Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Who Watches the Watchers?

I just watched a fascinating episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The episode is called "Who Watches the Watchers?"

The entire episode is a thinly veiled mockery of beliefs about God and anything supernatural. But two interesting moments from Captain Picard vividly illustrate the problem this anti-God view creates.

In the episode, a group of people on a distant planet have come to believe that Captain Picard is a god - "The Picard" - capable of bringing gentle winters, good hunting, and even raising people from the dead.

Captain Picard vehemently objects to the suggestion that he should go down to the planet and pretend he's a god, to rescue a captured crewman:

"Doctor, your report describes how rational these people are. Millennia ago, these people abandoned their belief in the supernatural. Now you are asking me to sabotage that achievement? To send them back into the dark ages of superstition and ignorance and fear? NO!"

The dark ages of superstition and ignorance and fear. What an achievement it'll be when humanity shakes such impediments to real progress!

But despite the supposed advances in intellect and achievement that take humanity to the stars, there is one thing they lack.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

What Does a Real Encounter With God Look Like?

Want to meet with God today? You're in luck. In the next few minutes, I'm going to show you exactly how. But you won't have to take my word for it.

Thankfully, God isn't hiding from us. He regularly walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. One day, they didn't show up. Who was hiding? Adam and Eve were. What was God's response? He called out to them.

When the prodigal son came stumbling and bumbling to his father, did his father hide? The father ran to his son.

God wants you to meet with Him, right now. Not some sort of wishy-washy sense of religious relief that you read your bible today, or checked "prayer" off your list. He wants to meet with you, so that you see Him clearly.

But wait...

Are you sure you're ready for that kind of glimpse of the Lord?

I mean, people begged Moses to cover his face, because even the afterglow of someone who had been close to God was so overpowering that they thought they would fall over and die.

But if you're ready, here's what an encounter with God looks like. The kind of encounter God wants you to have with Him right now. The kind that leaves you changed forever.

You know those books that people write, claiming they've been to Hell (or Heaven) and come back? I'd like to talk to you about one of those. Through the eyes of this man, we'll see how we, too, can meet with God in a way that leaves us changed forever.

You sure you're ready for this?

"In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord."

This man says he saw the Lord. I want to see the Lord. Do you want to see Him, too? Let's journey back in time with this man - so we, too, can see the Lord.

What was it like? Listen as this man tries to describe the indescribable, grasping for words in a language totally incapable of expressing the magnitude of the moment:

"(The Lord was) sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  
And one cried to another and said: 
'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!'
And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.

What a scene! Is that what you see, when you see the Lord? Does it terrify you? It terrified this man.

In that instant, everything he thought he knew about his God faded away, replaced by a clear revelation of God so awe-inspiring that he couldn't stand.

In the light of seeing who God is, in all His majestic glory, he clearly saw himself. No more masks of religion, self-righteousness, or shred of supposed dignity to hide behind. Take a look:

So I said: 
“Woe is me, for I am undone!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King,
The Lord of hosts.”

How did God respond to this man?

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: 
“Behold, this has touched your lips;
Your iniquity is taken away,
And your sin purged.” 
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: 
“Whom shall I send,
And who will go for Us?”

How did the man respond? Naturally, out of a heart that had been changed by the gentle, merciful touch of Almighty God, he responded this way:

Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

There are a lot of reasons people study God's Word. Some study because they feel like they "should." Others want to know how current events fit into prophecy, or how to teach their children to behave properly.

But God has something else in mind for you today, and every day. Something so life-changing and awe-inspiring that the best moment you have planned today pales in comparison.

He wants you to see Him.

Paul prayed for the Ephesians, that "He may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better."  In fact, Paul prayed the same thing for just about everyone, no matter who they were or what circumstances they found themselves in.

What Paul wanted for everyone he met, talked to, or discipled was the same: that they would know Jesus better.

So what can this man's experience teach us?

No matter what, seek to see Him. To know Him. Not about Him. Not His rules. Not His biographical facts. Seek to see Him like that man did.

Open the pages of God's Word. Like Paul, when He first encountered the Lord, ask: "Who are you, Lord?" Let that one question fill you with curiosity.

Let God show you who He is. Today, a baby Christian and one who's walked with the Lord for 100 years needs the exact same thing: a fresh revelation of who the Lord is.

When you see Him:

  • Worship will come naturally to your lips.
  • You'll see yourself clearly, and quit trying to hide behind your fig leaves of self-righteousness. 
  • God's mercy will touch your lips and your heart. 
  • You'll cry out, "Send me!"
  • Repentance will flow naturally out of your revelation of Christ.
  • The reality of God's Spirit living in you and loving through you will flow naturally as He transforms your mind through greater revelation of Himself. 

The best news of all is the God wants you to experience Him this way every day.

So what's the key? Look for Him. Seek Him.

"You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart."
Jer 29:13

What do you search for when you come to God's Word?

Seek Jesus.

Today, open your bible. It really doesn't matter where.

Ask, "Who are you, Lord?"

Watch God reveal Himself to you. Push the other stuff aside, until you clearly see the Lord.

Are you up to it?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What Makes Islam So Great?

President Obama: What's your opinion about jihad?

"The phrase 'jihad' has a lot of meanings within Islam, and is subject to a lot of different interpretations. But I will say that, first, Islam is one of the world's great religions. And more than a billion people who practice Islam - the overwhelming majority - view their obligations to their religion as ones that reaffirm peace and justice and fairness and tolerance. I think all of us recognize that this great religion, in the hands of a few extremists,  has been distorted to justify violence towards innocent people that is never justified."

What's so great about Islam? What does Islam teach?

Let me tell you what Christianity teaches: Christ died for us. Know what radical Christianity looks like? What a fanatical Christian does?

He turns the other cheek when someone slaps him. He loves the unlovable, and forgives all of his enemies, because he knows how much he's forgiven.

He's patient and kind. He does not seek his own well-being over others, and keeps no record of wrongs. He pours his life out daily for those around him - especially for the most unlovable - because Christ first loved us and gave His life for us.

Do all "Christians" act this way? Hardly. But THAT'S what radical Christianity looks like.

What does "radical" Islam look like? If Mohammed is my hero, should I emulate him? If he's my example, should I strive to live like he did? What words of Islam inspire, build up, and edify? What does Islam offer that makes this religion so great?

Do so-called Christians do dumb things? Certainly. Even hateful things? Surely.

So what makes Christianity so great?

Jesus died for me.

Without that, I have no hope, though I have all the riches in the world. With that, I have everything I need.

Christ died for me - purchasing my forgiveness, a clean conscience, and right standing with God that no amount of "goodness" (bribery) can purchase.

Christ died as me - releasing me from my futile self-effort and a life of self-gratification that leads down a road to nowhere but pity and sorrow.

Christ lives in me - providing the daily enabling power that helps me live a life that pleases God.

Christ lives through me - loving others and producing joy, love, and peace in my own life through genuine, heartfelt service (instead of service out of selfish ambition or false humility).

That's what makes Christianity so great.

So I ask, with all sincerity: what makes Islam so great? Show me. I see the fruit of Islam - what's actually taught in mosques across this world - when a 19 year old kid places a backpack on the ground next to an 8 year old boy and watches him die.

When Jesus was on the cross, being mocked, spat upon, hanging naked, bleeding, struggling for breath, taking the wrath of God that you and I deserve upon Himself - having done nothing on this earth worthy of a criminal's humiliating death - he cried out: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they're doing."

He died for me.

That's what makes Christianity great.

What makes Islam so great?