Friday, August 31, 2012

Worldview, Speeches, Pundits, and Polls

I don't like to spend a lot of time writing about the political arena. While I do greatly LOVE my country and would like to think I would lay down my life for the ideals She represents- my allegiance is to another kingdom that sometimes brings me in alignment with, sometimes brings me in opposition to, and finds parts of both parties that support Biblical ideas.

In saying that, I do line up more as a conservative than a liberal and have voted for every republican nominee in my voting life. I wish the party would do better at fulfilling their promise of limited government and fiscal responsibility, but the dynamics are always difficult when it all goes to Washington and the give and take, pressure to fund raise, and empty rhetoric that bounces of largely empty rooms and high definition TV cameras is more prevalent than action.

It would take way too much space and detail to dig into all that makes government and especially the federal government end up in bureaucratic red tape and gridlock, and we HAVE to have government to 'provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare and ensure the blessings of liberty for us and our future offspring'.

But I wanted to make a few comments on the nature of our current debate and what has to happen for the declining trends to change.

1) There is an improper view of government in both parties as a 'moral' agent. This may sound ridiculous, but the first step away from the gospel and proper role of government was prohibition. Our laws need to closely mirror the moral law of God, but do not need to go beyond those measures. They need to punish wrongdoing but not coerce right doing. I know I will sound 'libertarian' in these ideals, but when a majority seeks to legislate morality, we become as oppressive as the Pharisees in demanding standards that are impossible without God's grace. Common decency is a desire that we would have for all people regardless of any other distinguishing factor. We are losing our manners. We all desire to bask in God's common grace. There should not be any party that owns morality, it should be a shared burden of all people. We all fall short of these standards because of human nature, but we will not sit idly by and watch our culture fall into coarseness or depravity. Not with laws or guns- but courage to look at one another and say, 'No this is not right'.

2) There is an improper view in both parties that success = wealth. The most dangerous political card played in this current debate was 'class warfare', an ever present human default mode that sparks bloody revolutions and civil insurrections. That was the best message from the RNC this week: in America we have never been jealous of success- we celebrate it. The problem is that some in our country no longer believe in equal opportunity and others have been so consumed with greed that there is no safety net with heart and no distribution of resources based on common sense and a sense of duty. The ever widening gap of have and have nots has destroyed every empire in the history of the world.

The only out is a movement away from determining success by looks, accumulation, and consumption. There has to be a fundamental change where success is defined as what you have done for someone else, or achievement, or forward progress, or solving a problem. But we also have to rebuke any Robin Hood passions to steal from those who have achieved wealth to give to those have not. We must be repulsed by those who hoard wealth, but never tempted to be thieves.

3) There has been a terrible replacement from 'freedom of religion' to 'freedom from religion'. If I look back on prohibition as being the first step away from the gospel foundations of our republic, I see the secularization of government as the first step toward totalitarianism. The decision of the Supreme Court to outlaw the posting of the 10 Commandments and restrict prayer in schools did more damage to the framework of our country that even the dreaded Roe v. Wade debacle, though they all did insufferable damage.

When the justices decided that no religion in the public square was the intent of our founders, they did, in fact, endorse a religion called secularism. When you unchain the Creator from the laws and liberty of our nation- you remove any hope of a consensus of shared values. The problem is, it will not remained unchained for long. Something strong has to step in and fill the void of endless opinion- usually an elite that picks the shared values and rules those with overwhelming force.

Again, in a strange way, I have to (as an 'evangelical') draw comfort that a ticket consisting of a mormon and a catholic (who don't just wear the label but follow those tenants) is a better America than those who give lip service to a religion but whose real God is practical atheism. We have better ground for gospel conversations in a land where faith matters than where faith is privatized and suppressed. No religious freedom in the marketplace of ideas is supporting a grand winner- atheism.

4) The fast flicker of mass media information and declining educational standards has created a generation that is persuaded by their eyes and makes choices by their feelings. Long term debates, based on logic and evaluation are not found on a national level.

Don't you see this in both parties? Produce a slick message, don't mind the facts, because there is no right or wrong. Win at all costs, even if it compromises basic tenants.

Is it all lost?

There has to remain a spirit of optimism, even if it seems tempered. I would like to hope that the brief sense of unity immediately experienced after 9/11 or the shared joy of Olympic pride show that there is still a powerful American ideal in the land.

The difficulty is that there is pain and sacrifice involved in solving our big problems. If there is a politician who decides to push for real reform, there will be some level of revolt. And the TV cameras will find the down side.

At that point, it will be a like a season of Survivor. Can the group that is holding austerity to the fire going to survive the opposition? Could there possibly be enough tough, bi-partisan courage to hold the course?

Here is how it has to go.

Religious freedom must win over secularistic oppression.
Educational choice must win over the over-protected status quo.
There has to be a consent of shared values: truth, discipline, compassion, stewardship, respect, and tolerance.
There also has to be a shared outrage of injustice, evil, and oppression.
Fiscal responsibility must win over unchecked entitlements.
The government must be streamlined, the tax code simplified, and regulations must be restrained.

We have to get to the point where people of dissenting views are not enemies and we seek common ground based on solid character and good faith negotiations.

We have to be more Pro-America than Pro- Political Party.

We have to forgive more and complain less.

We need to stop being entertained by the tearing down of others.

Bottom line: We need God's mercy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Amazing Quotes in My Bible

Over the years, I have been able to hear some outstanding messages from men and women whom God used to inspire, instruct, and convict. I wanted to write a post where I copied some of the notes in the pages of my Bible that meant a lot to me along the way.

In the coronation of a British Monarch, he is given a Bible with these words:
We present you this Book, the most valuable thing the world affords. Here is wisdom; here is royal law. These are the living oracles of God.

The study of God's Word for the purpose of discovering God's will is the greatest discipline of a man's life- Charles Spurgeon

Forgiveness: I distinctly remember forgetting that.

Tim Keller: What is an idol? It is a functional god which if threatened to be taken destroys your security and meaning in life. If you lose a good thing, you are still consolable. If you lose an ultimate thing, there is NO CONSOLATION.

John Calvin: "God limits our knowledge first that we should be kept humble and also that we should continue to have dealings with our fellows."

Here is the Christian journey in 6 words:
"not knowing where"- (Heb.11:8)
"I know Whom"- II Timothy 1:12

Harry Reeder: We will not believe because we cannot believe. And we cannot believe because we want glory for ourselves.

My destination? Not sinless... but a complete union of my purpose and pleasure with God's purpose and pleasure.

God's choice is uncontested, unconventional, and unconditional. It is the dispensation of His sovereign right as sovereign ruler.

" If you find yourself loving:
any pleasure better than your prayers
any book better than the Bible
any person better than Christ
any indulgence better than heaven
TAKE ALARM: If you lose your taste for the BREAD OF LIFE- confess your negligence and ask God to revive your appetite."  Thomas Guthrie

"Faith is a WHOLE SOUL movement where intellect, feeling, and will converge on Jesus Christ" John Muray

Faith has an object- but the object of faith is never faith. David Filson

Prayer is the sweat of the soul- Martin Luther

"Not until we become humble- teachable- standing in awe of God's holiness and sovereignty. acknowledging our own littleness, distrusting our own thoughts, and willing to have our minds turned upside down can Divine WISDOM be ours." J.I. Packer

"A man doesn't have to die to go to hell." Rivers Rutherford

"I have never been able to believe in a little hell.
Because I cannot find in the Bible any trace of a little heaven, or a little Savior, or a little sin, or a little God. I believe in a theology that is drawn to scale." Spurgeon

"God is manifested and shines in full glory. It is beams of love, streams and rivers of love and delight that swell into an ocean of love in which the ransomed bathe. We are deluged in His love." Jonathan Edwards

God is not the chaplain of the status quo

5 Great Resolutions:
1- Give God the glory in all success
2-confess all sin
3-never slander others
4-renounce ownership- give all to God
5-seek to live with enthusiasm and joy

True Peace:
A steady and humble reliance on God though my outside circumstances are rocky and unstable.

All of us want to help God in our salvation

Spurgeon on Prayer:
"At the brightness of the shekinah glory, above the mercy seat and that mercy seat red with such blood was was never spilt but once and the eternal spirit leading us to that mercy seat- can we go there to ask for a mere trifle?"

God works like yeast but we want Him to work like dynamite

What we revere- we resemble- either to ruin or restoration

All idolatry begins with unworthy thoughts of God

God makes 2 strong statements: I made all things and I do all things.

Worldliness is what any culture does to make sin seem normal and righteousness seem strange

If the world grows darker, the glory becomes more brilliant

Time is the brush of God as He paints a masterpiece on the human heart.

The thin line between good and evil runs right through the middle of every human heart.

Good prayers say more "He" than "Me".

In the end, idolatry, adultery, addiction all lead to endless desire, pain, and
shame.

"I'm tired of niceness, comfort, neatness, and control...God will You consume me?" Brent Harriman

Best part of love? We give it and receive it.

Christians have 2 noticeable birthmarks: worship and witness

If righteousness is a requirement we are in deep trouble. If righteousness is a gift we are in deep gratitude.

"Life is too short and the gospel is too good for us to live our life as posers." David Filson

The gospel is so good, you do not have to manipulate the message.

We the church have been called to exhibit the manifold wisdom of God by living the gospel.

Jesus is the prize and the finish line- the goal and the gold.

Be acquitted, Be alert, Be active, Be armed- no one likes a pop quiz.

Christianity is NOT primarily aimed at social reform but personal redemption- David Platt

As death leaves us, so judgement will find us- Sir Thomas Brooks

My enemies? Satan accuses, the flesh wages war, the world seduces- I need help.

The Romans were dragging believers to torture and death and the Christians showed grace, hope, forgiveness, and peace enough to make them stop and ask "How?" or "why?".We drag into work and grumble about the coffee and temperature.

My definition of a Christian? A man who is so forgiven that he bears witness, perseveres in opposition, grasps a promise of resurrection, and then reigns with Christ forever.

The fixed point in the universe is the eternal throne of God.

Prayers are the incense of heaven while complaints are the smoke of hell.

It is one thing to be lost and know it, it is quite another to be religious, lost, and not know it.

"Football is a great game, but it is a terrible god." Coach Mathews

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Wide Screen Replay- Revelation 12



Revelation 12:



“The first thing for us to understand is that although the signs preceding the judgment day are many and great, they will all be fulfilled, even though none or very few men take note of or esteem them as such. For two things must take place according to the Word and prophecy of Christ and the apostles: first, that many and great signs will be made manifest; and secondly, that the last day will come unawares, the world not expecting it, even though that day be at the door. Though men see these signs, yea, be told that they are signs of the last day, still they will not believe, but in their security mockingly say: "Thou fool, hast thou fear that the heavens will fall and that we shall live to see that day?"”
                                                                                                        Martin Luther


What a fitting way to end this study of all the chapter 12's in the Bible for 2012. The Book of Revelation is so important for Christians to read as the world becomes flatter and potentially more dangerous to those who walk in obedience to Christ. 

For the churches in the 1st Century…. What did it cost to follow the Lamb?

  • Severed from trade guilds- many of these guilds were attached to temple prostitution or idol worship. To proclaim Christ was a likely loss of your profession.



  • Unable to buy or sell- There was a very organized conspiracy of church and state to marginalize and blackball the followers of this strange new way.



  • Prison- Torture-Death- was common place. But the church flourished. It was scattered in persecution- but the gospel influence planted seeds that was going to take over the world.

In the 21st Century…. What does it cost to follow the Lamb? In some places it is still dangerous and reminds us of a principle of following Jesus Christ.

PROCLAMATION PRECEDES PERSECUTION

SO we come to this strange book, one that seems to defy the title, REVELATION. The greek word, APOCALYPSE.


1) The title means "to reveal"- literally 'move the veil"
2) And it also refers to Apocalyptic Literature which was a popular genre at the time.
The Genres of Revelation:

  1. Letter- time, people, places
  2. Prophecy-  in 404 verses, 278 have OT references- A goal of prophecy is “repentance”
  3. Apocalyptic- popular style 200 BC to 200 AD highly symbolic, numbers “count”

AND THERE ARE MULTIPLE PROBLEMS:
Is Revelation to be viewed as a linear chronology of events?
Is Revelation to be viewed as more literal or symbolic?
Is Revelation new prophecy or expansion of other Biblical content?
Can Revelation Mean Different Things to Believers of Different Eras?
What Does it Mean to Say ‘Satan is Bound” in Rev. 20?
What Does the 1,000 Year Reign and the Resurrections Mean in Rev. 20?

A GREAT WAY TO UNDERSTAND THE TIMELINE:

WE KNOW WHERE WE ARE!
(NOTE: MAP IS NOT DRAWN TO SCALE!)

                                                                                 We are here
______t______________________________________________2nd Coming
            D-DAY                                                                                   V-DAY
            Satan doomed                                                                       Satan Destroyed


THE BOOK IS FULL OF  PROMISES:


  • The God Who is in Control
  • The Christ Who is the VICTOR
  • The Gospel that Cannot Be Contained
  • The Gore of Final Conflict
  • The Glory of Final Consummation
  • The Goal of Every Believer

Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Here is the thing that thrills me. We have come far closer to the finishing of this mission than any previous generation. We have done more in the last century and a half in worldwide evangelization than all the preceding centuries since the apostolic age” George Eldon Ladd
Wouldn't it be cool to share the gospel and lead the last convert to Christ before the end?

The Book starts out simple enough. There are letters to 7 churches in the 1st century corresponding to an amazing picture of the glorified Christ. 


THEN>>>>>>WHAT IN THE WORLD?

7 SEALS
            7 TRUMPETS                               (7 THUNDERS Rev 10: 1-7)
                                                7 BOWLS      FINISHED

A Rhythm with a SUDDEN INTERUPTION: DON’T GUESS WITH GOD 
6 SEALS AND A PAUSE (1/4 OF CREATED REALM)
6 TRUMPETS AND A PAUSE (1/3 OF CREATED REALM)
(Bowls will be all of created realm without exception)
The Interludes show patience and protection- security and assurance

WHY ARE THE JUDGMENTS UNLEASHED?

  • PERSECUTION OF THE SAINTS
  • SLANDER/MOCKERY/FALSE WITNESS/BETRAYAL
  • LOVING THE IDOLS- IGNORING THE CREATOR
  • THE CRY OF THE MARTYRS
  • ANGRY DRAGON
  • REFUSAL OF SALVATION

Yes! We are to be witnesses. We are to faithfully share in word and lifestyle. We should not be so na├»ve to believe that it will not be without some cost. In America, we are often seduced to believe we can co-exist with the world without conflict. Don’t be surprised by persecution, expect it. . Be of good courage. Shining a light may cause a loss of dignity, status, academic credibility, professional success, or worse. But be of good cheer, our Savior seals, preserves, protects, and He will vindicate.

First of all- just about every image in Revelation has a connection to the Old Testament. Nothing here is new or surprising. I tend to read the prophetic parts of the Book very similar to St. Augustine and what he called: The Principle of Recapitulation. It is like a woman who is in labor, the narrative builds to a crescendo and the rolls back, only to come back in ever increasing intensity. The signs are a legitimate warning that the day of mercy will one day close.
Romans 8:22 “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”

There are MANY Schools of Interpretation- and I haven't found one that I think really captures it as a complete narrative. All the Biblically sound ones have great points and just about all land on the same applications- BUT we did not get the 1st coming of Jesus right.... I doubt we have the 2nd one any better!

Your View Determines Your Interpretation- And says whether you are more literal or symbolic.
Historists- The advance of Islam?
Futurists- Unleashing of demonic activity right before 2nd Coming (exceptions of course)?
Preterists- events leading up to destruction of Jerusalem AD 70?
Idealists – Demonic activity throughout church age?


SO we come to Revelation 12 a BIG PICTURE overview of the conflict between the kingdom of God and the domain of the Devil. 

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.

This is highly stylized and wrapped in apocalyptic imagery. But a pregnant woman seems to point to Mary.




 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems.

Enter another character in the Cosmic Drama- Satan Himself. By the way, an irony here is that Revelation reveals the evil one as well. He likes to hide (where we get the word- occult), he likes to disguise himself as an angel of light. But the book here, moves the veil, on his evil way. The horns and multiple heads and diadems is significant because Satan's kingdom is an entire system of governments and philosophies and armies. He is the head of a multiple layered domain of darkness.


 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. 

Seemingly a reference to the casting out of Satan from the kingdom. But I also think of Jesus' reference in Luke 18:10 "Yes," he told them, "I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning!.

And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.

The bloody part of the Christmas story.Herod trying to destroy the male children. God flooding Bethlehem with all of the people to hide and protect the Savior,  helpless in the humility of flesh.

 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days. 

APOCALYPTIC NUMBERS ARE SYMBOLIC NUMBERS:
7 YEARS= 84 MONTHS
3 1/2 YEARS=FORTY TWO MONTHS=1260 DAYS
SAME THING AS TIME,TIMES, AND HALF A TIME
3 1/2 IS A BROKEN 7- CUT SHORT


This part of the vision seems to blur the lines of the Christ narrative and the 'woman' as the Bride of Christ. These apocalyptic prophecies are examples of symbolism, compressed time, and multi-tiered truth. I know it seems like a cop out to say that the woman is Mary, AND the church. But people are types and shadows themselves.



Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. 
Notice, Jesus is not fighting here. Even though Satan has set himself up as a type of rival to God the Father, He is not even a match for Michael, a high ranking angel. 

 And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

Compressed time here. God is non-linear. This is the present and the past, the now and not yet.


10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God

This is a most exciting part of this passage. In Genesis 3:1, Satan stalks God's crown jewel. In that verse , he is said to be "crafty" or "Yarum" in Hebrew. After he helps cause the fall, verse 7 says that 'they knew they were naked' which is a play on words They were "Yarumine" (deceived). Satan owns us and he sticks the thorn of accusation day and night. He whispers in our ears.

But the gospel message includes the 'throwing down of the accuser".


Think of it this way. You are part of a family business and you did something really bad. It is so bad that embarrassment has been brought to you and to the family. One of the big Vice-presidents has called a news conference, and you are going to be exposed. You stay up for nights and nights in tears and anguish... so ashamed.


All the press show up- they are going to tear you to pieces.


But you go into a meeting right before the press conference. In that meeting is your dad, the CEO. Your brother, the CFO. And members of the board.


Your brother hugs you. 'You are forgiven'. I have gone to the board and will pay the fine for your mistake. Your dad hugs you. "Son, I love you"- "Years ago when I adopted you, I set my affection on you, you are a forgiven and loved son!"


The family lawyer comes in. "You are forgiven. There is nothing that is going to be held against you. Your record is clean."


So you go out to the press conference. You can truthfully say you made a mistake. But then the entire family announces forgiveness, love, support, and a clean record.


What can the accuser do to you? That is your glorious redemption!


11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! 


This should be the testimony of our lives in response to this gospel!


But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.


This is why things can get tough. Satan is defeated, exposed, angry, and desirous of destruction. He is desperate and he hates you!


 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 


I have a fun theory about this. This is the worldwide fore of the gospel on a victory lap. Spreading to Europe and moving away from the intense persecution. Making its way across the ocean and having a glorious run in America. I know scholars point to Exodus imagery here, but I smile at my thought here.


17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus

We will then move into Chapter 13 and meet the UNHOLY TRINITY
DRAGON AND HIS ANGELS- Anti Father
BEAST OF SEA- Anti Son
BEAST OF THE LAND- Anti-Holy Spirit. He is the false-prophet and the more dangerous He seduces to destruction. We are sometimes led to believe that everything is good, man is good, truth is relative. 


This is an Unholy Trinity that works in great deception. Notice that the 2nd person has a dead-back-to-life story like Jesus!


There is POWER to deceive- because we live in an age that we attribute power, plausibility, and popularity  to truth.



The Mark of the Beast?
Neron Kaiser (Nero Caesar)-Hebrew Spelling-NRWN QSR
200+60+100+50+6+200+50= 666 (Latin Spelling variant 616)
Possibilities of the number- 6 vs 7- a threefold number- a literal application
Significance of the mark- is this literal? Right Hand and Head
Strongest evidence- Latin Vulgate 616- whoever transferred- saw this as Nero Caesar.


But the anti-Christ would be a recapitulated leader of the satanic system until the end!




Could Be Other Things:
Technology?
3 sixes?- shy of 7- Satan's counterfeit. False copy of God.
Multiple men- a system?


Satanic System- dominate, destroy, and seduce the people of God.
Sealed by God or Marked by Beast- whose mark?



KEEP THESE THINGS IN MIND:
“When Modern prophets turn Revelation into a crystal ball, they turn their back on church history and have been wrong every single time.”  Rev. Art Azurdia

If I Am Reading Revelation Correctly

  • I will feel excited, encouraged, and energized to stand boldly for Christ in a world that seems to grow darker and colder
  • I will feel personally challenged to continually stay prepared. This will cause discomfort from time to time.
  • I will see clearer lines of demarcation: Lion/Dragon- Lamb/Beast- Overcomer/Defeated
  • I will evaluate my circumstances in light of eternity
  • My desire and practice to worship will grow
  • I will walk and live as a champion- Victory is in sight



Applications:
Am I dull to damnation?
Do I see the evil that demands justice?
Do I realize I am in a battle with eternity at stake?
Do I see how much the enemy hates me?
Do I see how much Jesus loves me?


I hope you were blessed by all of the chapter 12's in 2012!!!!!!!!

What We Miss About God's Grace- Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12:18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, c“If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.”21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to eMount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly1 of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time ohis voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

The greatest testament to God's love also contains clearly what we tend to miss:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life". John 3:16

We get lulled into sleep sometimes regarding the Holiness of God which fuels the fire of His eternal wrath against ungodliness.

The worse the bad news, the better the good news. I get worried that we preach a gospel that sounds like this- "you are a good person, you have just done a few bad things. Get educated and help and you can overcome these negative vibes. And let's make sure we are nice to everyone, not really stand for anything because we are all God's children. Don't be offensive, only speak with loving service."

So people think that they merely have a sickness. Get a dose of the Jesus shot or any other faith solution and you can be healthy.

That is a FAR cry from the seeds that sparked the 1st great awakening. Here is a portion of what Jonathan Edwards preached- not screaming- just reading his manuscript:
The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God's hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.
O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment.  
                                                                  "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" July 8, 1741


The good news is great news because the bad news is gruesome. The Holy Mountain of God is a blaze of fire and to touch it in your sinful state is immediate obliteration. I wasn't sick in need of a hospital- I was dead and in need of a resurrection. I wasn't a good boy who did bad things- I am a stinking sinner, my default nature is a love of sin and self- I need a savior. I don't have hope to discipline myself to earn God's favor- I am ruined I need a new life. I can't pay for this, I can't earn it- I even need a gift of faith to receive it. THAT IS THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL OF GRACE!

Moses had that healthy fear. He saw it in full living color. It didn't keep him from sinning and God banished him from the promised land.

How grateful should we be? We do not see that side of God's true nature. We have been covered by the one who took the fury of God's wrath undiluted and unrestrained.

The cross is like a heat shield on the space shuttle. The fury of God poured onto the SON so that we experience grace and peace.

Don't talk to me about any patronizing diluted gospel. Eternal punishment is a reality and sin will be blasted. 

Richard Neibuhr got it right about our culture- he spoke out about the 'gospel' we were selling:

"A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross."
What gospel message are you telling?

Friday, August 03, 2012

An Unpopular God and An Unpopular Practice- Hebrews 12


HEBREWS 12:Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits land live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

Glorious hardship! Christ Himself is the example. And light vs darkness will always involve conflict.
The verses 3 and 4 have always seem comparative to me. It is that Christ Himself experienced hostility and we will too. Spiritual living is a war. But no matter how intense our fight is- His battle was still the ultimate.

The there are comments about a dying trait and practice in our society- discipline.

Why do these verses seem so dark and foreign? It is because American families are losing their will to discipline their children.

There was a time growing up where parents disciplined quite harshly. Coaches used paddles and dads did not play. My mom stung my legs with a bush branch. She tore the leaves off and sent me dancing.

My dad used his belt.

Did they mess up? Yes, And the Bible infers the mess-up: For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good. In other words, they were doing the best they could, but they fell short.

I do have contact with parents who still have a firm hand on their children. But it is actually tough on them to do so because the trend is to cause no pain. My most frustrating conversations involve parents who want tough rules, for everyone else, but get angry for consequences that I assign.

The result? We have a generation who defines pain as hate. They perceive "NO" as loveless.

But true love involves discipline. Short term pain for long term prosperity. We give consequences as a teacher. We want our children to experience those consequences now- because life deals out harsher results later.

There are MANY types of disciple referred to in Hebrews 12. Perseverance when persecuted, self discipline, and parental discipline- and all of it is painful or not pleasant- but all of it is beneficial.

We are just a few days removed from the interesting controversy surrounding Chick-Fil-A and its CEO . Mark Oppenheimer in the New York Times summed up the genesis of the stand-off like this: 
On July 16 (2012), an online Southern Baptist publication quoted Dan Cathy, whose family owns the Chick-fil-A fast-food chain, saying he endorses “the biblical definition of the family unit.” Right away, liberal mayors insisted the poultry outfit avoid their gay-friendly cities.
Rahm Emanuel in Chicago: "Chick-fil-A's values are not Chicago's Values."
Ed Lee in San Francisco: "Closest Chick-fil-A is 40 miles away and I strongly recommend they not try to come any closer. Very disappointed." 
Thomas Menino in Boston: "I urge you to back out of your plans to locate in Boston." 
By contrast, conservative Christians and two former presidential candidates — Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum — asked their supporters to eat more Chick-fil-A, in solidarity with the Cathys, if not with chickens.
The resulting Chick-Fil-A appreciation day on Aug 1 and the "Kiss-In" Response on Aug 3 has resulted in an explosive campaign of ideas in the social media and web.

I have NOTHING MORE to add to the debate. Progressives see Chick-Fil-A's stance on traditional marriage and donations to conservative groups that oppose gay marriage as distributors of hate and discrimination. Conservatives bristle at that charge- and respond by citing free speech and freedom of religion issues. And it looks like a divide in which the twain shall never meet.

The toughest part of the back and forth is when some of the supporters of gay marriage point to Jesus and say, "He never spoke out against homosexuality, He was never married, and where is obedience to His command to love?"

Evangelical Christians respond to those 3 arguments like this:

Jesus spoke in high regard for the Mosaic Law, even saying He did not come to abolish the Law but fulfill it. He is the one who says, For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two will become one flesh (definitely traditional view of God ordained marriage). Just because Jesus was not married has no bearing on His teaching regarding marriage and divorce.

But the big one is 'Where is the Love?'. This is what has happened to our society when we substitute the word 'NO' for 'HATE"?

When a person stands up and says, "God has said 'Do not do that'." How is that hate?

No doubt there have been terrible things done to people who are homosexual. But my guess is that it is only the lunatic fringe on both sides of the issue that are engaged in harmful or improper attacks.

The bottom line is that Christians do believe that any activity that is declared SIN in Scripture is harmful. Christians do not like the practice of homosexuality nor an adulterous act that tears apart a family.

And Christians believe that the consequences for such acts are results of and contained in the acts themselves.

It is not hate that says NO, it is concern.

But very few outside of the Biblical world view will ever understand that.

It is not popular to administer discipline, but it is a loving act. To fail to do so is the real hate.

Rick Warren said it well:
 Our culture has accepted two huge lies: The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.



Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Great and Grueling Race- Hebrews 12


Hebrews 12: 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hard to believe I am down to 2 chapters in this study of all of the chapter 12's in Scripture for 2012.

Hebrews is a marvelous and mysterious book. We don't know the author. I have always been intrigued by the theory that it was written by Apollos. But regardless of human authorship, there is no doubt of its canonicity and value.

The beginning of chapter 12 is one of those WOW moments. I'm sure Hebrews 12:1 goes up there as a hall of fame verse.

It begins with "another great OUN"- THEREFORE... and when we see these 'therefore's' we need to look back at what the writer is referring to. It is like clicking on a computer ICON and opening up a whole lot of stuff.

In this case the 'Therefore' is referring to the "Hero of Faith Hall of Honor" from Chapter 11. Chapter 11 gives a beautiful definition of faith, then examples of this faith, and leads to us... Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.

Have you ever considered who is cheering you on?

When I ran the Music City Marathon it was inspirational to see the people lined up to watch and cheer. The live music and energy of all the participants just lifted me up in the quest.

Then around mile 8 or 9 I picked up the face of the first of three individuals who were there to look and cheer for me. I saw this sea of faces and then, I KNOW that one! It was Rod Thurley! He was one of my football parents, always had been a great encourager,  he just smiled and hugged my neck and I was hit with some GO JUICE.

According to Hebrews 12- we are being cheered on. These great heroes of the faith are not standing in folded arms of condemnation or doubt. These are men and women who finished before us and now are cheering us on. They are our inspiration and role model.

In your corner is Noah and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses and Gideon, David and other lesser known Saints of old. They were given a baton of faith and they ran their race well- it is now your time- it is my time.

HOW TO RUN:
let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us
We need to run lean and light. The less baggage we pack, the better the progress. I believe there is an inference here to leaving behind good things, acceptable things AND sinful things. The verse here says 'every weight and sin which clings so closely'.

What weights am I carrying. What are time consumers? Distractors?  For me, I fall back into many of my same comforts: leisure, food, self promotion.

AND the sin. Here I am, a disciple of Jesus Christ, following Him for over 30 years now, and still have close clinging sin.

The greek word for sin is harmateas. The english translators borrowed a term from archery. Hitting the bullseye is a PIN- missing the mark is a SIN.

The problem is that I don't see the seriousness of sin. It is a poison. It is a killer. When I miss God's mark, I am setting myself up for consequences that are contained in the sin itself.

"Sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay and cost you more than you want to pay."
Setting aside weights and sin puts me in a better position to RUN WITH ENDURANCE.

In a world of microwave moments and instant gratification- I'm finding less will to persevere.

Are we running the race with endurance? How quickly do we give in or give up? How many marriages end because we just aren't happy or it is hard? How soon do we let go of people because it doesn't look like it is working? What are we teaching our children about endurance or do we let them quit on a whim?
let us run with endurance the race that is set before us
God has a marathon for you. Your race may be different from mine. All will be tough. All will be worth it.

THE BEAUTIFUL EXAMPLE: Jesus Ran His Race to Victory

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
When I read Hebrews 11 I say : "I don't have faith". But Jesus is the author of my faith.
When I read the heroes, I say: "I am no good for God's glory". Jesus is the perfecter of my faith.

I JUST NEED TO RUN.

I grumble going up a hill or slipping over a hurdle. I cry because I am tired or behind. I fall down and just lay there.

Jesus ran His race with JOY.

He was misunderstood, under appreciated, lied about, spit upon, scorned, beaten. He fell down under the weight of the cross and got back up. He was deserted and betrayed. He maneuvered the shadow of the cross all alone, even crying out 'forsaken' under the weight of propitiation.

At any point He could have quit. He could have cried out and legions of angels would have obliterated the hate and venom. Instead, He cried out "Father forgive them".

And the joy set before Him? It was you. It was me. He saw down the corridors of time, people having their robes washed. He saw sinners crying under the weight of brokenness and loneliness and emptiness and finding peace, hope, love, and redemption.

I will finish today's blog with a famous inspirational poem:


Get up and win the race– attributed to Dr. D.H. “Dee” Groberg




‘Quit’ Give up, you’re beaten!‘ they shout at me and plead.
There’s just too much against you now, this time you can’t succeed.’
And as I started to hang my head in front of failures face,
My downward fall is broken by the memory of a race.
And hope refills my weakened will, as I recall that scene,
And just the thought of that short race rejuvenates my being.
A children’s race. Young boys, young men, I remember well.
Excitement, sure, but also fear; it wasn’t hard to tell
They all lined up so full of hope. The thought to win that race.
Or tie for first, or if not that, at least take second place.
And fathers watched from off the side, each cheering for his son,
And each boy hoped to show his Dad, that he would be the one.
(The whistle blew).To win, to be the hero there, was each boy’s young desire.
And one boy in particular, his Dad was in the crowd,
Was running near the lead and thought. ‘My Dad will be so proud.
But as he sped down the field across a shallow dip,
The little boy who thought to win, lost his step and slipped,
Trying hard to catch himself, his hands flew out to brace,
And mid the laughter of the crowd he fell flat on his face.
So, down he fell and with him hope. He couldn’t win it now.
Embarrassed, sad, he only wished to disappear somehow.
But, as he fell, his Dad stood up and showed his anxious face.
Which to the boy so clearly said, ‘Get up and win the race!
He quickly rose, no damage done, behind a bit that’s all,
And ran with all his mind and might to make up for his fall.
So anxious to restore himself, to catch up and to win,
His mind went faster than his legs. He slipped and fell again.
He wished that he had quit before with only one disgrace.
I’m hopeless as a runner now, I shouldn’t try to race.
But, in the laughing crowd he searched and found his father’s face,
That steady look that said again, ‘Get up and win the race.
So up he jumped to try again, ten yards behind the last,
If I’m to gain those yards,’ he thought, ‘I’ve got to run real fast.
Expanding everything he had, he regained eight or ten
But trying so hard to catch the lead, he slipped and fell again.
Defeat!‘ He lay there silently, a tear dropped from his eye.
There’s no sense running any more, three strikes, I’m out, why try?
The will to rise had disappeared, all hope had fled away,
So far behind, so error prone, closer all the way.
I’ve lost so what’s the use?’ he thought, ‘I’ll live with my disgrace.
Get up‘, an echo sounded low, ‘Get up,’ it said, ‘you haven’t lost it all.
For winning is no more than this: to rise each time you fall.
So he rose to win once more, and with a new commit,
He resolved that win or lose, at least he wouldn’t quit,
So far behind the others now, the most he’d ever been,
Still he gave it all he had and ran as through to win.
Three times he’d fallen, three times he rose again.
They cheered the winning runner as he crossed the line, first place,
Head high and proud and happy; no falling, no disgrace.
But when the fallen youngster crossed the finishing line, last place,
The crowd gave him the greater cheer for finishing the race,
And even though he came in last, with head bowed low, un-proud,
You would have thought he won the race, to listen to the crowd.
And to his dad he sadly said, ‘I didn’t do so well.
To me you won.‘ His father said. ‘You rose each time you fell.
And now when times seem dark and hard and difficult to face,.
For all of life is like that race, with ups and downs and all,
And all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall,
Quit! Give up you’re beaten!‘ they still shout in my face,
But another voice within me says, ‘Get up and win the race!