Thursday, December 22, 2011

The "Other Side"....

Interesting how deeply held attitudes are revealed at times. Seemingly innocent moments and conversations become the opportunity for some to reveal what is really in their heart....and not surprisingly, it doesn't match with what is on the face or facade of their life. Tuesday night we allowed our youngest to go to a friend's house for dinner, or so the invitation was. Supposedly the friend's father was not able to celebrate her birthday with her on Saturday, so they were going to have a little dinner celebration. Unfortunately for our youngest and her friend, this family is one who rose up in division with others at the church and has been the forefront dispenser of false teaching and doctrine, the high priestess of the cult resides there. We don't allow our youngest to attend their religious gatherings, because of the unscriptural basis of their "faith". This particular event, a birthday dinner, hardly seemed the source for any such distribution of rhetoric and drivel, so we said yes. 
About an hour after the event began, a phone call was received asking if our youngest could spend the night....praise God for discernment of my wife; she said no. Fast forward two hours till the pick up time...we pulled up in front of the house and lo and behold, a fair sized group of folks were in the house; every single one of which had joined together in rebellion and been the core of the division. We sent our middle girl up to the door to retrieve our youngest. As she knocked on the door, several voices called out, "hide the Bibles, someones at the door", followed by cynical laughter. The door opened and our girl put her head in and asked for the youngest. The puppet husband suddenly called out from his seat in the room, "either come in or go out, I don't want the door open", a reasonable request. Our middle girl, pulled her head back and stayed outside, closing the door. The man bellowed from his chair, "well, now we know for sure she has gone completely over to the other side"....more laughter then, "yeah, I said it loud so she could hear it". Well, as the two ladies entered our car and this was related to us, along with additional information from the youngest that this evening had NOT been a birthday celebration, but instead the high priestess's idea of a Hanukkah event, complete with  "true" stories of internet fueled garbage. The lighting of the Servant candle reduced to wanna-be jews, indulging in their lust driven religiousocity....well, as the song says, we won't be fooled again! Turns out it was not only their satanic inspired ceremony, but also a sleep over for some of the folks...not sure (& don't want to know what that meant). The evening that began with a lie (birthday dinner v. religious instruction) was interrupted by truth. The words that flowed out of one who had been cared for, taught and carried through great dilemmas repaid with deceit and scorn...reminds me of Proverbs 9:8, "Reprove not a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, he will love you".  What boiled up out of the heart, aimed at a 14 year old girl standing on the porch, was nothing more than the fruit of bitterness, envy and lust. 
The real truth of Hanukkah is not found in the divisive covens of demonically influenced rebellion, but rather the illumination of Jesus Christ in the darkest time in history and in the world. The dedication of a temple cleansed from the prophetic desecration and the Light of the World being born for the world to behold God's Redemption. Sadly, as John recounts in the Gospel the Holy Spirit penned through him, " He came unto His own, but His own received Him not...". Into darkness, with revealing light....a light rejected by many because their deeds were evil. 
A hard lesson for the youngest; a friendship lost because the father of her friend chose to use the children as pawns in a game he wants to play but I remember the instruction God has given in Titus 3:10-11, "Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned." and in Romans 16:17, "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them." And so it shall be!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ezekiel and Christmas Trees....

High upon the mountain side of our family property is a tree, that if you viewed it today, you would consider it to be ugly and certain to die. For one simple reason, it has no top. The uppermost tender part of this tree has been cut down and hauled away. Yet the root of the tree, still firmly fixed and deeply rooted, has not given up, but rather will produce another top to this tree of the same DNA and the same root. Three times now this process has been repeated and the top of the tree taken into our home for what will be certain death, in the fullness of time. The cutting off cannot be survived by man’s efforts, for despite all its beauty and tenderness it will certainly die. And yet in this series of events, a great and awesome spiritual truth is to be remembered.

Ezekiel 17 paints the picture for me, far better than I can. In verse 5, a human king has attempted to cut off the top of an evergreen tree and transplant it in his own land.  The process, flawed from the start, results in the death of the top and the fruit that followed it. But something awesome happens in verse 22. God says “I will also take of the highest branch and will set it, I will crop off from the top of his young twigs, a tender one…and will plant it”. The tree, still rooted produced a top, with a tender branch, from the right root and the right DNA. This is affirmed in Isaiah 11:1- a Rod and a Branch from the root of Jesse; Yes, David’s daddy and the line of the Messiah. God accomplishes something man could not, but He’s not done. For in Daniel 9:26, we find that this Branch that is so well described in the prophets, will be cut off. He will die; plain and simple. The tree, like the one I cut off will be carved into a rough, cruel cross and the Messiah would shed His blood for me there. For all His innocence, tenderness and the power of God, He will die because He chose to. And because He chose to die, God raised Him up and gave Him a Name that is above all names. In His resurrection, I have victory & eternal life; because of His birth, His life and His death I have an Advocate and Friend with me all the time.

At my house we will have an evergreen tree this Christmas. We won’t worship it or even honor it, but it will serve to remind us of the Savior who was born in Bethlehem just over 2000 years ago on that twenty fourth day of Kislev (our December), as given by Haggai the prophet of God. No celebration of His birth is complete without the reminder that His death would ultimately be required. The illustration was not devised by pagans, but by God Himself and handed to us by Ezekiel; Personally, I think God knew exactly what He was doing….and still does! Merry Christmas to all!! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Church of Philadelphia.....

I am often reminded while cruising through the Book of Revelations of the stark differences in the churches written to in chapters two and three. While in many different schools of interpretation, many different assessments have been made of these churches, there still is a pattern that arises when all seven are viewed together. This pattern often repeats itself in the course of a single church as well, and the deciding factor of where a church will remain, in respect to the description of the seven, will be decided by where the church keeps Christ. If Christ is the center, the love of loves and the focus of all worship, the church will remain without correction, with commendation and without condemnation. If Christ is let go of, all hell breaks loose....literally. I've observed that recently in our own experience we seem to have entered a time corresponding to that of the Church of Philadelphia. A small church with little strength, but remaining faithful against assault. Not the pressing persecution of the church at Smyrna, but still a constant battle pressed by a unique group of folks. These are described as those of the synagogue of Satan and further illustrated by their claim to be Jews, which they weren't. At the first glance it seems that this must be a rather easily identifiable group, running around with their SofS (Synagogue of Satan) vests on, lobbing stones of condemnation at the huddling pitiful group of holdout believers. Certainly this must be easy to recognize, but alas it is not that easy. The Scriptural teaching regarding Satan and his minions (or ministers as the passage goes) tells us that they appear as ministers of light. Shining beacons of "good" behavior and social "righteousness", yet underneath driven and identifiable by their works. (And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. 2 Cor. 11:14-15) Only thing missing? Christ, His Light and His Power! Now suddenly it is much easier to identify what is going on around the church at Philadelphia. There are those who, externally, look real good and nice, seem very religious and hold fast even to the practices of law and the Jewish feasts, but those are merely the reflection of the synagogue that they originate from. Their works will always give them away. Condemnation will always be their weapon of choice, for any of your choices that they don't like. It will not be enough for them to NOT celebrate Christ's Christmas, but they will HAVE to let all know that they not only don't do that, but anyone who does is pagan or religiously ignorant. They will ignore all that Christ has redeemed to live their lives in bondage, always reaching to bring others into that same bondage.  But note carefully the description in Revelations of those from this synagogue...they SAY they are, but are NOT. Not mere gentiles trying to become Jewish by practice, but trying to identify with God's chosen people for the purpose of promoting the master of their synagogue, Satan. One such member of this synagogue, practicing in the local area is well know for her adamant stance against any connection of Christ's birth to December, ignoring much of what Scripture teaches, choosing instead to follow the cult of the messi-venti-ussellites. These hold that any birthday celebration is pagan, any use of a tree for any purpose beyond firewood is pagan, any not liking what they teach are pagan and frankly all the churches and all the pastors not meeting with their group are pagan. So how do we know that they are not right? Easy, the works. The outgrowth of this cult group is loud condemnation of all outside themselves, filthy coarse speech among themselves and beyond, and a hypocritical stance on the education of their own. They feel that any time spent in the Word of God is dangerous while in the setting of the New Testament Local Church, preferring their own Nazarene Israelite (self declared) status. At the same time, they surrender their own children to the gods of this world in the educational arena for 40 hours a week. Youth group is off limits, but boy scouts is the way to go. Worshiping God in sincerity and truth, no bueno, but cooking up their own punk fueled remedy is okay. Yes, the door is open at the church of Philadelphia in Stirling and these of the synagogue of Satan will not shut it, because its key, the key of David, is held by Christ alone. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Not nice like old so & so....

Finally, after two months the reasons begin to trickle out why the latest ones left. Now the leaving wasn't unexpected, just troubling in its timing. After giving free use of the facilities for a family run nuptial event, spending a huge effort of energy and time to get things ready for them, they decide to leave. Unfortunately, on their way out they also decided to steal a few tables for good measure (& who knows what else). But now the reason has come to light...I'm not nice like someone else and don't just let the poor kids eat on Youth Group nights if they don't show up till after the teaching part. Now this "policy" perception on their part was influenced by the statement made to several habitual offenders (ie. kids who don't want to participate in the Youth Group activities, but wait till dinner time to come in and get a free meal) that if they wanted to eat they need to show up for the whole deal. This happens to be a policy practiced by most rescue missions (which I guess must not be nice either by these folk's standard) that I whole-heartedly agree with. Our commission is to GO TELL, not go feed. Jesus's demonstrated great compassion on a group of 5,000 people and fed them, AFTER they had been following Him for days....same with the 4,000. Social gospelist love the feedings (nothing wrong with feeding needy, lonely folks) but stop way short of sharing the Gospel, so as not to offend. Our church was commended recently by a habitual customer of the feedings; 6 days a week free lunch and 1 night free dinner. He was impressed that we would come down and feed them; something he doesn't need,  he just likes the company. Oh yeah, nope,  he's never found Jesus in a personal relationship there, just sure likes those church free meal programs. Anyway, compounding the troubling nature of this latest "offense" is the fact that NEVER did one child get turned away. Each time they showed up and asked for dinner, it was given to them along with a short explanation of what Grace is....and more importantly, WHO Grace is!! So if that's not nice....sorry, there is a swine pen somewhere you're probably heading back to any moment now. Bye, bye!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Beware the Judaizers!

Ever find yourself in a spot that you realize later you should have seen coming? Ever spend days, weeks and even years with folks to find out they are not who they appeared to be? Well, you're in good company!!
Paul interrupts a very encouraging letter to Philippi with a sudden, rather abrupt statement: "Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers". On its face value, in some small towns with an overwhelming (at times) population of canines, this may seem to be an appropriate warning. But further examination clearly reveals that the heart of this is pointed at the Judaizers of the day. But these were and are not restricted to the date and time of the Philippian letter, but still prevalent today in many places, including small towns with a plethora of canines.  They come in many packages: coy little, songwriting apostates; over exuberantly energetic mockers; massaging lawless builders, two faced judases and even rabbinical cloakers under the dominion of their Sara Silverstein promoting wives.  They work hard to draw, not from the lost, but from within the churches to build their followers. Taking to satiate their unsatisfied lust, using to crop up the house of sukkots and other huts, treading the Name and Grace of Jesus into the dirt for their internet fueled fantasies and religiousocity. Playing upon the innocence of those who long for social acceptance, providing a welcoming spirit as long as there is no debate of what is spoken or taught by the women driven their husbands. At the heart of the core members of these Judaizers is a woman led spiritual house in each case. Men who, like lost animals follow the every direction and speak the words prepared for them by the goddesses they serve. To beware of? Absolutely! There is a repetitive pattern in each case. The dependence on the Word of God is thrown out the door for dependence on the righteousness found in the law. But how can that be bad? Isn't the law of God good, one might ask. Absolutely, it is the best for doing exactly what God intended it to. Prove to man that you (man, woman, child) cannot, under any circumstances do of your own will and power, that which Christ would complete and fulfill in EVERY circumstance in His own power. That's why we KNOW we need a Savior! Paul makes this clear in the next few verses...all the righteousness found in the law is as rubbish (or in other words dung!). Measure it if you must, but the yardstick of measurement is Christ, pure and simple. No ifs, ands or buts, just Jesus! 
Speaking of Jesus....
Oh, yes I love to! And daily I find it a battle to focus on Him, because the efforts and energy of the judaizers draws hard upon the mind. They are so visible that to ignore them is not an option. To fight them, not a God option. To beware of them, absolutely the solution. To teach others the Word of God, always the best choice. I only pray that God will do to them according to their works, as Paul mentions regarding the actions of Alexander the coppersmith. May the division they have brought be held to their account. May the lives damaged by their lusts be restored by the power of God and be guarded from their attack. Beware the judaizers, my friends. They just might be headed your direction...or pastoring your local baptist church, or opening their own food/fun cult in your local neighborhood.
Speaking of neighborhoods....
Starting to look a lot like Christmas! Haggai the prophet three times lays out a day that will be a component of God's redemptive plan. A day in which God would set His choice as signet ring into the earth, to shake heaven and earth once more. That day? The 24th day of the nineth month (Kislev)....December 24th.  Yes, Christmas eve the birth of Christ! Thank You, Jesus!!  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Redeemed or Re-Condemned?

One of the seasonal frustrations brought to light at this time of year is observing the effects of false teachers on the muddled masses of unanchored "believers". Calling them quote, believers, unquote, because it is never quite sure whether the change of heart has happened or whether they just have put on an air of religiosity for the sake of their social environs. Under the devious direction of their wool clad wolfess, they proclaim all taboo and pagan that doesn't fit her rigid formula of religious observation. I find it rather short-sighted, foolish and perhaps even sinful to reduce the Redemption that Christ died for to a mere wisp of soul, forgetting that God's plan of redemption will include all creation. A new earth, a new heaven, enjoyment of all that God plans for eternity free from the condemnation of sin in the context of Romans 8:1. But these ignorant and foolish would rather surrender all to the power and domain of really defies logic. We must (according to the dictates of Mara) avoid bright "Christmas" lights, even though Christ is the Light of the World and has come to shine in the darkness of man's sin and depravity so that the glorious light of the Gospel might show forth. I think rather, we should turn all the lights our electrical circuits can handle to make a bold statement that we Will shine in the dark. The only drab, dark places are those who huddle in fear of Christmas, gifts, lights and decorated trees.
Speaking of trees...
It is high time to remember that it was only the curse of sin that brought the beauty of God's creation to be used by man in their pagan practices. It is, on the other hand, the Redemptive work of Christ that allows us to be more than conquerors...I raise a tree to honor the tree's Supreme Designer, Creator and Maintainer...Jesus!! When He was crucified, He was stripped to the bare, placed before all to be mocked and spat upon. When He returns, He will be adorned in unmistakable radiance and shall all His creation be returned to its former beauty or replaced. This tree in our house is a reminder and a proclamation of the victory Jesus made, while hanging on a stripped tree AND more importantly, it is a vivid reminder that He too will return with all enemies under His footstool!
Speaking of footstool...
Biblically, it seems to be a place where the honor is given that is due the one who rests His feet upon it. (Contrary to the model in my living room where my feet barely come to rest, before it is stolen to provide seating for the hungry, restless brood.) Just a passing observation, but all those who reduce the work of Christ on the cross to a mere passing fancy, or make common the Son of God, have a place reserved for them....UNDER the footstool. Till all enemies....hmm, not a place I'd like to test out. I will keep the Redemption of Christ foremost in my life, honoring and submitting to the One who paid the Ultimate price for me, kneeling before Him, worshiping Him alone, not the works that I can do to please God.
Speaking of pleasing God...
The most difficult way of life for a believer is total surrender to Christ. The attempt of some to live the "law" to please God is a cheap substitute for complete dependence upon Him. So much of what would seem to make my life easier (especially in matters related to putting these times behind us) are off limits, danger zones and hazardous to my walk in Christ...why?
Because He says so! Not because it is written in a series of "how to's", but because the presence of His Holy Spirit makes it plain that I must remain dependent on Him, even when it hurts.
Speaking of hurts...
Yeah, it does! Not bitterness, just pain. The constant pain of torn relationships, lost friendships and shared strivings gone....yep, it hurts. It is prodded and torn open anew oft, to my chagrin, by the deliberate avoidance of the former "friends". I know that ultimately and practically, God is in control. His reasons for what has happened will be made clear someday, but for now I must remain, as He always requires, dependent on Him. Of course, there is a choice....Condemnation. But after tasting and seeing that He is Good (& God)....I'm leaving the condemnation to those who seem to revel in it. Yes madam wolf, you may have your little flock of sheep to eat for the moment, but the price required of you in the end will be steep beyond measure. And Eeyore, for the part you've played in this much will be demanded in the final accounting! Judas and Jezebel, I're just doing what you do and I wasn't paying close enough attention to recognize and stop it before it got to this. I'm sorry for that!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Smell of Hot Chocolate and Pine Trees

Few other smells bring quite as much to mind as the above mentioned. Sitting next to a freshly cut and adorned tree, smelling the hot cocoa and whipped cream being slurped around me brings back many, many years of great memories. Although this year has not added as much to the good memory category as others have, this year is too worth being thankful for. Too often, it is easy to be lured into a state of "it must be okay, because nothing bad is happening", when in reality much is happening all the time. Those who have planted seeds of envy are carefully grooming these plants into maturity while the calm days of getting along go by. Those who are mainlining the addictive drug of bitterness cherish these quiet years of riding the hater's train without being revealed by the times of testing and the rough track of trials. But praise God for the trials, thank Him for the testing! What was years of apparent growth and striving together would have been even more devastating to realize years from now that it was all just a game played by many much better than I. Assuming dedication and hard work was a reflection of one mind (and that of Christ's) was foolish and in many ways reflected ignorance on my part. For it is explicitly clear from the Word that trials and testing are God's plan in refusing to allow us to travel His path in apathy and complacency. He looks for those who are His and the trials are the opportunities He takes to sort out the flock. The goats prove themselves to be rather handy at self identification, given the right circumstances. An open throat, a weak believer, a wounded soldier and the wolves will strike. Wolves, both slim and heavy, male and female but all with a common set aside the grace of Jesus Christ! Plenty is offered by them to satisfy the social seeking "quasi-believer", in activities and social feedings, but little will ever be required in the accountability department, unless you cross their line....and then  you will be accountable, destroyed and discarded. The truth found in Psalm 106 is oft repeated, from a moment of belief, they turn to their own ways and lust for their own tabernacle to serve in...God gives it to them, but also gives leanness to their souls. They will never sit content to go their own way, they will continually pull and drag others into their abyss. But without satisfaction! Eventually, they will turn to destroying and consuming each other, but unfortunately, many young and innocent believers will be hurt and damaged in the fray. So, bring on the trial, Lord. Continue the test and see if there be any wicked way in me. Cleanse me and I shall be whiter than snow, create in me a clean heart daily! Thank you, Jesus!
Speaking of Jesus!
Yes, I love to proclaim His Word. Every page is a treasure, every sentence a full, multi-course meal. Thank You for coming to this earth; thanks for being born in the manner you were without pretense or fanfare. Thanks for allowing us to celebrate this day of your birth on the 9th month and the 24th day, as prophesied by Haggai. Yep, this December will find me celebrating Jesus, nothing but Jesus and All Jesus!! The rest can keep their Hukkah Huts!!