Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jesus Speaks to the SS



So often believers in Jesus Christ are drawn into viewing people as enemies because the world cannot see them as people in need of redemption. The world, with nationalism and ethnicity being the main culprits, is divided into categories, sects, and us verses them. This wonderful picture sees Jesus walking and speaking with an SS officer. And Jesus has the officer’s gun hung around His shoulder. It is a glorious and provocative illustration that should cause us all to rethink our view of redemption and the ministry of the Redeemer Himself.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The 24 Hour Creation Day

When Galileo suggested his telescope proved the ideas of Copernicus that the Sun was the center of the solar system, the church refused to even consider such an idea because they felt that such a notion was at odds with the Scriptures. Most church officials refused to even look through Galileo’s telescope while others who did claimed they could not see the moons of Jupiter which were in plain sight. The church had drawn battle lines that were unnecessary and counter productive to the message of redemption.

You don’t think history repeats itself? In many evangelical quarters there is a battle over the 24 hour creation day and a young/old earth debate. But just as in the 17 century, this battle is quite unnecessary and creates a diversion to the message of redemption. And to insist that anyone who does not subscribe to the 24 hour creation day is a heretic is nothing more than a modern day reflection of past inquisitions that were more about power and self righteousness than they were about truth and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Did God make everything in six 24 hour days? Maybe. Maybe not. I’ll ask Him one day, if, when I see the Risen Christ, that issue will even warrant such interest anymore. Somehow I doubt we will even care. I do not care now.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Eyes Upon Jesus

People in general are rather gullible (dumb) and are voluntarily led into the most preposterous deceptions, especially when they perceive some chance for personal benefit. We seem to have a pack mentality that meets our need for security, affirmation, and personal esteem. This behavior is evident in many genres, ranging from politics to nationalism to sports and yes, in the community of faith. The Church at Corinth, only several decades old, had already formed factions and divided allegiances.
One of the most baffling exhibitions of exploitations in the church is the so called “health and wealth” movement. Watch as men like Kenneth Copeland, Jesse Duplantis, and Creflo Dollar teach their listeners how God desires you to be wealthy, and the path to that wealth is through giving some of your money to them. And when the results do not seem to mirror the financial prosperity being enjoyed by those ministers, people are told that somehow they have made a mistake in the process or that their time is coming so just have patience. Normally intelligent people realize that these men own multiple jets, several mansions, and a lifestyle of opulence and their congregations experience no more personal prosperity than the members of the First Baptist down the street.
But fueled by the possibility that money may rain from heaven any day into their own bank accounts, they trudge on, working average jobs, and continuing to help support the preacher’s extravagant lifestyle. And as I said, they exhibit a brand of ignorance and gullibility that makes the world reject anything Christian because the evil one has told them that this is what all Christians believe. If we knew the enormity of the personal wealth of these kind of preachers it would shock clear thinking people, but it would elicit strong words of defense from their followers. As I have often said, a preacher could be found in a motel room with a porn star and with three months of church offerings under the bed, and he could start another church the very next week with hundreds in attendance.
The entire health and wealth movement is a revealing example of how a culture can infiltrate the church and eventually assimilate it into a fallen mindset of greed and avarice, all the while contending the Word teaches such things. And millions listen with willing hearts and holding men in unhealthy esteem, such that allows them to believe lies. And not only do people believe lies, but they believe lies that are being exposed right before their very eyes! Some poor widows give and give, and confess and confess, and believe God for a financial harvest, but are still as poor as when they began. But these false teachers have ready made answers for those kinds of experiences that keeps the doctrinal golden goose safe from authentic inspection.
We as believers should show honor to church leaders who are faithful stewards of the Word and who live humble lives of moderation and sacrifice. But we must never give our unquestioned allegiance and loyalty to any man or woman, for all men have feet of clay. I have been blessed and challenged by any number of preachers, both dead and alive. Whitefield, Edwards, Moody, Spurgeon, Torrey, Tozer, Ravenhill, and men today like David Wilkerson, John MacArthur, Adrian Rodgers and others have been used by God in my life. But I do not consider their opinion as divinely inspired or Biblically infallible. I must be convinced by God’s Word through the leading of the Spirit alone.
I exhort all of you, be students of the Word and search out the Scriptures. Allow God to use godly men and women to speak into your lives and challenge you, but always be careful about viewing any human being higher than you should. Keep your eyes upon the Lord Jesus and follow Him alone with humility and personal sacrifice.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Afraid of Works?
Justification by faith alone is the foundation of our faith and lifts up the labor of Christ upon the cross as complete and exclusive. No human works, regardless how sacrificial and passionate, can be added to that scarlet sacrifice. Works do not add to the cross, but those who have been cleansed by that atoning flow are moved to do works that both minister to the earthly needs of mankind, and works that share the good news of that cross and resurrection. All works that come from a believer must be redemptive and are aimed at drawing sinners to the Risen Christ.
But sometimes in our quest to remain orthodox and not have anyone accuse us of teaching a salvation by works, we treat humanitarian works gingerly and without the abandonment and sacrifice they should have. The teachings of Jesus are replete with exhortations of humanitarian endeavors, and some even, when taken alone, seem to elevate works above that which we actually believe. The Good Samaritan is a parable taught in response to a question of how someone can inherit eternal life. And when the rich young ruler asks the same question about the path to eternal life, Jesus speaks of ministering to the poor sacrificing your own personal wealth. The parable of the goats and sheep center on a list of humanitarian works as the identifying mark of a goat or a sheep.
And therein lies the sacred redemptive truths as they are lived out and revealed in the lives of believing followers of the Lord Jesus. Let us face it, we are not called to be just a systematic theology with legs. We are called to a life that translates the life of Christ through human acts, and along with the message of the gospel, lifts up Jesus and allows the Spirit to draw sinners to Him, through us. When works are employed in conjunction with the gospel, they are a powerful, redemptive force. Too often we have relegated works to an elective status, and as a shallow residual rather than an important part of the evangelistic process. Or we have a list of "don'ts" that we use as a template to identify true believers. And because liberal theologians make works themselves redemptive, we sometimes are reticent to give ourselves wholly to humanitarian efforts. They have become a kind of hobby.
Part of any revival among us must include a new and more vibrant dedication to meeting the earthly needs of sinners which reveal, on a practical level, the love of God, but more importantly can become a bridge that leads to Christ and His gospel. There must always be a doctrinal line between faith and works, but we cannot allow that line to become a wall that keeps us from ministering to needy sinners. Oh how the church has drifted over the decades. But until we humble ourselves and take an honest look at ourselves in the mirror of the Word and the reflection of the life of Jesus Christ we will continue to drift. In a way we have so often used orthodox doctrine to shield us from a deep assessment of just how Christ can be lived out among lost sinners.
Even a mention of the word “humanitarian” seems to arouse feelings that say “Beware, liberalism approaches!” There is a veiled and sophisticated deception in that scenario. Those of us who believe and teach the true gospel of Jesus Christ should be the most aggressive humanitarians on earth. The entire world lies in the wicked one, and billions are in desperate need of common necessaries. And so often we act like doctrinal Scrooges that are satisfied with store houses of theology while others are in want of basic earthly needs. I hope that the Spirit revives a hunger for deeds of compassion that genuinely come from the heart and are overtures of redemption as well. Feeding a hungry stomach can never save anyone, however it often build a bridge of love that can lead to the Author of love itself.


When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mother Theresa and Rick Warren

Mother Theresa was a sacrificial servant who spent her life helping the Indian people, and specifically lepers. I find her service remarkable. However there has always been a problem in assessing her life and work. Now I believe there are saved Roman Catholics (God knows those that are His), even though I believe the doctrine that the church teaches is heretical and presents a works theology inside a quagmire of odd practices and ceremonies that are a shadow of the law. Purgatory, papal infallibility, Mary veneration, and the absolution of sins through men are just a few of the troubling teachings. Mother Theresa was a nun in the Roman Catholic Church, and she espoused those teachings.

But the most disturbing and revealing of all things concerning Mother Theresa and her work was that her organization did not attempt to convert the sinners they served and helped. That fact alone disqualifies her as a Christian servant. Without the gospel all humanitarian acts are nothing more than temporal band aids that help make the journey to eternal judgment more comfortable. It is an antichrist construct and indeed is at odds with all that Jesus accomplished upon the cross, and it elevates the works of man to redemption status and an end in themselves. It has been my experience that most times when some professing believer is not interested in the conversion of lost sinners it reveals that his own soul may be unregenerate.

I do not lead a torch lit mob against Mother Theresa, and I refuse to join in some of the harsh rhetoric sometimes employed by my evangelical brothers about her. But in truth, I cannot consider her a sister in Christ. This brings me to the point of this post. Time has released a book about Mother Theresa which extols her life and service, and Rick Warren has written the forward. Sadly, this again reflects the compromise that Rick Warren is increasingly known for in recent days. I love Rick Warren and I believe he has done many good things, however he has strayed off the course and is now spreading a shallow and compromised gospel along with a decidedly ecumenical approach to anything that uses the word “Christian”.

Watch and pray in these last days.

Monday, October 25, 2010

If I Be Lifted Up...

I have received many e-mails and some comments that let me know that there are not just a few believers whose spiritual walk is being deepened as they see more clearly how nationalism and patriotism have hindered their spiritual devotion to Jesus Christ. I feel compelled to continue to address that issue and perhaps this little and insignificant blog will impact believers and lengthen the cords and deepen the stakes of their discipleship.

Back in the 18 century it was very difficult for Englishmen to break away and form a new nation, and most difficult was the task to make that nation religiously pluralistic. While it is true that many believers had set sail for America so as to avoid being persecuted when they refused allegiance to the Church of England, it is patently false that those same people created a Christian nation. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were a collaborative endeavor, but at the core were Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison. Those men were far from being born again believers, and they crafted a religiously pluralistic nation with language that in many ways seemed spiritually nondescript and innocuous. And in fact that was by design.

America was a safe haven for lifestyles and ideas, and it was a beacon of pluralistic practices. Of course events like the Salem witch trials revealed the difficulty in adhering to the original intent of the founding fathers, but today, in keeping with the constitution, witches are welcomed as legitimate expressions of spirituality. In recent days some professing Christians have adopted some wiccan practices and even held worship gatherings with wiccans as a legitimate part of the service. Very American.

Also at the core of the idea of America was an atmosphere that would lend itself to increased personal wealth. Can you see Jesus leading people to form organizations that would enhance their personal wealth? (And all the prosperity people screamed “Yes!!”) Religious freedom and tolerance were a mainstay in the formation of America, and nowhere do the documents even mention Jesus. And yet we have been taught that this nation was formed as a Christian nation, and blinded by that falsehood the church has lost her way. Many evangelicals view Muslims as the enemy and not a mission field for redemption. And it would be impossible to add up all the time, energy, money, sermons, and overall involvement that evangelicals have lent to the defense of this secular, hedonistic nation. And that is without adding up the lives that have been lost defending a constitutional republic that continues to murder millions of unborn babies, to say nothing of protecting the rights of all sorts of moral and ethical perverts.

Earthly freedoms cut both ways and are not to elicit any allegiance from the followers of Jesus. The church in China, for example, has in many ways preserved her purity because she has not been compromised by the glitter of earthly freedoms or the idolization of the place in which she resides. It is not insignificant to note that America has been the breeding ground for many prolific cults that now extend across the world, and that America has also been the place where many egregious departures from the faith are currently taking place and leading the world to do likewise. And we as believing followers of the Lord Jesus should support and give our allegiance to such a place? No, we should pray for the people here and shine the glorious light of the gospel across this nation.

I was born in 1952, and in my lifetime I have never seen one president who did not believe that all religions lead to God, including professing evangelicals like Clinton and Bush. I hope and pray that many people who surreptitiously read this blog will make it a serious matter of prayer as it pertains to nationalism. And if you begin to awaken to its destructive influences, do not become self righteous and guard against hating this nation. The Lord Jesus calls us to be the arks of redemption to a lost and fallen world. We cannot afford being compromised by nationalism, and we cannot afford any self righteousness. We are tethered to grace and have no righteousness of our own. Without the grace of God we are no better that Hitler.

Come out from among them and be ye separate. What fellowship has light with darkness? But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. There is a freedom that is infinitely greater than any and all earthly freedoms, and that freedom is found in Jesus Christ. Any restrictions that men place on me does not alter that freedom, and only when I hold dear earthly freedoms can my spiritual freedom be compromised. God has placed us here providentially, not to become a part, but to shine the light of His Son through our lips and our lives. For too long we have succumbed to the sirens of nationalism even though our hearts were sincere. But we have believed a lie, and now it is time for a spiritual revival that removes the bushel and not only lets His light shine once again, but lifts that light upon a hill so everyone can see it and be drawn to it.

If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto Me.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

They Played While Millions Died

Step out from behind your own bunker and view the earthly landscape in a wider perspective. Look upon the entire ongoing history and include everyone and everywhere. It becomes evident that lifting up our eyes upon the fields and seeing in context the entirety of humanity is impossible and is an experiment that is quite unpracticed in our neat little worlds. But it cannot be denied that humanity as a whole suffers greatly from all sorts of maladies; from disease to violence to oppression to poverty to hunger and the ravages of sin in general.

In May of 1944 two SS officers took pictures at the Auschwitz death camps and created a scrapbook of those pictures. After the war, this scrapbook was discovered in an abandoned apartment. The photos showed thousands of Jews arriving at Auschwitz and being divided into sections, one of which were murdered on that very day while the other went to work at the camp. Perhaps 5000 Jews died every day when the camp was at the height of its deathly efficiency.

But along with the documentation of the arriving victims were photographs of the camp’s officials, including the commandant, as well as the notorious Dr. Mengele. And there were these men, laughing and drinking and singing along with the accordion while the smell of burning bodies wafted all around them. Locked into their own world, they seemed oblivious to the horror that was being experienced by human beings within shouting distance, and seemed to be most unmoved by their complicity. Were in not for the infamous SS uniforms, the pictures would look like ordinary men having a picnic.

But these men were not transformed overnight, and they had not been transported from 1930 to 1944 in one day. No, these men were made into monsters by small increments and imperceptible moral shifts that chipped away at their sensibilities and hardened them against any human compassion or ethics. And they eventually were able to live their lives in a machine-like productivity without the inconvenience of any moral assessment. Millions died while thousands played.

Millions died while thousands played. And can you not see the indictment of those words as it applies to the western church? Of course we are not the architects of human suffering and the spiritual plight of the world, but do we not play while others are in great need? While we eat doughnuts Sudanese children drink water contaminated by animal urine, if they have any water at all. While we speak with great interest of sporting events the epidemic of malaria and AIDS plunders an entire continent. And while we build great debt-laden edifices in which to worship, complete with state of the art everything, billions are in need of the gospel. And armed with the knowledge of such a human crisis, both physically and spiritually, what would we look like in a scrapbook? As we are photographed eating and drinking and making merry, how could we justify such a lifestyle in the face of such colossal human suffering and darkness?

But we were not changed overnight either. It has taken many generations in order to slowly chip away at both our understanding of the New Testament and the nature of following in the footsteps of Jesus. Step by step we have incorporated the culture into our spiritual journeys until we have created an ecclesiastical cocoon that enjoys the Babylonian lifestyle while still professing to live in Jerusalem. And with the astounding conflict between the New Testament and our current lifestyles, we have, by necessity, become deaf and blind to the massive inconsistency between what Jesus taught and what we now live. If we did not become deaf and blind to that overt hypocrisy, we would either have to repent or admit that we were not believers at all.

Is it not true that all men die, and that all souls live eternally with God or separated from Him? And is it not true that with each passing day the time grows short? But as Vance Havner once remarked, “The situation is desperate, but we are not.” And the question remains, how can we escape the cultural quicksand we find ourselves in, if indeed we allow the Spirit to awaken our hearts to the seriousness of the situation? What Herculean effort would be needed to extricate ourselves from the powerful clutches of the western culture and mindset? I do not know, since I am in the battle and have not yet achieved the victory. But this I do know: It will take more than the efforts of man, and with that as the case, the only path is the path of prayer. If we desire revival it must begin with and be sustained with prayer.

But like King Ahab of old, we are inclined to hear good news and we abhor those who bring words of correction form the Lord. The Joel Osteens and the health and wealth preachers are those who gain great followings, but those who see the true spiritual condition of the church seem like ecclesiastical relics. But we can sleep tonight with this knowledge. It will not be long before all things are complete and Jesus returns, and while we play…millions die.
Seeing the Truth

The need to think positively often blinds us to the truth.
Jesus is Searching for a Bride

Jesus is searching for a bride. He desires a bride who is completely committed to Him and in whom He has no worries of infidelity. He has given her His all, and He has every reason to expect the same from her. His love for her knows no bounds. He has lavished His grace upon her and given her priceless gifts. He has chosen her and bestowed on her His own worthiness. He created the universe for all creatures, but to His bride alone He has shed His blood. What greater love could Jesus have shown? Does His bride actually comprehend the depth of such love?

The things of this world cry like sirens to His bride and she inclines her ear. Listening at first, then contemplating, and finally compromising, she thinks she can love the world and love Him as well. It is a false construct and it only shames her Bridegroom. This bride has come to love all sorts of things that are at odds with Jesus. Money, power, success, America, entertainment, politics, and everything that mocks Christ is openly espoused by His betrothed and smears His matchless name. This bride does not wait patiently for her wedding day, she has created her own reception and is actively enjoying a party that hasn’t been thrown in His honor.

Vacant is her prayer closet while her television room is quite crowded. And she is content with an orthodox doctrine that describes His return but elicits no more fruit that would substantiate that faith than the unbelieving next door neighbor. She is adorned with the sins of the flesh and the sins of the spirit. Wallowing in the curse, the bride has lost all vestiges of the holiness that should identify her as His. Blinded by the brilliance of this present world the bride cannot even pause to take inventory of her own spiritual life. The Industrial Revolution has provided her with everything she ever wanted, and the fragrance of things fills her bosom.

Jesus is searching for a bride. And at the very center of this present predicament is unbelief. What we do is what we believe, everything else is just religious talk. And we are not the first generation in this ever widening departure from following Christ, and because we have been raised in compromise our consciences have been seared and our hearts have grown hard.

Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!
When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence. For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.
Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved. But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.

Is this the behavior of the Son of God’s bride that lifts Him up and pours upon Him the glory due His name? Is this the chaste bride who inclines her ear toward her Bridegroom and is deaf to the calls of everything else? Is this redundant to and fro what Jesus desires from His own bride? And when the Father looks down from heaven and sees the churning sea of humanity that includes the inconspicuous segment that calls herself His bride, is He pleased? What kind of earthly bride is not consumed with the preparations of her upcoming wedding, but has settled into a lifestyle that mirrors those who are not betrothed? No sacrifice, no urgency, no excitement, no commitment, and little time spent with her bridegroom. What kind of a bride is that?

Jesus is searching for a bride. Not one that is haughty and looks down upon those who have not yet known her Bridegroom, and not even one who elevates herself among the rest who are betrothed as well. Humble and grateful, she awaits His return and prepares herself to please Him in every way. He has left instructions and she carries them out with a sacred obedience that manifests her love toward Him and all He says. Her preparation centers upon Him, and every determination to cleanse her heart is only for Him. Any accolades she receives, and any compliments about her faithfulness she deflects toward Him. He is her exclusive reason for living, and in fact, her very life is with Him.

This bride has seen her Bridegroom and He has captured her heart. He is without competition, and His being is unspeakable and full of glory. There can be no other, He is majestic. She melts in His presence and fully desires to please Him. His words are her life, and when He speaks her will is broken and her feet are swift to obey Him. With every ounce of her being she revels in His love and grace. She weeps at His wounds and her sin. She worships at His feet and is empowered to tell of her Bridegroom to one and all. She belongs to Him and no other. The things of this world are her constant enemies, and she knows all too well how they draw her away from her Love. She looks for ways to love Him more, and His presence burns away all that is not of Him.

Jesus is searching for a bride.
Can you hear Him?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

God's Will - Free Will

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!

Read those words carefully and see if you can see the fallacy of limited atonement, and how Jesus admits that the people in Jerusalem exercised their free will. Jesus says “I would (Jesus desired to save them)…but you wouldn’t” (They refused). In order to make that fit a reformed theology you must create some fancy linguistic manipulation that places your doctrine above the clear teaching of Scripture.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Violence is Now the Way of Jesus

A Dallas pastor, an evangelical who attended Dallas Theological Seminary, is running for a representative seat in the Texas legislature. Pastor Stephen Broden is a robust patriot who aggressively endorses the right to bear arms and all things “conservative”. He has labeled President Obama as a tyrant.

But this pastor said something in an interview that voices what many others believe, and in fact, mirrors the Revolutionary War itself. In this interview he suggested that this nation was “founded on violence", and that a violent overthrow of the United States government was “on the table”. Are you shocked? I am not. And I believe this man is much more consistent in his views than are those who castigate liberals and suggest they are ruining the country, but are afraid to include violence even though they believe that the Revolutionary War was divinely orchestrated. If the Revolutionary War was a just war, then violence is a justifiable means to a desired end. The only point of disagreement would center around which desired ends merit violence and which do not. And to be absolutely clear, the Revolutionary War was completely about money, and that precedent means violence is an option over high taxes.

And now, following in the footsteps of the founding fathers, violence has made an entrance. Who could have predicted that followers of Jesus would evolve into people who aggressively give their allegiance to a secular and carnal nation? And who could have believed there would come a day when some entertained the notion of a violent overthrow, if the government, democratically elected, does not meet certain criteria? Does anyone actually believe the New Testament? How about just believe Matthew 5 thru 7?

Just what will it take for believers to see the error of their ways? When will we awaken from the deception that holds us hostage to things other than the gospel of Jesus Christ? When you were born into a belief system, and when that system has been reinforced consistently over the length of your spiritual life, and when men and women who you respect and who do love Christ espouse a certain truth, it is most difficult to examine it impartially, to say nothing of changing your mind about it (repentance).

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? And why do God’s people join in the worship of idols? Our voice as believers should be distinct in this election year. Sinners should hear about the love of God through Christ Jesus our Lord, but instead they hear Christians speaking the same words and with the same vitriol as the heathen. And the entire situation is a nation wide bushel that covers the light of Jesus Christ. The heart of God is grieved and the Spirit is quenched. Go ahead and fight for a nation and your rights. Go ahead and join with the unbeliever and complain about your wealth. Go ahead and listen to sinners castigate other sinners as if they were somehow superior. Go ahead and pledge your allegiance to a violent and hedonistic nation who murders its unborn and seeks to line its pockets with gold. Go ahead and fall in line with all of it. But whatever you do, don’t fast and pray for several days and seek the will of God in the matter. That just may cost you your ecclesiastical standing.

It just may be that nationalism is the greatest idol among evangelicals who happen to live providentially in America.
Our Light Affliction?

For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.
Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:
Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.

But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; By pureness, by knowledge, by long suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned,
By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,
By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed;
perilsAs sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in among false brethren;
In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.


For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 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.

The Apostle Paul, who through the inspiration of the Spirit penned most of the New Testament, sums up all his many trials as "light affliction". The only way someone could endure such hardships and persecution and call them light afflictions is if that person's eyes are fixed upon that which is eternal. Church leaders are called to correction within the church, but peruse the internet and read Christian blogs that complain about everything from taxes to Obama. Many present a steady stream of moaning about their circumstances and how the government is taking away their money and freedoms. Your money is God's and if the government can take away your freedom is wasn't worth much to begin with.
How liberating it is to be completely in God's hands and not be worried or even interested in what any government is or isn't doing! Our loving Savior has given to us all things which pertian to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him. We, as followers of the Redeemer, are called to love and pray for those in power, but we must not get pulled into the endless fray which is nothing more than a canal melee. We are children of the Most High God who carry the message of eternal life through the grace of God given through His Son, Jesus.
Think about your trials. Have you been a day and a night in the sea? Have you been stoned? Have you been beaten by 39 lashes five times? And yet we consider ourselves so persecuted and such great cross bearers. Consider this:

A man wins 300 million dollars in the lottery. He and his wife and their two children begin to drive the 200 miles to the capital and collect his winnings. On the way up they stop for some gas and a drink. When the man takes out his wallet, he sees that he only has 9 dollars but he distinctly remembers having ten. Where is that other dollar?
He begins to search inside the car, and even claims someone might have stolen it. "Who went into my wallet?", he yells. They all get back into the car and begin again their trip, but this time the mood has changed. The man is complaing about the lost dollar and he accuses everyone of being complicit. I ask you, if you heard something like that would you actually believe that this man was on his way to collect 300 million dollars?
And even if you knew that was indeed a fact, wouldn't you question that man's sanity?

And so it is with followers of Jesus who have eternal life awaiting them at the end of their journey, but they murmur and complain about earthly things, especially things that inconvenience them and affect their pocketbooks. The world has every right to question our sanity, and even question what we say we believe.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

We've Overcome
Rick Frueh - 1989

Adam had forsaken God when Eve believed a lie
The earth was cursed and so were we, our souls condemned to die
But in the midst of helplessness came One who took our stead
The glorious King of Glory died, redeeming blood was shed

(chorus)
We’ve overcome by the blood of the Lamb
Were safely in, our Father’s hand
We’re marching on to possess the promised land
We’ve overcome by the Lamb

Sing halleluiah, sing halleluiah
We’ve overcome by the Lamb
Sing halleluiah, sing halleluiah
We’ve overcome by the Lamb

And now the perilous times are here all righteousness is shunned
And wickedness consumes the earth, God’s judgment soon must come
But in the midst of all this lives the bride of God’s own Son
We’ve washed our linens in His blood and now we’ve overcome

We’ve overcome by the blood of the Lamb
Were safely in, our Father’s hand
We’re marching on to possess the promised land
We’ve overcome by the Lamb

Sing halleluiah, sing halleluiah
We’ve overcome by the Lamb
Sing halleluiah, sing halleluiah
We’ve overcome by the Lamb

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Human History

And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

In the course of everyday lives, and in the news, domestic and worldwide, and even in the activities and discussions within the church, there is one issue which seems to remain significantly ignored, even though this event will alter the course of human history.

Jesus is coming back.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Marine Rifle Creed

This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. My rifle, without me, is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will...
My rifle and myself know that what counts in this war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit...
My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will ever guard it against the ravages of weather and damage as I will ever guard my legs, my arms, my eyes and my heart against damage. I will keep my rifle clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will...
Before God, I swear this creed. My rifle and myself are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life. So be it, until victory is America's and there is no enemy, but peace!

Of course, in the natural, these sentiments are drilled into marine recruits to mold them into killing machines. I understand that, and on a natural level many soldiers are courageous as we measure courage in the natural. But as you read those words, can you honestly believe that Jesus would have His followers repeat and espouse those sentiments?

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Cross

Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
the shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
a home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
from the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.

Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
the very dying form of One who suffered there for me;
and from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess:
the wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of his face;
content to let the world go by, to know no gain nor loss,
my sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross
.


I Cor.1:17-24 - For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
Oh dear ones, where is the cross? Why have we sold our hope for a mess of pottage? Why do we preach morality and patriotism and family and finances and everything else under the Sun, but backpedal the cross except for some perfunctory asides that make us feel good about our doctrinal selves? Watch as some well known pastor is invited to be on Larry King and listen as they speak of homosexuality, abortion, moral values, traditional marriage, and the political issue du jour. But cup your ear and see if they spend any time speaking about the cross. Sadly, your ears strain in vain.
Do we not believe the cross and its power survived the Industrial Revolution? Do we now believe the preaching of the cross is so unsophisticated to the modern mind that we must now use other means that are more palatable to the unsaved spiritual taste? I mean, what idiot would converse with Stephen Hawkings and share the cross of Jesus Christ with his massive intellect? We might be mocked for such an archaic idea. So many churches have become circuses designed to either ignore the cross altogether, or slip it in the back door so as to avoid any real offense. The cross has become an offense to the visible, western church. God forgive us.
We have become so wise in our own eyes, and so crafty and cunning. Experts in the art of communication, entertainment, effective lighting, moving music, and relevant preaching, we have abandoned that which the Apostle says is the power of God. And jettisoned along with the cross of Jesus Christ is any cross bearing in our own lives. We desire the resurrection, or at least the newness of life, without the suffering and shame of the cross.
Most Christian television and radio is an affront to God and His message. The Christian bookstores have no conscience and Biblical compass; they are nothing more than money making enterprises. But so are many churches. Ask your church for the list of sermons and sermon series over the last five years and see how often the cross is the theme as compared with earthly themes. And more personally, think about how often you worship Christ for that cross in your daily walk, and recall any time where you actually shared that cross with a lost person in the last five years.
Compared with the cross, we have no problem sharing with a lost person how Jesus can help his life. But a crossless Christianity is no Christianity at all. And I do not mean just having the cross as a conspicuous part of our religious creed. There are many “orthodox” churches who have as part of their creed the words “Jesus died for our sins upon the cross”. Oh yes, we believe that! We are not liberal or emergent and our statement of faith proves that and reveals how orthodox we really are. But as I said, in mixed company and when on the national stage, the cross doesn’t even make the topic list, much less be the core theme.
The cross is our life, and it should be the banner of God’s people. Should Jesus tarry the cross will continue to be ignored and even maligned. Many emergents have suggested it represents defeat and even cosmic child abuse. Many modern day thinkers no longer embrace the cross as wholly redemptive, and many now suggest it is a spiritual example of what we should not do to others. But those things are easily recognized as deceptions and departures from the obvious teachings of Scripture, but there is a more subtle deception. When we take solace in the fact that we see that deception and remain steadfast doctrinally concerning the cross, we are deceived as well. You see, when the evil one cannot get a people to deny the cross or change its redemptive message, he showers them with pride while they themselves move away from the cross, not doctrinally, but in their words and lives.
And voilĂ ! The cross has become a doctrinal relic that no longer actually has a discernable place in our everyday lives, and is a fringe issue in many of our gospel presentations. Let’s be honest, the idea that a dead Jew on a Roman instrument of extreme public torture is unsavory and sounds so out of place in any reasonable discussion of spiritual things. With the rise of education, and with the advent of technology, and with the elevation of our standard of living, the message of the cross seems so primitive and unrealistic. So unless we actually believe the words of the New Testament, we are left to our own wisdom and spiritual strategies, which in fact, is exactly what Paul warns against.
And faced with such a dilemma, we can only address our own plight while praying for the body of Christ collectively. It just may be that the western church will not return to faithfulness to Christ and His gospel, but God only holds you personally accountable. And meditate upon this thought: If I was the only believer on earth right now, how would Jesus desire me to live and speak? And if I was the only believer on earth today, when I died would Christianity die with me? Is there anything concerning Jesus in my life right now that would warrant persecution? Are people around me affected by my walk in Christ, either positively or negatively?

The cross of Jesus Christ is the power of God.

And take notice of these last two lines,

Content to let the world go by to know no gain nor loss
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.

Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
the shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
a home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
from the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.

Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
the very dying form of One who suffered there for me;
and from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess:
the wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of his face;
content to let the world go by, to know no gain nor loss,
my sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.
Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Go ahead and dive into that mystery. The Word which was God from the beginning cries unto the Father God and expresses a sense of detachment from His Father. The words “Father” and “Son” are given for our benefit and understanding, but since Jesus was God eternal the term lacks complete congruity with what we know as human sons. But of that profound mystery we can be assured of this: It was all for us.

That truly is all we actually know and that is all we need to know. The cross and everything that transpired in those six hours was all for us. A glory, a mystery, a sacrifice, a wonder, and a hallowed event…all for us.

And we are called, not just as grateful spectators, but as participants and imitators.

Selah.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Our Life in Christ

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

We believers in Christ Jesus are for the moment locked into the irrepressible “now”, and this three dimensional reality seems to hinder our acknowledgment and comprehension of the unseen and the eternal. Everything from hunger to pain to the entire range of human emotions call to us constantly, and all our senses feed us information that we can see, hear, taste, and feel. This environment tends to make our relationship with Jesus little more than sweet mental notions and the satisfaction we derive from some lifestyle adjustments.
But the Apostle Paul says that we should “seek” those things which are above, and he unambiguously tells us that our very lives are not even here on this earth. And in a startling and unsettling revelation Paul says we are dead. When was the last time you considered yourself dead? I do not mean in a theological sense and when discussing that doctrinal reality. But when was the last time you rose from sleep and literally embraced your death, and walked out in the spiritual realm that made eternal life a metaphysical reality in your earthly life? When, if ever, did you feel as though you were looking out from behind your eyes at the things and people of this world as though you were a redemptive visitor?
My point is this: We have become complacent, and even more disturbing we have become contented with complacency. We walk through this life with success, entertainment, and survival as our daily goals, and in so doing we have lost the spiritual actuality that should be, that must be, not only a believer’s trait, but his very existence. And blended effortlessly into a culture of darkness we walk to and fro with a self centeredness that operates redundantly and with a reflection of the community wherein we live. In short, we are exactly like our lost counterparts, howbeit with a few words that seem religious.
The dramatic metamorphosis that should accompany such a spiritual experience has been swallowed up by the dictates of “now” and because we compare ourselves with the standard of other believers and not the New Testament revelations along with the example of the life of the One we follow. But our life is hidden with Christ. We are commanded to walk in newness of life that follows in His steps. Do we actually suggest that living like Jesus lived, and with a divine habitation of the Creator and Redeemer alive within us, results in the lives we now live? Should we not hold ourselves accountable for such a claim, and should not our pitiful reflection of such a spiritual reality lead us to repentance and a substantive reevaluation of…um…uh…everything?
Most pastors would never suggest such an inventory since, and I speak from experience, much of the pastor’s job is to keep people attending and convince them that their church is growing and Biblically based. A happy and contented church pays the mortgage and the salaries and keeps the lights on. A little cynical, I know, but it does reflect how the average evangelical church operates with few exceptions. And the millions of professing believers here in the west remain a saltless community who have even lost the status of “subset”. We are part of the main set.
Our life is not here. The politics of this nation are an affront to everything that is of Christ, and this nation is nothing more than an organized vehicle in which 300 million souls live, move, and have their being. But we have not so learned this in Christ. Our life is in Christ, and in Him we live, move, and have our being. Let us take that reality and imagine a scenario that might bring the matter into stark focus.
Imagine that we are with Jesus in the place we call heaven. And Jesus calls us together and tells us that He loves a certain fallen race called humanity, and that he has paid for their ransom, and that He is going to clothe us with earthly bodies and send us to live among these people and bring them the message of redemption. He informs us that we will live like these humans and even get married, work, and be a part of the communities in which He will place us. But Jesus tells us that we will always remember heaven and the visual revelation of Him, as well as having an open spiritual communication to Him personally. And at the appointed time Jesus said we will either die and return to Him, or He will come for us.

“Do not grow attached to the world in which I am sending you,” says the Savior.

Now I ask you, when we arrive upon this earth, fresh from the throne room of the Risen and Exalted Christ, what would attract us about this world? What political cause would grip our hearts? What nation would elicit our love and affection? Would we be concerned about our careers or our financial portfolios? And with the distinct memory of being with the Son of God, would we be so excited about sports and the temporal passions of the day? And missing Him, and longing for a return to our Blessed Savior, how much time would we spend in prayer with Him? Could we go even a day without spending time with our Redeemer, with whom we spent such time in glorious worship and adoration?
You see? When we put in that context, does it not expose our current expression of discipleship as a fraud? There are so many things that completely betray our professions of faith and the spiritual realities we claim are true. And if we desire a life that is an accurate reflection of the Resurrector, we are going to have to die. But since we have grown so attached and entangled with the things of this life, this spiritual death will be painful. Things that we now feel are acceptable or innocuous must be exposed as hindrances to the life of Jesus. Our current expression of spiritual life will be found wanting and even completely unacceptable. And when the Spirit filets our hearts, we just might have to face a treasure trove of things that do not belong there and have taken up residence in the very place that should belong exclusively to Him.
You see, this death is not a quick and painless execution. Our deaths must follow in the footsteps, or nail prints, of our Master. This is a crucifixion. Do not think the flesh is willing. And indeed the flesh, when faced with the prospect of crucifixion, will feign death way before it has ceased to breath. Your flesh will suggest that a few alterations are all that is actually necessary, and it will use others to convince you that you need not proceed further lest you are viewed as a fanatic and self righteous. And your flesh will feely offer you a bit of self righteousness if you are granted some victories and begin to compare your spiritual progress with those around you. Yes, your flesh is a cunning enemy who will be as elusive as is possible. And most blasphemous of all, the flesh often speaks as if it is the Spirit.
But our flesh has no part of our life in Christ. And crucifixion in the spiritual sense must be performed every day. And any day that the flesh is allowed to operate only serves to strengthen its resolve and allow it to surreptitiously assimilate into our very lives. A daunting task? Perhaps. But I remember a poster I read in 1975 just after I became a believer. It said:

Serve the Lord. The pay isn’t much, but the retirement is out of this world!
Your Name is Lifted on High
Rick Frueh, 1989

Redeemer, Creator, Jehovah Rophe
The Rock and Mighty Tower ,The Author of Faith
The Living Word of God, Faithful and True
Jesus, Savior are You

Chosen One of Israel, God’s only Son
The Christ and Messiah, Anointed One
Lilly of the Valley, Bright Morning Star
Blessed Hope, that’s what You are

(chorus)
Your name is lifted on high
Your name is lifted on high
King of Kings, Lord of Lords
Your name is lifted on high

You’ve saved me, delivered me, and called me Your own
You now are preparing my eternal home
You said you’d be with me, both now and always
Jesus, you’re worthy of praise

Saturday, October 16, 2010

San Jose Mine, Chile

Sixty-nine days ago, thirty-three miners were trapped almost one half mile underground in San Jose, Chile. For over two weeks no one even knew if they have survived the collapse, and when it was discovered that they were alive, their rescue was unsure. But people from all different walks of life and many different vocations came together, forged a plan, and today these men have been lifted to safety. It is a miracle.

The rescuers spared no expense, they eschewed personal comfort, and they worked long and hard hours to bring these men “back to life” as it were. As I watched some of the live coverage I experienced some emotion as one by one these men were reunited with their families.

What would happen if the church operated in like fashion? What impact would we have on our communities if churches were consumed with one colossal endeavor, to bring lost sinners to the life found in Jesus Christ? It might require a sacrifice of our entertainment, recreation, and our many vices. It would require a cooperation and a brotherhood that overcame differences and idiosyncrasies, and a passionate pursuit of Him and His ministry. It would necessitate a faith in eternity that dramatically and observably affected every single aspect of our earthly lives.

It would require a love for lost sinners that was so intense and so deep that we counted our own lives as nothing in comparison. The gospel message would become so paramount that we were unwilling to spend such obscene amounts of interest money on comfortable buildings, large staff salaries, and all kinds of religious activities designed to attract new members as well as keep the ones we already have contented, or at least pacified. We would gather for times of worship and prayer many times during the week, not just the redundant oblation observed on Sunday mornings.

And if there was a collective passion to serve the Risen Christ and have the power of the Spirit direct and permeate the entire gamut of all our ministries, the communities in which we live could not remain indifferent. And what did we witness in Chile as each miner was raised in rescue? The government had orchestrated a glorious welcome, and a brief history of each man’s life was rehearsed as they were brought to safety. No one around that tunnel was looking at their watches or had a roast in the oven. Everyone was consumed with the task at hand, and the atmosphere was electric. No expense was spared and emotions were overflowing. And yet in an average baptismal service in church a smattering of applause is acceptable, and after the baptisms the crowd is dismissed to drive to wherever they have planned to eat.

Of course many will be sure to eat quickly enough to get into some comfortable clothes and watch whatever sports are in season. The entire narrative undermines the enormity of the gospel message and relegates the practice of Christianity to a redundant and powerless exercise that bears no resemblance to the Book of Acts or the life of Jesus. And in the midst of all of it lines are drawn between believers, furthering the perception that we are more interested in our ecclesiastical cliques than we are about the Father’s business.

I rejoiced as I watched those miners being rescued. But my heart grieved as I realized how powerless we are in the western church. The only answer is a revival that strips us of our earthly eyes and opens our hearts to the things of Christ in a way that transforms us with such force that our entire lives are completely refashioned. And like the Chilean mine rescue, perhaps the world might take notice. Until that happens the church remains a nice and tidy part of the culture that passes on their innocuous religion from generation to generation. Sleep tight…

Friday, October 15, 2010

Nationalism, Again.

A lady commented on my post Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. This message is in response to her encouragement.

If one takes the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution seriously, it soon becomes evident that they are in conflict with written Scripture. These documents were specifically written to promulgate a pluralistic nation that showed no deference to any one religion. Jefferson himself, a core architect of the documents, was a Christ denying deist who attacked orthodox Christianity, and yet his portrait hangs in thousands of Christian schools. But, sadly, many believers still pay homage to these writings and even suggest a divine inspiration.
It would be innocuous and a mere distraction if it was just a fringe activity, but in fact nationalism has become deeply embedded into the fabric of evangelicalism until outright idolatry is considered godly. Battling over this moral stand and that, the church has lost her way and attempts to bring redemption to a nation through the idol of democracy and placing the gospel itself as creed and not the all consuming power and message of the followers of Christ. And millions of professing believers have convinced themselves that if the government recognizes gay marriage that the sky will fall and God will judge this nation.
But tell me, where in the New Testament does God deal with secular nations as a whole? And many nations today operate freely with all sorts of immoral lifestyles and abortions. And since the Scriptures clearly teach that sinners without the Son are already condemned, how do we measure “more condemned”? The root of the problem is that believers consider themselves Americans, not because they were born here and are identified as such by the government, but because they have given their hearts over to this, or any, nation. And in that singular act they have desperately compromised their spiritual journey and discipleship. We cannot have two masters.
When Pilate said, “Behold your king!” the Jews replied that they had no king but Caesar. But in a stunning display of cunning, believers today have meshed Christianity with secularism and have created a national narrative that, although completely fictional, gives them license to embrace, protect, and even love this secular, pluralistic nation. And once we give our allegiance and love, even in part, to anything or anyone other than the Lord Jesus Christ, we have begun to dismantle any authentic hope of entering into the cross bearing mystery of knowing the crucified and risen Christ. And what has been birthed is a back and forth moral conflict that is the epitome of self righteousness and void of any redemption.
The American church has become just that…American. No one should hate any nation, and even when the Cold War was at its zenith believers hated the Soviet Union, while a very small group loved, wept, and prayed for the Russian people. Some lost their lives while attempting to bring the gospel through the barriers of communism. But most believers in America were drawn into an “us verses them” mentality which completely deviates from the heart of Paul who wished himself accursed so his unbelieving countrymen could be saved. If you can for a few days step back, and with the overarching theme of the New Testament as your prism, and compared with what is now the evangelical norm, I am sure many of you might sense at least a little discomfort.
As many of you know I have debated with many believers from a wide range of theological spectrums. But the most virulent and intransigent arguments come when the debate centers on nationalism. If you know believers from other nations you may sense some loyalty about their own place of origin, but when pressed most will admit that American believer exhibit an aura of nationalism that is beyond what most know abroad. If you share your thoughts about nationalism, as have I, be prepared to be hated and avoided. I am often accused of hating America which is patently false. Hating a nation would be like hating a rock, or hating black holes. A nation is a concept ordained by God to keep a sort of construct upon the earth. How can we hate a concept, especially one that God ordained?
But acknowledging that God created the concept of a nation should never elicit any sort of fondness or allegiance to it, just like we should show no fondness or allegiance to a rock, also created by God. In essence, nationalism is worshiping the creature more than the Creator. I realize these thoughts are radical and are at odds with everything we have been taught as Bible believing Christians here in America. And with something so ingrained and so deeply hidden in our hearts, it is most difficult to dispassionately consider the issue. We come to the table with not only preconceived ideas, but with a strongly held and defended idolatry. And coming from some like me who used to sing “I’m Proud to be an American” in church on 4th of July weekend, I absolutely know what it feels like to be a patriotic American and what it feels like to vigorously defend that fortress. And I also know what it feels like to hear someone malign America and be outraged and dislike/hate that person.
Do you want to hear a steady stream of hatred, self righteousness, and idolatry? Listen to talk radio or television and you will be subjected to hatred for fellow sinners as well as a call to return to the “founding fathers”. I often wonder how black Americans feel when they hear white Americans long for those “good ole days”. We are commanded to avoid murmuring and complaining, and just a cursory reading of I Cor.13 reveals some profound tenants of true love, and yet listen as believers consistently complain about everything from taxes to Obama to gays to liberals and all the rest. Watch some of the Tea Party gatherings and see if you can feel the love of Jesus in their midst. Are they clothed with humility? And the liberal gatherings are no different.
People hate each other, and the distaste is palpable in politics. Political adds eviscerate others and elevate themselves. Everyone has the answers and yet we who have the only answer get sucked up into that carnal melee. And the two motivating factors in all of this? Defending America and attempting to better of our lives primarily by gaining and keeping wealth. As if we do not already live like earthly kings, we desire more. My son’s Christian school teachers once lamented that because of the illegal aliens in America, he and his wife could not afford going to the Outback and had to settle for Chile’s. And he drives a Mercedes Benz. The commandment to love your enemies is nothing more than a religious saying applied within a very small network of neighbors and fellow workers, but is ignored when the person is viewed as an enemy of America.
The western church has placed Dagon upon the altar and is worshiping a false god. I know, I used to sit in the front pew and lead. Let us continue to pray for revival with us being the first ones led into repentance. Being led out of nationalism is no reason for self righteousness, it is our reasonable service. And leaving Egypt is only the first step; entering Canaan Land must be our pursuit. But the path that follows Christ does not leave footprints; it leaves knee prints.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Life is...

Life is breathing; life is blinking; life is moving; life is thinking; life is pumping; life is sharing; life is laughing; life is crying; life is dying. But they’re all wrong.
Life is Jesus.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

If you deny equal rights to all gays and lesbians,
including the right to marry, you deny the Declaration of Independence.
Twitter

The twitter phenomenon illustrates several things:

Fleshly voyeurism, time wasting, self absorption, adolescence, and some of the more unpleasant thoughts that usually remain hidden in the heart.

Other than those it is a profoundly spiritual activity. (Not)
Our Heavenly Bodies

There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows)

When our spirits leave this earthly body we will be given a heavenly body, or a spiritual body. Just what that body will be is a mystery, but we know it will be made in the same way as the body of Jesus. Now some have suggested that Jesus is still human in heaven and with that I disagree. Jesus is not a glorified human, and although He bore a human resemblance on this earth is was never a human as we define and experience being a human. What human can walk upon water or speak with authority over the weather? The writer of Hebrews says,

Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:

If Jesus had a human nature, along with His human body, then He was partially a created being, not just a divine being inside a created body. It is my contention that the body was human and created, but inside that body was Jehovah the Son.

…being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man,…

I make this distinction, with malice toward no one and even while admitting no one can fully grasp the mystery of the Incarnation, to illustrate how we will have a celestial body like the one Jesus now has, but that we will not be divine. We will be glorified humans, which is very different than the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. But I want to digest the glory that will be ours.

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

There can be no way a human being can fully understand, or even imagine, just what this glorified body will look like or how it will operate. But we can know that it will be like God the Son’s body, and this heavenly body will allow us to know Him more completely and worship Him forever. The depth of that mystery cannot be overstated. And this wonder, this glory, will be ours. We will be clothed in the garment of eternity and all vestiges of this earth will be completely gone as spiritual saints worship the Risen Lamb in wave after wave of glory, honor, and blessing. There is no greater imagination of the coming reality.

Imagine further. The spiritual body that will be given to us has its benefits to us indeed. No more pain, no more tears, no more sickness, and no more sin are just a few of these benefits. However the greatest and most consuming benefit will be that this body will give us the capacity to worship the Christ fully and without dilution and indeed…forever. So as you read these words, imagine one million years from this very moment where you will be worshiping the Lion of the Tribe of Judah in all His supreme glory. And your present fallen body cannot do this, in fact, your present sin filled body can never enter the eternal throne room of God. The entire realm is presently the mystery of all mysteries. Even the Lord uses metaphors and symbols and earthly examples in order to just give us a holy glimpse, but what a glimpse it is. And when you meditate on the glimpse that we have, and when you imagine and rejoice in the coming glory, you must include this essential element of it all:

None of it will be deserved.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Eternity

Eternity lurks in the shadows and is hidden by the now. It is ignored by the present and finds only a passing doctrinal nod in creeds and theology. Eternity is a concept, a fanciful thought which has been molded to fit altogether in the future and with little, if any, role to play in the present. There are church classes that deal with finances, marriage, relationships, and every imaginable subject that could possibly have some stretched thin line to Christianity. But where is the class entitled, “Preparing for Eternity”? No, why waste today on the uncertainty of eternity? Why meditate on eternity when we can vent our energy, worry, and thoughts on the things of today?
Clothes, food, vacations, sports, politics, money, careers, appearance, and a thousand other concerns that flesh is heir to consume our very lives while eternity waits, ignored and abandoned like a senior girl who remains unasked to her prom. How many believers have actually taken one entire hour and dwelt upon the reality and implications of eternity? So many metaphors have been offered that tickle the cerebellum and then are catalogued as resource material. It does not affect anything in our lives. What can we honestly claim that our professed belief in eternity affects, especially in light of the magnitude of such a claim?
Does it affect what car we drive? What television we buy? What home we live in? What food we eat? Many unbelievers go to a religious meeting place every week, and most religions do the same. Many practitioners of every religion give money to the organized symbol of their particular faith. Many unbelievers do not smoke or drink or curse, and many unbelievers and members of other religions are faithful to their families. We not only claim to believe in eternity, but have already inherited eternal life, including the deposit of the Living Creator within us. And when challenged with a living reflection of such a profound and astonishing claim, to what can we point? Of course we can accurately claim to be imperfect mirrors, but when we are seen as just another unremarkable flavor in a culture of many flavors does that not present a serious indictment?
If our beliefs are so staggering why are not our lifestyles so congruent with our beliefs? Why can the unbelieving neighbor live a life that is so like our own? Could it mean that our profession of faith in eternal life has become a faith tenant and not a living reality? They martyred early believers while today they welcome them. And the early believers were not killed because they had become caustic moral police. They were martyred because they lived outside the dictates of Roman tyranny and exhibited a love and compassion that drew the attention of idol worshipers and led them to Christ. And that was a threat to Caesar.
And so the western church trudges forward, counting noses and money, paying mortgages and salaries, planning events and conferences, and holding on for dear life to what we have already. We take no real chances and we avoid anything remotely dangerous to our well oiled machine. We are willing to speak out for moral issues and political causes, and even give some perfunctory lip service to Jesus. But what have we really sacrificed that means something to us? When have we rejected the things of here and now and embraced fully the things of eternity?
We say we believe that every soul lives forever in eternity, either with Christ or separated forever from Christ. And yet we spend well over 90% of everything we make on ourselves, and a large portion of that is entertainment, recreation, and other accoutrements. And yet we castigate those liberals and infidels for their unbelief while we ignore the Scriptural truth that to whom much is given much is required. It is all so much vanity and religious chatter that is full of sound and fury but signifying nothing. Talk is very cheap, and the discourse market in this age has plummeted to an all time low.
In all of it I count myself a full participant but in the embryonic stage of evaluation. When a man screams out, “This house is on fire!!”, but he continues to sit in his lounge chair and watch television, how much weight can we assign to his words? In fact, the more the hourglass transfers sand the less the church even warns of anything because the tension between what we say and what we do becomes unbearable. Eternity pulls up a doctrinal chair and is allowed to speak in theological terms. But eternity’s bid for authority is denied, and it remains an ecclesiastical curiosity. If we actually allowed eternity to impact every single aspect of our lives, perhaps the unbelievers still would not believe in Jesus, but they could not deny that we do.

What does surrender to Jesus actually mean and how is it lived out dramatically?
What is moderation?
What is sacrifice?
What is a living sacrifice?
What does it mean to forsake all?
How can a living person manifest eternity in his lifestyle?
What does it mean to follow Jesus?

Saturday, October 09, 2010

War

A soldier, a lost sinner, bleeds out his life in the deserts of western Iraq. His last moments were spent in indescribable pain and fear, and his soul enters a lost eternity. His body lies far away from home and with an appearance quite different than the portrait on his mother’s dresser. From his first steps to his little league experience; from his trusty bicycle to his parents car; from high school football to prom night; it is all gone and forgotten by everyone but a small group of relatives who will one day smile again, watch television, and eat ice cream. This desert has opened up an eternal portal and he has slipped out of his wounded body and into forever, escorted by fear and pain.

And somewhere in air conditioned comfort and the safety of locked doors, sitting in padded chairs, followers of Jesus Christ justify violence and war with the emotionless detachment that resembles a discussion of which Stooge was better, Curly or Shemp. If we can justify and approve of war as followers of Jesus, then we can justify pretty much anything we so desire.

Friday, October 08, 2010

A Metaphysical Certainty

In the end, with Galileo, Newton, Da Vinci, Hawkings, and Einstein as bowing spectators, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will be proven as the greatest metaphysical certainty the world has ever known.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Deception

Deception has two heads; you are deceived about something and you are deceived about your deception itself.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A Dead Jew

There are sub-molecular studies that stretch the mind of man. There are plans to thwart asteroids that threaten Earth. There are telescopes that see into almost limitless space. There are organ transplants that were impossible 10 years ago. There are computers that can solve a math problem in a 10th of a second that would take a man two years. The intellect of man continues to be astounding.

But a dead Jew impaled upon two wooden planks is still the only way to eternal life.
Double Minded

Sometimes I feel if I could only be double minded it would be a numerical improvement.
Jesus is Coming Quickly

Time gains speed and the horizon races toward us.
The end is near. Jesus is coming quickly.
Time gains speed and the horizon races toward us.
The beginning is near. Jesus is coming quickly.
The Heart that Follows God

I Kings 3:7-10

7And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
8And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
9Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?
10And the speech pleased the LORD, that Solomon had asked this thing.


Solomon comes with humility and asks for personal gifts that can benefit others.
Let us go and do likewise.

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Redemptive Vacuum

Love the sinner and hate the sin is overwhelmingly practiced in the church with a distinct and profound compromise on the love side, especially if the sin is one in which we are either not engaged presently, are committing secretly, or is an unapproved sin. Lying, speeding, hedonism, divorce, lust, greed, gluttony, judgmentalism, idolatry, self righteousness, legalism, and gossip are all on the approved sin list. Most churches have their own unapproved sin list which include homosexuality, non-tithing, abortion, apposing the pastor, and all kinds of liberalism.

The cross of Jesus is now a creed and has ceased to be a bleeding message with legs.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Let's Assume the Worst

Hypothetically, let us assume that all of Islam is conspiring together to bring sharia law to the United States. Let us assume there are no moderate Muslims, and that there is a genuine conspiracy afoot in this country to take over, whatever that means. Let us assume that all the moderate Muslims are only role playing in order to surreptitiously gain some kind of “foothold”. So let us assume the worst is actually true and the extremists do indeed represent Islam and are telling the “God’s (Allah’s) honest truth“.

What should be the response of Americans? Fear, hatred, bigotry, and returning violence for violence should be the American response.

What should be the response of those who believe in the Lord Jesus and follow His teachings?

It will always be the same regardless of the situation. Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ is our divine calling to any and all situations. America as a nation will one day pass away, but the souls of all Muslims are eternal. You do the math.