Monday, October 31, 2011

The Glorious Mystery of God's Grace

What is God’s grace? Please do not insult us with the “unmerited favor” definition which is anemic, offensive, and an affront to the majesty of that grace. Webster’s says it is an “unmerited divine assistance” which is a grievous mischaracterization. I contend that words can only draw a stick figure without the dimension and color it surely deserves. However words are all we have for now. But I also contend that for those of us who have experienced the unfathomable grace of God, we know much more than we can put into words. But I will attempt to pull together some poor words and at least create a lowly mental picture which is still to the glory of God.

To understand God’s grace on any level we must understand the condition of those upon whom God has bestowed His grace. The entire human race is what we call “fallen”. That means that through the original man named Adam we have inherited his punishment for his sin. And that punishment is a consequence of his sin. The punishment was death. We all die physically, but more lethal we all are born in sin and have the eternal sentence of spiritual death woven into our very being. We are not mostly bad and a little good. We are completely unrighteous without one single shred of righteousness of our own.

That is a very difficult concept to embrace in this age of self esteem and positive thinking. But it is true nonetheless. The Scriptures declare us to be “dead in trespasses and sins”. So how many good works can a dead man do? The answer of course is none. There are no levels of being dead. Dead is dead, completely and without partiality. All of us were born dead in Adam’s sin. But do not think too harshly of Adam, for all of us have energetically added to Adam’s sin and increased his portfolio of death in our own lives. No one will be able to accuse God of applying Adam’s sin upon us and that being the entirety of the evidence against us. Oh no, we have sinned ourselves with vigor and abandon.

So there we all stand. Regardless of who feeds the poor or helps the aged we all still fall short of God’s glory. Line up the entire human race on the Pacific shore of California and tell them to swim to Hawaii. Now some cannot swim at all and will drown in minutes. Many can swim for a half and hour, while others may swim for several hours, and even some may swim as much as 100 miles. But in the end, no one can swim the necessary 3000 miles to Hawaii. The end result is the same for everyone - death by drowning. And regardless of anyone’s earthly good works the end result is the same - dead in trespasses and sins.

Quite a predicament for the human race. And against that canvas we begin to paint the fresco of God’s matchless grace. Keep in mind there was nothing about us that would warrant God’s attention, much less His intervention. Adam had been given perfection and rejected it. And God knew that all of us if given that same chance would have done likewise. So the very first thing to understand about God’s grace is that it was not a mutual negotiation. It originated wholly from God even while man did not want or seek it.

Now when we say something like “Then God decided…” we give human qualities to the Creator and actually misrepresent God and His nature. God does not decide, He already knows. I realize God allows us some anthropomorphic imagery and God even provides some of that for our benefit, but we must always be careful about such things. When God created us he already had prepared the way for His Son to provide the redemption that we would so desperately need. From our side history unfolds, but from God’s side the future is history.

As spiritually dead men we needed life. But since we could not do anything to earn that life, we needed the Giver of Life to come to our aid with something more than pity or even mercy. We needed the gift of life and we needed it without one shred of our own good works, good intentions, or even our own asking. And in an absolutely stunning turn of events, God offered a grace in which He would actually adopt us.

I refer you to this post several years ago.
Discerning Gossip

Those “ online discerning” sites many times provide some helpful and even needed information about serious departures from gospel truth. I often read a few. But when they take secular news stories about some moral failure of some minister and publicize it, they have strayed from their calling and are now not much more than a National Enquire-esque gossip rag.

Of course I realize many cannot refuse the sensationalism and titillating facts provided by a second hand news outlet. That makes their story third hand, and it offers no edification to the readers. But it is indicative of what carnal readers desire and some are only too happy to provide such things, and especially if the minister that falls is not “one of their own”.
This Present Life

As followers of the Lord Jesus, we have never been promised the outward comforts of this present world. In fact, we have been promised persecution and we have been directed to moderation and even sacrifice. Throughout church history many Christians have suffered terribly, and many more have joyfully lived lives of contentment even without things that others have.

But we have been promised spiritual blessings that cannot be measured by the things of this world. What price can inward peace bring? How valuable is complete contentment in any and all circumstances? Of what worth is peace and contentment if all the outward struggles are gone and there are no pressures with which to be dealt? The defense of the gospel comes in two fronts - a Scriptural defense and a life that observably reflects Christ.

It is the latter which is often minimized or at least redefined with many cultural alterations. Is it not baffling how a group of people who claim to be completely changed and are inhabited and controlled by the Creator of the Universe, are not more remarkable in a culture of darkness? And that truth must have some reason behind it.

One compromise leads to another, and one dilution leads to more. So when the church embraces a little fox, another one comes calling. And before long the band of sinners who claim to follow Jesus live no differently than do their moral, unsaved neighbors. The only difference is that they speak differently, howbeit rather infrequently.

Let us define some terms. What does the word “surrender” mean in the context of a believer’s life? That word used metaphorically means to give up everything and lay down your own will. Now in military terms it usually comes by force. But in spiritual terms we surrender to the Lord Jesus willingly and with a loving passion. And in that surrender we find life.

Jn.12:25-26 - He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

Therein is Christ. He is not found in the lavish lifestyles of this culture. He is not found in the theatrical extravaganzas in evangelical churches. He is not found in the pursuit of earthly success. He is not found in the god of entertainment or sports. He is not found in self esteem and the elevation of men. In fact, in order to find Christ we must forsake this world and seek the eternal realm. And the door to that realm will open to those with a broken and contrite heart.

So what do you have that is valuable to you? And how do you measure what is valuable to you? Well, what consumes your time and thoughts?

Matt.6:20-21 - But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Where is your treasure? There will be your heart as well. The truth is that our life is with God in Christ. We are crucified with Christ, and this life must now be lived by the faith of the Son of God. Therefore there is no such thing as too much sacrifice or too much struggle. And extravagance or opulence is for those who have nothing but this life. But so much of the church is now about gaining money and things, and many teach the blasphemous idea of a monetary “seed faith” which is designed to bring to you all your fleshy desires, when in reality all it does is line the pockets of the false teachers.

But we, as the followers of the Lord Jesus, must not be so. We must be humble and moderate and measured in our earthly lives. We cannot allow expectation to birth disappointment. Our expectation is to one day see Christ, and our lives here should be lived to His glory alone. The description of being a “living sacrifice” is no hyperbole. And this kind of sacrifice is no hardship, in fact, it should be a joy and a privilege. Oh to be called to serve the Risen King! That is a glory that surpasses everything in this present world.

We must feed our souls on things eternal and on the presence of the Eternal Redeemer. The temporal things must be used and seen for what they are, but they must never be the driving force or even the sustaining force of our lives. Let your heart beat for Him. Let your mind be stayed upon Him. Let your mouth speak of Him. Let your hands serve Him. And do not be entangled with the things of this world, for it is impossible to please Christ with one hand and serve yourself with the other.

And in the midst of this pilgrimage, hold fast to the hope that lies within you. Keep yourself away from idols of all kinds, and guard your heart from greed and lust. Be quick to repent when you fail, and live a life full of praise and worship. Strive to pray always. Never let your prayer time suffer at the hands of this world’s carnal dictates. Witness often, and keep your heart broken and soft and reject all forms of self righteousness. Glory in the cross, and embrace your own cross as you die daily to your own selfish desires.

This life is a gift from God, and one day we will be required to give it back to Him. What will He see when your life is revealed before His throne? If you desire to glorify your Maker and Redeemer, then you must allow Him to live through you. But do not think that you will not enjoy that kind of selfless discipleship. In fact, it is that life alone that can satisfy the longings of a faithful servant.

I Pet.1:7-9 - That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

Halleluiah to the Lamb of God and the Risen Christ!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

American Politics

American politics breeds hatred, self righteousness, lying, slander, war, and an obscene amount of wasted money. Other than that it is most edifying to believers in Christ.
Seeking His Holy Place

Phil.3:1-12 - Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.
2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

This is perhaps the greatest whole section of what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. I have often thought that the greatest one sentence on discipleship came from John the Baptist who said, “He must increase, but I must decrease”. But in this third chapter of Philippians the Apostle Paul delves into the mysteries of the Incarnate Christ and His profound redemptive labors, and against those sacred truths Paul presents a challenge, not just to all of us, but to himself as well.

The chapter begins with a warning about evil men, and Paul uses some pretty harsh language. We would all do well to heed his advice since we also live in an age where spiritual sedition and powerful deceptions abound. And with television and large auditoriums this deception has been made immensely alluring through extravagance and the power of imagery. The eye gate is no friend to faith, and when something can be made appealing to the eye then the other senses are dulled. Just ask Eve.

Verse three alone outlines true worship which has no confidence in the flesh. And yet today with the glitz and glammer of makeup, expensive clothing, high tech sound systems, and the captivating aura of earthly success, generations have been completely hoodwinked into believing a false gospel. And the drawstring to the entire religious extravaganza is the massive influence of a positive message. In this modern day of preaching, success sells, sin does not.

But if pedigrees were compared, Paul would have no problem in that competition. But as Paul correctly points out, and with a startling simile, his accomplishments in the flesh are, well, dung. I guess the Holy Spirit really wanted to get our attention about the uselessness of the flesh! And let this be a schoolmaster to us all. You can know all doctrines and have PhDs behind your name and write dozens of books, but that can still be done in the flesh. The spiritual warfare in which we live is very insidious and sophisticated.

It isn’t enough to find error in Joel Osteen or compromise in Rick Warren or false teachings in Rob Bell. And all those things are surely true, but if we are not vigilant about our own spiritual condition we can easily be defeated even while appearing to be standing for truth. Let me lift the veil a little so no one can hide. There have been times where my spiritual life has been dry and unenthusiastic and painfully mundane, but if I get all revved up about false teachers I can divert the attention from myself and appear to be filled with God’s Spirit. I suspect all of us can succumb to different forms of that deception.

So the flesh lurks with great cunning within our own hearts. But Paul denies the flesh and all his accomplishments just for the excellency of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. And although we have become familiar with those words, their depth and meaning are unfathomable. So often the church has made those words shallow and even relegated them to evangelism, but when they are meditated upon with prayer and fasting we find the deepest of spiritual treasures.

That I may know Him. That comes from the mouth of someone who saw Christ and was taught of Him, face to face. And yet he yearns to know Him more completely and with more intimacy. Have we lost that kind of passion to know Him? Does the pursuit of knowing Him consume our beings and inconvenience our earthly lives rather than our earthly lives inconveniencing our spiritual passion? And what does a life look like when its paramount passion is to know Christ and His resurrection and His sufferings?

Does that kind of life appear leisurely? Is that life thirsty for comfort and entertainment? Does that life see things as wonderful blessings or as temptations to the flesh? It is reported that John Wesley asked for prayer for his brother Charles since Charles had bought a comfortable couch for his enjoyment. Legalistic, to be sure, but today there is nothing too gaudy or too extravagant and every single material addition is considered a blessing from God and every material loss is from the evil one. And when the word “sacrifice” is used it is rejected by the modern western mindset.

But it is these very material things that keep us chained to a paltry spiritual existence and drown us with false contentment that keeps us far from Christ. And the time we have been given by God is used to acquire and maintain these earthly accoutrements instead of spending that time seeking the Person of Christ. The woman who broke the alabaster box and lavished Jesus with expensive ointment would be considered extreme and out of touch with reality. We can spend hours before a football game or a television show or in a movie theatre, but we can only give Jesus a few meager minutes as we hurry to the next appointment.

And with those priorities, we may be saved, but we will never know Christ any deeper than a ticket to heaven. And anchored to the dictates of this present world, we will become spiritually desolate even while remaining ecclesiastically active. And we will have traded the surpassing glory of His knowledge for a mess of earthly pottage. And yet, most of the church walks in that vacuous reality. And to be clear, just knowing the great doctrines of the church is not knowing Christ. And knowing the original languages does not aid in knowing Him.

To know Christ more intimately requires spending time with Him. And for all our fear of eastern mysticism we have rejected deep and penetrating prayer, time consuming meditation, fasting, and sacrificial times of personal worship and devotion. In fact, we no longer know what that means or entails. The church has become a slick religious machine that feeds the masses with a steady stream of shallow, redundant mantras and activities fueled by preplanned excitement. Rare is the western believer who not only rejects such hollow religiosity, but also is committed to a secret life of pursuing and knowing Christ.

But therein lies the glory. And what do we mean when we use the term “glory”. Well, it is difficult to put into words. It’s like a heroin user attempting to explain his high. He can define his euphoria but only to a limited extent since only those who have injected heroin can fully understand the depth of his words. And so it is with being in the presence of Christ and experiencing that glory. And so many are afraid of experience since so many abuse it and manufacture fleshly and self elevating experiences. But if our faith is nothing but a set of well worn doctrines and practical rules, then in truth it is nothing.

But read the words of Paul. That I may know Him…and being made conformable to His death. Are they just some poetic imagery meant to stimulate the imagination, or are they real and authentic spiritual experiences? Can our wonderful Redeemer be known like that or is He just an aloof monarch who is disinterested in any fellowship with his subjects? And that conformable to His death thing, well that could never fly as a church advertisement. “Come in and die with us” is not nearly as eye catching as “Come in and enjoy abundance.” But in reality, the abundant life is death to self.

Millions of people watch Easter pageants and movies and see the recreation of Christ’s death and resurrection. And millions are blessed by such a vision. But what would it be like to leave being a spectator, and die and resurrect with the Lord Jesus? Is that just some doctrinal hyperbole? Can such a truth be so diluted that it is just another way of saying “Do unto others”?

Or is there a reality that transcends this one? Is there a place of His presence that is located not by geography but with the depth of a believer’s heart? And if there is a treasure, a pearl of great price, that awaits those who dare to seek it and lay hold of it, then what else can matter? And with what can we compare such a place? And in this place there is peace beyond words, and joy unspeakable, and life changing holiness, and infinite love, and there is a glory unknown to this present world.

And even with all that and more, there is one more thing that surpasses them all.

There is Jesus, and He is all in all.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

God Loves Jews

God Loves Palestinians

Many people in the west support the nation of Israel for many different reasons. Jewish people have a course an ethnic alliance; conservative people feel a democratic kinship; some people have a hatred for Muslims; and many evangelicals have been taught that we should support Israel because God does. Everyone should be sympathetic to a nation whose enemies exhibits such blatant hatred toward them and whose citizen’s have been the target of terrorism. But this support goes beyond sympathy or fairness. There is a movement to support Israel which has many dangerous and spiritually compromising components. And there seems to be a willing ignorance to the plight of the Palestinians if not an outright hatred, or at least an observable ambivalence.

But that is par for the course for the world. Choosing sides is an art form for the world of the fallen. But one of the most insidious aspects of misguided loyalties and national affections is the compromise it brings into the church. All sorts of people are aggressively pro-Israel including Mormons, Roman Catholics, Jews, and a host of more secularly inclined people. But this alliance continues to have a profound impact upon the church, and it has seriously diluted the way sinners view the followers of Jesus.

The church has two callings and only two calling. The first is to follow and obey the Lord Jesus. The second is to preach the gospel to every creature. The New Testament has never instructed us to support the Jews or Israel or any other nation or people for that matter. That is not to say that there are some obvious hints to an end times event which in some way brings redemption to the living Jews at that time, albeit through their faith in the Lord Jesus. That will be one mighty miracle and it will glorify the Risen Christ!

There are many ways to make evangelistic inroads with unbelievers and learning about people’s thoughts and ways is one of them. Of course helping with social injustice can be seen as a tool for evangelism, just as feeding and helping the poor. But championing causes other than the gospel are serious distractions and by definition are competitors to the gospel message.

Pastors like John Hagee are touring with men like Glenn Beck, a Mormon, to voice support for the nation of Israel. In fact, men like Hagee are so enamored with Israel that he teaches salvation through the law for the Jews. No Jesus is necessary for their eternal redemption. But Paul did not take sides with the Greeks over the totalitarian Romans, or even the Jews over the Romans. In fact, here Paul refers to persecution by the Jews:

II Cor.11:24-26 - Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
25 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;
26 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 perils among false brethren;

Rom.3:28-30 - Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

Rom.9:23-24 - And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Paul made no distinction between lost Gentiles and lost Jews. All sinners were in need of Christ. And more importantly for this discussion, Paul never showed any favoritism toward the nation called Israel. It is a common mistake to equate Israel the nation with Israel the Jewish people. And that mistake also carries into how many view their own nation with America probably being the most blatant among them.

There are many nuances and many distinctives and many subtle differences among the group called sinners, but when distilled down to its lowest and most foundational definition there only saved sinners and lost sinners. And when we as followers of the Lord Jesus show deference to any one group, especially one that is generally defined by a secular nation, we grossly misrepresent the gospel and the very heart of God.

God loves the world, and God loves the Jews. In fact, God has used the Jewish people in many wonderful ways to orchestrate His redemptive work. God chose the Jewish people to bring in the law and the sacrificial system which ultimately pictured to Lamb of God. God gave the law to Moses and God birthed His Son through a daughter of Judah. It is a thrilling picture into how God can use stubborn and many times disobedient sinners to accomplish His will - just like He can use us.

But those Jews are gone, and even though there are obvious hints of God regarding the covenant with Abraham in the future by turning the hearts of His chosen people, the Jewish nation today is a secular nation just like America. They may observe religious rituals and even speak in Hebrew, but as God Himself observed,

There lips draw nigh unto Me but their hearts are far from Me.”

That sounds like America, does it not? Does it sound like something else as well? Sadly, it sounds like the western church. We have found all sorts of ways to cover ourselves with religious garments and causes that make us look like mouthpieces for God, but our lives bear witness against us. And supporting the nation of Israel is one of those causes that makes us feel godly. And in many causes we combine Old Testament verses with New Testament verses and we create a wonderful theology that suites us just fine but is a bizarre and tortured method of Biblical understanding.

God’s ultimate end time scenario will be carried out perfectly by Him. By the way, that is one area that we as “Arminians” must admit is left solely up to a sovereign God. Our will is not free in that arena. We are all prisoners of divine eschatology. Our calling is to ready ourselves for His coming. But should we pray for and love the Jewish people? Yes! But should we pray for and love the Palestinians? Yes! But should we pray for and love the Islamic people? Yes! But should we get involved in nationalistic skirmishes and border disputes? No! And should we make judgments about divine favor upon particular people and nations? No!

There are only one group of people who have been bestowed upon with divine favor, and they are those who have been born again from above through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And that favor has nothing to do with any nation or any ethnicity or for that matter anything to do with us at all. That favor is granted us through and for the sake of God’s dear Son. Halleluiah! Worthy is the Lamb! Our focus is Christ, our message is Christ, our passion is Christ, and our very lives are Christ. Let us not get distracted by the things of this world, regardless of how noble and religious they may seem.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Apostasy of Joel Osteen

A man I do not know posted a great and piercing article about the apostasy of Joel Osteen.

Here it is.

God Hits Home Run!

Josh Hamilton, a professing Christian who plays for the Texas Rangers, says God told him ahead of time that he would hit a home run - in a losing effort. Now I do not doubt Hamilton’s faith, but this divine intervention in sports stuff is sad and ridiculous. In the midst of what is going on in the world, God is interested in who hit’s a home run? This is what Christianity has become?

Sad, but true.
Who Can You Trust?

One conservative Republican embraces traditional marriage, however he is a multiple adulterer.

President Obama is by all accounts a faithful husband and husband.

Now who has a more believable traditional marriage stance?

The answer: No politician can be trusted. They all have motivations aimed at self promotion.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I have received more e-mails from the article entitled "Double Minded" than any other article. I am greatly encouraged! Please keep your convictions as well as begging God to keep us all humble!

Judging and the Secret Things

I watch the news as do you and I see the occupy protesters, just as I watched the Tea Party gatherings, and my heart goes out to them both. I admire their zeal and their passion, but they seem like sheep without a shepherd. There will always be causes, and man will always look to satisfy his unruly heart by changing his surroundings. And so often men look to change the government in hopes of bringing contentment to their souls.

And at the core of both of these movements is money. If America was in the middle of an unprecedented economic boom, and if the rank and file American was experiencing incredible prosperity, there would be no protesting. The average westerner now believes prosperity is owed to him, and he sees the arrogance and corruption in Wall Street and the CEO remunerations as unfair and even cutting into his own prosperity. And although almost no one goes hungry, and almost everyone has a cell phone and television and microwave and automobile and computer and iPod and an array of clothing, it still does not quench the voracious appetite for more.

But as I said, my heart goes out to them. And although I can identify the source of such things, I try not to judge for three very good reason.

First, I struggle with things myself, and I often catch myself exhibiting signs of discontent. I openly and publicly admit that to you and to my God. He knows.

Second, I used to be lost. I was one of them, and in fact I was a leader in all kinds of sinful and self serving activities. I know what it is to be lost since I was not born again until I was almost 23 years old. So I used to run with that crowd, and I don’t want to condemn them, I want to share with them the only way out - the Lord Jesus christ.

Third, the reason I am now changed has nothing to do with me. I was granted a most undeserving pardon which came through something I could never earn nor could I ever understand - the grace of God. And please do not think that through these 36 years of knowing Christ that I was an easy project for God. How many times has God had to drag me kicking and screaming? How many times have I exhibited a repulsive self righteousness? How many times have I let an opportunity to witness go by? Oh no, God’s grace wasn’t just necessary on the day I was converted; I stand in total and complete need of His matchless grace every single day.

And knowing this, how can I stand on some ivory tower and pass judgment of those whose sin has become more visible than mine? Jesus did not come to condemn the world. He came to offer salvation to this sin darkened world. There is coming a time that the offer of grace will be over, but that times is not yet. And here is where I would like to establish an important point.

The measure of our devotion to Jesus Christ can only be evaluated by what we do in secret.

Matt.6:1-6 - Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Having been a pastor for many years I will share this with you. Preaching and singing and visiting and counseling were far less difficult than the things I should be doing in secret. Spending two hours alone in prayer continues to be a most difficult challenge. And reading, meditating upon, and reaching deep into God’s Word personally and without an eye for a message is also a great challenge. So I will allow you to listen as I uncomfortably challenge myself.


Why is it so hard for you to spend much time alone with God? Why do the cares of this world often catch your sails and turn your ship? Why is it that many times your day is void of the passion and thirst for your Lord and Savior? How much of the God given 24 hours do you devote to communion with Christ? If God removed your preaching, your witnessing, your writing, your singing, your piano playing, and all that was left was what you did in secret as a disciple, what would your spiritual life look like?

And with those uncomfortable questions I exhort us all.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Pop Quiz

What do you call a believer in Jesus Christ who believes all the core doctrines of the faith, including the Trinity, the virgin birth, the divinity of Jesus Christ, the exclusivity of Jesus Christ and salvation through Him by faith alone? But that person also believes in social justice as well. What do you call such a person?

Answer: A Christian.
Being Double Minded

As I drove down the road to the church down the block I looked at my watch. I was in a hurry to get to an appointment, but my best friend had convinced me that I had to vote. I had slowly come to the conclusion that voting was not only worthless, it was also against the teachings of the New Testament. But since George Bush was pro-life and Al Gore was pro-choice and since Chris had exhorted me to cast my vote, I hurriedly pulled into the church parking lot and waited in a line full of all kinds of people.

I cast my vote for George Bush and went on my way. But on that very day I was led of the Spirit to make that my last vote. That was in the year 2000 and I have never participated in the political system since. And in these last 11 years I have become completely convinced that we as believers should refrain from participating in a fallen system which elevates men above God and ignores the gospel in favor of economics and moral issues.

Back then it seemed very radical, but over the last decade I have seen many believers come to the same conclusion. I have fought to reject self righteousness and to not make not voting another gospel. But in this election season I must take this opportunity to exhort the small tribe who read this blog to reconsider how you view a system that compromises and utterly rejects the person of Jesus Christ and treats His gospel like an aside.

But the most insidious aspect of American politics is how politicians have made God an active part of their candidacy and how they portray God as supporting their side. Of course that is sacrilege. But still millions of professing believers are drawn into a false portrayal of America and the useless carnality of American politics. You desire to outlaw abortion? Pray, pray, and pray some more, and witness to lost sinners and watch God change their hearts and subsequently their convictions. The only reason I am pro-life is because the Holy Spirit lives within my being. Otherwise I would be pro-choice.

At the root of it all is idolatry. Millions of professing believers idolize this nation and actually believe it to be favored of God. And they seek to bring it back to its “former glory” and some recite the mantra “take back America”. America has always been just as fallen as any other country, in fact there are more believers in China than there are in America. It is time the church sheds its nationalistic grave clothes and allows the light of Jesus Christ to shine!

This is no trivial issue about which we can all disagree with no residual effects on our spiritual commitment and power. This issue seems to permeate all aspects of our faith. It changes how we see people. It changes how we feel about money. It changes how we feel about redemption. It changes how we feel about allegiance. It changes how we feel about war. It changes how we feel about almost everything. But that is a grievous mistake. It confuses how we feel about citizenship.

But if you pay attention and pray, the Spirit can reveal to you, especially in this election cycle, what God’s will is for we believers. The angry mob screams about the economy and much of the church joins in.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
But godliness with contentment is great gain.
And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Has the church ever found itself in such discontentment? Listen as “conservative” Christians speak evil of liberals and moan about gas prices. Do we actually believe what we say we do? No wonder the world sees us as just like them only with different moral views. In fact, as the economy continues to slide downward are we able to rejoice? Wouldn’t that be remarkable! And if the world saw a contented and rejoicing congregation they just might be motivated to ask us about the hope that lies within us.

But we have become part of the American crowd. In fact, many believers actually tear up when singing patriotic songs or saluting the flag. And some of the most doctrinally orthodox people still cannot see their sin. And listen as believers are anxious about the cast of characters being presented in the party to which they identify. Again, like Israel of old, they look to the hand of man to rescue them from whatever they deem unpleasant. Is it Romney? Is it Perry? Is it Cain? Is it Obama? Is it a reincarnation of Ronald Reagan? John Kennedy?

It is none of these. It is only Jesus Christ, and in this gospel age of grace, He works through surrendered vessels. I pray God will use us all in that way. But as long as we continue to pay homage to idols we will continue to practice a religion that is void of any power and is in fact compromised in every way. Jesus does not belong to any nation, and is in reality not of this world. So then why have His followers become so much a part of this world and its systems?

There are many curious aspects of such an earthly allegiance. Not the least of which is the unholy alliances it creates. I know many believers who would never march with unbelievers about some moral or spiritual cause. But these same believers will take up a gun alongside a Christ denier and together kill other men, all in the name of the fallen concept called freedom.

Again, this issue is central to what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, and we cannot remain silent any longer. I realize that patriotism is a sacred cow and any talk of abandoning that allegiance offends millions. But we must see it for what it is. The Spirit is calling believers to come out from among them and be separate. And not just be separate for separation’s sake, but so that the Holy Spirit can have our whole heart. We can say and print all the words we want, and we can shout at the darkness that grows both inside and outside of the church, but until our commitment to Christ far exceeds our commitments to earthly endeavors the church will remain a religious mausoleum. In fact, our commitment to Christ must be exclusive.

You want to carry a banner? Reject the flag and carry the name of God. You want a rallying symbol? Reject the eagle and make it a cross. You want a manual? Reject the constitution and embrace the Word of God. You want prosperity? Reject the wealth of this world and seek the eternal treasure found only in Jesus Christ. You want success? Reject the “American dream” and pursue the heart of God.

It’s all been changed and manipulated. But we must admire the fallen ingenuity of man. He has found a way to make Jesus hold hands with George Washington. But this Jesus is a pitiful facsimile who roams the earth seeking national freedom by the sword’s edge. But the real Jesus roams the earth seeking the redemption of lost sinners. His kingdom did not begin on July 4, 1776. His kingdom began before the foundation of the universe, and this kingdom will not, cannot, share anything with any other false kingdom.

Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
There can be no other.
The implications of embracing that truth are out of this world.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Fool Speaks

II Cor.4:18 - 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 dwell upon the very edge of eternity. But the church has turned its eyes upon the temporal and the self serving. There is a vast difference between selflessness and self serving. In fact, the difference just may be eternal. This is not some cunningly devised fable. The day of salvation is upon us.

Brothers and sisters, keep looking for the coming of Christ and all things eternal.

Ti.2:13 - Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

The most wonderful and the most terrible day approaches with great speed and certainty. Do I speak as a fool? So be it.
Pat Robertson

In 2008, Pat Robertson, a part time preacher, endorsed Rudy Guliani for president. Guliani was a twice divorced, pro-choice candidate. Now Robertson claims that these candidates should not be too extreme in their views so as to render them unelectable.

Robertson represents what is wrong with the western Christian church.
A Monstrous Biblical Compromise

Rev.3:14-20 - And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
17 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:
18 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.
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
20 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.

Please notice that the core element of this spiritually benign condition centers around money. This does not indicate some false teachers who deny the cross or the exclusivity of Christ. In fact, the Spirit does not deal here with those issues at all. But He does identify the source of the innocuous condition of this church and of the believers connected with it. And the Spirit has much to say about money, its use, and the inordinate affect afforded to it. And that is a significant stumbling block to the western believer, but since we live in a culture of excesses and fallen values and practices, some of our own beliefs and practices are accepted and unquestioned, even though they are blatantly unbiblical.

It is quite astonishing how the church can embrace things that are openly against Scriptural teachings without blinking an “I believe the Bible” eyelash. The spirit of the Bereans is now largely ignored, and if it is used at all, it is completely centered on systematic doctrine and not the sifting of our own life revelations of the more practical Biblical exhortations. The church as a whole operates within an ecclesiastical culture that is a first cousin to the operation of a secular business. And if a handful of mature and committed believers from the second century had been frozen in ice and unfrozen today, they would be aghast at what passes for the “peculiar” people of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The western culture is built upon the love of money. And this fondness is pursued with a vigor that seeps into almost every aspect of this life. It finds its way into clothes, and shoes, and makeup, and fitness, and careers, and cars, and homes, and social strata, and education, and politics, and abortion, and a laundry list of the particulars of this hedonistic way of life. And yet the church has not only become immune to such things, it has embraced them. Some even teach that God likes them and desires to have His children practice them.

In many profound ways, money represents this world, and unless it is used as a necessary commodity that must be viewed always as a serious and poisonous temptation, it will quickly turn into a compromising component of a believer’s life. And once money is let out of its cage, it will consume its owner in open and clandestine ways. And that is the metaphor that actually applies today. Money, and its representatives like success, things, power, recreation, etc., have taken a clandestine routeto the desired destination which is the lives of believers and the church at large. And only a disingenuous spirit could deny that western believers live their lives completely unremarkable from their lost counterparts. But our stands on moral issues and our spiritual picnics on Sunday mornings must suffice to render us as “peculiar” people.

But it isn’t just the ornate buildings and the state of the art electronics that are obvious detours from Biblical moderation. And it isn’t just the inflated staff positions and the exorbitant salary packages that indicate an assimilation into secular monetary practices. And just a perusal in the Sunday morning church parking lot is not sufficient to capture the enormity of the spiritual condition concerning wealth in the church. But note this: Many churches borrow millions of dollars from secular institutions to fund buildings wherein the decedents of Constantine can meet with the atmosphere of an expensive theatre.

And when the day comes and they “move into” this new and thrilling edifice to “worship” God, they rejoice in that God has miraculously provided them with favor in the eyes of fallen institutions and allowed them to go deep into debt and also pay millions in interest to these same fallen and antichrist systems. Halleluiah! The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.

How utterly pitiful and profoundly disturbing it is that the church of the Lord Jesus Christ rejoices in buildings, and even debt ridden buildings at that! How low have we fallen? Let us just pretend that there are no widows or orphans or poor or starving people. Let us just pretend that all the evangelical missionaries are well funded and have no need of anything to reach the lost and dying. Let’s just pretend there is no greater and more spiritually focused use for such funds. Even if all that were true (which it is not.), it is still openly and dramatically against the entirety of New Testament teachings to borrow money, much less borrowing money from the god of this world by the Church of Jesus Christ.

But hardly anyone blinks a doctrinal eye about that. Even the energetic doctrinal hawks whose keen eye can spot a doctrinal compromise on the dark side of the Moon remain blind and unmoved by such an egregious practice of Biblical error. Here is a church who borrows millions to fund a new auditorium/worship center based upon unbiblical written vows by the congregation promising to contribute so much a month to the project, and they move into this new and thrilling and bank owned edifice with great fanfare.

So far they remain untargeted by the doctrinal bourgeoisie of the watchman class. But let them ride a motorcycle into the service and all doctrinal hell breaks loose! So the motorcycle upsets the heavenly order, but the millions in debt is par for the course? Listen, I’m not partial to motorcycles in the gathering or all the other sensationalistic theatrics that seem to be prevalent in today’s evangelical circles, but I refuse to be blind to some of the other grievous compromises that are more acceptable to orthodox taste.

But in the midst of such a monstrous disobedient practice, much of the American church considers itself increased with goods and only in need of more! But, alas, our line of credit is limited. I will have more to say on this subject later.

Monday, October 24, 2011

All or Nothing or Nothing or All

And the man to whom I was witnessing asked me,

So what you’re saying is that this Jesus thing is all or nothing?”

And I replied,

Perhaps, but I would phrase it differently. It’s more of a “nothing or all” proposition.
The Life in the Spirit

Jude:20-21 - But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

The complete labor of salvation was accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing can be added. But once a sinner is born again by faith in Christ, he is given the responsibility for the quality and depth of his own walk of faith. And Jude gives us an exhortation here that we all need to remember and implement. We are exhorted, yea commanded, to build up ourselves upon our “most holy faith”.

What a description of our faith! Jude does not just refer to it as a generic faith, and he does not use saccharin words that resemble some high school crush, but he calls our faith “most holy”. How we tend to relegate the Christian faith to an earthly level that is measured by the things of this present world. The evangelical world has made the faith rather pedestrian and in so doing we have removed the sacred and holy essence of our faith in Christ.

But nothing could be further from the truth. Our faith in Christ is absolutely holy, and its value has no earthly measurement or comparison. And instead of using our faith to enhance our earthly lives, we should surrender our earthly lives upon the altar of Christ and allow the Spirit to build us up within the holiness of Jesus Christ. Our strength is found in the amount of surrender we offer toward the Lord Jesus and His kingdom.

But the very first thing Jude mentions after that is prayer. This is by no means some coincidence, in fact this is the imperative for the Christian life. The number of believers who spend quality time in God’s Word is very pitiful. But the number of students of God’s Word who pray with great ferocity and deep conviction is also pitiful. I have rarely found a committed pray-er who does not spend quality time in the Word, but I have often found those who spend time in Bible study whose prayer life is anemic.

Deep and searching prayer, prayer that is untethered to this world and its demands, is the single most difficult spiritual discipline in the life of a believer. Many, if not most, believers die and go to be with Christ without ever experiencing the surpassing spiritual blessing of a prayer life that is so intense, so sacrificial, and so spiritually deep that it became their very life’s breath. That is a colossal tragedy!

Prayer is the most neglected part of a believer’s life. It is seldom dealt with from the pulpit, and when it is taught it is expounded in a matter-of-fact way which reveals the depth of the one speaking. When people arrive at church having whispered a few predictable words of prayer during the week, why should we expect anyone to fall on their faces that morning in self denying and unusually penetrating prayer? In fact, the order of service gives precious little time for prayer even when we are in desperate need of God intervening in our affairs as well as the affairs of the world. The time grows short, the world grows darker, and the church grows cold, but beseeching the power of God has grown outdated. And the prayer model we now exhibit is a perfunctory set of well worn montras that is an embarrassing revelation of just how we view prayer.

And Jude adds the phrase “in the Holy Ghost”. Now in spite of our charismatic brothers, this has nothing to do with tongues or some “prayer language”. And just to illuminate what Jude is saying, the authentic language of prayer is faith. When we pray, we must pray in full and complete surrender to the Spirit and His will. And you who eschew the charismatic teachings as do I, do we also eschew the voice of the Spirit? It is possible to listen to and hear the Spirit’s voice when we are cloistered unto Him and seeking Christ with our entire beings?

In your desire to be free from doctrinal error as taught by all sorts of Charismatic streams, please do not reject the greater mysteries of communion with Christ! I do not suggest any audible voices or visible angelic visitations, and I surely do not support subjective experiences as the platform for self righteousness or even worse, new truth. But we must not allow the misuse of the faith to blind us to the glorious mysteries of communication with Christ. We have essentially relegated prayer to a “bless me” exercise, and the practice of prayer, if at all, is nudged into a tiny and convenient compartment of our fast food lifestyles.

But Jude makes it an essential and foundational element of spiritual growth. On this there can be no negotiation. But praying in the Holy Ghost is not only praying in God’s will, but it is also praying under the power and control of the Spirit of God. And that cannot be experienced but through fasting and a relentless pursuit of seeking Christ, as well as both laying hold of the kingdom of God and having God’s kingdom lay hold of you. The unquenchable thirst for more of God and letting God have more of you is the spiritual imperative for praying in the Holy Ghost.

But now Jude exhorts us to keep ourselves in the love of God. This subject is infinitely expansive. The love of God is God since God is love. How often have men attempted to confine it through defining words and limit its scope? Some theologies insist God’s love does not extend to lost sinners unless they are of the elect variety. So you only love those who you make love you? No, God loves His enemies, just as He exhorts us to do the same. I realize we are dealing in the realm of the Spirit and in the realm of the divine. But that also is my point, in that the love of God is beyond us.

Just the fact that God would love even one rebellious sinner is beyond us. The question of “Why?” can only be answered by “Who”. If God is infinite and omnipresent and omnipotent and eternal, and if God is love as well, then the connection is obvious and overwhelming. God’s love is as powerful as God Himself. And God can love a lost sinner with that same overwhelming love while at the same time passing eternal judgment upon his soul. How can He do that? Again, He is God and God is love. But so often we have removed the divine mystery because we fear being like others who add mystery to the detriment of Biblical truths.

And over the years, due to the increased literacy rate, we have moved doctrine and Bible reading to the forefront while we have relegated prayer, meditation, and a seeking heart to the museum of former disciplines. It is almost as we do not believe that communion with Christ is possible, at least on an experiential level. We have become great readers and able to absorb vast amounts of information in one sitting. On an intellectual level we are accomplished believers that can recite the important Biblical doctrines on a moment’s notice.

In our Christian schools we have Bible drills designed to encourage Bible reading and memorization. But rare are the times set aside to observe and teach about deep and elongated prayer. Perhaps that may be due to the prayer life of the average teacher? But keeping ourselves in the love of God is a self sacrificing discipline that travels way beyond loving a person's soul but hating his guts. This kind of love is unnatural and uncomfortable, and in fact, requires us to die to ourselves. There is only one place that can offer that kind of sacrifice - the cross.

And rare is the place of prayer that ventures once again to the foot of the Bleeding Lamb. The cross is now a doctrine, settled theological law, and with no need of revisiting. At Easter we can once again make mention of that holy sacrifice, but the rest of the year is reserved for more utilitarian necessities. I mean how often must we think about the cross before it gets redundant? And that is the implied attitude even if it is not the intended one.

How does Paul die daily? Is it not a daily journey to the cross? And not just to gaze afar off, but also to become absorbed in the fellowship of His sufferings and then being made conformable to His death. Therein lies the glorious mystery. That is what it means to keep one’s self in the love of God. And ultimately, the blood soaked ground beneath Golgotha’s spectacle is the foundation upon which all disciples must build up themselves on their most holy faith. The cross is the beginning and the destination, the place of death and the place of life, the hatred of man and the love of God, and with that sacrifice in his mind’s eye the Apostle Paul says,

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

More than a doctrine that saves, it is the mystery that gives life day by day by day and forever.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Amalgam of Death

Christianity is not a religious amalgam. Christ cannot come in pieces. All other religions are false creations of man’s inward struggle to find a god he knows exists. You cannot find Jesus in other religions, and any teachings that appear similar are coincidental. The true faith of Christ stands alone, unrivaled, and supreme in all the universe. Jesus did not come to share redemption with anyone else and surely not the works of man.

But there is a movement afoot that seeks to diminish the Lord Jesus and compromise His labor of redemption. It is insidious and appears to be reasonable and compassionate. This movement is now running through many denominations and churches, and it is championed by deceived men who lift up their intellect to be admired of all men. The cross is ignored and scorned by this movement. This movement is ashamed of the cross.

Men now suggest that adherents to other faiths can be saved by their sincere obedience to that false religion. Good works are lifted up as a competitor to the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus. And this movement has a chameleon-like expression that is both inclusive and exclusive simultaneously. While one set of voices contend everyone will be saved, the other voices shout out a moral gospel. But the end result is the same. The gospel is presented as an amalgam of many different man made ingredients.

But anything that is added to the simplicity that is in Christ is anathema. It is spiritual poison regardless of how it is presented. Our righteousness can never come from anything we do or say, and our devotion to the Risen Christ can never be built upon our moral stands. And even our thorough rejection of false teachers is still not our foundation for divine favor.

But as the world and the church attempts to create some tortured amalgam which includes Christ’s name, and though we forcefully reject such a falsehood, are our lives representing an amalgam? Are we completely surrendered to Jesus Christ or have we included other things that have a piece of us? I do not mean Buddha or Mohammed or parts of other religions, but I speak of time, recreation, and most of all money. Do these things have a say in our hearts?

Jesus gave all for us. I said Jesus gave all for us. What more can anyone give than their own lives? And how could God reveal His love for us more powerfully than dying in our place? And equipped with the glory of that knowledge, how can we parse out our surrender and submission to anyone or anything else? What sacrilege, what blasphemy, and what treason! Have we lost the vision of Him, and instead we gaze at the things of this world or even a petrified theology? Truth written upon tablets is dead. God desires Christ living in and through us which is profoundly more powerful than proving our orthodoxy by paper words. Instead of sinners asking us about our hope, we must go about proving our hope by systematized doctrines? And to the world it all collapses into some spiritual amalgam. Unremarkable, unrecognizable, and unredemptive.

And this amalgam continues to build all around us both openly and with a clandestine insidiousness. While Jesus has lost the preeminence in the church and in our lives we energetically pat ourselves on our doctrinal backs because we recognize Mormonism as a cult. How astute are we! And if this cult produces good, moral people and strong family units as well as an observable commitment to their faith, how is it that we are not driven to our knees in search of repentance and revival in our own lives and faith?

We remain satisfied with the current expression of Jesus Christ in our own lives? How can that be? How can we continue as we are? We have become part of this spreading amalgam with only theological words to prove the doctrinal difference. And armed with this doctrinal talisman we can live without God’s power and presence? While we shine our lights in each other’s eyes, the darkness all around us remains healthy and undisturbed. And we ridicule the Muslims for praying four times a day when the evangelical prayer closets are museum pieces.

And I believe this is the only answer to escape the growing amalgam - prayer. Not just “Poly want a cracker” prayer, or “Bless Aunt Julie and bless America” kind of prayers. But a committed retreat into a brokenness that prays without time constraints and with a pursuit of Christ that moves God’s heart. The church will have to learn to pray all over again since now prayer is little more than an asterisk in a sea of ecclesiastical energy and activity.

But until then the church will parade its prosaic expression of Christ which has been assimilated by the myriad of unremarkable expressions, and now holds down a legitimate booth within the fairgrounds of religious thought. Fill the doctrinal clown’s mouth with orthodox water and win God’s favor. The situation is desperate, however we are not. Things and events of this world consume us, but what place will they hold when the King returns? Again I reiterate, these things are not religious folklore or interesting stories which hold less weight than they did when spoken from the lips of the Lord Jesus or His servant’s pens.

And if we believe on Him and all that He promised, then we are obligated to live and speak and pray as if we not only believe it, but as if we are consumed with a passion to seek Him and be used in every way to glorify Him! If that is not our goal then we walk in religious deception which offers nothing more than some kind of dead hope and a feel good spiritual nostalgia. Men and women have joyfully given their very lives for Jesus and yet we enjoy a pleasure filled existence while still claiming a walk of sacrificial discipleship. Could there be any greater lie?

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

There is so much more to Christ in this life. Why do we settle for pottage when He has the grapes of Eschol prepared for us. And in a deeper and more colossal mystery He has prepared Himself for us. Eat His body and drink His blood! Look! We who believe the elements are symbolic have so depreciated their meaning and so diluted that observance that churches present a redundant and well oiled communion that is designed to constrict the time so that we can be dismissed at a “reasonable” hour. And that is what punches our membership card in the amalgam club - we do things that are reasonable and thereby avoid any reproach.

Away with all these new movements that attack the very Person of Christ! Away with these ecumenical bargains that join hands with idols! Away with these slick pastors whose crass language and strutting pontification draws men away from Christ! Away with debt ridden edifices that provide powerless and predictable gatherings. Away with all these politically active movements that are more concerned with elections than they are with the condition of God’s elect! Away with this prayerless, activity laden evangelical structures!

The Potter will have to break this ecclesiastical vessel in order to remake it in His image. But then again, God must be reasonable. He will bless this present amalgam, won’t He?

II Cor.6:14-18 - Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty
Being Seen of Men

1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

The most faithful and committed followers of Jesus have never written a book, have never had a blog, have never sold Cds, and are never asked to speak at a conference. In fact, I am convinced, that the most Christlike believers who are sacrificially serving Christ will never be known openly until they step into the throne room of the Risen Christ.

Until then the church will continue to exalt many who seek to be made known and enjoy the praises of men.

Friday, October 21, 2011

He Will Swallow Time With His Glory

Like the last sands spiraling down into the bottom of an hour glass, time is beginning to race through the world with incredible speed that goes unnoticed by earth’s inhabitants. The end time events scroll across the television screens like some kind of sports scores. Murder and rape, stealing and adultery, war and oppression, starvation and disease, perversion and violence, lust and self righteousness, hatred and strife, and all kinds of rebellion against God are committed with great fervor and intensity. Thousands of nuclear warheads sit ready to be unleashed upon this world.

There is no escape and no turning back now, for the wheels of God’s coming are spinning with great power. Billions remain ignorant to what lies in store for their souls. False teachers provide false comfort for those who stand in the path of God's unredemptive justice. The atmosphere crackles with the spiritual sounds of His coming. The end rushes upon us while we slumber to the minstrels of this present world.

All is well and all is right“, they say. “Pay no attention to the prophets of doom because God is good and His vocation is to provide for your every desire. Forget about holiness and sacrificial living, those are for the unsophisticated and unlearned. In many ways you are God.” These are the words of blind guides who teach and preach a false God and a false solace to those who refuse to seek the Risen Christ for themselves. But time races on.

The door is almost closed, and those who wish redemption must come quickly. God’s grace is still abundant and available, but the offering will soon be removed. With what will you approach a Holy God? With what will you use to cover your sins when the Almighty demands holiness before Him? What excuse will you offer when all your sins and all your sinful thoughts are revealed before the holy angels and in the presence of the Triune God Himself? The games are over, and all your fleshly pursuits have come to speak against you. What in God’s Dear Name will you do then?

Count the days if you can, and laugh at these date setters as if there is not one authentic date coming. Perhaps God will look the other way when you suggest that you were misled. But standing in the power of His Holiness, will you even attempt to justify yourself? Will it not be worthless to even try? All has been lost, and the eternal weight of that reality runs through you with a profound terror that cannot be fathomed. You are in eternity and you will never escape.

Do you hear my words as so much Dante, and like a literary arrangement meant to scare and frighten? But hearts today are immune to such things. We know better, and the attractions and distractions of this Industrial Revolution generation call to us and drown out the medieval notions of days gone by. But the hour glass continues to empty, and the Spirit is calling out a final warning. Are your ears open to what the Spirit is saying? Am I being way to melodramatic?

And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

Perhaps that is too much hyperbole? Maybe your opinion carries more authority than does God’s Holy Word? But in reality Jesus has been so maligned, so misrepresented, and so caricatured that the True and Living Christ is virtually unknown, even by those who stand in His grace. But when the glory of the Son splits the unseen curtain and is revealed with unspeakable horror and descends upon this sin drenched world, He will take vengeance upon the creation. Imaginations fail to approach such a scene. Take all the horror movies ever made and increase them by one billion and it will not even match one momentary glimpse of the coming Judge.

And yet the world plays with the carelessness of blind mice. The pulpits play word games and entertain the careless with stories, jokes, and carnal suggestions on how to improve your earthly situation. The spirit of deception revels in such gatherings and runs to and fro with very little opposition. The spirit of holiness has long since left. Let us eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die! But if one can listen intently you might hear the faint but startling voice of the Spirit calling out, “Behold the Bridegroom comes!”

This is no Greek mythology or some Shakespearian tragedy, no, this is a breathtaking reality that if believed for even a second must bring forth fruits that change that life. It has become such a religious story that it no longer impacts us. It is preached rarely, and when it is mentioned in the pulpit it comes forth with such a dry and matter-of-fact spirit that it is almost impossible to believe the mouth that speaks really believes it. And when that same mouth is only minutes away from faring sumptuously and speaking about politics and sports, it becomes painfully evident that the coming of Jesus is imprisoned in a systematized doctrine rather than overflowing from a passionate heart.

Charles Finney once said how absurd it was to hear a minister preach about the Second Coming of Christ and the danger of eternal damnation, and then politely shake hands after the service with a smile and head nodding that completely dismisses his message as more of a performance rather than a clarion call to sinners. Ravenhill says its not "were you moved, but were you changed"? But regardless of the ignorance of the masses the coming story remains unchanged.

Time no longer walks step by step. Time no longer walks with a brisk pace. In fact, time no longer walks at all. Time rushes toward the culmination of time itself. The sky will be ripped apart and the power of His glory and the power of His Words and the power of His visible manifestation will consume this world. To us who know Him it is still quite beyond us. But the urgency of this present time cannot be overstated. And if you have loved ones still outside the Ark, the days are evil and their time grows disproportionately short.

The games are over. Religion is over. Playing church is over. If we are ever going to walk in His power we must do it quickly. Pray as if you cannot move without Him. Worship without restraint. Witness with a divine love that cannot be embarrassed.

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
Applauding Death?

In the Scriptures there are two kinds of justice. One is the justice of God against sin. The other is the justice that God affords the downtrodden and the oppressed. A few weeks ago the news ran a clip from one of the Republican debates. One of the moderators prefaced his question by acknowledging that the state of Texas had executed more people than any other state. That statement was met with rousing applause. The question was asked if Texas Governor Rick Perry ever lost sleep thinking that an innocent person may have been executed. The Governor said he never lost any sleep over that. He added,

You will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed.”

He was then asked how he felt about people applauding the large number of Texas executions. Governor Perry said,

I think Americans understand justice.”

Now before I provide a New Testament commentary on that type of attitude, let me make clear something that we as evangelical believers seem to ignore. God’s behavior in the Old Testament was quite different than what He manifests today. There are many instances in the Old Testament that I find incredibly harsh and difficult to reconcile, however I am more than willing to submit to God and His infinite wisdom.

Let us face it, God killed women and children and even unborn children by the thousands in the Old Testament. It is unpleasant to think about, but it is true nonetheless. The Mosaic Law commanded capital punishment for all kinds of sin, including rebellion against one’s parents. What a contrast to the parable of the prodigal son. My point is this: It is unwise and scripturally unsound the mesh the Old Testament with the New Testament, since in essence we are meshing the ministry of death with the ministry of life. (II Cor.3) But some believers do it to achieve their ultimate goal in supporting their moral judgments.

And that is exactly why people cheer the amount of executions conducted in Texas. But to be sure, in spite of Gov. Perry’s words to the contrary, Americans do not understand justice. Oh they may understand self serving justice that is meted out against those other than themselves, but they certainly do not understand the justice of God. And added to that ignorance, the same crowd that cheered multiple executions booed the caring for poor undocumented workers. And I am sure many of those attend a Christian church.

But for those of us who understand God’s justice, and who understand the profound wickedness of our own sin, we must have a more compassionate understanding of earthly justice in light of the divine grace wherein we stand. Even those who believe in capital punishment, should never relish the execution of another human being. And many of those who are executed were born into environments that provided a breeding ground for criminal behavior.

Sinners do not need justice; we need mercy. This chest pounding, law and order bravado is diametrically opposed to the New Testament revelations of Jesus Christ and the instructions given to His followers. There are testimonies of mothers whose daughter was murdered, but who not only forgave that murderer, but visited him in prison and led him to Christ. That, my dear friends, is the revelation of a committed follower of the Lord Jesus. That is a living, breathing expression of Christ that escapes the round table doctrinal arguments and proceeds without the camp bearing His reproach. That is not just Christianity in its truest form, but that is Christ Himself!

The Scripture is clear. The government has the power to execute criminals. But we as believers, although acknowledging that fact, must also find ways of redemption rather than applaud the untimely death of some unknown sinner. And furthermore, we should be quick to grieve over one lost soul. This current stream of moral and nationalistic faith that claims to follow Jesus is most unseemly and greatly misrepresents Him who gave Himself so that sinners might find life.

And when we all meet our God, it will not be justice that we applaud. It will be grace that amazes the angelic audience. And so then, we who cling to grace for ourselves, how can we love the sight of another receiving judgment?

Lord God, we fall wholly upon Your grace, and we pray for the redemption of all those who stand in desperate need of a Savior.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Peace in the Midst of Storms

Matt.8:23-27 - And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.
24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.
25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.
26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.
27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!

The entire world is caught in all kinds of storms. There are numerous wars and battles. Several civil uprisings. Military buildups. Nuclear weapons are spreading. Terrorism. An American election that showcases all kinds of lies. And of course a worldwide economy that teeters on the edge of destruction.

So how can anyone have peace in these turbulent times?

Jesus. Only Jesus.
A Great Sacrifice

I do not know the spiritual condition of this mother, but in the days of abortion on demand, I admire what she did for her unborn baby.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Harold Camping is Wrong

Harold Camping now says the world will end on or before October 21, 2011. I got news for Mister Camping, this world ended for me when I believed on the Lord Jesus Christ in March of 1975 overlooking the Manhattan skyline.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

An Idol by Any Other Name

is Still an Idol

Any government that is built upon the opinion of the majority, both saved and unsaved, is probably the best the world can provide. But that same government is no friend to the kingdom of God and has provided a constitutional license to murder millions of unborn babies. Those whose King is Jesus must never bow to the idol called democracy.
Eternity with the Eternal One

Is.57:15 - For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

Jn.17:2-4 - As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do

Eternity. How can we who are imprisoned by the temporal actually grasp the concept of eternity, to say nothing of its reality? To meditate upon and to imagine a place which has no time is an exercise that surpasses the human intellect. It is most beyond us, and the implications of such a concept, of such a reality, are monumental. Who among us would not sell all that we have in order to be assured a place in eternity with Christ? So the merchant man sells all to buy one precious pearl.

But we are inundated with the temporal every single day, and under the weight of such a burden we lose any eternal perspective, and most importantly we lose sight of the Risen Christ. For a few bowls of pottage and few morsels of earthly bread, we surrender our energy to seek the face of God. We are all on a journey to eternity. And we all must one day give an account of our lives. And yet we continue to trudge through this life as if there are two lives - this one and the one to come. But we fail to realize that they are one in the same.

We are living in eternity. And if you know Christ as Lord and Savior, our life is embedded in Him. The “days are evil” declares the Scripture, and although we live in eternity we only have a precious few days here on earth. And if we all will live forever with Christ, and if some will live forever separated from God, what else can matter? Jesus did not come to die to enhance our earthly lives, and if we experience a greater fulfillment after we are born again, that is residual.

Many times sinners who believe on the Lord Jesus begin to experience a comparatively worse earthly life, and some will be persecuted and even martyred. But to the Spirit filled believer, this life is a joyous sacrifice for Christ. What can tempt a man who has eternal life? When a man has eternal life, what can make him discontent? It is evident that to the degree we succumb to the temptations and dictates of this earthly life is to the degree we do not believe.

But when we think about eternity, do we think primarily about a sinless place of bliss? Do we look forward to a new body which is not susceptible to sickness? Do we think about meeting loved ones and friends? Do we think about legions of angels? If so, we are missing the paramount truth. We will be spending eternity in the presence of the Risen Christ! We will be spending eternity with our God!

Man takes vitamins to increase his earthly life. He exercises and eats right to lengthen his days. He takes medicine and sees a doctor. He observes certain safety requirements. He takes out some life insurance. All these things are directed at this temporal existence. But for the believer, eternity is not looming overhead; it is here.

I Jn.5:11-13 - And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God

To be sure, walking in the light of eternity, to say nothing of living within that absolute reality, is most difficult while being so pressured by this time and space reality. Heaven seems like some distant promise, and we measure everything by days and years. But we are eternal creatures, and those that are Christ’s are creatures with eternal life. Nothing in this world can change or affect that reality. The present and earthly realities must be subordinate to eternity.

Col.3:1-4 - If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory

This should be a shocking truth. We are dead? And yet so much emphasis is placed upon the abundance in this life. But if our very lives are hidden with Christ in God, and knowing the security and unspeakable joy that is found in Him, why then are we so imprisoned by the things of this world? Worry and pressure and scheming and doubt and pleasure seem to be the driving forces in our lives. But that is completely incongruous with the ultimate reality that we as believers have eternal life and should be walking in that life.

If you knew for certain that Christ would bring you to heaven tomorrow, what about this life would concern you? Would you worry about the economy? Would the election concern you? Would you be filled with anticipation, or would you relegate His arrival to the doctrinal checklist?
There is nothing that can compare with knowing and walking with Jesus Christ. And not just walking “with”, but walking “in” Christ. But that kind of living experience does not come through the spiritual drive through window. That surpassing life comes through diligent seeking through prayer and God’s Word, as well as a conscious awareness of the passing and temporal nature of everything upon this earth. To be sure it a swim upstream.

But how can we understand eternity? Without our systems of measurement we are left adrift in the realm of the infinite. And think on this, we will be spending eternity in the presence and power of the Risen Christ, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and the Lamb of God. How would you feel about spending one hour with Jesus today? What if you were granted one entire week in heaven in the presence of our Savior and Lord? Would that thrill you? What if Jesus promised to visit you personally one particular day each year?

But what God has promised surpasses human knowledge. Jesus will not visit occasionally with us in eternity. Not just one day, and not just one week, and even not just one million years. We have been granted an eternal dwelling place that is His and has been prepared for us. Does it seem like so much fairy tale? Oh, my friends, it is far beyond any fairy tale. This promise cannot be measured by quantity or quality. This promise is the promise to which all other promises must bow.

To miss this promise is to miss everything.

To gain this promise is life everlasting.