Sunday, July 31, 2011

Come and See

Jn.4:29 - Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?

I have seen much in this life with my optic nerve. I have seen people killed right before my very eyes, and I have seen acts of terrible violence. I have seen the horrific results of child abuse. I have seen abject poverty in foreign lands. I have held the hands of AIDS sufferers and watched them slip into death. I have seen girls selling their bodies on the street, and I have seen major drug deals. I have witnessed several child births. I watched my own mother take her last breath at forty-four years of age. And through the medium of television and movies, I have seen amazing things.

But this woman who met Jesus at a well, beckoned others to “Come and see” the man she knew was the Messiah. No one who has “seen” the Lord Jesus can ever be the same. The night I met Jesus personally and with the eyes of faith was the greatest experience of my entire life. It was a night filled with wonder, amazement, and a tangible sense of eternity. How can I communicate to others what it means to see Jesus when I myself will never fully understand it? My optic nerve has never seen Him, but my spirit has seen Him many, many times.

I know this sounds spooky and mystical to some, even to some who have been born again. But I assure you, I am not attempting to be melodramatic and I certainly do not desire to present myself as some lofty prophet whose spiritual experiences are unique and elevate me personally above others who are believers in the Lord Jesus. But what I am saying is that there is more to the Christian life than just a set of doctrines and a perfunctory and redundant lifestyle which is difficult to distinguish from those who do not claim to know Christ. Among the sound doctrines which are laid out in Scripture, there is also a profound mystery which contains a vast reservoir of opportunities to encounter the Risen Christ in ways that make those doctrines living experiences.

There is nothing more sacred than meeting and seeing the Lord Jesus Christ. It must grieve the heart of God when he sees how the church in large part has abandoned the secret life in the Spirit and embraced the pragmatism that is designed to benefit the outer man. We have transitioned away from the unfathomable treasures of knowing Him in the secret place of the Most High. And in its place we have constructed a religious system that is consumed with structure, activities, human fellowship, and the weight of debt ridden brick and mortar.

Oh but He is real and alive! Jesus is not just some Biblical figure who is imprisoned by the written words of Scripture, and encountering Him is more than just learning about Him. The Scriptures, so to speak, give us the boundaries which reveal and define Him to even the most shallow reader. But to actually know Him in the Spirit can only be discovered through a journey of worship and sacrifice. Do not expect to find the Lord Jesus revealing Himself to the casual journeyman whose self consuming earthly journey is by far his greatest priority. And do not confuse doctrinal purity with spiritual intimacy.

But to him who diligently seeks Him with his whole heart, to him will be granted an entrance into a wealth of treasures found only in relationship with and revelation of Him. And once you have touched the hem of His garment then you cannot ever be satisfied with the run of the mill church membership existence. “For me to live is Christ” is more than some New Testament slogan, and more than a poetic metaphor. And when Paul states the desire to “know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings”, he must be suggesting that there is much more than just believing the doctrines of the cross and resurrection. And Paul had seen and met the Lord Jesus face to face, and Paul had been given the very gospel by the Lord Jesus Himself. And yet Paul says, “That I may know Him”.

How long will we be content with knowing all about Him? Did you encounter the Risen Christ this very day? Yes, you were changed when you became a believer, but were you changed today? I realize our lives are busy, but therein lies the very point of it all. Are you willing to take an uncomfortable inventory of your life and make the sacrifices necessary to pursue a genuine and sacred relationship with Christ? Do you have an unquenchable desire to see, experience, and know the Lord Jesus in ways that soar far above reciting some creed or nodding when asked about some orthodox doctrine of the faith?

The hourglass continues to faithfully exchange its sand particles, and the days are indeed evil. Have you or I wasted enough time, and are we willing to dramatically alter the present course of least resistance? We can be assured of this fact: Jesus desires to meet with us and to draw you into a deeper and more intimate knowledge of Himself. That in and of itself should spur us on to make time with Him a priority. One genuine moment in God’s presence is better than a thousand in the presence of earthly leaders.

Would we dare lay out our entire lives and invite the Spirit to identify those things which displease God and those things which please God but are missing? And do we dare take for granted a Holy God who desires to spend intimate time with His creation? And dare we compare the temporal thrills of this fallen world with the surpassing glory of the Redeemer’s awesome presence? It is way past time that we revisit what it means to be a following believer of the Lord Jesus Christ and the observable lifestyle manifestations of such a claim, to say nothing of a dramatic change of the heart.

Come and see this God/man whose name is above all else. Turn away from this world and recline under the brilliant flames of the Burning Bush. Recall the stripes, recall the thorns; recall the cross; recall the blood; recall the resurrection; and if you can fathom even a small part of such magnificent redemption, then humbly enter into the Holy of Holies and worship with your all in all Him who is all in all.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Ft. Hood, Again

Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo, 21, of Garland, Texas, will be behind bars for many, many years for being in possession of firearms and incendiary devices which were meant to kill and injure members of the United States military stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. Now this deceived young man was under two main delusions. One was that an entity named Allah was the Creator and Redeemer. But the second delusion was that violence was a method to both promote the kingdom which he espoused, and that violence was a viable method to combat those who did not agree with his belief system.

We, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, are aghast as such a deception, but even though we espouse a kingdom over which the Lord Jesus Christ presides, many of us still agree with violence as a viable method to protect and promote His kingdom. We seem to have little problem with killing lost sinners in order to defend a definable piece of land so that we can maintain a way of life that is agreeable to our natural existence. If we were caught in a totalitarian system that persecuted us and imprisoned believers for their faith in Christ, we would not lift a finger to defend it.

But since we live in a system which affords us many luxuries and natural accoutrements, we support violence to maintain our “way of life”. And how do we justify such violence, especially in light of the overwhelming contradictions written in the New Testament? We suspend such commandments and principles as it pertains to our loyalties to a particular nation. So in essence we lift our loyalty to our nation above our loyalty to Christ and His teachings. And many “orthodox” teachers who loudly defend the doctrine of Scriptural inerrancy, refuse to see the hypocrisy that surrounds such nationalistic behavior.

If we can suspend the commandments of Christ when they are in conflict with what a nation does, then we can suspend any and all the teachings of Christ and the New Testament when they come in conflict with other loyalties, whether they be to a nation, a family, or a way of life. In fact, we must then support a Muslim sinner in Iran who becomes a believer in Christ when he stores up weapons designed to kill Muslim soldiers in Iran.

Violence cannot be parsed out and categorized into “good and bad”. All violence is counter to the teachings of the Kingdom of Christ, and even though the Scriptures clearly tell us that governments use such violence to exact their brand of justice, nowhere is that method of justice supposed to be practiced in the body of Jesus Christ. “But what about” this or that scenario, you ask. I know, there are many, many, many scenarios that appear perplexing and illogical if we are to eschew all forms of violence toward our fellow man.

But we cannot manipulate the teachings of Christ and His written revelation if they seem to be at odds with the course of normal, civilized life, or even if they seem at odds with what we have been taught by godly believers, our parents, or any other human being. We must begin and end with His teachings, and let the confounding consequences of our obedience be what they may as we trust His Words instead of what seems natural and right in the eyes of men, including what seems right with the majority of the western evangelical community. There are many believers who love Christ and are born again who either support a nation’s violence or even some who have courageously given their very lives in defending this, or any other, nation. But again, that does not make anything right or wrong.

I admire the courageousness of believers who place their lives in harm’s way to defend what they believe is God’s will for their lives, but according to the overwhelming teachings of the New Testament they are misguided. And there is a growing number of believers who have served faithfully in the armed services with honor and distinction who are now reconsidering their position as it pertains to nationalism and violence. I admit, it is easy for those of us who have never served to judge those who have, but I reiterate that I do not judge anyone.

I am attempting to adhere to the admonitions of Christ and His Word, and believe it when I tell you, that elicits much persecution within the church itself. By God’s matchless grace, may His Spirit open all of our eyes, and if He does free us from the deception of nationalism and violence, may we reject strongly the temptation to judge others and to feel a sense of self righteousness about ourselves.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Can You See Now?

If the present political spectacle hasn’t convinced you of the abject fallen uselessness of it all, perhaps nothing will. And there is a distinct phenomenon in human beings that lends itself to add to such a melee. When you have an allegiance to men and political persuasions, the mind automatically hears your team much more sympathetically and the other side much more critically. But when your allegiance is wholly given to the Lord Jesus Christ, then you can see things like politics for what they really are:

Fallen natures battling with other fallen natures. And there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that will cause the carnal fur to fly like money. Is there a fervor over abortion? Is there a raging conflict over states granting gay marriages? But let the subject be money and grown men will behave like high school bullies. I implore you once again, allow the Spirit to open your eyes to things that are not of God and His kingdom.

But do not stop there. Do not just renounce politics and claim you have done some great thing. But move forward diligently and seek the face of Christ and pray for all those who continue to waste time and effort in things that do not edify and are not redemptive. What fellowship has light with darkness? We are the light of the world, not to shine upon some legislative path, but to illuminate the Risen Christ in our mortal bodies and bring the gospel story to those who labor in fields of utter darkness.

Christ and Christ alone.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Arise and Shine

Is.60:1-3 - Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. 2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.
3 And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.

Oh let us rekindle the fire of God’s Spirit within us so that His light would shine once more. The things of this present world have doused our light and darkened our hearts with cares that cannot save. We stand in need of an awakening from the Spirit; one that renews in us a thirst for Christ and a tangible awareness of eternity. The world is dark and needs light, but where is our incandescence that lights the way to Him?

We are His and His alone. New creatures in Christ are we and servants of the Redeemer. The Spirit says “Arise!”, but our ears are closed. Little by little, and day by day, we have allowed our hearts to follow after things and not Christ. Worries fill our minds, and our eyes feed our minds with useless information. But how can we arise if our spirits are weighted down?

We worship doctrines and preachers and fellowships, but do we worship the Christ. Rick Warren say he can worship God while taking out the garbage. What? Worship is now a multitask? No longer need we give ourselves wholly to Him and His presence. No longer must we turn away from our lives and fall before the burning bush. Today, we can be both Martha and Mary and we can worship God while doing the dirty dinner dishes.

Instead of soaring above the Industrial revolution we have succumbed to its subtle spirit of narcissism and greed. But God says, “Arise!”.

Dan.12:3 - And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

Why do believers spend time and energy persuading others concerning political perspectives when it is Christ and Christ alone who can change a darkened heart and bring a sinner to life. Why do we pay allegiance to an earthly nation rather than surrendering our allegiance completely to a holy nation whose King is holy, august, and glorious?

He has written us into His story of tragic victory.

A little over two thousand years ago a Jew was put to death on a cross constructed by the Roman oppressors. Tucked away in an obscure place that was sometimes used for capital punishment, this event was only witnessed by a handful of onlookers. This Jew was one of three men crucified that day. Since his poverty could not provide for Him a proper burial place, one had to be borrowed. He lived a little over thirty years. He lived. He died. He had shown some real promise, and he had attracted, at times, some large crowds who gathered to hear his words.

But each time it seemed his popularity was growing, he would say something that would offend people and he would have to start all over again. But even with this checkered track record he made the religious hierarchy a little nervous. Unadvisedly, he went to Jerusalem where the city it seems was brutally divided over him and his words. In juts three years, with no money and no political skills, this Jew had managed to be at the center of a major rift among the Jews.

He was eventually arrested and put to death for sedition. He lived. He died. The world must now move on to more pressing issues. But soon it became clear that this man, now dead, was not going away. How could such an insignificant person still wield interest among people? Could they not see that whatever mission he claimed to promote died along with him?

But what the world failed to understand is that this man’s mission had been wholly and completely accomplished. But how? He was put to death by the Romans. He was punished and he could not escape his own death, even an excruciating and grotesque death. He left a few interesting quotes but He was now gone. But now there was a different problem. The rumor had it that this man was not dead and that he had risen from the dead. But if left alone, that too would eventually dissipate and go away. Maybe...

Does the story seem archaic and redundant to you? Have you heard it so much that it is now stale and has lost its glory? God forbid!! Amidst all the infighting and the doctrinal heresies, the gospel still shines with an eternal glory that make angels quake. Oh yes, with all the sophisticated psychological techniques men still search aimlessly for something, anything. With all the scientific knowledge at our computer worn fingertips man is still empty and void of the knowledge that can set him free. Even religious man has relegated the story of Christ to certain holidays and the children’s vacation Bible school.

The gospel has become a perfunctory sermon benediction that is spoken quickly and without the passion it so richly deserves. I remember in 1975 when I became a born again believer, I was excited every day just to realize that Jesus was the Son of God and that He died for me. How often have I taken that for granted and moved on to bigger and better ecclesiastical things? God forgive me.

Are we ashamed and embarrassed by the childlike simplicity of the gospel? Must we feed our so called intellectual prowess at the expense of the gospel story? Make no mistake, the story of how God became a man and offered Himself a sacrifice for the sins of the entire world is no trifle. It is both the everyday dinnerware as well as the finest of all china. The gospel is the sacred source of all redemption as well as the fountain from which we should drink every day. Intellects have scoffed at it, theologians have changed it, church members have ignored it, cults have manipulated it, sinners have rejected it, and the great religions of the world have created their own.

But God’s redemptive plan is eternal and can never be vanquished! Let those who name His name arise and shine! We are ambassadors for the Lord Jesus, the Everlasting King of all that was and is and shall be. The world dies in darkness and it is we who are His light. Away with politics and nationalism and divided loyalties. Let the resurrection power of the Lord of Lords shine in and through us in ways that cannot be denied by those around us. We are servants of the Most high God.

Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Norway and America

The deranged man who murdered so many in Norway claimed to be a Christian. He was in favor of a war against Muslim domination in Europe. There are many professing Christians in America who have not resorted to violence, but openly suggest combating any Muslim influence or takeover in America.

There is only one thing wrong with that point of view. It isn’t Christian.
Only Half Orthodox

Many times we have heard about sins of commission and omission. Commission means, of course, that we can commit sins by our actions and thoughts. All of us are card carrying members of that fallen club, regardless of who claims otherwise. But there is another side to that same coin and it is sinning by omission, or not doing what the Scriptures command us to do. Again, we are all faithful members of that club as well.

But I would like to take those principles a step further in application. We who consider ourselves as “orthodox” often take issue with preachers and teachers who we consider false and teaching things that go against the clear teaching of Scripture. Men like Rob Bell, Brian McClaren, Joel Osteen, are but a few of these men. These kinds of aberrant teachings are becoming more and more prevalent in these last days, and they are also becoming more and more popular. They commit false teachings by commission.

But rarely do we mention or even understand that there is another side to that false teaching coin. There is another kind of aberrant teaching that seems very orthodox as it applies to what we have come to understand as systematic theology. These kind of teachings have acceptable statements of faith, and many would abhor the teaching of the afore mentioned false teachers. However many times these teachers teach falsehoods by the things they omit.

This kind of teaching is very clandestine and comes from very orthodox men. You see, these men can have sound doctrine in areas of theology while being wanting as in comes to practical expressions of that same theology which are taught, exhorted, and even commanded throughout the New Testament. While the hordes of evangelicals continue being active and faithful to their particular church, they have exchanged obedience to Christ for obedience to their church. And the bar that is set from the pulpit is so low and common, that almost everyone can fit easily into the parameters of some kind of disciple as projected by those pulpiteers.

To explain from Scripture the Incarnation is one thing. But how does one exegete and communicate the commands that make that a reality by behavior rather than just using words alone? Preachers explain the Trinity, the sufficiency of Scripture, the virgin birth, justification by faith, and a litany of other systematic theological truths. But as it pertains to being a living sacrifice, a peculiar people, an epistle read of all men, to owe no man anything, and even how the fruits of the Spirit should be made manifest in the life of a believer are spoken in generalities and shallow specifics. Letting a car cut in the line in front of you is an embarrassing example of fruitfulness.

The emergent movement has placed an overwhelming emphasis on how one lives and downplayed, and even made irrelevant, what one believes. That is absolutely wrong because what a sinner believes decides eternity for him. Also, I have known and interacted with emergent types and guess what? They do not live any differently than do we and they exhibit just as much flesh and carnality as the evangelical next door. What does that tell you?

Remember this: One can learn all the tenets of systematic theology in a matter of months, but to learn and exhibit the tenets of being like Jesus takes a lifetime, unless you believe that knowing systematic theology is being like Jesus. And I can stand behind the pulpit and preach the tenets of doctrine and accurately proclaim that I believe every one of them. But when I preach about being and living like Jesus, I am preaching things about which I am still pursuing and fall short. In fact, if I am preaching things that I completely exhibit and consider the normal experience of my entire life, then I am not preaching Christ.

In the coming days I wish to write about those very things.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A New Heart for Sinners

(Gay and Straight)
At midnight tonight New York becomes the 6th state to legalize gay marriage. Of course that goes against what God intends, but it is not a major slide from a generally moral society. It is just another symptom of a fallen and antichrist society residing in an antichrist government. Go ahead and express outrage if you must, but on some level that is just moral hubris, especially if you are not outraged about your own failures and sins.

Let’s remember a few things about that situation. The gay couples will now be recognized by the fallen culture of New York State, and as it pertains to both temporal and eternal issues it is meaningless. Those same couples will return to their homes as married and do the same things they did last night. Can I be honest with you? I have always found gay men to be nice and even charming. But I cannot watch two men being physically expressive, and yet I do not find the same repulsion about two women - generally. It must be my fallen nature, I’m sure it is.

What I am saying is that in order to reach gay people for Jesus we must ask God to give us a love for their souls that is much greater than any moral outrage or repulsion we might experience. After all 50 states recognize gay marriage, and if Jesus tarries they will, we can be assured of one thing - Lost people are still lost and saved people are still saved. That is the vision a believer has when he sees through gospel glasses and he views sinners of all kinds as part of a whited field in need of a spiritual harvest. Before I was saved I was not gay, but you would not have liked me. I was a drug addict, violent (6‘5“ 275 lbs.), a drunk, and planning on robbing a bank and killing the guard going in. I sold drugs into the high schools and I was promiscuous with girls several years younger than I. Oh, but I was not gay!

You will notice that when a preacher’s son is rebellious and promiscuous, but heterosexual, it rarely makes the news. But let some preacher's kid, or some liberal politician’s kid, come out as gay and we are eager to publish such moral depravity since we have not struggled with that sin. The western church is filled with all kinds of sin, both condoned and not condoned, but the gay issue provides a great cover for our significant failures. In fact, the church is not only filled with self righteousness, it cultivates and applauds it.

A person can be divorced and remarried and yet he or she stands upon a moral podium and can castigate any gay person who makes the news. Four years ago my wife of 31 years left me for another man, and I remain unmarried. I am not judging divorced people, but I am judging those who throw stones at other sinners when we all have a boat load of sins of commission and omission. Please understand this principle: The ministry of correction should be within the church and among people who know Christ and have the Spirit. And further, this correction should come from the leadership of the church lest everyone become a pseudo elder-prophet.

And when someone is corrected by the leadership, it must be done privately at first with love, grace, and a pursuit of restoration. The leadership must humbly reach out in corrective love to this sheep and go the extra mile to restore such an one. We should not publish anyone’s sins for the whole world to see and feast upon, and if one refuses correction then and only then should they be brought publicly before the assembly where they worship and where they should be accountable.

That is generally an outline for the fellowship of believers. But when we lift up our eyes to the fields, we must do it through eyes and hearts that see souls rather sins. Are we surprised that sinners sin? They are dead in their sins already, and yes, they stand condemned. But we are not sin publishers, we are messengers of good news. Go ahead and lay out a Scriptural foundation that exposes the false teachings of preachers. And when they say that God approves of the gay lifestyle, confront that teaching with conviction and Scriptural evidence.

But when some person comes out as gay, that is not the time to spread that news, that is the time to spread the good news that Jesus Christ died to save that gay man or woman. Of course, some theologies believe that Christ did not die for everyone and that is part of the problem. Can you see the difference? We must believe and obey the Scriptures, but we must also distinctly recognize the difference between scolding our own and evangelizing those who know not Christ. We surely can share in general what God thinks about sin to a lost person, but to condemn him for a certain sin takes the focus off the gospel and on some level is moral self righteousness. The entire human race was condemned to spiritual death because one man committed one sin. Was it murder? Adultery? Homosexuality? No, it was a simple act of rebellion which involved taking one bite of one piece of fruit. Doesn’t that make the ground around sin flat?

To itemize the sins in this culture is like shooting fish in a barrel. It is easy and usually only serves to elicit the amens from the choir. But if you feel you must do so, the material for your research is almost infinite. In fact, if you just start with your own sins you might have enough for a decade of publications. I am sincerely not attempting to continue to address any other blog, but I am addressing a general principle of gospel behavior.

So when you hear that New York has approved gay marriages, and when you see gay people expressing their feelings toward each other, reach deep inside your spiritual chest, pull out your spiritual heart, hold it up to the Master, and ask Him to break it for you. And after He breaks it, and after you no longer look down your Mosaic nose at other sinners, then ask Christ to remake your heart.

But,” you ask, “Into what shape should I ask Christ to mold my heart?”

The shape of a cross.
Divine Purposes in Suffering

Rom.8:16-18 - The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
18 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.

I Cor.4:11-12 - Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;
12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:

I Cor.12:25-27 - That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

II Cor.1:4-6 - Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

Phil.1:27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me. (NASV)

Phil.3:9-11 - 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.

Phil.4:11-13 - Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

II Thess.1:4-6 - So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;

Heb.5:7-9 - Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

I Pet.2:20-21 - For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. 21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

I Pet.4:12-14 - Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.

The theme in these verses is suffering. What role does suffering play in the lives of believing followers of the Lord Jesus, and should we expect such suffering to come our way? Many people suffer to achieve certain goals. The athlete suffers through brutal training in order to win the prize. The student suffers through long nights and a restricted social life in order to receive his law degree. The soldier suffers the unimaginable to defend and protect his country.

Suffering is common to all men on certain levels. All of us have been sick; all of us have had loved ones die; all of us have been rejected; and all of us have suffered financial setbacks. But in addition to the common sufferings, there are a host of sufferings that are distinctly related to being a follower of Jesus Christ. Those kind of sufferings are sacred sacrifices which both glorify our Master and highlight whose we are.

Although we must never orchestrate our own suffering, neither should we be surprised when it arrives. We should both expect it and embrace it. Suffering is a process designed to deepen our knowledge of Christ through identification. It can be a glorious opportunity that miraculously reveals the unseen through the prism of the seen. And when he that suffers reacts very differently than should be normally expected it can be a powerful witness for the Living Christ.

If sufferings are viewed as irritants which God never would allow, then they will affect us negatively. Many snake oil preachers have gained great wealth by convincing people that not only does God not want you to suffer, but that the path to relief is through the giving of money - to them! Most everyone can appear spiritual when they are not being tested, but when they are tested, and when circumstances are buffeting them, it is then that a more accurate measure of their spirituality will surface.

One of the most importantly ways in which we can have victory while in the midst of suffering is to consciously experience the fellowship of HIS sufferings. That is a sacred fellowship that in a mystery allows to identify with the cross, and to constantly remember how Christ suffered for us. Of course only Christ’s sufferings are eternally redemptive, but our sufferings can and should illuminate the reality of His glorious agony.

To suffer for Him is a great privilege. So often we complain or sign petitions or castigate back at those who castigate us. How can we behave and speak in such unscriptural ways, even while holding up a copy of the Bible and loudly proclaiming to believe it? It is unseemly and is at odds with the teachings of the New Testament and the narrative of our Savior’s life. Humility receives suffering silently, while self righteousness recoils at suffering and demands justice for those responsible for our distress. Spurgeon once reminded us that they called Christ “Beelzebub” so why should we expect fair treatment?

The church has rolled up her carnal sleeves and jumped into any and all battles when people speak against the beliefs or rights of believers. Newsletters go forth informing believers of such unfair and outrageous treatment, and calling them to political action! For years Madalin Murray O’Hair was the favorite scape goat for the church, and although there is precious little prayer in our churches, we took a conscience soothing umbrage over removing public prayer from schools.

Even the Pilgrims, another sacred cow, left England because they wanted relief from their suffering. Now I ask you, after reading the verses I offered, does the Lord want us to glorify Him in our suffering or tom seek a safer place? Do you see how we have deceived ourselves and constructed a more convenient and comfortable caricature of Christianity? The truth is that we in the west are not suffering at all. I could address the millions upon millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world whose very lives are at stake because they believe in Jesus. Many of them work at menial jobs because they cannot be employed because of their faith, and rather than keep silent and be successful business men in China or Russia, they humble themselves and serve the Risen Christ whenever they can.

You believe we suffer because unsaved sinners belittle us, or attack us for what they perceive is moral self righteousness? Is that our claim to righteous suffering? Read once more the account in Hebrews chapter 11 and let us admit our fraud. We have so desired a piece of the suffering pie that we have created a cunningly devised hoax that costs us nothing but a war of words and we call it “suffering for Jesus”. Shame on us all. Read the Fox’s Book of Martyrs and let it break our hearts when we realize the profound shallowness of our Christian experience.

And in the midst of such a scam we complain and render words back. But are we willing to endure hardship, persecution, and suffering in Jesus’ name and with great joy?

Heb.12:2 - Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Our Lord not only endured the path that led to Golgotha, but He thought it “joy” to suffer in our place. Are we filled with joy when we are granted a chance to suffer, and especially when we suffer for Him? Let us count our lives as nothing but a living sacrifice, and let us be prepared to suffer with contentment, joy, and a grateful heart.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Am I a Mormon?

There is a fundamental difference between taking issue, and even strong and corrective issue, with preachers who are distorting the gospel and teaching falsehoods that do violence to the gospel, as opposed to “reporting” about the run of the mill person, perhaps lost, and their struggle with sin. That is not discernment, that is National Enquire-esque journalism.

If reading unfavorable news about people and spreading that news further is a “ministry” then I’m a Mormon. We used to call that gossip in the old days.
When Did the Church Lose Her Heart?

I cannot embrace online (or offline) savagery emanating from doctrinal aficionados and aimed at the struggles of sinners, both professing believers and non-believers. The dry eyed verbal dismemberment is both heartless and void of any compassion that should be shown by imitators of Jesus. We all deal with self righteousness, but when it accepted as a normal, and even God approved, form of attitude and communication, then it has become a clandestine agenda. There are many instances of this, and I will use one as a corrective lesson for us all.

There is a young man named Randy Potts who is admitting to having an attraction for men. I guess this would not make any real news, except that this young man is the grandson of Oral Roberts. But let me be clear about two things. I take serious issue with the entire Robert’s theology and teaching, and I consider him to be a false teacher. Whether he knew Christ as his Savior is above my pay grade.

Also, I cannot accept homosexual behavior as consistent with the Scriptures. It remains clear what God has said about such things. But I have never struggled with such feelings and therefore cannot pound my doctrinal chest while eviscerating others who do. Redemption is for gays too.

I would direct you to an online discernment site called Apprising Ministries. It is administrated by a pastor named Ken Silva. This site calls into question the teachings of such men like Rob Bell, Brian McClaren, and many others. Many times his articles correctly identify doctrinal compromises and even heresies taught by such men. Even though I might take issue with a site whose core purpose is heresies, I still have benefited in reading some of the posts. And of course there are no posts in these type of sites that deal with their own lack of spiritual power because doctrinal orthodoxy is defined as absolute spiritual power.

But when they take it upon themselves to castigate sinners and magnify the moral failures and struggles of believers and nonbelievers alike, then I believe correction is in order. When this young man named Potts came out as gay THIS ARTICLE APPEARED. Yes, the feeding frenzy had begun. Of course the titillating factor that he was the grandson of Oral Roberts just added another juicy element to the spectacle. Now if you read the post and were able to wade through all the self links which are prevalent in all his posts, then you can understand the tabloid nature of such communications even when camouflaged as some kind of watchtower journalism.

Oral Robert’s oldest son was rumored to struggle with same sex attractions and as reported in Silva’s post he committed suicide. Well at least we can take comfort in the fact he didn’t try to justify his attractions. A gun to the head is better than a gay agenda. I am sure many so called orthodox and fundamentalists took secret and overt delight in the Robert’s family tragedy. But highlighting the family tragedies of non-orthodox preachers is not unusual, and in fact it has become big game territory in the online jungle of “look what others are saying and doing”.

But this latest online discernment service goes way beyond the usual moral and doctrinal hubris that passes as courageous stands for God’s truth. This crosses any authentic line which could by any stretch be identified with the spirit of Jesus. These kinds of public admissions, especially when it is of a gay nature, are relished by sites like AM, and they gleefully pounce upon these opportunities to tout their Scriptural exegesis and the indispensable informational service they provide. I cannot resist: It’s like throwing chum into a shark infested water. And when the subject of such heartless attacks references those sites, as in Pott’s case when he tweeted about Ken Silva, that is online discernment gold!

So the next post (you knew there would be more forthcoming) was a satirical swipe at this young man POSTED HERE. How compassionate. How loving. How humble. We are all so broken about the struggles of others, even if they are counter to what the Scriptures teach. Of course none of us ever do what the Scriptures teach against, or don’t do what the Scriptures do teach. And none of us struggle with sin on any level. The “Lord be praised” we continue to walk the narrow path of almost perfectionism while carrying the necessary bag of stones needed when opportunities arise. And we will admit to just enough nebulous personal sin to keep our orthodoxy intact.

But as void of pathos for the lives of others are contained in those two posts, the current post must be placed in the self righteous hall of fame with a special recognition of manipulation through the leveraging of the failures of others.


Wow. Just wow. Now the life and struggles of the young man named Potts can be used to both tout the increasing readership of your site, as well as shamelessly plugging for money. Do you see what has happened here? I mean just the first sentence is an incredible moment of self serving rhetoric.

As you know Apprising Ministries is blessed by God to be one of His leading online apologetics and discernment works helping to blaze a new mission field that was previously largely unused.”

If you cannot see the palpable self righteous spirit in those words than I probably cannot help you see it. Blazing new mission fields? Never mind. Those words were written by the administrator himself. But to use Randy Potts in your post title in order to peak the interest of the readers, and then go into your reader count, is unconscionable. And then when you post positive choir e-mails to launch into a plea for funds it is carnal genius.

Yes, I disagree with the emergent theology and the health and wealth movement and many other segments of evangelicalism. But it breaks my heart when young men like Potts abandon the struggle and surrender to themselves. But it makes me sick when I see online discernment “ministries” use those personal travails as leverage for their own purposes and as nourishment for their reader’s flesh. I am guilty of much, and I struggle with self righteousness and other sins, but I will quit blogging if I ever sink to feeding upon the sins and struggles of others, and if I ever stop challenging myself and my readers to deepen the stakes and lengthen the cords of their own spiritual tents.

A final note: Please do not send money. (I know, self righteousness by me.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


II Tim.2:24-25 - And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
25In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;

I Pet.5:5-6 - Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

Phil.2:5-8 - Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Ja.4:6 - But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

Matt.23:11-12 - But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
12And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

Humility. The dictionary defines humility as acting without arrogance and in an attitude of submissiveness. Of course, on the surface and in the context of human interaction, this serves as a general definition. However, we as believers are called to a much deeper level of humility that actually mirrors the humility exhibited by the Incarnation. This is a very difficult concept to comprehend, and it is even more difficult to reveal in practical ways, both in our outward behavior and speech, and in the unseen attitudes of the heart.

How can we understand the relationship between boldness and humility? All the attributes of Christ are symbiotic in nature and practice, and therein lies a profound challenge for those of us who name His name. We have so diluted the way of Jesus until it is nothing more than a set of morals combined with church membership and some tepid support for world missions. Say a prayer, get baptized, and off you go! What a disgrace.

But we are called to exhibit uncommon humility. Where are the Sunday School classes that teach a one year study on humility? Where are the mentors that take new believers under their wing and teach them the humility that goes against all they have ever known and seen practiced? Do we assume that when a sinner is born again that he automatically understands the distinct differences between what he has lived and what Christ desires for him now? This kind of humility only comes through discipline, and is always accompanied by a severe resistance of the flesh as well as seemingly illogical behavior. What I mean is that Christlike humility does not make sense in the natural, and it sometimes seems to surrender, when in reality it is a conduit of the Spirit.

Humility has been significantly lost in the church. In fact, the church by and large does not even pursue humility, especially a humility that reflects the condescension encapsulated in Christ’s incarnation and His subsequent death on the cross. And if we understand the infinite dynamics of such a humility, then how does it translate into words and deeds, and more challenging, into heart attitudes? With what spiritual instruments does God use to break us and remold us into the image of the Lord Jesus?

The immediate problem is that we are unaware of our plight, and because of decades of unchristian teaching and behavior within the church, we compare ourselves with ourselves and are blind to the uncomfortable mirror of the Word. Rather than going to the Word with no preconceived notions, we are content to allow preachers, who themselves are blind, to dictate soothing falsehoods to us. The challenges of being like Jesus, especially in His humility, are colossal. So why then are the redundant gatherings on Sunday mornings so palatable and edifying without being searching instruments of the Spirit that penetrate our very hearts and drive us to repentance? The answer, of course, lies directly with the human instrument.

I believe humility is an attitude that is filled with salt and light. All the evangelistic programs, regardless of how creative and relevant, cannot match the effectiveness of a group of Christ followers who are humble and broken. The power of a broken and humble saint cannot be overstated. The world does not need slicker programs or outreaches that are designed to be relevant to their fallen lives. What lost people need is an exhibition of Christ that radiates through His followers in humble glory.

Here is the eternal God, allowing Himself to be fashioned in the likeness of a sinful man, and the Spirit exhorts us to exhibit that kind of humility. Oh my. This is not just some “you go first” in the bank line humility. This kind of humility is powerful and dynamic, and the life force of Jesus the Christ flows through such humility. This kind of humility bows to its enemies so that the enemy may see and believe in Christ. This kind of humility does not argue about moral issues with lost people, this humility understands their condition and seeks redemption rather than victory in some argument, or worse yet, some hollow legislative victory. Why do we seek justice for others and grace for ourselves? And like Inspector Javert in Les Miserables, our energy toward bringing sinners to justice blinds us to our own legalistic judgments even when we ourselves were so worthy of eternal death.

Think on this. The Incarnate God allowed His face to be spat upon by wicked and fallen men, and yet we take umbrage at the slightest verbal assault upon our character. I have some news for all of us. You are not as holy as you think, and you are not the perfect representation of God to the world. We should take persecution with both the acknowledgement that much of what people see may be true, as well as giving Him all the glory when we are spoken against for His sake. In fact, Jesus told us to rejoice!

That is one of the many things that is so deadly about politics and nationalism. They are void of humility and full of self righteousness. So you were born by God’s providence upon a certain piece of dirt, and to that dirt you are proud? By God’s grace you have learned a little bit about morality, and now you stand upon that grace and spew law to the lost? What hypocrites we are. We were without hope in a large pit and God pulled us up and gave us life, and no sooner are we dusted off and given this life then we look downward into the pit and castigate the ones from whose company we just came. Again, hypocrites.

Look at what Paul says to us. We should be “gentle to all men” because through our loving humility God may grant to them repentance. And just what do we think the word meekness means? I have heard many a preacher say, “We are not supposed to be doormats.” Yes we are! And would to God we were all crimson doormats upon which sinners stepped and wiped their carnal feet, but found Christ. Look again at the cross and see a public display that soars above what we consider being a doormat. Paul wished himself accursed so that the lost Jews may be saved. Talk to me about your rights and how we are not called to lay down our very lives if necessary for the salvation of the lost. Again, we have distorted the truth.

We are living an easy and comfortable kind of Christianity. Our walk of faith costs us nothing. We gossip and speak evil against almost anyone. We retaliate when attacked. Our prayer closets are uninhabited, and the church houses are dark most nights of the week, and yet we claim that the situation is desperate. And not only are we not humble, but we have lost what it means to be a humble servant of our Lord and Master. We claim to believe that the end is near, but it does not substantially affect the way we live. Doctrine without works is dead.

When we are puffed up and speak great and swelling words about our stands for truth and morality, we seem to share the spotlight with Him and actually countermand the grace of God. Humility must be practiced, and in that process, we will fail. But we must remain vigilant every moment for the pride of life that rears its ugly head with the cloak of moral hubris and doctrinal purity. Our enemies must see a humble love that embraces them in spite of their sin in earnest hopes of redemption. Our behavior must be remarkable in a darkened world which eagerly defends itself and attacks those who they deem worthy of attack.

Matt.5:45-47 - That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

o you really love Barney Frank? Do you love Barak Obama? Do you love Glenn Beck? Do you love the teacher that mistreated your child? Do you love the most unloving member of your extended family? And if not, are you praying earnestly for a change of heart?

Ps.119:165 - Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

Do you love yourself or do you love God and His Word? Those that love God love others. And those that love themselves do not love others. The foundation of love is humility. Without humility we will all think more highly of ourselves than we should, and in so doing we will be blinded to the vision of Jesus Christ. This is not some minor point of doctrine. This must be seen as pivotal if we are to be ambassadors for the Lord Jesus. It is surely not easy, but it is only impossible if we close our eyes to it and live without the cross carrying life of a humble servant.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Dead Need Life

A person lies dying in a hospital bed. What do you do? Do you make his bed more comfortable? Do you help to decrease his hospital bill? Do you educate him concerning his condition?

You know that only one medicine has been shown to make him healthy and whole once more, and you have that medicine. Do you take a vote of all the hospital doctors to see if the majority can agree on what to do? Do you listen to non-doctors who say that the patient needs bloodletting like our forefathers did? Do you give him medicine that makes him feel better but does nothing to keep him alive?

But now that same man dies. How do you resuscitate him? Do you wash his body? Do you change his bed sheets? Do you hold focus groups to see which segment of society agrees with you? Do you spend money to castigate others who do not agree with you? Do you attempt to change this dead man’s mind?

Sinners of all sorts are dead. Liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, Muslim, Jewish, Baptist, Catholic, and many, many other sinners from all sorts of genres are dead. They do not need their minds changed; they do not need their politics changed; they do not need their morals changed; they do not need the Taliban forced out of office; they do not need their fiscal policies changed. They are dead. They need life.

Jesus Christ came into this world, lived a sinless life, died on Golgotha, and rose from the dead to conquer death. He calls sinners to believe in Him so that they might have life, and life eternal. Dead sinners need the gospel, nothing more and nothing less.

I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

Monday, July 18, 2011

God's Power - Why?

As I perused the local church advertisements, I came across one that announced a new sermon series entitled, “Release the Power in You”. Now this church has a bone fide statement of faith, and its pastor would be considered orthodox and sincere. They have a vibrant worship service which is fine with me. I am demonstrative in my worship. But it has been my sad experience that when the worship service is somewhat loud and demonstrative, the preaching and teaching many times seems to be somewhat shallow and lacking.

But there is a vast misconception of what it means when we say “power” and how God’s power works in believers. Our charismatic friends would claim that God gives you power to get wealth and healing, and the political wing of evangelicalism would claim God’s power should be used to gain political leverage. And of course there is a divine power to help believers stand against the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

But throughout the New Testament there is a distinct and even dramatic unfolding of God’s power that does not lead to the normal definition of power. In fact, Jesus had all the power but no one can claim that He used His power in ways that can be described as manipulative and dominating. The power that was exhibited by the God-man seemed to be at odds with what man identifies as power, and surely at odds with Who He claimed to be. It is exactly that kind of carnal assessment which led most people to conclude that Jesus was not the Christ.

The power that God desires to leverage in the lives of His followers has a much different purpose and a much different result.

Acts 1:8 - But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

We are to be witnesses of Jesus, both in word and in deed. The life that reminds people of Jesus is far from being self serving and bellicose, or even judgmental and legalistic. The life of Jesus was in the most profound sense a life of selfless sacrifice and a brand of redemptive love that looked at people’s sin as more of a need than a reason to castigate. Jesus was the epitome of humility. And we are called to take His message and His life to the four corners of the world.

Acts 8:18 - And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.

So often the church has searched for the power of God to use to their own benefit. The average western church believes that God exists for the benefit of man and that given the right teaching, the right incantation, and the right understanding of Scripture every believer will prosper materially and be a bold witness, even though today’s boldness is often nothing more than a caustic avatar that embodies Adam more than Jesus. Simon was willing to purchase such a power, which was the forerunner of today’s “seed gift” falsehood.

I Cor.1:18 - For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

You desire real and genuine power? Look at the cross. That is the power of God although in today’s fast paced Christian culture the cross is considered the foundation of redemption on some level, but not deemed relevant in the life of the average western believer. Can the cross pay the electric bill? Can it give me favor with my boss and allow me to receive a promotion? Can it achieve for me the success I believe God desires for me as it pertains to my career? In fact, many times the cross can be a detriment to getting all those things.

Gal.2:20 - I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

And now we come to the place where theology must break through the fallow ground of systematic doctrine and bloom into living fruit that reveals the life of Christ that flows invisibly from the Vine to the branches. The cross must be taken down from the trophy case, dusted off from the statement of faith museum, and allowed to both uncover the glory of its redemption as well as crucify those who by faith have embraced it.

We have entered the authentic source of all power given unto believing sinners. There can be no resurrection without the cross, and all attempts to bypass the cross and paint the resurrection as a fresh start are demonic lies. To walk in resurrection power is to live a crucified life. If you live a convenient life with very little self wrestling, then you are living for yourself. If you do not struggle and grapple with your own flesh, and if you can go days without combat in the prayer closet over your own motives and failures, then you are walking along side the fallen dictates of this present world.

II Cor.4:5-12 - For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.
6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
11 For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

12 So then death worketh in us, but life in you.

Does that seem like the victorious life as it is defined in today’s faith community? Where is the prosperity? Where are the political victories? Where are the wonderful conferences designed to make us feel better? Where are the testimonies of how God orchestrated a loan for our new and bigger home? This power, God’s power, is not for us. It is so that His excellency may be manifested and that He may receive all the glory.

And does it take more power to indulge our own desires than it does to deny our fleshly desires? One of the greatest and most alluring facets of the cross is that the Creator of the universe denied Himself a rescue and died for those who where committing His very murder. He could have incinerated the entire creation, and yet He laid down His life to save it. Which power would have benefited Him, and which power benefited us? The revelation of God’s love was most clearly manifested through the prism of His own self denying power. Oh my.

II Cor.12:10 - Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

II Cor.13:4 - For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you.

Weakness? Infirmities? Reproaches? Distresses? What kind of words are these when associated with power? Aren’t these the things God’s power is supposed to deliver us from? We have turned the truth of God upside down and we now see and teach it through the fallen refraction of our own lusts. Any Scriptural truth that is culturally imprisoned is not God’s truth. If it can be preached to American believers, but cannot be preached to believers in Darfur, than it is false.

Col.1:10-11 - That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;

The power is directly associated with and tethered to the knowledge of God. You want God’s power. Learn of Him and take upon you His yoke. And what does he Himself say about His own Person? “For I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls“. Meek and lowly of heart? That, my friends, is the embodiment of God’s power when done in Jesus’ name. Preachers have attempted to change the meaning of Christlikeness and have represented it as being loud and belligerent and by their behavior they suggest that God is on their side.

Josh.5:13-14 - And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?
14 And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my Lord unto his servant?

Joshua inquires as to which loyalties this armed Person had. Neither! This was the Captain of the Lord of Hosts, and perhaps a vision of Christ Himself. We are not to be so concerned with God being on our side, but we must strive to always be on His side! True boldness is being crucified to our own life and alive unto His. And most times godly strength appears as earthly weakness.

II Tim.1:7-8 - For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;

Again, the word power is connected with the word afflictions. How incongruous with the way we are taught to think and believe. And verse 8 connects it to the testimony of Jesus. Do you see a pattern here? It seems as if we have had it upside down for some time. A true believing follower of the Lord Jesus is not brash and opinionated, even if his convictions are and should be strong. Why is it so often we are strong in our convictions about certain issues but very weak about our convictions about love and humility?

II Pet.1:2-4 - Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,
3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

And finally, again, we see how God’s power is unalterably connected to the “knowledge of Him”. And by that knowledge we are given promises, exceeding great and precious, and by these promises we can escape the “corruption that is in the world”. Corruption? So drugs and drunkenness, cursing and adultery, stealing and lying, immorality and murder, all are part of the corruption of this world. But never forget, so are self righteousness, self promotion, condemnation, striving for financial gain, unspiritual alliances, unholy entertainment, spiritual hubris, and many other more subtle forms of humanism.

We are inhabited by God’s power, not so that we can exhibit such power in ways that are nothing more than being religious bullies. But we are given this power in order to deny self and allow Christ to live in and through us. And we are to be living sacrifices that offer our earthly lives in order to lead many to Christ Jesus. Do not concern yourself with the climate of the age or the moral slide of the culture in which you live. Be concerned, be consumed, with being a crucified epistle whose life draws people to the Fountain of Life by a manifested desire to extend Christ’s redemption at the observable expense of your own desires and lusts.

All of this is by His power, for without Him we can do nothing.

Release the power in you? There is only one way.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Two Ways

There are two methods to change the world. Politics is man’s way, and the gospel is God’s way. One way fails, and one way succeeds.
The Power of Jesus Christ

II Cor.5:17 - Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

One of the most revealing manifestations of the gospel is the life changing effects it has upon those who believe. I personally can attest to that phenomenon since I was a drug addict and dealer, a violent man, and a very promiscuous person before Christ saved my soul. Since then I have never been sinless, but for sure I am not what I used to be and it is all because of the power of Jesus Christ.

And I am blessed by hearing of that same power working through others of my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. These are but three people, two of them with Christ today, that are a testimony to what Christ can do for anyone who truly believes and surrenders.

David Berkowitz was a man who was a loner and who became a demon possessed man. By his own testimony he was a Satan worshiper who heard voices and was in league with other devil worshipers. He participated in several random murders and was caught and sent to prison for life. During those first years he would howl at night and was generally an inmate filled with the demonic. Ten years into a lonely and troubled prison sentence, an inmate gave David a pocket New Testament with the Psalms..

One night in a cold prison cell, David was reading the Psalms and he came across an account of a man who cried out unto the Lord and God delivered him. David cried out to Jesus Christ and that night he became a believer. David would never be the same. Today, the man who was known as the “Son of Sam” is a humble minister within those prison walls. He knows he will never be set free, but David walks in a freedom that prison walls cannot restrict.

Karla Faye Tucker was an extremely troubled young woman who lived for drugs. Her mother led her into drugs and prostitution, and she became a very violent woman. She walked in depression and would lash out at anyone who got in her way. One night while on a drug induced craze, she and another man viciously murdered two people in an apartment. Karla bragged to others that she experienced a sexual satisfaction each time she had stabbed those people.

She was eventually caught and sent to prison and given the death sentence. But while in prison she met Jesus Christ and her life was miraculously changed. She never denied what she had done, but in the Spirit the old Karla died and a new creature had been born. She began to hold Bible studies and help other inmates find the saving peace she had found in Jesus Christ. The State of Texas and then Governor George Bush denied her appeal for a commutation to a life sentence and she went home to be with Christ on Feb. 3, 1998.

Jeffrey Dahmer was a deranged individual by anyone’s standards. Troubled as a young boy, he eventually morphed into a murderer who was gay and preyed upon gay males. And he often preserved his victim’s corpses and ate some of their bodies. He was obsessed and possessed and murdered many people. He eventually was caught and sent to prison for life.

While in prison his father still loved him and sent him Christian literature. Jeffrey read every page and eventually became a born again believer in Jesus Christ. He requested a minister to come to the prison so he could be baptized, and indeed he was. Although Jeffrey was extremely sorry for what he had done, he became an outspoken follower of Jesus Christ and even sought spiritual counsel over whether he should request the death penalty for himself. He was murdered on Nov. 28, 1994 and went home to be with Christ.

These are just thumbnail sketches of three lives that were transformed by the power of Christ while incarcerated for unspeakable crimes. I am convinced that some of the most humble servants of Jesus Christ live behind prison walls and manifest the life saving and life changing power of our Wonderful Savior! We are so often tossed to and fro by the secular media and the carnal perspectives of other believers. We are so quick to demand retribution and justice, and slow to pray for redemption and glory.

One of the reasons God has laid this post upon my heart is because of a young woman named Casey Anthony. I believe she had a part in her little girl’s death and that the verdict of not guilty was flawed. However, I pray that her conscience will so torment her that she has no rest. And I also pray that God will bring some believer into her life and that by God’s Spirit she will come to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. After reading the three testimonies I offered, how can you be skeptical about God’s power to accomplish such a thing?

May Jesus Christ always be high and lifted up, and may those of us who have been taken from our dunghill and placed upon the Eternal Rock always desire redemption for the vilest sinners among us. By the way, I read about a murderer who fervently rejected Christ and was aggressive in his persecution of Christians. His name was Paul and he wrote at least 13 of the books of the New Testament. Praise the Matchless Name of the Risen Christ!!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Subtle Gospel Departure

I believe we are living in the last days. I have no idea about the day or hour, but the signs are becoming more and more clear. Although Israel is a secular nation whose inhabitants deny Christ for the most part, that nation seems to figure in the last days. That does not imply that God shows them any particular favor, or that we as believers should support or not support them, it just means that God has identified the nation as an end time sign. There are many other signs such as violence, sexual perversion, greed and avarice, war, national calamities, weather anomalies, and others. And one of the most prominent signs is a great falling away from within the visible church.

It is very easy for the most elementary Bible student to see the heretical teachings of the emergent church, the liberal denominations, the ecumenical movement, the health and wealth movement, and the overall slide into lethargy and utilitarian Christianity that has swept the world. But there is another movement that is very sly and operates under a cloak of moral self righteousness and national idolatry. They are holding get togethers and so called prayer meetings to “turn America back to God”.

This is an example.

This is a very subtle form of spiritual decay, even when it is accompanied by much activity, host pastors, and contrived prayers. It has an observable element of moral hubris and a sense of religious clique-ism. There is little humility and much feistiness. And the overall ambiance does very little to represent the Spirit and Person of Jesus Christ. In fact, many of these events bring together many segments of evangelicalism whose theology is sometimes at odds with each other.
And this movement usually champions specific candidates because these people have professed some kind of faith in Christ along with an aggressive moral crusade. And an uncomfortable affection for the founding fathers, along with a fanciful historical account, is usually a requirement. The entire spectacle is counter productive to the gospel of Jesus Christ and is a false construct concerning the kingdom of God. The gathering is usually constructed with an array of speakers who attack the lost and the progressing liberal slant of the country and challenges the listeners to take back the country.

This kind of Christianity is contagious. It appeals to the patriotic spirit and does not address the deep spiritual issues that should be dealt with in the lives of such “patriots”. Abortion and gay rights are front and center, and in a remarkable departure from New Testament Christianity they usually address financial issues that are not considered pure capitalism. In reality, the entire movement is mired in nationalism and reflects a self righteous spirit of hedonism rather than a humble, self sacrificing spirit of servanthood.

Again, it must be considered an aberrant form of Christianity which draws believers away from Christ. It is more than just misguided, it rips at the very fabric of what it means to be a believing follower of Jesus Christ. I know, I used to be one. I do not claim an air of superiority, but I do claim to be grieved at such things when I think back to how I behaved and what I used to say. I know what it is to hate liberals and lost people who have immoral agendas, and I know how we can camouflage such hatred by suggesting we are “standing for the truth”. Does that even hint at the spirit of the cross?

If you are in a church who does not recognize the danger of such a movement then I suggest that you maintain a humble posture while attempting to be salt and light among the brethren. Resist the temptation to act like a prophet who thrives on correction, especially when you yourself was once deceived.

Ti.3:2-3 - To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. 3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.

Ah, there are the parameters in which we must live. These should be corrective commands to us all even though they are sometimes very difficult to exhibit. But like all the commandments of Christ, they must be acknowledged and practiced. Many of these nationalistic people are brothers and sisters in Christ. They must be prayed for and loved even while we correct their ways. In many ways the Christian life is a paradox, and this situation is no different. We cannot stand for one set of truths while ignoring another. And without love and humility, the gospel becomes a weapon designed to injure rather than redeem.

Oh let us return to a deeper reflection of the Lord Jesus, and a more painful denial of our own interests. His interests must be our interests, and He has no interest in politics or any so called “national interests”. Jesus is the King of a kingdom, one in which we have been made a part through faith in His death and resurrection. That cannot be our main interest, that must be our exclusive interest. Be on guard for any movement whose focus is not the Lord Jesus and His gospel. A good rule of thumb is this: If it’s new, it’s probably not true.
We Are His Brethren!

Heb.2:11 - For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,

All the religions of the world attempt to understand, define, and connect with the Creator, and they employ mental ascent, learning techniques, meditation, and adherence to certain rules to achieve this goal. Others attempt to make mankind a branch of the divine and an extension of the universal mind. Of course, the claims of Jesus and the revelation of the Person of Christ in the Scriptures are incompatible with any and all other religions. Jesus openly claimed redemptive exclusivity.

For those who have come to know Him through faith, and for those who have been born again by His Spirit, there await incredible treasures found in Him. One of those sacred treasures is found in Hebrews 2 and verse 11. We have not only been forgiven and redeemed for all eternity, but Jesus, the eternal God, calls us His brethren.

What is more important than a person’s family here on earth? A man will die to save his family, and in this case, God died to create His family. We then are more than just some creatures who God redeemed to place in some divine trophy case. We are part of His eternal family, and we are brothers and sisters to our elder Brother, the Lord Jesus. It defies all logic to think that God would receive us as His children. But it is true nonetheless.

And the Holy One is not ashamed to call us brethren. I am sometimes ashamed to call myself “brethren” much less to think that God calls me His brethren unashamedly. To be part of God’s family is the ultimate honor. And how have we received such an ado[tion? Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by faith in our Elder Brother alone.

Gal.4:4-5 - But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

The law was death. We could never have pleased God through the law, but the law revealed just how sinful and hopeless we were and it led us to Christ. In Him was hope, in Him was grace, in Him was life eternal, and in Him was the adoption as one of God’s children. In a creative sense we were all God’s children, but we had no eternal relationship after the fall. When Adam sinned the entire human race became children of Satan. But after the finished work by the Lord Jesus upon the cross and the subsequent resurrection from the dead, the gospel message went out into all the world. And when a sinner believes on the Lord Jesus Christ something wonderful and sacred occurs.

Rom.8:14-16 - For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

When we become a child of the Living God, we no longer fear God in the way in which an unbeliever should. Yes we reverence and respect Him as our Creator and August Lord, but we are also given the privilege of calling Him “Abba”. We can come boldly into His presence and make requests as a son to a father does. And our Elder Brother intercedes for us as well. It is an incredible relationship purchased by the Lord Jesus and made a reality by God’s grace through simple faith.

I Jn.3:1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God:

And what has been the motivation and the driving force behind this great kindness? God’s matchless love. Who could have complained if God had redeemed us and transported us into a paradise, free from sin and filled with eternal pleasure, but without His presence? And who could have indicted God if we were redeemed and called to spend eternity with Him as saints with a completely different essence? Those would have been infinitely more than we deserved and beyond our wildest imagination.

But God did not just do those things. Yes we will have a paradise free from sin, and yes we will spend eternity in His very presence. But in a stunning display of colossal grace, God has granted us sonship and promised to make us like Christ throughout the ions of eternity. Go ahead and meditate upon that, and if you even grasp a small piece of that truth, it must profoundly change your heart and life. To be a son; to be like the Lord Jesus; and to be promised all eternity. There is nothing more to be had.

So go ahead world, chase your passing dreams and your crumbling fortunes. Go ahead and pursue happiness in the spittoon that is this fallen world. Go ahead and place accolades upon yourselves and your so called heroes, and continue to seek the pleasures of sin for a season. You will find a modicum of happiness in such things, but their pleasures will be short lived. They will all disappear when eternity comes calling and when you must give an account for your lives.

Rom.8:18 - 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.
We may suffer in the present world, and if we live for Him we will be persecuted. We may not be adorned in the finest apparael or drive the most expensive cars or dwell in luxury. We may live in modesty and even well below our means. We may not be recognized as intellectual giants, and we may suffer at the scoffing of the ademic society. We may not be elevated and receive the success as defined by this present world. Yes, our reward is surely not found in this present life.

But let those who name the name of Christ rejoice! Our lives cannot be weighed upon the scales of this present life. Our lives are hidden with Christ in God, and they await an astonishing revelation when we are made like unto our Wondrous Lord and Savior! This is no fairy tale, no pie in the sky, this is the gift of God Himself given by grace through faith in His Son’s gospel truth. This is the culmination of the gospel age, and this is the eternal reward for the sufferings of God’s Lamb. We have been grafted into God’s eternal family and an eternal celebration awaits His entire clan.

Halleluiah! What a Savior!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Knowing You Jesus

All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this

Knowing you, Jesus, knowing you,
There is no greater thing
You're my all, you're my rest
You're my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord

Now my heart's desire is to know you more
To be found in you and known as yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All-surpassing gift of righteousness

Knowing you, Jesus, knowing you,
There is no greater thing
You're my all, you're my rest
You're my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord

Oh, to know the power of your risen life
And to know You in Your sufferings
To become like you in your death, my Lord
So with you to live and never die

Knowing you, Jesus, knowing you,
There is no greater thing
You're my all, you're my rest
You're my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord

(Graham Kendrick)