Pulpits aflame with righteousness

May 8, 2011 Leave a comment

I spent some time last week continuing to follow the story of the death of David Wilkerson, and considering what a giant legacy he has left the church. I went back and watched the film version of The Cross And The Switchblade, which is available on YouTube. It’s a great story, but the movie is dated and suffers from a mediocre screenplay. Of course the film has its moments, since it is about Jesus, but the story is worthy of a full-blown quality remake, and I hope that someday soon it gets it.

You also can view a nice video tribute to Brother Dave here.

During my stay at Times Square Church years ago, I often was reminded of the famous saying attributed to de Tocqueville:

I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.

And I began to wonder how TSC was faring now, since Wilkerson retired. So I began scouring for sermons of the current senior pastor, Carter Conlon. The result has been amazing. The pulpit of TSC is still aflame with righteousness. Watching the sermons brought me right back to being there again. It’s nice to see the work Brother Dave began continue to give to the Body of Christ.

I’m going to embed two sermons here. The first one is perhaps the greatest sermon I have ever heard. It dramatically delineates the role of the law in the Christian life, and the related necessity of dying to self before we can live to Christ. The second is an powerful exhortation to believe God for fruitfulness.

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David Wilkerson, RIP

April 28, 2011 1 comment

Today came the sad news that Dave Wilkerson has passed away. The short press release said that it was sudden and unexpected.

Dave influenced a lot of people, including me. When he came out with The Cross and the Switchblade, it was the first time that I heard of the Cross’s power to change lives here and now, and not merely provide for the hereafter as I had been taught. When I later reached the crisis in my life that would deliver me to God’s doorstep, that message became essential to my survival.

Years later, when I was left bruised and bleeding by my first local church, I spent a season commuting down to Wilkerson’s Times Square Church. The preaching was world class, but more importantly, the Lord met me there in a very real and tangible way at a time when I desperately needed His affirmation.

One Sunday I invited a friend down to church with me. Between services, as we walked around midtown Manhattan, we were talking about family issues. I had been sensing that the Lord was calling me out of an unhealthy family situation, and as we spoke I felt led to set out a marker. I told her that if in the evening service Wilkerson would mention the incident in which Moses instructed the Israelites to strap on a sword and run though the sinning camp, each one killing his brother, companion and neighbor (Ex 32.27), then I would know that the Lord was indeed calling me to come out to freedom.

The sermon that night had nothing to do with family or ungodly soul ties. I had almost put away my challenge to God, when suddenly Dave turned away from his prepared notes and ran a sidebar on how following Christ was more important than any human relationship, including family. This was, he said, the same God who told Moses to have the people run through the crowd and kill their own brothers. Wilkerson then returned to his prepared notes and continued on. It was an amazing moment.

Another time, the backup worship leader was leading us in worship. It was good worship, but nothing more. But at the end he simply would not quit pressing in on Heaven’s gates. We kept praising and praising, and suddenly the Spirit began to fall. At some point I fell still, and I became aware of dozens of people behind me praising in tongues. Then, to my amazement, they were all praising in tongues in unison. It probably was a miracle of hearing, similar to what happened on the first Pentecost. A rush of the Holy Spirit came over me, and I felt embraced by Father’s love.

After several months, my season at Times Square Church was over, but I always have remained thankful for the work Dave raised up, and that God met me there so powerfully at a time when I really needed it.

To this day I have subscribed to Dave’s daily devotional, and I have found it filled with deep insights that only someone deeply in love with God, and fully seasoned in both life and the Word, could give out.

Dave ran a golden race, and will receive his reward. He will be missed. Well done, faithful servant.

Update: Here’s Dave’s last devotional, When All Means Fail, and it’s one of his best. Must reading. And here’s an article on his death. He was driving and swerved into the oncoming lane. His wife Gwen was in the car, and is currently in critical condition.

And here’s Part 2 of Nicky Cruz’s testimony:

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Regain your health

April 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Eight years ago I undertook a quest to restore my health. I saw pictures of myself at my sister’s funeral, and they did not reflect anyone I wanted myself to be. Over the years I had steadily put on weight and lost energy. It was time to do something about it.

I tried every diet under the sun, and massive exercise. And I studied up on nutrition. I made plenty of mistakes, but I made progress. Eventually I settled in at moderate exercise and a quality weight loss of 43 pounds. I looked great and felt great.

But sadly, some years after my high point I slipped back, and now I am about 20 lbs more than I want to be. I have returned to the constant evening energy cravings that had been my downfall, and my energy levels, stamina and disease resistance are much lower than I need them to be.

This week I came across an outstanding presentation that provided me with the much-need reminder of what the basic problem is in my diet, and the diets of most people in the West. It is so powerful and so clear that I am on my third viewing of it already, and it immediately led me to make the necessary adjustments for regaining my health.

Contrary to what most people believe, those adjustments are not difficult. Essentially, they consist in returning to the diet that sustained life for all the centuries of human existence prior to the last, when huge commercial interests and attendant politics took over the food industry.

Specifically, the changes involve eliminating processed sugar, increasing fiber intake, and bringing undamaged fat intake back up to where it should be.

The compelling video I’m going to post below will give the details, but essentially, decades ago, when America went on its errant low-fat craze in order to facilitate cardiac health, it made up for the lack of satiety by increasing the processed sugars, fructose and sucrose. At the same time, fiber levels went way down, as processed food became an important part of our diet. Fiber is taken out of processed food because it interferes with processing and storage. And food processors fell in love with the cheaper and highly stable trans-fats that completed this evil trinity’s assault on our health.

This was an absolute disaster, as these processed sugars are metabolized completely differently than normal glucose, and cut off the satiety mechanism that tells the brain you’ve had enough to eat. At the same time they ironically jack up blood lipids. So in effect, we put ourselves on a high-consumption, high-fat diet. Not only have we done nothing for cardiac health, we have set off a nuclear explosion of obesity, diabetes, and other degenerative diseases, all of them with overtones of cancer.

Please, give this video a careful viewing. The authorities whose job it is to protect us have done a horrendous job. They are shot through with political and commercial interests, and public health is about the last thing on their minds. People at this point are so confused they don’t know what to eat. They live in constant apprehension of doing something nutritionally wrong, yet still they gain weight. Does this seem reasonable? Or the way, even in a fallen world, that God designed a normal life to be led? No, instead, the simple truth is that the deck has been stacked against us, and there is no way to win the game according to house rules.

It is down to this: if you want to be healthy, you must take it on yourself. You must educate yourself, and you must be willing to abandon the cultural norms that have been thrust upon us. Our culture has become toxic not only morally and spiritually, but physically as well. The corruption in our society is affecting every level of our existence. It is time to fight back, intelligently.

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Discipleship: time for a complete personal reevaluation

April 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Recently I combed carefully through the Book of Acts again, looking for what the Holy Spirit might have for me there. My special interest was in ecclesiology, but what really motivated me was to discover what made the early church so different from us today.

Just twenty years or so after the Ascension of Jesus, the church, by the testimony of a credible neutral, if not hostile, witness, had “turned the world upside down”. Now, if that describes your ecclesial experience, then a) I’m happy for you, and b) please contact me with information about how I can join your movement. Because, as for me, I see the church as compromised, disjointed and struggling. All that is ok, provided we’re moving in the right direction, but I wonder.

And so I began searching Acts once again to see what it was in the church DNA that we have lost. Before long, I came upon a curious little thing that writer Luke kept repeating. On the missionary journeys with Paul, he kept referring to the believers as “disciples”.

When I first noticed this, I easily dismissed it as a reference to the small band of missionaries that accompanied Paul. Paul’s MO was this: he typically would enter a town, preach Jesus in the synagogue, win converts, get thrown out of the synagogue, and then start a separate house church in the town, composed of both Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ. Mere days or short weeks later, Paul and his band were gone, often forced out by persecution, and headed for the next town.

So I figured that Luke’s use of the term “disciples” couldn’t possible refer to the brand new Christians. They were mere babies in the faith; they could only handle milk, not meat. So I reasoned.

But as I read on, I came across solid evidence that those new converts to the Lord were exactly whom Luke was referencing as disciples. And with that understanding, my eyes were opened to the difference between the church in the Book of Acts and the current state of the church in the West.

Paul and his band did not preach a cultural Christianity, or mere morals. They preached total consecration to the Savior and to His church. Baptism was a symbol of dying to Christ, of leaving all the things of the previous life behind. It was not to be entered into lightly. And the persecution that continually dogged Paul was vivid evidence to any prospective new believer that if he were to accept Christ, he could expect the same in his own life.

Consider the power the church would have to change lives and impact the nations, if we were to shed our preoccupation with loveless doctrinal minutia and structures, and focus on radical obedience to the Holy Spirit; if we were to abandon materialism and individualism and dedicate ourselves to each other. This is the power the nascent church wielded, that caused it to thrive in a hostile environment.

I’ve heard that Chinese church leaders continue to ask the West to send more bibles, but not to send popular Western Christian books. Their greatest fear is not persecution, under which they have thrived for decades, very similarly to the church’s experience in the Book of Acts, it is becoming infected with self-centered consumerism under the flag of religion.

And so, I concluded that the key to awakening the church lies in discipleship. Funny, that’s exactly what Jesus indicated as He left this earth:

Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” -Matt 28:18-20

We need to get back to basics. And it needs to happen now, in you and in me. The world is ripe for a final revival unlike anything it’s ever seen.

Not everyone is going to be willing to become a disciple. The cost is too great. Jesus understood that from the start. The Sermon on the Mount is universally acknowledged to be the greatest concentrated spiritual teaching in history, but look at how it happened:

When He saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. -Matt 5:1

Jesus never trusted crowds. Here he drew himself away from the crowds, to a remote place. Only those people who were willing to climb the mountain after Him would hear his intimate disclosure of Kingdom principles. The rest remained down below, awaiting their next “blessing”.

Another time, Jesus was walking on a road, with large crowds following. He turned abruptly and proclaimed:

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, and even his own life — he cannot be My disciple.

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. -Luke 14:26-27

Jesus purposely thinned the crowds. He would rather have a few who are serious than many who are just going along for the ride.

Yesterday I came across this video by Andrew Strom that speaks to the church’s need to recapture discipleship. Because these things have been reverberating in me lately, I found it riveting. I believe you will too. The sermon begins at around 11 minutes in.

Be blessed,
p.

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The Muslim Street

April 2, 2011 Leave a comment

I’d like you to go to UNDispatch and read an initial insider reaction to the atrocity in Afghanistan yesterday. The Islamic aspect of the massacre is non-existent, of course (after all, this is the UN), but the conclusion is still germane: it is time for the UN to leave Afghanistan.

Because a pastor in Florida burned a Koran, Imams in the Afghan city, Mazar-i-Sharif, chosen by the UN for a headquarters because of its “peacefulness”, preached violence against the “Crusaders”, and after their Mosque services rode around in cars using bullhorns to continue to inflame a growing mob.

That mob, which some have estimated to have been 20,000 strong, broke through the barriers to the UN compound. Because they were simply unarmed citizens and not Taliban extremists, the UN force did not fire on them. For their restraint, the guards were murdered, and then their arms were used to hunt down others in the compound, who were in turn brutally murdered in cold blood.

This is the Muslim concept of protest, directly led by religious leaders, on display for the entire world to observe.

This is the Muslim concept of moral equivalence: you burn the pages of a book, we slaughter you.

And it gets worse. Harman Karzai, the Afghan president, himself set the stage for the massacre by using the Koran burning incident to agitate the Afghanis. Just as in Pakistan and all the other heavily Muslim nations, riling up the Islamic base is good politics for regimes lacking real leadership credentials.

One of the provisos of the Christian principles of Just War is that for a war to be justifiable there must be a  reasonable chance of success (or that the situation is so bad that the alternative, failure, must be less acceptable than death itself). Afghanistan is sinking back into tribal and Islamic quicksand. It will take real leadership to pull her out, and more than merely in the military realm. It will take moral leadership, something the Muslim clerics clearly do not have a clue about. Harman Karzai is incapable of that leadership, and so is Barack Obama. Until something changes, we are wasting precious blood and treasure.

Meanwhile, we must remember that there are souls trapped within this horrendous cycle of ignorance and evil. Souls that Jesus loves and died for. I think of the young woman on the cover of Time, whose nose and ears were cut off by her arranged husband who grew tired of her. And she is only one of countless victims of a culture that turns men into animals.

Since the powers of this world are no longer even treading water, I would like to submit that the real war in Afghanistan, the one that matters, is being fought by intercessors, in their prayers and, for some, their acts of obedience. The world’s rulers are increasingly out of ideas, and simply do not have a clue about what to do. They are just trying to keep a semblance of order on deck, as the Titanic sinks down.

We have been warned that this would happen, so this is only further confirmation of the truth of the Scriptures. Our redemption draweth nigh, but until then we have work to do in God.

God bless you, and God bless the innocents that are suffering.

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God’s current massive creative work

March 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Dear friends,

I’ve been silent for a while, but I wanted to pass these two pieces from openheaven on to you.

God is doing something massive in these last days. The spiritual warfare has been intense, but the tide is turning, and through it the Lord is raising up a people who will be fit to share His very throne with Him, to partake in the Divine nature itself, and to rule and reign with His delegated authority.[1]

Everything that can be shaken will be shaken, we have been warned, and we are seeing this before our very eyes, virtually on a daily basis. Day by day the greatest country the world has ever seen is being brought lower and lower by the weight of its own corruption. Natural disasters worldwide are on the dramatic increase. There currently is a ray of hope in the Arab nations, but this can, and probably will, turn toward the dark side in an instant, setting up a true end-times scenario with respect to Jerusalem. The nations, it is abundantly clear by now, have absolutely no answers. They can only offer photo-ops and smooth oratory. But satan does not care how white their teeth are, and he does not bow before polished oratory.

Jesus told us that when we see the signs of last-days anguish, we are not to despair, but rather to look up to our soon-coming redemption. Even though we are going through a crucifixion now, the eye of faith not only can see the victory coming, it can see the Bride being prepared by the very fiery trial besetting us.

And so I’m going to pass on these two articles from openheaven.com, which I think speak powerfully of the creative work the Lord is doing in the church at this very moment. Openheaven has an email list that sends out roughly weekly, containing such articles and also a useful summary of Christian-related news.

Be blessed,
Paul

[1] For more on the incredibly powerful theme of our being outfitted for glory, and the power inherent in our prayers, see my review here of Billheimer’s book, Destined For the Throne.

1. Kingdom Impact

By Ron McGatlin

Trading Our Limitations for His Supernatural Life

Becoming One Spirit with Christ Jesus is no small matter. It is beyond our imagination – far greater than we could ask or think. It has not entered into the hearts or minds of natural man’s understanding. However, in this new season of emerging kingdom, God is revealing it to us by His Spirit.

In a moment of time we can be transformed by the Holy Spirit – changed in the twinkling of an eye by the powerful impact of the in breaking kingdom of God in the Holy Spirit. This is new, and we have not come this way before. Christ, by His Spirit, indwelling our spirit-being is transforming our weak spirit into His powerful Spirit that is HOLY HOLY HOLY.

No more mixture and no more falling back. What we could not do, Christ in us will do as we truly become one with Him. We no longer live but He lives His pure, holy life of love, power and wisdom where we once lived.

Yes, there may have been many years of “here a little and there a little” – years of three steps forward and two steps back – years of tearing down our foolish self-focused pride filled lives – years of our erecting our own castles in our own kingdoms – deceiving ourselves with religious platitudes from a god of our own making. We built precept upon precept and line upon line to be snared in our own works only to fall backward and be broken.

Isa 28:13: But the word of the LORD was to them, “Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little,” That they might go and fall backward, and be broken And snared and caught.

In the passing church emphasis age we, for the most part, did not experience the kingdom impacting us, changing us in the twinkling of an eye. In this new kingdom emphasis age things are not as they were.

Judgment is coming swiftly to chasten and turn believers toward the now visible kingdom and away from our self-sufficient, do-it-ourselves lifestyle. Judgment of God is always for cleansing. Falling upon our faces in true repentance and crying out to God are often brought about through the severe disappointments of the devastating failure of a crumbling life under cleansing judgment of God. If everything kept on working well for us in our less-than-holy living, we would not be searching for change. Read more…

A sad day in Pakistan

March 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Yesterday was a sad day for Christians, the nation of Pakistan, and the world. Pakistan’s leading Christian, minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was murdered in a hail of bullets as he left for work.

Bhatti had worked tirelessly, against the tide, for the rights of Pakistan’s minorities. In particular he had labored for the repeal of the infamous blasphemy law that is used against them at will by the majority Muslims. Not two months ago, the governor of the Punjab province was assassinated, by his own bodyguard, for opposing the blasphemy law, so Bhatti knew his life was in immanent danger. He had asked for secure housing, but had been given the run-around. On this particular day he had told his bodyguards to meet him at work. That his assassins took advantage of that opportunity suggests an inside job.

That wouldn’t be surprising, because a large portion of the Pakistani people actually approve of the death penalty for insulting Islam’s prophet.

Bhatti was a 42 year old Catholic who devoted his entire life to minority rights. He forewent marriage, because he believed it would be unfair to subject a family to the dangers of his work. A few weeks before he died, Bhatti recorded a video tape in which he spoke of his devotion to Christ and to his calling, and of his understanding of the cost of bearing the cross. He asked that the tape be released after his death.

A few hours after Bhatti was killed, a gunman stormed onto a bus in Germany and murdered two American servicemen, wounding others. The gunman was a Muslim from Kosovo, one of the nations the US had gone to war for in the 1990s, precisely to help Muslims that were being mistreated by Christians there. As he executed the victims, the gunman cried Allah akbar . The full sense of that is, “our God is greater”.

Last evening I turned to al Jazeera, English, to see how they would cover these stories. I watched the live feed and I scoured the web site. The Germany story was covered without mention of the assailant’s Islamic war cry. The assassination was not covered at all, not even in print. What may be the end of Pakistan’s last shot at civilized normalcy did not even merit a mention.

Al Jazeera is actively campaigning to break into the lucrative – and influential – American cable market. As with the story of the sexual assault on Lara Logan by a crowd in Cairo’s Tehrir Square two weeks ago, as they reportedly cried “Jew! Jew!”, yesterday’s stories evidently were considered a little too inconvenient to air, or in the German case, to air fully.

The Islamic world is being radicalized. The radicals read their Koran and then act. Islam brooks no dissent, and allows no questions. It is a religio-political system that demands absolute submission, with any lapse being punishable by death. And so the most moderate and reasonable elements are being ruthlessly eliminated, leaving the radicals in charge. The president of Pakistan issued this statement yesterday: “This is a concerted campaign to slaughter every liberal, progressive and humanist voice in Pakistan”. Indeed. And the government, which has forsworn blasphemy law repeal, is powerless to do anything about it.

Christians in Pakistan are a tiny minority in a nation headed for state-sanctioned barbarism. They are being brutalized, and they are fainting for lack of relief. It is a painful thing, but we must join in solidarity with them, and add our faith to theirs.

And Asa cried to the Lord his God, “O Lord, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O Lord, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.”-2Chr 14:11

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33

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