Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How are we led by the Spirit? And how does that intersect with the Word?

There is a confusing position among some, that there is either obeying 'only God's word.' Those who don't are in effect 'running around with a divining rod' by listening to interior whispers, engaging in mystical practices, and elevating personal experience as equal to the word.

I agree that the holy word is the only benchmark by which we determine truth, walk in the world, and follow Christ. It is the sole inspiration for all we are and all we do.

Before I go on, I want to mention that I am fully aware that this kind of blog entry, an interior musing ripped open to the world, peppering myself with questions and meanderings, also exposes me to misunderstanding. So be it.

I'm puzzled by how far to take the strict stance of "only God's word." Stay with me.

Are we not convicted? Are we not led? Are we not burdened for people? I have pondered for a long time, the way that the Holy Spirit helps us. We know He indwells, and He is inside us. He is part of our biology. He transforms our mind and the mind is where the battle is. Many scriptures present these things as fact. So how does the Spirit transform us from craven, evil-thinking people into wholesome people with holy desires? Where does He begin and I leave off?

I am thinking of the how. I am strict on being in submission to the word, but then again, the word becomes absorbed in us and since it is living and active, we do have an inward experience. How does it all work?

In an example, there was a woman at church at Christmas, she was giving out five little bags of homemade jam to her friends and then she came over and gave me one also. I was amazed. I didn't have any relationship with her to speak of. The small act of surprising generosity touched me deeply and kept her on my mind for 6 months. Our relationship didn't really change but there was this jar of jam in my fridge and every time I used it I thought of her.

Well 6 months later we were talking about the jam. It came up because our relationship had blossomed by then in an unexpected way and for an unusual reason. I related to her how the gift affected me in such a good way. She said that it was funny, that when she had prayed, she felt strongly that she should give me one of the few jars, even though she didn't know me really well either. We didn't know that our relationship would turn to friendship months later, but the Spirit did. We both identified the jam as the beginning even though it took 6 months to start. Her gift was consistent with the bible, because we are supposed to give, but she had only five, so as to who to give her gift to, she felt led by the Spirit that it should be me. I believe that is where the intersection of the bible and the inward experience of the Spirit intersect.

I completely believe that the Spirit leads us in this way. Romans 8:14 says "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." So...HOW does He lead us? I believe He does this by putting thoughts into our mind, burdens on our heart ... the fear of God into our knees.

Now, here is the difference, in my opinion, between 'word of God only' and 'divining rod Christianity'.

First of all, I don't wait for a sign. I do what the bible says to do: love my neighbor, give to widows and orphans, meet needs, help others. But in the specifics, when I 'get a burden' to do something to help a certain person, I pray and seek wisdom from the word. It could be a worthless personal desire, after all. For example some Sundays I get a strong feeling to stay home. I feel burdened that this is what I should do. But I don't listen to that (most times, lol) because I know the bible says not to give up meeting regularly. The 'burden' or 'thought laid on my heart' was not consistent with the bible and would not be edifying to Jesus.

But if it is consistent with the word then I go forward. Our pastor who is also a counselor said last Sunday that there are couples who seek divorce for non-biblical reasons, and use the Spirit as their justification. "I felt the Spirit leading me into this divorce because He wants me to be happy." Pastor said, "This is a lie. The Spirit does not lead you away from Christ and His commands but toward them." So it is dangerous to be led by feelings.

The issue is, where does He begin and I leave off? He is inside me, after all, transforming my mind, instilling wholesome desires, and convicting me of my sins. This is an inward experience. It isn't divining rod experience, but it is a legitimate inward experience that the Spirit is prompting me to help this person in particular. After all, I can't help every widow in the county, it isn't feasible.

But it's important to check- is this act that I feel burdened to do, or say, or even think, consistent with the word? If no then it stops right there. If yes, then I go forward.

Now here is the intersection of Providence. I work in a fairly impoverished community in GA where there are many needy kids. Many are "orphans" in the sense that they are in foster care, or have only one parent due to illegitimacy or jail issues, abandoned and living with an exhausted grandma, or simply are in desperate need. There are 600 kids at our school and many thousands in the county. There are many single women here too, widows through death, abandonment (divorce) or simply are single and struggling. So the bible commands me to help orphans and widows. Can or should I help ALL of them? No, that's impossible. Even Bill Gates with all his money can't help every malaria patient in Africa, even though he is trying. That's social justice.

The bible says to help. So how do I know who to help and when? The ones the Spirit leads me to. The ones where if I know of a need, I meet that need. If there is a widow in my sphere of church or work, the bible says to meet their needs. Same with orphans. If there is a widow or orphan within my reach that I don't know about, I trust Providence to send people into her life to help her. Can I help every orphan in the school? No that is impossible. I help the ones whom the Spirit has sent me in the sphere in which He has planted me. I do my part to stay alert to needs and really listen and pray for opportunities. He makes me aware of them when they come along.

I have a range and a sphere and gifts. Thus equipped, I live out my faith. That's it, it is simple. Just do what the bible says and listen for needs and act according to what the bible says we do. There is nothing mystical. Just Christian life. :)

This is kind of a crude visual but think of a dog chained to a stake. There is another dog chained other there. His leash is longer than mine, he has more range (more means, wider sphere). So the Spirit has planted me here, and sent people into my life and me into theirs. My job as a Christian is to be alert and aware of needs, listen for them, pray for opportunities to witness for Jesus through them. I can only submit, know that the Bible's commands urge me to do, and listen to the leading of the Spirit as part of that living and active word to work out my salvation in fear and trembling within the range He has planted me and with the means He has sent me. For example, I don't have a lot of money but He has given me a job where I have a lot of time. That is means. I can't help everybody or interact with everybody or witness to everybody in the world or the nation or the county but the Spirit leads me within my sphere. Providence takes care of the rest.

Back to Romans 8:14 and being led by the Spirit. Pulpit Commentary remarks on the Christian's 'inward experience.'

"In verse 14 is introduced a further ground for the assertion in ver. 13, the felt sonship to God of those who have so received his Spirit as to be led (i.e. practically actuated) by it. We say "felt" because, though in this verse the sonship is alleged as a fact, yet, in the following verses (15,16) the inward experience of true Christians is appealed to as evidence of such sonship."

I liked their phrase 'practically actuated'. The actuation is my prayer and reading the word and submission. His is the enactment of ability and transformation of mind through knowledge of the word and practical actions with the word as the basis. I'll never know where the two meet but I think it is important not to discount that there is the other half of the sanctification process where the word becomes actualized by an inward experience we can't really explain.

I think the preachers we listen to who are so strict on this should be. It is charismania out there. People take this delicate balance of inward leading versus word of God to heretical extremes. Give them an inch and they take a mile. They wait to do anything at all because they 'don't feel led'. They proclaim private prophecies upon people. They use this inward leading or burden thing as an excuse to be busybodies, the opposite of the paralyzed Christian who fails to work out their salvation because they are still waiting to be led and too scared to make a move without a sign. Worse, they don't do anything until they "feel a peace about it' which is one of the stupider things I hear the people say.

Gill's Exposition explains the Romans 8 verse this way

"the Spirit of God leads them from sin, and from a dependence on their own righteousness, in paths they formerly knew not, and in which they should go, in the paths of faith and truth, of righteousness and holiness, and in a right, though sometimes a rough way; he leads them to the person, blood, and righteousness of Christ, and to the fulness of grace in him; into the presence of God, to the house and ordinances of God; into the truths of the Gospel, from one degree of grace to another, and at last to glory; which he does gradually, by little and little he leads them to see the iniquity of their hearts and natures, to lay hold on Christ and salvation by him, into the doctrines of grace, and the love and favour of God, and proportionally to the strength he gives:"

So it is ridiculous to deny that there is an inward experience. There is. But we needn't worry if we are reading the word, desiring what God desires, and looking for opportunities in our lives to obey the commands of God. He does the rest. Like Nike says, Just Do It!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Kenyan lawyer takes State of Israel, Jews to Hague over Jesus' death

Jerusalem Post is reporting the following. It is not a spoof edition of the paper (Like in the US when some papers do an April Fool's edition) and the JPost is a credible newspaper. Therefore this is not a satirical piece, but is in fact real.

Kenyan lawyer takes State of Israel, Jews to Hague over Jesus' death
A Kenyan lawyer has filed a petition with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, suggesting that the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ was unlawful, and The State of Israel among others should be held responsible, Kenyan news outlet the Nairobian reported on Friday. Dola Indidis, a lawyer and former spokesman of the Kenyan Judiciary is reportedly attempting to sue Tiberius (Emperor of Rome 42 BC-37AD), Pontius Pilate, a selection of Jewish elders, King Herod, the Republic of Italy and the State of Israel. "Evidence today is on record in the bible, and you cannot discredit the bible," Indidis told Kenyan Citizen News.

Yes, those he suggests should have been convicted during the original trial have not been alive for more than 2000 years, however Indidis insists that the government for whom they acted can and should still be held responsible. “I filed the case because it’s my duty to uphold the dignity of Jesus and I have gone to the ICJ to seek justice for the man from Nazareth,” Indidis told the Nairobian. “His selective and malicious prosecution violated his human rights through judicial misconduct, abuse of office bias and prejudice.” ... When asked about the case, a spokesperson from the IJC told legal news website Legal Cheek, "The ICJ has no jurisdiction for such a case. The ICJ settles disputes between states. It is not even theoretically possible for us to consider this case."

Full story at link. It is an unusual story. I don't know how to respond to this

Here is another link:

Kenyan lawyer on quixotic quest to nullify trial of Jesus
"The conviction of Jesus by Pontius Pilate may be the most famous court verdict ever — and perhaps the most consequential, since it led to Christ’s crucifixion and the founding of a global religion. Dola Indidis, a Roman Catholic, is petitioning the International Court  of Justice, based at The Hague, to nullify Jesus’ conviction and death sentence. Now a Kenyan lawyer wants to overturn Pilate’s decision, though he wants to keep the faith that flowed from it. ...  Indidis first brought his case before the Kenyan High Court in Nairobi in 2007, but the court refused to hear it, saying it lacked jurisdiction. Now he is turning to the International Court of Justice, often referred to as the World Court, which is best known for ruling on territorial disputes between members of the United Nations."

Ah! Catholic... please remember that Catholicism is a false religion and the Spirit is not in them. Therefore they would have a darkened mind and no understanding of His word or His ways. Well anyway, (Ephesians 4:17-18).


Is your house founded on sand? It is time to get it in order


Photo: Venice Beach at sunset, by Elizabeth Prata

Middle East peace: "both states given assurances of peace, security and mutual recognition."

The Jerusalem Post reports today:

Kerry: Israel, Palestinians agree to hold sustained talks on all issues
"The Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will meet again within two weeks in either Israel or the Palestinian territories to continue peace talks, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday following the initial round of talks in Washington. Kerry, speaking with the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators at his side, declared that the parties in the historic conflict had agreed to hold "sustained, continuous and substantive" conversations on all issues requiring resolution for a final peace agreement. Kerry said the parties had agreed that the only solution the conflict is the implementation of a two-state solution, with both states given assurances of peace, security and mutual recognition."

 U.S. gave Israel, Palestinians letters of assurance in order to renew talks 
Content of letters remains classified, yet probably addresses the issues of borders and refugees; Kerry says objective of talks is to reach a final-status agreement within nine months.

"The United States administration gave the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams on Tuesday letters of assurance which outlined the U.S. position vis-à-vis the peace talks, their conduct and their goals, in order to facilitate the renewal of peace talks, a senior Israeli official said.  The content of the letters remains classified, yet it likely addresses the issues of borders and refugees. Although disagreement remains over some technical details, the parties reached consensus over a number of issues, which Kerry announced at the press conference. In addition to the nine-month timetable with its goal of a final status agreement, Kerry said: “The parties have agreed to remain engaged in sustained, continuous and substantive negotiations on the core issues, and they will meet within the next two weeks in either Israel or the Palestinian territories in order to begin the process of formal negotiation."

The Great Gathering Up (rapture) is described in 1 Thessalonians. The Thessalonians were concerned because they thought the rapture was going to take place very soon, in their lifetimes, yet some of them had died already. The living brothers got worried. Were their dead fellow believers going to miss it? Paul wrote back. That letter is the Thessalonians letter 1 and 2. The reason that Paul was writing to the Thessalonians was to reassure them that the friends and relatives who had died were not going to miss the rapture. Paul began explaining it this way:

The Coming of the Lord
"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words." (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

You notice Paul said 'the coming of the Lord' and uses the pronoun "we". This passage describes the believing dead who are reunited with their by-then glorified bodies, and the living faithful who will also be instantly transformed into glorified bodies. We will be 'caught up' to meet Jesus in the air. In a great glory train He will lead us all home. It all happens very fast in the blink of an eye. (1 Corinthians 15:52).

By the way, the rapture is also mentioned in John 14:1-3: "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also."

The 1st Thessalonians chapter ends with verse 18. Paul continues in chapter 5.

The Day of the Lord
"Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief." (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4).

You notice now Paul is now talking about them. He doesn't even go into the Day of the LORD (judgment) because that was well covered in the Old Testament. Paul acknowledges this by saying to them 'you know full well...'. It was the rapture they had a hard time understanding. They were confused about the friends who had died and how it was all going to work. How was it going to fit into the new scheme of things? It was a newly revealed concept to all believers. (1 Corinthians 15:51). It was the rapture they had a question about. So now Paul goes on to reference the Judgment Day, AKA The Day of the LORD, but not to explain it, because they already knew.

Even today, two thousand years later it is a comfort to think about the blessed moment when we will be reunited with our Lord. We shall be with Him evermore from that moment, never out of His presence and always in His glory and purity and holiness. Wow. That IS a comfort.

So, in chapter 5:1, Paul begins by saying, "Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you." That phrase 'now concerning' is a Greek way of changing the subject. It was a linguistic marker, meaning 'pay attention, new subject.' And Paul does launch into a new subject, the Judgment of the Lord also known as the Tribulation. He is not talking of the rapture any more, but of the wrath of God leveled on the remaining unbelieving world.

 So when we read of people saying "peace and security" it is in fact a harbinger of the rapture, because the phrase is related to those who are in the Tribulation. And since the rapture precedes the trib, how much closer is the great gathering together with Christ? But the phrase "when they are saying peace and security" it does not directly relate to the rapture. When they are saying peace and security destruction comes. We are not appointed to destruction, but of homecoming. Just please be aware that 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 is about us in the rapture and 1 Thessalonians 5 is about them in wrath and destruction- and that is where the phrase "peace and safety" is (or "peace and security" as stated in other translations).

"But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief;" (1 Thessalonians 5:4)

We don't even need to seek a sign or know when, exactly. It will happen suddenly and then we will be gone. We don't even need to worry about the wrath of the Lord, we are not appointed to it. (1 Thess 5:9). That Day will not overtake us. We are the "we" Paul wrote about in chapter 4, not the "them" in wrath of chapter 5.

I think the rapture will be soon. Paul thought it would be soon. I believe the point is to understand eschatology so it will give us an urgency to holy living and witnessing. And to live as if each moment on earth will be the last moment before rapture- or death. We live in expectation of the great reunion either of spirit through death or the body if we are alive and raptured. Yes, they are saying peace and safety. Yes, they are talking about confirming a covenant. Damascus is being destroyed and Egypt is falling and a whole host of other things are happening that align with the way Jesus said things will look like in the last days.

Since 2006, just 18 months after I was saved I began to gravitate to prophetic study. We live in a state of expectation without setting dates and times, but then again, we know He is coming soon! We know this. It is truer today than it was in Paul's time when Paul said, so therefore He is coming sooner than soon!

As always, keep your eye on Israel. She is the umbiculus urbis, the omphalos, belly button of the world- all the events taking place there should concern us greatly. We should be watching with a laser focus and that should energize us to live as holy people.

"'Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 20:7). Consecrate means to set apart or to set aside. Set yourselves apart for holy works. Always ask yourself, is this the thing I want to be doing the moment I hear His trumpet and meet Jesus? Is this the thing I want to be saying the second I hear the trumpet and am caught up? Be holy. He is coming soon.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Iran: Armageddon at hand, prepare for war; plus other interesting links

Some interesting links for you.

False Conversions: The Suicide of the Church, A Conference Message by Mark Dever. Mark Dever diagnoses the problem of false conversions in the church and prescribes biblical solutions in his message from Together for the Gospel 2012.This link leads to an audio message.

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Reaction is growing to John MacArthur's upcoming Strange Fire conference. The conference's purpose is stated as follows:

"The Lord calls His people to honor Him, to treat Him as holy. Leviticus 10 pictures the consequences of not doing so—of offering to Him strange fire. For the last hundred years, the charismatic movement has been offering a strange fire of sorts to the third Person of the Godhead—the Holy Spirit. And evangelical churches have chosen to be silent or indifferent on the matter. This hasn’t served the church or the Spirit of the church with honor. So what should be our response? Strange Fire is a conference that will set forth what the Bible really says about the Holy Spirit, and how that squares with the charismatic movement. We’re going to address in a biblical, straightforward manner what many today see as a peripheral issue. On the contrary, your view of the Holy Spirit influences your relationship with God, your personal holiness, and your commitment to the church and evangelism."

The Charismatics do not like this. Dr Michael Brown wrote two articles published in Charisma Magazine responding to the conference's purpose, here, and calling MacArthur out.

"John MacArthur, Strange Fire and Blasphemy of the Spirit

and here

An Appeal to John MacArthur to Embrace God’s True Fire

Fred Butler wrote this on behalf of Dr MacArthur:

A Mess in the Maternity Ward?

Annnnd ... Dr Brown responded. Again.

Time to Talk, Not Fight: A Response to John MacArthur's Ministry

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Proclaiming the Gospel has a great blog essay titled-

Christians are Exhorted to Judge
"Many Christians are unaware of their responsibility to judge and test all things. Paul exhorted: "I pray that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ" (Phil. 1:9-10). Christians need to take judgment seriously in this life because of the great responsibility that awaits us in the future."

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Iran: Armageddon at hand, prepare for war
"Iran is again asserting that Armageddon is at hand and that the Islamic regime’s followers, indeed all of Islam, must prepare for a monumental change in the world. Officials of the Islamic regime last month held their annual conference on the Mahdism Doctrine to prepare for the coming of the last Islamic messiah, the Shiites’ 12th Imam, Mahdi. ... Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, said at the conference that, “I hope (Iran’s) Islamic Revolution is that of the righteous government before the coming,” according to Fars News Agency, the regime’s media outlet run by the Revolutionary Guards. “Righteous government” is a key to Mahdi’s return, the Shiites believe."

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Mideast peace talks to begin this week. But why did Israel approve release of 104 terrorists?
"But why are they beginning with the Israelis agreeing to release 104 convicted Palestinian terrorists? Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas refused to agree to the talks unless Israel made a big concession. Abbas pressed hard for the release of convicted terrorists as one of those concessions. But why? Do you convince your interlocutors — or the rest of the world — that you really want peace by insisting on the release of Arabs who have murdered Israelis? Hardly. That said, it’s bad enough that Abbas insisted on such a thing, but why exactly did the Israeli government say yes?"

(Updated) How close are we to rapture? "Pope Francis On Gays: Who Am I To Judge Them?"

Update at bottom.

I've written about the progressive standard that God showed us in the bible about why and when He gives a person or a nation over. That progressive standard in in Romans 1, particularly verses 18-32 in the section titled "God's Wrath on Unrighteousness".

I've noted on this blog about the progression of the acceptance and normalization of homosexuality and gay marriage, accomplished state-by-state through referenda or judicial fiat. I've noted that the last Presidential election's Democratic party platform contained many unGodly elements in it, including promotion of the gay agenda - and that is the platform (philosophy) a majority of the American people chose. Many millions of American evangelicals were more than a little dismayed by that, but not surprised. We are not surprised when the world acts like the world. Very recently, we noted that America's Supreme Court accepted the gay agenda through some important judicial decisions. All this has convinced many of us that America is under judgment.
photo credit: San Diego Shooter via photopin cc

I've also noted on the blog that the state-by-state acceptance of the homosexual agenda in the US is mirrored on a larger scale with a nation-by-nation secular acceptance of it. Last week, Britain legalized homosexual marriage. Also, Costa Rica has opened the door to it. Australia has opened the door to it. Uruguay and New Zealand have both enacted laws to legalize same-sex marriage which will come into force in August 2013. There are many other examples of nations giving over to the gay agenda.

It is clear that in secular society that great swathes of jurisdictions and sub-jurisdictions have legalized and thus normalized what God abhors.
photo credit: Dennis Wong via photopin cc

Yes, God abhors all sins, but homosexuality is the only one He uses AS a judgment and as a benchmark of progress away from Him into darkness. It is clear that in the secular world, satan has greatly advanced in his cause for sin in claiming the worldly mind. That claim is growing exponentially every day. Just as a car is difficult to get out of a snowbank, with enough push, rocking back and forth, and persistence, traction is gained. That time is now. Traction is fully gained and the floodgates are opened. But again, the world is the world. That's how it is. We are not surprised- but we do mark the progress of the world's sin saturation.

In faith communities too, the homosexual agenda has gained remarkable traction. Now, when I say 'faith community", I don't mean legitimate faith. There is no faith except the true faith delivered to the saints once for all (Jude 1:3), but look at this list from Wikipedia:

"Various faith communities around the world support allowing same-sex couples to marry or conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies; for example: Church of Sweden, Quakers, U.S. Episcopalians, the Metropolitan Community Church, the United Church of Christ, the United Church of Canada, Buddhism in Australia, Reform and Conservative Jews, Wiccans, Druids, Unitarian Universalists, and Native American religions with a two-spirit tradition, as well as various progressive and modern Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Jewish groups and various minor religions and other denominations."

This week both Desmond Tutu has stated that he welcomes the homosexual agenda and openly rejected God.

Wikipedia
Desmond Tutu Says He Would Prefer Hell Over A Homophobic Heaven And God

Mr Tutu has won the Nobel Peace Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom among other awards, and was Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. He speaks for a considerable segment of the population on a considerably populated continent. The horrific thing is that he speaks these heresies in the name of Jesus.

Today we read- "Pope Francis On Gays: Who Am I To Judge Them?"
The pontiff broached the delicate question of how he would respond to learning that a cleric in his ranks was gay, though not sexually active. For decades, the Vatican has regarded homosexuality as a "disorder," and Pope Francis' predecessor Pope Benedict XVI formally barred men with what the Vatican deemed "deep-seated" homosexuality from entering the priesthood.  "Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?" the pontiff said, speaking in Italian. "You can't marginalize these people."

The Pope is the voice of all Catholics, and the horrific thing is that he speaks these heresies in the name of Jesus. There are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world.

As God gives over the individual to his entrenched sin and rejection of Christ, and as He gives nations over to entrenched sin and rejection of Christ, God also will give over the world to sin and rejection of Christ. The moment He will give over the world to its sin will be the second after the rapture takes place. The world will be then unrestrained in its sin. (2 Thessalonians 2:7).

Daniel 9:24-17 describes the reasons God will begin the Tribulation and the verses record the length of it. God will allow sin to have its day. He will allow it to capture everyone who rejected His Son and thus, believe the lie (2 Thessalonians 2:7).

We look at the progression in Romans and use that as a benchmark for the wrath of abandonment. We know and see individuals who are enduring the wrath of God's abandonment as they die with atheism or other religions or false Jesus on their lips. We know and see nations enduring the wrath of God's abandonment as they had wholesale turned away from God's laws, and I believe America is one of those nations enduring His wrath now, in current times.

But think on this: how long until God unleashes His wrath by abandoning the world to its sin and takes His bride home?? We are watching an amazing thing happen day by day. The peoples, nations, and faiths- all dismiss God by accepting homosexuality.  Really, the world is crumbling.
Photo: Venice Beach, Elizabeth Prata

It is like a sand castle. At first the tide nips at the edges of it. The castle loses a few grains of sand, but the larger structure is unaffected. Then a larger wave comes and swipes away a chunk. The waves return to docility and creep up to the castle in tiny nips, for a while. But then another big wave comes, and piled after that, another. The tide is crunching away as it comes in faster and faster, undercutting the entire structure and it starts to tilt. Soon the castle is a mound and soon after that, wiped from existence.

I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, 
will he find faith on earth?” 
Luke 18:8

Not that He won't leave the Spirit to draw men to His bosom in the Tribulation, He will. Many come to faith then. But He will unleash His wrath upon an unbelieving world...

When I see whole nations and whole segments of a false faith community embracing homosexuality as they do, the rapture cannot be far behind, according to my understanding of the progression in Romans, at least. The wrath of abandonment is what Desmond Tutu claims to want, but what he doesn't know is that God has already abandoned Tutu to the wrath of God. He has done the same for those who believe the Pope's lie, also.

The Gospel has the power to cut through the darkness and save. There is no question about that. But God's plan is to retrieve the bride for His Son to love and leave the world to His anger. I believe that the advance of the homosexual agenda is a heavy-duty benchmark for that tipping point. I believe that tipping point is soon to appear.

I leave you with a prayer from John MacArthur:

Father, we are so grateful that You have not left us in doubt about these things which are part of life for us. I pray that You’ll use us to bring the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ to people in these horrible chains of homosexual behavior, who have no future, no family, no hope, who live with massive guilt, pain, agony, driving unleashed passions. That You would come powerfully through the instrumentation of Your people to bring the gospel--it alone can save them. Be glorified, Lord. Turn the tide with Your truth and with Your gospel. Save people caught in not only this sin, but in all kinds of sins that are so popular in this culture. Give the gospel a fresh hearing, we ask for Your glory, in Christ’s name. Amen.

photo credit: Fr. Stephen, MSC via photopin cc

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Further reading

UPDATE

It’s Not What the Pope Said About Gays, It’s How He Said It

Disconnect to connect: How today's phones make Christ invisible

I don't own a cell phone, so perhaps I have a perspective that others don't. Sitting at lunch with other people, even if we are in the middle of a conversation, if the phone buzzes they stop talking to answer it. If there is even a half-second lull in the conversation, they turn to it. The phones are part of cutlery now. When sitting down, they take out the phone and lay it in place next to their lunch plate, napkin, fork, knife. While talking, their eyes don't meet other peoples' but glance down at the phone every few seconds. The phone distracts even if they are not talking on it that moment. I quit talking at lunch because I know I don't have their attention anyway, and I stopped listening because I know they will stop talking to me even if I do listen to them- to answer the phone. Eventually I stopped socializing at lunch altogether because of the phone issues (among others). In a room with six other people, at one point all five were on the phone. I was completely invisible.

Even talking one-on-one to a person means 50% of the time they will turn away from our conversation to do something on the phone.

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." (Hebrews 10:24-25)

"For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20)

I know phones are important devices these days, especially for parents to keep in touch with kids, especially if there is an emergency. I am no Luddite. I know that sometimes people are waiting for an important doctor return call. Or for a check-in from the teenager. Or for results of a job interview.

But consider, my fellow brethren, the verses above. When we meet with others who are in Christ; at work, at the playground, at church, for a meal ... we are meeting with a purpose. Every time we gather with others it is for a biblical purpose: to build each other up. We have an opportunity to encourage each other. There is nothing more encouraging than to look into someone's eyes as they talk with you and they know that you are devoting your full attention to them, even if it is for one minute, or five minutes or half an hour over a lunch. It's the way we connect through Christ.

So as for the second verse, when we neglect someone, or dismiss them while they are standing right in front of us in favor of chatting or texting on the phone with a "better" person, we are actually neglecting Christ. Please ponder that as you watch this good little video about how we make our loves ones (Christ) invisible.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Martyr Moment: Ignatius

Foxe's Book of Martyrs. According to this summary from Christian Book Summaries,

Writing in the mid-1500s, John Foxe was living in the midst of intense religious persecution at the hands of the dominant Roman Catholic Church. In graphic detail, he offers accounts of Christians being martyred for their belief in Jesus Christ, describing how God gave them extraordinary courage and stamina to endure unthinkable torture.

From the same link, the book's purpose was fourfold:
  • Showcase the courage of true believers who have willingly taken a stand for Jesus Christ throughout the ages, even if it meant death,
  • Demonstrate the grace of God in the lives of those martyred for their faith,
  • Expose the ruthlessness of religious and political leaders as they sought to suppress those with differing beliefs,
  • Celebrate the courage of those who risked their lives to translate the Bible into the common language of the people.

The Third Persecution, Under Trajan, A.D. 108

In the third persecution Pliny the Second, a man learned and famous, seeing the lamentable slaughter of Christians, and moved therewith to pity, wrote to Trajan, certifying him that there were many thousands of them daily put to death, of which none did any thing contrary to the Roman laws worthy of persecution. "The whole account they gave of their crime or error (whichever it is to be called) amounted only to this-viz. that they were accustomed on a stated day to meet before daylight, and to repeat together a set form of prayer to Christ as a God, and to bind themselves by an obligation-not indeed to commit wickedness; but, on the contrary-never to commit theft, robbery, or adultery, never to falsify their word, never to defraud any man: after which it was their custom to separate, and reassemble to partake in common of a harmless meal."

In this persecution suffered the blessed martyr, Ignatius, who is held in famous reverence among very many. This Ignatius was appointed to the bishopric of Antioch next after Peter in succession. Some do say, that he, being sent from Syria to Rome, because he professed Christ, was given to the wild beasts to be devoured. It is also said of him, that when he passed through Asia, being under the most strict custody of his keepers, he strengthened and confirmed the churches through all the cities as he went, both with his exhortations and preaching of the Word of God. Accordingly, having come to Smyrna, he wrote to the Church at Rome, exhorting them not to use means for his deliverance from martyrdom, lest they should deprive him of that which he most longed and hoped for. "Now I begin to be a disciple. I care for nothing, of visible or invisible things, so that I may but win Christ. Let fire and the cross, let the companies of wild beasts, let breaking of bones and tearing of limbs, let the grinding of the whole body, and all the malice of the devil, come upon me; be it so, only may I win Christ Jesus!" And even when he was sentenced to be thrown to the beasts, such as the burning desire that he had to suffer, that he spake, what time he heard the lions roaring, saying: "I am the wheat of Christ: I am going to be ground with the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found pure bread."

Trajan being succeeded by Adrian, the latter continued this third persecution with as much severity as his predecessor. About this time Alexander, bishop of Rome, with his two deacons, were martyred; as were Quirinus and Hernes, with their families;

Zenon, a Roman nobleman, and about ten thousand other Christians.

In Mount Ararat many were crucified, crowned with thorns, and spears run into their sides, in imitation of Christ's passion. Eustachius, a brave and successful Roman commander, was by the emperor ordered to join in an idolatrous sacrifice to celebrate some of his own victories; but his faith (being a Christian in his heart) was so much greater than his vanity, that he nobly refused it. Enraged at the denial, the ungrateful emperor forgot the service of this skilful commander, and ordered him and his whole family to be martyred.

At the martyrdom of Faustines and Jovita, brothers and citizens of Brescia, their torments were so many, and their patience so great, that Calocerius, a pagan, beholding them, was struck with admiration, and exclaimed in a kind of ecstasy, "Great is the God of the Christians!" for which he was apprehended, and suffered a similar fate.

Many other similar cruelties and rigors were exercised against the Christians, until Quadratus, bishop of Athens, made a learned apology in their favor before the emperor, who happened to be there and Aristides, a philosopher of the same city, wrote an elegant epistle, which caused Adrian to relax in his severities, and relent in their favor.

Adrian dying A.D. 138, was succeeded by Antoninus Pius, one of the most amiable monarchs that ever reigned, and who stayed the persecutions against the Christians.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What a fellow believer Ignatius was. Oh, Lord, may I be always reminded of Ignatius: strengthening others even as a death sentence lay over his head. May I learn to serve You better through edifying other believers, not thinking of myself, but only of Your glory.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Desmond Tutu Says He Would Prefer Hell Over A Homophobic Heaven And God

"Desmond Tutu has said he would rather go to hell than worship a homophobic god. The retired archbishop was speaking at the United Nations' launch of its gay-rights program in Cape Town, South Africa, a country where there is still much prejudice against gay people. He said: "I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place. "I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this. "I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level." (source)

On another topic, the blogger Ecclesiophilist wrote,

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols (Acts 17:16, NASB)

In describing Paul’s reaction, Luke uses a Greek word which means “to be irritated or provoked to wrath.” John Stott says that this word “originally had medical associations and was used to describe a seizure or an epileptic fit (Stott, The Spirit, the Church, and the World, IVP, p. 278).” As Paul closely observed the city of Athens, he found it overwhelmed by idolatry. One ancient source sarcastically said it was easier to find a god in Athens than a man. Such idolatry moved Paul to the core. He was provoked in his spirit by the situation.

Henry Martyn, the 19th century missionary to India and Persia, understood quite well the response of Paul to idolatry. When Martyn saw a picture of Jesus bowing down and grasping the robes of Mohammed, he responded, “I could not endure existence if Jesus was not glorified. It would be hell to me if He were always thus to be dishonored.” Martyn was provoked in his spirit by idolatry. His heart burned with the desire to see the preeminence and glory of Christ understood and embraced by all peoples.

It certainly resonates when we read of the saints in their torment in seeing Jesus besmirched. I am tormented by this unholy world. TOrmented daily, I often cry out in my praer closet for the Day to come when all will recognize Jesus is His perfectness and glory. O, what a day! But that day is not yet and we swim through the filth of a world that is piling up with sin, even my own.

Desmond Tutu is a South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop. He is allegedly a religious man, but he has created a god in his own image. A.W. Tozer said, "Grace will save a man... but it will not save him and his idol." Tutu has remade God into a person who represents Tutu's own thoughts and evil desires, and openly and flatly rejects the Holy God of Israel, Yahweh, the great Ancient of Days. I AM.

It is a hard thing to watch the world crumble. It is harder to watch men crumble. Tutu's destiny is all but certain, and having had to watch this dreadful state these terrible declarations that consign men to a hell they know not how terrible, is is agony.

However, I love my Christ and I worship Him. I do not worship my own philosophies and I do not reject His clear word and plan as shown to us by the holy writ of the bible. It is an agony these days to see Jesus so dishonored.

What a day when all peoples will bow to Him, and the ones whom He has chosen to be His elect, standing before Him, no, falling down to worship, will be all the more glorious. This Jesus whom Tutu rejects is this Jesus:

"The apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. " (Mark 6:30-34.)

He loves His sheep!

But make no mistake: God is not to be trifled with. He demands holy living through Christ, and He will exact vengeance for all unholy acts, for they are a blot on His name.

"when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (2 Thessalonians 1:7b-8)

It is a serious thing to wantonly seek hell, and not heaven. God in His just mercy, will grant it.

The Eternal Decrees of God, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The best sermon I've ever heard on the "Eternal Decrees of God", and one of the best sermons I've heard on any topic, ever. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 50 min. Please take a listen, I know you will be edified.

"Scripture: The character of God's activities; antinomy explained; the importance of understanding the harmony of the Biblical doctrines; God's unchanging plan; the decrees of God are unconditional and sovereign; problems in understanding this doctrine; God is not unjust."

The Eternal Decrees of God


Is Christian journaling good or bad? Is it a 'spiritual discipline'? Is it part of 'spiritual formation'?

Lots of women and not a few men keep journals. Writers wouldn't be caught dead without a notebook of some kind to record the good quote, stray thought, or burgeoning story.

Some of the greatest known literature are from diaries: the Diary of Anne Frank which became a first hand account of Nazi Germany's oppression. The Diary of Samuel Pepys is another example of a man's private thoughts which became historical window which generations of subsequent people can now look through. The detailed private diary Pepys kept from 1660 until 1669 was first published in the 19th century, and is as Wikipedia states, "one of the most important primary sources for the English Restoration period. It provides a combination of personal revelation and eyewitness accounts of great events, such as the Great Plague of London, the Second Dutch War and the Great Fire of London."

We know what happened to Pompeii when Vesuvius erupted because Pliny the Elder's journal. Mark Twain's travel journal through Europe and the Holy Land with a group of American travelers in 1867 became the best selling of Twain's works during his lifetime and one of the best selling travel books of all time. Diaries are wonderful sources for historical record and travel advice.

In the Christian spheres, Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, kept a diary and also wrote letters constantly. Those became his autobiography after he died. The great theologian Jonathan Edwards kept a journal. In it, he penned his famous 70 resolutions. As the pastors say at the Netherlands Heritage Reformed Congregation, "these resolutions were birthed out of his felt weaknesses and known deficiencies, not his personal attainments. They represent, therefore, his sanctified, biblically-conditioned aspirations."

Journaling has always been popular, for many different reasons, as we see above. Over the last few years, journaling for Christian reasons has made a comeback. Christians are told to keep track of thoughts in a journal. This activity is now variously called spiritual discipline, spiritual formation, or Christian journaling.

Is journaling good? Is journaling bad? Must I do journaling to "partner" with God in order to advance my sanctification? Does journaling aid the Holy Spirit? Let's take a look at the pluses and minuses of Christian journaling.

When I first started out as a babe in sanctification, I was involved in some hobbies of a visual nature. I was taking classes in bookbinding and paper arts. As a result, I was making a lot of blank books. I put them to use by extending my creative impulses into a spiritual journal with collages representing my thoughts and interpretations of various verses which had captured my attention. It was a way to keep thinking about certain verses, keep my hands busy, and satisfy my creative urges. Here is a sample.
In my case, the visual journals were an outgrowth of my devotionals. I'd read the word, think about the word, and respond to the word. As Compelling Truth explains about devotionals:

"Daily devotionals also teach us truth. When we spend time in God's Word, we gain wisdom and understanding. It has been said that the best way to recognize a counterfeit is to study the real thing. Satan is the "father of lies" (John 8:44). If we are not steeped in God's truth, we are more easily duped. When we know the truth, we experience freedom (John 8:32). Daily spending time with God is a way to worship Him. Time is a limited resource. What we spend our time on is an indication of what we value. When we spend time with God, we demonstrate that we value Him. We claim that He is worthy of attention and of praise."

So some people use a journal as a response to the Word in their daily devotions. Others use journaling to pray.

John MacArthur gives an example here of a famous Christian Henry Martyn and how he used his journal to pray. Martyn was a British-born man who became a Christian missionary in India.

"He arrived in India in April 1806, where he preached and occupied himself in the study of linguistics. He translated the whole of the New Testament into Urdu, Persian and Judaeo-Persic. He also translated the Psalms into Persian and the Book of Common Prayer into Urdu." (Wikipedia).

Martyn took a fever and died a mere six years later, but his efforts on the entire Indian continent were tremendous. He wrote in his journal, "Let me burn out for God." As Christianity.com stated, "Martyn compressed a lifetime of service into those six years."

So, many people use their journals as a prayer journal. They write out prayers, or keep track of prayer requests in their journals.They use their journal to remember their reaction to certain situations to keep the flame of fervor alive for that particular prayer.

In his sermon, Characteristics of a Fervent Prayer Life, John MacArthur said,

It reminds me of Henry Martyn when he went to India and went into the Hindu temple for the first time and was so shook by his experience that he burst into tears. He wrote in his journal he ran top speed out of that Hindu temple and wrote, "I cannot endure existence if Jesus is to be so dishonored."

He saw all of that as a dishonoring of Lord Jesus Christ, and that set him to prayer for the nation of India that the Gospel might be spread across that nation and God would not be continually dishonored there. … That's the kind of prayer that gets answered. Prayer generated by the Word of God, grounded in the will of God, characterized by fervency, realized in self-denial, identified with others, strengthened in confession, that depends on God's character and that pursues, ultimately, God's glory. That's how we pray.

That's how we journal, too.

Martyn's reaction to the deep paganism he encountered in India sparked a fervent response in his journal with a blazing, written exhortation to always pray for the people he was evangelizing.

Journals from others an be inspiring. Martyn had been deeply moved by reading the journals of David Brainerd, the Puritan missionary in North America who passionately labored among the Native Americans in the cause of Christ. Journals of old read by people today can be inspirational, moving, and catalyzing. We read how they struggled, how the Spirit used them, and for some of us the baton swings from their journal to our hearts as the Lord sets a fire in us. However, would the Holy Spirit had used Martyn's fervency if he had not kept his reactions contained in a prayer journal? Yes.

Eventually I left off the bookbinding and paper arts. You know how hobbies come and go in your life. But I was still left with a lot of blank books. While those lasted, I simply wrote down my thoughts about the verses.
In the journal above, I am trying to figure out from the bible about the different resurrections.
The problem comes in the internal motivation for keeping a journal. The problem comes with the external impetus for keeping a journal. In today's atmosphere of increasing mysticism ('I'm not growing unless I hear from God') combined with legalism ('I've got to DO something to enhance my spiritual walk') we are now hearing from people that we must journal in order to hear from God. They say not only that is it a must-perform "discipline" but is in fact a two way street of communication with God.

Journaling should not be a method to keep track of what God says to you. We use the bible for that. This is where journaling goes awry. Be aware: the line is very thin.

John MacArthur explains why the current definition of spiritual formation is false.

"In Christian circles, spiritual formation refers to more than mere academic instruction. Most often, it’s a reference to the dynamic means of sanctification. It deals with the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit and the various methods He uses to bring about spiritual growth in our lives. It’s at this point things can become confusing.

On one hand, there are the time-tested, practical Christian disciplines we’re all familiar with—things like personal and corporate Bible study, worship, prayer, discipleship, and service. On the other hand, many of the leading voices in the spiritual formation movement stress the need for more intuitive interpretations of spirituality. They encourage believers to incorporate a wide variety of extrabiblical spiritual practices, such as contemplative prayer, silence, meditation, creative expression, [Ed Note: creative expressions such as praise dance & journaling] and yoga. In fact, some of the most popular methods of spiritual formation have been lifted from Catholicism, new age mysticism, or other religions and rebranded with biblical-sounding terminology. But any kind of subjective spirituality that draws your focus away from the Lord and His truth can have disastrous results, derailing your spiritual growth and cutting you off from God’s plan for your sanctification." 

Too often these days, the phrase "spiritual formation" or "spiritual disciplines" are code for man-made methods methods that delude us into thinking that if we perform them correctly that we will increase in spiritual formation and thus, sanctification. But sanctification is imposed on us by the Spirit and does not emanate from within us by what we do. Being enraptured by our own thoughts we'd put down in a journal does not sanctify us. It's just spiritual navel-gazing.

Compelling Truth explains:
The intent of Christian spiritual formation is to facilitate the Holy Spirit's inward transformation of our hearts, which is reflected through our outward behaviors ... Specific practices of Christian spiritual formation include disciplines such as prayer, meditating on Scripture, worship, study, and service. Some also engage in spiritual direction, or receiving spiritual counsel or mentorship. The methods used are modeled after the practices and behaviors of Christ and those of the early church.

Journaling then, is not a two way process. Journaling is for the disciple: to keep track of thoughts, response to verses, prayer requests, to mark personal growth, whatever edifies you. It in no way is partnering with God or hearing from God. We already heard from God and all that He wants us to know of Him is in the bible (and He also revealed Himself generally in creation- but the goal of creation is to point to Christ, (Colossians 1:15-18).

The problems come not only when we're told that we must journal, but when we're told how. Personal thoughts and private responses then become externally imposed mechanisms and we become merchandise. Marcia Montenegro of Christian Answers for the New Age wrote about spiritual disciplines, including journaling,

Disciplines or Rules?
I also take issue with the concept of “spiritual disciplines,” a term from Roman Catholic monasticism which indicated a salvation by works. And I question the idea that certain Christians can define disciplines for other Christians. Since the Bible does not specify any specific practice as a “discipline,” then I think it is up to each Christian to discover from God’s living word which area he or she may need to focus on and at which point in their lives.

I do not see biblical validity for "silence and solitude" as disciplines.There is nothing wrong with silence and solitude, and I think they are of value at times, especially if one is praying or reflecting on God’s word. But I don't think the Bible supports doing these as disciplines. Moreover, “silence” is often a code word for “going within” in order to hear from God.

Other named disciplines include journaling, fasting, and stewardship. There is no prescriptive basis in the Bible for journaling or fasting as “disciplines” for Christians. There are biblical principles for stewardship of time and money, but is this a discipline? Christians are under grace; the Lord wants us to desire to serve Him, not live by imposed rules, or disciplines as defined by others.

When I ran out of handmade books,
I got a spiral bound notebook from the Dollar Store.

Where did all this journaling come from, anyway? Psychology. In his article, "Uses and Benefits of Journal Writing,"  Roger Hiemstra wrote,

"Journal writing as an instructional or learning tool in adult education has gained cogency during the past three decades. As early as 1965, psychologist Ira Progoff and his colleagues began seeing the value of personal journals in enhancing growth and learning. Progoff believed what he called an “intensive journal process” could “draw each person’s life toward wholeness at its own tempo. . . It systematically evokes and strengthens the inner capacities of persons by working from a non-medical vantage point and proceeding without analytic or diagnostic categories” (Progoff, 1975, p. 9)

Sure- it is good to record evolving insights, promote self-examination, keep track of questions. But the point is, none of that will sanctify you. It might be a response to sanctification, but it is not sanctification. Predators prey on our fears that we might not be growing, or we might not be doing the right things with our walk, engaging in the wrong activities. Here is a recent sales pitch about Christian journaling. You can see that the recent legalistic push to "journal" is already tiring us out.
Artist note: I have journaled off and on for years ... and now somewhat addicted to the "Moleskine" notebooks ... I am attempting a bit more creative means than just words on paper. photo credit: Bob AuBuchon via photopin cc

Are You a Journaling Dropout?
"Does the mere thought of journaling tire you out? Or does it conjure up spending time you don't have detailing overly "serious" thoughts and spiritual insights? Perhaps you've tried to keep journals in the past—prayer lists, irregular accounts of your spiritual failures and victories, letters to God about your deepest dreams. But let's face it: While journaling can be an amazing tool to help you record God's transforming work in your heart, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the process. However, I've discovered some creative journaling techniques that have blown me away with their ability to renew joy and intimacy in my relationship with God. So whether you're tired of your own humdrum attempts to journal, or if you've never given it a try because you don't think of yourself as a "writer," think again. Have I got some fresh ideas for you!"

I resent someone merchandising my private walk with a sales pitch. Anyway, that's just me. Do this! Do it this way! Or else! Pay money! Be blown away!

Artist note: Youth Haven Ranch was a great place to capture nature on my camera this past summer. The wild raspberries were perfect for trying macro photography. I love this quote by Thomas Moore. Taking photos and making art are very spiritual activities for me. I am in awe of God's creativity and His greatness when I am out walking around in nature and taking pictures.photo credit: marynbtol via photopin cc
Now to be fair, in that article one of the tips was to collect quotes from Christian authors, quotes that resonate with you. OK, fine, though remember that your sanctification comes by the bible and the Spirit, not words from other men. But collecting quotes certainly seems OK. In another tip, the author advises us that some people benefit from a 'Creator's journal', by pressing leaves or making sketches of birds or flowers or trees, or photographing nature around us, to remind us of His power and creativity.

But from the same article, we read that her friend had just finished reading a book of dubious distinction and not to be recommended,

"Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala, and she was struck by his contention that a lot of churches in America aren't praying God-sized prayers. So a few years ago, I decided to jot down some "impossible" requests in my journal about everything from the speedy growth of my small group, to godly husbands for some of my single friends, to my desire to lead someone to Christ that year. God has answered each prayer in an amazing way."

Artist note: My "grandkids". These kids inspire me
everyday to live out my faith.
photo credit: marynbtol via photopin cc
God-sized prayers? Is there a measuring stick I can use to see if my prayers are the right size? People, every prayer is a God-sized prayer! When I pray for the salvation of someone, that is the HUGEST sized prayer of all, because without God it is impossible to be saved from His wrath! When I pray for my laptop not to break down, or for my corn not to hurt my toe, that also is a God-sized prayer, because I never forget that simply praying is an amazing miracle in itself. It is a further miracle that He listens. It is a further miracle that He answers! It honors God whenever we pray, if we do so in confidence and love and submission to His will.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 
(John 15:7)

Nothing in there about how big the prayers must be. And keeping track of these huge prayers tests God because the expectation of the journaler is that because they are "God-sized", then He will answer. You've crossed into dangerous territory, then.

Quite often, I read that journaling is an 'invitation" to God, or that engaging in it 'allows' God to do some kind of work in you. Like this:

Begin with prayer. Invite God to use your journaling experiences to draw you closer to Him and help you grow as a person. Ask Him to use your journaling to help you discover more about both Him and yourself.

So if I don't journal then I am not inviting Him into my private life? I won't discover more about Him? (where I can't do that anyway outside of the bible). Where it is my experience that is the catalyst for growth, and not His word? Now here is THE danger. I do not grow by my own words on the journal page. To believe that increased sanctification comes by what I write is just an activity that circles the drain. Sanctification needs to come from without.

The key to determining if any activity helps or hinders my sanctification, journaling or not, is this: does it restrain the flesh?

Jonathan Edwards wrote down 70 resolutions in his diary, but that alone was not sanctifying. Edwards spent hours per day in the word, studying, worshiping, praying. He wrote the resolutions to help himself remember what kind of a Christian he wanted to be, and stayed in the Word as the energizing mechanism to move forward in it.

"A false paradigm of sanctification can't restrain the flesh. So while all paradigms or strategies of sanctification purport to restrain the flesh and make one holy, they don't do that any more than a false Gospel can save. It is critical that we understand and avoid false paradigms for sanctification. And one of those that is very popular today is called 'spiritual formation.' it is an imposing forms of mysticism and self-help and spiritual intuition imposed upon the bible. You can go back to many popular writers not only in the modern times such as Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, but you can go way back to mystics in the Middle Ages who espouse the idea that there is some mystical intuitive capability within a person that causes him- if manipulated correctly- to rise in spiritual formation. This is not a biblical concept." (source)

Look how easy it is to gravitate from recording your own responses in a journal, to expecting to hear from God, to actually hearing from "God".

I'd quoted MacArthur way above. Here are exact cases of how and when journaling is "derailing your spiritual growth and cutting you off from God’s plan for your sanctification."

These three examples are people whose journaling went awry. Beth Moore sat in an empty cabin in When Godly People Do Ungodly Things", was the result. In her preface she states,
Wyoming, prayed, and waited to hear from God. She says she did, and the book, "

"This book represents one of the most unique writing experiences I've ever had with God. Unbenownst to me, He's been writing each chapter on my heart for several years. When the message for this book was complete, (in His estimation, not mine!) God compelled me to ink it on paper with the force of the Holy Spirit unparallelled in my experience. He whisked me to the mountains of Wyoming where I entered solitary confinement with Him, and in only a few weeks, I wrote the last line."

It sounds like she had a Philip whisking-away experience (Acts 8:39-40), and wrote inspired scripture, to boot.

Sarah Young opened her journal and expected to hear from God, invited Him, actually, and said she heard back. The book Jesus Calling was the result. (Do you detect a pattern here, these journaling experiences turning into books that make money for the author?)  Julia at Steak & a Bible wrote a review of Jesus Calling,

"This is a root problem of personal revelation — you cannot know for certain that the internal voice you are hearing is God, yourself or from the devil. So she purports to write what Jesus told her, but she had to vet those words to “ensure they are consistent with Scripture.” I have a better idea. Study the actual words of God that have already been given to us. I’m sure there is plenty more in the Bible to challenge, convict, teach and change each and every believer for the rest of their life on earth even without whispers in your mind. In my view, waiting and listening for the voice of God is a recipe for deception."

Journaling as a personal endeavor is fine, just watch out that you don't wind up like Neale Donald Walsch, author of "Conversations with God".

Source: From Matter to Spirit,
The Result of Ten Years' Experience in Spirit Manifestations
"In the spring of 1992...an extraordinary phenomenon occurred in my life. God began talking with you. Through me. Let me explain. I was very unhappy during that period, personally, professionally, and emotionally, and my life was feeling like a failure on all levels. As I’d been in the habit for years of writing my thoughts down in letters...I picked up my trusty yellow legal pad and began pouring out my feelings. This time...I decided to write a letter to God. It was a spiteful, passionate letter, full of confusions, contortions, and condemnation. And a pile of angry questions....To my surprise, as I scribbled out the last of my bitter, unanswerable questions and prepared to toss my pen aside, my hand remained poised over the paper, as if held there by some invisible force. Abruptly, the pen began moving on its own. I had no idea what I was about to write....Out came....Do you really want an answer to all these questions, or are you just venting? ... Before I knew it, I had begun a conversation. ... and I was not writing so much as taking dictation.

This is known as channeling, or automatic writing, and it is occult. The same for Beth Moore and for Sarah Young. God is not taking their hand and writing down words.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 
(Hebrews 1:1-2)

Enjoy your journaling. I hope I've shown that there is a fine line in the practice. It can benefit you as long as you keep it for the right reasons and motivations. Ask yourself, 'does it restrain the flesh? Am I expecting a dialogue? Is this journal a response to my growth?' Journaling can all too easily veer toward a written expression of the mystical and unbiblical practice of contemplative spirituality.

Providence is the means by which we look back over the scope of time and see our growth. Some people need the journal as a visual reminder of where they'd come from. But doing journaling or not doing journaling doesn't hinder or help the Lord's Providential working in our lives. And thank goodness for that, for I am a sinful person, stumbling my way to the gates of heaven! All things will work to the good, because the Lord is in control.

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28)
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Further Reading:

Prayer in evangelism

A Book Review: Donald Whitney's "Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life" the bible say about holy living

What are the Spiritual Disciplines?

Steps to Sanctification

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pope Francis prays to Mary in Lampedusa

Outside of Catholic circles, you may or may not know that Catholics pray to Mary. They believe she is co-redemptrix. They also believe she was a virgin all her life, that she never sinned, and that she ascended bodily into heaven, where she co-rules with Jesus. All this is false of course. It is blasphemy and idolatry.

Here is the translation of the prayer that Pope Francis prayed today

Pope's Marian Prayer at Lampedusa
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's prayer to the Blessed Mother at the conclusion of the Mass celebrated in the island of Lampedusa this morning. Oh Mary, star of the sea, once again we recourse to thee, to find refuge and serenity, to implore your protection and help. Mother of God and our Mother, turn your sweet gaze towards those who face the dangers of the sea everyday to guarantee their families the necessary sustenance for life, to protect the respect of creation, to serve peace between peoples. Protector of migrants and itinerants, assist with maternal care all men, women, and children who are forced to flee their lands in search of a future and of hope. May their meeting with us and our people not become a source of new and heavier slavery and humiliation.

Mother of mercy, ask forgiveness for us who, blinded by selfishness, concerned by our interests and prisoners of our own fears, have become distracted towards the needs and sufferings of our brothers. Refuge of sinners, obtain the conversion of heart for those who generate war, hate and poverty, who exploit their brothers and their fragility, who make an undignified commerce of human life. Model of charity, bless all men and women of good will, who receive and serve those who dock on this land: may the love received and given be a seed of new brotherly ties and the dawn of a world of peace. Amen

The bible says that we are only to pray to God. Jesus is our only intercessor. (1 Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 7:25). The Catholic will explain that prayers to Mary (or requests of Mary to pray for us) are biblically justified, despite the clear command to pray only to Jesus, and the prohibition against communing with the dead. (Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10-13)

In this video, a priest is teaching that because of the scene in Revelation 5:8, where the elders around God's throne are holding harps and bowls of incense which are the prayers of the saints, that they intercede for us. He also says that in Revelation 8:3-5, that the angels do the same thing, bring our prayers to God. Yet the bible's Rev 5 scene shows dramatically and clearly that though the elders hold the bowls of prayers, they are offering them to God, not rifling through the bowls themselves to pick a prayer to answer them. And, one would have to place Mary at the seated circle of elders so that she would be holding a bowl, in the first place, which the verse in no way describes.

This Catholic answers web page about praying to Mary states, "Secondly, because Mary was "favoured by God" [Lk. 1:30] when she was personally chosen by the Lord to become the mother of Jesus, God incarnated, Catholics believe that they have a greater chance of obtaining God's grace for their daily physical and spiritual needs by asking Mary to intercede on their behalf. Thirdly, the above mentioned belief is partially based on the fact that Jesus is the King of kings and Mary, as the mother of the King, is the "queen mother." Then, when studying Jewish history, it is discovered that the institution of the "queen mother" was established during the reign of King Solomon."

However, you notice that the queen mother item is a man-made tradition. Nowhere in the bible does it call Mary royalty. As a matter of fact, Paul says simply "Jesus was born of a woman."(Galatians 4:4)

The Catholic page continues,
In the Old Testament, we learn of the favoured position of the queen mother through the following words, "... then the king sat on his throne, and had a throne brought for the king's mother, and she sat on his right. Then she said, 'I have one small request to make of you, do not refuse me.' And the king said to her, 'Make your request, my mother, for I will not refuse you.'" [1 Kgs. 2:19-20]

Following the reign of King Solomon, many of the kings kept this practice. The mother of the king, through who the king received his throne, was trusted as a confident and advisor. So important was the function of the queen mothers in the days of the Old Testament that their names were listed in the succession records of the kings of Judah. [See 1 Kgs 14:21, 15:13; 2 Kgs. 12:1, 14:2, 15:2, etc...]


Why not pray to Queen Esther? She really was a queen, AND saved all the Jewish people, something that, after all, Jesus did too. Why not pray to Queen Nitzevet, mother of King David and who was in direct line of the Messiah? Because we should only pray to "Queen Mary," a Catholic might say? Well, where is that in the bible? You see how far off-track we get when we apply man's traditions and extra-biblical interpretations on top of the bible.

Similar to the intercession of the Queen Mother, when a child desires a favour and cannot obtain it from his/her parents, frequently the child will make the request to the grandparent to intercede on his/her behalf, therefore obtaining the favour that was being sought. This does not mean that the child is seeking the parental favour from the grandparent. Rather, the child is seeking the intercession of the grandparents before the parents.

Likening a disobedient grandchild manipulating his two grandparents to Catholic Marian intercession is just false on the face of it. The child's authority are the parents. Period. Going around the parents' back means you have a disobedient child on your hands, and he should be punished.

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." (Ephesians 6:1)

Furthermore, Catholics do not differentiate between the living (in this world) and the dead (those who departed) members of the Body of Christ (the fullness of the Church.) The fullness of the mystical Body of Christ is found in the union of all the saints, past and present, here below and those above in Heaven."

Catholics would have to see the living and the dead as the same for their false construct to hold up, as well as purgatory and indulgences and many other false Catholic doctrines.

For more information explaining why praying to Mary is a blasphemous activity, go here. Here is a snippet:
"The Bible nowhere instructs believers in Christ to pray to anyone other than God. The Bible nowhere encourages, or even mentions, believers asking individuals in heaven for their prayers. Why, then, do many Catholics pray to Mary and/or the saints, or request their prayers? Catholics view Mary and the saints as "intercessors" before God. They believe that a saint, who is glorified in Heaven, has more "direct access" to God than we do. Therefore, if a saint delivers a prayer to God, it is more effective than us praying to God directly. This concept is blatantly unbiblical. Hebrews 4:16 tells us that we, believers here on earth, can "approach the throne of grace with confidence."

I mention the Marian prayer by Pope Francis for two reasons. First, to show how subtly the false religions twist the bible. It takes skill and discernment to see how and why the Catholic stance is incorrect. I listened to the priest three times in that video. Not because I believed him but I wanted a thorough understanding of what he was saying and how he was saying it. He used Revelation 5 very well. He is very plausible sounding. Yet the bible says that the false doctrines will sound plausible.

"I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments." (Colossians 2:4)

Secondly, in this day and age of "tolerance" I want to keep saying all the more boldly and flatly: anyone adhering to these doctrines is not saved and will go to hell if they die believing them. If Pope Francis were to die tonight, he will go to eternal fiery torment in hell. He is a child of hell (Matthew 23:33) and a curse upon the earth. (Galatians 3:10). He is in all likelihood a very nice man, that is not the issue. He is a child of the devil. (1 John 3:10).

How can I say these things with such certainty? No one becomes pope unless they have demonstrated throughout a lifetime of believing, protecting, teaching, and promoting these false doctrines. And tonight we see the fruit: praying to Mary.

I am not happy about the fact that if Pope Francis were to die tonight he would go to hell forever. Not at all. I wish no one would go there. But one must believe on Jesus alone and not a hellish amalgam of grace plus works plus a heavy dose of idolatry and blasphemy in order to be declared righteous before God.

Though I am sad that a man like Mr Jorge Bergoglio is going to hell, I am also upset that he is deluding many millions with these doctrines of demons.

Be careful not to be swayed by fine words using the bible. Be careful not to be drawn away by mystical practices which entice the flesh under guise of spirituality.

"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep."  (2 Peter 2:1-3)

Does Jesus need Mary as prayer buddy because He is too busy? Is she the heavenly secretary, bringing prayers to the overwhelmed CEO because His desk got piled too high? Never let it be so! Does He use Mary because He is distant and unloving? Then He is not God! Does He need Mary because He must be persuaded? Then He is not sovereign!

Jesus is our High Priest, loving, able, compassionate, willing to hear our prayers and grant them if they align with His will. (Hebrews 6:20,  Hebrews 9:11). Jesus paid it all, and He was accepted by God as the one sacrifice for sins, therefore He now performs a most excellent office, Priest, interceding for us. Why would you WANT to pray to anyone else, when we have the most unique Being, the most perfect Judge, the most loving Shepherd, in the entire universe, who knows our name and the very numbers of hairs on our head?!

Love Jesus and love His offices of Priest, Prophet and King. He is the ONLY ROYALTY.

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