Outside the Camp

Last week, I had the privilege to spend several days with two staff members and several young men from Parkwood at a conference called Together for the Gospel. The days were filled with a feast from the word of God as we heard messages from men like RC Sproul, John MacArthur, and John Piper. I would encourage you to listen to their sermons and the others online at http://t4g.org/08/media/ In Piper’s sermon, he focused on Hebrews 13:13 “Let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing his reproach.” I, along with the others present, was deeply moved by the challenging message from the Word of God.

As I heard him speak, I reflected on an email that I recently received from a missionary in a country that is in tremendous upheaval of late. I will not use his name or country as to not bring undue negative effect on him or those he serves and serves with. I am certain that his words will shake you. Further, I pray they will encourage and challenge you to go outside the camp with Him.

“But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth.”

Chasing lions is a dangerous business. One of David’s mighty men chased a lion into a pit on a snowy day and killed it.

Chasing lions in our own strength is ill-advised at best and fatal at worst.

However, God calls us like David’s mighty men to chase lions for His glory and the good news is that He is in the business of rescuing us from the lion’s mouth as we proclaim Him.

I was able to spend the last 10 days in XXXX with our supervisor.

As we returned to the house where the attack took place, I wondered what my emotions would be like: Would there be fear as I walked the hallway where the attack took place? Would I be able to sleep there?

God answered as I passed through the hallway where we prayed for deliverance from our attackers. Time and again as I walked that dusty, tiled floor, He reassured me, “I delivered you here. I delivered you.”

Why deliver us?

For our personal security and safety so that we could move on to more comfortable places?

So we could pass out pills in another land, so we could say “enough is enough,” so we could say “let someone else finish this task?” No, that wouldn’t be sufficient.

He delivers us so that the proclamation might be fully accomplished. He is the one who stands and strengthens us—who gives us what it takes to return to the scene of the crime for the sake of the lost and the glory of His kingdom.

As we drove around the city of XXXX and saw with our eyes the suffering of the people from the sin of man and heard the stories of suffering and fear from our Muslim friends, I was struck again with the call to proclaim Him to those who haven’t heard.

How much more so as I contemplated His resurrection this week. Jesus knew that there were some things worth dying for. He died for us and then conquered death and rose so that we could carry out His sufferings until He comes again.

I know that many of you have struggled with our return to XXXX. If all that we were doing was handing out pills to the poor or teaching literacy to the illiterate, returning to XXXX would be chasing lions in our own strength. But God has placed a call on our lives to fully accomplish the proclamation of His good news to the unreached of XXXX. Anything less is not sufficient.

There came a time when Paul completed his task and went to be with the Lord. A time when the proclamation for him was fully accomplished. Then the comfort, peace and security of eternity with the King awaited him.

“The Lord stood with me; the Lord gave me strength, with that strength the gospel was preached; and the aim was the gentiles, all the nations. That was Paul’s experience of Christ’s faithfulness and nearness and help. And it has been the case with thousands of believers taking the good news to the nations in tens of thousands of crises. And it will be your experiences when you follow Jesus where he leads.” John Piper

I would not be honest if I didn’t admit that I would gladly sit in that hallway again to experience the deliverance of the Savior and sense His presence again in such an intimate and powerful way.

May the Lord stand with you and strengthen you so that you may proclaim His kingdom,

Spiritual Discernment…Oprah and McDonalds

As I have been reading and blogging about the subject of spiritual discernment, several items have come to the forefront in the last several weeks that require application…

Oprah requires some discernment concerning her new book club and internet class on “The New Earth” with guru Eckhart Tolle. For years, I have offered warnings of Oprah as she returns again and again the age old question from the garden “Did God really say?” However, of late she has gone further and is quite out in the open with false teaching. I have included a link to a You Tube video put out by CS Steele. I am not endorsing her or her website, I do not know enough about her. However, I am grateful for her exposure of what is going on with Oprah. Please watch this video and practice some discernment with me.

Last week, McDonalds announced that they would be supporting the homosexual movement. One more company coming out in support of gays rights and offering benefits to homosexual couples as if the relationship is completely acceptable and normal. Please check out the following blog to get the reaction of Nancy Pearcey, author of Total Truth. http://proexistence.blogspot.com/2008/04/no-mcdonalds-today.html

I agree that this will be an opportunity for the Christian community to speak with our money. I will treat this as more of a time to teach my children about what we value and why homosexuality is wrong. (Yes, you must teach your children the basic information about homosexuality and that it is wrong according to the Word of God. They are confronted with it everywhere.)

As to boycotting them…I am struggling with consistency. How am I going to handle doing business with Best Buy, Apple, AT&T, BP, Nike, Pepsi, US Airways, and Walgreens. I pulled these names from a top 100 list of companies scoring a perfect 100 concerning policies in favor homosexual rights and policies. I have done business with all of these companies in the past few months. As I read the list, I remembered my vehement phone call to cancel AT&T 10 years ago for this same reason. I had forgotten all about my phone call as they took over BellSouth recently. Am I going to get rid of my Mac and buy a Dell? Dell is on the list too! Even if I go with a knock off brand, Intel is inside of all of them and there they are on the list.

I am not trying to be funny. I am struggling…Discernment requires it!

Spiritual Discernment

Have you ever read a book or heard a sermon and said to yourself something like “That has been inside me for a long time, I just could not get it out.” That is exactly what I have been thinking as I have been reading “The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment” by Tim Challies. He is best known for his website http://discerningreader.com/. (The website is dedicated to book reviews of books that would be beneficial to the believer and offering warnings to books we should look out for and why.)

The book on Spiritual Discernment has come at a critical moment in my life both personally and as I attempt to minister the Word in this age. Spiritual relativism has duped our minds into taking at face value and accepting what they say as true anyone who quotes a Bible verse or calls themselves a Christian. Recently, one of my daughters and I were talking about stuff. One of those talks that I enjoy so much. She said to me, “Dad, one of my friends said that we should listen to the music of a particular group(I will not name them) because they are Christians.” I replied, “What did you say?” She basically said to her friend “They do not seem to act or sing like Christians.” To which she was met with hostility by both her friend and the others present, “Oh yes they are they said so!” Her young heart and mind was attempting to move toward spiritual discernment when she said to me “Dad, is that true?” A conversation continued with far deeper conclusions and I pray lasting impressions on her mind and heart.

Part of that conversation had to do with what Challies meant when he said “Many Christians wish they could live in a bubble…a bubble that would protect them from false teaching and allow them to avoid having to develop or use spiritual discernment…We live in a world that is in direct opposition to Christianity. Just as germs are constantly waging war on our bodies, false doctrine is constantly waging against our faith. God has provided us with discernment to enable us to withstand these attacks.”

The bubble is not possible long term. Spiritual discernment lasts a lifetime.

Discernment is the anti-bacterial soap that we carry in the pocket of our minds.

Next time–I will offer an opportunity, concerning Oprah and McDonalds, to practice a little discernment…

Sunrise Sermon by Dr. M.O. Owens, Jr.

Dr. M.O. Owens, Jr. is the founding Pastor of Parkwood. He is now 94 years old. Each year he preaches for our Sunrise service. I was so moved by his message yesterday that I wanted to share with you today.

RAISED FOR OUR JUSTIFICATION

Romans 4:13, 18-5:2

It is difficult for us, even though we are believers, to keep God in full perspective. The Christian faith is full of paradoxical declarations. God is love – and we know that is true. We have experienced it in so many ways. He has shown it in its fullness in the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, to be the sacrifice for our sins. – But God is also wrath – wrathful toward anyone who refuses to take Him seriously. But He is also wrathful toward all sin.

The same can be said for Jesus God’s only Son, whom He sent to be one of us, yet at the same time the very embodiment of God’s being. This man demonstrated love in its totality. His life was a continual manifestation of profound and unprecedented love. Yet He could, and did, deal out decisive and devastating wrath. He is a loving Messiah, who has been sent to bring us God’s greatest blessings. But He is also a Messiah who has the will to be punitive and wrathful against that which seeks to block God’s will.

Jesus’ love is of heroic proportions. In Himself He was entirely free and innocent of any evil whatsoever – no finger could ever be pointed at any deed of His as evil. Yet this man volunteered to die the death you and I deserve. It is difficult for us to even imagine the tremendous pain, suffering and humiliation He endured in order to provide to us the possibility of our receiving mercy from God, our Judge. If you saw the movie The Passion of the Christ you saw a disturbing depiction. But the real road of the cross was probably far worse. And He did not have to do what He did. He didn’t owe it to us. We did not, and do not, deserve such a sacrifice. The universe could have gone on just fine with the whole lot of us condemned to destruction. The stars would still have stayed in their places. But it was His love – a God-like love – that took suffering and death upon Himself so we could avoid the ultimate suffering of hell.

But we should never forget the coming wrath of this same Jesus, which will be of epic proportions. The day will come when this Jesus – raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of the throne of God – will declare judgment on the earth. When He comes, He will come with a sword – a sword sweeping across all who have opposed the truth He proclaimed. He will not then be coming to forgive, but only to judge unbelief – the only truly ultimately unforgiveable sin.

Those who have looked upon Jesus as a cuddly, toy Messiah, who could be played with as a toy, will be destroyed. Those who have believed in Jesus as their tolerant, kindly, all-accepting enabler, will meet their doom on that day. Those who have looked upon Him as life-giving sugar-daddy will be cast into darkness in that day.

For His judgment on evil was so severe, so intolerant, that He gave Himself as the consummate result of such evil, dying on a cross, so that those whom He loves, and who will put their trust in Him, will be spared condemnation on the day that Jesus returns in wrath.

Today we celebrate a risen Christ. Why did God raise Him from the dead? To bring ultimate defeat to Satan and his rebellion? Yes, in part.

Because God’s mercy overrides His justice? Yes, in part.

Because God in His love provided that our condemnation to death is swallowed up by His gift of eternal Life? Yes, that’s part.

He came forth from the dead as proof of God’s promise that all who are righteous in His sight will live again. Jesus’ words were and are: “. . . because I live, you shall live also. In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:19b-20 NASB). Had there been the slightest iota of sin in His life, there would have been no resurrection. But His righteousness was complete, and death could not hold Him. – By that same construction, you and I who have faith in Him, are clothed in His righteousness. “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5 NASB).

Through our faith in Jesus, all our sins, past, present, future were gathered upon Him, and He took them to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, not His. On that cross, He nailed the divine statement, “Paid in full.” Now, instead of that sinfulness quivering under the wrath of an angry, retributive God, we lift our faces in glorious freedom, covered by His redeeming righteousness, freed from the penalty for sin.

It is the risen Christ who justifies the ungodly. He “who was delivered up because of our transgressions” has been “raised because of our justification” (Roman 4:25 NASB). In His resurrection is the guarantee that we too, shall be raised on that Day when He returns in all glory and power. But we shall be raised, not to face His anger and justice, but instead, to stand before Him clothed in His righteousness, to hear Him say, “Come ye blessed of My Father; inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34 NASB). God has raised Him from the dead to rule as God and serve as Judge of all the earth. And He will have stood before the Father to say of those of us who have true faith, “Father, these are Mine; they are justified as without the condemnation of sin, for I paid the penalty.”

Raised from the dead, He lives. I am foolish not to take Him for who He is – the Lord of the universe, and King of kings. He has all power and authority. I know that except for Him I will die an eternal death.

Because He lives, I know His message is eternal truth; I dare not turn away from it. I must hear it, and understand it, and heed it. He calls me to follow Him in all seriousness, to make my life count for Him. I must not fritter my life away in the foolishness of this world. There is no place for mere entertainment in His plan. Nor is there any place for the material to become a prime objective.

Because He lives, I must be vigilant to guard my own heart – turning it to love for God and His righteousness. I must diligently seek to learn and know the difference between good and evil and truth and error. I am not my own; I’ve been bought with a price; I’m only a servant in His kingdom. I’ve been made alive to share with Him in His kingdom, knowing that one day, because He was raised for my justification, I’ll share in all His glory.

His resurrection is the forerunner, and the provider of our resurrection. For we died to sin, and have been raised to walk in newness of life, His life is now in us, and we are justified by our faith, for His resurrection has opened the door to heaven for all who are His.

Raised for our justification.

Dr. M. O. Owens, Jr

March 23, 2008