Who has heard such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. (Isaiah 66:8)
This is what the Lord God says: Look, I will lift up My hand to the nations, and raise My banner to the peoples. They will bring your sons in their arms,
and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders. (Isaiah 49:22)
They will bring all your brothers from all the nations as a gift to the Lord on horses and chariots, in litters, and on mules and camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, “just as the Israelites bring an offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord.” (Isaiah 66:20)
“However, take note! The days are coming”—the Lord’s declaration—“when it will no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives who brought the Israelites from the land of Egypt,’ but rather, ‘As the Lord lives who brought the Israelis from the land of the north and from all the other lands where He had banished them.’ For I will return them to their land that I gave to their ancestors.” (Jeremiah 16:14,15)
“ . . . the nations will know that I am the Lord. For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land.” (Ezekiel 36:23,24)
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach appeared recently on a Sid Roth television debate with Dr. Brown (Viewable at: http://www.sidroth.org/site/News2?news_iv_ctrl=-1&abbr=tv_&page=NewsArticle&id=11373&security=1041).
Shmuley recited a list of reasons that Jesus “can’t” be the Jewish Messiah that was, to say the least, less than persuasive. One of his “reasons” seemed particularly strange; Shmuley cited the “unfulfilled” Messianic prophecy that Israel’s Messiah would “restore the kingdom to Israel.” He asked, with his characteristically-intense, rising volume, pitch, and speed, whether anyone thought this prophecy has been fulfilled.
Surely Shmuley is aware of the massive return to Israel in recent decades of people of Jewish ancestry from Russia, Africa, the U.S., and other parts of the world. Christians (and perhaps other people of faith from around the world) have financially supported the return of those who couldn’t have “made aliyah” otherwise. Even if Shmuley refers to the restoration of military power and superiority to Israel, rather than the restoration of its lost tribes and scattered citizenry, these military objectives have also been accomplished by tiny Israel in recent decades!
Yes, Rabbi Shmuley, many viewers are absolutely certain that these amazing prophecies have been — and are still being — fulfilled before our eyes.
The prophetic verses above (and there are many more on this topic) become so powerful and precious in light of recent history, with regard to the return of the lost tribes or scattered citizenry of Israel. But the statement at the end of Isaiah 66:20, which is about Israel’s children being brought back to her in every possible type of conveyance, is deeply intriguing: “as the Israelites bring an offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord.”
Could the “clean vessel” be a new Israel (“Messianic” Israelis), whose citizens’ eyes will increasingly be freed from the “scales” that have blinded them (also foretold in prophecy), and whose people will at long last see the One who has so long been obscured from her understanding and recognition — and finally requite to the Lord the offering of love and recognition that He so richly deserves?
May it increasingly come into manifestation before all rejoicing hearts. Maranatha!
Posted in Israel & The Jewish People Tagged with: debate, ezekiel, faith, God, heart, israel, jeremiah, Jerusalem, Jesus, jewish, love, messiah, messianic, military, prophecy, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, restoration, return, sid roth, tribes
Zola Levitt taught that while the Book of Job tells the story of a man — his story parallels the larger story of the country of Israel.
We remember early glimmerings of the important ideas in Job. For example, its raising the question “Why do the righteous suffer?”
And that most-beautiful statement of faith that Job managed to voice in the midst of his grievous trials: “I know that my Redeemer lives.”
As we read to see if there was anything in Job that opened the door for dark experiences, we consider his realization “The things that I have greatly feared have come upon me.”
We might even have gone so far as to look deeply at why God, rejoicing in Job’s righteousness, more or less paraded Job before Satan for him to consider — and ultimately take aim at. We heard one analyst observe that God’s boasting over Job to Satan was done with the hope that after Satan had taken all of his best shots, God would then be able to bless Job even more. We appreciate this opinion, because it arrives at the same enormously-loving Father that Jesus “walked” before us.
But Zola’s teaching that in Job, as in other scriptural stories, there is a parallel between the central figure’s story and Israel’s story is particularly helpful.
God knew that while Satan’s worst arrows would bring Job — and Israel — very low, even close to despairing — that Job and the Jewish people would never turn their backs on God. He knew that the crusades, the pogroms, World War II — all the horrific anti-Semitic experiences — would leave Israel an emaciated, disenfranchised state of “dry bones.” But He also knew, and even prophesied for Satan to see, that the dry bones would come together again, the scales would fall from Israel’s eyes; that the second time Yeshua appears, His own beloved brethren would run to embrace Him. That like Job, God’s beloved Israel will finally come into her own.
Posted in Featured Articles, Israel & The Jewish People Tagged with: faith, father, God, hope, israel, Jesus, jew, jewish, Jewish people, love, righteousness, yeshua
Author’s note: This is the first article in a mini-series of articles reviewing Almost Christian by Princeton professor Kenda Creasy Dean. All quotes without direct links are directly from the book’s first few chapters. To hear Dr. Brown’s review of this book, click here.
A large-scale departure from a biblical understanding of what living as a follower of Jesus looks like in the lives of modern adults has brought about an epidemic of young people whose basic concept of religion is centered around a sense of enhancing their own, and others’ emotional well-being, which has almost created a new religion, though its “followers” still outwardly identify with the name of an existing religion. Kenda Creasy Dean, a professor at Princeton’s theological seminary, published a book called Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church that explores the emerging ramifications of the lack of passion and faith in God in previous generations. This book is based on the National Study of Youth and Religion by Christian Smith and Melinda Denton which gave this new religion the name of moralistic therapeutic deism:
As described by Smith and his team, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism consists of beliefs like these:
1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.”
2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.”
3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”
4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.”
5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.”
These recent studies testify to the fruit that decades of a consumer-driven, therapy mentality have brought into our churches. Dr. Michael Brown’s books, How Saved Are We and The End of the American Gospel Enterprise, point to a very similar attitude that was already entrenched in the American Church over twenty years ago:
The American Church at the end of the twentieth century is experiencing a crisis. For years we have preached a cheap gospel and peddled a soft Savior. We have taught salvation without self-denial and the crown without the cross. We have catered to the unsaved and compromised with the world. Now we are paying the price. (How Saved Are We.)
Our contemporary gospel has bred complacency instead of compassion, success instead of sacrifice, prestige instead of Prayer. We no longer ask what we can do for Him, but rather what He can do for us. (American Gospel Enterprise.)
Dean says there are four things that deeply religious teenagers, whose faith affects their day to day lives have in common:
Dean says committed Christian teens share four traits: They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future.
Recapturing a passionate, articulate faith in teenagers and young people requires not simply a new “method” to reach them, but rather a revitalization of faith and devotion in the day-to-day living of adults. According to Dean,
Since the religious and spiritual choices of American teenagers echo, with astonishing clarity, the religious and spiritual choices of the adults who love them, lackadaisical faith is not young people’s issues, but yours… So we must assume that solution lies…in modeling the kind of mature, passionate faith we say we want young people to have… We have successfully convinced teenagers that religious participation is important for moral formation and for making nice people… Yet these young people possess no real commitment to or excitement about religious faith.
What is the one thing that truly differentiates faith from religion? Dean says this:
Faith is a matter of desire, a desire for God and and a desire to love others in Christ’s name…Love gives Christianity its purpose and meaning. Religion functions as an organized expression of belief… Yet Christianity has always been more of a trust-walk than a belief system…Faith depends on who we follow, and that depends on who we love.
John Wesley, whom Dean quotes, experienced in his own life a time when he called himself “almost a Christian,” while living with the same kind of approach many do today:
I did…good to all men; constantly and carefully using all the public and all the private means of grace…and…doing all this in sincerity… Yet my own conscience beareth me witness in the Holy Ghost, that all this time I was but almost a Christian... The great question of all, then, still remains. Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart? Can you cry out, “My God, and my All”?… Is he your glory, your delight, your crown of rejoicing?
Another crucial question is this: how can we experience this passionate love of God if we have not seen the man Jesus tortured, bleeding, dying, and abandoned because of the depths of sin in our own hearts? The only true knowledge of the incredible love of God that evokes such devotion can come through a changed heart which has been wrung by a deep conviction of sin and repentance, and has seen the cost God afflicted on Himself in order to rescue us from the power of sin and bring us into fellowship with Himself.
Dr. Michael Brown reviewed the first few chapters of Almost Christian on his Line of Fire Radio show, and here is a quote from his closing remarks:
We are fundamentally off: with much of our preaching, with much of our emphasis…we’ve been in the wrong direction for years. We have soft-peddled the gospel, we have by-passed the cross. We haven’t preached a faith which is glorious and wonderful, and a savior who is so extraordinary, who delivers us from a wrath which is so terrible, that we JOYFULLY give up everything to have Him!
Changed hearts in the church as a whole is the only way to see the transformation that so many adults in the church have said they desire to see in their children, as Dr. Brown stated in The Jesus Manifesto:
The dawning of the 21st century finds the church of America in a moral and spiritual crisis. Decades of self-centered living and worldliness have taken their toll. Years of compromise and toothless gospel preaching have had their effect. And now we have reached the moment of truth: Either we wake up, stand up, speak up, and act up, or we run the risk of becoming a mere historic curiosity, an irrelevant religious sideshow, an entertaining, harmless spectacle. Something must change, and it must change now. There is no other choice.
Posted in Culture, News Tagged with: Almost Christian, apologetics, Christian Smith, Church, Dr. Michael Brown, faith, fake Christianity, How Saved Are We, Jesus Manifesto, Kenda Creasy Dean, loving God, moralistic therapeutic deism, National Study of Youth and Religion, Princeton, religion, Revival, teenagers, The End of the American Gospel Enterprise
“Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.” -Acts 8.4
A man’s adherence to a doctrine or Christian theme in an ideal religious atmosphere can be a very dubious thing. When we are in our preferred sanctuaries, listening to our preferred worship songs, and standing alongside our preferred co-members, there is little to test the reality of the faith that we profess.
Western Christianity, which usually functions along utilitarian, humanistic, and convenient lines, is radically removed from the kind of gritty and authentic faith that was the experience of the early Church. If all the glitter and all the facades were removed, we would find in the Church a corporate character quite different than what we may have appreciated and even boasted of when we could only see on a surface level.
The line of inward consecration has been deviated from, the experience of raw faith in the realm of actual life has not been a chief emphasis, and the overall condition of truth and reality has been too infrequently realized by the best of our Church going members.
The depth and profundity of our life in God is not revealed amidst the choruses and events as much as it is revealed when the press of everyday experience is bearing down upon us.
When Saul of Tarsus spearheaded the movement of persecution against Jewish believers in the first century, a great scattering took place. But what was the response of these saints who had been displaced, losing their homes and their possessions while simultaneously being disowned by their own relatives?
“Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.”
What would our response have been?
When the real press of life bears down upon us, when conflict increases and opposition arises against us, it is in that moment that we see the degree to which our hearts have been given to Jesus Christ. It may not be in a city-wide persecution against the saints, though I’m convinced that those kinds of realities are likely to increase in the Western world.
It may be in the press of financial challenge, or being misunderstood by a family member, or being falsely accused at work, or being touched with depression or confusion about life or calling. It may be in some other pressing issue; something minor like a bad look from a brother in the Church, or something heavier like some type of life tragedy. Whatever the press may be, the manner of our response is itself the revelation of our true character. Our mouths and minds will reveal the real state of our hearts.
These saints, when displaced and disowned, hated and rejected, went into the uttermost parts of the earth proclaiming that Jesus Christ was crucified and raised up, for their view of life was not earthbound, but preeminently God-centered. We need to be delivered from the power of self-centric living, and lifted into the heights of true worship, where the line of consecration is drawn in truth and reality, and where God gets the glory out of the nit and grit of our everyday lives.
The apostles knew no other brand of the faith than that which was lived upon the lines of total inward consecration to Jesus Christ, and that is why “great glory” attended their lives. Do we wish for some cheaper brand of Christianity?
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Acts, calling, character, consecration, faith, preaching, the church, Western Christianity, worship
Editor’s Note: Originally published on TownHall.com, used with permission. Frank Turek is a speaker and author, and a leading Christian apologist. Learn more at his website www.CrossExamined.org
You can’t put honesty in a test tube.
“Science” doesn’t say anything—scientists do.
Those are a couple of the illuminating conclusions we can draw from the global warming e-mail scandal.
“You mean science is not objective?” No, unless the scientists are, and too often they are not. I don’t want to impugn all scientists, but it is true that some of them are less than honest. Sometimes they lie to get or keep their jobs. Sometimes they lie to get grant money. Sometimes they lie to further their political beliefs. Sometimes they don’t intentionally lie, but they draw bad scientific conclusions because they only look for what they hope to find.
Misbehavior by scientists is more prevalent than you might think. A survey conducted by University of Minnesota researchers found that 33% of scientists admitted to engaging in some kind of research misbehavior, including more than 20% of mid-career scientists who admitted to “changing the design, methodology or results of a study in response to pressure from a funding source.” Think of how many more have done this but refuse to admit it! (The researchers said as much in their findings.)
Outright lies and deception certainly seem to be the case with “Climategate.” The exposed e-mails reveal cherry picking; manipulating data; working behind the scenes to censor dissenting views; and doubting what the measurements say because they don’t fit their pre-determined conclusion. Matt Drudge headlined this yesterday as the “Greatest scandal in modern science.”
I actually think there is another great scientific scandal, but its misrepresentations are not quite as obvious. In this scandal, instead of outright lies, scientific conclusions are smuggled in as philosophical presuppositions. Such is the case with the controversy over the origin of life and new life forms. Did natural forces working on non-living chemicals cause life, or is life the result of intelligent activity? Did new life forms evolve from lower life forms by natural forces or was intelligence needed?
Dr. Stephen Meyer has written a fabulous new best-selling book addressing those questions called Signature in the Cell. Having earned his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in the philosophy of science, Dr. Meyer is at the top of the science food chain. In our August 8th radio interview, he told me he’s been working on his 600+ page book—which isn’t short of technical detail—for more than a decade.
What qualifies a man who has a Ph. D. in the “philosophy of science” to write on the origin of life or macroevolution? Everything. What some scientists, and many in the general public fail to understand is that science cannot be done without philosophy. All data must be interpreted. And much of the debate between Intelligent Design proponents (like Dr. Meyer) and the Darwinists (like Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins) is not a debate over evidence—everyone is looking at the same evidence. It’s a debate over philosophy. It’s a debate over what causes will be considered possible before we look at the evidence.
Scientists look for causes, and logically, there are only two possible types of causes—intelligent causes or non-intelligent causes (i.e. natural causes). A natural cause can explain a geologic wonder like the Grand Canyon, but only an intelligent cause can explain a geologic wonder like the faces of the presidents on Mount Rushmore. Likewise, natural laws can explain why ink adheres to the paper in Dr. Meyer’s book, but only an intelligent cause can explain the information in that book (i.e. Dr. Meyer!).
How does this apply to the question of the origin of life? Long after Darwin, we discovered that “simple” single-celled life is comprised of massive volumes of DNA information called specified complexity—in everyday terms, a complicated software program or a really long message. Richard Dawkins admits that the information content of the “unjustly called ‘primitive’ amoeba” would fill 1,000 volumes of an encyclopedia!
What’s the cause of this? Here’s where the philosophy comes in. Dr. Meyer is open to both types of causes. Richard Dawkins is not. Dr. Meyer’s book explains why natural forces do not appear to have the capacity to do the job, only intelligence does. However, Dawkins and his Darwinist cohorts philosophically rule out intelligent causes before they look at the evidence. So no matter how much the evidence they discover points to intelligence (as a long message surely does), they will always conclude it had to be some kind of natural cause. In other words, their conclusion is the result of their philosophical presupposition.
While Dawkins has no viable natural explanation for life or the message contained therein, he says he knows it cannot be intelligence. That philosophical presupposition leads to what appears to be an unbelievable conclusion: To believe that 1,000 volumes of an encyclopedia resulted from blind natural forces is like believing that the Library of Congress resulted from an explosion in a printing shop. I don’t have enough faith to believe that.
“This is a ‘God of the gaps’ argument!” Dawkins might protest. No it isn’t. We don’t just lack a natural explanation for “simple” life—1,000 encyclopedias worth of information is positive empirically verifiable evidence for an intelligence cause. Consider the cause of the book The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, for example. It’s not merely that we lack a natural explanation for the book (of course we know that the laws of ink and paper couldn’t have written the book). It’s also the fact that we know that messages only come from minds. Therefore, we rightly posit an intelligent author, not a blind natural process.
Why is it so hard for Dawkins and other Darwinists to see this? Maybe they refuse to see it. Maybe, like global warming “scientists,” they have their own political or moral reasons for denying the obvious. Or maybe they’ve never realized that you cannot do science without philosophy. As Einstein said, “The man of science is a poor philosopher.” And poor philosophers of science may often arrive at false scientific conclusions. That’s because science doesn’t say anything—scientists do.
Posted in News, Philosophy & Science Tagged with: Darwin, einstein, evolution, faith, Frank Turek, global warming, intelligent design, matt drudge, philosophical presuppositions, richard dawkins, science, TownHall
It happened in the vestibule
At ten one Sunday morn;
A haggard-looking church-goer
Sat plaintive and forlorn.
Then suddenly he rose and found
A hungry-looking Christian;
He took his hand, took him aside,
And asked him a straight question:
“You’ve read the Word; you know the Book;
The promises are clear.
But have you seen the living God?
Have you found Him here?
Have you experienced holy fire
The Spirit in His power,
A mighty wave, a rushing wind,
A flame that does devour?
Is there something more you’re seeking,
So high, so wide, so deep?
Do you find yourself frustrated?
Is church putting you to sleep?
Then listen well, your heart is ripe;
My tale I will tell.
This story is your story too,
And it’s your tale as well.
For thirty years I’ve been in church,
It seemed like a good show.
But now I’ve got to meet with God —
Do you know where to go?
I’m trapped in mundane worship times,
The praises have grown cold;
The preaching’s dry and dusty,
The teaching stale like mold!
Each service feels like a rerun,
The songs all sound the same;
The prophecies are so hollow —
Not worthy of the name!
Words, more words — they’re everywhere,
But oh there is a stink!
Words, more words — they’re everywhere,
But none to make us think!
We lack the heavenly Presence,
It’s clear we’re in a rut;
I’m desperate for revival —
It burns within my gut!
I’m love-sick for my Jesus,
So hungry for my Lord;
Just longing for my Savior;
God knows that I’m so bored!
Is there someone who can help me,
Who’s touched the real thing?
A man who’s heard from heaven —
With a word from God to bring?
Are there prophets burning with fire,
Servants who are ablaze?
Anointed and overflowing,
Appointed for these days?
Do they carry the Spirit’s burden,
And breathe the Lord God’s breath?
Are they set apart and holy,
Obedient to death?
I hear the words of the Master,
‘Come follow Me,’ He said.
If some Christians go their own way;
I’ll go with Him instead!
Oh please, don’t do as I have done,
And waste so many years.
Don’t wait and wait for endless months;
Move on! Outgrow your fears!
Forget the twelve step programs;
A seminar won’t do.
You need a touch from heaven,
To fill you through and through.
There must be change in your life —
A work of God that’s real.
Don’t fool yourself with worn clichés —
Don’t let the devil steal!
Don’t miss out on God’s presence
Or let these hours pass;
Don’t stop your soul from hungering;
Get out of the morass!
Dear friend, you are not crazy;
Dear saint, you are not mad;
There really is a problem,
It’s true, you have been had!
There’s more! There’s more! Believe it!
There is that place in God.
There are holy visitations,
New paths that must be trod.
Will you get up like old Pilgrim,
And seek that better way?
Will you go forth on that journey
No matter what men say?
Will you go out now and meet Him,
And leave the crowd behind,
Forsaking dead traditions,
If Jesus you will find?
It’s not in another meeting,
A nicely packaged hour;
Another harmless service,
Devoid of heaven’s power.
It’s not in another teaching,
Three points to fill your head.
The Word is always vibrant;
But this stuff is so dead!
We need God to send His Spirit,
To fully take control,
To transform every member,
To come and make them whole!
Enough with man’s religion;
Enough with earthly plans;
Enough with our new programs;
Produced by fleshly hands.”
Just then in strode the pastor
His calling to fulfill;
Just doing his weekly duty —
Then he became frozen still.
For astir was that parishioner
He grasped the preacher’s clothes,
And grasped the preacher’s soul as well —
And in that grasp he froze.
“Oh pastor, enter the prayer room
And shut yourself inside.
Be emptied of competition,
And crucify your pride!
Pray for holy visitations,
Caught up alone with Him,
Consumed with heavenly vision —
That’s where you must begin!
You won’t find Him in a textbook,
Buried on page twenty-two.
He is the living God who acts —
He wants to move in you!
It’s not only the ‘apostles’
He’ll bless and send and use;
He will saturate your own soul,
If you will not refuse.
So arise, get up, pursue Him,
Jesus your true best Friend!
He is worthy of devotion,
He’s faithful to the end!
Why should you starve on crusty bread,
And crawl along the ground?
Your Savior is your source of life,
Seek Him, let joy abound!
Renew your life, refresh your heart,
Press in, take hold, pray through.
Put first things first, make God your goal;
What else have you to do?
Your Bible schooling stole your zeal,
Church life has drained you dry;
You used to have such childlike faith,
Now budgets have your eye!
You used to be so passionate,
So innocent and free
Now you’ve become professional;
You’ll preach for a good fee!
Oh, set your sights on higher goals
And not on dollar bills.
Live in the light of Judgment Day;
Ambition always kills!
Let Jesus be your daily Guide,
Put Him where He belongs;
And soon His presence will arrive;
His praise will fill your songs!
Simplicity will be your style,
Devotion your new goal;
Communion will become your aim,
God’s life will flood your soul!
Oh, take your eyes off numbers,
Church growth can be a trap!
Go out and make disciples.
Go out and bridge the gap!
Pour your life out for broken lives —
Let God your heart break too.
Take up the cross, deny yourself;
Just live His will to do!
Wake up, be brave, be honest;
Today — oh hear His voice!
Be ruthless with your schedule;
Seek GOD. Make that your choice.
You won’t find Him in your planner,
No committee has the key.
You’ll find Him when your soul cries out,
‘There must be more for me!’
‘There must be more than building funds,
And sessions past midnight,
And endless talks with leadership,
Disputing who is right.
Somehow I know I’ve been misled;
The model doesn’t work.
I’m not called as an executive,
Nor should I be a clerk.
I’m called to be a man of God,
A man who’s Spirit led,
A healer of the sick and lame
Someday to raise the dead!’
And with that cry new life will rise,
Your heart will be revived;
Heaven’s light will flood your soul —
You will not be denied!”
The parishioner then turned his gaze
Away from flesh and blood:
He looked to Him who sends the showers,
To Him who sends the flood.
“Today, O Lord, do hear our voice,
And pour Your Spirit out.
Saturate the thirsty ground.
End this spiritual drought!
Revive us with Your Presence,
Renew us from above;
Touch the flock called by Your name;
Come fill us with Your love!
Do greater works in our day,
Than that which You have done.
Bring the fullness of Your rains,
And glorify Your Son!”
That old church-goer spoke no more.
Another voice was heard.
Yet not the voice of flesh and blood:
It was our Father’s word.
And if you listen closely,
Beyond this little rhyme,
You’ll hear Him speaking clearly:
“My children, it is time.”
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: faith, judgment, poetry, power, preaching, prophets, Revival, worship
A couple of days ago, atheists from around the country celebrated “Blasphemy Day”. As one website encouraged them to: “…admit to committing blasphemy against all gods. Religion is mythology. Gods are lies. Preachers are liars (yes, all of them), and anyone who believes in magic men in the sky are fools. Please take a moment to commit blasphemy today. Change your status message on Facebook or MySpace to something blasphemous. Wear an atheist pin. Come out of the closet a little more. Make it known… and make it loud.”
Whenever I witness to these blasphemous types (which I have done quite a bit recently), I can’t help but wonder if they will be able to retain their arrogant confidence when facing the rising fog of death as it draws them in to the darkness of an eternity without hope.
You see, death seems to have a way of bringing a solemn hush to the pretentious profanities of self-confident blasphemers. In those final hours and minutes of life, courage cannot be found in the fading flower of the mind and body. Excuses, justifications and intellectual arguments are all exposed as cheap covers, for a deep-seated fear of the grave, that cannot offer one ounce of consolation or power over it.
Thomas Paine was a blasphemous, smug deist. He was known to describe the Gospel as a “fabulous invention”. But his last words were “What a fool I have been. Oh God help me, for I cannot bear to be left alone!”
Voltaire was another deist, infamous for his contempt of the Bible. But on his death bed he exclaimed: “I am abandoned by God and man!”. “Oh Jesus Christ! Oh Jesus Christ!”
Robert Ingersoll’s Father was a Presbyterian preacher who had even filled the pulpit of Charles Finney. But Robert rejected the faith of his father and became a famous proponent of agnosticism and humanism. On his deathbed he cried, “God, if there be a God, save my soul, if I have a soul from Hell if there be a Hell.”
Sir Thomas Scott said upon his deathbed: “Until this moment I thought there was neither a God nor a hell. Now I know and feel that there are both, and I am doomed to perdition by the just judgment of the Almighty.”
Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, the French statesman, as he was dying, asked to be drugged, “that I may not think of eternity and what is to come”
Contrast these experiences with the last words of evangelist D.L. Moody. “Earth is receding, Heaven is descending, God is calling and I am going home. Is this death? Why it is not bad, it is glorious. This is my coronation day”.
Or the words of Stephen as he was being stoned: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God…”
When a storm is approaching, many animals will nervously burrow and dig for shelter under the ground. But the eagle is not afraid. He simply spreads his wings, and effortlessly rides the thermals high above the storm. He looks down at it from above and laughs mockingly.
My friend, when a man has Christ, he has wings. He need not be afraid of death, for when it comes, he will soar above it and taunt it with the words of Paul the Apostle:
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 15:55-57)
Posted in News, Philosophy & Science Tagged with: atheist, blasphemy day, Charles Finney, D.L. Moody, death, deist, faith, Gabriel Riqueti, Jesus, MySpace, Sir Thomas Scott, soul, the bible, Thomas Paine
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord….” -Rom. 12.10-11
From the nation of India decades ago, Amy Carmichael gives us this staggering story:
It was convention week in a hill station in India. The afternoon meeting was just over. A few Christian station-people, some English-speaking Indian friends and the sixty or seventy missionaries who had been listening to the Bible reading were hurrying out to get a cup of tea before the evening meeting. An Indian lady lingered in the empty hall, and the writer, seeing her alone and thinking perhaps she had no friend at hand and might be feeling lonely, sat down beside her. Conversation turned to Bible reading. The Indian lady’s face darkened and she said bitterly, “What is the use of such meetings? You missionaries say one thing and do another!’ It was easy to see she had been wounded and soured, but not knowing her history, I could only urge that meetings were held just because we recognized our need….
But this did not satisfy her, and in quick, eager sentences she began to explain herself. She said that her people had noticed that when a missionary first came out, he was usually warm and loving and keen to win souls. Then gradually, she said, it was noticed that he cooled.
“And who can say,” she concluded, with an intensity that went through the hearer, “…. who can say you missionaries live specially holy lives? We Indian Christians observe. We observe you not only when you are at work but when you are off work too. Is there anything remarkable about you? Are you burning-hot people? We look to you to show us patterns and you are showing us crooked patterns.”
The words scorched. Discount what we may because of some inward hurt or warp; and granted, thank God, that the picture painted thus is not wholly true, there was enough truth left to lay at least the one who listened low down in the dust.
I believe this story is intimately applicable to most American believers. We need to hear the questions of the little Indian woman:
“Do you lead specially holy lives?”
“Is there anything remarkable about you?”
“Are you burning-hot people?”
We sell the our lives short by reducing the faith to a cute and dainty religion that we practice a few times a week. We are supposed to be a burning-hot people, fervent in Spirit, serving the Lord! Our lives are supposed to be separate from the world in a manner sufficient to raise questions in the hearts of our neighbors and relatives, “What is it about those people? There’s a humility…. there’s a moral clarity…. there’s a joy…. there’s a no-nonsense mode of living…. there’s a wisdom…. there’s a reality in their eyes that I have found nowhere else, and their lives testify to it.”
Let us consider the tear-stained exhortation that Amy gives to follow up her story:
Comrades in this solemn fight- this awful conflict with awful powers- let us settle it as something that cannot be shaken: We are here to live holy, loving, lowly lives. We cannot do this unless we walk very, very close to the Lord Jesus. Anything that would hinder us from the closest walk that is possible to us till we see Him face to face is not for us. We need to be sensitive to the first approach of the hindering thing. For the sake of the souls that may be stumbled if we turn even ever so little aside, for the sake of our Master’s glory- dearer surely to us than all else- let us ask Him not to show us whether in anywise we have been showing “crooked patterns.”
Dear reader, what is the temperature of your life? Have you settled into a cool spirituality that is unconsecrated and casual? Have you more passion for entertainment than you have for the Scriptures? Has the Spirit of prayer become foreign to you? Have you left your “first love” and latched onto idols that now sap all of your affections for Christ, and leave you barren and numb at heart? We must return to Him with whole hearts, forsaking the “crooked patterns” that have too long marked the Church in our nation. Let us cry out from a place of brokenness, that He may have for Himself a people no longer “lagging behind in diligence.” A people who are “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord….”
He is faithful to respond to the heart that hungers and thirsts after Him! He will fill your heart with new life, and cause His heart to be expressed through you. He will kindle a flame in our hearts that all the schemes of hell cannot begin to quench. He will have for Himself a people.
A people leading specially holy lives, empowered by His Spirit. A remarkable people. A burning-hot people. Amen!
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Amy Carmichael, Church, faith, God, Hell, India, Jesus, missionaries, prayer, Reality, the bible
On August 4th, 2009, George Sodini walked into a fitness center near Pittsburgh, PA and shot 12 people. Three women were killed, and Mr. Sodini himself committed suicide. The day before the murder-suicide, Mr. Sordoni wrote that he was going to “see God and Jesus” soon on his blog, saying:
Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter. I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday, because soon I will see them.
The day after the shootings, Dr. Brown addressed the murder and these words on his Line of Fire radio show (the show is appropriately titled “A Once Saved Always Saved Murder?”). The audio is below, and provides a good overview of the situation and the doctrine in question:
Evidently, the gunman had been taught that because he had prayed a prayer asking Jesus into his heart at some point in his life, he would spend eternity in heaven with God, no matter what sins he committed or beliefs he espoused thereafter. Here are some thoughts on the subject I put together in an email shortly after the killings took place, and the news came out concerning the gunmen’s beliefs. I submit them for consideration:
I would venture to say that our life and faith in Messiah is in reality more about an organic, somewhat mysterious spiritual dynamic, than a doctrinal system that has as the main goal avoiding the bad place and going to the nice place upon death.
Of interest may be Richard Dawkins’ article after 9/11 that I reference in my Atheism article: where he says: “religion teaches the dangerous nonsense that death is not the end.”
Of course, his thesis has major problems philosophically (does not atheism teach the dangerous nonsense that our only punishment and reward are in this life?), but I actually AGREE with him that false and untrue religion is quite dangerous, and for people to blindly believe that they’re going to heaven the second they die, without feeling the need to have a bit of evidence that it’s true beyond the words of a religious teacher, is quite dangerous as well as perhaps a bit crazy.
But then, if as so many believe, we don’t need the tangible, objective, supernatural presence of God, nor as Mark Galli writes, any real difference at all in our lives from non-believers, to know that our particular doctrinal system is absolutely true, why should we expect people to not “misuse” a doctrine such as once-saved-always-saved, or believe a false religion like Islam? They believe what they believe for the same reasons we do, and with the same level of certainty.
All this to say, I wonder if the problem with this shooter was both an unbiblical belief and blindly believing something with no tangible evidence. Perhaps in his case a healthy fear of death and the judgment to come was in order, as well as a healthy skepticism.
If we require nothing of our religion, why should we expect our religion to require anything of us?
Is it any wonder that those of us in the Kingdom of God that are living and dying for the advancement of the gospel, spiritual revival, cultural reformation, and an increased depth in the Church find it so difficult to awake this “sleeping giant” (as Leonard Ravenhill called it), when so many of us in the Church require nothing of our beliefs beyond simply hearing them preached from a pulpit or reading them in a book?
Until men and women start taking seriously the question of why they believe what they believe, not only will they continue to subconsciously resist the leaven of the gospel from infecting their entire lives, but dangerous doctrines will continue to abound.
Posted in News, Philosophy & Science Tagged with: Blogs, doctrine, faith, gunman, Hell, judgment, Leonard Ravenhill, Mark Galli, mass murder, murder, pittsburgh, richard dawkins, the bible, theology
(This is a poem inspired by NT scholar F.F. Bruce’s description of the first Church in Jerusalem in the book of Acts. He dubbed them “the Spirit-possessed society.”)
I see a society, peppering the globe,
Through the lens of faith I’m permitted to probe,
Who are these ones, these fearless, ‘nothing-phobes’?
They rejoice like Paul, clinging like Job,
I see a society.
I see a society, tucked in each nation,
Fulfilled in them is the groan of creation,
They face lies with courage, with proclamations brazen,
Yet their dispositions are tender and patient,
I see a society.
I see a society, hungry & thirsty,
Looking for fresh bread & wine unearthly,
Plumbing the depths of the Scriptures with yearning,
Growing as trees with bottomless roots, sturdy,
I see a society.
I see a society, marked with reality,
Dissatisfied with programs and analogies,
Sick to the teeth of Hollywood’s melodies,
Plowing through cheap theology and hollow fallacies,
I see a society.
I see a society unowned by toys,
Refusing to live as little distracted boys,
Waiting in worship with priestly poise,
Hearing His voice, enwrapped in His joys,
I see a society.
I see a society, unwilling to engage,
In spiritual fads, whatever the craze,
They prefer the closet of prayer to the stage,
Preparing the way for the end of this age,
I see a society.
I see a society made up of meek souls,
Serving their neighbors with towels & bowls,
Perished ambitions to meet heavenly goals,
Israel & the nations transformed, made whole,
I see a society.
I see a society of pilgrims progressing,
Not to new ideas with emergent themes pressing,
But moving with fidelity through trial & testing,
To walk the ancient paths of true priestly blessing,
I see a society.
I see a society, turning from lust,
Turning from immorality with fervent disgust,
Turning from anxiety to radical trust,
Turning from stagnancy, lethargy, rust,
I see a society.
I see a society with Danielic hearts,
Living in Babylon, shielded from darts,
Faithful in prayer, building ramparts,
Holy fire burning in the inner-most parts,
I see a society.
I see a society lit with God’s light,
Fit to endure tribulation and plight,
Equipped to extend mercy in the darkest night,
Walking in weakness, seeing His might,
I see a society.
I see a society refined of its dross,
No longer jerked, pulled, pushed, moved, or tossed,
‘Round by the winds of the world, they’re embossed,
Branded and burdened to preach only the cross,
I see a society.
I see a society of sons and daughters,
Raising the dead, walking on waters,
Content just to be on the wheel of the Potter,
Not aching for platforms or titles, unbothered,
I see a society.
I see a society profoundly Christ-centered,
They’ve springs in the desert, flames in the winter,
Merciful souls, vessels of balm, menders,
Exemplifying another wisdom, fiercely tender,
I see a society.
I see a society, I see the Son,
His image shines forth, leaves dark powers stunned,
Their schemes undone, His glory has come,
Alongside the King, with horses we run.
I see a society.
I see a “Spirit-possessed society.”
The hour is late, saints. Shall we come into the reality He has called us to? The hour is late, indeed. Let us respond to Him without reservation.
Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with: Christ, cultural revolution, F.F. Bruce, faith, Holy Spirit, prayer, society, theology