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. 

Who is This Man?

Christ said of him that there was no one greater born, at least as far as human flesh is concerned. That puts him at the head of quite a list of spiritual achievers: Men like David, and Abraham, and Nehemiah and Daniel. Wow.

He also made some of the most profound “off the cuff” (apparently unprepared) remarks that are found in all of Scripture.

For instance, he was once taunted that he was “losing his touch,” and that men were leaving his ministry for the ministry of some “man” named Jesus. His response: A man can receive only what is given him from above. Total cool; total dependence upon the living God of Israel (s. John 3:27).

In the same setting, when it appeared that his ministry was on a sharp decline and that his part in the play was coming to an end, he responded with, “He must increase and I must decrease.” Not the usual response to watching your life’s dreams go up in smoke.

And at another time, when it looked like he was losing his grip concerning Christ and His actual place in the whole salvatory scheme of things, Christ said that others may be fickle “reeds swayed by the wind,” but NOT the this prophet, he was rock-steady in face of whatever (Matt. 11:7ff).

Of whom do we speak? You probably know the answer by now, or at least I hope you do: The man, the prophet, the Messianic forerunner that we speak of, is none other than John the Baptizer.

Of him, Malachi, God’s final Word of the OT, said simply: I will send my messenger who will prepare the way for You (Mal. 3).

He leaves us with a life of moral uprightness and zero compromise. In our age he stands out as a refreshing man who actually stood for something, a man worthy of our study and emulation.

A Real Yule "Log" to Deal With

Another of those earlier Christmas Posts:

In Matt. 7:3-5 Christ expresses these sentiments:

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matthew 7.3–5 NAS95

I don't know about you, but I've noticed that people who are most interested in "specks" (you know the legal types and critics to which I refer) are often those who have the most undone business in their own spiritual lives. After all, a person who has dealt with the "log" size and weight of his own sin is a whole lot less likely to be critical and condemnatory to the little specks in others lives. In fact, a person who is really dealing with logs in his own life and sin nature rarely has time, or interest, to deal with the little specks in others spiritual walks. Indeed, one who has dealt with his own "logs" will have great compassion in helping others with their little "specks," for he knows the greatness of his own sin. 

Can I make this conclusion from this passage? A negative, critical, accusative spirit is the hallmark of a church member who has not dealt with the great "log" issues in his own life. Rather than deal with the "logs" by the Word of God and Spirit of Christ and find real spiritual health, they choose to accuse and condemn in an effort to feel better about themselves.

Hang in there struggling brother and sisters. Don't let those brothers and sisters who are born in the "accusative case" get you down. Remember, "when the turkeys agree, it's usually a foul idea." Ha, Ha. 

Merry Christmas - Christ's Joy to You 

P. S. According to this above passage, you have every right and warrant to ask any counselor if he/she has any large besetting sin in their own lives that they have yet to have victory over. Obviously, if they have not taken the "logs" out of their own eyes they "cannot see clearly" to help you with your problems. We need to hold "counselors" accountable in the area of personal sanctification, growth and victory. You can't pass what you don't possess. 

Sittin' Around a Cup of Coffee…

An Earlier Post from around Christmas Season

Met with the men this morning at McD's (what a great Bible Study place! - Thank you, God). We were working through Zechariah, chapt. 11. What a great portion of Scripture to be considering right before Christmas. In that portion of God's Word we read not only of God's judgement for the rejection of Messiah, but we also read of the literal abandonment of Messiah for the betrayal price of 30 shekels of silver (The price for a gored, "pierced" slave, Ex. 21:32). We all marvelled, and exclaimed, that only the living God could write such detailed history in advance. And that is just what Divine, biblical prophecy is - God's History in advance. For He, and He alone, is outside of time, space and history. He is truly omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent!!!

We also noted how God juxtaposed the coming of Christ and His rejection for our sins right up against the coming of the anti-Christ. Though separated by thousands of years, yet butting the prophecies together lets us conclude that there is a direct relationship between the two. In other words, reject the good shepherd and you will receive the evil, wicked, foolish shepherd, the grand socialist. He's coming, and, be he god or devil, the world will receive and love him (rejecting the true Christ (John 5:43), they get the man of sin (2 Thess. 2)).

A passage about Christ's rejection for our sins, in my mind, a great Christmas passage. For He was born in a casket, to die for our sins, and, remembering His body and blood, yea, receiving His body and blood, we have the real meaning of the incarnation of God (God with us - Isa. 7:14) in this sorry world.

If you get a chance, read Zech. 11, and rejoice in the light God has given you in the marvelous deeds He has done in sending the Son to take away our sins.

A "real" Christmas to you, and, go gossip the Gospel!!!  

Bethlehem, An Earnest of Greater to Come (Or, He ain't done yet!)

I know you all know the prophecy of Bethlehem, how in Mic. 5:2 God predicted, spot-on, where His Divine Son would be born. Everyone knew it - it was no secret (Matt. 2!!!). But have you read on, beyond Mic. 5:2, to the prophecy of eschatalogical things to come? You see, Mic. 5:2 is an earnest, a down payment, so to speak, of even greater things to come. And the good news is that God will do it all, not us (Isa. 9:6ff.).

We've got way too many evangelicals building a "kingdom now" and not simply preaching the Gospel of the Cross and Redemption of Jesus Christ. Hey, soup kitchens, spiritual communes and building earthly kingdoms is easy. Try preaching the offensive Gospel. That'll get your world rockin' - You may even get hated (John 15).

Can you handle it?

B'ezrat HaShem (with the help fo the name)

It's a Good Thing He Didn't…

Was lately ruminatin' (is that a word?) concerning the death of our beloved martyr, Stephen in Acts 7. It really is a profound scene, and  profound message from Stephen all at the same time. Here you have Stephen, under the powerful guidance of the Holy Spirit, demonstrating Christ and His rejection from the pages of the Pentateuch. The message is so powerful, so biting, so clear that they can do no less than rush headlong at him to kill this message off the earth (though, they might have tried repentance!). If you know the story, the final straw for Stephen was his claim to see the Christ, the Son of Man (Dan. 7), standing at God's right hand. That was just too much for professional religionists, and, midst Stephen's cry for mercy on these persecutors, they stone him to death at the Eastern Gate.

Here's the rub: There was the Christ, the Messiah, standing to greet Stephen, as if in a position of honor and sustainment. With just a Word from the heavenlies he could have snuffed these tormenters, but He did no more than to receive Stephen to His bosom (don't get me wrong, if you're Stephen, that's a lot). It was in God's will for Stephen to die at that time. And, let there be no doubt about it, what a loss Stephen was to the early church at that time. 

But, as usual, God is about the meta-narrative, the big picture. There, standing in the crowd, holding the robes, was one named Saul, soon to become our Paul. Had God snuffed that tormenting crowd, Paul also would have been a casualty. Who of us would have desired that? Imagine the 13 or so books of the New Testament that were embodied in that soon-to-be apostle. Imagine the gracious account of our deacon Stephen's death not happening. Imagine the early church not being strengthened by the apostle Paul, so changed by this and other events in his life.

Aahh, I'da snuffed 'em. 

But God had a better idea. 

He always does. 

Q. Does not the Judge of the all the Earth always do right! (Gen. 18:25).

A. Yes! 

Strainin' at the Oars

There is a specially comforting and encouraging phrase, occurring right in the middle of one of the “storm passages” of the Gospels:  

“Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away. After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.  When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He *came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them.” Mark 6.45–48 NAS95

Did you catch that? Great events have happened. Jesus dispatches His disciples to the next duty station. While on the way (in total obedience, by the way), they run into trouble - great trouble. A storm threatens to all but totally engulf them. And what does the Divinely inspired text say:

Seeing them straining at the oars.”

At a time when weariness at the task was about to consume them; At a time when they felt it was all but hopeless; At a time when they felt the Master did not really know what they were going through, or what was really going on - at just such a time - HE SAW IT, AND KNEW IT, ALL!!!!

What can we do but bow down at such a revelation. Wow!

Are you “straining at the oars” just now? In work? In family? In marriage? In finances? In planning? In vision? In ministry? In WHATEVER?

Can you believe the text that your omniscient (all-knowing) God knows exactly what you are going through? Can you believe that at just the right time He will be there for you and supply the need? Can you, in faith, just now, hang on? Help is always on the way, for has He not presently said:

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” so that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?” - Hebrews 13.5–6 NAS95

Hagar, destitute in the desert, was seen by Jesus and was given water to keep her alive. She named that well, beer lahai roi: The Well of the Living God Who sees me. (Gen. 16).

Nothing, absolutely nothing has changed. He is still that God that sees you; He is still the God who sees you “straining at the oars.” Do not give up.

Chesed v'shalom, (Grace and Peace)


As you are probably highly aware, FaceBook has been much in the news of late. Obviously (though I am still a technical holdout), many believers and unbelievers are highly involved in this social networking phenomenon.

Additionally, we continue to receive news of how employers and future employers (and, now, some ex-employers!!!) are scanning these pages to gain additional insight into the profiles/attitudes of persons they are interested in.

With something so public and so full of words (Facebook that is), it would be wise to remind the brothers and sisters to be very careful as to what they are involved with and what they are posting in such global, visible situations. Hopefully, our words in such settings are words of edification and encouragement, and not those of disparagement, gossip, or, worse, useless drivel. Life is too short for such things. A good governing verse for social behavior would be the following:

“Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3.3 NAS95

I don’t know where we got them from (some wise soul, for sure), but in our home we have tried to honor three questions concerning the words and conversations we use with one another (This would certainly apply to FaceBook as well). I hope you adopt them for your family and your personal life. They are as follows:

• Is It True? – Hopefully what you are is saying is absolutely true and not tainted the least with hidden agendas, envy or slander. After all we serve a God of truth. Let us be such.

• Is It Kind? – While something may be true, that does not mean it is kind. Truth can be used as a bludgeon and a bully. Be kind; Life is hard. Put yourself in their shoes.

• Is It Necessary? – It may be true, it may be kind, but it may not be needed at all. Love is very discretionary, and often covers, and finds additional data unnecessary. I am sometimes amazed at what people say in public and in public settings. So much is unnecessary.

Chesed v'shalom, (Grace and Peace)

Saltless Salt

Recently, I was doing some time in God’s Word one morning and I could not get past this passage – it was stunning to me:

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. Matthew 5.13, NASB95

The topic is obvious: Tasteless, powerless salt. The indictment is frightening: We can be salt that is useless, tasteless salt.

Now, I’ve a confession to make: I love a good sprinkle of blood-pressure inducing salt on my food. Nothing is worse than bland, flavorless food. It’s almost as bad as lukewarm water. And you know what the Lord Himself thought of that.

So, when the Lord speaks of flavorless, unpungent, wimpish salt, He has my attention, and how.

Salt is given to make a difference, to lovingly “sting the palate.” Salt is not made to be “like” the bland food it falls upon. Its job is to “stir up” some senses, to flavor and to improve what it touches. In short: TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!!

Today, I look about me in the realm of church things and I see flavorless salt everywhere. Lives are so afraid of being labeled as controversial and offensive that they have become weakly irrelevant by their compromising doctrines and lifestyles. They are so busy “relating” to the culture, that they have become like the culture, as flavorless salt – just a “form” of the real salt that stings, challenges and enhances (2 Tim. 3).

Maggie Thatcher used to say: “I smell the stench of appeasement in the air.”

I do to. In spiritual things.

And I am frightened.

For our Lord indicted such an age in saying, “Who can make tasteless salt salty?”  and, “Tasteless salt is good-for-nothing.”

Chesed v'shalom, (Grace and Peace)

Do Not Give What is Holy to the Dogs…

It was some years ago, I had been going through quite a time of trying to talk reason into some obstreperous types, and, frankly, I was wearied by it all. As they used to say, “I couldn’t win for losing.” They would be satisfied with only one thing (fill in the blanks).

It was in such a setting that I occasioned to talk to a senior pastor who, sadly, had been a casualty in a church “fragging” (for you civilians out there, that’s a mugging). Humorously, he was now selling casualty insurance to churches and working as a part-time politician – there’s some Divine humor here. 

In the midst of our conversation he uttered this statement of a bloodied, spiritual warrior, something like this:

“With manipulative, legal, antagonistic types you can’t admit any fault or weakness at all or they will use that to justify their evil behavior against you.”

Boom!!! Yea, baby. Lights went on.

News! News! There are some types that really do not want reconciliation or peace at all; they want blood. If even a “nugget” of sin or weakness is sensed, it will become a “boulder” of further attack (I truly believe it is a shock to most men and women to meet such types – most of us simply aren’t raised that way).   

I do not write this to accuse. I write it to free some who have tried everything they can to make peace with others, only to find themselves further accused of “whatever.” These are those who have bumped into types we now call “pathological antagonists.” The Bible calls them “pugnacious,” (gk. Plektes, contentious, quarrelsome, bully: 1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7) and the quicker you distance yourselves from such types the better. That is why Scripture is specific in saying “if possible” live at peace with all men, because, with some, it is simply not possible to have harmony and accord (Rom. 12:18).

This is never to forgive or excuse unforgiveness, bitterness, or contentiousness on our part. Never! But it is to deal with the harsh realities of life, and that reality includes the acknow-ledgement that there are some strange beings out there that actually use guilt, condemnation and unforgiveness as spiritual weapons of seizure, manipulation and control of others. Please do not let accusative types beat you up any longer. Yes, pray for them, all the while avoiding their contagion and feeding them with long-handled spoons.

Is this tragic? In a word, yes. Jesus has come to offer so much more than having to be in control of our own silly, little lives or the lives of others (Psa. 46:10, NASB). But some, still walking in the addiction of their sinful flesh, find more joy in controlling others than in being controlled by the Holy Spirit of God. Rather than find contentment, peace and joy in being “In Christ,” beloved of God, with no Divine condemnation, they find their joy in carnal delights, not the least of which is puffing themselves up by putting others down. God’s Divine Word simply says that is “not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12, NIV).

And for us, little flock? Let us continue on, with the aid of God’s Spirit and Word, removing the giant, sinful logs from our own eyes so that we don’t have so much time to criticize the meager, little “splinters” in the lives of others (Mt. 7:1-6).  Going forth with such humility, and dealing with our own sin, we really will be prepared to help others when they really do request our spiritual aid and assistance (Rom. 8:1-12).

Chesed v'shalom, (Grace and Peace)

Be Afraid to Be Afraid

Hey, this is not my writing, but it was a tender encouragement, so I share it. The “Prince of Preachers,” of course. It's sorta' the "spiritual version" of Roosevelt's "The only thing we need to fear is fear itself."

Fear to Fear
Charles Haddon Spurgeon

"Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD" (Jeremiah 1:8).

Whenever fear comes in and makes us falter, we are in danger of falling into sin. Conceit is to be dreaded, but so is cowardice. "Dare to be a Daniel." Our great Captain should be served by brave soldiers.

What a reason for bravery is here! God is with those who are with Him. God will never be away when the hour of struggle comes.

Do they threaten you? Who are you that you should be afraid of a man that shall die? Will you lose your situation? Your God whom you serve will find bread and water for His servants. Can you not trust Him? Do they pour ridicule upon you? Will this break your bones or your heart? Bear it for Christ's sake, and even rejoice because of it.

God is with the true, the just, the holy, to deliver them; and He will deliver you. Remember how Daniel came out of the lions' den and the three holy children out of the furnace. Yours is not so desperate a case as theirs; but if it were, the LORD would bear you through and make you more than a conqueror. Fear to fear. Be afraid to be afraid. Your worst enemy is within your own bosom. Get to your knees and cry for help, and then rise up saying, "I will trust, and not be afraid."

Eschatological Thievery & Manifestation (Rapture v. Revelation)

For you eschatological (end-time) buffs out there. Here we have a chart that notes the differences between the Rapture of the Church (upward call – Phil. 3) and the Glorious Revelation of Christ, occurring seven years later (Rev. 1; 19). Scriptural references are noted where appropriate. Please be aware, this is not original with me, and I am not able to cite the origin, so-oooo, to whomever is the originator, “Thanks.”

Where is the Church found in each event?

• At the Rapture, Jesus comes FOR His Church. (John 14:1-3, 1 Thess 4:14-17)
• At the Glorious Appearing, Jesus comes WITH His Church. (Zech 14:5, Col 3:4, Jude 14, Rev 19:14)

Where does Jesus appear in each event?

• At the Rapture, Christians are caught up to meet Jesus in the air (1 Thess 4:13-18)
 At the Glorious Appearing, Jesus' feet touch the earth (Zech 14:4, Rev:19:11-21)                   

Who is taken and who is left behind?

• At the Rapture, Christians are taken first and unbelievers are left behind. (1 Thess 4:13-18)
• At the Glorious Appearing, the wicked are taken first, but the righteous (the tribulation saints) are left behind. (Matt 13:28-30)

What will Jesus do at each event?

• At the Rapture, Jesus will gather His Bride, the Church, unto Himself in preparation of the Marriage of the Lamb. (Rev. 19:6-9)
• At the Glorious Appearing, Jesus will execute judgment on the earth and establish His Kingdom. (Zech 14:3-4, Jude 14-15, Rev 19:11-21)

When does the Marriage of the Lamb take place?

• The Marriage of the Lamb takes place in Heaven AFTER the Rapture of the Church. (Revelation 19:6-9)
• War on earth comes AFTER the Marriage of the Lamb at the Glorious Appearing when the King of Kings and Lord of Lords lays the smackdown on evil! (Revelation 19:11-21)

How long will each event be?

• The Rapture will happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (Blink. It's over!). (1 Cor 15:52)
• The Glorious Appearing will be a slow coming. Everyone will see Jesus
coming with great power and great glory! (Zech 12:10, Matt 24:30, Rev 1:7)                                                         

Who will see Jesus at each event?

• At the Rapture, only those who are looking for Him (Christians) will see Him. (1 John 3:2, 1 Cor 15:52)                                                    
• At the Glorious Appearing, every eye will see Him and those who have rejected Him will wail.(Rev. 1:7)

Will Jesus shout?

• At the Rapture, Jesus will descend from Heaven with a shout (calling for the saints at the resurrection). (1 Thess 4:16)
• At the Glorious Appearing, no shout is mentioned, although the Lord does slay the wicked with the sword of His mouth. (Rev. 19:11-21)

Will there be a resurrection at each?

• At the Rapture, a resurrection will take place. (1 Thess 4:13-18, 1 Cor 15:51-54)
• At the Glorious Appearing, there is no resurrection spoken of. (Zech. 12:10, Zech.14:4-5, Rev 1:7, 19:11-21)

What about the timing of each event?

• The Rapture can happen at any time...maybe even now which is why we are to be WATCHING for the return of Jesus Christ! (Rev 3:3, 1 Thess 5:4-6)
• The Glorious Appearing will occur at the end of the seven-year tribulation period. (Dan 9:24-27, Matt 24:29-30, 2 Thess 2:3-8)

What role will the angels of Heaven have?

• At the Rapture, no angels are sent to gather the Church.
• At the Glorious Appearing, angels will be sent to gather people together for judgment. (Matt 13:39, 41 & 49, Matt. 24:31, Matt. 25:31, 2 Thess 1:7-10)

What about the resurrected bodies?

• At the Rapture, those who died in Christ will return with Jesus to recover their resurrected bodies. (1 Thess 4:14-16)
• At the Glorious Appearing, Christians will return with Jesus already in their resurrected bodies riding on white horses. (Rev 19:11-21)

White horse for Jesus or no white horse for Jesus?

• At the Rapture, Jesus doesn't return riding a white horse.
• At the Glorious Appearing, Jesus will return riding a white horse. (Rev 19:11)

What is the message each event will bring for mankind?

• The Rapture will bring with it a message of hope and comfort. (1 Thess 4:18, Titus 2:13, 1 John 3:3)
• The Glorious Appearing will bring with it a message of judgment. (Joel 3:12-16, Mal 4:5, Rev 19:11-21)

Jesus is Coming - He said so!

FaceBook Avatars…

By now you have undoubtedly heard of the pastor who has forbidden his congregation to use Facebook.  It seems that too many in his congregation were falling prey to illicit relationships that were being forged and fomented through the use of this social medium. Certainly, that is a concern.

As a pastor, I don’t know what it would be like to have the power to command your congregation in such a way, but I appreciate that this pastor identified a real problem and has expressed his concern.  

One of the phenomenons we find in such a social interchange is that it is easy for persons to develop an “avatar” of themselves. Hey, life, work and marriage is hard business (committed to the commitment, as we say) and it is a real temptation to slip into virtual reality, where you can be as you “imagine” yourself to be, and where others can foist themselves off on you as they also imagine themselves to be. There is only one problem with this: There is no reality here. There is no dealing with the harsh, everyday realities of personal shortcomings, financial straights and normal interpersonal struggles and relationships. For the emotionally immature and undeveloped, some of these social interfaces provide a great medium to escape personal responsibility and “life as it really is.” Is it any wonder that John Lennon’s song, Imagine, still sells so well in this emotionally undeveloped age?

So let us be careful of the relationships we develop in such ways. Remember, the potential for deception is very great on this modern stage. And let us also be careful to not find ourselves being discipled in the fine art of gossip, or at least grandstanding, all in the guise of some relatively new phenomena known as “social networking.” I really don’t need to know that you “washed your car” and “kissed your dog” today. Spare us.

The Holy Spirit’s admonition is more relevant than ever to these times:

“and to make it your ambition  to lead a quiet life and  attend to your own business and  work with your hands, just as we commanded you…” 1Th. 4.11. NASB

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you,”  1 Thessalonians 4.11 NIV