Friday, May 8, 2015

Traveling by the Light of Burning Effigies?

The title of this article comes from the words of Stephen A. Douglas, an Illinois Senator who lived during the days of Abraham Lincoln.  He was instrumental in promoting slavery in the northern and western expansion states, and by so doing, elicited the ire and vitriol of many; so many in fact, that he claimed, “I could…travel from Boston to Chicago by the light of my own effigies,” implying, no doubt, that they did more than depict his image in doll form, but that they also lit those images on fire.

Well our God, who is a consuming fire, is about to light up the entire earth with His glory and its consequential everlasting burnings.  Can any man who promotes himself above others, for reasons small or large, for skin color differences or even character content variances, endure it?  How much hate does it take to light up the night air and direct a soul between cities, betwixt a rock and a hard place?
Where can we go by the light of our own fire?  And where can we go by the light of a characterized version of our self inflamed by hate and set ablaze by universal contempt?  “Look, all you who kindle a fire, who encircle yourselves with firebrands; walk in the light of your fire and in the firebrands you have lit!  This is what you’ll get from My hand: you will lie down in a place of torment” (Isaiah 50:11 HCSB).  All our hard speeches and curses are being openly displayed in stark contrast to the thickening cloud of darkness of heart gathering on the near horizon.  How can we escape the damnation of hell?

What strange fire is that which burns out of control and is fueled by the natural oxygen of the earthly and human nature atmosphere?  Too many are exhausting themselves and consuming the extent of their near-nothing substance just to be a notch or two above other near-nothing substances.  And for what?  Looking again at Douglas, and comparing him to Lincoln, what do we learn?

Douglas, small in stature, big on words, and on the wrong side of history; Lincoln, tall in stature, small on words, and on the right side of history.  They burned paper replicas of Douglas and waved them in the night air before a flash-in-the-pan-like ghostly image in a passing train that moved only a small span across a little moment in time as a blur, whereas they chiseled out a marble monument of Lincoln and made him an eternal flame on the front burner of our history that still glows and warms us today.  God honors those who honor Him, and Lincoln, unlike Douglas, traveled by the light of “a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel.”  What fire is in your belly?  And what light gets you through the night?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Ruthless Absolute

Art Katz said, “Jesus answered the devil with ‘It is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.”’”  Focus on those two words Him only.  Let them burn into your spirit and consciousness—Him only, Him only, Him only.  The only way to resist this temptation is to completely divorce oneself from any necessity for self to be established, to be recognized and admired, and come to a place of Him only.  How many of us see the necessity for coming to that place?  How many of us are free from the enormous power of prestige and position to have our whole life predicated on Him only?  It should not matter to you whether you are a chimney sweep, or some obscure believer never seen, with your ministry concealed from men.  You should have no need for anything that brings recognition to yourself because your life is not predicated upon yourself but Him only.  This is A RUTHLESS ABSOLUTE [emphasis mine].”

I like the way Katz puts it.  It is an uncompromised and unalterable absolute that can only be maintained by an uncharitable lack of considering alternative ideas.  The word ruthless is most often seen in a negative light; it means “having or showing no pity or compassion for others,” and taken at face value that is definitely not a good thing.  But understood in the context in which Katz used it—juxtaposed as it is beside the word “absolute” (and used to define a resolute adherence to perfect Truth), it takes on a different and even positive meaning.
As Christians, we must show no deference to alternative ideas however much other misguided souls believe it.  The foundation for our faith is sure and even logical and scientific (regardless of how little we understand the details).  Human nature simply cannot support the superstructure of truth; “Him only” is indeed what life is predicated upon.

The self-esteem nonsense that permeates our culture today is not getting the job done.  In this verse of scripture note that the onus is on God not man: “Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His’” (2 Timothy 2:19 NASB).  You can’t fake this foundation; it stands firm (no other foundation has been laid except the Word of God made flesh.  Ultimately God is not against “self,” but He is against a self-center, so He must deconstruct us before He reconstructs us.  Christ alone must be our center and that involves a ruthless displacement!  We are commanded to lose ourselves that we might gain ourselves; only by losing self now in its inherently selfish bent will we gain our self back whole and Christ-like after His divine nature transforms us to His image from the center outwards.

The ruthless absolute is that He alone MUST be our center.  He is the Seed, and all life of like kind originates there inside the Seed.  If we build our lives on self we will only reproduce after our kind.  No matter how “good” someone is, it is ruthlessly and absolutely insufficient to effect eternal change.  But IF we cling to that Seed (like a dirt clings to seed) we will be watered and given light and we will be subsumed into Him and His nature.  Indeed, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10 NASB).

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Baptism of Fire

“Thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am about to kindle a fire in you, and it will consume every green tree in you, as well as every dry tree; the blazing flame will not be quenched’”—Ezekiel 20:47 NASB.

“For if they do these things when the timber is green, what will happen when it is dry?”—Luke 23:31 Amp.

On the narrow road to crucifixion, our Lord and Savior maintained His divine composure.  Ever our example, and always our Teacher, He tells the weeping daughters of Jerusalem to cease weeping for Him and to redirect their tears and concern back to themselves and their children.  If we can crucify the Lord when He is green (flourishing) and manifest before your eyes (when the time of His visitation is presently with us), what will happen when He is dry (when He withdraws from us and removes His blessings from us) and He hides from our sight?

Matthew Henry, in his commentary, said this concerning Luke 23:31: “Christ was a green tree, fruitful and flourishing; now, if such things were done to him, we may thence infer what would have been done to the whole race of mankind if he had not interposed, and what shall be done to those that continue dry trees, notwithstanding all that is done to make them fruitful. If God did this to the Son of his love, when he found sin but imputed to him, what shall he do to the generation of his wrath, when he finds sin reigning in them?  If the Father was pleased in doing these things to the green tree, why should he [not] do it to the dry?  The consideration of the bitter sufferings of our Lord Jesus should engage us to stand in awe of the justice of God, and to tremble before him. The best saints, compared with Christ, are dry tree; if he suffer, why...not they?  And what then shall the damnation of sinners be?”


 “For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt”—Mark 9:49 KJV.

According to Charles J. Ellicott (in his commentary regarding Mark 9:49), “there can be no shadow of doubt that ‘fire’ represents the righteousness of God manifested as punishing and chastising—the discipline, in other words, of suffering. Of that discipline, our Lord says ‘every one’ shall be a partaker. He shall thus be ‘salted with fire,’ for the tendency of that fire, the aim of the sufferings which it represents, is to purify and cleanse. Even when manifested in its most awful forms, it is still true that they who ‘walk righteously and speak uprightly’ may dwell with ‘everlasting burnings’—i.e., with the perfect and consuming holiness of God (Isaiah 33:14).  The second clause is obviously far simpler. The ‘sacrifice’ throws us back upon the ritual of Leviticus 2:13, which prescribed that salt should be added, as the natural symbol of incorruption, to every sacrifice. Here our Lord speaks of the spiritual sacrifice which each man offers of his body, soul, and spirit (Romans 12:1), and declares that ‘salt,’ the purifying grace of the Eternal Spirit, is needed that it may be acceptable. Punishment, the pain which we feel when brought into contact with the infinite Righteousness represented by fire, may do its work in part; but it requires something more for completeness. The sacrifice must be ‘salted with salt,’ as well as with ‘fire.’ To use another figure, there must be the baptism of the Holy Ghost, as well as that of fire (Matthew 3:11).”

“Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:13 KJV).

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will vanish (pass away) with a thunderous crash, and the [material] elements [of the universe] will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up.  Since all these things are thus in the process of being dissolved, what kind of person ought [each of] you to be [in the meanwhile] in consecrated and holy behavior and devout and godly qualities, while you wait and earnestly long for (expect and hasten) the coming of the day of God by reason of which the flaming heavens will be dissolved, and the [material] elements [of the universe] will flare and melt with fire?  But we look for new heavens and a new earth according to His promise, in which righteousness (uprightness, freedom from sin, and right standing with God) is to abide.  So, beloved, since you are expecting these things, be eager to be found by Him [at His coming] without spot or blemish and at peace [in serene confidence, free from fears and agitating passions and moral conflicts]” (1 Peter 3:10-14 NASB).