Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Selfishness of Shame

Too often . . . the believer is so burdened with shame and guilt . . . and ruminating on whether they are actually saved or not . . . that they become ineffectual in shining the light of truth and sharing the Gospel and producing spiritual fruits . . . .

The devil is pleased with this.  The old, lying, self-infatuated rebel hates that he has been defeated and can do nothing to win, so what he then makes his primary business . . . is to cripple believers--make them so hung-up in their guilt and shame and questioning if they are really saved or not, that they are of little further service in the Lord's Great Commission.

How can you extol and promote the joys and peace of the gospel if you are so burdened and cramped and worried about your own position--if any--in the kingdom?

While the battle is lost for the fallen one, he can yet relish small victories any time he is successful in so harrying the child of God, that the child stays "fetal" in the corner, lamenting and self-flagellating.

As there is a time for all things, there is a time for shame and guilt and the devastating recognition of our wretched, fallen condition, but once having repented of sin and committing to a new life lived in, by and for Jesus . . . then we are to move forward in faith, ACCEPTING the promise that our sins are forgiven and we stand spotless, in the spirit, before the Father.

Continuing on in a state of shame and guilt . . . becomes selfish--just another way to avoid the Lord, with the false imprimatur of being a humble, dying-to-self martyr.  In fact, it is still over-love of self which wants to wallow in shame and focus on unworthiness, as it becomes an excuse for subtle attention and a discrete badge of supposedly spiritual honor.

Likewise, those who persist in doubt and questioning and fretting over whether they are really saved or not, is often little more than simple disobedience and clinging to unbelief.

Most times, the very fact that a person is concerned and fretting in the first place . . . is itself a sign of having been saved.  People who are not saved and who have never accepted in or believe in Messiah, do not worry about such things.  They don't care enough to bother with it.

But once having repented and turned your life over to Jesus, Yeshuah . . . the matter is settled.  Your sins are "forgotten"--a new spiritual creature is born, who already stands perfect, like the Lord, before God and will so at Judgement.  This is the Gospel truth.  To persevere in wondering and questioning and doubting . . . is to deny the victory the Son achieved.  It is to say, "I don't believe You really saved me.  I'm too bad.  I've done too many terrible things."

But you can't "out-sin" your salvation.  The Lord's triumph was complete!  It is finished!

Nevertheless, the enemy enjoys when a person stays incapacitated with doubt and mis-placed self-loathing to the effect that such a person remains fruitless and useless in the spreading of the good news of the Gospel.  Other people look at the person and think, "It must not be that good of news . . . since you, a "believer" are so miserable and self-absorbed in your own sense of failure and do not exhibit any of the signs of someone who claims to be "liberated" . . . "saved" . . . "headed for Heaven" . . . .

Usually, someone in this sad state of fruitless, joyless lack of "assurance" . . . is allowing the religious opinions of others--and of "churches" and doctrines born of tradition--to hold more sway in the mind than the clear, plain promises of the Word of God.  Still believing in the efficacy of "good works" and "spiritual practices and behavior" to make our selves acceptable in the sight of God, the doubting believer insists on not accepting the fact that ALL IS FORGIVEN--WASHED CLEAN--WIPED AWAY.

This is just another trick of the old self--the clinging, dead ego--who, at least can remain on the scene, getting attention from self-pity, wallowing, complaining, and even loathing.  ANY attention--even negative attention, is fine for the old dead self, because at least it keeps the zombie hanging around and "fed".

But what we want to do is STARVE the old man/old woman--the defeated fallen, carnal self.  Stop giving it attention.  Stop looking at it, looking back, lamenting, stewing and stirring it up again, where the Savior and (the new) you have already agreed to it being crucified and buried!

Instead, we want to be looking ahead, at the glorious promises--accepting, believing them!  We want to be remembering--not all our old sins and mistakes--but rather, the incredible, gracious, merciful, eternally relevant, GIFT OF THE CROSS and all that it entails for us, going forward!

There are really only two commandments left for us to consider, to obey, upon which, ALL the other commandments rest and follow.  To BELIEVE . . . and to LOVE.  When we don't quite believe, for instance, that our sins have been forgiven and that we are new, spotless creatures of spirit, then we stay in a fruitless state of indulgent negativity, playing with the dead corpse of the old self, re-animating it, turned inward.

When we BELIEVE . . . we believe the promise of salvation and a future life, begun NOW, glorified, sanctified . . . in the presence of the Creator . . . .  And then, as the new creature grows . . . in spirit . . . it is increasingly able to LOVE!


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Being Blown Away

Acts 1:11 . . . .
"They asked, 'Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking at the sky? Jesus, who was taken from you to heaven, will come back in the same way that you saw him go to heaven.'"

The 11:11 . . . or 1:11 ie.,  phenomenon has been interesting to experience and observe.  There are various different theories about it . . . and reading some recounts of Pentecost today . . . Acts 1:11 came up and for a moment I wondered if it may partially or wholly be an alert . . . to some . . . that we are near time when Jesus returns "the same way" he went to heaven?   Anyway, just a passing thought . . . . And regardless, why not, if and when you happen to look and it's 11:11 or 1:11, recall the promise of Acts . . . so, wake up, get ready....!

Meanwhile, oh how grateful I am for the Holy Spirit!  He who leads and interprets and shows truth and error and indwells to sustain and motivate and clarify and warn . . . .

What I have witnessed and experienced in the last half year or so . . . with the Spirit's transforming and sanctifying and instructing power . . . in my own life and the lives of certain loved ones . . . is not exaggeratedly to be called breathtaking, "miraculous" . . . incredible . . . wondrous . . . even "mind-blowing" to behold.  It is literally "mind-blowing" . . . because what He, the Holy Spirit does . . . is regenerate, rearrange, reorganize . . .and quicken the mind--He "blows the mind."

 He is like an alive, giving, breath; a rushing wind, a clean-sweeping gale . . . Who comes and sweeps away the old, hidden, moldering leftovers of slovenly, world-trodden self . . . .

 The hard, cold, dead heart starts to thaw under His warm, enlivening presence . . . . The "eyes" sharpen in focus, discerning falsity quicker and clearer . . . . The "ears" understand concepts, promptings, teachings with deeper and piercing alacrity . . . as the truth stings, but with that same bittersweet melancholy a sunset can bring . . . where, we increasingly hear specific messages, meant for our individual correction, but which bring relief and hope, because we realize that we are "hearing" God, speaking to US . . .  intimately, targetedly, ongoing . . . addressing our needs, as much as we are willing to ask and engage and listen--HE IS THERE, including those times when a seeming no-response . . . is the response that, whether we realize it at the time or not, that is just what we need . . . .

How lost, how destitute, how desperate, how hopelessly deluded this world would be, if it were not for the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, which has provided for and maintained a remnant of witnesses throughout all the darkened years, through the wars, the famines, the tyranny, the disease . . . . Through all the heavy, oppressive repercussions of fallen corrupt creation . . . the Spirit has yet resided in meek, receptive, willing AND elect souls--most times He has come to "the least", the poor, the solitary, the imprisoned, the persecuted, the "ugly", the "wayward" . . . so that the weak are made strong--made holy ambassadors for the very King of Heaven and Earth . . . whereby His glory is magnified, shining, resplendent in the otherwise dreary, Godless world . . . .

Oh!, how foolish and vain are those who believe they walk and breathe and live in their own light; and how pitiful the state of the person who considers themselves self-sufficient and capable . . . OF ANYTHING, outside of the God Who gave them their life, their mind, their strength, their health--all that they have.

Is there any gift, any treasure, any wealth or asset which compares to the gift of the Holy Spirit?  Where God Himself deigns . . . to dwell within and with . . . the wretched creature due for death?  Where, once there was a condemned sinner, guilty, dead already and hurling headlong for the decay of the grave . . . BUT NOW there is a reborn, redeemed, spotless soul being made ready to be wed to the bridegroom of all creation, for eternity?  Is this not a day to dance and sing and shout hallelujahs?!  We, by ourselves, could never transcend this earth, this short, brutish life . . . yet God Himself imparts His Son . . . and then His Spirit to rescue us ABSOLUTELY, IN FINALITY! . . . from an entropic descent to obliteration and the chaos of evil . . . in order that we will one day be restored, revived, resurrected . . . with new bodies . . . replete and filled to the brim with spiritual glory . . . to live in peace, joy, holiness, perfection, sacred pleasure . . . in the presence of the Almighty!

Good grief, this is astounding and wonderful news!  Should we not be trembling with eager anticipation . . . every day, every moment, never forgetting what is in store . . . to those who believe?

Rather than focus on all of the lack and deprivation . . . and on our failures and faults . . . and daily struggles and worries and yearnings . . . related to a person and a body that belongs to the temporary age that was, let us realize . . . with full righteous fury . . . THAT WE HAVE BEEN SAVED!  And that His Spirit dwells in and with us, to guide, to console, to instruct, and amazingly . . . to literally TRANSFORM us into the being and image of that same One who was always perfect and Who never failed! 

Once saved, our Father no longer holds our sins against us.  Even those we will commit today and tomorrow.  When you are saved . . . and you fully realize and accept this fact--SURPRISE--you are less and less inclined to sin, so grateful are you for this incalculable gift; and when you do, you quickly confess and recall and accept again that it is forgiven . . . and in knowing this, the thankfulness is so great that the next time you find yourself more able to avoid the sin--it has lost its flavor and temptation, because now you love God so much for His mercy . . . that, like any one you love, you do not enjoy hurting them . . . .

Oh my this thing is good!  The freedom and grace and mercy and faith the Holy Spirit brings when He starts blowing through your mind, your heart, your entire soul . . . fanning the little flame of faith so that it starts to burn brightly . . . fanning the flame of your own spirit, heating the seed, the sapling of new life, melting the old heart . . . !

I am praying today in thankfulness and for all who've accepted the Holy Spirit into their life, and for those teetering on the cusp of the new life, that He bursts forth in you, renewing and inspiring, from this day forward, never to retreat, but only to grow and blaze and blow all that is old, cold and dead away, away!

Away we go!  Out with the old, in with the new . . . let this fall in fertile soil, to sprout and thrive, never to look back!  I pray, amen and hallelujah!

your friend and brother in the Spirit, thomas

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hook, Line & Sinker

Huh, interesting . . . .

I heard some new historical information about Joseph Smith and the early founding of the L.D.S. church which I had not heard before.  That's because it is newly discovered, from what I can tell.  Oh, what an abomination that church is and the poor people struggling under its anti-Christian yoke!  Every one who gets out of says the same thing, when they are led out by the Lord and find His true church and written authority in His Word:  That they are free . . . and so profoundly excited and relieved to know the real Jesus (Yeshuah), Who is God and not some created being, brother to Lucifer . . . .

They all remark how there is a spiritual blindness which covered their eyes to the truth, especially that truth revealed in the Bible, but how NOW THEY SEE--the scales having fallen away . . . a real, tangible event this rebirth with new eyes to see and ears to hear . . . .

Anyway, I am waiting to receive the papers expounding on these new historical issues . . . but the gist of it is that very early on, Joseph Smith had organized the "Council of Fifty" (which I've mentioned before) . . . whose plan it was to overthrow the U.S. government and even all the governments of the world.  This much was known, and that "the 50" . . . continued on into the late 1800s through Brigham Young . . . where they secretly ruled behind the state legislature in Utah . . . and there is some indication that they still exist.

But what is coming to light is how critical this whole design was in the forming of the church--this effort to cause revolution in all the different state governments (they even sent out agents to agitate in ie., Texas, Kansas and other states, who DID agitate) . . . with the goal of violent overthrow--the slaughter of all who would not join the "new, restored Kingdom of God" . . . and that Joe was early on meeting with many of the Indian tribes, convincing them to help the Mormons topple the U.S. government and that it was part of prophecy that the "Lamanites/Indians" were destined to wreak God's vengeance on the land.  This was also the time when Smith had himself crowned "King of the World" . . . and considered himself such . . . as did Brigham Young afterwards . . . .

There were five offended groups of people who stormed the jail where Smith was being held . . . but one of the main issues that alarmed the people about Smith's activities . . . was actually this clandestine revolutionary effort to establish a Mormon Theocracy, with Joe as King, not just in the state, but in the whole United States and eventually the world . . . . And he was stirring up the Native Americans to join him in the expected militaristic bloodshed necessary . . . .

Besides this, of course, the Masons were mad at him for stealing their secret rituals and including them in the "temple" ceremonies . . . and another group was mad because they had been swindled out of their money in various investment schemes that went bad (promoted by Joe) and the collapse of the Kirtland Bank . . . . And there were all the husbands and fathers who were mad because their daughters and wives were being seduced into plural marriages with Smith and his lascivious sidekicks . . . . But what has been little known is how far along "the prophet" was in forming an army and revolutionary cells around the country with the deliberate treasonous plan of overthrowing the government and replacing the Constitution.  Smith made it clear that the U.S. Constitution was not to be respected and that it was an impediment against his "divinely" inspired goal of making a new theocratic government under Mormon law and authority.

It is so sad and tragic that millions of people consider this guy a saintly prophet.  He was a charismatic, clever, narcissistic, megalomaniacal, lustful, power-hungry CON MAN!  There can be no shying away from, or diminishing the truth of this blasphemous cult as they seek, with their wealthy ill-gotten gains, to pull the wool over the eyes of the public, pretending that they are suddenly "Christian" and friendly to Jesus and the Bible.  Smith and Young and other "prophets and apostles" many times derided Biblical Christianity, calling it the devil's work . . . proud to say they (Mormons) were definitely NOT Christian . . . and DID follow a different Jesus . . . . But now, the church would have you not recall that . . . . Now, they suddenly want to be considered "Christian" . . . and too many foolish (or subversive themselves) Evangelicals are taking the new scam/sham-marketing scheme . . . hook, line and sinker . . . .

Developing .  .  .  .

Friday, May 25, 2012

Killer Techniques (pt. 2): The Ol' Switcheroo

"The Ol' Switheroo"

There but for the grace of God . . . that would be me . . . .

The unregenerate mind cannot hear this . . .  . Without the Spirit of understanding, it sounds like delusion, or worse, arrogance . . . . But I am not writing to such . . .but to the sheep.

When you realize that you are chosen---one of the elect--it is not hubris or arrogance or pride that fills you, but instead a deep, reverent sense of awe and boundless thankfulness.  Why me?  I have done nothing to deserve this.  Why are you and I among those whom God has chosen to be given eternal life?  Why will there be some who are bound for destruction?

God does what He does.  He IS . . . and He does what He pleases.

Again, with seeming paradox . . . we find that as we begin to comprehend the magnitude of His gift of grace to us, we are filled with greater and increasing love for those still struggling under the burden of ignorance and sin.  We do not know who is to be also saved at the end, and so, we are (super)naturally inspired to teach, preach, exhort, evangelize . . . succor, serve, heal and shine the light of Spirit granted us in the darkness of the world . . . to go and "make disciples" of all who would heed the call.  We are given the opportunity to witness and be the Lord's mouth and hands and mind and heart, as He works through us, to share in the experience of the Shepard while He searches out, finds . . . and retrieves His lost sheep.

Now here is something that starts to happen--continuing on in the walk with the Master . . . as the Holy Spirit, step by step . . . progressively instructs and changes our mind (which then changes our heart)--He uncovers hidden layers of our sin nature, exposing them to us, and our conscience is stung . . . so that a desire starts to form to want to not act inwardly in a way that is contrary to the Spirit of love.

For instance, for most of us, whether we are quick enough to observe it within ourselves or not, there is a reflexive  tendency to look at others . . . and despise them--feel superior to them and judge them in some way.  It happens fast and occurs in the dark recesses of our consciousness, but the Spirit will bring it up for you to see how you do it, despite your likely propensity to think you are a kind or non-judgmental person.

It is on display and in action in public places, the grocery store, the post office, the market, at an event . . . .

You see a worker guy, dirty, red eyes . . . with crude language . . . buying beer and/or cigarettes . . . . Quickly, it flashes within, "what a bum, what a lout" . . . . Or you see a group of rowdy teenagers, laughing, goofing off and it flashes, "kids nowadays! . . . lazy, disrespectful, probably do drugs . . . tsk, tsk" . . . . Or, you see the snob pull up in their convertible Porsche next to you at the stoplight, "haughty, prideful, don't know God" . . . Or, you see "gangsta"-looking fellows, pants hanging down, hoodies, bandanna's, sneering . . . and you think, "criminals, foul, violent" . . . . Or, you see the obese lady with stains on her stretched polyester, looking dumb, buying snacks and junk food, oblivious . . . with her several dirty little bratty urchin children, "probably on welfare, bilking the system, should be sterilized" . . . . Or, you see the beautiful woman, dressed to kill, perfectly quaffed, an "ice queen" . . . "stuck-up, no doubt, materialistic, vain" . . . .Or, there is the homeless bum, drunk, filthy, babbling, cussing . . . . Or, there is some guy, obviously high on drugs--a drug addict who probably steals and cheats to feed his addiction . . . .

Now its not like each of these statements, words run through your mind each time . . . . Rather, it is like there is a panel in your mind, deeper down, with buttons on sections . . . each section is a basic stereotype you hold and when you see the person, you just push the button and it's like "yep, there's that kind" . . . "yep, she/he is this kind" . . . .

A major part of changing your mind so that you one day get to the place where these kinds of judgments and condescension are NOT your first reflex, but instead love and mercy is the first response . . . is simply in recognizing and admitting to yourself that you do this . . . constantly . . . . But you can't, of your own will and power change the fact that you do.  The love of God is what you require, and it is not of you--it is not something you can do.  But the Spirit can and WILL continue to change your heart and mind as the mind of Christ progressively overtakes and pushes out your sin nature, and with HIS love, which is perfect, is how you will respond.

What I do, in the meantime . . . is first, to remember that each person I see, regardless of their present or apparent state of being . . . is a creature of God--someone HE created and loves, whether I do or not.  How dare I judge or malign in my mind . . . one of God's creatures!

Also, even as I might be judging them correctly or wrongly, I think, "That, but for the GRACE of God . . . could be ME!"  Why am I provided a home, food to eat, a family . . . a desire for God . . . and having chosen and been chosen to be saved?  What have I ever done to deserve that?"

Nothing!  None of us deserve anything but damnation, born sinners, with natural, fallen minds which hate God and crucified Christ!

The thankfulness which rebounds from this awareness instantly pulls in my tendency to knee-jerk judge, and I am left filled with gratitude and an outpouring of love and mercy, not wanting ANY one to suffer . . . to miss God . . . to not be saved and know the peace and joy of His Spiritual presence!

I'll call it "the ol' switcheroo" . . . where, in that first flash of a moment, where . . . I see someone in traffic . . . someone in the 7-11 . . . someone on TV . . . even someone's comments on the internet . . . I hurry quick, catch myself with that outgoing judgment and condemnation . . . remember that I am looking at one of God's creatures, who He sustains like me with breath and life . . . and if I think that I can genuinely even see that they are "messed up" in some way (ie., arrogant, prideful, vain, mean, addicted, drunk, depressed, rebellious etc.) I fast recall that it is only because OF GOD'S GRACE that that is not me at this moment . . . but not because I am in any way, of myself, any "better" of a person . . . or "further along" . . . . And I remember, that regardless of any progress the Spirit has made with me . . . I am still far, far away from the person God will ultimately have me be . . . and so, in any case, there is NO reason to feel justified in hating, or looking down on, or feeling superior to . . . ANYONE else, ever!

I have found . . . that the more I practice this remembrance and God-focused presence of mind (versus person-focused presence of mind) . . .  the faster and surer I am able to observe others . . . with the love of Christ, with the mind of Christ, coming--not from me, but through me, so that it is HE who is able to love these others, not me (who can't and won't).

And it is not superficial, praise God!  It is real, genuine empathy, kindness . . . love . . . that He works through me, sent out, to bless others, if, with nothing else, at least, a gentle thought . . . a kind look . . . a smile . . . a prayer . . . directed their way; instead of resentment, judgment and condemnation.

And included in my prayers, is the prayer to have more of this capacity . . . . I make it a regular part of praying, asking to have this love of fellow, love of the others, love of enemies, love of God and His creatures, some of whom (and I don't know which) are His very Children, and with whom I expect to be in company with, glorifying the Father in Heaven . . . .

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"To Do" as Chosen

While the Holy Spirit is our supreme teacher, there is also a sense in which we--in our dependence on the Spirit, also must teach ourselves.  The process of learning the ways of God is not one where we are wholly passive, but are also expected to use our own reason and effort.  Humility in seeking illumination from God alone is not inconsistent with determined, disciplined study and prayer.

Scripture puts great stress on the Christian's conscientious use of the mind . . . to submit to His Word, to grapple with it, to understand and apply it in our unique life situations and in response to the world we live in.

Jesus rebuked His apostles for their laziness in understanding and reasoning--even for them failing to use their common sense.  In the same way He also reproached the multitudes:  "And why do you not even on your own initiative judge what is right?"  (Luke 12:57)

While it is true that the natural and unregenerate mind is unable to understand God's truth, the spiritual, regenerated mind "judges all things."
"But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man."  (1 Cor. 2:15)

What the natural, unregenerate mind cannot discern and understand, the spiritual mind can and does, because it is inhabited by the Holy Spirit.

Indeed, is it not one of the things we are most grateful for, as a believer, is that we have the mind of Christ?

Is this not wonderful?  Astounding!  Something to thank God for each and every day--to have the mind of Christ!  (1 Cor. 2:16)

As Christians, we are to test the spirits (ie., human teachers claiming divine inspiration) and test everything heard, and then definitely hold on to that which is good.  Passive reception of the teachings of Spirit are to be combined with scriptural study using our rational and critical powers.  We receive AND we search and wrestle, using our own God given faculties.  This is a hallmark of Christian maturity.

As we ponder and reason out, inspired by the Spirit, the Lord WILL grant us understanding in everything.  "Consider what I say; and the Lord give you understanding in all things."  (2 Tim. 2:7)
This is a profound and blessed promise; this . . . to know . . . that spiritual matters which are unclear now, WILL, if we continue to consider them, be made understandable to us!

"For the attainment of divine knowledge, we are directed to combine a dependence on God's Spirit with our own researches.  Let us, then, not presume to separate what God has thus united."  Charles Simeon

So, we are to expend effort, using the abilities of our own minds, in the quest for understanding the truths of God's Word . . . AND we are wholly dependent on His Spirit to give us the ability and motivation to do so.  Some would split this unified approach, choosing only on or the other, saying, "the law is there, you must follow it, and do not presume that the Spirit tells you 'such and so'" . . . OR, another will say, "I have a new revelation which supersedes what is Written; I am free of the law and do whatever I will as the Spirit directs me."

Those who would increase . . . progress . . . grow . . . into the knowledge of God . . . must BOTH humble their self before the Spirit of truth . . . AND commit . . . to ongoing, regular study and immersion in seeking out the truth, as it--AS HE--is revealed in scripture and illuminated (by the light of Truth/Spirit) by those who properly "divide" and present the Word.

"So we must make every effort to enter that place of rest. Then no one will be lost by following the example of those who refused to obey."  (Heb. 4:11)

The avowed Christian who claims salvation . . . but then makes no further effort to understand and learn and imbibe MORE of what has been revealed, reveals a soul that likely has not truly accepted the truth.  For when the Holy Spirit arrives to such a one, a fire is lit . . . and a new, pleasant thirst and hunger for MORE righteousness, which is taught and learned, and compounded by individual effort.

"There are some precious jewels which may be discovered even by the wayfaring man, but the mass of the gold is hidden in the bowels of the earth; and he who would be rich in these treasures, must dig into Scripture. Thou must go down into its depths, and thou must rummage there until thou gettest at last at the treasure."  Spurgeon

"Give double honor to spiritual leaders who handle their duties well. This is especially true if they work hard at teaching the word [of God]."  (1 Tim. 5:17)

Just because it is not our works that save us . . . we are yet expected to work hard!   "Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically."  (Rom. 12:11)

Paradoxically . . . knowing that anything we "do" . . . is like filthy rags . . . and that we are already freed and saved by grace through the Lord's propitiation . . . a fresh, enlivening sweetness arises . . . a divine aroma descends in and around . . . our added efforts and works, where . . . we no longer "do" because we are driven by traditions or others' expectations . . . but because the Spirit inspires and propels us to "do", to learn more, to search out and apply His character in us . . . for now, we have the mind of Christ . . . and His mind, in us, seeks unity with Himself, through us--! . . . which is such a wonder to behold, miraculous even . . . to experience . . . that we (supernaturally) now yearn for more and more . . . "to do" . . .  in the unfolding of this holy, elected, chosen by God . . . destiny!

[some portions above paraphrased from my reading John R.W. Stott's "Understanding The Bible"]

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Difficult Way of the Strait Gate

This is kind of . . . subtle, cosmic stuff . . . in a way, but I think so very important in the process of growing and deepening in the Spirit . . . . Also, how it pertains to the dangerous, devious corruptions of the churches going on full bore these days .  . . . .

The strait way and narrow gate . . . is difficult to find.  Few can and do.
We know that "strait" does not mean that the way is "straight", like a line straight, but is a passageway that is tight, difficult, close fitting . . . .

Today, the "church" . . . is infested with false teachers.  Compromise and watering down of the Gospel is rampant as congregations become seeker-sensitive, changing the emphasis from church being a place where believers (sheep) go to get fed and worship together . . . to a place designed to attract and feed unbelievers (goats).

I do not mind spending a good deal of time discussing the dangers of works-based legalism.  For this is what has always crept into the churches and corrupted them and led many astray--to follow into that way which is broad and easy to find . . . the wide gate which leads to destruction.

The "many" . . . who travel the broad way . . . to destruction . . . are not simply those who choose the way of the world.  In fact, it includes the many who believe they are going to heaven.  The sign over the wide gate does not say "to Hell" . . . . It says "to Heaven" . . . but it is a lie, a trick.

It would include . . . those who superficially "accept Christ" . . . say a few lines, for instance of the "sinner's prayer" . . . but then continue to live unchanged, unregenerate lives, still living in and by the flesh, ignoring God's commands, flaunting dis-obedience.  They will say, "I am free of the law!" . . . never repent . . . and just live on as they did before, falsely believing they are saved, continuing on . . . chasing their idols, never truly accepting Jesus and never truly dying to self, refusing to "lose their life" . . . .

Then there are those who who say they believe . . . but continue on in their works.  They don't really relinquish all to the Lord, but persist in self righteousness, secretly living in and with pride in their own worthiness . . . imagining that they are impressing God, showing others . . . how holy they are.  They base their spiritual progress on the quantity and quality of the commandments they follow, while inside, again there is no real change, other than a growing pride and judgmentalism toward others who do not follow as they do.

The way is narrow . . . . It is a difficult and subtle "strait" . . . which the many do not find.

Immediately after Jesus gives this descriptive warning . . . about the two "gates" . . . he goes on to warn about false prophets--those teachers who come in sheeps' clothing but are inwardly as ravenous wolves set out to devour the sheep.

Today, in these "post-modern", apparently "end times" . . . the wolves are multiplying and especially targeting the churches for infiltration and subversion.  "Church Transitions Inc.", the battering ram of the Purpose Driven movement is a good example of these wolves organized, where they have developed a business model intended to transform a traditional Bible/Gospel teaching church . . . into one of these new, numbers and size obsessed monstrosities . . . conformed to the world, but with a veneer of Christian characteristics.

But as far as the narrow way goes . . . I believe--from experience, supported by scripture--that one of the key qualities discovered . . . which typifies "the way in" . . . is the recognition and acceptance of the dual nature of the experience . . . that mystery . . . where . . . we are both saved by grace alone . . . AND we have some role to play in it.  I have called it before "sameness and difference."

This is not as "far out" or novel as it sounds.  I have been a proponent of this for quite a few years, as it was shown to me (I believe) by the Spirit . . . but I am glad to see some highly respected, orthodox teachers also addressing it and strongly supporting it through plain exegesis of the Word.
Dr. Steven Lawson--hardly a fringe character--who is Senior Pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church, has, I have heard, written a new book on the subject, pointing out that Charles Spurgeon was a stout and longtime proponent of this concept.  

"Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher of nineteenth-century London, is remembered today as “the prince of preachers.” However, the strength of Spurgeon’s ministry went far beyond simple rhetorical skill. In The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon, Steven J. Lawson shows that Spurgeon fearlessly taught the doctrines of grace and simultaneously held forth the free offer of salvation in Jesus Christ.  
In thirty-eight years as pastor of the congregation meeting at the New Park Street Chapel and later the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Spurgeon propounded Calvinistic theology with precision and clarity. Yet he always accompanied it with a passionate plea for sinners to come to Christ and be saved. Lawson traces these twin points of emphasis throughout Spurgeon’s long, fruitful ministry.
The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon is a passionate call for all Christians to follow Spurgeon in maintaining the proper balance between divine sovereignty in salvation and fiery passion in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I can't emphasize enough how important I find this understanding in traversing . . . the strait gate.  The wide gate . . . carries both those who remain caught in Spirit-less legalism and works-based doctrine . . . and . . . those who live unchanged, thinking they can do whatever they want, free of law, disobedient, a law unto themselves . . . .

It carries those who . . . seek to "make the world a better place" through activist politics and philanthropy as well as those who have thrown up their hands and do not bother evangelizing or doing good . . . because they think that everything is pre-destined anyhow and so why bother . . . .

The corruption of the churches, running rampant . . . and the rise of the false prophets . . . coddles either or both of these mistaken approaches, and leads to the broad, easy way of destruction.

We are saved by grace, through faith . . . not of ourselves, lest we should boast . . . AND . . . we want to follow God's laws, do good . . . and seek to save others.

From God's perspective, there is no contradiction in this, and the more we have God within us, where we are surrendered to Him, the more we, like Him, find no contradiction or difficulty in this sacred quality of "sameness and difference."

There is a duality, which we observe, this side of the "veil" . . . . For instance, while we yet have a sin nature . . . we also have a God nature.  Increasingly, as the Spirit begins His sanctifying process in and upon us, that duality lessons, and our own will becomes more and more the same as God's will . . . and a divine unity, transcendent . . . takes over . . . to reach finality in perfection, glorification, where we will one day be able to say, like Jesus, "I and the Father . . . are one."

"That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."  (John 17:21)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Religous Spirit Vs. Holy Spirit

"The LORD has made everything for his own purpose, yes, even the wicked for the day of evil." (Psalm 16:4)

We never go to Heaven because of what we have done or not done . . . .

But only because of what Jesus has done.

All of the Pharisees' legalisms/rules were based on their interpretation (opinion) of scripture.  They justified their demands on others' behavior . . . dependent on what they decided scripture required.

Jesus called them fools and hypocrites.  He said they do not practice what they preach and, sitting in the seat of Moses, place great burdens upon shoulders, tie them up, and then leave them to stumble under the weight.

What kind of burdens?  Nothing . . .  but the traditions of men . . . .

The Pharisees held to a tradition of the washing of hands before mealtime . . . also the washing of cups and platters and pots.  Jesus and His disciples did not do this, which greatly offended the "authorities."  Certainly this cannot be a man of God, he who does not follow the traditions of the elders!

Jesus pointed out that everything these tyrants of the law did was for show--to impress others.  Yes, their exteriors might be polished and arranged for an outward show of piety . . . . But within, they were full of decay, rotten and filthy.  (Matt. 23)

Woe to the scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites . . . who command adherence to the letter, but ignore the Spirit behind the law . . . .

Religion without Spirit puts you under bondage.  But, you are free in Christ!  Just as justification is a gift, so too is the sanctification which follows--the process of becoming more holy, more of and by love.  Faith is the only condition--faith . . . which rests on belief.  "I believe . . . in Jesus!"
"Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved"  (Acts 16:31) 

And there is also grace, which is a gift.  Just as God gave to you a heart which desired to know and live the truth . . . He also gave you His Son . . . so that, as you believe in the Son, you are justified and redeemed from your fallen, doomed state of sin.  

Then, another gift follows--that of sanctification.  It may be instant, or, more likely, it may take some time to pass, but sooner or later, as you continue to believe and have faith . . . the Holy Spirit begins a process of sanctification in you.  Your heart is switched out so that the old, dead, cold one of before . . . no longer drives your behavior . . . but instead, a new and living heart of flesh fills you with increasing power and desire to love.  (One day, all will culminate in the gift of perfection!)

Rather than following rules and laws, the Spirit grants you the wisdom and power and will to LOVE, which is the highest law, upon which all the other laws rest!

Now you don't steal or cheat or lie--not because it is the law--but because you LOVE . . . and anything which goes against God's character (which is shown in the law) is abhorrent to you.  "There is a time for EVERYTHING" (not just for some things); a time to be born, a time to die . . . a time to weep, a time to laugh . . . a time to kill, a time to heal." (Ecc. 3:1-8)

There was a time for the law; then Jesus came and fulfilled the law . . . and He taught the highest law and then bestowed to His children . . . the gift of the Holy Spirit . . . Who regenerates the mind and heart--Who sanctifies--so that the new creature, bought and retrieved for Christ, no longer looks to the dead traditions of men, but lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God--by His Word, by His Spirit. 

" . . . sanctification, or Christian perfection, is neither more nor less than pure love; love expelling sin, and governing both the heart and life of a child of God. The Refiner's fire purges out all that is contrary to love, and that, many times by a pleasing smart."  (John Wesley)

The Spirit reveals the Word . . . breathes life into the Word; the Word does not breathe life into the Spirit.  The Pharisees would have law dictate to Spirit, which is impossible and backwards, but they assert it because they are the doctors of the law and would benefit by it's imposition . . . . But Jesus set you free!

But the unregenerate . . . and the unsaved . . . are ever on the attack (speaking in broad terms here) . . . . They are resentful and angry and despise those who claim salvation and perfection by the Spirit.  Because they have not experienced the grace of election, let alone the gift of sanctification, they do not understand it and so, constantly resort to the rule of law.  Their favorite calumny is, "so, now that you are 'saved' you can do anything you want?"  And there are those who are not truly saved . . . who abuse the notion and live their lives same as before, for there was no real change in them--no real belief, no living faith--the libertines, the "antinomians" . . . . but those born of the Spirit are not they!

It is true . . . that Jesus died for your sins past, present and future.  But unless you deeply and honestly accept and receive and BELIEVE this fact, and repent . . . turning from your sin and toward only Jesus, then you will not find . . . that wonderful state of being where, less and less are you attracted to . . . those things which offend the Holy Spirit Who lives in you.

There is a great and marvelous mystery the believer experiences, and begins to know . . . which confounds the unregenerate soul, no matter that soul's intelligence or wit.

This mystery runs through the deepest truths of the Gospel:

God is Sovereign . . . AND . . . we are called to believe.

Was Jesus man . . . or God?  He was both!
Is the Trinity one?  Are Three one . . . or three?  Both.
Do we choose . . . OR . . . are we chosen?  Both.
Do we preach . . . OR . . . just God preaches through us?  Both.
Did God . . . OR . . . men write the Bible?  Both.
Was it God's personality . . . OR . . . the personality's of the Prophets who spoke?  Both!
Do we follow the law . . . OR . . . the Holy Spirit?  Both!

The tension in this mystery . . . is the power of grace
                                        . . . is joy of sanctification
                                        . . . is the basis of worship

The power of the Spirit will have you do what is right . . . because you believe in . . . and want to love Jesus.
The religious spirit will have you do what is right . . . according to your own and others' sight.
God will justify, sanctify and perfect you . . . AND . . . you will ask for, and allow Him, to do it.
All the lessor commands . . . rest on the command to love.
The new creature is dead to law, as love fulfilled the law, and the new law is to love.

"He has also qualified us to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life." (2 Cor. 3:6)


Saturday, May 19, 2012

More response....

Anonymous said:
You said: A legalistic tendency will want to have a hard and fast, absolute rule or law to govern the question, ie., "a Christian can NEVER join the military or react violently

So, I assume that if your family were hungry, you condone leaving yourself the option of stealing food, since a rule against stealing would be legalistic?

No, that is not what I mean.  For one thing, if we're operating under law I see that there is the commandment (of the 10) "thou shalt not steal" . . . but not one that says "thou shalt not join the military" . . . . "Thou shalt not kill", most everyone knows and understands means "thou shalt not murder" . . .  .

Again, the legalistic mind wants to have rules to live by . . . and such a mind would think "I must have some sort of rule to govern future situations, ie., I will leave myself the option to steal if necessary to feed my starving family."

But a mind living by and within the Holy Spirit, freed of law doesn't think like that in the first place.  The most I would dare assume is that the Spirit will give direction consistent with the law, which would be . . . to not steal.  All I was saying was that I know I am a sinner and (like everyone else including you) break the law every day and it's possible, despite my wish to live according to the Spirit, I may fail.  I would hope not, but I don't have a high enough opinion of myself to assert here and now that I would be strong enough to absolutely do the perfect thing in that situation.  Then again, I pray that the Spirit would provide me the ability TO do the right thing.  I know that of my own power, I wouldn't and can't.  By God's power and grace, I could and would . . . . You who would say God would never condone violence, for instance, because in your opinion it is ALWAYS wrong . . . must explain how it was that God DID condone--even command violence, in part, to punish those, for instance who were in to child sacrifices . . . or occupied the promised land . . . .

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'" (1 Samuel 15:2-3)

"However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes.  Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you.  Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God."  (Deut. 20:16-18)

Anonymous said:
 I vote, YES, you would steal to feed your family. You say a lot of things that make it sound like you know the truth, but there is still a part of you that is unwilling to submit to God. Maybe you can point to scripture that says that we should use violence to defend others. Maybe it is there, I would like to know, because it would be comforting to have a 45 under my bed and know that God wanted me to use it. I truly don't see how that makes me less of a coward, but if you say so and you can show me scripture, then I'm heading to the gunshop.

As far as sounding like I "know the truth" . . .   I believe I know that Jesus is the truth . . . the way and the life indeed.  And of course I know that there are parts of me unwilling to submit to God . . . and expect there will be until God finally adjudicates and makes me into a perfect being, wholly submitted, glorified . . . . I know He already sees me that way, because He sees Jesus who died for me . . . but while still in this fallen state, I know that NONE (except Jesus) are perfectly submitted to God.

Your accusation at me implies that YOU have no part of you that is not submitted to God, otherwise how would you be able to so judge such a thing?  Which is quite awesome . . . . The fruits of your spirit must be astounding!  Certainly something that you are sharing with the world, for we are desperately in need of people totally submitted to God.  So, please, for the edification of all, let us know about your ministry, where you pastor a flock.  If you aren't doing that, then you must have a blog or website I can see where you share this profound accomplishment (being totally submitted to God)?  Even Paul considered himself unworthy and admitted to having parts of himself that weren't submitted . . . so this is quite the news that we have one here today--YOU--who does!  If you haven't gotten around yet to having a church or blog or website, surely you are sharing your fruits on discussion boards and other peoples' blogs, so please provide some links to that.  Everyone should know that we have one here . . . with all their parts . . . submitted to God!  This is big news!

For myself, no, I have a ways to go . . . . But I can say, while I am not yet who I want to be, I can look back and see that I am not who I use to be! . . . by the grace of God!

As far as scripture supporting the notion of self defense and even using violence if needed, we have Jesus telling his disciples to that for their future journeys, they should have a couple of swords.

And He said to them, "When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?" So they said, "Nothing." 36 Then He said to them, "But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. 37 "For I say to you that this which is written must still be 5 accomplished in Me: j 'And He was numbered with the transgressors.' 6 For the things concerning Me have an end." 38 So they said, "Lord, look, here are two swords." And He said to them, "It is enough."  (Luke 35-38)

There was always the problem of robbers and brigands.  One who lives by the sword, shall die by the sword, but Jesus recognized the right to self defense in some cases and wanted his disciples to be prepared.

We have David slaying Goliath . . . .

Exodus 22:2 which I already mentioned, "If a thief is caught in the act of breaking into a house and is struck and killed in the process, the person who killed the thief is not guilty of murder."

Jesus told His followers to render unto Caesar what was Caesar's . . . to be civilly obedient . . . and that  "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God."  The legalist MUST then . . . according to this scripture . . . join the military if there is draft, no?  Or now, do you run to "conscience" and the Holy Spirit to contravene the scriptural command?  In Titus 3:1 Christian’s are also told to submit to their rulers.

It is not so clear cut though, is it?

Sometimes, God has allowed--condoned the breaking of "laws" in order to follow a higher spiritual purpose.
At the very least, I am skeptical of anyone whose opinion on this matter they assert as the unequivocal, absolute, final word on the matter.  And if you don't agree with their opinion and follow it, you are implied as not being "Christian."  

Consider these cases:

[In Ex.1:15-22 The midwives disobeyed Pharaoh’s order to kill all the Hebrew baby boys (which was genocide) But the Hebrew midwives Shiprah and Puah “feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do and they let the boys live.” As a result “God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own” (vs. 20-21). If they had obeyed Pharaoh the deliverer of Israel would have been killed. Preserving life takes priority over indiscriminate murder, even if it is by the king of the land.

I Kings 18:4 wicked queen Jezebel “was killing off the LORD'S prophets.” In defiance of her orders the prophet Obadiah “had taken a hundred prophets and hid them in two caves ... and had supplied them with food and water” (v. 4). Although Scripture does not explicitly approve of Obadiah's act, the context and manner of the Bible's presentation implies that God condoned His act because it says he feared the Lord, in other words he obeyed God before he would obey man (vs. 13-15).The law of preservation of life admonishes us to do what is right, this overshadows any law of the land that would do harm.

In Joshua 2:1-14 we see the example of Rahab saving the lives of two Hebrew spies by hiding them from soldiers who were searching for them. She risked her life in lying to protect their lives and lying to the soldiers. The spies had no legal right to be in Jericho, the soldiers had every legal right to apprehend them. The preservation of innocent life always takes priority. God honored Rahab calling it faith, and God promised, “Now the city shall be doomed by the LORD to destruction, it and all who are in it. Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.” (.Josh 6:17)And the spies went and rescued all her family and belongings from destruction. We later find her included in the line of the Messiah “Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse,and Jesse begot David the king” (Matt. 1:5-6). 

 “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe” (Heb 11:31) “Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” (James 2:25)

The principle taught in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:38-42 would seem to imply that Christians should not resist an evil person. If you are slapped on one cheek give them the other. But this means not retaliate when insulted or slandered (Romans 12:17-21). Insults do not threaten a Christian's personal safety. The idea of rendering insult for insult, is not the same as  defending oneself against a mugger or a rapist, or someone that wants to kill you or a loved one. We are to preserve life, this is a principle carried over from the Old Testament. The use of physical force to protect or defend another is not an alternative but a command.

In Gen.14 Abraham rescued lot by a battle when he was forcefully taken. Israel battled against her enemies in Deut.20:1, 29:7, Joshua 11:15 the battle of Jericho,vs.20, Joshua 12. In Numbers 35:17 it explains by having the intention to kill, murderers were to be put to death. In Deut. 16:18-19 they were commanded to cast out all their enemies. Killing is different than murder. Murder is senseless and for selfish reasons, while killing is to protect and preserve life.

Scripture describes God as merciful, filled with grace and God is love, but He is also a God of justice,  and when necessary He was “The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is His name” (Exod. 15:3).

God said to Noah, “from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man” (Gen 9:5-6).

There are numerous examples of disobedience to save lives in the New Testament. God protected Jesus a number of times by having him flee. The wise men that traveled from the east were asked by Herod to report back to him so he can know where He is and go to worship him also Mt.2:7-8,but his intentions were really to kill him. They disobeyed Herod because God warned them by a dream vs.12. In Mt.2:13 God warned Mary and Joseph to flee to preserve Jesus’ life.  

 In Revelation 13 we are told not to take the mark of the beast even though no one will be able to buy or sell without it. Here again we have civil disobedience with the ultimate price, for whoever takes the mark will lose their soul, they will have no second chance. Some may have to fight to get away from taking the mark.] 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Partial Response....

How did the Westboro Baptist Church find my blog?  The last time I saw them they were busy tormenting a family's funeral protesting with their signs "Thank God For Dead Soldiers", "Thank God For IED's", "Pray For More Dead Soldiers" . . . .

Meanwhile, where was I?  Oh yeah, I was sharing some encouraging ideas and techniques I've found useful to help with practicing loving one's enemies, dying to self, and returning good for evil . . . .

It's funny in a way . . . because I actually don't personally have that strong of an opinion regarding whether a Christian can serve in the military.  I believe they can and do, but I am also still open to biblical arguments that they can't and shouldn't.

What I DO object to and have little doubt about . . . is the destructive, violent, anti-Gospel, anti-Christ spirit of legalism which comes in where someone (like a Westboro Church type) demands that their "biblical" opinion ("No, a Christian CANNOT be in the military!") becomes my, or someone else's, OBLIGATION to follow.

I myself wouldn't join the military at this time considering the agendas and types of people who have, I believe, mostly taken it over and are NOT using it for self defensive purposes; although I certainly believe that a people or country are biblically allowed to have a military for defensive purposes.  Though I wouldn't consider myself in a position to judge those who still do join or families who have members enlisted.
My oldest son went into the military.  He knew I didn't think it was a good idea because of the forces and interests which infest it these days.  While he was in it, he came to see what I meant and he was able to get out, based on conscience, without any demerit, which we all thank God for.

I must assume that those who vehemently disagree on my position then certainly must not pay taxes, as taxes support the military.  Also, those who deny a right to self defense, also must not pay local taxes which support the police department (making them complicit).  Also, I must assume that if the same are ever assaulted or under threat of assault, they will NOT call the police . . . . And, if and when an invading enemy comes to rape, torture and kill your family, you will stand by and watch.

Anyhow, I want to get back to what I was writing about before being so rudely interrupted :) . . . but want to answer some of the accusations, libels, smears and insinuations . . . .

--Anonymous said:
Wife is injured in an accident and will have to spend several months recupperating. Christian husband has sexual needs and can commit adultery if necessary to fulfill them because he doesn't want to be a legalist. Really??

The unregenerate mind needs and looks to rules and laws to keep them in line.  What we want, and get, through the Gospel and living power of Holy Spirit . . . is a changed mind--a new mind . . . which operates from love.  A disciple of the Lord . . . under the influence of the Holy Spirit, for one thing, will be far less inclined to in the first place to have the kind of compulsion or "need" for sex in the way described.  So, it may not even come up as an issue.  If it does, the disciple, operating from love . . . would, of course not want to do anything which would dishonor God (which adultery surely would) nor hurt his wife.

Understanding the Gospel, we know that even THINKING about and pursuing in mind . . . the adulterous liaison . . . is the same as if the man actually ACTED on it. So, what we want, is to get to that place of spiritual regeneration (sanctification) where the very notion in the first place does not occur.

The legalist thinks that it's not so bad to think about the sex, so long as they don't act upon it, hence the great emphasis on following the rule/law . . . . Jesus says, if you are even THINKING about adultery, you have sinned, so just following the rule is missing the whole point.

--BJ said:
What is the "donate" button for? You do this for money or is it for a charity?

This one's pretty funny, intimating that I'm "in it for the money."  LOL....  When I first started blogging about 7 years ago . . . it was almost a year into the writing before I realized there was even a comment option on the blog.  People had been commenting for months . . . a few, like you, attacking and impugning me . . . and I didn't even know it!  I was just writing away, blissfully unaware (and somewhat unconcerned) if anyone was even reading my blog.  I felt terrible though, realizing that some of the appreciative folk's comments were seeming to be ignored and unaddressed.
Anyway, point is, I write . . . about God and current events  . . . because . . . well, I always have.  Before the internet,  I would write essays, notes, "white papers", "pamphlets" . . . long letters . . . and send them to people . . . or many have just piled up in boxes . . . or for school . . . because I have always been focused on spiritual matters and also how they relate to current events.

In the present time . . . I spend 1-3 hours nearly every day . . . writing this blog.  For vocation, I am a laborer of sorts, so my time is my money, which means that time NOT spent out working has a definite impact on providing for my family.  I have two adult boys with disabilities still living at home--my wife, needed at home, does not work . . . and so, though I work hard and constantly, I am almost always on the brink of going under.  Money--love of money . . . has never been one of my problems.  To a fault, I believe, I have never been that concerned with it and have passed up several opportunities to "sell out" . . . but couldn't and wouldn't . . . because of spiritual concerns (ie., could have worked in the movie business as a composer . . .  I passed on a rock star/recording contract . . . I do not practice law, though I have a law degree etc.)  As it is, virtually every cent I make goes to support others and ministry efforts.

Besides the 1-3 hours I spend writing (on mostly Godly topics), I spend an average of 2-3 hours per day in related discussion and research . . . and about 8 hours of bible related study (listening to exegesis, apologetics, preaching, and/or watching the same.)  Some of this I do while I'm working . . . . I have deliberately kept myself a lone worker (not expanded my business with employees in order to make more money) because as it is, though tight, I am able to spend more time studying and learning the Word, while I work, rather than mess with accounting, tax forms, managing etc.)

It's pretty much all I do . . . and have done for years now--immerse myself in matters and thought pertaining to God.  In fact, I should be gone from the house and working right now, but . . . I'm writing . . . .  THEN I will get to the job . . . and stay later if needed.

There are basically two models for survival in ministry work.  One, which churches like the Mormon church and Purpose Driven types use, is a corporate business model, relying on secular mass-marketing methods . . . and it works (to make big, wealthy, powerful churches.)   The other, is for the evangelist to rely on the provision of God where Spirit-led people willingly contribute, as they can, to help the one called to so serve.  I am  for the latter approach . . . .

I am feeling a strong call to go full time into the service of the Lord and am praying that He will make a way as I consider some options how.  In the meantime, the fact that sometimes people are led to send some help--well, I am deeply appreciative, humbled and inspired by it.  Pastoring or teaching or evangelizing . . .is all I have really ever wanted to do . . . and should have long ago . . . but, better late than never, and the urgency of the hour impresses me now more than ever to commit even deeper and fuller . . . to said calling.

I haven't been on a vacation . . . heh . . . for 4? . . . 5? years . . . and thus, nor has my wife . . . . I can't remember the last time I bought some new clothes . . . . Work pants, yes, maybe one or two a year . . . . I am able to stay working . . . because I bid my jobs very low to ensure that I get the job, but then do the quality as if I had bid it high . . . .

And so on and so on . . . . I thank God there are some folks out there who appreciate what I am doing, however meager it is here, to encourage, edify, inspire, if possible . . . and it is likewise an encouragement when they are so led to offer something along the way, part of which we use to help others we know of in need . . . . I spend almost all my waking hours to studying, teaching, spreading, ministering, living . . . the Gospel, as His grace provides . . . and pray that if anything, I will be able to do so even more . . . .
For what it's worth, BJ . . . .


Well . . . I have more notes written . . . in response to that spate of comments . . . but, really, must get going and so will continue . . . and then, Tabbycat, back to your touchingly honest questions and seeking, which relate to the topic I was delving into before the sidebar issues of Christians and self-defense/the military . . .  and personal accusations . . . crashed the scene.  Although I'm taking the bait a bit . . . because it also provides opportunity related to the same prior issues of how the legalist and works-based spirit responds versus . . . the higher and deeper approach (and humbler, paradoxically) of being led by the sanctifying power of Holy Spirit . . . .

Back shortly, and God bless you all--
brother in belief, thomas

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The "Peril" of Personal Relationship w/Christ

A break from the stone throwers for a moment-- 

Here are some stunning words from Mormon Apostle, the renowned (in Mormondum) Bruce R. McConkie given at a B.Y.U. Devotional on March 2, 1982 . . . .
Consider these authoritative teachings the next time you hear some seeker-sensitive Evangelical like Richard Mouw try to say that Mormons are misunderstand and that Christians should apologize for how their (L.D.S.) doctrine has been falsely portrayed.

From Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, noted author of "Mormon Doctrine": 

"I shall speak of our relationship with the Lord ... I shall set forth what we must believe relative to the Father and the Son in order to gain eternal life.

 Now, it is no secret that many false and vain and foolish things are being taught in the sectarian world and even among us about our need to gain a special relationship with the Lord Jesus.  

It follows that devil would rather spread false doctrine about God and Godhead . . . . The creeds of Christendom illustrate perfectly what Lucifer wants so-called Christian people to believe about Deity in order to be damned.

. . . . They say that he is unknown, uncreated, and incomprehensible. They say he is a spirit... they say he is everywhere...that he fills the immensity of space and yet dwells in the hearts of men... They say he is one-god-in-three...

These concepts summarize the chief and greatest heresy of Christendom. Truly the most grevious and evil heresy ever imposed on an erring and wayward Christianity is their creedal concept about God and Godhead. 

We know that he has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's; that he is resurrected, glorified, and perfected being; and that he lives in a family unit. We know that we are his spirit children... and that he ordained the laws whereby we might advance and progress and become like him...

 We do not worship the Son and we do not worship the Holy Ghost... All of us, Christ included, are the spirit children of the Father; all of us, Christ included, seek to become like the Father. In this sense the Firstborn, our Elder Brother, goes forward as we do. The plan of salvation is the gospel of the Father. ... he ordained the laws by obedience to which both we and Christ can become like him. 

Christ worked out his own salvation by worshipping the Father.
... [Christ] while yet a spirit being, had gained power and intelligence that made him like unto God... after he left his preexistent glory as we all do at birth; after he was born of Mary in Bethlehem of Judea--- after all this he was called upon to work out his own salvation... 

  Our relationship with the Father is supreme, paramount, and pre-eminent above all others. He is the God we worship... He is the one who was once as we are now...  

Our relationship with the Son is one of brother or sister in the pre-mortal life...

There are [those] an effort to be truer than true they devote themselves to gaining a special, personal relationship with Christ that is both  improper and perilous...

Another peril is that those so involved often begin to pray directly to Christ because some special friendship they feel has been developed. In this connection a current and unwise book (book by BYU professor George Pace), which advocates gaining a special relationship with Jesus, contains this sentence---quote: 'Because the Savior is our mediator, our prayers go through Christ to the Father...' 

This is plain sectarian nonsense. Our prayers are addressed to the Father, and to him only. They do not go through Christ...

Now I know that some may be offended at the counsel that they should not strive for a special and personal relationship with Christ.

...the  very moment anyone singles out one member of the Godhead...that is the moment when spiritual instability begins to replace sense and reason.

And you have never heard one of the First Presidency or the Twelve, who hold the keys of the kingdom... you have never heard one of them advocate this excessive zeal that calls for gaining a so-called special and personal relationship with Christ.

...never,  never at any time have they taught or endorsed the inordinate and intemperate zeal that encourages endless, sometime day-long prayers, in order to gain a personal relationship with the Savior...

I am well aware that some who  have prayed for endless hours feel that they have a special and personal relationship with Christ that they never had before.

I wonder if this is any or much different, however, from the feelings of fanatical sectarians who with glassy eyes and fiery tongues assure us that they have been saved by grace...when in fact they have never received the fullness of the gospel.

I wonder if it is not part of Lucifer's system to make people feel that they are special friends of Jesus when in fact they are not following the normal and usual pattern of worship found in the true Church... Let me remind you to stay in the course charted by the Church. It is the Lord's Church, and he will not permit it to be led astray. If we take the counsel that comes from the prophets and seers we will pursue the course that is pleasing to the Lord...

Now I sincerely hope that no one will imagine that I have in the slightest degree downgraded the Lord Jesus...I have not done so. As far as I know there is not a man on earth who thinks more highly of him than I do...I have preached more sermons, taught more doctrine and written more words about the Lord Jesus Christ than any man now living.  [note Apostle McConkie's self deprecating humility, reminiscent of Joseph Smith's when Smith crowed how he had more to boast of than any man, including Jesus --yikes!]

 I have ten volumes in print, seven  which deal almost entirely with Christ, and the other three with him and his doctrines.

... you  have been warned, and you have heard the true doctrine taught. Those who need to study the matter further would do well to get and study a copy of what I have said when it is published by the Brigham Young University...
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen."

 [photo of the "Apostle" McConkie]

Obedience Through Love, Not Law

My last blog title is not quite specific enough.  I mean to say the "Legalist Spirit" is a coward, rebel, etc. . . . as the war is not against flesh and blood (any person) but against "principalities" . . . "powers" . . . "spiritual forces" . . . .

Speaking of violence, by the way, next to an anti-Christ spirit and outright rebellion against God, I suggest that the "spirit of religiosity" . . . is perhaps the most violent and antagonistic against the work and person of the Holy Spirit.

As often happens, with uncanny consistency and specificity . . . one of the radio ministries I listened to yesterday was talking about the very same subject as addressed in present writings . . . .

Pastor Dr. Michael Brown reiterated some distinctions between legalism vs. holiness and the sad fact of how many new believers are chased out of the church and their conversion experience diminished when they are assailed by legalists in the church who seek to put them back under "the law."

Some of Brown's comments and my notes while listening:

Legalism is law without love . . . standards without a Savior . . . rules without relationship . . . .
It (legalism) is change from the OUTWARD-in . . . instead of Holy Spirit's transforming work of INSIDE-out . . . .

Outward religion being imposed on people has driven many people from God, from Christianity, because of the spiritless legalistic burden they feel threatened to bear.

Deadness of the Spirit comes when you preach externals more than Jesus; rules more than relationship.

Two farmers were talking over the fence one day.  One said to the other, "I hear you are a Christian."  The other one replied, "Yep, I don't smoke, don't drink and I don't chase women."  The first one said, "Hmm, my donkey must be a Christian too.  He also does none of those things."

Holiness makes us like Him . . . in thought, word and deed . . . . Legalism pushes us away from Him and creates superficiality.

 The question of whether a Christian can be in the military is different than what I think is the more important issue (that of the legalism involved.) 
The assertion that a Christian CANNOT be in the military (should NEVER physically defend oneself or others) is certainly not a clear cut conclusion to me.  Some of the greatest minds in history (Ambrose, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, Franscisco Suarez, ) have found scriptural justification for "just war" and the acceptability (though, not necessarily desirability) of a Christian being able to take the vocation of soldier.  Positions like police and security officer also would have to be considered whether "allowable" or prohibited to the Christian.

I can respect, however, opinions on either side of the question.

But what is troubling is when legalism (that enemy and killer of Spirit) enters the debate; when "MY OPINION BECOMES YOUR OBLIGATION!"

Legalism is a form of idolatry.  In place of the living relationship with God, a RULE is interposed and referred to, which brings in the law . . . which is anathema to love and puts the believer back in bondage.

Too many times, someone or some group of people . . . have become fixated on one or another biblical issue, and then build a whole new sect on it.  The Amish demand obedience to rules prohibiting the use of technology . . . and also "nonresistance/pacifism" . . . Mormons insist you musn't drink coffee or alcohol and must tithe . . . 7th Day Adventists demand that Saturday is the Sabbath . . . Jehovah's Witnesses prohibit the celebration of holidays . . . and so on and so on . . . .

. . . . All death dealing legalisms which crush the Spirit and shut out God, where laws and regulations become the idol--what is foremost.

I see Jesus at His angriest when confronting the scribes and Pharisees in their wielding of the law, using it make others conform, where they "make clean the outside of the cup and platter, but within are full of extortion and excess!" 

How dare those who seek to reimpose the law on the liberated in Christ!  Jesus came to set the captives free!  He fulfilled the law.  Now, He lives in us, and because of our deep love and gratitude and recognition of unworthiness . . . it follows . . . that we will seek to please Him, obey Him, OUT OF LOVE--NOT because of blind obedience to rules, laws and ordinances. 

But here come the Pharisees, with their tradition, their interpretations, their authority, eager to re-enslave the liberated Believer, saying, "MY OPINION BECOMES YOUR OBLIGATION!"

Revenge is wrong . . . and a person led by love--by the Holy Spirit--in relationship with God . . . will not be led to seek it.   

Someone acting from a rule of "nonresistance" is not led by love, but led by the law, and so, is under the law, and thus is condemned by the law because we know that we sin (break some law) every day . . . and will continue to . . . until we reach glory.  

Obedience comes not from externally prescribed obligations, but from the power produced from grace in relationship with and by the Holy Spirit's transformative power.

"The obedience that comes of faith is of a noble sort. The obedience of a slave ranks very little higher than the obedience of a well-trained horse or dog, for it is tuned to the crack of the whip. Obedience which is not cheerfully rendered is not the obedience of the heart, and consequently is of little worth before God. If the man obeys because he has no opportunity of doing otherwise, and if, were he free, he would at once become a rebel—there is nothing in his obedience. The obedience of faith springs from a principle within, and not from compulsion without.

I preach to you, at this time, obedience—absolute obedience to the Lord God; but I preach the obedience of a child, not the obedience of a slave; the obedience of love, not of terror; the obedience of faith, not of dread."  Spurgeon

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Legalist: Coward, Rebel, Self-Rightous Hater

Another reason sometimes a person--who may have caught a glimpse of life in the Spirit--quickly runs to legalism to secure their Walk (and thus, sadly also quickly blocks the Spirit's work) is because of hidden rebellion and cowardice.

Some people are just by personality and nature . . . timid and horrified by conflict of any kind.  These are they who may be those, for instance, who can't hardly stand even the sight of a gun--are loathe to touch one, let alone have one in the house.  If someone were in trouble, or even themselves, they run to "turn the other cheek" as a justification and excuse for NEVER responding forcefully to an attack.  I am referring to someone who is simply a coward and uses a legalistic norm to cover their lack of defense.  They are not turning the other cheek so much because they love Jesus and obey the Holy Spirit, but because they love themselves and their own comfort that they want to avoid any and all situations where a forceful response is warranted and even required.

Also, the other lure of legalism kicks in where this person can now feel "better" than others who do not absolutely follow the rule, ie., "never violence, never defend" . . . . They will delude their self into thinking it is because they are so "loving" and "peaceful" and "Christlike" that they assert the law of pacifism, but, ironically, the instant legalism enters, love leaves in actuality.

It happens in churches all the time.  There is a "rule", for instance, that people should "dress nice" . . . "sit up straight" . . . "attend every Sunday" . . . and those who love rules are eager to comply . . . but right away, they are also the ones who sit in the pews looking around the room to see who is NOT complying.  Love is gone and in its place is "holier than thou" . . . judging, condemning those who . . . don't "dress properly" . . . who slouch . . . who sometimes skip church etc.

There is also a rebellious spirit, again ironic, attendant the legalist.   How so?  Often, they don't really want to submit to God's will, which requires an ongoing, living relationship and just want a rule or law they can follow, so that they can claim obedience, saying, "look at me, I follow such and such law, ie., 'nonviolence'" but then those areas of their life not covered by law, they do whatever they will, believing that they already "gave at the office."  What if Holy Spirit prompts someone in a certain situation to grab a gun and defend another?  The secretly rebellious and cowardly can say, "sorry, I follow the rule of nonviolence, so I cannot obey the Spirit."

When an enemy is persecuting you individually . . . turning the other cheek and deferring time and again returning not evil for evil, shows the loving, longsuffering, self sacrificing heart of the believer.  Where others are involved--and where the individual may be responsible to and for a group, defense of the weak and helpless also shows the same love , self sacrifice and longsuffering . . . . I humbly submit . . . .

What do we about Rahab who lied to save two spies and was later blessed by the Lord?  Would I steal to feed my starving family?  Honestly, I don't know.  I might.  I might not.  I am a sinner, that I know.  In such a situation I would like to think not, in being obedient to the commandments.  However I do not recall a commandment "thou shalt not defend thyself or loved no matter what."  There is one about murder, which is the taking of innocent life.
 It appears God does allow self defense,  however.
  "If the thief is caught while breaking in, and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account."  Exodus 22:2

Monday, May 14, 2012

"Joining the military"

Re the comment about the military....and "all this talk about nonviolence" . . . .

First, my emphasis has not been on "nonviolence" but more on responding to people and situations from Holy Spirit.  A person who has not truly surrendered to Christ, but then takes on a policy or mindset of ie., "nonviolence" . . . is still the same "old man" but with a veneer of some superficial morality.  A Stalin who hates God, rejects Jesus, loves power,  prideful, is his own god . . . who decides one day to practice "nonviolence" may indeed spare a lot of people some physical suffering, but he is still the same unregenerate, wicked lover of self bound for hell.

I think there is clear justification for self defense and protecting the helpless and needy.  I would not hesitate, if I saw someone being abused to step in and try to protect them, remove, and possibly disable the attacker.  For instance,  Psalm 82:4: "Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked." And there are plenty other passages of similar character and directive.

And I don't view Jesus as an effeminate, doe-eyed shrinking pacifist.  He is also the supreme warrior doing battle with the greatest of the powers of darkness.  This life is warfare, contention, tests and trials and we are surrounded by enemies and under assault continuously.

I am only reaffirming that . . . actually the greatest and fiercest weapons in this warfare are of a (Holy) spiritual character and design and NOT the same as those of the wicked.  They are superior, more devastating.  And they come about when you stop reacting from your fallen, unregenerate self whose instincts are to return and eye for an eye and live by the sword.  Instead, the sword of truth, which is the Spirit, and the two-edged sword sharper than any other (TRULY! This isn't just poetry!) which is the Word of God.

God has at times sanctioned and even commanded warfare, even slaughter.  Now, He commands love, but sometimes love may need to get its hands dirty . . . in defense of the innocently afflicted and to effect justice.  The unregenerate soul does not discern properly when and how such action might be required and will almost always (regardless of asserted justifications) respond with some sort of hidden, self-serving agenda.

But the soul who has genuinely submitted to the Lord and is led by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God will almost always respond according to the will of God, which may or may not include a "militaristic" type action.

A legalistic tendency will want to have a hard and fast, absolute rule or law to govern the question, ie., "a Christian can NEVER join the military or react violently . . . OR . . . a Christian MUST submit to the demands of country and military service if it required by (state) authority.

Those who want to avoid the moment to moment . . . constant relationship . . . with the Living God and grow in continuing dying to (the old) self . . . rush to have some sort of simple, all encompassing rule or law governing any such situation . . . . Then, such a person can go back to sleep, avoid the Spirit, and just let legalism rule in any instance, rather than being in a state of unceasing prayer and communion with the Lord.

So, depending on the situation . . . where the Bible contains directions which sometimes condone self defense and defense of the weak and needy . . . but also commands love and NOT returning evil for evil . . . a person may or may not "join the military."  Anyway, with all due respect to differing opinions--especially Biblically--that is what I understand from scripture . . . .

Brother Thomas ©2015

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