Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Spirit and the World: On Judgement

Jesus is coming again. Are you ready?

Throughout history, this world has experienced many disasters, some natural and some man-made.
From the plagues of the Exodus in 1442 BC to the volcanic explosions of Krakatoa in 1883 to the use of atomic bombs, from the blitzkrieg and Auschwitz to the destruction unleashed by terrorists in the USA on 9-11, from massive tsunamis in the Indian Ocean and Japan, to famine, drought and disease in various places, from dust and sand storms to hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires, we have struggled with questions always profound and sometimes controversial.

How might worldly disaster be related to divine punishment?
What of those daring souls who suggest that this or that problem is connected to the sinful misbehavior of a particular nation or people?

Even those who believe in God ask why He allows suffering.
What about those who suggest the end of the world is at hand?
How do we treat such questions and how are we to properly assess the various attempts to give coherent answers?

One might begin by considering these words from the 14th chapter of John, from the New Living Translation:

'If you love me, obey my commandments,' Jesus says, 'And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.'

'The world cannot receive him,' Jesus says, 'because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.'

This passage clearly explains why the reporters of the news of the world rarely give any hints of spiritual activity taking place behind the scenes of events both great and small. And even when spiritual influences are mentioned they are interpreted according to sociological or psychological theory.

'But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.'
'I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again.'

One might also consider the words of Jesus as found in Luke chapter 13:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Spiritual goods are not recognized by worldly minds. Spiritual evil is usually either minimized or explained away as somehow either inevitable or rationally justifiable or even the result, never the cause, of illness.

For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God's household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God's Good News? 1 Peter 4:17

Wake up, Repent, turn away from sin, turn to Jesus!

Have you asked Jesus to come into your heart?

There's something even more important.
Have you asked, 'Change my heart, O God, renew in me a spirit of purity, holiness, 'fire me up'
Burn away my sin, keep me on guard against evil.'

In Revelation, chapter 3, we find these words: 'Write this letter to the angel of the church in Sardis. This is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars:

“I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.

 “Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.

 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.
And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide.  I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books.  The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave[ gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.'

Malachi 3:1-5  reads as follows:
Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.  “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
“Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me,” says the Lord of hosts.
As this song from about 25 years ago says,

For I’m building a people of power
And I’m making a people of praise
That will move through this land by My Spirit
And will glorify My precious name
Build Your church Lord
Make us strong Lord
Join our hearts Lord, through Your Son
Make us one Lord in Your body
In the Kingdom of Your Son

Jesus is coming again. Are you ready?

Jesus - The Stolen Door

The Ruins of Rievaulx Abbey - a parable for the current state of the Church.

I've been there. It's an amazing, inspiring ruin.

It's in Yorkshire, England, not far from York Minster.

Even now echoes of its former glory can still be sensed.

It's tragic story is reflected in church and society, in political and philosophical disputes, in church membership decline and in continued spiritual hunger.

The covering of God has been removed and the foundations are uninspected.
The 12th century roof is long gone; God's glory appears to have departed.

Its situation and condition point toward the state of spiritual schizophrenia in which the Christian Churches of our day find themselves.

Is the church Catholic or Protestant, or both? Is it liberal or conservative, or both? Or neither. Do pastors teach the truth faithfully and in good conscience, according to accepted traditions? Does it matter?

A vision: 'The abbot comes with a giant door, five full inches thick,
without hinges or handles or locks,
made from one great piece of wood from a very old tree. 
He places it in the entry frame.
But in the middle of the night someone comes and steals it away.
A woman is in the house when the demons come,
and without the door she has no protection.
She hides.

When the abbot wakes up he senses the demons are out to consume him.
They throw a sacrifice into the oven and leave the good master to simmer and then serve dinner.'

God's people, through the centuries, have been and remain at risk because the boundaries have been moved and removed.

Clergy and others play politics, virtually oblivious and practically careless, while people's souls hang in the balance. Synod representatives pretend to have more power and authority than those they represent. They forget that the church is not a democracy. A majority vote is insufficient when total unity is demanded for major decisions.

The Reformation is forgotten. The Via Media has been abandoned. False gospels are promoted. Education is little more than mere propaganda. Bishops routinely visit parishes but ignore their people. Unity and doctrine are equally forsaken. Appointed leaders tell us that relevance, for now, needs to trump Salvation.

Believers are being sacrificed to the felt needs of people in power, thrown, like Daniel's friends, into the fiery furnaces tended by the rulers of our day. Just for preaching, praying or wearing a cross!

The celebration of Jesus' birth goes on as usual while the Jesus of Judgement is hushed up.

Jesus says, "I am the gate... Come to me...Do you want to be made whole?"
He also warns, "What sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you remove the key to knowledge from the people. You don't enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering."

O Christian, watch and pray! Be wary of wolves in sheep's clothing.
The heretics have taken leadership in the Church. In many places Jesus is no longer welcome. He's been replaced by a replica, a look-alike. Take note and prepare.

Jesus died. He is risen. He will come again.
Are you ready?

Come, Day of God, Come!
Are children cared for by lost youths of yesteryear,
weakened, humbled souls,
pared down by two thousand years of adultedness,
struggling ones, buried under wintry traditions,
serving with mocking tolerance,
while little ones wander in avenues of daily blooming disaster,
suffering and wondering, why?
Reminders are given by bookish ones from city lanes and country homes,
lessons of injuries and martyrdoms,
pointing the way ahead to those who would see.