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Little Girl, Rise Up

This is the post excerpt.

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(originally posted on 7/2/2015 at littlegirlriseup.blogspot.com)

He took her by the hand and told her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Young lady, I tell you, get up!” (Mark 5:41)

God has been working on me over the last 3 years.  A lot.  Granted, He has worked on me my entire life, but He’s definitely put the pedal to the metal over the last 3 years.
Three years ago, I finally read the Bible from cover to cover.  Something every single professing Christian should do.  It will change your life.
Three years ago, I started a weekly discipleship through a small local church.  Something every single professing Christian should do.  It will make you usable.
Three years ago, God revealed to me my spiritual gift.  Something every single professing Christian should seek.  It will give you purpose.

Where I was once quick to share my thoughts on a matter, God began to reel me in to be more of an observer than a participant.  Anyone who knows me personally can attest that water boarding would be a more humane sentence for someone such as myself, than to sit idly by without interjecting my two-cents.
But that’s the problem:  it’s MY two-cents.
My two-cents do nothing to build God’s kingdom.

You see, anyone that desires to be used by God must first ask God to make them usable.  And anyone that God chooses to make useable as a mouth-piece absolutely must learn two integral things:  1.)  Self-restraint, and 2.) Discernment.
Self restraint, because it is human nature to allow our emotions to be our engine, rather than our caboose. Self-restraint, because before anything is ever said, God needs to be consulted on the matter, and God works on His schedule, not ours, and quite frankly, sometimes God takes His sweet time.  And discernment, because it’s important to discern our own thoughts from those truly inspired by the Holy Spirit.  Our own thoughts aren’t going to accomplish much, but those truly inspired by the Holy Spirit and founded in God’s Word are “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)  Which means if your words are inspired by the Holy Spirit, they will be received by those meant to hear them.

That is my prayer for this blog.

 

 

Seated In Love

My six-year old has been sick this week.  The days she has been home sick, she has spent most of her time in my bed watching Christmas shows while I piddle around the house.  Throughout the day she wanders out of the bedroom to look for me.  She follows me around for a little while and then I usher her back into my bedroom where she stays for a little while, then inevitably wanders back out again to find me, follow me around for a little while, then I usher her back into the bedroom, and round and round we continue.  This morning I put on a movie for her so I could go into my closet and have some much needed quiet time with God.  I spent some time praising Him and had just begun to pray when she peeked her head through the door and crept in to see what I was doing.  A little irritated, I asked her what she needed and she replied, “I didn’t know where you were so I looked for you.”  I told her that I was right here, literally within feet of her the whole time.  And she responded, “But I can’t see you, and when I can’t see you it feels like you’re not there.”

So often I have felt this way with God.  I often feel like my daughter– content for a little while with the thought that He is near, yet inevitably succumbing to the desire to begin wandering around trying to find Him because when I can’t see Him, it feels like He’s not there.  But just like I am literally within a few steps from my daughter, God is always within arm’s length from us.  My daughter may not know where I am, but she is safe because I know where she is.  She is safe even though she can’t see me and may feel like I’m not there.

I think of the affection I feel for my daughter when I see her sweet, seeking face come around a corner or into a room and the look of relief and comfort that washes over her when she sees me standing there.  I am not angry with her because she gets anxious and doubtful.  I don’t say, “Why don’t you trust me?  Why don’t you believe me?” I don’t say these things to her because I understand that she needs to feel the comfort of my presence.  If I feel such affection, mercy, and understanding toward my daughter, I think of how much more understanding, mercy, and affection God must feel toward us.  I want her to feel safe and I want her to feel loved and I want her to trust me and know that I am trustworthy and I want her to know that my love for her is real.  I am prone to temptation and sin and if I, flawed and prone to such, feel such wonderful things toward my daughter, how much more does God, in His utter perfection, flawlessness, and holiness, feel those things toward us?

Jesus promised us, “…surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age”(Matt 28:20).  He also said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23).  The word translated as “home” is the Greek word MONEN, which means dwelling place or abode.  It literally means a place where a person remains or abides.  A place where someone is at home and can always be found.  Jesus promised those who love Him, “Surely, I can always be found with you because I dwell with you, I am at home in you, seated in your love for Me.  Your faith is My abode.”

“My God, I cry out by day, but You do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. But You are holy, You Who inhabit the praises of Israel.” (Psalm 22:2,3)

“In Him the whole building is fitted together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together into a dwelling place for God in His Spirit.” (Eph 2:21,22)

“Do you not know that you yourselves are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16)

“What agreement can exist between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people.'” (2 Cor 6:16)

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.” (Psalm 139:7-10).

Both Faces Of God

When I look at contemporary Christianity, I see a lot of vanity, distraction and ignorance.  I see a lot of ugly, hard truths that need to be faced that we don’t wanna face.  I see plastic smiles and plastic platitudes peddling a plastic Jesus.  I see a lot of Band-Aids being applied to mortal wounds.  There are many hard, ugly truths that need to be faced in the church, but one which seems to consistently prick at my soul is the ugly, bitter pill of truth that the church is not a fraternity and was never meant to be one.

We must move past the mindset that the church is a fraternity.
The church is a family of brothers and sisters.  It is not a club for men who want authority, a title, recognition, power, or an order of brotherhood.  If your desire to serve Christ is fueled by bravado and an appeal to your masculinity, then it is a desire rooted in vanity.  The answer to liberal feminism is not glorified masculinity.  Christ never appealed to the men He chose by telling them that they were destined for greatness because they were men.  He never encouraged them in any way by a vain appeal to their gender.  Christ spoke to their soul.  He taught them to use their minds and hearts as human instruments of God, not as warriors on a God-given conquest.  Our identity in Christ isn’t prioritized by how manly or womanly we are, it is prioritized by how pure our heart is and how teachable we are (Matt 5:8; 20:25-28; 23:10-12; Psalm 24:3,4).

There is brotherhood to be found in the church, but it is encompassed in the context of the unity we are to have in Christ (Gal 3:28).  Which means that along with brotherhood, there is also sisterhood and both are supposed to work together in unity and in mutual submission toward a mutual goal (Eph 5:21).  Recognize it or not, there is latent misogyny in the evangelical church and many are not willing to address it, whether out of ignorance or of fear of being labeled as a progressive feminist Nazi.  It is a misogyny that is masked with a veneer of patriarchal self-righteousness and a smug, misguided scriptural purpose.  Many churches are filled with gifted, intelligent women, who are systematically discriminated against and ignored simply because they are not men.  Don’t waste your breath saying that women are of equal value and importance in the church when your actions speak otherwise.  God doesn’t fill women with the gift of leadership to just be the church secretary or run the nurseries.  God doesn’t bless a woman with the circumstances and ability to acquire a Master’s Degree in theology to just pick out Sunday School curriculum.

We must apply an even hermeneutic.
How this is worked out in each church will be different, which is why women’s roles in the church are considered a secondary issue and many churches will have different interpretations of the proper application of scripture in our time and culture.  The reality is, we don’t apply an even hermeneutic to how we interpret scripture on this issue.  Case in point, most of the evangelical church disregards almost all of 1 Corinthians 14 as no longer applicable, except for two verses.  Which means that thirty-eight verses are thrown out, except for the two that talk about women being silent in the church.  1 Timothy 2:8 is cast aside into the pen of extinct cultural application, in favor of staunch legalistic adherence to 2:11 & 12 without any regard to context.  Paul’s example of Eve’s deception at verse 13 is interpreted as an eternal restriction upon women, even though he uses the same analogy at 2 Cor 11:3 as an example of the susceptibility of deception within the church as a whole.  Such inconsistency is reprehensible.

All scripture that is interpreted as restrictive upon women–which is, in actuality, a scant few verses– is didactic in nature.  The “letter” genre of scripture–which encompasses all of Paul’s writings– is didactic, which means by nature, it is situational and occasional.  It was written to address specific situations during a specific frame of time, which means not only that the theology being discussed was written for the task or situation at hand, but also means that we have to be aware of cultural relativity.  Meaning, we must apply good exegesis to determine what applies to the original audience alone, versus what spiritual principles are being taught that transcend culture and are a word to be applied for all seasons.  Good exegesis reconstructs the original situation the author was addressing, so that correct context can be determined.  Correct context is critical for determining proper application.

This is not a moral issue.
How women function in the church is not a moral issue.  And sin is not a cultural issue.  Sin is sin and God’s view of sin does not change with the culture.  Homosexuality, adultery and fornication are moral issues.  They are sins and they will always be sins no matter what the cultural context is.  Sin is never a secondary issue because sin affects salvation and the working out thereof.  Thus, to put women’s roles in the church in the same category as allowing homosexuality in the church or overlooking adultery and fornication among the men is not only utterly absurd, but also grossly out of context.  It is argumentum ad hominem.

We must look at the bigger picture and focus on the central Biblical message.
The reality is, that there are scriptural applications which must be interpreted by looking at the overall Biblical witness and message and by applying an even, consistent hermeneutic based on that witness and message.  Slavery, which scripture was used to justify, would be included in such an application (1 Cor 7:21; Col 3:22; 4:1; Eph 6:5-9; 1 Tim 6:1,2; Titus 2:9,10; 1 Peter 2:18).  Also segregation (1 Kings 11:2; Deut 7:3,4; Joshua 23:12; Ezra 9:2; Nehemiah 13:23-25; Psalm 106:35), not giving women the right to vote (Eph 5:22; 1 Pet 3:1,2; 1 Cor 14:34; Col 3:18), and, believe it or not, even restricting pain prevention during childbirth was once justified by scripture (Gen 3:16).  Many times we interpret scripture pursuant to our personal perspective, feelings or opinions, and this is not an appropriate hermeneutic.

The fact of the matter is that half, and in many circumstances, over half the church is composed of women.  Yet in most evangelical churches they are woefully underrepresented and many feel that they have no voice.  In many evangelical churches, women are completely unrepresented in visible leadership roles and all church decisions are made by men.  People are leaving the church in droves and we must take an honest look at ourselves and ask why?  And I don’t believe there will be a single answer.  But I do believe that part of the answer “why” will include our insistence to continue following vain methodologies and empty traditions rather than the leading of the Spirit, which was the fatal flaw of the Pharisees.  I believe that the mentality of “the women serve the men as the men serve Christ” was never Christ’s intention for the church in the first place.  I believe that God will bring revival to the church and it is a revival that will be composed of both men and women working together, lifting each other up, encouraging each other, serving each other, doing nothing out of selfish pride or ambition, but in humility considering others more important than themselves, not looking to their own interests but putting other’s needs before their own (Phil 2:3-5).  It will be a church without compartmentalization and without division, structured around Christ and Him alone.

I do not covet the pulpit, nor do I desire to have authority over men.  Honestly, I have no desire to have authority over anybody because I have four daughters to raise and a farm to maintain and Bible college to finish and a church to serve and I ain’t got that kind of time.  But I will say that I am neither complimentarian nor egalitarian because for me to categorize myself into one camp or the other would be to categorize God.  It would be for me to assume that God is with one camp and against the other, which would be to further exacerbate the ingroup/outgroup mentality that pervades the church.  It would be for me to encourage the “us versus them” attitude.  Paul says about secondary issues in the church, to be “fully convinced in your own mind” (Rom 14:5).  Which means that churches which interpret scripture one way on the issue should not be condemned or criticized by those who interpret it another way.  There are copious amounts of theological pontificating on both sides of the argument, both presenting reasonable arguments, both resolute in their “correctness” of interpretation, both of which should let the other be, until Jesus comes back to sort out the details.

Any form of discrimination not rooted in moral preservation creates, fuels, and fosters division in the church and opens the doors to bitterness, resentment, contempt and needless despondency and discouragement.  Regardless of how either side interprets scripture, God is most fully and gloriously represented through both men and women, which is why He created both genders and not just one.  He created them both to each be equally dependent upon the other, each voice and each perspective indispensable to the other, which means that each voice and each perspective are also dependent upon each other and indispensable to the other in the church.  In every area of the church.  Which means that men and women–both faces of God– must work together in unity, rather than in exclusion, and in mutual submission rather than singular submission, toward a mutual goal of sharing the Gospel, making disciples, and building Christ’s kingdom.

“God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'”(Gen 1:27,28)

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph 5:21)

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28)

“For we are members of His body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am speaking about Christ and the church.” (Eph 5:30-32)

“…But God has composed the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its members should have mutual concern for one another. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ and each of you is a member of it.” (1 Cor 12:24-27)

Rise Up

Monday night I was falling asleep and I heard in my mind, “Pray for sinners.”  I bolted up in bed and as soon as I realized what had just happened, I thought to myself, “That’s it?  Pray for sinners?  God You could have told me anything, but You picked this?”  It seemed so mundane, and to tell Christians to pray for sinners seems like a foregone conclusion.  I thought, “God surely You don’t expect me to just tell everyone You said, ‘Pray for sinners’, because their reaction is gonna be like, ‘Well, duh.  Thanks for the earth-shaking revelation.'”

It is extremely rare that I hear the Holy Spirit that clearly.  So rare, that it always catches me off guard.  And so far, on those rare occasions in which I have heard the Spirit in mind so clearly, the words I hear don’t seem very earth-shaking.  But that is exactly what we see in Scripture.  Scripture tells us that God uses the weak and foolish things of the world, the lowly and despised– the things that are not, so that He can bring to nothing the things that are– so that no one can boast in His presence (1 Cor 1:27-29).  That is why God changes the course of history through nondescript mangers.  He pours out Living Water in the isolated, scantly populated deserts of Galilee.  He redeems through unknown Carpenters.  One thing I have learned though, is that when God does speak, He is always communicating something important, but He wants us to seek Him further for the true depths of understanding, because that is how a conversation works and that is how you have a relationship with someone.  So, although in my own thinking and understanding I didn’t really know what He meant by “pray for sinners”, I knew He would give me the deeper understanding I needed if I were to faithfully seek His presence through prayer.  Which is exactly what I did over the next couple days, and this is what was laid upon my heart by the Holy Spirit to communicate to believers:

The misguided and misdirected among the human race are not your enemies (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60; Eph 6:12).  They are the pitiable slaves of your true enemy [Satan].
Just as scripture says that those in Christ are slaves to righteousness (Rom 6:18), those not in Christ are slaves to wickedness (2 Peter 2:19).  They are the children of their father, the devil (John 8:44). They are children of wrath (Eph 2:3), sons of disobedience (Eph 2:2, Col 3:6), and workers of iniquity (Matt 7:23).
Pray for sinners because you are going to be tempted to hate them, despise them, feel contempt and bitterness toward them, and feel discouraged by them, which will tempt even more believers into apostasy (2 Thess 2:3).
Pray for sinners because the devil works through them to batter the church and wage war on the church.  The weapons of your warfare and defense are not carnal, but divinely powered to demolish strongholds, arguments, presumptions and wicked machinations in the spiritual realm (2 Cor 10:4).
Pray for sinners because you are the only ones who will.  You are the only voices in heaven crying out to the Advocate on their wretched behalf (1 John 2:1).  You are a nation of priests, you are the sons and daughters of Your heavenly Father, crying out for the salvation of those who hate you (1 Peter 2:9; Matt 5:44,45).
Pray for sinners because beware you think you stand, lest you fall (1 Cor 10:11-13).  Pray that you yourselves are not tempted (Luke 22:46; 2 Peter 3:17).
Pray for sinners because they are lost and do not know the way.  You are the representatives of the heart of Christ, Who came to seek and save the lost and call sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32; 19:10).
Christ fought the greatest battle that has ever been won, and He waged it through prayer.
He defended Peter–the rock of His church, the one that would establish the foundation of the church– through prayer (Luke 22:32).
Christ would remove Himself from the crowds to pray (Luke 5:16; Matt 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12; Luke 9:28).
His prayers were intentional and done in isolation, and He purposefully sought the presence of God.
The night before His death, He covered His disciples and the mission which was entrusted to them in prayer (John 17).
The early church operated through prayer (Acts 1:14; 2:42).

God has been really burdening me with the understanding that we will not spiritually survive the days ahead without prayer.  I cannot stress this enough.  You cannot underestimate your enemy and for crying out loud, we have got to get out of the mindset that we are just supposed to twiddle our thumbs while we wait for Christ to take us home.  WE ARE AT WAR PEOPLE!  And we’re DYING OUT HERE, while lukewarm, armchair Christians try to convince everyone that we’re just supposed to “rest in Christ” until He returns.  Paul clearly teaches that we are in a battle we are expected to fight in.  Why would we need armor IF WE AIN’T FIGHTIN’ NOBODY??  Paul teaches that we are at war with rulers, authorities, and powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms“therefore put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand”(Eph 6:12,13).  Well guess what….WE ARE LIVING IN THAT DAY OF EVIL.  That “day of evil” has come, we’re chest-deep in it, and there aren’t many of us out here swinging a sword because nobody has time to pray.  If you ain’t prayin’ then you ain’t even on the battlefield.

For the most part, Western Christianity is abysmally lacking in powerful, consistent, heartfelt prayer.  You are lucky to find a church nowadays that even has prayer meetings, and for those few that still do, it is usually only the same few people that actually show up.  Heck, you are lucky nowadays to even find a Christian that consistently goes to church (Heb 10:25).  The key element about the term “Body of Christ” is that all the parts need to be together to work right.  There are too many people trying to have an isolated relationship with God and they have no spiritual accountability to other believers (Prov 27:17; James 5:16) and are thus, spiritually ineffective and inert.

Throughout the last week or so, the phrase, “Rise Up”, keeps going through my mind over and over.  The other day I was sitting at my computer working and the thought entered my mind, “To Rise Up, You Must Begin On Your Knees.”  Indeed, we rise up to the throne of God to present our supplications and requests by getting on our knees in prayer.  We rise up against rulers, authorities and powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms by getting on our knees in faith that our Father has given us the victory.  We rise up in victory, by humbling ourselves before the throne.

Rise Up.

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rom 8:16-18)

“Now we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this surpassingly great power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor 4:7-9)

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Eph 6:18)

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Col 4:2)

“Pray without ceasing.” (2 Thess 5:17)

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph 6:14-17)

The Gospel Of Exile And Rejection

A few years ago when I felt God leading me to start my blog, I had big plans.  In 2012 He had led me to a small rural church where I started discipling under the Pastor and eventually started leading a women’s Bible study group.  I was determined to grow the group, so we did mailers and I went around and placed announcements on people’s car windshields.  I put up posters around town and regularly posted Facebook announcements.  Our church wasn’t growing, not one visitor in almost 3 years, but I had determined in my heart that I was going to grow it, even if that meant we had a church full of women.  Besides, I figured I had “a lot to offer God”, and I had all sorts of innovative ideas.

When I started the blog, I was ready to market it, advertise it and promote it.  God had given me the gift of writing and I was ready to use it for His glory….and mine.  I could easily write on topics that were captivating and engaging.  I could easily capitalize on the human tendency toward emotional appeal and prostitute my creativity toward cultural conformity.  I could easily weave together familiar culture and just enough Jesus to make it marketable.  But God said “No”, and fortunately He helped me recognized it for the common temptation it was, and is, for many in ministry.

When I first started this blog, God laid on my heart that I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone that I was writing it.  There would be no promoting, no advertising, no marketing.  He also laid on my heart that the only thing I would ever write on here was what He laid on my heart to write.  I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve started and never finished, or finished and trashed.  I can’t tell you how many of these articles I’ve published and been hesitant to publish, for fear of what people might think.  For the first six months I wrote silently, the only person who knew was my Pastor.  For those six months I often whined to God, feeling like it was pointless and a waste of time to be pouring my heart out to no one.  Then one day, after six months of obedience, I felt led to put a link to an article on my Facebook page.  Ironically enough, it was to an article that I didn’t feel comfortable sharing. Another hurdle of obedience.  And so it’s been ever since– one hurdle of obedience after the other.  God’s way, God’s timing, God’s purposes.

The reason I’m sharing this is because of an article I read this morning about Benny Hinn’s nephew. He tells about growing up in the worldly fruits of wealth and fame that come from the prosperity gospel.  He tells of the extravagant lifestyle afforded to those whose ministry is based on emotional appeal and capitalizing upon the human tendencies of desperation, greed, and naiveté.  He tells how the truth of the real Gospel message of meekness and humility and rejection mercifully brought the whole facade of the prosperity gospel crashing down in his life.  He tells of coming out of the confusion of the prosperity gospel  and into the clarity of God’s true vision for His people, which is evangelism and discipleship that “transforms lost souls into found saints.”

Many of us are already aware of the illegitimacy of the prosperity gospel, so this comes as no new news.  However, what many of us are not aware of is the illegitimacy of any ministry that seeks the road of conformity and appeal.  There are many ministries which have thousands of “followers” because they are well-marketed, emotionally engaging, culturally relevant, or intellectually captivating.  The raw, bitter, and unmitigated truth which most won’t admit, is that this draw toward being appealing is a temptation of everyone in ministry.  We are all susceptible to the draw of appeal, which ultimately ends up as self-promotion disguised as Gospel promotion.  Everyone in ministry feels the pull to “grow the church for God.”  But what everyone in ministry doesn’t admit, is the tempting pull to also grow a following.  What everyone in ministry doesn’t admit, is the temptation to validate their ministry by how many people seem to follow or listen to them.

But God doesn’t need us to sell His Gospel.  He doesn’t need us to make it appealing, or marketable, or popular, or well-liked.  If truth be told, God really doesn’t even need us to grow His church because He is fully capable of doing it Himself by the power of His Spirit.  However, God chooses to use us for this task.  He chooses, in His wisdom and grace, to work through us, for whatever reasons known only to Him.  God doesn’t need our big plans and innovative ideas and the proven track-record of effective evangelistic methodologies.  I’ve said this before and I will say it again, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done is walk away from my own plans to grow God’s kingdom and submit to His.  The deception of our own plans is so subtle, so reasonable, so justified.  As far as deception goes, the devil can’t hold a candle to self-deception.  With self-deception, the enemy is in our own camp.  It is the treasonous coup of our own misguided will.

What I have learned over the last five years since God called me into ministry, is that humility, meekness, patience, perseverance, and total, utter dependence upon God are the fruits of those who are truly called to Christian ministry.  I have learned that rejection and ridicule are the markers of those who speak genuine, soul-stirring truths.  I have learned that you cannot measure the validity of the ministry to which you have been called by how many people who agree with you.  Jesus said no disciple is greater than his teacher, nor servant greater than his master (Matt 10:24), and He preached more sermons at the dinner tables of sinners than He did to a stadium full of saints.

He said the world hated Him first, therefore it will hate us too (John 15:18).  He said we are sheep among wolves (Matt 10:16), chosen out of the world to bring a message of salvation and hope that would be scorned and rejected by most because it is wholly unappealing to the intrinsic nature of sinful man.  A message that reminds us we are sinners who have no hope in this world or the next, without intimate devotion to Jesus Christ.  A message that demands the perpetual denial of self and of all the things the world tries to convince us we “deserve.”  A message that chastises us when we wander away from the holiness that God desires in those who follow Him.  A message that turns a citizen of this world into an exile and sojourner.  A message that magnifies our flaws and weaknesses, and yet the message itself being the only answer to fixing them.  A message of hope, a message of humility, a message of things to let go of, but of great joy to come.  A message that cannot be sold and does not need to be marketed.  Because it is a message from God Himself, with the power to transform the human soul.

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout…” (1 Peter 1:1)

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11)

“Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” (Luke 10:3)

“Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” (John 13:6)

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” (Isaiah 53:3)

“For many will come in My name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many…Then they will hand you over to be persecuted and killed, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray and hate one another, and many false prophets will arise and mislead many.” (Matt 24:5,9-11)

“Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” (Matt 7:15)

The Ultimate Curtain Call

“If God would concede me His omnipotence for 24 hours, you would see how many changes I would make in the world.  But if He gave me His wisdom too, I would leave things as they are.”–Jacques Marie Louis Monsabre

How often do we look around this world and think of all the things we would change?  All the ways we could improve it?  All the things that could be done differently?  In my opinion, the world is the way it is because God has given us toomuch governance over it.  For the world to be better, we should have less control over circumstances, not more.  We’ve made a big enough mess without God conceding to us His omnipotence.

When I think of why things must be the way they are, the last person I blame is God.  When I wonder why He allows some things to happen, I am reminded that God can see things I can’t.  God is outside of time and circumstance.  This whole play, from the beginning to the end has already been written, we are just inside of it, walking it out.  Which is not to say that we are robots, merely walking out a script that God has written.  We have free will and have been given the freedom to make our own choices.  We speak our own lines in this play and God has provided the stage.  But God already knows what will happen– He bookends linear time– from beginning to end He is there, waiting.  Nothing comes as a surprise to God, so whatever we encounter in this life, He already has a plan.  He already has preparations in place to help us endure it.

When I think of all the bonehead decisions I’ve made and all the times God has checkmated those decisions, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  Which is not to say that He has never allowed me to suffer the consequences of my own ignorance, because He has.  But eventually, I always came around.  Eventually, He lifted me out of the slimy pit, mud and mire.  Sometimes it took longer to come out of the mud and mire than others, but He was always there.

I no longer dwell on wondering why bad things happened to me, because I think of all the bad things that should have or could have happened, but didn’t.  And I am filled with gratitude.  I don’t look for God’s seeming “failures,” I look for His grace.  Even in the darkest, deepest pit, you can find His grace.  Even if all else seems to fail, we at least still have eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.  And that is worth losing everything else.  Eternal life in the presence of Jesus Christ is worth every moment of suffering, every failed plan, every rejection, every criticism, every staggering loss.

In my finite, flawed, and fallen reasoning, there are many things I would change about the world if God gave me the power to do it.  But if He gave me His wisdom along with it, I would change nothing.  Because then I would see as God sees.  I would see that everything has been orchestrated around a perfect, finished plan.  I would see the grand design of a Master Clocksmith– every gear precisely positioned to make all the others turn, ticking in unison, “click, click, click,” marking off each second, each decision, each circumstance, turning the wheel of time forward until God walks out onto the stage and the play is over.  Until the ultimate curtain call.

C.S. Lewis had this to say about it:  “God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else – something it never entered your head to conceive – comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.”

“For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:9,10)

“I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in Him.” (Psalm 40:1-3)

“In the same way, any one of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:33)

“But watch yourselves, or your hearts will be weighed down by dissipation, drunkenness, and the worries of life–and that day will spring upon you suddenly like a snare. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. So keep watch at all times, and pray that you may have the strength to escape all that is about to happen and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them.They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'” (Rev 21:1-4)

The Cries Have Reached Heaven

As of late, I have been praying for God to burden me with His will.  To reveal to me His heart.  To burden my spirit with what He wants me to pray, to direct me as to how to intercede in prayer.  And what has kept ringing in my mind over the last several days is, “The cries against this land have reached heaven.”  So, I began to search scripture and I found several things the Bible speaks of that cry out to heaven.

1.  The Sin of Willful Murder: “Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ The Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.'” (Gen 4:9,10)

Willful murder encompasses abortion, and it is a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance.  The Didache states, “Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not practice pederasty; do not fornicate; do not steal; do not deal in magic; do not practice sorcery; do not kill a fetus by abortion, or commit infanticide (Didache 2:2).  From 1970 to 2013 the number of abortions in the US that have been reported to the CDC is almost 52 million.  That’s 52,000,000 babies that have been willfully murdered in this land in the last 40 years.  The blood of 52,000,000 babies cries out to God from the ground of the US.

2.  The Sin of Oppression, Extortion, Greed and Exploitation:  “Now listen you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one who was not opposing you.”(James 5:1-6)

American enterprise is built on exploited labor.  Migrant farm workers are the backbone of America’s agricultural powerhouse.  Migrant labor forms the bedrock under our indulgence.  And we condemn these men and women who pour out their lives in cheap labor so we can keep prices within our means to gluttonously consume.  We are a haughty bunch, who expect to be paid top dollar for our own labor, but we don’t want the price of living to go up.  So we hire those who will take less for their labor, then condemn them for being here.  And then passionately defend our case for condemning them.  This may not seem like a big deal to many, but scripture says that the cries of the exploited reach His ears.  And that’s a big deal.

3.  The Sin of Sodom: “Then the Lord said, ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached Me. If not, I will know.'”(Gen 18:20,21).

The sin of Sodom was immorality, sexual perversion, rejection of heavenly authority, blasphemy, arrogance, gluttony, apathy which comes through the ease of prosperity, neglect of the poor and needy, abominable behavior, haughtiness and pride (Jude 7,8; Ezekiel 16:49,50).  That pretty much sums up our prideful nation that idolizes comfort, pleasure, sex and food and focuses more on self than others.

A woman flushed her baby down the toilet the other day in a McDonald’s bathroom.  Some Florida teenagers watched a handicapped person drown as he cried out for them to save him.  All they did was watch and laugh.  We have gay pride parades that celebrate that which God has declared unholy.  We not only openly celebrate it in our streets, but we take our children to observe these celebrations.  We fornicate with absolutely no shame, encouraging safe and responsible sex outside of marriage, like this is some sort of commendable effort.  A magazine published an article for teenagers, explaining how to “properly” engage in anal sex. We are the number one exporter of pornography.  A movie is coming out called “Mother” which horrendously blasphemes the holy Triune God of Creation.  It is a movie which is Antichrist through and through, a monstrous and gruesome affront towards, and rejection of, heavenly authority.

We are creatures of instinct, we carouse and indulge in evil pleasures in broad daylight, we have hearts trained in greed, we have eyes full of adultery, we tempt the weak and our desire for sin is never satisfied, we have left the straight way and wandered off, chasing the wages of wickedness (2 Peter 2:12-15).

We are lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful and selfish, unholy, without love of Godly things, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, duplicitous and deceitful, impulsive, conceited lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Tim 3:1-4).

Now is the time of repentance for America, but despite God’s attempt at getting our attention “none of them repent of their wickedness, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Each pursues their own course like a horse charging into battle. Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed season, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration. But my people do not know the requirements of the Lord.” (Jer 8:6,7)

I don’t know what the days ahead hold for our country, but I do know that it is not good.  Even if we repent, God must cleanse this land because it has been thoroughly defiled with sin.  I am well aware that many will scoff at what I write here and turn a blind eye.  I am well aware that many will not even take the time to read it, and I grieve.  After seeking God in heartfelt, humble prayer– seeking His presence, seeking His guidance, seeking His leading– this is the word He has burdened upon me by His Spirit:

“Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.
Rend your heart and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for He is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and He relents from sending calamity.
Who knows? He may turn and relent
and leave behind a blessing–
grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord you God.
Blow the trumpet in Zion,
declare a holy fast,
call a sacred assembly.
Gather the people,
consecrate the assembly,
bring together the elders,
gather the children,
those nursing at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber.
Let the priests, who minister before the Lord,
weep between the portico and the altar.
Let them say, ‘Spare your people, Lord.
Do not make Your inheritance an object of scorn,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples, “Where is their God?”‘” (Joel 2:12-17)

The Chosen Ones

There are two Hebrew words for what we would call a congregation or assembly.  One is EDAH (ay-daw), which is usually translated as SYNAGOGUE, which refers to a permanent community or a congregation in general.  The other is QAHAL (kaw-hawl), which is more specific and it refers to a company or assembly of those who have heard and obeyed the call of the Lord and are bound to Him by His covenant.  It is this Hebrew word, QAHAL, that is translated as the Greek word EKKLESIA in the Septuagint– which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament.

Thus, it is the meaning of the word QAHAL:  “those who have heard and obeyed the call of the Lord and are bound to Him by His covenant,” that the New Testament writers have in mind when they use the Greek word EKKLESIA, which is translated as “church.”  The literal meaning of the word EKKLESIA is “those who are called, chosen, or selected out from.” Those who have heard the proclamation of salvation in Christ and have responded by faith are literally “THE CHOSEN ONES”–called to have a special relationship with God.

The early Christians understood that they had been called out from among the human population to accept and follow Jesus– the crucified Lord and Savior– and that they had been given a commission to proclaim Him as such to others.  The New Testament depicts the church as a unique group of people who have been summoned, assembled and mobilized by God’s call to have a special relationship with Him in Christ and to fulfill the purpose of His will.

We have been called out from the human population.

We are set apart for a special purpose.

We are set apart for a mission.

We are set apart for service to the God of all creation.

The Apostle Peter says we are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, to proclaim the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

Peter tells us who we are:  a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.

He tells why:  to be a people for God’s own possession.

And he tells us for what purpose:  to proclaim the virtues of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

If you have been called into the EKKLESIA, you have been called to fulfill a purpose, and that purpose is not to build our own kingdom on this earth.

At 1 Cor 6:20 Paul says, “You are not your  own, you have been bought with a price.”

Rev 5:9 says we have been purchased for God by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Because I have been purchased to be God’s own possession by the blood of Christ, my body and my time no longer belong to me.  I mourn when I think about how much time I have squandered on my own pursuits, trying to build my own kingdom.  We get so easily caught up in our day-to-day routine, building with straw, hay, and stubble– consuming time that belongs to the Lord, accumulating things that have no value in eternity.

Let us be reminded that– as part of those who make up the EKKLESIA of God, as part of those who are called out from the masses, as part of those who have been set apart– we are called to be a kingdom of priests whose mission is to proclaim the Gospel of Christ.  We have been purchased and called for a purpose.  Our time no longer belongs to us to spend as we desire because we are called to be servants of the Living God.

“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ in service of the faith of God’s elect and of their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, Who cannot lie, promised before time began.” (Titus 1:1,2)

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, and set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, regarding His Son, who was a descendant of David according to flesh, and Who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through Him and on behalf of His name, we received grace and apostleship to call all those among the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.” (Rom 1:1-5)

“For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people. Therefore come out from among them and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.’ And: ‘I will be a Father to you, and you will be My sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty. Therefore, beloved, since we have these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that defiles body and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Cor 6:16-7:1)

“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.'” (Mark 16:15)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt 24:14)