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Posts Tagged ‘disciple’

By definition…
Judaize or Judaise
vb
1. to conform or bring into conformity with Judaism
2. ( tr ) to convert to Judaism
3. ( tr ) to imbue with Jewish principles

They have pure devotion to God as their banner and restoration of the Church back to Israel as their mission so the Jewish people may be saved.  Your pagan Jesus is getting in the way of Israel seeing the truth.  By keeping the law of Moses you will no longer offend them with your foreign Jesus and they will accept Him and you both.   Although it may have remained dormant for centuries, this “Moses is for everyone” mindset is nothing new, finding its birth in the unexpected event of a Gentile coming to Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit.

In the early church, “those of the circumcision” seemed to cause the most controversy.  Today the majority of people placing the yoke of the Law on believers are in fact Gentiles.  You may find it hard to believe after the great effort the Apostle Paul put forth trying to divert people away from this distraction, that 2000 years later, people are now falling for the same divisive teachings.  If the Galatians were bewitched, we are beyond blind.  So many are willingly choosing a theology that requires Paul’s letter to the Galatians be ignored, denied, or twisted beyond recognition – along with many other New Testament passages addressing these issues long ago.

The quest for the salvation of the Jewish people (a most worthy cause) works as an effective lure to many Christians, especially as some segments of the church become increasingly interested in prophecy and the restoration of Israel.  But the Hebrew Roots/Messianic Movement pulls in Christians from all branches of the church, for many reasons.   Many no longer refer to themselves as Christians at all.  They have traveled down a path towards a Yeshua/Yahshua/Yehoshua/Yahoshua repackaged by modern Judaism rather than the Jesus of the New Testament Scriptures.  Although they can’t quite agree on a name for their new Messiah, they view their Christian roots as entirely pagan and their Hebrew Roots as not only restored truth, but a spiritual identity that causes them to feign a Jewish ethnic identity as well in many cases.  Some even ditch their Gentile names for Hebrew ones.

When I relate the story of our journey out of this movement, many Christians give me a look of disbelief that anyone could fall for something so illogical.  I am happy to reveal our own foolishness and am always relieved when others see it for what it is.  But as crazy and ridiculous as it may seem to some onlookers, the fact remains that this quietly encroaching disease seems to be taking down people left and right.  Every time I find myself wanting to put this to rest and move on to things I would rather talk about, I am presented with a new example of someone who has given their mind over to this movement.  Its teachers have painted a big, red, bull’s-eye target on your church, because you are the only ones with enough knowledge to understand and desire their complicated messages.  The lost person on the street is of no interest to them.

Spiritual Snipe Hunting
After a few years in this persuasion, focusing on the first five books of the Bible, we deeply sensed the group we led needed to study the New Testament scriptures as well.  We referred to the New Testament (called many things, but never New) when it reinforced the Torah study we were in, but we never approached the New Testament with the same systematic, reverent study as we did the Law.  We followed the same study schedule as the Jewish synagogues.

After one failed attempt to add a mid-week study night, we subscribed to a New Testament study course offered from a “Hebraic” perspective.  Although expensive, we felt it might encourage participation and moved the study to an early Sabbath session, before our main Torah study.  The Torah study took priority and could not be rescheduled or set aside.

I believed at last, after nearly six years, I would finally get to see this Jewish Yeshua that I’d been seeking for all along – to understand and see Him in His fullness.  For me, this had been the original attraction.  I’d been led to believe my Christian Jesus was incomplete and there was some deep wisdom and fabric of life underlying those gospel passages I just could not see.  If someone could bring that out for me, I was convinced I would know Him like never before.

The Hunting Outfitters
We initially chose this particular publisher because they avoided the most divisive subjects in the movement, presenting a sleek, scholarly approach.  Even though we are not customers now, we still periodically receive catalogs and fundraising correspondence from them.  Looking at their offerings with new eyes, I have been wanting to share what I believe are some of the most revealing focus statements.  (The letter discussed here can be read below in its entirety.)  Evaluate the following quotes with the overall pattern and focus of the New Testament writings.

Their Mission Statement:

Proclaiming the Torah and it’s way of life, fully centered on Messiah, to today’s People of God.

Proclaiming what? (Torah)  To Whom? (The people of God).  This is their reason for existence.  Does this align with any ministry found in the New Testament?  Searching the word “proclaim” in the ESV New Testament (often translated “preach” in the KJV) produced 27 results.  They overwhelmingly refer to the gospel of the risen Christ, and related subjects. Not a single example supports the direction of this mission statement above.  No one can proclaim Torah as their first priority and still be “fully centered on Messiah”!  If you are fully centered on Him, you will proclaim Him.

Their Plea:
The first paragraph states this mission is financially suffering and needs your help, even though one of their complete volume studies cost nearly $300 (but you can pay as you go, so it’s fair).

…..over 2 billion people in the world identify themselves as Christians…Almost the entire 2 billion of them are unaware of the Jewish roots of their faith and the amazing, transforming teachings of the Torah.  Who is willing to take this message to them?”

Where does the Word of God ever teach that the Law is the source of transformation for those who are in Christ?  In contrast, we are told:

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,  in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3,4

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

What could the Law not do?  Where does our transformation come from?  Who are they replacing with the Torah in these statements?

Some Christians use the Law of Moses as their tool to convict sinners and bring them to Christ, but this ministry is dedicating itself to teaching the entire Jewish system of Law to those who ALREADY trust Christ.  Paul asked the Galatians, “Having begun in the Spirit, will you be perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3)  Good question.

Their Claim:
The letter becomes increasingly bold as it explains why this is so vitally important, a point which is even underlined for emphasis,

Christian ignorance of Torah is the single-biggest obstacle to Jewish evangelism and the restoration of the body.

The Hebrew Roots solution to antisemitism is to teach Christians how to observe Torah.  Conversely, rejection of Torah, or suggesting Jesus did something new, is often viewed as antisemitic.  They go beyond calling this a reformation but a “restoration” … being entrusted with “the greatest revelation of biblical truth since the apostolic era.”  That is one of the most bold, arrogant claims I have seen. By “restoration of the body”, they mean the inclusion of followers of Yeshua into Israel, which requires their Torah observance.  In their present state, Christians are still defiled and “outside the camp” and the division in the body is our fault for offending our Jewish brothers with bacon and Sunday church attendance.

Jesus was indeed born of the tribe of Judah, keeping the Law, yet the Jewish people as a whole rejected Him then.  Why do these modern teachers think this will work now for the church?  The gospel of John reveals the Jewish leaders sought to kill Jesus because, “being a man, he claimed to be God.”  This is still a huge theological obstacle, and many Messianics have obliged by taking this out of the way as well, conceding that Jesus was just a man.

Impressing or Offending?
I asked a Jewish friend and follower of Christ, living in Israel, to share his perspective on effective Jewish evangelism.  Below is a short interview.  I so much appreciate his willingness to share his thoughts, and grateful to God for bringing our paths together.

8thday4life:  How likely is it that a large sector of Gentile “Christians” pretending to be Jewish (observing and adapting Jewish customs to their own liking) would be a catalyst to help the Jewish people accept their Messiah?

Jeremy:  From my observations most attempts by non-Jews to replicate the rituals of Judaism are clumsy. Therefore the effect is to basically defile those rituals. For example, I knew a (Gentile) pastor who draped a tallit over the podium in an attempt to “make Jews feel at home”. Most Jews are horrified to see their ritual objects used in a way for which they were not intended. It would be like taking the wine and wafer of the Catholic Mass and using it for snacks after the Service. (I have to use a Catholic Mass as an example because I can’t think of sacred objects in most Protestant ritual.)  In actual fact it is my observation that among those adapting Jewish customs Christians who leave Jesus far outnumber Jews who turn to Him. (emphasis mine)

8thday4life:  What do you believe is the single biggest obstacle to the Jewish people recognizing Jesus as their Messiah?

Jeremy:  The Veil. This is a prayer thing. I believe that Christians need to pray and God will speak. God speaking is absolutely the best witness. When Christians humble themselves (in imitation of Christ) rather than imitate a work of man, I believe that this speaks. Love speaks. Love speaks to you, doesn’t it (she?)?

One day during the time when people were witnessing to me I came down with a sore throat. My friends could have laid hands on me and prayed for me and God would have healed me (they prayed their roaches away, so I knew He heard their prayers). But they didn’t do that. They made me hot lemonade. Their love healed my throat.

8thday4life:  What would be the best way for the Church to reach out to them in your opinion?  (Realizing – the history of persecution – the Church has done the Messiah no favors with His people.)

Jeremy:  See above. Make more hot lemonade! But in a natural way, i.e. as God leads. Not in a forced way. Richard Wurmbrand was led to the Lord by a man who prayed all his life that God would let him lead a Jew to Jesus. God put it together. Like I said, I think it’s a Prayer thing. A phony can be spotted a mile off!

(You can read more of his testimony and perspective on the Messianic Movement HERE)

It appears that love, compassion, prayer, and being led by the Spirit may be more effective than parading around in a tallit, nailing a mezzuzah to our door, learning the Shema in Hebrew or abstaining from food on Yom Kippur while we argue about the solar and lunar calendars.  And Jeremy also confirms from his own testimony, and many others like him, the veil Paul spoke of is still the spiritual obstacle to Jewish people seeing their Messiah, which remains while they are reading the Law itself as described in 2 Corinthians 3.

But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:14-17

Lifting up Jesus (and acting like Him), rather than proclaiming our own law-keeping and affinity for Jewishness, seems to be the Scriptural approach.

"Back to the Wilderness" by Ramone Romero

No Snipe for Dinner Tonight
In the end, as we studied this esteemed publisher’s course, I still did not see this elusive Yeshua who was so superior to Jesus.  The course consisted of tedious, dry information which relied heavily on the writings of Jewish Rabbis who had never believed in their Messiah.  While these writings are valuable in many ways to understand Judaism and provide interesting historical insight, they are not helpful in understanding the Person they did not acknowledge.  These same sages have in some cases cursed both Christ and His followers.  Judaism was opposed to Jesus as its Messiah 2000 year ago, and last I checked, has not changed this firm position.  I am reminded of what the disciples were asked when they were looking for Jesus at the tomb.  “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

Even though we were studying the gospels, it seemed as if the life had been sucked off the pages and replaced with discussions about the Torah, once again.  Because, in this movement,  the law is a god made synonymous with the incarnated God, who is worth an obligatory mention only as He relates to the higher god of Torah.

I am so thankful that before we finished the gospels, I had delved into Matthew again on my own and seen Jesus like I had never seen Him before – standing alone, above the Law and the Prophets.  This revelation is second only in my life to receiving faith in Him as God and Savior many years earlier, but the grief of my repentance was close to the same, if not deeper, because this time the truth I saw was so simple, I could not find any plausible excuses for my ignorance and vain wanderings.

To its credit, this same study course had a lesson with a description of a rabbinic disciple in the time of Jesus, explaining how they would mimic their teacher in every aspect of their lives.  I realized, by definition, I was not a disciple of Jesus because I was not focusing my attention on His words and endeavoring to imitate Him, but Moses.  I was a disciple of Moses first.  In seeking Jesus, my veil was also lifted.

Don’t Be Led Astray

But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.  2 Corinthians 11:3, 14

The closing boast of this letter alarmed me most, and prompted me to write this post.

We are in churches, connected with the Church, and bringing truth to the Church with no concern for denominational lines.  Hundreds of pastors from all different denominations read and study FFOZ materials because…. a shared faith in Messiah and Jewish roots is something we all have in common. (emphasis theirs)

This is not about simply engendering understanding between Jews and Christians, but about drawing Christians into Judaism and away from the simplicity of Jesus Christ.  If the common bond you have with someone is defined as Messiah AND something… anything…. presented as “essential and equal truth” you have been taken in by a man-made agenda.  The Jewish people need to be reconciled to their Redeemer and to see in Him the blood of their Passover Lamb they can no longer even sacrifice.  Christianity does not need to be reconciled to Judaism, which is the end goal of this endeavor.  Genuine love will reconcile people to each other who have at one time been enemies, and this unity also comes only in Christ. (See a pattern here?)

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, Ephesians 2:13-19

The wall of hostility in Paul’s day between Jews and Gentiles was the law.  Jews looked down on Gentiles as a sub-species and history shows Christianity later developed a deep hatred for Jews.  Both of these sad developments of human pride are taken away in Christ.  We don’t need to glorify the Law of Moses, but agree with Paul, a pharisee of pharisees, that it has been taken out of the way for both parties, lifting up the Cross where we can stand united, fellow citizens.  Praise God He has done this, is doing this, and will continue to do this, until His Sovereign will has been carried out in this world!

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When giving our own testimony about leaving Torah Observance for Jesus alone and His Covenant,  I have always tried to make a distinction between the Hebrew Roots Movement (comprised almost completely of Gentiles) and Messianic Judaism, which I had no direct experience with.  Watching it from a distance I assumed this was culturally relevant for Jewish people having these customs as their background.

When I came to meet the brother who has shared this booklet I’m passing on to you, my theory was turned on its head.  I am so thankful that God has led him to write and freely share the wisdom he has learned from God’s Word.  He has blessed our lives incredibly with his words and I pray it blesses many others.

Judaism has beautiful elements in its practice and can be extremely alluring to those who mistakenly think they can learn to  “do what Jesus did.”   This is just the beginning of many distractions and deceptions, leading people to flirt with practices and philosophies of Judaism.   To draw from this well, as a believer, whether Jewish or Gentile is to drink from a broken cistern, guaranteed to run dry on you, most certainly NOT the Living Water that leads to everlasting life.

This booklet entitled “What Went Wrnog With the Messianic Movement” is a Jewish believer’s plea to reject the futility of false religion and inherited lies in favor of the One saving truth of Jesus Christ in a powerful, honest, heart-felt manner.  I praise God for the deliverance He has so graciously given so many of us who were once blinded, but now the veil has been taken away as we turned to Christ.  Here is an excerpt and a link to read the PDF copy.

“Judaism appears to be righteous and godly, but anything that turns away from or hates Jesus and His wonderful work also turns away from, i.e. hates, God as well. Therefore, because the spirit of Judaism is so virulently set against Jesus and His work on the Cross, the God of Judaism cannot be the God of Mt. Sinai, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets or any god at all. That Judaism and practitioners of Judaism hate Jesus reveals something much deeper in the character of the religion and the practitioners thereof. He who hates Jesus, hates God and cannot be said to be in any way godly.

But there is a redeeming characteristic to normative Judaism. Zeal. The day will come when “all Israel will be saved”, and when that day comes it will be with great zeal. The knowledge of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David and the prophets will be added to zeal, to the eagerness to serve God. Lying, legal (and other) fictions and manipulative mental gymnastics of the mind of man will be put aside. The eagerness to seek God — the readiness on the tongue to discuss Godly matters —will be added to the clear vision of the eyes of faith. But it is dishonest to say that that day has come. Normative Judaism is not a beautiful religion for those who mean to seek the very face of God as described in the New Testament.

This booklet is not written for Jews who have never known Jesus. They should enjoy their religion in good health. However, for believers in the shed blood of the Messiah, normative Judaism is nothing short of spiritual adultery. In Romans we are told that we were made to die to the Law in order to be joined to (married to) the Messiah.”  p. 10

“Our heritage is beautifully described in the sixteenth Psalm:

“The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; Thou dost support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.” Psalm
16:5, 6 (emphasis supplied)

When David the psalmist says, “my heritage is beautiful to me” we should know that our heritage as believers in Jesus is not our culture; our heritage as believers is God Himself in diametric contradistinction to what has been handed down to us from our fathers. “Thou wilt make known to me the paths of life. In Thy presence is fullness of joy. In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.” These three amazing things (knowing the paths of life, fullness of joy and pleasures forever) are not obtainable from
our fleshly fathers; not from rabbis and not from books or lectures. Only the inheritance that we have as sons of God through Jesus (John 1) can bring us this inheritance.”  p. 42

Click below for full version

What Went Wrnog with the Messianic Movement

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Watchman Nee on Christ as the Light of Life..

First of all, let us point out that the light of life is not a knowledge of the Bible.  Everybody knows Christians should read their Bible diligently.  But if we read it as a book of knowledge or as a textbook of theology, we will get nothing but knowledge.  We may be able to acquaint ourselves with some Bible doctrines which are accurate, yet these are only letters.  At the time that our Lord was born in Bethlehem, many priests and scribes were extremely familiar with the books of the prophets; nonetheless, they did not recognize the Christ.  Today the New Testament is added to the Old Testament.  It is still possible for people to remember the letters of the Bible and yet not know Christ.  Not for a moment do we suggest that we need not read the scriptures; we simply stress that in reading the Word we may obtain knowledge without ever knowing Christ.

Many priests and scribes in the day of Christ had only a kind of dead knowledge; they did not know the living Lord.  Many people mistake knowledge, doctrine, theology and teaching as the light of life.  Some will even say they get light, though theirs is not necessarily the light of life.  What they consider light is only some interpretation regarding a certain passage of scripture or a kind of teaching about the Bible.  The real light is not mere knowledge.  It is none other than the Lord himself.  The Lord emphatically declares that HE is the light of life.  (all caps mine)…

…What then is the difference between seeing the light and not seeing the light?  What kind of transformation will come over us if we see?  the difference here is tremendous. If we have really seen light, we will fall to the ground.  For light not only enlightens but also slays.  Before Paul was enlightened, it would have been fairly difficult to cause him to fall down; as soon as he was stricken by the light, though, he immediately fell to the ground.  Some people force themselves to be humble:  their words are humble, their manners are humble.  Except that their kind of humility is very exhausting – both to themselves and onlookers….  How difficult for us to fall down from the throne of pride!  But when the light of the Lord shines, we instantly fall flat.  We do not undersatnd how we only know light levels us.

Doctrine does not cause anyone to fall.  One may listen to eight or ten messages and even memorize them; still, he remains the same.  He can treat a message which ought to induce weeping or treat a word which ought to shatter man’s natural life as a subject for painstaking research.  Alas, in this case doctrine has become a thing, teaching has become a thing, word also has become a thing.  These are all dead; there is no light…

..Light is rigorous.  It can do what man cannot himself do.  What doctrine cannot do, what the help of brothers and sisters cannot do, and what our own effort cannot do, light can immediately accomplish.  We may consider ourselves rather hard – but when light shines, we are softened.  When John saw the light he became as one dead; so too with Daniel.  No one is able to see the face of the Lord and not fall down.  None can behold the Lord without becoming as one dead.  It is difficult for us to die;  it is hard for us to be humble, but as soon as light shines, these are done.  The light which comes from the Lord has slaying power.  It fells people as it shines…

Dear Friends, never confuse light with many other things.  What we usually call light is not necessarily light.  Many are but doctrines or so-called “truths”. These have no spiritual effectiveness in us. …  Many are attempting to discover doctrine, but they have not found fact.  It therefore remains as words and a dead matter.  It is neither light nor life nor Christ…

May God have mercy upon those who are so self-righteous and self-conceited.  For such people have never known light; all they possess are but doctrines and knowledge.  Had they seen the true light, they would have confessed, “Oh Lord, what do I know! I know absolutely nothing!”  The greater the revelation, the deeper the blindness; the stronger the light, the severer the stroke.  Light will humble and fell us before it enables us to see.  If we have not been smitten, humbled, dazed and reduced to nothing, we are by this fact proven to still be in darkness, possessing no light.  May the Lord be merciful to us that by His light He may take way our self-reliance, so that we no longer dare to trust in our own knowledge and judgment.  …

Light is not something abstract, it is something very substantial.  The Lord Jesus is that light.  With Him in our midst, we have light among us.  How pitiful that many matters in the life of believers are too theoretical.  They have heard countless abstractions which offer little practical help…. We must realize that since light was concrete and practical in the life of our Lord Jesus, it ought to be the same in our lives.  Being a living Person the light of life quickens us when it is revealed.

Friends, why is it that after many days the truth of God seem to lose its power, becoming so weak that it cannot touch us?  For no other reason than that it has become too much doctrine, too much theological knowledge!  We need to recognize that only the living Lord can beget living people.  We look to God to be truly merciful to us, enabling us the more and more to see that things are all dead but that the Lord alone is living.  The most attractive and spritual things in Christianity – if they are outside of Christ – are but dead.  We should let the Lord himself be this thing or that thing to us.  Then it is living.  It is living both in us and in those who receive from us.  May the Lord be gracious to us that we may be cast to the ground before the Lord and know Him far differently.

excerpts from

Christ the Sum of All Spiritual Things, p. 47-54

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My four year old daughter and her younger brother excitedly ran to the playground they had been begging to visit for three days.  I sat on the bench watching them slide and climb.. for about 10 minutes.  When my mind stopped the habitual space travel of a lazy Sunday afternoon, my eyes and mind focused together on what my children were doing.  After dreaming of this place as if it were Disneyland, they were in fact playing around the playground on the landscape timbers that bordered the play area, trying to balance and walk around them.  Soon they tired of this and took to running and chasing each other around the wooden borders, wandering off to pick flowers, investigating a bird bath full of rain water and exploring the contents of a metal pail used as an ashtray in a nearby gazebo.  How could they so quickly tire of this thing they desired so greatly?  I saw a perfect example of human nature which demonstrated what the Holy Spirit began speaking to my heart over two years ago.  Two weeks ago,  the burden returned in full force and will not leave me in peace.  As the National Day of Prayer comes this week, what this picture symbolized to me will be the focus of my repentance and petition to God.

To be a Christian is a call to love and follow Christ in a very real way.  Our identity should never be in a subset of beliefs, often a name ending with an “ism” or  movement of some kind.  When we love HIM as we should, our focus becomes more clear.  Our desire is rekindled.   We find we cannot take one step without Him.  We realize all we do outside of Him is of no consequence.

I recently picked up a book my husband had purchased at a church planting seminar a few years ago.  I restlessly opened up to a random page as I often do trying to get  feel for what a book is about.  The page I turned to had this to say:

While I was an impressionable seminary student, I was given a definition (of church) that was really more of a description.  Church was explained as embodying these five characteristics:

1.  A group of believers that gathered regularly…

2.  That considered itself a church…

3.  That has qualified elders present…

4.  That regular practices the ordinances of baptism and communion as well as church discipline…

5.  And that has an agreed-on set of doctrinal beliefs.

These are all good qualities for any church to have.  Most of our churches, in fact, would meet these standards, but I think that this list is missing something very important.  I often ask groups what is missing from this description.  After a few minutes of responses, I generally tell them what I think is missing if they haven’t already found it.

Jesus is missing!

One of my most respected mentors, a theologian and career missionary, once told me that Jesus is assumed in the definition because it is believers who are gathered.  My response was, “Why would you assume Jesus’ presence but make sure that a qualified elder is present?”

This assumption betrays a problem in our churches, a serious one.  The church is often more about what we bring to the table than what God does.  I heard a Korean pastor who made a tour of the United States and at the end of his visit summarized his observations by commenting, “It’s amazing what you people can do without the Holy Spirit.”  I believe it was A .W. Tozer who once announced that if the Holy Spirit were removed from the churches in America on Saturday, most would go on the next day as if nothing had changed.”   (Neil Cole, The Organic Church p. 49,50)

This same Sunday that I took my children to the playground, our pastor preached a powerful message on Ezekiel 9-11 detailing how the presence of God had left Judah and his judgment was sure.  He asked if this happened to America, and the Church here, “Would anyone notice?  Would anyone care?”   Those are the questions burning in my mind as well.

My thoughts go back to Moses and the children of Israel.  After their sin of idolatry with the golden calf  they were punished, but still did not have the presence of God in the camp, but in the tent of meeting set up outside.  God had told them to go up into the Land of Milk and Honey, but He was not going to go with them.  Moses begged and pleaded with God,

And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”  Exodus 33:15, 16

Why do we, with a better promise and better Covenant,  so confidently march on with our agendas, not seeking the direction of Jesus, our Head, the Commander in Chief?  Why do we speak of the Holy Spirit as an abstract idea or theory, and have no expectation for the reality of His Presence?   We would not notice if Jesus left the building because we have not cared to invite Him into our affairs in the first place.

Why do we give God lip-service but behave as if He is not actually real or expect Him to move among us?

I could write pages on probable answers – but if we keep asking “why” after each answer, I believe we would eventually reach down past many symptoms and secondary failures to the ultimate source of the problem.  We love ourselves and our pride more than we love our Savior.  If we truly loved Him with all our heart mind and soul, as the first great commandment given, we would seek Him.  If we sought Him, we would love Him more and fervently desire to be in His presence.  We would be like David who longed for Him like a deer pants for water, a primal desire for life itself.  If we loved Him more, we would believe Him more fully in everything He promised.  If we believed Him, we would trust Him in all our ways.  If we trusted Him, we would follow and obey Him.  If we obeyed Him, the world would see Him through us.  If the world saw Him and not us, it would be drawn to also love Him, or hate Him, being confronted to make a decision.  As it is, we don’t bring anything of eternal value into the world when we promote ourselves and our “isms”.   The world may accept or reject us, our special message,  focus, or movement, our attitudes, our agendas.  But do they ever see Jesus?  Why did we stop longing for and earnestly following the one we call Lord?

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?   Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like:  he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.  But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”  Luke 6:46-49

How many Christians have much of a grasp on the actual words of Christ?  I hear so little of Him in churches it astounds me.   Why do we find it more interesting to talk about anything and everything and everyone else?  In the gospel of John Jesus repeatedly draws attention to the importance of His WORDS.  They are life.  John says Jesus is THE Word, both in his gospel account, and in Revelation.   His Word is still alive and ongoing through His Spirit, and how many of us are listening?  Some don’t even believe it’s possible to hear it in the first place.  He is a resurrected living and active Word.  He called us to be disciples, not passive pew sitters.  Disciples follow and do as they are instructed, in all humility and trust of their loved Teacher.  He has called us to take up a cross and follow, but He also promised that the burden of His yoke was light, and He would give us rest.  Seems to be contradiction, but only if we have not been sitting at His feet to understand.  The cross is what brings the rest.

Jesus,

Forgive us for loving so many things and leaving our first love.  Draw us to fall on our faces in grief and repent of being self-willed, idolatrous, covetous, proud.  Restore us to our first love –  a desire for nothing but You alone.  Fill our mind’s eye with a vision of your love for us and teach us that our high calling is in You, not ourselves.   Forgive us for our unbelief as we go about our lives as if  You are a distant spectator from heaven and not in us or among us as You have promised to all who would call on Your name.  Forgive us for seeking you mechanically without faith and longing, and often, not at all.  Forgive us for being amused with objects of so little consequence.  Grant us the ability to forgive our brothers and sisters, remembering we are no better than any other and have received the same mercy.   Give us true sight – to seek genuine fruit of Your Spirit and not the false external performance men so often admire.

Jesus, call us, your people, to humble ourselves and repent.  Fall on us with a fire that cleanses and empowers us for the days ahead, unless we be like Israel in the days of their judgment who said,  “If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah.”   Isa 1:9

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.

Rev 2:4,5

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To be close to You – the source and giver of all things…

do I seek you for comfort and peace or a just to be near

the object of my desire?

Is there love without the corruption of self seeking?

Is all my running after You only truly seeking myself?

I get closer, but see the fire and step back – fearing

to walk through it

to get to You.

What did I really want?

Who did I think You were?

You have given more than I could ever understand, that I might stand here

in this dilemma, asking this shameful question, ‘is it worth it?’ which I realize actually means

Are You worth it?

I am a comfortable 72 degrees.  What overcomes the inertia of static stagnancy?  What is it I really want?  In the end, this will always be the pivot of all my actions.  Do I want You more than I want me?

All my high ambition, lofty words..  so vain and fleeting.

Many have come close and suffered.  In the conflict of flesh dying and Spirit living, they suffer.  They suffer in your mercy, to defend against the enemy of pride.  They suffer in loneliness where they cannot express and no one else has seen – a private place between man and You alone.  They suffer at the hands of those who fear their revelation.  Some have suffered, not realizing You were drawing them through, to bring them a degree closer to Yourself.  But always, there is the suffering. 

Yet, even You have walked through this, and hold out Your hand for us to follow.   How is it that You who are perfect and beyond the reach of anything that is not light – share in this suffering? 

In this You are not an ogre, asking me to come forward, untouched by my condition, but a brother in my humanity, a mentor, and yet an all consuming fire.

I cannot reconcile this paradox in my mind, yet if I forget either the fire or Your empathetic bond through common experience, I will fall back into myself.    

 

 

Luk 14:26-33  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’  Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?  And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.  So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Rom 12:1  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Heb 2:10  For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.

Heb 4:15  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.

1Pe 5:6 -11 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

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