If God has called you to be really like Jesus, He will draw you to a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience, that you will not be able to follow other people, or measure yourself by other Christians, and in many ways He will seem to let other good people do things which He will not let you do.

Other Christians and ministers who seem very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot do it; and if you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

Others may boast of themselves, of their work, of their success, of their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, or may have a legacy left to them, but it is likely God will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence on Him, that He may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden in obscurity, because He wants you to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade.  He may let others be great, but keep you small.  He may let others do a work for Him and get credit for it, but He will make you work and toil on without knowing how much you are doing; and then to make your work still more precious, He may let others get the credit for the work which you have done, and thus make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you, with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seemed distressed over.  So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign, and has a right to do what He pleases with His own.

He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in His dealings with you.  But if you absolutely sell yourself to be His…slave, He will wrap you up in a jealous love, and bestow upon you many blessings which come only to those who are in the inner circle.

Settle it forever, then, that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to use with others.  Now when you are so possessed with the living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of Heaven.

George Douglas Watson, 1845 – 1924

(public domain)

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Have you ever tried to put together a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle without the picture of what the finished product will look like?  You pick up a piece to begin and it’s blue – lighter in one corner, darker in the opposite corner.  Your first thought – it’s part of the sky.  Or maybe it’s water.  Both could be true.  Both the sky and water are blue.  But when the puzzle is actually completed, is it the truth about the individual piece?  No.  Come to find out, that piece was part of a blue flower-pot that was simply partly shaded.  Doesn’t discount the truth about the individual piece being blue.  But placed into the proper context of the puzzle as a whole, it changes the whole truth about the individual puzzle piece and removes the possibility of incorrect interpretation.

Christianity today is ripe with incorrect interpretations of Scripture.  All too often, Bible verses are used by preachers and pastors to simply fit into a pretty 3-point sermon or worse, push a personal agenda.  Very few know the whole story into which those Bible verses fit.  We must learn the larger story around us.  We must learn our place in the larger story – the story that God is telling.  We must learn the whole truth.  We must learn context.  And the larger story and context must be at the forefront of our understanding of everything – God’s word to us through prayer and the Bible, current events and times, ourselves and our individual journeys with the Lord.

Singer/songwriter Derek Webb says it well in a song of his – “truth without context, the favorite of all my crimes.”  And that is one of the greatest crimes of Christianity today, which is the ultimate paradox – deception by way of truth.  Because truth without context is not the whole truth – that makes it half-truth.  And if anything but the whole truth, by definition, is considered untrue, then that makes it a lie.  Are you tracking along with me here?  Do you see just how very dangerous this can be?  I’m not saying that if you use a single Bible verse out of context that it is an outright lie.  But I am saying that it can be presented incorrectly, out of context, and therefore interpreted incorrectly. 

The Jews were promised a messiah, a king who would come to them and establish his kingdom amongst them.  In Jesus Christ, this prophecy was fulfilled.  It was true.  He is the King, and He has established His Kingdom.  But the Jews took that prophecy out of context of the larger story that God was telling them.  They expected a warrior king who would drive out Roman rule and all of Israel’s enemies and establish a kingdom of power.  Well, Jesus did establish a kingdom of power, but not power by force.  Instead, he came as a servant-king to establish a kingdom of power through love and peace.  Because of this incorrect interpretation, many of the Jews missed the incredible and glorious gift that was given them in Jesus Christ.  You see, truth without context = danger.

It’s quite common too that the Gospel of Christ is presented as Jesus died for our sins and makes us right with God again, and only that message.  True, but that is only half of the story.  Most Christians want to leave out the offensive part about how we are sinful people who deserve death because of our evil ways.  Again, Derek Webb once said that “the Gospel cannot be only beautiful.  It is both beautiful and offensive, and it must be both.”  The love of God in Christ cannot be told outside of the context of it being necessary to redeem mankind because we have so sinfully fallen short of God’s perfect standard.  Far too many preachers today preach a watered-down Gospel filled with happy-happy-joy-joy feelings, warm fuzzies, and promises of a rosy life upon becoming a Christian.  Sorry to disappoint you, but this is simply not the Truth.

We must search, read, and learn the whole story, the great Epic Story that God is telling.  We must pour into the Bible and capture the context within which the individual stories, circumstances, and events took place.  Without proper context, we are doomed to become victims of our own short-selling and propagators of an unrealistic, untrue Gospel.

“Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord.  The god who answers by fire – he is God.”     – 1 Kings 18:24

The prophet Elijah is standing on Mount Carmel before King Ahab, the 450 prophets of Baal (a pagan god), and all the people of Israel.  He had just said to them all before this,

“How long will you waver between two opinions?  If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”     – 1 Kings 18:21

How fitting that Elijah suggests that the god who answers by fire is God, for Baal was considered to be the possessor of fire.   What a challenge to the prophets of Baal and the people.  Israel had become a country that had turned their backs on God and begun worshipping pagan gods, gods of their own making.  Much of this was due to the evil Queen Jezebel.  Nonetheless, Elijah was a follower of the one true God and a lone prophet in his own country.

When faced with great trials and persecution, what is our response?  Elijah stood firm and courageous, faithful and confident in his God.  Though he was surrounded by 450  pagan prophets and the king, he stood firm, resolved to see his God, the One True God, come through and display His sovereignty.  And come through He did…with a great fire from heaven that burned up the sacrifice on the altar, the soaking wet altar itself, and even all the water that filled the trench all around the altar!  Notice too, that God’s fire did not come until after Elijah’s display of great faith!  So must be our faith.

God spoke through fire when He appeared to Moses in the burning bush.  In Egypt, God had used fire to rain down havoc and pain on Pharoah and the Egyptian Empire to set His people free.  Again He used a pillar of fire to shield the Hebrews from the Egyptian army when they were trapped at the edge of the Red Sea.  Then again, the Lord used that same fire to lead and light the way at night for His people through the wilderness.  The Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples in Jerusalem like ‘tongues of fire’ after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.  Certainly there are a ton more examples of God using fire, most often in one of two situations – when His sovereignty and glory are on the line and when our freedom is on the line. 

Fire provides light.  It provides a shield.  It provides guidance.  It cleanses.  It purifies.  It consumes.  It burns up the old and dying to make room for new life.  We all need God’s fire from heaven to reach deep into our hearts and burn us alive, cleansing, purifying, and making all things new.  If you do not believe in the God of the Bible though, does your god answer by fire?  Can your god shield you?  Guide you?  Cleanse you?  Make you new?  Can your god purify your heart? 

“The god who answers by fire – he is God.”

What does it mean to be a Christian?  Is it not simply one who has placed their faith in Jesus Christ?  Or is it something more?

There are many aspects of the Christian journey that I believe are lacking in our modern times and western culture, but there is one in particular that has me especially concerned.  Churches all over are jockeying for numbers, converting and baptizing as many church-goers as possible.  Many churches will even boast and publish the number of “decisions for Christ” they had in a given week or month.  While all of this is well and good, too often, the majority of energy and effort from the church to their young Christian brothers and sisters stops there.  Sure, there are Sunday school classes, service and outreach events, fellowship gatherings, and even mission trips.  But something else is missing that was quite plainly commanded by our Lord.

Too many so-called Christians these days consider themselves such, yet do not have a real personal relationship with Jesus Christ, lack any real knowledge of the Bible, do not have a Biblical worldview, much less have a changed heart and mind that would reveal itself in transformed character and attitude outside of the church walls.  Not only do I believe that this is due to a lack of a transforming encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus, but then these newly converted believers are not taught to walk in the light and truth of Christ.  This necessary aspect of the Christian life that I speak of as missing is the making of disciples. 

Jesus’ final words to His disciples (as well as all of us today) are these:

19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”          – Matthew 28

Notice that two of the three commands in this statement revolve around making a disciple.  Jesus does not say make converts and assimilate them into your church organization or religious institution.  He says to teach them, disciple them, walk with them, train them, mentor and apprentice them.  This is a lost concept in our modern world and culture.  And until we reestablish its precedence in the formation of every believer, I fear that the majority of Christians among us are nothing more than simple converts and not disciples. 

Converts are uneducated in the ways of Christ, their Master.  Converts do not necessarily walk in wisdom and light as Christ did.  Converts do not change their communities or the world.  But we do know that disciples do.

More to come…

The following link leads to a well written article entitled The Dangers of Affirming Homosexuality in the Public Schools; I recommend you read it before reading the rest of this post.

http://www.icr.org/article/5347/

What I found to be so intriguing was that the article was provoked by a letter to public school superintendents nationwide from the American College of Pediatricians (doctors, not necessarily Christians).

I was then drawn into an email dialogue with a friend of mine about the article.  Below is what I wrote:

I too have had friends who were gay. I still have friends who are gay. I still have friends who were once gay, but are so no longer. There is a ministry down here called Love In Action (LIA) that began as a ministry to homosexuals, but is more for those who suffer with any and all kinds of addictions now. But I did a lot of joint ministry work with LIA. I made many friendships with those going through the programs, I even had one of the graduates become my roommate for two years. We’re still close friends. All that to say, I have seen those who wrestled with homosexuality for years and decades be healed, delivered, set free, and now live heterosexually. The key to their healing and deliverance – Jesus Christ. It might seem cliché, but it is that simple. Doesn’t mean the process is simple, just that where the healing comes from is that simple of an answer.

Our culture is quick to believe that homosexuality is something we’re born with. Tendencies might be innate, but all behavior is learned. Children have tendencies to tell their first lie. But the behavior of lying is something that is learned and cultivated. Native Americans have a tendency to alcoholism – because of their biological makeup, they have a ‘weakness’ to alcohol. But drinking alcohol is a choice, the behavior is learned. Should they then all become alcoholics because of their tendency? I am making these comparisons because I have seen individuals completely freed from homosexuality – my roommate was one of them. As with alcoholism, as with pathological lying, homosexuality is a behavior…it can be changed. It is not an identity. It is not who one is, but simply feelings they have and behavior they engage in. Being a heterosexual is not my identity, it does not define me, it is not who I am. I am a man and that is undeniable. What I choose to do as a man with another man or a woman, is behavior, choice, not identity.

I’m sure you’ve had debates and arguments about homosexuality. I like to try and have people think of its sensibility in the biological sense. A man’s penis has two functions…urination and procreation. Biologically speaking, homosexual sex between two men makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. For a female, the vagina is for procreation, period. A woman cannot impregnate another woman.

But what about love, you say? Love is good and wonderful. If the fact that one person loves another means they should be allowed to have sex, then why can’t Chester (who is a 40-year-old male teacher) have sex with his 10-year-old female student? He did claim that he loves her. Or why not have sex with a goat for that matter? To each his own, right? Still doesn’t make it right. Regarding the goat, you have to weigh the biological factor. And with the child and adult issue, that raises a moral and ethical question. And at that point we venture into arguing the existence of universal truth. Just about every human being in all of history has agreed that an adult having sex with a child is wrong. Well, if universal truth does not exist, then why is it wrong? If universal truth does not exist, then there’s nothing wrong with homosexuality. Doesn’t make a lick of sense biologically. But, like I already stated – to each his own. If universal truth does exist however, then that changes everything, then that means we don’t just have to consider the biological and the ethical, but the moral and spiritual as well, then you have just laid one of the initial foundations for a belief in God. And if God does exist and there is universal truth that God established, then surely, he has something to say about what occurs in his creation. Most all believers in God (in one form or another) all agree that God says homosexuality is wrong.

The reason I agree with the article so much is because I have seen first hand the disastrous effects homosexuality has on children when they are taught to embrace it at that young of an age. Children and teenagers are at their most critical developing years and to teach them that a learned behavior that goes against the laws of biology, evolution (if you believe in that), God and spirituality, is good and acceptable, it causes tremendous confusion. Suddenly what should make sense, doesn’t. Male and female, literally and figuratively, fit together. Male and male don’t. Female and female don’t. Confusion about sexuality causes so many more problems than simply sexual ones. It causes self-esteem issues, social anxiety issues, interpersonal relational issues, etc., especially when proposed as good and acceptable to children and teenagers.

So what made the article incredible to me is how well the author used primary sources to quote that not only does homosexuality cause serious health risks, but also quotes that there is no scientific evidence that shows that homosexuality is something innate in some human beings (i.e. in their DNA); but instead, is a learned behavior pattern stemming from confusion over sexual identity often occurring in the formative adolescent years. There is more evidence to prove that heterosexuality is the only way than there is evidence to show that homosexuality is a scientifically and emotionally acceptable alternative. I felt the need to post a link to this article for the reason that it is very well written, cites expert scientific authorities, and makes a very strong case at that. Not to mention, the author draws in the Christian worldview quite well.

I understand the article made you angry. Believe it or not, anger is a good thing. For without anger, we often do not act upon convictions – you never would have sent me a message asking for further explanation. I greatly appreciate and respect your wanting to understand and taking the initiative to ask.

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