Thursday, July 28, 2011

Who Are You? by Greg Austin

Mendacity is a system that we live in.
- Brick, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”

Honesty is the thing. In all things, honesty must be the first thing. Without some certain foundational understanding of truth, no man can truly achieve or attain any life worth living.

We talk about it as though it were a universal, comprehensible absolute; we assume that everybody ‘knows it’ and ‘gets it.’ We ignore the subject because to linger too long there would signify either absurd simplemindedness or at the least, theological shallowness.

And there is this: We have used, overused the terminologies until they have become meaningless, lost in a morass of pseudo-theological blather. ‘Born again’ is no longer popularly employed nor considered to be spiritually pertinent since Jesus counseled only one man in all of the gospel accounts to be thus changed. ‘Saved’ has taken on meanings ranging from suddenly becoming radically heaven-minded to helping little old ladies cross automobile clogged intersections. ‘Hell’ has become a threadbare metaphor; Scripture itself is presumed to be merely allegorical. The ‘absolutes’ of former generations of Christian scholars are considered no more permanent than the weather on any given day and place in the world.

What once was called ‘the church’ is infused on one hand with budding Universalists, and on the other with extreme, rabid religious Exclusionists. To the latter, any relationship with the Divine must exist in laboriously formulated limitations, confines and restrictions. To the former, the title of the old psychobabble book, I’m Ok, You’re Ok[1] delineates their approach to Kingdom qualification. In the view of the Universalist, whatever one believes or does not believe is sufficient to ensure eternal life, regardless of the name or names of the god or gods one embraces and venerates – or not - in his journey towards the divine life.

Jesus Himself addressed the restrictive spirit when He rebuked the Pharisees who travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.[2] He addressed the spirit of Universalism when He declared; I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.[3]

And while there are feverish and stubborn arguments for either extreme case, the typical, common man or woman is simply not interested in theological wrangling of doctrines and teachings. With the Greeks who came to Philip of Bethsaida in Galilee in John 12, ordinary people still inquire, Sir, we would see Jesus.[4]

If Scripture is true in the sense of Webster’s original definition, “a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality and fidelity to an original or to a standard,”[5] then we must, if we are to be intellectually and spiritually honest defer and submit to Scripture’s factual authority.

Without wishing to engender debate here about the authority of Scripture, suffice it that we must, at the most rudimentary levels find at least tacit agreement that the Scriptures have come to us from God and are the foundational, overarching words of eternal life that Simon Peter attributed to his Rabbi, Jesus.[6]

Spiritual Transformation or Mental Assent?
There are, in this writer’s opinion and experience, far too many confessors of Christ who have been intellectually convinced of the claims of Jesus and of the concepts of Scripture but who have not been essentially, fundamentally changed, literally re-formed by confessing heart-belief in the crucified, resurrected Christ and by inviting Him to reconstruct their lives at the center and core of their beings.

Call it what you will, use whatever terminology is comfortable and comprehensible to you, ‘Born Again,’ ‘Saved,’ ‘Converted,’ or any other expression, the bottom line requirement for those wishing to enter into Christ is found in the word, ‘transformed.’ Returning to Webster, ‘transform’ is ‘to change in composition or structure,’ or more specifically, ‘to change in character or condition.’

An early mentor and friend put it this way, “when a man comes to Christ, even his dog ought to know he’s been saved.”[7] In other words, once we have encountered Christ and submitted our lives to Him, more than joining a like-minded spiritual community, we will be essentially, fundamentally changed – transformed by a mysterious, yet entirely comprehensible power and influence ensuing from the singular act of Jesus’ sacrifice of His life on a cross two millennia ago.

Paul, the prolific writer of the bulk of our New Testament exhorted the Romans, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.[8]

He reveals to the Corinthian church that we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.[9]

To the Philippian church, Paul gives hope when he writes of both our present and future state, our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.[10]

Scripture is clear: Transformation is essential to conformation. One cannot experience reformation without transformation. It is utterly impossible to enter into the Kingdom of God by making a mental adjustment to include Christ in our lexicon and lifestyle. We must, at the most fundamental level, be transformed, which is the core concept of the term, “converted.”  The very human nature in each of us must be spiritually altered, changed, not merely improved upon or rehabilitated, but radically, vitally and fundamentally restored by a mysterious and miraculous act of heaven in our lives.

Transformation begets Reformation.
As previously advanced, one cannot be reformed until he has first been transformed. A person cannot act the part of a Christ follower in order to become a Christ follower. It is spiritually impossible to “fake it until we make it,” but one must first be transformed, changed in his inner being by accepting as fact and as dynamic reality the substitutionary death of Jesus at Calvary.

For those who commit themselves, their very souls and their eternal hope to Christ, these are no longer “in Adam.” This removal from the Adamic family indicates a fundamental change in both spiritual DNA and the destiny of a man or a woman, for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.[11]

Those who come to Christ in simple and honest appeal for transformation forever are removed from the Adamic family and are placed into the “Christ family,” the “Family of God.” For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’[12]

Rest in Christ
From the demarked and decisive moment when a man or a woman receives Christ’s sacrifice and the forgiveness of heaven, he or she is now accounted by God as being “In Christ.”[13] The Pauline use of the Greek en in Romans 8:1 appears to be an innocuous and passive word, hardly worth even a pause in our reading until we understand it’s literal meaning; “a relation of rest.” “In Christ” we have a relationship that affects a “rest.” In plain language, when we come to Christ in faith, we henceforth belong to Christ. We are exclusively “His” and even our physical bodies become the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in (us), whom (we) have from God, and (we) are not (our) own.[14]

We who have entered “into Christ” have been rescued from our sins, redeemed by Christ, and placed in a spiritual condition of rest from our former works and from every other attempt at changing ourselves for the better by Him who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.[15]

His Work, Our Rest
Coming to Christ is the beginning point, the genesis of “new life.” This is the start of an eternal adventure of knowing, at increasingly deeper levels, the essence of the Person of Christ and of becoming, day by day, by way of His continual transformative power, like Him.

Thus He provided for us the indwelling, ever-faithful and constantly accompanying Holy Spirit. Jesus came to His disciples following His resurrection from the dead and in one of the most compelling and transitory moments of their collective relationship with Him, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’[16]

Jesus had previously revealed to His followers regarding the Spirit, He dwells with you and will be in you.[17]

Following His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples on several occasions, primarily to provide them with the comfort of the knowledge that He was no longer dead, but that He was fully and eternally alive, and that having risen from the dead He was no longer controlled by human conditions.

This need for comfort was of such primary concern to Jesus that He promised even in His leaving, His forthcoming ascension into heaven, He would not “leave you comfortless” but that He would pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.[18]

“The Holy Spirit would be another Comforter, but the comfort would be of the same kind. Indeed, our word ‘comfort’ does not properly represent the thought of the text, which rather is, to strengthen, to sustain: the Holy Spirit would not be merely a consoler of woes, a soother of fears, in the sense of our word comfort, but He would quicken their understandings, strengthen their zeal, and energize them for doing and enduring such things as divine providence might permit to come upon them for their correction in righteousness, and in order to make them "meet for the inheritance of the saints in light."
Thus it is that those who receive the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the truth, the Spirit of love, the Spirit of the Father, the Spirit of Christ, are enabled to see Jesus, and have a new life begun in them.”[19]

The Holy Spirit and Christ are one; they are “together” at an intimate and intrinsic level. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of Christ has come to make Jesus real, relevant, understandable, embraceable. The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.[20]

The Holy Spirit comes to us to enable us to walk according to the Spirit and so gain power to resist a life according to the flesh.[21]

In the Spirit and by the Spirit, the believer possesses the ability to walk according to the Spirit. It is this truth and enablement that provides the power to overcome the sin that lurks behind the scenes in our lives.

This reality, that the very Spirit of God, the Spirit of the resurrected and life-ruling Christ dwells within us in order to teach us, to enable us, to persuade us and to empower us is essential to living a victorious, satisfying life in Christ.

Human emotions are subject to fluctuation and vacillation. A person may “feel” connected to Christ one day and on another day “feel” hopelessly lost. Emotions, feelings are the least accurate indicators of our spiritual condition. Truth must reign supreme, because truth, and fact do not change, are not affected by the fickle emotions of our hearts.
Because truth never changes, it therefore does not ebb or flow. Truth, simply “is.” And because of the knowledge of the truth that through the activity of faith and by God’s grace, we understand that we are “in Christ,” and we understand that we are securely, firmly and eternally, “in Him.”[22]

Residing within the being of the believer in Christ, twenty-four hours of every day of his life dwells, exists and is available the power to walk “according to the Spirit.” The solitary qualifier of that position is the individuals’ own volition, his will. If we “will” to walk according to the Spirit, we have the power and ability, through Him to walk in obedience to God and to crush the very inclination to disobey Him.

This ability allows us to walk in what the Scriptures denote as “newness of life.” For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.[23]

So Paul concludes, If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.[24]
And the conclusion which may be drawn from the Apostle’s logic is this: Godly, human behavior is dependent upon seeing, recognizing and believing the basic truth of our identity in Christ. And Scripture provides that identity when it says, as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.[25]

Allow the truth to pierce through the barriers of objection and unbelief until you see it: “Sons of God.” Permit heaven’s supreme truth to penetrate past the untrue and false judgments and curses that others may have layered upon your heart.  Please, don’t rush by this, blindly assuming you comprehend the ramifications of this divine sonship. Permit the Spirit, now and here to speak to your heart, to cement the reality of your true identity in Christ deep in the core of your being. It is this relational position, provided by His atonement that makes us, that enables us to rise above the course of natural, fleshly and corrupt spirits and to lift our heads and see our position in Him clearly.

Basic psychology tells us that only when we have a clear idea of our identities can we truly, from our core act and think and live according to the knowledge of who we truly are. In other words, we cannot act like something until gradually, finally we become that person.

The singular process of becoming different, divorced from what the Bible describes as our lives before Christ intervened for us as being without Christ, . . . aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world[26] is being changed, transformed at the very core of our being by implementing faith in Christ and so becoming something different from what we were. And when we believe what we actually are, what the Scriptures insist that we are in Christ and what God the Father declares that we are; we begin to live our lives in a “Godward” direction. 

At the risk of redundancy, Transformation engenders Reformation. No human being can be reformed until he is first transformed.

In Christ, we find a new identity, a “God” identity. The more we understand our true identity in Him, and the more we believe the truth of the revealed Scriptures, that God’s assessment of us is true under all conditions and in all circumstances, regardless of our changing emotions or shifting feelings, the more we begin, supernaturally to live in a manner that brings glory to God’s name.
So we find in Paul’s instruction to the Roman church a title that he has not previously revealed: He calls the believer in Christ “sons.”

To those who had claimed that they had Abraham as their father, Jesus said, You are of your father the devil,[27] but to those who claim God as their father through Jesus, the Son, He says, those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God.[28]

Further, and in the same context, Paul writes, You did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, Abba, Father.[29]

To the Galatian church, Paul writes . . . because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father![30]
In Christ and through Christ, we become “sons of God.” And the process of becoming such is specified: It is through the legal act of “adoption.” In Christ, we are adopted into a new family and we are henceforth called “sons.”

Sonship provides liberty, authority, permission, security, identity. None of these were ours before and without Christ. All of these become ours as a portion of the benefit of becoming God’s true sons. Through Christ we become sons of the living God and have at our disposal all the power of heaven in order to overcome evil.
Regardless of temporary setbacks or moments when the child of God is overwhelmed, he will never be fully overcome; he can never be ultimately defeated because within the believer lives the very Spirit of Christ, Who is the very hope of glory.[31]

In Romans, chapter six, Paul declares to those who would follow Christ, Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.[32] It is through this God-born relationship we are made and constituted to be sons of the living God.

This relationship, this knowing that we are indelibly, everlastingly “in Christ,” is the starting point, the beginning of the miracle of “transformation.” We are, unmistakably and unconditionally “sons of God” if we have trusted in the full offer of salvation through Jesus Christ, our Lord and if we are sons, then we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.[33]

We might move towards this new concept, this requirement to “suffer with Him,” but that topic must wait its turn. Sufficient for the moment is to capture and to marvel in the reality of our position in Christ – we are sons.

[1] I’m OK, You’re OK. Thomas A. Harris, M.D., 1967, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.
[2] Matthew 23:15
[3] John 14:6
[4] John 12:21
[5] Merriam-Webster Dictionary
[6] John 6:68
[7] Rev. David C. Crabtree, from a sermon preached in Des Moines, Iowa, 1972
[8] Romans 12:2
[9] 2 Corinthians 3:18
[10] Philippians 3:20,21
[11] 1 Corinthians 15:22
[12] Romans 8:15
[13] Ibid
[14] 1 Corinthians 6:19
[15] 2 Timothy 1:9
[16] John 20:22
[17] John 14:17
[18] John 14:6
[19] He Shall Give You Another Comforter, Author unknown.
[20] John 14:26
[21] Romans 8:1
[22] Romans 8:38,39
[23] 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
[24] Galatians 5:25
[25] Romans 8:14
[26] Ephesians 2:12
[27] See John 8:39-44
[28] op.cit.
[29] Romans 8:15
[30] Galatians 4:6
[31] Colossians 1:20
[32] Romans 6:14
[33] Romans 8:17

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I'll Stand by You by Jeremy Lopez

I wanted to take a moment to share with you some of my story. I remember receiving Christ into my life at an early age. Going through the 'regular' routine like we all do of being taught the scriptures. Learning more about who Christ is and what He has done for me. I remember being in the word of faith movement and so many other movements of God. I strived "working" so hard to find out more about the truth so I could tuck it underneath my belt and "know it," memorize it so it could be "life" to me and I could "help" others get on the "right path."  A number of years ago I began to discover who I really was and what I had become. I had become someone who lives by the letter of the law instead of realizing my relationship was not built on a book but on a Father in heaven who loved me. He tells us, "you didn't choose me, I chose you." It is so easy to become a worshipper of the Bible rather than a worshipper of God through His precious Son Jesus.

I forgot the Word within the Word. I forgot the author was a person who cared, loved and accepted me just the way I am. Why? Because I didn't choose Him, He chose me. If I chose Him, He could have easily rejected me and said, "no thanks. This inn is full." But He chose Me just how I was, which means, He takes out what needs to be taken out of me. He does the cleaning, not me. I just yield my mind over to Him to let it be renewed. But please remember like I said earlier, He chose Me! Just how I was!

The Kingdom of God is Relational

I see how others forget that the kingdom of God is relational not doctrinal or traditional. It is built upon covenant more than anything else. I watched a very close friend of mine of over 20 years who knew this principle but somehow by the influence of others in the system, go back from relational and covenant to word bound. So now, he will not speak to me or even some others with his heart, he speaks to me only by giving me scripture. What happens when we lose ourselves with speaking not from our heart to love, accept, comfort and show compassion; instead we skip the heart and only "speak the word." Have we forgotten the Jesus behind the "word" (Bible)? The same Jesus who didn't throw scripture at people but loved people. Jesus spoke scripture to the enemy when He was in the desert because He knew the word could be used as a sword in battle to defeat.

But when the woman who was caught in adultery saw Jesus, He didn't say, "the Bible says, 'Thou shall not commit adultery!'" He looked at her and said, "I don't accuse you." It wasn't even the fact that she was caught in the midst of it. No repentance. No remorse.....just caught! But because He LOVED her and desired to build a relationship with her, he told her, "I don't accuse you." Could she go back to living in adultery? Yes. Was Jesus guaranteed that she wouldn't? No. But He still desired to love her and wanted a better life for her but He still did not turn His back upon her! He still did not say, "let's put her through a time of 13 years of recovery." He just wanted relationship with her.

Let me talk to you about the kingdom of God for a moment. What is the kingdom of God? It is built on covenant, not doctrine, not tradition and not how spiritual we can be. It is supernatural!  Let me give you an example. If you went to your natural father and told him something about you that he would not agree with, what would he do? If he truly has a father's heart he would say something to the effect of, "I might not agree but you are still my child and I love you." My natural dad and I do not always agree with things we believe but the idea that my dad would cast me out and say, "you're no longer my son" would be nothing I have ever known since my dad has a father's heart to say, "you're my son and nothing will ever change that fact." 

Probably many of you, maybe like my friend above, never had a dad who had a father's heart. Maybe many of you feel your natural "father" because he is a doctrine or tradition worshipper does not possess a true father's heart. Please hear me now! YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN IS ABOUT RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS CHILDREN.....ALL OF HIS CHILDREN. He does not care about your doctrines, your traditions or your opinions. He wants your heart. He wants his son or daughter to say, "good morning daddy."  I remember many great men of God like, David VanCronkhite, Jack Taylor, Bob Mumford, David Huskins and many others have the father's heart. 

So many people in the system of the church are more concerned with Jeremy Lopez's gift or office as a prophet  more than even getting to know the real me. Why? Because so many ministers and people don't really want to know you, they would rather have your gift or office to use it and than turn when they're done and move on. I have said it before and I will say it again. I love all people! I told my friends and family years ago that I would never leave them but many will leave me. I have seen it with a close friend of mine of over 20 years and many others just like many of you out there have because relationship and covenant are so important to me. More important than if we agree or disagree, if you believe in the rapture or no rapture, if you believe this or that.

I will never forget the day I met David VanCronkhite, a mighty man of God and a close friend of mine. I tried so hard to figure him out by asking what he believed or did not believe. He never answered me but he just kept saying, "love wins, love wins, love wins." I never really realized what I was doing since I had been caught up in the system of those who created it in the church. I was just like one of them! Trying to figure out if David and I could be friends based on if what we believed was the same. I finally realized I too had been caught up in the matrix of the system. My relationship with him and so many others could not be based on if we agree in doctrines. Why? Because I too, allowed doctrines to come between me and building the kingdom by loving others and building relationships just like my Daddy in heaven does with me and all of His other children.

The Church Should be a Place of Safety

Take a look at your life for a moment. How many people have you hurt or kicked out of your life over doctrines and beliefs? The Jesus in the word is still wanting nothing more than relationship with His children.  Are we mature enough to say, "I love you.....regardless?"

The church should be a place of safety, love, protection, etc. but instead we have created it to be a place of beliefs and doctrines.  To put it another way, it has become a "bible cult" not a "house of prayer for ALL nations."  All people are welcome to come to the house of God. ALL PEOPLE!

If there is something God wants to work out in them, let Him do it. When we become people who use His precious word to hurt, "straighten up" or even massacre, we become Pharisees. Someone who uses something that is meant to heal, deliver and comfort as a tool to pound, beat and hurt. I am a grace man. It's sad that people hate people that display grace to all. But ask yourself this question:  "When you approach the throne of God one day, will God say, 'well done, you used my word to straighten people up, you told others who did not line up with what you believe that they are not welcome, come on in you wonderful servant.' Or do you want the Lord to say, 'well done thy good and faithful servant.  You loved those who were hurting, different from you. You allowed everyone and anyone into My house to pray to find the way for a better life for them. You kept on loving them, humbling yourself to love and show them grace. Because if you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to Me.'?"

Please note, I love every one of you. I stand with you and for you no matter who or what you are because I see Jesus in you.

I love you and your Daddy in Heaven loves you too.

Jeremy Lopez

Friday, May 27, 2011

Identifying the Antichrist by Joseph Mattera

Much has been made since the end of the nineteenth century regarding the “last days” and identifying the antichrist. During World War II a number of preachers even had scriptures to prove that Adolf Hitler was the antichrist and that they were the last generation. Numerous best-selling books have been written regarding the mark of the beast, the false prophet, and the identity of the antichrist and when he would appear. Every time there is an oil crisis or another war in the Middle East, you can count on preachers like John Hagee to come out with best-selling books regarding this as a sign that we are in the “last days.”

The following points will clearly establish the biblical definition of the antichrist:
I. In 1 John 2:18 the Apostle John said that he was living in the last days when the antichrist would appear.

1. Obviously, “last days” couldn’t refer to the end of the world over 2,000 years ago. Some try to get around this by saying that we are now living in the “last of the last days,” which amounts more to eisogesis than biblical exegesis.

2. Examining other passages dealing with the last days clearly shows that Peter, Paul, John, and others thought they were all living in the last days (Acts 2:16-17; 1 John 2:18; 1 Peter 4:7; 2 Timothy 3:1; Jude 17-19; Revelation 1:1).

A. One can only conclude from this that “last days” was not referring to something thousands of years later but rather it was the “last days” for the Jewish Levitical system of animal sacrifices, and the “last days” for the Jewish nation that was to be destroyed in one generation from the crucifixion. This would then officially inaugurate the new “kingdom age.” (Read Matthew 24:34; Luke 9:27; Hebrews 12:27-28.) Remember: The apostles and the early church were all Jewish believers who were speaking of the judgment of God on the nation of Israel for rejecting Jesus as Messiah.

B. The last days of Israel came in A.D. 70 within one generation of the death of Christ, when the Roman army surrounded Jerusalem and desecrated the holy temple. The abomination of desolation is referred to in Luke 21:20.

II. The Apostle John identifies the antichrist as people who didn’t continue in the church, thus identifying it as the “last hour.” Read 1 John 2:18-19.

III. The Apostle John also identifies the spirit of antichrist loosed in the world as those who don’t confess that Jesus “has come in the flesh.” (Read 1 John 4:2-3.)

1. He was obviously referring to those attempting to bring platonic Gnosticism in the church. Gnosticism, which was a heretical cult that did much damage to the church in the first few centuries, believed that the flesh was evil and that only the spiritual world was good. They even taught that the god of the Old Testament was evil (the god of the flesh who created the natural world and needed animal sacrifices to be appeased), and that the god of the New Testament was good; that true Christianity was really about attempting to get free from the flesh and to live in the spirit.

IV. The antichrist is a false spirit that brings false doctrine into the church; it is not a single person.

1. Never once is the term “antichrist” used in the Book of Revelation or any of the other epistles besides 1 John and 2 John. Yet most writers never refer to the antichrist as a spirit of false doctrine that takes the power and relevancy of Jesus away from the flesh or natural realm.

V. A new kind of Gnosticism has crept into the church during the past 120 years.

1. The church has fled the cities to find a sort of paradise in the suburbs or countryside.

2. The church has just concentrated on spiritual things and abandoned cultural and societal reform, unlike their predecessors in America who started most of the Ivy League colleges and universities with the intent to develop Christians to lead the nation in every realm of life.

3. The Evangelical church has now espoused an escapist theology and is now focused on going to heaven and the rapture than the focus of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, in which Jesus told us to concentrate on His will “on earth as it is in heaven.”

VI. The ironic thing is, those preachers and authors focusing on the “last days,” identifying one man as the antichrist, the rapture, and the mark of the beast, have actually fallen prey to the spirit of antichrist because they take the practical application of the cross of Christ away from the realm of the flesh. That is to say, their escapist teaching is semi-Gnostic because the kingdom cannot be totally applied in the flesh or natural realm. It is almost like saying Jesus Christ has not come in the flesh like 1 John 4:2-4. That is to say, their teaching implies that the cross wasn’t for the reconciliation of the natural created order but just for our eternal spiritual life in heaven. Colossians 1:20 says that Jesus came to reconcile both things in heaven and on earth. Thus, redemption is for the natural realm of the flesh in the created order, not just the spiritual realm in heavenly places.

VII. Best-selling books like the Left Behind series by Tim Lahaye are taking kingdom focus off the earth and into the next world, something totally foreign to the teachings of the apostles and Jesus, who actually prayed in John 17:15: “I pray not that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.” Thus, praying against the rapture mentality!

Unless we rid the church of this new Gnosticism, Christians will continue to live a dualistic life in which they just care about their inward piety and holiness, and leave the stewardship of the planet to the heathen. Dualism is causing the church to separate from the institutions of politics, law, education, economics, science, history, and philosophy, and is the major reason why the cultures in Western Europe and North America are continuing to erode. May the church fulfill its mission and become the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Thoughts on Killing Osama bin Laden by Dr. Greg Austin

For What It's Worth . . . 
My Thoughts on the Killing of Osama bin Laden

Seldom in a lifetime do we witness events that will remain fresh in our memories forever.  Most events, even most breath-taking events are pushed away as other concerns, obligations, priorities press for our full attention.

Yet there are those events that none experiencing them ever forget: For a generation slipping away from us, there are the painful recollections of the Great Depression of the 1930’s and World War II in the 1940’s. The next generation witnessed the assassination of John Kennedy in Texas on a warm, October day in 1963. The same generation experienced the Vietnam War and its turbulent aftermath. 

For many of the current generation, there are memories of the Space Shuttle Disaster, the attack on the World Trade Tower, the Pentagon and the crash of United 193 in the fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. Recently the world witnessed the cataclysmic events the shook Japan and touched the world with shock and sorrow. 

And now we add another Day that will remain in our collective memory for so long as we live. On Sunday, May 1, 2011 the headlines blazed around the world: “Osama bin Laden is dead,” prey to a flawlessly performed mission by American Special Operations forces. 

The military part of my brain understands and recognizes the need for mission success regarding the bringing of Osama Bin Laden to man’s court of justice. 

Regardless of speculation concerning bin Laden’s degree of responsibility for the events of September 11, 2001, there is ample evidence to warrant his being branded as a terrorist and as a threat to not only the United States, but to the free world, at large. There is no point in debating Osama’s level of culpability regarding any individual terrorist act. Indeed, there is general agreement in the U.S. and in other nations of the need for the United States and/or coalition forces to complete their long-stated and pursued mission of capturing or killing this man.

Of necessity, military members must unquestioningly follow every lawfully given order that is issued. The men and/or women under military authority do not have the luxury of investigating, quizzing their superior, and then deciding whether they feel justified in following orders received. The entire structure of the military institution is built upon unhesitating obedience to those in command, so long as those commanders provide orders that are lawful in their spirit and substance. If a commanding officer were to order his troops to invade a location and to rape women and murder children, such an order would not be considered “lawful.” In this case, troops would not be bound by military orders to comply, regardless of who issued those orders. But when the order received is legal – as defined by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is the Congressional Code of Military Criminal Law to which every service member is obligated by oath and by law, these orders must be carried out with complete obedience. Without this kind of fidelity, no war could be effectively prosecuted, and no victory could ever be won.

There is strategic advantage to the U.S. and our allies in killing Osama bin Laden. While the public at large may not recognize the immediate benefit brought by the death of the terror leader, and while bin Laden may not even have been actively plotting the next terror attack to be launched, as the Founder and Leader of Al Qaeda, his perceived and symbolic position as the man in charge has now been concluded. The message sent and received among the enemies of the free world is this: No one is immune, no one can forever escape the reach of a nation provoked and angry.

How Should We Then Respond?

The question of our response to the news of bin Laden’s death is one that must be considered by those who claim to be followers of Christ. Specifically, what is the proper attitude of believers in Jesus to the news of the death of Osama bin Laden? How should the “Christian” demeanor and attitude differ from those outside of Christ?

As a former member of two branches of the U.S. military, I am supportive of our nation and of its military institutions. I am not a died-in-the-wool “Peacenik.”

But I am a washed-in-the-blood believer in Jesus Christ. And for what it’s worth, my redeemed mind abhors even the necessity of taking any human life. I understand that need, but I don’t like it. 

I do not, I cannot rejoice over the death of any human being, regardless of the crimes committed. Despite the heinous, monstrous character that causes a person to commit unthinkable atrocities, there is no joy in bringing such a one to justice. Indeed, I can find no reason to rejoice in the killing of a rabid dog, for whom there is no other potential remedy than death. I can recognize necessity without experiencing jubilation over the act or the result of a death. 

How Can Two, Opposite Reactions be Reconciled? 

On the one hand, I agree with the military and political decision to take the life of Osama bin Laden, while on the other hand I am did not rejoice when the mission was accomplished.

At a strategic level, the death of bin Laden does not end or mitigate the violent hatred focused on America by radical groups, nor do I think it resolves much beyond accomplishing Mission Success and the freeing of valuable assets to pursue other targets for our military. There always will be a “The King is dead; long live the King” system of succession so long as core issues of disagreement are ignored or denied. Bin Laden is dead; enter the “new” Bin Laden, ad infinitum. 

As stated, I cannot rejoice, shout, wave a flag, or become terribly excited over this death. I hope last week’s events mark the end of some degree of evil operating in our world, and that the day will hasten when we can see the conclusion of the wars that continue to result in the loss of good American lives, and the attending grief brought to family and friends through their deaths and injuries. 

Don’t Bother Me With the Details, I Just Wanna Be Happy

Americans are obsessed with the quick "fix." We’ve got instant glue and instant coffee and we want our disagreements with nations or cultures to be likewise instantaneously fixed without our getting caught up in any kind of soul-searching, value-determining, heart-wrenching and compassionate reasoning.

We love to identify a problem, focus on an appropriate and specifically un-messy cure, (no pictures of blood, please) and then simply forget about the whole matter, act as though it never happened, and move on with the next version of iPhone or iMac or iSomebody and iDeserve it. 

If only killing the problems facing society were as simple as killing bin Laden was. Beyond administering human justice, I'm not sure his death cures the much of our overall problems. I don't think that bin Laden was the Arab version of General David Petraeus. I don't think Usama was the "on-ground" military genius of Al Qaeda or the Guerrilla Extraordinaire of the Taliban. Figurehead? Indeed. Inspiration? Definitely. But the excited throngs jumping and shouting in front of the White House need to understand what bin Laden's death has given us tactically and strategically - and that's not much, in my humble and admittedly limited opinion.

I am currently reading a very fine history of the winning of the West in America. The book is titled “Blood and Thunder” and contains the heartbreaking story of the conquest of the Navajo people of the Southwest. Colonel Kit Carson, along with nearly 500 soldiers entered the mystical Canyon Chelly in what is now the State of Arizona in order to complete the subjugation of this blatantly murderous and thieving people.

On a frigid February morning in 1864, a group of haggard looking Navajos entered Carson’s camp under a flag of truce. Their intention was to finally and fully surrender to the United States Army. 

Carson was shocked by what these cold and starving people told him. “We would have come in long ago, but we believed this was a war of extermination,” they said.

Carson explained to them why the United States Army was rounding them up. “The government wants to promote your welfare. The point is not to destroy you but to save you, if you want to be saved.”

According to news reports, Bin Laden was to have been given opportunity to surrender, to “save him” if he wanted to be saved. The ground commander of the assault team had full authority to kill on sight. We have been told that Bin Laden declined the invitation to surrender. A few days later, we learned that, in point of fact, there was no “capture if possible” order given: It was a “kill order” from the beginning. And then we learned that, well, perhaps the SEALS of Team 6 could have decided to save or slay, depending on the situation. I personally have difficulty with the offered scenarios except for the second one: The commander of this operation is himself a U.S. Navy SEAL. No operational SEAL, Delta member or any other member of the U.S. Special Operations Command would ever burden a ground commander with the responsibility of deciding, in the heat of battle to capture or to kill. Events happen too quickly in combat for the luxury of running through a “what if” laundry list of choices. The men who stormed the compound in Abbatobad had enough on their minds as they cleared courtyards and stairways and halls and rooms without having to think about what they would do when they came face to face with their objective. This kind of operation is the ultimate “point and shoot” mission.

The point with bin Laden, I think, was not the point of Kit Carson and the American government in their desire for the Navajo nation. This was a “we are here to destroy you, not to save you” mission.

And by every account, in May of 2011, Osama’s efforts to hide from the long arm of American justice came to a sudden and permanent end. 

Patriotism in America this week is at high tide. Celebrations have swept through cities, American flags have been brought out of closets and basements and have swept the freshly purified air of the stench of the recently deceased Terrorist-in-Chief.

And a question lingers in the wake of the carnival-like atmosphere that attended the announcement: “Got him!”

The question looms, largely unheard and certainly unanswered: “What, in fact have we got?”

And will we ever learn? As a race, as the human family, are we learning? Will we learn that ignorance breeds hatred, and hatred gives birth to death, and death is the scourge, the curse, the fruit of all that is wrong around, and within us? Evil, at its essence is not something that attends the way of the criminal and the maniac and the sorcerer, but evil is that dark thing that pulsates in our own breasts, that feeds and grows in our blindedness and that will not come out, will not die, save by the entrance of the True Light that gives light to every man that comes into the world.  

I am not a simpleton. I know that there are complicated issues that defy human answers. But I also know there is a God Who promises us, day by each new dawning day to lead us higher, to show us peace of greater value, to lift us above the condition of lower life-forms, and to fill us with His love, His grace, His mercy.

And so, Osama bin Laden joins the ranks of Idi Amin and Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini and Ghengis Khan and Caligula and Nero and, I suppose another tyrant here or a monster there.

And when the dancing crowds return to their routine lives again, when they get back to their jobs, their schools, their pastimes, when the world has washed itself of the memory of the latest to die, will we have a better world than we knew a week ago? Will we have learned anything worthwhile in the process? 

Will anybody next week remember a young sergeant or captain or a seasoned Colonel, watching a distant valley or a steep ridgeline in Afghanistan? 

Will we know ourselves any better after our emotional display of either giddy celebration or of somber contemplation this week? 

Will we hunger for greater answers, for better ways to bring heaven’s peace to planet earth?

Will we understand the heart of the Father any better? Will we, who claim to be followers of the Father’s Christ find a way to better mirror His character to an out-of-sync world around us? 

As the next week dawns and the calendar moves forward, will we be those who have joined hearts to witness, in our own day the fulfillment of heaven’s desire, articulated when Jesus taught His friends to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven?” 

I hope that we will.