Friday, January 29, 2016

C.S. Lewis on the Importance of Tao in Politics

There are two polar extremes when it comes to Christian values in the American world of politics. First, there are those people who insist that the only nation which will prosper is the nation "whose God is the Lord" and has leaders that represent the Judeo-Christian values of the Bible. Then there other people who are anti-anything that has to do with Judeo-Christian values or those candidates who support them. 

During the political season, Facebook blows up with people opining whether or not this candidate--or that candidate--truly represents the historic "Christian values" of America. Some candidates seemingly void of Christian faith in their personal lives suddenly begin courting and catering to Christians, claiming that they will represent them in the political world. Then, like clockwork, the anti-everything Christian crowd skewers those candidates by pointing out that "real Christians" would never own casinos, sell liquor, declare bankruptcy, etc... Suddenly, everyone seems to be an expert on all things Christian. 

America needs a modern C.S. Lewis to remind Christians living in America about the true nature of our politics:
A sick society must think much about politics, as a sick man must think much about his digestion; to ignore the subject may be fatal cowardice for one as for the other. But if either comes to regard it as the natural food of the mind—if either forgets that we think of such things only in order to be able to think of something else—then what was undertaken for the sake of health has become itself a new and deadly disease. — C.S. Lewis
Lewis believed that like digestion, politics is not everything, nor is it nothing. It's important, but it's not life itself. Politics is a practice that is necessary to protect and promote the temporary life God has provided for us on earth. The important principle for Lewis was that Christians ought remember politics has its limits. Lewis believed that the best Christian political thought and action was accomplished not by pastors wanting a "Christian America" but by Christian businessmen in business and Christian doctors in medicine, and Christian citizens in society, practicing the craft of politics by applying the Golden Rule to the ugliness of politics.
“The practical problem of Christian politics is not that of drawing up schemes for a Christian society, but that of living as innocently as we can with unbelieving fellow-subjects under unbelieving rulers who will never be perfectly wise and good and who will sometimes be very wicked and very foolish." - [C.S. Lewis, "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment," in God in the Dock, 292]. 
Lewis believed that the best way for Christians in any nation to view politics and politicians was through the lens of natural law, what Lewis called the Tao (pronounced Dow). Lewis believed that the Tao (Chinese for "The Way") was a set of "natural laws" impressed on the heart of every human being. The Tao leads people to treat others with respect and dignity, to protect and provide for the defenseless, to resist oppression, and to pursue justice. The manner in which this is done may vary, but the moral principle, or Tao, abides within all men and all religions.

I am reading The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis, and in the appendix of this classic work, there is a thorough description of Lewis' Tao.  In politics, Lewis argued that you ought to listen to the words and carefully observe the behaviors of those candidates running for office, for in the end, those who live their lives by natural law will be the only effective leaders in a sick society that is anti-everything Christian.
Unfortunately, we live in a day when young people only know Tao as a nightclub in Las Vegas and have never considered it as the laxative for the clogged and polluted politics of our day. And even worse, we live in a time  when pastors don't even know Tao is a nightclub, nor do they know that in the sick society in which we live, it's more important to practice Tao in the race for office than it is to say you are a Christian. 

Don't take my word for it; listen to Lewis.  

Sunday, January 24, 2016

I Have Set My Face to Love Like Flint

Six months before crucifixion, Jesus "determined to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51 NAS) to die. In the original Greek, the word determined is literally "set His face" to go to Jerusalem. I imagine Dr. Luke is intentionally referencing a Messianic prophecy from Isaiah 50:7 - "Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame."

When Jesus went to the cross to die for us, He demonstrated real love. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). If you wish to know real love, you must look at Jesus' love for us, for "in this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (I John 4:10).

When I think of Christ's love for me, I consider it to be:

1. Intentional - "I have set My face like flint" to die for Wade Burleson.
2. Unconditional - "I have set My face like flint" to deliver Wade Burleson.
3. Sacrificial - "I have set My face like flint" to draw Wade Burleson.

I am convinced about two faults with the modern church. First, we spend so much time talking about our love for God, that we lose the proper perspective of real love. Love, as it is to be, is seen in Christ's love for us, not our love for God. Second, we lack love for one another because we've never been captivated and enthralled with an understanding of His love for us.

Intentional love comes from within the One loving. Christ's love is like an artesian spring; it is not pulled out of Him because of my loveliness, but flows from within Him because He is love.

Unconditional love thinks nothing of the weakness of the one being loved, or expects reciprocating love, for the One loving recognizes that real love is an action of worth, never an attitude of want.

Sacrificial love is the kind of love that endures pain, burrows through suffering, endures all things for the ones being loved. Christ's love for me is intentional, unconditional and sacrificial.

No Greater Love

How should we like it were the stars to burn
With a passion for us, we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

If I think this only brings pain,
I’ve yet to learn love’s true gain.
For when I give without any pull,
It’s a sign my heart is already full.

This is the reason I bow my knee
And ask to know God’s love for me.
If your affection ever turns cold,
My love for you will never grow old.

W.H. Auden and W.W. Burleson (2014)

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Power of "Sticking Up" for Someone

Ball's Island (South Pacific) - Photo Credit John White
National Public Radio science writer Robert Krulwich writes one of the more interesting articles I've read in a long time. Entitled Six-Legged Giant Finds Secret Hideaway, Hides For 80 Years, the story is a modern parable on the power of perseverance in "sticking up" for someone (or something) that is in trouble. Rather than summarize, I am reposting the article here:

 No, this isn't a make-believe place. It's real.

They call it "Ball's Pyramid." It's what's left of an old volcano that emerged from the sea about 7 million years ago. A British naval officer named Ball was the first European to see it in 1788. It sits off Australia, in the South Pacific. It is extremely narrow, 1,844 feet high, and it sits alone.

What's more, for years this place had a secret. At 225 feet above sea level, hanging on the rock surface, there is a small, spindly little bush, and under that bush, a few years ago, two climbers, working in the dark, found something totally improbable hiding in the soil below. How it got there, we still don't know.

Here's the story: About 13 miles from this spindle of rock, there's a bigger island, called Lord Howe Island.

On Lord Howe, there used to be an insect, famous for being big. It's a stick insect, a critter that masquerades as a piece of wood, and the Lord Howe Island version was so large — as big as a human hand — that the Europeans labeled it a "tree lobster" because of its size and hard, lobsterlike exoskeleton. It was 12 centimeters long and the heaviest flightless stick insect in the world. Local fishermen used to put them on fishing hooks and use them as bait.

Rod Morris/
Then one day in 1918, a supply ship, the S.S. Makambo from Britain, ran aground at Lord Howe Island and had to be evacuated. One passenger drowned. The rest were put ashore. It took nine days to repair the Makambo, and during that time, some black rats managed to get from the ship to the island, where they instantly discovered a delicious new rat food: giant stick insects. Two years later, the rats were everywhere and the tree lobsters were gone.
Totally gone. After 1920, there wasn't a single sighting. By 1960, the Lord Howe stick insect, Dryococelus australis, was presumed extinct.

There was a rumor, though.

Some climbers scaling Ball's Pyramid in the 1960s said they'd seen a few stick insect corpses lying on the rocks that looked "recently dead." But the species is nocturnal, and nobody wanted to scale the spire hunting for bugs in the dark.

Climbing the Pyramid

Fast forward to 2001, when two Australian scientists, David Priddel and Nicholas Carlile, with two assistants, decided to take a closer look. From the water, they'd seen a few patches of vegetation that just might support walking sticks. So, they boated over. ("Swimming would have been much easier," Carlile said, "but there are too many sharks.") They crawled up the vertical rock face to about 500 feet, where they found a few crickets, nothing special. But on their way down, on a precarious, unstable rock surface, they saw a single melaleuca bush peeping out of a crack and, underneath, what looked like fresh droppings of some large insect.

Where, they wondered, did that poop come from?

The only thing to do was to go back up after dark, with flashlights and cameras, to see if the pooper would be out taking a nighttime walk. Nick Carlile and a local ranger, Dean Hiscox, agreed to make the climb. And with flashlights, they scaled the wall till they reached the plant, and there, spread out on the bushy surface, were two enormous, shiny, black-looking bodies. And below those two, slithering into the muck, were more, and more ... 24 in all. All gathered near this one plant.

Map of Lord Howe Island
Credit: Stephanie d'Otreppe / NPR

They were alive and, to Nick Carlile's eye, enormous. Looking at them, he said, "It felt like stepping back into the Jurassic age, when insects ruled the world."

They were Dryococelus australis. A search the next morning, and two years later, concluded these are the only ones on Ball's Pyramid, the last ones. They live there, and, as best we know, nowhere else.

Photo Credit/Patrick Honan
How they got there is a mystery. Maybe they hitchhiked on birds, or traveled with fishermen, and how they survived for so long on just a single patch of plants, nobody knows either. The important thing, the scientists thought, was to get a few of these insects protected and into a breeding program.

That wasn't so easy. The Australian government didn't know if the animals on Ball's Pyramid could or should be moved. There were meetings, studies, two years passed, and finally officials agreed to allow four animals to be retrieved. Just four.

When the team went back to collect them, it turned out there had been a rock slide on the mountain, and at first they feared that the whole population had been wiped out. But when they got back up to the site, on Valentine's Day 2003, the animals were still there, sitting on and around their bush.
The plan was to take one pair and give it a man who was very familiar with mainland walking stick insects, a private breeder living in Sydney. He got his pair, but within two weeks, they died.

Adam And Eve And Patrick

That left the other two. They were named "Adam" and "Eve," taken to the Melbourne Zoo and placed with Patrick Honan, of the zoo's invertebrate conservation breeding group. At first, everything went well. Eve began laying little pea-shaped eggs, exactly as hoped. But then she got sick. According to biologist Jane Goodall, writing for Discover Magazine:
"Eve became very, very sick. Patrick ... worked every night for a month desperately trying to cure her. ... Eventually, based on gut instinct, Patrick concocted a mixture that included calcium and nectar and fed it to his patient, drop by drop, as she lay curled up in his hand."
Her recovery was almost instant. Patrick told the Australian Broadcasting Company, "She went from being on her back curled up in my hand, almost as good as dead, to being up and walking around within a couple of hours."

Eve's eggs were harvested, incubated (though it turns out only the first 30 were fertile) and became the foundation of the zoo's new population of walking sticks.

When Jane Goodall visited in 2008, Patrick showed her rows and rows of incubating eggs: 11,376 at that time, with about 700 adults in the captive population. Lord Howe Island walking sticks seem to pair off — an unusual insect behavior — and Goodall says Patrick "showed me photos of how they sleep at night, in pairs, the male with three of his legs protectively over the female beside him."

Now comes the question that bedevils all such conservation rescue stories. Once a rare animal is safe at the zoo, when can we release it back to the wild?

On Lord Howe Island, their former habitat, the great-great-great-grandkids of those original black rats are still out and about, presumably hungry and still a problem. Step one, therefore, would be to mount an intensive (and expensive) rat annihilation program. Residents would, no doubt, be happy to go rat-free, but not every Lord Howe islander wants to make the neighborhood safe for gigantic, hard-shell crawling insects. So the Melbourne Museum is mulling over a public relations campaign to make these insects more ... well, adorable, or noble, or whatever it takes.

They recently made a video, with strumming guitars, featuring a brand new baby emerging from its egg. The newborn is emerald green, squirmy and so long, it just keeps coming and coming from an impossibly small container. Will this soften the hearts of Lord Howe islanders? I dunno. It's so ... so ... big.

But, hey, why don't you look for yourself?

What happens next? The story is simple: A bunch of black rats almost wiped out a bunch of gigantic bugs on a little island far, far away from most of us. A few dedicated scientists, passionate about biological diversity, risked their lives to keep the bugs going. For the bugs to get their homes and their future back doesn't depend on scientists anymore. They've done their job. Now it's up to the folks on Lord Howe Island.

Will ordinary Janes and Joes, going about their days, agree to spend a little extra effort and money to preserve an animal that isn't what most of us would call beautiful? Its main attraction is that it has lived on the planet for a long time, and we have the power to keep it around. I don't know if it will work, but in the end, that's the walking stick's best argument:

I'm still here. Don't let me go.

Courtesy the Australian Museum

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Do You Mock Jesus Christ and His Cross of Shame? An Exposition of Deuteronomy 25:11-12

We live in a time when many would rather ridicule the Bible than read it. Even in America, a country that has every possible advantage for its citizens to know the Scriptures, American people will take to social media to mock the Bible and God Himself. For example, yesterday an anti-Christian cartoon appeared on Facebook (see left) with the comment, "This is the God that Christians worship. Does it sound like a god you want to serve?"

The verses being mocked (Deuteronomy 25:11-12) in the cartoon and the comment above are from the Law of Moses. The New American Standard English Version of the Bible seems to me to come the closest to the actual Hebrew.
“If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity."
These two verses are often chosen by atheists, agnostics, and scoffers as the denouement for their written treatises that mock Christianity and our God. In subsequent Facebook comments I read that discussed the cartoon, there were two groups of commentators: (1). Those anti-Christian in their beliefs who seemed smug in denigrating the Bible and those who believe it, and (2). Christians who had no idea how to explain Deuteronomy 25:11-12.

This short post is compassionate warning to the former group (non-believers in Christ) and an encouraging explanation to the latter group (believers in Christ).

Types in Scripture

The first five books of the Bible are called The Law of Moses and they are filled with types. Types are symbols of something else, like a "typewriter" is a symbol machine that strikes a piece of paper to represent something else (e.g. "the thoughts of the typist"). Typology in the Old Testament is simply a "picture language" in which the important thoughts of God are presented in symbols. A type is like the shadow of a person; when you see a shadow, you know that the shadow only represents the reality of a person. So too, when Israel brought their lambs for sacrifices before God, they were prefiguring (like a shadow) and representing the true Lamb of God (Jesus Christ) who takes away the sin of the world.

The woman who  grabs the "shameful parts" of the man who is wrestling with her husband serves as a type. In this Law passage (Deuteronomy 25:11-12), a very specific situation is described:
There's a fight (between 'brothers' or 'countrymen'), with a perpetrator (the wife of one of the brothers), involved in an action (seizing the opponent's "shameful parts"), with a resulting punishment (cutting off her hand) and a closing exhortation ("show no mercy.").
There are probably only a few pastors who would risk teaching from this Law text on a Sunday morning. There could be a number of interesting titles to choose from ... but I digress. The problem is people will read Deuteronomy 25:11-12 and only get tickled or troubled. There is an incredible gospel truth from this text that comes through the type that the two men, the actions of the woman, and the pronounced judgment all represent.

The Type Explained

In the recorded history of Israel, there is not one occasion where a Jewish woman loses her hand for violating this Law.  Think about it! Why would anyone Jewish woman "grab" the crotch of a kinsman fighting her husband? If you were defending your husband, you'd go for the head of his opponent, or the neck, or incapacitate in a much more efficient manner. Nevertheless, this Law is in the Pentateuch. I believe so many get lost in an attempt to explain the literal application of the Law (e.g. talionis lex) that that they miss the spiritual application.

When Jesus walked with the two men on the road to Emmaus, He began "with the Law and all the Prophets and explained to them what was said in the Scriptures concerning Himself"  (Luke 24:27). Deuteronomy 25:11-12 are two verses that describe Jesus Christ and and what our reaction to His "shameful" death should and should not be.

(1). The two men in Deuteronomy 25:11-12 remind us of the first wrestling match in the Bible.

In the science of Bible interpretation (e.g. hermeneutics), there is the Law of First Mention which states, "the first mention of a subject in Scripture establishes an unchangeable pattern, with that subject remaining unchanged in God's mind throughout Scripture."

The first time "two men" wrestle in Scripture is when Jacob wrestlers with God (e.g. Jesus Christ). The story is found in Genesis 32:22-32. John Gill says of Jacob's wrestling match:
"No doubt, the Son of God in an human form is wrestling with Jacob. Christ frequently appeared in Old Covenant days as a token and pledge of His future incarnation. This "wrestling" was real and physical on the part of both" 
During the wrestling match, things don't go well for Jacob. The Son of God strikes Jacob in the "socket (Hebrew: kaph) of Jacob's thigh." The Hebrew word "kaph" is used throughout the Old Testament for either the sole of a foot or the palm of a hand or the socket of the thigh. It conveys the idea of "strength" or "swiftness." People with strong sockets, swift soles, and strong grips are people of strength and independence. But a person who loses their kaph, loses their self-sufficiency. So during Jacob's wrestling match, he lost his self-sufficiency (that's always the first thing Christ does when He saves person), and only after he loses his "kaph" does Jacob plead for blessing from Christ - and receives it! This reminds me of Paul's words in II Corinthians 12:10:
And Christ has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in your weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."
(2). The woman of Deuteronomy 25:11-12 has her "kaph" removed without mercy.

The women uses her "hand" to grab "the shameful parts" of the man wrestling her husband (v. 11), and as a consequence of her action, she is to have her "hand" cut off. Unfortunately, in the English translation of these two verses, the word "hand" translates two Hebrew words. The word translated as "hand" in verse 11 is not the same word translated "hand" in verse 12:
  • Verse 11: Hand = יָדָ֔הּ (yad)
  • Verse 12: Hand = כַּפָּ֑הּ (kaph)
The best translation of "hand" in verse 12 is probably "palm." Of course, to get rid of the "strength of the grip" (e.g. palm), one must cut off the hand. This woman has her "kaph" removed. In essence, just like Jacob in the original wrestling match with Christ, this woman wrestles with Christ with her physical hand (yad), and like Jacob, she has her "kaph" (strength) taken.

However, unlike Jacob in the original wrestling match, this woman in Deuteronomy 25 "finds no mercy." Instead of pleading for and receiving "blessing" from the One with power to take her kaph, this woman mocks the man's "shame," and she finds herself without any recourse. She loses her kaph permanently. Why the severe, irreversible punishment for this woman in Deuteronomy 25:11-12?

(3). The woman of Deuteronomy 25:11-12 mocks the Man's "shame." 

Just as the lambs of the Old Testament represented the Lamb of God in the New Testament, the "kinsman" wrestling with the woman's husband represents her"Kinsman Redeemer."  What the woman "grabs" with her hand is the Man's "shame" - the literal Hebrew word is "shame" - translated "secret parts" in the KJV, "genitals" in the NAS, and "private parts" in the NIV. This woman mocks the man's shame.

When Jesus Christ died on the cross bearing our sins, He died naked. When Jesus Christ died on the cross bearing our sins, He died "wrestling" with us over our sin. When Jesus Christ died bearing our sins, He died enduring the open shame of a public crucifixion.  Notice what the Scripture says about Christ's death:
"Let's fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2). 
For  the joy of saving us through His death, Jesus withstood the shame of the cross. "He could have called ten thousand angels" says the old song, but Christ endured the cross for the "joy" of saving us from our righteous judgment. Christ's bearing the punishment due sinners through His substitutionary death is a truth "mocked and scorned" by many. It's foolish, it's tasteless, it's "moronic" to those who "grab hold of Christ's shame" and mock it to the world. Just as the woman in Deuteronomy 25 grabbed the "shameful parts" of the kinsman wrestling with her husband, many take hold of Christ's shame and mock it.

Mock the shame of Christ at your own peril. There is coming a day when your "strength" (kaph) will be cut off with no mercy.

(4). Jesus Christ refers to Deuteronomy 25:11-12 and issues a warning.

There are only two places in the entire Bible (both Old Testament and New Testament) where a "cutting off of a hand" is referenced; Deuteronomy 25:11-12 and Matthew 5:30. In the latter text, I believe Jesus Christ makes a specific reference to the Deuteronomy passage. Listen to Jesus' words:
"If your hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell."
In other words, it would be better for you to deal with anything in your life that leads you to mock and scorn the cross - the very shame of Christ - than to have your entire body be cast into hell, bearing God's righteous judgment for your mockery of Christ and His cross.

I don't know if the person who posted the cartoon above on Facebook and then mocked the God of the Bible and the cross of Christ will read this post.... but if he or she does, I hope my compassionate warning is heard.

You vulgarly grab at the shame of Christ and mock Him. The day of your being cut off without mercy is nearing. Plead with Him, as did Jacob, for His mercy and His blessing before it is too late.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Countess of Huntingdon and Gospel Ministry

We are living in an era of increasing recognition that the New Testament Scriptures teach the equality of men and women in the New Covenant, with qualified servant leadership based on gifting and not gender.

It is often argued by some Christian men that the equality of Christian women violates the tradition of the church. "If New Testament actually taught equality we would see women as church and religious leaders in centuries past." Yes we would; and we do. Christian history is filled with gifted women advancing the kingdom through preaching, evangelizing, teaching, and leading others spiritually. I'd like to acquaint you with one such women from the 1700's.

Her name is Selina Shirley, but she is most often referred to as The Countess of Huntington. Her husband, the Earl of Huntington, held the same title that the legendary Robin Hood possessed  (e.g. the Earle of Huntington) centuries earlier. Selina's husband was influential and rich, but it was she who would make an immeasurable impact on the advancement of evangelical Christianity in both England and America.

Selina Shirley was born August 24, 1707 in Chartley, England. Baptized as an infant into the Anglican Church, Selina lived the privileged life while growing up in English high society. At age twenty-one, she married the Earl of Huntington. Selina named among her friends King George II, Sarah Churchill the Duchess of Marlborough, and Lady Mary Wortley Montague. If there were a movie made of her life today it would be a cross between Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey.

However, just in her late twenties, Selina came to know Christ personally through the testimony and encouragement of two girl friends who'd become Christians under the ministry of the Wesley brothers and George Whitfield. Her conversion was so radical, her husband sought the Bishop's help in bringing her back into her "sane" mind of proper Anglicanism. One of Selina's high society friends, the Duchess of Buckingham, wrote to Selina shortly after her conversion to Christ and also sought to convince Selina of her error of listening to the preaching of non-conformists like John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield. The Duchess of Buckingham wrote:
"The doctrines of these preachers are most repulsive and strongly tinctured with impertinence and disrespect towards their superiors, in perpetually endeavoring to level all ranks and do away with all distinctions. It is monstrous to be told that you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl upon the earth. This is highly offensive and insulting, and I cannot but wonder that your ladyship should relish any sentiments so much at variance with high rank and good breeding."
The pressure to renounce her evangelical faith only deepened her commitment to the cause of Christ. The Countess of Huntington became close friends with the Wesleys and Whitefield, and used her influence to throw dinner parties and provide opportunities for her friends to hear the leaders of the Great Awakening share the good news. She herself began participating in the teaching of the gospel. She wrote to Charles Wesley:
"For the past two weeks I have given instruction and some short exhortations to the weak, and have found them to be of great use, especially among my work people, with whom I spend a part of ever day."
One of those who eventually fell under the influence of Selena's gospel ministry was her husband, the Earl of Huntington. He, too, came to faith in Christ shortly before suffering a fatal stroke at his Downing mansion on October 13, 1746.  Selina was now a wealthy widow at the tender age of thrity-nine.

In the days following her husband's death, Selina corresponded with her friends Isaac Watts, hymn writer of works such as Joy to the World and At the Cross, and pastor Philip Doddridge, author of the Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, a book that would later be influential in the calling and conversion of Charles H. Spurgeon.  In her correspondence, the Countess wrote:
"We agree that the one thing worth living for must be proclaiming the love of God to man in Christ Jesus. As for me, I want no holiness he does not give me; I can wish for no liberty but what he likes for me, and I am satisfied with every misery He does not redeem from me, that in all things I may fee, 'without Him, I can do nothing.'"
Meanwhile, Charles and John Wesley split with George Whitfield over a disagreement of soteriology. The Wesley's did not hold to "imputed righteousness" as did Whitefield, with Charles Wesley even calling the doctrine "imputed nonsense." The Wesleys much preferred to trust in methodical disciplines in the Christian life (thus, "methodism") instead of the righteousness of Jesus Christ for our right standing with God. Whitefield found the acrimony with the Wesleys disheartening. Soon it hit his pocket book as most of the Methodists in England became ardent followers of the Wesleys (e.g. Wesleyans). Whitefield found supporters for his orphanage and preaching crusades diminishing.

In stepped Countess Huntington. She loved the doctrine of imputed righteousness and understood it to be the very gospel itself. She opened her majestic mansion in Park Street (London) for Whitefield to preach, and she named him the "chaplain." The difference between a "chaplain" and a parish priest is that a "chaplain" was a privately funded pastor rather than state funded. Even though privately funded, the Prime Minister of England, members of parliament, and others began coming to the Countess' house for religious conversation. Many men and women in London -- initially beyond the reach and sphere of Whitefield's influence --came to faith in Christ through the influence and friendship with Countess Huntingdon.

Philip Doddridge would later write of the spiritual awakening in London during the 1750's and say, "Religion was never so much the subject of conversation." The Spirit was the direct Agent of the"Great Awakening" in England, but one of the means He used was the Countess of Huntington. The Countess was responsible for founding 64 chapels and contributed to the funding of many others, Lady Huntingdon and her chaplains were initially members of the Church of England, but in 1779 the Church of England prohibited her chaplains from preaching in the Pantheon, in Spa Fields, Clerkenwell, a building which had already been rented by the Countess. To avoid the authoritarian top-down control of the Church of England, the Countess took shelter under the Toleration Act and became one of England's "official" dissenters.

Until Countess Huntingdon's death in London in 1791, she faithfully oversaw all of her chapels and chaplains. Just prior to her death, she insisted that no biography be written of her life until 50 years had passed, placing this stipulation in the will that also contained instructions for the distribution of her chapel trust funds. It was said of her at her funeral,
"Lady Huntington devoted herself, her means, her time, her thoughts to the cause of Christ. She did not spend her money on herself; she did not allow homage paid to her rank to remain with herself. 
You will see a few places in the United States that are tributes to Countess Huntington, including Huntingdon College, in Montgomery, Alabama, a co-education liberal arts college named after her, and Huntingdon Street in Savannah, Georgia, named in recognition of her association with Whitefield and John and Charles Wesley in their missionary work in the Colony of Georgia.

I sometimes wonder if modern conservative evangelicals are swimming upstream in their attempts to restrict gifted women from Kingdom work, both through a misunderstanding and misapplication of the New Covenant Scriptures as well as a very poor comprehension and understanding of our evangelical past as it relates to women.

For you young ladies who feel the call of God to minister in the Kingdom of Christ to people in need of a Savior, I would encourage you to become familiar with the biography of the Countess of Huntingdon. She's a model worthy of imitation.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Learn to Wait on the King of Kings Above All Else

William Legge (1731-1801), the Earl of Dartmouth, and the Christian benefactor for whom Dartmouth College (Hanover, New Hampshire) is named, was once invited to go hunting with King George II of Great Britain. The king and some noblemen planned an early morning hunt, but they found themselves waiting on Lord Dartmouth to join them. Upon Lord Dartmouth arriving, one of the party rebuked him for his tardiness. Lord Dartmouth responded:
"I have learned to wait upon the King of kings before I wait on my earthly sovereign."

The phrase "wait upon" was common in the days of serfdom and slavery. It means to "be attendant to" or "to be a servant of." It was the custom of Lord Dartmouth to receive his marching orders every morning from God through prayer and meditation. His time with God meant more to Lord Dartmouth than his time with King George II.

His is a practice worth our imitation.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Rightly Dividing God's Word: Christians Are to Serve Based on Our Giftedness, Not Our Gender

I find it stunning that anyone who professes to believe in Christ's teachings and the infallibility of the Bible refuses to allow women to teach men, or forbids women from leadership positions, or demands Christians serve (or not serve) their King and His Kingdom according to their gender instead of their giftedness. I am shocked because this is so contrary to the teachings and ministry of Jesus in the New Covenant He came to establish.

Some of my Christian friends, usually men, will respond to me saying, "Listen, Wade, I simply believe and teach the Bible! And as long as I believe the Bible, I can't have a woman be in leadership over men, or have her teach men, or allow her to hold any position of Christian servant/leadership because the Bible forbids it."

That's not accurate.

The Old Covenant religion of the Hebrews did forbid women in the role of worship priest. But of course the Old Covenant also forbad the eating of pork, made Sabbath-breaking (Saturday, not Sunday) a capital offense, and forbad a host of other actions that have "faded away and disappeared" (Hebrews 8:13). Jesus made the former covenant "obsolete" and instituted a New Covenant in His blood, and made us all proclaimers of this new Way of life which is led by the Spirit (II Corinthians 3:6). In this New Covenant age, men and women serve the King and His Kingdom according to their giftedness, not their gender.

But again, my friends who say they believe the Bible will challenge me by quoting I Corinthians 14:34-35.
"The women are to keep silent in the assembly; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to even speak in the assembly." (I Corinthians 14:34-35)  
They will then sit back triumphantly and declare, "There you go! As long as I believe the Bible, I can't ever have a woman in leadership. The Bible means what it says!!"

Not so fast.  My father has brilliantly pointed out the fallacy of this kind of thinking:
"Someone is going to say 'The Bible means what it says." But that may be the problem. I don't think the Bible means what it says as much as it means what it means and some interpretation must go into understanding its meaning. This would certainly indicate that we need to recognize the possible fallibility of our understanding of Scripture to stay away from the heat that sometimes happens in discussing it."
I want to prove that I Corinthians 14:34-37, in its entirety, derisively dismisses the Old Covenant Hebrew practice--a practice still in vogue in Paul's day among that Jews in Corinth--of forbidding women from even speaking in the presence of other men during an assembly. This I Corinthians 14 passage can only be understand in light of what happened to Paul when he visited Corinth (AD 50-51), the textual context of the passage itself, and the overall teachings of Christ and His apostle in the New Covenant. You may believe you know what these Corinthian verses say, but I'm asking you to discover what they mean.

Rachelle and I have personally visited Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, Berea, Smyrna, Philadelphia, Sardis, Laodicea, Thyratira, Thessalonica and almost every other city or island where Paul traveled during his three missionary journeys. Paul was put on trial in the city of Corinth. He stood before a bema where the Roman pro-consul Gallio listened to the accusations of Paul's fellow Jews. These practicing Jews were not Christians, and they sought to convince Gallio that Paul was persuading people to worship God contrary to the law of God" (Acts 18:13) That's a serious accusation against a Jew; and Paul was a Jew. But the Roman pro-consul Gallio refused to make a judgment against Paul saying, "I am unwilling to be a judge of these matters" (Acts 18:15).

Gallio recognized that the conflict in Corinth was a Hebrew religious matter, not a Roman political problem. He did not even intervene as Sosthenes, a convert to Christ through the ministry of Paul as well as a leader in the Corinthian synagogue, was seized and beaten by the Jewish mob before the bema (see Acts 18:17). Paul was hurried out of the Corinthian market-place while Sosthenes was being beaten by the Jews. Paul was eventually secreted out of the city by fellow believers because of the Jewish threats against him (see Acts 18:18).

Many Bible-believing Christians pay little attention to the accusations Paul faced from the Jews in Corinth during his 18 month stay in the city (50 to 51 AD). The Jews sought to imprison him because of his influence among the people. When they failed to have him arrested, the Corinthian Jews beat Sosthenes for believing what Paul taught. The Roman pro-consul Gallio did not prosecute Paul under Roman law as the Jews wanted. Gallio was "unconcerned" with the Jewish religious matters, even allowing the Jews to beat those who believed Paul's religious message (Acts 18:17). Notice, again, the reason the Corinthian Jews gave to the Roman pro-consul Gallio for their anger against Paul - "he is persuading people to worship God contrary to the Law of God."  The Law of God is what we now call the Old Covenant and all the practices of Hebrew worship found in the Old Testament and Hebrew traditions. A simple principle regarding our worship of Jesus Christ during this New Covenant age can be logically derived from reading Acts 18 and Paul's time in Corinth:
The more our corporate worship looks like Old Covenant Jewish worship (i.w. "a holy building in which to gather, authoritative male priests who rule over others, and a sacrificial system of actions designed to please God, etc...), the more our corporate worship is unlike Paul's and early believers' worship of Christ. (Wade Burleson)
In one of Paul's earliest epistles, he clearly teaches that in the New Covenant there should be no difference between males and females in the ekklesia (Galatians 3:28), and he later writes to the Corinthian Christians and says all believers should serve one another as they have been gifted (I Cor. 12:4-11). Paul teaches the Corinthians that members of the assembly, both male and female (e.g. all of you), should participate in congregational worship (see I Cor. 14:31  and 14:39), and that women should publicly pray and gifted women should teach others in the ekklesia just as men should publicly pray and gifted men should teach others in the ekklesia (see I Cor.  11:5). The entire discourse of Paul's writings to the early churches in Greece and Asia Minor is saturated with the new instruction that God's new priesthood is composed of males and females, slaves and free, Jews and Gentiles. In the ekklesia (assembly) of Christ there is to be no separation of people by race, nationality, gender or color. Each of us has been made a priest (Revelation 1:5) and we all form a royal priesthood (I Peter 2:9).  These principles radically alter service in Christ's Kingdom, making qualifications for Kingdom service the Spirit's giftedness, not the person's gender.
The Jews who were worshipping in the synagogue of Corinth, however, were greatly offended by Paul's teachings. They heard it with their own ears! Paul was "persuading people to worship God contrary to the Law."  This could not be allowed! After the Corinthian Jews dragged Paul before the bema to charge him with a crime and then beat Sosthenes in the public square, Paul escaped to Cenchrea and then Ephesus (see Acts 18:18). He later writes to the Corinthian church and was quite blunt about those Corinthian Jews and Judaizers who were infiltrating the church and causing him trouble. He calls them "false apostles" and "deceitful workers" (II Cor. 11:13), and he tells the Christians in Corinth to resist their false practices and to stand firm to the new "traditions" that Paul had taught them (see I Corinthians 11:2). Paul reminded them that the practice of empowering all followers of Christ to serve God as the Spirit gifts them--regardless their gender, economic status, or ethnicity--was precisely why the Jews zealous for the Law in Corinth dragged Paul before Gallio and why Paul had to escape the city. This is the context one should always have in mind when reading the letters of I Corinthians.

So, the startling prohibition of I Corinthians 14:34-35 seems discordant and unconnected to what Paul taught the Christians in Corinth as well as the entire first letter of encouragement he writes to the Corinthians.  Look at these two verses again:
"The women are to keep silent in the assembly; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to even speak in the assembly." (I Corinthians 14:34-35)  
There's a very good reason why this seems discordant and unconnected to what Paul taught Christians in Corinth and every other city he visited to establish the new Way-- it is! I Corinthians 14:34-35 is a quotation of what the Jews zealous for the Law taught about women in the assembly (synagogue), and not what Apostle Paul taught. Because Paul opposed the Jew' position in Corinth on women and worship, and because taught a new Way in the New Covenant - the Corinthian Jews and Judaizers brought Paul up on charges of blasphemy before the bema. So when Paul later writes to the Corinthian Christians (I Corinthians), he knows that all the Christians were familiar with the problem he had in Corinth, that they knew what the Jews taught about women, and they had heard him refute their teaching for 18 months. The Christians in Corinth were all very familiar with the the new "tradition" that Paul taught regarding the equality of women in the New Covenant, So he quotes what the Corinthian Jews taught about women in the synagogue (vs. 34-35),and then derisively dismisses it in the next two verses (vs. 36-37) just as he did during the 18 months when he lived among them and taught them the new traditions of the New Covenant in AD 50-51.

How do we know I Corinthians 14:34-35 is a quotation of what the Jews believed about women being silent in the assembly and not what Paul believed? And how do we know the very next two verses I Corinthians 14:36-57  are a powerful refutation from Paul regarding this tradition ? There are at least five solid hermeneutical reasons for holding to this view.

(1). As already mentioned, the two verses that contain the quotation of what the Jews believed about women (I Corinthians 14:34-35) are completely antithetical to everything Paul writes about women throughout the New Testament, especially his teaching regarding women in the rest of I Corinthians. These two verses (vs. 34-35) are jarring because they represent a position that Paul has already torn apart in his previous writings.

(2). The quotation of the Jews' belief in verses. 34-35 is extremely consistent with the Law of God in the Jewish practices and Hebrew traditions (e.g. "The Law"). The Jews in Corinth accused Paul of persuading people "to worship God contrary to the Law" (Acts 18:13). If women being silent in the assembly actually represented Paul's beliefs, the Corinthian Jews would have hugged and kissed Sosthenes and Paul, not dragged them before the bema in Corinth in order to imprison them and/or beat them.

(3). Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians in Greek. The written Greek language does not use "italics" like we do in our English to identify a quotation. To know being written something is a quotation:
a. The author must identify that what he is writing is a quotation (something Paul does elsewhere), or
b. the quotation must be so familiar to the audience that no identification of the quote is necessary, or
c. the author uses a Greek eta after the quotation to then refute it.  
I believe both b. and c. are precisely how the Apostle Paul identifies he is quoting someone else in I Corinthians 14:34-35.

(4).  The Jews in Corinth, like all orthodox Jews in Paul's day, believed women were not qualified to be learners in the synagogue, much less teachers, because the Law and the Talmudic literature forbade them from learning. A woman's presence in the synagogue was tolerated, but women were to be unobtrusive and silent, never interfering with the work of the men. The Jews believed when a woman desired to ask a question in order to learn, she was to maintain her silence in the assembly and wait to ask her husband after leaving the synagogue and returning home. The Jews believed the husbands were to be the source of their wives' learning. The Corinthian Jews were "zealous for the Law" and constantly opposed Paul's promotion of women as equal to men, including Priscilla and Aquila, the couple with whom Paul stayed in Corinth and who both later teach Apollo "the way of God more accurately" in Ephesus (see Acts 18:26).  The quotation in I Corinthians 14:34-35 is consistent to the law of the Jews in Corinth, but it is absolutely contrary to the teaching and the practice of the Apostle Paul and the new Way of worship.

(5). Paul REFUTES the Jewish quotation in I Corinthians 14:34-35 twice in the very next verse (v. 36) by using the Greek letter eta. Go look in your interlinear Greek/English Bible and find the stand alone Greek letter eta in v. 36. You will see the eta twice in that one verse. It looks like this: η   

The Greek eta has two possible markings that cause it to be translated with either the English word "or," or with the English equivalent of what we mean when we make a sound with our mouths  like "PFFFFFFFFFFFFT!" This means "That's ridiculous!" or "Are you kidding me?" or "Nonsense!"   This latter meaning, in my opinion, is precisely what Paul is saying (twice) in I Corinthians 14:36. In response to the Jewish quotation he has just given I Corinthians 14:35-36 Paul writes a Greek eta to illicit a sound from the reader "PFFFFFFFFT!" which is best translated "Nonsense!"

The original Greek text has no markings, so the translation of η must be made by translators based on other facts than the markings of the Greek letter. I believe the context, the culture of Corinth, and the radical nature of New Covenant worship taught by Paul (and resisted by the Corinthian Jews zealous for the Law) demands the η be translated with a "PFFFFFFFFFFFT!" instead of "or" (as is done in the NAS). Between the written evidences of Paul's exasperation with the Judaizers limiting the role of women, the same women Jesus came to set free, Paul derisively dismisses the Jewish practice by speaking to the Judaziers and making an appeal to the Christians:
"Do you believe the Word of God comes to you only? If anyone wishes to think himself a prophet or spiritual, let that person recognize that the things I HAVE WRITTEN TO YOU (not what the Jews zealous for the Law teach) are the Lord's (e.g. "the Lord Jesus Christ's) commandment." (I Corinthians 14:36-37) 
So, after reviewing the important historical, contextual, and grammatical factors that help get to the heart of Paul's meaning in I Corinthians 14:33-37, and using PFFFFFFT to translate the η, let's give a translation that is consistent with the rest of I Corinthians, Jesus' teaching and the Apostles' writings, and the New Covenant way of worship which is totally different than Old Covenant worship:
"For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the ekklessia of the saints. (Would you like an example?) "The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If women desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in the church." PFFFFFFT! Such nonsense! Do you Jews who practice this believe the Word of God comes from you only? PFFFFFFT! Do you believe the Word of God comes to you only? If anyone wishes to think himself a prophet or spiritual, let that person recognize that the things I HAVE WRITTEN TO YOU (not what the Jews zealous for the Law are teaching) are the Lord's commandment."
The Apostle Paul quotes the Pharisaical Jews in Corinth the same way he quotes the pagan poets when he was in Athens. In Paul's famous message on Mars Hill, he says:
"God is not far from each one of us; for in him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, "For we His offspring." Being the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man." (Acts 17:27-29)
 Are you familiar with the pagan poet Paul quotes from as he addressed the Athenians? Probably not. His name was Disoemeia, and he was a native of Paul's hometown of Tarsus. He was a Greek poet the Athenians loved to quote. He was also a worshipper of Zeus. I give you Robert Browning's English translation of Cicero's Latin version of Disoemeia's ancient Greek poem Divine Signs from which Paul quotes.
"From Zeus we lead the strain; he whom mankind
Ne'er leave unhymned: of Zeus all public ways,
All haunts of men, are full; and full the sea,
And harbours; and of Zeus all stand in need.
For we are His offspring: and he, ever good and mild
Gives favouring signs, and rouses us to toil.
Calling to mind life's wants: when clods are best
For plough and mattock: when time is ripe
For planting vines and sowig seeds, he tells
Since he himself hath fixed in heaven these signs."
Paul quotes both pagan poets and proud Pharisees in Scripture, and if you use these quotations as if they are the Word of God, you will make the same mistakes that pagans and Pharisees make in their religious practices.

Just because you quote a passage from the Bible does not necessarily mean you are revealing the mind of God. Serious, Bible-believing Christians recognize that no individual verse or passage of Scripture can be correctly interpreted outside of the textual context and an understanding of the cultural climate of those to whom the letter was initially written.

The issue of womens' function and roles in the church generates much heat in the evangelical church. Those of us who believe in the infallibility of the sacred text should be very careful before using one's views on this issue as the standard for Christian orthodoxy. There is at least the possibility, if I'm correct in my interpretation, that those who urge women to be silent in the church because they "believe what the Bible says" actually may have more in common in their positions with pagan poets and proud Pharisees than the teachings of the Apostle Paul and Christ Himself.

Let's be humble about our position on women and realize that those of us who believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God always should be careful to discover what the Bible means.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

An Alarm to a Careless World: A Warning from Recent Events to Those Living Careless Lives

A series of severe earthquakes shook London, England and destroyed Lisbon, Portugal in November 1755, frightening many and causing others to wonder about the unusual seismic activity in a region not known for earthquakes. Though there was widespread concern over the earth shaking, few thought of the earthquakes as warnings to consider one's relationship with God. A Christian nobleman in London wrote to a pastor named William Romaine (1714-1795) and appealed:
"Awaken the people and call them from the lethargy in which they have too long lived. Speak to them, persuade them, as one knowing the terrors of the Lord. Speak to their hearts and consciences with such plainness ... that unless they repent, they must perish."
In response, William Romaine preached a sermon on Sunday, November 30, 1755, entitled An Alarm to a Careless World: A Discourse Occasioned by the Late Earthquakes. The message would later be placed in print. This printed sermon remained for over a century one of the best evangelistic tools to awaken thoughtless, reckless people regarding their relationship with God.

The English language--including both grammar and spelling--has dramatically changed over the last 260 years. 18th century idioms do not resonate with 21st century people. Romaine's warning does not register with the modern person because it is difficult to read. With this in mind, I have modernized Romaine's warning. The alterations are sometimes radical, including the use of 21st century idioms in place of 18th century ones, wholesale word and spelling changes, and a host of other stylistic adaptations that hopefully make Romaine's warning as relevant today as it was in his day. The English nobleman's initial desire was for Romaine "to speak to hearts and minds with plainness." I trust this updated version will accomplish the original purpose. 

William Romaine and I share in an orthodox Christian understanding of the end of this New Covenant age. The coming of Christ to end the world as we know it and usher in eternity is best summarized in several points of the Apostles' Creed:
I believe Jesus was crucified, died, was buried and on the third day rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. 
Though Christians' views of the end times vary, it is certain that there is coming a day when Christ will judge mankind. Every disastrous and unsettling event in this world points us to an impending Judgment. It seems God uses a growing comprehension of the Savior preparing to meet the world in Judgment as the means for preparing people to meet Him on that Day.

With this in mind, the next time a shaking occurs in or around where you live, either literal or figurative, I would encourage you to spread An Alarm to a Reckless World: A Warning from Recent Events to People Careless about Their Lives through social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and email. God may use this message to awaken others. 


An Alarm to a Careless World 
A Warning from Recent Events to Those Living Careless Lives
William Romaine and Wade Burleson

If you are careless about the way you live by giving little thought of God or His command to love Him and other people as much as you love yourself,  you may wrongly imagine your life is safe and under control. But unless you turn from your carelessness, your life cannot be safe. As long as the One who created you is your enemy, you can experience no real peace.
May God open your eyes to see this truth practically, that you may discover your need of being at peace with Him. The way to find this peace is to appeal to God for it through your faith in Jesus Christ and to stop living a careless life. But we live in a time of such general and violent opposition to this message of personal reform, that the world may have more to fear from God's anger for refusing to embrace His Son than it does the earthquakes under us, the terrorism around us, or the storms above us. 
Our prayer is that God will avert His coming judgments,  that you and others will hear the alarm sounding and come to faith in Christ and cease your careless ways of living before it is too late.      

"Prepare to meet your God" Amos 4:12

It is important in light of recent events to call on you to give serious thought to God and His coming to our world. The first time our Lord came to earth He came to visit us as one of us, God appeared among us in the Person of a humble, suffering, dying Savior. But there is another coming, not far away, when every person will see Jesus in His full Majesty. He first came to us in human humiliation, but He will come to us again in Divine exaltation. We wait for that great Day when Jesus comes to judge both the living and the dead. Our expectation is that when He comes, we will be given abundant life that never ends because of our faith in Him and our peace with Him. The news is not as good for those who've lived careless lives. 

We do not know or even pretend to know the precise time of His coming, for know man knows the day or the hour.  However, the Judge Himself has given to us some signs and markers that give certain evidence that His coming is close, that He may be even standing at the door. These signs are like budding tree leaves that signify the coming of summer. Whenever we see the Scriptural signs and markers of Christ's coming, it is our duty to be faithful watchmen and sound the alarm so that you may be ready. Otherwise, the Lord will come on a day when you are not looking for Him, or in an hour when you are unprepared for Him. It is then that you will be cut off from His goodness, and given a portion among those who shall be found "weeping and grinding their teeth" for your missed opportunities. 

This warning comes at an appropriate time for many are feeling the world shaking, both literally and figuratively. The verse chosen as the alarm bell to awaken you to the imminent coming of Christ as Judge makes a deep impression on the person seriously thinking about his or her future. Prepare to meet your God. Prepare to meet the eternal and almighty God who is coming in all His glory to judge you. You will have no excuse for your carelessness; you will stand with guilt for your refusal to embrace Him in faith and to love others more than yourself. You will hear your sentence of condemnation, which is never to be reversed. So unless you desire to face your Judge with no plea but personal guilt and to hear a sentence commensurate with your carelessness, it is suggested you prepare to meet your God. You will meet Him soon, that is certain, and the primary business of your life should be to prepare for this meeting. With proper preparation, when He comes you will actually enter His presence with the joy that comes from having peace with God. 

There are three things that we must seriously consider from Amos' warning to prepare to meet your God.
  1. We must recognize that God, who first came to the world in great humility to visit us as Savior, is now preparing to visit the world again as Judge. 
  2. We must, therefore, be prepared to meet Him as Judge.
  3. We must understand the Good News that there is a way to be properly prepared to meet God as Judge, prepared so well that when the Savior comes again as Judge, we can lift up our heads with joy, knowing that our Savior from judgment is coming.
May the Spirit of God, from whom all proper preparation must come, assist us with His grace to see that the knowledge of the Savior's preparing to meet us in judgment is the means of preparing us to meet Him on Judgment Day.

First, prepare to meet your God.

The suffering Jesus who died on the cross was as united with the eternal God as the soul and body of one person are united, so that God and man are one in Christ. At His first coming, God visited us in great humility, and the majesty of God was veiled under the covering of humanity, but at His second coming, every person will see Jesus is God indeed. Every eye will behold the divine glory of the suffering Savior, and those who once pierced Him at His bitter death, will then confess to their everlasting shame that He is the almighty God of heaven and earth.

Because of this, we should be prepared to meet Him. At the time appointed, He came to suffer for the sins of the world, and at the time appointed He will come to judge the world. His second coming is as certain as His first. It was foretold in the Old Testament, promised in the New, and the Scriptures cannot be broken. 

God revealed His coming in judgment in the clearest manner to the patriarchs of faith. Enoch, the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied of God's judgment by saying: 
“Behold, the Lord comes with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him. These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage." Jude 1:14-16
Abraham, the father of all who believe, knew that God was to come in order to execute judgment upon all people, and speaks of the right manner and conduct of this judgment with confidence:
"Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" Genesis 25:18
Job had the same confidence of Abraham that God would judge rightly when he said:
"I could only plead with my Judge for mercy." Job 9:15
 Solomon, a prophet and one the wisest man of ancient times, plainly described the coming judgment of God toward man when he said,:
"God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." Ecclesiastes 12:14
And the Judge Himself has given us a very detailed description of that Day in three gospel writers of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark and Luke), and He has called us again and again to be always ready and prepared for the Day of Judgment.

Jesus' apostles appeal to others on the basis of their certainty of everyone's appearing before the judgment seat of Christ, and frequently mention "the terrors of the Lord" and how through them, they "persuade men" to believe on Christ and repent of their careless living (see II Corinthians 5:10-11).

And then there is the remarkable fact, which gives much weight to the above prophecies, that when our Lord describes the general judgment, He confirms His account with a promise that He would come to judge the Jewish nation before that generation of Jews passed away (Matthew 24:34). Accordingly, Jesus came within a generation to judge the Jewish nation (AD 70), and there has not been even the smallest prophecy foretold concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, or the dispersion of the Jews over the face of the earth, that has failed to come to pass. It is a matter of fact that he has already acted as Judge over Israel, and He will come again to complete His office as Judge of the world. It is not more certain that the sun will rise tomorrow than that He who judged the Jewish nation will soon come to judge the whole earth.

Christ's second coming as Judge is as fixed and appointed in the fullness of time as was His first coming as Savior. He will come in His glorious Majesty at the last day. In the meantime, God comes with many singular strokes of vengeance to awaken careless and sleepy people. He visits the inhabitants of the earth with His judgments so that they may learn right living, and He has lately sent some of His heaviest judgments. It is our hope that many of you have been awakened to your need to prepare to meet your God.

Though the day and the hour of the last Judgment are not known, the marks and signs of His coming are being fulfilled daily. The Lord says there are world events that serve as signposts and markers of His certain coming, and these things include wars and rumors of war, great earthquakes in different and unusual places, disease and pestilence around the world and many other strange and fearful events. But the worst sign of all is the present decay of faith in Christ. This alone renders all the rest more terrible and the world ripe for God's judgment. For Jesus Himself said:
"For when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:8
The answer seems there will be so little faith, that Jesus will scarcely find any at His coming among those who are living. Those having faith in Him will be diminished from among mankind. Looking around, nations are putting to death those who name Christ as Savior and Lord. Even in countries like the United States and England, religious denominations have sadly fallen from the faith, and have preserved very little more of Christianity than the mere name. In those churches that keep up "a form of godliness" (Scripture reading, prayer, worship, etc...) there is a lack of power, and even those few persons who live by "the power of the Spirit" are treated as unorthodox or unwanted.

These are some of the sure signs of our Lord's coming in final Judgment. We are assured that His coming is not at a great distance. When we see tree leaves budding, we know that summer is near. And so likewise, when we see these things come to pass, we know that the Christ's coming to establish heaven on earth is at hand. It will not be long before the Son of man will come with power and great glory, and because we are certain He will come, and yet we do not know the day nor the hour, we are to always wait in watchfulness and prayer. Our Lord requires us to always be in this frame of mind, for with His own words He says "Surely I come quickly" (Revelation 22:20). "Surely," says the Almighty Judge, "I come quickly for Judgment" - to which those who know the Judge reply, "Even so, come Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20). Wonderful would it be if we all could see the signs of His coming and all say "Amen! Even so come Lord Jesus."

Are you ready for His coming? Are you not only ready, do you pray for His coming? Do you wait for it in faith, and are you looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearance of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ? If you are able to say, "Yes!" to these questions, then indeed you are at peace with God and joyfully expect His coming. But if you do not find yourself at peace and filled with joy at the knowledge of Christ's coming in Judgment, then the next section may be of some help.

Second, prepare to meet your God.

Since Christ will soon come in Judgment, you ought therefore to be prepared to meet your God. He will come in all the glory and majesty of God, attended with a multitude of the heavenly host, and before Him will all the nations be gathered. Everyone, including you, must appear before Him. You will meet the almighty God in personal judgment when He comes to take vengeance on His those who have rejected Him and lived careless lives. Should we not be prepared for such a meeting?

You cannot resist the Almighty. You cannot run from His presence. You cannot conceal your secret thoughts from Him. You cannot avoid this meeting. Is it not then in your best interest to make the almighty Judge your friend?

Jesus once gave us a parable about this impending meeting with Him as Judge:
"Suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace." Luke 14:31-32
So it is, when you have secured terms of peace with your sovereign Judge, and when you are under the protection of His almighty power, then you are prepared to meet Him in Judgment. This preparation to meet Him ought to be the principal business of your life, and you ought to labor to secure His friendship.

But how shall you make God your friend? Your careless living has made Him your enemy. The presence of guilt in your conscience makes the the thought of His coming to Judge you a terrible thought indeed. Only those already condemned have no fear of God. But you have a healthy fear of facing Him. You know that if you could take away your failures in life to love God and to love others as you should have done, then your Judge very could be your friend. But how can you cleanse your soul which is already stained? How can your life be purged of the pollution caused by your failure to obey God in loving Him and your fellow man more than yourself?

Faith in the good news of what Jesus Christ has done for failures like us is the only way of bringing our mind, soul and emotions into a joyful state of anticipation in meeting our Judge. But the only way you will ever see your need of Jesus is to be awakened with alarm! A sinner often feels secure in sin, One cannot be prepared to meet God until there is an awakening of one's awful condition. You must be deeply convinced of your guilt and danger, and understand the sense of both, before you will ever be humble enough to trust Jesus and not yourself. This is the first step of preparation to meet your God.

The Holy Spirit must open your eyes to see your ruined condition. You must see that the God who created you is at enmity with you because of your rebellion toward Him. Since your God is the God of all nature, even the powers of nature are bent on your destruction because of your sin. If you are to be delivered, it must be of the free mercy of your Judge, for there is nothing in you that can purge the past or change your character.

The religious hypocrites and self-righteous are smug about their standing with God. But you must come to the place where you lack the confidence to even look to heaven. You must see yourself for who you really are, and feel the pain of your careless living, and cry out: 
"Lord, be merciful to me a sinner." 
Under this conviction of a need for mercy you will labor, feeling the pain of your need and a fear from an initial lack of confidence that your Judge will be merciful. Yet, this is the very entrance and door to your deliverance, and it is the first step of preparation to meet your God. Therefore, it is a great blessing indeed when you come to the end of confidence in yourself and your abilities to offer God anything in payment for your past mistakes. It is even a greater blessing to disdain any future promises of reform to God because you don't even trust yourself.  For you see, the deeper and more distressing your self-knowledge becomes, the greater the necessity will it be for you to find mercy from your Judge. You'll begin to seek a solution outside of yourself. The certain promise from God is that when you seek His righteousness, you will find it.
"Blessed is he who hungers and thirst after righteousness, for he will be filled." Matt 5:6
In God's own good time, you will begin to find your interest in this promise. You will have faith to apply this promise to yourself. You will hunger for Christ, and you will find your satisfaction in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and not your own (see Philippians 3:7-11).  The love of God in Christ will begin to fill your heart by the Holy Spirit, giving you joy and peace in believing in Him. The sense of God's love for you in Christ suffering and dying in your stead, rising again for your righteous standing before God, will cast out fear. You will come to know with assurance that Jesus Christ is both your Savior and God. 

You will begin to find daily proof of Christ as your Savior and Lord through a change in the way you live. Your desires will be so entirely changed, that you find yourself loving and delighting in doing the will of God. You will have the strength and grace to live according to His royal command to love other people the way He has loved you (John 13:34) . This commandment will be no burden for you, for it is fulfilled simply by God's love for you overflowing from within you to others. You will come to the place of watching and praying for the Lord's coming, whenever and however He comes (e.g. in your death or in His coming in Judgment to the world), and you are fully prepared to meet Him. Your Judge is now your Friend.

This is the method that the gospel (e.g. good news) prepares us to meet our God.

  1. The gospel first convinces us of our predicament because of our sin, a state of enmity with God and our unpreparedness to meet Him.
  2. The gospel then convinces us of our reconciliation with God through the Person and work of Jesus Christ, and we come to trust Christ as our only source of right standing before God.
  3. The Holy Spirit then bears witness with our spirits, that we are God's children, and that we have the outward witness of a change of life, loving others the way He has loved us - unconditionally, sacrificially, and selflessly. 
  4. We then come to the place of full and complete assurance of our friendship with the almighty Judge, for He has washed us from our sins in His blood, clothed us with His all-perfect righteousness, having delivered us from the fear of Judgment.
  5. Our fear in this life and the next is removed for "perfect love casts out fear," and what can we fear when our Savior is our Judge? He will come in Judgment on those who do not know Him, but His omnipotence is our protection. He ushers us into His eternal kingdom, where we enjoy all the blessings of His grace and goodness forever.
Blessed is the person who is prepared to meet God in this manner. Are you prepared? Have you secured friendship with your Judge? When He comes, are you ready to meet Him? Your eternal happiness or misery depends on how you respond to the call to prepare to meet your God

We trust that the importance of preparing to meet God has commanded your attention, for you have read the warning to this point. We close with a final lesson.

Third, prepare to meet your God.

You have heard the character of the Judge; He is your God. He is One who inhabits eternity. The Lord of hosts is His name. He is the almighty Creator of all things visible and invisible. He spoke and brought into existence the things which are made.. He commands and they stand fast. His providence rules over all things, and He upholds everything by the word of His power.

This eternal, infinite, and almighty God has appointed a day where He will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those who do not know their God and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He shall punish them with everlasting destruction from His very presence, and from the glory of His power. Such is the glorious majesty of the Judge, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Are you prepared to meet Him. Is there fear or dread in your mind at the thought He could come tonight? If you should hear the loud trumpet of God calling the world to judgment, and if you should see the Lord of heaven and earth coming with thousands and ten thousands of angels and saints, how would it affect you? 

Consider whether you could stand the shock of it all. Look into your heart and see if you are ready to appear before Christ's seat of Judgment. Put the question to yourself like this: 
"Suppose the Judge were to come at this very hour. Am I prepared to meet my God?"
If you are prepared, then you are happy and at peace. But if you are not, you are and will be miserable unless you can be persuaded to seek to make your Judge your Friend. This will be attempt, with God's help, in two or three closing remarks.

First, if you do not believe the doctrines that have been laid out in this post, then you must understand the trouble you are in. There are many who are open enemies to the God of the Bible and His Christ. They have denied that Jesus is God, and they believe they are out of reach of His judgment. I hope you are not in this category. If you are, when events in this life put a fear in your heart, the only comfort you can find till be to listen to those who scoff at the gospel and seek to assure you that all that happens is the result of mere natural causes. Have you considered whether it is any less terrible to be destroyed by natural causes than it is to be destroyed by the God of nature?

It is a poor philosopher indeed who must get rid of Providence behind nature in order to get rid of fear from nature. For safety, some will take shelter in atheism. They talk incessantly about a Supreme Being in their efforts to deny His existence, and yet they indeed are rank a-theists, for their supreme being is one of nothingness. Don't fall for their poison.

God has been pleased to reveal His essence and personality to us, and His revealed account of Himself they deny. Consequently, whatever they set up against Him, be it a God in one Person, or thirty thousand gods, it is all a mere imagination, a one supreme being with existence. No wonder they live such libertine lives, since they are without God in this world. And what can we do for those like this, people who have adopted a system of practical atheism. All we can do is pray that the eternal Spirit will open their eyes that they may have a glimpse of the truth  and see that Jesus is God.

If, however, they continue in their denial of Jesus Christ, and if they continue to refuse to confess Him before men, there is coming a day when they all shall confess that He is God indeed. At the glory of His appearance, these bold blasphemers who now ridicule His divinity will be calling on the mountains to fall on them and the hills to cover them. The majesty of God the almighty Judge will strike them with terror. When they are called before His throne to give an account for their hard speeches against Him, they will stand guilty, trembling and waiting for their righteous sentence.  The sentence will carry with it inexpressible misery as they hear, "Go you cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." I hope you are not among those on that Day.

Second, it could be that you are moving from carelessness regarding God into consideration of these claims. It could be that you even consider yourself a Christian, but your profession means little, since you live for this world and seldom think of eternity. Your own personal pleasure and entertainment in this life is the chief object of your pursuit. You fight for money, honor and power, that you may enjoy yourself more. Be careful. All without Christ pursue such things, and they go securely on in their sins, careless about any concern of eternity. Even professing Christians can have hearts engaged in other matters than preparing to meet their God. 

Attachment to this world is the greatest obstacle to preparation to meet God. This is why were are forbidden to love this world or the things in it.
"Love not the world, or the things of the world, for if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." I John 2:15
 Of course, if the love of God is not in us, we cannot be prepared to meet Him in judgment. Consider this when you attempt to speak "peace to your soul" while you continue to indulge in your sin against God. You may profess a belief in God, and even that He will one day Judge the world, but you continue in your sins. The Judge may come for you tonight, and you are not prepared. You have no concern about meeting Him, though you should.

You continue to hate others, be unforgiving to others, judge and condemn others, and live an uncharitable, selfish life, and yet you have no concern? What can anyone think of such conduct? Certainly a person of sound mind cannot act in such an absurd manner. It is against reason. If you were to set out on a journey of several hundred miles, would you not make more preparation for the journey than you are right now doing for eternity? It is against your best self-interest to consider any and all present and empty indulgences in sin as an equivalent for your eternal happiness.

Are you in this state? Are you guilty of these inconsistencies? The Judge may come within the hour, and you are not looking for Him. He may come and find you unprepared as you are at present. You cannot promise yourself an hour to prepare in. His judgments are now on the earth, and they are sent to wake you out of your false security. Oh that you would be awakened by them and see your sense of false security.

Do you not suppose that the inhabitants of the Lisbon, Portugal thought themselves safe the morning of the great earthquake, just as you feel safe at present? They did not imagine that God was going to destroy them that morning. You have heard how they were surprised and overthrown with a great destruction. While they were speaking, "Peace, peace" unto themselves, they were called in a moment to Judgment. One had his heart set upon getting a financial fortune that day, and was just sitting down to count his accounts, and was cut off in a moment, called to Judgement with a soul full of the love of money.

Another, intent upon feeding desire for wild and illicit indulgences had his soul taken in the middle of an act of immorality, his soul brought before the all pure and holy Judge. One with an oath in his mouth was calling for damnation upon his own soul, and the earthquake came while the words were in his mouth, and down he will sink in judgment for his sins. Dreadful it is to think of the manner in which the people of Lisbon were surprised and cut off in their sins.

Suppose such a judgment came upon your city this day, how would it overtake the people of your city? Those with wealth and riches, tired by the diversions and entertainments of the preceding day, would be surprised in their sleep, and would awake in the eternal world full of hatred to Jesus Christ and His people, and the holy faith. And the poor of your city, they would be about the devils work, careless in their sins, lying, cursing, swearing and blaspheming God, but snatched way with some horrid imprecation in their mouths.

Why may this not happen to you in your city as well as to the inhabitants of Lisbon? Why may you not be cut off like this to die in your sins, yes in the very act of sin? You have more reason to fear it than they had, for your sins are greater than theirs. Don't make the mistake of thinking that the people of Lisbon were greater sinners than all others. Jesus says, "Not at all. Except you repent, you will also perish" (Luke 13:3).

The immorality of the Portuguese run even more rampant in our cities. Worse, the contempt of Jesus Christ and His people, as well as opposition to the progress of the gospel at present among us are crimes of deeper guilt than the Portuguese had to answer for in their lifetimes. The common people of Portugal were in much more darkness than the people of this country, and they had not the light of the gospel shining as clearly among them as you have. Therefore, they were not as guilty of that one damnable sin which makes all other sins so exceeding sinful. When you reject the light of your gospel understandings, and you act contrary to the light you have, and you continue in your sins, your guilt is worse.

God sends His ministers to plead with you, but their counsel you reject with contempt. His good Spirit strives with you, but you resist and grieve Him. You have the Scriptures in your hands, and you may there read the dangers of your careless way of life, but the Scripture has no influence. If none of these incentives prevail, be assured that your guilt will increase in proportion to the advantages you enjoy. The more reason there was for your being prepared to meet your God, the heavier condemnation there will be if He should come and find you unprepared.  May you consider these things in your heart, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, now resolve to prepare yourself for the coming of the almighty God and Savor, the Lord Jesus Christ.

And finally, if there is any desire to be prepared to meet God, there is one motive which ought to have great weight on you, and it is a matter of fact. There are, thank God, many persons in your city who have obtained the love and friendship of the Supreme Judge. Look into their lives, and examine them closely. See how they are affected with the reports of these temporal judgments which are now on the earth. Look what you see in them:

  1. You will find no dread, no fear in their minds.
  2. They are not afraid of bad news, nor live in fear of tomorrow.
  3. There is within them a peace and joy which arises from a sense of God's loving them in Jesus Christ
  4. They know their God as the Lord of nature and all men, and He will make all things work together for good, and therefore their hearts are established and they will not shrink though the earth should quake from its very foundations and the hills should be carried into the midst of the sea (Psalm 46).
  5. If the entire course of the world changes, they have nothing to fear.
  6. God is their friend.
  7. They are kept by the arms of the Almighty.
  8. In life and death they can keep their minds on God in perfect peace.
  9. You can see clearly that these are Christians in a safe and happy state.
  10. For God has promised them this safety and security, and in Him they rest.

When you see this, how does it affect you? Do you not also wish that you might find the protection of the Almighty God? Whenever God comes to visit a sinful people laden with iniquity, to be glorified in their destruction, you may be exceeding glad, knowing that your eternal redemption is at hand.

Lay all these considerations together, and they may strengthen you. God is preparing to meet you in Judgment, and eternity depends on your being prepared ot meet Him. You have no time to loaf. He may come for you this night. Are you prepared? What will your condition be if He calls you unprepared? 

Come to Him this moment. Go to the throne of grace for pardon in Christ, lest you should be called before the throne of Christ without pardon. Cry aloud for mercy. The Judge may still be called upon before He takes His seat in Judgment. Plead with Him until you are convinced He is your Friend. Remind Him of His love for sinners. Speak of His bloody sweat, His bitter cross and suffering, His cruel mockings, beatings and scourgings, which He endured all for sinners. 

Plead these with Him and lay before Him the torments and the shame of the cross, and the piercing of His hands and feet, which are the engraving of His love for sinners. Be assured that His tender heart is not wanting of love for sinners, for He bled to death for their salvation. Place your whole trust and confidence in the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, and doubt not but He will hear your plea and will give you such a taste of His pardoning love, to fill you with His gifts and grace, that you will be fully prepared to meet your God.

We trust that God has answered our prayers for you today, and if it be His will, that will be disposed toward you to grant the grace for you to seek an interest in the Judge of all the earth. We don't think you would have read this far without His mercy.

He is coming in Judgment, and He comes quickly. May the Holy Spirit prepare us all to meet Him! If He should come tonight, how would HE find you? Are you ready? Are you fit to die? Have you prepared? If you should hear a great cry at midnight, and the Savior comes, are you ready to meet Him as a bride her groom? 

And, if you should die in a sudden earthquake, or a heart attack, or a tragic accident, are you certain that the Judge is your Friend? Think of what an awful thing it would be if you were to enter your eternal world this very night where your fate is unalterably fixed. O what continual preparation you should be making for eternity! If you die unprepared, ALL is lost. 

Beg of God, right now, to show you your danger, and ask Him to deliver you from it. The door of mercy is still open. Oh that you will find the entrance and press forward until you receive the grace to prepare you to meet your God. Why don't you look to Him right now, and in the following prayer, ask Him to assist you to "prepare to meet your God."

"Almighty God, please give me the grace that I need to cast away the selfish works of darkness and to put on the armor of light, right now in this life of mortality, the time in which your Son Jesus Christ visited us in great humility, so that in the Last Day, when He shall come again in glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, I may be prepared to meet him and may rise to  the life immortal, through Him who lives and reigns with You, and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever. Amen."

If you have prayed this prayer, we would love to hear from you. Please email us at