Food for Thought.

We were headed to North West Arkansas to speak at a Feast of Tabernacles celebration last week when we encountered an annoying delay. I began writing this from a repair shop after hitting a mysterious toolbox on the highway at 75 mph and blowing out two tires. Cathy thought we were about to die when we hit. I was so laser-focused on preventing it that I didn’t have time to think or feel. Ironically only one of three repair shops in the area had two of the tires we needed. “It’s weird.” said the repair man. “We never have these tires.”

These were delivered this morning.

Six years overseas taught us a lot about abounding in being brought low, and the secret joy of trusting God in the face of adversity, and material lack. Phil 4:11-23 At the end of the day God always provides wherever He guides. Obedience according to His word is the ultimate protection. It might seem counterintuitive but living in abundance can be more confusing than living abased.

The illusion of security and permanence is so much thicker in the still prosperous first world. 

The stark contrast between where we live now versus where we spent the previous six years is almost surreal at times.

Like Honduras, most people scrounge just to survive in most of the world today. Meanwhile, here in the US, people vie for significance and the illusory “next level”. We buy cars and houses and fill them with stuff. We plan vacations and extended vacations called retirement as if tomorrow were promised. Prov 27:1  To question any part of it amounts to swimming upstream against rapids. It’s so much easier and more pleasant to simply go with the flow and be liked by one’s fellow floaters. Otherwise, we’d embrace the truth that most first-world goals are faith’s counterfeit. Little green papers representing debt are not our provider. Insurance policies are not our protectors.

We Americans are an idolatrous bunch.

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

In a word, we are distracted. We are distracted by our pursuit of material gain. We are distracted by a fear that we do not share enough of our stuff. We are distracted by the threat of losing it. We are distracted by conflict revolving around one group trying to take another group’s stuff. We are distracted by the pressure to take sides. Distraction is the enemy’s primary strategy in the West. I am convinced that part of God’s purpose in sending me overseas was to show me my own level of distraction. In Honduras, I found distraction in my desire to repair the vapor and the sense of purpose I gained from the illusion of thinking I did. We will never fix poverty this side of Jesus’s return. John 12:1-8

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village, and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at  Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Distract (cumbered) is perispáō to draw away, distract to be over-occupied, too busy, about a thing

It’s no coincidence that Israel was attacked on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Whether or not this is the beginning of the prophesied Psalm 83 war, the Ezekiel 38-39 war, or the continuation of the setting of the stage, no human being knows. I would say maybe keep your eye out for Isaiah 17:1. What we do know is that the pressure to align with a side in support of one group killing the other is strong. As believers, we must remember that Jesus died so that all might be saved. His kingdom is not of this world. We weep for Israel and Palestine, Ukraine and Russia alike. In any case, birth pain wars and rumors of wars Mat 24:6 remain a sign of the times. Jesus’ instruction regarding our response remains the same.

see that ye be not troubled:…

for all these things MUST come to pass, but the end is not yet.

Even so, many confuse willful ignorance with faith. Mat 16:3

Now is a the time to be sober minded.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1Pet 5:8

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.1 Pet 1:13

Sober is Nepho – discreet, to watch, to be calm, and collected in spirit to be temperate, dispassionate, circumspect.

One thing is certain. There will be unexpected obstacles in the road ahead that none of us can or will anticipate. Others are prophetically described in scripture provided we know scripture. 2 Tim 2:7-15 Therefore consider that both Grace and Joy are the same root – Cháris in Greek. Then examine where your hope lies.

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling Phil 2:12

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalms 139:23-24

Do not be distracted or troubled.

For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Phil 2:13


Intimacy and Holy Fear

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 1 Pet 1:17-19

In his first apology (defense) of Christianity, Justin Maryter offered theological arguments and cited the superior moral conduct of Christians to convince the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius to cease from persecuting the Church.  Of course, he and several of his students were beheaded in 166 AD. The point is that in times past the conduct of the church was regarded as proof of God’s truth. James 1:22-25

You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly, you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. 2 Cor 3:2-3

The early church lived in the reality of Rev 12:11 to which many are and will be called to walk out today.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony,

and they did not love their lives to the death.

Our Pakistani friends Pastors Ammir and Tariq in Pakistan awaken each day with a resolve to continue preaching “even if they cut (off) our heads”. Meanwhile, a lot of us can’t even resolve to cut off the TV.

The Holiness to which we are called beginning in 1 Pet1:15 is not an emotion-based call to conform to a cultural consensus but rather to be cultural nonconformists Rom 12:1-2 conformed to the image of His son. Rom 8:29  Still, many will quote Paul in 1 Cor 9 I became all things to all men… (vs.21) as a means of justifying their conformity to culture. Becoming all things to all men does not mean we compromise. It means we empathize. We do so in the context of anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 1 Cor 10:12 Paul’s conclusion clarifies the context for his previous statements.

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

So often we become all things to all men as a result of our fear of man. Is it because we want to avoid the responsibility of confronting sin? Eph 5:11 Are we afraid of offending others? 1 Pet 2:7-8   Are we afraid of being judged as being judgemental? 1 Cor 2:15   Are we afraid of persecution? 1 Tim 3:22 We may accomplish it “by speaking in Love”. Is all of this just code and a cover for “I need people to like me”?

The only way to pursue Holiness is to fear God more than man.

Hence Peter exhorts us to conduct (ourselves) with fear throughout the time of (our) exile… FEAR is phóbos, the Greek word from which the English word Phobia is derived. It means fear, dread, terror, that which strikes terror. It also means reverence for one’s husband. Our favorite analogy is the fear of the ocean that we learned in Hawaii. On one hand, the sea is a source of life without which there would be no life on Earth. Yet it will kill you deader than a hammer if you don’t fear its power. I’m not talking about the watered-down fear that we call awe. I’m talking about the sheer terror that comes with getting caught in a rip current in six-foot surf.

It is impossible to comprehend Holiness – hágios and qodesh apart from Heb 12:28-29 and Rev 19:12-16. Jesus is not a mushy-gushy Jesus who died for our soulish emotions to align with our contemporary definitions of love. He is the strongest toughest most long-suffering Son of God who loves us and died for us in spite of us Eph 2:1-10. He saved us from the wrath of the Father that we deserved. Eph 2:3  Not because we were wonderful and, cuddly. We were dead. Eph 2:1 God saved us because of who He is, because – He could not violate HIS own character and nature. One day He will return to wreak eternal havoc upon all who deny Him. 1 Pet:4:18-19, Isa 24, 2 Pet 3 If we fail to understand this and insist on putting the proverbial “cart before the horse” and make His salvation Psalm 51 more about us than Him we will soon find ourselves drowning in a sea of narcissism otherwise known as the contemporary culture of those striving to be seen, heard and loved. Why do we so need to be seen, heard, loved, and affirmed by others if indeed,

Jesus is enough?

That said, there are several ways we can deny Him. 1 Tim 2:12, Mark 16:16, Gal 1:8-9, Mat 7:21-23. I realize there are “fire and brimstone” denominations at which we charismatics shudder, cringe and are offended because they allegedly negate the power of Holy Spirit. At best they give lip service to the compassionate, gentle miracle-working, power of our Savior. This is not a legalistic call to obsess over hell.  Even so, many charismatic believers reject the Holy whip-making, temple-clearing, sword-wielding “consuming fire” God who demands sobriety, obedience, and holiness manifested in the transformation of our characters. God couldn’t care less about raised hands and loud exclamations during corporate worship when our daily conduct is corrupt. Isa 29, Mark 7  I am mentioning it here because personal holiness is impossible apart from beholding both the kindness and severity of God. Rom 11:22

This is the fear of God that produces Holiness. 2 Cor 7:1

There is a profound and deeply disturbing misunderstanding in the contemporary charismatic church that intimacy with God is produced by emotion – that if we are emotional with God He will know us. Mat 7:21-23  It’s not that God doesn’t care how we feel. Psalm 51:17 However, true intimacy with the Lord is only found in our abiding in Him. Abiding looks like obedience. John 15 

We learn to obey by pursuing Holiness.

1 Samuel 15 is one of the most poignant chapters in the Bible. It is a clear type and shadow of our problem with Holiness today.

God orders King Saul to destroy the Amalekites.

Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel, and donkey…But Saul and the people spared (King) Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.

Like so many today, Saul rationalized His disobedience with the excuse that he intended to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. To which Samuel replies, obedience is better than sacrifice and listening better than the fat of rams. He equates rebellion with the sin of witchcraft and presumption with idolatry.

Then God rejects Saul

At the end of the chapter, we find Saul admitting his sin. Yet his primary concern is that Samuel returns with him to honor him before people.

And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me,

that I may bow before the Lord YOUR God.” 

Can you think of a time when you sought to please man instead of God?

When was the last time that another believer made a declaration or a truth claim that is nowhere to be found in scripture, or worse, blatantly contradicts God’s Word and we said nothing? When was the last time we witnessed blatant sin in the church and said nothing? 1 Pet 4:17 When was the last time we saw a brother or a sister heading for a proverbial cliff and we failed to warn them?

How often is our “speaking in love” just a cover for the fear of man?

Fear of man always enables or produces sin.

Fear of God produces holiness, and holiness – Intimacy.

The pursuit of intimacy apart from obedience and holiness is of the flesh and mocks God. Gal 6:7-8

Therefore conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile here on earth. You are a sojourner – a stranger here. Heb 11:13  For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. James 4:14