Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Ghost is clear

A funny kid thing. At recess last week, the kindergarten boys were playing. Two hid behind a tree and gestured across the expanse of grass to two other boys. One boy instructed the other, "You can't go until you say "THE GHOST IS CLEAR".

I and the other teacher on duty laughed at this, even asking the boy to repeat the message again. The Ghost is clear. So cute!

I thought about that all day. The phrase kept ringing in my head, and not just because the innocent malapropism was sweet, but for its spiritual application. There is always a spiritual application. I hope you know me well enough by now to know that I always apply everything to the spiritual , lol!

Now, spiritually, the Ghost IS clear. His functions as a communicator of joy to the saints. (Romans 14:17; Galatians 5:22; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). He teaches us. (John 14:26).  He guides us. (John 16:13). He reveals the deep things of God and searches them out. (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). He is Light in our darkness. To that end, the Ghost is clear. Without Him, we can see nothing, we can know nothing, we can do nothing.

As Paul noted in the famous love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13, even with the Spirit we can only know in part, and we see through a glass darkly. It's pause for thought that man's depravity is so dark that even with the clarity of God's Spirit we still only see through a glass, and darkly at that. But He is clear! His clarity brings us joy, guidance, edification, and illumination of the Word. Often forgotten as the third member of the Trinity, praise the Holy Ghost for His ministry of bringing God's standards to us clearly!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Father, Father, why have you forsaken me?

It was a big deal for Jesus to descend from holy glory to walk among sinners, lepers, the unwashed and the hateful. It was a huge thing that He died for us (but was raised up again on the third day). But there is something else that He did that actually gets me crying if I think about it for too long.

Jesus was with the Father from the beginning. He was with God when the plan of redemption was set and the names chosen which would be in the Lamb's Book of Life. (Eph 1:4). From eternity past, Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit experienced sweet intra-Trinitarian communion with each other. (Genesis 1:1-2, John 1:2). They gave, submitted, loved, in and among each other in circular and in eternal glory with each other, delighting in themselves in their self-sufficiency.

In Jesus's sacrificial and willing departure from purity to dwell with fallen man, He endured pain, stripes for our healing and allowed His blood to be shed to save souls. He willingly gave up His life and the Father would pick it up again.

What He endured next was nothing compared to that. Nothing.

For the first time ever, He was separate from the father. (Psalm 22:1) As He hung on the cross and His body was filled with sin (2 Peter 2:24) the Father looked away. Yes, Jesus left glory. Yes, Jesus died. Yes He endured horrific bodily pain. But He endured a spiritual weight and horror that none of us can even imagine.

If you remember your feelings of hopelessness prior to salvation, the spiritual darkness and weight of sin's bondage, you may glimpse a nanosecond of that moment on the cross (Matthew 27:45-46). If you are a mature Christian now and cringe at the thought of being removed from the Holy Spirit's presence for even one second, can you even imagine Jesus's despair when He was separated from the Father? No.

But in His enduring this horrific, wrenching forsaking, He showed His love for us. I listen to a song in which one of the lyrics is "It was my sin that held Him there." No, it wasn't. He died for my sins, yes. But it was His will that held Him there. He willingly lay down His life:

"No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:18).

He loved us while we were yet sinners. But He loved the Father more. He obeyed, submitted, and so was filled with sin and forsaken on the cross. That moment went down in eternity as the loneliest man in the loneliest moment in the universe, forever.

He is a great and mighty and loving Savior!!

Please pray today. Commune with Him as it is your privilege to do. He endured that separation from the Father so that He could be in fellowship with you. So please be in fellowship with Him.

Ecumenism never works, Interfaith is not what it seems

Listen to this. This is a good story. From Ezra 4:1-5, a one act play in three parts, with application for today.

Pt 1: Question
"Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the LORD, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, "Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here."

Pt 2: Answer
"But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, "You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us."

Pt 3: Reaction
"Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia."

Note that the first verse states that these were enemies of Judah and Benjamin. Every translation uses the word enemies or adversaries. These people who showed up undoubtedly had heard the shouts of praise and weeping as recorded in the previous verse (Ezra 3:13). And no one could miss 50,000 or so people tramping back with all their families, servants and animals. Their arrival was noted. And not appreciated. What to do? What to do? Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

"Let us help you!" they said. They were all nicey-nice. They asked politely. They said that they respected the Israelites' God. For gosh sakes, we worship Him, even sacrifice! We're like you!

The two tribes said ... drumroll please ... NO.

By today's standards, we'd say that the Israelites were being mean, impolite, "exclusive", "intolerant", and "haters" by refusing the offer. After all, weren't the would-be helpers seeking? Wouldn't it achieve a dual common goal by getting the temple finished earlier and offer the seekers the opportunity for the Jews to dazzle the pagans with their wonderful personalities before setting the bait-and-switch of ... ta-DA! ... sharing the knowledge of the LORD?

No it would not. First, the Jews knew that the LORD had placed it upon their hearts to do the work, He had not placed it upon the Gentiles's hearts. Therefore they were respecting the decree of the LORD by working exclusively toward fulfilling His command. Second, they were respecting the decree of the King to be the ones who built it. And third, we knew then and we know now that there is never a common spiritual goal when pairing with Gentiles. They promote satan's goals, we promote Jesus's. There is between them a great gulf fixed.

Sure enough, their true colors came out. And right away too. They immediately began a multi-pronged approach to thwarting the goal of rebuilding the temple and thus of God's work. They were doing satan's work. It had only been a ruse in that first prong approach of joining them. When that didn't work, right away began to bribe the officials, appeal to the king, discourage the Jews, frustrate them, and bully them. They kept this up for fifteen years. Fifteen years. As we can see by their persistence, their goal was never to help get the temple built, it was only to prevent the temple from being built.

See? Ecumenism never works. The seeker's goals are not the same as ours, and their true colors will come out soon enough.

We can see by one of satan's methods that he sows tares among the wheat, something undoubtedly the pagans had wanted to do. The Jews would have naturally relaxed their guard by being in daily proximity to the pagans, and satan would have started sowing the tares. Intermarriage, friendliness, social mixing or melding their different religions, pollution would have begun. Just ask Solomon how that works out.

Note I'm talking about maintaining separateness when setting out to accomplish a purpose of God, or a consecrated thing, not that we never mix with unbelievers. The fact is, though, the bible is replete with warnings not to mix holy and profane:

"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14)

The Greek lexicon defines this unequal yoking as "used figuratively of Christians wrongly committed to a partner holding very different values (priorities), i.e. that run contrary to faith (the kingdom of God). Scripture uses symbols to teach about the importance of keeping spiritually pure. Along this line, Scripture prohibited partnering with the apistos, or the unfaithful, by evoking the picture of two different animals yoked together. Would the field get plowed if you yoked a bull and a goat together?

"...but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away...(Matthew 13:25)
Félicien Rops, Satan Sowing Seeds, pencil, c. 1872.

I've used this pencil drawing before recently. I like it. Why? I'm amazed at the accuracy the drawing evokes of satan's activity and methods. It reminds me of so many different verses. The wheat and the tares is one. The verse where God asks satan where he has been and satan says he has been roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it. (Job 1:7). Another verse is good to remember here, satan is god of this world, (2 Corinthians 4:4) and he has been given power to deliver kingdoms to all he chooses (Matthew 4:8-9).

We must resist the world because satan is the god of it. "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9).

We should not combine with unbelievers, or even with those who say they worship the same God as we do but obviously do not. Let not the political, cultural, or social desires get in the way of the biblical desire to remain dedicated to being pure and bringing glory to Jesus. Ecumenism, or interfaith, is not what it seems. This is evidenced by the immediate reaction of the rejected pagans who had asked to "help" build the temple but only wanted to allow satan to go back and forth on it, sowing tares.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Responding to God's call

"I gathered them to the river that runs to Ahava, and there we camped three days. As I reviewed the people and the priests, I found there none of the sons of Levi." (Ezra 8:15)

The first group of returnees had already accompanied Ezra back to Jerusalem and the temple had been rebuilt. It is 50 years later and the sacrifices and spiritual life of the returnees is ongoing. The next generation is coming up. However, it hadn't taken long for the people to start abandoning the LORD'S ways once again. Even the priests were carnal. So God sent priest and scribe Ezra to Persia bring back another group of exiles who had been carried off to the Babylonian captivity, for the purpose of teaching the people at Jerusalem. (Ezra 8). This calling was prompted by Persian king Artaxerxes' letter to Ezra which decreed "that anyone of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom, who freely offers to go to Jerusalem, may go with you."

The Levites were the tribe of Levi, and when land was being distributed to the 12 tribes, the Levites received none. They were to be consecrated for service to the LORD at the Temple, (sort of deacons to the priests) (Numbers 8:6; Numbers 8:14). They were not to be farmers. Therefore they needed no land. (1 Chronicles 15:2; Numbers 3:6). The entire tribe is set apart for temple service on behalf of the people in submission to God.

So Ezra trudged back 900 miles, and put out a call for the people of Israel and priests and Levites. They came. They assembled. And Ezra reviewed the assembly and he saw people and he saw priests. He saw no Levites. (Ezra 8:15b)

No Levites showed up. Not one.

Can you imagine, the personal call of God to the very people He raised up for the purpose, declining the call. They were comfortable. They were settled. They likely thought, 'Let someone else go.' They ignored the reason they were put on earth: to glorify God in active service to Him.

The verse in Ezra 8:15 where no Levite showed up is one of the saddest. I like to picture the actual circumstances. I imagined in my mind the hillsides where the families were assembling, the donkeys and camels and trunks and baskets. The running children, and the sense of purpose and excitement. I imagine the women pitching the temporary tents as they waited for the rest to show up who would show up. I picture Ezra in his robe walking among the groups and clusters, and frowning as he finds no Levite. How sad! How awful!

As with every scripture, there is application to our day. Are we a Levite? Settled and comfortable? Do we fail to respond to His call of the one thing we are put on earth to do, which is to glorify God with our hearts and mouths and minds and our lives? Beware! It is easy to look back through the lens of 20/20 hindsight and say that they were foolish not to show up. But while living out our own lives do we do the same? We are human, like they were, so yes, we do the same.

I pray that if you receive a call to do a work for God that is outside your comfort zone, that you will respond. I'm not talking about the big things, like being a missionary in North Korea or something, but responding to any call that puts us either permanently or temporarily outside our comfort zone. I pray that for myself, too. I want to serve and I want to respond to the call, no matter what it is. I pray I respond like Samuel, like Isaiah, (1 Sam 3:4, Isaiah 6:8) "Here I am Lord! Send me!"

God brings us to a place to do a work or to grow in His light and that may be where He wants us for the rest of our lives. It may be, though, that He may prompt us to do something outside of where we feel comfortable. If He does, will you show up? Will I?

In which Tim Challies realizes Ann Voskamp is a real person

Canadian pastor and writer Tim Challies is a book reviewer. He runs a very successful and widely read website at Many people, including myself, read his book reviews of Christian books with eagerness, because he is loving, credible, and discerning. As for discerning, Tim wrote the book on discernment, literally. He is a good writer and a gentle Christian even when he writes a negative review.

Last week Mr Challies reviewed Ann Voskamp's book "One Thousand Gifts". He gave it a 'not recommended,' stating at the first paragraph of his three paragraph conclusion, "Though One Thousand Gifts is not without some strengths, in its own subtle way I believe that it can and will prove dangerous, at least to some. Many will read it, embrace their need for gratitude, and genuinely be more grateful to God. This is well and good. There are many books that contain valuable takeaways even if they also contain significant weaknesses. It doesn’t make you a bad person or an immature Christian if you’ve read it and enjoyed it. But perhaps you’d do well to make sure you haven’t bought into it all the way." He goes on to praise its strengths but overall he cautions the discerning reader because the book fails to "more clearly display the power of Scripture to show us our shortcomings and display the gospel’s power over them." He noted what many have noticed, the book's drift toward Gnosticism.

Okey dokey then.

Then a day later Mr Challies received an invitation to lunch at Mrs Voskamp's house, two hours away. Gulp. Having to face her as a person so shortly after his review of the book, he wrote a retraction essay titled, "In Which I Ask Ann Voskamp's Forgiveness..."

He wrote, "Having said all of that, something happened inside me when I saw Ann’s name in my inbox, and that’s what has compelled me to write this little article. Seeing her name brought a sudden and surprising realization and with it a twinge of guilt and remorse."

He makes it clear he had no moral qualms about not recommending the book, but rather that his guilt lay in the fact that he perceived that he treated a sister in the faith badly. He said, "Yet in my review I had treated her as if her words mean less than mine, as if I was free to criticize her in a way I would not want to be criticized."

Now you lost me.

Perhaps I am a mean and unloving person, insensitive to the more nuanced expressions of empathy and oblivious to the tender affections emanating from others. I must be, because I read nothing in Mr Challies review that lacked sensitivity or indicated he had approached the task of reviewing a sister's book with anything less than full bore mental acuity tempered with affection and mindfulness of our sanctified position before Christ.

Therefore when I read the forgiveness essay I was dismayed for two reasons. First, because of what he wrote here:

"Looking back at my review, and perhaps even more, the process of writing it, there are at least two things that concern me. The first is that I would have said certain things differently had I known that she and I might soon be sharing a meal together."

Of course we would write or say things differently if we knew that we'd be facing the person within the next week. That's the problem. The point is NOT to write or say things differently if we knew we would be seeing them the next moment but to prayerfully approach the task and write as the Spirit leads, speaking the truth in love. And then standing by it. Mr Challies wrung his hands over language he intimated he thought borders on hate-speech regarding Ms Voskamp's literary style, here, "There is clearly a kind of appeal to it so that those who don’t hate it, love it.”'

Seriously? A commenter stated "I read your review of her book and found nothing wrong with it. You, of all people, do not need to worry about sounding unloving. I sure hope Rob Bell never invites you over for a BBQ."


Far be it for me to say one way or another how a person feels about things they have said or done, and obviously Mr Challies felt remorse and so did what he did, which is publicly seek forgiveness for language he felt was too strong. I do not feel it was unloving language, but he did. So be it. It was his subjective call to make.

But the second front on which I felt dismay for this public hand-wringing is based on a more objective observation: the general climate of discernment within Christian circles. Christians these days are already assaulted with appeals to never say anything bad about anyone for any reason, especially against teachings a fellow believer brings- even if the teachings are false! The climate is to stay 'unified' and remain above the fray so as to avoid conflict. His forgiveness essay sets those of us back who do not hold to that ecumenical, let's all get along at all costs mentality, and in a big way.

Later, in the comments section, a Reg Schofield commented, "I'm a bit confused here Tim. The review itself was not a direct attack on her as a person but on what you perceived as her weakness in how she handles scripture and certain views of the gospel narrative. Now it is true that what one writes is a reflection of ones soul but if what is written shows some problems, they have to be taken to task. I have read enough of the book to see some truly troubling elements, which she needs to be called out on. Any writer who get published must be willing to be scrutinized. I don't see the need to ask for forgiveness. So if Joel Osteen sends you a e-mail to do lunch, are you going to do the same."

Mr Challies responded, "I guess that is exactly part of the problem; in my mind I was equating the Joel Osteen's of the world and the Ann Voskamp's of the world--lumping all "outsiders" together. There are some people who deserve the harshest kinds of rebuke from Christians; there are others who do not. I have not been careful enough to distinguish between them." And later, he wrote, "I would want to draw a distinction between T.D. Jakes and Ann Voskamp. T.D. Jakes subscribes to heretical theology; I have never seen anything from Ann Voskamp that would label her a heretic. That's a crucial distinction!"

No it isn't. The implication he makes here is that we musn't say negative things about believers who are bringing false doctrine. It may not be what he intended, but that is the implication.

There are many examples in the bible of speaking plainly to and in front of believers who need correction. I am NOT saying it isn't good to examine our language occasionally to see if we could be serving Christ better with our words. But feeding into the current cultural mentality that we must pick and choose words so as to never hurt another's feelings harms the stand we must sometimes make for Christ. It elevates feelings above the advancement of the Kingdom. Let's contrast what I just said with the biblical examples:

Picture Paul sitting at his desk in Canada. He gets an email reporting that there is sexual immorality in one of his churches. He writes back, "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you."... a couple of verses later he called for them "To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." (1 Cor 5:1-2, 5)

He called the people of the congregation arrogant! Paul told them to put the man out of fellowship so satan could deal with him! Now let's picture Paul receiving an invitation to sup with the perpetrator of the immorality the next day, and this prompts him to write what Mr Challies wrote: "I did poorly here and I can see that I need to grow in my ability to critique the ideas in a book even while being kind and loving to its author."

Or Galatians 2:1 where Paul said this: "But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned."

How dare a fellow believer say another believer is condemned! But Paul did, and he didn't retract it later just because he was invited to have a sandwich at Peter's house. Paul made no 'crucial distinction' about the person he said it to. And it was language that was a lot rougher than Mr Challies. Yet it is in the bible. Paul said what he said so that doctrine would be upheld, and so that the watching believers, and Peter himself, would return to purity. Did Paul second guess his language, wondering as Mr Challies wrote, "...I can’t deny that somewhere in my mind lurks this insider and outsider kind of thinking which somehow encourages me to extend greater courtesy to one group than another"?" Yet there is no doubt that Paul loved Peter, and extended every courtesy to him.

Peter charged Ananias, a fellow believer, with having a heart filled with satan. He charged Sapphira, Ananias's wife with the same, being a liar.

Paul wrote to Timothy, saying pastors of the church Hymenaeus and Alexander were "blasphemers". (1 Timothy 1:19b-20).

Paul wrote to Timothy again, charging Hymenaeus and Philetus with being irreverent babblers whose false teaching will spread like gangrene and upsets the faith of some. (2 Tim 2:16-19). Strong language!

Paul did not later retract and write the following: "There is value in engaging the ideas in any [teaching], and especially a [teaching] about this Christian life, but the desire to uphold truth has no business coming into conflict with love for another person. Truth and love are to be held together as friends, not separated as if they are enemies. In my desire to say what was true, I failed to love. I ask [Hymenaeus and Philetus's] forgiveness for this."

And herein lies the problem. The current cultural Christian mentality is that speaking against false doctrine is unloving.

In some cases, we are called to conflict. Conflict is loving, when it has the ultimate goal of restoring some to the faith, or of warning others of false doctrine. Mr Challies' statement above unfortunately advances the false notion that conflict is to be avoided at all costs.

Have we all become so sensitive that we receive the gentle words Challies utters as hate speech to be immediately retracted on the flimsy premise that we will soon have a BBQ together? Yes. And here is the result.

Beth Moore ‏tweeted, "Thank you for this important piece. Sometimes I think God's point with us is more toward mutual esteem than agreement."

Mutual esteem is more important to God than Christian agreement on doctrine? Esteem?

Doctrine always brings disagreement. Avoiding it means you avoid standing on it. Period. But the 'let's all get along crowd' is going to leap on Mr Challies' highly public hand wringing, forgiveness sensitivity training exercise and run with it. You mark my words.

To be clear, I am not for conflict as a rule. In a verse before the one where Paul charged Hymenaeus and Philetus with being irreverent babblers, Paul wrote, "Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." (2 Tim 2:141-5).

The key is rightly handing the word of truth- and knowing when a quarrel advances the kingdom and when it doesn't. Paul was much more straightforward and blunt in his charges against believers, and Mr Challies is anything but blunt. It is my opinion Mr Challies' forgiveness essay, as gentle as it was to begin with, rather than advance the call for discernment and exhortation against falsity, ultimately harms it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

So you think you're a good person headed for heaven?

There is terrible news. I wish I could avoid mentioning it at all costs and in all ways. I had planned to do just that, but the Spirit burdened me otherwise.

I will only specify the news once and I won't link to it. It is about a South Beach, Miami man found in public cannibalizing a fresh corpse he'd just killed. If I have any of the details of this wrong, I apologize. I haven't read any of the news articles about it, and only gleaned from the few headlines that inadvertently passed before my eyes as a mistake.

Authorities say he 'may' have been in a drug induced psychotic frenzy. I hope so. I would really hate to think that he just did this without the catalyst of mind-altering drugs! What would THAT say about humankind's potential for evil? This post is about exactly that, man's potential for evil.

This post is for all the people who say that they don't need Jesus because you are a good person. No, you're not. You're THAT person, the man cannibalizing a corpse. I was that person, but am now saved and my sins forgotten.

'What?!' you say, 'Elizabeth, you've gone off your rocker! I never did that to anyone and I never would do that to anyone!!!' Really? Unless you are saved by grace of Jesus and have the Holy Spirit in you to restrain you from sinning, ALL people have that and more in them. There is no one who is 'good.' (Romans 3:10). We are all totally depraved, you see. The depths of sin knows no bounds. It goes deep.

I repeat: there is none good. "The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good." (Psalm 14:1).

So then you say, "Well, I'm not that bad. I'm not as bad as the guy in South Beach." You may not be. Now. But you have the capacity.

Do you think the guy in South Beach five years ago woke up and said, "In five years I'm going to strip naked in public and chew a dead guys' face off"? THAT guy likely never thought he would do the thing he did. None of us do. But then we do.

There are no levels of sin at which a person naturally stops and doesn't descend any lower. In finance, When things get too crazy and the stock market drops like a rock, they put in place a circuit breaker to stop the frenzy and give everyone a time to cool off so that calm can be restored. They halt trading for different periods of time depending on how fast the levels are dropping. Humans don't have natural circuit breaker. Therefore anyone who says "I'm a good person. I would never cannibalize a corpse" is lying. (1 John 1:8). You already have it in you to do just that.

Sin is not like a stock market circuit breaker, where a person can halt the slide into lower territory. There is no emergency switch in the elevator of sin that descends a person lower and lower. You can't wham your palm over the red button and say 'I've gone far enough in my sin, no lower!'

Unless you repent, that is. Jesus IS that emergency button. If you don't have Jesus in you, there is no hope of resisting sin. Like a stock portfolio, sins' effects will compound. They will drag a person lower and lower.

Some unsaved people can resist (outward) sin (for a while) and they appear as a good person. It's like a diet. Some people can resist having cake every time and others can't. Some people resist outward sin for a long time, years even. But we all sin.

The SoBe man eating the dead man was acting like the beasts do. We are all beasts. "I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity." (Ecclesiastes 3:18-19). When a right combination of circumstances comes along, sin will eventually catch up to them and they will be dragged off as a gazelle in the mouth of a lion to their doom.

The reason we all have this in us, this capacity to do what the man in SoBe did, is because of total depravity. Alternately called original sin, we all are in this state until or unless we repent. It is the status quo condition of every person on the planet who ever lived (except Adam & Eve originally, and Jesus always).

Noted preacher Charles Spurgeon defined our natural condition this way: "By original sin we mean the evil quality which characterizes man's natural disposition and will. We call this sin of nature original, because each fallen man is born with it, and because it is the source or origin in each man of his actual transgressions."

Noted preacher John MacArthur also explains total depravity: "And yet, our verse reminds us that we are so hopelessly and thoroughly wicked that not one of us could ever truly love God unless God Himself enabled us to do so. That is the doctrine of total depravity in a nutshell. It means that we are totally unable to save ourselves. We have a debilitating moral inability that makes our love for Him an utter impossibility until He intervenes to give us the ability to love Him."

Until and unless we repent, and our sins are forgiven, we are total sin. Paul said, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing." (Romans 7:18-19)

I wonder how we look to Jesus. He has glorified eyes. He knows what is in a man. (John 2:25). I wonder what our sin looks like to him. He loves all people, including those who have so far refused His pardon and are not saved. He sees their sins in them. I'd imagine that sin looks something like this: picture a man, outwardly to us handsome, charming, clean. But to Jesus, he's covered head to toe in vomit and poo. Dried and crusty, other sections oozing and wet. Out of his mouth comes green pus when he speaks.

EWWWWW! Would you hug a man like that? Of course not. But Jesus did. He walked among us, He ate at our tables, He healed, He touched lepers. (Mark 1:41). Moreover the verse says He was moved with pity. Jesus didn't look at us and go, "EWWWWW." He descended from glory and the purity of His holy habitation to walk among people who look like vomit in their sins, loved us, pitied us, and died to save people like us, including the South Beach cannibal.

The SoBe cannibal isn't even the worst example of a sinner. It will get worse. Sin always gets worse. In the Tribulation sin is allowed its full measure (Gen 15:16; Dan 9:24; 1 Thess 2:16) and there is no Restrainer on earth! (Gen 6:3; 2 Thess 2:7) Sin will flow out unrestrained, and then you shall see how bad people really are!

The uplifting thing is that though the people who remain in their sins will descend deeper and deeper in them, to infinity, Jesus's holiness is also infinite! His love is infinite! As low as we go, He can reach down and lift us up!! (1 John 1:9)

He came to die for sinners. Before we repent, we all look like that to Jesus. "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) . Now that is a God worth living for. If you repent (ask forgiveness of your sins) He will forgive you and cleanse you of them. He will replace the filthy rags of your deeds (Is 64:6) with a garment of righteousness.

"I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." (Isaiah 61:10)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Christian remnant

We love God because, "God does not do many things that he can, but he does all things that he will." (George Swinnock).

One of the things He can do is wipe out humanity. He was grieved with us in Genesis before the flood. But He did not erase us from the earth. He CAN do it. He did not. He preserved a remnant, Noah and his family. He always preserved a remnant of His people the Jews.

There was a remnant returning from the Babylonian captivity. A remnant of 7000 was preserved when Elijah killed the false prophets of Baal when he thought he was the only one left.

It is promised, "A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God." (Isaiah 10:21). Paul reiterated that in Romans 9:27, "Isaiah cries concerning Israel, "If the number of the children of Israel are as the sand of the sea, it is the remnant who will be saved;"

The Jews were set aside for a time so the Lord could build His church out of the Gentiles. He will return to fulfill the promises to the Jews at the culmination of the Tribulation and save the remnant who had been hiding at Petra throughout the remainder of the Tribulation and establish His promised Kingdom for 1000 years. We praise the LORD for His promises to always preserve and protect a Jewish remnant.

But I want to bring another thought to your mind. Christians are a remnant too. We know the multitudes which are His bride will be singing praises to Him after the rapture. We read passages like this "And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Rev 5:13) and think, 'Wow!' Lots of Christians!' But it is not so.

We are a remnant too. Romans 11:5:

"So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace."

The odds are not good for making it in Christianity. We know that the road is narrow and FEW FIND IT. (Mt 7:14). The road to destruction is broad and MANY FOLLOW IT. (Mt 7:13). We know that Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’"

Are you getting the picture? Many/Few. It is a theme. How many righteous did Abraham ask the LORD to find in Sodom? "He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.” (Gen 18:32b). But it ended up there were less than ten. So four cities were destroyed that day: Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim. And of the four that were found to be righteous, Lot, Mrs Lot, and the two daughters, one of the four was revealed to be a false righteous and was turned into a pillar of salt.

On Judgment Day, books will be opened, and a book will be opened. "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done." (Rev 20:12).

The books - plural - is the book of the dead. The book that was opened, singular, is the book of life. Many /Few. All the names of the living will fit into one book.

Christians are a remnant. There seems to be a lot of us but we can't see the wheat from the chaff. The enemy has sown seeds that grew, too. St. Augustine said, "O you Christians, whose lives are good, you sigh and groan as being few among many, few among very many."
Félicien Rops, Satan Sowing Seeds, pencil, c. 1872. 
My reason for bringing this up is that my heart and life's blood beats in yearning that every person who believes himself to be a Christian examine him or herself to see if you are in the faith!

"Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" (2 Cor 13:5)

Here is an essay that helps you test yourself and see if you bear the distinguishing marks of being a Christian.

"Examine Yourself"

Of those that fail to meet the test, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. "The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear." (Mt 13:41-43)

I want to sing with you in heaven, and I do not want to see you thrown into outer darkness, weeping and gnashing your teeth, screaming, LORD, LORD did I not do many mighty works in your name? And He will say to you, I never knew you, depart from me you evildoers!

Are you in the remnant??? Praise Jesus if you are. Let His light of glory shine in you and through you. Let us give it all back to Him in thanks for salvation which He delivers through grace plus nothing. No works of ours, mighty or mild, will earn us heaven. But believe on the Son whom the Father sent, and ye shall be saved.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

My biography: An interview via email

Today is the day the Apocalypse This zine goes on sale at the Nottingham Zine Fair. I was asked to contribute a piece for the magazine. Here is the backstory. Below is the Bio I was asked to write for the zine.


question 1- About me:

My name is Elizabeth Prata: I am a 51 year old writer and photographer who was born and bred in New England but moved to Georgia a few years ago. I have been a teacher for a good portion of my professional life. I have my Masters degree in Literacy Education. In addition to blogging, I also worked as a freelance journalist for three newspapers (one daily and two weeklies).

question 2- Why did I create a blog about the end of the world?

Shortly after I became a Christian at age 43, I decided to put my degree and my writing skills to work for Jesus, and share the Good News that He saves. I started the blog because I want non-believers to know what is ahead for them if they don’t turn to Jesus and ask him to forgive their sins, and for believers to be comforted by these words of His coming. (1 Thess 5:11, 1 Thess 4:18).

question 3- “There are a lot of people out there who are preparing themselves for the destruction of the planet by building bunkers etc, but if it is the will of God that the world should end, then by trying to survive are we going against God?”

It is the plan of God that the world will end. It is ‘the will of the Father that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:40). The Bible tells us first, those who believe on the Son are within His will, and are to worry for nothing on this earth. He will provide for us. (Matthew 6:25-34). He provided manna for the Israelites every day in the desert. He provides for His children. Not hoarding shows Him we trust Him to carry out His promises. Secondly, He told Christians we’re not destined for wrath, and the Apocalypse is a time of wrath. So, we won’t even be here. The point is to share money and stuff He gives us with people as much as possible, now. Not to hoard it: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19). Christians who do store up are a poor witness, and non-Christians who store up are doing what they feel is best for them and their families, so who can blame them? However they will find that in the end their bunkers do them no good. Jesus is bigger than a bunker.

question 4- Is 2012 the end?

There are two answers. Is this the year of the beginning of the prophesied 7-year Apocalypse? Certainly it is coming closer every day. No one knows for sure though. However, it is not the end of the world. The Bible says that the earth continues for 1000 years after the 7-year Apocalypse. This is called the Millennial Kingdom. THEN the earth is destroyed. It melts away in a fervent heat. (2 Peter 3:10). After that? There will be a new earth. (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1).

Only God knows what we will be doing on the New Earth. But it will be good, whatever it is!

What is the apocalypse and what is going to happen in it?

Today is the day the Apocalypse This zine goes on sale at the Nottingham Zine Fair. I was asked to contribute a piece for the magazine. Here is the backstory. Below is the article I wrote for the zine.

The Apocalypse has been the source behind some of the greatest poetry, art, and writing. One of Yeats’s greatest poems is called The Second Coming, most of Renaissance art contain Apocalyptic or biblical scenes, and many films these days have apocalyptic storylines. It all comes from the bible, the world’s greatest selling book. That’s pretty amazing when the fact is the bible is unreadable to any person who doesn’t know Christ.

You heard me. More on that in a second.

But first, what IS Apocalypse?

The word apocalypse comes from the Greek for "revelation," or "unveiling." It’s about future things dealing with the return of Christ and the events of the end time. Do you know that a third of the bible is prophecy? Did you know that every book in the NT except Philemon speaks about the end times? It’s not just a Revelation thing. It’s a Jesus thing, and Jesus is throughout the entire bible.

So what IS going to happen? Jesus is going to punish sin, plain and simple. Punishment is never pleasant, and Jesus said that the Apocalypse will be the worst time on earth there will ever be. (Matthew 24:21; Daniel 12:1b). Daniel 9:24 explains the 6 things God will do during the Apocalypse punishments. God, who is loving, wants us to be righteous so we can be with Him in heaven, so He sent Jesus. God, who is holy, is going to punish the unholy, who reject Jesus.

There will be earthquakes so bad that entire mountains crumble and islands flee away. One hundred pound hailstones will squash men. Plagues (and wars and beasts) will kill 1/3 of people. Demons will be let out of the abyss to inflict a painful bite so bad that people want to die: but can’t. They’ll chew their tongues in agony. Starving people will die in the streets, but no one will care. Things will come upon the earth so frightening that people have heart attacks on the spot. The sun and moon go dark, stars fall from the sky. Jesus said it will be so bad that if He let it go longer nobody would survive. As it is, 4 billion die within the 7 years. (Revelation 6-19).

Sin is real. God’s judgment of sin is real. Satan is real. Hell is real. The coming Antichrist is real. Everything in the bible is real. Not any other book. Apocalypse will happen. The rapture will be the signal that it’s beginning.

How can I be so sure? Because for 43 years I had everything I ever wanted. Money, fame, comforts, ease, professional recognition, world travel, and yet I felt empty. I felt in my soul that there had to be something more. What was this longing? This hole I felt within me? (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Is this all there is? Live a life and then die? It seemed like a lot of trouble to go through just to die. Is there a heaven? Will I go there? I wondered all these things.

It was the lack of knowing Jesus that was the problem. He created us. (Rev 4:11) and because we are born with a sin-nature, I was separate from him. THAT’S what I was feeling. I had been trying to fill that hole with temporary and unfulfilling things. I finally found the answer, at middle age without ever having gone to a church (so I’m not brainwashed into Christianity, lol). When you confess your sins and repent to Jesus, He forgives you and He brings you to fellowship with Him. He sends the Holy Spirit to make the things of God understandable, like the bible. (2 Corinthians 3:14). Before I was saved, the bible made no sense. I thought it was stupid. I thought bible thumpers and Jesus followers were stupid. After I repented, the bible made total sense and I loved Jesus.

I now see death differently from all the rest of the world that has no hope. It is simply a transition, from something tiring and full of struggle, to something wondrous and glorious beyond compare. I have no fears of the Apocalypse, because I won’t be here to experience it. Those in Christ will be taken out of the way, because He is not angry with us. We’re forgiven sinners. He is angry with unrepentant sinners. O, it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of an angry God!

I am very sure this age will come to a terrible end. I am sure that time is not long away. I am very sure that I will be lifted bodily away from earth to meet Jesus in the air at the rapture to live with Him forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:50-54.) If you want that certainty too, then repent of your sins and turn to Jesus. Believe He is Lord, who sacrificially died to satisfy God’s wrath about sin and who was raised on the third day. I will be in heaven. I hope you will be too.

Apocalypse This: at Nottingham Zine Fair today

A little while back, UK graphic designer, fashion student and editor Loren Kristie Aldridge asked me to contribute an article to her zine which would be sold at the 2nd Annual Nottingham Zine Fair. She was putting together a 'zine about the apocalypse and wanted me to contribute something from the Christian point of view. She asked me for a bio and also to spend 800 or so words describing what is going to happen according to the Christian version of the apocalypse, and why I believe the Apocalypse is going to happen. It was a tall order to be that broad but have so few words to say it all in, but the Holy Spirit was gracious and led me to what I feel is a good product.

Her product came out great, I really like it from what I could glean from photos. Here is her final version of the zine:

Here is what my article's page looks like. I like it.

This is an article about the Nottingham Zine Fair: "The rise of online publishing’s all very well, if you’re into all that technical rammel but for those with more tactile ambitions, who still hanker after old school printing and the smell of yer actual paper, you might want to get ye sens down to Spanky Van Dykes on the 26 May where the Raw Print Club will host it’s 2nd annual ‘Nottingham Zine Fair’. The event will be a mecca for lovers of zines, indie magazines and artist books of all shapes and sizes. According to Matt Gill, university lecturer, graphic designer and founder of Raw Print Club the day is ‘all about showcasing creativity and also bringing lots of different people together who have a love for print...So don’t tek our word for it, go along and have a proper good day out, read and buy some zines, talk to like minded people over a few jars of ale and dance your self silly at the aftershow party."

It sounds like a lot of fun, actually. I wish I was going.

For the folks who aren't in the zine world, a zine - pronounced zeen - as derived from magazine - is defined by Wiki as an independently- or self-published booklet, often created by a single person. Zines are customarily created by physically cutting and gluing text and images together onto a master flat for photocopying, but it is also common to produce the master by typing and formatting pages on a computer. The end product is usually folded and stapled. Zines can be printed and bound in any manner. Offset printing is a relatively common alternative to photocopying..." I remember putting together small print zines myself by ditto machine and staples, lol.

Zines are most commonly a small circulation publication of original or appropriated texts and images. More broadly, the term encompasses any self-published work of minority interest usually reproduced via photocopier.

Martin Luther and early American Revolution pamphleteers such as Thomas Paine were technically zinesters. A zine is simply a self-published print medium of focused theme and small circulation. Often there was only one edition. More often, the minority interest contained in the zine was of a more alternative nature.

In Thomas Paine's and Martin Luther's day the minority interest of alternative nature was anti-government or anti-pope, a dangerous position indeed, often carrying with it a death sentence for treason or heresy. This was because small pamphlets had the potential of having a huge impact on capturing the vox populi despite large corporate or governmental control of information and thus perception of the status quo. Just think the moment on October 31, 1517, when, according to traditional accounts, Luther's 95 Theses were nailed to the door of the Castle Church. It turned the world upside down. Just think of Thomas Paine's Common Sense, it having the effect of galvanizing the Colonies toward revolution.

In the modern era of the 1900s and especially by the 1960s and onward, the subject was often was prurient, such as touting homosexuality, lesbianism, or BDSM lifestyles, subjects no standard publishing house would touch. One HAD to self-publish in those days.

I was always involved with print, as a journalist, academic, short story writer and general lover of all things print in the three dimensional media. I was born in 1960, with personal computers coming on the scene soon but before the internet. Getting something published was a hard go, because the NY publishing houses had a lock on the print media in terms of magazines and books, so zines were often the only alternative for the enterprising writer with something to say. As with anything first-generation, self-publishing was crude but satisfying. The 1980s brought punk zines, and computer bulletin boards, and then in the 1990s we had the explosion of self-publishing due to the widespread connectivity of the internet and easily obtained word processing software. In the early 2000s the blog was born. Now we have Facebook, Youtube, blogs, Twitter, personal websites and more. Self-Publishing has had a huge impact on the industry. Now, anyone with a computer can have a voice that may impact the world.

Nowadays, sophisticated software such as Adobe Illustrator allows for more aesthetically pleasing products, such as you see with Ms Aldridge's Apocalypse This zine above.

As time has gone on, I note that these days, the minority interest subject is often Christianity. The subjects no self-respecting publishing house would touch before 1980, 1970, 1960 are now deemed 'normal', such as homosexuality, alternative lifestyles etc. Publishers and broadcasters only produce things with subjects that have wide appeal and thus will make them money. On television we regularly view shows promoting perverted structures of family, showing open sexual acts, and worse subjects, such as cannibalism or serial killing as entertainment, subjects one never even discussed inside a home, never mind touted on a global medium. But it sells. Christianity doesn't.

I know that in the days to come and after the rapture when the antichrist will control media & information and thus perception, and that self-published small zines, or even portions of the bible will once again attain underground status and will have to be circulated stealthily. The openly circulated is the perverse and the stealthily circulated will be the pure.

Isaiah 5:20 warns, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." Jesus warned in Matthew 6:22-23, "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!"

I am humbled and grateful to have been asked to contribute to Apocalypse This zine. Due to the alternative nature of zines these days, having a piece about Jesus in and amongst the other subjects means that people will read the Gospel who don't normally come across it. Please pray that the Spirit sends all the right people to today's Nottingham Zine Fair whose heart is ready to receive the truth.

I'll post what I wrote for the zine and  link to it. And also here. Meanwhile, right now there are hordes of youths ambling through aisles under the sun at Nottingham, looking for...something. I pray they find Jesus.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Footprints in the sand

John 6:44 says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day."

The Father draws His own toward Him. Sometimes it takes a short time until a person repents and accepts the Father as God and the Son as Savior, and other times it may take a lifetime. In my case, it took 42 years.

Looking back over the time, I can see where the Lord intervened and drew me by planting the seeds. An incident at age 10, a conversation at age 15, a sight at age 21...and when I was 30 I came across the following poem. I was fully depraved, fully lost, and I had not a shred in me to commend me. The things of Jesus repelled me. I avoided anything to do with Him at all costs. Which is why it was a 'funny coincidence' that at a yard sale one day, I picked up an needlepoint piece, or a bookmark, or some small thing, I forget, that had the poem about Jesus on it.

Even stranger still, I read the entire poem. Usually I would have thrown it back down in disgust if I was snookered into reading anything about Jesus. But this time, I read.

 Weirdest of all, at the end of the poem, I burst into tears. Yes, me, depraved, atheist, 'perfectly content' me. I cried.

Footprints in the Sand
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.

Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there were one set of footprints.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life,when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints.

So I said to the Lord, "You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there have only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most,you have not been there for me?"

The Lord replied, "The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you."
~Mary Stevenson

Let the Lord walk with you, carry you. If you feel Him drawing you, don't wait 42 years to respond. Life with Him is precious.

Eternal life with Him is glorious. Look for the footprints.

Begin with God

"From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the LORD. But the foundation of the temple of the LORD was not yet laid." (Ezra 3:6)
What is happening in this section of Ezra, which is in the Old Testament, is that the first flood of returnees from the Babylonian captivity had just gotten back to the Land. The decreed 70 years separation/punishment/captivity for worshiping false gods and idols was over, (Jeremiah 25:9-12; Daniel 9:2; Jeremiah 29:10) and as described in Ezra 1:5, the Jews had been impressed upon their heart to return, and so they did.

They made a 900 mile, 9 months walk from Mesopotamia (Iraq) to their homeland for the express purpose of re-igniting proper worship of the LORD. With this in mind, when they got there and after being allowed a short time to set up living quarters and get the animals and families settled, they launched into the main task.

But note the verse: they began with making an altar. They did not lay the foundation first. They did not build walls. They did not build furniture. They put God at the heart and the start of it all.

Foundation is important! Without it, the structure will not stand. God will build the foundation. But first comes worship.

It is like that for unsaved sinners when they come to salvation. They do not need to visit churches and take time to decide which one is the right one, and then walk an aisle. They do not need to wait until office hours are re-opened and meet with a pastor. They do not need to wait and try and conquer this sin or that sin so they would be even purer before they come to the Lord. You can ask for forgiveness of sins right then, right there, right now. Worship the Lord first, and then He will build your foundation.

For the saved, forgiven Christians, if you have separated from Jesus for a while, you do not need to do any of the above, either. The Jews returning from Babylon already were headed for heaven and already knew the LORD. They had been selected by the LORD to return. (Ezra 1:5). But even so, they did not set up a training school for priests and wait to be blessed or preached to. They did not spend inordinate period developing plans and examining architectural renderings. They got right to the heart of it: worshiping the Lord.

I am not saying that not having a foundation is OK. I am not saying that all the rest of the things I mentioned are to be ignored. The returning exiles did not ignore them. But the first thing they did was begin worship. All good things always start from that one act: humble submission to the One true God. As long as He is the focus, He will bring the development of the individuals and the nation along as He wills.

So? What are you waiting for? Begin worship! What is worship? How is one to worship? Paul explained the elements of worship to us in Romans 12:1-2: “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable, or well pleasing and perfect.”

0. Understand that the one true God is the only One who bestows mercies.
1. Present yourselves. The Jewish exiles did just that in the Ezra verse.
2. A living and holy sacrifice means that you understand that by presenting yourself, you are submitting to the control of God for your body, mind, heart, spirit, and life.
3. Our spiritual service of worship is that He deserves our all. Nothing less. Service to Him is His right and our calling.
4. 'Do not be conformed to this world' in context of worship means you reject what the world has to offer and you instead seek what God offers from His world.
5. 'Be transformed by the renewing of our minds' means as an act of worship, we read the bible and allow His thoughts to engulf us, penetrate us, and aid us in resisting the world. Learning what He said to us and wants us to know is worship.
6. Prove what the will of God is, which is through our acts of submission and worship, to shine His light of glory back to Him. When people see us, they should see the glory and light of Jesus in us. Worshiping Him does that. It is a cycle.
7. The only things that are good and acceptable to God are the things of God, and in His strength. Without Him we can do nothing and there is no one good.

True worship is submitting to, and operating under and within the power and glory of God wherever we are, all the time. Not just in church, as important as it is to worship Him in open assembly, but also worship Him in life, with our lives. Worship comes first, because we begin with God!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pastor Worley and his electrified fence for homosexuals

Yesterday a video went viral, having accumulated a critical mass that penetrated the top levels of news media, internet, and consciousness. A North Carolina Pastor said some terrible things about homosexuals

The pastor's speech misrepresents Christianity.

Pastor: Build Electrified Fence For Gays So They ‘Die Out’ (video at link)
"A North Carolina pastor has come under fire after calling for gays and lesbians to be killed off by keeping them locked up behind an electrified fence. During his sermon at the Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, Pastor Charles Worley said he figured out a way to “get rid of all the lesbians and queers.” “Build a great big, large fence – 100 miles long – put all the lesbians in there, fly over and drop some food,” Worley said during his May 13 sermon. “Do the same thing with the queers and homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out … and in a few years they will die out.” Worley went out to say that gays and lesbians will die off because “they can’t reproduce.”

Predictably, and rightfully, there is backlash. Today's headlines state:

"Internet helps expose bigotry"
"Video shows pastor is a lost soul"
"Former Worley Church Goer Saddened But Not Surprised by Homophobia"

The pastor's speech misrepresents Christianity.

True Christians know how heinous the pastor's remarks are. Christians lament and sigh and mourn over incidents like these because first, remarks like this besmirch the holiness and the reputation of Jesus. Secondly, we know we have our work cut out for us doubly hard when hate speech like this comes across the boards, because we have to make up for it. Also, it IS hate speech, and the lost and the homosexual-pushing agenda folks simply lump his remarks into one bundle and soon we're accused of hate speech even when repeating bible verses that state unequivocally that homosexuality is a sin. So this post isn't for Christians. It is for the lost, who want to believe that like this pastor, all Christians have a flawed and twisted perspective on God's mercy. Let's dig in.

While the pastor's speech misrepresents Christianity, it is a fact that homosexuality is a sin. People who engage in it will go to hell if they do not repent. However, homosexuality is ONE sin. Unrepentant thieves will go to hell. Unrepentant adulterers will go to hell. Unrepentant liars will go to hell. (1 Corinthians 6:9). And so on. Yes, homosexuality is gross, and it is an example to the ungodly (2 Peter 2:6) of how far their perversion has gone (Romans 1:24-28) but is is a sin that Jesus can and does forgive. It always comes down to Jesus's grace. As AW Tozer said, "For every person it must be Jesus Christ or eternal tragedy."

Christians are not "homophobic". "By definition, homophobia is fear of homosexuals, but its meaning has been broadened to include hate for homosexuals. Correspondingly, being homophobic tends to manifest itself through an outward demonstration or behavior based on such a feeling. This, in turn, sometimes leads to acts of violence or expressions of hostility. The truth is that homophobia is not just confined to any one segment of society. It can be found in people from all walks of life. Such hate groups have viciously attacked homosexuals and have used especially violent language in attempting to persecute and intimidate homosexuals. More often than not, Christians are said to be homophobic simply because they condemn homosexual behavior as sin. But the real fact of the matter is that the term homophobic is merely a “politically correct” scheme used by homosexual activists and supporters in their attempts to deflect a genuine criticism of an immoral and unhealthy practice."

Christians have a fierce love for unrepentant sinners, having been sinners ourselves- and though we are repentant and forgiven we still struggle with our sin nature! Praise the Lordhe sends the Holy Spirit to live within us to help us resist it. We are familiar with the sin-struggle. Unforgiven sinners go to hell and hell is serious! We wish that on NO ONE. Jonathan Edwards captured the horribleness of it in his famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of and Angry God:

"It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long for ever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh, who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it, gives but a very feeble, faint representation of it; it is inexpressible and inconceivable: For "who knows the power of God's anger?"

We do NOT enjoy thinking of anyone in hell, and we do not utter words that indicate we want to hasten their eternal doom. The pastor's speech misrepresents Christianity.

Before I was saved, I believed that all Christians were like Pastor Worley. It only confirmed my attitude that Christianity was just the same as all the hate I'd already experienced in the world, and therefore was not worth exploring. Attitudes like that pastor's is what the world expects and it does much harm to the lost who need Jesus. Therefore, be Christlike, because He urges us to actions that the world does not expect. Who expects that if our cheek is slapped we give the other one to be slapped? Who expects love in the midst of enemies? Who expects meekness, humility, and service?

The pastor's speech misrepresents Christianity.

Stating that homosexuality is a sin is not hate speech, it is the truth of Jesus. Stating that all homosexuals should be rounded up and left to starve behind an electric fence is hate in the extreme. Each person on earth was made in the likeness of God (Gen 1:27). Saved or not saved, we are to treat people with respect. 1 Peter 1:22 says how to treat believers, "Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart." As for how we are to treat everyone, 2 Timothy 2:24-26, Matthew 5:16, James 5:16 are all good verses that instruct us on proper Christ-like behavior.

Focusing on the Matthew 5:16 verse, which says, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven," remember, it is all about the glory of Jesus. When you like a life of meekness and love, unswervingly adhering to His standards of uttering the truth in love, not hate, we shine more brightly for Him. And what seeker isn't attracted to the light and not the dark?

Wash yourself in the word, let its comforts engulf you!

Sometimes we know that God is so big, we wonder, how can He know us? Why does He care about little old me? Will He even remember me? We know He does, but sometimes it's hard to think on, that He is so mighty but that He cares about even our daily provision. So when we offer each other comfort, we often turn to the wonderful verses about God knowing all about us. Here is one-

"I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows." (Luke 12:4-7).

I am going through Ezra and I read Ezra 2 the other day. I was struck by the verses that make up the bulk of that chapter. It is the part where the LORD puts on the exiled Israelites' hearts to leave Babylon. The 70-year exile is over and it is time to return, build the temple, and resume life as a person of God in the Land. Fifty-thousand people were to return. The Remnant.

"The number of the men of the people of Israel: the sons of Parosh, 2,172. The sons of Shephatiah, 372. The sons of Arah, 775. The sons of Pahath-moab, namely the sons of Jeshua and Joab, 2,812. The sons of Elam, 1,254. The sons of Zattu, 945. The sons of Zaccai, 760. The sons of Bani, 642. The sons of Bebai, 623. The sons of Azgad, 1,222. The sons of Adonikam, 666. The sons of Bigvai, 2,056. The sons of Adin, 454. The sons of Ater, namely of Hezekiah, 98. The sons of Bezai, 323. The sons of Jorah, 112. The sons of Hashum, 223. The sons of Gibbar, 95. The sons of Bethlehem, 123. The men of Netophah, 56. The men of Anathoth, 128. The sons of Azmaveth, 42." (Ezra 2:2b-24)

Look how exacting! Look how perfectly God's records are kept! Look how much He knows! And it doesn't end there. After the genealogies which comprise the bulk of the chapter are exhausted (so that the generations of priests and Levites will be able to maintain their claim to the office of Priest), we read how many singers and gatekeepers there were:

"The singers: the sons of Asaph, 128. The sons of the gatekeepers: the sons of Shallum, the sons of Ater, the sons of Talmon, the sons of Akkub, the sons of Hatita, and the sons of Shobai, in all 139." (Ezra 2:41-42).

And He is not done, after all the listings of the different types of servants, there is a list of how many horses and donkeys! "Their horses were 736, their mules were 245, their camels were 435, and their donkeys were 6,720." (Ezra 2:66-67).

Rather than wanting to hurry and read through these extensive lists, I slowed down and lingered over these verses. First, because if it is in the bible it is put there for a reason, likely, many reasons that prayer and meditating upon will bring out. Secondly, I like to picture in my mind the men whose names are listed actually gathering their sheep and packing up the donkey and the women un-pitching the tents. I like to imagine the scene so as to bring to life that this is a real event and these were real people. Third, I was simply struck at the exactitude of the Lord. His record-keeping is as exact and controlled as He is. Of course He knows us! He knows our struggles, our sins, our attempts, our repentance, our thoughts, our failings, our past and our future. He knows. And not only that, this great God of ours, He empathizes. How can such a High and Exalted God sympathize with our puny problems?

Here is how:

"Surely our griefs He himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted." (Isaiah 53:4).

Because of this, He personally can sympathize with us. He is our great High Priest:

"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Friend, if you are struggling, if you feel lost or alone, go to the throne of mercy. It is not far, only as far as closed eyes and clasped hands. We serve a great and holy God who loves us and knows us through and through. Let Him comfort you--

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Christian funnies and foibles

From Pastor JD Hall,

From Dan Phillips:

From Tim Challies; Fortune Cookie, or Joel Osteen? Click on the link to find out the answers

Question One- “Happiness is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it.”
Question Two- “Do all you can to make your dreams come true.”
Question Three- “Take time to make a difference. Think about how you can make somebody else’s life better.”
Question Four- “Avoid focusing on the negative aspects of the past.”
Question Five- “You have something to offer that nobody else can give!”
Question Six- “When you can’t naturally feel upbeat, it can sometimes help to act as if you did.”
Question Seven- “To affirm is to make firm.”
Question Eight- “Relationships are more important than our accomplishments.”
Question Nine- “Somebody needs your encouragement. Somebody needs to know that you believe in them.”
Question Ten- “The best things in life aren’t things.”
Question Eleven- “You will produce what you’re continually seeing in your mind.”
Question Twelve- “Judge each day not by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.”

From Funny Christian Stories

From Church Bulletin Bloopers:

--The Rev. Merriwether spoke briefly, much to the delight of the audience.
--During the absence of our pastor, we enjoyed the rare privilege of hearing a good sermon when J.F. Stubbs supplied our pulpit.
--Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Jack's sermons.
--Please welcome Pastor Don, a caring individual who loves hurting people

In all seriousness, have you supported your Pastor today? Here are 14 ways to support your pastor. He is dealing with sick, hurting, weakening people. He is under attack from satan. He is working hard to prepare sermons and in hopes that the weak will be strengthened and the strong will be encouraged. He needs your support, prayers, willingness. We need all to stay positive and remember the promises of Jesus are true and because they are true, they lead to glory and joy!

(UPDATED)Third Georgia patient comes down with flesh eating bacterial infection

Three Four people from Georgia have now been infected and are being treated for the dread flesh-eating bacterial infection.

1. Aimee Copeland was riding a homemade zip line near the Little Tallapoosa River near Carollton, Georgia May 1st when the line snapped, causing a gash in her left calf. The bacteria thought to have triggered the infection, Aeromonas hydrophila, thrives in warm climates and fresh (brackish) water, like the river where Copeland was kayaking and zip lining with friends.

2. Lana Kuykendall was infected on May 7th after she gave birth to twins at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

3. Bobby Vaughn of Cartersville, Georgia's story-- "Reports emerge of third flesh-eating bacteria victim with ties to Georgia." Vaughn is a Cartersville landscaper who was injured at work May 4th when he fell from a tree and suffered a cut to his side.

4. UPDATE, A grandfather from Milledgeville (also not so far from Atlanta) is battling an infection of flesh eating bacteria. Shudderrrrrr...

The scale of miles between each location where the patient became infected is that each side of the triangle is roughly 50 miles from each destination. The distances are not long.

OK, one is a freak thing, two is something that makes me go HMMM, but three is a pattern. Three from the Atlanta area is just too close for comfort!

But now there is one in Long Island NY, a veteran fought for his life from a hospital bed warding off this weird bacteria. He survived. The article says that the bacteria "is rare". I think they need to look up the definition of "rare" again. Four in the news in one week, suddenly, is not rare. It's freaky...

I think of the verse that will be fulfilled in the Tribulation, the one where Jesus promised that there will be pestilences, (Luke 21:11; Rev 6:8). He created the entire world and all that is within it in 6 days. He can create a disease that will kill a fourth of mankind. Or He will allow a mutation of a disease that man in his own sin created, to kill a fourth of mankind. Or both.

What we have today is a flesh eating bacteria that is hard to handle in these relatively calm times with all the focus of the practicing experts brought to bear, with a total focus of curing the patient afflicted with it. A cure is almost too hard for them to manage now. Imagine when things are really chaotic and a quarter of the world is dying from plagues and wars and other deathly afflictions. If a person in the Tribulation catches this bacteria you will watch your flesh rot off while doctors are performing triage on patients worse off than you, until even they are overwhelmed with the flood of medical emergencies and finally practicing medicine as we know it sputters to a halt. If you believe I am overstating things, look what happened during Katrina.

I bring these unpalatable things to mind for you so as to think on His mercy. THIS is the age of grace, when repentance will bring joy and redemption to the penitent. Submitting to the loving care of the Savior brings to fruition for each individual all the promises of glory, peace, eternal joy with Him in heaven. Rejecting His offer of grace brings pain, death, and eternal separation from all his promises in hellish agony.

He said that he told us these things head of time so that when they came to pass you would believe. This presently ending of the Age of Grace is the last lead-time you will have to make these choices. (John 13:19). You can choose Jesus during the Tribulation, IF you survive any part of it, IF you don't wait too long before all the world becomes deluded by the antichrist, IF Jesus doesn't give you over to your perversions first, IF......

No, do it NOW. He loves you and wants you. He wants YOU.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mystery boom shakes Islands

Mystery boom shakes buildings
"The mysterious boom was heard across the Island... AN investigation has been launched into the cause of a mysterious boom which shook buildings across the Island on Saturday afternoon. Hundreds of Islanders reported hearing a loud bang – similar to a sonic boom – at 1.04 pm. The boom was so loud it rattled doors and windows from Gorey to St Ouen and even measured on the Island’s seismograph in St Aubin. But despite speculation that the noise was caused by a military jet travelling faster than the speed of sound, Jersey Airport has confirmed that no aircraft capable of causing such a noise was in the Island’s airspace at the time. And Jersey Met Office has confirmed that it is unlikely that any meteorological phenomenon could have caused the noise."

Jersey is an island off the north coast of France.

More news articles from this year about the mystery booms worldwide:

January 26, 2102-- Strange noises in the sky: hums, booms, and other apocalyptic escapades

March 15, 2012--  Strange boom heard in GA, spiritual warfare ramping up

April 1, 2012:-- "That noise was not thunder" a boom in the Poconos

April 1, 2012-- Strange booms and loud rumbling sounds

Or do a search in the search box for 'boom'. Therre are other essays about this worldwide phenomenon.

Greece, the euro, and self-delusion

Here is an interesting article out this morning from Reuters.

"Greeks embrace some new myths about life with the euro"
"In a land of ancient myths, modern Greeks have created some of their own about their near-bankrupt country's future as an integral part of a Europe that will never kick them out. Solemn warnings from abroad that Athens cannot stay in the euro while rejecting the terms attached to the billions offered to pull Greece out of its financial hole are widely disbelieved in a land that considers itself the envy of foreigners. However bad their prospects, many Greeks seem to think that since money to bail them out was found in the past, it will be found again, whatever politicians say. Nor do they believe that Europe will simply cast them loose, despite growing signs that Greece is heading for the exit from the single currency and towards the economic and social catastrophe that would follow."

'Never be kicked out'? 'The envy of foreigners'?? 'They will get more bailouts'???

How is it possible to be THAT deluded? There is a biblical answer to that, and one that the article's headline alluded to. It is shown to us in Daniel 10:20, where there is a mention of a Prince of Greece:

"When said he, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come."

From Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, "But before he communicated to Daniel what would befall his people in the "latter days" (Daniel 10:14), he gives to him yet further disclosures regarding the proceedings in the spirit-kingdom which determine the fate of nations, and contain for Israel, in the times of persecution awaiting them."

What is happening is that Daniel had inquired of the LORD. The LORD dispatched an angel to give Daniel the answer. But on the way, the holy angel was delayed in the celestial realms by evil angels who opposed him and tried to prevent the message from being delivered. Finally after 21 days Michael had to be sent to help the holy angel get through. And when the holy angel was finished speaking with Daniel, he said was going to have to leave and go deal with the prince of Persia and the prince of Greece.

We know that the princes spoken of are not in this context earthly princes like Prince Charles of Britain. They are angels. Daniel 12:1 speaks of archangel Michael being the "prince" who is assigned to 'Thy People" the Israelites. It seems that there are evil angels and good angels who are assigned in a military type hierarchy to different regions. And Greece apparently has a very powerful prince assigned to it by satan.

John MacArthur preached on this verse, explaining,

"Now listen to this. Satan has an incredibly clever organization. He has set up a network of demons that are behind all of the activities of human history. There was a demon assigned to Persia. Verse 20 says there's a demon to be assigned to Greece. The Bible says that all the gods of the nations are demons. And I believe without question, throughout all of human history Satan's network of demons have been behind the scenes, endeavoring to do all they can to foil the plan of God. His task, this prince of Persia, was to hinder the will and the working of God in regard to Persia, to do all he could to hold back God's plan."

"And when Persia passed away, and Greece became the third great world empire, according to verse 20, there would be another demon assigned to be the power in Greece and he would have under him a whole plethora of demons to carry out his bidding. Is that an insight? God actually carries out His will through the angelic conflict. Incredible. And this angel says I've got to hurry and get my message so I can get back to the war."

"And when I'm done with this Persian deal, Greece is going to come along and I've got to fight that one, too."

So from the land that gave us myths, which are false religions and twists on His truth, we have an evilly powerful prince of Greece and his unholy minions who delude an entire nation. That's how it's possible to be so deluded.

Word of the Week: Propitiation

We're losing the meaning of our uniquely Christian words. Biblical illiteracy is high. People don't understand the meaning of founda...