Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ready, Set...Go!

Whether by day or night, whenever the cloud lifted they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in the camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out" Numbers 9:21-22 (NIV).

The Southern Baptist Convention International Missions Board's decision earlier this year raised a few eyebrows. Missionary candidates will no longer be rejected if they speak in tongues. Pentecostals, like myself, applauded the ruling. When any walls of separation within the Body of Christ come down, it is reason to rejoice.

In my opinion, the Church as a whole, finds change problematic. Adopting postures that resist new ideas and breakthroughs in science, technology and so forth has left the Church in the embarrassing position of being flat out wrong. The earth does really revolve around the sun.

The Church is also quick to dig in its heels concerning theological issues. To be very clear, it is important to know and adhere to the truth. It is just as important to be willing to consider the possibility that our present understanding of what is the truth may not be God's final say in the matter.

Not long ago Pentecostals were ostracized and even persecuted; their beliefs and practices were considered demonic. Once relegated to the other side of the tracks, Pentecostals are now front and center. What was considered heresy is now becoming mainstream and growing more and more in acceptance. What changed?

Perhaps the Church should take some clues from its Israelite forefathers; learn a lesson or two from its own book, the Bible - Cloud Following 101. In order to stay in sync with God, the Israelites could be certain of a few things:

1. They had to follow the cloud.
2. At any time, even for no apparent reason, the cloud  would move.
3. When breaking camp, the Israelites never knew their  new destination. They constantly adapted to different  circumstances, terrain, situations and so forth.
4. The cloud never checked with them to learn their  preferences nor to listen to their opinions.
5. The cloud didn't wait for stragglers or foot-draggers.

Just like the Israelites, believers individually and corporately need to maintain vigilance for God's movements. His agenda and timetable aren't open for discussion. He moves at will whether we like/understand/agree or not. We can be certain He'll lead us into virgin, unknown territory which we have no grid for. We must stay flexible and open-minded, willing to camp and not put down roots.

How about you? How have your beliefs changed overtime? How do you respond to issues deemed controversial? How much study/investigation do you give to matters outside of your comfort zone? Are you willing to move with God into the unknown?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Close Encounter of a Christmas Kind (and better than a movie)

"And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid." Luke 2:8 (emphasis mine).

Long, long ago in a Galilee far, far away a group of shepherds spent the evening minding their own business and tending their sheep. It was just another night, or so they thought. Without any advanced warning (or ticket sales) their quiet night in the field was suddenly interrupted by a heavenly visitor whose appearance set them reeling. Supernatural apparitions were for holy men and priests not lowly shepherds...or so one might suppose.

"Fear not!" the divine messenger proclaimed excitedly (easy for him to say). "I bring you good news, tidings of great joy for everyone." Good news to the shepherds would be that they'd live and not die because of this encounter. "There is born to you, in Bethlehem, a Savior who is Christ the Lord."

"A Savior? Did he really say what we thought I heard him say?" The shepherds whispered to each other daring not to interrupt the imposing creature before them. "Here's a sign for you. You'll find this baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." The angel's glow intensified as each word was spoken with increasing jubilation.

"Manger? Did he say manger? Still recovering from the shock of the angel's unexpected appearance, the men scrambled to make sense of this message. "What kind of Savior is born in a manger?" The promised Messiah was going to be royalty, not some poor peasant. The Messiah in a manger...preposterous.

Before they could completely compose themselves their lone visitor was surrounded by a host of others like himself and some more terrifying. Cherubim, burnished bronze in color, with four faces (lion, ox, eagle, man), eight hands and sixteen wings with two legs that looked like those of a calf flashed like lightning across the sky. Seraphim, who stand above the throne of God, and have the appearance of fiery, flying dragons flew through the air and joined the frenzy above. Creatures that looked like wheels within a wheel and covered with eyes followed the cherubim where they went. Other beings of various sizes, shapes and appearances joined the angel messenger's song:

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!"

It looked as if the sky had opened up and all of heaven had been emptied out for the purpose of making this special announcement.

Artists throughout the ages have tried to depict what this Close Encounter looked like. Often overlooked is the detail that the shepherds were extremely frightened by what they saw. We forget that when the Bible says there was a multitude of the heavenly host that comprised the angel choir that night, some of them don't look like our concept of an angel. These creatures are way more exotic and surreal than those produced by Hollywood.

The Bible says that after the angels left the shepherds collected themselves and decided to go and find this Savior born that night. The thought occurred to me. Did they do so because they didn't want to have to face this terrifying troop of heavenly messengers again? If a Cherub told you to, "Go!" do you really want to tell him that you didn't feel like it? Looks like they had something more important to consider than the red color of a coffee cup. Sorry, just had to add that in.

This past weekend the latest edition of Star Wars hit the theaters and was wildly successful. I must admit I haven't seen any of the movies and don't plan to break my streak. What occurred in the sky over Bethlehem that night would rival anything that CGI graphics and special effects can conceive. The angels' message has reached a greater audience than the most carefully crafted movie and has left individuals with more than temporary wonder and the aftertaste of hot buttered popcorn. Movies don't save the world but a baby born in a manger did and His arrival trumped Hollywood at its best.

Normally my blog postings are written months in advance, so to compose one on the fly is a break of tradition. I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed and Prosperous New Year. Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


"Do not be contaminated through any of these;  for through all these the nations that I expel before you became contaminated. The land became contaminated and I recalled its iniquity upon it; and the land disgorged its inhabitants." Lev. 18:24 (Tanach, Hebrew/English Old Testament)

Within the rules and regulations in Leviticus are fascinating tidbits of important information. Lev. 18:24, 28 and 20:22 warn about particular behaviors now becoming socially acceptable. Failure to avoid these actually contaminates the land which, in turn, can react violently to its inhabitants.

I don't think God spoke metaphorically here. The globe is littered with the ruins of past great civilizations who indulged in these practices. Some crumbled under the excesses their societies indulged in; others were completely wiped out by forces of nature. There were some that succumbed to a combination of both. Now they're just ancient history and piles of rubble. Paul addressed creation's predicament in the book of Romans.

"For the creation was subject to frustration, not by its own choice" Rom. 8:20 (NIV).

"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pain of childbirth, right up to the present time" Rom. 8:22 (NIV).

Adam's fall impacted more than our earth. Creation, the whole cosmos was affected and hasn't been right since then. God said that our behavior could become so repulsive to the land that it would vomit the inhabitants up out of it. The thought occurred to me. Could some natural disasters having nothing to do with "God's wrath" but are the land's reaction to our unacceptable lifestyles and practices?

Mature sons of God are mandated to fulfill God's original intent.

"...your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Matt. 6:10 (NIV).

Much of what society is willing to give a pass to today (and even in the past) can't be found in agreement with God's Word...ever. Designed to reflect Jesus, Christians have a serious responsibility for the earth and all creation. It's important to be environmentally conscious and wise, but according to Leviticus, that will only do so much. We can consistently recycle, search out and use green solutions and work to keep the environment free from pollutants, but unless there's a corresponding change of behavior, these efforts won't solve the real problem. Our job is to bring all of the cosmos back into alignment with God's original concept. It's a huge task and we have a big God Who has all the resources needed to accomplish this. Are we willing to grow up and do our part?

How about you? What do you think creation would look like if restored to pristine condition? What things on earth (like mosquitoes, roaches, spiders and so forth) might be completely different than the way we know them now? What are you willing to do in order to come to maturity as a son of God? How can you positively impact creation?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Alien Invasion

I must admit it. I watch Ancient Aliens. Is that a collective groan I hear? No, I'm not a UFO fanatic. The show is filmed around the world in places I've never heard of, been to and will probably never visit. Their stable of experts routinely attempt to explain spiritual matters in purely natural terms. It's disappointing when a commentator with theological training and background can't honestly and biblically explain the supernatural.

None of the experts profess first hand experience with the ancient astronauts or extra-terrestrials. Would they, along with most people be surprised to learn they meet and interact with aliens on a regular, daily basis?

"Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world..."
1 Peter 2:11.

You read that right. Peter called Christians aliens (it even says so in the Greek!). The world has been subjected to a constant alien invasion and occupation for over 2000 years. Who knew? Unfortunately, there is still a substantial portion of humanity who are unaware of the presence in their midst. Some that do know are often repelled by this.

Overwhelmingly on the broadcast, individuals who claim personal encounters with aliens have nothing positive to say about their experiences. They don't ever want to re-live them and would like nothing more than to be able to forget them entirely. I don't blame them. Dealing with fallen angels bent on your destruction would not engender warm fuzzy feelings and a desire for a repeat performance. It's sad that too often Christian leave unbelievers with this same aversion.

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword"
Matt. 10:34 (NIV).

Jesus made it very clear. He was going to and would always be a point of contention. His claims at Messiah-ship placed Him at odds with the religious hierarchy and divided society all the way down to the family unit. It's still that way today.

Destined to turn the world right side up, Jesus didn't resort to pickets, protests and so forth. He did drive money changers out of the Temple, but after all, it was His Father's house. On one occasion He completely eluded a group of townspeople desiring to throw Him off of a cliff. He never advocated the overthrow of the cruel, oppressive Roman government. He even admonished the Jews to pay their taxes to Rome. That point alone can get family members fighting.

Interaction with Jesus didn't produce fear or dread, just the opposite. Most, once they met Him, couldn't get enough and clamored for more. What did Jesus do that endeared Him to people regardless of His teachings that were so controversial?

"...God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went about doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him" Acts 10:38 (NIV).

There's the secret for a successful alien invasion and occupation: do good and heal all under the devil's power through one's intimate relationship with God. Make no mistake, there will be conflict. Jesus said so. What He didn't do was go out of His way to purposely enflame people. He didn't chase them down and publicly address their sin. He dealt with it, but never let it be a barrier between Himself and an individual. They always had the final say and He accepted their decision.

How about you? As a believer how can your alien status impact your interaction with the world around you? What measures do you take to insure that your words and actions are a direct result of God being in you? What types of difficulties/challenges do you experience in your host country? How can you employ Jesus' methodology more effectively?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


"Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, 'See that you don't tell anyone...'" Matt.8:4 (NIV).

Already a dead man walking, the outcast seized what might have been his one and only chance. Slipping into the crowd unannounced, he made his way to Jesus. Kneeling before the young rabbi, he voiced his request.

"Lord if you are willing, you can make me clean." Matthew 8:2 (NIV).

A shockwave reverberated though the throng...a leper! Fear of contamination swept over the people who checked themselves for even the slightest, inadvertent contact with the unclean man. Surely the rabbi would rebuke the scofflaw for his careless, lawless actions. To their astonishment Jesus did no such thing, instead He did the unthinkable.

"Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy" Matthew 8:3 (NIV).

Here was the perfect opportunity for Jesus to not only validate His ministry but to also raise His public profile. Instead, He squashed it. Rather that instigate a major public relations campaign, Jesus told the man to tell no one but the priests about his healing.

Media outlets and the internet routinely report miracles. Ministries promote healings and other miraculous events. In light of Jesus' action, are we missing something?

It's normal to be excited when God's power is demonstrated, especially when He works through us. Surely God's willingness to use us is proof of our great spiritual stature and maturity. We have arrived. Have we?

The publicity produced by the leper's healing negatively impacted Jesus' ministry.

"As a result, Jesus could not longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places, yet the people still came to him from everywhere" Mark 1:45 (NIV).

Our Lord knew the downside of fame and notoriety.

"Jesus answered, 'Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your full..." John 6:26 (NIV).

His ministry, reduced to a meal ticket, Jesus' effectiveness was severely impaired. At His arrest in the garden, He failed to emphasis His miracles as proof of His legitimacy.

"Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me" Mark 14:49 (NIV emphasis mine).

I am pro-miracles and would love to see more. Maybe we all would if they weren't used for P.R. purposes. Are we willing to work (emphasis work) miracles if only God, ourselves and the recipients know about them? Jesus was.

The working of miracles is a gift from God, that's the key. It isn't about us at all. Part of the labor necessary to work miracles may be the self-discipline required to direct people away from us and to God. Jesus willingly, "made himself nothing," Philippians 2:7 (NIV). Are we willing to do the same?

How about you? What's your position on miracles? If they're still for today, how should we conduct ourselves when that gift operates in our life? How could a low profile on our part, direct all the attention to God? How would this focus on Him encourage individuals to seek a more intimate relationship with God and not with any other special individual? Are you willing to be a nameless, faceless tool in the hands of God?