Sunday, April 29, 2012

Endure or Avoid Persecution

Endure or Avoid Persecution?

Do we as believers love sinners so much that we are willing to endure persecution in order to see them come to faith? That question is vital if we as the church are going to put down our carnal weapons, sacrifice our emotions, feelings, and pride, and offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. A man named Dan Savage is a gay man. He is outspoken and is disturbed by violence against gays. But how do we “respond” to such a man? What would Jesus do?

Watch this video and then I want to add to the discussion. I invite comments from all perspectives, but please think Biblically and with the nature of Christ about the subject.

Watch this video.

Did your negative emotions rise within you? Were you offended at the language? Or did you sense anger at his attack on the Bible? What kind of emotions seemed prominent as you watched and listened? As you could see, many young people walked out as they heard his attack on the Bible. I am sure they were sincere and presumed that they were standing for truth. I admit that it took some courage to walk out publicly. But if you are to be consistant in that principle, then you must leave the room every time a television is on.

But let us move past what we felt. Let us go to a place where we can think and pray and discuss this topic in the light of Scripture and the teachings and life of the One we follow. I submit beforehand, that the church has been self brainwashed into a form of self righteousness that does not in any way mirror the teachings and example of our Master. In fact, we have created major straw men which we can knock down and bask in our own applause. It generally is not intended to be mean, but does it reflect the Spirit of Christ and His cross?

Let us lay a Scriptural foundation for this discussion.

Matt.5:11-16 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matt.5:43-48 - Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 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?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Rom.12:14 - Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.

I Cor.4:12 - And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:
13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.

What should be our response to persecution or when men revile us for our faith? It is obvious. We should allow the love of Christ to strengthen us to the extent we suffer it. What does Paul say we should do when we are defamed or our reputation is besmirched? He says we should entreat, which means to plead with desperation. How different is that spirit than one which suggests we protest, or confront attack with attack, or walk out? That is my contention. How can a lost world, including the most belligerent among us, see Christ if they never see Christ in us?

It isn’t just your nice, lost neighbor to whom we are commanded to love and be longsuffering, it is the Rosie O’Donnell’s and the Rachel Maddow’s and the Dan Savages of this world. I realize that it is much easier to castigate them and run away with our hands over our ears, but that completely ignores the teaching, the intent, and the integrity of the cross. Jesus most forcefully confronted self righteousness, but with sinners He gave His life. Our thin skinned approach seems very convenient and in effect avoids the persecution we are called to endure for His sake.

Think about this. I know and support missionaries who live and witness in Muslim nations. Their very lives are in danger, and a few times they were called up before authorities. God has been gracious and they still provide a witness, although they must have wisdom. They have seen a score of conversions over a ten year period, and they conduct clandestine Bible studies for those converted Muslims. But some of those who came to Christ ridiculed the Bible and blasphemed the Lord Jesus in front of these missionaries. They said many blasphemous things, but those missionaries did not run out of the room in protest.

No, they stayed because the souls of those lost Muslims were more important than exhibiting their offense. The love of Christ continued to reach through those hurtful and untrue words. Why? Because their mission is souls and their vehicle is the gospel. Do we only love those who are not combative? Do we only witness to those whose level of deception is palatable? Do we now consider protest stronger than His love? So if we are unwilling to endure verbal persecution, what persecution will we endure? So where can we find some authoritative guidance on this issue?

Acts 7:58-60 - And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.
59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Ah yes, the very first martyr recorded in Scripture. But notice two important things. Notice who was a witness, and in fact a supporter, in the death of Stephen. None other than a man named Saul who was later to become the great apostle Paul. But notice also what Stephen prayed AS HE DIED. “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” I assume that the man Saul heard that prayer as did all of his executioners. Do you believe that had a more redemptive impact on those people than if Stephen would have called down judgment upon them all?

Matt.27:27-31 - Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.
28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.
31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.

Jn.19:1-3 - Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.
2 And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,
3 And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.

And here we find our undisputed example. This is not just an emotional story meant to invoke sympathy. No, this is to be presented to us, and in fact shoved in our self righteous faces, as a convicting example of just how far Jesus went to reach US and just how far we should go to reach THEM! Do you not see just how much we have changed and manipulated the spiritual mandate in order to make ourselves some “warriors for truth” fairy tale?

Truth? Are not the verses I have shared truth, or is the only truth that which your systematic statements of faith offer? Why is the Trinity truth but not the self denying love for sinners? Why is the virgin birth truth but not the sprit of redemption that endures persecution with inward joy and outward love for the persecutor? Why must we walk out on a lost and deceived sinner instead of praying for him in your seat and asking for an opportunity to speak with him? Self righteousness is a sophisticated deception that most often appears as a religious conviction.

And so we must address our response in the video. If you were seated in the room, just what do you think the Spirit would be saying to your heart. How would God’s Word be a light unto your path in that situation? And if the most irritating and unsavory sinners cannot be saved, then we are all still in our sins. Meditate and pray on this, because that little high school setting has implications about how the church behaves in the larger settings of politics, moral debates, and nationalism as a whole. Who will we be to the lost world - defenders of our doctrines or sacrificial conduits of redemption. We cannot be both.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

To Glory in Him

To Glory Only in Him

I Cor.1:12-13 - Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

Walk through a Christian bookstore. Or peruse through a catalogue of Christian books and Bibles. One such catalogue was sent to me in the mail. It has all sorts of commentaries and Bibles and Christian trinkets for sale. And if you see through the Spirit you will discover just how commercial men have made the faith. And it isn’t just limited to the sale of such things since it is not wrong to own spiritual helps. But it is the nature and commercial appeal of those things.

In the catalogue sent to my home I found scores of different Bibles. Not just different translations or paraphrases, but many different titles. There were the student’s Bible, the worker’s Bible, the teen Bible, the women’s Bible, the couple’s Bible, all of which had attractive covers. And then there was the Patriot’s Bible which added the founding father’s perspective and favorite verses.

And many of the Bible’s had a man or women’s name attached to them. The Scofield Bible, the Dake Bible, the Darby Bible, the John MacArthur Bible, The Criswell Bible, and a vast array of other Bibles with men’s name emblazoned on the front. There is the King James Bible, the American Standard Bible, and all sorts of other names. I do consider it rather unseemly to humanize the Bible and to uplift some man’s interpretation on the very front of a Bible. It is a subtle and not so subtle way to elevate the works and wisdom of man.

But there were hundreds of other books and Cds available for purchase as well. Most of them were adorned with attractive and colorful covers and many had other men and women’s endorsements. The entire spectacle seemed like a carnival of man rather than a lifting up of the Lord Jesus. And when we attempt to use the sales techniques of the fallen world we diminish and significantly misrepresent the gospel, discipleship, and the Lord Jesus Himself. Somehow I can see Christ cleansing this kind of thing.

The western church continues to lift up certain men and certain theologies and ingeniously make money on the entire scandal. One of the modern phenomenons is the affluent minister. Church history knew none of it, but today it is not only common, it is applauded by millions. And it isn’t just the prosperity preachers. It is inherent in the entire western ecclesiastical construct. Many if not most preachers make more than the average parishioner, and if you count the fringe benefits and the weekly schedule, they make way more. And they expect it.

Making men and women idols is a disgusting display of humanism regardless of how the word “Christian” is thrown around. Preachers are spiritual rack stars. Let a conference be held and it is advertised by the fame and popularity and imagery of certain men and women. But Paul would have none of that.

Gal.2:6 - But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:

Take a step back and look at things through the unvarnished perspective of the Word and the Spirit. Forget the sincerity of those who you admire, and just assess things through the abstract prism of God’s eternal Word. These things did not degenerate over night. This departure happened through systematic toleration of behavior that was antithetical to the kingdom of God. After the Industrial Revolution, while the culture began to prosper and pursue commercialism and intellectual knowledge, the church followed suit. And today, by any honest evaluation and perspective, the church has become a business.

And this business is a multi-level ponzi scheme that promises benefits to, and elicits the desired funds from, the religious Proletariat and uses those very funds to line the pockets of the religious Bourgeoisie. It is fascinating to watch and diabolical when understood. And at the center of it all is money and power. It has absolutely no spiritual benefit and it not only is a continuing western cycle, but it grows in scope and creativity. It is in essence an undeclared war on the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Quiet boldness has given way to flashy commercialism. While Christ was called “that fellow” men must be addressed as reverend or apostle or bishop. Conferences are not called to pray and fast together, they are called to excite the flesh or reestablish some doctrine already embraced by those who attend. And the speakers and singers stay in first class hotels, eat first class meals, and are remunerated with first class “gratuities”. And the speakers and singers sell their Cds and books and make handsome paychecks. And most repulsive is the so called “Christian cruise”. That is a combination of hedonism, gluttony, and idol worship practiced on the high seas. You can read about a true Christian cruise below:

A Christian Cruise

The temple money changers had nothing on us. But after years of acceptance and cultural acquiescence, we have become deaf and blind. We do not even question our practices, especially when they are embraced by some of those we admire. Millionaire preachers from Macarthur to Copeland to Robertson hawk their wares and make merchandise of professing believers. God’s Word came free, and Christ’s redemption is free, but I must pay to hear a preacher or a singer? What kind of madness have we constructed?

But let us return to God’s Word and let it purify our hearts.

I Cor.1:23-31 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

When God says that no flesh should glory in His presence, is God being metaphorical or ethereal? Does He expect us to live out spiritually and practically that concept? We should always downplay our own importance, and one day we will understand just how insignificant we were in the light of His august significance. Every slight elevation of ourselves is thievery to His glory. And to think, we have the audacity to put man’s name on the cover of God’s Word. And in the forward men with titles and letters of the alphabet after their names lend their approval in writing.

It’s time we let God approve us and our service to Him. It’s time we take up John the Baptist’s motto, “He must increase, but I must decrease”. That very concept seems so out of touch and irrelevant to these modern times. But we cannot, we must not, glory in anything but the Lord and all His works and ways. We continue to glory in men and women and buildings and countries and financial increase and human knowledge, but we have eschewed the glory of the Lord.

Paul says he preaches Christ crucified. Where oh where is that preaching today? It has been relegated to an evangelistic service and mostly isolated from Sunday mornings and in the lives of believers. We have become too sophisticated for the message of the cross and the cross bearing walk of faith. We desire discussions about predestination and young earth theories and epistle authorship and translation allegiances, but when it comes to discussing how far we have strayed from embracing and exhibiting the cross of Christ we remain uninterested.

What does it mean to “glory in the Lord”? How does that find tangible evidence in the lives of believers? And just the fact that we must delve into that topic indicates how long it has been ignored or redefined. We now have professional worship leaders, professional counselors, professional sound system controllers, professional nursery workers, professional teen ministers, professional CD makers, professional fund raisers, and a long list of paid “servants”. How did the early church ever survive?

But since there is no swelling movement to seek the face of God and to enter into a more self denying discipleship, we must approach it individually and with the encouragement of a very few. Do not be deceived, though, you will be seen as out of touch and even self righteous. And every time someone accuses you of self righteousness be sure and humbly agree with them. You are. I am. And if you set out on a journey to seek and know Him in ways that have not been known to you before now, He is waiting to reveal Himself to your hungry heart.

Prayer must be a cornerstone of such a journey, and if that be the case, be ready to sacrifice many things that have cluttered your life. Time is passing gold. Reach out and take hold of such treasure, and place it before Him. He owns the entire universe and has need of nothing. However the one thing He desires is your heart. Not just as a doctrinal acquaintance, but as a chamber wherein He resides and is constantly glorified.

Do not ask me why He desires to fellowship and be worshiped by us. That is a mystery. But if the cross does not substantiate His desire for us, then nothing will. And in that case, eat, drink, and be merry. Tomorrow we die. But if we can get a glimpse of Who He is and what He has done, then it should change us forever.

Matt.13:45 - Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

To Know Him

To Know Him

The greatest spiritual danger for a nation like America is not the continuing slide toward immorality, greed, and self righteousness. Those things do not make a sinner more lost. The greatest danger is if the culture becomes more religious and makes moral changes due to legislation and the power of the flesh. That is when sinners do not see a need to be born again.

But the church continues to champion moral issues and legislative processes. That always indicates a shallow gospel commitment. It is the easy way out that avoids repentance and a sacrificial return to a life of prayer and self denial. It suggests that moral adjustments made in the flesh are somehow part of advancing the kingdom of God. It also reveals that some sinners irritate believers, and rather than fasting, prayer, and a gospel witness, we loudly require them to stop certain sins in order to make our societal experience less stressful.

That is humanism regardless of how you dress it up as Christianity. Please retire the worn out and inaccurate phrases such as conservative or Judeo-Christian ethic. This is about eternity, and any moral battle diverts the attention from the work of Christ and places it squarely upon the democratic process and the organized leverage of certain groups. It openly invites all sorts of unholy alliances and even joins hands with unbelievers. The gospel is good news for the lost sinner, and that includes the most demonstrative sinners among us.

We cannot carry two banners and we cannot have two messages. We only have one banner and that is Jesus, and one message and that is His gospel. When we blend in other issues that are coincidentally embraced by lost sinners who happen to stumble upon certain moral issues taught in Scripture, we dilute the gospel and inadvertently give false hope to lost sinners who happen to embrace those moral issues. The issue has always been about eternal redemption.

For what does it profit a man if he is conservative and helps stem the outward moral decline but loses his own soul?

But imagine living in a fairy tale. Think about flying dogs and talking cats. Imagine walking in a fog so dense you cannot see or hear anything. Imagine ghosts and witches and gnomes. Imagine living in such a fantasy land. But the truth is we are living in a fantasy land right now. This land tells us lies about success and self esteem and climbing some earthly ladder. It speaks of the importance of temporal things. It convinces us that about 70 or 80 years on earth is worth all of eternity. Yes, this life is a fairy tale.

But the reality is the life that cannot be seen with earthly eyes. It is the life in the Spirit and it is more real than anything here on earth. The life lived in the kingdom of God is infinitely deeper and more real than this passing, temporal life. But since the temporal life screams at us and demands our attention we pay it close attention.

II Cor.4:16-18 - For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
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.

These words are our blueprint for life. It is the eternal kingdom that should fill our hearts and minds, but yet we seem to concentrate upon the temporal. The words of politicians, the events of the world, the ups and downs of the economy, gas prices, and so many other things dominate our thoughts and our mouths. Prayer with the Father is a farce and yet we are not embarrassed. We rub shoulders with hell bound sinners without a thought.

It is time every one of us takes a spiritual inventory of our lives and compares it with the life of Christ. What a novel idea. Do we even desire to please the Lord Jesus anymore? Do we thirst to know Him more fully? Do we long to make Him known to others? Are we hungry for His Word? Is prayer our life force? Do we worship in secret or do we need Sunday morning peer pressure?

If the things of this world have not as yet grown strangely dim, then by all means give them your attention. But if you have met the Lord Jesus and have tasted of His eternal glory, then return to that glory. Let your life be in this world but not of it.

That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

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,

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

Oh to know Him. To close my eyes and see His sufferings and to be bathed in His redemptive love. To understand just a pinpoint of His glory and to be empowered to search the unfathomable riches of His grace. To breathe in His eternal salvation and to have that salvation permeate every inch of my being. To see the cross. Oh, to see that cross. Away with all this temporal dross. Get behind me all that seeks to dominate my soul. Away with everything that is just waiting to vanish away.

Oh let me know Him again and again and again. Forever.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Problem Solving Church

The Problem with Problem Solving Christianity

The faith once accurately called Christianity continues to morph into a narcissistic religion that eschews suffering, sacrifice, and self denial. And at the very heart of such a shameful religion is the question for the fallen man to seek an answer to all his earthly problems. He does not desire to follow Christ into a life of consecration and surrender. No, his desire is self enhancement and comfort.

I have counseled hundreds and hundreds of people. And common to almost all of them is their quest to alleviate whatever problem they are experiencing, and in so doing alleviate the discomfort attacking them at that moment. They desire to elicit from me a divine panacea to that problem. And like an answer to a puzzle, they want the cure without sacrifice or a self evaluation of their spiritual lives.

How can I save my marriage? How I can I get out of debt? How can I get a better job? How can I find a mate? We want to get married and now we need a preacher. All these and many other questions are usually at the center of most counseling sessions. Very rarely does the person ask, “How can I deepen my spiritual life?” And yet the latter question is always the pertinent one.

People want words that encourage them and provide a scrap of hope without any substantive change in their hearts and lives. They do not want to hear how they must reverse their spiritual course or how they must repent. They are usually interested in the repentance of others who are causing them distress. They desire me to embrace their side in the matter. They want consolation without contrition. They want encouragement without consecration. They want soothing words without correction. I have always found most counseling sessions very hollow and mostly unproductive, even if their problem can be “solved”.

But such is the state of Christianity. Preaching is now a “how to” session that is like a Home Depot presentation about re-tiling your bathroom. People are not thirsty to hear of Christ and His redemption, they want answers to their own problems. And many decades ago preachers discovered that people want to hear about their own lives, and so many preachers altered their messages to address earthly lives and solutions. That, they found, draws crowds.

But the overarching theme of the New Testament, and the entirety of all Scriptures, centers upon the Godhead, the Person of Jesus Christ, and the redemption provided by that God. But it seems as if that story is now stale and archaic. Today’s messages must be exhilarating and relevant to a well rounded western lifestyle. The cross is now an ancient talisman, but can hardly find a place within the average Sunday morning message. Even the resurrection has become a symbol of turning over a new earthly leaf.

Most people believe that coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ solves most earthly problems. But what has been lost in these modern times is the fact that true discipleship most often causes many earthly problems. And the reason that so many professing believers often benefit from their faith is not due to a divine blessing. It reveals how shallow their commitment to Christ and how deep the commitment to the hedonism all around us. It is the world that slops the hogs not God.

Gone is the sacredness that should accompany a true exhibition of discipleship. Gone is the unmistakable distinctiveness of a follower of Jesus Christ. Gone is the remarkable essence of a life that claims a dedication to Him. Millions of believers, some leaders in the church, live a life that is marked by the same debt, the same entertainment, the same pursuit of earthly success, the same desire for a career, and the same allegiance to earthly systems that mark the average unbeliever. Had this been the case from the beginning there would never have been any martyrs.

But still people clamor for preachers to help their problems. And there is no shortage of books and Cds and preachers to help them solve earthly problems while at the same time these false messengers line their own pockets. The entire religious spectacle is astonishing.

Suppose five men jog out to a baseball field. One wears a hockey uniform, one wears a football outfit, one wears a business suit, one wears scuba gear, and the fifth one wears a judge's robe. They begin to pass around Frisbee. You walk out to the one in a business suit and ask him what they are doing. The man replies that they are playing baseball. But you show him a picture of men playing baseball in the past, and you read to him the rules of baseball. You even show him a baseball, a glove, and a bat.

But the five men gather around you and insist that the game of baseball was meant to evolve over the years. They suggest that what was once practiced is no longer relevant, and that true baseball is now played with different uniforms and with a Frisbee. Regardless of how strongly you protest, the five men continue playing and point to you as a judgmental throwback. They shout out to those in the stands that Babe Ruth was a Neanderthal, and Abner Doubleday is not the only path to authentic baseball.

Of course my sarcastic metaphors are meant to highlight the state of the modern church. They are practicing a faith that has severely deviated from the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. And yet the church suggests that we must change with the times and give the people what they want. There are many problems with that kind of problem solving Christianity. Perhaps the most heartbreaking problem is this:

One day people whose earthly problems were addressed and solved by modern preachers will find that their eternal problem was never actually solved. And on that day, what will careers and relationships and prosperity benefit? And even if they have gained the whole world, what good will that do concerning their sin?

The modern church cares for the body but not the soul. And the ultimate liability in that format is eternal damnation. Very, very serious.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Useless Rhetoric

Useless Rhetoric

There is nothing said on talk radio or talk television that forwards the cause of God’s kingdom and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether it is conservative economics, or moral issues, or patriotic ramblings, it is all useless rhetoric that excites the flesh and feeds the self righteous nature of fallen man. And most damaging of all, it has infiltrated the church and made the spiritual life of the American church as hollow as the political issues that make carnal men and women rich simply by talking about them.

How can people be so ignorant and clueless?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Process of Deception

The Process of Deception

Lasting and significant deception is a process. It does not achieve its goals with one obvious attack. It is subtle, planned, and relentless. And even in the face of reversals it still proceeds with a relentless strategy. And so it thrives within the church.

Even after a revival, demonic deception regroups and reorganizes. It actually learns from its mistakes and recalibrates its messages. And these messages are aimed at slowly diluting THE message. By a consistent series of minor compromises, just like a three cord rope, these compromises gain more and more strength by the sheer weight of the accumulated and interconnected compromises, and little foxes eventually make way for larger ones.

It is a very sophisticated system that uses reason, human logic, human compassion, and the understanding that truth evolves over time. There are many more ingredients as well. And who is susceptible? All of us. Every one of us to one extent or another has succumbed to some deception. Hopefully it has not become a full blown compromise of the gospel, or even apostasy, but we all have been affected by demonic deception.

II Tim.3:13-14 - But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;

We live in a day that Satan realizes has all the earmarkings of the last days. The Scripture reminds us that when he knows his days are numbered, his demonic activity will increase. I have heard people point to the Dark Ages and the plague, and they suggest that these modern days are not the worst days ever. In the natural, they are perhaps correct. But millions still die and many millions suffer in the flesh. These days, even in the natural, are no picnic for most of the world.

But according to the Scriptures, and when we assess these days in the Spirit, we must contend that the demonic hordes have been unleashed upon the world with an unusual energy and spiritual violence. And part of the deception is when western believers compare themselves with Muslims and Jews and Buddhists and pagans in general around the world. The evil forces whisper in our ear how fortunate we are because we live in abundance, and how blessed we are to be “Christians”. And much of the strength in that word “Christian” is derived from the comparison with others and not the purity of our own Christian faith.

Now that is a very sophisticated and sly form of deception. It leverages the error and shortcomings in others in order to deceive us concerning our own spiritual situation. And let us take a journey to an even deeper and more insidious deception that operates with vigor among us. Even if we begin to see our complacency, and even if we recognize our spiritual stagnation, the evil one refuses to admit defeat. His deception now uses the allurement of false teachers and new theologies with which to fulfill that recognized thirst.

So instead of repentance and a deepening of our prayer life and other core elements of being a disciple, the deceiver convinces us that what we believe needs a facelift. He tells us that some of what we have believed needs to be updated and made relevant to these technologically sophisticated times. And that kind of deception does not come by means of the Wicked Witch of the West, or some doctrinal ogre, or even some Frankenstein monster.

Oh no, that delicate and deadly deception comes through affable voices with great and appealing words of reason and human logic. It comes most effectively by alluring media events with glossy handouts and impressive statistics and a casual atmosphere that is designed to make the speakers seem extremely intelligent and in tune with the modern spiritual needs. And this kind of deception does not openly depart from what most would consider “orthodox”. No, that would expose the deception and its overall objective.

This deception remains either silent or nebulous about its view of Biblical truth so that its net can draw in many more ears. And since ears are the gates to the heart, more ears are its immediate objective. Effective communication replaces Biblical truth; enlightenment replaces repentance; and anything new and exciting replaces old and proven. And many times a seemingly orthodox statement of faith become nothing more than a diversion. It provides a disingenuous cover for a sinister plot to uproot the very written tenants in that statement of faith. Talk about a master of deception!

But again, it begins with an elementary system. Just a more “open” view of certain truths. Nothing revolutionary, but a little more palatable to the intellect and the modern understanding of things. When Rob Bell asked if your faith was strong enough to withstand some new evidence that Jesus was not born of a virgin, that was not by mistake. And even though he claims to believe in the virgin birth, his point was magnificently made. The pillars of the faith are not necessarily non-negotiable. You see, in one broad stroke of human genius which didn’t change your statement of faith nor demand people to change their beliefs at that moment, the way was prepared for future and more substantive alterations of the truth. And those that were already attached to Bell's person gave him the benefit of the doubt.

The entire ongoing process is most ingenious and seems to become more and more effective as it achieves different levels of success in the hearts and minds of people. Men like Rick Warren and Joel Osteen are so affable and such great communicators that their brand of deception attracts millions upon millions of people. In general, people want to hear good things; things that encourage them without correcting them. And that ambiance is a mainstay of the modern deceptive process.

The links of deception go something like this in the process.

God loves the world. (true)
God loves all people. (true)
God died for all people. (true)
God wants to save all people. (true)
God uses many different way to draw people to Himself. (partially true)
God will save sincere people. (partially true)
God will save all sincere monotheistic people. (false)


Jesus is the only way to eternal life. (true)
Jesus is compassionate. (true)
Jesus created everything. (true)
Jesus can be found through His creation. (partially true)
Jesus uses conduits when people have not heard of Him. (false)

Of course these are just structural examples, the real deceptions are so much more elaborate and with many more mini-steps in the process. But the strategy is evident and the goal is the same. The ultimate goal is to attack, tarnish, minimize, dilute, compromise, and even deny the person and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. And that deception employs all sorts of reasonable tools.

II Pet.3:17-18 - Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

These are not the days to entertain new and exciting avenues of faith and redemption. We cannot be moved away from truth just because we see our need of revival and reawakening to those truths. Just because the western church is caught in lethargy and a wave of deception, that is no reason to reject that which He has taught us. These are the days to look to Christ and His Word, and to see them afresh for what they are and what they have always said. These are the days to beseech the Spirit of God to do a mighty work within our own hearts so that our lives will once again radiate the Master we serve through outward manifestations of the Master's Eternal Word.

Be very wary when personalities overwhelm the message. Watch for the enticing words of men’s wisdom. Resist the words that make you feel content where you are in your journey. Be concerned when men and messages become very popular without repentance and revival. Remain spiritually suspect when all meetings end with applause and an uplifting feeling and never with tears and repentance.

Do not be deceived. And do not be consumed with discovering and monitoring deceivers. There is a place for all that, but when we become obsessed with deception it can lead to a blindness to our own spiritual needs which is another form of deception in and of itself. We are in the midst of a spiritual war on a scale which cannot be known by the limited resources of the human mind. The enemy has some limited power in scope and time, but Christ has all power.

Look to Him. Listen to Him. Meditate upon Him. Worship Him. Remove not the ancient landmarks which are cemented in Him.

But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

As He is...

As He is...So are We in this World

Col.3:1-11 - 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.
5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
6 For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

The plan of Almighty God was always redemption. The mystery of the Incarnation, and the mystery of Calvary, would be magnified through the mystery and glory of the resurrection. They are all interdependent and inseparable. And this eternal redemption is offered to any sinner who comes by faith alone in the Lord Jesus. That grace is unfathomable.

After a sinner is born again through faith in Christ and by the regenerating power of the Spirit of God, God still has a plan for that sinner/saint. While we were still in our sins we paid attention to all the things of this world and especially those things that interest and affect us. In fact, we were manipulated by all the trends and changes that happen in this present world. We were members of this fallen kingdom and we acted like it.

In this fallen kingdom people stake out a position and defend it while they usually attack any different position. They desire and work feverously for personal prosperity and they complain when that prosperity is hindered by anything and anyone. Their discussions usually contain a large amount of attacks on people and trends that affect them adversely. And within this fallen kingdom there are many differing allegiances. Some embrace a nation, some embrace an ethnicity, some embrace a culture, some embrace a morality, some embrace a profession, and some embrace a variety of these things.

It is a revolving rat race to be sure, and people’s lives are consumed with the earthly present and the earthly future with a decidedly hopeful desire for the positive in the future. And by a positive I mean economically, physically, and in a way that brings them personal enjoyment and fulfillment. Altogether, that is commonly referred to as the “American Dream”. Hundreds of millions of people have chased such a dream and realized it in varying degrees.

But that is not the blueprint for those who believe in and profess to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything outlined and taught in the New Testament, as well as the example of Christ’s earthly life, reveals a life that is supposed to be different from those who I have just described. Much different. In fact, our lives are supposed to be so different than those around us that they will elicit curiosity from some and persecution from others. An obvious sign that our lives have lost that remarkable essence is when neither curiosity nor persecution are evident.

It seems that while we do a little needed “in house” cleaning concerning false teachers and false teachings, that we have become content with our blended lifestyles. And because of the tension between what Christ taught and what we live, we have conveniently and out of necessity altered the New Testament teachings so that they conform to us and not the reverse. So the result is that believers can now demonstrate greed and avarice, complain when things are not given to prosperity, criticize and castigate lost sinners, offer hate speech toward lost people who are liberal, and generally exhibit all kinds of behavior that is acceptable in the fallen kingdom.

I am one who unashamedly confronts the Rob Bells and the Joel Osteens and the Rick Warrens among us for their deep compromise and in some cases blatant apostasy. But I wish I could stop there and bask in the glory of being theologically orthodox. I wish I could but I cannot. I see a continued and systemic compromise well within our own “orthodox” community. I see lifestyles and speech that has been so compromised that they no longer can be considered a reflection of New Testament teachings.

And although I am unashamed at confronting error, I am ashamed at the way this world has contorted the way I think and act sometimes. I am ashamed at how this world encourages my self righteousness to varying degrees of success. I am ashamed at how material things have tugged at my heart and through the years made me compromise. I am ashamed at how I can remain unemotional at the eternal plight of sinners. In general, I am ashamed at how unlike Jesus I often am.

You see, it isn’t enough for us to point to some monolithic creed and claim that authenticates us spiritually. How can we in the west who live comfortably in a modern day Babylon not be aware of what the culture has done to the church and the individual believer? And yet we continue to enjoy this tepid spiritual life that soothes itself with some half hearted moral debates and some full hearted economic debates. But void of the demonstrative exhibition of the life of Jesus Christ, we have carved out a religious pattern which is acceptable by majority participation but unacceptable by any honest interpretation of Christ’s life and teachings. That has been some ingenious metamorphosis.

And still there is no clarion call from the church and its leaders. If you are pro-life, and anti-gay marriage, and pro-capitalism you are a “conservative” evangelical. What a scandal. And even if that pro-life, anti-gay marriage, and pro-capitalism man happens to deny the deity of Christ, you still can endorse him and allow him the pulpit in your “orthodox” Christian universities. What kind of treason is that? To say we have lost the axe head is to be generous.

But even if we see the deep compromise in such an event, we still cannot be blind to the overarching need of a sweeping revival that breaks and reforms us into His living image. Being “orthodox” must go deeper than written doctrinal statements and certain moral tenants. If those doctrinal statements and moral tenants have so little affect on our lives that we reflect the culture and in essence live like the false teachers we castigate although on a less prosperous level, then they are nothing more than religious wind.

In effect, our lips draw close to Him but our hearts are far, far away. That is some juggling feat! I suggest that when we see some obvious compromise in the evangelical community, we not only expose and confront it, but we allow the Spirit to shine that same light upon us.

I desire to love Him and serve Him and be like Him. I have much uncharted territory in all those endeavors. But yet I loathe my sometimes spiritual inertia. I owe Him everything and yet why do I give Him so little? I can be moved to tears as I ponder the cross, and yet my flesh can so easily take hold and return to Martha’s kitchen, usually to wash my own set of dishes. When I read the biographies of Wesley and Whitefield and Finney I feel like I am reading Christian fiction. How can those words be true? And if they are accurate, even assuming that all men have feet of clay, what does that say about our spiritual standard today?

But we are not of this world. And until we believe that with all of our hearts and minds, we will continue to exhibit an amalgamated form of Christianity which draws from all kinds of sources. Not until we count our lives as belonging completely to Him, and our true lives being in and with Him, will we once again be seen as salt and light. It continues to be a sad and painful spectacle, and yes, I believe that those of us who see it clearly are the most culpable of all. That, my friends, should break our hearts.

I Jn.4:15-21 - Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.
16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
19 We love him, because he first loved us.
20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

As He is…so are we in this world. Selah.

Friday, April 20, 2012



It is not enough to reject the outward following of the Lord Jesus, but now those who reject Him in truth are embraced simply based upon their “love” for a secular nation called “America”. Can there be deeper compromise and Biblical reason than this? And when a university that calls itself “evangelical” invites a member of a cult to be the commencement speaker, then it becomes very evident that they have lost their Biblical moorings at the expense of conservatism (financial) and nationalism.

Please do not quote Wesley or Edwards or Luther if you allow a heretic to address your students. If you allow Satan to have a voice to your fledgling believers, then you have become nothing more than a professing hen holding the door open for the fox leading to the hen house. Please burn the Bible and have some integrity. This is a time of great apostasy that lives under the radar called nationalism and capitalism. When someone who openly denies the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ is invited to speak to Bible students, then the compromise is complete.

Unless the Scriptures are now worthless, then anyone and everyone is embraced as part of the body of Christ. Go ahead all you that profess Christ, go ahead and vote for Mitt Romney. You are a part of the end time deception. Your God is money and morality, and you are willing to place your national allegiance ahead of the Lord Jesus Christ. Do not worry, though, you will not suffer persecution from the antichrist system.

But for those who will stand for His truth and His Scripture, the time has come. If you actually desire to believe in and follow the Lord Jesus, it will cost you something. It will cost you your reputation. It will cost you your financial foundation. It will cost you your friendships. It will cost you your denomination. It will cost you your moral standing. It will cost you your spiritual acceptance. It will cost you…everything.

But it is time that following Jesus costs something. Anything. For too long our faith has been nothing more than an extension of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson. For too long a person can be identified as a believer because he is fiscally conservative. For too long Ronal Reagan has been a god. For too long lower taxes has replaced the banner that should say “Jesus is Lord”.

Go ahead an walk into that booth in November and bow down to an antichrist system named “democracy”. But remember, the Christ denier in the next booth will also be placing his or her vote in an effort to wash the outside of the cup. And if your human idol happens to get elected, you and the Christ denier can rejoice together.

But just remember, Jesus has not been a part of any of it. But do not fret, Benjamin Franklin is proud of you, and if he could be raised from the dead, he could speak at your commencement service at your so called “Christian? University. That is if he could squeeze it in between his meetings with mistresses.

To defend a secular nation is more important than defending Christ. The apostasy is n now embraced with great national relish. Those who deny Jesus, if they are fiscally conservative, are not only embraced, they are given spiritual places of prominence. But the time has come that those who actually desire to follow Jesus will have to reject the “mainstream” evangelical stream who bow down to idols. If the cost is too high, then just continue to sit idly by and watch.

Jesus paid a high price so that you and I would have to pay nothing. Yes, absolutely nothing. Welcome to the western world of Christianity that lunches their ticket to heaven and resumes their life of hedonism and idolatry. It is quite astonishing and melds into the darkness. It has finally happened. We have invented a faith that is tasteless, odorless, costless, and unrecognizable in a culture that hates Him.

We might call it a “Gumby” faith. It twists to accommodate its surroundings! I just hope Romney wears his divine underwear when he speaks. That would at least show some respect.

Modern Day Apostles

Modern Day Apostles
If the product of great Biblical faith is material and financial prosperity, then Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, Warren Buffet, and approximately 30 Middle Eastern sheiks are the modern day apostles.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Voice of Heresy at Liberty University

An Aspiring God Speaks at Liberty University

What would you call a person who believes he can become a god?

What would you call a person who insists Jesus and Satan were brothers?

What would you call a person who says God the Father had sex with one of his wives and gave birth to Jesus and Lucifer?

What would you call a person who says a person could be baptized and saved after they were dead?

What would you call a person who believes you can work your way to heaven?

What would you call a person who insists that the head of his denomination hears directly from God?

What would you call a person who says you must tithe or be damned?

What would you call a person who believes that multiple Gods rule over multiple universes?

What would you call a person who teaches that these multiple Gods were once human?

What would you call a person who insists Jesus visited America?

What would you call a person who believes Elohim was once human and was made a God because he was worthy?

What would you call a person who believes that Elohim kept having sex with his many wives and created planet earth for all his children?

What would you call a person who teaches that Lucifer and Jesus presented plans to become Savior of Elohim’s children and by a vote of the ruling gods Jesus won?

What would you call a person who believes that having black skin was a curse from God?

What would you call such a person?

Call him Mitt Romney, this year’s commencement speaker at Liberty University.

And you thought there was much time left before Jesus comes back.

Church Debt Manipulation

The Church Debt Game
A church that my family has not attended in almost ten years sent us a packet through the mail that was filled with colorful graphs and glossy pictures. Of course it was an invitation to join another three year “faith pledge”. And what was the pledge for, and what did they rejoice in?

They had “retired” a little over 1 million dollars of debt! The entire three year “faith pledge” was to retire more of their mortgage debt which I believe is still in the double digit millions. Welcome to the western world of religious institutions that some label as “Christian”.

The Scriptures teach that brick and mortar trump empty stomachs and thirsty mouths. Yeah, right.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Sin of Discerners

The Open Sin of the Discerners

There is a segment of the evangelical community that labels itself as “discernment”. Many would place me within that description. However, among the entire discernment community there remains a blatant and self protecting blind spot that is by any definition a sin. The discernment “ministry” majors on issues such as homosexuality, socialism, liberal politics, and a variety of Biblical falsehoods. There are many accurate perspectives that confront the Biblical issues that are being compromised and maligned by many false teachers. And in that discussion I am identified as a “discerner”.

But while we argue and harangue about such issues, there remains an open doctrinal wound about which the discerner camp is unwilling to face and address. While gay acceptance is confronted, and theological orthodoxy is embraced, there still is a blatant and conspicuous area of Biblical compromise and disobedience that is not only overlooked, but conveniently manipulated. It is the issue of money.

I Tim.6:9-11 - But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

The west has redefined the “love of money” so that it can avoid all sorts of greed and avarice. Churches by the thousands borrow money from the unbeliever without a thought about the interest going to finance the very institutions they preach against. And professing believers by the millions are in substantial debt to those same institutions. And yet they hold up the Bible and proudly proclaim they believe “every word”. But in fact, the church has been swallowed up by the culture.

The average western local assembly is filled with professing believers who spend more than is necessary and borrow more than they should. They drive cars that are above the transportation needs, and they live in homes that exceed their needs. And the church itself borrows great sums of money from the antichrist system of finances just to erect more brick and mortar because the present edifice has become inconvenient for the worship gathering. Inconvenience prevents western believers from authentic worship. Let us expand the chapter in I Timothy chapter 6.

I Tim.6:5-10 - Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Please tell me, when and where did we dilute those words and render them confined to cultural adaptation? And yet thousands of preachers who loudly proclaim their inerrancy credentials manipulate their meaning in order to make them palatable to the western, hedonistic culture. So I can own a 60 thousand dollar car as long as I am content with food and clothing? Who are we kidding? The church can BORROW thousands upon thousands of dollars to build a fellowship hall or a Sunday School facility or an athletic center as long as we are content with food and clothing? What kind of open lies are we selling?

Who can see what has happened to the church that happens to live in the western culture? We have made the Scriptures bow to the culture in order to accommodate our convenient lifestyles. And because the Scriptures teach otherwise, we must manipulate them and repackage them in order to make them congruent to our desires and conciliate them to the hedonistic culture. And in so doing, we have changed the very nature of Christianity and the definition of discipleship. We can accumlate great sums of retirement funds while millions starve. Hardly Scriptural.

And yet the discernment people refuse to turn the mirror upon themselves and upon the practices of the most “orthodox” churches among us. As long as our statements of faith are “orthodox” then we are immune to discernment? So our practices are immunized from Biblical discernment as long as our written theologies are congruent with historical orthodoxy? What kind of hypocrisy are we selling? So we have made the Trinity and the Virgin Birth and Sola Fide our doctrinal fort that protects us from orthopraxic scrutiny?

That, my friends, is a sophisticated form of hypocrisy that lends itself to a camouflaged form of self righteousness which shields us from the very Biblical scrutiny we apply to others. That is called hypocrisy. And in essence, that becomes a stumbling block to the revival we all need. It isn’t just the Rob Bell’s and the Rick Warren’s and the Joel Osteen’s that stand in the way of God’s Spirit. It is us, the “orthodox” crowd that wears its doctrinal tenants like so many phylacteries that once adorned the outward appearances of the Pharisees. In short, we require the spiritual proletariat to adhere to commandments which we ourselves refuse to obey.

And at the heart of it all is money. It is the love of money which usually causes church splits. It is usually the love of money which drives a church to borrow. It is usually money which causes a church to have financial difficulties. The New Testament is replete with verses that command us to abstain from the very financial habits we practice. But since the pastor and the elders seem to engage in those forbidden practices, the issue is unaddressed and even assimilated into doctrinal acceptance.

I do not speak as one who over the years has remained sinless in this area, but I do speak as one who has seen the Scriptural light as an elder in the faith. Sometimes the clearest vision is gained by someone who has transgressed that very issue. Just a cursory reading of the New Testament leads a casual reader to conclude that avoiding the entrapments of a hedonistic society is not only the path of Jesus, but it provides the salt and light which can sometimes elicit the question from unbelievers about the hope that is within us.

Sadly, that question is rarely asked in this modern day of spiritual compromise. The Scriptural mirror still confronts us. There are scores of Scriptures that painfully address and openly confront our financial practices, while there are few that even address the Trinity. And yet we eviscerate any diversion from the orthodox view of the Trinity, even among those who would still embrace the divinity of Christ. But we still ignore the blatant and agregious Scriptural compromises and practices within the "orthodox" community. So then, who is our God, Christ or the culture?

If we actually believe all the words of the New Testament, then we are confronted with divine words of practical indictment. And until we are will willing to painfully address them in personal application, then all things will remain the same since the father’s slept. But take solace in this fact. Our statements of faith are very orthodox, and Joel Osteen is liberal. We have discerned that. Sleep tightly tonight with that knowledge.

Monday, April 16, 2012

War - Seducing the Church

War - Seducing the Church

Is it right to murder an abortion doctor because he is murdering the unborn? Another words, is it right to do wrong to prevent another wrong? Most evangelical believers would strongly disagree with murdering abortion doctors to keep them from killing people living in a womb.

But then why do those same people support killing born people to keep them from all sorts of mischief? Why does that same principle not apply to war?

It’s because we’ve been taught that war is acceptable as long as it is declared by a collection of fallen men and women, with a light sprinkling of professing believers. So as long as approximately 635 people say it’s OK to kill people in a war, the church is obligated to acquiesce to their brand of morality? And what about the New Testament Scriptures that tell us to do otherwise?

Well, those must be sifted through the prism of nationalism. In other words, the teachings about loving and doing good to your enemy end where the Constitution begins. The Constitution takes precedence over the Word of God in such cases. What does that say about our faith and the depth of our commitment to the teachings of Jesus? It clearly presents a platform of compromise and dilution when His teachings conflict with the dictates of a secular nation.

But the inconsistency remains. If it is moral and right to kill Afghans because they might kill others who live in houses, then it must be right to kill abortion doctors since they are openly murdering people who live in wombs. To compartmentalize murder and render one as moral and one as immoral is disingenuous and is doctrinally hypocritical. But war seems so acceptable and even competitive. And when America “wins” a war, there is a feeling of accomplishment and superiority.

And those feelings are normal among citizens of any earthly nation. But these are not the feelings that should be exhibited by citizens of a higher kingdom not of this world. If violence in the defense of others is a tenant of God’s kingdom, then murdering an abortion doctor is every bit as moral as murdering any other murderer. If murder is a moral currency, then those who murder womb people for money are prime candidates.

This would all be well and good except for one thing: The teachings of Jesus. When we make the teachings of Jesus conform to culture, societal norms, and accepted behavior among nations, then we make His teachings of none effect. His teachings become pliable principles that are little more than situational ethics. Can you not see what we have done to His life and teachings? When His teachings are in line with the fallen culture concerning issues as important as killing and war, then just what impact do His teachings make? Are they just to do the speed limit or return the extra nickel the grocery clerk accidentally handed you?

One of the most glaring problems is that the church is blind to the distinct line of demarcation between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The way God dealt with mankind in the Old Testament included many instances of violence. Much of what happened is a mystery when compared with the overarching teachings in the New Covenant. But when New Testament believers are running around demanding the Ten Commandments be pasted on public walls, or that tornados are being sent by God to punish sinners, then not only have we blurred the line, we have obliterated it.

It is true God approved acts of violence in the Old Testament, and it is true that future violence is revealed in some of the New Testament prophecies, but between those bookends is an age of unspeakable grace. God allows men like Christopher Hitchens and Hugh Hefner and Joseph Smith to speak blasphemies in this age, but we demand sinners in Pakistan pay the price at the indiscriminate journey of a drone? And when we send stealth bombers to drop incredibly powerful incendiaries in a scattered attempt to kill an enemy who may or may not be there, that is an exhibition of the kingdom of God?

But we don’t stone rebellious children. We don’t kill homosexuals (yet). We don’t murder the firstborn of our enemies. So why do we hold tightly to the concept of war? And conveniently all America’s wars seem to be “just”? It is evident that we do not understand the meaning of the word “just”. And in an amazing revelation of modern evil, we now can watch war while we eat dinner and just before we go to the gym. We are immunized from the loss and despair suffered in the lives of those who are the objects of our technological war machines. Children? Collateral damage. It had to be done.

And go inside a greater level of evil. Thousands of churches bow their heads on Sunday morning during the opening days of a war and literally ask God to help us kill more people than are killed by our enemies. Of course after several years, the passion has subsided and the prayers are much more predicable and benign. If and when Israel bombs Iran the passion will once again rise to the top and believers will applaud that action. And we expect the Iranian mother who lost her baby to embrace the gospel? Yea, right.

You cannot be a practicing American and be a practicing Christian. They are incompatible and completely at odds in every way. Go ahead and cling to your “Judeo-Christian” nonsense. Go ahead and balance the fallen with the sacred. Go ahead and have one foot in each camp. I am an American because my parents told me I was born here (I don’t remember that.) and I was told that everyone who is born here automatically is an American. They can call me whatever they deem appropriate.

However I have no citizenship but the kingdom of God. I have no life but that which is hidden in Christ with God. I have no inheritance but that which is in heaven. And by God’s mercy and grace, my eyes have been opened. I will not raise my hand to another man. If that causes me to lose my own life I pray God’s Spirit will grant me the humility and faith to mirror the martyr Stephen.

And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”
And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Or the little girl named Blandina.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Preparing a Place

He’s Preparing a Place for Who?

Jn.14:1-3 - Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

You? You, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords? You will prepare a place for…me? There have been many times I wish I wasn’t in the same place as myself, but now You, who know me best, will prepare a place for me? I am completely sure that I cannot fathom the depth of the reason, but only that it includes a love far beyond anything I have ever even imagined.

Even after my brothers and sisters in Adam have murdered You, You still will prepare a place for me? Do You not know that I would have been shouting “Crucify Him!” as loudly as all the others? I would have pounded in the nails. I would have lifted the planks. And still You go to prepare a place for the likes of me? I can hardly bear it.

You say there are many dwelling places in Your Father’s house. Are there not more important people to which You may reserve such places? Are there not more sincere, more holy, more pious, and more noble people than I? There are many who have fed more poor people, and who have resisted much greater temptations, and who have embraced more orphans than have I. Are they not more worthy of such a place than am I?

But You insist that You are preparing a place for the likes of me. And since there are obviously more worthy prospects for a place in Your Father’s house, then I must conclude that being reserved a place has nothing to do with me. And if it has nothing to do with me, then it has everything to do with You. The place and the reservation are both Yours to give. They are in Your hand and You are offering them both to all who, in Your own words, believe.

How can this be? Rebels and moral felons can receive this reward straight from Your hands and by Your eternal decree simply by faith? What kind of sacrificial love offers such a reward? What grace can eclipse the justice we should satisfy? Why can the guilty dwell in Your Father’s house without a personal payment for our sins but because of faith in You?

…that where I am, there ye may be also.

How gracious would it have been if You had prepared a place that was free from sin and basking in eternal glory? It would have been unexplainable if You had prepared a wonderful place of bliss and eternal life. What glory we all would have if all the saints would be gathered together, forever. That would have beyond all we could have asked or thought. But Your plans soared way beyond those wonderful and exotic scenarios.

You said the place You were preparing would be where You Yourself dwelled. Oh my, how can I even dare to imagine such a thought, such a place? This breaks the common mold of grace and love and gives birth to a mystery which holds a glory unknown to the human mind. Who can describe the Son of the Living God with all the fullness He deserves? Who can put into words His sufferings, the brutality His love endured, or the majestic glory of that empty tomb? Who can understand the birth of God in the likeness of sinful flesh? Who can comprehend the knowledge of Your eternal sacrifice that can wash sinners from the filth they so energetically embraced?

And here You reign with a glory that baffles angels. The nail prints still shout that the blood You shed will always be alive with eternal power. You are august and with an inherent holiness reserved for the Godhead. You were betrayed, You were mocked, You were abused, You were rejected, and You were crucified by those You came to rescue. And after You endured all this from the hands of vicious sinners, You still prepare a place for all those sinners who believe? And this place is where You will be?

If you are still unmoved than perhaps you have never met this Savior, this Lord, this Redeemer. This is no fairy tale I have humbly recited, this is the truth of all the ages. This truth and this unfolding narrative will one day be left standing alone with all human history and all the so called accomplishments of man being swept aside and lost forever. This Christ and His plan will have been eternally fulfilled. And sinners like us will be ushered into His very presence, far more real than visible, and there we will be forever. And what acts of kindness, what acts of mercy, or what acts of love did we do to earn such a divine place with Him?

Believe. Only believe.

Rend My Heart, Lord

Rend My Heart, Dear Lord

Oh that you would rend my heart, Dear Lord. Release all that is not of you. Sometimes my heart gives some space to the harlot, and sometimes the stiffnecked reclines within me. I attempt to ignore them, but your Spirit eventually shines His light upon those vagabonds and I am ashamed. Why have I allowed ungodly visitors to find dwelling places in the heart that is Yours? How have I accommodated such unholy strangers?

Oh that you would rend my heart, Dear Lord. Expose anything that is not surrendered to you in utter completeness. Find that which resists Your every command and anything which will not worship You in contrition and brokenness. Uproot all that is of this world. Burn away all the dross that refuses to be swept away.

Oh that you would rend my heart, Dear Lord. Search me and see if there be any uncleanness within me. Illuminate the deepest and most guarded recesses of my own heart and expose that which displeases You. I cannot bear a compromising heart although I have so often attempted to hide it. Silence all the voices that are not Yours, and especially my voice which so often suggests it is Yours.

Oh that you would rend my heart, Dear Lord. Defeat all those guards I have set in order to live with partial commitment and partial purity. Ravage my heart with Your loving correction and set before You a heart that remains broken for You. I am unable to clean myself and I am well able to deceive myself when the process becomes too painful and personal. Only You, Lord, can complete in me what is still undone.

Oh that you would rend my heart, Dear Lord. I long to experience You in all Your fullness. The thorns and thistles and cares of this world knock at my heart’s door with passion and urgency. Please chase them away and free my heart to desire You and You alone. Let me hear Your voice with love and clarity and pure devotion.

Oh that you would rend my heart, Dear Lord. When my passion becomes diluted and lifeless, let Your Spirit revive my heart with an eternal fire that cannot be quenched. I stand in need of You always. You have always been my life and yet my heart is sometimes given to straying. The rocks and weeds sometimes choke my heart and I need Your voice to remove those that are against You.

Oh that you would rend my heart, Dear Lord. Let me see Your cross once again with freshness and awe. Let my heart feel Your sufferings and Your agony. Let Calvary be a place of worship within me. My heart cannot live without Your cross. I need it every moment of every day. Let it not be stale but alive.

Oh that you would rend my heart, Dear Lord. And Lord, self righteousness continues to demand a prominent place in my heart. It is ever confronting me with both threats and words of tender lies. It hides behind pious words that seem so lovely and yet are gateways to my own selfish will and way. I abhor that which is of myself and not of You. Many times I cannot tell which is which, but many times I do not seek with diligence to find out which is which.

Oh that you would rend my heart, Dear Lord. I long for You to come and inspect my heart. Cleanse it with Your Spirit and Your truth. Let Jesus be the only King within me, and let Your glory be the only desire. Come Lord, and rend my heart.