Sunday, July 27, 2014

Larry: An Example of "Friendship Evangelism"

Larry is 61-years-old, married with four adult children, and he has four grandchildren--ages 8 to 22. Larry is retired after a 35-year career as the CEO of a non-profit organization that specialized in providing care and support for seniors and people with disabilities. Originally from New Orleans, Larry was raised in the religious framework of Roman Catholicism, but he left Romanism for membership in a Baptist Church. Today he is a member of a non-denominational church. He moved to Redding, CA, after he married his wife. When it comes to shopping, like me, Larry prefers to wait outside the mall stores and relax on a bench, while the ladies shop.

With the information I just gave you about Larry, you would think Larry and I have known each other for years. In reality, Larry and I have never met in person. In fact, prior to a phone conversation yesterday afternoon, Larry and I had no idea each other existed. What I know about Larry I learned in about five minutes, during an impromptu phone conversation--a conversation that left Larry encouraged and considering the important matters about which we discussed. The phone conversation ended with both Larry and I feeling like each other's friend.

During my conversation with Larry, I shared the law of God and the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ with him. This was the main reason why I talked to Larry on the phone. My primary purpose for engaging Larry, a stranger, in conversation was not to develop a relationship with him, although I'm glad that happened.

Of course, admitting this will immediately draw the ire of some Christians who, having grown up in American Evangelicalism, have been taught that the development of a relationship with a person must happen before any attempt is made to communicate the gospel to that person. To do otherwise is tantamount to "shoving Jesus down the person's throat" (quite a blasphemous utterance, by the way). These same Christians have been taught that no one will care about what we as Christians have to say until people see that we care. This particular American Evangelical doctrine denies both the love and power of the communicated gospel (Romans 1:16; 10:14-17).

American Evangelicals have been taught that developing relationships with people is more loving than simply sharing the gospel with them. American Evangelicals have been taught that the gospel is just too simple while, at the same time, too difficult to understand outside the confines of a well-developed relationship. These are not straw man arguments I am proffering. These are arguments I hear from American Evangelicals quite frequently in churches, on the streets, and on social media sites. These American Evangelical doctrines, which are nothing more than traditions developed over the last 150 years, have no support in Scripture. None. But many Christians believe these traditions are biblical because that's what they've been told by well-meaning pastors, authors, and conference speakers.

What happened between me and Larry was motivated by a desire to communicate the gospel with him. What happened between me and Larry was built upon the foundation of love for God and love for people (the two greatest commandments). What happened between me and Larry was empowered not by my ability or even my desire to establish a relationship with him. Rather, it was empowered by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Larry professed to be a follower of Jesus Christ. While he said things that were contrary to biblical Christianity, he also affirmed everything I shared with him regarding salvation by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Larry left me on the fence regarding the state of his soul. Fortunately for Larry, I am neither the Lawgiver nor the Judge; I am not the One who can both save and destroy. That is Christ, and Christ alone.

I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Larry. He seemed very friendly, humble, kind, and patient. He was gracious with his time, and my heart went out to him. My phone conversation with Larry was an example of "friendship evangelism"--not as it is practiced by most of American Evangelicalism. My phone conversation with Larry was an example of biblical "friendship evangelism." I set out to share the gospel with this man 11 years my senior, which is the most loving thing I can ever do for another human being, and a friendship happened--a friendship that might not go any further than a phone conversation this side of heaven. But I hope it will continue in glory, in the presence and at the feet of Jesus Christ.

Please join me in praying for Larry. If he is a brother in Christ, pray the Lord matures his faith and gives him a zeal to reach the lost with the gospel. If he is not a brother in Christ, pray the Lord blesses him with the gifts of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ the Lord.

If you would like, you can listen to my conversation with Larry. It took place during the second hour of yesterday's edition of Cross Encounters Radio.

Penciled Prayers: Lord, Let Not Your Church be Put to Shame Because of Me

"Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord of Hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel" (Psalm 69:6).

Father in heaven, my pastor's sermon this morning, an exposition of John 10:1-10, stirred my heart in several different ways--not the least of which was driving home thoughts I had yesterday after reading Psalm 69:6. I'm still working through the connection between the two passages in my life. But this I know, Father; thanks to the Holy Spirit and the reading of Your Word, I've come to consider more deeply that my responsibility to my brothers and sisters in Christ runs deeper, wider, and farther than I realized or maybe I've wanted to admit.

Father, I am prideful and I all-to-often seek the praise and approval of my Christian brethren. There are also too many times when I seek the negative attention of those who despise You. Lord, there are times when I struggle to differentiate between defending truth and seeking attention for myself. And Lord, there have been many times, I'm sure, when I have feigned humility when receiving the praise of others when, in actuality, I was glorying in the praise given to me. Wretched man that I am, I hate this about me!

Father, please forgive me for my pride and for the times when I seek the praises of men. Lord, I long to be conformed to Your image in every area of my life, especially this one. Lord, while I can never match Your perfect humility, please help me to be as conformed to Your image as I can be, this side of heaven.

Father, for reasons known only to You, You have allowed me a small amount of influence among my Christian brethren. While I am thankful, I am also fearful because I know myself too well and how quickly my thoughts can turn toward pride. Lord, I am thankful for brothers and sisters in Christ who love me and encourage me to embrace where You have me in service to You and Your Church. They have admonished me, telling me that running from the responsibilities You have given me to exhort and admonish a segment of Your people, longing instead for a simpler life of only street preaching, in order to avoid the welling up of the pride within me, is not the way to glorify You in my life.

They are right, Father. Thank You, Lord, for the people in my life who are willing to tell me when I am wrong, and who do so with a loving, not a critical spirit.

Praying with what I hope is humility and contrition (only You know, Lord), I ask for Your help, Lord. "Let not those who hope in You be put to shame through me." Father, the world hates You more for who You are than for what You do and seemingly do not do. Father the world hates You because You are holy, good, sovereign, righteous, just, wrathful, forgiving, and loving. O Father, let not the world hate You because of times when I shamefully misrepresent You through my public sin. And Lord, please let not Your Church, my brethren who hope in You, be put to shame through my shameful behavior. Lord, please help me and keep me from leading Your people into temptation when I fail them and You be encouraging them toward any thought or behavior that is contrary to Your perfect Word and will.

Lord, please "let not those who seek You be brought to dishonor through me." Father, prevent people from following me when I am not following You as I should. May they only follow me or look to me as an example when I am humbly following You--when my eyes are locked on You and Your cross--when I am denying myself (not glorying in myself), taking up my cross daily, and following You.

Lord, the responsibilities You have given me in ministry, in Your Body, are too great for me. As flawed and inept as I am, as much sanctification as I yet need, You have validated Your Word through the life You have given me: "But God chose what is foolish . . . low and despised in the world." Help me, Lord, to never again think of myself more highly than I should. And may my life be marked by thinking of and treating others, whether saved or unsaved, as more important than myself. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Would They Write "Nasrani" on Your House?

The image to the left is a spray-painted representation of the letter "N" in Arabic. The meaning and significance of this kind of graffiti is that the Arabic letter "N" stands for "Nasrani," the Arabic word for "Nazarene." Nazarene is a slang term for Christians in Islamic-dominated, Middle Eastern nations. ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) are engaged in a systematic purging of Christians and professing Christians from Iraq and Syria.

The most dramatic example of Christian purging is the complete removal of Christians from the Iraqi city of Mosul. The City of Mosul has a Christian heritage of almost 2,000 years. That heritage became a memory in the last 48 hours. Christians were given an ultimatum from Muslims (adherents of the so-called "religion of peace"). They had to either convert to Islam, pay a Christian or non-Muslim tax called the "jizya," leave the city, or face execution. Most recently, the "jizya" was removed as an option. So, Christians were down to only three options: convert, leave, or be killed.

Having forced all of the Christians out of Mosul, Muslims dotted their barbaric "I's" and anti-Christian and antisemitic "T's" by blowing up the traditional site of the prophet Jonah's tomb. Ironically, Muslims are taught to respect and believe the Old Testament prophets, including Jonah. But, since the false god of Islam is inconsistent, deceptive, vacillating, and capricious, it is no surprise that worshipers of this false god would follow suit.

What just happened in Mosul, and what has happened in Muslim-dominated lands for centuries, is remarkably and tragically similar to what the Nazis did to the European Jews prior to and during World War II. Homes and businesses were spray-painted with the Star of David, and Jewish people were forced to wear the "Yellow Badge."

Both the Christians in Mosul and the Jews in Nazi Germany were easy to identify. They did not dress like their persecutors, act like their persecutors, talk like their persecutors, worship like their persecutors. They were different and, in many cases, demonstrably so.

The day is coming when a symbol will be spray-painted on the homes and businesses of Christians living in the western world, including the United States. The day is coming when Christians will have to wear some kind of insignia to distinguish themselves as a "Nasrani," a "Nazarene," a member of "The Way," a Christ Follower, a Christian. With the rapid spread of Islam, it could very-well be an Arabic letter "N." Or maybe it will be the English letter "C," or a cross, or the Ichthus.

So, here's my question. Would worshipers of the false god of Islam write "Nasrani" on your home or business? Would they write it on your locker at school? Would they have any reason to make you wear the Arabic letter "N" on your clothing?

While true converts to Islam primarily hate Christians because they hate God and His Word (although they would never admit to this truth), they also hate Christians for other reasons. Muslims loathe Christians, particularly Christians who live in western cultures, because they see Christians as hypocrites who do not live what they profess to believe. They loathe Christians because they see Christians as irreverent and ungodly. They despise Christians because they do not live set apart (holy) lives in honor and worship of the God in whom they profess to have faith.

Unlike in Muslim-dominated countries where Christians seem to stand out from the Islamic crowd, most professing Christians in the west look like the world, talk like the world, otherwise act like the world, and love the world. Many professing Christians in the west blend in with the world around them. And that's how they like it. They find contentment in spiritual obscurity. They are comfortable in their suburbian or urban lifestyles, convinced they are living their lives in such a way that people are bound to ask them why. But no one asks. And that's okay with them, too.

No one sees Jesus in most professing Christians in the west because the unbeliever is utterly incapable of seeing Jesus in them, if He's there (1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:1-3). No one sees Jesus in them because they are so busy vying for acceptance from the world (James 4:1-4) that they simply blend in with everyone else. And they are offended by genuine followers of Christ who, by their demonstrative Christ-likeness, which includes speaking publicly about Jesus, upset the status quo and the peaceful, easy feeling in which professing Christians love to envelope themselves--all the while insisting to their other professing Christian friends, while nestled deep inside their Christian bubble on Sunday mornings, that they love Jesus.

Would they write "Nasrani" on your house, Christian?

If you are not obeying the commands of Jesus, which is the visible demonstration of one's love for Him, then you are probably safe.

If you are not living the life to which Paul called Timothy (1 Timothy 6:11-12), a life in which Christ-likeness, albeit imperfect, is normative and your passionate pursuit, then you are probably safe.

If you are not opening your mouth to proclaim the gospel at work, at school, at your friend's house, at baseball practice, in your own living room, and yes, on the streets, then you are probably safe.

If you care more about your friendships than the souls of your friends, then you are probably safe.

If you so overly contextualize Jesus so he is palatable to the unbeliever in his lost lost state, then you are probably safe.

If you say you love Jesus with your lips on Sunday morning in church, but, in reality, your heart is far from him, then you are probably safe.

If liberty is more important to you than holiness, then you are probably safe.

But if you are a genuine follower of Jesus Christ, He has neither called you to nor promised you physical safety in this life. He has called you to deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Him.

Well, "Christian," would they write "Nasrani" on your house? Would you even want them to?

Penciled Prayers: Till the Storms of Destruction Pass By

"Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by (Psalm 57:1).

O Lord, thank You for my daily time with Mahria in Your Word and in prayer. As we read Your psalms yesterday, Mahria was particularly touched and encouraged by Psalm 57:1. Once we finished our reading, as You know, we went back and read the verse a few more times, encouraging each other and being encouraged by You and Your Word. Thank You, Lord, for loving us so much and enabling us to love You and to love each other.

You are so very merciful to me, Father. Your mercy--not giving me what I deserve for my sins against You--is great and as unmerited as Your love and grace. Father, my sin is great, but Your grace and mercy is greater. The efficacy of Your Son's vicarious, penal, substitutionary, and definite atonement is greater, far greater than my sin and the debt I owe You for my sin, which was nailed to the cross. I cannot thank You enough, Father, for the mercy You showed me when You saved me and the mercy You have shown me every moment since that moment in time.

My soul takes refuge in You, in the shadow of Your wings, like the goslings under their mothers' wings along the lake's shore, or like the family in sudden fear takes shelter in the storm cellar, hearing the roar of a tornado in the distance. Lord, I can remember so many times as a boy taking refuge in my earthly father's presence. Safety, security, unconditional love. As I pray this prayer, I find myself missing my dad. Gone now 15 years, I do hope he is in Your presence.

So many storms of life have come and gone, Father. A few tempests swirl, today, but I know You are with me. For I can always seek and always find shelter in the shadow of Your wings. O God, how great is Your mercy!

Father, the shadow of Your wings includes Your sovereignty. You allow and/or cause every storm--even every destructive storm--in my life. Yet on the cusp of every storm, before the billowing clouds along the front edge of the storm grow dark and seem to hide the Sun, Your mercy is already there. The shadow of Your sovereign wings provides shelter before the shadow of the storm brings darkness.

Sometimes storms take time to come, giving opportunity for anxiety to darken otherwise clear days. Sometimes storms hit without warning, bringing with them sudden fear. Regardless of the nature of the storm; regardless of the manner in which or the severity with which it strikes, Your mercy is already present, perfectly placed, perfectly secure, perfectly sufficient to protect me until the destructive storm passes by. My soul takes refuge in You, Lord, in the shadow of Your wings.

Father, I know there are times when I seed life's otherwise white clouds with my sin. I know some of the storms of my life come about as a result of my sin. Not every tempest rages because of Satan's tempting. More often than not, any artificial seeding of the clouds of life are my own doing. And You allow it. You allow it in order to bring Yourself glory through disciplining me and through my sanctification. Yet even in these self-induced stormy times in my life, I can repent and take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. I can turn from the storm, even the storm I bring about, turn to you, and be safe. O Merciful God, thank You for Your loving and tender mercy.

Father, please show mercy to the street preacher with whom I engaged in written correspondence, yesterday. Father, as You know, he preaches doctrines of demons and has deceived himself into thinking his self-righteousness is righteousness. O Lord, please have mercy on him and save him. Do not allow his heart to remain hard. Take his Pharaoh-like heart and give him a heart like You gave Philip the Evangelist.

Father, please continue to show mercy to Israel, especially during this time of dangerous military engagement. Israel, who murdered Your prophets and crucified her Messiah, remains in wanton rebellion against You. For thousands of years, You have shown great mercy to Your nation--in spite of their demand for a king to rule them, to murdering Your prophets, to rejecting their Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. Every day of existence for Israel, like every day of existence for every unbeliever, is a testimony of Your amazing mercy. Preserve Israel, O God. Preserve her, and may she be reconciled to her King.

I love You, Lord Jesus; I thank You for Your mercy in my life and for giving me the confident, peace-generating, hope in the reality that Your mercies are new every morning. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Penciled Prayers: Do I Fear You as I Should, Lord?

"Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant" (Psalm 25:12-14).

Lord God Almighty, my Creator and King, do I fear You as I should? I know I should not live in terror of Your wrath, for You have saved me. I know, by faith in Your Son, You are my Father, not my condemning Judge. Yet I know to fear You because I love You and because I am known by You. I do not want to face Your always perfect discipline. I fear disappointing You. I fear hearing the rhetorical, "What have you done?" Instead, I long to hear You say, "Well done."

Father, the man who fears You is wise. The man who says he has no fear of You is a fool and self-deceived. The believer who says he has no fear of You is like the second son in the story of the prodigal. His familiarity with his father bred contempt for his father. He thought nothing of dishonoring his father. He took both his father and his father's love for granted. He loved himself and his friends more than he loved his father. All this, all this and likely more, while remaining under his father's roof.

O Lord, You promise friendship to those who fear You. Quite literally, You promise to provide secret counsel to those who fear You--certainly not in a Gnostic way, but rather the counsel that comes with intimate relationship between a father and a child. Lord, I pray I fear You rightly so You will continue to intimately communicate with me through Your precious Word--the Bible.

Your Word describes a symptom of man's depravity as living with a blindness, with no view to the fear of God. Then it must only be the man who has experienced the outpouring of Your grace and mercy through salvation, which leads him to repentance, who fears You. With a heart forever changed, with eyes from which the veil had been removed, he can have the wisdom to fear the One who saved him. For You, O Lord, save people from You--the only Lawgiver and Judge.

Lord, You make Yourself known to those You save. I thank You, Father, for I had no fear of You before You saved me. I had no respect or reverence for the Triune God who created me. But You changed that in an instant, in the blink of an eye. One moment You were an utter offense to me. The next moment, I feared even the thought of offending You. Thank You, Father, for changing me.

Yet Lord, do I fear You enough? Do I fear You as I should? If I do not, please bring me to repentance.

Father, with each passing day it seems that there is less fear of You in the American Evangelical Church. Churches blaspheme You with offerings of strange fire of many different kinds, turning Your pulpits into a ringmaster's star at the center of a circus floor. There is no fear of God in their eyes; only the fear of man. O Lord, please bring American Evangelicalism to repentance!

Do I fear You as I should, Lord? Do I fear You rightly? Do I fear You enough? While You have not given me a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love and self-control, Your Word promises good things to those who rightly fear You.

Please, Lord, help me to discern; help me to understand. Help me to know the difference between sinful fear and godly fear. Please give me wisdom, which is birthed from proper fear of You. And may my fear of You result in more holiness, godliness, and righteousness in my life, as well as an exponentially greater love for You.

In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Penciled Prayers: Oh, That Salvation for Israel Would Come!

"Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad" (Psalm 14:7).

Father in heaven, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the Twelve Tribes: Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! Father, my heart has been heavy and my mind has been occupied with thoughts of Your people, Israel. Lord, once again they find themselves fighting for relative peace and security, for their existence. Her allies seem to be relegated to Your Church, but not even all of Your Church.

Father, from the beginning of Your people, Israel has experienced cruelty from those who hate You, who do not seek You. Yes, Lord, a good portion of that nationally experienced cruelty of man throughout the ages has been a form of divine judgment from You, for Israel's wanton and repeated rebellion against You. To the extent and exactly when that has been the case, I do not presume to know. Your thoughts and Your ways are too high for me.

But why not now, Lord? After all, Your people, many of your people, deny Your very existence. And Israel now has some of the most liberal abortion laws in the entire world. Israel continues to sacrifice her children on the altar of Molech. Israel is at war, to varying degrees, with the who world. Why not, Lord? She is in rebellion against You. Yet You have not drowned her in the Great Sea, Father. You have not crushed her into powder. You have kept her enemies at bay. Why, Lord?

I believe Your Word, Lord. I believe You will one-day save Your people--not in a blasphemous "two stream" fashion. You would never contradict Your Word or rob Your Son, the Messiah, of His glory by making His propitiation unnecessary for some of those, some of Israel, You have chosen to save. As there will be a great apostasy from the Church, which may have already begun, I trust there will be a great deliverance, a great rescue, a great reconciliation throughout the Twelve Tribes as men and women and children repent and receive the Messiah, Jesus Christ the Lord. Oh, for that great day to come quickly, Lord! Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!

May salvation for Israel come out of Zion, that place where You were pleased to reveal Your presence, protection, and power to Your people! Lord, glorify Your great name through the salvation of Your chosen, covenant people. May this be the generation to see the fulfillment of Your promises to Your people! May they repent and believe the gospel, today!

Father, I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ who misunderstand Your Word and somehow find justification in their chosen eschatological construct to despise Israel. Father, please help my beloved brethren, whose salvation I do not question, to see their error of thinking the Church has replaced Israel, that the promises You gave to Israel are now somehow null and void, have been redirected to and assumed by the Church. Father, I pray You guard the hearts and minds of my Christian brethren from any anti-Judaism or antisemitism that can come from a skewed eschatological perspective.

Father, I likewise pray for my Christian brethren who have been duped into blaspheming You by affirming a different gospel--one that believes there are two ways to heaven--by way of the cross and by way of Israel. Lord, please close the mouth of every false teacher--men like John Hagee who assert You never claimed to be the Messiah, Lord Jesus, in order to proffer the false notion that Israel did not reject You during Your earthly ministry. Close the mouth of every false teacher who bolsters such rank heresy with their lips and with their books.

Lord God, the greatest support the Bride of Your Son can give to Israel is the gospel of her Messiah. Rallies, monies, and other supplies, without the gospel of Jesus Christ, is to make the Jewish people more comfortable on their way to hell. Please, Father, do not let this happen anymore, and bring to repentance those Christians who subscribe to any pro-Israel ideology that does not include a clarion call to the Jewish people to repent and believe the gospel.

Lord, I pray not only for Israel, but for Palestinians and those who are part of the terror organization known as "Hamas." Yes, Lord, let earthly justice be meted out for every crime committed against the people of either side of the conflict. But Lord, I want all people, both sides of the current conflict, to come to repentance and faith in You. Lord, please do not allow another Palestinian, young or old, to suddenly perish in their sin. Let not another misdirected bullet or bomb injure, maim, or kill another person, whether Palestinian or Jewish. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, Father.

Father, many are clamoring for peace when there can be no peace for the person or nation who denies Your Son, my Lord and King, Jesus Christ. But I pray for peace knowing that if it comes it will be preceded by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ in the hearts of all those You have elected to salvation by Your grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus! Make all things new, O Prince of Peace!

In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Horatius Bonar: An Excerpt from "The Jew"

I'm currently reading an excellent book by Barry E. Horner, theologian and expert on the writings of John Bunyan. The title of the book: "Future Israel -- Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged." The book, part of the NAC Studies in Bible & Theology series, was published in 2007. A friend of the ministry sent me the book as a gift.

I somewhat begrudgingly find myself spending more time studying and thinking about eschatological issues. I say "begrudgingly" because it appears that eschatology is the new theological animal where many Christians, male and female, find themselves in a "cage stage" of sorts. I first heard the term "cage stage" while reading the fine book by Greg Dutcher titled, "Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside."

In a 2007 blog article titled, "How To Avoid Cage Stage-itis," James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries wrote:
"I’ve seen it many times. The Cage Stage. A believer’s eyes are opened to the majesty of God as the sovereign King of the universe, and their entire life is turned upside down. And for a while, they have more zeal than they have knowledge. We call it the “cage stage.” That period in the experience of the new Calvinist where they would be better off kept in a cage until they can gain enough maturity to handle these vitally important topics aright. That time when they are more likely to hurt themselves, and others! You know, when they are all running around smacking someone upside the head with Pink’s The Sovereignty of God? Yeah."
Unfortunately, "cage stage-itis" is not limited to the Calvinism/Arminianism debate. This "itis" extends to topics like evangelism, worship, church governance, Bible translations, and, most recently, eschatology. Cage stages never bring out the best in Christians. The current social media buzz about eschatology proves the point.

I'm reading Horner's book, not to come leaping off the top rope and into the ring of the eschatological fight. Trust me. I don't have to look for controversy in my life. It follows me like a cross between a gnat and an Internet troll. I'm reading the book because I am unashamedly premillennial in my eschatological point of view. I'm also older and wiser, now, than I was when I entered my very first cage stage (Calvinism) some 25 years ago. So, when it comes to eschatology, I also ascribe to the pan-millennial perspective. It will all "pan out" in the end. Eschatology is important, but I realize that since the days of Augustine of Hippo (who I believe was wrong on this issue, by the way), men far smarter than me have debated the "end times." Because I've landed at Premillennial International Airport, doesn't mean I'm the pilot of the eschatological plane. I still have much to learn, and I doubt I will earn my wings this side of heaven.

I also decided to pick up Horner's book because the subtitle, "Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged," intrigued me. It intrigued me because I have seen on Facebook and Twitter a disturbing trend among some who hold to eschatological perspectives that differ from my own. That disturbing trend is the increase in negative rhetoric about and toward Israel, which seems to be intensifying with Israel's current conflict in Gaza. There have been some Christians who sound eerily like the United Nations--condemning Israel for it's incursion into Gaza, while saying nothing about the daily shelling of Israel by Palestinian terrorists. For some, this anti-Israel rhetoric is spawned by theological constructs such as "replacement theology." also known as "supersessionism."

I am only 16 pages into Horner's book, so a book review would inappropriate and unwarranted at this point. However, I would like to share an excerpt (found on pages 9-11 in the book) in which Horner quotes from an article, "The Jew," written by 19th century theologian and hymnist, Horatius Bonar. Bonar beautifully wrote:
Let us speak reverently of the Jew. Let us not misjudge him by present appearances. He is not what he once was, nor what he yet shall be.

Let us speak reverently of the Jew. We have much cause to do so. What, though all Christendom, both of the East and West, has for nearly eighteen centuries treated him as the offscouring of the race? What though Mohammad has taught his followers to revile and persecute the sons of Abraham? . . .

Nay, what though he [the Jew] may have a grasping hand, and a soul shut up against the world,--a world that has done nothing but wrong and revile him? What though he may inherit the crookedness of his father Jacob, instead of the nobility of Abraham, or the simply gentleness of Isaac?

Still let us speak reverently of the Jew,--if not for what he is, at least for what he was, and what he shall be, when the Redeemer shall come to Zion and turn away ungodliness from Jacob [Isa. 59:20; see. Rom. 11:26].

In him we see the development of God's great purpose as to the woman's seed, the representative of a long line of kings and prophets, the kinsmen of Him who is the Word made flesh. It was a Jew who sat on one of the most exalted thrones on earth; it is a Jew who sits upon the throne of heaven. It was a Jew who wrought such miracles once on our earth, who spoke such gracious words. It was a Jew who said, "Come unto me and I will give you rest;" and a Jew who said, "Behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me." It was Jewish blood that was shed on Calvary; it was a Jew who bore our sins in His own body on the tree. It was a Jew who died, and was buried, and rose again. It is a Jew who liveth to intercede for us, who is to come in glory and majesty as earthly judge and monarch. It is a Jew who is our Prophet, our Priest, our King.

Let us, then, speak reverently of the Jew, whatever his present degradation may be. Just as we tread reverently the level platform of Moriah, where once stood the holy house where Jehovah was worshipped; so let us tread the ground where where they dwell whose are the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and of whom, concerning the flesh, Christ came. That temple hill is not what it was. The beautiful house is gone, and not one stone is left upon another. The
seventeen sieges of Jerusalem, like so many storms rolling the waves of every sea over it, have left few memorials of the old magnificence. The Mosque of the Moslems covers the spot of the altar of burnt-offering; the foot of the Moslem defiles the sacred courts . . . But still the ground is felt to be sacred; the bare rock on which you tread is not common rock; the massive stones built here and there into the wall are witnesses of other days; and the whole scene gathers round it such associations as, in spite of the rubbish, and desolation, and ruin, and pollution, fill you irresistibly with awe . . .

So it is with the Jew,—I mean the whole Jewish nation. There are indelible memories connected with them, which will ever, to anyone who believes in the Bible, prevent them from being contemned; nay, will cast around them a nobility and a dignity which no other nation has possessed or can attain to. To Him in whose purposes they occupy so large a space, they are still “beloved for their fathers’ sake” [Rom. 11:28]. Of them, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever.
Later Bonar boldly confessed:
I am one of those who believe in Israel’s restoration and conversion; who receive it as a future certainty, that all Israel shall be gathered, and that all Israel shall be saved. As I believe in Israel’s present degradation, so do I believe in Israel’s coming glory and preeminence. I believe that God’s purpose regarding our world can only be understood by understanding God’s purpose as to Israel. I believe that all human calculations as to the earth’s future, whether political or scientific, or philosophical or religious, must be failures, if not taking for their data or basis God’s great purpose regarding the latter-day standing of Israel. I believe that it is not possible to enter God’s mind regarding the destiny of man, without taking as our key or our guide His mind regarding the ancient nation—that nation whose history, so far from being ended, or nearly ended, is only about to begin. And if any one may superciliously ask, What can the Jews have to do with the world’s history?--may we not correctly philosophize on that coming history, and take the bearing of the world’s course, leaving Israel out of the consideration altogether? We say, nay; but O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Art thou the framer of the earth’s strange annals, either past or future? Art thou the creator of those events which make up these annals, or the producer of those latent springs or seeds of which these arise?

He only to whom the future belongs can reveal it. He only can announce the principles on which that future is to be developed. And if He set Israel as the great nation of the future, and Jerusalem as the great metropolis of earth, who are we, that, with our philosophy of science, we should set aside the divine arrangements, and substitute for them a theory of man? . . .

I believe that the sons of Abraham are to re-inherit Palestine, and that the forfeited fertility will yet return to that land; that the wilderness and the solitary places shall be glad for them, and the desert will rejoice and blossom as the rose. I believe that, meanwhile, Israel shall not only be wanderers, but that everywhere only a remnant, a small remnant, shall be saved; and that it is for the gathering in of this remnant that our missionaries go forth. I believe that these times of ours (as also all the times of the four monarchies [Dan 2]) are the times of the Gentiles; and that Jerusalem and Israel shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. I believe that, with the filling up of these times of the Gentile pre-eminence, and the completion of what the apostle calls the fullness of the Gentiles, will be the signal for the judgments which are to usher in the crisis of earth’s history, and the deliverance of Israel, and the long-expected kingdom.

How Jewish history shall once more emerge into its old place of grandeur and miracle, and how it shall unwind from itself the bright future of all nations, I know not. But so it is fore-written, “What shall be and miracle, and how it shall unwind from itself the bright future of all nations, I know not. But so it is fore-written, “What shall be the reconciling of them be, but life from the dead?” [Rom 11:15] “Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit” [Isa 27:6].
My next article will be a "Penciled Prayer" for Israel.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Penciled Prayers: Kiss the Son

"Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him (Psalm 2:12).

Kiss the Son. Endearment. Submission. Loyalty. Commitment. Honor. Respect. Love.

Father, for 24 years I spat at Your Son. I held Him in derision. Had I seen Him on the cross, I would have mocked Him. And I would have done so while trampling His shed, spilled blood under my feet. I would have mocked Him as weak. I would have seen myself as stronger and better than Him. I would have blasphemed Him in order to fit in with the crowd around me. Whatever shame I felt would have been nothing more than worldly sorrow. I would have argued away or rejected outright any real sense of guilt, in my wicked heart and depraved mind. I would have kissed Your Son the way Judas kissed Him in the garden--only as a sign of betrayal. 26 years ago, I would not have kissed Your feet like the harlot did. There was no humility in me. I submitted to nothing but my lusts and whatever it took to accomplish my selfish desires and goals. Kiss the Son? I hated Your Son, while claiming to be a Christian.

And then, Father, You saved me. You caused me to be born again. You extended to me the free gifts of repentance and faith in Your Son, Jesus Christ. Your Word explains to me how and why You saved me. You have removed the veil from my eyes, allowing me to see how and why You saved me. Yet these truths remain too wonderful for me to fully comprehend. You so dramatically and eternally changed me that the thought of spitting on Your Son repulses and angers me. While, at the same time, the thought of being able to kiss the feet, the hands, the cheek of Your Son, with the love of one adopted into His kingdom, fills me with joy.

Kiss the Son. Lord Jesus, I long to see You, face-to-face. I long to be in Your presence. I long to worship at the foot of Your throne, sitting at Your feet. I want to Kiss the Son.

Father, I fear for those who, with hatred toward You, refuse to kiss Your Son. They are simply waiting to perish because they think this mortal life is all there is. Your wrath abides upon them, yet it has not been fully kindled. Such is Your common grace. Lord, Your Word says that Your wrath is quickly kindled. Most people live with the delusion that tomorrow is certain. They lived yesterday, so they assume they will live tomorrow. Yet Your wrath could be kindled against them in a moment.

Lord, I thank You that because of Your grace in my life I do not fear the specter of facing Your wrath. You are my refuge. I am blessed, for I have taken refuge in You. You are my refuge and strength, a present help in time of trouble.

Lord Jesus, You are slow to anger and full of lovingkindness. So many people come to mind--family, people I meet on the streets--people who may very well perish, today. Lord, might today be the day they take refuge in You. Might today be the day they repent and believe the gospel. Might today be the day they kiss the Son.

In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Penciled Prayers: Fierce Wolves

"I know after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock" (Acts 20:29).

Heavenly Father: it is not the rise of Islam; it is not other anti-Christ religions like Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, the Watchtower Society, apostate liberal denominations, or Atheism. None of these Christ-less, outside influences pose the greatest, present danger to Your Bride, the Church. The greatest threat to Your Body comes from within the visible Church. And that threat is in the form of fierce, ravenous wolves. Some are obvious. Some disguise themselves as shepherds and sheep. Some may be saved, but so deceived, so spiritually immature and inept, they ignorantly act like a wolf--all the while convincing Christians that wolves don't bite.

The second greatest danger to Your Bride are Christians who have bought what many of the wolves are selling--namely: emotionalism over doctrine; feelings over truth; relevance over repentance; experiential subjectivity over biblical objectivity; safety in and acceptance by the world over self-denial and faithful cross-bearing; eisegesis over exegesis; Christianese over communication; CEO's over shepherds; coaches over elders; egalitarianism over complementarianism; effeminacy over masculinity; feminism over femininity; gifts over the Giver of Life. This is no more true than in the confines of American Evangelicalism--a quasi-Christian, man-made system in which pockets of Your remnant survive and thrive.

Father, I thank You for my church. I thank You for my pastors and elders. I thank You for my brothers and sisters who make up the congregation. I thank You for how seriously my shepherds are about guarding the flock over which You have given them stewardship. I thank You for the pastors and elders of many other fine churches, large and small, that come to mind--churches where the authentic gospel is preached, the Word of God is rightly divided, the sacraments are observed, and those who comprise the congregation love one another and others. Lord, You have so greatly blessed me by allowing me to travel around the world to visit and serve wonderful churches. Thank You, Father.

Lord, my heart breaks for Your people and false converts who find themselves in false churches unbiblically ruled by tyrannical narcissists--unfaithful personalities who believe their own hype and demand their people do the same. My heart breaks for those who find themselves in false churches where false signs and wonders and demonic spirits are worshiped, or where abortion and homosexuality are encouraged and are touted as virtues instead of calling people to repent of these sins against one's own body and the body of another.

Father, my heart breaks for Your people and false converts who find themselves in false churches where carnal, worldly, and blasphemous concerts, bad community theater, and Vaudevillian sideshows have replaced reverent, Christ-honoring worship--where strange fires of various hues and intensity singe the fleshy hearts of the faithful and temper the steely hearts of the faithless and hell-bound.

Lord God, I am very angry with these ravenous wolves--men and women who find themselves on the world's stages and those with delusions of selfish grandeur who will never be known outside their small remote villages. But my prayer is not for their destruction, although I ask that You stop them from deceiving even one more person. Rather, my prayer is that You would discipline those who belong to You and cause the rest, who are nothing more than tools of Satan and who are discipling people to be twice the children of hell that they are, to be born again. I ask, Father, that You cause even the most vicious wolves to be born again, extending to them--through Your goodness, grace, and mercy--the good gifts of genuine repentance and faith in Your Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

O Lord, the names of so many wolves come to mind. And I had determined, for the protection and edification of Your saints, to name them when I published this prayer. But I thank You, Holy Spirit. I believe, through bringing Scripture to mind and pricking my conscience--reminding me of how proud and prone to conflict I can be--You have helped me to see a published prayer is not the place to name names.

Lord God Almighty, I ask You to discipline those among the men and women who come to mind--those who are saved but who have ignorantly or arrogantly joined the ranks of the pragmatists, the spiritualists, the "bad boys," the women acting like men, and the entrepreneurs who ascend into pulpits on Sunday mornings. Bring them to repentance. Remove them from leadership. Remove them from influence. Remove them from the public eye until such time they are fit for Your service in a manner prescribed by Your Word and according to Your will. And I ask for those among the men and women who come to mind who are lost that You save them from You and Your wrath. Save them so they will not face You as their Judge. Lord God, please discipline or save every fierce wolf, and then use them for Your glory to truly build Your Church.

Father, please allow Your Bride to be more faithful and less gullible, more objective and less subjective, more rational and less emotional, more discerning and less compromising, wiser not slicker, more evangelical and less ecumenical, more evangelistic and less stylistic, more like You and less like the world.

In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Penciled Prayers: Save the Evangelical Sons of Sceva

"But the evil spirit answered them, 'Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you'" (Acts 19:15)?

O Lord God, every evil spirit knows You. You have created all things--angels (1/3 of them becoming evil spirits when Lucifer rebelled and was cast out of heaven), mankind, every living thing, everything that exists, whether visible or invisible. Lord, You are sovereign over all that You have made. Not even Satan and the demons who joined him in the rebellion, can do anything outside of Your immediate, perfect, omniscient, and omnipotent control. One need look no further than the requirements and restrictions You placed upon the Devil when he petitioned You and sought Your consent to attack Your righteous servant, Job. You are perfectly good, Lord, and You allow evil to exist. I need not know the reasons why You chose to allow Satan to rebel. I need not know why You allowed him to tempt my federal head, Adam. I need not know why you allowed sin and death to enter the world through Adam's sin. I trust You. You are God. You are good. That is enough for me to know.

Thank You, Lord, for allowing me to know how You have used evil, even evil in my own life and experiences, to bring Yourself glory. Had You not saved me, had You not redeemed me, had You not washed away my sin with the blood of the Lamb shed to make propitiation on my behalf, through the vicarious, penal, substitutionary, and definite atonement of Your Son, Jesus of Nazareth, I would only be evil. I would have no understanding of Your good purposes for evil. But even though You have taken my heart of stone and given me a heart of flesh, even though I am a new creature with a renewed and progressively sanctified mind, I still cannot fully fathom Your ways. Your thoughts are not my thoughts and Your ways are beyond my comprehension. My hope is to be further conformed, day-by-day, to the image of Your Son. As a wretched yet redeemed man, You owe me no explanations. It is enough for me to know You are good. It is enough for me to be a beneficiary of Your goodness--the goodness that led me to true repentance and faith in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

This evening, Lord, as I read the Bible aloud with Mahria, our reading included the story of the sons of Sceva. What a horrifying scene, Lord! Seven Jewish men, deniers of both the Name that is above every name and deniers of the Way, arrogantly and presumptuously blasphemed Your holy name in a failed attempt to cast an evil spirit out of a possessed man. As Your Word describes what happened, the evil spirit speaks to the seven sons of hell before he mercilessly ravages them. He tells them that he knows You, and that he is well-aware of Paul. And then the evil spirit says, "But who are you?"

"Who are you?"

What a frightening question, O Lord! "Who are you?" Father, to be asked that question by a demon means You would say to the same person, "Depart from me, you worker of lawlessness; I never knew you."

Father! That was me 26 years ago! I was unknown to demons. I was not known by You in a saving, familial way. I was lost. But You saved me! You saved me from the curse of the law of sin and death. You saved me from judgment and the execution of Your wrath against my sin. I was saved from You, by You. Thank You, Lord!

O Father, I tremble at the thought of the millions (maybe more) of professing Christians who are not known to the demons and are not known by You. Dear Lord, so many delusional, professing Christians think they have power to command angels and to cast out demons, when they are nothing but human toys being played with by the demonic prince of the power of the air. Lord, my heart breaks for those who, because of their pride and lack of wisdom and discernment, are but pawns on the Devil's side of a great spiritual war--some wantonly, some ignorantly.

O that you would use me, Father, to warn the goats who think they are Your sheep to repent--to turn from worshiping the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever; amen. Lord, please use even the demonic, spiritual, dark forces of this world to frighten false converts and deceived believers alike into understanding that they are not known to demons and that they may not be known by You. Save them, Lord! Save them from their blasphemy and idolatry. Save them from the lighting of and playing with strange fire. Save them from themselves. Save them from Your just and holy wrath.

Lord God, the evil spirit recognized Paul. He recognized him because he was one of Your true apostles (there are none, today). He recognized him as a prophet, preacher, teacher, and missionary. The evil spirit recognized Paul because of Your presence, Holy Spirit, in him. Do evil spirits recognize me?

While I am not looking for the recognition of or attention from the evil one and his demonic servants, do they recognize me as a herald of my King, as an ambassador who, for a moment, was in chains? Lord, I am Your slave. Would that the evil spirit who attacked the sons of Sceva say, "Tony, I recognize!" Oh, not for my glory, Father, but for Yours alone!

O Lord, my Master and King, please forgive me for any time when Your enemies have not recognized me as a slave of my Master's eternal household. Holy Spirit, please fill me and sanctify me in such a way that Your enemies would have no doubt as to whom I belong and who I represent. May they say, "Jesus I know, and Tony I recognize." Again, Father, all for Your glory!

Help me, Lord, to deny myself, take up my cross daily, and follow You. Please bring to repentance the sons and daughters of Sceva who are inside Evangelicalism. Save them, Lord, for Your glory, and make them slaves of both righteousness and the Righteous One. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.