Musings From Germany: The Market Place Church

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I  recently visited, The Market Place Church, in Wiesbaden, Germany. It’s an Evangelical Church that is celebrating the 500 year anniversary of the Protestant  Reformation. I had the opportunity to attend a small group meeting, in the basement of the Church. The fact that I found out about this meeting was clearly the providential hand of God. One of the Pastors named Michael told me while sitting in the main sanctuary, “this is a Cathedral but under the Church is where the power is.” Even though the service was in a language I didn’t understand, I was blessed by the presence of the Holy Spirit. And, I was also deeply moved by the fact that they actually took time to practice meditation, along with the message, singing, and prayer. Unlike many American believers they don’t seem to be in a hurry. (Below is a picture from the prayer room in the basement of the Church.)

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I had met Pastor Michael a week earlier and he told me about the meeting. He said it started at 12:00 not 12:01! And sure enough the door was shut at 12:00. Pastor Michael and I had a great time discussing the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who is one of my spiritual heroes. Michael talked to me about the powerful influence that the Church in Harlem had on Bonhoeffer, when he visited the United States. It was similar to the singing Nuns he had encountered before he visited Harlem. It seems that religion experienced in the heart was a priority to him. Bonhoeffer loved the old “Negro Spirituals” and the heart religion that these believers had. Michael referred to these two events as important “spiritual stations” in Bonhoeffer’s life. Pastor Michael encouraged me to practice singing hymns, in fact, we sang a few in the back of the large sanctuary! He talked about a deep spirituality and as he called it “the Jesus in your heart” as opposed to dead religion. He also spoke of social justice and Martin Luther King. He liked the fact that I was a blue collar worker, he said that “it put me in touch with the earth.” We also talked about the fact that work can be an act of worship. And, that is something that the Reformer Martin Luther had taught. Michael spoke blessings over me and encouraged me to keep pursuing my relationship with Jesus.

(Pastor Michael and I outside the Church.)

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Dwelling With God

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(I took the picture above at a Church in Germany. It’s suppose to be the oldest stained glass in Europe.)

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
(Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:3 ESV)

Those who have humbly submitted to God are given a place of honor in his kingdom. Not that we are seeking honor, but as a result of what Christ has done for us, believers get to dwell with God in the heavenly realms. Dead men and women don’t boast of being special. Spiritual death is the result of being children of Adam and Eve. It is the fruit of rebellion against God. We are cursed by this reality until we are spiritually raised to a new life in Jesus Christ.

We have been given the free gift of righteousness and only “the poor in spirit” can receive it. This gift is received by people who know that they are sinful and need a Savior. And only the Holy Spirit can show us that. God sent Jesus on a rescue mission to the earth to bring all those who are willing, out of spiritual darkness to dwell in the light with him. Only the humble who understand their desperate situation and absolute hopelessness can follow Jesus.  And those of us that have been made alive in Christ have been raised up by sheer grace.

Those who are materially or spiritually poor have an advantage over the rich. They know that they have nothing to offer God, but their poverty. The rich must come into the kingdom the same way – knowing that, “God resist the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)  Rich or poor we all must come to God the same – as sinners unable to change ourselves and in total dependence on the only One who can. Experiencing the kingdom requires childlike faith – the kind we never grow out of.

Aggressive Kingdom Prayer

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“May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” -Matthew 6:10 NLT

” In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” – Ephesians 6:10 – 20 (ESV)

We are living in a time of great danger in this country and around the world. Political and social unrest is intensifying. The United States is deeply divided.  And we are always in danger of terrorist attacks, and natural, or man made disasters. A New World Order could very well be on the horizon.  And dark forces are definitely gathering. But, this is not the time to be paralyzed by fear. God has given us all assignments to do. So we must engage the world with the gospel of the Kingdom, in both word and deed.

It’s time to pray militant and aggressive prayers for God’s Kingdom to come, and His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

If you are like me, you may be getting weary of all the political fighting in our Nation’s capital, and the deep division of the American people. The root problem in this country is spiritual, not political. I believe true repentance will change many of our political views. Moralistic religion that does not focus on intimacy with Jesus, loving our neighbors, and praying for those in authority is idolatry. The Nation of Israel’s biggest problem was not with her enemies – it was with God. It is vitally important, that we the Church (all followers of Jesus) get our spiritual houses in order. Is it possible that our lack of prayer and intimacy with God is the real problem.

 During these days I have found that it’s important to spend more time doing a little self-examination of my own heart, before the Lord, especially in the Psalms. God will reveal our spiritual condition as we read and pray the Scripture. The Psalms have served as the believers prayer book for thousands of years.

Delighting In God’s Law

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‘Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.” – Psalm 1:1-2 ESV

If we are truly delighting in the words of God we will seek to obey them.  Mental assent to the validity or truth of Scripture is not the same as delighting in it. Delighting in Truth effects the emotions and produces joy. A merely academic approach to Scripture can be rewarding, but cannot bring peace to our souls.

Those who love history and literature may find it interesting and intriguing, but not life transforming. Delighting in God’s law, produces obedience, but not perfection in this life. All believers  are in the process of “working out our salvation.” And since our flesh is weak, but our spirits are willing, God allows us time to grow into maturity.

The fruit of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, is our desire to delight in and obey God’s Word.

God’s ways are much higher than our ways and he is always looking out for his children. So, just like children, we don’t always understand why He prohibits certain types of behavior. Because we have limited understanding, we may not always agree with what God’s Word teaches on certain subjects, but we can still delight in it. Our goal as disciples of Jesus must be, to come to a place where the truth of God informs our thoughts and behavior. As our minds are transformed, and our thinking is challenged, we begin to see from a heavenly perspective. And only those that delight in His law, really come to understand it.

 

 

The Kingdom In The Mist Of Your Enemies: Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

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“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. ‘The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared’ (Luther).”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

The Nations Are In Chaos

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“The nations are in chaos,
and their kingdoms crumble!
God’s voice thunders,
and the earth melts!
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.

Come, see the glorious works of the Lord:
See how he brings destruction upon the world.
He causes wars to end throughout the earth.
He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.” – Psalm 46:6 – 9 (NLT)

Satan does not have control of world events – God does. The devil has neither the authority or power to change the course of history. In fact God has given his people the Kingdom, and with it, power to be change agents in the earth. God is calling his slumbering church  to wake up,  and embrace a life of prayer.

“For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17 NIV)

No world leader has the answers to our current, national, or global problems, and without divine intervention, things will not get better. The spiritual, political, social, and moral chaos we see in America, is the result  of our rebellion against God. God’s judgement begins with his own people (the Church). Judgement is actually an act of grace to wake us up.

Much of the chaos in our society could be halted, if believers would repent from allowing the culture to shape our thinking and actions. And maybe the world would see in us, the Jesus we preach about. Jesus came to bring peace and reconciliation between God and our neighbor. But, if we Christians, harden our hearts and refuse to be the salt and light, Jesus called us to be, our society will continue to unravel.

Grace And Justification 

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But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God  put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” – Romans 3:21-25 (ESV)

“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” – NIV Romans 4:25

Justification by faith, through grace is a free gift from God.  Salvation is free to all that believe, and bow the knee to the Lordship of Christ. While grace is free, it cost Jesus his life. He paid our sin debt. And thank God he was raised from the dead for our justification!  We can be justified by God no matter what our skin color or social status in society is. This fact brings hope that a works based justification just cannot give us. A works based religion produces either hopelessness or religious pride.

This free gift of justification gives the downcast hope and can actually produce social change in a community and society as a whole. I cannot conceive of going back to a works based relationship with God. Even though I would not have admitted that I was trying to earn God’s acceptance, it was once a reality in my life. All other world religions and some forms of Christianity base their right standing with God on religious ritual and performance, not grace.

Believing in free grace will not make you complacent but it produces thankfulness and freedom and empowers us to do good works. Living a life of trying to appease God is oppressive and devalues what Jesus did on the cross. The reason that I can call Jesus my supreme treasure is that he first treasured me. He stood in my place condemned and in God’s sight – I’m a justified sinner as though I had never sinned. And having been justified in the sight of God – I’m now his son.

Awestruck: A Quote From Sam Storms 

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“God has sovereignly pulled back the curtain on His glory. He has disclosed Himself on the platform of both creation and redemption that we might stand awestruck in His presence, beholding the sweet symmetry of His attributes, pondering the unfathomable depths of His greatness, baffled by the wisdom of His deeds and the limitless extent of His goodness. This is His beauty.” – Sam Storms

God Controls The Wind, The Waves, And The Future

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Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushedThen they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.” – (Pslam 107: 23-30 ESV)

Their seems to be a lot of controversy among Christians over who has ultimate authority over “natural disasters” Jesus or the Devil. The simple answer is, Jesus. When Jesus rebuked the wind that was about to sink the boat that he and his disciples were in, he was demonstrating the fact that he was God. Jesus demonstrated his authority over nature in Matthew 8:23-26:

“And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.  And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

As I was meditating on the passage above, I realized that Jesus rebuked the storm, with no mention of demonic activity. He simply told it to hush! I don’t know if the storm was demonic in nature or not, the text doesn’t say. But until I read Psalm 107, I had always assumed the storm was the result of demonic opposition. But as we see from the scripture, God can send the storm! In Job chapter 1 God allowed Satan to direct the wind in a destructive way.

” While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house,  when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” – (Job 1:18-19 ESV)

Satan may use the wind, but God created it, and has ultimate control over it. Gods’ providence is not only seen in nature, but it can been seen in all the affairs of men. I refuse to give into the view that, God knows the future but does not control it. Or even worse, some in our spiritually dark culture are saying that God does not even know the future. I am confident that the God who knows the number of hairs on our heads (Matt. 10:30) and notices when a sparrow falls (Lk.12:7) to the ground is fully in control of this world.

” You rule the raging of the sea;
when its waves rise, you still them.” –  (Psalm 89:9 ESV)

Becoming Spirituality Dull

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“About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.” – Hebrews 5:11 (ESV)

“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” – Hebrews 2:1 (ESV)

“And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.” (1 Peter 1:5 NLT)

When I become dull of hearing, I know that I’m in a spiritually dry place, and that makes me vulnerable to the devil’s attacks. Drifting away is something we generally do over a long  period of time. It’s starts when we begin to miss our times of prayer and Bible study, and neglect our spiritual condition.  I’ve drifted away and fallen into disobedience during different seasons of my life.  But God has been incredibly merciful to me, he’s always disciplined me as a son, and brought me back into a place of communion with him.

I do not believe that we can reach a point after regeneration that we lose our salvation. You don’t lose your salvation like you lose a coin. Some of my favorite Bible scholars believe that it is possible for real believers to commit apostasy,  which is a willful turning away from the faith, and rejecting the Lordship of Christ. The book of Hebrews contains serious warning’s against those that have been “enlightened” and then “fall away”(Read Hebrews 6.) And according to their view, that act of apostasy would result in being eternally lost. This view deserves our consideration. But that is not my focus here.

That lack of confidence in our Father’s keeping power, devalues and undermines the work of the cross.

I believe many have tasted the things of God and experienced them to some extent, but never actually receive the Spirit of Christ as Lord into their hearts. It is wise to “make our calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10.) We must all ask this question: Do we treasure Christ above all else? Maybe we have in the past, but now find ourselves becoming dull in our experience with God. If this is where you are presently at, heed the exhortation of the writer of Hebrews and do not harden your hearts.

As it is said,

“Today, if you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” – Hebrews 3:15 (ESV)