Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sin Not

There are five instances of a short phrase in the Bible that are so powerful, if you abide in these words, you will know the LORD in a much deeper way. For only the righteous can approach Him. Only the righteous will He hear. And in this way you will know the "one"ness that Jesus prayed specifically for you by name in John 17.

Stand in awe and sin not....Psalm 4:4
I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. Psalm 39:1
Awake to righteousness and sin not....I Corinthians 15:34
Be ye angry, and sin not. Ephesians 4:20
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. I John 2:1

Enjoy the perfect presence of the LORD and give Him glory today. He has saved you from your sins!

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Flood

Yesterday I visited a place unlike any other I have ever seen. Just outside Rock Springs, Wyoming is the Red Desert. When I say "just outside" I mean a seventeen mile drive over unimproved road (locals call it a county road!) to the first DOI destination, ancient native American Indian petroglyphs carved into sandstone cliffs. A mere mile away from there is a natural formation called the "Boar's Tusk". Another eight miles and the capstone of the panorama shows up and you can clearly see the evidence of what we know as the great flood.

Immense sand dunes rise up from the desert floor. Wind whips the sand and bites your legs if you are foolish enough like me to get out of the car wearing shorts. Even crazier was the taking of pictures with a very expensive camera. Sand and dust quickly infiltrate everything. So my family and I jumped out, took the shot, and jumped back in the car before it was swallowed up in sand (literally it was piling up around the tires in just a short time!)

Looking out from this harsh landscape at the bottom of the world, you can see the rim of mountainside surrounding this spot in all directions. Striations are clearly seen on the cliffs where this once ancient body of water existed and left behind its bed as it disappeared. This is no small area. It is hundreds of miles in circumference. But the best was yet to come.

As we left the area on another unimproved road to get back to the highway, we saw a herd of cattle down below. This desert seemed hardly the place to support any such life. I told my kids that if we got a flat tire, it was unlikely that we could survive the seventeen mile walk to get out. The sun was high, the wind was fast, and there was no cover. Worst of all, there was no water. Drought has hit this land hard this year. Mud cracks and salt packs are everywhere.

That's what made this part of the Oregon Trail so dangerous to the uninformed. What appeared to be fresh water was in fact poisonous alkali salt. Cattle died. People died. If enough provisions were not carried, or if fresh water was not running in the river, then death was imminent.

Yet there it was down at the bottom of the desert, a small spring surrounded by a herd of cows. I only saw it because I was curious what kinds of animals were down there. Earlier we saw a few pronghorn antelope. These skittish creatures don't linger long for photo-ops! My binoculars enabled me to identify the cattle and catch the glint of water from the bright sun. A few miles further up and a sign at a crossroads confirmed that indeed, "Chicken Springs" was just down the way.

What does all this have to do with the Biblical flood? Read the evidence and see it for yourself. Here is a great example of the fountains rising up from the deep and water covering the whole earth. All that is left now is evidence of that water recession, sand dunes, and a tiny spring (from the deep - it must be for the surface water is poison).

This has to be one of the most remote and spectacular places I have ever seen and touched. Truly God is merciful and mighty that He would leave this all behind for us. It is a reminder of His power and grace, His hatred of sin, the ultimate demise of this world, and the new heaven and earth to come.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Called to...?

Thank you for some excellent comments. As Timothy pointed out, there is nothing Biblically wrong with street preaching and evangelism. That was certainly not my point. But I think you readers got that. It does however lead to a good opening to answer Timothy's question about the deception part.

Given that a believer is gifted and empowered by the Holy Spirit to evangelize, street preaching is a wonderful way to do that as shown by the examples of Jesus, Paul, John, Peter. etc.. However, not all are gifted in this way. That's where part one of the deception comes in.

How many Christians are taught to believe that we must all go out and evangelize the world by public speaking? And how many of that group are scared to death to do that? How many of you still feel that way even after going to the EE class? Well, there's a good reason for that.

First, it's not your calling (hold your comments for just a second folks! Yes, everybody is called to witness AND make disciples. The critical issue surrounds how we do that as a Body.) Second, it's not your gift. There are folks in the Body who are gifted as evangelists. Check out I Corinthians 12-14, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4 for the rest of the list.

Each person, as they are uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit, fulfills the Great Commission. For instance, those with the gift of hospitality evangelize, witness, and make disciples most supernaturally in the home as they serve and make folks feel at home (or whatever else folks with this gift do! :-) My gift is prophecy so I witness and make disciples in a very direct way through sharing God's Word boldly in print and small group settings.

The calling is the second area of issue. God first gifts His Body, then He calls each member uniquely. Have you made both your calling and election sure? Do you know that it (your calling) can change from time to time as the Spirit wills? Perhaps you are a gifted evangelist but NOT called to street preaching. You can only know with certainty the words of truth by seeking them directly from heaven. Follow the path from Romans 11:36 through 12:2.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Attacked by Deception

Two nights ago my family and I attended an outdoor cowboy "shootout" next to the Irma Hotel in Cody, Wyoming. This nightly event at 6:00pm is a hokey Wild West show put on by some street theater folks. They charge nothing for the event but do ask for charitable donations.

No sooner did the show end than another loud voice opened up behind the audience. A street preacher had set up a podium and was deriding various members of the audience and the cast. I listened closely.

With a Bible in one hand, he shouted at the one cowboy and called him a public drunkard. The bargirl was a "harlot". The audience in general participated in a show of evil and wickedness. At that, a member of the audience shouted back something at the preacher that I could not understand. He replied to her that she should keep silence. "A womans's place is in the home and that's where you should be," he shouted at her. She laughed and said something else mocking him. His reply to the audience in general, "Here is a rebellious woman!"

Next he selected a young boy in the audience. "Look at this young man wearing an AC/DC shirt!" I didn't catch the rest and frankly at this point stopped listening. My family and I walked away. The show was over and this follow-up "act" was one we didn't want to watch.

A half hour later he was still going at it as we walked back to our car. He was shouting at people to "read the Bible! Read the truth!"

After such a deriding who would possibly be motivated to read the Bible or anything else this man recommended?

But that's not the real problem here. There is a great deception going on. Although the words he spoke were Biblical, they were also out of context AND deceptive. Why?

Where in God's Word does God ever accuse a sinner of being a sinner? Where did Jesus ever shout someone down, point out their sin, and then try and witness to them?

The street preacher was out of context. No Biblical basis exists for his activity. God never calls anyone to go out into the world and call the world a hypocrite or a sinner. On the other hand, Jesus did go to the religious people and accuse them of such.

But folks on vacation, watching a Wild West show? This is not church, synagogue, or any kind of religious gathering. Frankly, this audience was set up. They were preyed upon.

The deception came about because although the preacher spoke the truth of God's Word, he did not speak the truth to this audience. Calling people "rebellious, harlot, drunkard" is just plain foolishness. Of course they are. They are the world. It's a statement of the obvious but not to them. They don't know any better. They are dead in their trespasses and sins. There is no awareness of sin in their lives.

The deception is placed in their minds regarding the face of the Christian church. The perception is that we are a bunch of Bible thumpers. The world sees a street preacher like this and just waits to trip him up at his own game, to find some fault in him according to his own doctrine.

A pastor once told me that today's church is its own worst enemy. He quoted that from a preacher that said it about 100 years ago. What do you think?