Friday, June 29, 2012

BUMP IN THE NIGHT


There are psychic disturbances that lead us to believe that another realm exists between God and Creation. Every record of civilization from ancient to modern recounts phenomena that cannot be easily explained. There are powers and dark forces that are mostly hidden from view and intersect Creation with apparent intelligence and agenda.


On a couple occasions, I experienced night terrors that went beyond stress-related ‘too much pizza’ dreams.

Within the first year or two of launching New Song Church, I awoke one night to a dark presence in the hallway. I can only describe it as a presence that was darker than the unlit house I was sleeping in. I felt a sense of great fear and struggled to breathe a prayer.

Another night I dreamt there was a pile of corpses at the bottom of the basement steps. In my dream I walked up to the dead bodies surprised and curious. The one on top suddenly looked at me and grabbed my arm. I awoke with a shriek nearly giving Marsha a heart attack! To calm down I turned on the light and noticed that my arm was scratched where I dreamt the corpse had grabbed me. There was nothing next to my outside arm that I could have scratched it on.

In 1986 while serving as a youth pastor, I encountered a young woman who was behaving strangely and ran behind the church. Her friends came and told me something was wrong with her. She appeared to be in a trance. Her friend and I coaxed her back to a place where we could talk to her and find out what was happening. She was in a spooky child-like state and reliving a fearful incident from her childhood. The conversation was not going well and I did not know how to resolve it. Eventually I prayed for her. She calmed down and we got her home. I had to return to the church to finish lockup and was feeling spooked. When I entered the office near the back corner of the building… just inside from where we found her in a state of delirium… I jumped when the lights and the phone began to flicker on and off repeatedly. I have never witnessed that kind of electrical disturbance.

I do not usually share these stories. When I do, I find many people have their own dark encounters to tell of.

As a Christian I can read the Scriptures and find glimpses of a spirit realm that has intelligence and deliberate agendas. Christian doctrine describes a realm of spirit beings called angels created to do the will of God. They are supernatural beings.
Satan was filled with pride and lead one-third of the angels into rebellion against God. For that, they were banished from Heaven. Commonly, we call these fallen angels ‘demons’.

I have not personally seen an angel, but have spoken to several people that have. People have seen angels more than once while I’ve been involved in leading worship. I didn’t see anything, but they claim to have.

Monday, June 25, 2012

SIGN, SIGN, EVERYWHERE A SIGN


All through history God has posted signs of His presence and rightful claim to the Earth. Some have observed the signs and found direction. Others have a fascination with signs viewing them as the destination rather than tools of direction. What are we to make of signs and wonders?


A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign.[i] (Jesus Christ)

John Piper offers a perspective on this.

Seeking signs from God is "wicked and adulterous" when the demand for more and more evidence comes from a resistant heart and simply covers up an unwillingness to believe. If we are carrying on a love affair with the world, and our husband, Jesus, after a long separation, comes to us and says, "I love you and I want you back," one of the best ways to protect our adulterous relationship with the world is to say, "You're not really my husband; you don't really love me. Prove it. Give me some sign." If that's the way we demand a sign, then we are a wicked and adulterous generation.[ii]

The apostle Paul found that human nature is fascinated with signs and wonders. He met many people who were seekers, but many missed the point.

1 Corinthians 1:
22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.

If you do not see the fatal flaw of humanity’s sinfulness, the message of Christ crucified will not be a satisfactory answer.  Jesus giving his life, as a ransom for your sin does not make sense if you do not believe that you were kidnapped.

Jesus opens up a whole new understanding of God that most of the Jews tripped over. To believe Jesus would be to admit they had it wrong on so many fronts.

If you are looking for an answer that makes you feel smarter, Jesus does not provide it. The whole idea of salvation is foolish to people who think they are smarter than the duped masses. Pride gets in the way of a good rescue.

Paul recognizes that signs from God happen along the road. The signs point to and follow the good news of Jesus Christ. Signs point us to Jesus and signs follow those who believe. Please remember that the central message is Jesus, not the work he does.

In some cases, sign seeking is a diversion from the power of Christ crucified.[iii]

John Piper explains it this way:

Signs and wonders are not the saving word of grace; they are God's secondary testimony to the word of his grace. Signs and wonders do not save. They are not the power of God unto salvation. They do not transform the heart–any more than music or art or drama, which accompany the gospel. Signs and wonders can be imitated by Satan (2 Thessalonians 2:9; Matthew 24:24), but the gospel is utterly contrary to his nature. What changes the heart and saves the soul is the self-authenticating glory of Christ seen in the message of the gospel (2 Corinthians 3:18-4:6).
But even if signs and wonders can't save the soul, they can, if God pleases, shatter the shell of disinterest; they can shatter the shell of cynicism; they can shatter the shell of false religion. Like every other good witness to the word of grace, they can help the fallen heart to fix its gaze on the gospel where the soul-saving, self-authenticating glory of the Lord shines. Therefore the early church longed for God to stretch forth his hand to heal, and that signs and wonders be done in the name of Jesus.[iv]


Just as there is a wicked generation who demand a sign, there can be a righteous generation who follow Jesus. Signs and wonders do not lead this generation; Jesus leads them. But signs and wonders follow those who believe. Can you look back and see the signs God used to lead you to him?



Friday, June 22, 2012

SMARTER THAN GOD


We need God’s help to interpret the times that we belong to. Human opinion may forecast the coming of rocket mail and many unsinkable Titanic developments. What does Jesus mean when he challenges the ability to interpret the times? If we are able to read the signs of the times accurately, what will this mean?

          1.     See what God sees
          2.     Admit to our ignorance
          3.     Embrace the change God brings

Jesus’ own nation did not see what God was doing. Most were too secure and smug in their opinions to change and welcome the Messiah in their midst.

The Pharisees saw Jesus’ miracles and heard all the opinion polls. Thinking themselves to be the ruling authority and the critical thinkers on all things religious, they challenged the Rabbi to present some convincing evidence. They asked Jesus to do something miraculous to prove His point. Their request was based in the belief that He was a fraud.


Matthew 12:
39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.



The sign of Jonah is resurrection. Like Jonah, Jesus would be committed to death and rise up three days later.

The prophet Jonah rejected God’s call to preach in Nineveh and ran in the opposite direction to get away from God. On a storm-tossed boat he requested to be thrown into the ocean in order for the sailors to be spared by God. Instead of drowning, a monstrously large fish swallowed him whole. 


For three days he was in the belly of the fish until being expelled at shore. Jonah survived and went to Nineveh to tell the city about God’s mercy.

The Pharisees and teachers would receive one undeniable sign from Heaven. Jesus would rise from the dead and his teaching and ministry would continue.

In the final judgment there will come true critical thinking on their opinions. The 120,000 who found God’s mercy at Nineveh will shake their heads at the Pharisees. They will vote against them. Jonah was a flawed man and God still used him to see the salvation of a city. Jesus’ obedience and character exceeds every other messenger of God.

Sheba was the queen of the south. She came to visit King Solomon on a spiritual quest. She had heard that he was wiser than anyone in the things of God.

Solomon had wise answers for her most difficult questions and she became convinced of his integrity. Sheba will be at the judgment with two thumbs down toward the critics of Jesus. She will recognize that Jesus’ wisdom far exceeds that of Solomon.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

PLANET FULL OF EXPERTS



Do not believe it when people say they are not judgmental. Judging is one of our major preoccupations. All people judge.

What is about human nature that causes us to analyze and predict? There are entire industries based on gathering data and providing statistical analysis. There are countless self-professed health experts, self-help gurus and activists burning police vehicles. We are a fearless race that loves the sound of our own voices.


Luke 12:
54 He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does.55 And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?
57 “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59 I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”


Where do we get our information? There is a bottomless well of opinion and science to help us on your way. Environmentalists, nutritionists and economic advisors speak intelligently on conditions and outcomes. It is good to learn from them and adjust accordingly.

Jesus identifies this human condition of judging all things. How can we be so intelligent and not see what God is doing in our day? Why are we so quick to hop a train of thought without checking its destination?

We can be dead right about natural conditions, but dead wrong about the mind of God. Either way we are dead men waiting for the breath of life.


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