Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Manna in the Wilderness

The Manna in the Wilderness

Ex.16:14-16 - And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.
15 And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.
16 This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents.

The Spirit led believer has always been in the wilderness here on earth. Everything, and I mean everything, the world thinks and does is at odds with the kingdom of God. But our wilderness is actually Canaan land in the Spirit. We are strangers in this world, but we are saints in the beloved. It is a glorious paradox!

But now the visible, institutional church has become so compromised, so diluted, and so worldly that we are forced to retreat to another wilderness. In the natural it appears as an ecclesiastical wilderness, while in the Spirit it is actually Canaan land once again. In this wilderness do not expect to be respected. Do not expect an abundance of fellowship. Do not expect to be consulted. Do not expect speaking engagements by the scores. But do expect an unusual supply of manna from heaven.

You must extract joy from above. You must build up your most holy faith through much prayer and a robust consumption of God’s Word. You will find His presence in the burning bush and not in the midst of those who have returned to Egypt and there pitched their tents. The tents in Egypt will seem beautiful and alluring, reasonable and charitable, and with all kinds of growth, while the tents pitched beside the burning bush will have no beauty of their own. Their only beauty will be found in the reflection of the fire in that bush. But as in the case of Cain and Able, God will accept the tent of obedience rather than the tent of earthly harvest.

Do not expect to receive your reward here in this world. In fact, expect to be counted irrelevant at best and to be persecuted at worst. Either way, our reward will be found in the lineage of the Levites. Others will receive an earthly harvest while our reward is the Lord. Do not follow the example of Lot’s wife and look back with a longing desire. And when times grow lonely and hard, do not ask to return to the comfort of Egypt. Our reward cannot be seen with human eyes and cannot be measured by success and finances and worldly accoutrements. Ravens of the Spirit will feed your soul. Your esteem will starve but your new man will soar. Eternity must be your life.

But through it all our sustenance is the manna which comes from heaven. And what does the manna represent? The Word of God. And Who IS the Word of God? The Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is our reward in this life and in the life to come. Is He not enough? Has He not done enough? Why would we eat a mixture of manna and leeks and onions and garlic? How can we survive on a diet which comes from freedom and slavery? How can we be nourished by a mixture of death and life? Do not grow weary, my friends, for one day the glory which surpasses all knowledge will be revealed in us.

Ask some of the devoted saints about their previous lives without Christ. Ask the former drug addict if drugs satisfied him. Ask the former alcoholic if drink soothed him. Ask the former hedonist if the pleasures of this world fulfilled him. Ask the former philanderer if the flesh made him whole. Go ahead, ask any devoted saint if he would go back to the pig pen from which he was plucked by God’s grace. I have heard many saints wish they had done more for Christ in their life. But I have never heard an elderly saint lament over his or her faithful service to Christ. Never.

The world’s wilderness is God’s kingdom. It is where those who are pilgrims live and breathe. It is where we meet God, and where God leads us. It is where water is found for parched souls. We will have no popularity in this present life. It will appear as if the entire church is on a great adventure and riding a colossal wave of power and prosperity, but here we stand as stubborn throwbacks to a former time. That is how it will seem in the natural. But if we have ears to ear, we will hear the Spirit speaq words of encouragement, correction, and fresh revelations of the Risen Christ.

Again, do not grow weary in well doing. One moment in His glorious presence should satisfy more than one year in the world. Do not succumb to the Christless, crossless gospel which is no gospel at all. The self help, self elevating, and self prospering message in nothing but a resurrection of the Babylonian whore. The popular church is an adulteress who not only acquiesces to the worldly sirens, but she invites them into her very bed chambers. The western church has committed spiritual fornication and called it knowing God. It is a breathtaking and monstrous betrayal.

But the glory is in the lonely wilderness. The visble church has taken the cross and given to the wilderness dwellers as if it was some doctrinal dross. We humble and gladly embrace it! The new prophets scarcely speak of the cross, but Paul says it is in that very cross where he glories. And so do we. The cross is not some former belief system that was to make way for a fresh and more modern revelation. The cross is the eternal truth of God’s redemptive glory. To diminish it is to blaspheme God Himself.

The wilderness is found on a hill just outside the City of Peace. Eternal life springs up from the well in the very center of this wilderness. The tinsel town of the modern church loudly offers water contaminated by fallen imaginations and earthly dreams, but in reality there is no water. Pageantry and visuals and pulsating music has replaced the powerful banks of the Living Water. But the manna from above does not feed the City of Man. It descends to give life, and life abundantly to those who dwell in the Land of Canaan, otherwise known as the wilderness to all those without.

So be strong all you who dwell in the wilderness, and all you who are refused membership in the modern church of self. Let us continue to warm our hearts by the fire that glows in the bush, and let us feed on the manna from above. That may not be the world’s idea of the American dream, and it may not even appeal to the western church. But in that humble and self denying fellowship there is life and life eternal. And that life is found only in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jn.3:30 - He must increase, but I must decrease.
31 He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.

Col.1:13-18 - Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

This entire Christian experience was never about us or our “best life now”. This is about the sufferings and the victory of the Son of God. This is all about lifting up Him and not us. And as the western church moved more and more to a man centered gospel, many of us became outsiders. We watched as Jesus became an ecclesiastical aside and not the core of all we live and teach. The superstars of evangelicalism continue to rob Him of His importance, and they gladly receive the accolades of men, both professing believers and lost sinners.

But here in A.D. 2012, we still must lift Him up. We must make clear to a dark world that He alone is the source of life, and that we are His imperfect conduits. And since our eternity is secure in Him, how can we lust after the fallen and passing things of this world? And if we are to be epistles read of all men, we must make sure they read of Him and not of us. The wilderness? If that is where Jesus is, count me officially content to dwell there. Where He is that is where I pitch my tent. The end of days continues to barrel down upon us. The prophetic will soon be reality. The glory of God will not be found in astounding mansions, or hallowed halls of governments, or great amphitheatres of human entertainment, or even the sprawling complexes of the mega church. The glory of God will be found in obscure and humble camp sites pitched in the shadow of His almighty wings.

Amen and amen.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Give Him Your Dentist as Well

Give Him Your Dentist as Well

It is suggested that the doctor shortage will worsen after the new healthcare bill is implemented. Many are already incensed and believers are deeply angry and offended about the situation. But what does the Scripture say?

Lk.6:28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.
30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.

The Frueh Paraphrase:

He that asketh you for your doctor, give him your dentist as well.

Forgiveness - A Doctrine Gone Cold

Forgiveness - A Doctrine Gone Cold

Matt.6: 14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Mk.11: 25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.

In a general and colloquial sense the word redemption is synonymous with the word forgiveness. In these last days the western church has confined forgiveness as something extended to someone who has wronged you. That is quite the constriction placed upon such an important doctrine. I mean, look at the 15th verse of Matthew 6. God will hold your sins against you if you do not forgive? That’s quite a principle, and yet most churches deal with tithing much, much more than forgiveness. And this forgiveness issue, which should reflect the forgiveness found in the cross, is not just something we show when offended, but something in which we should walk.

Unforgiveness and condemnation are bondage. And so often we tend to let “discernment” spill over into areas for which is was never intended. Your neighbor’s wife dresses extremely inappropriately and expresses a pro-gay marriage perspective. Although she sometimes attends a local church, you discover she is the youngest daughter of the pastor of the 1st Baptist Church. You not only spread what you know to your friends, but you take out an add in the local paper and divulge the information publicly. “Love covers a multitude of sins” no longer matters. Discernment has become a multi-faceted beast whose tentacles grow longer by the day.

In a certain town there are a growing number of electricians. Now some of these electricians have left the normal way to fix electrical problems, and their methods are causing many problems in addition to allowing the original problems to remain unsolved. Now the older electricians become very concerned because the problems are not only continuing, but these new electricians are convincing people that their problems are being solved. The concerns of the older electricians are valid.

So the older electricians who espouse the proven methods that fix these problems begin to expose these false electricians and reveal to everyone just how hollow their methods are. They want to warn those who have not called for the false electricians yet so that they will reject them. Over and over they continue to show people the error of these new ways. Many heed these warnings and many reject these new electricians.

But yet there remains a very large problem. The older electricians are endorsing the older methods on paper, but yet they do not seem to be fixing many people’s electrical problems. Yes, their manuals are quite explicit and do articulate and illustrate the correct way to fix an electrical problem, however the actual practice of those instructions is severely wanting. Although many are passionate about the instructions, many seem ambivalent about doing them. Words far outweigh deeds, and the electrical problems persist.

Forgiveness is not only germane to the Christian faith, it is the Christian faith. And this kind of forgiveness goes way past the cute little examples of forgiving the guy who cut you off, or forgiving your boss, or all the other tepid examples of forgiveness which elicit so little sacrifice and self denial. The Christ kind of forgiveness is more a constant walk than a specific act applied to a given circumstance when we deem it warrants such. To constrict it more to a doctrine than a practice is heresy. Forgiveness is a life giving force received as a gift of grace through faith, and those who have been given divine forgiveness are required, I said required, to give it freely to others.

How can a person show contempt for others and yet share God’s forgiveness to others? That kind of sharing is hollow and self serving, and many times believers go through the sharing motion in order to protect them from indictment, or to offer a doctrinal token to prove their orthodoxy, rather than an expression of what lives and breathes in their own hearts. No wonder the church by and large operates with no authentic sign of divine power. No wonder we are bound to earthly strategies and organizations and immense staffs since we no longer can draw from a divine reservoir of power, and sadly we no longer seem to want or need it.

But it is very startling when you view the entire spectacle in context. A sinner, lost and without hope in this world, is drawn to Christ by the power and faithfulness of God’s Spirit. In an eternal act of grace, that same sinner believes on the Lord Jesus Christ and he is forever redeemed. His entire life begins a process of change, and his mind begins to speak to Him with knowledge and perspective he has never had before. And while he experiences all kinds of wonders, he is filled with gratitude and worship. He is a new creature in Jesus Christ.

But soon he begins to hear what more “mature” believers are saying and how they are living. He begins to wonder if he is a little too utopian in his views. Perhaps he has placed the bar too high, and perhaps his interpretation of Scripture is way too literal. How can those who know much more Bible than does he talk about people like that? How can they complain about their circumstances like they do? How can they say those things about the president? This new believer begins to assume the Bible allows such behavior. Soon he offers short quips among them, and not too long he is engaging in the same rhetoric as are they.

His heart begins to be filled with all sorts of disdain for liberals and gays and Muslims and economic policies and all sorts of political issues.

Unknowingly he begins to lose the joy of his salvation and his walk with Christ dries up and his spiritual food is now American and cultural issues. He now knows which people to disdain, which side of moral issues to take, what economic policies to hate, which Americans should be our heroes, which wars are God’s, and he begins to feed his patriotic spirit. He has become a passionate American who professes Christ through his doctrine.

But can you not see what has happened here? This new convert has been molded to look and act like other people rather than like Christ. Because he has been received into that local fellowship, and because many in that church have been saved for decades, he assumes their expression of Christ is normal and Biblical. Slowly and with bite sized pieces of examples all around him, he has become deceived. But because he tithes, and because he attends regularly, and because he now fits in with all the rest, pretty soon people say he is “growing”. He is growing alright, he is growing into a western, carnal believer. We have made him into our own image. God help us.

Here are a few of the discipleship courses he takes and the communications that identify each course:

* Did you hear what Obama said yesterday?

* These gays are attempting to push their agenda on all of us.

* We’re not too far from Sharia law.

* I can’t stand these welfare handouts.

* Look at her, she’s gotta be a flaming lesbian!

* How long do we have to listen about the slavery of the past?

* He did the crime, fry him!

* We should bomb the living fire out that Iran!

* That Rick Warren makes me sick.

* There may be enemies in that village? Release the drones on them.

* Obama is a Muslim and a socialist.

* Whatever happened to the Constitution?

* Arrest them all and deport them!

These are some of the more genteel observations. There are many which are much more incendiary and even racist. But this kind of communication is what passes for Christian because the church has morphed into a bastion of morality and nationalism. And forgiveness has become an expression of Christ but not His followers. Hatred is now righteous indignation. Mocking is acceptable.

But let us be very clear, in order to walk in forgiveness we must walk in a brand of humility which seems foreign to the western church. Boldness on conservative issues is now in vogue, and that includes pamphlets, signs, and all kinds of tee shirts. Yes, we have become moral warriors whose mission is to search out and destroy God’s enemies. The Limbaugh’s and Hannity’s and Beck’s are now our generals. Instead of taking up the cross, we take up the Ten Commandments. Instead of the martyrs, we follow the founding fathers.

We will admit that any sinner can be forgiven if he repents and trusts Christ, but until then certain sinners will continue to receive our verbal assaults. Yes, we believe we have a command from God to verbally eviscerate certain sinners especially if their sins are outside acceptable norms.

But at the heart of all this carnal speech and behavior is us. We have learned, even in church, to be consumed with our surroundings, our prosperity, our issues, and even our nation. And forgiveness as a lifestyle and constant heart attitude has been all but lost. What once was a flaming fire of forgiveness has grown cold. While the martyrs forgave those who led them to their death, we cannot even forgive those we call “liberal”. And woe to those who adversely affect our pocketbooks. And what kind of Christianity is that? None at all.

Forgiveness is the foundation of our faith. How can you say to an unbeliever, “God can forgive you of your sins but until then I will not”. Remember, it is not your calling to hold sinners accountable for their sins against God. That is His business. We are called to spread the good news of redemption to every creature. Do you think that the native idol worshipers in the Amazon are any more of an affront to God than is Barak Obama? Then why do you dislike or hate President Obama but not all the primitive idol worshipers around the world? Its because you believe Barak Obama has adversely affected your finances. That is not only being a respecter of persons, but that is narcissism.

As I alluded to previously, unforgiveness is a self righteous expression of the flesh. How can we believe the Scriptures command us to forgive those who personally trespass against us, but we do not need to walk in that same forgiveness toward those who we do not know but with whom we disagree politically? That is hypocrisy and it can be cured in one small but life changing step. Refuse to have any politics and you will be free in your spirit. Are you not weary of the conflict that rages within your heart? Do you not realize that your prayers, if you do actually pray, will not be heard with all that unchristian refuse living within you?

If Christianity is anything, it is forgiveness. Not just the forgiveness that hides well within forests of doctrinal understandings and theological dissertations and like Sequatchie, there are stories of its existence but it is rarely seen. This forgiveness must be presented raw and unvarnished and completely unprotected by fallen man’s transparent attempt to appear righteous in the midst of profound self righteousness. This forgiveness will always come at a cost. Oh yes, the eternal cost has already been paid, however all who wish to manifest that forgiveness must lay down their own reputations, their own self esteem, and their own lives. If you wish to be a vessel fit for the Master’s use you must be broken and spilled out of all that is you.

Please do not minimize that incredible process. Most will never know anything of that process, and most will never desire it. The cost is way too high, and after all, Jesus paid it all. Hiding behind the cross so as to avoid anything remotely resembling it is spiritual cowardice. We have made living for Jesus a pleasure cruise with Christ as our activities director. But the lord of that faith is Adam, not Christ. But forgiveness is the currency which separates God’s kingdom from man’s. Forgiveness is not just spent on those who we deem worthy. Forgiveness must be a river flowing from a redeemed heart.

Condemnation is a hard task master. It is always hungry and exacts a level of performance not exacted from the vessel from which it emanates. It grinds people to powder and it surreptitiously grinds its conduit as well. It serves a meal of poisonous self righteousness which is devoured by those it has deceived. Condemnation is a literal fort of self righteousness, erected to protect the supposed status of all who embrace it. It is the practice of death itself.

But forgiveness is Christ.

In 2006 a deranged a man, Charles Roberts, murdered ten little Amish girls inside their wooden school house. One of the older girls even stepped forward and asked the gunman to shoot her and let the others go. They all died at the end of a gun fired by this man’s hands.

On the day of the shooting, a grandfather of one of the murdered Amish girls was heard warning some young relatives not to hate the killer, saying, "We must not think evil of this man.” Another Amish father noted, "He had a mother and a wife and a soul and now he's standing before a just God.” Jack Meyer, a member of the Brethren community living near the Amish in Lancaster County, explained: "I don't think there's anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts."

A Roberts family spokesman said an Amish neighbor comforted the Roberts family hours after the shooting and extended forgiveness to them. Amish community members visited and comforted Roberts' widow, parents, and parents-in-law. One Amish man held Roberts' sobbing father in his arms, reportedly for as long as an hour, to comfort him. The Amish have also set up a charitable fund for the family of the shooter. About 30 members of the Amish community attended Roberts' funeral, and Marie Roberts, the widow of the killer, was one of the few outsiders invited to the funeral of one of the victims.

Enter into that if you can; enter into that if you dare.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Without Hope in this World

Without Hope in this World
(Building on the previous post.)

You may think I am going to delve into a doctrinal analysis of how a person has no eternal hope, but I am not. That is most certainly true, however I want to address something very real and tangible. Sometimes people spiral downward mentally and emotionally until they reach a stage in which they have no hope. And sometimes when a person reaches that stage, they use alcohol or drugs to alleviate the very real and deep pain. But sometimes nothing seems to comfort them, and at that point they take their own lives.

I watched a documentary on people who jump off high bridges to their certain death. Some of the stationary cameras caught the events. I watched as men and women walked slowly up to the fence, jumped over, and then as they looking downward they jumped to their death. They had become so despondent, so desperate, and so hopeless that they could not see any other way. It was moving. It shook me as I watched desperate people jump to their deaths.

And when I witness things like that I often wonder how God feels when half the church is consumed with chasing heretics while the other half is following them. And all this rages while people by the millions are metaphorically jumping off bridges. It is quite beyond me to imagine the pain that many people feel. Some have been abandoned by their spouses; some inhabit the night watch over a seriously ill child; Some have lost employment and are losing their dwelling; some have wayward children who have abandoned their upbringing; some do not know where their children are; some were abused as children and it gnaws at them; some have lost children to the horror of war; some were deeply wounded in a local church; some have an imbalance and live in depression; some have same sex attractions and cannot tell anyone; and there are all kinds of scenarios where human beings live in a personal dungeon.

Darkness is their constant companion. They live in a land of heartache. Encouragement is fleeting, and when you sit at your 3 year old’s bedside anticipating her death there are no words, no words at all. The pain of a toothache is torture sometimes, but emotional pain is a monster who devours the inside and many times consumes the life. There are literally millions of people who live with excruciating inward pain caused by all kinds of circumstances. And they are a mission field and an opportunity for beings of redemptive light to exhibit uncommon compassion through He Who is compassion.

But while this heart wrenching narrative plays out, the body of Christ seems busy with other issues. Denominational struggles, local church conflict, heretic hunting, castigating sinners, building programs, cantatas, sex for a month exhortations, concerts, conferences, cruises, and many other ecclesiastical issues continue to consume our hearts and minds. Even church seminars about how to protect your money and increase your personal portfolio push out any real semblance of Christ and His passion or compassion. It is a mockery to be sure, but on and on and on it goes. Eternity is now incubated in prophetic doctrines with no real business in the here and now. And sacrifice and self denial is like so much cotton candy.

Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses? Welfare? The poor houses? Many would rather die than go to these places. Let them die and decrease the surplus population, and if they are illegal aliens all the better.” A little harsh, you say? Well, if you lay out what the western church does and how we operate, the conclusion is much like Scrooge, however the difference being that we do not save up money. We spend it lavishly on ourselves. And when the government attempts to step in with some help, albeit very ineffectual and wasteful, many “orthodox” believers take great offense that their tax dollars are being spent in this manner.

But the same people will vote for a tax increase to build a sports stadium, or donate money to support a rich candidate, or gladly endorse paying interest to a secular loan so their church can meet in a new building. And that is what passes as compassion? And instead of being indicted and provoked to envy when the government offers social programs, the church castigates that kind of socialism because they suggest they should not be forced through taxes to help the poor. “If I help the poor I will do it on my own”, is the mantra. On that issue the emperor has long since lost his clothes.

Jude - 21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
22 And of some have compassion, making a difference:

And this compassion about which the Holy Spirit speaks is not just feeling sorry for people. James makes it clear that feeling sorry with no action is hollow and worthless. Where is our compassion? Where are the bowels of mercy? Why don’t our hearts break over the misery and plight of so many? We demand such justice for others but beg for mercy for ourselves. The political wing of evangelicalism has long since left the heart of Christianity. No longer walking in abject humility that esteems others better than ourselves, the church submits its list of issues and demands lost and saved alike fall into line. And if an issue will result in believers having to shell out more of their own money, well then, it is a non-issue regardless of the implications for the poor. Financial defense is now an attribute of Christ.

But if we read again the story of the Good Samaritan we should discover the uncomfortable and inconvenient essence of true compassion. The compassion of Christ does not take into account a person’s pedigree, nationality, religious affiliation, citizen status, political persuasion, or anything about the object of that compassion. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” is an amazing expression of compassion. In the midst of being brutalized, tortured, and impaled to await death, Jesus forgives and asks the Father to forgive His executioners.

Please consider this lest you ascend upon your hill of offended self righteousness. The entire human race had offended a Holy God. We had shoved our sinful fist in the face of our Creator, and we had taken His creation and made it an enemy of God. But God, this August and Holy God, does what? He dies in our place!? So the next time you take up an offense for God and His commandments and morals, remember this: Are you reacting as did your God, or are you reacting in your own flesh? The cross is the ultimate expression of compassion. It seems we have sucked the compassion out it and made it a self righteous symbol molded after the model used by Constantine.

Remember, Constantine said he heard God’s voice tell him that by the cross he would successfully conquer many by war. But Jesus said we should take up that cross and go and die to ourselves. One of these voices was God, and one was not. Redemption cannot be earned. It was and is and always will be the highest expression of compassion. It was bought and paid for by He who had every right to bypass redemption and go straight to eternal judgment. Make no mistake, eternal judgment will come, but redemption is now offered to whosoever will believe.

Oh my, we are in desperate need of having the Spirit break our hearts and fill us with the compassion that was shown to us. We are so prone and so given to condemnation which is a not so subtle form of self righteousness and self elevation. But how can we even suggest that we are following Jesus when our speech and actions are so different than His? Desiring to win political points or moral arguments, we keep boxing at the air and have relinquished the essence and power of the gospel. But sinners need Jesus just as we needed and still need Jesus.

Do not presume that because you have been born again that now Jesus can retreat to your doctrinal statement because His work in you is finished. Oh no, that is a grievous mistake. Can you say with integrity that Jesus is your consuming passion and that in every area of your life Jesus is Lord? Please do not lie to the Spirit. We are all in need of more and more of Him and less and less of us. As John said, “He must increase but I must decrease.” The world needs to see an expression of Jesus that is so demonstrative, so arresting, and so compassionate that they are drawn to the true and living Christ.

Yes, the whole world suffers. Do not be fooled, even the rich and famous deal with deep caverns of depression and even self loathing, as well as a sense of meaninglessness. Men may hide it, or dress it up, or use money and drugs and achievements to cover it, but lost sinners are still hollow. And when lost sinners boast of their sin, or when lost sinners verbally accost God and His people, or when lost sinners practice open sin and encourage others to do likewise, what will be your response? Will you proclaim your righteousness? Will you dig your moral trench even deeper? Will you castigate such sinners and seek out other believers who will help you? Will you protest? Will you organize voting blocks? Will you polish off your moral phylacteries?

Or, as in the tradition of our Master, will you give your life for those same sinners so that they may see Jesus? In the end you must show compassion or condemnation. You cannot do both. They are without hope in this world and in the world to come. Will you share with them through words and deeds the hope that lies within you?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Vessels of Redemption

Vessels Poured Out For Redemption

The whole world stands in desperate need of redemption. They are gay and straight and bisexual, liberal and conservative and libertarian, black and white and brown, male and female and transgender, moral and immoral, free and prisoner, law abiding and criminal, religious and atheist, Muslim and Jew and Hindu, but what is common to them all is that Christ died for them and He commissioned us to tell them. They do not need condemnation, they stand condemned already. They need someone to care; they need someone to share; they need mercy; they need love; they need redemption; they need Jesus.

They need anyone who would deny himself and be a living sacrifice for their sakes. Paul once said,

I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,
That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

That, my friends, is what following Jesus looks like.

Read again my list of sinners and you will find that somewhere in that wide and varied forest is you. Oh yes, you were lost within that fallen village. You were not on a journey to find God and be redeemed, Far from it, you were enjoying a selfish and narcissistic lifestyle and you were willfully blind to the Redeemer. But instead of searching out your sins and spreading that information to all who would listen, Someone waded into that forest looking for you. He was not interested in condemning you. He was interested in seeing your eternal soul redeemed. The person of which I speak is the precious Holy Spirit.

And before Jesus ascended into heaven He exhorted the disciples to wait in Jerusalem before they went to preach the everlasting gospel. He knew they would need the power and compassion of God’s Spirit before they could be effective witnesses for Christ. In the natural we do not really care for others. Even our acts of kindness are meant to assuage and comfort our own consciences. But the Spirit of God came to this sin laden house of horrors for the purpose of drawing sinners to Christ and then teaching them to be like Christ.

But how often have we become tabloid journalists rather than vessels of redemption? So many times we are sideline voyeurs who can articulate the sins of others but refuse to venture into that forest of sin with the light of Jesus Christ. You cannot do both. It is impossible to intercede and condemn at the same time. You must do one or the other. You must decide whether you are a follower of Moses or a follower of Jesus. But before you make that choice, just remember, Moses is now a follower of Jesus. He has abandoned the tablets of stone in favor of a white robe of redemption.

You see, most men have dreams of happiness and fulfillment. And they go about satisfying that dream with all sorts of earthly labors and schemes. And round and round they go chasing one dream after another but only experiencing fulfillment in patches, just to see it disappear. They have no divine light.

Matt.16:25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

The church sees the lost as one faceless amalgam and not as individual sinners whose soul is worth more than the entire world. We see sinners as irritants to our culture and we are aggravated that they seem to force their “agenda” upon us. We seem to maintain a sanctimonious arms length, not wishing to sully our reputations, but willing to use the lost as proof of our morality and righteousness. But to really fall in love with Jesus, is to also fall in love with lost souls. The church has fallen in love with so many things. Prosperity, doctrine, organization, size, political influence, preachers, and other earthly endeavors. But when will we fall so in love with lost souls that we will deny ourselves to spread His gospel? It’s so easy to “love” the lost conservative, but it demands Christ’s love to love the Rosie O’Donnells of the world.

For what shall it profit a man if he gains ecclesiastical notoriety, or has impeccable doctrine, or preaches eloquently, or lives a moral life, if he is not consumed with the plight of lost souls? Jesus had everything as God the Word. He needed nothing, and His glory was infinite. There was one and only one reason He came to earth. “To seek and to save that which was lost”.

Matt.9:36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.

Jesus sees the world as a harvest for the kingdom. He does not condemn those whited fields, but He implores for more laborers. What good is a laborer if he disdains what he is harvesting? Which farmer would hire grumbling laborers who speak disparagingly of the farmer’s crops? A laborer who despises that which he is harvesting will not handle the crop with care. Where did we change His vision and supplant it with ours? Jesus dies for His enemies but we delineate their sins and indict them over and over and over again. The two approaches are incompatible.

Oh my dear brothers and sisters, lay down your self righteousness and immerse yourself in His matchless grace. You have been saved by grace and by grace you stand. Your morality is a gift of grace. Your discernment is a gift of grace. Your Scriptural understanding is a gift of grace. You have nothing but that which God has graciously given to you and empowered you to have. And you who know Christ and have received the Spirit, you still sin. Oh not willfully, you say.

Do you go over the speed limit? Do you lose your temper? Do you pray as you should? Do you waste time watching television when you could be reading His Word or praying? You see, if you desire to throw stones at the lost make sure you save quite a bundle for yourself. We all must cling to His grace. Yes, within the body we must exhort and reprove and rebuke, but to the lost we must be the Jesus of the gospel itself. Hollering at dead men only entertains the living, but it has no redemptive affect on the dead.

God has called us to be living epistles, living sacrifices, humble servants, and bondslaves to be sure. These are very high callings indeed, however if we replace them with man made callings we not only reduce the level of our discipleship to our own caricatures, but we severely misrepresent Christ and His mission. The Christian life must remain a paradox. It is difficult and requires much sacrifice and self denial. Yet in all of that are the hidden treasures of the Spirit which not only strengthen us, but which lifts the soul into realms of glory unknown to fallen earthlings. Any among us who have been granted a faith glimpse of the Risen Christ can testify to the surpassing worth of that one glimpse. But God has not limited us to one glimpse. The well is full, and when we draw a significant amount of living water from it, it still remains ever full.

This gospel, this eternal gift from the Creator, must never be used as a platform for a carnal display of our own elevated view of ourselves. We must never forget who we were and who is responsible for our gracious transformation. Perhaps butterflies of the Most High today, but we came from yesterday’s maggots. And the good news for all our former maggot brethren is that by faith in Christ Jesus the same metamorphosis awaits them as well. How is it we are not more excited to tell such a wonder, but so often are consumed with telling the sordid details of maggots and their present lives?

Look again at the Son of the Father. Gaze deeply into His face and let that light change you again. Shake off the dross and the grave clothes. Just because outwardly you no longer practice things that were observable in your former life does not mean that the closet of your inward man is not accumulating those same grave clothes. There is a wonderful freedom when we humble ourselves and invite the compassion of God to flood our souls. No longer must we react to all that is wrong. No longer must we inform everyone what we see as sin so that no one will think us soft or blind. In His freedom our reputations are worthless. We are not as good as some believe say we are, and we are not as bad as others suggest. We are content to allow Him to receive any and all praise. And if we are granted the grace to speak a word of gold in pictures of silver to a sinner dead in his sins, and if by God’s Spirit our words are used to lead a citizen of darkness into God’s glorious light, then we experience a fullness which satisfies more than all the gold in the universe.

So let us weigh our words and allow them to be sifted through the prism of God’s gospel grace. There is coming a great judgment which will be terrible in its depth and scope. And we may even warn sinners of this coming horror, but even then let us do it with tears in our eyes and an aching heart. The Lord Jesus has risen from the dead. He has suffered for us all.

May the Lamb of God receive the reward of His sufferings. And may our lips, our lives, and our hearts be a humble looking glass into those sufferings.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Discernment Run Amuck

Discernment Run Amuck

II Cor.11: 12 But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we.
13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.

II pet.2: But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

I Jn.4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

These are the days when damnable heresies are increasing, and even cults which deny Christ are being absorbed into the evangelical morass. All of a sudden evangelicals are reconsidering the status of Mormonism? Yes, these are perilous times indeed. We do need to have discernment, and we do need teachers that expose false teachers and prophets. The church is so dull of hearing and so ambivalent about what is transpiring all around us, and yet the local pastor teaches his innocuous sermon series that changes nothing and appeases the tithing masses. The wolves are not at the door, they are in the church.

Men like Rob Bell and Joel Osteen and Rick Warren offer a tepid brand of Christianity that is completely bound to the temporal. And people by the millions are only too happy to listen and support these and other false teachers. And these men are ever so slick and able to talk themselves out of doctrinal trouble with the cunning of the original serpent. As the Scriptures warn, the devil comes as an angel of light. The feel good messages spoken by millionaires is pleasant to the ears but poison to the soul. We need to do sentry duty against these men and their pernicious ways.

But we also need to be acutely aware of our own spirit and that we make clear distinctions between doctrinal poison and pouncing upon personal struggles. So often these discernment sites give solid information about these men, but then research and report on personal struggles. These types of ministries can quickly escalate into a cauldron of all kinds of salacious information mixed in with some necessary warnings about false teachings. You can find such all over the internet. But any Biblical discernment must never stop at our door, we must guard against delving into that which is personal and especially not first hand knowledge.

When we post about certain men and their teachings we have a literal plethora of material from their own writings. It is first hand and public knowledge. Some discernment sites to their credit even provide foot notes. But when we post about swirling rumors and undocumented information about the personal struggles, or even the personal sins of others, we have entered the carnal realm of gossip. Again, we must guard against even the appearance of impropriety and of malicious gossip, even when some things appear to be true.

I have never known same sex attractions, and I have no one in my family who has claimed to have either. But I have had a daughter who conceived out of wedlock and who remains happily married to my grandson’s father. I was of course hurt and embarrassed especially because of the expectations placed upon a pastor, but as a family we corrected and restored her. But I would have been devastated had a brother posted about it on the internet. Even liberal believers and unbelievers as well experience family tragedies and heartaches. I consider it unchristian for believers to pounce upon them and publicly expose them as if they were doing God a favor. But many “discernment” blogs do just that.

Here is One.

I have had some correspondence over several years with the administrator of that blog. He has provided many legitimate doctrinal indictments concerning the emergent movement especially. But the posts like the one to which I linked undermine our credibility and reveal that our passion to find things has escaped the boundaries of good taste, to say nothing of providing gossip to the ever hungry masses. Like the National Enquirer, these types of personal incursions are self righteous in nature and allow all sorts of judgments a la the publican to find refuge within the hearts of its readers.

This gay thing has provided a self righteous scaffolding upon which so many climb. While it is legitimate to confront preachers who espouse gay marriage and the gay lifestyle as acceptable, it is not acceptable to become obsessed with it. And it is abhorrent to pounce upon individual people just because they are connected to a well known preacher. This is not the time to play pin the tail on the gay donkey and think we are doing serious discernment labor. This is the time to redouble our prayer lives, commit to secret fasting, and show vulnerable redemptive love to those who are overtaken in any sin.

And when you add an appendage which calls for prayer after you have systematically eviscerated the person even before he himself has a chance to respond, well your call for prayer is a hollow cameo. Let us be clear when dealing with Biblical teachings, homosexual behavior is as sinful as heterosexual promiscuity. It is outside the scope of Biblical morality, but well within the scope of Biblical redemption. And if we ever hope to reach the ever growing number of gay people, we must let our speech be seasoned with salt and let our attitudes be clothed with humility.

The sin of homosexual behavior is like shooting doctrinal fish in a barrel. So easy and so unassailable within the “orthodox” community. It draws gratuitous approval and even applause from the heterosexual Bourgeoisie. It makes us look so moral and upright. It is a self serving piñata which offers everyone a stick with which to beat that piñata which is often in the shape of a dead horse. Just in the last few days, the CEO of Chick-Fil-A expressed his support for traditional marriage. I read the interview and the man seems like a true believer.

But what was the response? The gay community is organizing protests and boycotts, while men like Mike Huckabee are organizing “Chick-Fil-A" days. So that is where commitment to Christ has descended to? The lost boycott chicken sandwiches while the saved eat more? And all this isn’t over Jesus, its over the fact that lost people don’t see Biblical morality. Such a self righteous and even ignorant waste. In fact, Jesus and Paul exhorted us to break bread with sinners. I guess bread does not include chicken.

I hope you have gleaned exactly what I am attempting to say. Love isn’t just telling people the bad news. And love certainly isn’t researching the private lives of others in order to uncover some salacious facts.

If you came across a lost gay person lying in the road after a bad accident would you castigate him for his lifestyle? Or... if you came across a lost gay person lying in the road after a bad accident would you pull him to the side and then tell him about his lifestyle? Or... would you try and find out just how deep his sin was? Or... would you give mouth to mouth resuscitation to a lost gay person lying in the road after a bad accident? Or…would you give mouth to mouth resuscitation to a lost gay person lying in the road after a bad accident if you knew he had AIDs? What kind of reckless love would that be, you ask?

Perhaps you haven’t heard of the cross?

 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners,
Christ died for us.


The Eternal Scandalon

The Eternal Scandalon

Rom.9:33 - As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling block and rock of offense: and whosever believes in Him shall not be ashamed.
I Cor 1:23 - But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block and unto the Greeks foolishness;
I Pet.2:6-8 - Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious, and he that believes on Him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe He is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to those who stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

The word in the Greek is σκανδαλον, which is translated “stumbling block” and transliterated in English “scandalon”. In a broad and colloquial sense we would say “scandal” and in the minds of men Jesus and His claims are scandalous. They are so absurd and so outrageous as to be a scandalon or scandalous. And as you can see from Scripture, it is Jesus Himself that is a scandalon to the hearts and minds of unbelievers. They can accept love, and they can accept mercy, and they can accept grace, but they stumble over Jesus which is the chief cornerstone without which the house of faith falls down and withers.

The man, the God man Jesus, is the first step of faith through which salvation is only possible. The disciples believed Him to be the Messiah, the One who the prophets of the Old Testament foretold. Not just another prophet and not just another teacher. Not just an anointed seer and not just a spokesman for God. Not just another Moses and not just another David. No, they said He was the Son of God, or as the Jewish mind would understand, God Himself in the flesh. And that is the eternal scandalon over which many continue to stumble.

In John’s gospel in chapter eight Jesus begins to refer to Himself as the light of the world. Of course the Pharisees took immediate offense that His witness about Himself was not true, but they just provided the Lord with an opportunity to add to His already growing scandalon. The Lord Jesus moves into some very uncomfortable territory as He claims that the two witnesses about who He is are the Father and Himself.(vs.18). And He presses further still by saying that He is from above while they shall die in their sins because they will not believe He is who He says He is.

Jesus prophesies of His own death in verse 28, and with that many believed on Him. The Jews begin to argue with Jesus about their heritage which they say is of Abraham, their father. Jesus points out their unbelief and His relationship to Father God. But then the Jews claim that Jesus is demon possessed because Christ said “If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” And with that they ask if Jesus considers Himself greater than Abraham because Abraham is dead. You see the continuing transition? Jesus moves the conversation to the eternal and to the divine. And then Jesus makes a startling and arresting statement,

“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad”.

ow He has completely crossed the line and they seize upon His seeming contradiction. If Jesus is not even fifty years old how can He claim to have seen Abraham? Hold on tight, because Jesus will now use a term we call the tetragammaton. It is the four consonant for God’s name which God gave to Moses. And the Lord God said that YHWH was “I AM THAT I AM”. Isaiah later shortened it to “I AM” without removing the power and the mystery. So Jesus says, “Before Abraham, I AM”.

What was He saying? The Jews knew what He was implying and they took up stones to kill Him because they knew that Jesus had just said He was God. Not just a god, but the One True God, YHWH. He was claiming to be the God of Moses, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Jacob. He used the tetragrammaton “eγώ εἰμί” in the Greek text meaning I am. This was the capstone of Christ’s scandalon and it is the stumbling block that without the Holy Spirit cannot be overcome. It isn’t just what Jesus said that was scandalous, it was the entire idea that anyone could be God. Jesus came right out and said He was God and that anyone who sees Him sees the Father God. Scandalous.

A modern Jewish Rabbi named Jacob Neusner wrote a book in 2000 titled “A Rabbi talks with Jesus”. In this book Rabbi Neusner imagines himself sitting and listening to Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount. He listens intently to hear Jesus deconstruct the Torah, the law. But as he listens, he hears Jesus teach such unfolding depths of the Torah that he is mesmerized when he imagines himself returning to the group of rabbis. These rabbis ask Rabbi Neusner “Did Jesus leave anything out of the Torah when He taught?”

Rabbi Neusner replies, “No, He left nothing out”.

The rabbis then ask Rabbi Neusner, “Did Jesus add anything to the Torah?”

Rabbi Neusner replies, “He added only one thing, Himself.”

And with this, Rabbi Neusner admits that he cannot accept this from Jesus because if Jesus adds only Himself to the law, the Torah, it suggests that Jesus is above the law and indeed the embodiment of the law. And Rabbi Neusner says he must reject that because there is only one being above the law and that is Yahweh, God Himself. So if Rabbi Neusner is going to receive the Sermon on the Mount, he must accept Jesus as the Son of God.

So what we have in this book written by Rabbi Neusner is evidence that even Jewish scholars who examine the gospel writings with no bias to Jesus come to the conclusion that Jesus claimed to be God even though men like Rabbi Neusner reject Him in that context. And they reject the claims of Jesus because they are scandalous and He Himself is a scandalon.

One day in eternity, all unbelievers will realize that Jesus was the only way to redemption and reconciliation with Almighty God. He who was born in Bethlehem, He who walked to dust of this earth, He who shared over three years with 12 ordinary Jews, He who spoke on the hillsides of Judea, He, Jesus, was the Creator of the universe dressed in human form and coming to die. It was He who parted the Red Sea, He who met Moses on Mt. Sinai, He who spoke to Abraham, He who anointed King David, and it was He who John the Baptist announced.

It was Jesus who made the mountains, Jesus who made the oceans, Jesus who made Adam, Jesus who created the stars, it was Jesus who spoke everything into existence. And it was Jesus who was punished, Jesus who was beaten, Jesus who was mocked, Jesus who was betrayed, Jesus who suffered and died for our sins, and it was Jesus who rose bodily from the coldness of death for us.

It was Jesus who the apostles preached and died for, Jesus who anointed the early men of God, Jesus who received Stephen into glory, Jesus who called the Apostle Paul, Jesus who used Martin Luther, Jesus whose power brought mighty revivals, and it was Jesus whose message the missionaries carry into the uttermost parts of the world.

The entire Creation and redemption is centered around this Jesus, who is Almighty God Himself, and many cannot and will not see Him as who He is, for them, He is a stumbling block. And even for those who will be separated from God forever, Jesus will remain a scandalon, a stumbling block. How could they end up in hell? How could God have overlooked their good works? How could God have only provided one way to heaven? How could heaven be gained only by faith? For them, all these redemptive truths are much too scandalous, and the claims of Jesus being the most scandalous.

Jesus Christ.
The eternal scandalon.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Seeking the Glory of God

Seeking the Glory of God

II Chron.5:1 Thus all the work that Solomon made for the house of the Lord was finished: and Solomon brought in all the things that David his father had dedicated; and the silver, and the gold, and all the instruments, put he among the treasures of the house of God.
2 Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel, unto Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion.
3 Wherefore all the men of Israel assembled themselves unto the king in the feast which was in the seventh month.
4 And all the elders of Israel came; and the Levites took up the ark.
5 And they brought up the ark, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle, these did the priests and the Levites bring up.
6 Also king Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel that were assembled unto him before the ark, sacrificed sheep and oxen, which could not be told nor numbered for multitude.
7 And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto his place, to the oracle of the house, into the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims:
8 For the cherubims spread forth their wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above.
9 And they drew out the staves of the ark, that the ends of the staves were seen from the ark before the oracle; but they were not seen without. And there it is unto this day.
10 There was nothing in the ark save the two tables which Moses put therein at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of Egypt.
11 And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place: (for all the priests that were present were sanctified, and did not then wait by course:
12 Also the Levites which were the singers, all of them of Asaph, of Heman, of Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals and psalteries and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets:)
13 It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord;
14 So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God.

David had been a man of war and the Lord did not allow him to build the new Temple in which to serve and worship Him. But the Lord chose Solomon instead. Solomon chose the sacred spot and began to build this Temple patterned generally after the tabernacle of his father, David. It would be magnificent in scope and grandeur. He called out skilled builders and craftsmen, and he was keenly aware of the immense scope and the sacredness of his task.

Now when the Temple was complete, Solomon had the Levites bring in the Ark of the Covenant and place it in the Holiest Place. This they did according to the direction concerning how the ark should be carried. Then some of the Levites who were singers and played instruments began to sing and play praises unto the Lord. It was a majestic time of sacred consecration unto the Lord of Hosts. The glory of the Lord was so strong that the priests could not even stand up to minister.

Solomon begins a prayer of dedication and consecration unto the Lord. He speaks for the people and confesses their sins and beseeches God’s help and favor in the future. It is evident God’s presence and power was with them. And with all the worship and praise going unto God, the glory of God was ushered into the temple with such sacred power that no one could even enter into the Temple. Can you even imagine such a thing? The glory of God manifested by His presence overwhelmed all earthly powers and the inside of this magnificent Temple became a blazing furnace of God’s glory! This was more than just a burning bush; this was a blazing forest! It was God’s way of sanctifying this Temple and an open display of His holy power.

Let us go forward. Isaiah was a prophet who ministered during the reign of King Uzziah. And one day King Uzziah thought it best to enter the temple and offer incense, which of course was the ministry of the priesthood. You see, God forbids kings and rulers and presidents from usurping the sacred ministry of the church, or in this case the Temple. God struck him with leprosy. Please note that the priests did not let Uzziah speak in the temple or hand out political pamphlets. They chased him out physically. (II Chron.26)

King Uzziah died in shame. But in the year that he died, the Lord Himself appeared unto the Prophet Isaiah.

Is.6:1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.

Notice what happened to Isaiah when he was in the Lord’s presence. Many today claim they have seen the Lord or even have been to heaven and back. But they are charlatans seeking their own glory and not the glory of God. The great prophet was undone. He confessed his unworthiness quickly. What a vision; what a sight! And this train that filled the Temple is the glory of God. Human words are poor looking glasses when it comes to the glory of God. It is quite beyond us.

There were scores of revelations of God’s glory in the Old Testament narratives. But what about we who live in the New Covenant? Can we experience the glory of God or are we resigned to live only by the activities of the church or the written statements of faith? Oh my dear friends, I am no mystic or one who by techniques suggest we can conjure up the True and Living Christ. We can never borrow eastern mysticism or the techniques and practices of other religions and incorporate them into the faith. That is heresy and leads to all kinds of spiritual mischief.

However, the western church has left the glory of God and has sought after organization, doctrinal intellectualism, and the earthly encouragement of social interaction. All this at the expense of experiencing God’s glory and being changed by His glorious power. When you retrace the church’s journey it will reveal quite a path filled with compromise and self centeredness. And most believers are ignorant and unaware of what spiritual treasures are being laid waste, and many more openly suggest that there is no such thing as experiencing God other than in doctrinal format. Very sad indeed.

But these things are not hidden from us. In fact, throughout the Book of Acts as well as the epistles, we are granted open revelations of just where God’s glory resides today. No longer is God’s glory between two golden cherubim. No longer must you go to a Temple to see God’s glory. No burning bush, no cloud of fire, no cloud of smoke, no visible glows, and no prophetic vision like Isaiah’s. The glory of God can be found today in this:

II Cor.4:3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
5 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.

The glory of God, revealed in part throughout the Old Testament, is found in all its fullness in the face of Jesus Christ. But what does the Scripture mean when it says the “face of Jesus Christ”? Why the face? The face is the source of communication and expression. It is centerpiece of our physical being. Watch two lovers at a table gaze into each other’s face. They are in love and their love grows and is expressed as they look deeply into each other’s face.

Martha was busy serving Jesus, and that was good. But Mary sat at his feet and gazed up into His face. She watched His eyes and she heard His voice. How many times have you said to your children, “Look at my face”? Why? You desired their undivided attention. All these things and more are what the Spirit is teaching when He refers to the face of Jesus. And there is where the glory of God can be found. But are we motivated spiritually to seek His face? Have we become so jaded, so earthly, and so proud of our written doctrinal statements that we no longer even feel the need, much less the urge, to diligently seek God and His presence? We have dissected doctrinally and with that we are satisfied?

The prayer closet has layers of dust. Fasting is only for diets. Times alone with God cannot be forced into our schedule. And where do we find a semblance of God’s presence? It usually comes through the music fueled gatherings where we often mistake emotions for God‘s presence. How many believers arrive at the gathering fresh from rising early in order to have an elongated time with God through the spirit of prayer. How many arrive having confessed their sins, and just having a substantive audience with the King of Glory? And yet most of the congregation has spent more time on their hair than they have with God. Pray without ceasing? No, we have ceased to pray.

But with that scenario we suggest we have met with Him? And as we file out with dry eyes and a lunch destination in the forefront of our agenda, are we not embarrassed to call that a “worship service”. Read the accounts where believers actually had an encounter with Christ. They were changed; they were broken; they were filled with the spirit of repentance and an air of eternal glory. Where is that in today’s fast paced gathering designed to end before people’s attention span wanes?

So finally, allow me a poor and most insufficient exhortation concerning the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Try and release the bonds of this world and let your spirit free to search out Him, and Him alone. Do not detour into the church realm, and do not look at how others need correction. Beseech the Spirit to filet your heart wide open, and invite a greater revelation of Him to enter. The brilliance of the Son of God is beyond us. In fact, just the world brilliance indicate some measurement or level of brightness.

He is beyond all that, even though we are limited to human words. He is beautiful. He is ponderous. He is majestic. He is incandescent. Redemptive love emanates from His very being. There is no one who can compare with Him. He is our Savior. He is our Redeemer. He is our Master. He is our Lord. He is our life. He reigns with august splendor untarnished by any sin, even the sin He became for us. The glory of the entire angelic host is a flickering candle compared with one second of His eternal glory.

Rev.1:13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.

Look at His face! It shines like the Sun at its zenith! Who can know it? Who can come to terms with such colossal glory? Who among us can even live in these earthly frames if we were exposed to that kind of glory? And the Apostle John, who so often laid His head upon the Incarnate bosom, now falls at His feet as though dead! Can you fathom what has happened and why?

God offers us a small portion of prophetic glory even before we meet Him face to face. And if we sincerely understand that promise, and if we understand that His greatness and glory is beyond us, does not our inward man created in His image leap within us? God will receive diligent seekers and pull back the veil ever so slightly, but enough to impact and change us. To behold Him, even by faith in prayer and worship, is a gift far greater than the entire world.

The Taj Mahal bows to His presence. Mount Everest shrinks to His greatness. The Sun fades to His brightness. The roar of the ocean remains silent to His voice. Angels cover their eyes and lips before His eternal glory. Please do not consider my metaphors as hyperbole. Far from it, they are feeble representatives of Who He is in the eternal reality. And all those who by faith who have been grafted in, will one day wonder at Him. New bodies will allow us to look and live, but those new bodies and new minds will still be astonished, shocked, dazed, and so amazed that we will be driven to our knees in surrendered worship.

Look out at the sea of worshipers. All of whom were rescued by the same blood, all of whom had the same sin. Look at the waves of praise that naturally emanates from this great company of the redeemed. Blood washed and robed in white robes of light, they cannot take their eyes and hearts off of Him. High and lifted up, the Lion King has been adored by Cherubim and Seraphim and the great hordes of angels. How much more will those who sold their right to heaven, how much more will those who owe Him for this gift of eternal life, how much more will we worship Him forever!

It is quite the imagery. And what moves the soul and electrifies the spirit is that it is not only a coming reality, but that these human words have only touched the hem of His garment. Selah…selah.

All honor, praise, blessings, and glory to the Eternal Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus the Christ!

Losing Spiritual Innocence

Losing Spiritual Innocence
Seeking Spiritual Restoration

I once was a child. Spiritually speaking. I once was awed by Jesus and what had happened to me. When Jesus released me from a life of debauchery and sin, I could hardly believe it. I knew so little “official” doctrine, but like the man born blind I knew once I was blind but now I see. Everything seemed so different. People looked different. Nature looked different. I was what we call a “babe in Christ” but I walked in joy. I awoke every morning and realized once again who I had been and who I now was.

I no longer needed to get high since I was now filled with the Most High God. I did not disrespect my old friends, however they were amazed at how different I was. Every day seemed as fresh as the former, and I lived with a sense of anticipation. Money no longer meant anything to me. Little by little the Spirit began to strip me of the trappings of this world. The Scriptures were exciting and new, and I began to see things about which I had known nothing.

I was a new creature in Christ, and I was clearly aware of that even before I knew the verse. I had hope and hope eternal of which I was void of just days ago. After I was called to preach, the man for whom I had worked offered me a piece of his business if I stayed on. I was polite and refused, but to be honest it never even tempted me. I could have made a lot of money but that was of no concern.

I would awake very early, drive up to a park high atop Garrett Mountain in northern New Jersey and commune with my Lord. Then I would go to work. I never new such contentment and fulfillment. I often felt a sense of euphoria and ecstasy as I would dwell upon Jesus. I had been three years to catechism and was confirmed, but I had never known Christ. It was like a dream.

I was baptized as an infant, however I had read about baptism in the Bible. I became convinced I needed to be baptized again. But I had never stepped foot in an evangelical church, so how could I be baptized? One year after I was born again, while visiting my agnostic aunt, I waded into the Gulf of Mexico and baptized myself. I was so unconventional back then. Perhaps I am returning to those days. I used to take communion by myself on Garrett Mountain at night. I was free of all the man made ecclesiastical rules and regulations.

Later on I became involved with the western evangelical church construct. I was ordained and soon began to lose that early sense of wonderment and spiritual metamorphosis. Soon I became part of that structure. All the early emotions and child-like wonder had left. I still worshiped and served Christ, but the structure would rob me of His freedom. Yes, I began to spiritually suffocate until I would live on autopilot. I longed to return to the freshness of those early days, but I was caught in evangelical quicksand.

I am now free to return to those days. I am free to return to Him without man made prerequisites and expectations. I refuse to be chained again to that which kept me from serving, worshiping, and experiencing Him with abandonment.

If you wish to remain spiritually stagnant and even regress, go ahead and remain embedded in the present evangelical construct. I do not blame you, it is the easy path. And most people are sincere but do not even see things the way they are. That is surely the very nature of deception. And even when your eyes are opened there remains a very difficult path that leads to freedom. You see, it is not enough by a long shot just to see things and openly identify that which is antithetical to biblical teaching and that no longer reflects the life, the teachings, and the mission of Jesus.

But just when you have settled in and began to enjoy all the wonderful activities within the evangelical amusement park, the Spirit of God dislodges you from the comfort of your western nest. You did not ask for it, but here it is. You, of course, do not see everything, however now your ambivalence has been shaken. Perhaps your mate does not embrace your discernment. Perhaps your family is still enthusiastically engaged. Perhaps you feel confused, not about what you know you see, but about your future course. Perhaps you have children. Perhaps you have friends. But still you thirst for a deeper relationship with your Wonderful Lord and He is still speaking things into your heart. Perhaps you are not willing yet to count the cost.

But still you cannot deny His voice. That still, small and sometimes relentless voice is speaking to you. He almost shoves His Word in your face and illumnates your heart to the deep contradictions you are practicing. Every Sunday you see both what substantiates what you have heard already, and many times you see more. It is a time that is both spiritually adventurous as well as upsetting. You seem to be swimming in a different direction than everyone else. People who you have known for many years do not share your burden, or at least to the extent that you are burdened. These are not just careless people, but these are people who are well saved and truly love Jesus, but they still cannot see what you see or hear what you hear. Impatience with everyone gnaws at your soul, and you are constantly being bombarded with self righteous thoughts.

You feel the paradox of both a spiritual desert as well as a spiritual oasis. It can be distressing, and just when you despair the Spirit comforts and strengthens you. You are in no man’s land, and yet you are just where God has called you. You begin to realize more and more just how dependent you have been on the western structure of what we call “church” and just how deeply compromise has crept in and become your norm. But what will you do? More accurately, what will He have you to do? This will not be an easy transition, and timing is very unclear.

And if you leave the contented confines of the western evangelical construct, what will be the short term and long term cost? Well, all these questions will not be completely answered before your step of faith. Until you go to the boats edge, lift up your leg, and before your toe hits the troubled seas, God will only reveal a small subset of His will for you. But one thing is certain, you now will never be spiritually growing if you remain in this boat. You must leave, but when?

We must all ask ourselves this question, “Do we desire to know Him with a passion, or are we to be content attached to a system which denies Him in practice?” If we are going to stay where we are, we will have to repress much spiritual insight we have been given. In many ways, we will have to deny Him and the leading of the Spirit. You may sometimes secretly wish you had remained ignorant and blissfully content. It will take a great deal of suppression now to remain.

But allow me to pour gasoline upon your fire, or maybe your spiritual embers. I refer you to my first few paragraphs. It is worth it, regardless of the sacrifice. But be ready to sacrifice your reputation, some friendships, and be ready to place everything upon His altar for His inspection and correction. Many things that will fall under His correction will turn out to be your fault alone, while many others will be found to be the product of the “church” structure in which you lived. And the process will be exhilarating with some episodes of pain. But those episodes of pain can be very useful to your spiritual life. You can deepen your fellowship with Him while you experience the pain of losing some fellowship with men.

Phil.3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Read again those words. Meditate on their depth and meaning. To know Him…to know Him. Can there by any greater goal, any greater motivation, any greater glory? Does the church desire that zenith, or do they desire to “impact their community”? Is the church worshiping the residuals, or are they worshiping the Christ? Has the good obscured the best? Are we so caught up in doing things for Christ that we have forgotten Christ? And do we now believe that strategies and activities will draw men to Christ instead of believers who pray and demonstrate the Person of Christ? Do we believe that manipulating numbers pleases our God? Do we actually believe we can fill the wide part of the narrow gate with warm bodies?

Well, only you and I will be accountable for our response. Perhaps you do not see it? That is honest and legitimate. But I exhort you, I implore you, take some substantial time and seek the face of Jesus. Read the New Testament like you are starving. Meditate upon its words. Apply them to your life. Apply them to the life of your church. But remember, if you withhold anything, and if you just want to audit this class, the Spirit cannot and will not reveal what you are seeking and what you need.

But if you are seeking Him with personal vulnerability, and if you cannot live without more of Him, and if you are surrendered to the Spirit’s correction and leading, then step out of the boat. You will be afraid, but keep looking at Him. This will be completely foreign to your experience, but keep looking at Him. You will be tempted to judge almost everyone, but keep looking at Him. You will often lose your own strength, but keep looking at Him. You will be pulled from all directions, but keep looking at Him. You will hear familiar voices beckoning you to return to the safety of the boat, but keep looking at Him. You will doubt, but keep looking at Him. Is there another way? No, there is not. Having lost your spiritual innocence, do you desire to be restored?

Keep looking at Him and proceed forward...on your knees.