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You Will Never See Their Eyes

“It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” Luke 17:2

Recently I posted a blog regarding two Christian families trapped in Afghanistan with redacted photos and a promise that I will one day show you their eyes. I regret to inform you that

I will not be doing so.

If you didn’t see the post, one family consisted of a father and mother with six daughters and a newborn boy. The other was of two parents and their adult son. All surrendered to Jesus when they visited Pakistan. All are fearing for their lives now. I can not even imagine how a father with six daughters in Afghanistan feels right now let alone how other men could be licking their proverbial chops in hope of having sex with them.

Unfortunately, the only response on my blog was from a sex trafficker in Lahore Pakistan. 

This pig is also allowed to advertise on Twitter

He is now following my blog. My old man, the former street scrapper/ US Marine in me wants to rage.

“But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” 1 Cor 9:27

My first prayer is that this evil pimp would have a road to Damascus moment and repent like Paul. My second is that he follows Jesus’s milestone recommendation in Luke 17 and Mat 18:6.

In any case, I can not risk sharing anything more publicly and I have unpublished the blog post.

The good news is that I did make a connection with another group in a completely different part of the middle east. Whether or not they will be able to help is anyone’s guess.

To those who answered the call to prayer. Thank you!

Please continue to pray.

Maranatha!

From What Am I Saved?

One of the biggest errors we make as Christians is to present the love of God apart from His wrath.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Eph 2:1-3

How many people come to the altar to be saved from their earthy circumstances and or trials they attribute to the devil?

The root is…

God warned Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of the KNOWLEDGE of good and evil in Gen 3. It was the one and only thing they could not eat. If they did God said they would die. This was an objective truth given by the source of objective truth. Many people argue over the fairness of this. Yet they can only do so subjectively.

In the end, it amounts to arguing about the fairness of gravity.

Adam and Eve ate the fruit. Then their focus went from God to themselves.

Self-centeredness was born.

While the devil is the adversary of all true believers, he is NOT adverse to the earthly well-being of unbelievers. Think about it. Why would he give them more reason to flee into the arms of God?

“You attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”

The enemy baits people with earthly good, things that serve, and inflate our pride and sense of self-importance. Then he attempts to invalidate the goodness of God based on subjective earthly reasoning.

“How could a loving God allow_____?”

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains.”C.S. Lewis

That’s right. The pain and suffering that drive us to God are caused by God or at the very least allowed by Him. To say otherwise is to give something or someone else more power and authority than Jesus. Mat 28:18. Healing doesn’t happen because God wants us to bring heaven onto earth. Supernatural signs and wonders are real and necessary because people are stubborn and refuse to believe unless they see proof. John 4:48. Even then many refuse to believe. Matthew 8:28 Others only believe for a while. Mat 11:20

There are consequences for unaddressed sin both individually and collectively as a nation.

Think of it as a friend who punches you in the face because you refuse to get out of the path of an oncoming train. Or the dog you want to teach to ride in the back of a pickup truck. Maybe you drive 10mph in a grassy field, let him jump out, and feel the pain in the grass instead of perishing on the pavement at 60mph.

By His stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

Just to be clear, the context of the word “Healed” here is primarily in reference to the restoration of a people group. Hence, it is through Jesus alone that we are restored to our original right standing with God.

How does that work?

There is an African tale about a King who was confronted with the fact that someone under his rule was stealing chickens. He ruled that anyone caught stealing chickens would receive 100 lashes; enough to kill most people. Soon after, the thief was caught and brought before the King. Much to his surprise, the chicken thief was his mother. The King ordered that she be strapped to the whipping pole. “You will give her the full 100 lashings,” said the King. ” “And one more thing,” he said standing to remove his shirt. “Do not diminish the severity of these lashes or you will be executed.” The king wrapped his arms around his mother and covered her with his body. “Proceed!” he said.

We are saved by God from God’s own wrath.

Today people hate Him because of the original sentence.

As for the suffering endured by believers…

“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” Heb 12:5-8

Suffering produces character and hope. Rom 5:1-5 Testing of our faith produces patience. James 1:1-4 The end game is that patience will have her perfect work so that we become complete, desiring “NO THING” but “knowing Christ and Him crucified”. 1 Cor 2:2 The Kingdom of heaven is upside down from the subjective system of values and standards on earth. Jesus beat the devil through submission when He could have just kicked butt and taken names. “A student is not above His teacher. “We win the same way. Mat 10:24-25

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Mat 7:13-14

That word “narrow” means “with persecutions”.

We are saved by God from God’s wrath. We must endure to the end. Mat 24:13

He is God. We are not. Isaiah 55:8-9

Anything else is a counterfeit Christianity.

Unfortunately, 94% of Americans prefer the counterfeit .

Maranatha

Jesus King of Worms

The Passion of the Christ has become our primary ice breaker for preaching the gospel in Honduras. We just showed it in the mountains above our mountain last night.

Just like the Bible itself, the Lord seems to highlight a different point every time we watch it.  Last night was marked by the scene where Jesus receives the crown of thorns. It is the first time we noticed that the Roman soldiers crowned Jesus

“King of the Worms”.

There are at least 350 Old Testament scriptures that point to Jesus. Several involve the original Tabernacle built by Moses approximately 1500 years before the birth of Jesus. If you have ever had the benefit of hearing Cathy’s Tabernacle teaching then you know that everything down to the smallest construction detail points directly to Jesus.

Cathy teaching indigenous missionary students in the Ecuadoran Amazon basin.

When I say small, I mean small.

Kermes vermilio

Kermes vermilion or  “coccus ilicis” looks more like a Beatle than a worm. Nevertheless, it was labeled a worm possibly because it loses the use of its legs after attaching itself to a tree to give birth.

Why does this matter? 

Because Psalm 22, probably written 1000 years before His birth is one of the major prophetic passages concerning Jesus.

But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. Psalm 22:6

The Hebrew word for “Worm” in the OT is “Rimmah” which means maggot and is exclusively associated with decay. However, the word for “worm” in psalm 22 is Towla “scarlet stuff, crimson, a dye made from the dried body of the female of the worm coccus ilicis.” Interestingly, the word “crimson” is from a Sanskrit word KṚMI-JĀ meaning “worm-made.”

One of the most poignant points for me in the Tabernacle teaching was concerning the crimson dye that was used to color the tabernacle curtains and coverings. (Exodus 26) It was obtained from the coccus ilicis worm.

According to Henry Morris,

“When the female of the scarlet worm species was ready to give birth to her young, she would attach her body to the trunk of a tree, fixing herself so firmly and permanently that she would never leave again. The eggs deposited beneath her body were thus protected until the larvae were hatched and able to enter their own life cycle. As the mother died, the crimson fluid stained her body and the surrounding wood. From the dead bodies of such female scarlet worms, the commercial scarlet dyes of antiquity were extracted.” 

Not only did the worm have to die but her offspring would feed on her corpse until they were strong enough to go off on their own.

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. John 6:53-55

Everything down to even the tiniest worm that died and shed its blood on a tree so that others may live was a prophetic depiction of the final sacrifice of Jesus who shed His blood for us on the cross so that all who believe and repent might be saved. It was the original act of communion whereby we symbolically eat His flesh and drink His blood in remembrance of why He came and is coming. Who would have ever imagined that in a world that idolizes fame, fortune, power, and charisma, a world where everyone is vying to be seen and heard, that the God of all creation would use a worm to point us back to Himself and the reality of Maranatha.

We never cease to be amazed at His intricacy and depth. Hence, awe remains my primary expression of worship.

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. Prov 25:2

May you be a King.

MARANATHA

To Laugh or To Mourn

Like so many of his teachings and posts, this one by Rolland Baker (a.k.a. Mr. Miagi in my mind) resulted in a tirade of disagreement among proverbial dissenting Daniel-sans. Some were appalled. Some were confused.  Others simply assumed he was mocking Pharisees and the religion of man. He later explained that he might have been doing all of these or none of these or all of these and more. In any case, I did some Acts 17:11 research. As it turns out the word “joy” is used 171 times in the ESV. “Mourn” is only mentioned 39 times and “mourning” 51.

That ought to tell you something! 

Amirite?

Here’s the thing.  The passage in question never once mentioned “joy”- only laughter. Laughter is mentioned 9 times in the ESV.  Job 8:21 and Psalm 126:2 sound nice. Gen 21:6, Prov 14:13, Ecc 2:2, Ecc 7:3, Ecc 10:19, Jas 4:9 not so much. Especially James 4:9.

“…Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.” James 4:8-9

It occurs to me that the automatic correlation of joy with laughter may be a bit flippant. 

Still context matters.

I’ve experienced what is called Holy laughter amidst deep repentance and face-to-face encounters with the absurdity of my filthy rag self-importance. It is the light of God’s power and grace that causes me to laugh at the narcissistic me whom I behold in the dark glass. I’ve also seen it amidst others being delivered from homicidal rage, chronic depression, and suicidality, etc. Still, as positive as its fruits can be, this laughter seems soulish to me. Relatively speaking it is also rare in a world filled with coarse joking and foolish talk.  

On the other hand, I have experienced some of the deepest and most profound joy of, and in the Lord amidst suffering and weeping. There is a depth and a  sweetness in that place that transcends any laughter I have experienced to date.

When I inquired how many dissenters to the post are living on the mission field? One person responded with “everywhere is the mission field”  “That’s true.” I said “Everywhere is also the world. The question is; where are you living?”

Point missed entirely. 

Perhaps it’s the relative material barrenness and the utter dependency upon Jesus that barrenness cultivates.   Maybe it’s the raw testing of faith where faith isn’t normally required. Maybe it’s the nature of the third world that facilitates tribulation becoming the seed of hope that does not disappoint. Then again maybe it’s just the sincere intention to endure whatever God chooses that opens the door.  But it seems easier to encounter that paradoxical, electric, mournful joy that is so often utterly devoid of laughter and so filled with tears from a place of suffering rather than prosperity.

There’s a lot of confusion.

What I hear people calling blessing and purpose today seems contingent upon material comfort and prosperity rather than its absence. Yet Jesus was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief with no place to lay His head.  He prayed for His torturers while He hung on the cross. He cried “my God my God why have you forsaken me!” in the peak of His suffering that no one can comprehend. He did it for the joy set before Him. But we want to turn Him into a laughing Jesus, a North American prosperity Jesus who would never let His children suffer even though that is the one thing of which He assured every believer on earth. 

Hence as time goes on what charismatics typically call Holy laughter seems increasingly shallow to me and the world’s laughter evil in the face of it. Maybe that’s what these mystics whom so many mock and call legalistic were getting at. Maybe that’s what Rolland Baker is getting at too. Then again maybe they are just speaking in the context of James chapter 4. This begs the question; is the collective angst expressed on Rolland’s post more indicative of drawing close to God or of friendship with the world?

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. You are good and do good; teach me your statutes. The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Psalm 119:66-72

Maranatha.

The God of This and That

“When you’re done growing you’re done.”

-Heidi Baker-

We’ve been full-time missionaries in Honduras for 4 years now.  October will mark 5 years since we left Hawaii for IRIS Global Harvest School of Missions in Mozambique the cost of which remains the only outstanding debt that we owe.  That’s ironic because the longer I am on the mission field the more I realize how priceless that experience was.  And while we had a graduation ceremony, I am increasingly aware that I have yet to graduate. 

I suspect that is by design. 

While Rolland and Heidi Baker both hold Ph.Ds in Theology, they never formally taught on that subject. When we arrived we were greeted with,

“A lot of you came here to learn how to do missions.  The truth is you came here to die.”

I have often wondered about that and it occurs to me that we’d probably have something called Bakerism today with Bakerists  arguing with other “ists” over other “isms” had the school tried to condense the sovereign will of God into a university-style syllabus.  Instead, we began and ended with the idea that missions flow from intimacy with, and dependency on Jesus.  The implication was that intimacy must be sought.

It can not be humanly imparted or taught.  

There was also an underlying motif regarding the inseparable connection between intimacy with God and suffering. This seems counter-intuitive when you consider the theological streams where the Bakers are most often embraced and those that reject them. Whatever you may think about them, the fact remains that the revival that so many crave was birthed out of suffering in Mozambique and has been the norm for the better part of two decades. Until recently most of this suffering was the direct result of storms, flooding and resulting famine. As of this writing, people have been beheaded in a village where we did an outreach. Untold numbers have been shot. Tens of thousands are fleeing radical Islamists who have created yet another internal refugee crisis. We are praying for Mozambique and expect more revival.

The rest of the church would do well to observe and learn while it prays.

That’s not to say there wasn’t any teaching.  There was a whole range of teachings from various celebrity pulpits from around the world that may or may not have been endorsed by the staff.  As for the Bakers themselves,  Heidi modeled more than taught and always emphasized that “love looks like something.” She would occasionally give a hermeneutic on a specific passage of scripture like Jesus’s approach to the woman at the well as a model of her trademark “low and slow” “honor those we serve” approach to missions.  Rolland was more the mystic and taught like Miyagi from The Karate Kid. His lectures resembled a cross between a stand-up comedy act and a Zen Koan possibly designed to leave people scratching their heads for years. He would lob one-liners like hand grenades into the crowd and then giggle as student brows collectively knit together.  

“Ah yes, pray the money in they say”.  “Well…hehehe what if God says no?” 

“Lots of people argue about what God is or isn’t.” He’s a God of this.” “No he’s a God of that.”  They say. “Well what if He’s a God of this and that?”.

He’d talk about miracles and missionary tales but mostly about the miracle giver in a way that sounded like a Song of Solomon 2.0. It definitely made the “macho” in me squirm. Then he’d run around the pavilion shouting “BOOF!”, pretending to shoot people with his microphone while hundreds of twenty-somethings fell down consumed with what I viewed as sheer bandwagon fallacy laughter. I wasn’t having it. I was mad.  I’d come here to learn how to do missions not act like a stupid drunk kid.  I remember Rolland paused and looked at me for a moment before deciding to forgo the “Boof”. My offense immediately melted into a conviction that I had failed the “become as a little child test”. I then experienced the rejection of a little child deemed unworthy of the “Boof”. Mission accomplished. I know it sounds silly.  But God has different ways of tearing our old wineskins apart and causing old wine to flow like blood and more often tears on the floor. I have since learned that silly is often an easier path through ears and into hearts than are hardcore theological arguments.  That is not to say that theological correctness isn’t important. It most certainly is.  Anyway, Heidi addressed getting knocked down in a later session, “If you don’t get knocked down, just get down.” she said.

Turns out – nothing quenches Holy Spirit so much as pride.

Those who regularly read my blogs may have detected that I am always repenting and reforming as I am being conformed. I am fully aware that I will always know in part and see in a glass darkly until the perfect comes and I am known as I am fully known. Still, I thirst for righteousness and have very little patience for blatant fraud and heresy. I am not a cessationist. Rather I am passionate about “testing everything while holding fast to what is good.” 1 Thess 5:20-21 There are some false theological streams in which some Harvest school graduates are immersed that I find downright scary if for no other reason than they and their disciples are going to melt like snowflakes in a flame amidst the call to endure what is coming. I want to know Him far more than I want anything from Him. I think Rolland and Heidi would agree. That said, If I never see another miracle, sign, or wonder again and it would have absolute zero impact on my faith.

Both Cathy and I experienced full supernatural deliverances when we surrendered to the Lord. We know that we serve a personal God who actively intervenes in His creation according to His sovereign will.  We’ve seen God cast out demons in people and seen tumors disappear. Twice we saw the miraculous replication of food. Once in Honduras when we didn’t ask for it,

and once in Mozambique after Heidi had a group of five-year-olds pray.  We’ve seen cataracts dissolve, deaf ears opened and lame people dance when they previously couldn’t even stand. We’ve been delivered from what should have been sudden death at least three times while on the mission field. Only God knows the actual count. We’ve seen the other side in action as well. Still, most times we don’t see anything happen when we pray.  Some would call that proof of stupidity. 

Others would say we need to grow in faith. Luke 17:6

I just listened to a podcast featuring Dick Brogden.  He told a story of when in his twenties he had fervently and faithfully prayed for a Kenyan woman to be raised from the dead. Suddenly her body jerked upward. “Praise God!” he exclaimed.  Then he realized a particularly large woman had just sat on the end of the stretcher and the leverage had jerked the body upward.  He felt stupid and angry at God and asked the Lord why?  The answer he got was that God would trust him with His power when He could trust him with His glory.  Dick had to admit that if God had raised the woman from the dead he would have written newsletters and given testimony thanking God but also making darn sure that everyone knew that Dick had been heavily involved. I think a lot about that when I write about what we do.  I am absolutely convinced that if anyone is ever raised from the dead when I pray it will be because enough of Brian has died and been flushed away. It will not because of any grandiose growth in my faith.

The miracle of suffering

I recently read about David and Svea Flood a Swedish missionary couple who went to the Congo in 1921. Long story short the village chief prevented them from witnessing to anyone for fearing of angering the village spirits. Only one young boy who was allowed to sell them chicken and eggs heard the gospel. They felt like failures and then lost everything. Svea died, another couple adopted their young daughter Aggie, and David returned to the West where he deconstructed and fell away from the faith. Aggie grew up in South Dakota.  Long story short she eventually learned what had happened in Africa. She did more research and found that the boy to whom her parents had ministered was now a pastor that led his entire village to Christ. At last count, 110,000 people had been baptized as a result of that single seed. Aggie then sought out her 73-year-old birth father who was alcoholic and still very angry with God. He cried when she told him that his efforts had not been in vain. In the end he reconciled with her and with the God of this and that.

So why does God do miracles sometimes and not others? Better yet, why does God do miracles at all?

One reason is for unbelievers to take notice. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” John 4:48 Signs and wonders follow the preaching of the gospel. Mark 16:20.  As for sign chasers,  I always imagine Jesus shaking His head and rolling his eyes just before He performed a miracle.

For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? Mat 9:5

Yet even Jesus could do nothing apart from His Father. John 5:19  Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. John 15:5. It would seem to me that in addition to dying to self,  miracles are contingent upon our alignment with the will of God. True alignment with God looks like people weeping on their faces not men in thousand-dollar suits in celebrity pulpits boldly declaring a self-ordained anointing, power and authority to align God’s will with theirs.

I have a hypothesis.

THIS…

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Mat 7:21-23

Have you ever stopped and really considered that passage?  Better yet, have you ever scrutinized yourself in accordance with those three verses especially in the context of your most treasured assumptions about God?  That passage is in my opinion the scariest one in the entire bible. It is entirely possible to be doing all the right things even supernatural things for all the wrong reasons and not even know it. The remaining question is, “how can I really know if God knows me?” Even more, “do I even want to be known by God, or do I just want a cheap fire insurance policy and freedom from the anxiety that we used to call conviction of sin?”

“…If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” 1 Cor 8:1-2.

That’s encouraging. But then “who loves God?”  I mean – I feel like I do. Still, Jesus said, “If you love me keep my commandments.” John 14:15  I just murdered the same guy ten times today, coveted my neighbor’s stuff and committed a host of other sins in my mind. Mat 5-6 Now what? Do I redact the scriptures that make me uncomfortable, find a teacher with a more palatable hermeneutic or face the truth – “oh what a wretched man I am!”? Sigh…I guess I’d better head on back to the old throne of grace and say “sorry”…  Yes, I know my wretchedness is covered by the shed blood of Jesus and that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Rom 8 Of course, I am saved by grace through faith that is not even my own so that I can’t brag about it. Eph 2:8-9 Still, the fact remains that I don’t always obey His commandments. Not only because I can not but because I choose not.  Again, I don’t have self-esteem or identity issues. I’ve heard countless feel-good sermons over the last fifteen years explaining my identity and why I am the righteousness of Christ… The fact remains that Mat 7:21-23 is still there in its unredacted form declaring that not everyone who thinks they are saved and doing the will of God will be saved in the end. Maybe I just need to sing “I am a friend of God” and “Reckless Love” until I believe it.  Or maybe as George Mueller wrote I need the simultaneous recognition of my utter depravity with the grace and miracle covering of the blood of Jesus. Maybe I need a full and realistic view of my filthy rag works and the offscouring of all things that I am in the context of His righteousness in which I am so miraculously clothed. It doesn’t matter that I am a missionary.  Any time I take an honest look at my reflection in the dark glass, the truth of ME strikes Acts 2:43 (Phobos) terror in my heart. It is, I think, a fruit of sincerity in that it produces “a broken and contrite heart that God will not despise.” Psalm 51:17 That in turn yields a return of the joy of His salvation. Psalm 51:12 It results in wisdom Prov 9:10 and genuine life application alignment with God Prov 3:5-8 the verification and validation of which some times but not always, maybe, just might be confirmed by a sign or a wonder.

…and THAT

It was during our first trip to Honduras that I also made my first trip to a third-world dump and saw children eating raw garbage. 

Meanwhile, Cathy went to a river baptism where she and three girls got covered in gold dust. Previous to this I saw a video featuring falling gold dust and people who claimed to awaken with divine dental work in the form of mysterious gold fillings and gold teeth.  All of it sounded ridiculous to me but I kept my mouth shut.  All I knew was that I’d just witnessed the worst, most heart-wrenching poverty I’d ever seen. I told Cathy I felt like I’d been hit upside the head with a cement block. 

Now she was ranting to me about pixy dust on her cheeks?!!

Still, I had to admit it was pretty strange. It disappeared the moment we tried to remove it from her skin but it stayed on the three girls for days.  A picture of them hung on our wall in Hawaii for years.

Pretty soon gold dust testimonies were rampant throughout charismania until some big-name megachurches notorious for hosting “glory clouds” got caught pouring gold glitter into air ducts. 

“Gold dust mold dust. Whatever!” I thought and dismissed the whole thing.

Then I heard a podcast featuring a pastor who claimed to have seen gold dust in his church.  He’d been in Jerusalem praying when a Rabbi approached him to ask what he was doing.  “Why I’m praying for the peace of Jerusalem.” The pastor replied. That sparked the Rabbi’s interest.  Somehow the conversation got around to the subject of gold dust at which point the Rabbi freaked out.  “Gold dust is falling on the gentiles?! Gold dust is falling on the gentiles!!” He exclaimed.  Apparently, somewhere within extra-biblical Jewish literature, there is an expected prophetic sign of the coming of Messiah involving gold dust falling on the gentiles.

Who knew?

The betrothal or engagement period for a Jewish marriage is one year.  During this time the bride and groom do not see each other at all. After the betrothal ceremony, and just before leaving for a year to prepare a home for his future bride, the bridegroom would give her a Matan.  According to the Rabbi, this was traditionally a gift of gold and signified a pledge of his love for her. It was to be a reminder, that he was thinking of her while they were apart and that he would return at the appointed time to receive her as his wife.

“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

Rev 21:2

Suddenly, the absurd didn’t seem quite so absurd. 

Fast forward to Cerro Azul Meambar Honduras last year. It was about a week after our house was destroyed in the landslide. We had the clothes on our backs,  food, and a temporary place to lay our heads but otherwise, we didn’t know what we should do. We knew worse things can and do happen. Still, there is an element of suffering in losing everything you own and finding oneself suddenly homeless in the third world. Should I throw in the towel and go home? Oh shut up, Brian!  Instead of throwing in the towel, we threw ourselves into outreaches to get food, water purifiers, beds, and clothing, etc. to those most in need. It was mostly selfish.

After all the best way to cope when you are hurting is to help someone who is hurting more.

Cathy was sick on the last day and wasn’t with us as we delivered the last bags of rice and beans. The crisis adrenaline was wearing off as we headed back to our vehicle and I started to experience some oh so irrational and unspiritual feelings of lostness as waves of fleshy negativity rushed through my brain.  Was God punishing us?  Was this a warning? “His sheep hear His voice.” Did I not hear Him?  Had I gone against his will by moving here?  Did Mat 7:21-23 apply to me? Shut up Brian! Sure I could acknowledge the theological error cognitively but the emotions remained.

That’s part of being a fallen human on a fallen earth.

The post-hurricane heat and humidity were heavy that day.  Suddenly a cool breeze picked up and blew on my face as the four of us approached our vehicle. We all noticed a small whirlwind of gold dust swirling by the front passenger door where I had previously been sitting. It was more than a little freakish to see gold dust-covering just my side of the car. I’d never seen anything like it. All I can say is that it brought tears to my eyes and I can not describe the completely irrational yet profound sense of relief, assurance, and peace that converged with what I was seeing. It was as if God was inaudibly speaking,

“Don’t worry. I know you.”

Since then Cathy and I have become more eschatologically oriented in our approach to the gospel. Not in a conspiratorial, “the vaccine is the mark of the beast” sort of way as so many seem prone.  But in the sense that the primary task in missions is a participation in the preparation of a spotless bride for a wedding and a wedding feast.

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.  

And the angel said  to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev 19:6-10

That preparation includes studying ourselves approved as we are commanded to do. 2 Tim 2:15 so we can be good Acts 17:11 Bereans and avoid being deceived. Mat 24:4 It also involves watching and praying and miracles, healings, signs and wonders. Some are for all the world to see. Others may be very personal. After all, the very first miracle Jesus ever performed was only known by a few. John 2 The preparation of the bride involves knowing the grace, love, and kindness of God. It also involves knowing His severity and coming wrath. It involves blessing and the experience of abundance. It involves suffering, loss and persecution. 2 Tim 3:12

Our God is a God of this and that.

If we are to know Him we must first know about Him through His word. Sorry, but reading books by people who claim to go to heaven and dialogue with the Father everyday instead is not going to cut it. Yet if we only know about Him and never know Him personally then what does it matter if we know about Him at all? Even worse, if I claim to know Him but the things I know contradict what He says about Himself in His word then who is it that I know?  Hence Mat 7:21-23

Yeah, that’s a mind-bender.

As I often explain to atheists when they strive to refute Christianity,  I love my wife.  I can not prove to them that I love my wife. Neither can they prove that I don’t. I know that I know and that’s all there is to it. Intimacy with God works the same. By the same token, I don’t take every intimate interaction with my wife and make a doctrine of marriage out of it. Instead, I look to God’s word and compare myself, my experience and my marriage to His standard. Everything that is true, everything that matters is rooted in the fact that Jesus is the bridegroom and we are His bride. We expectantly await his return in faith with the hope that we will not be found naked Rev 16:15 and or without wedding garments Mat 22:11-14. We do so despite experiences and external circumstances not because of them. Tribulation, suffering, and persecution remain the only real guarantees for us in this age. Still, the promise of our blessed hope remains. Titus 2:13 I’m not about to make a doctrine out of my gold dust experience. And you shouldn’t use it to support or refute those of anyone else. Sound doctrine is derived from scripture alone. Still, if Jesus places His hand on your shoulder in a breeze, lights a bush on fire and speaks to you through it, or gifts you with a gold dust Matan while you wait, that’s great. I recommend receiving it the same way you are called to receive the James 1:1-4  joy of having your faith tested and with a clear understanding of its purpose. Don’t dismiss it, or worse – make it an idol of it as so many do. Just be grateful and receive His peace and the blessed assurance that He knows you. Then get back to the business of knowing Him more through His word, spending time in the secret place with Him so you can more fully obey Him, love Him and become more fully conformed to His image such that He knows you even more. 

In the end you might know this about God.  Others might know about that.  But none of us really know God until we know Him as the God of this and that.

Maranatha

Begin With The End In Mind

“A church that is not eschatologically focused is a negligent culture.” 

Nick Franks

I just finished reading 1 Samuel and all the corresponding Psalms. I find this to be one of the most fascinating stories in the Bible with mentorship being just one underlying theme beginning with that between Samuel and Eli. God used Eli to teach Samuel to discern His voice. Yet Eli’s life was a disaster. Ironically the first message Samuel received from God and was told to proclaim was that Eli and his family would be cut off and that no sacrifice could be offered for forgiveness.

When was the last time you heard a prophetic word like that?

Samuel went on to anoint and mentor Saul and finally David both of whom committed the most abominable sins.  Saul disobeyed God then made excuses to justify his actions. So God rejected him as King. Amazingly, Saul was more concerned with how people viewed him than he was about his status in the eyes of God. 1 Sam 15:30  He had zero interest in God’s ultimate plan beyond his own role in it.

David committed adultery with his friend’s wife then had him killed. His actions were not without consequences but God forgave him because he repented. Even so, a gentle displacement story did not work and David only repented when Nathan confronted him directly. 2 Samuel 12. Later David is mentioned by Paul in Acts 13 as “a man after God’s own heart.” and his faith is acknowledged in the Heb 11 Hall of Faith.

Eli and Saul not so much.

It occurs to me that I have had one or two Eli’s, a couple three David’s, and a whole slew of Saul’s for mentors since I first surrendered to Jesus. All of the Saul’s were gifted and charismatic men who exert tremendous influence over people in Jesus’s name. My immaturity magnetized me to become attached to them. Some were tremendous teachers. Others were gifted in prophecy and healing.  Still, others could raise financial support in ways reminiscent of Moses bringing forth water from a rock. A few of these men behaved in ways that would result in an immediate loss of following and financial support were people to witness what lay just behind the Man of God façade. As is so often case they fell into the trap where their purpose and livelihood became contingent upon their being honored by men rather than God.

That’s a lot of pressure.

More than one of these men was prone to dishonesty, childish, and even violent outbursts when things didn’t go their way. Still, the issue was not the improprieties that can always be forgiven but the prideful refusal to acknowledge the sin and repent. Each time we parted ways. I haven’t heard from any of them since. Though I am told one of them is still periodically asks if I am saying anything bad about him.

David is the model.

I will admit that having my belief and trust violated has at times tempted me to believe that God delivered these men into my hands by exposing them like He delivered  Saul onto David twice. Still, responding like David is my goal and it is not my right let alone my responsibility to expose them to the world. Hence, I will not be naming names. The relevant point that I am working toward is that Saul and all of these contemporary typological Saul’s had zero interest in eschatology. One of them loudly declared,

“Let me tell you something! I don’t give a rip about eschatology!!”

If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha. 1 Cor 16:22

I’ve written about Maranatha before, the Aramaic word that depending on how it is pronounced means Jesus has come – Jesus is coming. It brackets the Christian life and history as a whole.  All that occurs in the space between is ancillary to the truth maranatha represents. Furthermore, It is utterly impossible to comprehend the Bible and especially the the New Testament apart from an eschatological Maranatha focus.

This past Sunday I gave a message to the children and staff from our alma mater, the City of Refuge. I began with the question, “If you don’t know where you are going how will you get there?” It was a very brief, shoot from the hip outline of history beginning in Gen 3:15 with an emphasis on the origin, meaning and significance of Jesus’s reference to Himself as the Son of man and the culmination of human history in a wedding and the final declaration of victory in Rev 22:17.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

That said, it wasn’t teaching as much as a taste that hopefully inspired some to Acts 17:11 “Bereanhood”. The point that I hope everyone got is that Jesus’s declaration “It is finished!” does not mean everything is fulfilled.  The gospel of the kingdom will only be fulfilled in its entirety upon His return in accordance with Dan 7:13-14, Mat 24:30, Acts 1:11, 1Cor 15:50-58, etc. Until then the primary task at hand is the preparation of a spotless bride, otherwise known as the church. Those with an exclusive focus on “Jesus has come” are usually just selling cheap grace, fire insurance, and the false promise of “your best life now”. The true gospel is at its core future-oriented. Therefore all Christians are called to a solid eschatological orientation.

How do we do that?

We can start by resolving to not reinvent the wheel by repeating all of King Solomon’s lessons in the book of Ecclesiastes.  If you’ve never heard of King Solomon, he was the richest and wisest man in history. He experienced and possessed all the worldly things that a human being possibly could. Not because he was a hedonist. But because he sought the ultimate meaning and purpose of life. His conclusion? Nothing is new. Anything you think is new has already been done. Everything is meaningless including wisdom. But wisdom can save your life. Our only hope, meaning and purpose is to remember our Creator in the days of our youth, love God and keep His commandments.  This is the whole duty of man. 

“If you love me keep my commandments.”

– Jesus –

So what does that look like?

It certainly doesn’t mean a perfect adherence to 613 rules. If you are confused about this stop reading now and go to Eph 2 and Rom 7and 8. The Old Testament proves that fulfilling the law by ourselves is impossible. Jesus’s triumph on the cross frees us from that burden. That said, I submit that

the most concise daily plan for living in preparation for the wedding is outlined in Prov 3:5-8.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

As I explained to the kids, trusting in the Lord with all your heart rather than our own understanding means believing what God’s word says. It is our map. Of course, a map is useless if you don’t know how to read it. Believing means that regardless of how external circumstances look, Jesus not Satan has all authority in heaven and earth.  “It is finished!” means Satan is defeated. Whatever happens today is according to the will of God.  I explained that the devil did not shut the world down last year. God did. I said I believe it was a call to repentance that for the most part went unheeded. Trusting Him with all one’s heart means believing that everything that happens is advancing His kingdom toward its ultimate fulfillment in the eschaton. Rom 8:28 That final destination appears at the coordinates Rev 22:17. Hence Paul said we are to keep our eyes fixed on things above, not below. Col 3 Things above involve God’s plans.

Things below involve ours.

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths means not just giving lip service to His majesty but making the pursuit of an intimate relationship with Him our primary focus in every moment.  Intimacy “with” begins with knowledge “of”. This has been our aim in Honduras and we have testimony after testimony of Him guiding our steps and making our paths straight. It’s not that we don’t ever wrestle in our minds. Only that the repetition of this principle over time increasingly overrides our natural thinking especially in a life or death moment of truth. We used the landslide that destroyed our home as an example and explained how it has yielded so much spiritual and relational fruit in our community. I told them how people siphoning gas from our ministry vehicle had caused us to move it down the mountain less than 24 hours before the landslide.  That we have a ministry vehicle at all today is the fruit of stolen gas.

In case you didn’t know “All things” means all things. Rom 8:28

Be not wise in your own eyes; means we should avoid casting ourselves in the role of what Oswald Chambers called an “amateur providence”.  We are never to assume we have it all figured out, that we or anyone else is exclusively anointed to hear from God or that any spiritual gift overrides human frailty. Any ability we may have is contingent on our weakness and total dependence on Jesus apart from whom we can do NO-THING. The gifts may be without repentance. But our constant need for repentance remains.

But that is not a popular message to preach if for no other reason than it would require preachers to forfeit their dreams of pulpit stardom and repent in the presence of their followers. One of the most prophetic moments for me last year was when the previous Vice President sugar-coated 2 Chron 7:14  and omitted “from their wicked ways” during a MAGA rally prayer. That so many leaders fail or refuse to acknowledge the wickedness of our nation and instead declare our supreme righteousness before God is an assurance that we are a nation under God’s judgment.  That so many fail to understand how that could be, is a direct result of negligent church culture. There would be no fake prosperity gospel, CRT, or Qanon Christians if the church was eschatologically focused. If that were the case fear the LORD and turn away from evil” would apply and dominantly so. The fruit of an eschatological focus is always the fear of God. The fear of God births repentance and repentance, a further conformation to the image of Christ.

Acknowledging God means loving God. Loving God begins with learning everything we can about His character, history, ways, and plans to align our lives with Him and His end game.  Not loving God means being obsessed with MY self, MY history, MY opinions, MY ways, and especially MY goals and plans such that I imagine MY goals are his goals instead of making HIS goals mine. While the most blame will be assigned to those who teach, it does not absolve us as individuals of the responsibility to search the scriptures and studying ourselves approved. But don’t take my word for it. Be a Berean and check my work.

If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha. 1 Cor 16:22

Anathema means accursed. Accursed means going to hell

Begin with the end in mind.

Maranatha!

The Hammer and The Lamp

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” James 4:14

It’s been over five years since I’ve seen or heard from my old best friend Jason Oyler. Our lives were a wreck when we met and we surrendered to the Lord together in prison. Jason was my best man at our wedding and he lived with us for over a year. Today he’s in a coma for the second time following two back-to-back surfing incidents. I have no idea if he will ever read this let alone if I will have an opportunity to speak directly with him again. 

Jason in the white T-Shirt

As personalities go, I was and still am a hammer in a world of nails.  In contrast, Jason was a ten million lumen lamp that brightened the surroundings where ever he went. My attitude was and is like Paul’s in Lystra. Acts 14:19-20  Jason’s was one of “love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Pet 4:8. I would rant.  He would smile. I would argue. He would diffuse my intensity with a joke. 

I eventually became a school-based adolescent substance abuse counselor and then a clinical supervisor overseeing six schools on Kauai. Meanwhile, Jason became a journeyman carpenter, then a licensed contractor building million-dollar homes.  I only saw him twice during that time. Once when he needed advice on setting boundaries in his relationship. The next was when his first wife died. Other than that neither one of us had the time. That’s my excuse anyway.

I’ve always been good at boundaries. Boundaries are what made me a successful counselor.

The CHAIR

The chair was the secure and confidential place in my classroom at Kappa Middle School. It sat behind a partition next to my desk. It was a place where hundreds of hurting children poured out their hearts and souls. A place where I tried to impart hard-earned wisdom and prevent children from choosing paths that Jason and I barely survived.  There wasn’t an inch of the chair that didn’t have a name. Many of them faded through the years and were signed over. Naturally, their lack of concern for their own confidentiality was a function of their being children. They were transparent, naïve to the realities of future adult life and the façades required for success in that world.

Still, I am reminded as I write that Jesus made being childlike a prerequisite for Heaven.

Jason was always childlike. He’d have been a great adolescent counselor.

I was a good counselor because nothing ever freaked me out. I could listen to the most heart-wrenching stories, often horror stories, and remain calm, rational, and detached.  I lasted ten years in a field where most people burn out in less than two. I’d still be working there if I hadn’t left for the mission field.

“How do you stay so straightfaced Mr?” the kids would ask. 

I got even better at boundaries as time went on and more clients died. Clients who OD and commit suicide cause counselors to quit. Yet I even videoed one funeral for the family of a child with whom I’d worked closely for years. “How do you do that and not cry?” people asked. “I’m crying inside.” I replied.  I wasn’t lying. I remember the sheer number of people who showed up to grieve his death. I guess they were crying inside too. Still, I wondered, as his friends poignantly poured his ashes into the sea, where were all these people before he put that noose around his neck. Where they repenting now?

Intimacy

Intimacy is something I mention a lot. But the truth be told I suck at it. Not with God in my secret place.  I’ve got that down.  But with other people.  I can give the impression of intimacy because I care enough to read and listen to what people think, analyze it, ask questions, and explain exactly how and why I think it is or isn’t true. Yet I rarely go deep into the discomfort of bearing the burdens of others. I rely on Cathy to do that. When people like Jason move on and out of my life it never seems to bother me much.  If I am perfectly honest, one thing I liked most about counseling was that intimacy is forbidden. Most people require years of training in how to avoid it. Not me. I’d have an easier time getting beheaded than weeping with those who weep. And don’t offer me the “man” excuse and blame it on the society in which I was raised. Society has, in my opinion, already overdosed on estrogen and gender is just another excuse. It’s even easier to shut off my emotions in a crisis, call a spade a spade, or remain cool as ice during a disaster. Sure it’s handy if you’re staring down the barrel of a gun or surrounded by spear-wielding Shuar in the Amazon. People always said I was the one guy they would want with them if they were attacked in an alley. The thing is I cried when I heard about Jason and I’m choking back tears now. Only no one knows it, not even my wife. At least not until she read this. Like most people I have all sorts of reasons for being the way I am. You’d probably agree with most of them if I laid them all out. Still, it’s just an excuse.

Somewhere in the course of the trauma that Jesus guaranteed, I made a decision.

I chose to be who I am.

“For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.” Mat 25:3-7


Every sermon I have heard on these verses focused on the oil being representative of Holy Spirit. That may be true. Yet the purpose of a lamp is not to store oil. Lamps burn oil to shine light. Biblically speaking, light is representative of truth. I always imagined that “trimming their lamps” meant dimming them to preserve precious oil. However, trimming a lamp involves cutting away the tar and impurities from the wick and shaping it to reduce the smoke and soot that dims the glass and achieve the hottest, cleanest and brightest flame yielding the most light.

Light exposes what is hidden in darkness.

A lot of people are talking about the church today. Why is it so broken, divided, and powerless?  Why are there so many false gospels emerging in Jesus’s name and so many Christians deconstructing in the name of love? Why do so many millennials do “community” so well yet succumb to the most appalling and heretical theologies? The easy response is “because they were never taught.” Hence, I originally began writing and framing the problem based on the history and hypocrisy of the church, its burning of brethren at the stake in Jesus’s name before the Pilgrims sailed for Plymouth rock. I was going to focus on it’s railing against transgenderism today in defiance of Rom 2:1 while celebrating Ishtar, the god of the transgender movement with bunnies and painted eggs in Jesus’ name.  Not because I’m pro transgenderism in the church but because judgment must come first to the house of God. I was going to talk about repentance, that true repentance is rooted in the right belief. Right belief comes from studying oneself approved. True as that may be belief is also rooted in a divine revelation – of Holy spirit conviction. This is what gives us the right to become sons and daughters of the living God. Not knowledge derived from study alone. Interestingly the 5th Step of 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, a group that is marginalized by many evangelicals today and whose origins can be traced back to the Welsh revival in 1904, is perhaps one of the most biblically sound descriptions of repentance anywhere. After writing out a “fearless and searching moral inventory” of oneself in the 4th step, the 5th step that comes straight out of James 5:16 says that we must admit “to God, ourselves and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs”. Anyone who has done this knows the fear and humiliation that comes with reading every sin you can recollect to another. Ideally you trust the person to whom you confess based on the fact that they have undergone this same humiliating process themselves. Even more interesting is the statement in the Book Alcoholics Anonymous that one’s ultimate ability to abstain from alcohol in the future is contingent upon how thoroughly this step is done. This is consistent with 1 Cor 11:28-30 regarding our participation in Communion or the Lord’s Supper.

“A person should examine himself first, and in this way let him eat the bread and drink of the cup. For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself. That is why many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few are dead.”

Once again the light of the great Oiler, a.k.a. Holy Spirit is shining on me – exposing me, prompting me to repent.  That it was prompted by my friend Jason Oyler is perhaps the irony of God. When Jason left our home it was with a smile on his face and gratitude in his heart. I was mad. I thought we were going to build a ministry together. My pride was hurt and I felt betrayed.  Of course, I never told him how I felt and I certainly didn’t give him reason to believe I wanted to hear his heart. Deep down I knew he was tired of the incessant hammering. I don’t know if I will be able to confess my sin to him so I am confessing to all of you now.

I was selfish, self-centered, prideful and a really bad friend.

There’s a trail of people like Jason strewn in the wake of my laboring for God.

In case you are wondering I am not on the verge of deconstructing, or repenting for being a hammer. I’m just reflecting on why I am a hammer in the first place and maybe recounting the cost. There certainly is a place for not backing down, for not loving one’s life even onto death – especially today. The truth will always be a stumbling block to some. When I hear of celebrated theologians like Dr. Paul Maxwell and so many others who have publicly deconstructed and formally rejected Christianity, my initial reaction is “well I guess he never was one of us.” 1 John 2:19  That’s probably true. Still, I have to wonder. Am I just making excuses for being the way I am? After all, that love covers a multitude of sins especially when loving hurts is as much the truth that Paul wrote, we only “know in part” as is boldly declaring it while haters hurl stones.

Haters hurling stones is never proof in itself that one is right.

Being conformed to His image involves considering these things.

I know that God will show me as I continue to pray and ask Him to “search me” Psalm 139:23-24. Jason and I used to pray that together during Cleansing Stream seminars as we brought our filthy lives before the throne of grace in a more evangelically approved version of the 5th Step. I don’t necessarily agree with their theology now. But one thing is certain. They’ve got James 5:16 down

More truth be told, this past year has been an ongoing cleansing stream for us, a time of deep searching and repentance for both me and Cathy. And while it may not be a twenty six page catalogue of abominations like my first humiliation, it was none the less profound and in many way more powerful. I’m not talking about the typical “oh yeah I did that, sorry God” and move on entitled type of repentance. I’m talking about deep “Oh what a wretched man I am who will save me from this body of death!” repentance. The kind of repentance that makes the fear and humiliation of telling another human your dirt seem absurd. Many in the church believe it shouldn’t apply if you are truly saved. Yet I submit that it is evidence of sanctification and deep calling to deep. A divinely appointed encounter with Acts 2:43 “awe” that more correctly translates to TERROR like one experiences the first time in the ocean when your not a great swimmer, the tide pulls you out and your feet can’t touch bottom. Long story short God showed us where we had been apathetic toward His word in the past and redacted it to make it fit what we wanted it to say like getting married after both being divorced. No we are not going to go all legalistic and try to fix a sin with another sin by divorcing again. But don’t go trying to make excuses for us ether. The words of Jesus are the words of Jesus. It wasn’t as much the physical sins that can most easily be taken before the throne of grace, but rather the flippancy with which we had regarded parts of His word and His commands. It was the kind of repentance where we stood confidently clothed in the righteousness of Christ one minute and the fear of God was upon us in the next. It happened separately and months apart. On one hand, it was the most terrifying experience in which we didn’t know how we could go on. On the other, we were saddened when it’s intensity receded. I say receded because it is still working in us now. In my case, it was a clear view, and recognition of who God is and exactly what I look like in contrast with His Holiness and most importantly apart from the shed blood of Christ. I know it’s all the rage to worship a self-esteem-affirming God today. The “ME in him” God who “chases ME down and fights ’til I’m found” and who erases every bad feeling I might ever have about myself. But I’m not talking about a middle school giddy, glory cloud and gold dust blowing from air ducts to the beat of “No Longer Slaves” kind of encounter.  I am talking about a supernatural revelation of His holy severity without which His grace and love are impossible.  A 1 Cor 3:10-23 dross burning, Heb 12 shaking by the “consuming fire” who’s discipline we dare not refuse!

Exposure Time

Here’s the point. I can not claim to be a missionary let alone a minister of the gospel and not walk my talk. That’s why I’m sharing my faults instead of promoting a false image of super missionary moral perfection in pursuit of a celebrity pulpit. Transparency, confession, and repentance are foundational to not only our faith but our salvation. They are better modeled than preached.  And while I know my friend Jason will probably just smile because love never keeps a record of wrongs, I hope and pray I get the opportunity to repent to his face, to say I’m sorry for taking our friendship, our brotherhood in Christ for granted. I want him to know I am grateful for the lessons God taught me through him and is teaching me now. I know that “God causes all “things” to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” And while some might argue that those “things” are predestined by God. I can not help but wonder if some might be better if we made different choices along the way and didn’t feel so darn entitled to have God to clean up our mess.

Finally, if we are going to fix what is broken, weak and sick, and dead and bring hope and salvation to a rapidly dying world we have got to begin by dropping our façades. That starts with a concrete, real time practice of James 5:16.

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

And don’t tell me you don’t have a façade. That’s like smoking a cigarette then telling a former smoker you don’t smoke. Do we want the revival everyone has been praying for and prophesying for years? The only way it will happen is if we are broken before God and each other. And as much as I’d like to frame it in the context of “don’t do this – do that!” I don’t think what is required is going to come by the usual charismatic conjuring or knowledge or any other act of human will but only by the sovereign hand of the God who was crucified for our sin, was resurrected, predestined us for adoption and will judge us in eternity.

That said we can make our hearts willing and we can pray.

Lord let your holiness, severity and the fear of you fall. Shake us Lord. Burn off the dross and grant us the gift of repentance in Jesus’s name.

Please also keep my friend Jason in your prayers.

Maranatha!

Debasillicaize Yo Self

A brief convictional

Joe Biden has been in the Oval Office for more than a month now and doing everything we feared he would do as well as some things he promised that he wouldn’t. And to think he’s only getting started.  Our friends in Romania and those who escaped Venezuela are dumbfounded over American apathy and zeal as the seeds of Marxism sprout in the US.  Meanwhile, a substantial portion of Trump supporters continue to cling to a false prophetic hope that Donald Trump will still be president in 2021. I just read the latest QAnon prediction that March 4th is the new projected date. Jeremiah Johnson, the most repentant false prophet recently stated, in his video series entitled I Was Wrong“the charismatic prophetic movement is deeply sick.” Meanwhile, Trump apostle Johnny Enlow just issued a rebuke and warning to those who would dare criticize God’s prophets like himself.

In a previous post, I correlated the politicization of Christianity with the actions of Christians in Nazi Germany.

As it turns out it all may have started with Eusebius.

Eusebius was among other things the first Church Historian and possibly the unintentional founder of Christian Nationalism under Emperor Constantine.  As he wrote in The Life Of The Blessed Emperor Constantine,

“As the sun, when he rises upon the earth, liberally imparts his rays of light to all, so did Constantine, proceeding at early dawn from the imperial palace, and rising as it were with the heavenly luminary, impart the rays of his beneficence to all who came into his presence.”

Sound Familiar?

Constantine was the 1st Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity and suspend the persecution of the Church. That was a good thing. Eusebius loved Constantine. As it turns out Eusebius might have been Constantine’s, Paula White.

Previous to this the early Church met in homes even though many Jewish Christians also continued to attend synagogue. When Constantine converted he made Christianity the official state religion of Rome and the Church came out from the underground into the Basilicas.

Ironically, Basilicas were built for Emperor worship.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians,

“Awake ‘o sleeper and rise from the dead and Christ will give you light.” 

Light is symbolic of wisdom and truth.  Today we have a shortage of both. May I suggest that the current business at hand for the church should not be politics but rather prayer, study, and discussion regarding how the Church is going to be the Church if the current trajectory toward global Marxism continues? People have been talking about a return to the Acts 2 church for decades.

Maybe we need to be debasilicaized.

Maranatha

A Brief Convictional

Perhaps I would be more confused if I didn’t understand the deconstructive nature of the world view in which we are immersed. I do. I nearly succumbed to its current form when personal responsibility and resilience seemed beyond my grasp and I yearned for a scapegoat. 

This world view goes by many aliases and has its own contemporary vocabulary yet it is anything but new. Its author is offense.  Rebellions are its children.

Individuality is diluted via the assignment of a group designation. These designations usually end in “ist”,” ism”, “i” “an” um”, and “phobic”. “Er,” and “al” while less malignant are common too. Disagreement on any grounds always results in objectification and categorization for the purpose of immediate or future cancellation. Those who disagree are viewed as assailants with whom every discussion is a fight. Conformity to the consensus regarding justice is love. Those deemed unloving are identified and vilified. These are the haters who must be nullified and destroyed.  Pseudo intellectual mockery is the first line of attack then ad hominem assassination and censorship. Truth is subjective and the end always justifies the means. “Crybullying” and “lawfare” are the last resort before mob violence and murder.

This worldview has and does reshape culture such that identity becomes rooted in the fear of man and validation from peers instead of God and honoring the Imago Dei. Individual core beliefs, actions, accomplishments, and contributions to society are irrelevant especially if one’s ancestors ever thought or behaved in a way that opposes the current consensus. Truth requires they be erased from the annals of history.  Loving people never oppose truth. 

Personal validation is synonymous with social capital. Social capital is required to become an influencer.  Influencers have power. Power is established by the number of “intersectional” victim groups to which one can claim membership and or one’s demonstrated participation in the oppression of oppressors.  “Oppressor” is anyone who questions the group consensus. The consensus is established by those with power. 

Allies a.ka. “good people”  are those who demonstrate their conformity through repeated virtue signaling to peers and to those with power. This is the deepest expression of the aforementioned love.  Moral, mental, and emotional atrophy is its fruit.  Cultural decay and collapse soon follows. Historically speaking there have always been stronger, more resilient, and often a more violent cultures that seize the opportunity to rape, pillage, and plunder the remaining moral rot and weakness. Every ethnos, ideology, and culture has eventually succumbed to it.

Hence Isaiah wrote and Paul quoted, 

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

While I am certain that many will identify a particular person or group to which the above applies, every last one of us is complicit in our own demise. Therefore don’t look at your neighbor or the one whom you so despise. 

Look in the mirror and take the plank out of your eye. 

Maybe bear this in mind as the coming days and years unfold and any sense of personal autonomy and power erodes. The grace of God is available to all. Yet it is based on His conditions, not ours.  And while many will cry “no fair!” and “foul!”,  God judges nations. Not to punish or condemn the individuals within.  That day will come soon enough. It will be the day of the Lord. God judges nations to bring nations to their knees. He lets them remain until a collective cry is heard.

“Oh, what a wretched people we are! Who will save us from this body of death?”

People only eat when they are hungry.

Maranatha!

Choose Your Hill

The likely duration of the devastation in Honduras is just starting to sink in following our outreach last week. The sense of powerlessness we felt as we passed miles and miles of tarp cities along the way is hard to describe.

1 min video no script just footage.

Meanwhile, Josh fell hard off a ladder and injured his shoulder. His arm is in a sling.  If that weren’t enough our ministry vehicle has big issues and 

We are grounded for a few weeks.

What to do, what to do?…

I know. How about we catch up on the news.

Errant Epistemology

As usual, our world is in turmoil over worldviews and politics.  As always there are many on both sides of the political sewer stream who believe they know the truth. Yet apart from hands on daily experience the only thing any of us really know for sure is the content of what we have been told or shown via some form of media. Like it or not most of what we consume only skews reality.  As a media creator myself I know that some of that skewing is inevitable. Some is by design.

Inevitable causes result from the emphasis being determined by the creator. If you watch one of my videos you inevitably see what impacts me. I want you to see and feel what I see and feel. That’s why I’m creating it. The greater my passion the more my own biases pass through the lens of your perception, world view, and life experience. You then draw your own conclusions and pass them onto others. The process goes on ad Infinitum.

On some level, every media consumer becomes a co-errant creator.

Skewing by design is intentional and may be used to honor or dishonor the subject.

Anyone who has been interviewed by me knows that I cut errors. Any hesitation, confusion, cussing, stuttering, or farting is removed such that even the most awkward and nervous subject looks like a seamless orator. I do this both for the sake of time and honor. The dark side of this is that people can be made to say things they never said.  All it takes is a simple switching of camera angles and adding b-roll to cover spliced clips.  For example, I could ask you what you thought about cockroaches in one question and what you think about puppies in the next then splice the answer to the first question onto the second and walla!  You have been transformed from a clean person into a genocidal puppy killer. 

Yes, it’s really that easy.

Viewing is skewing

The diminishing attention span and patience of viewers as well as the accelerated speed at which people scroll through SM messages requires videos to be shorter and shorter.  Advertisers know they have no more than 5-15 seconds to hook you or you will scroll through their message on your device.  That’s why they allow you the “Skip Ad” option. As a result, billions of people make instant and completely subjective decisions regarding truth and the nature of reality everyday based on media titles and headlines like “Trump Invokes Insurection Act” alone.

You don’t have the wisest serpent in the den to discern where this might lead.

What is True?

Four years ago on New Year’s Eve, we were en-route back to Kauai from Africa where we had attended the Iris Global Harvest School of Missions.

Africa was paradigm-shifting, to say the least.  We saw what it means to really lay it all down for the sake of the gospel.  We learned that while miracles and projects happen and doctrinal differences always arise, mission work a.k.a. Christianity begins and ends with intimacy with God and stopping for the one in front of you

Thankfully it wasn’t until we returned that we heard the myriad controversies regarding Heidi Baker. Like any famous person she is enshrined by some and bedeviled by others. Suffice it to say that anyone who has not personally encountered her on the mission field should stop talking.

The same applies to Christians talking about anyone’s character whom we only know via the media. As it turns out I have been duped too. Allow me to be the first to repent of this.

The entire body of Christ is comprised of fallen, cracked pots.

How easy it is to forget the brokenness that drew us to Christ in the first place.  Still, the body of Christ has had challenges with discerning and holding onto truth from the start. One minute the Corinthians are on fire for the gospel. Then getting rebuked for sexual immorality in next. 1 Cor 5 On a good day we prophecy in part, know in part, and see in a glass darkly. Therefore everything we do must be grounded in a love for one another that we model before others. John 13:35  Otherwise we become loud dystopic clangs in an already dying world. 1 Cor 13:1

There’s a lot of clanging today

I don’t know about you but I can be pretty fiery. It doesn’t take a whole lot of media viewing to stoke my stupidity and expose my deficits in this area.

Part of the problem is that our society has become an ocean of normalized narcissism where personal opinions and significance have become idols and are monetized by Social Media. Yup being angry at someone because they disagree with the ALMIGHTY ME is narcissistic. Calling for revolution or civil war is psychotic. It may be coming soon thanks to the new religion of

Self-aggrandizement and maligning others in the temple of the smartphone.

“The Social Dilemma” is an absolute must for anyone who has ever asked questions like “How could anyone believe the Marxist driven Portland riots were a peaceful protest” or “How could any Christian support a Nazi white supremacist homophobic rapist like Donald Trump?”

The answer is scarier than you might imagine.

About two years ago I wrote Truth or Trump where I discussed what I learned during my old Forex trading days regarding how media manipulates markets and political narratives for profit. I concluded that political rage is destroying the witness of Christians. In the Anatomy of Deception, I covered the economic theory of Reflexivity and what George Soros termed the Fertile Fallacy and the Manipulative Function by which he determines reality. These also drive markets, public opinion, and behavior. That all of the aforementioned entities are working together to reform humanity in the forge of social media is- well… terrifying.

“The Social Dilemma” was a proverbial capstone.

God and Government – Fear Not

While there are all sorts of typological analogies that can be drawn from the Old Testament regarding kings and kingdoms, it is God who establishes both in accordance with His disposition toward nations. Our God-given rights can only be revoked by Him.

His disposition toward Israel in Habakkuk 1 and Jerimiah 19 looks very different from Isaiah 45.

Hence He established both Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus.

Those who assume God didn’t establish Joe Biden and stand ready to redo 1776 should consider the almost prophetic words of John Adams in a letter to the Massachusetts Militia on October 11, 1798.

“We shall have the Strongest Reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the People of America, once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practicing iniquity and extravagance; and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor frankness & sincerity while it is rioting in rapine and insolence: this Country will be the most miserable habitation in the World. Because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition revenge or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

The operative question here is; do the words, “moral and religious people” describe our nation today?

If that gets you thinking then you might be ready to read The Killing of Uncle Sam.  Whatever you might think of Dr. Rodney Howard Brown’s controversial theology, he is writing as a historian. It definitely lends perspective to the words “turn from their wicked ways” in 2 Chron 7:14

“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

The bibliography alone is worth twice the price of his book. 

Many of problems we face today are largely a result of our nation’s collective obsession with Netflix and sports instead of history, civics, and sound Bible exegesis.  That two generations increasingly view what amounts to neo-Marxism as compassionate Biblically sound doctrine is a reaping of what we have sown.

Today we are in a very precarious position.

Everyone is being gaslit.

Everyone needs to question their epistemology.

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s … thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal.” – Mark Twain –

Our desire for and self-proclaimed God-ordained entitlement to justice comfort and prosperity is the source of our undoing.  That’s the round about way of saying, “mammon kills!” Those are hard words but Jesus had hard words for those who should have known better. They are preserved for our edification.  He and the apostles preached and modeled a message of total surrender of everything but the gospel.  In the end, none but Judas backed down.  All were beaten and killed for preaching it.

They did so amidst the following political climate and under rulers whom they never once opposed on political grounds.

  • Herod Antipas imprisoned and beheaded John the Baptist in 28AD for criticizing his marriage.
  • In 37AD well known Caligula embarked on a reign of terror which included the execution of James and the imprisonment of Peter from which he miraculously escaped.
  • He was succeeded in 41AD by Claudius, who expelled all the Jews from Rome.
  • 62 AD saw Nero who blamed/set up Christians for the Great Fire of Rome in 64AD.  He is best known for burning Christians as human candles and sending them to their deaths in the amphitheater. Both Paul and Peter were executed by Nero in 66AD.  Nero committed suicide in 68AD and was succeeded by Vespasian, 69AD.
  • Titus destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD. He died in 81AD and was succeeded by his younger brother Domitian.
  • Domitian continued to persecute Christians because they wouldn’t worship the Roman gods or sacrifice to the Emperor.  He exiled the apostle John to the  island of Patmos in 89AD

The Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount define our rights.

Here are some more hard words.

The gospel is not a call to political change, comfort, prosperity or even justice in this life. The Gospel is a call to die.

There is a poignant scene in the passion of the Christ where Mary is seen clutching fists full of the earth as her son is being nailed to the cross.  She rises from her knees in conjunction with the soldiers pulling the cross into its vertical position then opens her fists to release the earth as the cross drops into the supporting hole. No one including the disciples understood what was happening until after the resurrection.  The very act that brought eternal hope to the world emptied all of them of any hope they had in it.

All of us must get to this point.

Cathy and I often wonder how we and others would react to the crucifixion of our King if it happened today.

I suspect many would be calling for revolution and civil war.

Rev 13:10 is clear.

There is a lesson for America there.

As for us our heart and our hill are best described in the words Cathy recently wrote to a friend.

Bringing Hope in a dying world is our heart cry. That Hope on a starving person’s death bed is longer lasting than any hot meal. Of course, a hot meal is good and important too. But knowing that when they leave this world, even if they are all alone, that Jesus’ arms are open and, ready to receive them into eternity with Him is all that will matter then. That said, our prayer request is that this message of Hope will cross the language barriers, that Holy Spirit is active and Jesus is glorified.  That we will continue to hear and be obedient to God’s leading and that

His will be done!”  

Now might be a good time to pause from climbing the summit of success and define the hill upon which you are willing to die.

Maranatha!