Thursday, July 31, 2014

Penciled Prayers: Equitable Judgment at the Abortion Clinic

Penciled at Starbucks on Hospitality Lane, San Bernardino, a short distance from the abortuary, on Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 0707 HRS.

"Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity" (Psalm 98:7-9).

O great God and King, the righteous Judge of all creation: I praise You, Lord. This is the day that You have made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.

But Lord, I will need Your help. Holy Spirit, I will need Your help. For as You know, I will spend a few hours outside an abortuary, this morning. It is the most difficult place in the world for me to rejoice. The light and casual conversation with fellow Christians with whom I join in the work sometimes seem wholly inappropriate. And the lighthearted or humorous moments seem almost profane, considering the context.

Father, unless You intervene, unless You miraculously change minds bent on murder, babies will die, today. Even now, men and women are dressing, not for work, but to come to the abortuary to slaughter their unborn children. Some, because of the wickedness of their hearts, will see it as a good thing. Others will come, knowing what they're about to do is wrong, but they will do it anyway. Their hearts are wicked, too. Some will come intent on murdering their children, but change their minds. Their hearts are also wicked, for they had already murdered their children in their hearts, before they changed their minds. They are all detestable in Your sight, Lord.

And "You will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity." Whether an abortive mother or an Islamic terrorist, whether an abortive father or the man who kidnaps, rapes, and murders small children--You will judge all murderers with equity. You will judge them all in righteousness, according to the perfect, moral standard of Your Law. And You are good, Lord. Whether You save or destroy, You are good.

But for Your grace and mercy shown to me through the propitiatory, ransom-paying sacrifice on my behalf, I too would face Your fierce, just, good, and holy wrath. Thanks be to You, Lord, for Your indescribably gift!

Father, while I praise You for Your righteousness and justice, my prayer is that the murderers I will meet today will not, in the end, face Your wrath. O Lord, please save them! Cause them to be born-again! Do not break the spider's thread to which they are attached, which precariously suspends them over the pit of hell. Let them not fall into the pit of eternal torment. Please save them, O Lord!

O Father, I pray that every abortuary worker feels sick to their stomachs, today, at even the thought of participating in the murder of even one more child. Disturb their minds. Trouble their hearts. Unsettle their consciences, even the ones that are most seared by hate, lust, greed, and depraved indifference. Yes Lord, please, crush their godless worldviews that see murder of the unborn as good. And then bring them to genuine repentance, Lord. Give them the good, undeserved gifts of repentance and faith in You, Jesus Christ. And may some of the very first fruits of their salvation be quitting their jobs at the abortuary.

Father, for me, I ask that You would help me represent Your Son and His bride well, today. It is so very hard to love my neighbor (who is also my enemy) at abortuaries. My emotions sometimes get the better of me. There are times when I sinfully revile when reviled--times when I respond in kind. Lord, far be it from me to try to justify my sin. Against You, and You alone, have I sinned and have done what is evil in Your sight. You are righteous when You judge. You are good and loving when You discipline. Please forgive me, Lord.

Holy Spirit, sanctify my heart and mind with Your Truth. Please conform me this morning as I stand outside the abortuary. Conform me in thought, word, and deed to the image of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. May I serve and represent You well this morning, Lord Jesus. And, if called upon to provide leadership, instruction, or example to my Christian brothers and sisters with whom I will serve, today, please help me to do so with deep and sacrificial love for them--seeing them as much more important than myself. And please allow me to do so in such a way that will bring You, Lord, the greatest pleasure and the greatest glory.

Father, You are the righteous Judge who will judge all peoples with equity. While You will ultimately receive glory through every moment of triumph and tragedy in the lives of all mankind, I ask, Lord, that this morning, at this wicked place of death, You will choose to glorify Yourself through the saving of unborn children and through saving the souls of the men and women hell-bent on murdering them.

In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

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.

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.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Penciled Prayers: A Prayer for Roman Catholics

"As [Jesus] said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, 'Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!' But he said, 'Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!'"
Luke 11:27-28

Beloved Father, Lord Jesus, Holy Spirit--the one God who is sovereign and good: You alone are worthy of praise, honor, adoration, and worship. To give such love and attention to anyone or anything else is corrupt, idolatrous, and false worship. Such behavior is blasphemous to the highest degree. Holy Spirit, please reveal to me through conscience, counsel, and the God-breathed Word if, when, and where I have fallen prey to such behavior or even the thought of it. What, if anything, am I prone, even for a moment, to worship before and above You? Search my heart, O God, and see if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. Grant me the good and kind gift of repentance, Lord, for Your glory and for Your name's sake.

Father, as Mahria and I read Your Word together, the scene in Luke 11 jumped out at me. This was not the first time. A woman, upon hearing Your teaching, Lord Jesus, about how unclean spirits go in and out of unsaved people and their homes turns, to You and praises the womb and the nursing breasts of the woman who carried You, gave physical birth to You, and raised You, O glorious incarnate One. Father, I understand there is no reason for me to doubt her sincerity. I have no reason to see her spontaneous response to the great wisdom with which You spoke, as idolatrous. You levied no such accusation against her. So, why would I?

Yet, Lord Jesus, while You affirmed the happiness of Mary in giving birth to You, the God-Man, at the same time You corrected her by reminding her of how vastly more blessed than Mary are those who hear Your Word and keep it.

How far people have fallen, Lord, from the day a humble woman in a crowd cried out to You, to what we see, today--a religion of hundreds of millions of adherents who blasphemously venerate the blessed and righteous woman whom Your Father allowed to give birth to the incarnate, holy, only Son of God. O Lord, I pray for the day when Roman Catholics en masse turn their backs on Vatican City, take their eyes off Mary, and turn their gaze to You--the author and perfecter of real faith.

I pray for the day, Lord, when every picture of Mary, every statue, every graven image made in the likeness of this precious woman who was so greatly and graciously blessed, will be removed from every church, every school, and every home. I pray for the day when never again will be heard the blasphemous prayer to a blessed woman who cannot hear, cannot intercede. I pray for the day when every rosary (a religious rabbit's foot) will be removed from around every neck and every rear view mirror.

Father, I pray that never again will idolatrous, superstitious, and naive people flock to trees, tomatoes, grilled cheese sandwiches, statues, bathroom windows, or any other alleged location of a Marian apparition to worship a woman who has been dead, never to return, for more than 1,900 years.

Father, by faith, I believe Mary is in Your presence, worshiping at your feet. I would never mock or malign her, for I believe she is my sister in Christ. But I am angry. I am angry with a false religion and centuries of false teachers, priest, and popes (some, the most wicked men who ever walked the face of the earth) that have led millions and millions of people to hell--demonically holding the proverbial gates of hell open as people enter.

Lord, please extend the gifts of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone to Roman Catholics. Please cause them to be born-again. Save Roman Catholic people while destroying their religious system. Let not two stones of this demonic ideology be left standing, one on top of another. Make desolate the den of robbers known as Vatican City and rebuild it as a true house of prayer where Jesus Christ alone is worshiped.

O Lord, I know You will one-day make all things new, that You will destroy and rebuild. I know the day is coming when the blasphemous "isms" of our day will no longer exist. Nothing unholy will exist. Today, in the meantime, Father, please allow Roman Catholics to repent and believe the true gospel--Your gospel, and not the false gospel of the Roman Catholic Church. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.