Thursday, August 23, 2012

‘…What distinguishes
what is apostolic’
Although I’m in my third decade as a believer – over twenty years in fulltime service and beginning as a missionary to the Jews – up till now I’ve never had a message on Israel and prophecy.
I have to confess that, in fact, I’ve been chafed by these conferences on prophecy.
I don’t know how to explain, but something wasn’t quite right, almost like an illicit interest, a kind of misplaced preoccupation, especially on the part of Gentile Christians, prevailing about the future of Israel. And then, I’ve watched a more recent development with those who have this fixation on Israel, oftentimes as only an attraction to the Jewish mystique. There’s something about Israel and Jews that seems to touch non-Jewish believers that equally offends me. And, for that reason I have shied away from things pertaining to Israel. And, while my whole focus and interest have been with the church, I need to say that although that’s been true, I can say modestly that I have affected as many Jewish lives as anyone who has made that their primary calling and activity.
But, I have to say the Lord has now opened my understanding, and that I have a perspective about the mystery of Israel and the church which really speaks to my heart as it encompasses the word ‘apostolic’ which has always intrigued me. The apostolic perspective is rooted beyond the Jew himself and even the church itself. It’s rooted in the glory of God. And that’s what distinguishes what is apostolic.
The essence of this matter has been lost to the church till now, and it’s lost even to us who claim to have an affection and concern for the Jews. But, we have not been celebrating them in the apostolic context – chiefly that God in his wisdom has locked the church and the Jew into a relationship of such a kind that the one without the other can never enter in or obtain its eternal purpose in God. It’s a remarkable paradox. It’s God choosing that which is so opposite and contrary right in the face of everything that would rationally be opposed to connecting these two peoples, amidst the whole historic presumption of the church and the Jew, the whole painfulness of forced conversions and anti-Semitic savagery, pogroms and inquisitions, and crusades.
We need to be reminded of how colossal is God’s intention despite the wretched history of relationship between the church and the Jew, and the long-standing enmity between the Gentile and the Jew, between the church and the synagogue. And, we also need to recognize that the church itself has been adversely affected by the Jew. The Jewish community has not just been indifferent to the gospel. It has essentially and actively opposed it. Even the great apostolic church fathers, such as Luther himself, who naively expected that Jews, with the Reformation, would see the true evangelical messianic faith, were astonished at the Jewish response, and how they took advantage of the uproar during the Reformation to seek converts to Judaism!
It’s the ignorance of this mystery that accounts for the arrogance and conceit of the church, historically and presently. There’s a way in which God has established this mystery of the Jew and Gentile being locked historically, that if the church is ignorant of it, usually willfully so, then the result is going to be a conceit and an arrogance – not just about Jewish things but about all things.
There’s nothing more calculated to bring the church to a place of proper humility and fear before God than the acknowledgement of the mystery of the Jew and God’s dealings with that people.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

‘Church is a suffering—
before it’s a glory!’

Dear saints—it would take another three nights just to give you a glimpse of what our experience in community has meant for twenty-seven, twenty-eight years.
The testing. The frustration. The defeat. The anguish of soul. The misunderstanding. The misrepresentation. The confusion...
You never knew that there were so many opinions that God’s people could have at one time, and each has a scripture to validate it!
And, we’re supposed to be one mind, one heart, one soul, one spirit?!
What is that—magic?! Is God going to wave a wand over us and we’ll come into that? Or, are we going to come into it realistically and truly by walking this out together and suffering those times of misunderstanding, confusion, charges, and accusations, and…that you have patiently to bear.
In love.
With one another.
In love…with one another…AND speak the truth and come to a place where we are one as He is one. That the world might know that the Father has sent Him.
Church is a suffering before it’s a glory! And unless it’s a glory it cannot be to the Jewish people what it must in the Last Days.
So, we have to be realistic and know this is going to be tough—and the world has not prepared us. It has prepared us for privacy. It's prepared us to spare us rather than to expose us.
And, we don’t want that kind of suffering.
And, I’ll tell you that it’s a suffering of an inordinate kind.
I’ve been kicked at, spit at, shoved—I mean, who knows what’s ahead for me in New York? I mean physically.
But, I tell you that the worst suffering in my thirty-seven years as a believer was from the church—and in the church. And in that very body - in community - to which I have given myself sacrificially for a longer period of time than ever I have lived in New York.
And, be called a ‘traitor’ and called ‘an enemy to the gospel’ by the people for whom I have sacrificed.
And to bear…THAT!
There’s a cross, dear saints. And, the issue of the Jew compels us to come to it.
Aren’t you grateful? If it were not for the issue of Israel and the Last Days witness that we must extend in palpable, real mercy—we would get away with murder.
And, we could have gone on with service after service and visiting speakers and enjoyed the whole thing and thought that this is what it’s about.
Only the day of Eternity would reveal how deluded we were and how much we had missed what the faith, in fact, is:
The issue of the Jew is God’s provision for the church—as well as for themselves!
That we might BE the church and the church that will meet that test not only will succor the Jew but will find themselves at the same time by that very thing equipped to be a bride to the Bridegroom…

- Onalaska, Washington (2002)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

'First World Conference on the Holy Spirit' (1974)

Well, would you believe it, when I got to the conference later that morning I was invited to speak in that last evening session?
And they were going to give me seven minutes?
And I would talk about our own conference being planned in New York for Jewish believers.
And I came that night, and I was told that three speakers would precede me and then I would come on and I would be allowed fifteen minutes.
That night as the last session began, it turned out there were no three speakers preceding me. Instead, I hear myself being introduced immediately. And the man who was introducing me, the co-author of my book said, ‘And now, Art is going to give us the burden of his heart?!’ And, I said to myself, ‘Well, what is this?’ I’ll tell you what happened.
I spoke for about an hour and a half. A message on Elijah. And God took his sword out of his sheath and stabbed it into the body of his people, dividing the audience in half. Some people stood at the invitation when I finished, and I’m still receiving letters today that their lives were changed in this standing. And others bristled and remained in their seats, angry that I was taking the time that should have been given to Kathryn Kuhlman.
I disappointed a lot of people that night, including my own publisher, my co-author, my pastor, and many high-ranking charismatic figures. But I was in the peace of God. It was a misunderstanding that could not be explained.
They kept passing notes to me that said ‘twenty minutes,’ ‘thirty minutes,’ ‘forty-five minutes,’ ‘an hour.’ And, I thought, ‘How remarkable of the Lord to increase my time.’ But actually the notes were intended to tell me how much time I had taken beyond my allotted fifteen minutes. Because after I had spoken fifteen minutes, a note came up, and it said ‘forty-five minutes.’ And I thought they were giving me an additional forty-five minutes.
And I went and I took my full liberty.
And I found out later that they intended by that note that I should sit down. And I completely misread their intention.
Well, there’s only one or two ways to explain this mishap.
Either I’m some kind of spiritual egotist who is completely indifferent to eldership and runs roughshod over everybody’s intentions to do my thing. Or, somehow the Lord in some way peculiar to himself, allowed me to understand I was to go on and fully express that message.
Of course, when I sat down, I was beginning to sense already that something was wrong. I could sense the tension behind me on the platform and the anger and restlessness. I didn’t know that Kathryn Kuhlman was being kept like a tiger caged up in the wings, and I was eating up her time. People on the platform were scowling at me like I was something loathsome. And I thought, ‘What’d I do?’ I was, like, innocent. I didn’t realize what was happening.
...There are four-thousand lives in this building, and all kinds of machines whirring, and tapes being recorded.
Picture it. Here are 4,500 people from all over the world!
An historic occasion.
And out came an utterance in tongues from somewhere in the front of the congregation. And I leaned forward in my seat to hear the further unfolding of what God was speaking.
And in that moment, the man who was at the lectern conducting the meeting, irritated that I had taken so much time and kept the great personality from coming on, snapped his fingers toward the piano player, and he began to play.
And the people began to sing. And, we never did get that interpretation.
Imagine it! Here was a conference entitled ‘Conference on the Holy Spirit’! And, in one crucial moment in time – men deferred to men rather than to the Holy Spirit!
‘Well,’ you say, ‘Why did that happen?’
Well, they had a budget. They were going to take an offering to complete their budget, and they introduced the key men who had been working on that conference all those days. And they wanted to do this, and they wanted to do that. But, God sneaked in a curve which they had not planned.
And men called ‘charismatic’ in a conference, entitled ‘Conference on the Holy Spirit,’ missed, in a crucial moment the leading of God because they were preoccupied and restless and driven to complete their own program.
-  Denver, 1974

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bela Crkva, on the Rumanian frontier (local painting)
 Letter to a friend (1982)

'He is putting his 'thou' before God's 'me' '
...First, I am sure you are most curious about our days in Yugoslavia which as you expected were blessed. What will surprise you is that my time with Max was not at all what you would have expected but something much more tender. The matter of our past differences really came to nothing and I felt indeed a deeper affection with regard to him even than for David, as well as also a deeper concern. He was at almost all of the meetings at some sacrifice of travel back and forth from Belgrade to the Rumanian border where these primitive Rumanian-speaking churches were and even served as interpreter on several occasions as the messages had to be first translated into Serbo-Croatian and then into Rumanian.
On one occasion in the car in that moment which is the Lord’s timing, as you know, the Lord began to finger some of the deep foundational things of his life and I believe that he was challenged in a good way. He is bent and determined upon an academic course and probably is by now in Strasbourg working on his Ph.D. which neither I nor others applaud. He quite frankly confessed that he wants to do that which gratifies him most and hopes in the same breath that it will be pleasing to the Lord and beneficial for His Kingdom as well. As I explained to him and later spoke as a message that night upon the conversion of Paul, he is putting his ‘thou’ before God’s ‘me’—‘Why persecutest thou me?’—which is at the heart of every man’s condition until true conversion comes. I think that he is bright enough to get the point and you might pray that he will regard it and act upon it. He’s really a very dear brother with, of course, an enormous potential in God that will never be fulfilled as long as he predicates his entire life and service first on whether it gratifies him. In short, I think I would be disappointing you these days for the absence of the old type Katz-encounters.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Thoughts Upon Waking in Berlin

June 25, 1999

The fear of terror, the strickenness of heart as the realization breaks upon it that the time here is finished, that all is to be left behind, forsaken, not again to be retrieved.
The memorabilia, photographs, albums, paintings and prints, coveted books (dog-eared and marked, a stub or slip of paper inserted to a place where one hoped to return for further reflection), prescriptions that will not again need to be refilled, extra glasses that will no longer be needed. The kitchen utensils and gadgets that crushed garlic, extracted juices, withdrew corks...familiar, dear, accessible - to be left behind. Dead sentinels. Letters, parchments, degrees, the saved programs of memorable concerts, lectures, synagogue events - rarely turned to - but whose known presence is warmly comforting. The suits, custom-tailored, hardly worn, saved for special occasions forsaken together with the jackets and coats, the scarves, and hats of  everyday use. Fifty kilos, one suitcase. What to take - and leave behind. It tears one's guts out. What value to any stranger but so much disposable glut?
How long before the dread pounding at the door? The abrupt rude entry and harsh manners of the booted goyim, coarse illiterates, lumpen proletariat, armed with authority to sweep off the shelves the leather-bound collected works of Goethe, Graezel's History of the Jews (two volumes!), art portfolios, the great masterpieces, contemporary masters, the World Atlas, Schiller, history, philosophy, thought...The phonograph albums, Mozart, the great symphonies, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, memorable arias of classic opera, the great tenors, lyric lieder of the romantic light operas...that together with a good wine graced many a Saturday afternoon. An end to Sunday strolls? Alpine walks concluded with a zesty fondue, a good beer, coffee, torte. The glow of contentment for a secure and well-ordered life, the security of sound investments, of a faithful pension, the daily newspaper and the weekend supplements on books, theater and travel falling to the carpet around the comfortable stuffed chair as one falls off into a weekend afternoon doze.
Who will visit now the gravesites? Light the jahrzeit candles of remembrance? Care for the graves of the bubbas and zadehs who preceded us? The stillborn, the children who died suddenly and tragically? The place set aside for ourselves? A final monument to a life lived in hopeful significance and righteousness toward society and men? Who will leave a small stone on the gravesite to mark a visit in remembrance of the dead? What will be my own end now? Where will I be buried? Remembered? How can all this be happening? Take place so suddenly? Who could have thought? Ever imagined? Unthinkable in the best of all worlds, most beloved of all nations, most respected of all ancient peoples?
O the loud shouts. The banging doors! The heavy tread on the steps. It's here - the strident knock - no time to think. It's here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

'In a Given Moment
By His Wisdom'

I was invited to speak at a Pentecostal meeting one night, and I had nothing. I sat on the platform in what should have been a hospitable environment for a spirit-filled man. But, I’ll tell you that it was more painful to sit there than it had been in a Baptist church earlier that morning where I laid out a succession of biblical verses that included the words ‘to fill’ or ‘to be filled.’ It was a line-by-line exposition with no fanfare. At the end of it, people were strewn on the floor in deep repentance. But that night with Pentecostals, as I listened to what was purported to be praise and worship, I closed my eyes and would have thought I was in some kind of barnyard where animals were penned up and making noises. My spirit winced within me, only to hear next the young whiz-kid of a pastor come up to the microphone and say: ‘Isn’t it wonderful to worship God in the Spirit?’ I said, ‘Lord, either there is something so devastatingly wrong with me, and I am the most ungainliest of freaks, or this is an utterly deceived people who are so removed from the purity of your spirit and are so soulish and carnal that they construe that to be praise unto God. Lord, I have not a word for such a people. Open the floor and swallow me.’ But he did not. There was no exit to which I could run. I was stuck.
I reviewed the times at Harvard University and other places where God had bailed me out gloriously – and riveted those glib and cynical characters in their seats, stunned. Students who came for radical confrontation, agitated, who were ready to shake their fists at God, ended up giving God praise with their hands lifted.
But, now in Germany with all the chaos around me, I said, ‘Lord, however faithful you’ve been, I don’t know what you can do now.’ And, finally, my name was called. It was the moment of utter foreboding. I came and leaned against the podium, and I opened my mouth and I heard myself saying: ‘As I listened to your worship tonight, I would have thought it was the noise of animals.’ And, the word went POW! And there came a silence over that people. And I continued, and I became more absurd, more foolish, more extreme. But at the end, people were laid out on their faces before God in such deep convulsive breakings and gasps and sobs, as I cannot describe. And, the pastor himself was stretched out like a dead man on the platform.
God is going to bring us to confrontations in which our techniques shall not avail, our well-meaning methodologies, and all other kinds of things which we in our dear desire to do good have seized. Only one thing shall have sufficed then and ever. And, that is what emanates from the life of God in a given moment by his wisdom.

- Kansas City, 1977