April 27, 2012

Food for Followers

Jesus boldly declared himself to be "the Bread of Life" promising that "whoever feeds on this bread will live forever." (Jn.6:46,58) He said the words He spoke were 'spirit and life' and that those who received them would have Eternal life. (6:63) What an offer?! Seems simple enough. Eternal life should be a 'hot item' in a world where death is sure and the fear of it tyrannizes rich and poor alike (at least when we're not so distracted we forget life is transient!). Why then don't all believe? And the ones who say they do, why don't they look like the One they claim to be following?
Have we missed something? Have we not seen the 'real Jesus'? There are plenty of books out there to remind us how beautiful, winsome and indeed loveable Jesus is, complete with exemplary Scripture passages. (I’m in the process of reviewing one such book. More on that next time?!) Combine this image with Jesus' depictions of the Kingdom of God as one of love, joy and peace devoid of sickness, want or pain and why wouldn't the whole world 'fall for Him' and be saved? Why does the Bible depict following Him to be a narrow way and 'few there be that find it'? (Mt.7:14) Is it only because we haven't presented Jesus well enough? Haven't done enough miracles in His name? Haven't removed enough of the stigma of 'dead religion' from our churches, haven't been 'hip' enough in one way or another?
I've been considering Jesus' ministry years—the words He spoke, the miracles He did, the Crowds that followed him. They definitely 'liked' Him. (He'd have gotten Facebook and Twitter acclaim and “American--well, Israeli—Idol” status besides!) Have you heard Him teach?! Did you see what Jesus did today? He had come into the world to show them what the Kingdom of God was like—sin free, sickness free, full of love, peace and joy… They liked that! He made a big splash, attracted crowds, healed all who came to him, fed multitudes, preached Good News…He had an enthusiastic following. For a time.
Yes, admittedly some hated Him—the holier-than-thou, the religious leaders, the proud, and the ones still enjoying their sin. His authority one-upped theirs. His power trumped theirs. He drew bigger crowds. And he trampled 'sacred cows'. His presence was a threat to feelings of self-sufficiency of any sort, and self-righteousness in particular!
But back to the crowds who 'loved' Him, the 'followers'.  Did they really love Him? Or did they love the way He made them feel? His words were life but sometimes they felt more like death. Consider these:
Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Jn.12:25
And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.Lk.9:23
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." Lk.14:26

Jesus didn't seem concerned with saying what people wanted to hear. He came to 'bear witness to the truth' (Jn.18:37) and was confident that those who were 'of the truth' would listen. The 'rich young ruler' was a 'shoo in' by any modern standard. He was an enthusiastic 'follower'. He was keen on having that 'eternal life' Jesus talked about. He even came to the right place with his questions and in the right posture. Kneeling down he asked Jesus:  "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mk.10:17)
Jesus straightway challenged his understanding of 'good', clarifying that only God is good. Could he read this man's mind…'well, I'm pretty good too…' ?  Then he went on to draw out the man's claim to goodness. Yep, he considered himself a keeper of all the commandments, since his childhood even! Yep, he was pretty good. Funny thing is, Jesus didn't clap him on the back and say, 'Way to go! Keep up the good work. You're an asset to my Kingdom!'  He didn't even invite him to pray and 'accept Jesus' into His life. No, Jesus cut to the heart of the matter, saw what was keeping this man from eternal life, and told him the last thing he wanted to hear. The impossible thing. The thing that sounded more like a death sentence than a way to inherit life. He told him to give away his claim to significance. To sell everything he owned and give the money away and then to come follow Jesus. He told him what he did not want to hear because He loved him. The text makes this very clear: " And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him…" (Mk.10:21) Faithful are the wounds of a friend…
Had He merely wanted an enthusiastic temporal following Jesus would have done better to have stepped up the miracles and kept his hard words to Himself. To fill stomachs and heal the sick is a lot easier than changing hearts. After the miraculous Feeding of the Five Thousand (Jn.6) Jesus confronted the crowds for their short-sighted focus. He said: "You are seeking me, not because you saw signs (that point to the Messiah) but because you ate your fill of the loaves." And He warned them: "Don't labor for the food that perishes (or any other temporary comfort), but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you." Jn.6:26,27 He saw clearly that the people did not recognize what they needed most—they needed LIFE—they were dead in their sins. But all they could think about was the next meal. They were fixated on the temporal and Jesus had come to redeem them for eternity.
Sometimes we 'market' the Gospel in short-sighted ways. It'll fix your marriage, heal your wounds, help you cope, bring you friends, and clean up the mess you've made of life…
It may, (and it may not) but is that the essence of the Gospel? Is this the Gospel we really want to preach? Yes, Jesus healed the sick and cleansed the leper. He fed the hungry and raised the dead. But ultimately He came to die so their could be a Gospel to preach! He came to give loved but helpless sinners access to the Life that is only found in God. Consider this perspective:
"Anytime that Jesus is used as a means to an end, a false gospel has been introduced and the thing improperly focused on becomes a false god." * Gulp. Could this be so?
To 'use' the Gospel as if it were a product or service we can tailor to a person's felt needs is to forget that the Gospel calls us to submit to the God of the universe, not for our pleasure but for His service, David F. Wells writes. The problem is this, he says: Our felt needs will not naturally admit to sin as our #1 problem or God's forgiveness as our #1 need. We will not naturally turn the rule of our lives over to God and step down from our independent 'right to choose'.
"The product we will seek naturally will not be the gospel. It will be a therapy of some kind, a technique for life, perhaps a way of connecting more deeply with our own spiritual selves on our own terms, terms that require no repentance and no redemption. It will not be the gospel." **
Does this really matter, so long as there are enthusiastic followers? Wells says that when we reduce Christ 'simply to a product we buy to satisfy our needs' we destroy the doctrines of sin, the incarnation and of redemption and produce a 'spirituality' that is virtually indistinguishable from the spirituality in our culture, which is predominantly non-Christian!** (Is it any wonder we see all kinds of New Age and pagan practices entering mainstream 'faith' as the new normal?… but I digress). Jesus came to buy our redemption at a horrendous price. If we 'sell' a Gospel that means anything less, we offer a 'bargain' that comes 'as is' but is missing the essential ingredient: Life!
So Jesus did not sugar coat the truth He came to deliver. He was looking for true followers, for whom 'to live is Christ, to die is gain', who would really believe, who were committed to real love, not just 'you make us feel good; we love you'. In short He was looking for people who knew they needed a Saviour not just a 'fix'.
The picnic was over and He proceeded to use it as an object lesson, offending nearly all of his followers with His 'Words of Life'. He said: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you…For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink….Whoever feeds on me, will live because of me." (Jn.6:53-57)
How graphic! What was that supposed to mean?! Free picnic lunch was one thing but this was too much! Many of his disciples turned back from following him at this point. These were hard words. Not even his own brothers believed in Him. (Jn.7:5). They weren't looking for that kind of life! Do we only believe when the message is to our liking--when the day is sunny and the picnic lunch is spread and our tummies are satisfied? Do we recognize the Words of Life when we see them? Even if they call us first to a kind of personal death to self and fail to whet our appetites.
Bread alone just won't 'cut it'; we'll be forever seeking more signs, more picnics, more good feelings. We'll need more miracles to make up for the lunch we forgot to pack. What we need more than life itself or any of its comforts is to live by the words of God alone—to feed on the Words of life—to come to the Living Word of life that we may find life, to follow the Lord of life. No matter how physically hungry we may be, no matter what power we imagine at our disposal, it is not always the right moment to turn stones into physical bread. It's the time to listen to the Father and find our life, our directives, our satisfaction in Him. And this life is in His Son.
"Whoever  has the Son has life; Whoever does not have the Son does not have life."  (I Jn.5:12)
If we have Him, let's stop looking for 'lunch' in other places and feed on Him. Let's stop expecting life to be a picnic lunch. There are things we need more than 'loaves and fishes' to sustain our bodies a little longer. The life of a follower is not about mustering faith, conjuring emotion, or striving to do or die. It's not even about tapping into power. It's about following. Living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Laying down our agendas for 'Life' as we want it to be, and running the race set before us with our eyes fixed on Jesus. He's got the yoke; He's assigned us our 'crosses'; He's the only One worth our allegiance. It's His Kingdom, not ours. "If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also." Jn 12:26 "Take up [your] cross and follow me." Mt.16:24
And if we've missed the real thing and bought into a false Gospel that was about using Jesus to meet our needs, let's stop demanding to be catered to, repent of our sinful, self-serving agendas, and invite Jesus to show us the Way to be true followers. It's not about our 'accepting Christ' but about God accepting us based on the merits of His Son. We have nothing to offer but our confession that we are sinners in need of a Saviour and our belief that He's the One and only for us! (And even that faith comes from Him!) Let's get to know the Real Jesus, who sometimes says hard things, but only because He loves us.
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. Jn.17:3
When Jesus said hard things ('unless you drink My blood') His followers grumbled "Who can listen to it?"  Many turned away from following Him. But He turned to the twelve and asked: "Do you want to go away as well?"(Jn.6:67) Peter astutely realizing the absence of real alternatives said: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." Jn.6:68
The crowds trailed away, but the few who had come to know the Words of Life clung to the hope laid out in the Gospel and became the lot that 'turned the world upside down' (Acts 17:6) by proclaiming 'the words of this Life' (Acts 5:20) at peril to their own lives. True story.
May it be ours.
"This is my Beloved Son. Listen to him." Lk.9:35
[I listened to a helpful message this week drawn from I John, on testing yourself to see if you are in the faith. Convicting. Challenging. And timely, turning me once again to the only merit I have—the Cross of Christ where One was crucified for my sin. I need the reminder, often. I relate all too well to the 'rich young ruler'. Best to be done with any claims to goodness—count it as a loss, as garbage! as Paul said, and feast on Jesus… The recording is by Todd Friel at: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=12121215151
For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. I Thess 2:13
*Mark Driscoll, The Radical Reformission, Zondervan,160.
**David F. Wells, The Courage to be Protestant, Eerdman’s Publ.,52-53.

April 19, 2012

Voice Overload

(and the Call Waiting that changes everything)

resized ducks ****

Lord, I'm a little confused. So many voices give instruction for my path. Obedience is the latest. Just obey—but don't see His commands as burdensome.

T.M. Moore talks about the necessity of fearing God and delighting in His commandments, not seeing them as obsolete. I’m not there yet.

Voddie Baucham contends that striving to do more good than bad and hoping for the best outcome is what ‘religion’ is about.  It doesn’t work since we’re by nature depraved.  That's why the spotless Lamb died on our behalf. 'You are powerless—but that's okay because you were purchased’ is how he sums it up.

John Piper has written a book considering all the imperatives of Jesus. He talks about his personal desolation in being exposed as a hopeless sinner, and the relief of the Gospel’s offer—"the Son of Man came to give his life a ransom for many," (Mk.10:45) "not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Lk.5:32).**  I need to grasp all this more fully.

A couple of our friends focus on 'walking in love' as the ultimate test of whether or not we know God. And they work hard at not gossiping so that they can count on their prayers being answered. 

All these voices have good things to commend yet I sit here a little mystified…it's not clear to me where I'm obeying and not obeying, or just what the next step is… I just feel deafened by the clamor.

I remember our long-ago neighbor Eugene—he, the lonely widower, fixing our whole family a wonderful homemade meal—fried chicken, potato salad and the fixin's and even delivering it..  He took The Golden Rule quite literally: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." (hint, hint) I asked him once if he was a Christian? His response, a little taken aback that it wasn't obvious, was: 'Well, I sure try to be one'.

Yet another friend is sure what I need to be doing is evangelizing everyone my life intersects with. It is after all a command, not a choice….

The advice goes on…

Use your gifts.

Mentor a younger woman.

Be mentored by an older one.

Encourage one another. Avoid discouraging words…

These too are voices I've heard this week.

Then there's the forget-about-religion crowd. They write books and blog but tend to downplay the value of the written Word of God. Just get to know the 'real' Jesus. He's great. You'll love him. He's playful. He's with you in the moment. Cool coincidences will prove His nearness. Don't worry about the 'letter of the law' just enjoy Jesus. What He said needs to be reinterpreted in terms of his tone of voice, His wink, His 'just teasing' nature. Don't take life/Jesus/Scripture so seriously.

That's me, serious. Let's see, how shall I change that? Just do it. Right.

“Prophets” of a new stripe are a dime a dozen these days too and everyone's got an 'encouraging word'—a promise of good things to come, a 'word' for your future. Never mind repentance. Obedience? What's that? Just go with the flow. Follow your impressions. Learn to hear the voice and follow. Throw caution to the wind. It's a 'new thing'; don't expect to find it in Scripture….

The super-achiever bio I'm reading doesn't help. A blind prodigy. A super mom. The message: Talent, Determination, Vision, and Confidence will take you places you'd never dreamed of going…Cambridge, Hollywood, TV, American Idol, maybe even a fat Bio all about your accomplishments… And as I read the sinking feeling grows that it's too late for me and mine but just think what could have been… (Failing to consider, that I don’t desire these ends anyway!)

Amid all these voices, I am feeling tired and apathetic, longing only to hear from the One that knows my heart, and knows my inability to carry one more 'should' today…He knows too my self-satisfied pride and my Pharisaical hardness. He knows the fear that holds me back from taking radical responses to inner nudges.

"Call her up and see how she's doing?"

--That might be awkward. I don't know her that well…

And the indecision that leads me to conclude it wasn't a divine nudge, just a 'should' I invented myself and can as easily let go… except I don't. (I feel guilty, and still wonder how she's doing…)

And He knows the actions I do take, because they're all I know to do with this truth that burns in my bones. I am not always diplomatic, not always encouraging. Sometimes truth just jumps out. Offense is taken. I can't remain a 'pleaser' and still a lover of truth. It isn't working.

My Savior knows all these things. His voice is the one I need most to hear. Numbed by message overload. Dulled by physical weariness. Daunted by so much deception at work in the world. Discouraged by my own powerless posture. Today I have no words. But I am listening. I am indeed hopeful. The Way, the Truth, and the Life is not lost and has posted no 'change of address'. He still lives here. In me, with me and for me. He died to redeem me for His Kingdom's sake. He's got the plan. All is well.

------------------Those were my pre-breakfast rumblings---------------------

At breakfast Jim's response was to remind me that the Holy Spirit is sovereign. He works in us to accomplish His good purposes in His good time. There's no rushing ahead of His plan. We are dependents in need of His enabling always and we are ultimately not in control of our lives…

And there was a “call waiting” all the while, a “voice mail” running through the back of my mind that I needed to look up:

Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, [and] my feet from falling. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. Ps.119:7-9

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you [me!] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Phil.1:6

As breakfast got cleared away and the day had officially begun this confession rose in my heart---I believe He is the Christ, Son of the living God—It's a glorious refrain to a folksy tune by Andrew Peterson. Listen here and rejoice  with me that really all is well when we hold onto what we know to be true while we wait for the ‘what next’ in our walk with Him…

Here’s an excerpt from his lyrics:

And every step of the way his grace is making me;
with every breath I breathe, he is saving me. And I believe.
So when my body's weak and the day is long,
when I feel my faith is all but gone, I'll remember when I sing this song that
I believe.
I believe he is the Christ, Son of the living God, my Lord, my Savior. Oh, Hosanna, I believe.***

And yet another Scripture rose as a reminder of where to plant my feet and how to pace myself today in the numbness and confusion of too many voices…

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.

It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.


And I am glad for the living God and his living Word that breathes life into my deadness and hope into my apathy. Aren't you?

So I picked up the phone and called that friend-in-the-making.  We’ve got plans to do lunch.  All is well.


“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Heb.10:23


*Voddie Baucham, “Truth and the Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World” in The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World, p.65-67

**Interview in The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World, eds.John Piper and Justin Taylor, Crossway Publ.,2007, p.149-50 discussing the book: What Jesus Demands from the World.

***Andrew Peterson: "The Good Confession" from Resurrection Letters, Vol.II

****Original illustration is mine but entirely inspired by Olivier Dunrea’s Gossie & Gertie, Houghton Mifflin, 2002.

April 13, 2012

Dynamically Duped!


A thrilling testimony. A dynamic presentation. A story worth retelling.

A book bought, and promoted…by me.

And then the quiet comment posted to my book review blog this week: "I think you should read this re: this book: 2Peter2.blogspot.com."  And everything came tumbling down. Once again the church is stung by the moral failure of one of its ministers. And the Christian community hushes the details to prevent the shame from being aired before the world. But the minister goes forward unrepentant, polishes his website, perpetuates his bigger-than-life testimony, tells his stories to unsuspecting audiences, covers up his shame leaving a glut of casualties in his wake, a sexualized cult in the stead of a church.

In disbelief I scan the details. Then in deep dismay…giving way to shades of outrage. Had I not asked for lies I have believed to be exposed? I have asked this for others' sake. But first my turn comes round. I had been so impressed, so encouraged, so excited to hear this man's conversion story in person, and then to read his book. Here was God at work in miraculous ways, His Spirit capturing a heart, revealing His Son, catapulting a former Muslim into Christian ministry. What a testimony. And what a sham, with an 'e'!

There is no knowing now which parts of his testimony really happened and which are fabricated to make a more sensational story.  His ghostwriter* doesn't even know, and has rescinded his endorsement of the book as factual. Church leaders scramble to clean up the slime…the ex-pastor, unrepentant, scrambles to find an 'umbrella' that will allow him to travel, speak and garner support without accountability… His website really does look pristine. Its young designer has been sucked into his cult and can't quite see right-side-up yet…

These are the grisly discoveries of my week and they bring to mind hard questions…and important reminders….

How did this happen? How can we be kept from the 'deceitfulness of sin' that always takes its prey farther than he/she intended to go? Is restoration possible? Who can we trust? What other deceptions am I living under? And what safeguards are there to keep the believer from falling into the abyss of delusion?

I am reminded of multiple warnings in Scripture regarding deception…

---"Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teaching of demons…" (I Tim.4:1)  

---‘There will come times of difficulty' when men love themselves, their money, and their pleasure more than they love God, when others will be easily led astray by them because in their sin-laden, weak-willed passion for learning they are unable to come to the knowledge of the truth.
(II Tim.3:1-9)

---Paul warns Timothy that times are coming when people will wander off into myths, having no patience with truth--collecting teachers who will tell them instead just what they want to hear. (II Tim.4:3,4) Perhaps it is no coincidence that these ones who are doing the deceiving are themselves deceived (3:13).

--Peter predicts precisely the type of situation that has come to my attention this week: False teachers will arise among you "who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them…and many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed…they will exploit you with false words." (II Peter 2:1-3)

---Jude says much the same thing in his short letter appealing to his readers to "contend for the faith", the 'once for all delivered' faith. It's not a new thing. Beware of the people creeping in unnoticed to 'pervert the grace of our God into sensuality', he says, the full description following
(Jude 3,4).


As I grapple with what I see and hear and reel with the tragedy of broken trust and the proliferation of loose ungrounded teaching in the Church of our day…I am reassured that God has not left his people without means of stability. He is after all the Head of the true church. He gives the Body the people and gifts that it needs to grow into maturity ‘so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.' (Eph.4) I am planted in a local church for a reason. I need its gifts. It needs mine. This is the way God has designed it. And while the Internet is a potential purveyor of incredible amounts of falsehood, it also has given believers access to an unprecedented range of gifted people of God, present and past, as well as a worldwide 'fellowship' with other 'contenders for the faith.'

But the bedrock of stability I am especially grateful for is the inspired and inerrant, unchanging and absolute Word of God. It has weathered the Enlightenment where men sought to water down its authority and relevance, and it will weather our postmodern times where truth is seen as a dispensable obstacle to personal fulfillment.

The Word of God is pre-eminently profitable for teaching, for reproving, for correcting, and for training in the right way. It is our most valuable piece of equipment as believers. (II Tim.3:16) No wonder it's being so sidelined in our time. Have you noticed? Many modern day 'prophets' display a disturbing propensity to minimize the importance of the written Word of God in favor of more subjective messages from God via gifted persons or 'aha' moments. I listened incredulously this morning to a noted Christian 'prophet' actually scorn the concept of trying to read through the Bible in a year, or even pretend to get anything noteworthy from Leviticus--which is just 'a camping memo' with references to fruit thrown in! He mimicked God as saying: "I've never (even) done it!" (i.e. read through the Bible) The man had his audience in stitches. Granted, who can't relate to the difficulty of reading through Leviticus? Does that mean it's open to ridicule and not be read as part of the 'All Scripture' that is inspired by God for our benefit?! Are we really only reading to find those verses that jump off the page as 'our inheritance', to be swallowed hook, line and sinker as completely applying to us—irrespective of context or literal meaning? What has happened to 'rightly dividing the Word of Truth'? (II Tim.2:15)  No wonder the people of God are so ill prepared to recognize deception.

Some teach that the Bible is a 'closed book' that will kill you (spiritually) if you get too serious about it. Are we really in danger of stifling bondage and powerless intellectualism when we study the Bible for what it actually teaches?

Is 'Sola Scriptura' no longer a relevant rallying cry for the people of God? Are we really willing to trade it for: 'sola experientia'  to feel sure we have the real deal?! There is a disturbing anti-scholastic bias in much teaching in the church of our time. The Bible has been associated with dead religion and marginalized in favor of experiential 'truth'. But Paul seemed to think the Scriptures were quite adequate when he instructed Timothy:

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed" knowing that "from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (II Tim.3:14)

A false dichotomy has been drawn between the 'lifeless' Word and the powerful Spirit. Between ‘dead words’ and living revelation.  God's Word is powerful.  And it is true with or without further revelation, and where it lacks 'power' in our lives we would do well to see if it's our lack of believing that renders it so, not its lack of speaking. In fact the Word of God speaks of itself as: "quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Heb.4:12)

Is this beginning to sound like a 'rant'? I love the Word of God. I hate to see deception creeping into the Church. I'm distressed to see whole assemblies being hijacked by 'prophets' such as the one I referenced at the start of this post simply because they claim authority that supersedes what is written in the Word of God, and because their constituents are inexperienced in handling the Word of God and eager to believe. I read a quote this week regarding the deceptive tragedy referenced earlier. The writer, an eye-witness, evaluating the progression of deception in this incident concluded:

"I used to think only a half-wit could fall into a cult. Now I know that any passionate person with a deep desire for growth, if they end up in the wrong place, can be a spiritual victim."** (Dan Holmes)

He went on to underline that the 'kids' who 'fell for' this leader's vice were "passionate, dedicated good Christians. They were loving, kind and generous kids. Generally, they could only be blamed for their naivety and their failure to compare what was taught against scripture."**

We cannot afford to let the written Word of God be deemed second-rate revelation or boring and dry religious jargon… It is our ultimate source of truth, our protection from deception, our compass in a world of relative thought where so much 'seems' good. Prophets and teachers will come and go. The words of men will rise and fall, all our 'heroes' in the faith likewise. They are human and flawed. 'But the Word of the Lord endures forever.' (I Peter 1:25)

On a bit of a side note, this man's observations of what it takes to get a cult-following are instructive. They include…

Exclusivity—we are the privileged few with 'real faith', the 'real church'

Isolation—we don't need 'outside' relationships

Prophetic leader—authority based on a superior experience: "I saw Jesus…"

Obedience—submit to me out of obedience to God

Shunning and shaming—to question the leader is to lose fellowship with group and God!

Compromise—wearing down one's 'religious spirit' led to dramatic personal compromises

Great Worship and prayer sessions—inexplicably God seemed still to 'show up'**

…Interesting indicators to be aware of.

I am so grateful to have the Word of God. II Peter has been on my plate this week. What a treasure trove of practical instruction and 'heads-up' warnings on how not to fall and how to spot false teachers. Peter knows he will be heading to Heaven himself shortly and he pens these words to remind the believers of their calling and the qualities that will keep them from falling and guarantee their rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of their Lord and Savior (II Peter 1). Then he reminds them of his own authority as an eyewitness of the Transfiguration of Jesus. If anyone had a claim to cult-producing authority it was Peter. He had seen the Savior in His glory. He had heard God's voice from Heaven affirming His pleasure in His Son. He had been with Him on the mountain! But what does he say next?

"We have something MORE SURE, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place…" And he proceeds to describe the process by which Scripture was inspired by God (II Pet.1:20,21) as our stability in the face of "the error of lawless people" (3:17). He well knows the ignorant and unstable will twist the difficult to understand parts 'to their own destruction', but is confident that this advance warning will hold these believers in good stead!

Ahhh, I like that. And as he closes, so will I… "But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen." II Pet. 3:18


P.S. There’s one question I haven’t addressed.  “Is restoration possible?” That one hangs in the balance.  I will be praying.  Will you join me?


As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him

"But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” Is.66:2 


  [And what should I find in my Inbox this morning but an excellent article on the value of the Word in a believer’s life---If you’re not all ‘read out’ consider Diane Singer’s well written: “A Bright and Certain Light” at ColsonCenter.org]


**Quotations and notes taken from Dan Holmes website at 2Peter2.blogspot.com

April 6, 2012

Behold, your King!


How did Palm Sunday give way to Good Friday? How do we get so quickly from a boisterous crowd of ardent admirers shouting Hosannas and Blessings to an angry mob chanting "Crucify Him"?!

They had hoped He came to deliver them from all their perceived ills-- hopeless bodily infirmities as well as their Roman tyrants. They treated Jesus that day as royalty come to bring back the Kingdom of David (Mk.11:10). He had come to save them, but their view of salvation was so limited, so 'of this world'. Only Jesus knew the extent of their deepest need. He alone fully realized the bondage that they lived under and had come to deliver them from their greatest tyrant,  to destroy 'the one who has the power of death, and deliver those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.' (Heb.2: 14,15). Their concept of the Kingdom to come wasn't big enough. Their vision of life was too small. And little did they know of the cost required to set them free to really live.

I'm challenged by this picture of Palm Sunday's worshipers degenerating so quickly into murderers. It challenges my concept of whose Kingdom I'm really living for? And whose will I want done? Jesus knows our tendencies to be short-sighted, small-minded and tempted by short-term solutions. Is that why He taught us to pray: "Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done…." (Mt.6:9-13) ? If I find my heart disappointed in the short-term, disillusioned by life's surprises, hurt by unexpected outcomes could it be I've had the wrong Kingdom in view or at least the wrong timetable? Jesus said, "Blessed is the one who is not offended by me" (Mt.11:6) in response to a disappointed follower who found himself in jail and about to be beheaded just because he'd been a faithful follower.   We're in a Kingdom where the long-haul matters. The HOSANNAS* of today have to be held onto in faith when the salvation we'd envisioned isn't yet visible.

Jesus modeled the prayer he taught. He came into our world submitted to the Father's will, to take on the body prepared for him and to do with it exactly what the Father directed, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. (Heb.10:7) He was obedient right to death, for this was the cost of bringing us life. He who knew no sin, was made sin for us, "that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (II Cor.5:21). He took our taint, carried our shame, so He could share the life He had with the Father with us. He endured for the joy set before Him, (Heb.12:2) the joy of bringing many sons into the family, (Heb.2:13) the joy of US joining Him in fellowship with the Father!

But how few recognized what He was up to that 'Easter week'. I've been looking this week at the 'in betweens' of that week-- the 'stuff' that Jesus did between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. What were his priorities? He spent a lot of time teaching, talking, and warning of things to come. He was ready. But were his followers? He had shown the crowds who He was but 'though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in Him'.  So now He focuses on last conversations. He indicts and silences both Pharisees and Sadducees with parables depicting them as wicked tenant farmers and dishonorable wedding feast guests. He pronounces woes upon them and warns the crowds to listen to what they have to say, but not to copy them! (Mt.23:3)

He explains to his followers the times that will precede His return, so they (and ultimately we who believe) will be eagerly waiting and not offended when called to suffer for His sake. And he has one last meal with His disciples, an intimate Passover meal during which he washes their feet and invites them into a new covenant relationship with Him based on his shed blood for them. "This cup… is the new covenant in my blood…" (Lk.22:20)

I've just been reading the Jewish background for this moment and how it closely parallels the process of taking a bride--precious parallels to the Church as the Bride of Christ…would the disciples have understood this better than we do?

Ray VanderLaan describes it this way:

“In the first century, when a young Jewish man reached marrying age and his family selected an appropriate wife for him, the young man and his father would meet the young woman and her father to negotiate the “bride price,” the figurative cost of replacing a daughter. The price was usually very high.

With negotiations complete, the custom was for the young man’s father to pour a cup of wine and hand it to his son. His son would turn to the young woman, lift the cup and hold it out to her, saying, “This cup is a new covenant in my blood, which I offer to you.” In other words, “I love you, and I’ll give you my life. Will you marry me?”

The young woman had a choice. She could take the cup and return it and say no. Or she could answer without saying a word—by drinking the cup, her way of saying, “I accept your offer, and I give you my life in response.”**

The disciples didn't get the whole picture right away. They would run and hide and even deny knowing Him. The fickle crowds would opt to crucify their King. He had come to them humbly, riding on a donkey's colt as prophesied (Zech.9:9) — but not quite all they had anticipated. But his would prove to be an 'indestructible life' (Heb.7:16) even as His Kingship will prove to be unrivalled… And to each of us the invitation comes to 'take up your cross and follow me…', and to 'present our bodies a living sacrifice'  as we wait eagerly for this coming King (Heb.9:28) who will at last fulfill His best intentions towards us and take us Home to be His forever Bride.

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful!" (Heb.10:23) "…he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen."
I Tim.6:15,16

And amen!


"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:32


* Ironically, "Hosanna" comes from a Hebrew word meaning "please save or save now" as used in: Ps.118:25,26: "We beseech Thee, O LORD, save now! We beseech Thee, O LORD, make us now to prosper! Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD…" while also being used in praise and adoration of the Saviour. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hosanna

**excerpted from ‘His Body, His Blood’ by Ray Vander Laan in Focus on the Family magazine--Apr.'99