The Trip So Far

12/26/2017

The Call Of God

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 14:30

12/20/2017

Before the lamp of God had gone out, Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was located. Then the LORD called Samuel, and he answered, “Here I am.” He ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “I didn’t call,” Eli replied. “Go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.
Once again the LORD called, “Samuel! ” Samuel got up, went to Eli, and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “I didn’t call, my son,” he replied. “Go back and lie down.”
Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, because the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
Once again, for the third time, the LORD called Samuel. He got up, went to Eli, and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the boy. He told Samuel, “Go and lie down. If he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
The LORD came, stood there, and called as before, “Samuel, Samuel! ” Samuel responded, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” [1Samuel 3:3-10; CSB]

I really love the story of Samuel’s call in 1 Samuel 3. It should be very instructive for Christian parents. Backing up from the story of his call, we read how Samuel’s mother dedicated him to the service of the Lord even before his conception. I believe that should be instructive for Christian couples who are contemplating starting their families.
After Samuel’s birth, his mother fulfilled her vow to God, and took her first born son to the temple and gave him into the care of Eli, the priest. Of course, I would not recommend we literally do that, but I do think we should do this in the same spirit.
We are not told how much time passed between the time Samuel was weaned and given up for adoption, and the time that God called him directly, but this is the part of the story I want to focus on.
The Bible is clear that children are gifted to us by God. God cannot give away what does not belong to him, therefore, children belong to God, and when we give birth to them they enter our lives as entrustments from Him. How sad that we most often miss this point.
I believe God expects more from Christian parents than unbelieving parents, and I think the bar is higher for them in the sense that an often overlooked responsibility for Christian parents is to position their children to, at some point, begin to hear directly from God themselves.
Samuel was living with the priest in the temple of God, and yet the text states he ‘did not yet know the Lord, because the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.’, and I believe that’s the pattern we should follow today as we raise up our children. In other words, it is the primary responsibility of Christian parents to prepare their kids to hear directly from God, and to make them ready for His call.
I go to a church full of kids, thank you God! But most of them first have an adopted kind of faith they get from their parents. At some point though, probably earlier than we might think, God will speak directly to them, and the direction of their lives will turn into the unique path God has for each one of them. It is our job to get them ready to receive the call, and not to stand in the way of it when it does come. We see this quite clearly in the life of Samuel, as God called him to be a prophet at an early age, and began entrusting him with the words of God to a priest and a nation.
There was evidently a lot of grace shown to Samuel while he lived with the family of Eli, because Eli was a lousy parent and his sons remained out of control until the day of their deaths. And yet in the midst of this environment, Samuel was made ready for God’s call. No family is perfect, yet I draw hope knowing that if God could protect Samuel in the midst of family-wide sin, He can protect our children too.
Therefore, I would say to Christian parents, do all you can to position your children for the arrival of God’s call on their lives. It will probably be difficult to “uncover” them for His use, but it is the way Godly parenting is done. Our kids are like guided missiles, and at some point God will want to program their unique, internal guidance systems. At the right time, He will program them to fulfill His purpose, and it is our job to let Him do it, and prepare them for the event.

John

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12/15/2017

To Be A Slave

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 10:13

Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” [Mark 9:35; NASB]

…and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. [Mark 10:44; NASB]

I was blessed to grow up about 100 years after the American Civil War, but even after that time lapse the issue of slavery was still a hot topic. I attended a small, Midwest college that largely defined the small town adjacent to it. Vietnam was ongoing, like a headache with no foreseeable end, and the nation was increasingly polarized by anti-war protesters and civil rights protesters. At the same time, our national morals, to use a sloppy generality, were being tested on every level, and the hippy/drug/free love culture was alive and well in the soil of those protests.
Concurrent to those social movements, the Charismatic Renewal was sweeping through churches and denominations, and although it was an exciting time to be a Christian, it was also a time of great religious division, and bitter polarity. It seemed evident proof of Jesus’ words when He said He did not come to bring peace, but a sword, and Christian infighting can be the meanest, most merciless kind of fighting. The assumed justification of ‘having God on our side’ often precludes mercy.
I was 30 years old by the time Vietnam officially ended in our defeat, with the odious cost of over 58,000 American servicemen and women dead. That’s a sizable sacrifice, and I daresay, we still feel those losses today. America has never been the same since then; it was a corner we turned that could never be unturned, but how I wish we could. But by the time I was 30 years old, I thought I knew all the answers.
I gave my life to Christ during the Charismatic Renewal that swept the Midwest in the early 70’s. I read my Bible(s), worked in a Christian ministry and felt fully qualified to dispense Christian advice and counsel to many…after all, I had all the answers. In all of this, I never saw any arrogance in myself, never detected the stench of spiritual smugness, and I thought I wanted to serve God for the rest of my life.
I held out against the world and its temptations for almost 7 years…then, worn out and disgusted with the Christian infighting among the groups I had contact with, I chose a secular career path. I put the last nail in the coffin when I looked at my new peers and co-workers and stated, “I want to be like them.” Only after 25 years of a bumpy ride to the bottom of the barrel did I realize that with that one statement, I had turned my back on God and His calling for me. He let me have my own way; He will always do that if we oppose Him long enough. Getting our own way is the easy road; finding God’s road and staying on it narrows the pavement considerably. It only took me about 40 years to figure that out.
Now, much older and hopefully wiser, I feel like I’m starting over with God. It takes a lot more faith now than I needed 40 years ago; I’m not the same Spring Chicken, and some days the old body forces me to rely totally on God’s mercy and grace – well actually, every day, to be honest. One big difference is that now I really love God; before I loved the knowledge of God, and it was so easy to translate it into pride. Gratifying, sure…but deadly in every way.
Several years ago, in the midst of a peaceful retirement, I made a decision with God. If God asks you a question, be careful how fast you answer Him. Think it through – this Guy doesn’t play Christian games, and your answer will stand for, or against you – forever. In short, I told God I would not ever again say “No” to Him. I should have foreseen that testing would be next. One day while reading in my easy chair, with my cat on my lap, I told the cat, “You know, these are the easy times.” I might have guessed it was a prophecy!
Say what high and almighty things you want to say to God, but be advised He is only impressed if your heart says the same. And He will try to prove your word. I think most of the time when we are most impressed with ourselves, God remains unimpressed. God will put your rubber to the road, and the ride may not be at all pleasant or what we would have chosen. I’ve been a little under the weather lately, you know, a lot of “bugs” going around, and was dragging myself through day after long day. I didn’t really voice any complaints, and I didn’t think I was complaining, until God asked me one of His quiet little questions: “Can you serve me here?” And the voice behind that question broke my heart! “Yes, I will be honored to serve you here.” And I meant it.
If you don’t find the heart of a slave within yourself, ask yourself who really, are you serving? He loves us too much to let us get away with anything less.

John

12/01/2017

Hindsight Is 20/20

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 13:54

Ref: Matthew 24:(all); Acts 1:11

One of our God-given “rights” is the authority to have our own opinions, but difficulties sometimes arise when we fail to identify our opinions as such, and not necessarily facts. The written word of God is not opinion when it sets forth God’s thoughts. All of God’s opinions are facts, and unless human opinions coincide with His words, they fall short of being 100% factual.
With regard to biblical interpretations, there are many schools of…you guessed it, opinions. Bible commentaries, no matter how impressive they may seem, are educated attempts by well educated men at making God’s words more easily understood, while necessarily subject to human limits, human understanding and human opinions about what indeed, God meant when He said what He said.
I’ve tried to stay on firm ground so far in this piece, but now it gets diverse, and interesting. Enter the human mind, and every simple thing becomes complex. Often, such is the case with the interpretation of Scripture. Some years ago, a pastor friend of mine who valued biblical prophecy and taught on it frequently, came out with a blanket statement summing up all his learning by saying in so many words, “You will always understand biblical prophecy in hindsight.”
Some of my friends teach and write biblical interpretive opinions that I respectfully disagree with. I can say ‘respectfully’ because their opinions have not yet been necessarily tested by clear hindsight, and more importantly, they don’t alter or deep-six my salvation. As long as we can agree on Who saved us, and what Salvation is according to biblical standards, what they opine about the book of Revelation frankly doesn’t bear much on my day. We are both in God’s family through our common covenant ratified by Jesus, and as far as I’m currently concerned, everything else, though interesting to debate, is to some extent, biblical background noise.
However, even though to me someone’s peripheral opinion about how to correctly interpret Holy Scripture may be of some intellectual interest, and often contains nuggets of truth I may benefit from, the expressed teachings may unnecessarily shake the faith of some new babes, who may not be as well grounded as the person with the teaching. There is a very clear warning about how we should not create stumbling blocks for God’s kids, and sometimes (in my opinion), we track a bit too close to that line. We need to be careful that our freedoms don’t become someone else’s bondages.
For me, one such ‘peripheral opinion’ is officially known as Preterism. Here is an interesting link that sheds light on what that is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preterism. It is worth the read…all the way to the bottom. For the record, I am as yet, no Preterist, but as I haven’t seen the end of my journey I can’t say for certain I never will be. But today, I definitely am not a Preterist.
In Matthew 24, according to the NASB Bible text, Jesus is asked three questions. He just told His disciples that the temple complex they so admired will be torn apart, and afterwards they ask Him, 1) when will these things (the destruction of the temple complex) happen, 2) what will be the sign of His return (second coming), and 3) what will be the sign of the ‘end of the age’? Some translations seem to break this discourse into two, not three questions, but in any event, there is more than one part to this seemingly simple question.
A very careful review of Jesus’ answer not only hints at a 70 A.D. fulfillment, but also a second advent considerably later than that date. It is obvious to me that the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. does not fully satisfy Jesus’ answer to His disciples.
Acts 1:11 makes it pretty clear, I think, that when Jesus returns at His second coming, it will be a physical return, and puts a big hole in the bottom of the Preterist’s boat that His second coming happened in spirit in 70 A.D. Yes, judgment happened to Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and it was a horrible time for the Jews, but I can’t realistically think it fulfills the qualifications of the Great Tribulation described in the book of Revelation. Nor do I think that Nero was The Antichrist, although he certainly fell into that general classification – like Hitler, and others of note. Nero might have been depraved and demon-inspired, but he did not exterminate over six million Jews, and others like Hitler, Stalin for instance, far exceeded six million murders.
Yes, I think Jesus’ answer to His disciples prophetically addressed the destruction of that specific temple complex, but like many other prophets, He also went far beyond 70 A.D. with the rest of His answer. In fact, He answered the complex question in great detail.
If I read Scripture to find justification for my favorite opinions, I can become blinded to any other options outside of them. Sure, like everyone else, I have my “pet” doctrines, but I know what I think I understand today may look vastly different tomorrow, and I often find that in several years, and with a little more spiritual maturity, my understanding may also mature, and change. It is after all, the Word of the living God.
In fact, the better I know God, and draw close to His heart, He gets bigger and better, and so does His Word, and I’ve learned to be wary of setting my peripheral beliefs in stone; it is stone I may have to later break up.
Prophetically, hindsight is 20/20, and all great men are – just men, and to anyone reading this I can say with certainty, in less than one hundred years we will all know all of the Truth.

John

11/09/2017

Does Size Matter?

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 06:25

[Genesis 1:1; NKJV] In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Over thousands of years we have hung the very beginnings of our faith on the beginning of this ‘book of beginnings’, and no doubt, countless sermons have been hung on this one, little verse. I’m not at all interested in expounding upon this verse as to whether (or not) it is accurate, or did, in fact happen with the simplicity expressed. Rather than attempt in my poor way to ‘re-invent the wheel’, my focus with this verse rests on one simple question we don’t ask very often: HOW do we know this happened? The answer of course, is that God told someone, and in fact, if not for God taking the initiative we would know nothing today of Him. Put bluntly, God chose to reveal Himself to mankind this way, and without Him making the first move, we would still be in the dark. Why is this important?
Today, I spent some time reading a book about a neurosurgeon who purported to have had a NDE (Near Death Experience), and came back to tell about it. I have no doubt the author had an experience, which he swears is the truth for all ages, nor do I doubt that he now feels compelled to tell everyone about his journey into the ‘Core’ and back. What I am contending with is the problem with not only the details of his testimony, and how they may conflict with the Bible as we have it, as well as the fact that many non-believers will no doubt take the doctor’s testimony more seriously than the Bibles they have gathering dust on their bookshelves. That’s just human nature. We’d rather believe a man we can see instead of a God we cannot, and after His resurrection, Jesus said something about this to the apostle Thomas.
This sincere and well-meaning author seemed to find no need to address the pertinent issue of Jesus in-the-flesh, and instead talked at length and detail about God, who he called the Core, and his name for the Core was “Om”. At this point in the book, I began to feel uncomfortable with the narrative, and I prayed, asking God to reveal to me what caused my uneasiness. Several hours later, the realization hit me: God, and only God, could have taken the initiative to reveal Himself to mankind, and He did so in the way that pleased Him.
We already have the Name(s) He gave us for Himself; He already testified to what His Son would do, then told us the details of His Son doing those things thousands of years later. He testified directly through men who had been with God’s Son for several years, witnessed His miracles, heard His teachings, saw His suffering and observed first hand the resurrection appearances and the ascension of the previously, very dead Jesus. They later died horrible deaths themselves, rather than recant their testimonies – not the stuff of weak men or liars.
In the book, the doctor told of a God infinitely bigger than anything or anybody we could ever imagine. I believe it, and I agree with the author about this point. We are so limited by our environment here on earth, that we are virtual prisoners to our earth-bound, miniscule viewpoints. But again, if that weren’t the case, where would be the motivation to run after a God we already understood? Why seek Him if we already feel we completely understand Him?
Paul the apostle, the man who by inspiration wrote most of the New Testament, claimed to have been taken to the third heaven, God’s abode, but rather than run around selling his book on the matter, he said it would be illegal for him to talk about it. Instead, he traveled the then known world preaching about a man Who rose from the dead. Now that’s some bad marketing, right there! And rather than getting rich on his heavenly travel-monologues, Paul got mistreated, shipwrecked, beat up, whipped, stoned (I bet that hurt!), and eventually lost his head in some lonely prison cell. Bummer! What did Paul know that we should know? Namely, God is very real, very good and very BIG, and in this respect, Paul knew size indeed matters. Paul also knew that minus Jesus, we would never find any of that out.
Our denominational God is ridiculously small and impotent. He just waits around the corners of our religions to be summoned, just so we Christians can be happy and well, and He sent His only Son to die in our place so we could forever fight amongst our religious selves what it all meant, and just the right way to understand it.
The good neurosurgeon got this part right….with God, size does matter, and as such it just begs to be stated: We don’t yet have a clue Who we are so carelessly dealing with.
At least the doctor’s version of God was too big to adequately describe, and as far as that goes, I totally agree with him.

John

11/03/2017

Sometimes When He Speaks

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 11:03

I was blessed to sit in church Wednesday, 11/1/2017, and hear my son-in-law and my daughter give their testimony. That alone is a situation to be envied by many, and I was well aware of it! But the point of this essay is found in what they said, and how God spoke through them, because it’s important to train our ears to recognize His voice.
Through the years I’ve heard God speak in many ways, and to be candid, I’ve no doubt missed hearing Him more often than not. Good thing He’s eternally patient with His kids! Books, a few of them worthwhile, have been written setting forth how to hear from God, but it should be said that no book, no teaching and no sermon can take the place of actually hearing from God ourselves. It has been said that a man with experience will never be at the mercy of a man with a doctrine, and within biblical guidelines that’s true.
There was a time, not that many years ago, that I told my wife if my son-in-law were to show up in my driveway, I’d probably just have to shoot him – and I was not exaggerating. My daughter’s marriage was not just on the rocks, those rocks were jagged and unrelenting. Shortly after that comment to my wife, she and I began to pray, seriously pray for my daughter, her children and my son-in-law. We did not consciously sit down and pray because it was the right thing to do, we simply forgave my son-in-law, because that was the right thing to do, and then we prayed for their marriage.
There are prayers that seem to be just prayers, maybe most of them, then there are prayers that immediately morph into an adventurous journey, and I don’t think we have the choice which ones become which ones, but God knows what is needed. And as we prayed, mostly separately and unknown to each other, we both began journeys we highly value today. At the conclusion of our independent adventures in prayer for these two, I knew my son-in-law would live; my wife knew my daughter’s marriage would be healed. This was not a quickie fix, and our prayers spanned many months.
Indeed, my son-in-law did not self-destruct, and their marriage was transformed from a hellish, agonizing thing into a marriage that shouts for all to hear, “God did this! This is what God can do!!” I find myself in a weird position today, for I am in total shock, in a good way, and totally envious in another. Every time I see these two once broken, wasted lives, I see the very life God promised to become in the lives of His children. Honestly, I know it’s a fact, but I don’t really understand it, but then, I don’t have to, for He works in His own ways. He doesn’t work miracles so we will understand them; He works them so we can see Him.
So to restart at the beginning, here’s what I heard God say to me Wednesday night, and He said it through both my son-in-law (a true prophet), and my daughter (warrior to the core)…they said the answer to all their problems came when they both realized:

“ALL I WANT IS GOD!”

Today, two days later, I finally began to digest those five little words. As I prayed and meditated on them, their significance became clear…Mack truck clear! They hit deep, until I heard the voice inside those words I should have heard Wednesday. God was telling me, and you, if you’re willing to hear it, that if we allow our spirits to live inside those five words, nothing else will ever cause us to succumb to circumstances, be in lack, be sick, be discouraged, be damaged, and on and on… Nothing. If we can say, and mean it from deep within, “All I want is God.”, God Himself will invoke these promises quoted from the last three verses of Psalm 91, in our lives:

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high. Because he has known My Name, he shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and (I will) honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and (I will) show him My salvation.”
I call those the eight “I wills” of God, and they become ours if we base our lives completely and irrevocably on those five little words: “ALL I WANT IS GOD.”
This is no secret and no mystery, and it’s only hidden from those who don’t want to find it. God is real, and He is really good. When we give Him all of us, He stands ready, willing and able to give us all of Himself.

From my house to yours, “ALL I WANT IS GOD.”

John

11/01/2017

The Life Giving Word

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 09:25

He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
[Psalm 107:20; NKJV]

“Your Word is life to all who find it, and health to all their bones.”

As is my custom, I got out of bed last night and went downstairs to pray. I haven’t had “an adventure in prayer” for awhile, and didn’t really expect I’d have one last night, but I misjudged. God always chooses His own time to come, and it’s always a pleasant surprise.
I began by marveling that when we pray, and our prayers are received by God, they become His property, and as such, they become eternal things, because He is eternal. They don’t just drift off towards the ceiling and disappear. Of course, that is predicated on the assumption our prayers are righteous prayers and line up with the heart and nature of God Himself.
For instance, if I pray for my neighbor to swallow poison and die, it would be folly to think God would answer it…(but someone else might, and it falls into a category of prayers called “Christian witchcraft”). Therefore, it’s incumbent upon us to pray thoughtfully and carefully, and be alert as we formulate them, for we are creating something eternal as we pray. But if our prayers don’t come from our hearts, and just tumble as words routinely spoken, I’m not at all certain they count as real prayers. Let God be the judge.
After a few minutes I began pondering that the only thing God’s Word can’t do is – Nothing. If the prayer is on target and from the right motive, God will certainly do something with it, but there is no guarantee it’ll be on our schedule.
By the way, looking back some years, I’m usually grateful God forgot my stupid, shallow and selfish prayers. He is patient. Then Psalm 107:20 quietly crept into my mind, and I looked it up to make sure I had remembered it correctly.
By this time I was feeling sure God was speaking to me, and feeding His thoughts into my mind, and my excitement grew as I began to feel His presence. Then I heard this thought in my head: “Your Word is life to all who find it, and health to all their bones.” I suppose I knew that already, but I’ve never had it spoken directly to me by God, and a quiet sense of faith and well-being filled my heart as I sat before my electric fireplace.
I’m not writing this to boast about being a super spiritual person, because I’m not…but God is, and when He leads my thoughts and speaks to me I can’t really express in words how rich it is. And it doesn’t happen every time I pray, either. I sometimes experience days, weeks or months of relative inactivity, but the point is – I never stop expecting Him to manifest Himself, for I know He wants to do so.
If you’re reading this, and like me, you have critical issues that seem as yet unaddressed, even though you know God’s will for the issues, take heart. If you wait for it, and “Stay the course”, He will send His Word.
And it is a Kingdom law: His Word is life to all who find it, and health to all their bones. Just as His Word formed the world we live on, His Word once spoken, is healing for our bodies.
His Word cannot do Nothing – that’s the only thing It can’t do.

John

10/25/2017

Oops! I Dropped My Sword!

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 13:31

“Everyone’s a winner before the contest begins.”

Sometimes I shudder inwardly when we sing warfare songs in church. While we loudly, dare I say proudly, proclaim to the heavens what mighty warriors we are, the truth is we are baiting a bear we perhaps have never met. Let me say right here that while I do not fear Satan, I respect him, and I respect him because fighting him by myself sometimes isn’t very effective, and I don’t want to die trying.
Depending on the stakes in play, he’s sometimes stronger and smarter than I am by myself, and he’s been around a lot longer. He knows me far better than I know myself, and he knows just which buttons to push. He’s good at surprising me when I don’t have my feet set for battle. I would be foolish indeed to consider this adversary too lightly. He’s very cunning, has no sense of humor, plays for keeps and is completely without mercy.
With regard to spiritual warfare, my favorite, oft-used quote is from Ben Franklin: “We must hang together gentlemen….else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.” The more deeply we are involved in spiritual warfare, the more pertinent is Ben’s quote, and as we begin to make inroads into Satan’s kingdom, the more true it is.
At our church, we’ve been praying and hearing sermons all month about freedom from demonic oppression. The topic is largely ignored by many Christian churches because it is just too frightening, irrelevant and/or uncomfortable, depending upon one’s doctrinal background. But regardless of what we want to believe, the topic is biblically valid and needs to be effectively addressed from our pulpits. One of the first things Christ did as His public ministry kicked off was to cast out a demon; He apparently had no qualms about the topic! And if it’s good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for me.
[There is a progression in living the Christian life that closely resembles biological life. We are ‘born again’, and hopefully soon afterwards, depending upon our food intake, we begin to mature. That’s why it’s critical to join a Bible believing church, and just as critical to join one that doesn’t want to take your money while keeping you in a religious crib. Jesus didn’t stay in the crib; neither should we. If we find ourselves at the end of the road, and can grow no more, it’s time to find a longer road. Our God is eternal and never ending; He is not the author of dead-ends.
No pastor can take you farther than he’s willing to go himself, but the obverse is just as true, no pastor can take you farther than you’re willing to go. If we’re only comfortable eating Christian baby food, what need do we have for teeth?, and every Sunday, pews across the fruited plain are full of perpetual, spiritual babies.]
In my opinion, once we “get free”, the natural progression should be to get unified. In John 17:20-21, Jesus prayed, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
That’s the unity Jesus prayed His disciples would have, but I’ll admit right here that I don’t even begin to understand it experientially. However, I know it’s a critical component because ultimately, it’s only by being unified that the Church of Jesus Christ will impact the world as God intends. And that means fighting together as a unified army to take Satan’s kingdom down, and that fight is simply too big and too vicious for any one person to survive.
Sad to admit it, but I’ve quietly fought against unity most of my Christian life. Frankly, there are some Christians I’d just rather only see on Sunday mornings, and the idea of sharing life, meaningful life with them, is daunting. It’s daunting because to do it well, I’ll have to change, and change means sacrifice, and sacrifice means death-to-self. It’s easy to smile at folks Sunday mornings because I know MY Sunday afternoon is approaching. Can you relate?
If we want to grow past Christian infancy, we first have to get free, then get unified and join ranks. This is a serious battle, and lone wolves get taken out. Believe it – there is a price on all of our heads, and if we don’t learn how to hang together in the fight, we will hang alone. Satan’s main tactic is to divide and conquer, and he’s really good at it; our only contrasting strategy is to unify and fight together. Jesus said the gates of hell would not withstand His Church, and that Church is one army of many unified individuals.

John

10/23/2017

What Friends Do

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 09:15

And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?”
[Genesis 18:17-18; NKJV]

“Are You not our God, Who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? [2Chronicles 20:7; NKJV]

I understand now just how God values ‘little children’, for they are so beautifully uncomplicated. Trust for them is not an issue, for they naturally trust until and unless they are taught out of it.
For a short time when I was in grade school I got into a lot of fights. I picked the fights, which gave me a perceived advantage. My career as a bully came to a halt the day I picked a fight with Rusty. I ran up to him in order to punch him, but he punched me first. Shocked, I found myself looking up at him from the pavement. Then he reached out his hand and said, “Do you want to be friends?” I said, “Yes”, and he pulled me to my feet. Then we walked home to his house for lunch. Oh, to be a child again!
Rusty and I never hung out much together after that, but we never gave up our friendship. I finally lost track of Rusty after high school, but I know if I met him again today, we would still be friends. Children are so beautifully uncomplicated. Looking back on those times now, and my friendship with Rusty, I see such a beautiful picture of God, for just like Rusty extending his hand to me in friendship, that’s just what God did to me.
Abraham was God’s friend. On His way to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (in Genesis 18), God stopped and turned around to tell Abraham what He was going to do. And in doing that, He gave Abraham the authority to have input into the divine counsel. That is what friends do. Abraham was God’s friend because He was in covenant with Him, related in Genesis 17. Being in covenant with God, Abraham became a friend with God, and was granted the privileges of friendship. And that’s how it should be for those of us who believe.
Friendship is a two-way street. Even though God sought us out while we were still His enemies, when we entered into the covenant with Him through the blood of Jesus, we in effect, offered Him all of us in exchange for all of Him, and in doing so, we also become the friends of God, just like Abraham.
The weakness is not in the covenant, it is in us. Often, in our extreme self-focus we want all of God while we give Him very little to none of ourselves. We pray ‘in Jesus’ Name’, but do not receive, we get angry when it appears God doesn’t show up for us when we are in need, and we just can’t seem to understand why bad things happen to good (covenant) people like us. Can it be that we are consistently falling short in meeting our obligations to be and remain friends with God? I think the answer is obvious.
Going back to my memory of Rusty, I could have pretended to accept his offer of friendship while remaining secretly non-compliant in return. I could have put a smile on my face, have been helped to my feet, only to come up swinging….do we sometimes do that with God? God offers us terms of eternal friendship, but as I said, it is a two-way street. While we expect friendship from Him, He has every right to expect friendship from us.
In Matthew 7 and Matthew 25 God says “I never knew you.” I believe the “knowing” is an intimate knowing, as in covenant friendship. While we’ve devalued friendship to mean liking someone, it never meant that to God. Friendship to God is something that can only be expressed within the bounds of intimacy, and failing that, it is not friendship, no matter what we may think, because true friendship, true covenant, operates as both parties to it have separate responsibilities, and as we fulfill those responsibilities, love naturally results.
God has promised to be my friend (John 15:15), and to provide certain things for me. My responsibilities are to trust Him unflinchingly and keep sacred my faith in Him and to obey Him. And as long as I don’t quit trying, and remain grateful for His mercy and grace, He’ll see to it I never hear Him say, “I never knew you.”
The entire idea of friendship was first His idea – all I had to do was respond, and as long as I honor my promise, some day I’ll go home with Him and we’ll have lunch together.

John

10/18/2017

The Melchizedekian Controversy

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 10:10

Here mortal men receive tithes, but there (Genesis 14) he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. (italics: mine) [Hebrews 7:8; NKJV]

And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest (Jesus) who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. (italics: mine) [Hebrews 7:15-16; NKJV]

One of the stated “jobs” of the Holy Spirit is to ‘lead us into all truth’. Nothing particularly difficult about that, (until educated men get involved). I’ve always loved reading about Melchizedek, a mystery character who only appears in Genesis 14, Psalm 110 and Hebrews 5, 6 and 7. The mystery revolves around whether Melchizedek was a divine person, a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus, called a theophany, or whether he was merely a human about whom we know almost nothing.
As a young Christian, when I first read about Melchizedek, I was convinced he was in fact the pre-incarnate Son of God, who appeared to Abraham and received tithes; it seemed abundantly obvious from the text in Hebrews 7. But then years later my pastor taught me that Melchizedek was only a human who must have had a human lineage which was just never mentioned in the Bible. For awhile I was disappointed, and tempted to feel under educated.
As the years progressed, and I re-read about Melchizedek, I could not escape the feeling that my old pastor friend had been wrong, and in fact, a victim of his seminary training; today I’m convinced of it. I now feel fully able to make a good case for Melchizedek being God, visible to Abraham in a human body. And why not? He created the earth and should be able to visit it in any way He pleases.
Please read Genesis 14:18 where Melchizedek is first introduced, and then all of Hebrews chapter 7, where the only other details of this person are recorded. Then consider this:
• Melchizedek never had a father or mother and yet lives, without ever dying.
• In Hebrews 7:8, the Bible text clearly contrasts the Levitical, human priests receiving tithes with Melchizedek receiving them, and clearly states that (on earth) ‘mortal men receive tithes’, contrasted with Melchizedek, Who yet lives.
• In Hebrews 7:15 and 16, Christ is presented as having a priesthood descending not from human Levites, but from Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4), Who has ‘the power of an endless life’.

I think it’s pretty clear that if Christ’s priesthood had descended from anyone or anything less than a divine person, He would yet be presenting sacrifices for our sins because He wouldn’t be a once-for-all good enough sacrifice Himself, making the cross of Calvary of no account, and requiring a recurring sacrifice.
Jesus was incarnated into a human body at a specific time and place because in order to be a fully adequate sacrifice in our place, He had to die a human death for us. This was the divine exchange, and our salvation totally depends upon it.
This necessitated He have a human, completely mortal body to sacrifice. If He had instead appeared only in His divinity, He could not have been put to death, and we would be left to die without a Savior.
And for me, the Bible text itself makes it clear Who Melchizedek (is) was. It states in Hebrews 7:8 that He did NOT have a ‘mortal’ body. Then it goes on to reiterate that Melchizedek has ‘the power of an endless life’, and since this was a pre-Resurrection event, I’d say His eternal life was His by nature, not by covenant sacrifice.
Admittedly, I’ve tried to encapsulate several books worth of apologetics into one page, and I don’t really know how well I’ve done it, but for me it’s quite clear: In spite of the learned doctrines of the brilliant minds in some of our seminaries, the teaching of the Holy Spirit will always dim shelves of commentaries and brilliant, educated minds.
The Holy Spirit is The Truth, and it’s simply a waste of time to make Him conform to our own theologies.
And it’s time we are running out of….

John

10/16/2017

The Motion of Obedience

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 10:23

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, [even] to the end of the age.”
[Matthew 28:19-20; NKJV]

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; “they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
[Mark 16:15-18; NKJV]

The most exciting part of being a Christian is living as one. Unfortunately, many Christians are missing out on the excitement. Derek Prince used to say, “God can’t steer a parked car.”, and we’ve all been parked at times.
When God gave us what is called “The Great Commission”, noted above out of Matthew and Mark, notice how the command (yes, it is a command), begins at the general, then moves into the specific. Guidance works like that, but all too often we remain parked at the curb, waiting for more specific instructions while doing nothing to put ourselves in motion.
Last year, we thought God told us sell our house and move. We dithered about it for months, thinking perhaps we weren’t really hearing from God. Then we figured perhaps if we really were hearing from God, He meant us to move locally, because that made sense to us at the time, but nothing really got moving until we made the decision to simply begin.
And as we began to look for houses locally, and had the familiar “closed door” experiences with house after house, other circumstances unveiled more of God’s plans. The point is, we began the process of obedience by putting ourselves in motion. Now a year later, in another house, state, job and church, we are amazed at all that has happened, but we first had to respond to the general instructions we had already heard before we were given the specific instructions that followed.
There are patterns in Scripture that are discoverable by design. If we miss the patterns, we often miss the instructions. Instructions for ministry often work according to the general-to-specific pattern too. You may have a heart that burns for the lost, or you may yearn to preach the gospel, but if you acknowledge that desire and pray for God to make a way while staying metaphorically parked at the curb, very often you’ll be frustrated as God gives your commission to others who will put themselves in motion. All obedience begins with the first step, no matter how small or relatively insignificant it may seem.
Another potential error can occur with those who do begin to obey. Often, they will begin to obey the general instructions but then they create their own programs on how to accomplish the specifics. I suppose it’s better than remaining on the couch, but the end result is usually the same. A good beginning never assures us of a good ending, and good ends should be left in God’s hands. If I pray for someone’s healing, I’ve begun a good work, but it is not my responsibility to make sure the person gets healed; that’s God’s job, and when they do get healed, only He should get the credit. He will perform His word – if I let Him and don’t cobber up the Holy Spirit with my own notions.
A third error potentially awaits the ones willing to obey, and that is the hindrance of themselves. That can explain why Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” If I allow my God given love for the lost to gush out of me without control or direction, or if I think that I can simply “hug the hell out of them”, I set myself up for a hard lesson. Perhaps what Jesus had in mind was more in line with allowing the pressure of that love to motivate me to get moving, and then allow Him to channel it into practical, Kingdom expanding ways. Love may ‘cover a multitude of sins’, but even love requires discernment.
Several years ago, we began to visit another church out of state. Frankly, that church was so good that it ruined us for any other. Of course, we meant well when we returned home and gushed all over the members of our home church about our new spiritual oasis. I suppose we figured they’d all be excited and want what we had found, but instead, the more we talked about our discovery, the more enemies we made. Someone finally turned the light on by saying, “They might not want what you have.” Wow, was that ever true! As it finally worked out, we chose the oasis, they chose the desert, and choice always trumps. But we could just as well have chosen to re-conform ourselves to the desert, for the sake of maintaining our friendships.
I once knew a preacher like that. He was set on fire by the Holy Spirit and was filled with excitement at his discovery, but the old, staid members of his congregation reminded him they paid the bills, and he gave into their pressure. In a matter of months he quit his job, moved to another state and dropped into the dustbin of those called but not chosen. In my opinion, he was relegated to obscurity, and now awaits the end of his life a sick and infirm man. Once you begin to plow for God, don’t stop and look back. Remember Lot’s wife.
I had a dream once about a small sailboat. As the dream began I was looking at the sailboat from a distance, and could see it was tethered to the bank by a rope. Then an invisible hand untied the rope and the little boat began to move away from the land. A few seconds later a small breeze filled the sail and it began to move. And I heard someone say, “You are the boat, and the breeze is the Holy Spirit. He will take you where you need to go.”
None of us know where God will take us, but we can be sure of this: He will take us there if we allow it and make room for Him to do it.

John

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