So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,“The stone that the builders rejectedhas become the cornerstone,” and“A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined (appointed KJV) to do.1 Pet 2:7-8
Disobey is apeithéō– unbelief. Destined or appointed is títhēmi. In this context it means to make (or set) for one’s self or for one’s use, to set, fix establish, to set forth, to establish, ordain.
Wait! Some people were appointed to disobey?
That’s what it says.
Interestingly we don’t struggle as much with the idea of being chosen to be blameless.
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. Eph 1:4
Calvinists and Arminians will continue to debate until Jesus returns. Yet as we discussed in our previous post both scripture and quantum physics declare that creation is not as most of us perceive it to be. The more I study creation in the context of God’s word and science the more I feel like coining a new theological term called “Heisenbergism” after the quantum physicist Werner Heisenberg.
The moment you think you know, you don’t.
Only those rooted and built up in him and established in the faith…Col 2:7 will avoid being disturbed by the paradoxical goodness and severity of God. Rom 11:22 and
Paul speaks of the very same Jews in Romans 11 that Peter names as “appointed to disobey” in 1 Pet 2:7-8. These were the Pharisees and Sadducees who chose Barabas over Jesus Mat 27:15-26 and demanded that Jesus be crucified. These are the same Jews who deny their Jewish Messiah today. As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. Rom 11:28
I remember packing for our trip to Israel in 2018 and being so excited to meet our Jewish brethren whom we loved and supported as Americans and Christians. I was naive of course and I soon learned that many if not most orthodox Jews despised and even hated Christians. This was largely due to the failure of the church to be the church through the ages. Too often instead of provoking the Jews to jealousy, Rom 11:11 many believers remained silent and or were complicit in their persecution. It’s a strawman of course as you don’t judge a book by who reads it but by its author. Still, it’s an emotionally charged strawman.
There are a lot of interpretations of the role of the Jewish people in God’s kingdom. The belief spectrum goes from Judaizers who teach the strict observance of the Torah in Jesus’ name thus nullifying grace, Rom 11:6 to supersessionists who believe the gentile church superseded or replaced the Jews thereby nullifying God’s word regarding His irrevocable covenant with Israel. Rom 11:29Deut 5-6, Deut 28, Deut 29 The remainder of the Bible is the story of His goodness and severity, the wooing and discipline of His chosen albeit adulterous people to fulfill His covenant.
Afterward, the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.Hosea 3:5
As Romans 11 explains our being grafted in as Gentiles along the way is not because the Jews (the natural branches) are rejected or condemned and we Gentiles have taken their place. Rather it was part of His plan to keep His word from the start.
I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy,salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!Rom 11:11
You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.Rom 11:19-23
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:“The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”Rom 11-25-27Isaiah 59:20-21
Once again, speaking of the same Jews, Peter named in 1 Pet 2:7-8 Paul states, For God has committed (destined, appointed) them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. Rom 11:32
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?”
“Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?”
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.Rom 11:33-36
If that doesn’t bolster your faith in our sovereign God, then I don’t know what will.
It was during a Sunday service in 2003 or maybe 2004 when we first heard our pastor lift a teenage girl in prayer. Her name was Crystal. She’d been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. We became acquainted with her over the next decade as she frequented the same circle of believers. Much to her chagrin she always ended up the center of attention. I remember wondering if she felt like cancer had become her identity as people faithfully and fervently prayed for healing. While there were significant periods of remission, the cancer always returned.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”Rom 8:5-6
If there was one thing about Crystal that stood out most, it was a profound, almost palpable peace that seemed to envelop her. When I last saw her she was having horrific seizures several times a day. Yet, we never would have known it if she hadn’t told us herself. Maybe it was my imagination but her eyes only seemed to grow brighter as her life drew to a close. I remember the hospital room being filled with “persistent widows” praying for the miracle healing they just knew had to come. Ironically, Crystal was far more concerned with comforting them. There was something she wanted to share. Could it be that healing for the sake of healing alone is never the point, that there are deeper things, bigger things than mere physical health? But she was slow to speak and soft-spoken when she did. No one could hear her amidst the desperate invocations of the miraculous before visiting hours ended. I’m not being sarcastic. Surrendering to life’s end is hard for all involved even though the same natural end awaits us all. Very few truly embrace what the Bible says about this. I worked in nursing when I was young and used to care for the dying. They always had so much to impart as they shed the superficial layers of their lives. I really wanted to hear Crystal. I wanted people to embrace rather than just give lip service to the fact that “the world and everything in it is passing away.”1John 2:15-17 It was clear to me that
Cancer was Crystal’s ministry.
Everything she loved in and about the world had been repeatedly torn from her grasp. In truth, she was dying in every picture taken of her as an adult. The light and life in her eyes was a result of all the crushing and pressing that had transformed her into new wine. I could see that she yearned to pour it out. To be honest, I remember feeling angry…really angry! While people prayed for healing I prayed they would shut up and listen. Meanwhile, Crystal was patient, surrendered, desiring nothing. I remember looking into those crystal clear eyes – her head and body covered in praying hands. I wanted her to know that I shared her frustration. Instead, I saw Jesus staring back at me – convicting me of my petty anger and resentment.
Crystal died soonafter.
It may be my counseling background that has me viewing the current state of the world through the lens of Crystal and the five stages of grief through which every terminally ill patient must theoretically pass. They are denial, bargaining, anger, sadness, and finally acceptance. They speak for themselves. What is most relevant here is that these stages apply to all who dwell on the earth. I have observed that some people get stuck in one stage or another. Some form of emotional /spiritual illness often results. Today people are losing their sanity over the sudden recognition of their own mortality. It’s as if death didn’t exist before COVID. Similar to those who prayed for Crystal’s healing to the exclusion of all else, many are failing to embrace the reality that can only be seen amidst
True Trust and Surrender to God.
If you ask me COVID is just a symptom of a much deeper illness. People are desperately praying as I write, that God will heal our land. Yet the faith to which so many cling is really just denial. I’ve said many times, that as a nation, we are guilty of the same sins that resulted in God’s judgment of ancient Israel. He is judging us now. Still, many remain unable or unwilling to grasp the reality that individual justification is possible amidst God’s simultaneous judgment of a nation. Biblical illiteracy causes others to confuse God’s discipline with His wrath. Jeremiah 29 While people do everything in their power to cling to passing moments of bliss and preserve bliss’s beauty in its prime, it’s getting harder to deny that the world and especially the USA is in fact terminally ill. It has been for a very long time. Periodic lulls or remissions simply perpetuate the illusion that all is well. Meanwhile, God is speaking in and through the illness that he has no intention of healing. At least not in the way so many of us desire.
Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear and hear not: for they are a rebellious house. Eze 12:2
One thing seems certain. People will respond to what is coming in accordance with their respective stages of grief. Those in the denial and bargaining stages will continue to work and pray and cling to ideas and prophecies that a coming messianic POTUS will save the day. Meanwhile, the devil laughs, “Heads I win. Tails you lose”. Some will call for national repentance and like Jeremiah intercede on behalf of the nation. These often rail at unjust government as if we are righteous. But don’t expect to see Big Eva or any mega-church calling upon themselves to “turn from their wicked ways“. The fear of rejection is just too strong. Those in the anger stage may react foolishly and perhaps even violently while embracing a false belief in another 1776. Once again the devil flips a coin. “Heads he wins. Tails you lose.” Others will be so grieved that they become despondent. Some will even take their own lives. Still, others will step into Prov 3:5-8 driven acceptance and like Jesus in Gethsemane and perhaps Crystal on Kauai, walk-in Col 3:3 and James 1:2-4 knowing that “to live is Christ. To die is gain.” Phil 1:21. A place where worldly desire is seen for what it is and the only prayer that remains is
“Thy will, not mine be done”
By the way, this is a benchmark, not a platitude.
I didn’t know Crystal well enough to say when her transformation took place. I only saw the result. One thing is certain. She made peace with God and her own mortality long before I stood at her bedside. All she wanted was Jesus. And while she never had the time or opportunity for a husband, the crushing and pressing and suffering that was her life produced a new wine of grace and holiness becoming of a spotless bride. 2 Cor 11:2, Eph 5:27, Rev 19:7
A spotless bride, not a prosperous person or nation, was and is the ultimatepurposeof Jesus’s coming.
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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 endyou 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.
One thing that blocks knowledge and understanding is the narcissistic tendency among fallen humans to interpret the bible as being about them personally. While it most definitely was written for us, it was not written to, or about us. That can be a hard sell in the church of the eternal self.
Luke 15 contains three parables, the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. People tend to view each parable separately and then make all sorts of inferences, usually about themselves. Contemporary culture and songs like Reckless Love that glorify our self-assigned, inherent value in God’s eyes along with its adoption as a false biblical justification for social uprisings have made the parable of the Lost Sheep a recent favorite.
The cross is the only complete and genuine example of reckless love and it serves as proof that absolutely all lives matter to God. However, Luke 15 is not about individual significance or social justice.
In the parable of the lost sheep, the Shepard loses one out of ninety-nine sheep which amounts to one percent of his wealth. In the parable of the lost coin, the woman loses ten percent. Jesus clarifies that the lost sheep and the found coin both represent a sinner who repents, over whom Heaven rejoices. The earthly value is irrelevant as God rejoices equally over one percent as He does over ten.
In the parable of the prodigal son the father loses fifty percent of his wealth. In this case, his lazy, impatient, obstinate, disrespectful, ungrateful, and entitled son gets in his face and demands to receive what he deserves before his father dies. Long story short, his eventual repentance is the fruit of his receiving exactly what he deserves.
The point of all three parables is found in the character of the eldest son who sees himself as righteous and good and therefore more deserving of a fatted calf than his brother. The petty and carnally minded elder brother has zero understanding of his father’s heart let alone what is valuable. His twisted perception of righteousness is nothing more than the fruit of his own narcissism.
Luke 15 is a declaration and celebration of the value and importance of repentance. Viewing ourselves, as lost sheep, lost coins, or prodigal sons amidst our salvation and abundant blessings for which we all tend to be ungrateful at times only confirms our true condition as spoiled, self-righteous, and entitled children.
As for those who view the Parable of the Lost Sheep as representing an oppressed people group on whose behalf, they are divinely appointed to advocate and thereby cast themselves in the role of Shepard or Messiah; these are among the lost sheep whose repentance God desires. Of course, narcissism is blinding and Jesus warned there would be wolves in sheep’s clothing.
It would behoove all of us and especially those consumed with God’s love for themselves and those obsessed with social justice to remember that we are all born deserving absolutely nothing but death, and eternal torment in Hell. Our purpose on earth is to become righteous. Our only righteousness is the righteousness of Christ. Romans 3 Our only hope is in Christ and Him Crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2 And while justice is getting what one deserves, and mercy is not getting it; grace means getting what we do not deserve.
Our receiving it is contingent upon our recognition of our true condition.