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Monday, September 24, 2012

Last Call...

I hope this very confessional blog will remove some of the fears I carry around.
I hope that by putting this out there and starting a conversation maybe I'll feel better about the prospects of this country and the world.
I really hope that I challenge my friends who claim the Faith to get serious about what really matters and "Redeem the time because these are evil days" (Eph 5:16).
I have been watching world events and for the first time in my life I am afraid. I fear what this country is going to look like if we see another Obama term. I fear the creep of Sharia law into our legal system. I fear the ignorance of the average citizen about important things like civics, citizenship, our heritage and history.
I fear most of all that one day too soon I am going to hear the promised trumpet blast and be "caught up together in the clouds" with those of the faith who have gone on before. And I fear...I dread...maybe looking down for just a nanosecond and realizing that, while this events opens the door of eternity for me, it slams it shut for billions of others.
Lately...for a few weeks now...I have been earnestly praying Ezekiel 22:30-31 "I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn't have to destroy the land, but I found no one. So now I will pour out my fury on them, consuming them with the fire of my anger. I will heap on their heads the full penalty for all their sins. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”
I pray this every morning before the sun comes up and my day begins. I pray it at night before I go to sleep.
When I pray, I beg God...beg stay His hand. I plead with him through tears to withhold His punishment and stop his anger. I reason with Him that there are still men standing in the gaps of righteousness in this land and in the Church. I tell him there are more who are willing if encouraged. I plead through sobs sometimes to give us more time. I remind Him of the words of His own Son that indeed  "The fields are white unto harvest" (John 4:35).
I beg Him for more time. I beg Him for opportunity. Because underneath the squawking of politics and underneath the attacks of Islamic hatred for Christianity and behind the anti-Americanism rampant in this current administration lies one immutable truth. We are in a battle. A battle for souls.
Those of the Christian Faith need to remember that we aren't in a battle for our souls. Jesus promised He would never lose even one of those His father gave to Him. The battle is for the lost.
I am as gung-ho American patriot as anyone who lives. I love this land and I will fight for her. But I have dual citizenship. I live here, but my final Heaven.
I am horribly guilty of forgetting this sometimes. I love all souls...not just American souls.
It's a hard balance to strike. It's not only our right to be patriotic and involved and active in politics but it's demanded. This is part of stewardship. We were blessed with the greatest form of government in history when this country was formed. Watching it dissolve into rampant, blatant communism is hard on my patriotic soul. I need to be involved and active and vocal and watchful.
But I need to remember that the final chapter of the Book was written about 1950 years ago and there is no changing it. The best I can hope for is to ask God for more time. Ask Him to slow down the approaching fulfillment of the few remaining prophecies that stand between now and Jesus return.
Because all the Facebook posts and Tweets and campaign ads and Youtube movies will not change the outcome one bit.
I take comfort in this but I also dread this. I know I am secure. I know my eternal destiny and that of my daughter and loved ones. But that doesn't relieve me of my duty to evangelize nor does it assuage the burning desire in my heart to spread the Gospel. People need to hear the Message. Loud and clear and not watered down or softened up. Face to face...a head-on collision with Jesus Christ that leaves them faced with a mandatory "Yes or No" to the offer of a Savior.
I dread hearing the trumpet sound and knowing...if only for a fleeting second...that this is it. That time has run out. That the final seven years has begun and the hellish Tribulation is upon them and I have no more opportunity to speak His name to a lost soul or open a Bible and show them the path to Christ.
I lost sleep at night because of the urgency of the hour. I weep in church thinking of those who are not there to hear the Word spoken. I think of the lost, racing toward a very real, very eternal, very literal Hell and I think how I want to be a roadblock in their way. I want them to have to step over my prayer-bent body.
The time is short. The lost are all around us. The hour is tragic and the command has never been more solemn..."YOU go into the highways and side alleys and convince them to come to me..." (Matt 22:9)
I can't sit back and concern myself with my own comforts anymore. America is a mission field as desperate as anything on any other continent. I can't sit back and watch the world go to Hell. I believe in Hell. I believe it's real, literal and more terrifying than anything our imaginations have concocted.
And I believe that the only thing standing between the lost and this dreadful place is the prayerful, effective witness of those who name the Name. That's me...and you.
I fear that our future on this Earth and especially in this country will be marked with increasing resistance and attack. I fear that even in this land, which was founded by Christians with the intent to be a launching pad for world evangelism and an incubator of perpetual Christian movements and revivals worldwide, we will face hardship for our Faith. I am convinced this President has in his heart to silence the great Voice of Christ's Church and install a emasculated non-religion at best...and an evil Islamic alternative at worst.
Either way, I am determined to stand my ground. I am determined to continue my pleading with God to stay His hand and withhold His judgment and grant us more time. I am begging Him to send revival. To get the Church off of it's embarrassing culture of tuning up the tractor only to leave it in the barn, and getting the darn thing out into the field!
Enough feeding of my spirit! Enough with "doing life together". I want to GIVE life! I want to PREACH life to the dead and freedom to the enslaved and sight to the blind.
I want to go out into the fields and work until sunset bringing in the harvest. Making a difference for eternity for those who live outside of Grace. All of them. All nations and peoples.
It's the last call. I don't think anybody but true amillenialists disagrees with me there.
It's time to put my hand to the plow and not look back.
Heaven is forever...but so is Hell.
The populace of both depend on our willingness to be used by God.
It's the last call...who will answer?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Obama's War on Men

It's Tuesday morning. I'm weary. I've been weary for a while now but I'm particularly weary today. I have no outline or draft for what I am going to write here today...just open my heart. But my instincts tell me I am speaking for a lot of men these days and I will get a lot of silent "Amen"'s muttered wearily under the breath of a lot of broken, weary men.
I am a dad. Nothing I do or ever will do or have ever done in all my life equals being defined as a dad. Nothing even comes close. Nothing. Being a man is hard in this society. Being a dad is even harder.
I grew up in a society where men were still manly. Where men talked politics passionately and where they eschewed evil and celebrated good. Where a man of character wasn't a big deal because it was still expected of you to have character. Where a man was an American and by God he was proud of that and he defended that ideal with a loud booming voice and the occasional clenched fist. He was disgusted by our enemies and embarrassed if we failed. They spoke of the tragedy of Vietnam not in terms of "We never should have gone there" but rather "We never should have gone there if we had no intention of winning at all costs." You can call that barbaric, or Neanderthal or whatever you want. But this country survived and thrived it's first 200 years, enduring some close calls, because men were still, by and large, expected to act like men, and they were celebrated when they did.
But then the 70's happened.
I understand that "macho" can be taken too far. I get it that dads can be seem to be too overprotective and too opinionated and too curmudgeonly. But it sure looks like they were right and the new breed was wrong. Softening up the male species wasn't an entirely good thing. Sometimes you really can get farther with a kind word and a punch in the mouth than just with a kind word. Sometimes you really do have to draw a line in the sand in your own front yard and tell the world they will have to step over your body to get to your family.
That is hard-wired into every man and it has been attacked and ridiculed by feminists since the sixties. When did we become a country where character is so rare that we have to celebrate it when we find it? Why do we have to read books about integrity?
This is a larger issue that is too big for me to tackle this morning. I want to dial it down a little. I want to go from pan to zoom.
Men are under attack in this country and by this administration.
It has been almost four years since Barack Obama took office. Four years of waiting for things to change. Four years of trying to squint to see dawn in this miserable darkness. Four years of seeing the only thing getting bigger is the debt. Four years of watching as we get our noses rubbed in poop by little crappy countries that we should be flicking off us like so many fleas. Four years of looking at our kids and promising them that this will be the year. This year we'll go on a vacation together like we used to. This year we can spend more time together like we used to. This year.
It's been four years like that and we only get worse. The only movement we've made is backwards. Unemployment rates drop because people give up looking and this man celebrates that like it's a victory. That's like being the last car to survive a crash in  Nascar race and celebrating your driving abilities. You didn't win anything. You were just the last loser.
There is a war on men being waged. A real man loves his family and wants the very best for them. There are the odd exceptions to this rule but for the most part this is true of all men. Nothing breaks our hearts more than not being able to give our family what they desire and what they need. A man will endure anything to take care of his family. I know. I endured four years of homelessness so that I could stay in the same town as my daughter. I slept in my car and lived like a vagabond in many ways so that at least she would go to sleep at night knowing I was in the same town as she was and that I could still come running if she needed me. That she would still look out in the audience during a violin recital and see my face, smiling at her. That we could still spend time together.
I paid for her braces $100 a month over 4 years while I lived like this. Because she needed them and that's what dads do. I worked odd jobs and side jobs to make sure there was at least Christmas each year and her birthdays never went unnoticed.
I maintained hope when hope was free-falling. But I am weary.
There are no good jobs. There are barely any decent jobs. There are scant few lousy jobs. Men are hurting in this economy in ways they don't reveal easily. A man takes pride in caring for his family and when he can't do that, it breaks his heart and his spirit. It renders him tired. Tired in ways that he doesn't bounce back from easily. You render enough men tired and you start having a populace without resistance. You start emasculating men without them realizing it. It's hard to stand up to tyranny when your heart aches because you don't feel manly. It's hard to fight oppression when you live each day in fear of which utility is going to be turned off this week if you don't scrape the money together fast enough. It's hard to stand for what's right when you feel like you aren't even right because you can't take care of basic things for your family. Men are being broken and I don't think it's an accident.
There is value in a days work. But a days work is not a career or a calling. It's piecemeal. That's okay for a college kid with no responsibilities besides himself. But a dad needs to be able to say "Here is my plan and here is how we're going to get there...". The biggest part of that, outside of having a clear vision, is having the financial questions answered. Without jobs a man can't dream. His vision for his family is rendered a pipe-dream. His heart breaks and his manliness fails.
I don't think this fact is lost on this administration.
We hear endlessly about how women are struggling. How women are living in poverty. How there is a war on women because we won't pay for their birth control. But none of those things break a woman's spirit the way it does a man.
This is a nation of broken men and that is a dangerous thing. A year of poverty will make you uncomfortable. A second year of poverty will make you mad. A third year will frustrate you but beyond that you give up. Your fight is gone. Your soul is so weary that you just don't care anymore. If I know this then I'm sure the powers that be know this too.
We are a nation of weary, broken men with spirits waning. We are under attack.
I am weary. I am so tired. I...the hopeless romantic, endlessly optimistic, dreamer of dreams, can only see black and white now. The color is fading fast. Men with fire in their eyes are disappearing. In their place are a nation of men of vacant stares.
If it's like this at year 4...what will years 5-8 bring?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Man-up...and Bow Down. A Call to Revival


                                                    Men of God…we are under attack.
If you are paying attention at all you already know this but let me restate it.
Men of God…we are under attack!
I am going to say some things in this post that will not sit easily on the shoulders of men and might rankle a few women as well. But I can’t help that. This has been brewing in my heart for months now and I cannot remain silent. The hour is tragic. The fuse is lit. The wolf of sin is at the door and the door is weak on its hinges. To remain silent, or to temper my words with the coolant of Christian political correctness would be to betray my calling from God and it would only serve to render my bones -already wounded from trying to hold fire- more fire damaged and burnt than they are now. I can’t abide another day or night like that. I can’t sit in silence while the country I love slides headlong into a morass of wickedness and toward a showdown with the face of evil that she is wholly unprepared for.
Nor can I sit idly while the Church I love and am part of wanders like a flock of sheep without a shepherd and stuffed to obesity with straw and weeds.
*(I speak here of the Church as a body…not the church I attend personally. In fact if there is a clarion call existing in this deaf Body at all right now it exists in churches such as I attend and amongst men who seek God as soberly as my own pastor does)
Two great dangers are present as I write this tonight. The danger to America’s freedom and her Christian heritage and –as a direct result of that danger --the danger to the evangelization of the world and the spread of the Gospel. America is the last bastion of religious freedom, and from her come the vast majority of evangelistic efforts to the world. Should she fall completely, the great Gospel voice of the last 150 years would go silent.
I have been through a pruning process these last 2 months…in fact it’s a process that really had it’s genesis in a simple verse I read in October 2005 that began a process of fire-burnt purifying and wound it’s way through financial and professional collapse, brokenness, and the slow, often painful restoration of the vision God had for my life when I was 16, and the reissuance of the call He had on my life and never revoked.
I cannot sit silent another day.
Men of God…again I emphasize…Men of God; it is time for you and me to Man up, and bow down.
Throughout history, from the earliest days of the forefather of our Faith, Abraham, until this hour, God has called on men to pray. Pray in times of abundance and pray in times of famine and drought. Pray when the church is growing uninhibited and pray when she faces attacks so vicious and violent as to snuff her out altogether if that were, indeed, possible.
There have been moments in history when she has faced danger like she faces now; I know this to be true. But in my lifetime –and I turned 49 just last Friday- she has not seen such an attack of such violence or such insidiousness.
I grew up under the great threat of Communism, at the very height of the Cold War.
I spent my earliest years in solemn dread, fearing the overtaking of this country by the Great Red Menace. It would come, they warned, and it will start with the Christians. They will raid our churches and kill our pastors and then they will force us, under pain of death, to renounce our faith or die. They will kill our children and burn our churches. That’s what I was told. I was told this because it was true in other countries. And throughout their history, the Stalins and Marx’s and Lenins and Maos of the world had stated that this was their intention.
Through men of faith and the stirring of the saints of God, the Red menace was repelled and finally broken. In other lands at least. The evil was overcome because men of God were willing to Man-up and bow down.
In the seventies and eighties there were voices calling for revival and repentance. Voices that took it upon themselves to shout from the rooftops and the hillsides that our laziness and sinfulness had removed us from any place of favor with God. And while I would disagree with their claims that America was any “special” country in God’s world plan and enjoyed any special favoritism from God Almighty, I would agree with their assessment of the solution.  
We were never a “Christian nation”.  Not in the sense that some people thought we were and some still do. We never recognized Christianity as an official religion. What we were was a nation founded by Christian men. And make no mistake…they weren’t “Deists” or Enlightened Liberal theologians or Kantian philosophers. They were Born-again, CHRISTIAN men who believed in the Bible as their ultimate authority and moral code. They designed a country that openly promoted no religion but that was designed to favor Christianity. They designed a Constitution that protected the free exercise of THAT Faith, and all faiths, because they believed that Christianity, when practiced well and faithfully, would win over the hearts of any other religion. They were willing to bet that an active, Spirit-lead life of Christian Discipleship would be so attractive, so comely, so powerful, that they built-in the allowance for free exercise of other religions too. They never wanted a Christian-only State. Not by law. They wanted that by volume…by sheer numbers. They saw the power of the Gospel, when exercised properly, as the ultimate overpowering force. They saw the beauty of a life lived in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount and in the image of Christ as the greatest draw to mankind that could be. They wanted a land where Church discipline would be far more frequent and agreeable than courts of law. They wanted to create a land where Christianity would change hearts. A country populated by an overwhelming majority of Spirit lead believers would…by sheer numbers…do right more frequently than wrong.
These Godly men also understood that God keeps his promises and His promises kept with individual believers would affect an entire nation if the majority in that nation were believers. They believed that when Jesus said “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45) it could be extrapolated from an individual to a nation. That if the abundance, the overwhelming majority of that nation was adherents to a Christian Faith and observant of His laws and of man-made laws based on His Word…that the land would be blessed. They would be blessed not because we had achieved special status with God, but because God never breaks a promise, and if anyone, whether an individual or a nation lives according to His promises and words, the benefit of those promises would be theirs. And thus America grew in a remarkably short time to preeminence in the world. Because she was blessed. Not because she was especially favored as a nation, for God only ever promised that to one nation. But because she was populated to a majority with believers and with godly men of prayer.
Because in the infancy of this nation men knew how to Man-up, and bow down.
Make no mistake; our founders were men of prayer.
In his Thanksgiving Decree 1789: “And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech him to pardon our national and other promote the knowledge and practice of the true religion and virtue....”
From Washington’s personal prayer journal; 24 pages scrawled in his Field notebook:
"SUNDAY MORNING....Almighty God, and most merciful Father, who didst command the children of Israel to offer a daily sacrifice to Thee, that thereby they might glorify and praise Thee for Thy protection both night and day, receive O Lord, my morning sacrifice which I now offer up to thee; "I yield Thee humble and hearty thanks, that Thou hast preserved me from the dangers of the night past and brought me to the Light of this day, and the comfort thereof, a day which is consecrated to Thine own service and for Thine own honour. "Let my heart therefore gracious God be so affected with the glory and majesty of it, that I may not do mine own works but wait on Thee, and discharge those weighty duties Thou required of me: and since Thou art a God of pure eyes, and will be sanctified in all who draw nearer to Thee, who dost not regard the sacrifice of fools, nor hear sinners who tread in Thy courts, pardon I beseech Thee, my sins, remove them from Thy presence, as far as the east is from the west, and accept of me for the merits of Thy son Jesus Christ, that when I come into Thy temple and compass Thine altar, my prayer may come before Thee as incense, and as I desire Thou wouldst hear me calling upon Thee in my prayers, so give me peace to hear the calling on me in Thy word, that it may be wisdom, righteousness, reconciliation and peace to the saving of my soul in the day of the Lord Jesus. "Grant that I may hear it with reverence, receive it with meekness, mingle it with faith, and that it may accomplish in me gracious God, the good work for which Thou hast sent it. "Bless my family, kindred, friends and country, be our God and guide this day and forever for His sake, who lay down in the grave and arose again for us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
From Daniel Webster: "If religious books are not widely circulated among the masses in this country, I do not know what is going to become of us as a nation. If truth be not diffused, error will be; If God and His Word are not known and received, the devil and his works will gain the ascendancy, If the evangelical volume does not reach every hamlet, the pages of a corrupt and licentious literature will; If the power of the Gospel is not felt throughout the length and breadth of the land, anarchy and misrule, degradation and misery, corruption and darkness will reign without mitigation or end."
And when asked what was the “Greatest thought ever to pass through your mind” Webster replied: “My accountability to God
Hear Webster again; “If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instruction and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity."
Noah Webster, the founder of Education in the United States said this about the influence of Christianity in Government; "In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed....No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people."
John Q. Adams had this to say about the intertwined nature of Christianity and our Republic, on Independence Day 1837;  "Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the World, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day. Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the Progress of the Gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer's mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfillment of the prophecies announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Saviour and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets 600 years before."
Again said Washington as he endorsed the first National day of Fasting and Prayer ordered held on May 6, 1780;  “The Honorable the Congress having recommended it to the United States to set apart Thursday the 6th of May next to be observed as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer, to acknowledge the gracious interpositions of Providence; to deprecate [to pray or entreat that a present evil may be removed] deserved punishment for our Sins and Ingratitude, to unitedly implore the Protection of Heaven; Success to our Arms and the Arms of our Ally: The Commander in Chief enjoins a religious observance of said day and directs the Chaplains to prepare discourses proper for the occasion; strictly forbidding all recreations and unnecessary labor.”
Our country was birthed by godly Christian men who knew how to Man-up and Bow down. They knew it’s survival would depend on men who prayed fervently and regularly. Men who knew how to Man-up and bow down.                                                                
Men of God reading this article, this hour is no less tragic and no less grave. Our situation is no less sober than when our Founders lay all on the altar of personal prosperity and comfort and risked everything because they had often heard from God. Our country was began by men who knew how to Man-up and bow down,
The scriptures are full of commands for men to pray. Calls to prayer in times of trial and difficulty. In times of drought and harvest. In times of national repentance. The oft-quoted and oft-misquoted II Chronicles 7:14 holds a vital Biblical principle. In its right context this verse was a promise to the people of Israel at the dedication of the Temple. Starting at verse 13 we read: When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
In deference to proper exegesis this promise was actually made to the people of Israel when it was given. But when viewed under the overlay of Galatians 3:29 “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” We are right and proper in appropriating the principle for the Church at large and specifically for the Church in America. To remain honest I must say that this is not a promise made to America. But it is a promise made to all of God’s people and should those people make a majority in a land then the promised healing would directly affect that nation. And so in that light it is right and proper to call upon the truth and principle of this verse, apply it to ourselves as the Church and the Bride of Christ in America and hope expectantly for the promised revival and healing. But first we must do our part. We must humble ourselves, pray and seek His face. We must Man-up and bow down!
It is interesting to me that God delineates between prayer and seeking His face. Why?
Prayer is oftentimes a mechanical or liturgical practice. Sometimes memorized and sometimes repetitive. But seeking His face…crying out to a Holy God until that Holy God turns to face us. Grabbing hold of the hem of his garment and refusing to let go until he finally places us in the cleft of the rock, covers us with His hand so as not to consume us with his holiness, and passes by us close enough to change our visage. Seeking His face is risky; in fact to the flesh it is deadly. It requires a denouncement of comfort, and resolution of denial of self. It means that my head might have to refuse the bed even though I am weary. I may spend nights in the closet alone instead of amongst friends in laughter and light company. It requires a sacrifice of self so as to show the Holy One of Israel Himself that I am serious when I seek Him and resolute in my desire. It means I must Man-up…and bow down!
The hour does not call for women of faith to rise up. Here is where my pen might cause me to be cleaved from the hearts of some friends. Is there wrong in praying women? NO! Not by any means. But make no mistake; God’s way is for Men to lead.  Deborah was appointed Judge over Israel because no good man could be found. The Church fathers set the bar high for men to reach. Women of faith and prayer are wonderful, blessed, approved, necessary and honorable. But God commanded Men to take the lead. Ephesians 5 22-33 defines the hierarchy of leadership in the home and it begins with Men who hear from God.
Man-up…bow down!
I Timothy clearly defines the requirements for Church leadership and it begins and ends with Men. Men devoted to a life lived circumspectly and centered on earnest, beseeching prayer. Paul defined the leaders of a church as men who would Man-up…and bow down.
James implores Men of God, where healing is needed to act on faith and anoint the sick one. His words are specific in James 5:16 “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” Powerful men pray powerfully! Effective men of faith have learned to pray effectively. Men of God know that to be first, one must be last. To be visible as a leader one must disappear into the prayer closet.
Man-up…bow down.
Leonard Ravenhill, perhaps the most eloquent voice on the matter of revival in the last 100 years has this to say; “The ugly fact is that the altar fires are either out or burning very low. The prayer meeting is dead or dying. By our attitude to prayer we tell God that what was begun in the Spirit we can finish in the flesh.”
Have we become so very comfortable in our living that we have no desire for the discomfort of seeking His face? Has our Faith become a snuggly blanket that replaces the camel-skin garment of the Prophet?
Men of God…it is the ultimate act of Christian Manhood to be a man of prayer. To be known as a man of prayer. To desire that reputation. It is hard work. It requires sacrifice. It makes us uncomfortable and breaks our will. It is man’s work.
Man-up…and bow down!
Ravenhill said; “Though it is wonderful indeed when God lays hold of a man…earth can know one greater wonder—when a man lays ahold of God.”
We want Elijah’s Mantle but not his sackcloth. We want to sit in Jesus glory, but not in His isolation and lonely prayer. We seek the glorious manifestations but never the invisible battle of the prayer closet. We hear preachers of the Word faith world gloriously telling us to pick up our sword but never admonish us to wrestle in obscurity until God breaks loose on us.
Men of God this nation…and thereby this world…cries out for us to stand tall, stiffen our backbone until it becomes as strong as a saw-log, clearly define our orders and drop to our knees.
Man-up…bow down!
God’s voice rings just as true today as it did in the year that King Uzziah died and Isaiah beheld what few men ever have. In Isaiah 6 the Prophet cried “Woe unto me for I am a man of unclean lips and I live amongst a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the glory of the Lord!”
Isaiah decried his own sin and God’s amazing response was not to banish Isaiah for his sinfulness but to respond to his desperate pleading by taking a coal from the very altar of Heaven and touching the Prophet and making him clean…clean so that he might continue his intercession for his people.
Ezekiel saw the broken down spiritual walls of the Israelites and his heart was rent. Through Him God warned his people, in Ezekiel 22: 30 “I looked for a man among them who would build of the wall of righteousness and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the nation so that I would not have to destroy it…but I found none!”
God seeks for a man to stay His hand! He cries out for one man with knees bent and heart broken to persuade Him to relent. He desires someone to change His mind! But he found none for Israel…and I fear He will soon say “But I found none” for America as well.
Unless we men of God get right, get serious, become real men again and become men of prayer.
Men of God…for the sake of our nation and through our nation for the sake of Billions who race toward hell at blinding speed with only the Gospel message able to stop their descent I beg you…I challenge you as I challenge myself…
Man-up…and Bow down!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11, the next decade...

11 years have come and gone since that morning.
Today we all seem to pause to remember where we were, what we were thinking, what it felt like, what we feared.
For me, as a dad, it was all and only about my daughter in those first few agonizing moments. When the first plane hit I was in my office busily doing my job. Morgan was at her pre-school. I wasn't watching the news and I heard about it like most people did, as a breaking bulletin. Like everyone else I thought it must have been a horrible aviation accident. A mechanical failure that rendered the plane paralyzed, or fog or something. Then I saw that it was as beautiful a day in NYC as it was in Nashville. But still it didn't register as an attack. Then reports of a hijacking started to emerge. Then I watched on the Internet in my office where I'd been going to work dutifully for 3 years, as the second plane hit the second tower. There was no doubt anymore.
I was stunned like everyone else. Shocked, afraid, angry. I instantly raced across town to get my daughter because...while I didn't know who this enemy was or how broad their plan...I knew my daughter would be safer with me. Her daddy would die for her and that is as safe as it gets.
I walked into St. Thomas day care and met a lot of parents with the same scared look in their eyes. The same fear, the same questions, the same bewilderment.
Morgan, and the other kids were all playing happily as if nothing at all had happened. This was as it should be. I had no idea how this would, in so many ways, be the last time in her life that there would ever be total innocence without the shadow of another horror laying in wait.
I could write more about that morning. How it felt, what we thought. But it would be redundant.
I was going to write, with great anger and bile, about the intrusion and frightening infiltration of Islam. And make no mistake...there is no "good Islam". There are merely some who are pawns and some who are bigger pieces but EVERY MUSLIM is of one mind where Islam's ultimate goal is concerned...among the basic tenets of Islam is world domination. One religion in the world  and none other. Convert or die. The sweet, doe-eyed immigrants who we become friends with, are here with a purpose too. To break our will by softening our hearts. They probably don't even know their own role in the plan, but make no mistake, they play one.
Am I proposing Islamophobia or Muslim-hate? No. But I'm warning you to be loving but remain vigilant. They count on the generosity of the American spirit. It's factored into their plan. Dearborn Michigan was loving and generous to Arab immigrants in the 70's. The opened their hearts and homes. They hired them at the Ford plant. Now the city lives under the shadow of Sharia law. They took over without a shot being fired. Before anyone could say "It could never happen here" it already had.
Before this becomes an anti-Islam article...and that's not my intention...I'm going to go where I really wanted to go.
I have been awakened in the past 5 months. I was stirred. I was moved. I saw Isaiah's vision from chapter 6 and it became rooted in my flesh. I echoed his cry "“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty".
When I was 16 years old I stumbled across this passage in my daily Bible reading and it rent my heart in two. The average 16 year old doesn't get a verse like this, but for whatever reason I did. From that fateful day on, I knew what God's will and plan for my life was. But life interfered and I let it best me. 33 years of wandering and living near God's plan but not in God's plan was devastating to me. I never abandoned my faith but I wasted a lot of time missing the mark. It took homelessness, breaking in my spirit, and God's perfect timing for me to renew my vow to God and get back to the man who knelt in his bedroom at 3 AM and cried out those words. I would pray that prayer every day when I was in high school. I prayed it and I echoed his cry "Here am I...send ME!" Then I would pray the words of  Ezekiel 22: 30-31 "I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn't have to destroy the land, but I found no one. 31 So now I will pour out my fury on them, consuming them with the fire of my anger. I will heap on their heads the full penalty for all their sins. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”
I would pray that I would be the man who stood in the gap. I saw the gap. I saw the gap in the land and it broke my heart. Maybe that's what drew me to Liberty University and to Dr. Falwell. Doc saw the gap too and he devoted much of his life to standing in it and raising a generation of people to stand in it as well. 
I carried that vision and determination in my heart all through High School. But my situation intruded and life threw me some curves and I didn't end up following that vision.
Until this past May.
God in His infinite wisdom and unrelenting will had been planning this thing all along. Losing my career...and ultimately my entire lifestyle including my home, my dreams for the moment, my desires...that was all part of His plan. After a year of lonely isolating homelessness I decided I was never going to find a job if I didn't rebuild my resume. I had two and a half years of Pre-Med biology under my belt. I learned the hard way that a Pre-Med biology degree is useless if you don't go to Med School. So I decided to finish my degree. I also knew I had to finish at Liberty because it was where my heart was. They offer the very best online program in the country and that made it easier. I considered a business degree, but in my heart I felt like I'd had enough of the corporate environment. I chose a degree in Religion, telling myself that since I wrote so much faith-based content, I should be better equipped in my Faith. 
The truth was that God hadn't ever rescinded His calling on my life and it was time to finish what He started when I was 16.
I rolled through 6 semesters of study, 5 of which I lived in my car. I was in more than one classroom. I was in the classroom of higher education and the classroom of brokeneness. I learned from professors and from the Holy Spirit. I devoured every word of the former and kicked and screamed and railed against the lessons of the latter. But He was working on me. May 11, 2012 He won.
Up until the very weekend of my graduation I had no further intentions for my Bachelors in Religion except to be a better writer on religious topics. I had a grand plan in mind. I was going to become a motivational speaker in the mold of the great Zig Ziglar. I would regale people with stories of my own nationally recognized successes in the mortgage industry. I would encourage and inspire with my vivid, perfect word-pictures of my long, lonely desert experience in my car while I refused to leave my daughter and move to another town. I would bring them to the same tears of joy I felt when I had that moment in August 2011 when I realized I was really going to graduate and this year was my final year. I would make them laugh at the image of a man standing 6' 4" trying to sleep in a Volvo 850. I would change their lives and they would pay me handsomely and all would be right with the world. My speaking would assuage my deep burning desire to communicate a message that impacted people and I would be comfortable in doing so. Everyone would like me and letters would pour in, telling me how I helped turn their lives around.
Then I went to Graduation.
The hubbub on Campus and the blogospshere was about Mitt Romney delivering the commencement address. But the real big news to me was the night before. Luis Palau would be speaking at Baccalaureate. 
I love Dr. Palau. Having never had the chance to see Billy Graham live, seeing Luis was a very close second.
He was remarkable in his simplicity. I guess this is what happens when God has truly anointed you. 
His sermon was about faith, and vision and dreaming big dreams from a big God. Then he told the story of Art DeMoss and his personal burning desire to evangelize, literally everyone he ever met personally. Whether he reached every soul is doubtful...but he sure tried.
That service broke open a vault in my heart and revealed to me that God wasn't done. 
All summer I wrestled with Him. I knew what He was saying but I didn't want to hear it. Not at my age and not after what I went through. But it turns out that I went through those things for this very reason.
About 6 weeks ago I surrendered.
I could write a lengthy volume on what that decision looked like and felt like and what it implies but I have written much already and I still have ground to cover here.
What has happened this summer is God returning me to the calling He placed on me at 16. And it could be that these past 33 years were simply my desert time where He honed the vision to a razor edge and a pencil point. Maybe I was in a cocoon where He was building a man from the wreckage. Maybe if I had followed the calling back then I'd be someplace else now. Maybe pastoring a church somewhere and too immersed in that job to exchange my suit for a camel-hair wardrobe. Maybe writing nice, sweet Christian books and living a nice sweet Christian life that was so comfortable as to be too hard to leave. When God began this process in 2005 I was trapped in a successful career that I loathed but did well in. I had a home and a life I liked. Had He not rid me of it violently, I would still be doing it, and still be waking up each morning begging Him not to let this be what the rest of my life looked like. Funny...every day I said that, not thinking He was going to roll up His sleeves one day and say "Okay..."
I have been convicted. I have been exposed. I am broken. And my life has been renewed and my calling redeemed.
My desire...and I think God's desire for to live out the rest of my days (and I hope they are many) as a man of prayer. Of deep, burdened, broken, desperate prayer. For a world that fills Hell to the brim each moment. For lives so shattered and marked by sin that humanity is becoming unrecognizable. Brokenness for a world that searches like a blind man groping the back wall of a cave, calling out for someone...for lead him out. I am broken for a group of teenagers who gathered themselves together to grieve their fallen friend, taken from them in as vicious a means as is possible. And yet who found NO answer from the religious poseurs who showed up to officiate the evening. For friends of my daughter who cut themselves because the physical pain relieves the emotional pain they feel. For girls who have no daddy telling them they are beautiful and who will fall prey to someone who will use that vacuum for nefarious purposes. For boys who have no dad to show them what a man looks like, acts like and worships like.
I am broken for a nation who has killed enough babies in the name of convenience and "Reproductive Rights" that the number now represents one out of every SIX citizens alive today in this country. One in six.
I am broken for a Church that has forsaken the altars of Evangelism and the urgency of Salvation for the expediency and ease of the "Fellowshipping of the saints".
I am broken over the intrusion and infiltration of a doctrinal mindset that says God has already separated all the jelly beans into His two piles. He already decided who is going and who is not. I am broken over pastors who can spend weeks on sermons about sex and preach from beds and Plexiglas pulpits while the world goes to Hell. Because they have not an ounce of urgency, since their God is capricious and contradictory.
I am broken over Christians who want to be a salt-lick that the world can come and droll on now and then when it needs a little pick-me-up, instead of the course, hard, often irritating salt that Jesus referred to. Salt that preserved, cured, healed wounds (however painfully at first) and scrubbed clean. They want to be flashlights when we were called to be beacons. The Light He referenced was not a lamp but the Sun itself. Chasing away darkness, disinfecting foulness, exposing corruption, and signalling safe harbor.
The Church has been having her 9-11's daily for decades now and she continues to ignore the attacks.
She continues to be lead by men who aren't broken over the condition of the world so they preach like it. You want to get rich, be blessed, promote yourself socially, have great coffee in the lobby? Go to most modernist churches, or turn on the TV. But if you want to have your heart broken and your conscience seared and the loving correction of Scripture applied to your heart. Good luck. If you want to find the lights on at 3 AM and the rows filled with Godly men crying out to God for their hearts, their homes, their nation and this're backing up the line.
9-11 is here Church. It's been here a long time. This national remembrance should be embarrassing to us as believers. Because in 11 years we have so lost our voice and influence with God and therefore in this world that we stand to be shouted down by the very evil that perpetrated this crime on our country.
Maybe we'll cry out then.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Unspoken Danger of Reformed Theology

Last night my daughter sang a song at a candle light vigil for a former classmate who was brutally murdered last weekend. The even was coordinated by the teen-aged friends of this young man with the assistance of some parents. The entire community was moved by this horrific crime and probably upwards of 700 people showed up.
Many of them had maybe a passing involvement with church and no real active Faith to speak of. They are what I call TSC. Typical Southern Christians. Before you rail against me and see this as an attack on a region, it is not. I am from Philadelphia and grew up in the Philly area which is predominantly Catholic. We had the same thing except it was TYC. Typical Yankee Catholic.
Typical Southern Christians are folks who were raised in a church. They can't remember a time when they weren't going to church. It was the social gathering of the week. But it became so common and so familiar that it lost it's influence. Sure, you "watched your mouth" around ladies and preachers, and you wore your Sunday finery but it was no longer a place where the Word was still being wielded as a two-edged sword. Now it was a place where you went and heard what you already knew for the thousandth time, had chicken afterwards and watched football on the couch later. The eternal effect has long since been diluted.
In Philly you went to mass, heard a homily on being a good person and went to moms for some ziti. You were a good Catholic because you held to the liturgy, observed the Holidays and went to confession once in a while.
In neither scenario did Church have a deep life altering effect. It established some blurry guidelines that could be bent or obliterated as the situation required. In Catholicism you sin and then go to Confession, operating under the old ruse of "It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission". In Protestantism...particularly Baptist and Church of Christ and especially in the screwed a guy over in a business deal but you gave your ten percent in the tithe the next Sunday and that squared things with the Almighty. And you were pleasant and said "Bless your heart" at some point during the underhanded business. In defense of my Southern friends, Yankees are equally ruthless, it's just that we wear it as a badge of honor and don't try to hide it behind a smile and a "Bless his heart". Both are sad...both are wrong.
So now that I have disarmed you with a little humor let me break your heart...if there remains a heart to break.
Last night at this vigil I saw upwards of 700 people, more than half of them teens, desperately trying to make some sense of a horrible triple murder that took one of their friends. I heard high school boys trying to express their souls and trying to say "I love you" to a friend they lost but not having the ability in their oft-confused teen-aged hearts to say those they said it in different ways.
 I heard my daughter singing a beautiful song so perfectly matched to the moment that it might have been written just this week by someone who knew the young man we honored.
I heard desperation, sadness and longing. Longing for answers to the great questions in their hearts. Longing to understand "why?"...longing for some sort of peace and healing. Longing for an answer.
In the midst of this I heard a lot of the usual platitudes about "He's in a better place now" "He's looking down on us" or "God wanted an angel". It's what everyone says when someone dies and it's the human heart's way of trying to find an answer and inject hope. Because ultimately what they gathered there last night to find was just that...Hope.
And when the moment came for God's voice to be spoken and the only TRUE source of Hope to be pronounced, explained, and offered freely...they got a backwards collar talking about "eliminating hate and intolerance" and encouraging the community to determine that "this will never happen again!"
I'm sorry pastor whatever-your-name-is, it WILL happen again. In fact just watch the news, it was happening while we gathered to grieve. As for the politically correct-motivated introduction of buzzwords like "hate" "intolerance" and you imploring people of  "all faiths including Muslims, gay, straight whatever..." Really??? Why did you go there? Because your seminary has been compromised and your Gospel is nothing more than leftovers from Abby Hoffman's 60's?
For those who aren't familiar with the situation, the family was murdered by a deranged and emotionally unstable next-door neighbor who was under psychiatric care and heavy medication. He apparently had a psychotic episode...although one could argue that any murder is a psychotic episode...and broke into the house and killed three of the family members, leaving only a nine year old girl who is now essentially an orphan. There was nothing at all about this crime that had to do with gay intolerance or "hate" in any way. Other than, of course, the fact that it's hard to say you don't hate someone you have stabbed to death.
I watched and listened in shocked horror that quickly turned to dismay as this talking collar got in all the major liberal theology talking points but never even mentioned the name Jesus. Not once.
Instead of speaking to the underlying question of the hour..."Where is Jonathan" and "Will I see him again...can I be sure of that?"  He spoke of community unity and taking action that this will never happen again. That's good because we all need to prepare a plan of action and a "mentally-ill-next-door-neighbor-survival kit". And we need to know where it is at all times.
Instead of using the moment and planting the most important and urgent Seed of all in hearts turned over and tilled and ready to receive it...he spoke of intolerance.
But I guess I should expect that from mainstream denominations now.
However, the more troubling issue to me was the stone silence of the other churches in the area. Why didn't they get involved and ask for a spot on the roster? Why didn't they bring out a group of believers to be there speaking the Gospel in comfort and power? The sad thing is that when a heart is rent like this it is pliable and soft for only a while...then it hardens up as a means of self defense. This morning those hearts that went home last night with the God-shaped vacuum literally throbbing from hurt and aching for a taste of the Gospel in full force, woke up with a callous starting to form. It formed because the so many of the churches from that community are in the "Emergent" bracket.
Being so heavily rooted in Reformed theology, they have no urgency to jump in with the Gospel. They have no heartbreaking vision of this crowd of wandering sheep searching desperately for an answer and for hope and no shepherd to be found. "If I can help you in any way..." was all that was proffered. I stood there in tears, because my daughter was rending hearts with a song so perfect and a voice so angelic that it could have passed for a Holy visitation, but also because I was preaching to them in the silence of my soul. I knew what I would have said and how I would have said it. I wanted to gather those people...especially those kids...and explain to them what eternity is and that it's real and that Heaven is real and so is Hell and that if their friend Jonathan could pull back the veil of eternity for just 5 minutes he would tearfully tell his mourning friends "I love you guys...PLEASE make sure you are ready for eternity!" And then I would have shown them from God's word...a book I had with me last night but the Collar did this security could have been received. How a life with Jesus could begin, right then, right there.
Instead I squirmed and frothed and raged in my soul. I showed respect and didn't act on my urge to jump on stage, seize the mic, and speak the sermon that was turning to fire in my bones.  
Where was the urgency? Where was the broken hearted weeping of the body of Christ? Where was the harvest??
My only assumption is that because of Reformed theology...which this man's denomination not only adheres to but played a role in founding...there was none. There didn't even need to be any. God has this all sewed up and figured out and we play no role in it so why bother getting rattled or broken about the eternal component in this? Why not turn this into a social gospel bleat? Why not include gays and Muslims and talk of hate and intolerance...even though none of those things played the remotest role in this calamity?
Why not? Since you have reduced salvation to a lottery system based on the whim of a capricious God...why even care at all beyond the present?
I can't begin to tell you of the sleeplessness I experienced last night. The broken-hearted tears as face after face flashed in my memory of kids who were literally spinning and free-falling in grief and bewilderment who came to show support and get comfort, and left just as grieving, just as bewildered...and just as lost.
If your doctrine removes urgency it is a godless doctrine indeed. And it is trying it's best to intrude on denominations who never before would abide it.
God help us all.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Thoughts on The DNC, The Election, and 51 Million souls...

Sitting here pondering the fate of our country...and of humanity. I'm broken...
Somewhere in the 51 MILLION babies slaughtered in the name of convenience, "choice" and "reproductive rights" since 1973 was probably the scientists who would cure cancer. Maybe our first woman President. Of the blood crying out for justice is the voice of another Bruce Springsteen or Rich Mullins or Keith Green or move and inspire my soul. 
There was a Brennan Manning, a Flannery O'Connor, a Victor Hugo and a Chaim Potok. There was the next man God wanted to raise up to take Billy Graham's mantle...and there was that man's bride. There was a Mantle and Mays, a Dr. J and a Moses Malone, another Gale Sayers and Johnny Unitas. There was a Pat Summit and a Mary Lou Retton. A Bernie Parent and a Wayne Gretzky. Somewhere amongst those millions of white crosses planted on church yards each January is the next Tozer who would hold me in awe with truth about God's character, the next C.S. Lewis to make God accessible in essay and fiction. The next Ravenhill and Falwell to cry out for a revival of soul in this land. Somewhere at the altar of Choice and Body lay the sacrificed carcass of the next Neil Armstrong, the next Ronald Reagan and John Kennedy. In the cry of the blood is the cry of this world because the inventor of a system for cleaner water to help millions never got his chance. A great philanthropist or a great philosopher never touched the lives he was intended to touch. Someones wife, husband and best friend was laid waste before ever taking a breath. Maybe it was MY best friend...or my daughter's. Maybe a man whom would have swept her off her feet, met with my approval and carried on a tradition of Godly living is calling out from the grave "Where is my justice!?" 
Somewhere in the voice of the murdered is the voice of the next Martin Luther King Jr. who would inspire us further and bring us closer. Another "Rudy" another Vince Papale, another Oscar Pastorius to overcome long odds and show us all what we can be if we just keep trying. The next Zig Ziglar, the next Frank Sinatra, the next Van Goghe.
In 51 MILLION voices and souls lay greatness. Each one was "knit together in my mothers womb" by the hand of God Himself. Each one was marked by a star in the sky and part of God's great plan for the ages. And each one was crushed by the force of selfishness, and the sin of bloodlust.
And now there is within our land a party who EMBRACES this culture. In fact they wish to EXPAND it. Read back over this and consider what is missing from your world that you may never know because of this country's embrace of death and devaluation of life.
And more than any...ANY other issue this November let that thought sway your vote.
God forgive us and God help us all.