Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Big Picture

When we read the Bible as a book, take it as a whole, we can see that its message is cohesive. It is brilliantly tied together. From Genesis to Revelation, God, and His nature, is revealed. He tells us emphatically what He will tolerate and what is offensive to Him. He gives us multiple examples of both His abiding love and His unwavering holiness, and He tells us His intent is to motivate us to the obedience of faith.

I know that many like to focus on one Scripture, taking it apart, and expounding on its individual meaning. However, there is a danger in separating out Scripture from its context, and from the whole. People make serious mistakes by that practice, because Scripture was meant to taken together, to be looked at and understood as the pieces of a larger puzzle.

Now, God did this on purpose. He wanted us to study to know Him, to seek Him with diligence. He also wanted to keep those who were not earnest from knowing or understanding. Interpreting His word was never meant to be easy. It was meant to be work, taking both effort and dedicated submission. When we are more dedicated to forming God’s word to suit our desires than understanding what He is saying to us, we may sound like we know what we are saying; but we are more like clanging cymbals – keeping those who would know from knowing by our own arrogance and pride.

When the Lord called me, He taught me. He showed me the “big picture”. I have shared pieces of it, thinking the overall message too much for those whose ears have been deafened by those clanging cymbals. Here I’m going to share that big picture. I encourage you to look at the whole. These are not conflicting Scriptures, but pieces of the puzzle. They fit together and they are completely inline with the nature of God. I pray eyes will be opened and ears unstopped. We begin with Jeremiah, because that where the Lord put me when He called me.

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as prophet to the nations." -- Jer 1:5

Only God creates. Here He informs Jeremiah that having made him, God had the right to call him into service. Just so, each child is created, meaning that it is God who gives them form and life, and God that has dominion over that life. Therefore, every time a child is aborted, God’s authority -- over His own creation -- is treated with insolent contempt.

The Lord said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground." -- Gen 4:10

We think by killing the helpless that we have somehow eliminated a problem; but, if that person is innocent, what we have really done is profoundly magnify their voice unto the Lord. Just like Abel, Yeshua hears the cries of every innocent killed – every preborn babe, every handicapped, every elderly, etc.

The Lord was very angry with Cain for killing Abel. He was very clear that His call on Jeremiah’s life began even before conception. And He warned the Israelites clearly:

“Do this so that innocent blood will not be shed in your land . . . so that you will not be guilty of bloodshed.” – Deu 19:10

God made it very clear that the Israelites did not actually have to kill to be held guilty. No, all they had to do was ignore the shedding of innocent blood. Now, if this law has been rescinded by grace, then we have nothing to worry about.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” – Mat 5:17

Now here’s the thing: the admonition to protect the innocent is not a ceremonial law, negated by the sacrifice of Christ; but rather, an extension of the original commandment to not commit murder (Exo 20:13). Literally, we are commanded to not take the lives of those who have committed no offense worthy of death.

Jeremiah was called to speak to a nation whose religious leaders kept telling the people that God was not angry with them. He told them the truth, but the people loved their leaders so much that they could not and/or would not hear Jeremiah. Almost up to the moment Jerusalem was overthrown, the people and their leaders continued to ignore Jeremiah's warnings. They reasoned that God could not be mad at them, because they were His chosen people. Yet, the Scriptures tell us that God most certainly was angry. The second chapter of Jeremiah is full of God’s complaint against them. Let us look at three primary passages:

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” – Jer 2:13

Israel had chosen to worship and follow idols, a worship that called for the sacrifice of innocent children. They had traded the one true God for worthless images and allowed their children to be brutally murdered in tribute to them. Now, before you think that this is not America’s sin, I invite you consider the way we idolize the rich and famous, and justify our pursuit of pleasure and wealth. Are not the children killed for convenience’ sake? Do we not regard our “right to choice” higher than their innocent lives? Absolutely! And as such, we are just like ancient Israel.

The broken cisterns that Israel chose were carved pieces of stone and wood. Ours are ordinary men and women, money, fame, etc. Israel also loved the immorality that came with their foreign gods. Today, immorality is sold as something no one can do without. Quite literally, the children are killed because immorality is considered to be of so much more value than their innocent lives.

“Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of Me,” declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty. – Jer 2:19

Israel had ceased to fear God. Even though He warned them and disciplined them repeatedly, they considered His patience to be unending. Today, many see the mercy of the cross in much the same way, as a license to sin. Israel disrespected God’s holiness. So do we. They did not have the sense to be in awe of Him. Neither do we.

“On your clothes men find the lifeblood of the innocent poor, though you did not catch them breaking in. Yet, in spite of all this you say, ‘I am innocent; He is not angry with me.’ But I WILL PASS JUDGMENT on you, because you say, ‘I have not sinned’.” – Jer 2:34-35.

The innocent blood that covered the ancients is no different than the innocent blood our nation is awash in today. The children offered to ancient Israel’s gods were no guiltier of any crime than the ones we slaughter today. And what do we say to God? Just like Israel: that we are innocent of any crime!

Please understand: God does not expect those who do not belong to Him to be concerned with the things of His heart. Therefore, He is not looking for them to come to the aid of helpless. However, He does expect those who do belong to Him have regard for them, because we are to reflect Him to the world. Literally, when we, who claim to belong to God, fail to regard the things of God, we leave those things to those who do not, by their very nature, regard the things of God. To be sure there are those who do not believe who do consider the children, but it is to our disgrace for the ambassadors of the King are the ones who should be about His work. 

Ancient Israel’s priests considered their standing more important than teaching the truth of God’s word. It is easy to see that in the Scripture, but few realize that this is exactly what prompted many to keep the truth of abortion quiet. Because abortion is such a political “hot potato”, teaching the truth of it could result in the loss of a church’s tax-exempt status. Some were actually threatened with just that. And that loss, should a teacher pursue the subject, could then result in an end to the teacher’s position in the church. Some even used the excuse that teaching salvation was all they were called to do, anyway. And yet, when we look at the life of Christ, we do not see that He concerned Himself with salvation only.

Then He went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Yeshua gave him back to his mother. – Luk 7:14-15

Now, some will say that by this action, He also drew people to Himself. However, the same argument can be made for reaching those abortion bound, because to offer them the truth of God’s word is to offer them Christ.

The lack of regard for the children’s lives has led to an even stronger lack of regard for life – which now includes the infirmed, the handicapped, the elderly, and those considered to have a low “quality” of life – where “quality” is, of course, determined by someone other than those to be murdered. In short, our refusal to live by God’s life-giving laws has resulted in a ferociously zealous anti-life society.

When the Lord called me, He said I would be like Jeremiah "crying out to a people who would not listen". Like the priests of Jeremiah’s day, the preferred leaders of this day also teach that "God is not angry". Like Israel many see themselves as God’s chosen people. The Israelites did not stop to think that being holy, and completely supreme; God was able to raise up another people to be His. Today, many show the same arrogance by thinking that there will be no judgment for their lack of obedience, either.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. – Jam 1:33

Many see the acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice as enabling them to continue in their sin, as long as they repent of it later. Paul tells us clearly that this is not the way we should live.

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death? We were, therefore, buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we, too, may live a new life. – Rom 6:1-4

Further, the Lord tells us clearly that if we are truly His, obedience will be our goal. Look carefully at John:

If you love Me, you will obey what I command. – Joh 14:15

No wiggle room here. It’s either one or the other. We love Him or we don’t, and that reality will be reflected in our lives. The Lord explains the consequences of choosing disobedience in Matthew:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” – Mat 7:21

Notice that it says “but ONLY he who does the will of My Father”. Understand, it does not mean that we will be perfect, but it does mean that we will be committed to striving for perfection – that our reverence for Him will be reflected in our lives. (Please do not think this means we are saved by our actions. That is another lie of the devil. IF we are saved, it is by grace and that salvation will produce obedient service.)

Some teach that this admonition to obedience is inconsequential, because God has forgiven our sins. However, forgiveness only applies to sins we have fully repented of or turned from. Where abortion is concerned, most have been too busy ignoring or denying their responsibility to have even considered repentance. So, we continue in our sin insisting that our voiced allegiance be considered more important than actual obedience.

Some will say that murder is the unlawful taking of a life. Understand, that while this true, it is God’s law with which we must concern ourselves, because it is God whom we will answer to. The law of man can be, and often is, perverted. But the law of God stands firm. We will either live by it or be broken by it eternally.

Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. Have NOTHING to do with a false charge and do NOT put an INNOCENT person to death, for I will NOT ACQUIT the guilty. – Exo 23:6-7

God was very clear in warning Israel. He told them that they would disregard innocent blood at a high price, such as mentioned in Ezekiel, Chapter 35, verse 6:

“. . . since you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you.”

Again, if God has changed, we need not consider these warnings. If we consider Him to not regard the shedding of innocent blood or to have suddenly regarded it less in light of the sacrifice of Christ – which makes no sense at all given that Christ’s blood was also innocent – but, if we are that willfully blind, then we might negate – at least mentally -- any punishment we might otherwise deserve. If that be the case, I invite such unreasoned thinkers to look at Christ’s response to a lukewarm church:

“So because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of My mouth.” – Rev 3:16

Is not our sin more reprehensible? Have we not slandered His righteous name by insisting that our right to His holiness negates His holiness? Does He not show Himself to be both completely holy and unchanging? Absolutely, so then we can see that He would neither allow for the shedding of innocent blood unnecessarily nor a casual relationship with Him. On the one hand, such reasoning would attempt to lesson the value of the shed blood of Christ. On the other, to think that God has gone to all this effort to suddenly become completely uninterested and detached from the creation He has worked so hard over is pure folly.

Some have come along and determined in their own hearts that God is no longer actively, as in miraculously, involved in the lives of men and women. They have said this because they have not had such experience with God. Having determined their own worth to be too great to have been overlooked by such blessing, these have spoken out against all miraculous encounters as not of God. So by their reasoning, God no longer heals, delivers, restores, speaks, etc. in a manner inconsistent with their own personal views. Meaning, if it isn’t explicitly recorded in Scripture, it isn’t of God.

Now this egregious error literally means that if God clearly has miraculously removed your cancer, lump, or otherwise healed you beyond the physician’s understanding, you must not view it as from God. It also means that wherever anyone is miraculously delivered – be it from drugs, demons, or other assorted affliction – then that, too, must not be considered of God. No miracles literally means absolutely none at all.

Here’s the thing: if there are no more miracles and God no longer speaks directly to His people, then this warning which God gave to me Himself, is nothing to be concerned with. Forget the fact that it included a prophecy already largely fulfilled. (1 The 5:19-20). Ignore the reality of Scripture, because there are great quantities of Scripture that must be considered irrelevant – although why they would have been included for later generations is beyond reason. (Paul wrote extensively on the proper use of the gifts of the Spirit.) All because these modern-day Pharisees are convinced they are absolutely correct in their decidedly personal, assessment of the times.

And yet, people ARE being delivered, restored, healed, spoken to, etc. And God is still very intimately involved in the lives of men and women. Doctors and nurses report miraculous healing that cannot be attributed to modern-day medical care. Drug addicts are delivered from their addiction – without plausible explanation (beyond the miraculous). Prophets speak and are vindicated by the fulfillment of their prophecies.

Therefore, we should not be so committed to those who teach that we cannot see the evidence before us. We should not be so led by those who claim authority that we cannot understand what God is revealing. We must not be so proud that we do not take the time to seek out the truth from God, Himself. To think otherwise is to negate even the admonition to ask, seek, or knock (Mat 7:7), for who would do any of those things if, indeed, God were not responding. And, why, ask yourself, would this even be included in Scripture if God had no intention of fulfilling His word? Again, the Scripture that these “teachers” use to negate miracles is misinterpreted, and to believe it we must disregard far too many Scriptures – including the overall intent, that God is deeply, and personally involved in the lives of those who belong to Him.

If we desire to be His people, we must truly be His people – concerned with the things of His heart, focused on our service to Him. To merely say we are His while living like His word to us is irrelevant is to invite His wrath. Dear Brothers and Sisters it cannot be otherwise because God, Himself, has made it painfully clear throughout His word:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. – Gal 6:7

Like Israel we have sown death by allowing and promoting the shedding of innocent blood. Like Israel we have sown a lack of regard for God by preferring our wealth, etc. Like Israel if we do not repent we will reap what we have sown.

Their arrogance led to being slaughtered or carried off into captivity by cruel taskmasters, and the total destruction of their nation. Ours has already led, in many ways, to the demise of the nation our forefathers founded. Like ancient Israel, we now live in one that neither respects nor regards Him. Israel did not turn until it was too late. Do not be deceived. We stand at the precipice. IF we truly want peace with God, we must live as though His word to us is the most important thing in our lives. We must make His priorities our priority. We must stop considering the “business of the gospel” as a business, and recognize it for the obligation it is. For, IF we are saved by Him, we are bound to Him. The debt we owe Him can only be satisfied by our unadulterated love for Him – reflected by our wholehearted service to Him. And that service, dear brothers and sisters, will, by its very nature, reflect a concern for the things of His heart – including the lives of all innocents.

God’s peace.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Song -- Have you really thought about it?

Christmas Without Me?
by Betty Baker Bailey

You're planning Christmas without me, whatever Christmas is.
I've heard talk of mistletoe and buying gifts for Liz.
You're planning Christmas without me. I wonder where I'll go.
They say it's just too early for me to even know.
You're planning Christmas without me, though it's not too far away.
Don't you know that I'm not ready to come outside and play?

What are Christmas bells?
Who are Santa's elves?
Are there presents for me?
Is snow really cold?
Why is Grandma old?
I can hardly wait to see.

You're planning Christmas without me. You never say my name.
All I hear is how my Daddy is the one to blame.
You're planning Christmas without me. You act like I'm not here.
I think this Doctor Coldheart is someone I should fear.
You're planning Christmas without me, yet, you seem to be so sad.
I would think that our first holiday would make your really glad.

What's a tree-top star?
When's the craft bizarre?
Are there manger scenes about?
What's a Christmas tree?
Just who is this He
This Christmas is all about?

You're planning Christmas without me. I wish it was not so.
Without a place inside you, I don't know where I'll go.
You're planning Christmas without me, as if I never was.
I do not think I'll like what this Coldheart doctor does.
You're planning Christmas without me. What'd I do that was so bad?
If you'll just let me stay with you, I'll never make you mad.

Hear that Christmas bell?
How do cookies smell?
Will I get to taste some fudge?
How do reindeer fly?
Do you think that I
Am just some worthless sludge?

You're planning Christmas without me. I heard you had to pay
To get that Coldheart doctor to take my life away.
You're planning Christmas without me. Do you not hear my cries?
Don't you know I love you, Mommy? Can't we compromise?
You're planning Christmas without me, and I don't have a say.
You're going to let him hurt me. I'll not see Christmas day.

What are Christmas lights?
Why are "women's rights"
More important than me?
Did you deck the halls
With some Christmas balls?
Oh, how much I'd like to see!

You're planning Christmas without me. Why must it be this way?
Do you think the Babe of Christmas intended me for prey?
You're planning Christmas without me. That must be Him who cries.
Guess you cannot hear Him either when list'ning to their lies.
You're planning Christmas without me. I had hoped you'd change your mind.
How can you think things will be better once you leave me behind?

How do Chestnuts roast?
Will you make a toast
To welcome your New Year?
What does paper wrap?
Think I'll take a nap.
Why do you not hold me dear?

You're planning Christmas without me. I'll miss you, Mommy, dear.
You'll never know who I was. My voice you'll never hear.
You're planning Christmas without me. You'll never hold me close.
You won't be kissing my cheeks, that's what I'll miss the most.
You're planning Christmas without me, though I fight to stay alive.
If only you had loved me, too, so that I could survive.

What's a Christmas wreath?
Are there gifts beneath
Your decorated tree?
On some lonely night
Do you think you might
Ever even think of me?