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.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Penciled Prayers: No Knowledge of God in the Land

"There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land..." (Hosea 4).

Father, the other night on Stephen Avenue, in downtown Calgary, I was struck yet again with the mind-numbing ignorance manifested in those who are in wanton rebellion against You. Both Canada and the United States are being destroyed for a lack of knowledge. Both countries play the whore with the wisdom of the world, while assuming their self-asserted ignorance of You, Lord, is evidence of intellectual superiority. Two nations professing to be wise have become fools, having forgotten Your law.

As was the case with Israel, Father, so is the case with Canada and the United States. The more North America grows, the more the continent sins against You, Lord. You have changed the glory of these two once-great nations into shame. Father, I fear for North America. I believe that as You did with ancient Israel, You will punish and are already punishing Canada and the United States for their sinful ways. You are punishing and will punish the nations in a far more painful way. You will repay both nations for their wicked deeds.

O Father, both Canada and America are playing the whore. They are committing adultery and every form of sexual immorality. The people inquire of and bow before the false and idolatrous gods of homosexuality, abortion, wealth, distorted science, and a worldview made of the dead and rotting wood of absurdity. Father, please save these countries. Bring them to repentance and faith in Your Son, Jesus Christ. While both nations deserve to be utterly destroyed in a manner that was fit for Sodom and Gomorrah, I pray You will spare them--not because of their goodness and greatness (neither nation has any), but because of Your great mercy.

A strong and demonic wind has wrapped Canada and the United States in its gusts of evil. Only You, Father, can change the direction of these two nations. May the wind of the Holy Spirit blow mightily across these nations. Bring the peoples to understand their shame for their false sacrifices to false gods, and then bring them to genuine, God-given repentance.

Father, while I pray for North America's repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, Your Son, I believe as Israel killed her prophets, North America will one-day soon begin to kill her heralds--men of God preaching the gospel on the streets and calling people on their sin, and calling them to repent and believe the gospel. O Lord my God, please give Your heralds more courage, more perseverance, more love for You and the lost, and greater determination to die to self in anticipation of and preparation for the persecution looming just over North America's horizons. Canada and the United States will not take kindly to the exposing of their collective whoredom, in the face of the truth of Your Word. But exposed the whoredom must be!

Please, Father, cause North America to turn her eyes upon Jesus, to look full in His wonderful face, so that the things of earth--that which facilitates the wanton, debaucherous, rebellion of both nations--will grow strangely dim, in the light of Your glory and grace. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Penciled Prayers: God Will

"I will..." (Hosea 2).

O Majestic Sovereign, King of kings and Lord of all: both glory and worship are Yours. You alone are worthy of all praise, adoration, submission, and love. You are great, and greatly to be praised. There is no one like You, Lord. You are God. There are no others. I am Your slave. Pierce my ear with the nail that pierced Your Son. Pierce my ear to the doorpost of Your house. One day as a slave in Your courts is better than a thousand days elsewhere. I was once a wretched slave to sin, but You bought me for an incalculable price. The price had nothing to do with my value. The price was set based on the value of the One who paid it--Your Son, my Master, Jesus Christ the Lord.

Father, as I read Hosea 2 this morning, I was struck by the many sovereign declarations You made. 24 times in this brief chapter You said, "I will." Through Your prophet, You leave no doubt as to who was and is in control. Judgment, punishment, mercy, restoration: everything Israel would face, everything she would experience, everything--You determined, You declared, You executed. You sought no one's counsel. You sought no one's approval. You did not and do not reign by committee. You are King.

Father, You have declared that only the fool would say in his heart, "There is no God." But how foolish is it for one to call You "Lord and Savior" but not acknowledge with joy that You are sovereign over all? Yet many Christians live in denial of and even passive-aggressive rebellion against the reality of Your sovereignty. Nowhere else is this seen more clearly than in soteriology--the study of the doctrine of salvation.

The Doctrines of Grace: Father, how beautifully You have woven these golden threads through the wondrous tapestry of Your Word. From Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, the threads are clearly seen. O Father, how arrogant of Your children to cover their eyes and childishly declare these precious Doctrines of Grace are not found in Your Word. How stubborn and haughty for any of Your children to take the position of the unregenerate, which says that man's sill is sacrosanct and cannot be violated--that You, O Lord, are sovereign only to the extent the individual person allows You to control his or her life. To see You as merely an influencer in the affairs of mankind and not the controller of all things is to have the wisdom, discernment, and maturity of a child (1 Corinthians 13:9-12).

Father, I thank You for allowing me to see and begin to understand the Doctrines of Grace when I was fairly young in my faith. I still have so much to learn, a quarter-century later. Thank You for the peace, joy, rest, and comfort that comes with not only an understanding of Your sovereignty (as incomplete as it is), but also that comes with submission to Your sovereignty.

Because I know You are sovereign, I can experience joy in the midst of trials. Because I know You are sovereign, I can minister to and nurture Mahria and my girls. Because I know You are sovereign, I can preach Your gospel on the streets without worrying about man's definition of effectiveness, results, or the approval of man, or persecution. Because I know You are sovereign, I never have to give a thought to earning or maintaining Your love for me. Because I know You are sovereign, I can live true to Your Word; I can live by faith and not by sight.

Thank You, Lord, for giving me eyes to see nothing new, but what has always been true. Over and over and over again in Your Word, You say, "I will." I know You will, because You cannot lie. You cannot fail. You are sovereign!

Holy Spirit, please bless every follower of Jesus Christ with a right understanding of the sovereignty of God. May the Doctrines of Grace be as sweet as honey in their mouth. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Penciled Prayers: A Prayer for Ellen and Bethel Redding

"The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!'And he said to them, 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.'"
(Luke 10:17-20)

Father in heaven, as I talked to Ellen (the lady in the picture, on the right), today, my heart was grieved for her, and for the thousands and thousands of people like her who seek to have control over spirits, angels, and even the Holy Spirit. She is one among a growing number of deceived people around the world who seek to have You, the Holy Spirit, subject to her. This became painfully obvious when she literally refused, during an evangelistic role-play, to share the gospel with me and call me to repentance and faith in You, Lord Jesus. Knowing as we role-played that I had but weeks to live, she could offer me no hope. She offered me nothing more than to join her "community" of people who would pray for my physical healing. She offered me a chance to have my temporal body repaired, but no hope of counsel as to how I could be reconciled to You, for all eternity. She saw a physical gift of healing as better than the spiritual gift of salvation.

Ellen sees the presentation of Your gospel as a "sales pitch." She sees the feelings and comfort of the unsaved as sacrosanct, as inviolable, as sovereign. She sees the straight-forward proclamation of the gospel as somehow a violation of the rights of the unbeliever--an intrusion of the unbeliever's will and the inner-sanctum of a heart that is at enmity with You.

Ellen, dear Father, is a member and by-product of an anti-Christ cult known as Bethel Redding.

Lord God, Your angels rejoice over one sinner who repents. Members of Bethel Redding rejoice over one body that is healed--or should I say they claim has been healed. Bethelites rejoice about what they believe are manifestations of Your Spirit, which are not. They rejoice not that their names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Sadly, Lord, I fear most who call Bethel Redding home, will find their names written in "the books" on the Day of Judgment, but not the Book of Life.

Lord, You know my heart. I do not want anyone at Bethel Redding to perish in their sins--including the Johnson and Vollatton clans of false teachers, including the false worship band known as "Jesus Culture." I pray they all come to repentance and faith in You, Lord Jesus. I pray they will repent and long to be in heaven with You. I pray they will stop lying about bringing heaven to earth. I pray they stop misrepresenting heaven as a place no better than Romper Room, Disneyland, or a Carnival Cruise.

Father, I want NO harm to come to the leaders or members of Bethel Redding. Again, my prayer is that You bless them with repentance and faith in Your Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ--You, Jesus, and not the misrepresentation of You taught by Bill Johnson and Kris Vollatton. But Father, I pray you stop them. Please stop them from further corrupting already corrupted, unregenerate hearts and minds. Please stop them from deceiving those counted among Your elect. Father, prevent them from preaching, teaching, writing, broadcasting, proselytizing, influencing, and profiting in any way about and/or off of their false and blasphemous beliefs. Please close the doors of Bethel Redding. Shut off the electricity, disrupt the flow of water into and out of the building. Let sink holes form in the parking lots in such a way that no one is harmed.

Lord, I ask that the light of the Holy Spirit, the real Spirit of God, would expose what is done in secret at Bethel Redding, as well as what is done in secret in the lives of the Johnsons, the Vollattons, and everyone else considered a "leader" at Bethel Redding. Expose them in such a way as to break their pride, their haughty and deceptive spirits. Cause them to confess to how, for years, they have manipulated and deceived people. And then, Father, cause them to be born-again. Take their hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh. May their repentance include the recantation of every lie they have ever told about You, Jesus, and about the Father and the Holy Spirit, about angels, and healings, glory clouds, fire tunnels, and every other demonic manifestation that is attributed to You. Please save them, and then use them to utterly destroy the New Apostolic Reformation, the Word of Faith movement, and the Prosperity movement.

Lord, bring about revival by closing the doors of every false church created by these false "signs and wonders" movements. Gather Your elect from these churches and place them under the loving care of true shepherds. Bring salvation to the lost and spiritual discipline, clarity of mind, and maturity to Your elect who found themselves enamored with the false promises of false gifts, miracles, and treasures.

As I pray, Father, I understand it is possible that Bethel Redding and cults like it might be forms of judgment upon those whose hearts you will allow to remain hard--those to whom You will not extend mercy or compassion. While sad for them, if this is the case, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. You are good no matter what You do.

Father, it is 1:30 AM as I write this prayer. Lord, if she is not already awake, please wake Ellen. Compel her to go to her knees with a heart filled with repentance. A broken heart, O God, You will not despise.

In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Friday, July 4, 2014

How Every Unbeliever Looks Under the Surface

The Santa Monica Third Street Promenade is an upscale, outdoor shopping and entertainment center, and one of Southern California's most popular tourist attractions. It is a wonderful place to engage in open-air preaching and other forms of evangelism.

Thousands of people make their way up and down the promenade, everyday. In spite of it's trendy reputation, the Third Street Promenade is frequented by people from every walk of life, every socioeconomic strata, every nation, tribe, and tongue. Movie stars to homeless people, professors to simpletons, stroll upon the Third Street Promenade.

The man in this picture heckled brother Steve Van Singel as he preached the gospel. He insisted that he was neither a man nor a woman. Other things he said were vile and unrepeatable. The sin he seemed to love the most was sexual deviancy.

What was it that differentiated this man from the well-dressed, wealthy, cultured unbelievers on the Promenade, today? It was God's hand of restraint, which He apparently has retracted from this man. What do I mean? Every unregenerate person on the promenade, today, including those who stopped to photo, film, and mock this depraved man, look the same as he does just beneath the surface. The same depravity that led this man to his present, deplorable and immoral state is the same depravity in every unregenerate person. While no one is as depraved as they could be, every unregenerate person is capable of exhibiting the same level of depravity as this man. But for the restraining hand of God, those who would mock this man--while pointing at him as the Pharisee pointed to the tax collector and said, "At least I'm not like him,"--would be this man.

As for the Christian, every regenerate, adopted, born-again son or daughter of God should remember from where they came. As the Christian looks at this picture, he or she should remember:
"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, emphasis added).
This man is not to be mocked (any goofy comments will be deleted). He is to be pitied. Our hearts should break, understanding that this man could be swept into hell at any moment.

To Steve's credit, he tried to reason with the man and gently call him to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

I had to write this post, for I laughed at this man before I mourned for his lost, wretched, hell-bound condition. I failed to love my neighbor.