake, however, the times are dark and the days are evil, and there are many false teachers and teachings roaming about. They, through the technology afforded all of us, are able to convince and deceive millions of professing believers including men and women who are otherwise Biblically literate and even astute. And armed with books, Cds, special gatherings, and fresh and clever thoughts about spiritual things they attract an audience that is thirsty for the new and erudite rather than the proven and profound. Just in the last several decades the gospel has suffered violence from within. The result is an ambiguous presentation of the person and work of Christ, as well as a cloudy layout of salvation itself.
I do not espouse clubbing sinners over their heads with their own sin. That is not how I came to Christ and that was not the modus operandi of the early church. Lifting up the Risen Christ in word and in deed is the heart of evangelism. But I also reject the nebulous and novel presentations that use some Biblical words and even sometimes mention the name of Jesus but are centered upon the good works of men and a communal atmosphere of intellectualism. These are hollow substitutes for the power of the gospel and many cannot be used to lead sinners to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The western Christian community had become bored, impotent, and culturally entrenched, and just as the thirst for authenticity led to the 60’s, so the insipid nature of the western church life produced a congregation of people who were ripe for deception as they longed for something exciting and enlivened.
And now we are witnessing an amazing spectacle in the western ecclesiastical community. Many men are looked upon as idols, and although the protestant church rejects the formal idea of a pope, they now have many such popes whose words are treated with the same authority as do the words of the Pope to Roman Catholic people. And this phenomenon covers a wide range of theological neighborhoods including emergent, seeker, purpose driven, Calvinist and reformed, prosperity, and within many different denominations. Everyone seems to have their heroes and many will travel great distances and spend much money just to hear these men say what they have already said. In some ways it manifests cultish characteristics.
And all this and more has dislodged the ancient landmark known as the gospel until the simple and clear gospel is no longer recognized. There is much activity and much local church organization but with little effect. In fact, if a business spent as much time, money, and effort with the same paltry results it would have to go out of business. And our “business” claims to have an eternal product with the power of the Creator. Sadly, we are looked upon by the world as liars and when we compare the words of Scripture with the revelations of our lives we must conclude that either Scripture or our lives are presenting a falsehood. To doctrinally claim we are inhabited and controlled by the Creator Himself with so little remarkable evidence of such is an affront to all truth and the Creator Himself.
If you are lost but conservative, lost but pro-life, lost but in favor of traditional marriage, and lost but support capitalism and democracy, you do not need Jesus. And let me return to my first point. If the believers in India are not concerned with these western issues, then they are not tethered to the gospel and in many ways strangle the spiritual life out of the gospel even while appearing righteous and noble. Band aids will not heal a person who desperately needs a heart transplant. And after a while much time has been spent on band aids rather than the offer of a new and eternal heart. Being salt and light does not mean championing moral and nationalistic causes while doing doctrinal lip service to the gospel. Being a light means sharing the gospel and living as would Jesus in order to authenticate our words and show the love of God to those who know not the Savior. Itemize all the things that concern you spiritually and see if they would concern believers in other countries. If not, then they are hollow and culturally narcissistic.
Now let us place these words upon a mirror and perhaps receive some personal revelations from the Spirit. We have become content with our testimony being a rehearsal of our salvation experience and what the Lord did when we came to Christ. But what has Jesus done in your life today? I do not speak of providing an electric bill payment, or allowing your son to make Little League, or receiving a promotion at work. All those things can be said about some unbeliever as well. But what has the Spirit done in your life that would reveal a dramatic spiritual metamorphosis that manifests Jesus in a remarkable way? Has your prayer closet taken on a new and glorious passion? Have you surrendered anew and afresh to whatever God desires from you? Have you been saturated with an unusual love for sinners that can only come from God? Have those around you become aware of a sacred and pronounced humility that is not only conspicuous, but also uncomfortable and convicting?
Or perhaps your spiritual journey relies on things of days gone by and your testimony is historical rather than alive and blossoming. I have become aware of some of those issues myself and I stand in need of a personal revolution that surrenders to Christ with abandon and breaks me completely of everything not of His image. But please do not mistake this for the strategies we have used in the past. I am not speaking of a refresher course in how to “make a difference” in our culture. This is not an exhortation for spiritual adjustment. We have had enough adjustments; what we need is personal crucifixion, for without that there can be no resurrection. Everything must die, everything. And there will be pockets of our flesh that have already learned to hide and more insidiously have learned to appear spiritual. You see, if we thirst after Christ and are passionate about a journey to be like Him in every way, we must be prepared to open all the closets and all the doors and allow, invite, and even beg the Spirit to invade our neat little “me” rooms.
Even the areas that are “settled law” must be accessible to crucifixion, and even if some things do not need changing they may need new life. And those things that we are sure we have right are sometimes the things that need the most attention. In the end, if we sit down in a corner, away from all distractions and urgencies, and alone with God the Spirit we must sincerely ask Him, “Am I like Jesus”? And without holding a pity party, and without comparing ourselves with others, and certainly without accepting a tepid assurance, are we willing to venture out into the deep without regard to what others might think or say and without fear of the many stumblings sure to come and the arresting revelations from the Spirit that touch our very soul? When the Spirit of God produces two wooden planks and three iron nails, are we willing to lay down and die?
Or we can continue to go to and fro and all things remain the same since the fathers slept. We can continue to be imprisoned by contentment because we have lowered the discipleship bar so low that we feel a sense of accomplishment, although we safely and dispassionately admit a need to “do better”. If that is Christianity I want no part of it. And if tens of millions of professing believers can live inside a crooked and perverse culture and exhibit no more salt and light than we do, then the Scriptures are a fairy tale and have no more authenticity than the samhita, brAhmaNa, Aranyaka and the upanishat.
But perhaps the Scriptures are the very Word of God, full of power and wisdom, and perhaps they are the glory of God in written form. And if so, perhaps we do not believe that, and the level of our obedience and adherence is a reproach to what they teach and most importantly to Who taught them. And most fraudulent of all, we have taught our own truths even while reading from the truths of God. And sometimes we have taught God’s truth while openly living in defiance of them but suggesting we are in compliance. I doubt there can be anymore powerful deception than that. Who is this Jesus and what does a believing follower of Him look and live like?

Well, in the words of Glinda,
It’s always best to start at the beginning.”

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Mosque

Thousands of Jesus followers around the world are being persecuted and even martyred for their faith. And just like the Amish who forgave the man who murdered their little girls, these believers endure hardships and persecution with the grace that should remind us of the Savior upon that cruel tree.

But in America a mosque is proposed to be built and millions of people who profess Christ get all up in arms and sound the alarm. The “alarm” they sound is not a call to sacrificial prayer for the souls of the Muslims who will frequent this mosque, but it is a caterwauling about America and the indignity of such a building. And these are people who doctrinally say they believe the Bible.

Evidently they do not.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Doctrines of Days Gone By - Eternity



While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

We no longer build upon the concept of eternity. Everything is now earthly and temporal. Whether it be economics or politics or even our lives themselves, everything is measured by the finite and fleeting as opposed to the eternal. And what could possibly be the reason for such thinking? Simply, unbelief. In reality the church by and large only believes doctrinally in eternity but as a practice most western believers live as though eternity did not exist or at least they are not willing to place their entire life within the framework of eternity. And against that unbelief what becomes the focal point of our lives? We do.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

So many saints have gladly given their lives for the sake of Christ, and in so doing, they manifested a faith that not only believed in eternity, but substantiated that belief with the greatest of all manifestations. And today we hear precious little about eternity and its rewards and punishments. Christianity has evolved into a set of rules and morals and even a political force with which the culture can be manipulated without altering anyone’s eternal destination or transforming anyone’s heart. Many call it a “culture war” which is nothing more than a self righteous attempt to politically engineer society with a strategy void of redemption and at opposition to the gospel itself.
Eternity has fallen out of vogue even in the church. Hardly anyone even pauses to feel any fear or apprehension anymore. Everyone will die one day and everyone will spend a conscious eternity somewhere. But if that be true then what could possibly be more important? And if that is indeed true than why do we live as if eternity was a myth? Simply, unbelief. Before the Industrial Revolution, and in an overwhelmingly agricultural society, the church did not have much to lose materially. But now we have come into wealth and prosperity and a lifestyle that affords us much entertainment, vacation, and the enjoyments of this western, hedonistic culture. We now have something to both enjoy and protect, and so eternity must be moved to the display case in the Museum of Doctrinal History. Oh we still profess to believe in it, but it has lost its luster and it no longer affects our lives here and now.
In the western church eternity has become an aside which everyone espouses with their doctrinal lips but it no longer has any significant impact. And what is the main reason for this shift? We now have acquired many things which we enjoy here and now and wish to protect and increase. From hedonism to materialism to nationalism and intellectualism, the church is content to wallow in the mire of mediocrity and be known as one of many rather than a startling revelation of something much different than any other. We are willing to kill to avoid being killed. We are willing to fight rather than surrender. We are willing to return evil for evil rather than endure the glories of persecution. We are willing to argue over the moral decay of a nation rather than invading the spiritual decay with a fresh illumination of gospel light.
The pulpit has become a source for utilitarian knowledge concerning being successful in all areas of our western lives. Finances, child rearing, marriage, sexual relations, and cultural interaction are the mainstream “how to” preaching diets. Preaching Jesus has long since fallen out of vogue, unless it a caricature of a Jesus that is at odds with the Scriptures but fits in nicely with our spiritually mundane existences. And any mention of a coming judgment is downplayed if not altogether ignored. And the thirst for new in an affluent and many times bored culture has now suggested that the end times are surely not upon us. Again, when you have wealth and enjoyment here and now, who desires it to end prematurely? The eschatology that many of us learned many years ago is being replaced by an earthly narrative that treats the coming of Christ as an esoteric and ethereal abstract that really does not have any impact on our lives here and now. Only a liar would claim that the second coming of Jesus Christ is actually believed with evidence by the western church.

The Patriarch David was once pinned down by the Philistines. He wished he could drink from the well at Bethlehem's gate. Three brave men broke through and brought their leader the water he wished to drink. But having wished in the temporal, David now poured it out before the Lord because he saw the sacrifice his men made and he could not bring himself to dishonor their bravery by succombing to his temporal need.
And so we now say goodbye to eternity. We enjoyed our relationship not so long ago, but your services are no longer needed and the sirens of now are all we really need. We can take it from here and our temporal existence requires our attention. Heaven will hopefully await us when and if this present world comes to an end, but we cannot risk the sacrifice required to authenticate an actual wholehearted embracing of eternity. What if we are wrong, then we have lost a lot. We are satisfied with knowing Jesus and being involved with a group of professing believers in a limited and unobtrusive way. Anyway, anything that negatively affects, alters, or even inconveniences our lives in a material way is always of the evil one. That we know for sure and are willing to live as though we actually believe that. Anything positive is a praise report and anything negative is a prayer request. But please keep those martyrdom stories coming; they make us feel all tingly inside.

Eternity has just been removed from the endangered doctrinal species list.

It is now extinct.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Showing Redemption

It is profoundly sad and entirely unchristian to see professing believers present sinners as enemies and objects of hate. And there seems to be two categories that elicit the most loathing, especially among those who see themselves as conservative evangelicals. They are Muslims and gays.
When did redemption take a back seat? When did the gospel change from the offer of redemption into a billboard of people’s sins as well as a culling out of certain sins? And when did the heart of God Himself, displayed upon the bloody cross for all to see, turn hard and uncaring when it comes to certain sinners?
And all the while the real enemy of our souls remains clandestine and gladly gives up his notoriety, and lets sinners become the enemy. And what do Muslims believe they receive from Christians? Hatred, of course. Surely not a sacrificial love that builds evangelistic bridges and ministers Christ. And most evangelicals see their lost aunt in a loving and redemptive way, and they see her need instead of her sin. But when it comes to the impersonal categorization of sinners, those same evangelicals are stripped of that love and compassion and like sharks feeding in bloody waters they revile and castigate them.
Creating enemies goes against anything in the gospel, and it only satisfies a fallen longing to feel superior and a self righteous mob mentality. “I thank God that I am not like other men” is their unbiblical mantra expressed in many different ways. And when Jesus gave His life for these very sinners, what part of that sacrifice are we not to emulate? Of course the view that Jesus did not die for all sinners contributes to this harshness since it doctrinally insulates some hearts from feeling and showing some compassion for the lost. The logic goes that if God did not offer salvation to some (most) then we can show the anger toward sinners that God presently is showing. That is incongruous to the gospel message in this age of grace.
No one can be saved without a personal faith in Jesus Christ. But as many believers shout about the geography of mosques, or the political agenda of the gay community, or an array of other cultural and moral issues, let some of us manifest the redemption found only in Jesus Christ. Let us refrain from political leverage and public displays of malevolence toward any and all sinners regardless of the deception in which they find themselves. Let us be Jesus to the world. Judgment is surely coming and it is completely in God’s hands. But we are ministers of reconciliation and ambassadors of the new and better covenant.
This covenant in which we live was purchased at an immeasurable and unfathomable price. The bloody death of God, and the subsequent resurrection, is the eternal offer of love and redemption that must be trumpeted to the ends of the earth. This is the message of faith, hope, and love. And this life we now lead should be a shining revelation of the Risen Christ. The law of God has been fulfilled in Jesus, and God now freely offers eternal life through Himself. This is great news for a dark and fallen world, and the last thing sinners need is a documentary about their particular sins, especially a documentary that identifies certain sinners as most offensive, implying that their route to the cross is substantially longer than the garden variety sinner.
And the love of God is much more than just telling people the truth. The love of God is the truth and it is the cross that manifests that love completely. Taking up His cross is much more than just overcoming life’s hurdles. It means a lifetime of dying to self and this world and expending our lives for the sake of sinners. Just as He did.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

So You Want to be His Disciple?

Start with this:

So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

Let me know when you are ready for step two.
A High View of Scripture

We say we have a “high view” of Scripture but do we:

Really love our enemies?
Pray without ceasing?
Rejoice in persecution?
Think of everyone else as more important than ourselves?
Exist content with just food and clothing?
Do good to them which despitefully use us?
Save up money for our own future use?
Borrow money and pay usury?
Weep over the lost as did Jesus?
Live while being clothed with humility?
Fast while the bridegroom is away?
Get angry with our brother?
Worry?
Take into account wrongs we suffer?
Bear, believe, hope, and endure all things?

Ahigh view” of Scripture is only defined by life exhibitions. All doctrinal creeds, however legitimate and correct, will slowly replace life authentications and ultimately become a conscience salve and a source of self righteousness. There is no such thing as a “high view” of Scripture in the doctrinal abstract; it is a man made term meant to elevate one's supposed "view" of Scripture and suggest alignment with Jesus Himself. When the sheep and the goats are gathered together before the King, there will be no doctrinal test. Works seem to be the defining qualification of who comes into Christ’s kingdom and who does not - that is unless you do not have a high view of that parable.

The parable does not negate salvation by faith in Christ alone, but it does bring into sharp focus a "high view" of humanitarian works associated with being a believing follower of Jesus.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hate

During the sixties I witnessed all kinds of hate directed toward blacks, Asians, women, communists, and youth in general. But I must admit, the hate that spews from “Christian” mouths and pens today rivals anything I ever saw 5 decades ago.
Are You a Christian?

Anyone who listens to and agrees with Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck is either not a believing follower of Jesus or is clueless as to what it means to BE a Christian.
A Low View

Many believers claim they have a high view of Scripture, a high view of salvation, a high view of sovereignty, a high view of grace, and a high view of God Himself. Sadly, they have an extremely low view of humility.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Idol of Orthodoxy
and
A Call to Prayer

Being a Christian is much more than being a doctrinal zealot. It means being a Jesus zealot, which unfolds in living ways that are much more profound and recognizable than just acknowledging certain theological truths. Faithfulness to Biblical doctrines must have a vigor that goes beyond theological defenses and scriptural proofs. Without a conspicuous difference in one’s approach to everything in life, an orthodox theology becomes evidence of significant hypocrisy.

And this approach to life must go far beyond moral stands and doctrinal creeds. It must transcend textbook truths and convictions concerning sin and the human condition. How easy and self gratifying it is to cloister one’s self inside the safety of abstract truth, even absolute truth, and pitching a self righteous booth within whose walls you can find self purpose and suggest divine approval. And armed with a Bible and a complete list of acceptable faith tenants, millions of professing believers walk into a Sunday morning gathering of fellow Biblical students who have also learned what constitutes truth. And ready to be stroked again they hear once more things with which they agree and which validates both their systematic theology as well as their divine status. And after the benediction they smile and greet one another content with the knowledge that they are on the narrow doctrinal path. They prepare to eat.

Many, if not most, came to this gathering with very little expectation of meeting with the Risen Christ in a powerful and life changing way. You see, our lives have already been changed, its others that need changing. Most arrived unprepared to hear anything but affirmation from God through the lips of a teacher who himself is caught up in a western lifestyle. You see, they may admit to needing some slight adjustment, and they are willing to acknowledge their imperfection without entering into any considerable or uncomfortable spiritual alterations. Most Sunday gatherings are not designed to passionately seek the Spirit’s cutting edge, and when you observe the congregation as they leave on time you will notice they leave just as they came, although usually with a greater level of emotional buoyancy, but they leave unchanged and unchallenged.

It is impossible for an artist to paint an accurate image if he is presented with an incomplete or even a distorted image as his guide. And while literally millions upon millions of professing believers live inside this evil culture, we show no considerable consternation concerning how little impact we are having. In fact, inside the “orthodox” community there is a school of thought that suggests that part of the problem is other churches and other liberal driftings but thankfully we are holding down the doctrinal fort for God. Coming and going; buying and selling; talking and talking; and reinforcing ourselves all the way with redundant doctrinal assurances but being completely blind to just how profoundly lacking is our expression of Jesus Himself who is supposed to be our model and leader. But our orthodoxy satisfies our spiritual obligation and conveniently fills our Jesus void as we bow to that doctrinal golden calf.

What does it mean to be orthodox? If orthodoxy can be proven by words on a page then of what value is the concept? If orthodoxy comes from the lips and the pen then it is a worthless literary abstract. The truth is that over the years we believers have constructed a doctrinal safe house that accommodates our need to feel faithful without any real self comparison of the Jesus template as well as some arresting New Testament Scriptures that cannot possibly mean what they seem to say. We exact the most precise doctrinal wording concerning the Trinity, which is taught sparingly in the New Testament and is a concept that cannot be fully understood by the human mind, but when Jesus says plainly not to save up money for yourselves upon this earth we splice and dice that to dilute the meaning into some ethereal principle so we all can have our savings, vacation, and retirement accounts and still feel obedient to Christ. And melded with the culture, and content with being content, the church meanders their way in spiritual mediocrity and resourceful self affirmation and rationalization. We have become our own enemy.

The only genuine way to “stand for truth” is to live it. And not just the fine china of truth, but the everyday reflections of Jesus Himself. Hollow is the doctrinal continuum that debates and defends truths while openly and defiantly refusing to acknowledge many plain truths that should be affecting our very lives. In much of orthodoxy humility is weakness; love is sacrine; mercy alters justice; grace must be earned; and in so many other ways we have been taught and now teach a bastardized version of what it means to imitate Jesus. And at the core of it all is self righteousness. And openly within the orthodox community idolatry is displayed and even taught as part of a disciples life. Pledging allegiance to a Babylonian nation and even openly expressing “love” for that nation shows a breathtaking deviance from Christ and a deception that would astound the early believers. And since most “orthodox” believers are unwilling to examine things they have already assumed they know, the pattern continues and is passed down to the next generation.

And so we continue to have what we now have, a light that shines a dull, gray beam with much more heat than light and with little if any salt. We are known for our church buildings and titles, our music and our political views, but not our Jesus lifestyles. And to avoid the natural tension that must come when we actually believe God’s Word and compare that with how we live, we change the Bible into a manual that aids us in how to successfully live a western lifestyle of hedonism, narcissism, and earthly success. And the doctrinally “pure” spend their time examining the doctrines of others and applauding their own faithfulness without realizing that in very real ways they themselves have departed from the teachings of Jesus. Nothing changes and no one cares.

In Sheldon’s classic book “In His Steps” he creates a narrative about how molding our lives into the teachings of Jesus just might affect us profoundly. The implications of such an endeavor were life changing. But we have gotten so used to both the little and the big foxes that our vines barely grow any fruit. After the Industrial Revolution the energies of man centered on inventing ways to elevate his material lifestyle and leveraging his labor so as to provide the maximum enhancement to his own existence. In short, the “pursuit of happiness” became an endeavor centered upon the material. We now must have the best clothes, the best televisions, the best music, the best cars, and the church is filled with people who not only seek the best of everything within their personal budgets, but most are encumbered with large amounts of debt so they enjoy things that are above their means. And most are orthodox people who say they believe the words of Jesus and believe in a two fold eternity that awaits all men. With their lips they profess eternity but with their lives they embrace this present world.

There is only one answer: revival. Without a massive and life shaking awakening we will continue to exist on this ecclesiastical treadmill, full of activity and sound, but going nowhere. Some will be satisfied with creative fairy tales while others will find contentment with exposing the shortcomings and the sins of others. Both drink from different ends of the same trough. I again suggest that true, orthodox Christianity is not actually practiced in the west, and that we all are caught up in a spiritual construct that does not even remotely mirror the words of the New Testament or the life model of our Savior. We live for ourselves and allow some non-sacrificial scraps to fall off our table and be given to the church, which is not necessarily the work of God. We are all guilty before God.

I contend that the first step toward any substantive journey that awakens our souls must be prayer. Ah, there it is. I do not mean some 10 or 15 minute laundry list that touches the bases and slides into home plate feeling a sense of fulfilling a spiritual obligation. I am speaking of igniting a passionate obsession with prayer that earnestly beseeches heaven to break up the fallow ground and remake us into His image once more. I speak of nightly prayer meetings and fastings, and going without lunch in lieu of prayer. I am envisioning letting prayer become a holy impulse that calls to us constantly and opens thousands of new prayer closets around the country.

This kind of prayer must not be driven by excitement or the energy of something new; this prayer must be a holy plowing of our hearts and minds that invites, yea begs, the Spirit to invade our neat little spiritual lives and overturn the money changing tables in our very hearts. We must implore and supplicate the Spirit to come with His own scourging that wounds us with wounds of correction, redemption, and to the glory of God. Without a visitation of unusual and inconveniencing prayer we have no hope but to continue in the mundane lifestyles that deny the power, if not the actual existence, of the Risen Christ.

But if that prayer scenario seems like too much trouble and too much uncertainty as to where it would lead, and if that challenge would necessitate way too much time and energy, and if that narrative requires too much repentance and admission of spiritual lack across the board, we can always find safety and security in this:

We are orthodox.
In our own minds.