The Bible is a rare book which embraces its reader’s heart with love. It knows its reader and it receives its reader with the same knowing love Jesus had when he spoke in parables. Our heart’s deepest questions are not just answered, but they are loving accepted and left unanswered until our fears are laid to rest by the testimony of God’s faithfulness, and then we find that the answer isn’t just in the Bible, but the answer is out there seeking the questioner. The book is like its author: loving, truthful, humble, and wise. Through the book, the reader comes to know what the Author knows about the reader, and then invites and excites gratitude to the Author for how well the Author understands, searches out, and resolutely stretches out its arms and his hands to bring the willing heart into right relationship with Himself. When reading it, one wonders, is it a book or is it a person? The Bible is obviously a book of books, but the Author’s love and truth so saturate every page that the Word– the message, the thought, the meaning– of the book come alive in the heart– as alive in the heart as the Author of both the heart of the reader and of life itself. O that every student of the Bible would learn the Bible’s ways of embracing the heart of the reader with all its questions, doubts, and fears, and of showing them knowing love that invites them to be saved!
Is the earth rock solid?
There is fluid flame
In deep places below.
The rock is so good
It does not move
The world stands fast
Until rock breaks
The fire is so good
It only moves
The World expands
And shatters the rock
But lo the mystery:
Fire takes good stone
And forges it anew
As one solid piece
And from that solid piece
New life grows
And foundations are laid
For the time it is given
What is stone does not last
Unless fire melt it
What is fire cannot settle
What ignites if fire touches it
God is good: true and living
His word settles the future.
His word is ever breathing
Right now in your hearing.
Any “so-called” gospel that doesn’t bring the truth about the cross to bear in people’s lives will end in disappointment and disillusionment. The Gospel is basically call to die each day. Anyone who is not dying each day is not living the Gospel.
The Pastor who says “God has a wonderful plan for your life” yet falls into adultery, is one who has not crucified his old life, but is seeking God’s ‘wonderful plan’ for his old life. Such a man, even if he hasn’t yet fallen, will one day.
The church who says, “God wants you to be healthy and wealthy” is preaching faith without obedience. Jesus learned obedience by the things he suffered, and it is this obedience of faith that was the goal of Paul’s gospel in Romans 1 and 16.
The Gospel isn’t a sales pitch. It is to own your unworthiness, and to follow Christ’s trail which begins and ends each day with the laying down of one’s own life, so that Christ can live in them. This is a way to sum up Christianity: Owning your unworthiness, and trusting in God’s love by living like Jesus beginning and ending each day with laying down your own life so that Jesus can live in them.
The school which does not have a vision to see children grow up to give their lives for Jesus is not teaching the gospel. Upstanding moral human beings minus the cross still mean shallow and broken human beings who are the problem with the world.
The person who acts like he’s all together, not living in light of the cross, is living in a dream that will shatter one day. “He who loves his life will lose it.” Jesus said, “But who ever hates his life will keep it forever.” John 12:25
Any declaration that says, “Jesus suffered on the cross so you wouldn’t have to.” is fallacious and hazardously self-oriented. Jesus suffered on the cross to show people who didn’t know how to do it the right way.
“But there’s no happy endings
Not here and not now
This tale is all sorrows and woes
You dream that justice
And peace win the day,
But that’s not how the story goes” ~Nick Urata — Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events”
My response: What? Yes it is! Haven’t you heard the Gospel?
Cynic: Pipe Dream.
Me: How Love is the Supreme Ethic?
Cynic: Child’s Play.
Me: It wasn’t child’s play for Jesus who died on the Cross to make it so.
Cynic: Too long ago.
Me: *remembers Legend of Bagger Vance, where Matt Damon’s tells his beloved that their love life was “too long ago.” And the girl says, “No it wasn’t. It was just a moment ago.”
*Considers that this is the very reason for the Church today: to bring Christ’s death on the cross into the here and now. This is the message of the Lamb’s unsealed scroll in Revelation: the only thing that will bring repentance is when the impenitent world sees the followers of the lamb imitating the same loving sacrifice of the Lamb, giving their lives for others.
*Looking lovingly at the Cynic and says, “No. No it wasn’t. It was just a moment ago.”
In the famous The Tortoise and the Hare story, children are taught that slow and steady wins the race. I wish ministers were taught that fast and steady brings the burnout.
One sign that God’s servants are hooked up to a finite power source such as coffee, food, screen time, entertainment, hobbies, relationships, or the praise of men is burnout.
The Almighty power of God will never burnout, and its power outlet is found on the side of the wooden beams of Jesus’ own cross.
If you’re not carrying His cross, you are powerless. If you are not deriving your every sustainence from the Word of God, you have only pseudo-power. E. M. Bounds was right, prayer is where the power is, but that’s just because prayer brings a person into contact with the Almighty power of God. Only the humble will actually be strengthened by it though.
God is a Father, Lord, Friend, Priest, and the One who has borne everything you have carried; He knows. The guilt from burnout needs to be kept in the presence of God. It is mere pride which drives a man away from God out of guilt. Humble guilt runs to God, not from Him. If you can’t hear Him, then for His goodness sake run to Him. Leave every net behind!
If the shell that the body of Christ is wearing now–the exoskeleton of denominational Christianity which is only affordable in a pluralistic, materialistic, and person-centered culture like America–is tiring out the very soldiers who live to sustain it to the point where they are morally, spiritually, and societally compromised, then we either need better leaders or a better exoskeleton. I’ve got a feeling that God wants both.
A young mountain grew taller and taller. The rocks grew stronger and stronger. The mountain took its shape, and started oozing with lava out the sides. One part of the rock split from the pressure, and the weakness of the stone. Another part of the rock split with a burst of flame and lava, and so another rock sculpture was being formed. The wind and rain beat against the rocks, and lightning struck from stormy clouds, and some rocks broke from the mountain. Some rocks refused to bend and be consumed, and they were covered over by the new waves of the same lava which formed the whole mountain. The shape of the mountain now was becoming a monstrous mass of various peaks and crags, but no single mountainous shape.
Then, all of a sudden, up the original central shaft, a burst of fire exploded from the top of the mountain. It spewed such a mighty and rapturous noise of New Earth, that the sidelong peaks crumbled and fell inwards toward the center, and the lava from the top filled in the crags and shapes with its blessing, until at last, it stood: a mountain reaching the heavens, filling the whole earth.
Exodus 40:33–Thus Moses finished the work.
Explanation: In this passage, the LORD, Yahweh, God of Israel speaks to Moses and tells him, “Arrange everything in the Tabernacle just as I have instructed.” Vss. 1-15. Then in vss. 16-33 Moses does what the LORD says. Vs. 33 says, “Thus Moses Finished the work.” The amount of detail that went into Exodus 25-31 where the Tabernacle instructions are given, and then from Exodus 35-39 where the instructions are carried out sounds redundant in that they are so similar. And once “Moses had finished the work” then the glory of God filled the Tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting.
Principalization: There is a pattern to the spiritual principle of life which seems evident in multiple Scriptures– a natural order in which God works.
- In Genesis 2:7– When God made man, it said, he formed man out of the dust, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. And Man became a living soul.
- In Genesis 7:1-15– Noah did everything according to what God commanded, And in vs. 16, Yahweh closed the door of the ark behind him.
- In Genesis 14 and 15, it was after Abraham refused the reward of Sodom that God deepened His covenant relationship with him.
- In Joshua 1-6, God’s directions were followed precisely, and God miraculously brought down the walls of Jericho.
- In 1 Chronicles 28:11-19, the Temple instruction was passed from David to Solomon, and once the temple is completed in 2 Chronicles 7 the Glory of God comes down.
The order that seems to be shown in these passages is this:
- God gives a commandment.
- His servant obeys.
- His servant finishes the work.
- God’s glory and power show forth.
If there is any lack of even one of these first three elements the fourth cannot be. A complete obedience to the God who commands is the prerequisite for God’s glory and power showing forth.
Interrogation: In light of this pattern– First all on earth must be arranged; then Heaven comes down, the question I posit here is the same question Phineas’ wife asked in 1 Samuel 4:21 when she named her son after she heard the Ark of the Covenant was taken and Eli the High priest died:
Where is the glory?
In Exodus 40:38 the writer said, “Throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the LORD as on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.” If we are in a time of spiritual day, where is the cloud? If we are in a time of spiritual night, where is the fire?
If Jesus came to be Immanuel, God with us, and promised that he would never leave us or forsake us, where is the presence of God which shattered fortified walls? Where is the breath of life in the body of Christ? Where is the power from on high with which the first church was clothed in the upper room at Pentecost? Where are the tongues of flame that melted all languages barriers back into one people like before Babylon?
When I as a citizen of America attend the local assemblies here in my hometown of Ocala, FL my answer is this:
Wherever it is, it is not here.
My father once told me there is a very fine distinction between faith and presumption. I believe that in these passages I recognize that the difference between faith and presumption in the following stories:
In 1 Samuel, King Saul lost God’s precious anointing for Kingship, because he disobeyed God. Samuel rebuked him and said, “Has Yahweh as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of Yahweh? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For Rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.” Saul lacked faithful obedience.
In Isaiah 1, The Kingdom of Israel was mocking God by worshiping Him while living a disobedient life. God’s response was, “I hate your worship! Clean up yourselves!” and he gave them the key to their redemption in vs. 27. “Zion will be redeemed with Justice, and her repentant ones with righteousness.” What the people lacked in societal obedience, the Lord would restore them through their obedience.
In Matthew 9, Jesus ate with the tax collectors and sinners, and the Pharisees said, “How dare you?” But Jesus said, “Go learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.'” He then goes on to work Miraculous wonders in the community by raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead. What Jesus did have was the obedience, relationship, and love of His father.
From these examples, I can see that the difference between presumption and faith is something that combines righteousness, justice, love, and obedience together:
Humble devotion to God.
Exhortation: I weep with Paul as he recounts the scriptures, “There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.” Who has a heart after God? Who seeks Him, and Him alone? Who wishes only to know Him, yea still to be known by Him? Such a man will pursue The Lord with prayer. Such a man will refuse the bribe of the rich, such a man will despise public fame. Such a man will hate any allegiance or alliance with Evil. Such a man will often walk alone, yet not alone. Such a man will be poor in worldly esteem, but in Christ will know true contentment. God is looking for just one man who will seek Him. One man who will stay with Him. One man who will obey, who will follow, who will weep with Him, and rejoice with Him. One man who will do as he sees his father doing. One man. That’s all He needs. With such a man, the glory of God will rest in his heart, like a seed in the earth. With such a man, the power of God will work in his weakness. With such a man, the holy Spirit will smell of God on him, and he will be that aroma of life to life, and death to death.
Where is the glory? The hope of it is Christ in you.
I am overwhelmed by my study of the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16 to the point I am physically reacting to it. Translation is like playing chicken with God. After being blown away by His holiness, I recorded this cry of my heart, and I believe He wanted me to share it. So here it is. It is a fresh piano inspiration in Cm. “Be filled with the spirit . . . making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Ephesians 4
The more we feed on corruptible things
The more our bodies are broken down by it.
The more we feed on eternal things
The more our bodies are renewed by it.
I came to understand this, bless the Lord who is merciful and just, after a week where He gave me a specific directive, “No chocolate.” It wasn’t even words. It was merely a feeling deep within my spirit, as He was inviting me to follow his leading in a deeper non-verbal way. I thought of chocolate, and knew I was not to eat it. But what was weird was, I could eat it, and He said it was okay. The first day of school–Monday, I turned down a chocolate cupcake that was apparently “divine” according to all my other friends. The entire day, I ate no chocolate, no coffee, just ordinary food. And to celebrate the blessing of Monday, I ate chocolate. The next day, my hand and my arm were scraped up from a nasty fall, and I had one of the most chaotic chorus teaching days in my career. I ate a bit of chocolate each day for the next four days, and the week ended with a class of discouragement, and lethargy and longing for the weekend, and feeling dismal about my work.
I have been reading The Refiner’s Fire with my wife at night, and as we read last night, T. Austin-Sparks wrote:
“Dependency on the Lord is a governing and an abiding law of true spiritual power.”
Examples of this in practice involve feasting upon eternity at the cost of the material. Fasting serves this purpose. Silence, waiting, giving, sacrifice, all of these things exercise the heart to lay hold of what really matters, to avoid the snare of the empty corruptible resources of this world.
In common terms, have we not even seen that foods that are natural are full of nutrients, but the more they are processed by the devices of men, they are stripped of their nourishment? The life is the same way. If you feast on God, you will not only be satisfied, but even your hungry times will be hopeful. If you feast on the devices of man, you ingest the woeful product of man’s corruptibility, which more often than not works for a temporal and fleeting end, rather than a spiritual and eternal one.
Even now, on this day of rest, as I write this work, my body reels for more caffeine, but my heart is growing strong in its absence. Not because chocolate is any evil thing. It is merely temporal, but God has bound up eternity in the heart of humanity. This is why it is so true that, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” It is the breath and thought and person of God which sustains our souls for life.
The reason I feel I must publish this, is I see more and more the T-shirts with the cute slogan which helps us laugh at our Christianity translated through American Culture. “I can do all things with Christ . . . and Coffee.” I would laugh, but the matter is too grievous. I do not judge the practice of eating or drinking. I do not have that right. What I do judge is the proud display of Jesus + something else, as the basis for our life. To lean on anything at all beyond just Jesus, is the very spirit of idolatry which breathes corruption into our daily lives.
Do you not know the flesh wars against the spirit,
And that the spirit wars against the flesh?
What provision do you make for the flesh that you may fulfill it’s desires?
Do you caffeinate your body so it can function in a society based on too much work, noise, and business?
Isn’t the church called to more than that?
One of the hindrances to power in the church today, is that we do not know how to be utterly dependent on God.
We are afraid of what from ourselves or our possessions that would cost us.
Christ + Coffee is a house divided against itself. It cannot stand.
Do not be so simple as to think I’m really talking about Coffee as being an inherent evil. If you think so, I think you are looking for fault in what I say in order to preserve your own affection or dependence. And yet, why is it that the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians, “Do not be drunk with wine, which is dissipation, but be filled by the spirit.” I think we could have a modern translation of that, “Don’t live on coffee, which is dissipation, but be filled by the spirit!” “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.” If you are not feeling liberty in your life, I would suggest you are walking in something less than God’s spirit.
I have written this for myself. I sit here in a quiet place, waiting on the Lord. I step out on faith that the energy I do not have is supplied by God for what I need. And if I look to Coffee, it will let me down. If I look to chocolate, it will let me down. Time is too short, to live a dis-empowered spiritual life, because you have substituted holy joy for entertainment, and spiritual power for caffeinated power. Both will be tried by fire, and there will not be enough coffee to put out that fire. It is an all consuming fire. All that remains is what is of eternity. When your life is burned up before the presence of a Holy God who judges the living and the dead, how much will be burned up because it was based on coffee, and how much of it will survive the trial because it was based on nothing but Christ Himself?
Woe! Woe! Sadness heaped upon Gladness crushing it into the stony ground.
Augh! That ilksome response to the anguish of agony writhing in a locked furnace
Wretchedness! That so many are mutilated, and shredded, lacerated with lovelessness.
Wicked! Foul empty catastrophes slake scrimmages of scum cauterized by needles.
Is there not a way that this pain can be expressed?
Is there not enough words leading to this forbidden place
Where hearts are un-wound with tears and sighing.
Must the cry of the earth continue to rise thus: How LONG O Lord?!
Blessed is the poor in spirit, because he can see the emptiness of riches.
Blessed is the one the Lord sets apart for Himself, so he can see eternity.
Blessed is the man who looks into the Word to find He who spoke it.
Blessed is the man who feels on his back the weight of Jesus’ cross.
Still they kneel and feed mouths open eyes closed
Their tongues lapping up the slimy, milky stuff that numbs their minds.
They’re reeling like drunkards blind searching for drink in a dark place
There’re no lights that can open the eyes of the drowsy.
How much uncleanliness can a soul bear, before it threatens to extinguish?
Breathe real air, my people. Do not suffer the violation of your sacred lungs.
Plant your foot on solid ground, do not go on swimming out to sea.
The mast upon which you lie will support you until you toss and turn.
Why?! This evil trenches itself into the good earth of God’s making
And plants itself a worthless, fruitless, and pitifully mocking weed.
You who wish to authorize such weeds to grow,
Do you so eagerly wish to eat the grass like cattle?