The Trip So Far

05/18/2017

Obedience of Choice – Love

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 12:06

“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. [John 15:12; NKJV]

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. [Romans 5:5; NKJV]

I’ve prayed for many years that the love God ‘poured out in (my heart)’ would manifest itself. I’ve pictured waking up some glorious morning and finding that I simply love everyone. I think now that without some additional understanding on my part, my waiting for this miracle will never end. Here’s why:
Every command, whether given by Jesus or anyone else, implies a necessity of obedience, and every time we obey any command, we make a conscious choice to do so. And in the case of Jesus’ command in John 15, we first have to hear, receive, choose to obey, then do so, for us to successfully comply. With four parts to that equation, can you see how this can be derailed for us?
If God is love, as the Scripture says He is, then the love He pours out in our hearts has to be substantially Himself, in some form. In this case, I believe the Holy Spirit Himself, is Who is poured out upon, and in us, when we are baptized in the Holy Spirit (see: Acts 2), for where else would we get this love? In Romans 5:5, the ‘love’ poured out upon us is the agape love of God. It is not a love we can work up or create; we either acquire it or we don’t.
To complete the thesis of choice and obedience, we only have to reference Jesus’ command for us to forgive. Does anyone seriously think we can even hope to truly forgive without making choices to do so? Through our choices, forgiveness is first a verb which becomes a noun through obedience. I believe love is acquired the same way. Looking at forgiveness, most of us have had the following progressive experience:
First, we choose to forgive, and this is the most difficult part, because our feelings must be made subordinate. Second, as we bypass our feelings, including continually dumping our justification for unforgiveness as well as the ongoing unworthiness of the forgiven individual, we must consistently choose to obey. Third, as we consistently obey, our hearts are gradually changed, and true forgiveness is finally born in our hearts. Fourth, our feelings will gradually reflect the fulfillment of our initial decision. Our healed feelings are the last things that are manifested, not the first. And after all is completed, even though the forgiven person may not have changed, or even been aware of our struggle, we are finally freed from the bondage of unforgiveness.
I believe loving anyone other than ourselves, which we come hardwired to do, requires the obedience of choice just as forgiveness does. It has to be the same process. Let me acknowledge right here that for some, these choices come much more easily than to others, and circumstances also play a part in the ambient difficulty, nonetheless, the process is the same for both forgiveness and love.
In some way I chose to love God, and in the same way, I can, and should choose to love others. While I cannot reflect God’s love for others out of my own strength and ability, I can continually give God the authority to reflect Himself and His desires through me towards others, by my right choices.
So take heart. If you have difficulty loving others, do not despair. While it may seem to come easily and naturally for others, there is no underlying defect in you. Make the right choices, and keep making them, and God will work a miracle in that hard heart. No matter how short or how long, how natural or naturally unnatural, every worthwhile journey starts at the beginning.
God changes hard hearts. It is what He does, and He’s really good at it.

John

05/17/2017

Sharing In His Sufferings

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 08:19

For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. [Heb 2:10; KJV]

One of my favorite true story, DVD movie series is called, Band Of Brothers. I know there are many good Christians who would not dare pollute their minds with this R-rated viewing, but I keep in mind that the earth as we know it is almost entirely R-rated, and certainly all war is. It is not how we’d like it to be, but that’s just a fact of life on earth. And after our salvation and translation into His Kingdom, Jesus left us on earth. It was R-rated for Him, too. In fact, Hebrews 2:10 refers to what Jesus suffered on earth, for certainly He did not suffer in heaven.
In Band Of Brothers (not for the timid), the most impactful part of the series is the interviews with the real soldiers depicted by the actors. Those old veterans were incredible, and there is something transcendent in their demeanor that is haunting.
Some years ago I had the honor of attending a military reunion for my father-in-law’s Korean War unit. As I sat in a room with about 250-300 old veterins, I observed a bunch of average looking men chatting away intimately with each other like they had never been apart…but there was a tangible difference between them and any other bunch of old men. I couldn’t quite pin it down at first, it was almost like an elusive flavor, a subtlety I couldn’t define, but it was very real.
Then I learned their unit had been surrounded in what is now North Korea, and had had to fight its way out. And it gradually dawned on me that I was sitting amongst those fortunate few who had been spared! I cannot describe how awesome, and sobering it was. It was very close to the gravity that overtook me years before as I looked out over Gettysburg.
At that reunion, I realized with a shock that I was privileged to be observing, and sitting among, a whole ballroom of real American heroes, and the elusive ‘flavor’ I was sensing was the flavor of their blood-bought communion, as it was forged in them by the fire of combat. As we share in the sufferings of Christ, we also share in a communion with Him that can be found no other way, and as we do so, we too are forged.
We temper steel in order to make it tough; God tempers us through suffering for the same reason. And He tempered Jesus, the man, through suffering, just so He could be a perfect sacrifice for us, for anything less tempered would not have been ‘perfect’, and would have disqualified Him in the eyes of God to be our substitute.
It was a perfect work on the cross; nothing lacking and nothing more needed, and it came through suffering, and although we don’t need to suffer in order to work our way into the salvation Jesus bought for us, we need suffering in order to be in perfect communion with Him, and we become veterans of earth with Him.
This communion is why Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers.

John

05/15/2017

Young Lions Arising

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 11:44

It shall come to pass in that day that there will be no light; the lights will diminish. It shall be one day Which is known to the LORD–neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen that it will be light. [Zechariah 14:6-7; NKJV]

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

The Lord said to me, “Today I am putting the young lions in the front lines of the fight, and I’m replacing the old Lions, the ones who’ve been scarred by combat, the ones who’ve seen the horrors of battle, the ones who have laid awake on their couches in the dark, awaiting My healing or death, the ones who have born the brunt of battle in their time, and I’m putting young lions into the lines of battle, and who will teach these young lions the lessons of their warfare? Who will show them how to fight? Who passes on such knowledge?”
This is what the Lord spoke to me several nights ago as I was praying, and His words have been loud in my mind ever since, and the memory of them is almost painful.
So many young lions have begun roaring for their chance to join the battle. They proudly have begun proclaiming the victory, as we once did, and they raise their fists to the heavens saying, “We are more than conquerors; we are fierce.” And I wonder, who will tell them that my generation was once ‘fierce’? Many of us fell in the wilderness, and those who crossed the Jordan left some giants in the land? The giants have always been ready. Are you?
Yes, you’re fierce now, roaring with the other young ones, hungry to test their teeth, but will you be as fierce when you seem to be by yourself in the dark nights of your souls, when the giants approach seemingly unhindered by your faith? How fierce will you be when your courage lies hidden in the circumstances, and drains away like water in a bucket with holes? How fierce will you be when you cry alone for comfort and there seems to be no comfort. Who will show you what to do then? There is a way, and many of the old ones found it, but have they told you about it?
My generation of remnant warriors perhaps failed to pass on to you the horrible and costly lessons that they learned through great difficulty, as the casualties around them mounted. Many of their peers fell as they crossed the beaches of invasion into enemy territory, and the casualties around them were so shocking! Scores of young men and women, young lions in their generation, fell on either side, taken down and out by sin, disease and tragedy; taken too early out of the battle by the unmerciless enemy.
Now your turn is beginning, and our turn is ending, and those of us who made it this far across our portion of the beaches, are watching your generation, fierce young lions, coming in with the tides of the Lord. We are watching their eager, expectant faces as they enter into the front lines of combat. Only the shock of battle can season, and for most of them, it is only the beginning. As they enter the lines, I can see on their courageous faces the reflection of their hearts; they’re all winners of the contest that for them, has not even earnestly begun.
Where are the generals, the tried veterans of combat in my generation? Many are still slashing left and right with swords dripping in enemy blood, for their combat never relents, even though they desperately need the added strength of the young ones. I wonder, do they realize their turn is running out? Do they know they are being systematically replaced in the front lines? Are they open to learn the new roles God has for them?
Who will soon be left to teach and instruct the young ones how to find the Way when there seems to be no way? Who will teach them about the abiding fellowship of the Spirit of God, when He seems so distant, and so long in coming? Who can testify to them the trials of faith? Who amongst the generals are taking responsibility for the young ones, and who else feels the burden of that responsibility?
Yes, I am concerned, for these young lions the fight will intensify, more for them than it was for us, because time now is much closer to the end of the war. Much more power will be provided for them because much more will be needed, but have they yet seen the reality in time and space of the Bible’s words, ‘To whom much is given, much will be required.’?
The spoils of their victory will be much sweeter than was for my generation, and it will be more glorious in scope and magnitude, but the victory may well come to them at greater cost than it did for us. May God forgive us old ones for wallowing in so much comfort and fighting so self-centered a combat that we failed to look ahead and prepare these young ones to take their place in the lines.
Perhaps we failed to give them battle tested, battle-hardened foundations. Perhaps we never found it ourselves…remember, we left giants. In my generation, we were not told the fight would be so long lasting, and the casualties so numerous. We were told we were the last generation, and we turned inward upon ourselves.
We failed to see past ourselves in many ways, but now that our turn is coming to an end, and their turn is beginning, I am grimly reminded of our shortcomings, and I am more and more desperately cast upon God for their welfare, for their victory. Now is the time for the generals of yesterday to shake the walls of heaven in increasingly earnest prayer on behalf of these new fighters.
May God give us a voice to these young lions, and may they be humble enough to listen. I am trusting in Almighty God that all will be in order…all will be made right in due time. For The Day is coming….

John

05/10/2017

Soundbites – The Starvation Diet

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 16:28

In 2006, when I first began writing blogs, I realized I should stick to one-pagers because most contemporary folks can’t hang on any longer than one page. Sad, but true. Someone once commented that most Americans read at a third grade level. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know this…many do, all too many, and we tend to read in soundbite sized pieces. I wouldn’t be too concerned about this except that it is as true for the church people as anyone else…and it ought not to be that way.
I know people who thoroughly chew their food, and they usually take small bites at that! What a waste of time! I learned to eat in the U.S. Army, where we were given a full five minutes to finish our meals, and if we looked up from our plate, we were ushered out of the mess hall to await the inevitable five mile shuffle following the meal. I still eat that way, although I forego the shuffle, and it’s a friendly point of contention between my chew-every-bite wife and me.
Yesterday, my wife emailed me a link to a fifty-five minute video sermon that was initially aired in the year 2000. And as I began to view the video content, I was struck by several things. First, fifty-five minutes is quite a time commitment in today’s soundbite world; second, I’m not at all sure I could have listened to the sermon in an audio format, and third, the content was pure gold, especially the last five minutes of it. I wonder, are there any of us left out there willing to invest in anything more taxing to our minds than soundbites? And I’m exclusively referencing the church, and I’m not excluding myself, although I wish I could.
It wasn’t that many generations ago that a man would pan for gold all day just to get a handful of gold dust, but I fear we’ve grown too impatient as a culture to work like that, and again, I reference today’s church. Our limits on what constitutes acceptable spiritual messages seems more based on time rather than content, and as such, I think we are missing so many timeless treasures that are right before us.
Those eternal treasures were mined and refined for us by previous generations of very serious Christians, in the hope that future generations (us) could build on those truths, but I think, if we think at all, we waste so much of our allotted time poking around for titillating soundbites. Perhaps we’d rather have the glitter than the gold. God doesn’t cast His pearls before swine, and perhaps this is a message for us today: soundbite Christianity is a starvation diet, and Christian people can die that way.
Rather than log onto Facebook so I can take a self-absorbed selfie of my latest restaurant experience, I use Facebook as a publishing medium in the hopes something I post can change a life for the better, and perhaps even draw someone closer to God. I’m not saying anyone who doesn’t do as I do is wrong, I’m merely pointing out that right now is the only time we have to voluntarily draw close to God; when we all stand before Him, as we all will, it will be too late to get it right.
Sometimes, people will post a fifty-five minute sermon on Facebook. Perhaps they’re willing to take a chance that somewhere out there is some hungry soul willing to dig out the genuine gold buried within it. There probably aren’t many left who are that hungry, that patient to endure risking fifty-five precious minutes of their time. Undoubtedly, there are probably many more than a few who think nothing of watching hours of television every day, or posting silly pictures of themselves on Facebook, in the vain hope anyone else really cares, but I’m banking that God will feed His Remnant real food.
I’m banking that the Remnant of God will be able to put off the headline-driven, soundbite diets that are robbing them of real life. Most real gold is harvested with hard work, and I’m worried I am being made too lazy with the fake gold so prevalent and so easily available to us. For me, the temptation is very real, and I don’t want to be dumbed down by soundbite Christianity.
I have to continually remind myself that I have a choice, and I would encourage the Remnant – take a chance and invest in the real gold. Sometimes it’s buried in a fifty-five minute meal. I too, have to learn to chew every bite.

John

05/01/2017

Opening Kingdom Doors

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 09:43

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, [1 Peter 5:6; NKJV]

This morning was another adventure in prayer for me, and I have to confess I’m getting addicted to them! Stumbling down four flights of dark stairs, I arrived in my prayer chair about ready to go back to sleep, and not having any idea of where to begin, I simply asked God what was on His heart, and began to pray.
This scenario seems to be a common adventure-beginner for me, and it began immediately as I began to pray, and my prayer, surprisingly, was all about Servanthood. All this had to be God at work because as the prayer was spilling out of my mouth, my mind was asking in amazement, “What on earth is this all about?!” And as I prayed, a revelation from God began breaking in upon me…
One major context of the Bible from Genesis through Revelation is the concept of Servanthood. The scripture that kept coming to my mind while I prayed was Matthew 20:25-26, where Jesus said to His disciples:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.”
The problem we have with Servanthood is precisely because it is so doggoned servile. It’s really quite simple; we would rather be served than to serve, and in our culture it is considered demeaning to be a servant. Who takes a summer job as a janitor and decides to remain a janitor all his life? We mark a man like that down and say he has no ambition.
In our culture we elevate the concept of “getting ahead”, and the “up and comers” are treated with respect, but Jesus came into the world to serve, and it was through His service to God and man that He was ultimately given a name greater than any other. Jesus never called us to be great at anything other than to love and serve, and the door to real meekness and true humility only opens for His servants.
Like us, the Jews of Jesus’ day missed their Messiah because they were looking for the one who would lead Israel out from under the Roman boot and make Israel great. They were looking for a great, charismatic leader, not a servant. Similar to that, we’re looking for the One Who promised us a Kingdom, while missing the foundational fact He first told us to be His servants. And like meekness and humility, the door to Kingdom living only opens for servants.
I’m really getting good at giving Jesus all my life, and I do it all the time during worship and prayer…I’m just not very good at choosing to be a servant. After all that worshipful glory, Servanthood doesn’t seem very exciting, and yet, that is precisely what Jesus wants from me.
So here’s my takeaway on my latest adventure: the doors of the Kingdom open for God’s servants, and if we want to see the open doors He sets before us, and expect to successfully go through them, we must go through them as His slaves/servants, and the freedom we look for is only found through Servanthood. Only a true servant can say, “My life is no longer my own.” To say this without being a servant is nothing less than hypocrisy.
So it was that as I closed out my prayer, I asked God to help me be created anew as a servant; a servant of His, a servant of others, a servant of my church, simply a servant, every day. Whatever happens after that is His prerogative.
And I have a sneaky feeling that it is within the context of Servanthood that death loses it’s sting, the waves of life calm down and contentment awaits. While it is true that Jesus did come to serve God and man (me), it is also true that only those who serve Him will enter His Kingdom. It was always a two-way street.
No slave is greater than his master, and the real doors of the Kingdom open for the servants of Jesus. Not my rules.

John

04/30/2017

Are We Ready, Or Not?

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 14:45

You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. [Heb 12:4; NKJV]

“The price of a soul has always been the cost of a life.” (my own: 4/30/2017)

Today I’m getting ready for yet another stellar church service. It will be a house packed with exuberant people, ostensibly on fire for more and more of God’s presence, and I’m looking forward to it very much, and yet, I remember early this morning during my prayers….
In most of the gatherings of the church, songs are sung which boldly proclaim the commitment of the singers, myself included, but in the back recesses of my mind is always a catch, and I hear in my conscience, “Are you personally ready to surrender all, even at the cost of your life, because you are declaring into the heavens that you are. Are you ready, or not?”
For many generations we in America have not yet had to risk our own lives by believing in and living for, Jesus Christ. But that time may very well be coming, and soon. Are we ready to take our turn?
Just prior to my reference verse in Hebrews 12 is the verse that refers to a ‘great cloud of witnesses’, and I’ve always felt “watched” by them. Who are these ‘witnesses’’? They are the ones who have gone on before us, the point of the spear in their own generations, and I know they are watching us to see if we will finish well, as they did.
In prayer early this morning, I was picturing a first century Christian family in a cold, dark, wet prison cell, awaiting to be ushered into the adjacent arena to face the lions; awaiting as a family, to have their entrails torn from them by the huge claws of the beasts – men, women and little children, some of them babies. And I wonder, were they ready? What kind of faith would give them the incredible resolve to face that fate? Do we have that kind of faith? Frankly, I’m not sure we do; I’m not sure I do.
What I am sure we are ready for is the Glory of God to break upon the world with power and majesty. I, we, are getting ready for the great influx of desperate, hopeless people, moved by their pain and fear to seek the God we are joyously willing to share with them. Yes, I’m ready for that, and my church is too. But what if a great, concurrent persecution were to arise at the same time? Are we ready to risk all? Are we willing to forfeit our lives on American soil, for the cause of the Gospel? More importantly, should we only be ready for one and not the other?
Gloom and doom, many would say. “You are casting cold water on our worship by your questions..” I would answer with something that came out of my mouth unbidden while I was praying this morning: “The price of a soul has always been the cost of a life.”
What if that life is yours? What if that life is mine? Are we truly ready? What is God going to buy at the cost of our lives? Will He require our lives to advance His Kingdom? We’ve enjoyed God’s blessings in such abundance for so long, that to even raise this issue of sacrificial commitment is not something we want to do, yet I’d rather have too much commitment than not enough. I’d rather be too ready, than not ready at all.
Several decades ago, a missionary named Jim Elliott penned a now famous quote: ‘He is no fool who gives away what he cannot keep, to gain something he cannot lose’. He lived by that saying…and died for it. After his violent murder, the very Indians who had killed him and his companions became Christians. Jim Elliott and those with him, were true Christian heroes. They sacrificed their lives in order to bring life to those who were dead.
I am not suggesting we all go out and look for valiant ways to sacrifice our lives, but I am saying that God may use the termination of our lives to bring life to the lost, and advance His Kingdom, and I’m concerned because so many “soft” American Christians only want to usher in a glorious party.
And I have to wonder, who will pay for the party? Are we ready, or not?

John

04/25/2017

Restored Expectations

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 06:00

We just experienced another conference weekend at World Revival Church, in Kansas City, Missouri. We moved here last year from a place in Colorado where it was quite common to see bumper stickers that proudly proclaimed: “Just Another Ho-Hum Day In Paradise”.
We moved away from that empty, world-based version of ‘Paradise’ to live more closely to, and within one that is alive. Good trade off, in my opinion, and I’d do it all over again without a blink! This weekend was one of the reasons we moved, and it was a part of our reward for doing so.
I really had no idea how self-limiting we were, I was, until the light came on the last few days. I went into the conference, aptly named the Restore Conference, with very limited expectations, unbeknownst to me. I was excited that I would get to be with so many new friends and predictably hear preaching several cuts above average anywhere else in the world, but I had no idea what I stepped into as the conference began!
Good conferences are choreographed, they don’t just happen, and this one was superbly set up. Every speaker built to a crescendo, and every crescendo built to a stunning conclusion. Every day, my wife and I would drive back home carrying attitudes that could be stated as, “What just happened to us?!”, only to get hammered even more the next day.
This morning, as I was going over the things I heard and experienced the last several days, God gently reminded me that one of the reasons He moved us here was because we had been so used to mediocre, that our expectations had almost died….and we didn’t even know how bad the problem had become. God needed to expose the pending death of our expectations and restore them, if we were ever to step into His destiny for us. Dead flowers aren’t used at God’s table, and that’s what we were quickly becoming.
Several times during the conference I said, “I wish so-and-so had been here..”, and each time God gently reminded me, “Don’t say that. Don’t grieve for them. I set the table, and they made their excuses – their choices. Instead, be thankful you are here, and here amongst all these others who chose to come.”
And with that, let me close with this: Right choices are not free and easy. They all cost something. Everyone reading this might think I’m pumping my church, and I am. But I also know that God provides wherever you might be, and He sets tables of provisions up all over the world, all the time. Choose wisely, and once you do, don’t second guess it – let Him do the work in you He wants to do.
God, not us, is all about restoration. It is why He came, and He knows what He’s doing.

John

04/24/2017

The “Now what’s” of Religion

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 11:20

I’ve learned through personal experience, that “Religion” is deadly and without mercy to those without, and slavery to those within. It was one of the best lessons I’ve ever had, and even now I’m still learning from it. And if you’re exposed to preachers that sometimes harp on the evils of “Religion”, you might actually be on the right track, because the religious will seldom cut their own throats.
Religion is man made, and produces by default, men and women who are enslaved to a man-made system. It is a system that comes with many different and sometimes confusing labels, but it is one system in many guises. The driving spirit behind religion is at best, man’s spirit, but these systems all come with one lifetime warranty: You are ultimately guaranteed to fall short and perish.
It is rumored that some sky diving schools used to advertise that if your parachute didn’t open, they’d repack it for free. Just a rumor, of course, but it reminds me of my topic. I am of course, contrasting Religion with God’s version of (True) Religion.
Man’s religion is necessarily limited to the goals of man. And this is true no matter how much we sincerely hope God will bless them. God’s religion is limited by Himself, as a Person, and His goals for us, His creation, and on into eternity. God’s limits are unlimited; I’d go as far as calling them an unlimited, forever unfolding glory.
If you wonder whether you’re trapped in religion, simply wait until your church completes one of it’s projects and then ask the pastor, “Now what?”, because man-made religion doesn’t have now-what’s. By asking what would seem a logical, innocent question, you will have exposed the nakedness of the church system, and if you ask that question you will in all likelihood be labeled a rebel.
Any man-made religious system is a closed system; there really is no external life-source, and any “goals” are simply goals in a closed loop. Like the ‘Man who never returned’ you are destined to go round and round…until the warranty is validated.
In contrast, God’s religion is Jesus. It is powered by His Eternal Life and it’s goals are the desires of God’s Heart. In a man-made system, it’s all about the desires of our hearts. In God’s religion, it’s all about His Heart and His desires – lucky for us He’s a good God!!
Man-made religion has no risks. It is safe and it is entirely predictable. It appeals to those comfortable with being dumbed down and is run by those who already have been. As such, it is by definition, a club.
God’s religion is chock full of risks, and only the “crazy” would consider it normal. It is like being a passenger in a large plane with an invisible pilot. And while there are hints of the ultimate destination, yet unexperienced, the stops along the way are definitely not passenger directed. In fact, some days, it’s like a spiritual version of running across Omaha Beach on D-Day, but while the bullets may take their toll, they cannot keep you from getting Home; the war has been won already. Now the only remaining question becomes: “Do I run with the others, or do I sit down and wait for the bullet?”
1 Corinthians 6:17 says: ‘But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. And the ‘join’ is in the context of the closeness of a sexual union. Read it for yourself. Back up a few verses and begin with the context. God is not afraid of sex. We can’t be ‘one flesh’ with Him because He is Spirit, but we can be one Spirit with Him in the joining.
It is in the joining that God’s “religion” is created and lived. If you’re not intimately joined, you are indeed stuck in the wrong religious system. And if you are joined to the wrong religious system – you are dead already.
Think about it. Now what?

John

04/19/2017

If The Shoes Fit…

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

With this blog, I’m going to begin with an admission that may seem superfluous, but please bear with me.
When I was in high school, about the time dirt was discovered, my mother demanded that I wear wing-tip shoes every day, just like my father. Blue jeans were never, repeat never, to be worn to school, and most certainly never to church.
I did a lot of walking in those days. My house was almost exactly one mile from school, and in my sophomore year, my girlfriend’s house was almost exactly one mile on the other side of school, so I got a lot of exercise just walking. Unless it was pouring down rain or snowing so hard it could be cut with a knife, a ride to school never happened. While it may seem unnecessary to mention here, those wing-tips, once broken in, were the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever had. They were size 10 ½.
In my college years, post dirt, for some reason I figured out I should have been wearing size 9’s, and I wore that size until quite recently. And in the intervening time since my college years in the 60’s, my feet went from bad to worse. Finally in 2015, I bought some hiking shoes, and was surprised when the salesman told me I should be wearing a size 10 ½! Although it was a bit late for my feet, I had an epiphany, and I was much more comfortable wearing the right size shoes.
The moral of this weird story is that one can wear the wrong size for a long time without knowing it is wrong, and be damaged in the process. With that in mind, let me give a brief testimony about understanding (or not understanding) the Bible.
My first mentor in my Christian walk was formerly a Presbyterian elder in a prestigious Presbyterian church in St. Louis County, Missouri. Since he had a Scofield Reference Bible under his arm all the time, I began my Christian education reading my own Scofield Bible, in the King James translation (was there any other?!).
In the Christian circles I ran with in the 70’s, during the Charismatic Movement in that part of the world, the idea of a Pre-Trib (ulation) Rapture was unquestioned. Three or four scriptures were utilized to firm up this doctrine, particularly 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:52, and upon this immovable foundation I formed my belief in the commonly taught, Pre-Trib Rapture, as a totally different event than the Second Coming of Christ, and I began waiting to be abruptly jerked up and out of this nasty world. He would come ‘in the clouds’, don’t you know…?
It was in 2016 that it occurred to me that men I had recently met, and respected as teachers and leaders, held a different viewpoint – using the same scriptures! And initially, I was floored that such educated men could be so blind in an area of doctrine so obvious to me.
After some months, I wondered what would seem evident to me if I were to read these scriptures without the slightest hint of pre-disposition towards the Rapture. For me to do so, I would risk being cast adrift in an area I thought firmly attached, but what if they were right, and heaven forbid, I was wrong?
And so, one day earlier this year, I began reading Rapture scriptures in an unbiased manner, and doing so for me, was like trying on shoes I was pre-convinced wouldn’t fit, just in the unlikely event they would, and honestly, I fully expected my view on the Rapture to be fully vindicated.
You see, I had convinced myself I was right in my interpretation of the Rapture, and by extension, anyone who didn’t agree with me had to be wrong. I never even guessed I might be influenced by interpretational bias… . But one day the light came on for me, and as I read I realized I had had it all wrong for most of my life. Sure, Christ was coming in the clouds, but the picture God gave me was of an airplane descending through the clouds in order to land as predicted, on the runway.
Using the very same scriptures that once convinced me the Rapture, as a stand-alone Pre-Trib event, I was blown away to find they actually fit much better into the context of the Second Coming of Christ. The truth was there all the time, but by my pre-conditioning I had ruled it out, and thereby missed it entirely. All these years I had been ignorantly and stubbornly wearing the wrong spiritual shoes. I felt foolish, but relieved. God always reveals Himself to honest seekers, and He is His Word.
I know many who are doctrinally where I once was, would label this writing the product of an indoctrinated mind, and while I understand from personal experience how sincere they are, I would humbly and lovingly reply, “You are sincerely wrong.”
Others would say, “What does it matter? One way or the other, I’m going to heaven.”, and I understand, but I would say that it matters in the here and now, and how we live our lives as His witnesses while we yet tread this earth. We weren’t called to “hang on”; we were called to advance the Kingdom – with force.
I’ve met many who claim they are “Pan-Trib”, meaning it will all “Pan” out in the end. Cute! Well yes, of course, but with that thinking, why read the Bible at all? Nowhere does God even hint that ignorance is His will, in fact, we are told numerous times to ‘study’ His word. It is apparent to me that God is definitely not Pan-Trib Himself, and He wants to reveal Himself to His family – what good father wouldn’t?
With all this in mind, I would encourage those few who dare to attempt reading the Bible with open minds and without pre-conceived notions, to try on like shoes, the different size of a no, Pre-Trib Rapture. I firmly believe they will find what I found…the Second Coming is not only the only overtly promised event of this nature, it’s a much better fit.
I no longer hope to be whisked out of this world in a flash-escape; rather, I seek to be empowered by the Spirit of God to be able to be a effective witness for Him on this earth while I yet live.
God has always left Himself witnesses, and as His child, redeemed by His Son, may I be counted among them – whatever the cost.

John

04/18/2017

Everyone Needs A Bogeyman

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 08:21

Recently, I can’t help noticing the ongoing media coverage concerning North Korea. Discounting the obvious fear-mongering so prevalent in our progressive media outlets, it just seems incredible to me that the United States is once again, someone’s bogeyman.
You just have to ask, why on earth would the United States ever consider making any kind of war preemptively on North Korea unless we were preemptively provoked to do so?
I simply cannot imagine anything we would want with that miserable real estate. And other than a perfectly hideous hairstyle I saw copied at Walmart last week, North Korea could not possibly have anything approaching a export crop we would value.
Perhaps I’m just a bit naïve, but is it feasible that we would want to pull another loser country out of the gutters they’ve so determinately placed themselves in? Does that make sense to you? So just what is the mentally impoverished leadership in North Korea smoking that would make them believe we care enough to invade? I cannot imagine any, even remote advantage, to our doing so. Don’t we already have enough starving and dissatisfied people in our own country to contend with?
The simple answer to North Korea’s obsession with our aggression has to be that they need an external bogeyman in order to rally their masses and focus their attention away from their own internal chaos. The United States, simply stated, is their chosen common enemy that binds them together in a perverse, hate-based unity of paranoia.
North Korea desperately needs a bogeyman, and with our given record of dispersing billions of dollars all over the world in mis-allocated compassion, they have everything to gain, and nothing to lose that they haven’t already lost.
On the other hand, and I keep waiting for someone with clout to say this, we have everything to lose and absolutely nothing to gain in this unfolding debacle. It seems painfully obvious to me that North Korea’s provocations are so much like a hideously ugly person proclaiming over and over, “You can’t have me, no matter how much I know you want me!” What kind of twisted, perverse mind would find that a reality? Wake up, North Korea! Nobody wants you…absolutely nobody! Maybe you’d have more to offer if you began to take responsibility for your problems and quit blaming everyone else for them.
So far, this has been a political blog, but to turn it into a Christian blog, all I have to do is substitute the phrase, “North Korea” with “Many Christians”. Do we too, need a bogeyman? Are all of our Christian issues somehow God’s fault? Are we in the habit of blaming others for our shortcomings in the church?
With the resurrection of Jesus, perhaps the most witnessed event of history, believers we given back their lost human dignity and given new life and new lives…but unless we grasp those facts with active faith, they remain illusionary, and are relegated to the category of “what should be” rather than “what is.” Nobody ever got saved by potential.
Jesus came to earth to lose what He had, that we might gain what we did not have. The words of an old, camp meeting song, long forgotten, state: “He paid a debt He did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay, I needed someone to wash my sins away..”.
Americans of all races don’t need a bogeyman, they simply need a Savior. Some things never change.

John

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