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Posts Tagged ‘Revelation’

Hebrews says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled…” In the United States, our legal system calls things “marriage” that the Bible most certainly would not. But if we only looked at that one verse from Hebrews, we could believe that the thing called marriage that isn’t, is “honorable”. We could pull in other teachings about marriage and how great it is and what it means spiritually, and encourage people to accomplish those great things and represent those great truths by practicing the thing falsely called marriage. If this stood for a few generations, most people would forget that it is a perversion of what the Bible calls marriage.

What if there are other Christian practices that this has happened to, in the forgotten past? How do we trust that what we understand to be the biblical and Christian practices of Church gatherings, pastoring, church leadership and decision-making, the Lord’s Supper, baptism, speaking in tongues, laying on of hands, ordination, etc. are the things the Bible is discussing?

Like we can with marriage, we can compare other Scriptures to our practices, right? We can ask, “Did God say anything else about these practices? Did God address what we are doing, regardless of what it is called, in positive or negative ways?”

I believe it is possible for God to reveal corrections to us* if we are humbly seeking Him, and if He wants to at the moment. It seems like sometimes He doesn’t want to, and I’m not quite clear why.

I want to have respect for generations of believers who have been inviting God’s discernment, and to value their conclusions. I don’t see any honest way to do this without acknowledging that there have been stretches of time where Christianity (the public institution, anyway) has promoted false understandings of things, and it has taken a long time to straighten some of them out. I have to acknowledge that different parts of the Church, distanced by geography (at least) have for long periods of time held different beliefs from one another.

How much weight should we put on our own experiences? If our experiences seem to line up with a teaching, and be fruitful for the Kingdom of God, does that indicate that these understandings and practices are the things God intends?

*Who ought “us” to be, though? Is it my job, without holding a position of authority in the Church, to discern these things? For myself? For the Church? For society? Is it my job to say anything to others if I believe I have discerned that our conventional practice is wrong?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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“Have nothing to do with the unfruitful works of darkness.”

I’m a discernment person.  Heresies are a big deal to me.  I tend to notice when teachers or authors or pastors are preaching a different gospel.  But there are other issues, too.  Focusing on tolerance and friendliness with the world – the “seeker-sensitive” movement, for example – is dangerous.  Christians are a light set on a hill, not light camouflaged to look like darkness.  Or another popular… what should I call it?  Not a heresy in the traditional sense, but a dangerous and unchristian worldview or spiritual practice?  Anyway, another one is the borderline gnosticism.  This encompasses mysticism and individualism, focusing on poetic ideas of light versus darkness, denial (or even mistreatment) of the physical, and meditation.  I see connections between seeker-sensitivity and the postmodern mysticism.  Primary in these connections are the exaltation of human effort and experience.  They are ancient perversions of the Christian life, not new, but addressed in the New Testament.

Lately it has become popular to cite “church fathers” in theological debates.  This even if the quote or position contradicts the New Testament.  Though I’m not persuaded of the “sola scriptura” of the Reformation, it did rescue us from centuries of heretical tradition enforced as the authority of the fathers.  (Jesus rebuked the same sin in the Pharisees.)  Many of those historical theologians flirted with or embraced the para-Christian spirituality mentioned above, emphasizing either their personal wisdom or their own mystical experiences as sources of truth superior to the revelation of Scripture.  They practiced this outside of the protective peer-regulation of a Spirit-led Church.  Somehow the doctrine of the indwelling Holy Spirit got exchanged for a belief in inner divinity belonging to an individual.  All of which was much more compatible with the pagan religions encountered as the ancient “Christianity” spread.

And isn’t that something to be concerned about?  Rather than being excited that the enemies of God, the spiritually dead men of planet earth, have portions of truth preserved in their religions, shouldn’t we be devastated at the subtlety of the deceits of the Evil One that has kept men captive to their sin?  (“What fellowship has light with darkness?”)  Instead of finding commonality in spiritual practices of meditation and monasticism and sacrificing to appease the gods – shouldn’t we question those practices?  If the pagans do those things, and if those things are not prescribed by our Lord in the early letters to the churches affirmed by the apostles, why not rather fear a resurgence of paganism within our faith – that the spiritual forces of wickedness have been also distracting us and leading us astray?

In our modern times we tend to disdain the primitive superstitions of pre-Christian peoples.  We think they should have been able to see through the cheap tricks of the medicine men, to rise up against the oppressive shaman and assert reason, the intelligence and ability of individuals.  But a Christian worldview suggests a different interpretation.  It teaches that the devil and demons are real, powerful, able to produce counterfeit signs and wonders to deceive men.  Demon possession is real.  And maybe those pitiable people, observing that reality, live with rituals and talismans approved by their devils – for a time – as a tax on the slaves of the Devil before they are consumed.

For us who have known only the relatively Christian Western world, it is difficult to remember the spiritual battle that is engaged even here.  We are not trained to recognize the spiritual activities of our enemy.  This may be because we have adopted it,  or excused and tolerated it…  False teaching, we believe, has been perpetrated by confused but well-meaning people.  Cultists are mostly nice people whose theology is just a little different from ours.  We wouldn’t want our children converting, but no big deal if our neighbors and coworkers believe in Jesus and good works for their salvation, God and their own divinity.  Many who identify themselves as evangelical Christians see no cause for concern when their church services begin to incorporate incense, or a ladies’ conference suggests repetitive chanting of a spiritual word or phrase as a means of getting closer to God.  Millions of us read and identify with a book that includes a manifestation of Sophia, the Gnostic “goddess” as the incarnation of wisdom.  These ideas and practices are more attractive to the unsaved world, after all (and to many inside the church).  And why shouldn’t they be; they’re familiar whispers, that we are like God, that we come to God on our own terms.

The word profanity is known as a synonym for cussing.  But who knows the word profane?  Who believes that there is a way God wants to be worshiped, a way He has set for people to come to Him – and any other way is so offensive to Him as to bring His righteous wrath?  What is fallen man to tell God why He should accept him?  Who is the liar and deceived to believe he has a hold of truth and wisdom apart from the deliverance and revelation of God?  How dare we think our filthy rags – our own righteousnesses – are acceptable sacrifices to pay for our trespasses against the ways of God?

But it is hard to reject these things, hard to point at those profanities and warn that they are part of the wide path to hell.  I don’t want to believe that my church leader is a false teacher.  I like to believe that my friends are going to heaven.  But how does that honor God?  Is my allegiance to Him or to men?  And how is that compassionate, to ignore the condition of my friends?  Making excuses is easy.  If a man says he believes in Jesus, is it such a big deal if he tolerates sin, if he keeps company with the world?  Also far too simple is reassuring myself that even though a person has not trusted in Jesus, he still seems to be a good influence, telling people to pray and read their Bibles and love their families and be wary of governments and religions out to destroy us.

Yet more and more I believe that those excuses and those subversive people are the biggest threats.  By them people are led from the power and truth of God, or worse – away from the gospel of the grace of God.  People are soothed into ignoring their spiritual neediness.  Those people, those false prophets, are the enemies of God.  And if they are enemies of God, they are enemies of His people.  They are not in your fellowship to encourage you or point you to God.  Though they may feign friendship, it is for diabolical purposes, and they can turn on you at any moment.

So what can we do?  Monasticism and individualism belong to the false religions.  We cannot run away from these dangerous people.  Tolerance and acceptance also correspond to the faith that exalts man over God.  So we cannot be silent or friendly.  Truth and God’s glory invite us to discern the lies and cast them down.  Holiness insists that we take our cues from God, supported by those men and women who exhibit the fruits of being His.  Love demands that we warn people of destruction.  Faith in God teaches us to hope for revival and redemption.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Really, I’m going to try to summarize and make a few points.  But Joel Rosenberg has a lot better idea what’s going on, and will give you much more information.  Use his links in this post on the Flotilla Crisis.

If you catch the news at all, you’ve probably heard that a week or two ago Israel boarded some aid ships off the coast of Gaza, which eventually resulted in the death of several of those on board (10) and the injuries of several Israeli Defense Soldiers (5).  Perhaps like me you did not know until this even that there was a blockade of Gaza.  Though I’m not surprised.  There’s always something happening in Israel.  If they’re not fighting, they’re containing, and if they’re not containing, they’re appeasing.  Both appeasing and containing lead to fighting.  It’s the way things go in Israel.

So Israel is surrounded by enemies.  Some are official nations and others are terrorist organizations or individuals.  Many work for the UN.

The closest of Israel’s enemies spend a lot of time and money shooting missiles at Israel, hitting the peaceful civilian population.  This is supplemented by the occasional explosive terrorist attack at a wedding or a bus station or some well-populated place (similar to huge office buildings in downtown New York City).  Citizens of Palestine, and the terrorist armies on the northern border of Israel, too, are supplied with weapons, training, men, and propaganda support by such do-gooders as Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Al-Qaeda, the PLO…  All of these groups have stated that it is their mission to kill Jews and eradicate Israel.

So Israel has tried a lot of things.  Several years ago they ceded whole tracts of land to the Palestinians as a means of appeasement.  Rather, they used this land to train terrorists and stage their attacks.  The democratic elections put the terrorist group Hamas in control of the Palestinian territory, and anarchy in varying levels ensued.  Bombs keep getting shot into Israeli territory.  This is so commonplace that we in America almost never hear about it.

Recently, Israel got fed up.  They, together with Egypt, announced a blockade of Gaza.  The purpose, of course, is to prevent any more terrorists and their vicious weapons from getting to Israel’s neighbors who keep swearing to blow them to kingdom come.  Israel made it clear that they would allow food and medical supplies, all the humanitarian necessities, into Gaza, as long as the shipments went through Israel so they could be inspected for contraband.  Such deliveries have been made regularly to Gaza since the blockade began.  There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  Ships were invited to make berth at an Israeli port (not Gaza ones) to deliver the aid.

Without speculating about the motives behind the move, a Flotilla set out from Turkey to run the blockade of Gaza.  This was their open and stated goal.  Passengers on board believed they were going to martyrdom.  But only 10 of them died.

As their “aid ships” neared the coast, Israel sent them a warning.  But the ships proceeded, so Israeli troops boarded them.  One fact mentioned in most accounts is that this took place in international waters, which to the uninformed news connoisseur sounds illegal.  It isn’t.  International laws governing naval blockades read like a manual of Israel’s actions in this confrontation.

Israel brought pistols but didn’t use them until they feared for their lives.  Instead they greeted with paint guns the weapon-holding “peace activists” who waited for them on deck.  All this is on video.  After the peaceful anti-Israelis took the soldiers and began beating them with pipes, throwing them three stories overboard, etc. the troops enforcing the blockade either fled or defended themselves with pistols.  Ten died.  The rest of the 600 activists were arrested, their goods confiscated and searched.  (All but two activists have been released.  The goods were shipped to the border of Gaza where Hamas refused to accept the aid unless Israel would release the final 2 prisoners – citizens of Israel.)

What do the Palestinians want?  If they’re fighting for a homeland, what do they call what they’ve had the past several years, and why expect anyone to trust them with a country of their own now?

Those who condemn Israel are refusing to believe Israel and at the same time accusing Hamas of lying.  Hamas has said what they want.  They want to kill Jews.  They want Israel’s existence to cease.  I believe them.  I just disapprove.

Israel’s peers in the world, friends and enemies, condemned her for her actions.  What would make the world happy?  (Turns out Charles Krauthammer made my exact points.  PLEASE read his article!)

1. They did not want Israel to kill people.

2.  They did not want Israel to prevent the Flotilla from reaching Gaza.

3.  They did not want Israel to blockade Gaza in the first place.

4.  They do not want Israel to wage open war on their enemies.

5.  They want Israel to offer more land for not even promises of peace.

6.  They want Israel to not defend themselves against the terrorists and surrounding nations who have stated a desire to wipe them out.

7.  They want Israel to give all its land to Islamic Terrorists and accept the promised slaughter.

If you put yourself in Israel’s place, I think you’ll have to realize they don’t want to do this.

Biblically speaking, it is in every other person’s and country’s best interests to bless Israel.  To stand against the Jews has a track record of bringing hard times and destruction.  In biblical language, this is called curses.

Genesis 12:1-3, “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

Finally, many prophecy scholars think that the events taking place these days, particularly world opinion turning against Israel, sounds familiar.  Like maybe these things were predicted in Ezekiel, in Revelation… If that’s true, this would be the worst time ever to be on Israel’s bad side.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Unveiled Hope: Eternal Encouragement from the Book of Revelation by Scotty Smith and Michael Card

Written primarily by Pastor Scotty Smith with interludes by Michael Card essaying the inspiration behind each song in his album, Unveiled Hope is a different approach to Revelation.  Although it deals with controversial interpretation points (in controversial ways), the focus is on encouraging Christians through the hope offered by the unveiling of our Savior as Creator, Redeemer, Warrior, King, and God.  The Church, as Christ’s waiting Bride, is strengthened throughout the centuries by God’s work in the past, present, and future.  We are warned to worship God alone, who is revealed as all-worthy of our praise.  Praise and singing are themes of Revelation, along with suffering, sovereignty, and holiness.  All of these are addressed both directly through the instructions commissioned to the seven churches and in the imaginative (but true!) narratives that follow.  While I am disappointed in the everyday-will-be-like-today interpretations of the judgments in Revelation, which seem to leave off the supernatural nature of the things described.  One thing for which I appreciate Unveiled Hope is the way it demonstrated the relevance of what is taught in Revelation, as well as what is believed about it.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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At camp a few weeks ago our whole group learned the armor of God verses from Ephesians 6.  As a counselor, I was working with the junior high girls to learn and understand their verses.  (Praise for teamwork; other people were on the job, too, including the ‘Bible hour’ teacher and some of the other staff and counselors.)  The language of the Bible is sometimes more grammatically complex than everyday usage, so breaking the verses down phrase by phrase and discussing the meaning can help the kids keep the verses in their heads and hearts, as well as legitimizing their inflection.   So I was helping one of the girls with verse 17: “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:” and started explaining the sword of the spirit part.  I don’t even remember what I told her, but I know that since that day I have been trying to figure out what it means. 
 
A few questions:
How significant is the comma after “salvation”?  Since “take” is not repeated, are we to equate the term “helmet of salvation” with the term “sword of the spirit”?  Or is there any way to “take” one without the other? 
 
Does the sword belong to the spirit, depend on the spirit, or consist of the spirit?  Cross references usually lead to Hebrews 4:12, whose subject is also the word of God, which seems to cut things, including soul from spirit.  But the Greek for “word” is different in Ephesians from Hebrews. 
 
Back from camp, catching up with a friend, she reported that her small group is going through Ephesians, and that one of the teachers was excited to get to the armor of God and the sword Jesus uses to kill the wicked.  (See Revelation 19:15, 21)  Is that the image here?  Earlier in Revelation the sword seemed to be more of a tool for discipline, discerning the spirits of the churches.  The Revelation sword proceeds from the mouth of Jesus. 
 
Is spirit supposed to be capitalized?  Are we talking about the Holy Spirit, my spirit, or things spiritual?  Or should the sword be used against the spirit? 
 
When Paul says, “which is the word of God,” is the antecedent the sword or the spirit? 
 
I looked up the Greek for this verse.  My use for Greek extends to definitions, but I’m helpless when I come to grammar and tenses.  But I did notice that the Greek for “word” is an utterance, not something written (in the Greek, rhema).  Usually I hear teachers explaining the sword of the spirit and (ignoring that little phrase, ‘of the spirit’) holding a Bible above their heads telling their students that they have to know the word of God, and to study it, to use it like Jesus did when he was tempted in the wilderness.  Except the next thing teachers say is that the sword is the offensive weapon in the armor list (some add prayer, from verse 18).  I don’t see how resisting temptation is an offensive act in the spiritual war we’re fighting. 
 
So what is “word of God”?  Are we talking about words God has spoken, or words God is speaking?  Ephesians 6:19 includes Paul’s prayer request that words (different Greek than verse 17: here it is logos) be given him.  Given him?  By whom?  Whose words are they if they were given?  What did Paul want to do with words?  This is one of the first times in this whole article where the biblical context answers the question, because Paul says he wants to use the words to preach the gospel boldly (which seems rather offensive). 
 
Finally, verse 18, about prayer, rather than being a new sentence, is presented as a continuation of the thought in verse 17.  But what does prayer have to do with the “word of God” or “sword of the spirit”? 
 
How exactly ought we to apply this verse, then? 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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We got Prince Caspian for Christmas at our house.  Some movies offer what no books can: moments of sight and sound and emotion woven together.  My favorite in this movie is Peter, High King, sitting back against the table of Aslan’s sacrifice staring at a carving of Aslan’s face and realizing that in his humanness, Peter is insufficient.  Peter fails.  And Aslan is always faithful.  Perhaps he imagines the look on Aslan’s face when Edmund returned, forgiven.  Now Peter knows too.  And has to go on. 

 

At the beginning of Prince Caspian is another moment.  If you’re not watching closely, you’ll miss it.  For just a second the view that had been following Lucy and Susan beneath the rail-station arch pauses to focus on the lion statue beside it.  The sight is full of memory, as though the roar from Narnia is trapped in that lion.  For a while I ignore the scene’s progression and I think of the year between leaving the Wardrobe and now.  

 

One of my dear friends had the opportunity to spend a semester at Oxford, England.  Surrounded by faith-friends and the sites of our favorite literature, my friend whose strength is imagination was four months in legendary England.  Now she is home, just in time for Christmas.  She grew while she was away, I know.  And maybe we all could have predicted how her return would affect her: “It’s like stepping back out of the wardrobe,” she says.  I see four children tumble onto the wood floor of a clean old attic. 

 

And I want to ask her, “Do you look for Aslan everywhere you go?”  I mean, you might hear a tune and think of fauns, or see some architecture like Cair Paravel’s.  A turn of phrase might bring back the voice of an old friend.  Just looking at the face of one who was with you there could bring it all back.  But mostly I think that those who have returned from Narnia would have learned to watch for Aslan. 

 

Of course Aslan is only a type of the true Lion, my King forever and Redeemer coming-back.  Jesus is the ever-present, always active One whom I can always seek.  Do I look for Him everywhere? 

 

It always reminds me of John, the disciple Jesus loved.  After three years of a close relationship – three years walking and talking and eating, crying and laughing, with God Himself! – this man says good-bye to his Friend.  Buoyed by the hope translated to the gospel he would write decades later, the hope of presence and return and friendship and comfort, he marched on through life.  But I wonder if sometimes he didn’t sit in the darkness and miss his Savior with all that he was.  Imagine his excitement to literally be a part of Revelation, to be in those visions, to see again One – hesitantly, as though John had pictured this moment so many times that he might only be dreaming again – like the Son of Man.  Familiar face, glorified, more like the few moments on the mountain than the months in the dust.  And John is back, Jesus speaking to him, comforting him, rewarding his hope.  But there is more to do.  John’s work on earth is not finished.  He is sent back to write the last words of the hope of new testament. 

 

Sent back.  Held back.  Cannot follow.  Kept waiting.  Watching.  Can’t sleep because you’re standing on the walls, straining eyes to see.  Can’t despair because the words are true, Jesus is coming back.  Must follow, because readiness is imperative for the return of the Bridegroom.  Readiness that glows with anticipation and faith-full faithfulness. 

 

Do you look for Him everywhere? 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I want to write about things that mean a lot to me: ideas that keep me going or inspire me.  But some things are too close, too dear, for words. 
 
Today I wanted to write stories, but when I tried to form sentences I realized all I want to do is practice.  Don’t write; do.  And I want to do coy debates and romance and being a wife to an incredibly faith-filled man.  As that is clearly not God’s plan for my day, I had to ask what to do with this surge of inspiration.  I’m emotional today, and I need a vent for all this rapture. 
 
So on my way home from work I looked at the sky (stubbornly trying to rationalize how I could be grateful the sun wasn’t down while still hating Daylight Savings Time).  I want to own this day.  A photo wouldn’t capture it, and a painter would have to be a master to get even one glimpse of this day right.  The sun lit the dark blue clouds in the east, intensifying their color and varnishing them with a glorious haze.  Between the clouds and me were trees, still bare from the cold of winter, every twig illuminated separately.  Where the light didn’t reach, the shadow asserted itself with depth and variance and character.  The little whiter clouds nearer the zenith blew in and out of formation, constantly contrasting with the colors and shapes around them.  Praise God who created shape and color! 
 
And it was all a gift to me.  Songs I have not sung in months came to mind, and I sang of my Savior coming for me.  “Hear the roaring at the rim of the world… Behold He’s coming with the clouds.”  The clouds and glimmering landscape captured my eye and imagination, as though cracking the door open on the edge of the world.  I sang of who my Savior is, what He did on earth, and of His passion.  And then I dreamed again of when He will come back.  “I saw the holy city… and now our God will dwell with them.” 
 
And this is all about waiting, and love, and faithfulness, and longing, and worship, and beauty, and glory.  I want to write how I feel at those times, and what I know, and the million connections being made between the things I know about my God… but I can’t.  For now the topics that mean the most, that are most gifts of God, must stay that.  I pray that someday He will call me to share them, and bless me with the words I don’t have today. 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn
 
PS: Michael Card’s Unveiled Hope album is a soundtrack to Revelation, and a soaring symphony to the King on His White Horse coming back for me. 

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