October 8, 2015

DYING ON THE THRESHOLD

IMG_1407.JPGIt was on a Monday night. I went to bed, fell fast asleep and immediately entered a dream state. I’m not a dreamer by nature, so for this to happen to me was a big deal.
In this dream I saw myself standing on a platform holding a microphone and I heard myself say “Turn to Judges, chapter 19:22-30.” And then for the next hour I listened to myself preach what I am about to share with you.
When I woke up it was about two o’clock in the morning. I immediately jumped out of bed, picked up a pen and wrote down, verbatim, the six points the Lord gave me that you are about to read in this first chapter.
God literally wrote this message—one of the easiest that has ever come to me, but also one of the most prophetic.
At one point in my dream I was preaching with such fervor that I was ripping out the pages of my Bible and throwing them at individuals, saying, “You don’t believe this! You don’t believe this!”
While this account from the Bible may not be easy to digest, and may offend some, it is God’s Word.
The passage the Lord asked me to preach is perhaps one of the strangest in Scripture:

As they were enjoying themselves, suddenly certain men of the city, perverted men, surrounded the house and beat on the door. They spoke to the master of the house, the old man, saying, “Bring out the man who came to your house, that we may know him carnally!”
But the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brethren! I beg you, do not act so wickedly! Seeing this man has come into my house, do not commit this outrage. Look, here is my virgin daughter and the man’s concubine; let me bring them out now. Humble them, and do with them as you please; but to this man do not do such a vile thing!” But the men would not heed him. So the man took his concubine and brought her out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until morning; and when the day began to break, they let her go.

Then the woman came as the day was dawning, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, till it was light. When her master arose in the morning, and opened the doors of the house and went out to go his way, there was his concubine, fallen at the door of the house with her hands on the threshold. And he said to her, “Get up and let us be going.” But there was no answer. So the man lifted her onto the donkey; and the man got up and went to his place.

When he entered his house he took a knife, laid hold of his concubine, and divided her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. And so it was that all who saw it said, “No such deed has been done or seen from the day that the children of Israel came up from the land of Egypt until this day. Consider it, confer, and speak up!” (Judges 19:22-30).

In reading Judges 19 you will discover that this story is about 10 a priest who married a concubine who committed the act of adultery. This concubine made her way back to her father’s house, which was in Bethlehem (Judges 19:2). We know that the priest must have been in love with this woman because after four months he left his house to go to the home of his father-in-law, hoping God would reconcile the relationship between him and his concubine.

One of the most unusual things in this account is the priest’s affection for this woman because, in Bible days, concubines had no legal rights as a regular wife. In those times, such a woman was there to satisfy her partner, have children and raise them, and to tend to the house. Other than that, she had no rights or benefits (except protection and provision as long as she remained in her master’s house).

Normally, a priest under the law of Moses would have had this woman stoned because she committed the act of adultery. Yet, this priest loved her so much that he left everything he owned in order to pursue her. As we learn, the relationship was reconciled—God reunited them. In fact, the father-in-law was enjoying the company of his son- in-law so much that he begged him to stay several days (verse 4).

Scripture tells us they were eating, drinking, and making merry—not a care in the world. Then, when it was time to return home, the priest and the concubine rose early. He had his servant get the donkeys ready for the journey, only to find out that his father-in-law had prepared a breakfast for them (verse 5).

The woman’s father persuaded them to stay for just one more day and night—which they did. The next evening, at dusk, the priest insisted that they must leave. He didn’t seem to be anxious or afraid of a nighttime journey.

Soon it was late and the servant, knowing how dangerous it was to be on the road at night, suggested, “Let’s find a hotel here and get some sleep.” They had reached the town of Jebus, near Jerusalem (verse 10).

The priest, however, wanted to keep moving on since Jebus was a non-Jewish community. So they continued on to Gibeah, which belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. It was the middle of the night when they arrived and no one would take them in for shelter. So they decided to sleep in the town square.

Even though Gibeah was Jewish, it was an extremely wicked city—much like Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet, the priest was firm in his decision to camp in the square. He felt totally comfortable there, discarding the fact that it might put his concubine, his servant, and his goods in jeopardy. About that time, an old man walked up to them and, knowing the risks they faced, gave them an invitation to come to his house: “Let all your needs by my responsibility” (verse 20).
A SHOCKING RESPONSE
We pick up the story at verse 22 in our Scripture passage. They were relaxing, resting from their arduous travels and having a good time, when all of a sudden “perverted” (the actual translation says sons of Belial, or “sons of the devil”), demon-possessed men showed up and started banging on the door. They yelled, “Bring the man out so we can rape him all night long and have our way with him.” Their host resisted: “Please don’t do this wicked thing to my guest.” But in a shocking response, he offered them his young, virgin daughter.

In Old Testament days, girls were married at very early ages, so his daughter was probably 10, 11, or 12 years old. As a father, I can hardly wrap my mind around his decision, knowing they were about to molest and prostitute this child. In addition, he offered to send out the priest’s concubine. But the evil intruders would have nothing to do with it; they wanted the man. The priest, fearing for his life, took his concubine and pushed her out into the street where she was gang raped all night long. Then, as the sun was rising, the concubine, beaten, bruised, and bloody, crawled back to the place where the priest was staying. On the porch, in her desperate state, she reached out her hand to the threshold of the house.

The priest, who was ready to continue on his way, opened the door and saw his collapsed concubine with her hands on the threshold. Immediately, with no thought of her condition, he said, “Get up! Let’s go!”—but there was no response. She was dead! He and his servant picked up her body, placed it on a donkey and rode back to the hills of Ephraim.

Then, when he arrived home, he did the unthinkable. He brought her body into the kitchen, took out a knife, and cut her into 12 different pieces. Next, he placed each part into separate packages and sent them via the FedEx or UPS of the day out to the 12 tribes of Israel. Why did he do this? Because he wanted to incite the leaders of the 12 tribes to come and make war against the Gibeons.
SIX MISTAKES
There are a many unusual details in this account, but I want to share with you the six things God said to me concerning this story.

Mistake #1: The priest was totally comfortable in the darkness.
This man knew that the nation was on the verge of civil war. He also understood that the most perilous time to be out and about was when it was dark. Yet he was so comfortable in the darkness that he waited until it was nighttime before he began his journey. Then, when his servant said, “Let’s find a room. It is getting late and it’s dangerous outside,” he would not listen. Why? Because he had no fear of the night.

Mistake #2: The priest was a coward in the midst of danger.
Here was a man of the cloth, a progenitor of righteousness, who had taken a vow before God to protect the innocent and defend the defenseless. But when danger came knocking at the door, he pushed his own concubine out, knowing full well these men were going to rape and abuse her. This priest had a yellow streak running from the top of his neck to the bottom of his tailbone. He was a coward who showed no courage.

Mistake #3: The priest’s concern was totally displaced.
Since this priest had a servant, he could have sent his slave out to satisfy these abusers. According to Scripture, they wanted a man, didn’t they?
Here’s what I heard in the dream. God said the reason the priest did not send out his servant was because if he had, he would no longer have someone to wait on him hand and foot—to turn down his sheets for him that night, to fluff his pillow, or make coffee for him in the morning. He was self-absorbed; his concern was totally displaced.
Think of it. Supposedly, he loved his concubine so much that he traveled many miles to recapture her, yet he willingly thrust her out into the street instead of his servant. Something was terribly wrong with this priest.

Mistake #4: The priest was comatose in the midst of duty.
When his abused concubine, his lover, crawled up on the porch and reached out her hands to the threshold, what was the priest doing? Since the Bible says he “arose in the morning” and opened the door to leave, he must have been sleeping. After the priest put his concubine out into the night, he probably heard her screaming as she was being violated. Yet he had the audacity to lay his head down on a pillow and fall asleep through the entire ordeal. A man is supposed to defend the woman he loves, but not this priest. He was comatose in his duty.

Mistake #5: The priest was careless in the midst of difficulty.
Scripture records that when he saw his concubine laying on the ground, he said, “Get up! Let’s go!” A normal, caring person would fall to his knees, start weeping, caress the woman he loved, wipe the matted hair from her face and the blood off her brow. Not this priest. He didn’t kiss her bruised lips or hold her in his arms. He didn’t open the door and exclaim, “Oh, baby! What have they done to you? I am so sorry!” Instead, with a cold heart, he ordered her, “Get up! Let’s go!”—only to find that this woman was already dead. How careless can a man be?

Misake #6: The priest was totally callous in the midst of his deed.
A Jew is not supposed to desecrate a body—never. But instead of giving his concubine a proper burial, he mutilated and dismembered her body. This man was extremely callous. His thinking was totally wrong.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Now that I have shared what the Lord showed me, permit me tell you what He told me. There is so much more to this story than just the priest and his concubine. In the New Testament we read that “whatever things were written before [in the old covenant] were written for our learning” (Romans 15:4).

In my dream, I heard God say, “This priest represents the church and the concubine represents America.” The Lord told me to tell you that the dead and dying hand of our nation is stretched out right now upon the threshold of the church—and He is concerned that the ministers are going to be asleep and not open the door. Plus, if we don’t move quickly, the dead and dying hand of America, our concubine, is going to die on our doorstep.

Something is wrong with the church today. I believe the Bible when it says, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Without question, God wants to pour out His Spirit on America—from the east coast to the west coast, from north to south. The Lord desires to visit our nation again with the greatest revival the world has ever seen. But I must honestly tell you I fear that America will never see revival. I fear that the outstretched hand of the world that is reaching out toward the church will only die on our front porch.

The reason I say this is because we have grown far too comfortable and complacent in our darkness. We live like the world lives; we talk like the world talks; we walk like the world walks; we see and watch the same things that the world sees. Yes, we are much too familiar and “at home” in the night that surrounds us. We know there is danger in the darkness, yet we will not come into the light.

The Apostle Paul saw these days approaching when he wrote, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). In other words, darkness will come into the church. God has never had a problem with the carnal world; but He certainly has a problem with His church. We are far too contented in our present state.

We need to stop and ask once more, ”What fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14). We are called to be the light of the world, a city that is set on a hill (Matthew 5:14). People everywhere should know who we are because of our shining witness.

The problem, however, is that the body of Christ is asleep —and the light’s not on! We are still playing church, going through the motions and rituals. We may have moments of emotion, but the light of the glory of God is not brightly shining.

How will we ever see revival if we behave cowardly in the midst of danger. When one atheistic woman was able to rid our schools of prayer and Bible reading, where was the church? In the midst of the charismatic renewal, we were too busy experiencing Pentecost to stand up and be counted. Where are the believers when politicians prostitute our money, when there are perverts in our pulpits, when our government is erasing the name of God from our institutions? The church is not standing up because we are cowards. We’re “yellow” from head to tail.

It is time for a good dose of courage to be stirred up in our souls; something that rises within us which boldly says, “I know there is danger knocking at the door, but devil, if you think you’re getting what’s in my house, forget it! I’ll come out and fight you if that’s what you want, but I am not going to be a coward in the midst of danger.”
SOMETHING MUST CHANGE
Another reason I fear America will never see revival is because our concern is totally displaced. We do not have a passion for the presence of God. Let’s be honest and quit deceiving ourselves. If we enter the sanctuary and the lights, the atmosphere, or the music are not just to our liking, we can’t seem to worship. If the pastor doesn’t tickle our ears, we’ll find another church to attend. We will flee from truth and run to error because we don’t want to hear somebody tell it like it is and declare what is required for revival.

Why is this happening? Because our concern is displaced. We want our needs served—someone to turn down our sheets, fluff our pillow, shine our shoes, and make our cup of coffee! Something has to drastically change in the church. Instead of our personal comfort, we should be focused on welcoming the presence of the Ancient of Days—the Great I AM—God Almighty. If we are truly concerned we would say with David, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1). Far too many enter God’s house grumbling and complaining, thinking only of themselves instead of the King of Glory.

I fear that America will never see revival because we are comatose in our duty. The church of Jesus Christ is asleep. It is time for us to arise and awaken from our slumber, to shake ourselves and let God use us as an instrument in the earth. Can’t you see that the world is crawling up to our doorstep? Its hand is stretched out on our thresholds, only to find we are still in bed, asleep. We hear the screams of a nation, the cries of hurting children, and the moans of the homeless. Yet the church sleeps on.

We are like Father Abraham. The Bible says the fowls of the air came to eat the covenant and at first Abraham did the right thing. He starts fighting away the fowls (in Scripture these represent evil spirits)—the demons that were coming to eat the covenant. Then we are told that “when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him” (Genesis 15:12).

That is where I see the church. We have the potential for an awesome spiritual outpouring, but we will never experience it because we are no longer alert and awake to the voice of God.

The Bible we hold in our hand has over 2,000 promises —and every one is “Yes, and in Him, Amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20). “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent” (Numbers 23:19). If He declared it, He will watch over His Word to perform the covenant promises that have been made to every believer. Yet the church is sick and apathetic. Something is wrong. We are dozing off while the demon spirits of this world are eating the promises of God right out from under us.

We are careless in the midst of our difficulties. In a nation that was founded on biblical principles, the church is responsible for prostituting America. We won’t believe this until our nation is totally lost—and by then it will be too late.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?
America. Founded on the Word of God. Birthed by Puritans who came to our shores so they wouldn’t have to be under the religious structure of the Church of England. They wanted revival. So if anybody is responsible for corrupting this nation, for perverting America, it’s not the sons of the devil– they’re doing what’s natural to them, what Satan inspires. They are not the ones to blame.

Who put our beloved concubine out? It was us, the royal priesthood, a chosen generation, called forth to show the praises of His name. We are guilty of morally bankrupting America—and for the last few hundred years our nation has been whoremongered and gang-raped by the demons of this world.

What has the church done about this? Nothing. She slept while America was going down the tubes. We realize that our nation is dying, that she is hurting, and our response is, “C’mon, let’s go. Get yourself up!”

Where is the concerned church? Where are the Christians who are filled with loving compassion, who look at the bleeding, abused body of a nation that has drifted into error? Where is the church who will come to the door, fall upon her knees, hold America in her arms and say, “Oh, I am sorry that I was so foolish and pushed you out.” But I am thrilled to report that there is a Healer in the house today. Almighty God is able to mend every wound and heal your broken places. When we stand before the King, we, as the church, will have to give an account of ourselves.

It’s difficult for me to comprehend that we would put America out and let the world debase her. Yet, in these dangerous days, I see her inching her way back to the very thing that pushed her into abuse. Thankfully, there are signs that the world is coming back to the church. But how are we responding? What help are we offering? I watched a prominent evangelical preacher being interviewed on a national television talk show. He was asked, “Sir, do you believe there is only one way to heaven?”

I was shocked when he answered, “I believe there are many ways to reach heaven.” What happened to the words of Jesus, who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”? (John 14:6). What is wrong with the church? As the world is crawling back to us, beaten and bloody, our response is to scream and yell, showing little care.
IS THERE HOPE?
I was recently listening to Mike Huckabee on the radio talking abut 9/11. He was honoring the victims who were killed when Islamic extremists flew planes into buildings and murdered over 3,000 individuals. He said, “As the Twin Towers collapsed, in the wreckage stood steel girders in the form of a cross. I believe God was speaking to America that in their greatest days of crisis, the answer for this nation can only be found in the cross.”

The secular media has seen the church drift away from what it was called to do, but now the world is in trouble—and it is returning to the only place they remembered a touch of hope and love. Today our nation, almost at the point of death, is slowly finding its way back. She is laying herself prostrate upon our porch, her dying hand is on the threshold of our church.

I shudder to think that we might not see America restored because we are calloused in our deeds. I see the church dismembering the very thing that she is responsible for killing. We’re guilty of pushing her out and now she is at our feet. How can we have the audacity to pick her up and cut her into pieces and spread her across the nations of the world as a mockery to our own shame?
Men, women, and young people are waiting to see if we’re going to be the priests that God called us to be. They are anxious to know if we’re going to rise to the occasion. They’re waiting to see if we still love them, if we are more concerned about them than we are about ourselves. My fear is that we are just going to let America die because we’re fast asleep.

I can share this message to gang members and they will weep and cry and run to an altar for salvation. But when I preach to a so-called Spirit-filled church, the people fold their arms and stick out their chins. There are no tears. Yes, we are a “stiff-necked people” (Exodus 32:9). If we fail to judge ourselves, God will do it for us. Where does it start? “The time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17).

The key to revival is repentance. It’s humility before God, abandonment to self, crucifying every human desire, the forsaking of our every longing except His presence. Oh, how I am praying for a mighty spiritual outpouring.

October 7, 2015

Treestand Reflection

  

Jeremiah 29:11-14For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord…

What is it like when you spend time with your heavenly Father? What is it like to talk with Him?

I think most people get hung up on this hyper-used word, “prayer.” We over-spiritualize it. You see, God knows we are mere man, yet we try to impress Him somehow with “good” praying. And then, we get distracted and give up until the next time we “try.” In doing this, we’ve missed the whole point of what prayer is meant to be!

Prayer is simply how we connect with God. It’s how we relate to Him. And just how does God want us to come to Him in prayer? Well, His greatest desire is to have our total heart, mind, and strength as we read in Deuteronomy 6:5.

To begin with,  God wants us to enjoy Him—to focus on Him and not your “prayer.” We should always come to Him just as we are, giving our desperate, unworthy, yet wholly loved selves to our all-powerful, all-sustaining glorious, yet fully compassionate Father. And when we do, we find the overflowing cup of His strength, restoration, wisdom, peace, righteousness, and joy. In His presence is the abundant life. He is the Living Water and the Bread of Life.

When we pray, we should not only talk but also listen. Seek to hear and follow His good paths. Come rejoicing, come playful, come weary, come doubting or afraid. We should come to Him continually—in every possible situation. As we do, we begin to know our Shepherd. I mean truly know Him. As Paul E. Miller teaches in his book A Praying Life, “You can’t get to know God on the fly. You don’t create intimacy; you make room for it.”

Seek God today with all your heart, soul, and strength. I can promise you He eagerly awaits your call.