Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Looking Fear In The Face

It should be no surprise that we live in a world easily swayed by the wickedness of "doing what seems right in our own eyes." After all, we're all guilty of justifying something that runs against God's express statutes at some point in our lives.

In light of last Friday's affront to marriage, which is perhaps the largest frontal assault on God's order in recent memory, many Christians might be feeling fearful.

What kind of world will our kids be stepping into? What is our future in society if we hold to what we know is true? How will the activism affect our places of worship?

Of course, this is, for the most part a Western dilemma. In China, the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, etc. Christians have known State oppression in all its ugliness. They've enjoyed the fellowship of Christ's sufferings, to quote the Apostle Paul.

Here's some encouragement from F. B. Meyer, taken from the 26th chapter of Leviticus:

None shall make you afraid.—Leviticus 26:6 

BUT we are afraid, often very greatly so. How can we be secured from the dread of men and things which so easily besets us?

We must be absolutely right with God.—To walk in God’s statutes, and keep His commandments, was the first condition of Israel’s immunity from fear. When we know that there is no cause of controversy between us and God, we feel able to count confidently on His protection and deliverance.. “Perfect love casteth out fear.”

We must count on God’s faithfulness.—He has put us where we are, and we dare not think He will withdraw from us, as Joab did from Uriah. We are His partners, summoned to cooperate with Him: will He allow us to incur responsibilities in His name, and then leave the burden on our unassisted resources? Fear will yield before a clear sense of God’s might; but it is still more likely to yield before a deep sense of God’s perfect faithfulness.

We must rely on the environment of angel keepers.—When David, during his flight before Absalom, slept in the open, he believed that the Angel of the Lord encamped around him. More are they which are for us than those that be against us. The mountain is full of horses and chariots of fire. Lord, open our eyes that we may see!

We must believe that our enemies are less formidable than they seem.—They surround us with their bluster and threatenings, they come against us in embattled array; but if we dare to go forward and do the right thing in the sight of God, they will vanish like a puff of smoke. “For, lo, the kings assembled themselves. . . . They were arrayed, they were dismayed, they hasted away.”

Meyer, F. B. (2011-07-17). Our Daily Homily  (Sermon) Volume 1 (Genesis-Ruth) (Kindle Locations 1567-1579). Heritage Bible Fellowship. Kindle Edition.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Known for what I'm "For"

One of the most ludicrous things that come out of Christian's mouths is the statement, "I want people to know what I'm for, not what I'm against."

Really? What are you for?

Rarely, if ever, do such people say. Rather, they spout this nonsense in a spirit of "tolerance," to show everyone how non-judgmental they are (while, essentially judging anyone else who might have come out against whatever the Facebook war is about).

You know what? It's petty. It's juvenile. It's shameful.

The Bible certainly doesn't make that claim. Last I checked, the Ten Commandments have a lot of Thou Shalt Nots! Pretty much saying what God is against, right? Reading through Leviticus there are a lot of descriptions of what God is against, namely the culture, practice and religion of the people of the world. The Bible teaches that God's people have been called out of those ways of living to be set apart to God and that they should follow his ways.

In the whole SCOTUS ruling on same-sex unions, God clearly states He's against that. In fact, He calls it an abomination (Leviticus 18:22).

God also states clearly what He's for: That all should come to repentance because he loves the world!

Christians are called to be the light of the world. Light is gentle and pervading, pushing back darkness. It may be harsh to the person who has been living in night for a long time. But we're not to hide our light. It's our testimony. It's what we're for.

But that same light shows, inherently what we're against. Darkness. We oppose it by our new natures in Christ.

Light is good. Plants and life itself cannot thrive without it.

God wants us to carry His light, both what it's for and against, into the world He loves for the benefit of people, not their harm.

God's light should offer hope to those who repent.

But, it will also reveal judgment to those who don't.

That's just the way it is. In the issue of people's lives and the choices they make, Christians should stand firmly on what God is against, which reveals what He's for. And the issue of what "I" am for or against is really moot. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Is Jurassic World's Chris Pratt a Christian?



Who didn't love Chris as Emmet in The Lego Commercial, I mean Movie. Or, how he made a movie about a talking tree and racoon accessible! Though I haven't watched the show, he probably demonstrated some considerable talent on Parks & Recreation!

Then, about a year ago I read how he was a Christian. His testimony is that when he and his wife were expecting their son, he was born 9 weeks premature and spent a month in an incubator. As a father, I know how helpless that probably made him feel. He and his wife turned to the Lord in prayer during that time and now celebrate a wonderful, healthy son who they enjoy raising.

Chris is impressive in his general, humble attitude and how he's been outspoken about the need for prayer for sick people and his willingness to go with friend Chris Evans to children's hospitals to provide needed cheer.

While I haven't spent time on his Facebook page, he apparently posts Bible verses there. That's awesome! My guess is he gets more response to that on his than I do on mine, but that's okay. I hope neither of us post things for personal recognition.

Here's the challenge, though. It's easy to talk about 'faith,' 'prayer,' and 'healing.' It's even rewarding to be 'positive' and 'encouraging.' Christians are supposed to be those things!

But, when we say we have our "eye on the prize" that shouldn't mean having beer on Saturday, going to church on Sunday and having fun. As great as all those might be.

The challenge to every one who has been bought with the expensive blood of Christ is to realize that we're in a battlefield that wants to make us neutral. We get all kinds of worldly goods, comfortable houses and efficient cars and we forget to rely on God.

Not saying this is happening with Chris, or anyone else. But it happens to all of us, moment by moment.

It's easy enough to love those who love us. Or our "neighbor." But, do we love our enemies? Do we love those who persecute us and do we do good to them? Do we turn the other cheek, or do we declare, "I'm not going to be a doormat!" Are we willing to stand for truth, though it will cost our lives, and pray lovingly for those who are executing us?

Truth is, none of us can do that. Not unless Jesus Christ is doing it through us.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

An Everlasting Love




Leviticus 6:13 (R. V.) Fire shall be kept burning upon the altar continually; it shall not go out.—Leviticus 6:13 (R. V.) 

THIS is an emblem of the perpetual work of God for man. 

The Love of God.—There never was a time when God did not love. The bush that Moses saw gave no fuel to maintain the holy flame that trembled around it, because the love of God to Israel and to the human race demands no sustenance. Through the ages it burns and will burn; however much indifference and neglect and rejection are heaped upon it, or poured over it, like barrels of water over Elijah’s sacrifice, it never goes out. It is as fresh and vigorous today as ever, and waits to consume your sin and mine; for God is a consuming fire. 

The Intercession of Christ.—As the ages pass, this sacrifice retains its merit. What He did as Priest on the cross, He does as Priest on the throne. It is always “this same Jesus.” What He was, He is, and will be; and as generations of saints bring their gifts to the altar, He takes them, and lifts them up to God, as the fire bears up the substances which are submitted to it. He ever liveth to make intercession; and the fire that burned through the long night in the Tabernacle bore witness to the undimming, unwaning virtue of our Saviour’s work. 

The Ministry of the Holy Ghost.—The fire that was lit on the Day of Pentecost burns still in the Church. There has been no intermission to its presence from the first day till now. Multitudes of unknown sects and persecuted saints have kept that fire burning in the world. On the perpetuity of its existence in our midst depends the constancy of our own love and purity and prayer. If the fire shall never go out in our hearts; if the life in our spirits is indeed ever-lasting—it is because He lives and loves always.

Meyer, F. B. (2011-07-17). Our Daily Homily  (Sermon) Volume 1 (Genesis-Ruth) (Kindle Locations 1314-1327). Heritage Bible Fellowship. Kindle Edition.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Revelation Letters





Why is it that whenever a pastor teaches from Revelation chapters 2 and 3, the long, bony finger gets pointed to the faithful in the pews (or theater seating, as the case may be)?

Frankly, it reminds me of the old joke about how a couple will fight over money. Whose money is whose? In the joke, the woman says, "My money is mine and your money is ours!"

I think a similar thing goes on when a pastors and theologians read Revelation 2 and 3, also known as the "letters to the churches." You'll find this caption in most Bibles, but that wasn't there in the original manuscript. That's added to help confuse you (in this case).

Basically, we have a good chunk of the New Testament devoted to letters to churches. Paul writes two letters to the Corinthian church, letters to the church in Rome, to the Ephesian church, the Galatian church, the .... you get the picture. The other epistles (that's letters for you younger folks) are written to Christians, such as the letter Peter writes to those "scattered about..." also translated "those of the dispersion."

Paul writes the to Galatian Christians, chiding them for their poor doctrine, among other things, trying to set them straight (and free) in Christ.

Long story short: there's no shortage of letters written to church members.

There are also "pastoral epistles." Timothy got two letters, Titus got one ... so, there's precedent to write things to pastors, too.

In Revelation John, who is pretty old. Maybe in his 80s, even, has been imprisoned on the island of Patmos to prevent him from spreading the Gospel. It had been maybe around 50 years since he'd seen Jesus ascend to heaven and had been witness to the miraculous events of Pentacost. It's possible, as it is with all of us, that he might have had doubts that threatened his faith, though never shook him. Yet, he probably wondered about what Jesus had said to Peter when Peter asked what would become of him. Jesus had said, "what is it to you if he should remain until I return?"

All these thoughts might have run through the old apostle's mind when suddenly, Jesus, in glory as bright as the sun appeared before him. He granted him visions that he instructed him to write down and send to the seven churches.

John sees Jesus walking among seven lampstands (or candlesticks, depending on translation) and holding seven stars in his right hand. Then, in Revelation 1:20, Jesus gives John the explanation for the symbolic visions:

The mystery of the seven stars which thou saw in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou saw are the seven churches.
 This is the key to understand the letters which are contained in the next two chapters. Each letter is addressed to "The angel of the church at ..." And contain positives (in many cases) and negatives (in most cases) all addressing "you" in the singular form. The obvious reading is that these are letters to the "angel of the church" not the "candlestick."

Further proof of this obvious reading is found in Revelation 2:5, to the 'angel of the church of Ephesus":

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
 If Jesus were dictating a letter to the 'candlestick,' or the church members, he wouldn't use the singular 'thy' or remove the candlestick, which is the church. Some believe it means the church will no longer exist in Ephesus. Which happened a few hundred years later (leading some commentators to suggest that "they" repented and then fell prey to sin later on).

But then, there's Revelation 3:1:

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
 And Revelation 3:3:
Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
 But then, in Revelation 3:4:
Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.
 Reading this with the understanding that the stars are the 'angels' or messengers to the churches, and the letter is to the 'angel,' Jesus is saying that the 'angel' has a reputation of being alive, but is dead.

**Just and aside, here, since I'm this deep in, 'angel' is considered an "interpretive challenge" because no where else in the Bible is the word used to mean anything other than celestial, angelic beings. Some have speculated that the angels here are like "guardian angels" of the churches. But that raises some crazy issues. These angels seem to be ministering to the churches (lampstands) and are held in Jesus' right hand. If we follow the meaning set out in chapter 1, the letters are clearly written to the angels, and Jesus is indicating they need to repent. Which would mean, if they are celestial beings, that we have fallen angels adopting and allowing false doctrine and sin in the churches they're ministering to. Having angels repent raises other theological issues that are better kept for late nights in college dorms at Christian colleges--if they still do that sort of thing. Simply put, the common interpretation is that the 'angels' are actually the pastors of those churches.**

Back to the story! So, this pastor at Sardis is known as being ALIVE! ALIVE! ALLLLLIVE! But, actually, he's dead, no lightning bringing him to semblance of life. Jesus can only be talking about his spiritual condition (unless we want to go off the rails here). And spiritual death is ... not good.

Look at verse 3! He tells the pastor to remember what he received (presumably the Gospel) and repent! The way this comes across to me is that he has a reputation of being a true Christian, but he's not!

Not convinced? Read verse 4. There are a few that have white garments and are 'worthy.'

We know that it is only the works that are done by the Holy Spirit that are worthy sacrifices, so these are true, spiritually alive members of the pastor's congregation.

So, is this all bad news for the pastors? No, not all.

See Revelation 3:11 to the pastor of the church at Philadelphia (not America, by the way):

I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.
 That 'your' in this verse is also singular. The pastor will receive a crown for his ministry at this church.

At the end of each letter, though, Jesus says encouraging things for everyone.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ Revelation 2:7
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’ Revelation 2:17
But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. Revelation 2:24-28
There's more, but you get the idea. The key thing that should NOT be missed is that these warnings, while written to pastors, apply to every believer (just like the pastoral epistles!). But they hold a special place for those who find themselves serving as ministers to a local body within the Church.

To whom more is given, more will be required. Take a moment and read through these chapters again. Note what is being said to the pastors, and what is offered to 'he who has an ear.' 

**Edit: I forgot to check the tense of the "you" and "thou" in the epistles, which are clearly marked, "to the church at..." or to "all the brethren ..." etc. Those are second person, singular, too. So, the obvious reading is to follow the context. In the Revelation letters, as in the epistles, they are addressed at the outset, "To the angel of the church at ..." Similarly, the pastoral epistles are addressed to the people to whom they are sent (i.e. Timothy, Titus, Philemon...).

Interestingly, in the Revelation letters, we have "To the angel of the church at..." then "he who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches ..." and then a message follows that. 
*Blue Letter Bible I've added this link for added study for verb tense, etc.

Another resource for study is here and has charts showing interpretations for and against, etc. It also notes the verb tense, but mistakenly states that some of the sins could not be personal, but only reflect the wider church. I don't think the sins that are charged against the pastors have to be a wider sin, but most certainly are, based on context. The key thing to note, for pastors, is that they are being held responsible for their sins as they lead people in the church and end up allowing the errors that their own sinful permission has granted.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Image of God



With all the discussion about Bruce Jenner, the former Olympic athlete, I really found the whole debate odd. Is he a messed up guy? Yes. Evidently he was in Playgirl magazine way back when. He has been married a few times and, his Kardashian family is not known for chaste and holy living.

What shocks me is how the debate over his hormone and surgical alterations has centered on whether or not he looks good dressed up as a woman. Or, whether or not he's truly a supporter of the LGBT community!

None of that matters.

In fact, no one should be looking at Bruce Jenner and rendering judgment as if we, too, are not broken, fallen and in need of God's grace. In keeping with our nosy, gossip-driven culture, Bruce, the Kardashians, Paris Hilton, etc. are just popular examples of the fact that our world, our human race is corrupt! Their ludicrous behavior, the hurt they cause to one another, the ghastly tabloid coverage of what appears to be a virtual freak-show of humanity, and the lurid interest that society devotes to it, points to our need for new life and a renewal of our minds.

Genesis tells us that we were created in the image of God. But, after Adam chose to sin, choosing to eat the forbidden fruit with his wife rather than stand in obedience to God, that image was twisted. What was pure and good became broken, needing repair.

It is this brokenness that TMZ reports on for our culture's entertainment. It's our brokenness that finds pleasure in measuring how much worse everyone else is compared to us.

In all of this, there is only one question that needs to be answered: Does Bruce Jenner's life, his choices, actions and words, bring glory to God? Does he bring honor to the one in whose image he has been created?

This is the same question Vanity Fair editors need to answer. It's the same question you and I need to answer.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

God's Wealth

God wants us to have a successful, thriving life! The problem many have is that they hear that and think of the flesh of this boot-camp life. What our fallen nature considers "success" or "blessing" is always material things and physical comforts. So many "pastors" will say that God wants you to be "happy" or to live a "bountiful" life. And they get all sorts of support from people who like to hear that.

Who doesn't like to get a cool fortune cookie sermon that claims God is going to pamper us with wealth and health here and now. But, we know that AT NO TIME IN THE BIBLE did any of the true followers of Christ or the faithful prophets of the O.T. EVER enjoy health and wealth in their lifetime. Actually, quite the opposite.

Quick shout-out to Hebrews chapter 11 and the reference to those of whom the world is not worthy.

No, God isn't promising wealth, health, prosperity in the way the world expects. God isn't that cheap.
Satan, now he's the villain who points to the forbidden fruit of self-gratification and says, "God actually WANTS you to have this, but he's testing you to see if you'll reach out and take it." And once we've bought the lie that this life is about being "comfortable," we're pierced with so many sorrows and faith becomes a fairy tale that we use to shield ourselves from a harsh reality.

What God actually is giving us is far greater. God wants us to live for real.

What does that mean?

It means that we recognize how sinful we are, by our nature. It means we confess our pitiful state, which is actual death, an inability to raise a finger to please God (which is the purpose for which He created us).It means we let Jesus' perfect sacrifice pay for our debt of sin and rebellion against God, pinning our sinful self to the cross with Him. It means dying to those natural impulses of sinful behavior that used to rule us before we awoke to our deathly state.

It means rising again with Him in true life, pure, spiritual life that has new ambitions of glorifying God.

Finally, it means ascending with Him, being in the very presence of God by virtue of our representative, Jesus Christ.

When this is a reality, the things of this world (money, fame, worry, concerns of longevity or physical needs) fade away. We know who has bought us. We know the intense love of God that will provide for us, even during poverty, suffering, terminal sickness and persecution. We know that our future is secure.

No pithy fortune cookie faith can compare to such a powerful wealth that God has given me.

He's offering it to everyone.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Call Me a Carpenter

Thought I'd let you all in on my latest project. It's one I've been planning for months and building for weeks now.

See, there was this problem. I have a nice office (used to be a nursery) and only a small white desk. It's only 17" deep and not very wide. It's a fine writing desk if you only have a laptop or a notepad on it. But, if you need to have research laid out or maybe a work computer in addition to a laptop, it's not big enough.

So, I shopped around. All I found were what I consider pieces of junk. Their made of particle board and cheap veneer. At least, that's what was in my price range. Even some of the expensive desks were made of particle board. Yuck! Not going to pony up $400 for a cheap desk that I'll hate in a year as it starts falling apart.

So, I decided to build a desk.

I know, it's a skill to build cabinets and, you know, furniture. But, I always say, how hard can it be?

I heard about this place called the American Workshop where they have all the tools to do cabinet building, and their punch card prices were very reasonable. I got their $6/hr card, which is pre-paid at $120.

I settled on using hickory plywood and ordered up the amount I'd need of 3/4 inch and 1/2 inch. Then I got cutting.

I made the cabinets first.


I had a corner cabinet for support ... in the corner. 
I made side cabinets for the ends of the 'L.'

Here I am putting some poly on the corner cabinet.

I realize this is all out of order, but here's me being an old guy doing a selfie with the cobbled together desk in the background. This gives you an idea of how it will look.
I'm pretty excited. It's coming along pretty well for my first real foray into carpentry (outside of a sandbox and garden boxes, which are really the same thing).

I plan to do some serious writing ... okay, maybe not too serious ... at this desk.

The Spiritual Beggar

ACTS 3: 
“Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. “And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple: who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked an alms. 

“And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. “Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. 

“And all the people saw him walking and praising God: and they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him. And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering. 

“And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, -and of Jacob, the God of our Fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied Him in the presence of Pilate when he was determined to let Him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you: and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. And His name, through faith in His name, hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by Him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.”

"IMAGINE A DOUBLE staircase of marble, rising to the first terrace for the women, the second terrace for the men. On the top stair of the second flight is the Beautiful Gate, so termed, made of Corinthian brass, so heavy that it took four men to open and close it at sunrise and sunset. It was exquisitely wrought of beaten work, and was counted one of the wonders of the world. Beyond it lay the altar, and the laver, and the temple, the court in which our Savior often walked, and in which the priests did their wonted work. There it stood, not unlike the gate into a whole life, because there was an old law in the book of Leviticus which enacted that any man that had a defect or deformity, though actually born with true Israelitish blood in his veins, was never to enter."

Meyer, F. B. (2014-07-01). THE WORKS OF F. B. MEYER, Vol 1 (25 Works): 25 Classic Devotionals, Biographies and Teachings on the Higher Life (Kindle Locations 7034-7039).  . Kindle Edition.

It's no secret, I love F.B. Meyer. He not only pulls out gems from the word of God, but he does so beautifully.

As I read the scripture passage, I already had this "spidey sense" of where he would be going. I began seeing that WE are the beggars outside the beautiful gate, begging for alms, unable to enter the sanctuary of God!

What I really liked was how he points out later that faith doesn't check the ankles for whether their healed. It just stands up!

God has opened the door for us to go into the sanctuary as priests! PRIESTS! We have full access to the Show Bread (which only the priests could eat) which represents Christ, the Word of God. When we read the Bible, we should GET IT!

If we don't, we're failing to take what God has given us. Maybe there's some lameness in us, some failure to act in faith and we're just sitting there outside the gate, begging for other people's good will.

I'm determined no longer to wait on the good will of others and take from the best provider, God, my Father. I'll take what I need by faith, not checking to see if there's some new feeling or sensation. I'll have the patience of Christ, the purity of Christ, the kindness, faithfulness and goodness of Christ. All of these gifts, at the time I need them.

You can have them, too. They're gifts for God's children. If you have, by faith, been numbered among them, you can have these things. You will stand and leap, entering in to worship God beyond the gate!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

TAKE, TAKE, TAKE!

Chapter 6: TAKE! TAKE! TAKE! God waits to bless us, and to give us the very game power today as they had in the upper room on the day of Pentecost, but we must learn now to take that power. I want to speak, therefore, from the word you shall find in Isaiah 33, beginning with Isa 33:20: “Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken. But there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby. For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; He will save US. “Thy tacklings are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail: then is the prey of a great spoil divided: the lame take the prey.” “The lame take the prey.” If lame people can take it, anybody can. What a remarkable expression! It first struck me in Charles Wesley’s noble hymn, perhaps the finest hymn in our mother-tongue, which begins: “Come, O, thou traveller unknown, Whom still I hold, but cannot see! My company before is gone, And I am left alone with thee. With thee all night I mean to stay, And wrestle till the break of day. In vain thou strugglest to get free; I never will unloose my hold. Art Thou the man that died for me? The secret of Thy love unfold. Wrestling, I will not let thee go Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.” The last stanza is as follows: “Lame as I am, I take the prey; Sin, fear and death with ease o’ercome; I shout for joy, pursue my way, And like a bounding hart fly home, Through all eternity to prove Thy nature and Thy name is love.” “Lame as I am, I take the prey.” Now it is not like that in ordinary life. Usually when people are lame they miss, they do not take. If a man is lame in arithmetic, and cannot add up a column of figures correctly; if he is lame in his memory, and cannot recall names and faces; if he cannot distinguish between two sorts of fabrics; if he be lame in body or mind, he gets pushed aside in the rush of other men as they press past him and take what is to be had, while he comes in second or third best. But God says lame people come off best with Him. There is therefore GOOD HOPE FOR YOU AND ME.

“Lame as I am, I take the prey.” Now it is not like that in ordinary life. Usually when people are lame they miss, they do not take. If a man is lame in arithmetic, and cannot add up a column of figures correctly; if he is lame in his memory, and cannot recall names and faces; if he cannot distinguish between two sorts of fabrics; if he be lame in body or mind, he gets pushed aside in the rush of other men as they press past him and take what is to be had, while he comes in second or third best. But God says lame people come off best with Him. There is therefore GOOD HOPE FOR YOU AND ME. I saw something like this once in a farm-house. A basket of apples came in. The large family of children began to help themselves to its contents as soon as it appeared, all but one little lad with a pale face, Jimmy, who stood against the wall, leaning on his crutch. The mother, a bustling woman, came in, saw what the children were doing, and said; “Now, children, put all those apples back, every one of them.” The children obeyed. Then she said: “Now, Jimmy, you go and take your pick, my boy.” And Jimmy came on his crutches into the midst of his brothers and sisters, and helped himself to the juiciest of all those apples. I saw then that under the protecting care of the mother’s love, as well as under God’s love, the lame take the prey. I remember also how poor Thomas was lame in his faith, and lingered just a week behind the other disciples; but Jesus came all the way from heaven on purpose to show him His hands and His side. Lame Thomas took the prey that day. There are people who have always been lame. Whenever there was a blessing to be had, they missed it. Whenever the pool of Bethesda was stirred, they got there only in time to see another go forth healed. Whenever there was a revival, some friend of theirs got the blessing, but they lost it. I want to show you now that those who have been the lamest of the lame may take God’s best. We often labor under the impression that God’s best gifts are placed so high on the shelf that only those who have become mature and good can reach them, when the fact is that He puts His best gifts on the lowest shelf against the ground, so that we have to bend our stiff backs to get down to them. Today God’s very best gifts are waiting to be taken. My heart beats high within me because we may appropriate things which kings and prophets heard but did not see, but which are within the reach of the lamest today. How Isaiah came to say such a thing, But perhaps I ought to explain how Isaiah came to say such a thing, because we never should take the Word of God out of its connection to suit our purpose. When it was being written, Sennacherib, with two hundred thousand of the fiercest soldiers that ever drew sword, was crossing the frontier of Palestine and making his way to the doomed city of Jerusalem. To use his own words, he thought he would be able to rifle its treasures as easily as a boy might steal eggs from a nest in spring.

You can almost hear in the earlier verses of the 33rd chapter of Isaiah the scream of the cypress trees and the sigh of the cedars of Lebanon as they were felled to fill crevasses and make a roadway for the troops. The inhabitants left their homesteads, their vineyards, and their olive-yards, and fled for refuge to the larger towns, whilst all who lived in the neighborhood of Jerusalem crowded into that city. I suppose it would ordinarily hold about twenty thousand people, but at this time probably twice that number were crowded within the walls. Asses and camels were stabled in the streets, household goods were piled up in the courts, and all the steep houses were filled from top to bottom with fugitives. Provisions began to run short, and there was not water enough for supplying their needs. Everybody waited with anxiety the moment when Sennacherib with his two hundred thousand soldiers should arrive. Hezekiah tried to stop him coming; he sent a bribe to stay him; but Sennacherib took the gold, ridiculed the king, and still marched on. One day, when the people woke up and looked out over the walls, they saw the brown tents of Sennacherib’s army encompassing them on every side. They could hear the bugle-call, and seethe scarlet coats of the Assyrian soldiers. Then men looked at their wives, and vowed they would take their lives with their own hands, rather than let them fall into the hands of those soldiers; and the women looked upon their little babes, and determined to slay with their own hands rather than to see them tossed from spear-point to spear-point to amuse those barbarous invaders. It was an awful condition. When English soldiers were shut in at Lucknow, with thousands of mutinous Sepoys surrounding them, they knew that England was sending reinforcements by every steamship. But Jerusalem had no such hope. She knew that if she fell, the people, of Egypt and the land of Moab would be only too glad. Her condition seemed hopeless. The one man who kept a level head was Isaiah, and Isaiah said: “The Lord is responsible. The Lord is our judge. The Lord is our lawgiver. The Lord is our King. He will save us. He will save us so effectively that though the people of Jerusalem seem as powerless as a lame man, yet shall they get the spoils of yonder tents, so that what seems to be hopeless in our condition today is the very best thing that ever happened. We shall acquire the riches of Sennacherib’s soldiers. The lame shall take the prey.” Before we can take the prey, however, we must be quite sure that we have RUN UP THE ROYAL STANDARD and taken Jesus Christ to be Savior, King, Judge, and Lawgiver. I press that upon you, because I know that in my own life, God forgive me!, it was many, many years after my conversion, and several years after I had entered the ministry, before I took Christ to be my Judge, Lawgiver, and King. It was a very memorable night in my life when I knelt before Christ and gave myself definitely to Him, and committed the keys of my heart and life to His hands. Then I knew I was His, and that He was mine; and though I had no joy, no emotion, no ecstasy, I had a blessed feeling in my heart that I had but one Lord, one will, one purpose in all my life and for all coming time, that Jesus was my Judge in doubtful things, my Lawgiver for the remainder of my life, my King, my King, my KING, for whom henceforth my life was to be spent. Have you come to that? If you have never done it before, kneel down alone, and say: “Jesus Christ, thou hast been my Savior from hell for many years, but now I yield to Thee everything I have. Thou shalt be King. Thy will shall be supreme. No longer shall I do that which is right in mine own eyes.” God help you to begin now! When you have come to that, you will understand how exquisitely God saved His people, who have no King but Him. THE STORY OF THEIR DELIVERANCE. Let me tell the story of their deliverance dramatically, so that you will be more likely to remember it. We will imagine an occasion when a group of Hezekiah’s chief captains were engaged in discussing matters in the royal palace. One says: “We saw faces of the enemy appear over the wall, and if we had not been there in the nick of time, they would have broken in; but my men hurled them back, with their ladders after them.” “Oh, yes,” says another; “but they had a battering ram where we were, and I thought they would have made a breach through the wall.” “Yes,” says a third man, “and they were sapping and mining the walls where I was; we were only just able to stop them.” Says a fourth, sagely, “Yes, but I tell you where the mistake was. Our city should not have been built up here on these hills, where we can have no river around us. Thebes has got the Nile, Babylon the Euphrates; but Jerusalem is perched on these hills, with no river to intercept the advance of an enemy or supply our crowded population with water. I£ ever we get through this siege, I doubt if we ever shall, I shall advise Hezekiah to pitch the city down by Jericho, where we shall at least have a Jordan between us and the foe.” At that moment Isaiah came on the little group and said to the last speaker: “What was that you Were saying?” “I was expressing my opinion, sir, that it is a great pity that we haven’t a river to separate us from the foe.” “A river! A river! Never let me hear you talk like that again! A river! We want no river. The glorious Lord is a place of broad rivers and streams. Everything that a river can be to a city, the glorious Lord is to us. If you could see what I see, you would have a vision of our glorious Lord all around the walls of our city, between us and the foe. I tell you that Jerusalem is well encompassed, environed with the presence of the eternal God, the glorious Lord. Here is His place of broad rivers and streams, and you shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, safe and still.” That is it, safe and still! Jesus Christ will be as helpful to you and me. Let me show you how. There are so many of us, like Jerusalem, without a river. Let me picture one case. Very likely there is a woman here in middle life. Years ago when she was a girl of eighteen, her mother on her dying bed said: “My daughter, I charge you to take no husband or home until you have seen your younger brothers and sisters settled in life.”

She promised she would not. She waited until her lover could wait no more, and saw the boys and girls grow up and secure homes for themselves. Presently the father died. But she has neither husband nor child. Often when she sits in the church and looks around, she sees women who were girls at school with her, who played with her in girlish sports, sitting with their husbands and children. Her heart sinks, and turns sick. All! she has no river of human love and comfort and blessedness. But I tell her: “The glorious Lord will be to you, my sister, a place of broad rivers and streams. Everything that human love can be to a lonely woman’s soul, the glorious Lord will be to you.” Or take the case of some young man whose father died when he was young. He has had no advantages. He has had to work for his widowed mother and the family, and misses sadly the education which is within the reach of so many American youths. He feels, oh! so unfit for much of the world’s work. What can he do? Well, he has not got the river, but he must learn that he has God, the glorious Lord.” The same holds true of the church. Some ministers may say: “My church is a very poor one. The neighborhood is only half settled. It is hard for me to maintain my home life without beggary, and my preaching without books.” Ah, friends, if you would only learn what I am talking about, that it is almost a good thing to be without the advantages that others have, because you can obtain from God a hundred-fold more! It is the weak whose strength God increases. It {s those that have no might or wisdom to whom God gives wisdom and righteousness and strength. It is in men like Paul, the weakest of the weak, that He perfects His grace. Neither men nor women nor circumstances are enough for the soul. Without all these, if you have God, you may be satisfied. Is not the wild flower satisfied when its roots can reach the Mississippi? Is not the humming-bird satisfied when it has all the myriad rays of the sun? Is not the little child satisfied when it has all the mother’s love and mind and soul? Was it not a quiet habitation? Is it not safe? Yes, my friend, in the absence of all else, the glorious Lord is enough. Many people put their circumstances always in the innermost circle, next their heart, and they put God outside, and look at Him through their wants and circumstances. It is like looking at the sun THROUGH A LONDON FOG. There are other people who put God next them, and their circumstances on the hills with Sennacherib. To those who have learned to live trusting in God, their habitations are quiet and safe. Put God between you and everything. Weary, storm-tossed heart, put Jesus between you and the crest of the wave. The envelope is useful to protect the letter it contains from being soiled or damaged. So when a man lives inside God he is protected, because enveloped. God is his environment, his wall of fire, his river and stream. They tell me that the regalia of a certain city in Europe are kept, not like that in the Tower of London, with iron bars all around, but on what appears to be an unprotected table. Yet I pity the man who should try to take one jewel from that crown, because a stream of electricity is always being poured around the table, so strong that if a man dared to touch it with his hand he would draw it back benumbed. That is the way to live. God is in you and around you. Live in a constant consciousness of the presence of God. Thus it befell Jerusalem. The glorious Lord was all around, above, within and without; and the result was that one day, “The Angel of Death laid his wings on the blast, And breathed on the face of the foe as he passed.” and the tents of the Assyrians were filled with the dead. Then they threw open the gates, and the people of Jerusalem streamed out, crossed the Kedron valley to the other side, and helped themselves to the spoils. Poor, lame Jerusalem was enriched by the prey. If there were any lame men inside the city, I think I hear them say: “We may as well have our share.” And on their crutches I see them limping down the valley, slowly climbing the further slope going from tent to tent, taking what they would. Do you know what it is to get spoil out of temptation, to gain out of sorrow, to be enriched by Sennacherib? Do” you dread sorrow, temptation, trouble? Oh that you knew what it is to be more than conquerors; not simply to be safe from Sennacherib, but TO GET SPOIL OUT OF HIS ATTACKS! I will show you how to do this. When Satan comes to you to tempt you to impurity, turn to Jesus and take anew of His purity. When he tempts you to irritability of temper, turn to Jesus and take a new armful of His patience. When he tempts you to be cowardly and weak, turn to Jesus and take a new heartful of His courage. As your weakness throws you more upon the help of Jesus Christ and you lean harder upon Him, you turn what the devil meant to be a stumbling-block into a stepping-stone. Oh! life is glorious when you live like that. The loneliness is gone, solitude is gone, the fear of failure is gone, the constant dread of being overcome by temptation is gone; and you have the sense of everything being beneath your feet because you are in the glorious Lord, and realize that Jesus Christ Himself is offering you wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Oh glorious riverlessness, that I may know His protection! Oh blessed poverty, that reveals to me His wealth! Oh desirable loneliness, that teaches me the friendship of the Brother Christ! Oh infirmity, and want, and sorrow, we hail you all! Had it not been for sin abounding, we never should have known that His grace abounds over all. The glorious Lord is a place of broad rivers and streams. If that be so, we are all come to the position in which we can learn to take. I suppose almost the most important distinction a man can learn to make is that between praying for a thing and taking it. The lame take the spoil. It is not said that they pray for it. Some one may perhaps say: “Well I am glad I dropped in to hear you. I hope I shall get some good from your brief stay in our city. I got some help tonight.”

I might ask: “In what way did you get help tonight?” “In this way: I think that henceforth I shall pray more than I have ever prayed.” I must certainly reply: “My friend, it is not a matter of praying more, it is that you should take more.” There is a whole world of difference between the prayer that supplicates and the faith that receives. There are a great many things in life for which we may claim an answer because they are according to God’s will. You do not need to pray to God to do as He has said, but to take what He offers. “The lame take the prey.” Let us all learn this lesson. Let us know that life is full of God, that there is as much of God here as in the Pentecostal chamber. But it is of no use for us to know this unless we have learned to take. “The lame take the prey.” I left my home in Hampstead, and went to live in a suite of chambers near my church in London. At first I much missed my own house on the breezy Hampstead hill, but finally I came to see how many modern conveniences had been adapted to the suite of chambers, and so became more and more content. There is electric light, gas fire, a supply of hot water, and so on, all very convenient. But I have sometimes thought that if I had taken a servant who had been brought up in one of our country-houses in England, where they light the farm-house fire at four or five o’clock in the morning with chips and wood and match, and trim the oil-lamp for light, if I put her in that flat of mine, and said: “You will find here everything you want; fire, light and hot water; I shall be in again in three or four hours”; I might come in at eleven o’clock and find her sitting there in the middle of the room in total darkness, sobbing out: “This is the most miserable place I was ever in.” “What is the matter? There is light, there is fire, there is water. Can’t you be happy?” “It is dark and cold and wretched.” Immediately I turn that switch, that key, that tap, and the place is full of light and heat, and the hot water is flowing. What is the difference between her and me? It is that I know how to use, how to appropriate, how to take, and she does not. Now that is the whole difference between some of God’s children and others. God is the same today as at Pentecost. Christ is the same here as in heaven. There is the same blessed power for the religious life. Some have learned the blessed art of taking it, but others only pray for it. If I can get you, not to pray for it, but to begin to take it, you will instantly step into a new experience. There- was as much electricity in the days of Alfred as there is today; the only difference is that Edison has taught us how to get the electricity out of cloud and air, sunbeam and earth, and how to yoke it to our chariot. Edison knows how to take, and has taught the lesson to the world. Oh, I wish I could teach you how to take the Divine electricity into your lives today! It is not by praying for it, it is by taking it.

Now consider the daily life. You get up in the morning, and when you are living like this you forecast the day. You say: “I am going to have breakfast with people that I dread, and I am so afraid I may lose my temper. Lord, I take grace for the breakfast hour. At ten o’clock I have to meet two or three men to discuss a very difficult problem. Lord, I claim and take wisdom for ten o’clock. At twelve o’clock I may be thrown into society, and greatly tempted to exaggerate, or to backbite, or to .libel other people’s character. Lord, for twelve o’clock I take the spirit of perfect love.” And so you forecast the whole day, and take things from God; moreover you believe that you have what you take. Then you count on God. You do not keep on praying, but you rise from your knees, saying, “I thank Thee, Father. Give me also what Thou seest I need,” and you go along your way reckoning on God. A man said to me, “If you pray like that, don’t you pray very short?” I replied, “Perhaps it does make one more short and businesslike in the supplication part of prayer, but there is so much to thank for, so many answers received, that it more than makes up for what is lost in direct supplication.” You may be weak, sinful, full of failure. You may be at the end of yourself, but you are very near God. Lame Mephibosheth sat at the King’s table:. And the poor, paralyzed man at the Beautiful Gate of the temple was made perfectly whole. Now, lame soul, take. What do you want from Jesus? Take Him to be that. Take the glorious Lord to be what you want most. Go home, and as you walk along say: “Yes, yes, I do take Jesus, my glorious Lord, to be to me a place of broad rivers for protection, and streams to supply my thirst and irrigate my plot. Then I shall have a habitation quiet from anxiety, quiet from restlessness, quiet from fear. The stakes will never be taken down. Sennacherib wilt . never get inside. My heart will lie on the very heart of God, satisfied and safe.”

Meyer, F. B. (2014-07-01). THE WORKS OF F. B. MEYER, Vol 1 (25 Works): 25 Classic Devotionals, Biographies and Teachings on the Higher Life (Kindle Locations 7348-7363).  . Kindle Edition.

Monday, May 18, 2015

HOW TO BE FREE

"For  I delight in the law of God,  in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" Romans 7:22-24 ESV

What a vivid picture Paul gives us! If we're honest, every human will admit to  having a moral center that knows what is right and wrong. Even the most ardent atheist will admit that human trafficking is wrong or that child abuse is abhorrent. No one will argue that theft or abuse of power runs against all decency. Yet, most of us don't wish to bring it to a personal level, like the apostle does. Only the penitent will look inside and see the wretched state of the soul as it rebels against each commandment, as if that commandment had opened some new opportunity for villainy.

"Thou shalt not covet!" and we start looking around, eying what others have, comparing and wanting more of other people's things or circumstances.

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me!" and we begin putting our hope in other means of securing our needs, such as money, fame, popularity or superstition.

Of course, many will know they covet, know they set up other gods, or commit adultery in their minds, or steal, lie and hate, but chalk it up to being "human." Nothing more to see here.

Yet, in the same breath, we decry injustice and suffering.

Those things are cut from the same cloth. Our hearts yearn to delight in the law of God. But only the penitent person will come to the shocking conclusion, "Wretched man/woman that I am!"

Paul pictures our 'flesh,' or sinful, rebellious nature as a "body of death." Back in Paul's day someone devised a torturous execution method by which a man would be tied to a rotting corpse. He would have to walk around with this putrefied body, which would infect the host, ultimately killing the victim over the course of several days. It may be that this was what the apostle envisioned when he said, "who will free me from this body of death?"

How can we be free from the flesh, whose end is death and whose rebellious works are killing our spirit?

The answer is that we cannot do this alone. Our best of intentions will never do. We need to let the flesh be considered dead with Christ on the cross and we need to take the righteousness of Jesus by right of faith.

Are you struggling with pride? Take Jesus humility. Do you feel the weight of lust? Take the purity of your Savior! For each ailment of our flesh is the more powerful antidote of God's Holy Spirit and character.

Who will free us from the body of death? Jesus will.

But you need to come to Him in repentance, accept His sacrifice as killing your flesh.

Paul says that we were "sold in sin." When we repent and accept Jesus as Lord, we are bought by God at the costs of His own blood. So, while the enemy may have sold us into vile slavery of evil passions, God has purchased us with His own blood.

Have you been purchased? Repent and make Jesus your Lord and you'll know that you were and are!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Contemporary "Worship" Fail



But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. John 4:23

Does anyone really think that Jesus meant we'd have these elaborate light shows, vapid songs with mindless repetition of "glory," "amazing," and "awesome?" Not to mention the personal pronouns that populate the so-called contemporary "worship" songs. 

In fairness, there are songs that are contemporary, meaning written in my lifetime, that have meaningful lyrics. In Christ Alone comes to mind. And there are others, too. Men and women who have not settled for using their talents for their career building or notoriety have been used by God to compose some wonderfully thoughtful songs that engage the mind and spirit. 

What I find odd is that these advocates of contemporary worship seem to wrinkle their noses at the hymns of the past. What was good and thought-provoking worship for hundreds of years needs sudden purging from our services, as if we're getting rid of moldy bread from the pantry. 

Once I commented that we don't just get rid of all the old devotionals from Spurgeon or Tozer just because we have Piper and MacDonald. But then I realized that ... Yes, we do! If you mention C.S. Lewis you might get a glimmer of recognition from the movies of the Chronicles of Narnia, but not for Mere Christianity, The Abolition of Man or The Great Divorce. If I mention F. B. Meyer (which I do, often) I get blank stares from folks. Mention Jonathan Edwards and people think of a slimy politician! Yet these men penned some great Christian works of Scriptural meditation that can enlighten us in our study. I could go on, but that's for another time. 

The point is, our "contemporary" mindset seems to be scornful of the past ... to our own detriment. How much truth have we sacrificed for so-called relevance? 

Take a gander at these lyrics: 

Long my imprisoned spirit lay / fast bound in sin and nature's night; 
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray / I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free
I rose, went forth and followed Thee. 
Amazing Love! How can it be, that thou, my God, should'st die for me? 

Just look at the Gospel spelled out in those lines of verse and the natural praise that flows out at the end? And that's just one of five verses, each packed with the power of a man who understood his claim in Jesus Christ and exalted in the purity of its truth and celebrated its power in his spirit. 

The last verse reads: 

No Condemnation now I dread / Jesus, and all in Him is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head / and clothed in righteousness divine.
Bold I approach the eternal throne 
And claim the crown through Christ, my own
 
This song is as relevant today as it was so long ago. Why doesn't it show up in contemporary worship? Why do we substitute it with songs that have three or four lines that get repeated several more times? 
I suspect Jesus is still searching for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. Those people will not try to have a "king to rule over them" like all the world around them. They won't look for the theater seating over the hard, wooden pews. Those things will not attract their notice because they are so enthralled with Jesus and the true life that He has given them.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

THE HAND OF GOD





I started this book ... oh, 3 or more years ago. I finished my first novel, The Next Chapter, then flirted with doing my book Bent, which ... well, I wasn't feeling it. 

When I penned The Next Chapter I had no kids at first, and I finished all the editing while only having babies. What does that have to do with anything? So what, who cares? 

Well, it makes a big difference. The Next Chapter is a pretty dark story involving child abduction and murder. It delves into political corruption and human trafficking.

Bent was going to be somewhat dark, too. And now I had 4 kids and they were growing and changing me. I needed something lighter. 

So, I turned to this idea I had for an adventure story. I kicked it off in Saudi Arabia with a woman and her fiance driving in from Jordan without permission, on a hunt for some broken tablets. While Brenna Kelley heads into a trap, her former love interest and professor is closing down his dig in Jordan, having run out of funding. Who should show up, but the swaggering Reverend Kelley, Brenna's father, along with a swanky suit from a rather disreputable antiquities dealer. They want him to rescue Brenna, of course.

And get the tablets for them. 

During the years of writing this, I deleted pages, worked on sub-plots and re-wrote whole sections. Along the way, it went from being a globe-trotting adventure to pretty much staying in Saudi Arabia. 

I also learned a lot of things in my devotions and research. 

I've finished the rough draft and am now moving to the editing phase. I am anxious to share this book with the world. I hope everyone finds it as thrilling as the ride these characters embarked on so many years ago.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Is Captain America a Christian?





It's a valid question. After all, he has an unshakable moral character that pretty much defines who he is. While The First Avenger didn't delve into his faith, it certainly showed him as a man who believes in standing up to evil, but not wanting to take part in anything that would be evil (as we see when Dr. Erskine asks him if he wants to kill Nazis. No, he doesn't want to kill anyone). 

In The Avengers, we hear him correct Black Widow that "There's only one God ... and he doesn't dress like that." 

With Age of Ultron we immediately learn that Cap holds his team to high standards of "language," which is consistent with a man of faith. Then we hear Tony Stark call him, "God's righteous man." 

Maybe those reading this post can think of something in The Winter Soldier that also revealed his possible faith. Off the top of my head, I think of his devotion to his friend and the fact that he loved him despite the evil that his friend was doing. That certainly lives up to a divine love that Jesus taught (Love your enemies). 

I guess this is why I have always liked Captain America. Even in the comics, he was developed as a man of faith, filled with a true righteousness, not self-righteousness. He stood up for the moral right, regardless of who it helped or chaffed. 

Kudos to Marvel and Kevin Feige, Joss Whedon and the Russos for keeping him that way. I think pop culture needs to be reminded that it is still awesome to be made of stern moral fiber. 

As Agent Coulson said in The Avengers, with everything going on in the world, we need a little old fashioned.

Monday, May 4, 2015

THE SECRET OF PRAYER



"I'm going in to surgery at 1:05pm, so please, everyone make a reminder to pray at that time..."

"Janice has an appointment to get that lump checked at 3:30, so let's all pray so that she'll get good news."

"Shout louder! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened." So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. (1 Kings 18:27-28)

I wonder, are Christians taking too many pages from the pagans in regard to prayer? Is there some mystic significance to walking around a building seven times? Why not eight? Why not skip, or stand on one's head? What if we cross ourselves at every intersection and say some chant? How about if we face the East, or get to the highest point in our house and only pray on clear days so the reception is clearest?

Sadly, there will be those that will have tried a few of those ridiculous things. Just like the prophets of Baal in the confrontation with Elijah. I'll point out that the people of Israel considered themselves God's people, even as they burned incense and had holy shrines to Baal. They still had the Temple. They still had priests. They still had their Jewish customs.

What they didn't have was a pure heart toward God. They were soiled with internal and external idol worship.

Of course, no one in America, much less the American churches worships idols! Folks in this modern age barely worship God, let alone a statue built, most likely in China.

And yet, everyone wants to do something that will turn "fate" in their favor. Hang a crystal on the north window to assist an aura or post the crucifix on doors and over entryways. Give money to a pastor to ensure favor with God and reap some bounty in material comfort or health.

It's all Baal worship.

What did Elijah do on Mount Carmel? After he had made it impossible for anyone to claim he had a secret spark hidden in the altar (he'd had three barrels of water poured over the alter so it was completely waterlogged), he "stepped forward and prayed." (1 Kings 18:36).

There was no jumping, marching, cutting, wailing, etc. from Elijah.

But wait, there's more! He did do something that is of note and that might help us understand the secret of prayer. In the Biblical narrative we go from Elijah giving the challenge to Ahab to the confrontation. They are one verse after the next. Ahab, however, had to assemble the prophets of Baal (400 of them) throughout all of Israel. So, this wasn't something that happened within five minutes. The instruction from Ahab went out and the prophets had to be assembled.

What did Elijah do? We're not told, but we know that the people and Ahab met Elijah on Mount Carmel. So, he gave the challenge according to the word of God that he'd been entrusted, and he went up the mountain. For as much as a week or more, depending on the quickness of Ahab's messengers, Elijah stayed on the mountain, communing with God in prayer. He prepared his heart for the confrontation with the world.

What would be the elements of prayer? How could we have the effective prayer of an Elijah?

First, Elijah prayed what God wanted. He didn't tack on a request for some better sandals or other personal item. His soul was stirred with the thought of God's glory and he wanted Israel to turn away from the pagan worship to the true God. Our prayers will be effective when we do the same thing.

Second, Elijah was pure of any defiling sinful lifestyle. He kept himself separate from the people and their sinful drift away from true worship. He didn't take part in their social life, which was saturated with Baals and other pagan things. He spent time with God, alone.

Last, Elijah had become totally dependent on God. He'd spent the drought at a dwindling river being fed by crows. He waited as the water ran down to a trickle and only moved when God gave him direction.

How often we think, "God doesn't drive parked cars!" and we forge ahead on our own steam. We pray as an afterthought, hoping to call down a blessing on our own initiative. We think, mistakenly, that we're the captains of our fate.

So, where does that lead us? If we want to be self-willed, independent, soiled in the world, we must, like the prophets of Baal, find another way to incur God's notice and favor. So, we think that by praying at the exact time that something will happen, we will catch God's notice at the right time so He'll answer. Or, if we walk around a building seven times (since that kind of sounds kind of Biblical) will that garner God's grace?

The answer is no. In fact, it is exactly what Jesus said NOT to do: "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others." Matthew 6:5 Jesus goes on to say, "And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the pagans do, for they think they will be heard for their many words." Matthew 6:7

God will hear the prayer of his children in secret, when they pray to their Father in the nature of Christ, who was submissive to the Father's will. No one can be rebellious to God's will and expect to have their prayers heard. Even if they walk around a building seven times on their hands, reciting the "prayer of Jabez."

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron





While Captain America chided, "Language" to the team, he didn't call out "Blasphemy" when the Vision declared, "I am." 

But I think Joss Whedon, despite his vocal atheism, must have some working Biblical knowledge. This wouldn't be the first time he's made reference to Christianity or the Bible. Remember the first Avengers movie in which Captain added the line, "There's only one God ... and he doesn't dress like that!" In the same movie, Stark asks his A.I. Jarvis if he remembers the story of Jonah. Jarvis notes that he doesn't think Jonah was a role model. 

All good things. Jonah, in fact, is not a role model. The whole going into the belly of the great fish was a result of his sinful will to run from God's direct order to preach repentance to a wicked city that was oppressing Jonah's ethnic people. 

In the Age of Ultron, Joss is tackling the issue of human depravity. As Nick Fury notes, "Trouble, there's always trouble." Yep. And, as Ultron sees it, humans are to blame. Evoking the story of Noah and the Ark, Ultron feels it is his mission to destroy humanity to give it a fresh start. Like God and Noah did in the Bible. 

One problem: Ultron isn't God or Noah. God is all knowing and the Creator, so He would know what is best. Utron is once removed from the creations of God (in this fictional setting) having been created by a human. The movie implies that Ultron actually inherited the hubris of Tony Stark with none of Stark's mediating compassion. In other words, he hates the bad things of the world, but knows no love. 

Without spoiling any plot points, the character of the Vision comes to life at a time where no one can trust anyone else. Since the last robotic A.I. has determined to destroy the world, the Avengers are not so sure about this new one. In answering who he is, he says that he doesn't know, but that "I am." 

I think Joss, with his knowledge of the Bible is well aware that God is the great I Am. It's what he told Moses to say when they asked who God was. Those were the words Jesus spoke, which had the Pharisees call for his stoning at one point. Joss knows what those words mean. 

It seems to me that Joss is not lost on the idea that the world needs saving. All of comic book hero stories generally involve a world on the brink of destruction, needing saving. We look to heroes, naturally. In Age of Ultron, Stark tries to make a hero to save the world and to take away the burden that the Avengers share. 

If you'll indulge me, the Avengers might be like the Apostles, taking the salvation to the world. What Christian doesn't want rest from the burden of the Great Commission? The mistake in the movie would be to create some salvation other than Jesus. With Vision, it seems that Joss is giving him that Messianic quality. 

Is it blasphemy? Yes, in the strictest sense. But, it does open a conversation. And Joss is not a believer whose mind has been enlightened by the Holy Spirit of God. So, we might properly say, he knows not what he's saying. 

For me, I found the movie to be very entertaining. I watched it with my family, even though swear words continued despite the good Captain's reminder to watch it.

Friday, May 1, 2015

MANSIONS OF THE FATHER'S HOUSE



into which the King will lead us presently, chamber after chamber of delight, stretch after stretch of golden glory, until these natures, which are but as an infant's, have developed to the measure of the stature of our full growth, unto the likeness of the Son of God. O soul! where have you got to? Do not linger inside the first chamber, but press on and forward. If any door seems locked, knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Never consider that you have attained, or are already perfect, but follow on to apprehend all that for which Jesus Christ apprehended you.

Meyer, F. B. (2014-07-01). THE WORKS OF F. B. MEYER, Vol 1 (25 Works): 25 Classic Devotionals, Biographies and Teachings on the Higher Life (Kindle Locations 5565-5569).  . Kindle Edition.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

THE CHAMBER OF FELLOWSHIP IN CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS



It may be so. All along the Christian's course there is a great and growing love for the world for which He died. But there are times when that love amounts almost to an agony of compassion and desire; and there come sufferings caused by the thorn-crown, the sneer, the mockery, the cross, the spear, the baptism of blood and tears. All these fall to the lot of the followers of the King; and perhaps they come most plentifully to the saintliest, the likest to the Lord. But certain it is that those who suffer thus are they who reign. Their sufferings are not for a moment to be compared to the glory revealed in their lives. And out of their bitter griefs, sweetened by the Cross, gush water-springs to refresh the weary heritage of God, like the waters of Exodus (Exod. xi: 25).

Meyer, F. B. (2014-07-01). THE WORKS OF F. B. MEYER, Vol 1 (25 Works): 25 Classic Devotionals, Biographies and Teachings on the Higher Life (Kindle Locations 5558-5563).  . Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

THE CHAMBER OF HEART REST



The King Himself spoke its motto-text: "Take My yoke, and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matt. xi: 29). Soft strains float on the air; the peace of God stands sentry against intruding care. Of course the soul learnt something of rest at the very outset. But those words of the Master indicate that there are at least two kinds of rest. And so the rest of forgiveness passes into the rest of surrender and satisfaction. We lay our worries and cares where once we only laid our sins. We lose the tumultuous fever and haste of earlier days. We become oblivious to praise on the one hand and censure on the other. Our soul is poised on God, satisfied with God, seeks nothing outside God, regards all things from the standpoint of eternity and of God. The life loses the babble of its earlier course, and sweeps onward to the ocean from which it derived its being, with a stillness which bespeaks its depth, a serenity which foretells its destiny. The very face tells the tale of the sweet, still life within, which is attuned to the everlasting chime of the land where storms come not, nor conflict, nor alarm.

Meyer, F. B. (2014-07-01). THE WORKS OF F. B. MEYER, Vol 1 (25 Works): 25 Classic Devotionals, Biographies and Teachings on the Higher Life (Kindle Locations 5549-5557).  . Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

THE CHAMBER OF VICTORY OVER SIN



Above the door are the words:  "Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not" (I John iii: 6).  Around the walls hang various instruments of war (Eph. vi: 13); and frescoes of the overcomers receiving the fair rewards which the King hath promised (Rev. ii, iii).  We must be careful of the order in which we put these things. Many seek victory over sin before yielding themselves entirely to God. But you can never enter this chamber where the palm branch waves unless you have passed through the chamber of consecration. Give yourself wholly up to Jesus, and He will keep you. Will you dare to say that He can hold the oceans in the hollow of His hand, and sustain the arch of heaven, and fill the sun with light for milleniums, but that He can not keep you from being overcome by sin, or filled with the impetuous rush of unholy passion? Can He not deliver His saints from the sword, His children from the power of the dog? Is all power given Him in heaven and on earth, and must He stand paralyzed before the devils that possess you, unable to cast them out? To ask such questions is to answer them. "I am persuaded He is able to keep." (2 Tim. i: 12; I John v: II.) We may expect to be tempted till we die. We certainly shall carry about with us an evil nature, which would manifest itself, unless kept in check by the grace of God. But if we abide in Christ, and He abide in us, if we live under the power of the Holy Spirit, temptation, will excite no fascination in us, but, on the contrary, horror; the least stirring of our self-life will be instantly noticed, and met by the Name and Blood and Spirit of Jesus; the tides of His purity and life will flow so strongly over our being as to sweep away any black drops of ink oozing upward from the sands. You must, however, irrevocably shut the back door as well as the front door, against sin. You must not dally with it as possible in any form. You must see that you are shut up to saintliness by the purpose of God (Rom. viii: 29). You must definitely and forever elect the cross as the destiny of your self-life. And you will find that He will save you from all that you dare to trust Him with, "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that I have given unto thee." And His work within is most perfect when it is least apparent, and when the flesh is kept so utterly in abeyance that we begin to think it has been altogether extracted.

Meyer, F. B. (2014-07-01). THE WORKS OF F. B. MEYER, Vol 1 (25 Works): 25 Classic Devotionals, Biographies and Teachings on the Higher Life (Kindle Locations 5531-5547).  . Kindle Edition.

Monday, April 27, 2015

THE CHAMBER OF ABIDING IN CHRIST



Around the doorway a vine is sculptured, with trailing branches and pendent grapes; and, entwined among the foliage, these words appear: "Abide in Me, and l in you" (John xv: 4). The Holy Spirit never reveals Himself. Those who have most of His grace, "wist it not." His chosen work is to reveal the Lord. We are not conscious of the Spirit, but of Him who is the Alpha and Omega of our life. Christ's loveliness fills the soul where the Spirit is in full possession, as the odor of the ointment filled the house at Bethany. Our Lord is with us all the days; but often our eyes are holden, that we do not know Him; and if for a radiant moment we discern Him, He vanishes from our sight. There is an experience in which we do not only believe that He is near, but we perceive His presence by the instinct of the heart. He becomes a living, bright reality; sitting over our hearth, walking beside us through the crowded streets, sailing with us across the stormy lake, standing beside the graves that hold our dead, sharing our crosses and our burdens, turning the water of common joys into the wine of holy sacraments. Then the believer leans hard on the ever-present Lord, drawing on His fulness, appropriating His unsearchable riches, claiming for Him grace to turn every temptation into the means of increasing likeness to Himself. And if the branch abide constantly in the Vine, it can not help bearing fruit; nay, the difficulty would be to keep the fruit back. We have to do with the death and not with the life part of our experience (Rom. viii: 13). The oftener we sow ourselves in the clods of daily self-denial, falling into the furrows to die, the more fruit we bear. It is by always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus is made manifest in our mortal flesh. Prune off every bud on the old stock, and all the energy will pass up to the rare flowers and fruits grafted there by Heaven.

Meyer, F. B. (2014-07-01). THE WORKS OF F. B. MEYER, Vol 1 (25 Works): 25 Classic Devotionals, Biographies and Teachings on the Higher Life (Kindle Locations 5516-5529).  . Kindle Edition.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

THE CHAMBER OF THE FILLING OF THE SPIRIT




And above the entrance glisten the words: "Be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. v: 18). We gladly admit that the Holy Spirit is literally in the heart of every true believer (Rom. viii: 9); and that the whole work of grace in our souls is due to Him, from the first desire to be saved to the last prayer breathed on the threshold of heaven. But it is also true that a period comes in our education, when we become more alive to the necessity of the Holy Spirit, and seek for more of His all-pervading, heart-filling presence. Many of us have been startled to find that we have been content with too little of the Holy Spirit. There has been enough throne-water to cover the stones in the river-bed, but not to fill its channel. Instead of occupying all, our gracious Guest has been confined to one or two back rooms of our hearts; as a poor housekeeper is sometimes put in to keep a mansion, dwelling in attic or cellar, while the suites of splendid apartments are consigned to dust-sheets and cobwebs, shuttered, dismantled and locked. Each Christian has the Holy Spirit; but each Christian needs more and more of Him, until the whole nature is filled. Nay, it would be truer to say, the Holy Spirit wants more and more of us. Let us ask our heavenly Father to give us of His Spirit in ever-enlarging measures; and as we ask, let us yield ourselves incessantly to His indwelling and inworking. Then let us believe that we are filled, not because we feel it, but because we are sure that God is keeping His word with us: "Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water." It is true that the filling of the Spirit involves a separation, a giving up, a going apart, which is keenly bitter to the flesh. The filling of Pentecost is a baptism of fire. But there is joy amid the flames as the bonds shrivel, and the limbs are free, and the Son of God walks beside. But this chamber leads to another of exceeding blessedness,

Meyer, F. B. (2014-07-01). THE WORKS OF F. B. MEYER, Vol 1 (25 Works): 25 Classic Devotionals, Biographies and Teachings on the Higher Life (Kindle Locations 5501-5515).  . Kindle Edition.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Chamber of a Surrendered Will


THE CHAMBER OF A SURRENDERED WILL



 Above the doorway stand the words: "From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear branded on my body the marks of Jesus,' 'Whose I am, and whom I serve" (Gal. vi: 17, R. V., and Acts xxvii: 23). Consecration is giving Jesus His own. We are His by right, because He bought us with His blood. But, alas! He has not had His money's worth! He paid for all, and He has had but a fragment of our energy, time and earnings. By an act of consecration, let us ask Him to forgive the robbery of the past, and let us profess our desire to be henceforth utterly and only for Him; His slaves, His chattels, owning no master other than Himself. As soon as we say this, He will test our sincerity, as He did the young ruler's, by asking something of us. He will lay His finger on something within us which He wants us to alter, obeying some command, or abstaining from some indulgence. If we instantly give up our will and way to Him, we pass the narrow doorway into the Chamber of Surrender, which has a southern aspect, and is ever warm and radiant with His presence, because obedience is the condition of manifested love (John xiv: 23). This doorway is very narrow, and the entrance is only possible for those who will lay aside weights as well as sins. A weight is anything which, without being essentially wrong or hurtful to others, is yet a hindrance to ourselves. We may always know a weight by three signs: first, we are uneasy about it; second; we argue for it against our conscience; third, we go about asking people's advice, whether we may not keep it without harm. All these things must be laid aside in the strength which Jesus waits to give. Ask Him to deal with them for you, that you may be set in joint in every good work to do His will (Heb. xiii: 2I).

Meyer, F. B. (2014-07-01). THE WORKS OF F. B. MEYER, Vol 1 (25 Works): 25 Classic Devotionals, Biographies and Teachings on the Higher Life (Kindle Locations 5487-5499).  . Kindle Edition.