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Fallout Revisited

Christian Life, Fallout Revisited, Life, Spiritual Growth

Fallout Revisited: The Long Road

November 16, 2015

Fallout Revisited is a series that takes posts from The Everlasting Fallout’s five years of history and brings back to the light of day. This post was originally written May 26, 2011. The original post can be found here.

 

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God often seems to take his people on circuitous routes rather than the straight and simple way in order to reach their destination. Israel is led through the desert for an entire generation before reaching their promised land. David is anointed king and flees from Saul for years before finally receiving his rightful place upon the throne. Even Jesus spent nearly 30 years on earth before even beginning his ministry.

Why this slow, painstaking process rather than a single miraculous moment? From the grand picture of scripture it appears that God cares more about who a person is than he does about their accomplishing a certain goal. Character comes before achievement in the kingdom of heaven, and the Lord desires to see Christ’s glory formed in his people more than he desires to see his people achieve things that are glorious by earthly standards.

The sovereign Lord uses even our sin and mistakes to conform our character to that of Christ. When Romans 8 declares,

all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

The apostle truly means all things. Israel’s desert years taught them the foolishness and danger of doubting an all-powerful God and allowed them to see their own sinfulness and God’s power to preserve. David’s years of waiting, hiding, and being pursued by his enemies taught him the patience needed to be king and grew his character into a man who would lead Israel well. Jesus’ life on earth prepared for us a righteous life not our own so that we might truly called “sons of God” (Galatians 3:26) and “the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Do not despair, my friends. Though you see ten thousand easier roads all about you, our gracious God is guiding every circumstance and step to cultivate you as one of his children. He is the perfect husbandman, guarding and feeding his flock, pruning and watering his plants, and in all things showing his good and perfect love. Your faith is more precious than gold or many jewels, and he will use any and all means in his infinite wisdom to refine that faith and character so that, though you may suffer and struggle for a moment here on this earth, you will rejoice with unspeakable joy as you receive the promised glorious salvation (1 Peter 1). Do not fear a long and treacherous road, for the Lord will be with you and will do good to you every step of the way.

 

 

Christian Life, Culture, Fallout Revisited

Fallout Revisited: How to Prophesy

August 10, 2015

Fallout Revisited is a series that looks back through the six plus years of posts on the everlasting fallout and revisits the best and most relevant. This post, originally titled Proclaim, was posted three years ago in August of 2012.

 

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“I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.”

– Jeremiah 23:21-22

We are in an age where opinion has been crowned king, and those whose opinions are most popular are crowned the king of kings. Our world is growing ever more desperate for truth. Despite the increasing availability of information there is a vast shortage of deep, penetrating truth. Even in the church and the Christian community across the western world we have sold the proclamation of truth for the sake of purchasing the opinions that we want to hear.

Our situation isn’t far removed from Israel’s in the days of the prophet Jeremiah. Prophets across the nation proclaimed the Lord’s favor despite the fact that God himself declared destruction and calamity due to Israel’s idolatry. God says that the false prophets, “prophesy the deceit of their own hearts” (Jeremiah 23:26) and by doing so lead His people astray.

Sadly, as I look around at my fellow Christians I see numerous people who have been led astray and are in the process of bringing others with them, speaking from human logic and experience rather than from faith, confident that they have discerned what the word of the Lord is even though they have failed to actually listen.

My longing, and Jeremiah’s longing in his time, is to see a day come where the Lord’s people boldly speak the truth to each other and to the world. Oh, what a transformation this would bring! Truth has the terrible power to divide and unite, to root up what is evil and plant what is good in its place. In a world where politicking, deceit, and convenient lies are acceptable and even encouraged, the emergence of a people who speak the truth will have an earth-shaking effect.

In Jeremiah 23 God makes a statement that I believe is key for us to understand if we are to be the people who bring that prophetic truth to bear on our friends, communities, and world. I want to draw out four implications of the Lord’s words in hopes of giving us all practical ways to move toward the truth.

 

1: Begin in the presence of the Lord.

After declaring that he didn’t send the prophets who were promising peace and prosperity, the Lord says a phrase that offers both an admonition and hope. “If they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people and they would have turned them from their evil way.” Throughout the book of Jeremiah it is clear that God’s earnest desire is that his people turn from their rebellion and be healed so he can relent from bringing disaster upon them. Time and time again he sends prophets to warn and admonish his people. However, because these prophets did not wait for a word in the presence of the Lord, they end up sending the people of Israel deeper into rebellion rather than realigning them with the Lord’s commands.

How often we make this same mistake! Know full well, oh Christian, that if you do not stand in the presence of the Lord often and at length, you will end up leading those around you further into sin. We are easily led astray, and without the constant pressure of the presence of Christ in our lives we are wanderers indeed. Make it your solemn promise to always begin in the presence of the Lord; to stand before the throne of the Almighty until you have the word you are to speak. Humble yourself daily in prayer and fill yourself daily with the scriptures. Then, when you can truly say that you have been in council with the Lord, your words will be words of truth that bring healing and not harm.

 

2: Be patient. Don’t go until you’re sent.

Another of God’s accusations is that the prophets didn’t wait for him to send them. Instead they went on their own timing, running when they shouldn’t even have walked.

An essential part of speaking the truth is speaking it at the right time. As Proverbs, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” Even if we have received a word from God or our eyes have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit to see how some scriptural truth applies to a certain person’s situation, we must wait until we are sent by our King, lest we speak out of turn and do damage. Only when the Lord sends us will our words be powerful and true. And remember, do not run where you aught to walk, or walk where you aught to tread tenderly. There are times to proclaim the truth in a flood of rebuke and there are times when the truth must be gently poured out like water from a spring. Go when you are sent and go in the way you are sent, then the truth you speak will be mighty to save.

 

3: Be Bold. Proclaim the word of the Lord.

For me, this is the hard one. By God’s grace it has become a habit to begin my time in the presence of the Lord, attending to his council. Patience in timing is relatively easy for me as well, however, my patience often turns to procrastination. Often I know the truth I need to speak and when I need to do it, but want to avoid any conflict that might result from speaking a pointed word.

We must note that it is only when the word of the Lord is actively, boldly proclaimed  that people are turned from their sin. Webster’s dictionary defines proclaim as, “to declare publicly, typically insistently, proudly, or defiantly and in either speech or writing.” There is no timidity here, only a courageous declaration of the truth that calls the hearer to respond.

In order for our world to be transformed, we must be proclaimers. Not silent onlookers, not whisperers, and not mumblers. When we have stood in the Lord’s council and are confident we are in line with his timing, we must proclaim the truth that he has sent us with, not apologizing or mitigating, even if it is a difficult thing. The word of the Lord is a double edged sword, but even the sharpest blade will not cut unless it is swung with strength. So speak boldly the truth you have received and,

 

4: Be Hopeful. Expect the Lord to work.

There is no wavering in the last sentence of God’s declaration in Jeremiah 23:22. “If they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.” If God’s prophets stand in his council, go when they are sent, and boldly proclaim the word they have been given, then the people will turn from their evil ways. This is not a question of whether the people are willing or if their hearts happen to be in the right place at the moment the truth is spoken to them. It is a matter of whether the sovereign God of the universe pours out his grace and awakens the hearts of the hearer to the truth and to repentance. What the Lord has promised, he will do.

We have a similar promise in the New Testament’s great commission, where it is declared the all authority is Christ’s and that Christ is with his people until the end of days as the go forth to make disciples. God has spoken and promised. It is for us to put our faith in that promise and step forward boldly, in full expectation of people being transformed as the word of the Lord is proclaimed throughout the world.

My friends, we have a beautiful task ahead of us. We have been brought from darkness into the Kingdom of the light of the Beloved Son, and have been commissioned to go as ambassadors and prophets to those who are still in darkness. We go from the councils of our God, at his command and in the power of his Spirit into places where the wells of truth have run dry for eons, bringing with us the living water that can heal and restore what was once dead and lost. As we, the disciples of Christ, begin to proclaim truth to each other and to those around us, supernatural things will begin to happen. We will see lives transformed and people brought out from bondage into freedom; we will see dead live and hard hearts be softened. Oh, what a work we partake in! Don’t back down from it. Press forward, for the reward is great.

Commentary, Culture, Fallout Revisited

Fallout Revisited: Politic, 1650

January 7, 2014

Fallout Revisited is an occasional series of posts that dig back through the five plus years of posts here on The Everlasting Fallout and bring to the surface things that I believe are still timely and important. This post was originally published February of 2009 here.

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It might be imagined that men who sacrificed their friends, their family, and their native lands to a religious conviction, were absorbed in the pursuit of intellectual advantages which they purchased at so dear a rate. The energy, however, with which they strove for the acquirement of wealth, moral enjoyment, and the comforts as well as the liberties of the world is scarcely inferior to that which they devoted themselves to Heaven.

Political principles, and all human laws and institutions were molded and altered at their pleasure; the barriers of the society in which they were born were broken down before them; the old principles which had governet the world for ages were no more; a pat without a term, and a field without a horizon were opened to the exploring and ardent curiosity of man : but at the limits of the political world he checks his researches, he discreetly lays aside the use of his most formidable faculties, he no longer consents to doubt or to innovate, but carefully abstaining from rainsing the curtain of the sanctuary, he yields with the submissive respect to truths he will not debate.

Thus in the moral world everything is classed, adapted, decided, and forseen ; in the political world everything is agitated , disputed, and uncertain. In one is a passive, though voluntary, obedience : in the other an independence scornful of experience and jealous of authority.

These two tendencies, apparently so discrepant, are far from conflicting. They advance together and mutually support each other.

Religion perceives that civil liberty affords a noble exercise to the faculty of man, and that the political world is a field prepared by the Creator for the efforts of the intelligence. Contented with the freedom and the power which it enjoys in its own sphere, and with the place it occupies, the empire of religion is never more surely established than when it reigns in the hearts of men unsupported by aught beside its native strength.

Religion is no less the companion of liberty in all its battles and its triumphs; the cradle of its infancy and the divine source of its claims. The safe-gaurd of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law as well as the surest pledge of freedom.

That quote, from Alexis de Tocquevile’s Democracy in America, which I just finished reading, brought to my mind a rather interesting train of thought. First off, I must highly recommend the book…I’m only 30-something pages into it and am amazed at some of the astute observations that de Tocquevile makes about America and its birth which are greatly relevant to our country today.

De Tocquevile makes the point that one of the unique things about America’s early years was the unprecedented freedom of political thought; “in the political world everything is agitated , disputed, and uncertain,” yet at the same time in the moral (religious) world there was almost no movement. He presents here, though subtly, a fair picture of the much touted and much mis-used idea of separation of church and state, declaring that far from the state being beyond religion’s reach, it is religion which sees the political field as the place in which religious men may exercise their mental capacity to the full. His statement that, “the empire of religion is never more surely established than when it reigns in the hearts of men unsupported by aught beside its native strength” delighted me. It is absolutely true that religion thrives greatest when it is free from forced supports (ie. a “state religion” that is sanctioned and supported by a governing body).  The places where the Christian religion grows the most deeply and widely and bears the most fruit is the places where the state, far from supporting it, even goes so far as to condemn and persecute those who follow the Way.  That, I believe, is the essential true meaning of the seperation of church and state. The state simply is not meant to support any religion.

What struck me was the fact, as I stated, that the early citizens of the New World held their religious beliefs in almost complete stasis, not changing or even debating change of them. In contrast, their political discussion was as broad and varying as the land in which they had settled. De Tocquevile seems to point to this as a reason for their success and ability to have such liberty without abuse of that freedom. ” The safe-gaurd of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law as well as the surest pledge of freedom.” If religion gaurds morality and morality is the best security of law and freedom, then religion is most certainly necessary for a country that desires to have a free people.

It seems to me that we in America today have gotten things rather backward. Where the early settlers were free in their politics and held no parties or boundary lines therein we have a country that is sectioned into democrats and republicans with almost no possibility of someone without the backing of one of the two parties holding any significant office. Where America’s birth came from religion being solid, definite, and unmoveable, the culture now is one where religion is the thing that is bantered about in discussions and used as the playing field for the excersize of the human mind.

I can’t help but wonder if that isn’t part of the cause of so much of our struggle today. Are we all discussing the wrong thing? Maybe we should be debating and breaking down the “barriers of the society” and politics rather than focusing so much on whether God exists or whether Catholicism and Christianity are the same. Those of you who read my blog know full well my position on religion, but that is beside the point at the moment. If the things that we are debating are in completely the wrong field, how will we ever find the answer? A man struggling with all his mental power write a novel will never succeed in solving a mathematical equation.

That’s my thought for the moment. Leave your comments if you have any of your own, and, once again, I would highly recommend de Tocquevile’s Democracy in America. It’s a great read!

Commentary, Fallout Revisited, Leadership

Fallout Revisited : Thoughts from 2 Chronicles

October 15, 2013

I’ve been blogging regularly for approximately five years (maybe longer). Fallout Revisited is a series that revisits old posts that may have gotten lost in the flow of time but I are needed at the present time. This edition was originally posted here in July of 2011.

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Part of my regular scripture reading for the last several months has been making my way through the Old Testament, a thing which I recommend highly to all. Most Christians do little enough Bible reading, and rarely read systematically through the New Testament, much less the Old. But, as I hope to point out here, there is precious insight into the story of the Gospel, God’s character, and humanity to be learned through the reading of the first half of the Lord’s word to mankind. A few weeks ago I finished 2 Chronicles, and as I completed the book spent several minutes skimming what I’d read and mulling over several major themes that stood out to me, which I thought were worth sharing. So, for what it’s worth, here are some of my thoughts from my reading of 2 Chronicles.

Godly leadership is essential
Both 1 and 2 Chronicles are records of Israel’s cycle of turning away from God to idolatry, God disciplining them, Israel repenting and returning to the Lord, and then doing it over again. From the viewpoint of the inspired writer of the Chronicles, it is the country’s leaders that determine the path Israel takes. The nation prospers under Solomon’s rule, but Rehoboam, the succeeding King, turns from God. “When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was strong, he abandoned the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him.” (2 Chronicles 12:1) Over and over again, the leader’s actions and character have a massive impact on whether the people follow the Lord or not.

It’s no different in our day. As the leader goes, so go the people. Oh how essential it is that we be men and women who are conscious of how our actions direct those around us! Surely Rehoboam didn’t intend for his worship of idols to lead to all of Israel turning away and the Lord bringing Egypt to crush them into repentance, but as the ruler of the country his example set the tone for his people. My friends, let your character be such that when it is imitated it will drawn those around you closer to Christ.

God is sovereign over every part of history
Despite the fact that the majority of rulers in the Chronicles openly reject the Lord and worship idols, it is made clear that God is completely in control of what is taking place. The Lord uses nations that are Israel’s enemies to discipline them in their waywardness, and yet continually prevents their destruction. Scenes like 2 Chronicles 12:1-12, where God says that he is going to turn Israel over to Shishak, king of Egypt, and then declares, “They have humbled themselves. I will not destroy Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak” when Rehoboam and the other leaders repent show the way that God uses the nations as instruments to enact his will, even in their opposition to him.

This doctrine is one that is made little of in our day and age, but is amazingly precious due to the way it gives God’s people confidence in the midst of a chaotic earth! We must know that we serve a God who sits in heaven and does as he pleases, directing all of history for his glory and the good of those who are his if we are to be a people who go boldly into the most deadly places to bear Christ’s name. No government or world leader is able to do anything apart from God’s sovereign will, for as Proverbs 21:1 declares, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”

Godly councilors are crucial.
God is indeed sovereign over all events in history, but this does not exempt man from the responsibility of his actions, therefore it is necessary for all men to seek the right path in their lives. All throughout the scripture it is made clear that there is “a wisdom in a diversity of council.” When we follow only our own minds, we  often end up straying far from the path that the Lord has set for us. Uzziah’s life is a very practical outworking of this principle.
At the outset of his reign the Chronicler declares that Uzziah, “set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper.” (26:5) Note the qualifier “in the days of Zechariah.” Uzziah reigns very successfully, winning numerous military conquests and increasing the prosperity of Israel so long as he follows the council of the godly man Zechariah. However, “when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction” (26:16)

When we grow proud and decide that we have outgrown the need for the council of others, our destruction is not far off. This is particularly crucial for young leaders such as myself to grasp. We are desperately in need of the consistent guidance and reminder of the ways of the Lord, lest we “think more highly of ourselves than we ought” and bring about our own destruction by rushing headlong into positions that we are not prepared for.

Godly leadership fails if it doesn’t train up the next generation
Hezekiah is one of the bright lights in the midst of the darkness of 2 Chronicles. He is introduced by the declaration, “And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done,” (2 Chron. 29:2). Hezekiah cleanses the temple, reinstates the priesthood and worship, restores the Passover, and does numerous great works throughout his lifetime. The writer of Chronicles says that, “since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.” (2 Chron. 30:26) However, as with all humans, Hezekiah eventually dies.

Chapter 33 begins with Manasseh, Hezekiah’s son, taking the throne in his father’s stead. Manasseh’s reign is a terrible contrast to the previous ruler, with the Chronicler recording that he,

did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had broken down, and he erected altars to the Baals, and made Asherahs, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them…. And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. (2 Chronicles 33:2-6 ESV)

The principle here is one that is critical for us to grasp; Godly leadership fails to have any lasting effect if it does not train someone to take its place. We don’t know what Hezekiah did or didn’t do in raising his son, but it is clear that Manasseh had not been trained to walk in the ways of the Lord. As a result, all of his father’s reforms and restoration of the worship of God were destroyed in an amazingly short amount of time.

Take this to heart, parents, pastors, leaders, and all Christians. We may reform our culture and live righteous lives today, but if we do not intentionally pass what we have received from the Lord to the next generation, all our labor will have been in vain. I see in our own day a growing reformation of the church and Christianity as we return to the sufficiency of the gospel, the need for both the Spirit and the Word, and the church being a community of believers who live in imitation of Christ rather than a Sunday meeting. However, if these reforms are not consciously and carefully passed on to the following generations, all the good we have done will collapse.

God actively judges sin.
Lastly, 2 Chronicles makes it explicit that we serve a God who actively judges sin, a doctrine particularly relevant in light of all the recent hullabaloo about Bell’s Love Wins and other similar books. My friends, we cannot attempt to tame God’s wrath and judgment of both sin and sinner without also crushing the power of his salvation.

2 Chronicles 22:7 declares, “it was ordained by God that the downfall of Ahaziah should come about through his going to visit Joram.” 25:20 reads, “it was of God, in order that he might give them into the hands of their enemies, because they had sought the gods of Edom.” 28:5 says, “Therefore the Lord his God have him into the hand of the king of Syria.” In each of these verses, God is the actor, turning his people over to their enemies because of their sin.
And lest we think that this is a concept old an old covenant God who is somehow different today, Paul writes such statements as, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” and, “Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity,” and, “since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind” in Romans 1 and elsewhere.
We serve a God who takes sin seriously, so much so that he will use one nation to discipline another for their sin. We must not to take such things lightly. Instead, the only appropriate response is to do as Hezekiah does in 2 Chronicles 32 and humble ourselves, repenting of our sin and casting ourselves upon God’s mercy, remembering that the same God who viciously judges sin has also graciously sent his Son to bear the judgment in our place.

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Oh, the riches of the depths of the wisdom of the God who is all-sovereign, all-just, and all-loving! From the darkness of the human rulers of first and second Chronicles emerges the longing for a king who will truly lead his people well, rescuing them from not only their mortal enemies but from the eternal enemy of death and sin. From the failures of Abishai and Rehoboam, we look desperately for a ruler who will do good and serve the living God. From the riches and rightness of rulers like Solomon and Hezekiah, we look eagerly for a good king who will not pass away. All of these longings are fulfilled in Christ, who is, “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation,” and who, “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the glory of God the father.” As we read and see, and experience both good and evil rulers in our lives, let us constantly be drawn to Christ and declare our allegiance to him as King over all, for he alone is able and he alone is worthy.

Fallout Revisited, Leadership, Life

Fallout Revisited : Give Yourself no Rest, O Men of God

October 1, 2013

I’ve been blogging regularly for approximately five years (maybe longer). Fallout Revisited is a series that revisits old posts that may have gotten lost in the flow of time but I believe are needed at the present time. This edition was originally posted here in June of 2009.

 

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“The Lord your God has given you this land to possess. All your men of valor shall cross over armed before your brothers, the people of Israel…until the Lord gives rest to your brothers, as to you, and they also occupy the land the Lord your God has promised them beyond the Jordan. Then each of you may return to his possession which I have given you.”

– Deuteronomy 3:18-20

Here Moses is relating to a new generation of Israelites what has transpired since their miraculous freeing from Egypt,. Finally, after over four decades in the desert the nation is preparing to enter the promised land. However, the Ruebenites and the Gadites have requested to stay behind in a land that they had already conquered, settling there with their families and livestock. Moses agrees, on the condition that all of the men of fighting age stay with the rest of Israel until they had defeated the tribes within the promised lands. The Ruebenites and the Gadites agree.

In these few verses (and the earlier relation of the same story in Numbers chapter 32) I see a principle that is both extremely relevant and extremely neglected in Christianity today; that of our obligation to serve and assist our fellow believers. We are not to rest until our brothers and sisters in Christ have found a rest and peace of their own. As God declares in Isaiah 62, “You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” So are we to do today, to devote ourselves to working every meaning of the word to establish our brothers and sisters in Christ.

It is not necessarily that we are to send our young men off to join with other believers in hostile territory (though it very well may be so in some cases, and I would say that if that never happens something is very wrong) but that we are not to give ourselves to lounging and pleasure and entertainment when there are others who have no such luxuries.

What massive significance this has in our western cultures! Our tendency is so much towards slothfulness and rest in the face of the fact that thousands of Christians are struggling to survive with little or no food as we sit in the movie theaters with our $5 large popcorn, $4 drinks, and candy. Such a thought should horrify us. Not only should it horrify us with its blatant lack of care for others, but it should also strike terror into our hearts when we read what the Lord declares to such a country in the book of Amos, when he says,

“You lie on beds inlaid with ivory

and lounge on your couches.

You dine on choice lambs

and fattened calves.

You strum away on your harps like David

and improvise on musical instruments.

You drink wine by the bowlful

and use the finest lotions,

but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.

Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile;

your feasting and lounging will end.”

(Amos 6:4-7)

Do those words not describe us? Oh, surely we are a people who lounge about and dine upon the choicest of foods! Think of the hundreds of new musicians every day who seek only their own glory and fame, of the numerous people who have given their lives to drinking, caring for their appearance, and seeking only their own satisfaction, completely ignoring the ruin that coats the earth.

Are there any “men of valor” among us? If so, let them rise up and go before their brothers and sisters, laying down their lives “until the Lord gives rest” to them. This faith of ours is not one that sits idly by and watches as the earth spins, declaring that God shall do what must be done. Far from it! Ours is a faith that calls men to rise from their comfort and go, in complete dependence upon God, into the darkest and most wretched parts of the world, bringing with them the full glory of the Gospel. Come, oh men of God. Give yourselves no rest until the Lord should establish His kingdom in full! Cast off the hours of television after getting home from work. Throw away the video games and fishing poles and sports and hobbies that keep you from the work of the Lord. Do not seek to surround yourself with comfort and settle in the place which the Lord has given you until He has also established comfort and peace for those who also bear His name.

Then how sweet shall the rest be as we come before that final throne to hear God himself rise and declare “Well done, my sons! You have fought the good fight and won the race.” Is not an evening’s rest much better after a heavy day’s work? Shall not the rest of heaven be infinitely more potent if we have given ourselves to that heavy work here in this life? Do not hold back! The Lord shall reward those who do as He desires, as Paul writes, “God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, he will give eternal life.” (Romans 2:6-7)

Fallout Revisited, Spiritual Growth

Fallout Revisited: Let no Christian soul tremble in fear, God himself is here

September 17, 2013

“Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? …Who can bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

– Romans 8:29-34

What undeserved grace we peoples of God have received! That God himself should choose men and women in whom there was no pleasing thing, no righteousness, and no strength to free themselves from the sin in which they dwelt! And not only this, but He has chosen them and has promised by all His infinite grace through His Son to make them into images in the likeness of Christ. Just as Christ took on the likeness of sinful man, so in the end shall those who have been chosen by God be made into the likeness of Christ. So sure a thing it is that the Apostle Paul was able to write of our final glorification as a thing that has already happened.

It is with that same confidence – the confidence that is so sure of the truth in God’s word that it believes them as if they had already come to pass – that we are to live lives completely given over to God. We are to sacrifice ourselves and our fleshly desires, putting to death by the Spirit every sin, deed, thought, and passion that would lead us away from Christ. Our lives are to be led by His Spirit, not by our own. (Rom. 8:13)

Rise up, oh men and women! Dwell upon the glorious truths held within the eighth chapter of Romans and let them carry you out upon wings of infinite strength. If God is for us, who can be against us? Not government, not death, not starvation, not another human, and not even the wickedness left in our own bodies that so often causes us to falter in our walk; none of it can come against us and condemn us, for God has justified. And know this, oh saint; when God does something He does it completely, above and beyond any chance of retracting the deed. Christ Jesus, who died and now resides at the right hand of God eternally interceding on our behalf, has purchased us for God (Rev. 5:9) and it is a purchase that shall never be revoked.

Gaze upon the wonder of those things, and be not slow to respond. Be reckless in your devotion; cast off all else. Set your mind daily, minute by minute, upon Christ and what He has done. Know that He will not fail you who God has called, justified, is sanctifying, and will soon enough glorify. Let that knowledge free you from all constraints to live a comfortable life, to avoid pain, and to provide for yourself. For is it not true that if He “did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32)

Fallout Revisited

Friday: Fallout Revisited – Spiritual Motivation

August 23, 2013

I’ve been blogging regularly for approximately five years (maybe longer). Fallout Revisited is a series that revisits old posts that may have gotten lost in the flow of time but I are needed at the present time. This edition was originally posted here in May of 2009.

“Too many Christians today are seeking to live for the Lord on the basis of the principle of love. Their thinking is this, ‘He loved me and gave Himself for me, therefore the least I can do is love Him and give myself for Him.’ Such a motivation is good, high, and altruistic; but it is neither the best nor the highest, nor is it spiritual. Our love is far too weak and vacillating for such an undertaking. Self will see to that! ‘For to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not…for I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members…bringing me into captivity to the law of sin’ (Rom. 7:18, 22, 23)

There is only one true and adequate motivating power for living the Christian life, and that is the very life of the Lord Jesus – ministered within by the Spirit of Life Himself. This is not a motivation of love, but the empowerment of life. ‘For to me to live is Christ’ (Phil. 1:21) It is not, ‘Only what is done for Christ will last,’ but rather, ‘Only what is done by Christ will last.’”
– Miles J. Stanford, The Complete Green Letters (p. 215)

How true it is that our natural tendency, even as Christians, is to live from our own power! We strive to act the way we know God commands us to, despairing when our own efforts fail. How long will it take for us to understand the truth declared above and in Romans 8:7-8, that “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s low, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God”? Every time we attempt to do spiritual work with fleshly strength, it will not be pleasing to the Lord. It will be sin. As Paul writes later in Romans, “everything that does not come from faith is a sin.” (14:23) To live for God out of a sense of duty may be a high and noble human aspiration, but that is all it is; human. An earthy, fleshly thing, and as such it will never be pleasing to God.
We are commanded to stop our striving and working and instead trust that God will be the one to work. This goes against all of our human instincts, does it not? Every fiber of our being hears the Law and cries, “Do! Do!” and yet God in His infinite wisdom has told us simply to rest in Christ. This, in my experience, is one of the most difficult things of the Christian faith to grasp. In opposition to all our training and experience,\ God chooses “the things that are not – to nullify the things that are.” (1 Cor. 1:28) Why? “So that no one may boast before Him.”

So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, stop depending on the strength of your fleshly will to live a righteous life. Do not weary yourself with striving though your motivation be the most noble in all the earth. Step back from your pride and allow the Spirit to work with all the power of God within your members. Only Christ, by His Spirit and blood, can crush the flesh that is left writhing within us. If we trust Him to do the work He has promised to do it will be done in a way that stands as a monument to His glory for all eternity.

Fallout Revisited, Spiritual Growth

Fallout Revisited: Joab’s Strategem

March 23, 2011

When Joab saw that the battle was set against him both in front and in the rear, he chose some of the best men of Israel and arrayed them against the Syrians. The rest of his men he put in the charge of Abishai his brother, and he arrayed them against the Ammonites. And he said, “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you.

–          2 Samuel 10:9-11

Only a fool goes to fight an army alone, yet here stand we Christians on the battlefield, fighting against that which wages war against our souls (1 Peter 2:11), often standing on our hilltops surrounded by enemies who we intend to beat back by our strength alone. Little wonder that we fail so often! Here Joab, the seasoned commander of David’s armies, a man who has won battle after battle after battle and who by all means should be confident in his ability to conquer, class upon his brother to assist him. Even after defeating numerous enemies in battles where the odds were completely against him, Joab does not assume that he is able to win alone, so he invites Abishai to help. Oh, that we would have the wisdom and humility to do so when the enemy bounds us on all sides!

The point of this passage is simple; when the enemy is too great for you, ask your brother to assist you in the battle.  However, there are three other observations that I shall make which may greatly assist us day to day.

 

1. Joab recognized the situation and acknowledged his need.

Firstly, Joab recognized the direness of the situation. Most often it is this first  step is the one that we miss and are defeated by. How can we prepare if we do not know there is to be a battle? And how can we prepare adequately if we do not know the strength of the enemy?  “Joab saw that the battle was set against him both in front and in the rear.” He scanned his surroundings and attended to the position and number of the enemy, a thing that we often fail to do. Joab was not busy in his tent preparing a meal or resting, nor was he drinking or being entertained with his comrades. No, he was alert on the battlefield, keeping watch for the attack that he knew would come.

Brothers and sisters, we need to learn this lesson! We are surrounded by a culture that cries “Eat, drink, be merry! There is no war and no worries!” Even among the church there are those who do as Jeremiah complains of in Jeremiah 8:11, saying “‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” And indeed, there is no peace. The devil prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour those who are asleep or too drunk to fight. But you, men and women of the Lord, are called to remain alert and ready for the battle;  to prepare your minds for action and be sober-minded, and to be on guard against the enemy. (1 Peter 5:8)

I urge you, do so! Cast off those things which entangle you, whatever it may be. Perhaps it is video games that lull you into spiritual slumber (they certainly do so for me), or perhaps it is literal alcohol that bereaves you of your sobriety. For some relationships are the enemy’s tool to distract from the true battle, for others it may be success in the workplace, and for still others it may be music. There are a myriad of things in this world which will distract us from the enemy’s strategies. Be like Joab and remain alert, watching for the enemies attack and ready to counter it.

Secondly, Joab made his need known to his brother. It does a man no good to remain sober and alert and see the enemy’s ploy if he does not react to it. I have noticed in myself a deadly mix of foolish passiveness and pride that expects others to see my plight and come to my assistance. Not so with Joab! See how readily he invites his brother Abishai to take charge of part of the army and help in the defense, thereby foiling the Ammonites and Syrians. Do not think yourself any better than this great general of Israel’s armies. When you have noted that the enemy may be more than you are able to handle alone, go to your brother and ask for his assistance. They will gladly give it.

Note also how it was his brother from whom he requested help, not merely some common soldier. He chose a man whom he had grown with and who he could trust to hold his own, a man that he knew would not cower beneath the enemy’s attack or be too quick to enter the battle. As Christians, we each need people like this in our lives; people who we can trust and are able to depend on.  But in order to have relationships like that, we must open ourselves to spending time with brothers and sisters, making a conscious decision and perhaps even mutual agreement to be there for each other, particularly in a culture that is drawing us more and more into individualism and seclusion. Do not be too proud to ask for help, and don’t be too proud to open yourself to others.  It is only together that we are stronger.

2. A plan was made before the battle and was expressed clearly to the others.

Being aware of the strength and strategy of the enemy and bringing others to help in the battle are excellent things, but they will be of little benefit if a clear plan is not laid out. Joab makes the strategy clear to Abishai when he says “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you.” It doesn’t have to be an intricate strategy of attacks and feigned retreats, but the plan must be clear. Are there times that you are particularly tempted? Set out a plan with the brother or sister who has agreed to help you in the battle and stand by it. Perhaps as simple as “Text me on Saturday morning to remind me to stay strong,” or, “I’ll let you know when him and I are going to be together,” or, “I’m going to fast from movies, tv, and video games this week. Will you check on me on Tuesday and Friday to encourage me to stick with it?”

The clearer the plan is to all parties involved, the easier it will be to hold to. Don’t allow yourself to be deceived by vague statements like “I’ll get in touch occasionally to see how you are doing.” Instead, set dates and times to do so. And do so well before the battle, not as the battle happens. It is sheer idiocy to wait until an attack to prepare. (And you don’t want to be an idiot.)

Also, note how it is Joab, the one against whom the attack is taking place, who makes the plan. He doesn’t come to his brother Abishai and say “Well brother, I’ve got a battle coming up, will you make a strategy for me?” Instead, he takes responsibility for his own battle, bearing the burden of preparing and planning. The same should be true for us in our temptations and struggles. Not that our brothers and sisters should not help us, but we must not rely on them to carry us out of our sin.  Far from it! We are to be helping them even as they help us, as we will see in the next point.

3. The guarding was mutual, not one way.

Thirdly and finally, the strategy that Joab and Abishai use helps both of them. If the Syrians begin to overwhelm Joab, then Abishai and his forces are to come and help. If Abishai is being conquered by the Ammonites, then Joab and his forces will come to their assistance.  And so it should be for us in our day to day lives. We are not to be parasites, only absorbing the service and help of others. Instead, we are called to “mutually encourage” each other in the faith (Romans 1:12) and to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

How beautiful of a thing it is to see a group of people working together towards one goal! And it is to exactly that which we are called as brothers and sisters in Christ. Make a point of finding one or two people with whom you will band together, spurring each other on in love and good deeds and helping to keep each to live righteous and holy lives. Let it be a thing that is mutual, each person assisting where the other is weak, for that is what we have been called to do.

I leave you with this challenge, my friends; be like Joab and stay alert to the enemy, prepare and seek the help of others in the faith, make clear plans, and assist each other in the battle. There is much war around and within us, but praise be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ that we are able to take heart, for He has overcome the world! Go, and live together in that glorious truth.

 

Fallout Revisited, Life, Spiritual Growth

Fallout Revisited: The Temptation of God Himself

February 21, 2011

As I’ve been looking back through some of my older posts, I’ve come across some stuff that has reminded me of many things that I’d forgotten or hadn’t thought of in the last several months, so I’ve decided to occasionally re-post an older article or two that are particularly worth returning to. Hence, Fallout Revisited. Here’s the first edition;

—————————–

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.'”
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'”
Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

-Luke 4:1-13

A few quick observations on this text that I read this morning before I head off to sleep. Gotta get up early tomorrow, pack for a missions trip, and roll on out. Nothing like last minute preparation, eh? Anyways, as so often happens with the Word, I’ve read this story numerous times and heard it preached on or touched upon by various Christian leaders equally as many, and yet still there is much to gain from it.

This morning as I was mulling over this section of scripture it struck me that I have, without even realizing it, had the idea in my head that to fight temptation we quote scripture and perhaps pray, and that takes care of it. That’s the general idea I’ve heard drawn from this text many times, and it is the obvious conclusion when we see how Christ rebuffs Satan’s attacks consistently quoting from scripture. However, though that is true, my mind stopped short of this realization; when Christ quotes scripture and fights against Satan’s temptation, the temptation doesn’t disappear. In fact, in continues on for what may have been hours more as Satan took Christ around the world, offering him one thing after another.

Somewhere along the line I got this silly idea that when we resist Satan and temptation, they will immediately cease to fight. Oh how wrong that is! Time and time again we must cast ourselves upon the Word, trusting in it over and above our own desires. Our flesh and the devil are no weak foes; they conspire together in unwavering war, always waiting for a moment to pounce and make their entrance into the fortress of the heart. Which leads me to my second observation.

Somehow I’d ended up with only a partial truth, and a partial truth is no better than a partial leg or hand; it will not do nearly as much as the whole can do. What is an arm without a hand or a leg without a foot? So is a piece of what is true without the whole. It may allow you to hobble or grope for the thing which you seek, but progress will be slow and painful. In these verses, Luke makes the massively important note that Jesus was in the desert, “where for forty days and forty nights he was tempted”. Why is it that I’d always thought that he was just out in the desert fasting for all those days until the end where Satan appears, and then the temptation began? Ah, the foolishness of the human mind! How easily we ignore what is there for all to see. But, thanks be to God, He has revealed to me at least a small piece more of His truth! And this is what I see; Firstly, the intensity and forwardness of temptation varies from time to time. Perhaps one day it will be something subtle that slips in without notice.. Other times it is a hundred small pin pricks that lead to a large fall. At still others it is a temptation like Christ’s final day in the wilderness, where it is a cunning frontal attack by the enemy, obvious but nonetheless devastating for those who are not prepared.

The story finishes with Luke stating that Satan left “until an opportune time.” It is when we are at our weakest that those brutal frontal attacks are most likely to come, if I understand this verse and my own experience right. Are you tired at the end of a long, wearisome week? Has there been many points where you have nearly fallen this day? Do not lower your guard. Just like the drowsy driver will turn up music or stop and splash water upon his face before driving further lest he sleep behind the wheel and destroy himself, so we must take action in order to keep ourselves alert when we are weak.

My second and final observation on Christ being tempted for forty days and forty nights is a call to rejoicing. Do not despair, weary saint! Christ has undergone forty days without food and under siege by the devil himself and withstood temptation of a magnitude that I do not think we are likely to face. Yet in the face of such great peril, Christ has overcome! Truly, God chose the weakest things in the world to make into not those which are. Why else would He ordain that His son be so tempted at the end of such an arduous fast?

Have courage on two fronts because of this, Christian. Firstly, Christ has overcome temptations far greater than you will ever endure. He is the sure winner of every contest, and He is your shield and salvation; a strong fortress in times of trouble and a captain who shall guide you through every perilous channel. Secondly, the Savior – God Himself – knows what it is to undergo every earthy tug towards sin, and He prays that you might overcome them all. We have a high priest who sympathizes with us because He has felt the sting of the whip. Do not think yourself beyond redemption or rescue, for as Satan said in an attempt to use a partial truth, “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; the will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Though the deceiver misused those words, they are a glorious comfort to those who are called of God. Surely, you will be lifted in His hands so that you will not fall.
Temptation will come, it is sure, but be not overly afraid of those moments. Instead, keep guard, seek the whole truth, and rejoice that Christ has overcome and now guards and intercedes upon our behalf.
Now that is good news.