Autobiography With Purpose: I Was Carried On Winds

Age 31
New Year’s Day 1984

The years between 1979 and 1985 kept  me busy in a variety of ministries and activities with Church Of The Open Door. To be honest, the thought of trying to explain everything about those years and their various influences on my theology overwhelms me. So forgive me in advance for my failure to write in many specifics today. I want to paint with a broad brush, just highlighting a few points to illustrate the ways the church affected my walk with the Lord.

First of all, Open Door preached (and still preaches) a basic Gospel of Christ’s death for sin and His resurrection, teaching the importance of repentance and faith. They believe that the Bible is God’s Word, and they encourage personal and corporate Bible reading. I owe my discipline of daily time in the Word to that church, so I must express my gratitude to them for that foundational habit.

I also appreciate the leaders for letting me be involved in so many aspects of church life despite my disability. In 1979 they made me the Editor-In-Chief of Koinonia, their monthly publication. Although Koinonia claimed most of my attention, I also taught children’s Sunday School, wrote and directed the annual children’s Christmas plays, attended Tuesday night Bible Studies and went to various prayer meetings. I also enjoyed the monthly book club.

During those years, the church moved more towards Charismatic practices. It had always been somewhat Charismatic, of course, but by 1980 it firmly established itself in that direction. To my relief, they minimized the gift of physical healing, instead capitalizing on prophecy, words of knowledge and personal revelations through “listening prayer.”

Most of the time, I maintained a sense of caution about these practices. Yet leaders in the church believed Scripture substantiated their validity beyond the Apostolic era. I had been “praying in tongues” since 1973, so I slowly let go of my misgivings by interpreting Scripture through the filter of my experience and the experiences of my friends.

Around 1981, a girlfriend who knew about my heartbreak over Trevor invited me to a Friday night prayer meeting, hosted by Love In Action, an ex-gay ministry closely affiliated with Church of the Open Door. As my social life became more and more focused on the staff and residential clients of that ministry, their emphasis on Charismatic practices further eroded my wariness. I got to the point that I’d feel bitterly disappointed when a church service or prayer meeting passed by without a prophecy.

In spite of all that, I believed that I judged all things through God’s Word. Sadly, I hadn’t yet learned to read the Bible in context, so the ideas and practices floating around the church and Love In Action kept me vacillating between the Bible and Charismatic experience.

Although I was swayed by Charismatic influences, the Lord always kept me in His Word enough that I managed to stay just a little skeptical. He didn’t keep me from deception, but He did keep me from completely giving myself over to it. As I’ll explain in my next autobiographical post, the Holy Spirit taught me to begin questioning things that didn’t line up with God’s Word.

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Words ToPraise The King

I particularly love hymns which maintain fidelity to Scripture and use heightened language. The latter preference comes, undoubtedly, from being a writer. Yet I also believe that the Lord deserves well-written praise that echos His majesty.

The hymn I’ve selected for this week reflects 1 Timothy 1:17 and 1 Timothy 6:15-16 as its Scriptural basis. But from there, its lyrics explode into intricate and beautiful verses that draw us to worship the Lord in all His magnificence. I thought such a powerful hymn would befit this new year by placing our attention on Who God is.

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A Sober New Year

2015 brought changes to the world. Most of these changes send a chill down the spines of Bible-believing Christians as we see the growing hostility toward the Lord. We recognize that persecution no longer confines itself to Middle  Eastern and Communist countries, but that American Christians can expect to suffer.

Yes, we’re grieved that five Supreme Court justices had the hubris to redefine  marriage. Certainly, we’re sickened that Planned Parenthood sells body parts of the babies they abort. Most assuredly, we see that the nuclear arms deal with Iran promises disaster for Israel. And no amount of political action can reverse western civilization’s obvious determination to rebel against God to the point of self-destruction.

But rather than wringing our hands helplessly, let’s view these horrible events as reason to  proclaim the Gospel. Human depravity now flaunts itself unapologetically, leaving little doubt that everyone has turned away from God. Very much like Israel and Judah at the time of the Babylonian Captivity, Europe and America have rejected our Christian heritage. Daniel’s great prayer of confession sounds remarkably like a prayer that Christians ought to pray today:

I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. ~~Daniel 9:4-10 (ESV)

Notice that despite Israel’s stubborn rejection of God’s Word, Daniel acknowledged the Lord’s capacity to extend mercy and forgiveness. He extends that mercy and forgiveness though the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ~~Colossians 1:19-20 (ESV)

After atoning for our sin by dying an excruciating death on the cross, Jesus rose from His grave! His resurrection promises eternal life to those who place their trust in Him.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. ~~1 Corinthians 15:20-23 (ESV)

The forgiveness of sin must be proclaimed to a society that celebrates its own wickedness. The general course of history will continue gravitating toward evil until Jesus returns to judge the earth, so please don’t misunderstand me to suggest that proclaiming the Gospel will produce massive social reform. But as society goes from bad to worse, people need to hear that Jesus offers hope. Please,  my fellow believers, recognize the urgency of making the Gospel known while we still have the liberty to share it!

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The Luxury Of Limiting God

Soveregn GodMost professing Christians would affirm, without hesitation, belief in God’s control over every aspect of His creation. Yet various comments I read on social media or hear in church sometimes cause me to question the average believer’s faith in His sovereignty. Certainly, my own struggle with the sin of worry betrays that I have difficulty trusting His ability (or at least His willingness) to manage situations.

For example, we pray for loved ones to come to Christ, but then we devise all sorts of schemes to manipulate them into the Kingdom. We convince ourselves that their salvation depends on our testimony rather than God’s election.

On a bigger scale, we work tirelessly on political campaigns, desperate to reestablish America’s “Christian” heritage…even if it means voting for people outside the evangelical camp. (Donald Trump? Really?) We have convinced ourselves that Scripture gives us a mandate to fight for our religious liberties.

As American Christians approach a time of overt persecution, however, we desperately need to understand that God maintains complete control. We see our culture’s moral disintegration, and quite rightly grieve that sin seems to reign so defiantly. Although grief is indeed an appropriate emotional response, however, that grief must  never degenerate into despair. The same Lord that purified Israel and Judah by means of the Babylonian Captivity has His purposes for His Church through the impending opposition knocking on our door.

More than ever, Christians will need an understanding of God’s sovereignty. Let’s start with me. I can no longer afford the luxury of thinking that human will has the power to restrict His activity or dismantle His plan. Contrary to popular evangelical thinking, the Lord is not a Gentleman. If He does abandon us to our own rebellion against Him, He does so in order to bring about His great plan.

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
    and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
    there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” ~~Romans 9:14-26 (ESV)

We all too frequently regard circumstances as the whole story, neglecting the fact that God is orchestrating a much bigger picture. We forget that He not only has an eternal plan to display His glory, but He controls all the moving parts that bring that plan to fruition. Yes, He will judge sin, bringing all His wrath against everything that dares to shake a fist at Him, but even that terrible judgment will  magnify His glory. And He needs  no help from us.

Holy Intolerance

cropped-cropped-cropped-cropped-tulip-header12.jpgJesus told His followers:

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. ~~John 15:18-19 (ESV)

Sadly, the evangelical church of the 21st Century seems to have forgotten His words, sometimes expressing shock and dismay that mainstream media, liberal politicians, the university system and public schools overwhelming display blatant hostility toward anything remotely connected with Christianity. And, while Christians absolutely should stand firm for Biblical morals and principles, seeking to preserve the type of culture that (at least outwardly) adheres to those values, we really shouldn’t be surprised by the world’s animosity toward us. They hate us, pure and simply, because we remind them of His holy intolerance for sin.

Certainly, the culture is increasingly bullying Christians, and none of us enjoys it. Furthermore, we grieve to see our American government, in its painfully obvious attempts to appease homosexual activists, Planned Parenthood, environmentalists and other groups, enact laws and render judicial decisions  designed to erode Christianity’s influence. Yet Christians must understand that our marginalization from the Public Square is actually an indication that we successfully reflect the Lord Jesus Christ!

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. ~~Romans 1:16