Wolves at the Front Gate

Be very careful!
Be very careful!

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” 

 Matthew  7:15, NIV

I use my channel changer and I flip through the enormous darkness that exists in the world.  Jesus clearly warns His flock of the cold, hard realities of deception and deceitfulness that we will be dealing with.  Trickery abounds and things simply are not what they seem to be.  Darkness has a brutal grasp on so many.

There should be an alertness for the inevitable. Sometimes, sheep will not really be sheep.  This is astonishing.  Our senses are not always adequate or capable to identify counterfeit Christians.  We get confused by the outside (it looks like wool to me).  But it is a lie.  The wolf has deliberately taken on the dress of the believer.  He has a real, definite sinister agenda.  (Can you say, “lamp chops“?)

Jesus alerts us to what is really taking place.  He wants us to discern.  He wants us to become adroit observers.  Every believer needs a holy skepticism of outward displays of faith.  This is not cynicism or negativity.  But it is a cautious faith– one in which we can discern the realities of a world that regularly deceives.

“The first step on the way to victory is to recognize the enemy.” 

Corrie Ten Boom

Ferocious” in verse 15 is a sobering word.  When I read it, I think of Alaska, or maybe the grasslands of the ‘Serengiti.’   A dangerous carnivore that is hidden by an outward covering.  It is a ‘predator’ word, a word that intensifies. It patiently stalks and then ambushes its victims. There is only one focus, a single purpose, and that is to destroy. It is Satan’s ‘calling card.’

wolf-sheeps-clothingFor us who are accustomed to an ideal of love and peace in our walks, we are disturbed and perhaps almost pulled off balance by this disturbing revelation of evil in our midst.  Jesus tells us that we must possess a reality of deception, for that is the real world.  He gave us plenty of warning.

“Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.”

Luke 10:3, NLT

Do you know what wolves do to lambs? But yet He still sends them. That is interesting.

*

bry-signat (1)

 

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

Little Sin, Little Love— Much Sin, Much Love

 “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  

Luke 7:47 

I have been a disciple of Jesus for almost 35 years.  But it seems that I really haven’t been a desperate lover of Jesus until recently.

I have seen a lot of stuff, so I made a quick list–

  • the charismatic movement
  • the Imperials
  • New Wine Magazine
  • “I Found It”
  • Larry Lea‘s Prayer Program
  • the PTL Club
  • the Shack
  • Jesus’ festivals, Festival of the Son
  • Promise Keepers
  • Anita Bryant
  • the Living Bible, youth edition
  • YWAM teams, the Candle– SF
  • Four Spiritual Laws
  • ’88 Reasons Why
  • “Honk if You Love Jesus”
  • street preaching in Haight Ashbury, SF
  • Don Francisco
  • carrying the cross, Arthur Blessit
  • the Hiding Place
  • Watchman Nee
  • Outdoor baptisms in city parks

I’ve been exposed to a lot of winds blowing through, and moving on.  You learn to separate the chaff from the grain.  Much of my life has been spent winnowing out to get to the good stuff.  God, through his word describes a coming “trial by fire” over each person’s works.  Romans 14:12 says, “Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.”    

One time I walked as a backslidden Christian. I remember once waking up from a drunken stupor with my t-shirt soaked in blood. That blood was someone elses.  I sobered up really quick.  There was this shadowy awareness of beating someone to the point of death.  I still catch myself wondering what exactly happened.  There is so much stuff that will be revealed, and I have done many despicable things.

The judgment seat of Christ, therefore, involves believers giving an account of their lives to Christ. The judgment seat of Christ does not determine salvation; that was determined by Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf and our faith in Him. All of our sins are forgiven, and we will never be condemned for them. We should not look at the judgment seat of Christ as God judging our sins, but rather as God rewarding us for our lives. Yes, as the Bible says, we will have to give an account of ourselves. Part of this is surely answering for the sins we committed.    

The word used is “bema seat”, it was where the judge sat during athletic contests.  Think of the high chair on which a court official sits during a tennis match.  His word is not to be debated or ignored.  Jesus fully intends to judge us.

The issue will not be our salvation, but our faithfulness.    

Loving Jesus must become your critical objective for the rest of your days, 1 Peter 4:8, “Love covers a multitude of sins.”  We also read of the sinful woman who washed Jesus feet, “therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47)

My dear one, practice loving him– starting today.  Many are the doers, few be the lovers.  The demanding weight of evangelism and world missions has quadrupled in the last 10 years.  Now is our time!  We love much!  Time is becoming short.

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

 

Discernment and Your Ministry

zebras

“He begs God on behalf of a human
as a person begs for his friend.”

Job 16:21, NCV

I’ve been thinking about a class I had in Bible School.  The instructor made a comment that has stuck in my thinking for over 30 years now.  I have relied on it countless times in ministry since. It has helped me piece together certain issues of the heart.

When we “preach” to a person, we are actively accelerating the judgement of God in their life. When we pray for that same person, we delay this judgement and allow more room for the Holy Spirit to work.

 

Preaching

Now I know this is a generalization, and yet the basic premise of preaching and praying has a specific action.  When you preach, you are calling that person to make a decision.  They meet up with the truth and must decide for themselves.  This is a very sensitive moment.  If they consider your message at all– you must understand, one way or the other, that it will require a decision.  Either they act on it, or they’ll decide to reject it.

Within the Bible we often see judgement coming to someone, and very often it comes right after a “declaration of the truth” by a witness or a sermon.  Those who hear the word must choose to believe it, or spurn it.  Even a neutral position is a position. A decision must be made on all light that comes their way.

Prayer

Perhaps this may be easier to see.  The Word is full of men and women who interceded for others.  If preaching accelerates God’s judgement on a person (or group,) than prayer decelerates it.  In a sense, authentic intercession can give them more time.  It delays things, without approving them.

A classic case is Abraham.  He intercedes, and by doing so desires to save and deliver God’s own.  He “stands in the gap” for the unaware.  We see him “negotiating” with the Lord, trying to make a deal of sorts. He is bold and somewhat presumptuous. And actually, this is a regular occurrence with different circumstances.  Many in scripture do seem to get intensely involved in the lives of the people they represent.

“I will surely not stop praying for you, because that would be sinning against the Lord. I will teach you what is good and right.” 

1 Samuel 12:23

 Conclusion

Should we preach or pray?  We must consider, I think, the certain obligations of both.  I believe at the end of a person’s life, they have had both dynamics working.  Its like the tide– it ebbs and then advances, and perhaps that will help us to do the right thing at the right time.  We understand the necessity of preaching, and just as important the work of prayer.  We must do both, but grasp the issues behind each work.  Both are necessary for one to come to faith in Jesus.

Seeing the effects of our actions brings us into a deeper understanding of the life in the Spirit.  It motivates and will guide us.  We start to understand the Lord’s ways and become aware of what is happening in the world that is around us. This new discernment can only sharpen our work.

bry-signat

flourish9

 

A Slow Motion Train Wreck, [Future Events]

Train_wreck_at_Montparnasse_1895-1895-10-22

”The Lord helps them,
    rescuing them from the wicked.
He saves them,
    and they find shelter in him.

Psalm 37:40, New Living Translation

We are witnessing something awful and terrible.  Our society is being destroyed.  We are just bystanders, there is really nothing we can do.  However, the survivors will need our assistance.  So we will wait for the inevitable crash, and our chance to bring our Savior’s love into the awful melee which will follow.

Things have been accelerating.  This heightens the tension, which pervades our lives.  We make assumptions of the upcoming derailment which may, or may not be accurate.  But we all sense something dreadful and foreboding is approaching.

Something evil this way comes.  It’s seems that it is inevitable.  They say that just before a big thunderstorm, the birds head for safety, they disappear.  The birds know, while we are still trying to connect the dots.  We look to the skies, and anticipate a coming danger.

The crisis that is coming will stagger the unbeliever. It will challenge the believer.

As Christian believers, we must ready ourselves.  Our viewpoint of eternity will become a much needed commodity for those who go through the devastation of the train wreck.  It is what will pull us through some black and bleak times.  But we can ask for grace, not just to help us, but to help them.

When the storm gets close, the best we can do is to head for the “storm cellar.”  As a boy, growing up in the Midwest, I have clear and distinct memories of heading for that basement shelter, with my family.  When a massive event is coming and seen on the horizon, the only thing we can do is find shelter.  To choose to hide, and to take cover can only be prudence, and wisdom.

While things are collapsing, we need to find solace in His shelter.  His wings shelter us, and we find refuge in that intimate place.  So much news is grim, and we can so easily slip into depression and despair.  We look around, and turn directly to the wings that cover us.  We are protected and sheltered in that place. The metaphor perfectly fits perfectly.

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.”

Psalm 91:1-2

We should be at rest in Him.  Some may look at everything coming down and decide to step right into storm to shut it down.  But it can’t stop, it is of the Lord.  Quite a few of the prophets in the Old Testament saw and knew what was going to happen.  They couldn’t do anything against Babylon or Assyria.  But with their voices they strengthened and encouraged God’s own against an outrageous brutality. That is a good thing.

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

 

Hear The Rod

Shepherd with his rod
Shepherd with his rod

“The LORD’s voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.”   Micah 6:9, KJV

“The voice of the Lord calls to the city, and the wise person honors him.  So pay attention to the rod of punishment; pay attention to the One who threatens to punish.”  Micah 6:9, NCV

 flourish14

There is necessary train of thought we all must board.  It involves traveling to a destination that we deep-down, absolutely abhor.  It is that idea that we are open and vulnerable, especially to his analysis of us–that we are more open than we think to His eyes.

We’ve entered into a spiritual transaction that doesn’t mollify our personal desires.  We are confronted by such a personal evil that just seems to percolate out of our hearts.  There exists something akin to “Pharaseeism,” where we project righteousness when we are really graves or tombs of the dead.

Micah announces that we must “hear the rod.”  Pay attention, become aware, understand deeply– there is a rod (a whip) that pounds everyone who comes to him.  Granted, the only thing necessary is to be aware that this difficult process exist.  We step up, and enter the grinder, with great fear, not really convinced of its efficiency and its capability.

There is no question of his deep and profound love for us.  He is fanatically absorbed in you.  There is a hungry passion for your attention and focus.  You are behind his shield.  You’re treasured far, far beyond what you think.  He sacrificed His own Son, to save your soul.

“Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.”  1 Cor. 15:23, ESV.

There is a mandatory factor that informs us that we cannot continue moving through life intoxicated.  Smashed on the wine of pride, stupefied on the brandy of selfishness.  We are called to sober up, and start living a truly terrific Christian life.  In Micah’s words– to listen!  Perhaps that is our greatest weakness in the Church today.  We have become deaf to the voice of God.

I guess that means we must make some adjustments.  To take up our Phillips screwdriver, and start ‘tweaking.’  We need to start the solid work of “tuning in” and becoming aware.  There is a rod, and the Father will use it on those who he loves.  A few whops from that rod will usually bring us to an awareness.

 

aabryplain

A Question About Discernment and Discipline

Question: 

“What if the “desire to excel” isn’t the motivation in allowing sinners into the church? We invite our unsaved friends (worldlings) to church and hope they repent. Sometimes that takes a long time! Is this intervening or being missional? I understand your point that Believers aren’t to live in continual sin but am foggy about what we do with the sin saturated culture around us. Do we draw away or let them draw near?”

My Response:

“Great question/comment.  Jesus made it clear, with the salt & light analogy that we will be distinctive and visible. We need to learn to accentuate and use that distinctiveness, with talent and forethought. All available effort should be used.

The issue of believers in habitual, continual sin should be approached as ‘church discipline’. This falls on people who we call pastors and elders. 1 Cor. 5 gives this oversight a template to follow. It is a sticky thing to judge someone. When we have to, we don’t want to. (Unless the person is a ‘control freak’.)

The issue of sin in the church is interesting. To have water outside a boat is a good thing, but to have water in the boat is decidedly worse. We are to preserve our distinctiveness, without diminishing our witness. It’s like we are a flock of lambs living in a pigpen. By their very nature the are different. One has a sheep nature, the other a pig’s. There will be at times confusion. But the sheep don’t belong.

To sum it up, there is church discipline for believers, that really needs to be in place. But we are missional people. The world is very much like a pigpen. But I say, let them come in and let the Holy Spirit touch them.”

*******

This was a recent post and follow-up comment for “Through the Sheep Dip”, posted on September 28, 2010.  The link is located at:  https://brokenbelievers.com/2010/09/28/through-the-sheep-dip/