Spiritual Vertigo

Vertigo is defined as “a sensation of whirling and loss of balance, associated particularly with looking down from a great height, or caused by disease affecting the inner ear or the vestibular nerve; giddiness. It can cause loss of balance, ringing in the ears, nausea, and disorientation.”

Two weeks ago, I woke up and began what seemed like a normal day. Less than an hour later, something went pear-shaped in my head. Extreme dizziness and violent retching overtook my body. By the fifth day, I paid a visit to a local Urgent Care.

After a preliminary check by a nurse, then another staff member, a doctor entered the room. They ran some additional tests for various flus and viruses. All came back negative, and the result was that I had vertigo.

There is a first time for everything. Despite having had malaria and typhoid twice while we served in Liberia, this was completely different. Every day that I wake up, my world whirls and spins as I try to recalibrate. I can now sit in my chair, but again each move has to be calculated or my stomach starts to churn and the world constantly spins.

I am disorientated. To use the medical definition for disorientation, I have a condition that causes me to feel as though I have lost my sense of direction.

As I have been pondering this new condition, it has made me think more about spiritual matters. Sometimes, the only thing I can do is close my eyes and pray for others while waiting for the world to stop spinning.

This diagnosis makes me realize that there is a spiritual connection, in that, there are some within the church who have spiritual vertigo.

They have lost their balance, or something is making them sick, or it may be that they have become disorientated. Some within evangelical churches have lost their sense of direction.

But, why or how does this happen?

First, we fail to keep sight of the holiness, majesty, and glory of the almighty God.

Listen to the words of those whose sight was not dimmed when they wrote the following thoughts.

C.S. LewisA man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.

John PiperIf you don’t see the greatness of God then all the things that money can buy become very exciting. If you can’t see the sun you will be impressed with a street light. If you’ve never felt thunder and lightning you’ll be impressed with fireworks. And if you turn your back on the greatness and majesty of God you’ll fall in love with a world of shadows and short-lived pleasures.

A.W. PinkHappy the soul that has been awed by a view of God’s majesty.

King DavidPsalm 93:1, “The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.

Jude – half-brother of Jesus Christ in his little book – Jude 25, To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Second, our vision of eternity is dulled because we become too focused on the world and what it has to offer.

My dear readers, there is absolutely NOTHING the world offers that will compare with the riches that await us in Christ and in heaven. It is easy for those who are seated with Christ in the heavenlies to become dizzy and disorientated when they gaze longingly down to the mud and muck offered by the world.

Missionary and martyr Jim Elliott wrote in his diary, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Third, we become disorientated when we work harder to make the church appealing to unbelievers than we do in making the church a place for the sheep to come and find quiet waters and pastures where they can feed without the fear of wolves.

This third point is a sad fact in far too many churches that claim the name of Christ today. Instead of being focused on preaching, teaching, and prayer, we have become centers for socialization or programs.

Pastors and teachers, if our time dissolves each week because of all the things we think we have to do instead of what God requires, then we cannot be surprised when our churches begin to look more like a worldly business.

True believers need to come together for worship remembering that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. Every aspect is to be about Him. Church is not meant to be a well-oiled piece of machinery at the expense of seeing Him who is above all.

Every Sunday, across our land, true believers gather. They need encouragement, exhortation, and edification. They come hurting physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Like soldiers on the battlefield, they are bruised and broken from fighting the evil one and his minions. There should be one inviolable focus and goal for every person who preaches or teaches.

“The goal for every true believer is to be more like Jesus Christ today than we were yesterday, and more like Him tomorrow than we are today.”

Anything more or less than this is a disservice to the hearts and minds of true believers. When we ponder the state of the persecuted church, it becomes easier to see how far we have slipped. People in our western bastions of evangelicalism are not ready for persecution. We refuse to see it coming because the world has disorientated us to the point where we think they walk the road of life with us hand-in-hand.

May we be encouraged to stand fast and once again follow the command of the apostle Paul to the church in Colosse.

“Set your affections on things above, and not things of the earth.”

Uniquely Holy

Before the Throne

A review by Stuart Brogden

The subtitle of this book is Reflections on God’s Holiness. Allen Nelson takes us a quick-paced tour of different aspects of God’s holiness, grounded in two passages from God’s Word: Isaiah 6:1-7 and Revelation 4:5-11. One recurring theme is the remedy for what ails the saints and their local fellowships is found in the proper view of the Lord Jesus, not in “new methods” that fleshly ears and eyes always demand. The bottom line is that satisfaction for the soul of man can only be had on the person of Christ Jesus, not in entertainment with a wrapping of pious words from a speaker who presents Creator and Judge of all flesh as familiar spirit that only wants to make people feel good.

God is holy – He does not merely behave holy. His holiness – being set apart from creation, being complete and perfect in His being – defines Him. Twelve chapters explore God’s undoubtable, unspeakable, untamable, unchanging, unapproachable  – and more! – holiness. Our author labors to help us see God as He is: glorious, pure, complete, just, joyful, compassionate, and AWESOME.

Reader – if you are a believer bored or disaffected with your Savior, you are a self-contradiction! Nobody who even partially comprehends Who saves sinners and what sin is cannot be bored or disaffected with the One Who took the cup of wrath due us. Nelson’s book is a ready remedy for dull eyes, weary ears, sullen souls; our author bids us to see Christ more clearly, to behold His glory and be joyfully satisfied in Him.

In the opening chapter, Allen impresses upon us the importance of knowing God rightly, telling us, “When we fail to take seriously the holiness of God it affects everything in our lives. God is holy. Theology matters.” (page 21) Building on the words of Peter, who tells us in 2 Peter 3:18 to be growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus, Nelson reminds us “We are still growing in our knowledge of who He is and we will do so for eternity.” He goes on to say, “I want you to hunger to know God better than you do now.” And, “We can’t understand God in an absolute way (He is infinite and we are finite). However, we can (and must) learn what He tells us about Himself in His Holy Bible.” (page 26). This idea is critical for everyone who names the name of Christ – satisfied with being in Him, never satisfied with our maturity as saints.

How should the holiness of God affect us? Our author has this: “The overwhelming concept of God’s holiness ought to lay a heavy weight on our souls. If you can meditate upon the unfathomable holiness of God without any occasions of fear and trembling in your core being, perhaps you’ve not understood it sufficiently.” (page 42). Recall the message from 2 Peter 3:18, and what he said in 2 Peter 1:12, that he intended to always remind us of what it means to be in Christ. Allen is a good friend, reminding us of something critical to our maturing in the Lord, pressing God’s truth upon us so that the reader will not easily be able to be self-satisfied. Contemplating on the response of Isaiah to seeing a vision of God’s holiness in chapter 6 of that gospel, Nelson observes, “The gospel changes “woe is me” to “worthy are You” because the penalty for transgressing God’s Holy Law has been atoned for in Christ. … Reflecting on God’s untamable holiness should ultimately drive us to Christ.” (pages 60 & 61) In a footnote on page 61 he says, “We can either distance ourselves from God through Moses, or draw near to God through Christ.” Works of the law take many forms, most of which are not directly connected to Moses or the law given through him to national Israel. The only way for a sinner to be reconciled to holy God is, as Allen quoted, to “draw near [to God through Christ] with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22)

In chapter 5, Nelson explores how this characteristic of God ought to inform and shape our corporate worship. This is one of my favorite parts of this excellent work. While we should be thankful for skilled musicians and singers (being careful, in my opinion, that they do not overwhelm the congregation), Nelson implores us “to listen to an important truth from the passages we’ve seen above [in this section] about facilitating worship: get out of the way.” He bids us to be intentional “in singing hymns that glorify Him instead of focusing on our own experience. We must gear all facets of our singing – words, style, arrangement and content – toward magnifying the unmatchable holiness of God. Holy, holy, holy.” (page 89) Elders should oversee the musical portion of worship as well as the preaching – the people will benefit when the songs are theologically aligned with the sermon.

As for the preaching, Nelson says, “Show me the Holy, and He will suffice. Show me His worthiness in His Word. Show me how His holiness permeates the universe and is glorious enough to exact unceasing praise from all creation. You are not a match for the holiness of God. It’s wicked and foolish to attempt to be. Step out of the way by pointing us to a Holy God and the work of Christ.”(page 92) Application of a passage has its place – and it’s important. But application without the glorious weight of the holiness of God in Christ being held up is a way to legalism. “The greatness and the glory of God are relevant. It does not matter if the surveys turn up a list of perceived needs that does not include the supreme greatness of the sovereign God of grace. That is the deepest need. Our people are starving for God.” (page 94, quoting John Piper)

Beholding the Lord in spirit and truth (only spiritual being can see Him as He is) transforms us. “We become like what we behold. Let us then behold the Lord and not you.” (page 95, speaking to the preacher). “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

This is the drumbeat of this book: study to know Him; be bold in proclaiming Him; trust Him; exalt Him; hide behind Him. For YHWH alone is holy, all powerful, self-existent, and worthy of all praise, honor, and dominion. Whether in your personal walk, evangelism, or ministry in the local fellowship – Jesus is sufficient and nothing else will do.

Pick up this book and read. It will do your soul much good.

What Happened to Revival?

It wasn’t long ago that Christians wished for revival, churches held “revival meetings,” pastors would open up the altar after services so that those who were being convicted could come forward and repent of their sins. Although there are churches that still do those things, I do not see it very much anymore. We have grown accustomed to our comfort, entertainment, a feel-good lifestyle, and we really don’t want anything to rock our boat. I get discouraged when I look around and feel like I will never see revival because the hearts of many have grown cold.

I just listened to the audio version of a book that I had read years ago titled Floods on Dry Ground. It focuses on the Hebrides Revival that took place in the late 19th and early 20th century. The stories are amazing. Often, revival began when just two or three people dedicated themselves to fervent prayer, asking God to come and save their cities. This wasn’t just, “And, Lord, if it’s Your will, would You save my neighbor?” This was crying out to God and staying on their knees until He answered. Because of their prayers, even the vilest sinners were changed by the power of God.

A while back, I could spend an hour or two with God no problem. I treasured the time and did not understand why everyone would not take that time each day. Now spending 20 minutes with Him is a chore as my mind is constantly on things I need to be doing, but I long to get back to being content to sit in His presence and hear from Him as well as presenting my petitions before His throne and knowing that He hears me.

Revival is not something that makes people feel good. It is a move of God that shows people what they are really like without Him and convicts them of their sins. They realize that no sin is small in the eyes of God and that they are worthy of judgment. They can’t think about their neighbor’s sin because their own sins are glaring. But they also know that God is faithful and just to forgive every sin so they confess them to Him and leave a different person than they were. When was the last time you have been in this kind of meeting?

If you attend a church that still focuses on holiness and repentance, thank God for it. If your church has lost that focus, intercede for the pastor and the church leaders, that they would have a greater hunger than ever before to walk with God and to challenge others to do so. Pray for a burden for your church, your community, lost souls, and then share that burden with others. You may find that you are not alone.

I think of the old song we used to sing that said, “Lord, send a revival, and let it begin with me.” That should be our continual prayer.

Thirsting For God

Psalm 41:1-2 To the chief Musician, Maschil, for the sons of Korah. As the hart panteth after the waterbrooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?

The years have come and gone and I see myself not much wiser than I was when the Lord first brought me to Himself compared to actual years of a person. For instance, I was saved 25 years ago and yet I have to wonder about my spiritual growth. As I’ve contemplated life and it’s difficulties, I’ve also contemplated why it seems I’ve hardly grown in that amount of time. Yes, there have been times where I’ve been fervent and desired change but was it for the right reasons?

Not too long ago, Sony Elise posted about sin and holiness. In it she said, “I feel like, in many churches, more emphasis is placed on God’s forgiveness as opposed to His holiness. I am so grateful for God’s mercy and forgiveness, but there are often still consequences to the fleshly decisions that we make. This is one reason that it is important to walk in the Spirit so that you do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).” This can also be said about each true believer within their personal lives.

hart_for_god_wide

Why is holiness so important? It’s because God hates sin. If we love Him then we should love what He loves and hate what He hates. How can we pant for the Lord and long after Him if we are willing to entertain sin within our lives? Is it easy to get caught up in daily living and forget the Lord is sovereign and in control of each situation we are involved in? Yes! Is it easy to live as if we were atheists and completely shut out the Lord except for Sunday? Yes! Is it easy to get angry at those who hurt us and aren’t willing to make things right? Yes, again! And it’s so easy to fall over and over again!

We are all sinners but if we are true believers then we should seek to make things right! What if they aren’t willing to do so or even listen to us? Then we must forgive and move on! We can mourn over what happened but there comes a time when the Lord says, “It’s time for you to love me even more! Who do you have in heaven but Me? There is none on earth that you should desire except Me. Your heart and your flesh fail continuously but I am the strength of your heart. I am your Portion forever.”

My heart should respond with, “Yes, Lord! You are all that and more! My heart pants for You as the deer pants for the water and even more than that! My soul thirsts for You and I cannot be satisfied unless You fill me to overflowing with You! I want to do Your will no matter how hard it is, no matter what persecutions and sorrows I will go through, no matter who stands with me or doesn’t because I love You beyond life itself!” Yes, it will still be easy to fall and live that life without the Lord but let those of us, who are true believers, beg for God to give us such a love for Him that we hate what He hates and love what He loves.

Let holiness and grace reign in our hearts so completely that when people are around us, even though we sin regularly, they can say, “He or she has been with Christ!” They may not like us for the conviction within their hearts but we need to be like Him.

I long to be like the Lord Jesus but I fail miserably on a daily basis and yet…I want to be holy as He is holy. I want to thirst for Him to fill me in such a way that I seek to love Him and do what He wants in every way!

Let me see my sin, dear Lord,
as though I were looking through Your eyes,
My heart and the blackness that is within,
the sin for which You died
Let Your horror of sin be my heartbreak
Blur mine eyes with tears of agony
For if once I could see my sin the way You see
I would seek to hate my sin for love of Thee.

Change my sin sick soul, dear Lord,
so that I will become more like Christ
Make me pure and white within, dear Lord,
give me strength to follow You in this fight
May I stand for truth whatever happens
Give my heart holy tenacity
For Your death on the cross is what gave life to me
Now I want my life wholly given to Thee.