I recently read the amazing story of how 600 prisoners of war sought to gain their freedom by tunneling out of the POW camp Stalag Luft 111 in Western Poland. Using primitive tools they had fashioned along with a few crowbars, shovels and hammers, they worked for several months on three separate tunnels they named Tom, Dick and Harry.
Using bed boards, tables and chairs to stop the tunnel from collapsing, they were able to dig down some 30 feet and tunnel over 300 feet. Many of the prisoners used fake German uniforms along with false identity papers, hoping to remain unnoticed and evade being recaptured once they escaped.
On the night of March 24th and 25th of 1944 some 76 prisoners escaped through one of the tunnels they referred to as Harry. Unfortunately, prisoner number 77 was spotted and the remaining 120 or so prisoners were detained. Of the 76 escapees only three made it back to Britain. Another fifty of them were executed by firing squad after Adolf Hitler became furious when he learned of their escape.
While the story contained greater details than what I have written, I couldn’t help but think of the tremendous cost of time and toil that they had expended in order to gain their freedom. Sadly, only three made it while dozens lost their lives trying. I can only imagine how those three felt when they realized how many had sacrificed their lives in order for them to gain their freedom.
What the story doesn’t tell us is whether or not any of the three escapees ever gained real freedom. I’m referring to the freedom from sin and the guilt of sin. Everyone, according to God’s word, is a prisoner. We are told that the one who commits sin is a slave or prisoner of sin. Some try to escape the guilt of sin through good works or church attendance, while others try and drown their guilt through drugs, sex or alcohol.
The good news is that Jesus Christ accomplished all the tunneling for us; leaving us the choice of accepting His freedom or remaining the captives of sin. If you are still frantically digging, hoping to gain freedom by your own effort, know this, the tunnel will never end and freedom will never come. Jesus has already provided you with a way of escape and all you have to do is believe in His finished work and step into His life-giving freedom. You can remain a POW or be FREE! The choice is yours.
Today I was reading through G. Campbell Morgan’s book THE PRACTICE OF PRAYER. I was particularly struck by a story he uses to close this very challenging book on prayer.
My prayer is that in reading it you will no longer use the excuse ‘what can I do?’ or ‘do my prayers really make a difference?’.
Here is his story:
“There comes to me the thought of one woman who, to my knowledge, since 1872 in this great babel of London, has been in perpetual pain, and yet in constant prayer. She is today a woman twisted and distorted by suffering, and yet exhaling the calm and strength of the secret of the Most High. In 1872 she was a bedridden girl in the North of London, praying that God would send revival to the church of which she was a member, and yet into which even then she never came. She had read in the little paper called Revival, which subsequently became The Christian, the story of a work being done in Chicago among ragged children by a man called Moody. She had never seen Moody, but putting that little paper under her pillow, she began to pray, “O Lord send this man to our church.” She had no means of reaching him or communicating with him. He had already visited the country in 1867 and in 1872he started again for a short trip with no intention of doing any work. Mr. Lessey, however the pastor of the church of which this girl was a member, met him and asked him to preach for him. He consented, and after the evening service he asked those who would decide for Christ to rise, and hundreds did so. He was surprised, and imagined that his request had been misunderstood. He repeated it once more clearly, and again the response was the same. Meetings were continued throughout the following ten days, and four hundred members were taken into the church. In telling me this story Moody said, “I wanted to know what this meant. I began making inquiries and never rested until I found a bedridden girl praying that God would bring me to that church. HE had heard her and brought me over four thousand miles of land and sea in answer to her request.”
This story is told in the life of D. L. Moody by his son: but now let me continue it. That girl was a member of my church when I was pastor at New Court. She is still a member, still suffering, still confined to her own room. When in1901 I was leaving England for America I went to see her. She said to me, “I want you to reach that birthday book.” I did so and turning to February 5th I saw in the hand writing I knew so well “D. L. Moody, Psalm XC1.” Then Marianne Adlard said to me, “He wrote that for me when he came to see me in 1872, and I prayed for him every day till he went home to God.” Continuing she said, “Now will you write your name on my birthday page, and let me pray for you until either you or I go home.” I shall never forget writing my name in that book. To me the room was full of the Presence. I have often thought of that hour in the rush of busy life, in the place of toil and strain, and even yet by God’s good grace I know that Marianne Adlard is praying for me, and it is for this reason that to her, in sincere love and admiration, I have dedicated this book.
WHO IS MAKING WHO JEALOUS?
Saul of Tarsus was certainly no fan of the early Church. His zeal drove him to plunder, persecute, prosecute and imprison whomever he came across belonging to The Way. Entering house after house he destroyed God’s fledgling flock, causing them to be scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. His very name evoked fear in all who heard it. Then it happened. Saul had an encounter with the Living God. This once proud Pharisee became the apostle to the very dogs he formally despised. Saul, their one time arch adversary, became their chief advocate. So great was his conversion and his subsequent revelation of God’s grace that he became even more zealous. Now Paul’s zeal turned against his former manner of life and against those Judaizers who sought to infiltrate his former enemies in the Church. So radical was Paul’s conversion that he compared his former religious life as one of bondage or slavery. Paul relished his new freedom in Christ. No longer was he striving to please God through his own efforts. No longer was he under an obligation to observe days and months and seasons and years which he referred to as weak, worthless, and elemental things leading back into slavery.
Paul was a changed man. Christ meant everything to him. Christ was his treasure in the field, his pearl of great price, his unspeakable gift. He soon realized that all the types and shadows he had grown up observing and zealously lived for were mere dung in comparison to Christ.
While Paul consistently loathed and opposed those Judaizers who insisted that the Gentile believers be circumcised as well as keep the law of Moses, he also carried a great burden for his own people, Israel, that they might be saved.
In his writings to the Romans Paul stated that Israel’s transgression led to salvation coming to the Gentiles, but then he adds “to make them jealous.” Israel’s calling was to be a light to the nations. It was their job to make us jealous, but now Paul says the shoe is on the other foot. It is now the Church’s job to make Israel jealous.
By now you may be asking where am I going with all this? I’m glad you asked. I’m concerned with what I see happening throughout the Body of Christ. Over the last decade or so as the Church has become increasingly aware of it’s responsibility to pray for and support Israel, there has risen the subtle yet false belief that Israel is somehow superior to the Church. As a result many are being drawn back to the types and shadows, festivals and Sabbaths, etc. In other words, Israel is now causing God’s people to be jealous for her ways rather than God’s people causing Israel to be jealous for Christ.
This got me thinking. I wonder how the Apostle Paul would react today if he were to tune into some religious broadcast extolling the virtues of a prayer shawl or hearing the clamor over blood moons and shemitahs. Added to that is the constant reminder that this is the beginning of such and such a feast or festival. Why have these days, seasons and Sabbaths proven to be more exciting than Christ? Why has the Feast of Passover become more attractive to God’s people than the communion celebration that replaced it? Why do these Old Testament types stir so much passion? Paul himself states they are merely a shadow of things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
My concern is that there is a new breed of Judaizers who unwittingly are causing the Church to be drawn back into bondage and slavery. While that may not be their intention, nevertheless, they dress, act, and emphasize what the writer to the Hebrews declared to be over with. “He takes away the first in order to establish the second.” I believe if Paul were here today his message would remain the same; “You foolish believers, who has bewitched you…” “Stand fast in the liberty in which Christ has made you free and be NOT entangled again with the yoke of BONDAGE”.
SPARE THE ROD AND SPOIL THE NATION.
Once again we are seeing marches and riots in the steets due to another shooting of a black man. The death of anyone before their time is a tragedy. Also the senseless destruction of property is totally uncalled for and only helps to fuel the division between races. As I’ve watched and sought to understand what led to these untimely deaths I’ve come to this conclusion, spare the rod and spoil the nation!
There seems to be one common denominator in most of these tragedies and that is a total disregard for authority. Invariably when confronted by the police these victims refuse to obey the orders of those in law enforcement and consequently end up loosing their lives because of it. Where does this rebellion come from?
I have a good friend who back in the late seventies wrote a book on spanking. For several years the book sold well but then over time the tide turned against both the author and the book. Spanknig was soon considered a form of abuse and anyone holding that viewpoint, let alone practicing it, was labeld unbalanced. My friend received all types of correspondence denouncing his fanatical views. While I can undestand the world not agreeing with his thoroughly scriptural teaching, I find it hard to believe that so called Christians would also side against it.
Rebellion if it is not confronted early through loving discipline will eventually spill over into society. God’s word makes it clear that rebellion or foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child but the rod of reproof will drive it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15.) The percentage of black children with no father present in the home is at an all time high. With no loving leadership these children grow up with little or no consequences for their actions. This is not only true of black children but all children. It’s not uncommon to hear of pre-teen children roaming the streets at night when they should be home studying or in bed. When the rod is removed from the home, society ultimately suffers.
There is no doubt in my mind that there has been some serious miscarriages of justice on the part of some toward our black brothers and sisters. The same is also true of those who have misused the rod; turning it from an instrument of loving discipline to a tool of hated and abuse. That said, we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. God’s word declares uniquivically that when we spare the rod we spoil the child and ultimately the nation.
THE GREAT SIN OF THE EVANGELICAL MOVEMENT
Could it be that the majority of the Body of Christ made an all too common mistake in choosing Trump as their presidential candidate? Was Trump really God’s first choice? Did the Evangelicals do what the Prophet Samuel almost did when he first saw Eliab? You recall how God had revealed to Samuel that one of Jesse’s sons was to replace Saul as king. The moment Samuel laid his eyes upon David’s oldest brother Eliab, he thought “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him”. Samuel looked at Eliab’s height and appearance and became convinced this man was Saul’s replacement. Fortunately, unlike our nation’s current batch of spiritual leaders, Samuel was sensitive enough to the Spirit to hear God’s small voice; “Do not look at his appearance or the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Surprisingly it was David, the under-dog of the family that God anointed to replace Saul.
Speaking of the heart, the scriptures teach us “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”. Trump has repeatedly revealed what’s in his heart. Every time he opens his mouth we hear nothing but derogatory statements about others while he continuously boasts about his own achievements and greatness. I believe this constant boasting is the most offensive sin in the eyes of God and could well cost both he and us the presidency.
Do you recall what happened to David after he became king, he called in Joab the commander of his army and asked him to carry out a particular task. Joab’s response was quick and clear. He tried to convince the king not to proceed with his plan. David insisted, however, and Joab was forced to comply. David’s actions resulted in the death of seventy thousand men.
We all recall David’s sin of passion when he lay with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife. God’s judgment was to take the life of the child they had conceived together. Hollywood has forever immortalized David’s passion in film after film. David’s sin of pride, on the other hand, is rarely ever mentioned. What David asked Joab to do was to determine how strong he was militarily. What seemed like an innocent enough order was highly offensive to God. David had taken his eyes off God as Israel’s deliverer and was relying on the size of his army instead. When David’s heart troubled him for what he had done he said to the Lord, ”I have sinned exceedingly.” God’s response was to take the lives of 70,000 men. David’s sin of passion cost him one life; his sin of PRIDE cost himseventy thousand lives.
I firmly believe as evangelicals we have looked at Donald Trump in the same way that David looked at his army. We have taken our eyes off the Lord and placed our confidence in a man, believing that he will save us. In doing so we like David have sinned exceedingly and will, I believe, suffer the consequences for our actions.
Few of our national leaders called the Church to pray but chose rather to believe Trump alone was all we needed in order to win. I cannot overemphasize the vileness of that sin in the eyes of the Almighty.
Finally, this thought crossed my mind the other day that Trump may well save America and do irreparable harm to the Church. Hillary on the other hand may well destroy America but in turn bolster the Church’s faith. Let me explain. Trump may save America’s economy, military, and Supreme Court but the Church will no doubt wipe her brow and say, “Thank God we dodged that bullet,” and then settle back to her old passive routine of business as usual. Hillary, on the other hand, may well destroy America as we have known her to be in the past and promote a progressive and godless agenda with little or no regard for Christian principles and values. This could result in the Church finally coming to terms with the truth “that unless the Lord builds the house we labor in vain that build it.” Invariably when Israel was in dire straights it caused her to cry out afresh to God. Likewise stripping the Church of everything but God could be the best thing that has happened to her. A.W.Tozer said “God is more concerned about our holiness than our happiness.” Hillary may well be God’s agent to bring that to pass.
Jim Cymbala’s Easter Story
F. Jim Cymbala preaches at a church in the slums of New York. He tells the following story: It was Easter Sunday and I was so tired at the end of the day that I just went to the edge of the platform, pulled down my tie and sat down and draped my feet over the edge. It was a wonderful service with many people coming forward. The counselors were talking with these people.
As I was sitting there, I looked up the middle aisle, and there in about the third row was a man who looked about fifty, disheveled, filthy. He looked up at me rather sheepishly, as if saying, “Could I talk to you?” We have homeless people coming in all the time, asking for money or whatever. So as I sat there, I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, “What a way to end a Sunday. I’ve had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here’s a fellow probably wanting some money for more wine.”
He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I’d never smelled in my life. It was so awful that when he got close, I would inhale by looking away, and then I’d talk to him, and then look away to inhale, because I couldn’t inhale facing him.
I asked him, “What’s your name?” “David.” “How long have you been on the street?” “Six years.” “How old are you?” “Thirty-two.” He looked fifty—hair matted, front teeth missing, wino, eyes slightly glazed. “Where did you sleep last night, David?” “Abandoned truck.”
I keep in my back pocket a money clip that also holds some credit cards. I fumbled to pick one out thinking, I’ll give him some money. I won’t even get a volunteer. They are all busy talking with others. Usually we don’t give money to people; we take them to get something to eat. I took the money out. David pushed his finger in front of me. He said, “I don’t want your money. I want this Jesus, the One you were talking about, because I’m not going to make it. I’m going to die on the street.”
I completely forgot about David, and I started to weep for myself. I was going to give a couple of dollars to someone God had sent to me. See how easy it is? I could make the excuse I was tired. There is no excuse. I was not seeing him the way God sees him. I was not feeling what God feels.
But oh, did that change! David just stood there. He didn’t know what was happening. I pleaded with God, “God, forgive me! Forgive me! Please forgive me. I am so sorry to represent You this way. I’m so sorry. Here I am with my message and my points, and You send somebody and I am not ready for it. Oh, God!”
Something came over me. Suddenly I started to weep deeper, and David began to weep. He fell against my chest as I was sitting there. He fell against my white shirt and tie, and I put my arms around him, and there we wept on each other. The smell of His person became a beautiful aroma. Here is what I thought the Lord made real to me: If you don’t love this smell, I can’t use you, because this is why I called you where you are. This is what you are about. You are about this smell.
Christ changed David’s life. He started memorizing portions of Scripture that were incredible. We got him a place to live. We hired him in the church to do maintenance, and we got his teeth fixed. He was a handsome man when he came out of the hospital. They detoxed him in 6 days.
He spent that Thanksgiving at my house. He also spent Christmas at my house. When we were exchanging presents, he pulled out a little thing, and he said, “This is for you.” It was a little white hanky. It was the only thing he could afford.
A year later, David got up and talked about his conversion to Christ. The minute he took the mic and began to speak, I said, “The man is a preacher.” This past Easter, we ordained David. He is an associate minister of a church over in New Jersey.
And I was so close to saying, “Here, take this; I’m a busy preacher.” We can get so full of ourselves.
TRUMP, Triumph or Tragedy?
America is declining faster than anybody could ever imagine possible. Everywhere we turn we see this once great nation slowly but surely sinking in a sea of debt, moral depravity, racial division, and progressive left wing ideology.
I’m reminded of the prophet Habakkuk who cried out to God reminding Him that everywhere he turned he saw violence, iniquity, wickedness, destruction, strife and contention. He went on to say the wicked surround the righteous and therefore justice is perverted. Habakkuk’s day was virtually identical to our own.
Habakkuk was convinced that God was not listening to his cry for help. “How long will I call and Thou wilt not hear?” God breaks in and tells Habakkuk He is aware of what’s going on and is also doing something about it.
I’m sure God’s initial response was met with great relief by the prophet. That was until God told him exactly what He was doing. “I’m raising up the Chaldeans.” Habakkuk must have been stunned, bewildered, confused, angered, and a thousand other emotions must have gripped him in that moment. Why, he wondered, was God allowing a nation known for their terror, treachery and wickedness to judge God’s people and land?
You and I would feel exactly the same. Especially since Habakkuk had been earnestly and consistently interceding for his people and land. His was no casual prayer, but rather a prolonged intensive season of prayer, perhaps for months or years. “How long, O Lord will I call for help?”
What if God’s answer to our prayers is to allow ISIS to take over? The fact is that the Chaldeans were the ancient ISIS of their day. Or what if instead of ISIS, God is sending us Donald Trump, not as many suppose as a blessing, but as a agent of judgment?
Why would I say such a thing you might ask? Well for starters I see the vast number of evangelicals flocking to Trump like flies to honey. Trump for many is the new savior; the man who is going to right all the wrongs and restore America to her greatness once again.
What we are failing to see is that America’s cup of iniquity is full or very close to it. God is not going to stand by and ignore the blood of 53 million babies that cry out for justice. “God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man (Nation) sows that will it also reap”.
Added to this is the greater sin of placing our hope and trust in a man. David’s greatest sin, was not his sin of passion; that of taking Uriah’s wife Bathsheba, but rather his sin of pride. When David took his eyes off God as his deliverer and instead placed his trust in his own mighty army God took the lives of seventy thousand of David’s men.
I believe the church has taken her eyes off God and instead placed her confidence in man (Trump). Following God’s judgment, David wrote, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses but we will remember the name of the Lord our God” and “A horse is a false hope in time of war.”
I dare say if Trump becomes our next president it won’t be long before we are once again acknowledging that, “Unless the Lord builds the house they labor in vain that build it”
What I’m not hearing from our evangelical leaders is any urgency regarding prayer for our nation. As my father use to say, it is not , Our father which art in the White House but rather, “Our Father which art in heaven”
Our false assumption is, if we can only get Trump into office our problems will be solved. The fact is that our problems may increase. Making America Great Again is a good and catchy slogan, but the good is always the enemy of the best, I’d rather have IN GOD WE TRUST!