En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Posts Tagged ‘death’

What if…?

Posted by Scott on April 25, 2009

What if you could read minds? What if you knew the winning lottery numbers one day early? What is you could live forever? What if you were breathing your last breath right now? What if you had already eaten your last meal? What if you had your conscience for a reason? What if you knew what the reason was? What if it were a beacon – a warning of an impending doom? What if justice were not corrupt, but something true – something eternal? What if the standard for life were a perfect Law you already knew? What if in the stillness of a silent moment you know you had broken that law?

What if life is really a test, a series of choices, in which only one choice really matters? What if we ignore the inner warning light which pulses when we lie, steal or lust? What if even our hatred is counted as murder? What if pain and pleasure are only shadows of greater sensations to come? What if there is a Heaven? What if there is a Hell? What if there is a just Judge who knows even our thoughts? What if He holds us accountable for every thought, word, and deed? What if our idea of justice is only a shadow of something coming – where the prison times are eternal and no bond can be posted once the sentence is passed? What if death is the fine for breaking an eternal Law? What if someone paid that fine for you? What if Jesus Christ is that person? What if He defeated death by rising from the dead? What if you could turn from your sin, put your faith in Him and live? What if He gave you your conscience yo point you to Him?

Every second two people die… What if this is your second? check it out and see @
www.WhatIfCard.com

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Revival and Reform: Where is it? What is it?

Posted by Scott on December 6, 2008

At the time of this writing I have been watching, listening, and studying this very topic on Revivals and Reforms of the past and what is to come.  The great Reformation of Luthers day really changed the direction the Christian church was going and is still in effect today. 

In the past there have been what I believe to be false revivals instituted by such men as Charles Finney and others.  As you can tell, I am no advacate of Finneyism at all…personally believe it has done tremendous damage to the Church as a whole, but that is another topic all together.

Today, across our country and many other countries we are seeing young men being drawn back to the foundations of our Christian faith…Reform Theology (Calvinism as some call it)…true Reformed Theology, not that which has been misrepresented for decades as hyperCalvinsim.  These young men are being drawn to read and study on the likes of Spurgeon, Watson, Buroughs, Ravenhill, Tozer, Whitefield, Edwards, Calvin, Knox, Flavel, Boston, Martin Lloyd Jones, Stott, MacArthur, Piper, Sproul, Packer, Warfield, and many others that fall into this camp.  Stott, MacArthur, Packer, Sproul, and Piper are still alive and well, but the rest have been forgotten by many in the Evangelical movement of the 20th and 21st century.  These great mens lives and testimonies are resurfacing in full power to proclaim the real gospel of Jesus Christ not the watered down version people are flocking to today.

Why are young men returning to this theology, to this biblical doctrinal truth?  It is a deep seated desire to know God in His fullness, to know Christ without mans inhabitions, to serve God with all their being, and a response to God’s call back to holiness and righteousness…they have a deep seated desire of God…the Holy Trinity.  This has been missing in the Evangelical movement or revival movement for the past 60 years or more.   Contrary to belief our life is not all about getting saved and then getting others saved…not as our first response.  Others coming to the saving knowledge of Christ through our testimony is a by product of our own living testimony in Christ and the greater work of the Church as the Holy Spirit moves them…salvation is a total work of God and Him alone.  Our first priority is to know God personally, fulfill His commands, to serve God personally unabashedly, and bring our lives into line with Him.  Striving for a holy life like that of Christ unto righteousness.  We are to work out our salvation…not as salvation by works..that is not what I am saying here, but to show or prove our salvation in how we live, how obdeient we are to the commands of God, how we react to circumstances in our lives, how we respond to our neighbors needs and actions, in how we love others and treat others, how we serve our employer, how we treat our taxes to the government, to serve the Lord with gladness of heart regardless of our life circumstances, to be found in deep study with the Word of God daily, to be found in communication with our God at all times, to share the true authentic gospel of Christ as the Holy Spirit provides that opportunity to whom He provides that opportunity, and so on.  This will be misunderstood by many, but that is ok…to be taught correctly sometimes means to be misunderstood by some.

The Church in America or western civilization has not experienced a real reform or revival in probably 200 years it seems.  Sure there have been little emotionally stirred up events in the past 200 years, but I am talking about a revival of the saints where the Word of God is preached bringing the Believers to their knees in repentance of their sins as the power of the Holy Spirit falls upon them, an engathering of hundreds and thousands of lost people to their knees in total shame of their sinful depraved enemy status with God, calling out to God for His mighty forgiveness and turning to walk in a new direction with God.  These were revivals without invitation systems…these were revivals preached by godly men until the Spirit of God fell upon the people of these communities.  A point to which the Holy Spirit came in such power that the mere prescense of a man of God would cause people to fall to their knees in repentance.  This is revival…this is how reformations get started. “My heart says of You, Seek Your face! Your face, Lord, I will seek.” Psalm 27:8

We are not in need of a new Reformation….we are in need of a return to the old Reformation.  The Church has left the love the early reformers had for God and the delicate caring and exposition of His Word.  We have fallen in love with the thought of being involved in some great revival somewhere.  We have fallen in love with surveying the lost to see how they would do church, to surveying communities to get their opinions of church direction and such.  We have fallen in love with fads, with systems, with trends and all sorts of humanistic hog wash, and have failed to fall deeply in love with our sovereign God.  We have fallen in love with an idea of God that we have created and love, but not what Scripture teaches about the true God.   The Reformation of the past had nothing do with mans “free will” left to man alone…if salvation was left to man to decide none would be saved…we would all perish in hell for all eternity…we are depraved, sinful, evil hearted people.  God has told us we cannot trust our hearts.  The reformation of the past had everything to do with returning to trusting in God’s sovereign will over man’s depraved will.  Understanding that man has a will, but God’s will is always in control of it…not as robots, but as people under the influence of God.  God is our creator and He fully intends to keep in control His creation…the restraining hand of God has been on evil men since the beginning otherwise the world would be unbearable and someday it will be that way.

Today, God is raising up men from all over the world that will return to preaching God’s Word in its entirety.  They will move the church from a wimpy Christ that just wants us all to get along with each other, to “coexist” as all religions leading to one God, a fill good Santa Claus or Geni in a bottle…they are bringing back the preaching with power.  These young men are not bashful to claim how lost a person is, how sinful man is, how totally depraved a man is, how much in need of a savior we are.  These guys will sacrifice their lives in order to advance the kingdom of God.

I encourage anyone reading this to seek the face of God now about sin in your life.  Ask God to renew your heart, to purify your life, to move you in a direction of His choosing not yours.  Get rid of the chains of a false religion that has you captured thinking you have to pursuade people to be saved, that you have to be eliquent in your message, that you must go out and do what the lost do in order to get them saved…all we as Believers must do is live a holy and righteous (not self-righteous) life before God and man, teach and preach the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation not just a few minor sections of the New Testiment, and as the Holy Spirit prompts us to share with someone about our life in Christ do it without hesitation.  Get rid of the notion that we are to go door to door, use a man made system, share a two sentence tract with someone…we are to live and breath our God in all that we are and do.  Salvation is not a matter of a 3 minute conversation, a 30 second prayer, and boom you are in.  Salvation is total transformation of the heart and mind turning from sin, depravity, evilness, worldliness, selfishness…to a life committed to furthering the kingdom of God, to living a holy and sanctified life, to being controlled by the Holy Spirit of God, desiring God above all things, spending our lives in the service of Christ whenever and wherever He leads us.

God’s Stubborn People
48 “Listen to me, O family of Jacob,
you who are called by the name of Israel
and born into the family of Judah.
Listen, you who take oaths in the name of the Lord
and call on the God of Israel.
You don’t keep your promises,
     even though you call yourself the holy city
and talk about depending on the God of Israel,
whose name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
     Long ago I told you what was going to happen.
Then suddenly I took action,
and all my predictions came true.
     For I know how stubborn and obstinate you are.
Your necks are as unbending as iron.
Your heads are as hard as bronze.
     That is why I told you what would happen;
I told you beforehand what I was going to do.
Then you could never say, ‘My idols did it.
My wooden image and metal god commanded it to happen!’
     You have heard my predictions and seen them fulfilled,
but you refuse to admit it.
Now I will tell you new things,
secrets you have not yet heard.
     They are brand new, not things from the past.
So you cannot say, ‘We knew that all the time!’
     “Yes, I will tell you of things that are entirely new,
things you never heard of before.
For I know so well what traitors you are.
You have been rebels from birth.
     Yet for my own sake and for the honor of my name,
I will hold back my anger and not wipe you out.
10      I have refined you, but not as silver is refined.
Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.
11      I will rescue you for my sake—
yes, for my own sake!
I will not let my reputation be tarnished,
and I will not share my glory with idols!

Tyndale House Publishers: Holy Bible : New Living Translation. 2nd ed. Wheaton, Ill. : Tyndale House Publishers, 2004, S. Is 48:1-11
God will not be mocked, His name tarnished by the Emergent or Seeker religions.  He is not interested in our philosophy, our eastern mysticism, our best life now, our prosperity on earth…He is intersted in a people that are obedient to His call, to His commands.  He is interested in our obedience regardless of the cost.  As authentic Believers we need to return to loving our neighbors, serving others, feeding others, taking care of others.  Also, we are to speak of God’s Word totally relying on the results from God.  Preach and teach and live out the Word of God, but get out of His way so we may see the mighty results God will bring forth.
Concluding:  Where is the revival or reformation of the 21st century?  It is starting in the mind and hearts of young men and some older men all over the world.  It cannot be prayed into being.  It cannot be stirred up by the words of men.  This revival or reformation will come at the time of God’s own choosing and place of His own choosing, but I can see some sparks starting to flare up in these guys.  We could certainly witness one final great revival in this century.  We simply need to have our minds, hearts, and ears to the Word of God, listening to His calling and returning to preaching and teaching expositionally what He has to say.  His word has always been relivent to every generation and does not need some new system in order for people to get it.  God will plant His Word in the hearts and minds of His chosen peolpe…we are called to deliver it.
I know what you might be thinking…where is the zeal for others to come to know Christ?  It is there, biblically not man made.  My number one priority is obedience to God, service to Christ, and allowing myself to be used in anyway possible by my heavenly Father.  This will result in some evangelism, some mentoring other younger Believers, witnessing to a neighbor, feeding the hungry, clothing the very poor, fixing a flat tire for single mom stranded on the road, watching an older person while their kids do some shopping, and so on.  The zeal for others to accept Christ is always there biblically….not the way the we have been taught from little kids up that all of life revolves around witnessing and evangalising in a concerted effort, all the time which is wrong.  Think about it.  Amen!
(c) Scott Bailey 2008

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Americans have gone crazy over Christmas!

Posted by Scott on November 29, 2008

Alright, the title is strong, but after you read the story you will understand.  Of course not all of us are crazy over Christmas, but I would say the majority are.  For Christians, this time of year should hold a very special meaning for us, but does it really for all the right reasons?

I watched and listened to a news report this afternoon about a security guard being trampled to death in a Walmart in America this morning.  A group of about 2000 people rushed the store this morning wanting in and the most popular item was TVs.  I could not believe this actually happened. 

Folks, our materialistic society that has been produced over the past 100 years is now coming full circle.  People so obsessed with “things” killed a 34 year old man storming a Walmart for TVs!  Can you believe this?  People, we must return to our forefathers way of thinking and living.  Money is something you need in order to eat, keep a roof over your head, provide for your kids and grand-kids, and possibly help out a neighbor that has fallen on hard times.  Our grandparents put the money aside…you would have never experienced them storming a store for any item with the exception of food.  Our grandparents saved their money, paid their bills, and did not run up debt.  What is wrong with the TV you have?  What is wrong with going without a TV for a while?  If Christmas gifts was the purpose for the purchases these Walmarters were rushing for, what is wrong with everyone simply enjoying family for Christmas one year rather than buying a bunch useless, depreciating “things”?  I am not saying if you buy a TV you are wrong…you have missed my point if you think that.

Ok, stay with me folks for just a moment more.  Christmas has always been taught as a celebration for Jesus’ birthday, right?  Well, Christmas for the past 50 plus years has been very little about Jesus or His birthday.  Sure, He gets a token prayer here and there, or maybe a nativity scene put up in peoples traditions with little acknowledgment to what it really means.   As Christians we need to stop dead in our tracks today before we move forward in a pagan society acting as they do, going into debt as they do, buying things we really don’t need as they do, serving no one but ourselves and our family.  These thoughts have been floating around in my head for days, but the fact that a fellow human being was killed trying to do his job at Walmart because selfish ignorant people trampled him like sheep running into the slaughter pen, just boiled these comments and thoughts to the forefront this afternoon.

Here are some thoughts from John MacArthur about questioning our typical American Christmas:

“Questioning the typical Christmas celebration isn’t unreasonable.  After all, mistletoe, holly, Yule logs and ivy were all ancient, pagan symbols.  Even the date we celebrate Christmas does not originate from Scripture, but rather is tied to an ancient pagan Roman holiday honoring winter – not the person of Christ.

Then there’s the insane, commerce-driven, marketing machine that gets cranked up earlier and earlier every year.  It’s no secret that secular culture continues to use Christmas as a vehicle to drive a shameful celebration of the worst kinds of self-indulgences and materialism.  Even the more refined aspects of our culture’s Christmas traditions are often little more than sappy sentimentalism.  You’re not alone if you wonder if we’re doing the right thing in our celebrations with our families, friends and churches.

Over the next few months you’ll hear many attempts to justify all the indulgence, wtih much said about the “real meaning of Christmas.”  Unfortunately, almost none of it will focus on the birth of CHrist or the reason for His incarnation.  And what little does focus on Christ, is such a tiny part, that it’s overshadowed by the massive emphasis the rest of the time on decidedly un-Christ like behavior and practices!  At best, the “Christmas” emphasis becomes peace, sharing, family, togetherness, or some other humanistic value.  Those values aren’t wrong, of course, but considered apart from the incarnation of Christ, they have nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas.”

Now, here is the dilema.  We as Believers have an opportunity to show those around us who Christ is and what He is about.  Gorging ourselves on a steady diet of “things” especially at Christmas does not show anyone who Christ is…rather the opposite opinion occurs.  I am as guilty as anyone in years past for over spending on gifts to my kids and other family members….but, in the past few years we have been pulling back the reigns to get Christmas back into focus as Who the “Holy-Day” is suppose to be about.  The world needs to see that we as Believers are more about celebrating Christ coming to earth, dying for our sins, and defeating death to rise again.  We are to prove by our life actions that we serve an almighty sovereign God that is in full control of all that we do.  It is hard to put into words the disgust I have right now with this retail-Christmas.  This borders on blasphemy to the name of Christ in what this holiday has become, but I will not go that far…yet.

I want to share an eye opening short story by an unknown author concerning Christ birth:

Mary’s Dream

author unknown

“I had a dream, Joseph. I don’t understand it, not really, but I think it was about a birthday celebration for our son. I think that was what it was all about. The people had been preparing for it for about six weeks. They had decorated the house and bought new clothes. They’d gone shopping many times and bought elaborate gifts.

It was peculiar, though, because the presents weren’t for our son. They wrapped them in beautiful paper and tied them with lovely bows and stacked them under a tree. Yes, a tree, Joseph, right in their house. They’d decorated the tree also. The branches were full of glowing balls and sparkling ornaments. There was a figure on the top of the tree. It looked like an angel might look. Oh, it was beautiful.

Everyone was laughing and happy. They were all excited about the gifts. They gave the gifts to each other, Joseph, not to our son. I don’t think they even knew him. They never mentioned his name. Doesn’t it seem odd for people to go to all that trouble to celebrate someones birthday if they don’t know him? I had the strangest feeling that if our son had gone to this celebration he would have been intruding.

Everything was so beautiful, Joseph, and everyone so full of cheer, but it made me want to cry. How sad for Jesus – not to be wanted at his own birthday celebration. I’m glad it was only a dream. How terrible, Joseph, if it had been real. “

So, I will leave us with the thought here out of 2 Corinthians 6:14-15,17:

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?  Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?  What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?  What does a Believer have in common with an unbeliever?  Therefore, come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.  Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”

 

Listen up closely now, I am not saying don’t celebrate Christmas, however, when or if you do this year, keep the focus on Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord…all of it.  Give something to Him first and foremost…take nothing away from Him.  Make each get-to-gether a celebration honoring the Lord above all others.  Keep Christ on every breath you take…in every prayer uttered.  This can be the most memorable Christmas your family has ever experienced if we would all cut down on the spending for ourselves and make a tremendous increase in the honor and celebration of Jesus as Lord.  If you want to spend, help someone that needs your help and cannot help themselves.  Invite someone over this year for a Christmas meal that you would not normally invite over.  Give someone some clothes that really needs clothes.  Serve at a homeless shelter, food line or something of this kind.  This is the real Christmas story if we get right down to it.  Being about the Fathers work has nothing to do with us and especially us getting “things”.  Take time out to explore the Scriptures thoroughly about who Christ is, who our God is, what is it that our heavenly Father really wants from us, what this life is really all about.  We need clothes, food, shelter, possibly medical attention, and transportation…everything else is really wants more than needs.  I encourage you to get out of a small section of the New Testament and explore the entire Bible…this is the only way you will understand just how BIG our God really is this Holy season.

Merry Christmas to all of you…may the Lord richly bless your efforts to know Him better this holiday season.

 

(c) Scott Bailey 2008

 

 

 

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The End of the Nation? Russia Chooses Death Over Life

Posted by Scott on October 7, 2008

Reports out of Russia indicate that the recent military clash with Georgia may have represented something more like desperation than opportunism.  Murray Feshbach of The Washington Post reports that, all things considered, Russia is actually close to a national collapse.

“Predictions that Russia will again become powerful, rich and influential ignore some simply devastating problems at home that block any march to power,” Feshbach reports.  “Sure, Russia’s army could take tiny Georgia. But Putin’s military is still in tatters, armed with rusting weaponry and staffed with indifferent recruits. Meanwhile, a declining population is robbing the military of a new generation of soldiers. Russia’s economy is almost totally dependent on the price of oil. And, worst of all, it’s facing a public health crisis that verges on the catastrophic.”

The health crisis turns out to be a barometer of sorts — and a warning of a far greater disaster that looms.  Russia is falling into the rank of nations with the lowest life expectancy and highest rates of early death.  No one appears concerned enough to do anything.

As Feshbach reports:

Recent decades, most notably since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, have seen an appalling deterioration in the health of the Russian population, anchoring Russia not in the forefront of developed countries but among the most backward of nations.

This is a tragedy of huge proportions — but not a particularly surprising one, at least to me. I followed population, health and environmental issues in the Soviet Union for decades, and more recently, I have reported on diseases such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic ravaging the Russian population. I’ve visited Russia more than 50 times over the years, so I can say from firsthand experience that this national calamity isn’t happening suddenly. It’s happening inexorably.

According to U.N. figures, the average life expectancy for a Russian man is 59 years — putting the country at about 166th place in the world longevity sweepstakes, one notch above Gambia. For women, the picture is somewhat rosier: They can expect to live, on average, 73 years, barely beating out the Moldovans. But there are still some 126 countries where they could expect to live longer. And the gap between expected longevity for men and for women — 14 years — is the largest in the developed world.

The recent military incursion into Georgia, brutal as it was, may represent a futile attempt to show force while Russia still has force.  The number of young men of military age in the population is crashing — as is the number of young women who could give birth to future soldiers.

In order to understand this, consider this shocking headline from the St. Peterburg Times [Russia]:  “Experts — 64 Percent of Russian Pregnancies End in Abortion.”

As the paper reports:

The low birth rate remains one of the key reasons behind Russia’s ongoing demographic crisis. According to official statistics, every fourth teenage girl in Russia has some form of gynecological ailment or reproductive health disorder.

Each year in Russia, more than 64 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion, while in Western European countries the level is below 25 percent. By comparison, there are 10 to 15 abortions per 100 pregnancies in the U.K. and 5 or 6 per 100 in the Netherlands.

One in ten women who undergo an abortion in Russia is below 18 years of age, doctors say. Gynecological disease rates for teenage girls in 15-17 age group, have jumped by an alarming 30 percent in the last five years.

In a twist only Fyodor Dostoevsky might understand, Russian authorities, alarmed by the population collapse, declared 2008 as the ‘Year of the Family.’  Government campaigns to encourage bearing children were launched, but with no apparent impact.  In a stunning disconnect, the government still offers free abortions.

What country can live with aborting 64 percent of its babies?  How can such a nation survive?  It has brought death into its own wombs.  The babies who are born are the lucky few.  The vast majority never see life outside the womb.

In recent days The Los Angeles Times has reported that a small pro-life movement has begun in Russia, but without much influence as of yet:

A fledgling antiabortion movement is beginning to stir in Russia. Driven by a growing discussion of abortion as a moral issue and, most of all, by a government worried about demographics, doctors and politicians are quietly struggling to lower what is believed to be one of the world’s highest abortion rates..”

 

“The attitude has changed,” abortion practitioner Alexander Medvedev said. “Even in community clinics, doctors are trying to dissuade patients from abortion. Now teenagers come to see us with already two or three abortions, and it’s horrible.

The report indicates that some medical authorities and social observers are truly concerned, and exceptions for late-term abortions are harder to obtain. Nevertheless, the sheer number of abortions defies comprehension and appears unlikely to fall.  A reluctance to define the issue in moral terms means that authorities try to argue from the grounds of public health and population needs.  But once the moral ground is abandoned, so is the hope of any recovery.

Lincoln Steffens, an American apologist for the Bolshevik Revolution and the early Soviet regime, once infamously declared of the Soviets:  “I have been over to the future, and it works!”  Well, the current crisis in Russia may well be a warning of the future collapse of civilization.  Once a nation takes the Culture of Death into its heart, what rescue is possible?

________________________

The more familiar form of the quotation from Lincoln Steffens (“I have seen the future and it works!”) was not made known until after his death and may be a misquotation supplied by his widow.

 

 

For more on the article go to Al Mohler  and other articles by Dr. Al Mohler Jr.

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Critique of “The Shack”!

Posted by Scott on September 26, 2008

THE SHACK, “Elousia,” & the Black Madonna

IMAGINATION, IMAGE, AND IDOLATRY

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

Herescope

Mackenzie Allen Philips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant “The Shack” wrestles with the timeless question, “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?”
description of The Shack on www.amazon.com

God is Truth. That He is Truth distinguishes Him from idols which are false. Of the Lord, the prophet declared, “There is none like Thee, O Lord; Thou art great, and great is Thy name in might,” and explained of those who create idols, “But they are altogether stupid and foolish In their discipline of delusion—their idol is wood!” The prophetic commentary which follows then states, “Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish, And gold from Uphaz, The work of a craftsman and of the hands of a goldsmith; Violet and purple are their clothing; They are all the work of skilled men. But the Lord is the true God . . .” (Jeremiah 10:6-10, NASB).[1] In this vein, A.W. Tozer once wrote: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”[2]

But idols arise out of human imagination. Humanoids make god however they want him/her/it to be. In the description of the declension into idolatry, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man (Emphasis mine, Romans 1:21-23a, KJV). Imagination creates images — even idolatrous images — and the images can either be material or mental, actual or verbal.[3]

Words can create mental pictures. Someone once said that a picture is worth a thousand words. In an image-oriented age where people watch more and read less, this statement makes its point. But words can also create images. Through the mind’s eye, we see. Someone once defined idolatry as thinking wrong thoughts about God. So the question becomes, with the stroke of his verbal brush and in his bestselling novel The Shack, what picture of God does William P. Young create? I am fearful that the book’s painting of God, even though fictional, might promote the wrong image of Him.

The novel tugs at the emotional strings of its readers, and for just that reason the book has become a bestseller in the fiction category. I am therefore aware that I am about to tread where angels might not dare. This pastor realizes he is about to enter the personal and emotional space of the human heart. People feel very deeply about this book and its author. I ask only, as you read Young’s book with an open heart, that you might also read this theological review of the book with an open mind.

We now proceed to look at the theology of The Shack.[4] We turn to the ideas presented in the book about God. The god of The Shack (In this reference, I refuse to spell God with an upper case “G.”) is an imagined hermaphroditic trinity, consisting of a retreat center owner and hostess who goes by the name of “Elousia,” a carpenter-handyman by the name of “Jesus,” and a gardener who goes by the name of “Sarayu.” In order, we consider the three main characters, and another omniscient and sensual lady who goes by the name of “Sophia,” or Wisdom.

THE FIRST PERSON — At first mention, and according to Mack’s wife Nan’s understanding, the first person of the godhead goes by the name of “Papa” (perhaps alluding to the Apostle Paul’s designation of Him as “Abba,” Romans 8:15). But upon Mack’s arrival at The Shack, “Papa” morphs into a large and loving African-American woman named “Elousia” (i.e., a combination of the Hebrew name for God the Creator, “El,” and the Greek word “ousia” suggesting a Platonic meaning of “being” or “existence”).[5] Among other characteristics, “Elousia” describes herself as, “the Creator God who is truly real and the ground of all being.”(The Shack, 111).

This name for God appears to be borrowed from the writings of theologian Paul Tillich (1886-1965), who referred to God as “the Ground of Being.” By so designating deity, Tillich meant that, “God is not a being alongside others or above other but God is Being-itself or the Ground of Being.”[6] Likewise, to Tillich, “God is not a being, not even the highest of all beings; he is being itself, or the ground of being, the internal power or force that causes everything to exist.”[7] This conception of God compliments the conception of deity amongst devotees to the New Age/New Spirituality.

Even though Tillich’s assertions about deity were esoteric and complex, Young presents a Tillich-like scheme of deity who describes herself as “the ground of all being” that dwells “in, around, and through all things . . .” (The Shack, 112). Such a view of God is acknowledged to be panentheistic (i.e., God dwells “through all things”).[8] This may explain why, toward the end of his life, Tillich no longer prayed. He only meditated. To him there existed no personal or transcendental God to pray to. God was immanent only, his “ground of being.” So like an airplane, which is refused take-off for reason of mechanical failure, the concept of god in The Shack never gets off the “ground.” However, according to The Shack’s picturing of God, there may be a similarity even more startling.

Having finished reading The Shack, and while surfing the Internet, I was quite smitten when inadvertently, I ran across an internet article by Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox, The Return of the Black Madonna: A Sign of Our Times or How the Black Madonna is Shaking Us Up for the Twenty-First Century. Fox’s description of the Black Madonna (or the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis as she is alternately understood) included her supposed leading of distressed people to find emotional healing within themselves. This description seemed to possess, at first glance, an eerie parallel to the black goddess character (“Elousia”) created by William Young. The comparison upon further reading, study and thought, revealed that their similarity was more than just color. In both writings, two similar personages emerge. I proceed to note a few of the analogies between Fox’s Black Madonna and Young’s “Elousia.”

First, Fox states that, “The Black Madonna invites us into the dark and therefore into our depths. This is what the mystics call the ‘inside’ of things, the essence of things. This is where Divinity lies. It is where the true self lies. It is where illusions are broken apart and the truth lies.”[9]

In The Shack, we note the word “darkness” occurs frequently. It is as if darkness is archetypal to Mack’s Great Sadness. This is especially noticeable in his appearance before “Sophia.” In the chapter “Here Come Da Judge,” darkness is the dominant aura surrounding Mack’s experience. As he entered the cave, “with his hands outstretched in front of him, he ventured a couple of steps into the inky darkness and stopped.” (The Shack, 151). To create Mack’s experience, Young heaps up references to amplify “darkness”—“deep shadows . . . inky blackness . . . dim light . . . darkened room.” Similarly, in Fox’s words, the Black Madonna “invites us to enter into our grief and name it and be there to learn what suffering has to teach us.”[10] By entering the darkness, Mack dealt with his sadness. In contrast, 1 John 1:5 informs us that “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (KJV).

Second, Fox also notes, “The Black Madonna calls us to Grieve. The Black Madonna is the sorrowful mother, the mother who weeps tears for the suffering in the universe, the suffering in the world, the brokenness of our very vulnerable hearts.”[11] Fox goes on to say, “To grieve is to enter what John of the Cross in the sixteenth century called the ‘dark night of the soul.’ We are instructed not to run from this dark night but to stay there to learn what darkness has to teach us.”[12]

In The Shack, at the climactic moment when “Papa” (AKA “Elousia,” the black goddess) enfolded Mack into his/her arms and gently invited him to “Let it all out,” the story records that in a moment of emotional catharsis Mack “closed his eyes as the tears poured out . . . He wept until he had cried out all the darkness, all the longing and all the loss, until there was nothing left.” (The Shack, 226).

Third, Fox explains that “The Black Madonna calls us down to honor our lower charkas [sic] . . . The Black Madonna takes us down, down to the first charkas [sic] including our relationship to the whole (first chakra, as I have explained elsewhere is about picking up the vibrations for sounds from the whole cosmos), our sexuality (second chakra) and our anger and moral outrage (third chakra). European culture in the modern era especially has tried to flee from all these elements . . . in religion . . .The Black Madonna will not tolerate such flights from the earth, flights from the depths.”[13]

To those unacquainted with eastern religion, Fox’s words appear as mumbo-jumbo. But according to Yoga teaching, chakras are, “vortices that penetrate the body and the body’s aura, through which various energies, including the universal life force, are received, transformed, and distributed.”[14] It is believed that there are seven points of entry for the energy; among others, they include,

  • “The root (muladhara) [which] is located at the base of the spine and is the seat of kundalini . . .
  • The sacral (svadhisthana) [which] lies near the genitals and governs sexuality . . . [and]
  • The crown (sahasrara) [which] whirls just above the top of the head.”[15]

The experience of the entrance of energy into the body, which can happen spontaneously, is called kundalini (Sanskrit for “snake” or “serpent power,” named as such because of the belief that it lies coiled within the body ready to strike at any moment). Kundalini describes the mystical experience when energy enters the body and arouses the “sleeping serpent” (Shouldn’t we compare this to Genesis 3:1?). When that happens, wham . . .! This transient moment of arousal is defined to include, “physical sensations . . . clairaudience, visions, brilliant lights . . . ecstasy, bliss, and transcendence of self.”[16] With this description in mind, let’s look at one incident in The Shack to see if Mack, the novel’s main character, experienced kundalini.

Upon hearing the sensual Sophia ask him, during his journey into the darkness, “Do you understand why you’re here?” the novel records that, “Mack could almost feel her words (clairaudience) rain down on his head first (the 7th chakra) and melt into his spine (the 1st chakra), sending delicious tingles everywhere (the 2nd chakra). He shivered (physical sensations) and decided that he never wanted to speak again (transcendence of self). He only wanted her to talk (bliss) . . .” (The Shack, 153). What do you think? Did Mack experience kundalini? If so, then it came to him at a spontaneous moment in the darkness via the voice of the goddess-like Sophia.

Fourth, Fox states that, “The Black Madonna calls us to our Divinity which is also our Creativity.” He goes on to state that The Black Madonna “expects nothing less from us than creativity. Hers is a call to create, a call to ignite the imagination.”[17] On the next point Fox again states, “The Black Madonna calls us to Diversity. There is no imagination without diversity — imagination is about inviting disparate elements into soul and culture so that new combinations can make love together and new beings can be birthed.”[18] His Black Madonna calls us to a magical consciousness that has nothing to do with Scripture.

Likewise, when the goddess-like Sophia calls upon Mack to role play as The Judge, to sit in judgment over all other persons including God, she notes his pensiveness about assuming such an awesome responsibility. Sophia says to Mack: “‘Your imagination,’ she interrupted his train of thought, ‘is not serving you well at this moment’.” (The Shack, 160). In the Front Matter of the book, Greg Albrecht informs the potential reader, “You will be captivated by the creativity and imagination of The Shack, and before you know it, you’ll be experiencing God as never before.” Young’s novel itself serves to ignite the imagination, something Fox writes that the returning Black Madonna is also doing.

Other parallels between Fox’s Black Madonna and The Shack’s Elousia — their gender diversity, nurturing of hurting hearts, emphasis upon developing personal relationships, concern for the environment, and so on — form archetypal metaphors around which the mystery of life and suffering can be probed and explained, and upon which transcendent values can be formulated and applied for the social welfare and unity of the world’s diverse and divided population. These ecumenical metaphors are increasingly making their way into the evangelical church, especially via the Emergent Church.

The feminization of deity extends back to time immemorial. The Egyptian goddess Isis, in which Matthew Fox finds his precedence for the return of the Black Madonna, was likely the source for all the female deities of ancient Middle Eastern religion, including the idolatrous “queen of heaven” worshiped by the women and men of ancient Israel (Jeremiah 7:18-20; 44:15-19). The Black Madonna and “Elousia” find themselves in company with an idol goddess that Yahweh could not, and did not, tolerate before His face (Exodus 20:3-4). We now consider the second person of Young’s trinity.

THE SECOND PERSONThe Shack describes Jesus to be a quite human person, a relatively unattractive Middle Eastern Jewish man with a “big nose” who functioned as the retreat center’s repairman. (The Shack, 111). As regards Young’s portrayal of Jesus’ humanity, there is little disagreement. The author’s portrayal of Jesus in a literary symbolic sense seems reasonable and within the bounds of Scripture (See Matthew 1:1-17; Romans 1:3; Isaiah 53:2; Mark 6:3).

Nevertheless, the author leaves the door open for the idea that Jesus originated from “Papa-mama.” In explaining the derivation of woman from man, The Shack‘s Jesus tells Mack: “We created a circle of relationship, like our own, but for humans. She out of him, and now all males, including me, birthed through her (Eve), and ALL originating from God” (capital emphasis mine, The Shack, 148). Seemingly, this dialog makes Jesus’ birth to be as profane as the rest of humanity, thus calling into question His being the “only begotten of the Father” (meaning unique, or only one of His kind, John 1:14). Theologically, doubt is also aspersed upon Jesus Christ’s eternal generation.[19] After this assertion, the novel pictures Jesus’ desire to join all humans in “their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved.” (The Shack, 182)[20] In this regard, never once in the novel is Jesus (His human name) ever referred to as “Christ” (His self-chosen messianic and divine name, Matthew 16:16).

Young presents his readers with a very human Jesus who comes up short of being Christ. We turn now to the third member of The Shack’s trinity.

THE THIRD PERSONSarayu, the retreat center’s gardener — perhaps referring to Spirit’s production of fruit for Christian living (Galatians 5:22-23) — is the character meant to represent the Holy Spirit. Just after his introduction to her, Mack asks The Shack‘s Jesus, “Speaking of Sarayu, is she the Holy Spirit?” Jesus answers, “Yes, She is Creativity; she is Action; she is Breathing of Life; she is much more. She is my Spirit.” Mack responds, “And her name Sarayu?” Jesus explains, “That is a simple name from one of our human languages. It means ‘Wind,’ a common wind actually. She loves that name.”(The Shack, 110)

Sarayu is likely a Sanskrit word (the language that is the most important religious and literary language of India). It might also be construed to compare to the blowing of the wind in the necessary new birth spoken of by Jesus (John 3:8). But by naming the Spirit Sarayu, there seems to be allusion to the Rig Veda, the Hindu scriptures, for Sarayu bears semantic and phonetic resemblance to Vayu.[21] In so naming the Spirit with the Indic word for “wind,” is the author making overture to eastern religion?

Nevertheless, the novel’s impersonation of the Holy Spirit as female contradicts Jesus’ clear statement that the Spirit is neither an “it” nor a “she,” but “He” (John 16:13).

Is there a fourth member of Young’s polymorphous trinity? Maybe . . . we are left to our imagination.

WISDOMSophia, though separate from the trinity, but secluded not far away from the resplendent retreat center, is a divine-like lady-judge, who is wise in all the ways in which “Papa” conducts his/her affairs (See Proverbs 8:1-36; 1 Corinthians 1:24.). In her verbal exchanges with Mack, she clearly possesses clairvoyant, if not omniscient, perception. (The Shack, 156, 160)

IN CONCLUSION, The Shack, under the cover of biblical allusion, presents a god which may be likened to a deity of eastern mythology and mysticism. The reader ought to beware lest biblical allusion be used to peddle theological illusion. But you ask, “How can that happen?” How can scriptural allusion promote spiritual delusion? I would point out that Satan used biblical allusion to tempt Jesus. In the second phase of the temptation of Christ, Satan alluded to Psalm 91:11-12, to which Jesus responded by quoting Deuteronomy 6:16, “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (See Matthew 4:5-6, KJV.). Presenting a potpourri of spirituality combining biblical allusion with mystical illusion and mythological delusion, The Shack will surely resonate with an Emergent Christian mindset that attempts to flirt with the New Age/New Spirituality of postmodernism. The fact that the novel is fiction makes no difference — it communicates wrong ideas about God. As A.W. Tozer wrote,

Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.

“Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards decline along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

“Before the Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is, and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.” [22]

THE TRUTH:

“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4)

ENDNOTES
1. The Apostle Paul also remarked of the reputation of the church at Thessalonica how they, “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (I Thessalonians 1:9). Scripture also records that both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are also Truth (John 14:6; 1 John 5:7, 20). In this vein, one must note John’s closing word: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
2. A.W. Tozer,
The Knowledge of the Holy, The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1961) 12
.
3. The word “imagination” (Greek, dialogismos) literally means, “the thinking of a man deliberating with himself” (Romans 1:21, KJV). On this point, it is appropriate to note that
William P. Young accounts for the origin of his novel for reason of personal and private conversations he had with God on his daily work-commute from Gresham to Portland, Oregon. World magazine reports that, “Young used 80 minutes each day . . . to fill yellow legal pads with imagined conversations with God focused on suffering, pain, and evil.” (See Susan Olasky, “Commuter-driven bestseller,” World, June 28/July 5, 2008, 49.) Paul, the apostle states that idolatry germinates out of people “deliberating” within themselves. This is gnosis spirituality which is ever in contest with the Logos spirituality of the Bible. The Word finds its origin with God (John 1:1, 14). Gnosis, the basis of the New Age/New Spirituality, finds its origin in the mind of man, or perhaps might even be received from demons (1 Timothy 4:1).
4. In that in the Front Matter The Shack book receives rave theological kudos, it is not unfair to investigate and evaluate the book’s theology, especially the doctrine of God known to systematic theologians as the category of Theology Proper.
5. On this point, I find it interesting that the novel has not yet been accused of racial stereotyping, i.e., that God is pictured as being a “large” or “big black woman” (The Shack, 84, 86), and that Jesus comes from a Jewish nation of people with “big noses” (The Shack, 111).
6. John P. Newport, Paul Tillich (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1984) 108. Newport also observes that in the “grounding” of God, Tillich “seems to synthesize the pantheistic element of immanence with the theistic element of transcendence in a way that leans toward pantheism.” (110). Newport’s assessment may be too generous. At the end of his life, Tillich might have been an out and out pantheist. Of Tillich’s book, Courage to Be, Erickson remarks that it “appears to have more in common with Hinduism than it does with historic Christianity.” See Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998) 334.
7. Erickson, Theology, 333.
8. For sake of explanation, pantheism teaches that God is all things while panentheism holds that God dwells in all things. For sake of analogy, a tree is not God (pantheism), but the sap which is the “life force” in the tree is. God is “in” the tree, but the tree is not God. See Erickson, Theology, 333.
9. Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox, “The Return of the Black Madonna: A Sign of Our Times or How the Black Madonna Is Shaking Us Up for the Twenty-First Century,” Friends of Creation Spirituality, January 2006, Article Number 1 (
http://www.matthewfox.org/sys-tmpl/theblackmadonna/).
10. Ibid. Article Number 8.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid. Article Number 3.
14. Rosemary Ellen Guiley, “Chakra,” Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience (San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991) 86.
15. Ibid. 86-87.
16. Guiley, “Kundalini,” Encyclopedia, 319.
17. Fox, “The Black Madonna,” Article Number 6.
18. Ibid. Article Number 7.
19. When it acknowledged Jesus to have been “begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead,” it might be construed that the Chalcedonian Creed (AD 451) allows for a concept that God originated Jesus (See
http://www.carm.org/creeds/chalcedonian.htm). However, to imagine the mystery surrounding the Trinity to be analogous to some kind of human begetting (i.e., as in the Mormon doctrine of God) is improper. The relationship of the Father and Son to each other is their personal relationship, and it would be well for us creatures not invade their privacy (i.e., mystery). Their relationship is theirs alone. Though the unity for which Jesus prayed may be compared to that of His with the Father, it is only similar to (“as”), but not the same as their unity (John 17:21).
20. In this regard, one can note the capitalization of “Beloved.” When used in the NASB translation of the Bible, “Beloved” is capitalized as when Paul wrote of the grace God bestowed upon the believer “in the Beloved” (in Christ, Ephesians 1:6, NASB, NKJV, NRSV, 1901 ASV). Thus when the “Jesus ” of The Shack said he desires people to be transformed “into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved” (The Shack, 182), it is as if Jesus envisions that humans can achieve a theotic state of “being” that morphs into divinity. While believers are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), we are not consumed of it (Romans 7:14ff.).
21. “Word Mythology Dictionary: Vayu,” Answers.com (
http://www.answers.com/topic/vayu-2).
22. A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy,
9.

Pastor Larry DeBruyn is the author of Church on the Rise: Why I am not a Purpose-Driven Pastor. This article used with permission.

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A Private Conviction About Murder? Al Mohler Jr. Explains

Posted by Scott on September 8, 2008

   

   

Speaking Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sen. Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for Vice President, made headlines by stating that he accepts “as a matter of faith” that human life begins at conception, but he would not impose that view on others as a matter of law.

Sen. Biden’s statement is similar in form to those offered by other Catholic politicians like former New York Governor Mario Cuomo.  Nevertheless, what it really represents is far more horrifying than may be recognized at first.

Speaking on “Meet the Press,” Biden responded to a question from Tom Brokaw.  The anchor had asked Biden what he would say if Sen. Barack Obama asked him when human life begins [see video clip here]:

I’d say, “Look, I know when it begins for me.” It’s a personal and private issue. For me, as a Roman Catholic, I’m prepared to accept the teachings of my church. But let me tell you. There are an awful lot of people of great confessional faiths-Protestants, Jews, Muslims and others-who have a different view. They believe in God as strongly as I do. They’re intensely as religious as I am religious. They believe in their faith and they believe in human life, and they have differing views as to when life-I’m prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception. But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society. And I know you get the push back, “Well, what about fascism?” Everybody, you know, you going to say fascism’s all right? Fascism isn’t a matter of faith. No decent religious person thinks fascism is a good idea.

Biden first calls the issue “personal and private,” an interesting way to introduce a statement about a matter that inevitably has relevance to public policy.  He claims to accept the teachings of his church, but then states that other religions hold to other views, and these believers “believe in God as strongly as I do” and are equally religious.

We live in a pluralistic society, he argues, and it would be improper for him to “impose” his judgment on others, who may be “equally and maybe even more devout than I.”

He then realizes something of the intellectual problem he has just created and argues that, for example, all good religious folk would oppose fascism, and thus we can presumably establish that as public policy.  “No decent religious person thinks fascism is a good idea,” he concludes.  So is the new criterion for public policy to be what a “good religious person” might think?

Brokaw then asked Biden about his support of abortion rights, given what he has just said about his belief that life begins at conception.  Biden answered, “I voted against telling everyone else in the country that they have to accept my religiously based view that it’s a moment of conception.”

Kate Phillips of The New York Times explained Biden’s predicament this way:

In the interview Sunday, Mr. Biden tried to walk the line between the staunch abortion-rights advocates in his party and his own religious beliefs. While he said he did not often talk about his faith, he said of those who disagree with him: “They believe in their faith and they believe in human life, and they have differing views as to when life — I’m prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception.”

Sen. Biden may have been attempting to “walk the line” politically, but a closer look at his actual argument is truly horrifying.

Sen. Biden says, and we must take him at his word, that he accepts as a matter of faith that human life begins at conception.  But, he argues, he is perfectly willing to support a woman’s right to choose to end that human life.

The killing of human life is called homicide. Murder is the willful taking of a human life.  The senator has here stated that he believes abortion to be homicide, but he defends a woman’s right to kill the unborn human life within her because he would not impose his beliefs about human life (and thus about homicide) on others.

In other words, if we take Sen. Biden seriously, he would defer to others who believe otherwise when it comes to the law.

How can he live with this?  There are significant questions about the extent to which some matters can properly be legislated.  But there is no question that the government — any government — must take a stand on the question of human life.  This is why the abortion issue simply will not and cannot go away.  The government takes a side on this question, like it or not.

I believe Sen. Biden to be a serious man, and that is what is most frightening about this.  Can a morally serious man really say that he believes that unborn babies are human beings, but that it should be a protected right to kill them?

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The Old Cross vs The New Cross!

Posted by Scott on July 22, 2008

The business of the Church is God. She is purest when most engaged with God and she is astray just so far as she follows other interests, no matter how “religious” or humanitarian they may be.


 

A. W. Tozer
Read about A. W. Tozer

The Church: The Old Cross and the New Cross

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. –Galatians 6:14

The old cross slew men; the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it. The old cross brought tears and blood; the new cross brings laughter. The flesh, smiling and confident, preaches and sings about the cross; before that cross it bows and toward that cross it points with carefully staged histrionics–but upon that cross it will not die, and the reproach of that cross it stubbornly refuses to bear.

I well know how many smooth arguments can be marshalled in support of the new cross. Does not the new cross win converts and make many followers and so carry the advantage of numerical success? Should we not adjust ourselves to the changing times? Have we not heard the slogan, “New days, new ways”? And who but someone very old and very conservative would insist upon death as the appointed way to life? And who today is interested in a gloomy mysticism that would sentence its flesh to a cross and recommend self-effacing humility as a virtue actually to be practiced by modern Christians? These are the arguments, along with many more flippant still, which are brought forward to give an appearance of wisdom to the hollow and meaningless cross of popular Christianity. The Pursuit of Man, 53,54.

“Lord, it’s not popular today to be ‘old-fashioned.’ But I commit myself today to the old cross. Help me today to deny myself, to take up my cross, and to follow You. Amen.”

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The Goal of God’s Love May Not Be What You Think It Is!

Posted by Scott on July 22, 2008

by John Piper


 


Do people go to the Grand Canyon to increase their self-esteem? Probably not. This is, at least, a hint that the deepest joys in life come not from savoring the self, but from seeing splendor. And in the end even the Grand Canyon will not do. We were made to enjoy God.

We are all bent to believe that we are central in the universe. How shall we be cured of this joy-destroying disease? Perhaps by hearing afresh how radically God-centered reality is according to the Bible.

Both the Old and New Testament tell us that God’s loving us is a means to our glorifying him. “Christ became a servant … in order that the nations might glorify God for his mercy” (Romans 15:8-9). God has been merciful to us so that we would magnify him. We see it again in the words, “In love [God] destined us to adoption … to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Ephesians 1:4-6). In other words, the goal of God’s loving us is that we might praise him. One more illustration from Psalm 86:12-13: “I will glorify your name forever. For your lovingkindness toward me is great.” God’s love is the ground. His glory is the goal.

This is shocking. The love of God is not God’s making much of us, but God’s saving us from self-centeredness so that we can enjoy making much of him forever. And our love to others is not our making much of them, but helping them to find satisfaction in making much of God. True love aims at satisfying people in the glory of God. Any love that terminates on man is eventually destructive. It does not lead people to the only lasting joy, namely, God. Love must be God-centered, or it is not true love; it leaves people without their final hope of joy.

Take the cross of Christ, for example. The death of Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of divine love: “God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Yet the Bible also says that the aim of the death of Christ was “to demonstrate [God’s] righteousness, because in the forbearance of God he passed over the sins previously committed” (Romans 3:25). Passing over sins creates a huge problem for the righteousness of God. It makes him look like a judge who lets criminals go free without punishment. In other words, the mercy of God puts the justice of God in jeopardy.

So to vindicate his justice he does the unthinkable – he puts his Son to death as the substitute penalty for our sins. The cross makes it plain to everyone that God does not sweep evil under the rug of the universe. He punishes it in Jesus for those who believe.

But notice that this ultimately loving act has at the center of it the vindication of the righteousness of God. Good Friday love is God-glorifying love. God exalts God at the cross. If he didn’t, he could not be just and rescue us from sin. But it is a mistake to say, “Well, if the aim was to rescue us, then we were the ultimate goal of the cross.” No, we were rescued from sin in order that we might see and savor the glory of God. This is the ultimately loving aim of Christ’s death. He did not die to make much of us, but to free us to enjoy making much of God forever.

It is profoundly wrong to turn the cross into a proof that self-esteem is the root of mental health. If I stand before the love of God and do not feel a healthy, satisfying, freeing joy unless I turn that love into an echo of my self-esteem, then I am like a man who stands before the Grand Canyon and feels no satisfying wonder until he translates the canyon into a case for his own significance. That is not the presence of mental health, but bondage to self.

The cure for this bondage is to see that God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is the most loving act. In exalting himself – Grand Canyon-like – he gets the glory and we get the joy. The greatest news in all the world is that there is no final conflict between my passion for joy and God’s passion for his glory. The knot that ties these together is the truth that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Jesus Christ died and rose again to forgive the treason of our souls, which have turned from savoring God to savoring self. In the cross of Christ, God rescues us from the house of mirrors and leads us out to the mountains and canyons of his majesty. Nothing satisfies us – or magnifies him – more.

Originally published in Dallas Morning News.


© Desiring God  By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

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A Strange Fire In Worship Services Today!

Posted by Scott on June 30, 2008

The church today, possibly the Emerging Church and even many that do not claim the emerging title to their name are using “strange fire” in their services and calling it “worship”.  I want to speak about this topic in this post on a very serious note.  Our churches today have lost the seriousness, holiness, purity, and worthiness in the worship of God with our church services today.

Psalm 29:2 “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name.”

God is worth our time, our efforts, our best, our minds, our hearts, our bodies, and our all.  Today’s church has reduced this to something very strange that is called “worship”, but resembles that of a Saturday night program on the Las Vegas strip.  The church has so diluted “worship” that true worship seems strange to most people.  The “seekers” certainly do not know what true worship is, because in these Emerging or similar churches true “worship” has never existed.

If you are at all concerned about the about truly honoring God in “worth-ship” worship, then read on.

In Leviticus 10:3 “Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is that the Lord spoke saying, ‘I will be sanctified in them that come near Me, and before all the people I will be glorified…then Aaron held his peace.'”

This was what Moses told Aaron after Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu were struck down by God in the temple.  Why did God strike the two upstanding young men to their death?  They entered the temple and worshiped with “strange fire”.  The sin these two committed according to all we find in scripture is that they offered upon the burning alter “strange fire”.  THe command was that the alter would burn constantly without going out…the same fire all the time.  Now, in Exodus 30:9 we see that they were forbidden from offering strange incense, but nothing concerning “strange fire”.  Could it have been the strange incense that created the strange fire?  The claim is they brought the proper incense to the fire, but the fire was not right.

God had never warned these two men nor can we find anything concerning this prior to this account.  God simply made His judgement known on the spot when the “strange fire” emerges from the temple.  What could this strange fire have been I have often wondered.  Is God this specific about worship towards Him that He will kill someone for worshipping Him in a wrong way?  Is this Old Testament account obsolete with the ushering in of the New Testament?  What does God think about the so called “worship” that goes on in many churches today?  What is true worship anyway?  Is God really this serious about how we worship Him?  If God an orderly God or does He just allow us the freedom to worship Him however we see fit?

God has told us here in the Old Testament that “I will be sanctified…”  The Greek form of this is “hallowed” which is “holy”.  He alone is to be worshiped.  He is to be worshiped correctly, not by any means we humans think we want to worship Him.  He is not immused by the entertainment styles of worship today.  He is not amused at all in the entertainment musicial worship of today’s churches.   So, how are we to worship as to not create this “strange fire” in the prescence of God Almighty?  We need to be very careful in our quest to be relevant in church services.  Creating worship services that are “user friendly” or “seeker friendly” is not biblical from what I can find.

“I will be sanctified.”  This means that God will have His people demean themselves and carry themselves so as to hold forth their acknowledgement of His holiness, so that by their  carriage God may appear to be a holy God.  If we are not willing to sanctify God with our worship, if we are not willing to make God’s name appear to be holy, and if we are holding back His glory due Him, then God says He will demean us and carry Himself towards us so that by His actions He will make it very clear what a holy God He really is.  God is not willing that we go through life living unholy lives while supposedly worshipping Him as well. 

I have heard it often put this way, “He will be glorified in our life or He will be glorified in our death..either way He will be glorified.”

God is sanctified by the holiness of His people in their actions and worship towards Him by holding forth the glory of God’s holiness.  Remember that the saints of God snactify the Lord in their hearts by fearing God as a holy God with reverence to Him as a holy God. 

God also sanctifies Himself in ways of judgement on those who do not want to sanctify His holiness or His name in holiness.  Read Ezekiel 28:22 as God speaks.  God wants His people to draw near to Him which is far better, but He will draw near to us as well in order for His sanctification to be fulfilled.

Now, dealing with worship in church these days we must realize that we are there to honor a most holy and righteous God.  We are not there to feel better!  We are not there to worship in whatever manner we fill we can!  We are not there to let loose and be ourselves!  When at worship we are there to lift up the holy name of God, Elohim and Adonai.  We are to approach the throne of God in holy reverence with the highest fearful respect that God requires and deserves.  God is not to be mocked, yet many thinking they are worshiping God are merely mocking the name of Christ with the entertaining games, rock n roll music, and flipent ways of worship.  Music is not exclusive to worship.

You can worship in praise music, you can certainly worship in hymns, you can worship with only the message of God presented by the pastor, you can worship simply in prayer.  Music is not the only act of worship.  This seems to be an issue with churches today as the music must take up an hour of the service, then leave about 15 minutes for a very surface topical message that does little to sustain the listener for more than a one hour lunch on Sunday. 

Something everyone needs to understand is that God killer two upstanding young men that were the sons of Aaron and Nephews of Moses for worshipping with a “Strange Fire”…what would we think if God treated those worshipping in the church today this way?  We have the Word of God to stand firm upon.  We do not have to wonder what direction we are to take.  We do not have to wonder what the truth is.  We can rest upon the truth that is found in the Holy Bible from our youth into eternity.

Be very careful presenting ourselves before God in holy worship to Him.  Although Aaron’s sons came with the right incense to present to God, but it was the strange fire that God was not accepted by God.  Worship is not to be altered to be more seeker friendly folks.  Worship is about God not the worshiper per say.  Worship is our expression of bringing holiness to the name of God because He is worthy.

Each week we can go to church to hear glorious music, sing glorious music, and hear a wonderful message.  Is it near the same “routine” each week?  That is perfectly fine.  There is nothing wrong with it being similiar week in and week out. 

Worship:

-Music

-Instruments

-Expository message each week

-Glorious Special music in service

-Focus on God not seekers or believers

Draw  near to God and He will draw near to you.  Worship in truth-worship in faith!

Scott Bailey 2008

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The Suffering of Christ and Sovereignty of God!

Posted by Scott on June 20, 2008

 


By John Piper October 9, 2005 


What I would like to do this final session is magnify Christ in his suffering. And in the process I would like to venture the ultimate biblical explanation for the existence of suffering. And I would like to do it in such a way that you and I would be freed from the paralyzing effects of discouragement and self-pity and fear and pride so that we would spend ourselves—able or disabled—to spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things (including suffering) for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.

The Ultimate Biblical Explanation for the Existence of Suffering

I believe the entire universe exists to display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God. I might have said more simply that the entire universe exists to display the greatness of the glory of God. That would be true. But the Bible is more specific. The glory of God shines most brightly, most fully, most beautifully in the manifestation of the glory of his grace. Therefore, this is the ultimate aim and the final explanation of all things—including suffering.

God decreed from all eternity to display the greatness of the glory of his grace for the enjoyment of his creatures, and he revealed to us that this is the ultimate aim and explanation of why there is sin and why there is suffering, and why there is a great suffering Savior. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came in the flesh to suffer and die and by that suffering and death to save undeserving sinners like you and me. This coming to suffer and die is the supreme manifestation of the greatness of the glory of the grace of God. Or to say it a little differently, the death of Christ in supreme suffering is the highest, clearest, surest display of the glory of the grace of God. If that is true, then a stunning truth is revealed, namely, suffering is an essential part of the created universe in which the greatness of the glory of the grace of God can be most fully revealed. Suffering is an essential part of the tapestry of the universe so that the weaving of grace can be seen for what it really is.

Or to put it most simply and starkly: the ultimate reason that suffering exists in the universe is so that Christ might display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God by suffering in himself to overcome our suffering. The suffering of the utterly innocent and infinitely holy Son of God in the place of utterly undeserving sinners to bring us to everlasting joy is the greatest display of the glory of God’s grace that ever was, or ever could be.

In conceiving a universe in which to display the glory of his grace, God did not choose plan b. This was the moment—Good Friday—for which everything in the universe was planned. There could be no greater display of the glory of the grace of God than what happened at Calvary. Everything leading to it and everything flowing from it is explained by it, including all the suffering in the world.

The Biblical Pathway That Leads to This Truth

Walk with me now, if you would, on the biblical pathway that has led me to this truth. To this point it just looks like high-sounding theology or philosophy. But it is far more than that. It is what the very words of Scripture clearly teach.

Revelation 13:8

Let’s begin with Revelation 13:8. John writes, “All who dwell on earth will worship [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.” That is a good, careful, literal translation. This means that before the world was created there was a book called the “book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” The Lamb is Jesus Christ crucified. The book is the book of Jesus Christ crucified. Therefore, before God made the world he had in view Jesus Christ slain, and he had in view a people purchased by his blood written in the book. Therefore, the suffering of Jesus was not an afterthought, as though the work of creation did not go the way God planned. Before the foundation of the world God had a book called “the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” The slaying of the Lamb was in view before the work of creation began.

2 Timothy 1:9

Then consider 2 Timothy 1:9. Paul looks back into eternity before the ages began and says, “[God] saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us [that is, he gave us this grace] in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” God gave us grace [undeserved favor—favor toward sinners, grace!] in Christ Jesus before the ages began. We had not yet been created. We had not yet existed so that we could sin. But God had already decreed that grace—an “in Christ” kind of grace, blood-bought grace, sin-overcoming grace—would come to us in Christ Jesus. All that before the creation of the world.

So there is a “book of life of the Lamb who was slain,” and there is “grace” flowing to undeserving sinners who are not yet created. And don’t miss the magnitude of that word “slain” (esphagmenou): “the Lamb who was slain.” It is used in the New Testament only by the apostle John, and means literally “slaughter.” So here we have suffering—the slaughter of the Son of God—in the mind and plan of God before the foundation of the world. The Lamb of God will suffer. He will be slaughtered. That’s the plan.

Why? I’ll give you the biblical text which tells the answer, but let me state it again: it’s because the aim of creation is the fullest, clearest, surest display of the greatness of the glory of the grace of God. And that display would be the slaughter of the best being in the universe for millions of undeserving sinners. The suffering and death of the Lamb of God in history is the best possible display of the glory of the grace of God. That is why God planned it before the foundation of the world.

Ephesians 1

Here’s the Biblical support, first from Ephesians 1 and then from Revelation 5. In Ephesians 1:4 Paul says, “[God] chose us in him [that is, in Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace.” The goal of the entire history of redemption is to bring about the praise of the glory of the grace of God.

But notice that twice in these verses Paul says that this plan happened “in Christ” or “through Christ” before the foundation of the world. He says in verse 4: God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world in order to bring about the praise of the glory of his grace. And he says in verse 5: God predestined our adoption through Christ before the foundation of the world to bring about the praise of the glory of his grace. What does it mean that “in Christ” we were chosen and that our adoption was to happen “through Christ”? We know that in Paul’s mind Christ suffered and died as a redeemer so that we might be adopted as children of God (Galatians 4:5). Our adoption could not happen apart from the death of Christ.

Therefore, what Paul means is that to choose us “in Christ” and to plan to adopt us “through Christ” was to plan the suffering and death of his Son before the foundation of the world. And verse 6 and 12 and 14 make plain that the goal of this plan was to bring about “the praise of the glory of the grace of God.” That is what God was aiming at. And that is why he planned the suffering and death of his Son for sinners before the creation of the world.

Revelation 5:9-12

Now consider the second biblical support for this from Revelation 5:9-12. Here the hosts of heaven are worshiping the Lamb precisely because he was slain—killed, slaughtered.

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” . . . Then I looked, and I heard around the throne . . . myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

The hosts of heaven focus their worship not simply on the Lamb, but on the “Lamb who was slain.” And they are still singing this song in Revelation 15:3. Therefore we can conclude that the centerpiece of worship in heaven for all eternity will be the display of the glory of the grace of God in the slaughtered Lamb. Angels and all the redeemed will sing of the suffering of the Lamb forever and ever. The suffering of the Son of God will never be forgotten. The greatest suffering that ever was will be at the center of our worship and our wonder forever and ever. This is not an afterthought of God. This is the plan from before the foundation of the world.

Everything else is subordinate to this plan. Everything else is put in place for the sake of this plan: the display of the greatness of the glory of the grace of God in the suffering of the Beloved is the goal of the creation and the continuing of the universe.

The Mystery of God Ordaining But Not Doing Sin

Do you see what this implies about sin and suffering in the universe? According to this divine plan, God permits sin to enter the world. God ordains that what he hates will come to pass. It is not sinful in God to will that there be sin. We do not need to fathom this mystery. We may content ourselves by saying over the sin of Adam and Eve what Joseph said over the sin of his brothers, when they sold him into slavery: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

As for you, Adam and Eve, you meant evil against God as you rejected him as your Father and Treasure, but Oh what an infinite good he planned through your fall! The Seed of the woman will one day bruise the head of the great Serpent, and by his suffering he will display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God. You have not undone his plan. Just as Joseph was sold sinfully into slavery, you have sold yourselves for an apple. You have fallen, and now the stage is set for the perfect display of the greatness of the glory of the grace of God.

For not only did sin enter the world, but through sin came suffering and death. Paul tells us that God subjected the world to futility and corruption under his holy curse. He put it like this in Romans 8:20-23:

The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

When sin entered the world, horrible, horrible things followed. Diseases, defects, disabilities, natural catastrophes, human atrocities—from the youngest infant to the oldest codger, from the vilest scoundrel to the sweetest saint—suffering is no respecter of persons. That’s why Paul said in Romans 8:23, “We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

Ezekiel tells us that God does not delight in this suffering. “As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 33:11). But the plan remains, and Jeremiah gives us a glimpse into the mysterious complexity of the mind of God in Lamentations 3:32-33, “Though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.” Literally: “He does not from his heart [millibbô] afflict or grieve the children of men.” He ordains that suffering come—“though he cause grief”—but his delight is not in the suffering, but in the great purpose of creation: the display of the glory of the grace of God in the suffering of Christ for the salvation of sinners.

The stage has been set. The drama of redemptive history begins to unfold. Sin is now in its full and deadly force. Suffering and death are present and ready to consume the Son of God when he comes. All things are now in place for the greatest possible display of the glory of the grace of God.

Therefore, in the fullness of time God sent his Son into the world to suffer in the place of sinners. Every dimension of his saving work was accomplished by suffering. In the life and death of Jesus Christ, suffering finds its ultimate purpose and ultimate explanation: suffering exists so that Christ might display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God by suffering in himself to overcome our suffering.

Everything—everything—that Christ accomplished for us sinners he accomplished by suffering. Everything that we will ever enjoy will come to us because of suffering.

The Display of the Glory of the Grace of God in the Achievements of Christ by His Suffering

Consider the display of the glory of the grace of God in the achievements of Christ by his suffering.

1. Christ absorbed the wrath of God on our behalf—and he did it by suffering.

Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” The wrath of God that should have caused our eternal suffering fell on Christ. This is the glory of grace, and it could only come by suffering.

2. Christ bore our sins and purchased our forgiveness—and he did it by suffering.

1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.” Isaiah 53:5, “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities.” The sins that should have crushed us under the weight of guilt were transferred to Christ. This is the glory of grace, and it could only come by suffering.

3. Christ provided a perfect righteousness for us that becomes ours in him—and he did it by suffering.

Philippians 2:7-8, “He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” The obedience of Christ by which many are counted righteous (Romans 5:19) had to be an obedience unto death, even death on a cross. This is the glory of grace, and it would come only by suffering.

4. Christ defeated death—and he did it by suffering death.

Hebrews 2:14-15, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” “‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55). This is the glory of grace and it would come only by suffering.

5. He disarmed Satan—and he did it by suffering.

Colossians 2:14-15, “[The record of debts against us] he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” With the record of all our lawbreaking nailed to the cross and cancelled, the power of Satan to destroy us is broken. Satan has only one weapon that can damn to hell. Unforgiven sin. This weapon Christ stripped from Satan’s hand on the cross. This is the glory of grace, and it could only come by suffering.

6. Christ purchased perfect final healing for all his people—and he did it by suffering.

Isaiah 53:4, “Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” “The Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17). The Lamb was slaughtered and the Lamb was raised from the dead, and the Lamb together with the Father will wipe every tear from our eyes. This is the glory of grace, and it could only come by suffering.

7. Christ will bring us finally to God—and he will do it by his suffering.

1 Peter 3:18, “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. The ultimate achievement of the cross is not freedom from sickness but fellowship with God. This is what we were made for: seeing and savoring and showing the glory of God. This is the glory of grace, and it could only come by suffering.

The Ultimate Reason Why Suffering Exists

The ultimate purpose of the universe is to display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God. The highest, clearest, surest display of that glory is in the suffering of the best Person in the universe for millions of undeserving sinners. Therefore, the ultimate reason that suffering exists in the universe is so that Christ might display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God by suffering in himself to overcome our suffering and bring about the praise of the glory of the grace of God.

O Christian, remember what Carl Ellis and David Powlison and Mark Talbot and Steve Saint and Joni Eareckson Tada said: they all, in their own way, said that whether we are able or disabled, enduring loss or delighting in friends, suffering pain or savoring pleasure, all of us who believe in Christ are immeasurably rich in him and have so much to live for. Don’t waste your life. Savor the riches that you have in Christ and spend yourself no matter the cost to spread your riches to this desperate world.


© Desiring God  By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

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