Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Power, Purpose and Provision of the Devotional Life

I want to recount a lesson I learned from Joni Eareckson Tada on the power and purpose and provision that comes through the devotional life.

Some of you may recall that forty years ago Joni became a quadriplegic as the result of a diving accident. Stuck in the geriatric ward of the state institution in Maryland she'd listen for hours as her friends read stories from the Scriptures. One of her favorites was the story of a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. Jesus had encountered him lying by the Pool of Bethesda and healed him. As a result of this story Joni began picturing herself lying on a straw mat right beside the Pool of Bethesda and for hours on end she would plead with God for a miraculous healing.

It seemed at that time that God did not reward her prayer with a response. Thirty years later, however, she received a revelation of sorts during a trip to Jerusalem with her wonderful husband, Ken. He pushed her wheelchair down the steps of the Via Dolorosa, made a left turn at the Sheep's Gate, walked right next to Saint Anne's Church and then ran straight into the Pool of Bethesda. While Joni was resting her arms on the guardrail overlooking those now dry, dusty ruins, her mind flashed back to those thirty years earlier that she had pictured herself lying on a mat at this very spot. Suddenly, like a thunderbolt across a clear blue sky she was struck by the realization that God had not given her the response she was looking for - He had given her a far better one. Overwhelmed with emotion she began to thank Him for not healing her. God had miraculously turned her wheelchair into her secret place.

That day she might well have cried out "Oh wheelchair, I bless thee" because it was in the prison of that wheelchair that Joni learned the secret of the devotional life. Unable to run here and there with perfectly-formed limbs, she spent hours practicing the principles of prayer. As her life grew ever richer and deeper she was enabled to bless multitudes out of the overflow of a life spent in that secret place. It was in her secret place that she discovered that there were more important things than walking, and as she has grown in intimacy with her Creator she's learned to bless the cross that crafted her character.

In our fast-food culture we're always looking for instant gratification, a cacophony of voices promise us quick fixes and instant cures when, in reality, there are none. The secret to a successful marriage is found in time spent developing a relationship with your spouse. The secret to raising kids is a function of the quality and the quantity of time spent interacting with them. The secret to a successful portfolio is directly related to understanding the fundamentals of the companies in which you invest. The secret to prayer is secret prayer, and the secret to a great devotional life is disciplining ourselves to find a secret place, a place where we can drowned out the static of the world and hear the voice of our heavenly Father.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

9/11 Anniversary

I would be remiss if I did not mention that this week marks the sixth anniversary of 9/11. There's no need to paint a word picture describing the horrors of what happened that day on September 11, 2001. The images will be forever emblazoned on our collective consciousness. Americans had long considered their country impervious to the atrocities of terrorism. To awake to a headline that screamed "Day of Evil" was unthinkable. And as I watched the twin towers of American invincibility and ingenuity crumble and collapse I could not help but pray that day six years ago that this would be a catalyst to arouse Western Christians from our luxury-induced stupor and incite us to rush to the aid of those trapped within the ruins of sin-sick souls.

As the truth of what happened on September 11th continues to set in, may it also sink in to our collective hearts that those who turn their backs on Christ's love and mercy will experience hell's irrevocable reality. The Master Himself will say to those who spurn His sacrifice "'Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.' Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

My continuing prayer is that the images of blazing fire and billowing smoke emanating from New York and Washington will arouse us as Christians from our lethargy and renew our passion to rescue the perishing from an inferno that will never be quenched. September 11, 2001 is a microcosm of what will happen to those who do not experience the transforming grace and love of Jesus Christ.

I'm back!

Many thanks to for keeping us safe from spam blogs and other harmful activities. Unfortunately the robots that search our blogs are not perfect and mistakenly flagged my blog as spam. As you can see (since you are reading this), my blog has been cleared and we can continue commenting and posting to our hearts' content. I will be posting again shortly. Thanks for reading.

Monday, September 10, 2007

September Dawn

Recently I went to a movie called September Dawn. It was one of the most riveting movies I've seen in recent history.

It's really a story that chronicles the painful, violent way in which Mormons slaughtered the inhabitants of a wagon train passing through Utah on the way to California. And it makes clear that the historic Christian faith, not Mormonism, is the way to having peace with God. It demonstrates that the divide between Mormonism and Christianity is a divide that cannot be papered-over with mere rhetoric. It gives you glimpses into a lot of Mormon peculiarities such as blood atonement, temple sacrifices, the revelations which are given to the Mormon prophet and apostle.

In light of seeing this movie, I was reminded once again that we should understand the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which was birthed in 1820 by an alleged vision in which two celestial personages appeared to Joseph Smith and claimed that all existing churches were wrong, that all their creeds were an abomination, that all their professors were corrupt, and according to these personages Joseph Smith had been chosen to restore - restore, mind you, not reform but restore - a church that had disappeared from the face of the earth. The Mormon doctrines that evolved from this vision compromise, confuse, or outright contradict the nature of God, the authority of Scripture and the way of salvation.

Let me take just a moment to elaborate on that. First, while Christians believe that God is Spirit, Joseph Smith taught that "God Himself was once as we are now and is an exalted man who sits enthroned in yonder heavens." Mormonism also holds to a plurality of gods and contends that as man is, as we are right now, God once was, and as God is, man may become. In other words, we can become gods.

Not only so, but the Latter-day Saints compromise the nature of the God-Man Jesus Christ, and this is really the acid test. "Who do you say that I am?" asked Jesus. In Christianity the response is that Jesus is the self-evident, self-existent, Creator of all things. In Mormonism, by way of contrast, He is the spirit-brother of Lucifer who was conceived in heaven by a celestial mother and came in flesh as the result of the Father having sex with the virgin Mary. Now this is not something you paper over with rhetoric. This is a substantive difference when it comes to essential Christian doctrine. In sharp distinction to Christian theology, Mormons do not believe that the Bible is the infallible repository for redemptive revelation. In their view it is "the Book of Mormon that is the most correct of any book on earth and the keystone of our religion." Again, this is not a distinction without a difference.

And while Christians believe that they will stand before God dressed in the spotless robes of Christ's righteousness, Mormons contend that they will appear before Heavenly Father dressed in fig leaf aprons holding good works in their hands. And they believe that only those who are sealed in secret temple rituals will make it to the third level of the Celestial Kingdom and become gods of their own planets.

These and a host of other doctrinal perversions exclude Mormonism from rightly being called Christian. Again, September Dawn gives you a glimpse into how the perversions of Mormon theology have a practical implication on things that have happened in the past. I think one of the most stunning things about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, which this film is all about, is that the Mormon church has not accepted responsibility for it, and I think it's high time that they did. This is not conjecture. This film is dealing with actual events that were carried out because of the supposed revelations given by God to the apostles and prophets living at that time.

It is incumbent for us to know what Mormonism teaches and to use our well-reasoned answers as springboards for opportunities for sharing the grace and love and truth that only Jesus Christ can bring to the human heart, to use the deviations of Mormonism as an opportunity to reach Mormons who are trapped in a system which is decidedly anti-biblical and against the biblical worldview.