Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Ruthless Heart of Messiah

In C. S. Lewis’s Narnia Series, it is said of Aslan, the Messiah-type lion, “Of course He’s not safe, but He’s good.”  I like that. I think we have far too staid and “safe” an opinion of our Lord. After all, we are dealing with the Upright and the Holy One. This is not a game, He must repel all sin by the very demand of His righteousness. Period.

He’s not safe. In fact, without the cleansing blood - without the satisfaction (Propitiation – Rom. 3) of His Holy and Righteous demands - He’s downright dangerous, and even eternally fatal.

In light of this, there is a psalm that expresses this better than any human words. It is the very heart of David, but, more than that, it is the very heart of his greater Son, Christ. Notice the uprightness and integrity of our Messiah’s heart; notice the ruthlessness when it comes to evil. He’s not safe, but thank God, He’s good, He’s loving, and He died for our sins:

Psalm 101/A Vow of Messianic Integrity

101:1 I will sing of faithful love and justice; I will sing praise to You, LORD.
101:2 I will pay attention to the way of integrity. When will You come to me? I will live with a heart of integrity in my house.
101:3 I will not set anything worthless before my eyes. I hate the practice of transgression; it will not cling to me.
101:4 A devious heart will be far from me; I will not be involved with evil.
101:5 I will destroy anyone who secretly slanders his neighbor; I cannot tolerate anyone with haughty eyes or an arrogant heart.
101:6 My eyes ⌊favor⌋ the faithful of the land so that they may sit down with me. The one who follows the way of integrity may serve me.
101:7 No one who acts deceitfully will live in my palace; no one who tells lies will remain in my presence.
101:8 Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land, eliminating all evildoers from the LORD’s city.

                                                                                                                - Holman Christian Standard

It all brings to mind that fearful verse from Jer. 30:21 'Their leader shall be one of them, And their ruler shall come forth from their midst; And I will bring him near and he shall approach Me; For who would dare to risk his life to approach Me?' declares the LORD.

Only our Messiah approaches the Father on our behalf. And it is ours to only approach God in Him. Indeed, we “hide from God in God,” and our access to Him is only via His mediatorial Son. All other suggestions will be repulsed by the Holy One (Acts 4:12; Eph. 2:18; 3:12).

Chesed v'shalom, (Grace and Peace) - pastor M. - Psa. 35:10

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Christian Life: A Long Walk (not a run) in the Same Direction…

I believe it was Eugene Peterson who some years ago uttered the phrase, "The Christian life is a long walk in the same direction."
If you've been with the Lord any amount of years at all, you know that much of His process in our lives is teaching us that our Christian life is not a "sprint," but a long, plodding, faithful and committed "walk" with Him. How God needs "plodders." 
In many ways, the child's story of "The Tortoise and the Hare" is not so far-fetched at all when it comes to the Christian walk. I've seen a lot of "Hares" over the years who have failed to finish well with the Lord; and I've also been privileged to know lots of "Tortoises" as well. Those faithful saints you build churches with, that just keep going and going, many times in spite of the circumstances, like Job, rather than because of the situation. They are, deservedly, contemporary versions of God's "Hall of Faith" (Heb. 11). 
To me, the key to these lives that faithfully plod on is that they are people who have their emotions and feelings in subjection to their faith. They rarely let their feelings and fractures "inform" them, or, as another has said, "They refuse to take counsel of their fears." They, like Moses, somehow have the God-informed "forever eyes" that balance out all of life by the long range gaze at the Divine city that is to come (Heb. 11-13) (Eschatology is so critical to an ongoing walk of hope). 
Wesley had a limerick that speaks well to the walk of faith over temporalities. It went like this, and it's worth memorizing:
Frames and feelings fluctuate,
These can ne'er thy savior be.
Learn thyself "in Christ" to see, 
Then be feelings what they will, 
Jesus is thy Savior still. 
So, dear saint, "plod on." By His grace you'll make it to the end (Phil. 1:6: Psa. 138:8). Be done with useless spurts and wind sprints. They'll just burn you out ahead of time. Indeed, as Wesley said, "Learn thyself in Christ to see," with the emphasis on "learn." That means the slow nurture of daily walk and personal discipline in the Word of God and Prayer - what we call the two apostolic non-negotiables (s. Acts 6:4).
And what will you come to find? You will find that it's "easier to act (by faith) your way into feelings, that it is to feel your way into actions."
Who fleshed that out that better than Job, even as we hear him hoarsely through his parched lips, dry eyes, and feverish skin: "Though HE slay me, yet will I trust in HIM" (Job 13:15). That is the hallmark verse of the man or woman who has "learned" to walk by faith, not by sight, by the eternal, not the ephemeral, not the transient. 
Plod on!
"Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4.11–13 NAS95

Friday, January 28, 2011

Quoting Alice Cooper on Demons - Huh?

I never thought the day would come that I would find myself quoting Alice Cooper on spiritual matters, but he recently said that he believes in the existence of demons because "Jesus spent half his time dealing with demons and throwing them out of people." Ha Ha. Man, that's refreshingly simple (He sounds like one of those followers of "the" Nazarene).

In our techno age, that (the above) is often frowned upon as the sentiments of a bygone era, the kind of thing the unsophisticated ancients held to. You know, "we are beyond such things now."

But you don't have to be in ministry long, especially ministry that proclaims the power of Christ and His cross over Satan's fallen kingdom (Col. 1:13), to find that there are forces that exist that will hinder your every move but for God, and some will come right from within the church or your ministry.

One of my theologies puts it this way:
"Much of our discernment of Satanic powers comes as we follow the Holy Spirit's guidance in mission and ministry. As we begin initiatives for the kingdom, events will turn in a direction precisely calculated to block our efforts. These events will often be enveloped in a cloud of lies, accusations and misunderstandings which is the devil's native atmosphere. If all this comes with an especially disabling power behind it. Satan is probably involved."
Did you happen to notice two key points in lives which will face (and discern) opposition in God's work?

1) They will be walking, by faith, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
2) They will be moving out for God. They will initiate things, by God's strength, for God. They will not merely be about transient, ephemeral things.

Walk in such a way for God and His cause, and this I'll promise you: You will see uniquely energized opposition (yea, baby!); you WILL draw the enemie's attention. Mark it down (While you're at it, study Christ and the opposition He faced as He "moved out" on God's Word, Matt. 3-4).

Paul, was just such a man who, Spirit-led, carried out great initiatives for God. And what did he find himself saying to the Thessalonians? "Satan hindered us," 1 Thess. 2:18. And that opposition did not mean he was out of God's will - just the opposite!

Brothers and sisters, if you do God's work God's way, you also will say with Alice Cooper, "I believe in demons." You'll meet 'em. I have.

The good news is, the God who is in us is greater than the opposition quartered against us (1 John. 4:1-4).

Have faith in God - Mark 11:22

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Apple's Steve Jobs' "dogma" is not God's Dogma

Steve Jobs, Apple’s president, has again taken a leave of absence in his ongoing battle with cancer. This troubles us, and we wish him nothing but God's grace and blessing.

Interestingly, in another article, I came across this quote from him (2003) when he first discussed his cancer diagnosis. It has pathos, insight, and tragedy:
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now, the new is you. But someday, not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it’s quite true. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”  Steve Jobs
First, I appreciate Steve’s candor and honesty in his thoughts. He speaks of the brevity of life, and of how death is an inevitable (should the Lord tarry) and, yet, how it is not something we are glad to be embraced by. Amen.

But I would certainly differ with Steve on several key points.

First, death is no "invention" of man at all, and, if it were, it is certainly a poor one at best (Who would want a patent on that?). No, death is a judgement of God imposed on man because of the wages of sin and disobedience to a Holy God. Death is NOT natural, it is an enemy and a great separator from God and man. Period. 

Only One was born to die. And He, possessing Eternal Life, was able, in Resurrection, to grant us exodus and redemption out of death’s clutches (Rom. 4; Heb. 2). The enemy tried to destroy that “Temple,” and in three days it was Divinely reconstructed, to our everlasting anticipation and hope. As Jesus said, “Because I live, you also shall live” (John 14:19). Do I hear some Hallellujahs!

Also, Mr. Jobs warns against “being trapped by dogma.” Huh? I know he is probably referring to various "dogmas" of business models, but he uses too wide a swath. Dogma, especially the dogma of God, which is simply doctrine or teaching, does not “trap” us. The Doctrine of God is what saves us and frees us! Nor is it merely the “results of other people’s thinking,” it is the very heart and soul of God Himself (2 Tim. 3:14-17). It is God’s dogma, God’s doctrine, which gives us the heart and the way of God to eternal reconciliation with Him (and in HIS true way, not man’s emotional suppositions and rantings). Keep in mind two things: The devil also has “doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:1, beware of it), and sound (gk. Hugiaino, healthy) doctrine will be ravaged and disparaged at the end of the church age (2 Tim. 4). Hang on!

My heart goes out to Steve and his family in this time of great illness and distress. He's a master of technology for the common man; technology that works. We owe a debt of gratitude to him for his innovative work that has put us to work.

But Steve’s “dogma” on dogma is not God’s. In that realm he is out of his league. He, like us all, must come as a little child, admit his need and receive the Savior who died for his sins. 

Please truly pray for Steve to find Christ as the One who died for His sin, and the One who died his death for him that he might live forever with the rest of us who are called "Believers."

As GOD'S "freeing" dogma truly proclaims:

"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name," John 1:12 (NASB) 

"And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life." 1 John 5:11-13 (NASB)

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Christ of the "Continual Feast"

Well, Well, Well. Most of the world has now gone back to "life as usual" now that the Holidays (Holy-Days) are over. The "high" of religious season is but a faint memory, and, you know, life come's crashin' in hard. 

But I have a confession to make.

First, the whole Holiday season is a bit anticlimactic to me. I don't mean that I don't care; I don't mean that I don't like it; I don't mean that I don't worship; I don't mean that I don't desire it. And on, and on.

What I do mean is that because of my daily walk with Christ I no longer experience the highs and lows of life so severely. The highs are not as high (because not contrived), and, praise God, the lows are not as low. Enigmatic as it may seem, Christ's abundant life moderates the highs and lows.

With Christ, every day is a Feast Day, so I am not nearly as startled by, or dependent on, the religious season (I am not nearly so jacked by a brief season, when the whole year I am "in season"). And, with Christ, every day is a Feast Day, so I am not nearly so devastated by the reversals and the discouragements that normal life brings.

Is Christ wonderful, or what!!! 

And there is a Scripture that simply expresses this:
"All the days of the afflicted are bad,
    But a  cheerful heart has a continual feast."- Pr. 15:15
Is there any man who suffered more highs and lows in his service for Christ than our apostle, Paul? I don't think so. And how did he summarize the stability, the moderation, the daily optimistic balance that this new life in Christ brings? I leave his words to completely explain and summarize this life of the "Continual Feast":

"I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4.12–13 NAS95


"You are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own truth"

There is an extreme danger in not being real in our relationship with the living God. The soul abhors a vacuum, and if it is not satisfied by the Divinely ordained means of life and reconciliation with God (the Cross, 1 Cor. 1:18), then it will default to what we call, for lack of a better term, pietism (religion rooted in feeling or experience, rather than faith).

Pietism is simply that means by which men and women, outside of saving faith, strive to  satisfy spiritual needs and desires by illicit means - means which are always experiential, and always opposed, to simple faith.

Interestingly, it appears that pietism even has her politics. 

On the left would be the secular pietist who tries to satisfy the spiritual void by new age spiritism (which is actually "old age"), or by chemical assist, or by commune with nature or the natural. Again, pietism is always experiential, and strives, knowingly or unknowlingly, to satisfy the spiritual by means of the natural, and to satisfy the walk of faith by means of a feeling or an experience. It is anything but the true way of God which is always by faith (Hab. 2:4; 2 Cor. 5:7). 

But the right also has her pietists, and these would be of the religious sort. Here, you will have the "orthodox" with her various means of trying to feel God rather than believe in Him and His Word. Her means may be by way of crucifixes, or icons, or asceticisms, or smells and bells, or even religious theater in various poses of "sacrificial reenactment" or "naming and claiming it."  Nevertheless, it is all just another form of experience substituting for faith, of mystical "feeling" usurping the rightful place of turning from self to the life of God via faith.

The warning of Holy Scripture concerning the end of the church age was that we would find ourselves in a world which would have a "form" of godliness, but which would, at the same time, be completely void of religious power and vitality (2 Tim. 3). It would have image; it would have experience, it would have the appearance of spiritual prosperity (Rev. 2-3), but it would be vacuos; it would be dead. We are there.

But the Divine antidote and alternative to pietism is clearly stated immediately following the Scripture warning of religious form. For God simply says:
"You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" 2 Tim. 3:14-15
Notice, the protection against being deceived by pietistic experiences and feelings is the very Word of God, which leads to faith - the very antithesis of pietistic emotionalism. Or, as God says over and over, in so many ways, "We walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7; Isa. 7:9 NIV).

Luther, the anti-pietist and reformer, said it well when he penned, "Let the man who would hear God speak read Holy Scripture." He well-knew that it would be Scripture, in the common vernacular of man, which would free man of the dungeon of his foolish carnal notions to the glorious liberty of the Sons of God.

Scripture warns that it is easy to miss true religion and salvation, and even says that "few will find it" (Matt. 7:13-14). No doubt, much of this is because man continues to insist that he approach God by his own opinions and sentiments, rather than in obedience to God's Revelation and Truth (Isa. 8:20).

Listen to these "lighthouses" of Divine Revelation:
"If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all." Isa. 7:9, NIV
"Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have  come short of it." Heb. 4:1
"For whatever is   born of God  overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith." 1 John 5:4

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Many Sons to Glory!!!

I have noticed of late, because of study time in the book of Hebrews, how many references in this one book have to do with the incarnation (in-fleshing) of Christ. He con-descended to take on our humanity. To me, the sheer number of these in one book is simply stunning. Let me cite these:

• And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.” Hebrews 1.6 NAS95

• But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2.9 NAS95

• Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, Hebrews 2.14 NAS95

• Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2.17 NAS95

• For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4.15 NAS95

In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Hebrews 5.7 NAS95

Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME; Hebrews 10.5 NAS95
And the wondrous, Divine goal of it all? 


 What Christmas is truly, vitally about.