Category Archives: Peace

Shipwrecked

Bimini

 

I recently was blessed to hear from an old friend who attended a home fellowship group that I led more than twenty years ago. It was great to catch up on what had happened in the time that we had not been in touch as we had moved to another city to plant a new church. It was a blessing to learn that he was still walking with Jesus. It was sad to learn about others that we knew whose faith was shipwrecked. We did not get into a discussion about eternal security. We agreed that there are strong arguments on both sides of that issue. Whether the ones we spoke of were never really “saved” or whether they forfeited their salvation could not be known for sure on this side of eternity. But, it was sad to hear about people that we knew and who had some kind of testimony about a relationship with Jesus Christ and are now no longer walking with Him. We both expressed thanks that God had kept us in His care.

 

After we hung up I began to think about what was it that enabled me and my brother to persevere. I was reminded of the analogy of the three-legged stool. A stool with three solid legs will stand, but if you cut just one leg it will topple. It occurred to me that there are three aspects to the Christian faith that must be present in order to persevere.

 

First and foremost, the believer must keep their eyes, their mind, their life focused on Christ. He must always be the main focus and purpose of life. The letter to the Hebrews affirms this saying, “Therefore since we also are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:1-2) Unfortunately, as in the parable of the seed, some people hear about Jesus and accept Him with enthusiasm, but when the care of life occur they take their eyes off of Christ. Perhaps they are drawn by promises of what Christ can do for them or by some outpouring of common grace such as a healing. But when difficult times come, and Jesus promised that they would, they are allured by Satan’s lie that Jesus is not the only way to God and they fall away. Jesus promised that we would have tribulation in this life. It is the Refiner’s fire. The Christian life does not get easier, in fact, as one matures it is often more difficult. It is like climbing a mountain. The higher one goes the harder it gets, but the view, real revelation and understanding, is priceless.

 

The second critical leg for the believer is fellowship. Again, Hebrews warns us not to forsake fellowship, relationship, with other believers, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb 10:25) Many people leave churches because they are offended in some way. Such people are focusing on others rather than Jesus. People are broken and will always disappoint, but leaving fellowship is not the solution. Maybe the Lord would have you in a different church, we’ve changed churches a few times, but staying away from church forever is dangerous. Sooner or later, that missing leg will cause your stool to tumble. You must understand that we are in a spiritual battle. The devil seeks to destroy every Christian. I was an Air Force pilot. When pilots go into combat, they fly in formation for mutual protection. Solo pilots get picked off. Every believer needs to be in a place where they can be discipled, hear the Word, worship with other believers and be encouraged and accountable.

 

The third leg is being in the Word. Regular scripture devotion is necessary for the believer to stay in fellowship with Christ. The importance of regularly hearing God’s Word is repeated in the scriptures. “But He (Jesus) said, No; rather, blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.” (Luk 11:28) Ephesians outlines the spiritual armor that God provides us in our battle with the devil. It is the shield of faith that quenches the fiery darts (lies) of the enemy. And faith comes by hearing God’s Word. “Then faith is of hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Rom 10:17)

 

The Apostle Paul wrote to his spiritual son Timothy warning him about those whose faith had become shipwrecked. “This charge I commit to you, my son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before about you, in order that you might war a good warfare by them, holding faith and a good conscience, which some have put away and made shipwreck as to faith. Among these are Hymeneus and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan so that they may learn not to blaspheme.” (1Ti 1:18-20) Apparently, Hymeneus and Alexander had become blasphemers which is to say that they had spoken falsely of Christ. They had turned away from the clear doctrine of the faith established in God’s Word. One of the tragedies of some modern so-called Christians is that they have abandoned a belief in the inspiration and authority of God’s Word. They make themselves the judge and create a false Christ of their own making, which is blasphemy. Paul continued to instruct Timothy, “Study earnestly to present yourself approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” (2Ti 2:15) God’s Word is the only source of all truth. Regular meditation on God’s Word is necessary for remaining in the faith. “But whoever keeps His Word, truly in this one the love of God is perfected. By this we know that we are in Him.” (1Jn 2:5)

 

 

Loving Confrontation

Confront.jpgIt is an act of love to confront in love. “You shall not hate your brother in your heart: you shall rebuke your neighbor, and not bear with sin because of him.” Lev. 19:17

Confronting a brother or sister about what causes a breakdown in relationship is an act of love. The Lord knows that we will sin and break relationship, so He commands us to rebuke our brother or sister in Christ. It is sin that destroys relationships. Our alienation from each other is an extension of our alienation from God. Sin doesn’t take place in a void. It is done unto someone else. That’s why Jesus taught us to pray, “forgive us our debts”. Love is the opposite of sin. It restores relationships. Avoiding confrontation out of fear is not love. We must confront in order to restore relationship when it is broken. Confrontation prevents us from carrying a grudge which is sin.

The purpose of biblical confrontation is not to purify the church or root out all sin. That is Jesus’ job. He said He would separate the wheat from the chaff. We shouldn’t attempt to play God or think that it is our job to “clean up” the church. Who do we confront? A fellow believer when relationship is broken due to sin or perceived sin against us. We must have established relationship before we can confront.

How do we confront? Matthew chapter 18 contains Jesus’ instructions on how to confront a brother or sister. Jesus thought this to be important enough to give detailed directions. Consider the context of Christ’s instructions. The chapter begins with the disciples arguing about being greatest. Obviously there was a breakdown of relationship because of pride. Jesus exhorts them to have the humility of a small child. In verse 7 He says, “offenses must come, but woe to him by whom…” He then warns about temptation and exhorts them to deal ruthlessly with causes of sin, not to compromise. The context is offenses. He warns about looking down on others and then teaches about how to confront a believer who sins against you.

He ends His instruction about confrontation by emphasizing the importance of reconciliation, and the blessings and power of unity. (verse 19-20) There is spiritual authority bestowed upon us to maintain unity when we follow God’s principles of confrontation.

These famous verses are often quoted to prove our authority in spiritual warfare with spiritual forces of evil, but they are referring to binding and loosing people from relationship. Jesus concludes by telling the parable of the unmerciful servant, who imprisoned his debtors after the King had forgiven him. Confrontation hinges upon our willingness to forgive.

We must go with the right motives; go in love. Our motivation must be to keep the person as a covenant friend. We must not be motivated by a desire for revenge. We must die to our own self interest. It is preferable to be unjustly wronged than to have no reconciliation. Reconciliation is more important than personal rights.

A critical attitude that inflicts petty and nasty criticism for the purpose of inflicting hurt is the counterfeit of loving confrontation. Go with the understanding that you too have offended people and needed mercy. You will be judged in the manner that you judge others. (Mt 7:1) Remember that God has forgiven you a greater debt. As in the parable of the unmerciful servant, your unforgiveness towards others puts them in bondage. Be patient; give the Holy Spirit time to work. Don’t expect someone to apologize or confess wrong immediately.

Who is responsible for initiating confrontation? The burden is on both parties, regardless of who is at fault or who is offended. “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you; Leave your gift at the altar, go and first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Mt 5:23

There is a principle demonstrated here: Halt other spiritual activity and seek reconciliation first.

Go privately first. This contains the problem. If you talk with others first, it only magnifies the problem. Different viewpoints make reconciliation more difficult. It biases the people you talk to, and may cause them to sin.

Why do people talk about grievances with friends first? Because of insecurity, lack of faith in God to defend them, fear of rejection and self centered pride that insists on being right.

Be honest with the one you confront, don’t beat around the bush. But remember, there is no time limit mentioned for the different stages. It may require more than one meeting. If there is dialog and progress occurring, don’t go to next level.

The next level occurs if the person won’t listen. Then we are to take two or three witnesses. That doesn’t mean to bring others who agree with you, but have no knowledge of the alleged sin. It means to bring someone who actually heard or saw what happened! If there is no such person, then drop it. Forgive and forget!

At this level, where others are involved, it is important to avoid the impression of putting the other on trial. You must affirm your love and desire for covenant friendship. At this point, someone uncommitted to covenant relationship may avoid such a meeting. Inability to resolve at this level indicates a more severe problem with relationship than with the specific sinful behavior.

If the person still refuses to listen, tell it to the church. That does not mean to stand up in church on Sunday morning and shout out your case. It means, tell it to the leaders. If reconciliation can’t be achieved it is the job of leaders to inform the congregation. By this time, the offender has demonstrated a covenant breaking attitude that threatens the fabric of the congregation’s relationships. By excommunicating an individual, the leaders are merely noting a fact of what has already occurred so that no one is operating under false pretenses. The offender has brought the definition of pagan upon themselves. We must keep in mind that discipline has the goal of reconciliation. Reach out to the person as an outsider.

A Mountaintop Experience With God

Three On Top.jpg

 

Mountain climbing has historically been associated with a spiritual quest. The psalmist wrote: “I Will lift up my eyes unto the hills, where my help comes from. My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Ps 121:1-2

A mountain can be a place of revelation. It was on a mountain that Moses received the Law of God: “And the Lord came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the Lord called Moses up” Ex. 19:20. God revealed things to the Apostle John on a mountain: “And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city.” Rev. 21:10

Mountains can be a place of solitude where we can connect with God. Jesus withdrew to the mountains to pray and be alone with His Father (Mt. 5:1, Mt. 14:23, John 6:15). Jesus called his disciples on a mountain (Mark 3:13-15). He met them on a mountain after His resurrection (Mt. 28:16). Jesus was transfigured on a mountain top (Mt 17).

Mountains display the power of God, the awesome power of His creation. Mountain climbing, like few other endeavors, can reveal how helpless we are at the power of creation; how quickly our security can vanish. An ascent of a high peak can remind us of the importance of realizing that we are at the mercy of God and the need to trust in Him.

Mt. San Antonio, commonly called “Baldy” is a 10,500’ peak in the San Gabriel Mtn. chain in southern California. To professional mountaineers, it’s a walk up. But, for novices like me, it’s still a struggle. I climbed to the top of Baldy with my daughter and son-in-law in June of 2001. During our climb, the Lord was speaking to me almost continually. He was showing me all sorts of analogies comparing climbing the mountain to our walk as believers in Jesus. It truly became a spiritual journey for me.

As is common in southern California in June, the LA basin was covered with clouds for a good part of the month, including the day we climbed. It is possible to drive to within 10 miles of the summit, to an altitude of 6,000’. As we drove up the canyon, somewhere around the 3,000’ level, we emerged from the overcast to a bright sunshine. As we came out of the clouds, it reminded me of being born again. I was reminded of how dreary life was before coming to Christ.

Life under the dominion of Satan is very much like life below the clouds. Life goes on from day to day in the man-made world, but you can’t see the beauty of creation that is so close to you, because your eyes are blinded by the fog. The Bible says that the spiritual eyes of unbelievers are blinded by the god of this world, Satan (2Cor 4:4). Before being called by God and being given the gift of faith, we are spiritually dead, unable to see God, just as the people below the clouds can’t see the mountains. The distractions of a busy life and the cares of this world blind us to the beauty of God that surrounds us.

I suffer from allergies and impacted sinuses. Humidity makes the condition worse. I noticed that as we ascended to higher altitude (less pressure) and emerged from the clouds, my sinuses began to drain and I could breathe again! The Lord reminded me, that He is the one who heals all of our diseases and restores us; It is by His stripes that we are healed (Isaiah 53). When I first was born again and gave my life to Christ, He healed me of my alcohol and pornography addiction. I was reminded that it is in drawing close to God, that we are healed and that eventually we will be completely restored.

After driving as far as one can and parking the car at the Mt Baldy ski area, we took a chair lift from the 6000’ level to the lodge at Baldy Notch (8000’). Riding the chair up reminded me of how the Lord carries us when we are new believers. The ride seemed easy. We began to see more as we ascended up the steep grade, but we were still boxed in by canyon walls which seemed huge from this vantage. Later on, as we climbed higher, the ridges surrounding the canyon appeared small compared to what we had climbed and what lie ahead. Some of the challenges that we face as new disciples seem huge to us at the time. When we look back upon them after the Lord has taken us through them, they don’t seem so big.

As we rode up, below us we saw remnants of civilization discarded below us; things people had dropped and lost; baggage discarded along the route. It reminded me of the things of our carnal nature and the world system that we discard as we progress in our walk with Christ. Soon we arrived at the notch and the lodge. It is a place of refreshment and rest which seemed unnecessary on the way up, but on the way down it was sorely needed. God affords us times of rest in our walk between times of trial and challenge. In the early days of our walk, when we are zealous, we don’t appreciate the times of rest as much as we do when we are older, having been through many trials. 

We began our climb up an adjacent ski slope. The slope was steep and in the open sun. The climate was warm and sunny with a light breeze. We saw a peak in the distance, which seemed near and we mistakenly assumed it to be the summit. We later found out that it was only an intermediate smaller peak about half way between us and the summit which was obstructing our view of the main peak. It is a fact that the Lord won’t give us more than we can handle. Often times He prevents us from knowing what lies ahead in order to keep us from becoming discouraged.

As we continued to climb, the journey began to become a labor. We started to sweat and we had tp stop every 10-15 yards for breath, as the air was getting thinner. We moved from shade spot to shade spot. Our journey with Christ would be impossible if we did not take time to rest in Him. Only He can provide shade from the torments. So, our walk is broken down into intermediate goals that seem attainable.

Eventually, we came to a place of choosing different routes. Both were acceptable. One was the bunny slope, which is easier, but longer. The other was the main slope, which is steeper, but shorter. The Lord permits different paths to maturity. The ones that mature us sooner come at a greater cost.

When we arrived at the top of the ski run, we met a guide who had done the journey before. We learned that the summit was far beyond and still out of sight. We discovered that the journey is more difficult than it first appears. To the unlearned and unschooled, the Christian walk may seem simple. As one who has walked with Christ for more than 20 years, let me assure you, it is not simple if you are truly dedicated and willing to take up your cross and follow Christ. It is not for the weak; the higher you go, the harder it gets. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that the Christian walk gets easier as you grow. It becomes more difficult with each progressive step. But, the blessings are also much greater with each step. The higher you go the more you can see; revelation is cumulative and it comes at a cost.

We were feeling the stress of the climb and seeing the size of the peak, we felt it would be impossible, but we just kept going (Phil. 3:14). Along the way we stopped to rest by an old weathered bristlecone pine tree that resembled a cross and it seemed to grow out of a rock. It is God who sustains us through our walk with Him. It is He who gives us rest. he hides us in the Rock who carried the rugged cross on his back for our sins. it is our appreciation of Christ’s sacrifice and His forgiveness that encourages us to “run the race.” (Hebrews 12:1-8)

Along the route to the summit we had to traverse a long narrow path atop one of the ridges which descend from the peak. The path was only about 2’ wide and the slopes on either side descended for thousands of feet covered by loose rock. To stray off of the path would mean certain death. This was a reminder of the narrow path that Jesus spoke of. (Mt 7:14, Prov. 15:10, 24) The narrow ridge leading up to the peak from the east side is called the devil’s backbone. The wind on this ridge was blowing strong constantly and the temperature must have been close to freezing because there were patches of snow up there in June in southern California. I remembered that the attacks from the devil come like gusts to deter us from the goal, but, in Christ, we walk on his back, he is under our feet. (Luke 10:19, 1Pt. 5:8)

We could now see the top.  Again we were out of breath and needed to rest on a rock. As we ascended the summit, people would appear small in the distance. The further we progress on the journey of knowing Him, people appear smaller compared to His creation, His purposes and His Kingdom.

The peak was so desolate, nothing but rock. Getting closer to God, we realize that HE is a giant rock, nothing competes for His glory. As we approached the summit we felt a light headed sense of euphoria. (2Tim 4:7) Now, there was nothing to obstruct our view. We could see 360 degrees around us, in all directions. However, we soon realized that we couldn’t stay at the top; It was cold and would get colder as the sun went down. Besides, we were hungry and there was nothing to eat up there. The Lord reminded me that He has called us to go down and live on the earth, not in the clouds; that this earth is our abode, both present and future. (John 17:15-16)

The trip down was much easier and quicker, but we had to be careful of slipping. It reminded me that in our Christian walk, we must not be overconfident. Once we have been to the top we are more susceptible to the danger of pride.

At the bottom, we met a couple just starting their climb. By now, it was late in the afternoon and they were a little on the chubby side. They asked us if they were on the right path and how far the top was. It was obvious to us that people don’t take the journey seriously; they start too late and they refuse to shed excess baggage. The journey is for the strong; it doesn’t get easier, it gets better

The Greatest Threat

It’s not North Korean or Iranian nukes. It’s not Islamic terrorism or Central American gangs. It’s not having your job shipped overseas. It’s not Obamacare or losing your health insurance. It isn’t Donald Trump. It is the judgment of God on our nation.

You rarely hear about it on the “news”, but occasionally you might catch a nature show talking about Yellowstone or the San Andreas Fault in California. Yellowstone is a giant active volcano crater. The last eruption was the largest cataclysmic event in North America. You might be familiar with the red clay soil that paints a wide swath from Wyoming all the way to Texas and the Gulf coast. It came from Yellowstone and is discernible in satellite images. And scientists warn that it could blow at any moment, just like the San Andreas Fault. A magnitude 9.0 quake on that fault would kill millions in a matter of hours. If Yellowstone erupted in a similar way that it last did, Denver would be covered in ash in a matter of hours. There is no possible way that the population could escape in time. The same fate would fall upon Omaha, Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Dallas in a few days. Bozeman and Casper would be obliterated almost instantly. This volcano dwarfs Mt. St. Helens. It would make a nuclear bomb look like a fire cracker in comparison.

I think the wrath of God is sometimes like a volcano. It may take many years because God is patient and forbearing with our sins. But, He is a God of justice and He has judged nations before. His judgment, when it comes, is swift and sure. Are we deserving of His judgment? Of course we are. And it might come at any moment. We are guilty, as a nation, of murdering more than 30 million innocent children. Our people, including our elected leaders and judges, even Christians have turned a deaf ear to the pleas of those defending the defenseless. Their blood cries out for justice. And infanticide isn’t our only sin. Pornography, fornication, adultery, prostitution and murder are rampant. 2 Timothy chapter 3 perfectly describes where we are as a nation, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;” (2Ti 3:2-4) Our nation has exalted perversion. We could be judged at any moment.

Perhaps, what stays God’s wrath is that there are worshipping Christians in our land. Our churches are everywhere and they are full. It’s perplexing that there are so many Christians in our land and yet evil is pervasive. Has the salt lost its savor? Are our churches filled with phonies or are we blind? Great revivals are always characterized by social change for the better and an increased commitment to godly obedience by the populace. But we don’t see that in America today. For all of our evangelizing and conversions, we see no change in the culture. The culture continues to descend into the sewer. The church, Christians, need to change what they are doing, because what they are doing now isn’t working.

In contrast, the Great Reformation of the 18thcentury that birthed this nation was marked by widespread repentance among the people. It was sparked by a sermon delivered by Jonathan Edwards entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Edwards called people to repentance. He identified sin for what it is, an affront to a holy God. He described sinners as hanging by a spider’s thread over the fiery pit of hell. The hearers shrieked out in fear. I doubt that such preaching would elicit a similar response today. People today would mock those repentant sinners as superstitious. We don’t fear God anymore. We‘re too sophisticated. It’s rare in American churches to hear about sin, judgment and hell today. The message that people have offended God and must repent has been replaced with “Jesus loves you.” Of course He does! That is why He went to the cross. But, that does not negate the need for people to understand their sinfulness. It is conviction of sin that leads people to receive the grace of God and repent.

John chapter 21 is an account of Jesus meeting His disciples by the Sea of Galilee after His resurrection. Peter and the other disciples had decided to go fishing, which was his original profession. They fished all night and caught nothing. In the morning, Jesus appears on the shore and exhorts them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. When they do, they haul in a load of fish that they can barely handle and they recognize that it is Jesus on the shore. One explanation of the meaning of this is that Jesus, when He had first called them, told them that they would now be fishers of men. They had abandoned the calling of God and gone back to their old life and it was fruitless. We must heed God’s calling.

I think this passage has another message for us today. We are trying to be fishers of men and we are not catching very much. Jesus is saying, “Put your nets on the other side. Change what you are doing. Do it my way. Hear my voice.” We must be guided by the voice of the Holy Spirit if we expect to be fruitful.

As I was studying the scriptures on this subject I was reminded of the parable of the sower. Jesus talked about how the seed that fell on stony ground blew away and bore no fruit. I felt the Holy Spirit tell me that America has been paved over. Our soil is concrete! He said we need a jackhammer to break it up! There must be preaching about sin and hell and soon coming judgment.

I sought the scriptures for Jesus’ evangelistic approach. There are numerous examples in the gospels of Jesus doing power evangelism. People listen when someone gets healed or raised from the dead. Most of us don’t believe we can do that, but Jesus said that we could do greater things. He said that He only did what the Father was doing. You see, Colossians tells us that Jesus laid aside the prerogatives of deity and humbled Himself as a man. He only did miracles by obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit within Him that told Him what the Father was doing. We have that same Holy Spirit in us. He speaks, we must listen.

I also found an account of Jesus’ evangelism that did not involve miracles. It is told beginning in Mark 1:14 thru 1:17. Read the red, the words of Jesus. Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe the gospel.” Now as he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, “Follow me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.” (Mar 1:14-17) There it is. Let’s break it down and put it in modern vernacular:

  1. Time’s up!
  2. The good news that God is in control, He is here and He rules.
  3. Stop what you are doing (sinning).
  4. Believe the good news of what God has done to forgive you and re-establish His rule here and now on earth
  5. Follow Jesus. He will tell what you should do. He will do great things through you.

Do it in this order, don’t use old English or Christianese:

Time is up! The hearer must understand that it is urgent. Today is the day of salvation. Jesus didn’t say, “Think about it and we’ll talk tomorrow.” You can fall into judgment at any moment. Yellowstone is ready to blow. Your heart could stop this instant. You might get hit by a car. Remind them of that horror movie where people can’t escape death when their number is up. Moderns relate to movies.

God is in control, not Trump, not Putin, not ISIS, not the banks, not your boss. He is working all things together to put everything under Jesus’ dominion. (Eph 1:9)

Stop sinning. Tell them, “You are going the wrong way!” Just as in Trains, Planes and Automobiles, “don’t mock because there are two semis headed right for you.” The hearer must be told that their sin will soon lead to tragedy.  We must call sin for what it is. We must preach sin and hell. Stop soft pedaling with your neighbor. If he blows you off, shake the dust off your feet.

Tell them the good news that Jesus paid the price for their sin and they need not suffer judgment. Not only that, but Jesus is going to restore Eden, there will be peace on earth when He sits on His earthly throne.

Tell them that they must listen to Jesus and do what He tells them to do. He wants them to have a part in building His new Kingdom.

The Four Faces of God

Discovering Biblical Personhood

I recently attended a men’s breakfast at our church where we heard an excellent lecture from Dr. Robert Lewis on “The Four Faces of Manhood”. Dr Lewis describes the four faces of biblical manhood as follows: King, Warrior, Lover and Friend. He plots these on a graph as follows:

King

Lover —————–  Friend

Warrior

 

God has intended for the King to lead, for the friend to be faithful, for the warrior to be a protector and for the lover to love sacrificially as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). He then describes how God’s design for man can be perverted by “ugly caricatures”. The King becomes a cruel tyrant or a weak abdicator. The friend becomes a loner or a user of others. The warrior becomes a destroyer or a wimp and the lover becomes critical or cold.

It seemed to me that an unbalanced man would tend to lean in a circular direction and that the ugly caricatures would follow in a predictable pattern so that a tyrant king would be a using friend, a destroying warrior and a critical lover. On the other hand, if the unbalanced man leaned in the other direction he would be a weak abdicator, cold lover, a wimpy warrior and a loner rather than friend.

As I contemplated this, I was reminded of some scriptures about “four faces”. The first was in Ezekiel chapter 1 where Ezekiel has a vision of God’s throne and he describes four creatures (some call seraph) that stand guard around God’s throne:

As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. Ezekiel 1:10 NKJV

The Apostle John had a similar vision described in Revelation chapter 4:

Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. Revelation 4:6-7 NKJV

It is interesting that the two visions vary slightly, but to my mind it only lends credibility to the authenticity as the scriptures are inspired by God and penned by men with different perspectives. One can only imagine how frightening such a vision might be and how each might have a different memory of it, just as two people observing a horrible accident might have different accounts. If John had meant to copy Ezekiel he would have done it word for word, but he didn’t. But the two accounts are so similar as to confirm that they were seeing the same throne room.

We must understand that all creation is intended to glorify God as originally created. The creatures guarding God’s throne can be considered to display the character and nature of God just as mankind is made in the image of God. So, what do these creatures tell us about God and how does that apply to mankind?

I believe that the seraph show us that God relates to us as a man and a friend. God came to earth in the form of the man Jesus who referred to Himself as “the Son of Man.” God relates to us as King over all creation as the lion rules over all other creatures. Jesus is referred to as the Lion of the tribe of Judah and revelation assures that He will reign over all creation forever and ever (Rev. 11:15). An ox or a calf is a sacrificial animal. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29). An eagle is the swiftest of hunters and warriors. In the Psalms God describes Himself as an eagle protecting His flock.  He shelters us beneath His wings (Psalm 17:8).

So the new chart is this:

King/Lion

Lover/Ox —————– Friend/Man

Warrior/Eagle

As I have repeatedly read these scriptures in Ezekiel and Revelation I have wondered at their meaning and significance. I believe through this study that the Lord has granted me a measure of revelation. The four fold nature of God is even displayed in the different gospel accounts. Matthew depicts Christ as King beginning with His royal lineage (Mt. 2:2). Mark, written from Peter’s memories (Mark was Peter’s scribe), describes Jesus as a friend and a brother (Mark 3:35). No one was closer to Jesus than Peter. Mark reveals Jesus as a man (Mark 9:12).

Luke, written from Paul’s memories (Luke was discipled by Paul), displays Jesus as the warrior, the defender of the faith and the faithful. We see in the gospel of Luke the accounts of Jesus’ battles with the religious leaders and Pharisees (those accounts don’t name Paul, but I believe that he was among those who followed Jesus constantly seeking to trip him up; Luke 6:7). It is interesting that Jesus chose Paul, a fanatical defender of Judaism, to be the primary evangelist and his Acts and his letters portray how he battled like an eagle to defend the gospel.

John, the mystic, the romantic, depicts Christ as a sacrificial lover. He tells us that God so loved the world that He gave and describes Jesus as the Lamb of God. John records Jesus saying, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (Joh 13:34-35)

These scriptures revealing God’s nature and our response pertain to all mankind, including women. They show us what biblical personhood is. Women are created to reflect God’s image as well. Women are called to lead, love, protect and befriend all be it in a unique way.

As I looked further into Ezekiel’s vision I discovered that it reveals not only the nature of God, but it speaks about how we must walk with God. The vision shows us how not to become unbalanced, fall into sin and display a false, ugly caricature. I noticed that the creatures walked in the Spirit, that is they followed the Holy Spirit. They didn’t become unbalanced and turn to the left or right.

And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went. Ezekiel 1:12 NKJV

The vision goes on to tell us that a strange object followed each of the creatures.

Now as I looked at the living creatures, behold, a wheel was on the earth beside each living creature with its four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness. The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they moved, they went toward any one of four directions; they did not turn aside when they went. Ezekiel 1:15-17 NKJV

The scripture goes on to describe how the wheels are covered with eyes, depicting the all seeing, all knowing nature of God. This strange object, like the Seraphim, does not turn to the left or right, but follows the straight path, the narrow way. It reminded me of a gyroscope. I searched the definition/ function of a gyroscope.

Gyroscope: an apparatus consisting of a rotating wheel so mounted that its axis can turn freely in certain or all directions, and capable of maintaining the same absolute direction in space in spite of movements of the mountings and surrounding parts: used to maintain equilibrium, determine direction, etc.

Gyroscopes are used in aircraft instrumentation to show relative position to the earth. They help the pilot to know where straight and level is. A gyroscope has two perpendicular axes. One is perpendicular to the earth and the other is parallel. The axes of a gyroscope make a cross.

Our church has recently been studying the book of Romans. Last week I heard a message from chapter 7 by pastor Keith Knight. Chapter 7 is about struggling with sin. The conclusion is that there is deliverance from sin through Jesus Christ. At the climax of the message Keith turned to a cross on the stage and told us that when the struggle is there, he turns to the cross and reminds himself what Jesus did there to save us from sin. That is the key! That is what will keep us on the straight and narrow road.

I know that this vision is meant to show us that God has provided us with a holy gyroscope to help us follow Him. If we focus on what happened on the cross we will keep our spiritual bearings and not wander off to the left or right displaying an ugly image.

It’s interesting that such a mysterious vision should boil down to such a simple truth that is spelled out in the New Testament: that the way to overcome is to walk in the Spirit and keep your focus on Christ’s finished work on the cross. That is exactly how God revealed Himself in the old covenant. Jesus spoke in parables because He searches for seekers who will find revelation in ALL of scripture.

 

 

 

 

 

Hate What is Evil; Cling to What is Good

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12:21)

We are exhorted to hate evil. The American Heritage Dictionary defines evil thus: “Causing harm or injury.” We are to hate those things that cause people harm or injury. Our hatred is not focused on people. People are victims or tools of unseen spiritual forces and are unwittingly in bondage to behaviors that injure others. I did not say that they are innocent, because they are not; they ignore God’s revelation and choose evil. Nevertheless, we are not to hate the person. We are to hate the behavior. We are to hate the spiritual forces of darkness that manipulate people. We should hate injustice, violence and sin in any form. Sadly, Christians can too often be accused of hating their enemy (even if that is not the case) because of their zeal for a cause. This can happen quite easily when we get involved in political battles. We need to be cautious about being involved in “civilian affairs” when our real battle is spiritual. I am not preaching that Christians should not be politically involved. We need to be “wise as serpents” in choosing our battles and we need to be careful not to wage battle in the manner that the world does. We should never lower ourselves to mudslinging or other carnal acts of revenge.

While hating evil we must cling to what is good. This is a connected thought and is clearly intended to balance the first part. It is interesting that this sentence is sandwiched in between two exhortations to love. Hating evil and loving what is good are expressions of true godly love. Many people dissociate love and hate. Yet, properly directed, hate is an expression of real love. God hates sin and God is love. We must be careful to avoid two extremes. We can be so caught up with hating evil that we forget to cling to what is good, or worse, begin to hate evildoers. Our instruction is to, “overcome evil with good.”

The other extreme would be to never feel any righteous indignation about evil. Many Christians struggle with Jesus’ behavior in driving the moneychangers from the temple. Yet it was His love for the people that caused Him to hate what the money changers were doing in preventing people from worshipping. Guthrie points out that it was the extortion of excessive interest that the moneychangers were exacting on foreign worshippers, thus capitalizing on the people’s desire to worship properly, that probably caused such moral outrage in Jesus. With great moral authority He quoted the prophets, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.” His love for the moneychangers did not prevent Him from taking necessary action to stop the evil that was occurring. Guthrie further points to the fact that none of them resisted as an indication that they themselves were aware of their guilt. Significantly, His disciples, upon seeing this display of moral outrage, recalled the Messianic prophesy, “Zeal for your house consumes me….” Further on in this exposition on sincere love, zeal is identified as an essential characteristic of such love. Yet He did not kill the moneychangers. Instead He willing died for their sins!

Cling to “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable….” Cling to “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.” Cling to God! He is the one who embodies all of these principles. In our battle against evil, never lose sight of the good. Never be so consumed with the battle that we lose our joy, for “the joy of the lord is our strength.” Our joy comes from a revelation of what is good and from He who embodies what is good.

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Thy Kingdom Come

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Mat 6:10)

The idea of God’s kingdom on earth is a classical Christian belief. Christians affirm this belief in the Apostles Creed: He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead”. In modern western Christian thinking the concept of salvation is usually confined to the spiritual realm. We usually think of salvation in terms of a personal relationship with Christ by faith. We rarely discuss the idea of a progressive fulfillment of the concept to the physical earthly realm. We tend to think of heaven as the goal. But, biblically speaking, salvation is the restoration of the entire creation. That restoration starts with the individual spirit, but it will progress to the entire physical creation. Biblical salvation ends with the physical realm; the restoration of Eden.

Restoration is not accomplished in a single moment.  Quoting George Ladd, “The Kingdom of God belongs to the age to come. Yet the age to come has overlapped with this present age. We may taste its powers [Lazarus] and thereby be delivered from this age and no longer live in conformity to it.” The focus of the modern western Church has changed. The common message is usually about how to escape hell and get to heaven. It shows up in how we evangelize.  We ask questions such as, “Are you going to heaven?” or  we invite people to come to Jesus and get healing, peace, prosperity or some other personal benefit. You don’t very often hear an evangelist say, “Come to Jesus and die to yourself.”  Most Christians are not expecting His imminent return and the establishment of an earthly Kingdom.

The hope of the early church was, For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that having denied ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live discreetly, righteously and godly, in this present world, looking for the blessed hope, and the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,….” (Tit 2:11-13) Jesus will rule on earth with His church. (Rev. 20:4-5; Zech 14:16) God created the earth for a dwelling place with man. His plans are not frustrated; He is not a loser; He doesn’t have a plan B.

God’s church will not be raptured away from this world in defeat.  God saves the best for last. The wedding in Cana was a type of the wedding of the bride to come. Just when we think that the wine is all gone, Jesus will perform His great miracle. He is the Creator and He is always doing something better. (Hag. 2:6-9)

But God’s people perish for lack of or a wrong vision. Our focus should be preparing for the Kingdom. Jesus will return when the gospel of the Kingdom is preached to the whole earth. (Mt. 24:14) Heaven will hold Him until He has made His enemies His footstool. (He. 10:12-13) Our part is to hasten the day of His coming. (2Peter 3:12)

How do we prepare the way? Do what Jesus told us to do. Make disciples, not converts, teaching them to obey the things that Jesus taught. (Mt. 28:19-20) Preach that the Kingdom is at hand and serve.  (Mt. 10:7-8) That requires being a preserving influence, being salt and light. We must be involved. It is disheartening to see so many Christians not involved in the battle. We are in a struggle for the culture and too many are silent. God has granted us a gift of having a voice in our civil government, but too many believe it is unspiritual to be involved in the fight. The kind of government we have will influence the kind of soil that we sow our seed in. The scriptures teach that God has prepared good works for you in advance. We are to expose darkness by turning on the light.

We must walk in true holiness, not phony legalism, loving God with all of our heart and loving our neighbor as our self. The task is attainable in this life by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Gal 5:16)

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God Has a Plan for World Peace!

Holy Bible

This plan is outlined in a book. God is sending His Son to rule the earth and there will be peace on earth. Thus it was announced at His birth, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” [Luke 2:14] “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” [Isaiah 9:6] “He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)

God’s Son came to earth as a man. He lived a life without sin. He never hurt a soul. In fact, He healed many who were sick and even raised some that were dead. He comforted the poor and the oppressed. He gave hope to all. He willingly offered His life as a sacrifice for sin, that all mankind might be restored to right relationship with God their Creator.

Yes, it was humankind, in their sin and rebellion that chose to alienate themselves from God and the life that is in Him. And it is sin that causes war. It was sin and hatred that led a group of fanatics to kill thousands of innocent victims on Sept. 11, 2001. Unfortunately, those fanatics are not alone. There are thousands, if not millions of Muslims around the globe who share the same unjustified hatred (they will not be able to stand before God, Allah and justify themselves) and they are organized into terrorist groups which are dedicated to repeating the sinful acts witnessed by the world on 9/11.

A unilateral decision not to fight did not prevent a madman like Hitler from murdering millions of innocents. In fact, those who sought to appease only prolonged and exacerbated the problem. It ended up costing the lives of thousands of brave young Americans who willingly died that people in foreign lands might live free from oppression.

Sin causes violence and war. The world is full of people who choose to steal, murder and rape. Could you imagine what would happen if we all chose to no longer fight such people and did away with all policemen?  As a man attacks you to rape you, do you think that he would stop if you told him that you were peaceful and didn’t want to hurt him?  Thank God, that there are police around to prevent such things and to imprison such people so that they won’t be able to hurt others.

In this age, God offers man the opportunity to reconcile with Him through the sacrifice of His own Son. We all have rebelled against Him; we’ve all sinned. God grants us free will, that we might choose to love Him and our fellow man. Without such freedom, there can be no love. So, in this age humankind is free to sin and there will be wars until the Prince of Peace comes to stop all wars. Until that day, we will need police and armies lest we all fall victim to the Hitlers and Husseins.

Jesus will return to earth one day to establish His government. That is why He taught His disciples to pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth…” That is why the political powers of His day wanted Him dead. Unfortunately, He will have to destroy those who will violently oppose Him, though He offers the only real hope for everlasting peace. That is why He said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” [Matthew 10:34] Peace was His mission, but He, knowing the sin that dwells in humans, knew that peace would not come without a struggle. Peace only comes after war destroys those who do not want peace! People will never stop fighting until the only righteous King comes to rule! “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” [Revelation 19:11-16]

“Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’” [Revelation 11:15]

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