Wednesday, May 26, 2010

May 26, 1964 - Jerusalem
'In my sleep, powerless to affect my own salvation'

And I wrestled with God for six months, trying to avoid the implications of his revelation. But He would not let me go.
And in Jerusalem he backed me into a corner, having spent two weeks at the Hebrew University and reading every kind of book. If only the Passover Plot had been written, how greedily I would have run for it. And with every book I read and every professor with whom I spoke, the more I realized I was impaled on the hook of God. And how I was put on a bus that last day ten years ago to visit a chassidic ultra-Orthodox community and never got there. Wrong bus. Lost. Riding around in Jerusalem in a section I didn’t know and too Jewish to ride on aimlessly.
That’s why you meet us in your congregations.
I stepped out of the bus and I walked into the first door that I could find. And the woman was so gracious to make me a map, and I was about to leave and I saw I was in a bookstore. Me, an omnivorous reader. The kid with the flashlight under the sheets at night. And I took a look at the titles and stopped dead in my tracks. New Testaments. Bibles. Christian literature.
And I turned to look at this woman’s yiddishe punim, this Jewish face. And I said, ‘Hey, what is this place?’
‘Oh,’ she said, ‘we’re a congregation of Jews who believe in the Messiah Jesus, and this is our bookstore adjoining our chapel.’
Snap in my heart, and I heard the still, small voice that called me by name and spoke as I would be made familiar in the months and years since. In a very terse way always. Always in the form of command. Always without explanation. Always with the voice of authority from Him with whom I have to do. Always to inconvenience. ‘Art, you are not to leave.’ I didn’t argue.
I stayed four days and nights with these Pentecostal Jews and saw such a demonstration of the reality of the Spirit of God from which I could not turn. I heard Jews pray with authority and power. Not out of a siddur. And not ceremonially. As if they were actually being heard of God – and as if they expected answer!
And the thing that topped it off?
I watched them worship!
You say, ‘watched them’? I saw Jews with their hands above their heads, their sleeves rolling down as they raised their hands to God, and the tattooed numbers on their wrists from the concentration camps, praising God in the name of Yeshua Ha’Maschiach!
If ever Jews had a reason NOT to praise that name, it was they. And yet, the tears rolling down their countenances, and the joy on their faces could not be put away.
And four days and nights, they prayed for me, with me, over me. They opened the scriptures. Told me of God’s ‘plan of salvation.’ How ickey can you get? How fundamental can you sound? I didn’t like it. I couldn’t understand it. I was confused. I was bewildered. I got the most intensive bible course that any Jew could be given in four days and nights. And I was... rattled!
So simple that I couldn’t see it.
And I went to sleep on that front pew that last night. So bewildered out of my head. And in my sleep, powerless to affect my own salvation, the Spirit of God just brought things together in my heart. I could just feel pieces falling into place.
And I awoke that next morning with the most precious peace and calm that I had every enjoyed in thirty-five years of restless striving, and came to the breakfast table.
And the first words out of my mouth: ‘Rena, I believe I understand.’ And poor Rena toppled out of her seat onto the floor, chair knocked over and arms above her head, weeping and praising God because her prayer that night was ‘Lord, we’ve done everything for this stubborn man. You make him to understand…’

- Denver, Colorado ( February 1974)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Plans to build a giant mosque close to Ground Zero have caused a storm of protest from families who lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks.
Angry relatives claim the move is an ‘insult’ to the victims of the World Trade Centre atrocity.
The mosque is part of a proposed 13-storey Muslim community centre, which will include a swimming pool, gym, theatre and sports facilities. Construction of the $100 million project just two blocks from Ground Zero is due to begin on September 11 next year – the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack... Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, said: ‘The time for a centre like this has come because Islam is an American religion.' ...Hezbollah leader Ayatollah Mohammad Bagher Kharrazi said the formulation of an ‘Islamic United States’ would herald the coming of Islam’s messiah.
London's The Daily Mail, May 16, 2010)

'Satan set this up with great brilliance'

See how great this mystery is - the dimensions of this great cosmic struggle of which the church is the key factor? Who understands this and will not be offended when the judgments come and Israel is being progressively reduced? It will be shocking. Jesus said that this time of trouble that is coming to the nation will exceed any previous trouble that the nation has known or will ever again know. And, if that time is not cut short, then no flesh would survive, he said.
But, for the elect’s sake, for the restored remnant, the time will be cut short. So, he is giving the description of something yet future, greater than the nation has ever known, even the Nazi Holocaust that took six million lives. We can expect an attrition greater than the six million, and certainly that this devastation of Israel will not be confined to Europe. This will be global. When the Lord comes, two-thirds in Israel will already have perished and one-third is brought through the fire. So, I suggest if that is the ratio of survival in the land – that will likely the ratio of survival in the world. If two-thirds of the Jews will be fated in the time of Jacob’s trouble to perish, we are talking about the demise of ten million Jews in a three-and-a-half year period of time.
Think of it – Jews worldwide in flight, and wholesale massacre! And yet, if we take the word of God seriously, it will be that devastating because of the vehemence and bitterness of the powers of darkness who know that their time is short.
What will save their false governing except that Jews are eradicated? By preventing Israel from returning to Zion as restored nation. How do you prevent them? By eliminating them. By abolishing them through genocide against that entire people.
So, where is there a church that is prepared by a scenario of this kind? Which will not take place in distant nations – but in our own nation? How can that be?
Because there will be an Islamic presence of such a kind that no government will be able to control or resist.
Look at what happened to the Pope who made one historically true and valid statement that is indisputable, about what was always the nature of Islam, the name by which uncounted churches have been burned in recent years. And he – the leader of the great Catholic church! – is retracting! Because no nation can stand up to the threat from Islam that now proliferates around the globe. You oppose them? Then your churches will be burned.
I wondered years ago how the predicted global devastation will take place and nations would become ‘Nazi-fied’ and participate in such genocide and be otherwise powerless to hold back the vehemence that is inherent in Islam and is now being expressed throughout all nations.
Islam is absolutely vile, absolutely deadly. And they are playing a so-called passive role. But, their peacefulness is only a momentary illusion. At the opportune moment, they will with great enthusiasm join the horde in seeking Jewish blood because it is their ticket to eternity. Killing a Jew and dying in the process is to guarantee their eternal salvation, according to the Islamic perspective.
Satan set this up with great brilliance.
So, just the contemplation of this scenario has got to stimulate the necessity for maturity in the church. It has got to bring a note of seriousness that these indeed are the Last Days, and they are apocalyptic. There will be great devastation right to the time of the Lord’s re-appearing. These will be the realities that prevail. There will be an anti-Christ spirit triumphing in the world, and it will hate the church as much as the Jew.
It makes our coming together now much more significant and serious than it otherwise would be. Now, we are not just available for a series of meetings. Now, every meeting, every coming together, every hearing of the word of God, every visit of a valid speaker is a provision from God to fit us and to prepare us for the awesome realities of the Last Days.
- Charlotte, North Carolina (2006)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ships that pass in the night and speak to each other in passing;
Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness;
So on the ocean of life we pass and speak to one another,
Only a look and a voice; then darkness again and a silence.
Tales of a Wayside Inn (Longfellow)

'We've never BEEN there with each other'

We’re utilitarian. We want God for what we can obtain from Him that we might do it and teach it and be seen teaching and enjoy the kind of exhilaration of serving God. He’s only an expediency to provide us with that which is needful. But knowing our hearts and loving us and being the God who sees that utilitarianism is the spirit of the world and not the spirit of the Kingdom, He says, “Come up unto me – and BE there.”

An apostle must, above all men, know this in his experience. Because the apostle and the prophet are the foundation of the church. There is no true church except by the foundation laid by the apostles and the prophets. Not only in their teaching and what they impart in the sublime knowledge of God and His ways but what they convey and communicate and exude from what they have obtained in His presence – because they have come up and they have been there!

You know, guys? This is how we’re failing each other?

That’s why guys like me have had to go eighteen years of too frequent harshness at home – because we are so shallow in our own relationships with “brothers” that I could not find a friend who would love me at all times. We’ve never BEEN there with each other.

And, even while we’re talking to each other our minds are racing to some next thing. Or, what awaits us on Sunday? Or this commitment and that responsibility… Or did I forget this or that…Do we ever really give our whole attention to each other? That’s fellowship of the kind that God intended.

The mystery of the fellowship.

That mystery is so little known to us. Our fellowship is so much less. Back slap; brusque bear hug.

Ships passing in the night.

The briefest kind of acknowledgement.

And, I praise God that we are canceling our convocations this summer. We’re not going to have any schedule of meetings, with the thousands pressing in, and this whole weary mechanic of things that need to be served. But, as many who will come who are sent in God’s own time, when He has bidden them come up by the Spirit.

“Aw, c’mon, Art. You’re getting melodramatic now. You’re just talking about ‘summer vacations’- aren’t you?”

What do you mean “just”? What are you trying to imply? That a summer vacation is some kind of ordinary excursion?...

How dare you bring that ordinary, the earthly mentality into the holy place?

What do you mean “just” a vacation? The word “just” ought to be abolished from our speech.

How dare we presume to go anywhere, or to do anything except that we be bidden…

Woe unto us if we dare to presume so upon God.
- Dallas, Texas (1982)

Friday, May 7, 2010

'We're always looking up!'

Dresden (at right), the capital of Saxony reduced by four fire-bombings in three days at the end of World War II - and after an unrenounced pre-historic legacy of occultism and pornography.

'I'll never forget my experience in East Germany in some remote section of that country infamous for occultism and every kind of filthy and dark, degenerate thing that goes back in primeval and barbaric Germanism before the advent of Christianity. Still alive and still lurking in that dark place.
Until a Lutheran pastor and his wife had come.
And in their sincerity toward God to be in that place, He brought them into the knowledge of the Holy Ghost. And they became full of the Holy Ghost.

'And when I talked with this brother's wife, she hardly looked at me.
She would nod as she would look up, putting her hand over her heart, looking up, nodding, looking up, nodding...
And I thought, 'My God, what is she looking at?'
And as I was leaving I asked her: 'Are you aware that you are always looking up?'
You know what the heck of it is? She wasn't?

'And those who are 'aware' - aren't 'looking up.'
We've got to come to that place of total unawareness, of such utter selflessness, so lost in God that, habitually and characteristically, we're so suffused with him, His purpose, the jealousy for His glory... We're always looking up!
As against that class of men who are always looking down, who dwell on the earth and whose hearts will fail them for fear when they see the things that are coming upon the earth which we don't see.

'I mean, we're not ignoramuses. We're very aware of the things that are happening, but it's not affecting us. That's not what determines our being or our response or our conduct.
Our determinations are from Heaven wherein also is our citizenship.
- Sacramento, California (1985)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

'The immersion into reality itself'

'What is the practical value of 'apocalyptic', of end-time considerations?

It is 'the completion of what NOW is - NOT an escape from it. The wholeness of what we NOW see in part - NOT its repudiation.'

Such Biblical or Prophetic anticipation 'is thus thoroughly practical; it assures us of the reality of all the acts and words whose transcendent sense is disputed and contradicted by the age we live in.' This preoccupation with Apocalyptic 'is not a florid [fanciful] passage tacked onto an end to give a flourish to our rhetoric but 'the immersion into reality itself,' the issue of God's coming Kingdom and its rule in our present life. It has a unique power to stir us to new and greater obedience, deepening our resolve and consecration and 'fortifying us for the long haul… It gives stamina to our courage and energizes our witness - realities that are in strict correspondence with what has already been begun in us and will [assuredly] be completed. This is not a new form of escapism, but the intensification of involvement with God in His [final] purposes by employing the stuff that is in our lives right now.' (From Eugene Peterson’s devotional entitled, The Completion of What Is)

'This preface is appropriate in view of the dire and tragic events of 2001 sounding an ominous note of yet greater dread for the year and decade ahead. It may well be a final decade - or at least it should be lived as if that were so. What greater evils will yet be loosed? What real defense from demonic terror against which the best of societal safeguards might be vain? On the positive side, the issue of God and of the Faith have as suddenly become elevated and central. No longer can believing constitute a mere Sunday addendum, a pleasant amenity in an ordered and secure world. The fellowship of the saints no longer casual affability, but become now the very grit of apostolic living! The wisdom of God in the uncertainty of the future to be had only in the counsel of the many; the 'time to speak to one another in the fear of the Lord' our privilege and our sanity.

'For now, at the end, as it was at the first, those that believe must be together. The one heart, and one soul and one mind that alone issues from true fellowship break the power of selfish and private living that has until now so effectually robbed us. Private, personal, devotional prayer must become a vital daily engagement with the Living God - early and late. Corporate prayer, the measure of truth of our Body, must become the apprehending of our High Priest's intercessory mind and heart. Time must be found, made, ruthlessly contended for in the daily urgent seeking of the Lord. Unabashed and unashamed witness, our responsibility in the world, be expressed in the very places from which we have shrunk - and this now in the more hostile prevailing atmosphere that abhors 'fundamentalist fanaticism'!

Backlash, opposition, eventual persecution are prospects now as real for us as the experience of distant, remote Christians, provoking in us a cry for new infillings of the Holy Spirit too long unsounded (and unneeded!). Inhibiting timidity, self-conscious and repressive fear of man [even of Christians!] be crucified with Christ! Buoyant, joyous faith, unfeigned choruses of praise, the inclusion of our committed children, be the staple of the Church is our best wish and prayer for us all in the new year that has come.

'For that has the Lord enjoined us to this end 'that men ought always to pray and not to lose heart' (Luke 18:1). So is prayer, heartfelt, vibrant and alive, the very provision of God for the terrors and uncertainties of the future that would otherwise depress and overcome us - even to the possibility of the very forfeiture of faith. So does the parable of the importunate widow end with the question, 'Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, shall He find faith on the earth?' That is, will he find prayer in the earth? For the issue of prayer is the issue of faith for 'no man comes to God but that He believes that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him' (Hebrews 11:6).

Many Christians would be wise to take note of the feeble and infrequent condition of their prayer as a serious index of a declining faith - for the two are inextricably joined.

'In all this, don't confuse faith with correctly held doctrine about the faith. The issue of faith is the issue of relationship - not credal correctness.

- From 'End-of-the-Year (2001) Meditation' - Laporte, Minnesota;
above photo from the Kathryn Kuhlman program in 1970.