Heavenly Reality is not Just a Better Shadow

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Recently in the Bible study group I am attending we were studying the Epistle to the Hebrews. As we were reviewing this fascinating New Testament letter I remembered some notes on the Hebrews I wrote twenty years ago. I am now sharing those notes, put together and slightly updated.

“When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already hear, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once and for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption… For Christ did not enter a man man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.” Hebrews 9:11.12.24. NIV

The entire Old Testament, or the old covenant religious system – with its law, tabernacle, sacrifices, festivals, observances and every other aspect of religious life – was a shadow, or a copy of the real deal, Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate, God’s final and complete word to men. By the virtue of His redemptive work, achieved through the ministry of His life, death and resurrection, Jesus inaugurated a new covenant, or “the time of the new order”, thus making the old one obsolete (Hebrews 7:22., 8:7.13., 9:10). The entire Book of Hebrews majors on underlining the supremacy of Jesus over every detail of the old covenant.

Thus Jesus stands for – a better Moses (3:2.), a better Sabbath (4:9.), a better priesthood (7:12.24.), a better law (7:12.), a better high priest (7:15.16.26.27.), a better sacrifice (7:27., 9:26., 10:12.), a better ministry (8:6.), a better hope (7:18.), a better promise (8:6.7.), a better covenant (7:22., 8:13., 9:13.), a better order (9:10.11.), a better tabernacle (chapter 9), and a better access to the Father (6:19., 10:19-22.).

As the destination of our journey is superior to all the signs pointing to it along the way, and as all the signs become obsolete once we have reached the destination, so it goes with all the elements of the Jewish religious décor which were only the prophetic signposts along the Old Testament road to Christ; they are now obsolete and void (Hebrews 8:13) because they were consumed and contained in the Real Deal, namely in Jesus Christ. A copy, or a shadow of an important object only has a meaning and purpose as long as the object it reflects is out of sight. Likewise, a shadow (or a copy) of an object is always inferior to the entity it represents. Once the real thing is revealed, to continue adoring its shadow might easily become an act of idolatry.

In other words, to retain the elements of the inferior shadow-like old covenant as if they were the worshiping realities in themselves, would mean to veil, even undermine the impact and significance of the ‘mechanism’ by which the New Covenant was put into effect; namely the Atonement once-and-for-all completed in the life and death experience of Jesus Christ. To keep on adoring his shadow (old covenant), once the person of Jesus was fully revealed (Hebrews 1:1-3), would amount to believing and acting as if the Jesus Christ’s sacrifice was not adequate and complete means of restoring us back to God.  It would also mean to remain unnecessarily “under the veil”, under the law, dull and blind for the reality of Christ. (2. Corinthians 3:12-16)

Here is the case in point.

In our understanding of the heavenly intercessory ministry of Jesus Christ, we may go with the logic that the heavenly sanctuary (tabernacle, temple) is only a better shadow of the earthly one; only a more solid and better looking physical object. We may look only for a higher quality of design, more impressive liturgy, more grandiose furniture, without ever asking: does the pattern, according to which Moses was asked to build the tabernacle, point only to a more lavished pattern somewhere else? Or, does it go beyond the geography, the visual, the physical – reaching its true meaning and purpose in something by far more important than physical walls, tables, altars, veils, even if they were all made of the most precious materials? What if the entire décor of the heavenly tabernacle has very little to do with a grandiose physical object somewhere in the distant celestial spaces? What if it has to do much more with the divine plan and certainty of salvation, and the assurance of our secure place in the embrace of God, thanks to the perfection of the saving work of Jesus Christ, our only true Intercessor, High Priest, and the eternal King of Kings?

The following thoughts of C.S. Lewis might illustrate the point further:

“An early peasant Christian might have thought that Christ’s sitting at the right hand of the Father really implied two chairs of state, in a certain spatial relation, inside a sky place. But if the same man afterwards … discovered that God has no body, parts, or passions, and therefore neither a right hand nor a palace, he would not have felt that the essentials of his belief had been altered. What had mattered to him, even in the days of his simplicity, had not been supposed details about celestial furniture. It had been the assurance that the once crucified Master was now the supreme Agent of the unimaginable Power on whom the whole universe depends. “ C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock

Heaven is for real. The Kingdom of God is for real too. Salvation is for real, and the life eternal is for real too. However, we need to recognize in all humility that “all language, except about objects of sense, is metaphorical through and through” (C.S. Lewis). In other words, from the moment our human existence became drastically altered by sin, and our alienation from God became real, God has been painstakingly working in and through Christ on making His and our reconciliation story real, truthful and meaningful to us despite the workings of all our limitations.

At the end of the day the promise remains: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived, (these are) the things God has prepared for those who love him”. 1. Cor. 2:9.

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Inappropriate Message from the President

I have been privileged to attend the National Prayer Breakfasts (NPB) in Washington DC almost every year since 2004. I was there too one week ago at the 65th annual National Prayer Breakfast. A number of people involved from the US and other countries, or who frequently attend the event, officially or unofficially, are my good friends who love Jesus and are committed to serving other people faithfully. Meeting them, even if for a short time, is often more precious than attending the diverse events that make up the four-day long spiritually refreshing feast known as the National Prayer Breakfast (NPB).

The way NPB works is that thousands of US and international leaders attend a number of different programs organized geographically. For example, European guests would attend a set of luncheons and dinners that are separate from those attended by South-Pacific or African guests. And then there are a few events that gather together all of the guests. The event that would bring the greatest number of people together – a few thousand – is the actual National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning of NPB week.

But whether we speak of the International Luncheon, the European Dinner, the Middle East Breakfast, the Closing Dinner, or the actual Prayer Breakfast, or any other local, regional or international NPB event, you will always hear the same set of encouraging messages – about loving God and one’s neighbor, even the enemies; and about reconciliation, unity, brotherhood of all people, and about following Jesus. The intention of the organizers is that the name of Jesus be lifted up in the presence of the national and international leaders, including those from Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and other backgrounds.

Occasionally, for a moment or two, one might even wonder if NPB is a gathering of religious syncretists worshiping different gods, only to have your fears corrected by a straightforward Gospel proclamation. I loved hearing some guests commenting on the powerful keynote message of the U.S. Senate Chaplain Dr. Barry Black soon after the NPB 2017 was over. One of them enthusiastically said: “We haven’t heard the Gospel so clearly presented for many years.” Equally powerful and very moving was the Closing Dinner message delivered by Dr. Rick Warren, the founder and senior pastor of the Saddleback Church, an evangelical megachurch in Lake Forest, California. He used the story of his own family tragedy to deliver a strong and encouraging message of hope. Even the Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who would a day or two later approve of the latest sanctions on Iran, preached like a church pastor as he delivered his message at the International Luncheon. If you wouldn’t know he is a politician, you would surely think he is a church minister.

In many ways the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast was very much like any other in previous years, except the message of the freshman US President Donald Trump. His remarks were out of character with the spirit of the gathering. It was overly political to say the least, although somewhat less tense than most of his public addresses until now. We saw a regular Donald Trump nevertheless, unaccustomed to the fact that he was a guest at the biggest leadership prayer event of national and international outreach. For one brief moment, I thought he was about to execute yet another executive order, one in which he would praise himself for restoring religious freedom to America. I especially felt uncomfortable when the President assumed almost a messianic posture saying: “The world is in trouble, but we’re going to straighten it out. Okay? That’s what I do. I fix things. Believe me.”

I was actually troubled with the message from the President. I was not troubled with the fact that the President was speaking at NPB 2017. Since the time of the President Dwight Eisenhower all presidents spoken at the National Prayer Breakfast. What troubled me was the ease, enthusiasm and appreciation with which his message was received by the majority of domestic guests, although there was hardly anything in his message that an informed follower of Jesus could approve of. Some of my international friends have expressed their dismay with its content. One of them wrote: “I found Trump’s speech at the NPB extremely disturbing – on so many levels. He respects nothing and no one. But so many Christians still adore him. I just don’t get it. There was absolutely nothing in his speech that was acceptable for the occasion. Most of it would not have been acceptable at any occasion”.

But the most of the American guests at the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast didn’t mind the inappropriateness of the President’s message. They didn’t mind the joke about Arnold Schwarzenegger and the low ratings of the current TV seasons of The Celebrity Apprentice, nor the reference to Donald Trump’s unpolished telephone conversations with world leaders. Nor did they see as problematic his complaint about how the US “is being taken advantage of by virtually every nation of the world”. Never mind that many among the thousands of guests were international delegates, many of them prominent government leaders from many countries. Most of the domestic guests attending the event were his political and spiritual admirers, mesmerized by his presence, and nothing would get in the way of their enjoyment of the occasion. What mattered was that their godly president, for whom they prayed and about whom they prophesied for the last two years, was finally speaking from the podium of the most known prayer breakfast in the world. Afterwards, in the corridors of the Washington Hilton Hotel, one could hear their approving comments. One of them said: “Wasn’t Trump good! Just a few more touches of refinement and he would be just fine.” In their views the President appeared to have been a humble and gentle servant, whose countenance and spiritual maturity is changing for the better every day.

And there was something else that troubled me in addition to the inappropriate remarks of the President. No, there was nothing sinister about the event itself. It did not look as if it had been hijacked by the political sway of the moment. What troubled me was the prevailing atmosphere of surrealism given the context of the current political confusion that reigned immediately outside the walls of the 2017 NPB sanctuary, with far reaching consequences.

Let me give you an illustration, former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, barely made it to the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast only because his passport contained a few stamps that revealed to US custom officers that he had previously visited a couple of Muslim countries that had been only few days earlier placed on the list of seven banned countries by the president’s executive order. A Slovak member of the European Parliament, Branislav Škripek was less fortunate. He, too, previously visited some of the countries on the banned list, and was denied on technicalities to enter the plane to the US at the Istanbul Airport.

The point of the illustration is this: the system that almost kept a former prime minister of a friendly country from attending NPB 2017, and made it impossible for another to board the plane was endorsed and embraced by many of the same leaders who one week ago raised their voices in praise to the Lord at the latest National Prayer Breakfast. I wonder if we are going to hear more stories of people who, although invited, weren’t able to attend thanks to the new regulations reflecting the latest chain of the president’s executive orders, hastily put in place during the first two weeks of his presidency?

I have experienced enough of National Prayer Breakfasts to want to believe that the intentions of the organizers are noble in character. Those among them who I know personally I know as people of good character, with hearts dedicated to service and genuine commitment to following Jesus.  There is a place for a ministry that desires to bring the leaders of the world closer to Jesus. But I would not be honest if I wouldn’t say that that more than ever before I felt a tension separating the two worlds: one that existed within the boundaries of this international mega prayer event, full of declaration of love, grace and brotherhood; and the other one evolving fast only a few feet away, full of nationalism, bigotry, falls sense of greatness and designed paranoia. What created this tension was the awareness that many beneficiaries of, and contributors to both worlds, were the same people, who at one moment would joyfully and innocently lift their voices in praise to Jesus who said “Whatever you did for the least of these you did for me”, while at another, without any hesitation or a second thought, would self-righteously embrace the executive orders that are about building borders and closing the doors of America to the homeless and persecuted of the world.

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As the World Changes It’s Course

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“‘When a nation is made a god it becomes a god’. It becomes the worship of the nation itself, and when this is absolutized it unleashes a mass devotion that is false, idolatrous and truly demonic.” OS Guinness, Impossible People – Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization.

As the current history of US and the world is changing its course I noted the following two brief reflections on my Facebook page.

We Have Offered a Strange Fire, Friday, January 20, 2017

What shall I say at the end of the day? Let’s put it this way. Some of you might know the feeling: you are watching the inauguration and listening to President’s speech, and this quiet voice within keeps on telling you that something is very wrong, despite the fact that the name of the Lord has been invoked multiple times.

This blend of nationalism, craving the greatness and power through physical strength, exclusivism that borders with superiority, and all of these mixed together with claims that “God is with us”; and with the fervent prayers and supplications to God to make America into “the shining city on a hill” – all of these are something that cannot have the approval of Heaven, regardless of all the prayers uttered today.

The Lord will not let us turn Him into a mascot of our private or national pride, ambitions and interests. He will not let us treat Him as if we owe Him. Today we witnessed a big act of worship, but I fear that we “offered strange, unacceptable fire before the Lord” Lev. 10:1.

No, my friends, these are not the words of someone bitter towards America. These are the words of someone who empathizes with a multitude of Americans who know that our God is not a tribal god, and that He has only one “nation” on this earth – his Church redeemed by the blood of Jesus; which is not geographically, ethnically or racially defined.

President Obama Deserves a Few Words of AppreciationThursday, January 19, 2017

Today is the President Barack Obama’s last full day as president of the US. Let me share a few thoughts at the conclusion of his presidency. Those thoughts are coming from someone who has been fighting hard not to be caught up in the paradigm of divisive political partisanship that has penetrated deep the soul of American society.

This is what I’ve observed. From the first day of the President Obama’s two terms in office he was continually, deliberately and systematically obstructed in everything he laid his hands on. His political opponents worked relentlessly to nullify, undermine or destroy all his efforts. His political enemies were determined to see President Obama fall and his presidency ruined. Assisted by many radio talk-show, TV and social media pundits they were creating the atmosphere of confusion, antagonism, hatred, even hysteria towards President Obama.

The most cynical thing was that the most vocal politicians and pundits who were endlessly productive in creating the climate of paranoia towards President Obama bragged about their “Christian” faith and values. They yelled that he was not an American citizen. They labeled him as “dictator”, “communist”, “Muslim”, “fascist”, “traitor”, “the Beast”, and “the Antichrist” from the book of Revelation, and much more.

I admire President Obama for the strength of his character and the courage that enabled him to receive all the blows with dignity and integrity. I do not know if any American president was mocked and humiliated as much as President Obama. There are some areas of his actions and policies, domestic and international, with which I do not agree. In fact, with some of them I disagree very strongly. Nevertheless, I believe President Obama was a good president and a leader of quality, and a very decent man.

It won’t be long before people will reflect on the days of the presidency of Barack Obama with nostalgia. Call me whatever you like, but I believe President Obama deserves a few words of appreciation.

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Wake Us Up, Lord

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“Wake us up, Lord! Wake us up!” This is how I pray at the beginning of the year 2017.

As we reflect on the world state of affairs at the beginning of the New Year I see that we haven’t got much reason for optimism, except our eyes are firmly set on Jesus Christ. The prospects that the New Year will pleasantly surprise us in the coming days, weeks or months are very slim indeed, considering the inherited geo-political alignments, and overall moral and spiritual climate.

What is the year 2017 inheriting from the year 2016?

The cruel wars soaked with the blood of innocent children, women and men. Brutal persecutions and killing of many (especially Christians) who did not want to convert into the faith of the captors. Exportation into the world of the ideology driven terrorism with demonic suicidal flavor. And the multi-players proxy wars, all involved in the conflict in which it is still hard to distinguish enemies from allies. These were some of the features that dominated the Middle East region in 2016.

At another level, international relations looked more like international political prostitution that was adding more fuel to the fire rather than bringing about constructive solutions, stability and peace into the world. Moreover, Europe continued toying with the lives of the hundreds of thousands of refugees, while allowing the right-wing extremism, even some forms of soft fascism to grow unchecked. In the US a disgraceful presidential election helped a new America emerge, one that is potentially dangerous to itself, and hazardous for the rest of the world.

In 2016 we also witnessed the Orwellian age coming out of puberty. Today, as the post-truth age advances, shameless lying and deception are treated as educational, political and media virtues. The increase in the fake-news, pushed forward by some alternative media, was not the only face of the emerging post-truth paradigm. The more serious problem was that often it was hard to distinguish the factual truth from manipulated or half-truths, or agenda driven reporting in the mainstream media narratives. Moreover, the characters of leaders did not suddenly matter anymore.

These, and more, contributed to the making of 2016 as the year of increased hopelessness, apathy, and spiritual and moral confusion. So, it looks like the party is over. Shouts that there is a fire in the house might be for real this time. It will certainly not be ‘business as usual” for much longer.

At this time, I am especially concerned about American evangelical Christianity, at least about a significant part of it, because it seems it’s long awaited spring has come.

Too many Christians are becoming too literal about the meaning of the phrase “the church militant”. Their Christianity is painted with the vivid colors of nationalism, even racism, and questionable political loyalties. Too many Christians are now flirting with the political brands that offer greatness, power and control, convinced that their love affair with hazardous political choices are of the Holy Spirit. A friend told me the other day that she is in peace with herself over her choice for the new US President because she received a “strong conviction from the Lord” about her decision. At this moment, too many share similar convictions that their current political allegiances have received a heavenly endorsement.

I pray for my Christian friends who believe that “making America great again” is on God’s priority list. It is a dangerous thing to embed the Kingdom of Christ with the kingdoms of this world, regardless of their political flavor. It is dangerous for the world and degrading for the cause of Christ to equate the mission of His Kingdom with the ambitions of the kingdoms of this world. The vision of the Emperor Constantine, that he would win militarily and politically under the sign of the cross was never given to him by God, because His Kingdom would never be fought for with swords. Even if the entire Cabinet of the President-Elect gets filled with the “born-again” and “Spirit filled” Christians, this should become a cause for concern much sooner than the cause for jubilation. Surrounded by a government of “godly men” could soon lead to a false notion that all its decisions are anointed by and pleasing to God.

While it is true that the followers of Jesus are called into the political service, and various forms of public service by the means of political leadership, so that they could be “the light and salt of the world” in the political arena, the Lord has never appointed his followers to be the cheerleaders for different party ideologies or cherished personality cults. Neither is Jesus calling his followers to claim the militant barricades or strongholds of the world. If in the coming weeks and months we decide to “trust in the multitudes of chariots, and the strength of their horsemen” (Isaiah 31:1., Psalm 20:7.) to lead us into the political victories, even if claim them from Heaven, our hopes and dreams will be crushed, and the name of Jesus will be dishonored.

So, I pray, “Wake us up, Lord. Wake us up!” May we see with clarity that the Kingdom of Jesus Christ will never endorse any kingdom of this earth. Indeed, God does have His people on the earth. They are His Bride, His Church, His Body, His Remnant, His “7000 whose knees have not bowed down to Baal” (1. Kings 19:18), His “salt and light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-16). However, God does not have his government or his superpower on earth. His kingdom is made of a different substance, placed above and outside of what we call our civilization and our culture. Our presidents, kings and dictators do not advise the King of the Kingdom of God. Nor our monuments, temples and institutions decorate its greatness.

If we ever needed the strength and discernment to draw the line between the two kingdoms, and to rise high above the expectations of our culture, our civilization, and the political, social and nationalistic pressures, we surely need to do it now, at the beginning of 2017. The only culture, the only civilization, the only Kingdom that will completely defeat the civilization of death, together with its culture of greed, hatred, racism and nationalism, enslavement, lying, deception, and destruction – is the civilization of the Kingdom of God. And the only King worthy of our trust, undivided loyalty and love is the King Jesus.

Imagine the world in which Jesus Christ reigns? It is coming. Soon. And without help of macho Christianity. The cynicism and unbelief of many will not change the certainty of its arrival. Let us decide that through the working of the grace of God and His Spirit in our lives we will unashamedly give our allegiance to Jesus Christ, the only Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). Let’s seek Him to wake us up entirely, and equip us to make a difference in this world in the ways that count in His Kingdom: by loving our neighbors, refugees and immigrants; and pursuing justice and righteousness; and easing the suffering of the poor, homeless, sick, elderly, and otherwise neglected and rejected – for the “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” James 1:27.

Yes, wake us up, Lord! May we truly pledge our allegiance to the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords alone. May we seek to be Jesus’ ambassadors in the year that will surely put our faith in Him to the test even further.

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One Day It Will Not Be a False Flag

Advent Reflection

 “In the last days scoffers will come…  and say, ‘Where is this ‘coming” he promised?’” 2. Peter 3:3.4.

There was a time when believing in the soon return of Jesus Christ defined the lives of many of my generation. I grew up in a church culture that believed in and proclaimed the imminent return of Jesus. As a child I had a dream in which I saw Jesus coming in the clouds of Heaven.

Today we are embarrassed even to mention that we are looking forward to His soon appearing. We don’t want to look like fools in the eyes of the scoffers, spiritual nihilists, and those who possess an overly optimistic view of human progress. Plus, we have ourselves become uncertain too. What if we cry “wolf”, and nothing happens, again?

It is out of fashion today to believe in the Second Coming of Jesus. We plan to conquer Mars in the next 30 years or less. We fantasize about what will our human life look like in 20 years from now. We dream about extending the length of our lives indefinitely with the help of modern science and advanced technology.

Frankly, it is not an in thing to believe in the imminence of the literal coming of the Lord Jesus at the time when many are intoxicated with the utopia of a gradual ushering in of the lasting earthly kingdom, which is to become a heavenly one through a guided process of social, spiritual and scientific evolution. We have not finished dreaming about our tower of Babel yet.

But the writing on the wall is ever more clearly upon our civilization – “You have been weighted on the scales and found wanting” Daniel 5:27. How much worse could it get? How much longer could it go? The generation of Noah was horror stricken when the day of reckoning came upon them. So will be many living today as they suddenly come to a sober realization that God is not an old full to be played with forever.

When that day arrives, suddenly and unscheduled in the calendars of the powerful, no remorse or repentance will be of any use. “For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not.” C.S. Lewis, The Business of Heaven

It will do us well to realize now that one day soon it will not be a false flag. The shouts will be real, “The King is coming! The King is coming!”

First released May 2014 as “God Without Disguise”

 

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Come, Lord Jesus

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Advent Reflection

 

 

When Jesus Christ came for the first time, as a powerless baby, it seemed as if the whole world was asleep. Only a few anticipated His birth. Many more could have known about His gentle arrival if the leaders of faith had only paid attention. How was it possible that a group of Wise Men from the East knew that the King of Kings was about to be born while the leaders of the Jewish religious establishment didn’t have a clue?

We are now living in the anticipation of the Second Advent. The Nicene Creed summarizes well one of the fundamental Christian beliefs: “I believe that He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead.” As Jesus was returning to his Father, soon after His resurrection, the angels promised his followers: “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” Acts 1:11. But this time no one will be able to pretend to have missed His Coming. “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him” Revelation 1:7.

At this season of Advent, like at any other, the anticipation of the Second Coming is mentioned, here and there, in the planned Scripture readings or sermons in our churches. But the enthusiasm seems to be missing because the urgency is not there. We have heard the message of Advent so many times, packaged gently into the message of Christmas, that we hardly notice it’s importance any more. And even when a pastor dares make a more serious attempt at reminding us that Jesus Christ is coming back again, this message always comes with an added disclaimer – “but we do not know the day or the hour” Matthew 24:36. We never miss pointing out that there are too many charlatans around busily putting forward one apocalyptic date after another, lest someone confuses us with one of those “date setting sects”.

No wonder the message of Advent sounds as a fairytale, or a not-obliging metaphor when we hardly dare declare it with the urgency it deserves. Could it be that the Advent call to “wake up from our slumber” (Romans 13:11) sounds to us more like the warning Lot gave his sons-in-law-to-be about the imminence of the destruction of Sodom? Lot appeared to them that “he was joking” Genesis 19:14. Could it be that we too have fallen for a self-soothing lullaby that “our master is taking a long time in coming” (Luke 12:45), hoping that if the Second Coming ever takes place in the literal wrappings of the Biblical announcements it would take many hundreds of years or more before it happens?

And yet, just as surely as Jesus surprised us the first time, He will surprise us the second time too. His second appearing will not look like a slow-motion evolution of the kingdom of this world into the Kingdom of our God. “This time”, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature.” (C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity) One day, as surely as this day exists, the history as we know it, with all our achievements and big plans for the future, will collapse in response to the sudden appearing of the presence, power and the glory of the coming King of Kings. One day “the rock cut out without a help of human hands” will struck the statue of human history, and become “a huge mountain” that will “fill the whole earth” Daniel 2:31-35.

True, we should not manipulate with the date setting. But dare we ask the question, nevertheless – what if that day is not far off? What if the rapidly concentrating distressful events, wars and rumors of wars, accumulating spiritual and political deceit, and other overwhelming global circumstances that radiate with hopelessness are the actual signs that, in the words of the Bob Dylan’s song “Slow Train Coming”, the day of the Lord’s appearing is just “up around the bend”? What if the day of “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) is shockingly more imminent than what we are ever ready to believe? What if Jesus’ invitation to “stand up and lift our heads, because our redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28) is meant for us living in the first quarter of the 21st century?

Let’s us not dare ignore those questions at this Advent season. Instead, with the awaken hearts let us declare: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20.

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The Night Jesus Wept

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Yes, Jesus is the King! But this is not so because the choruses of Trump’s supporters are saying so as they are celebrating his presidential victory this morning. That “Jesus is the King” is even more true in the face of the fact that millions of declared followers of Jesus in the US are to blame for the unsavory victory of Donald Trump.

To examine the value of Donald Trump one does not need to listen to various conspiracy gossips. His words, gimmicks and actions speak volumes. They demonstrate that he is a habitual liar, racist, nationalist with fascist overtones, hate monger at multiple levels, bully, fake Christian, a spiteful, revengeful and unpredictable man, as well as a sexual predator.

It does not surprise me at all that Donald Trump won. We are increasingly living in a valueless world. The most humiliating and shaming thing is that he won with an overwhelming support of the very people who claim that Jesus alone was their King. Christianity Today reported today that 4 in 5 white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. “More than 80% of white evangelical and ‘born-again’ Christians voted for Mr. Trump”, stated the Wall Street Journal today too. And they did it in company with all kinds of extremists, white supremacists, racist and Nazi groups, such as Ku Klux Klan and alike.

In a surreal atmosphere intoxicated with deception too many Christians in America are celebrating today the victory of Donald Trump. Self-styled prophets, teachers and evangelists are prophesying about “God’s special purpose in choosing Donald Trump”. One of them declared today that “God has sovereignly raised up Donald Trump”. Various Christian leaders have called Donald Trump “God’s wrecking ball”, “God’s anointed choice”, “God’s choice” to “prepare America for Christ’s return.”  In the next several days we are to witness numerous church services and other faith-based occasions that will celebrate the winning of Donald Trump through the waves of thanksgiving and praise.

On the other hand, thanks God, there are still many sober followers of Jesus who are very much concerned about the soul of America, and the world at this hour. We cannot agree that Heaven is celebrating too at this moment. Instead we believe that last night Jesus wept with many in the US and the world who are concerned about the state of delusion and deception that is engulfing the world today, many Christians including.

We cannot believe that there is anything that we have seen in the candidacy and the life of Donald Trump that is compatible with the life and values of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. We are finding it hard to believe that “America is going to be made great again” through the ministry of cynicism, threats, unpredictable actions, bulling, insults, character assassinations, humiliation, and promotion of hate and division which we have repeatedly witnessed in the life and actions of Donald Trump.

Instead we hope that the words of Tony Campolo, the American Christian writer, might come true: “His victory is likely to get evangelicals to do some soul searching as to who they are, and why they were swept up in supporting a man whose rhetoric played upon fear of immigrants, fear of Muslims, an anti-scientific disbelief in global warming, overt racism and sexist attitudes that are contrary to scripture.” Christianity Today, November 9, 2016.

Meanwhile, with embarrassment and shame in our hearts many of us will have to continue to live with the consequences of the fact that so many millions of American Christians have actually paved the way for Donald Trump to become the next President of the US. “They have”, in the words of a friend of mine, “created September 11 of another kind”. They have made last night Jesus weep again. And they will make us all pay for it, one way or another.

Let’s brace ourselves for a bumpy ride with increased turbulences, as we are wishing goodbye to the world as we know it. A saying goes: “As you make your bed, so you must lie on it”. Or in the words of Paul: “Whatever one sows, that will one also reap.” Galatians 6:7.

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Recommended Reading and Watching at this time:
Glenn Greenwald talks to Democracy Now: Donald Trump’s public persona was consecrated and constructed by one of the most powerful media organizations in the world….
Proclaiming “Christ is Lord” is NOT Declaring “God is in Control
This is Why I’m Crying ….
Three days of hate in Donald Trump’s America
To My Southern Baptist Brothers Who Voted For Trump
Christianity Today: Global Evangelical Leaders Concerned that Trump’s Win Will Harm the Church’s witness
The New Nationalism, The Economist
How the 2016 Election Reminded Me of Growing Up in a Cult
Sorry, Evangelicals, You Can’t Play the Trump Card and the God Card at Same Time

Let the Record Show, John Pavlovitz

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My Statement On the 2016 Election

I have been placed under much pressure and intimidation lately. This would happen every time when I shared a link on my Facebook page expressing a concern about the presidential fitness of Donald Trump. The same happened, even more forcefully, when I shared a couple of articles, written by friends, with favorable views of Hillary Clinton. Although I’ve never myself written an affirming article about Hillary Clinton I was repeatedly labeled as the Hillary’s promoter.

So I have to say the following: I am not endorsing any of the two leading candidates. I do not endorse Donald Trump because everything about him radiates with nightmare and insult to any sense of human decency. With all due respect for my friends who might think otherwise, I cannot find even a single thing about him that would attract me to approve of him as the next President of the US.

I find Hillary Clinton less troubling. However, I am hesitant to endorse her either because I believe that freedom of religion and conscience, and respect for human dignity and sanctity of human life do matter profoundly. All of those, plus gender clarity, are fundamental pillars of our freedoms and moral stability of our society; and all of those are very likely to be manipulated under her presidency.

I am not yet eligible to vote in the US, but if I were, I would not have voted for any of the two. Instead I would have selected a third candidate as my personal statement that I do not approve of the system that does not allow the best among the best to advance to the top of the presidential electoral ladder; regardless of the fact that the third candidate would not stand a chance in the election. I do not believe, as many Evangelicals do, that running away from Hillary Clinton must lead one by default into the lap of Donald Trump.

Finally, whoever wins, we have to brace ourselves for a bumpy ride. The 2016 presidential election will be followed by the unpleasant consequences of deepening disunity, political spite, and very likely the atmosphere of retaliation. America should have never allowed itself to come to the point of cornering itself with the two current candidates. Much prayer and eyes wide open will be needed, for none of the two leading candidates, whoever becomes the President, will be a genuine friend of the core human values, rights and freedoms.

For more insight into my concerns and views read my article “Specks and Planks” released two weeks ago.

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Reformation Without Strings Attached

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499 years ago to date a German monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany. This event set in motion the unstoppable wave of Protestant Reformation in Europe, and led to the departure of the churches identified with the Reformation from the Roman Catholic Church.

In the heart of the big split was how the two sides understood the centrality and role of grace and faith in the lives of believers. On the one hand the Roman Catholic Church claimed that she was the God given means of deciding the conditions under which the grace of Christ was to be administered in the lives of believers. The Reformers, on the other hand, understood that if the grace of  Jesus Christ was to be grace, it had to be the gift of God with no human strings attached. Thus the well-known tag lines of the Reformation came into being: Jesus alone, grace alone, faith alone, Bible alone.

Today, almost 500 years later, we are hearing the loud choruses of Christian leaders and scholars on all sides declaring that the Reformation was a big mistake, and that all theological differences between Roman Catholics and Protestants were the consequences of “a tragic misunderstanding”.  “Our differences are only the question of semantics. After all we all believe that we are all saved by grace, aren’t we?”, they argue.

But, has anything really changed over the centuries in our understanding of the Gospel of Christ to justify such bold claims?

Have we finally come to a clearer understanding of the meaning, centrality and all-sufficiency of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection in our salvation? Have we finally stopped turning our denominations and churches into the ‘dens of robbers’ by selling in them our own brands of saving supplements? Have we all, after many debates, commissions and joint declarations come to share in the transfiguration experience of Jesus, when his disciples finally “saw no one else but Jesus”? Matthew 17:8.

I am not convinced that we have. And I am saying “we” because all kinds of self-saving placebos are on the market across the entire spectrum of Christendom today. The examples vary from the outrageous and extreme self-molestations of Catholics in Philippines during the days of Easter, to the superstitious veneration of relics and deceased human intercessors and co-redeemers, still very much alive even in the most liberal circles of the Roman Catholic Church.

By the same token, have we Protestants moved forward “ever reforming” when many of us are relying on our subjective forms of mysticism (listen to the most of the contemporary praise and worship music and you will discover that we praise our emotions more often than Jesus the Redeemer)? Or when we rely on the subjective prophetic and charismatic gifts for the assurance of our standing with God rather than on the firm promise that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved?” Romans 10:13. Are we truly reformed and “keep on reforming” when many of us have lost any appreciation for the uniqueness of Jesus as “the only name given to men to be saved”? Acts 4:11.

In other words, wherever a Christian culture exists that encourages its followers to believe and act as if their salvation, or sense of God’s approval depend on our works (whether they are the works of the Law or our own rules); or on our subjective inner feelings and notions; or wherever we are encouraged to look for the revelation of God in the inner workings of our consciousness – through it all we are demonstrating that we are not sure if trusting in Jesus alone is enough to keep us in the saving relationship with God. Thus the grace of Christ, as the supreme and all-sufficient agent of our salvation is compromised, diluted, even lost.

As long as something is being added, whatever that may be, to which we give even partial redemptive attributes, we have not grasped the heart, meaning and continuing urgency of the Reformation. Instead of “always reforming” we are continually deforming.

Today many are praying for unity, quoting the prayer of Jesus “that all may be one”. Unfortunately, they are forgetting that the only legitimate unity shared among the followers of Jesus is the one with Jesus firmly occupying the throne, and deciding the rules of the game. “That all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in me and I am in You”’ prayed Jesus. John 17:21.

Jesus never prayed for unity at all costs. Unity that does not have Jesus-plus-nothing in the center is a hijacked unity.  Cosmetic unifications are not based on the truth but on compromises that always sacrifice the Gospel. There where Jesus Christ is not on the throne, some other “Christ” will be enthroned. This is why the warning of Paul the Apostle sounds so urgent and so uncompromising: “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned”. Galatians 2:8.

The 16th century Reformers understood that the heart of the Gospel was the gift of Jesus Christ without human strings attached. This was the landmark which they did not dare compromise or subject to improvisation. Neither should we today.

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PS. The late Anglican Bishop Tony Palmer, who dedicated his life to working towards the unity of the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant churches, said that “Luther’s protest is over”,  namely that there were no more justifiable reasons for the separation between the Protestant world and the Roman Catholic Church since “now we all believe that we are all saved by Christ alone”. The current visit of Pope Francis to Sweden, where he is meeting with the top leaders of the Lutheran World Federation to commemorate 500 years of the Protestant Reformation, seems to be suggesting that Pope Francis too believes that the end of five hundred year long separation is almost over. As we are becoming more and more aware of the claims and statements delivered by the prominent faith leaders we need to continue to ask: Is justice being done to the Gospel of Christ through the processes that are diligently working at the high levels to bring the Christendom together under one tent? I know this is one of those unpopular questions in the age of political, social and spiritual correctness. But it needs to be asked nevertheless.

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Our Only Hope

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The roots of anger that is increasingly overloading the world are not to be found in the endless list of scapegoats that we are so quick to blame for everything today – for moral, economic, social, political, national and personal downfalls. The roots of anger of the peoples, nations and groups of peoples today are to be found in the fact that we are the last generation of people living in the leftovers of borrowed values.

Two or three generations ago the intellectual elites of the world decided that God was dead. Still, most of the people continued to benefit from the spiritual and moral fruit of the preceding generations. Our fathers and grandfathers knew very well that they were accountable to someone bigger than themselves.

Then it dawned on us that if ‘God was dead’, man created in the moral image of God had to be dead too. Finally, we have reached the stage of human history when nothing is left of man, but a worthless zombie. There where God is dead humanity disappears too.

So, it is not surprising at all if we see today that human life is treated as worthless or as a disposable commodity – from the slaughter-fields of Syria, across the sophisticated medical institutions and scientific laboratories of the West, to the cruel battlefields of American elections. Leaders, from the powerful states to some tiny banana countries, are more than eager today to lead consistently with their no-god-no-man philosophy.

It is no coincidence at all that the Book of Revelation (chapter 13) describes the leaders of the world in the apocalyptic times as beasts. This is what happens to the cultures and societies where humanism is denied its only legitimate reference point – God. It seems that Adolf Hitler was born only a moment too soon.

The anger that we see on the raise today comes out of the overwhelming hopelessness of the nations and peoples who are realizing, consciously or not, that their world has reached the point of no return. Millions feel deceived, misled, abused and lost as they are bombarded by the choruses of lying voices promising a new, bright future. In the state of panic, frustration and confusion they are now after anyone who they believe are the source of their hopelessness; foolishly believing that if they get rid of this one or that one their lives would somehow make sense again.

But, it is a delusion to think that another revolution or upraising, a new war or unrest, or a new radical movement on the left or the right would change the world into a better place. Our only hope and real assurance is in trusting Jesus Christ, the only real and legitimate King of Kings. He will soon put everything to rights again. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of Lord our God” Psalm 20:7.

Preachers, teachers, pastors, people and friends let us lift up the name of Jesus Christ with clarity and distinction, and without any apology or shame. The “stumbling block” (1. Corinthians 1:23) that offends so many is our only hope, the way, the truth,the  life and our only salvation. In the challenging days that are ahead of us let us identify with the family and movement of Jesus’ followers, and be away from any movement that justifies lies, anger and abuse of our fellow men and women as the means of changing our world.

“Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 11:15.

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