..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

True Worship & False Worship: Part 4B -Stimulated Worship?

(continued from the last post)

Being in the Presence of God changes us. It deals
with our flesh. When we come from worship our
hearts should be glowing in a blaze of holy fire.
The music should start to seem far away as we fix
our eyes on Him. Our flesh should be taking a
hard blow! I am thinking that if anything that
looks like worship does not in some way cause
our flesh to be dealt with, then we must wonder
if it is proceeding not from the Spirit of the
Lord but from another spirit, and not a holy
one, or at best, coming from our soul.

There is just too much external stimulation
going on in so much of what is called "worship."
By this I am not saying that our worship cannot
be a loud and joyful noise unto the Lord. Loud
does not make God nervous but we need to take
heed if He calls us noisy! God says, "Take thou
away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not
hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment
run down as waters, and righteousness as a
mighty stream" (Amos 5:23,24). God is after
right judgments, righteousness and right living
not just rousing choruses.

I can remember being in a beautiful cathedral in
Berlin, I believe. They were playing a beautiful
piece of classical music, the scene raised the
emotions, but I remember feeling like I wanted
to bolt out the door and run away, like something
unholy was happening. The woman who I was with
thought the whole thing was completely lovely.
We both had goosebumps, but for vastly different
reasons. Two people can play the exact same
piece of music and have it produce opposite
results, two people can listen to this same
piece of music and respond differently to it.

I am not against classical music, quite the
contrary. I say this to say that it is not
a particular kind of music that is the
problem, but the spirit that is
behind it. Even if we mean well, we can still
be being provoked in the flesh, by the flesh.
Does our worship lead us to a holy state of
life, to an entire life of worship or are we
back to our old selves by lunch time?

Worship should not go from the outer to the inner.
It must start from the inner, from our spirit
infused with the Holy Spirit. Our inner worship
can then join with an a compatible external form but
it doesn't go the other way around. Are we being
enticed into false "worship" or led into true worship?

When Moses was up on the mountain with God, Israel
quickly gave up on him and asked Aaron to make for
them another god to worship (Exodus 32).
If they had but learned to wait on the Lord perhaps
their idolatry could have been prevented. Aaron
fashioned a golden calf which entices them to false
worship. The flesh immediately rises up out of control.
It suggests that the people were engaging in unholy
debauchery (vs 25), that their worship had turned into
spiritual and fleshly lasciviousness. How quick is
our fall if we are led by the flesh! Their hearts had
caused an idol to be produced but then that idol
enticed them to sin.

Are we just giving people what they want in the arena
of worship? Are we playing upon one of our national
bylines?: "We just give people what they want, its not
our job to judge whether its good for them." Moses
understood that the honor of God's name was being
compromised by false worship. Are we compromising
His Name by how we worship?

Israel had ceased to worship in truth. Moses was
so angry that he ground the golden calf into dust,
spread it on the waters, and made Israel
drink it. What did this mean? Gold is a precious
thing. Israel should have been partaking of
a spiritual gold: worship of the True and
Living God. Instead, they worshipped a natural
gold, worshipped the creature rather than
the creator.

True worship, partaking of the spiritual gold
which is Christ, would have raised them up,
but now they must partake of their idol worship,
and watch the powerless, false god they created
pass through them and be defiled as it left them.
If this is disgusting it is because Moses
meant it to disgust.

Moses, as a leader, had to tear down the idol.
But what to do with an idol that could be
refashioned? Pulverize it into a million pieces,
then cause it to be publicly humiliated and
defiled. We must tear down our idols, pulverize
our identity with them, and repent for choosing
that which defiles and not choosing holiness.

When Jesus calls us to eat and drink Him it
is something spiritual, something pure and
holy. He raises us out of our flesh nature.
Moses' act of pulverizing the idol and
making Israel drink it, showed Israel that
what they partook of could not raise them into
God's Presence, indeed, it could only lower
and degrade them.

God can only accept worship that originates
from His Spirit. May we search our hearts
so that we might give Him a pleasing
sacrifice of true, spiritual honor and glory
and praise. May we give Him all of our life
in Spirit and in truth.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

True Worship & False Worship: Part 4A -Stimulated Worship?

In the last post I spoke of simulated worship.
Today I want to speak about stimulated worship.

Being a worship leader today is not easy.
Sometimes it feels like their job description is
wrapped around the idea that they are
supposed to warm up the crowd for either
God or the preacher, usually both.

Are we saying that their job is to
stimulate us? You know, get us going, get
the juices flowing so we look alive, help us
make the right amount of response to whatever
is going on, or worse yet, entertain us?
Is that the position we want to put them in?

Today, I won't go there. Where I want to go is
whether My worship HAS to be stimulated to come
forth. If we read the Word, worship seems to
happen in the most unlikely places: deserted,
arid, dry places, both physically and spiritually.
One of the most godly men that I ever met was a
little Nepalese man, *Prem Pradham, who spent
many years imprisoned for preaching his faith.
With hands and feet chained tightly, he was
placed in with the decomposing, dead bodies
of those who had died in prison. The prison
officials put him there because he had managed
to bring most of the prisoners to know the Lord.
In the middle of that stench and horror, Prem
worshipped God. I ask myself if I could worship
under such circumstances. I also ask you.

Many years ago a friend and I had a Christian
bookstore and we stocked a lot of titles by
Watchman Nee, he was the one who wrote a book
called "The Latent Power of the Soul." His
book covers were always bland so they would not
appeal to your soul so we did not sell a whole
lot of them! His book blasts away at anything
that pumps up the soul and flesh. You see where
I could go with this, but the truth is that flesh
leads to flesh, and soul leads to the soulish,
and only the Spirit of God can lead to worshipping
in Spirit and in truth.

The truth is a person with a heart to
worship can worship anywhere.
If our
hearts are full of love toward God we don't not
need a thirty piece band to
get us in the mood to tell Him that
we love Him. If one happens to be there, then
we can go with that, too. :)

When you really love someone, the desire to tell
them so easily bubbles up. That love can also be
so overwhelming that no words or music can even
come close to trying to express it. This does not
mean that we can't have varying styles and
intensities of music, just that we shouldn't NEED
it to worship. Relying on outward stimulation to
bring forth genuine worship is something we must
beware of lest our hearts sing something feigned
and lest our souls lead us away from entering the
Holy of Holies.
(to be continued in the next post)

I encourage you to click on Prem Pradham's name above
and listen to his testimony. I'll post the rest of this soon!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Opening your Heart to the Persecuted

I was just reading of the news of the
finding of letters written by Otto Frank,
the father of Anne Frank, who wrote her
classic diary hiding in an attic during
World War II. The letters are said to be
concerned with Mr. Frank's attempts to
find a safe haven for his family before
they were forced to go into hiding. All
were eventually found out and sent to
concentrations camps. Only Mr. Frank
emerged alive.

I started to think about those letters.
Thought "What if it were me?" Me
writing to friends, acquaintances, anyone
really, who might help. Thought about
what it would be like to beg for help,
really beg for life, for that was what
was at stake. Beg not just for me, but
for my children, and spouse.

I know it is hard to think about the
persecuted, and in this case I am
writing on behalf of persecuted
Christians, but really this is about
any unfairly persecuted person. It is
hard because it is hard to think about
pain, it is hard to think that people
willingly inflict great pain, even
death on others for what they believe.
It is hard to think that kind of pain
could come to me. It is hard not to feel
so helpless that it seems better not to
hear, not to know.

But we are not called to the sidelines
of fear and we are not helpless. Our
God watches over the whole world and
is able to act. We who are Christians,
are the Body of Christ on the earth.
I may pray in America, in my warm house
in New England, I may even feel guilty
praying, but my prayer is still
heard by God and can allow another part of
His Body to be upheld. It may release a way
out, protection, comfort, strength or

The Frank family suffered because no-one
opened their heart to them in particular.We can
try to escape our duty to the persecuted because
we can so easily say, "It is hard to pray for
people I don't know. My life is busy. Let God use
someone else to help them." What if one day
God says to you, "Let me show you the people
you were called to pray for. Let me show you
what I could have done if you had prayed."
Prayed instead of ignored. Prayed instead of
looked the other way. Prayed instead of watching
re-runs on t.v. The job can seem to big, it can
appear to belong to someone else, but no, if you
belong to Christ, then a small part belongs to you.

It is easy, in the inner city, to walk by someone
begging for money on the street. How many
thoughts run through our head about why we should
not help. It is the discomfort of the whole thing,
it is not knowing what to do. Whether we should
actually help in such situations is something we
have to ask God about. But opening our hearts to
pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters is a
little more "cut and dried." "Bear each
other's burdens and so fulfill the Law of
" (Galatians 6:2)." "Therefore as we
are given opportunity, let us do good to all
people, especially to those who belong to the
household of God"
(Galatians 6:10)

I heartily encourage you to open your heart to the
persecuted part of the household of God. Opening
your heart will lead you to concern and concern
will lead you to pray. Our brothers and sisters are
depending on us. One day soon we may need them to
pray for us.

Visit Voice of the Martyrs
and The Persecution Blog

Monday, January 22, 2007

True Worship & False Worship: Part 3 -Simulated Worship?

"Any man may play his part in
the mummery, and act the honest
man of the scaffolding: but to
be right within, in his own
bosom, where all is allowed,
where all is concealed--there's
the point!"--Michel de Montaigne

In keeping with the idea that worship
always has, at its heart, giving my
best to God, we have to look at whether
what I am giving is genuine, and even
more, whether I myself am genuine.

I can look the part as a Christian,
I can sing, bow my head, depending on
my church, shout, jump, kneel, raise
my hands, do any outward action, but
it all matters not if I, myself, am
not right. I can look like a
diamond but just be a piece of
broken glass or a man-made concoction.

God, through the prophets, rejected
the sacrifices that He himself had
ordered to be brought because people's
hearts were not right (Amos 5:21-24).
Am I just going through the motions?
I may stand with my arms outstretched
in surrender to God but is the deepest
part of me clutching, clutching,
clutching all that I hold dear tightly
to myself?

You see, we can simulate worship. We
can make it look just right. But God
knows if it is right. This does not
mean that we always have to have just
that right feeling to accompany our
worship. Worship is about abandonment
and surrender, not about feeling right.

I may not feel like entering into the
more external aspects that may accompany
worship. I may not feel like singing. I
may not feel like clapping. But they really
are just props to focus my inner being
on Him anyway.If the props fail go straight
for Him inwardly and your voice and hands
will catch up!

Is it wrong to encourage myself to sing
and clap when I don't "feel" it? No, actually
quite the contrary, but it is wrong
to close the door of my heart and just
go through the motions.

If I am a mess, then I need to offer
myself, in my disheveled state, to
God without holding anything back.
Shame, or false shame, might cause me
to think that God does not want to
see me in my slovenly state. Do you
think He does not already see you?
Will not His cleansing Blood prevail
in tenderly wiping away the stains
on your soul? Although covered with
dirt, there is a pearl of great price
that He receives in your surrender.

Personally, I think I've learned the
most about God and myself, when I come
to Him a complete wreck. It is then
I am not tempted to blur the distinction
between who He is and who I am. I am
not a believer in the "fake it til you
make it" school of theology. "I come to
God and He gives me grace or I die" is
more my take on things! He promises,
however, not to turn away a broken and
contrite heart.

True worship, from a broken and contrite
heart, will result in God lifting you
quickly out of the gutter of your
self. For as soon as God sees a right
heart, He is drawn toward it, and draws
such a one under the shelter of His wings.

It is foolish to offer God what we,
with our human ideas, think might
please Him. Jesus said, "they who
worship must worship in Spirit and in
truth" (John 4;24). God is not required
to accept or acknowledge our worship
if it is on our own terms and does not
proceed from His Spirit.

God knows the difference between real and
simulated worship without blinking, because
He knows His own Spirit! Real worship is
the Holy Spirit entwined with our spirit,
calling and connecting with the inmost Spirit
of the Father and the Son. It is deep
calling unto deep and like calling unto like.
It is not man made and not of the flesh.

There is legend in Hebraic and Christian
literature that a cord was tied around
the leg of the high priest when he entered
into the Holy of Holies so that if he
was struck dead because something was
amiss in him then he could be dragged
out of the Holy of Holies. Perhaps we
should all tie a rope around our legs
as we worship to remind us that our
encounter with God is an encounter with
Holiness and must be on His terms.

Worship is about what is hidden in
our hearts showing itself to God.
We can play our part, we can fool
others, but we can't fool God. Jesus
warns those who clean the outside but
do not clean the inside. Only what is
born of His Spirit is true and holy
and acceptable to God.

Allow God to have a look with you
at your innermost being for out of
it proceeds your worship. Do not be
afraid if all is not as it should
be. A bruised reed He will not
break off--if it is brought to Him
He will fix it. He longs to fix it.
But do not try to offer Him something
less than what He is willing to accept.

Is your worship real or simulated?

Adj. 1. simulated- not genuine or real; being an imitation of the genuine article; synonyms: faux, imitation, fake, false
artificial, unreal - contrived by art rather than nature; "artificial flowers"; "artificial flavoring"; "an artificial diamond"; "artificial sweeteners"
2. simulated - reproduced or made to resemble; imitative in character;
imitative - marked by or given to imitation;

Friday, January 19, 2007

On Fasting

On Fasting

In the grips of hunger,
conviction falters.
Why am I doing this?
In the absence of the padding
of my comforts,
the latent thorns arise to prick.

Then the mother says,
"Come have just a bite, you are
looking a little pale.
A small donut
would not hurt."

Flee from such mothering whether
it be internal or external.

Your Father has better advice
although He often says little after
He has given the command.

A small denial makes a big difference.

Pray for an army drill sergeant to yell
in your ear at the moment of weakness.

It will not be what you want to hear,
but it will be a great help.

Kill the voice that urges you toward
Wring the necks of those small
chickens who urge you to stay in a
comfortable relationship with yourself.

Be afraid of how you are.
Be afraid of who you are.
Sell your soul to God.
I speak as a fool for the
Truth is that He has already
bought it at so great a price.
So don't hold out.
He is doing a favor in taking you on.

What a bargain if He would take
your wayward appetite in the deal!
Keep fasting. He will.

The heavenly bread will come down
as soon as you are absolutely empty
of the bread of earth.

You have to really want it,
for any of this to make any sense.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

True Worship & False Worship: Part 2--Giving Him our Best

The first time the actual word "worship" is
mentioned in the bible is when Abraham is
going up the mountain to offer Isaac to
the Lord (Genesis 22). Up until this time
it is said that Abraham built an altar,
but it does not use the word "worship."
No doubt at these altars God was beginning
to build into Abraham the deepest
understanding of what worship is, for by
the time he climbs Mt. Moriah with Isaac
he tells his servants, "we will go and
worship"(verse 5). He knows full well what this
will mean.

So we can see that we start off the idea
of worship with Abraham prepared
to offer his all. We have Abraham ready to
give his son as worship, against all reason,
and seemingly based on a radical,
desperate obedience.

The last times in the bible that worship is
mentioned are in the book of Revelation where
we are before God's throne and the elders and
all of heaven and earth are giving Christ
their all: everyone is casting everything
that they have and are toward Him!

Worship always offers something valuable to
God. In the Old Testament nothing blemished
or faulty could be offered to Him. He could
not be offered second best. How does this
translate into what happens as we engage in
corporate worship?

God needs to receive something from us,
both individually and corporately. But what
He needs to receive from us is not a little
something, but our all and our best. And
this consists not just of outward things
that we own, but the very depths of our
being. When I sing I need to give Him,
through the avenue of sung notes, all
that is in my heart. It does not matter
if I can sing well but whether I live
well before Him and offer my whole
life to Him, born on the musical
notes that rise to His ears.

Corporately, we must give our all to Him.
When Ananias and Sapphira fell dead in the
early church, God was making a statement.
God killed them because they were not just
individuals holding back, but the ungodly
leaven that would infect the whole faith
community's ability to give everything to
God, with nothing secretly held back.

Do not think you can get lost in a crowd
on Sunday morning. God is looking on each
of our offerings, but He is looking at
what each church is offering Him. When
Jesus judges each church in the book of
Revelation, He judges them on their works:
what they did and did not give Him, what
they did and did not do. You do not just
belong to yourself but to a greater body
of believers. You must give your all both
as an individual and as a corporate member
of His local Body, or the whole church suffers.

We think that the offering is the time
that we give to God. All well and good, but
that is only ten percent of our
giving! Where is the the other 90% given?
Is it not in "purifying our souls in
obeying the truth through the Spirit,
in sincere love of the brethren" (I Pet
1:22)? What do you need to bring forth
so that you are giving Him 100%?

We have sadly lost the sense that each
time of worship is a time to bring
something costly to God. Each time
we worship we should bring Him
ourselves with nothing held back.
We need the practice of always throwing
everything of value at Him lest in
eternity we have nothing of value--
no crown to cast at His feet!

You will be embarrassed and yes,
shamed, if you have nothing but
your old shoes to throw at God while
others are casting diamonds, pearls,
and gold bricks at Him with wild
abandon. Where do you think these
diamonds and pearls and gold come
from? From true worship. Worship
in thought and deed and heart and
life. It is mind, body, soul, and
spirit offered in one accord without
reserve. Get in the practice of giving
Him the best, the priceless, the
precious. That is worship.

Jesus gave us His all. He gave His
Father His all. His Father gave us
His all. We mentioned earlier
about the idea of worship entering
in when Abraham was called to give
up his Son. We wonder how God could
have asked this, but consider this:
this was but a foreshadowing of
what God was called to do with His
only and precious Son, and this
time there would be no ram in the
thicket. God would have to go all
the way and let His Son be killed
as a sacrifice for us. This is
where our worship starts. Is there
anything that can match the very best that
God has given us? Can you go all
the way in giving Him everything?

Giving God anything less then everything
is false worship. Be a true worshiper.

True Worship & False Worship: Part 1-- Singing the Truth

Does the worship we give God honor Him in the
light of His Holiness? The word worship is
defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as
"the feeling or expression of reverence and
for a deity. 2 religious rites and
3 great admiration or devotion."
The problem with this definition is that it does
not tell us what we really need to know, namely,
"Am I worshipping the Lord of Glory in a way
that pleases Him?"

I've been thinking a lot about worship lately as
I participate in worship services. The term
"worship service" has become such a generic
term that it really does not tell me anything
specific, just as the dictionary definition did not.

Of course, just like everyone else, dictionary
writers don't want to be politically incorrect.
After all, they choose not to have subcategories
in their definition that say: true worship and false
worship along with those definitions. Or, can you
imagine if they defined true and false religion?
They would need combat pay for the ensuing riot
control. But really, we need to look to God and
not man to find out what true worship really is.

Although I have been hesitant to mention it, I
have been having quite the startling experiences
during the time when we are singing to the Lord.
Over the last two months, during times of
corporate worship, I keep hearing the Lord say,
at certain moments, in a loud and definitive
Voice in my heart, "Please stop singing."

The first time it happened it startled me but I
could tell that Lord meant it so I stopped
singing. Standing there silently, the next song
came around and, unsure about what to do, I start
singing cautiously but with spiritual ears wide
open. I hear nothing. A few songs later I again
hear, "Stop singing. I don't want to hear any
waltzes and I don't want to hear any slow songs
that go nowhere."

"What are you saying, Lord,?" I ask. Here is
what I heard for an answer: "People
sing to Me but they go into something of
a trance, and their mind often becomes
filled with sentimental but untrue ideas about Me.
Often the words convey man's thinking about Me:
falsehoods, trivialities and conveniences.

Furthermore, people sing words but they
often do not obey Me or put into
practice what they sing. There is
no passion. Just romantic fluff.
Sweet nothings. No passion. No
radical obedience. These songs lull
people to sleep and, in human
terms, put Me to sleep. Many people
are singing to feel good and not to offer
themselves to Me. They mistake the
warm feelings they feel for My approval.

I don't want a song that you can control
and that originates in man.
I don't want a dance where you lead.
I want to lead you. I want to lead you
passionately. I want you to follow My
lead passionately and with complete
surrender. I want the flame of totally
surrendered devotion in your hearts
when you sing. I want your love to be
freely given in absolute abandon. My
people are caught up in quagmire of cheap,
sentimental choruses. This are not
what I want to hear. Judge what you
will sing to me. See if it passes the

Now I probably would not have had the
courage to write this except for the fact
that someone else, as godly and sane as
they come, without knowledge of what
had happened to me, sought me
out and told me that she had been
singing along in a service and the Lord
said to her, "I can't hear anything."
Her reaction was the same as mine but
she knew what the Lord was saying,
"Words are coming out of your mouths,
but they are not reaching My ears" (and I
would venture to say, His heart.)

The Lord does not speak to us to have
us not listen. He speaks to teach and to
draw us to the Truth. What is true
worship? Well, a small part of it is
judging how and what we sing to the Lord.
"Out of the mouth the heart speaks" or in
this case "sings." We need to sing
words of truth, but we need to surrender
completely to have these words permeate
our spirit, soul and body.

We oft forget that singing is not for us,
but for Him. It is not to make us feel
good, but is an outward way, a banner to
wave so to speak, to present to the Lord
the deepest commitment of our heart to

God knows if your heart matches your song.
Just like in school, don't raise your hand
(or your voice) til you have the right answer
or you will be corrected. When you
raise your hands and voice to God, have a
right life behind it, or fall on your knees

(First in a series of posts on True & False Worship)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Knocking Hard on Heaven's Door

I don't feel we knock hard enough on God's door.

For many years I have walked my dog along a
certain route which winds its way along the
back side of some small shops, one of them
being a sandwich shop. Over the years the
owner would see us pass by when she was out
on her break. My dog always raced to the
back door of where she worked because she
was always offered sizable snacks. My dog is
old now, but if you even mention the idea of
going for those snacks, she moves faster then
you can imagine.

The thing is, in the winter and during inclement
weather, the back door to the shop is closed,
which presents a small problem: making one's
presence known. Somehow or another it has
fallen upon me to knock on the back door so
that Zoe, the dog, can get her treats.

It goes something like this: We arrive, after
a mad dash, at the closed door. Zoe puts her ear
up to the door to listen. Then she looks at me:
"Do your knocking thing." Well, even though
the owner loves our visits, at that moment
I get a little hesitant and knock ever so
softly on the door: a tiny little "knock, knock."
Usually nothing happens. They can't hear us.

This may go on for a little while, while I
try to lure Zoe back toward walking. This
never works. I tell her, "They are not
home." She looks at me, puts her ear up
to the door, and says, "They most
certainly are." Then she lays herself down
and won't budge. When herself lays down,
there ain't nobody getting her up unless
she decides to. She'll look at my hand intently,
"Knock on the door!".

So I have learned to just swallow my silly
worries about bothering them and KNOCK
HARD ON THE DOOR. God has brought
this to my attention. He says, "I like it
when people are bold and knock hard."
I want you to knock on My door like that."

You know, when I do knock hard on this
earthly door, it just about always opens
and happy cries of love and friendship,
along with tasty rewards, always ensue.

I can say the same thing happens when I
knock loudly on heaven's door. Jesus said,
"Ask (and really, keep on asking), and it
shall be given to you "(Matthew 7:7).

I wonder why I ever hesitate. It is probably
because my dog has a better grasp of
importunity than I do. As Jesus teaches
us how to pray, He gives us the Lord's
prayer, then He launches into the parable
of the person who, oddly enough, is knocking
on their neighbor's door at some late hour
asking to borrow food (Luke 11:5). Hmmm,
I'm beginning to see the connection.

In Luke 18 there is a similar story about
a persistent widow who needs something
and keeps knocking, day and night, on
the judge's door to get what she needs.
The judge does not even care about her
but gives her what she needs just because
he won't have a moment's peace until he

Why does God ask us to keep knocking?
Why doesn't He always answer on the
first go-around? To make a long story
short: He wants us to visit often and
develop a confident faith in what He is
able to do. Asking once and giving up
means you don't want it that badly
or think that it probably won't happen.
It lacks the connection of on-going
relationship. There is a big difference
between timidity and fear of the Lord.

God tells us, through these parables,
that He likes people who bang loudly
at His door at all hours of the day and
night. That might strike our mannered
sensibilities at odd, but hey, if that is
the way to get answers, I say, "Knock
hard." Put your energy into storming
heaven instead of being jealous of
other people who do and because of
that are continually blessed and
favored by the Lord.

Take it from me, when you knock
hard, happy cries of love and
friendship, along with tasty rewards,
always ensue.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Oswald Chambers on Intercessory Introspection

And I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be
preserved blameless. 1 Thessalonians 5:23

"Your whole spirit. . ." The great mystical work of
the Holy Spirit is in the dim regions of our
personality which we cannot get at. Read the 139th
Psalm; the Psalmist implies "Thou art the God of
the early mornings, the God of the late at nights, the
God of the mountain peaks, and the God of the sea;
but, my God, my soul has further horizons than
the early mornings, deeper darkness than the nights
of earth, higher peaks than any mountain peaks,
greater depths than any sea in nature - Thou Who
art the God of all these, be my God!

I cannot reach to the heights or to the depths; there
are motives I cannot trace, dreams I cannot get at
- my God, search me out."

Do we believe that God can garrison the imagination
far beyond where we can go? "The blood of Jesus Christ
cleanseth us from all sin" - if that means in conscious
experience only, may God have mercy on us. The man
who has been made obtuse by sin will say he is not
conscious of sin. Cleansing from sin is to the very
heights and depths of our spirit if we will keep in the
light as God is in the light, and the very Spirit that fed
the life of Jesus Christ will feed the life of our spirits.

It is only when we are garrisoned by God with the
stupendous sanctity of the Holy Spirit, that spirit, soul
and body are preserved in unspotted integrity,
undeserving of censure in God's sight, until Jesus
comes. We do not allow our minds to dwell as they
should on these great massive truths of God.

--Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

photo: Abiqui, New Mexico

Monday, January 08, 2007

Book Review: Confessions of an Amateur Believer

Patty Kirk's newly released book,
"Confessions of an Amateur Believer",
is a poignant and heartfelt spiritual autobiography
of an honest seeker who knows what it means
to have faith wax, then wane, and then joyfully
wax again. One can get the impression, from the
atmosphere present in many churches, that faith
ought to be an easy thing. Everyone looks so
cheery, so "nice", so beyond doubt. Secretly,
however, in my inner heart, I may feel like
everyone but me is sure about their relationship
to God.

The truth is: we are all on a journey, and no
matter how much we think we know about God,
God is always trying to bring us us deeper
and further. Many of us were "given" faith
as a child, but is our childhood faith enough
to bring us to a mature knowledge of God?

There is a truism: "God draws straight lines
with crooked sticks." The author journeys from
her childhood faith growing up in the Catholic
church to a point as an adult where she says,
'The faint glimmer of faith I had once was
not enough to fill me with the light of
genuine belief. ...and without faith, I was not
saved. I was not a Catholic. Not a Christian.
Not going to heaven...when I died, no matter
what anyone told me."
How honest and
poignant! She winds up her journey by saying,
"God is so amazingly generous. I ask, He gives.
Just like that. I worry; He counsels me in the
night and instructs me in His ways."
Not a glib,
easy faith, but one born of trust.

Here are the straightforward reflections of a
person wrestling through the many inner
questions that we are all confronted with,
each perhaps in our own way, as we grow from
doubt to the tender shoots of authentic faith.
With so much that seems phony in the realm of
"belief", here is a breath of fresh air of
someone who speaks from her heart. If you
have ever moved from "here to there" in your
beliefs, wondered if anyone else was thinking
like you, tripping over the rocks of doubt,
but longing for true faith, or know someone
who has, you may enjoy "Confessions of
an Amateur Believer.
(published by Nelson Books, 0-7852-2041-0).

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Martyrdom of Polycarp

It's been a long time since I've read
any of the accounts of the early martyrs.
I'm sure you can understand why. But
since I've decided to post articles
for the persecuted church, today's
suggestion was to write about a martyr.
I have chosen Polycarp. After reading
this, I felt not horrified but inspired.
I hope you will, too. If we have to die
a martyr's death, may it be as worthy a
one as Polycarp's!

Tradition has it that Polycarp was a
disciple of the apostle John and lived
during the time that the first generation
of believers, the original apostles, etc,
were dying out. He was converted as child,
and was appointed Bishop of Smyrna in
Turkey by some of the original apostles.

Humility, unpretentiousness, and the ability
to speak directly coupled with a great sense
of humor were his traits. He tried to mediate
disputes about the correct date to celebrate
Easter and had a ministry to those who were
being lured toward gnosticism. We could have
used his ministry when the Da Vinci Code was
recently released. I trust he was notified
of our problem and was interceding.

At the ripe old age of 86 he found that Roman
officials headed to arrest him. Friends urged
him to hide, but Polycarp had apparently been
warned in a dream by God that he would be
burned at the stake. He did, at the requests
of friends, go outside the town into the
countryside to stay. Eventually, the Roman
soldiers found him. He offered no resistance
when he opened the door to them. "God's will
be done," he said.

He was interrogated by the proconsul, who at
first tried to get him to placate the
governmental charges by saying a few niceties
about the Roman leadership which would still
amount to blasphemy. Not. Below is an abridged
record of what happened from the second century
source "The Martyrdom of Polycarp":

..."Those who looked on marveled at his age
and constancy, and at how there should be such
zeal over the arrest of so old a man. ...He asked
them to give him an hour so that he might pray
undisturbed. And when they consented, he stood
and prayed—being so filled with the grace of God
that for two hours he could not hold his peace,
to the amazement of those who heard. And many
repented that they had come to get such a devout
old man...

When at last he had finished his prayer, in which
he remembered all who had met with him at any time,
they... brought him into the city. And there the
chief of the police, Herod, and his father, Nicetas,
met him and transferred him to their carriage, and
tried to persuade him, saying, "What harm is there
to say `Lord Caesar,' and to offer incense and all
that sort of thing, and to save yourself?"

At first he did not answer them. But when they
persisted, he said, "I am not going to do what
you advise me."

Then when they failed to persuade him, they uttered
dire threats and made him get out. He proceeded
swiftly, and was led into the arena, there being
such a tumult in the arena that no one could be
heard. But as Polycarp was entering the arena,
a voice from heaven came to him, saying, "Be
strong, Polycarp, and play the man." No one saw
the one speaking, but those of our people who
were present heard the voice.

And when finally he was brought up, there was
a great tumult on hearing that Polycarp had
been arrested. Therefore, when he was brought
before him, the proconsul asked him if he were
Polycarp. And when he confessed that he was,
he tried to persuade him to deny [the faith],
saying, "Have respect to your age"—and other
things that customarily follow this, such as,
"Swear by the fortune of Caesar;change your mind!"

But Polycarp looked with earnest face at the
whole crowd of lawless heathen in the arena,
and motioned to them with his hand. Then,
groaning and looking up to heaven, he said,
"Away with the atheists!"

But the proconsul was insistent and said:
"Take the oath, and I shall release you.
Curse Christ."

Polycarp said: "Eighty-six years I have
served him, and he never did me any wrong.
How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?"

And upon his persisting still and saying,
"Swear by the fortune of Caesar," he answered,
"If you vainly suppose that I shall swear by
the fortune of Caesar, as you say, and pretend
that you do not know who I am, listen plainly:
I am a Christian. But if you desire to learn
the teaching of Christianity, appoint a day
and give me a hearing."...

But the proconsul said: "I have wild beasts.
I shall throw you to them, if you do not
change your mind."

But he said: "Call them. For repentance from
the better to the worse is not permitted us;
but it is noble to change from what is evil
to what is righteous."

And again [he said] to him, "I shall have you
consumed with fire, if you despise the wild
beasts, unless you change your mind."

But Polycarp said: "The fire you threaten
burns but an hour and is quenched after a
little; for you do not know the fire of the
coming judgment and everlasting punishment
that is laid up for the impious. But why do
you delay? Come, do what you will."

And when he had said these things and many
more besides he was inspired with courage
and joy, and his face was full of grace, so
that not only did it not fall with dismay at
the things said to him, but on the contrary,
the proconsul was astonished, and sent his
own herald into the midst of the arena to
proclaim three times: "Polycarp has confessed
himself to be a Christian."

When this was said by the herald, the entire
crowd of heathen and Jews who lived in Smyrna
shouted with uncontrollable anger and a great
cry: "This one is the teacher of Asia, the
father of the Christians, the destroyer
of our gods, who teaches many not to sacrifice
nor to worship."

Then they decided to shout with one accord
that he burn Polycarp alive. For it was
necessary that the vision...should be
fulfilled, when he saw it burning while
he was praying, and turning around had
said prophetically to the faithful who
were with him, "I must be burned alive."

The fire was quickly prepared... And when
they were about to nail him also, he said:
"Leave me as I am. For he who grants me to
endure the fire will enable me also to
remain on the pyre unmoved, without the
security you desire from the nails."

So they did not nail him, but tied him.
And with his hands put behind him and tied,
like a noble ram out of a great flock ready
for sacrifice, a burnt offering ready and
acceptable to God, he looked up to heaven
and said:

"Lord God Almighty, Father of thy beloved
and blessed Servant Jesus Christ, through
whom we have received full knowledge of
thee, 'the God of angels and powers and
all creation' and of the whole race of
the righteous who live in thy presence:
I bless thee, because thou hast deemed me
worthy of this day and hour,to take my part
in the number of the martyrs, in the cup of
thy Christ, for 'resurrection to eternal
life', of soul and body in the immortality
of the Holy Spirit; among whom may I be
received in thy presence this day as a rich
and acceptable sacrifice, just as thou hast
prepared and revealed beforehand and fulfilled,
thou that art the true God without any
falsehood. For this and for everything I
praise thee, I bless thee, I glorify thee,
through the eternal and heavenly High Priest,
Jesus Christ, thy beloved Servant, through
whom be glory to thee with him and Holy Spirit
both now and unto the ages to come. Amen."

And when he had concluded the Amen and
finished his prayer, the men attending to
the fire lighted it. And when the flame
flashed forth, we saw a miracle, we to
whom it was given to see. And we are
preserved in order to relate to the rest
what happened. For the fire made the shape
of a vaulted chamber, like a ship's sail
filled by the wind, and made a wall around
the body of the martyr. And he was in the
midst, not as burning flesh, but as bread
baking or as gold and silver refined in a
furnace. And we perceived such a sweet aroma
as the breath of incense or some other
precious spice.

At length, when the lawless men saw that
his body could not be consumed by the fire,
they commanded an executioner to go to him
and stab him with a dagger. And when he did
this a great quantity of blood came forth,
so that the fire was quenched and the whole
crowd marveled that there should be such a
difference between the unbelievers and the

May God be glorified in the death of His saints!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Sincerely His: A Life without Wax

Have you ever wondered where the word "sincerely"
came from? After all, we all grew up signing
our letters, "Sincerely yours."
As a young person I always would sit up a
little straighter when I signed that to my
letters as I thought "I really need to mean this."

As I grew older I would think less about
the sincerely part, and
more about the idea that by writing this
letter, I was leaving myself open to randomly
becoming someone else's. For the emphasis in
my mind seemed to fall on the "yours"
part of the signature. What if I was just
writing a letter to complain to the
Stop and Shop about the rotten
lettuce at the store, or to my great
Aunt Helga for giving me a pair of
hopelessly fashion-less knit slippers?
Did I have to be not just "yours" but
"sincerely yours"? It seemed a bit much.

Ah, but what does sincerely mean anyway?

It is commonly believed that sincere
comes from two Latin words:
sine 'without' and cera 'wax'.
Although even that much is challenged,
there are two explanations for how
without wax' came to be an important claim,
both involving craftsmen, who during the
Republic of Rome, would generally have been
slaves or foreigners. Some think that marble
workers would cover imperfections in the
stone with wax, much as modern homemakers
or unscrupulous antique dealers might rub
wax to hide a scratch in wood. Another
idea for the origin of sincere has more
ominous consequences. Since cement was more
expensive than wax, unscrupulous brick
layers would sometimes employ it -- at least
that's the story. When it melted, bricks
could shift and structures collapse. So the
claim that something was sine cera would
be an important guarantee.

(About: Ancient Classical History)

So artisans would either use wax to fill or
cover cracks in their sculptures, etc, or
wax would be smeared into the supposedly
cement filler that was holding the bricks
in place that held up your house.

What about us? Are we "sin cera
--without wax cover ups or cheap
fillers? Or are we the real thing,
through and through? Would we pass inspection?
Can God guarantee His work in us? Is our
foundation built on Him? Or is it mixed
with the dirt and wax of our own soulish
concoctions? For we are not left as slaves
or foreigners, without proper resources,
but with Christ Himself, to be our life.

Our Lord is after a Church, a Bride, without
spot and wrinkle,indeed, sin cera,
without wax needed to cover the blemishes,
without inferior workmanship or inexpensive
materials. In order to get to such a place we
have to give Him everything. We have
to allow Him to inspect every area of our
hearts and lives. If we hold back anything we
are not altogether His but still ours.
And we all know where "still ours" gets us.

Jesus came to the rich young ruler and nicely flattened
the man's attempt to talk about his goodness. Jesus isn't
after goodness, but perfection. And perfection is not
something that humans are capable of. God is always
driving us back to total surrender to and total reliance
upon Himself. Why do we fight this when we know
where our self efforts get us? "If you would be
perfect...." Jesus asks the man, as He asks you and
me today (Matthew 19:16-22).What would He say
to me? How would He fill in the blank for me?

As we become more aware of God's call to give Him
everything, our ways of holding onto our lives can
become more and more subtle, so that onlookers,
or even we ourselves, will think that we are wholly
dedicated to the Lord. My friends, that is not a life
that gives Christ His due for hidden underneath
the wax polish are glaring imperfections. Giving
Him a little, giving Him what we decide to give, is
really giving Him an inferior product. In the Old
Testament blemished sacrifices were unacceptable.
Jesus was and is the only perfect sacrifice. Only
by His Spirit working within , full time within,
can He find the cracks and restore us to the kind
of perfection that is His standard.

As the new year dawns, ask yourself
"Am I sincerely His?" Better yet, ask Him.
If you would be perfect......

Lord Jesus, give us sincere hearts, undivided
hearts, hearts that are fully given to You! In this
moment, may we let ourselves be examined for
fatal cracks and all that falls short of perfect.
May Your very Presence melt our hearts like
wax so that all that is left is pure and pleasing
to you. Overcome us! For in Your Presence
the mountains themselves melt. Let us be built
on the solid Rock of Christ, not on the shifting,
shoddy, unreliable filler of our own
selfish wills and natural strength?

--A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his
enemies round about. His lightnings enlightened
the world: the earth saw, and trembled. The hills
melted like wax at the presence of the LORD,
at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
(Psalm 97: 3-5)