From First to Last

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Spiritual Life

A Spiritual Life-Lesson from the Back of the Line

Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:18-19, NASB

Perhaps most of us, at one time or another, when leaving a store, have experienced being first in waiting at an unattended checkout lane and counter only to see another lane open up and the attendant then serve people who should have been served after after you. Well, it happened to me the other evening. Allow me to share with you a lesson I learned from it.

After meeting my wife to eat at our favorite place the other evening (Steak ‘n Shake for any who might be curious), I told her that I needed to shop for a few groceries and run a couple of errands after our meal. So I drove to the grocery store, procured a few items, and then decided as I drove by it, to stop in at one of the local “city garage-sale stores”—you know what I’m talking about, could be Goodwill, Salvation Army, DAV or a local mission store. These stores take in people’s discards and sell them. One person’s trash becomes another’s treasure. Frankly, I like going into those stores to look around, even to buy something now and then. I’ve found coffee cups and sturdy drinking glasses that our family both likes and uses. But usually when I go to a store like that, my first stop is at the book shelves labeled  “religious and inspirational.” And so it was that evening. I looked and found a book titled The Presence Driven Church (Not the real title, but close. As you may or not be aware of, I just wrote an article on “God’s Present of His Presence” that appears on this website and others.). [1] So having written about the subject of His presence, my curiosity was piqued; I grabbed the book and proceeded to the front of the store to check out. But there was nobody at the check out counter. So I waited . . . and waited . . . the only one standing in front of four unattended checkout counters. “Isn’t there anyone working here tonight?” I thought. Impatience began to arise within. I just wanted to purchase the book and get on with my evening.

Then I noticed a lady move to the farthest checkout counter from where I was waiting to open it up. “Oh, she’ll call me over” I thought. After all, I had waited. I was first in line. She saw me standing. But guess what? She didn’t signal me to come over and get in line first. No, she motioned for two other women to take their place at her counter. “Very inconsiderate,” I thought. So I moved to get in line after the two ladies who were receiving “preferential treatment.” They had many items in their carts . . . mostly clothing. The first lady had article after article. Her checking out was tediously slow. I was getting irritated. “Is this book worth my waiting?” I asked myself. Maybe I should just put it down and walk out of the store. No. Don’t be impatient, I told myself. So I waited . . . my annoyance growing despite my pep talk to myself. “You know what?” I thought, I’m just going to wait and when I check out, I’m going to tell the checker how rude she had been to me and how she ought to put first customers first. That’s what I’m going to do. But while you’re waiting, I told myself, why don’t you start to read the book on God’s presence? Hypocritical, I know. Reading about God’s presence amidst growing impatience. Somehow, the two do not seem to “line-up” together. But I started to read the book anyway . . . make the time go faster. Finally, the first lady finished checking out. I thought, now the checker will invite me to the counter because I only have one thing to check out, and the next young customer had, you guessed it, a whole cart load of stuff! But the checker seemed indifferent to my waiting there . . . and inside my annoyance increased. She started checking the girl out. Then she noticed me standing there and somehow the error of ignoring me dawned upon her. She realized she’d made a mistake. She said to me—now are you ready for this—“I am sorry sir. I should have checked you out first.” She didn’t say it once. With a humble voice, she said it once and mumbled it a couple of more times. She was distraught and contrite.

My heart melted. The checkout lady’s apology rebuked me. I thought to myself about myself . . . Here you were impatiently thinking thinking of railing and going off on her for her tactless inconsiderateness, and now spontaneously she apologizes to you. Within the confines of my heart, I felt embarrassed. “Oh,” I said trying to make light of the uncomfortable situation, “it’s just given me time to start reading the book.” Further, I told the checker and the ladies in front of me, who had heard the checker’s apology, “Well, we’ll just call it, ‘Ladies first!’ You do still believe in that, don’t you?” The young African-American high school girl in front of me said she believed in chivalry. Imagine . . . a young girl still believing in chivalry! My having been snubbed from getting my place in line suddenly became a non-issue. My heart was relieved. Though it took me much longer than I had anticipated, with a healed attitude I finally checked out, and by the way, having perused most and read some of the book!

In the aftermath of reflecting upon this incident, I thought to myself, “How I felt after the checker’s apology to me must somewhat mirror how God feels about us when we apologize to Him for not giving Him first place in the line of our lives. Now I know, my experience that evening was not exactly analogous to the Lord’s feelings about us. For example, He doesn’t offend or get impatient with us. He’s longsuffering. But how often do we serve ourselves and others before before Him in the business of life? Then there comes that clarifying moment when suddenly we realize the error that we’ve ignored serving Him first. So we tell Him we’re sorry. Does His heart melt toward us as mine did toward the checkout person that evening? I believe so, for that is God’s character. All He’s looking for from us is an acknowledgement on our part that we have offended Him, and when the repentance comes, that’s it! It’s over. His heart delights in our response of admitting we erred by ignoring Him, but now desire to serve Him first and others second (Matthew 22:37-40). Toward such repentant hearts, Micah tells us that the Lord does not retain “his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy” (Micah 7:18b, KJV).
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ENDNOTE
[1] Larry DeBruyn, “God’s Present of His Presence,” Guarding His Flock Ministries, January 1, 2014 (http://guardinghisflock.com/2014/01/01/the-present-of-his-presence/).

 

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God’s Present of “His Presence”

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Spiritual Life

“Emmanuel”—God is with us!

The mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations . . . has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:26-27, NASB)

Among evangelicals there’s a lot of chatter and publicity about “getting intimate” with or “seeking the manifest Presence” of God. Often spelled with an upper case “P,” the new Christian spiritualists hope to experience God’s “Presence” by means other than just praying to and reading about Him in the Bible. One means employed to invoke the “manifest presence” is called Soaking Prayer. Preparatory measures to bring down this prayer “presence”—though soaking prayer’s practitioners deny there is a precise formula for it—involves steps such as getting alone with God (solitude and silence; contra Matthew 18:20), repenting of sin(s), speaking in tongues, presenting one’s self to God, remembering God’s past workings, telling the Lord, “I want more of your presence,” and then waiting in silence for His manifest presence to come. When is arrives, the presence manifests itself with miracles—in spectacular supernatural revelations, dreams, visions, trances, out-of-the-body experiences and angelic visitations; or in more subdued impressions, quiet whispers and nudges. Sometimes “the manifesting” doesn’t happen, but advocates of soaking prayer say the effect can be cumulative, that during times of solitude and silence “deposits” of the presence are being made in the lives of those who soak, and eventually “the savings” will burst forth in what soakers call a life of miracles. [1]

Then there are worship leaders, musicians and singers who boldly advertise that their music can escort listeners “through the door of worship, right into the heart and presence of God.” [2] Christian worshippers are classified as “inner court, outer court, or holy of holies Christians, each one needing a certain period of time to come into the manifest presence of God.” [3] So it becomes incumbent upon the worship team to lead congregants into the divine dimension. In this regard, there are even congregations who name themselves Church of the Presence.

Other evangelicals are passionate about “practicing the presence,” perhaps like Soaking Prayer, cultivating solitude and silence, employing mood music or practicing other spiritual disciplines to facilitate experiencing the Presence. In his newly published book, “Another Jesus” Calling: How False Christs Are Entering the Church Through Contemplative Prayer, [4] Warren Smith points out that, in her best-selling evangelical book Jesus Calling (Thomas Nelson, 2004 ), [5] Sarah Young uses “The word ‘Presence’ . . . more than 365 times . . .” He notes further that, “the term [presence] is also commonly used in New Age/New Spirituality.” [6]

In light of all the talk going on about contemplating or experiencing a divine presence, biblical Christians ought to know something of what Scripture teaches about God’s presence so that His Word can inform us whether experiences of it ought to be embraced or shunned, whether they are authentic or synthetic, or worse, demonic.
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Led by the Lord

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Spiritual Life

Some thoughts on Romans 8:14

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Romans 8:14, KJV

“The Lord led me to . . .” You fill in the particulars. During the course of my life I have heard this phrase repeated by hundreds of well-intentioned and sincere Christians. I have even uttered the assessment myself! Yet I admit that I’m not entirely certain what I meant when I made the statement, all of which begs the question, what do we mean when we say, “The Lord led me”?

Does it mean that God gives us some esoteric and personalized guidance that He gives to nobody else (the emphasis being upon, “me”)? Can the Lord lead me to do, what in the eyes of others, are some rather “odd” things? Can I confuse my wants with His will and leading? Does He lead me by answering prayer?  When I state, “the Lord led me,” am I simply stating I am comfortable with my decision and its benefits? Did the Lord really lead me, or did I lead myself? How many of us have first confessed that the Lord led us . . . only to wish later, because of the difficult situation “His leading” put us in, that He hadn’t led us!? Frankly, I’ve seen some pretty bizarre things attributed to the “leading” of the Lord.
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Being God’s Friends

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Spiritual Life

What would it look like?

Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.”   James 2:23, KJV

Common to all three of the world’s monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—are the respect, if not reverence, they hold for Abraham. Though differing on many points, all three faiths find a common contact in the person of Abraham (Jewish, Genesis 12-25; Christian, Romans 4:1-25; Muslim, Koran, Sura II. 124-140) For Christians, the faith of Abraham serves as a prototype. Abraham was justified by faith. Abraham “believed in the Lord; and He [the Lord] reckoned it to him [Abraham] as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6; See Romans 4:3, 20-22; Galatians 3:6; James 2:23.). And as Abraham was right with God by faith, so too is every true Christian believer. Genuine Christians believe God’s Gospel and are saved (See 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 10:8-11.).

But given the prominence of the patriarch among the three monotheistic religions, it should not surprise us that Abraham’s God was targeted for ridicule by at least one of “the new atheists.” In an obvious linking of Abraham to the cultic excesses of Jim Jones (“about which,” he says,” we raise a bit more than a skeptical eyebrow”), and the religious jihad of Osama bin Laden (whom he says “we may leave . . . alone until he turns out to be planning, in a nonphantasmal way, the joy of suicide bombing”), Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) remarked:

But if these things can be preached under the protection of an established religion, we are expected to take them at face value. All three monotheisms . . . praise Abraham for being willing to hear voices and then to take his son Isaac for a long and rather mad and gloomy walk. And then the caprice by which his murderous hand is finally stayed is written down as divine mercy. [1]

There you have it: For reason of guilt by association with two modern day villains—Jones and bin Laden—who lived four-thousand years after Abraham, God does not exist. We might label Hitchens’ protest the “immoral argument against the existence of God.”
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Babylonianism at the Gates

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Spiritual Life

Christians and the Encircling World of the Occult

And when they say to you, “Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,” should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living? The Prophet Isaiah, Isaiah 8:19

Introduction
Like many others in the world, our culture has become obsessed with the paranormal, the appetite for it being stimulated and fed by video games played, television programs and movies watched, books read, music listened to, art exhibits visited, spiritual activities engaged in, and more. Recently, a local arts center hosted an exhibit called “Encounter” that was “devoted to dragons, robots and other science fiction and fantasy themes.” [1] The same sectional front page also publicized “LARP-ing” (that is, live-action-role-playing) where participants gather together to act out “vampire-themed” scripts related to “those tabletop Dungeons and Dragons-style games that gained huge popularity in the 1980s and continue to draw a steady base of faithful players.” [2] In his coverage of the vampire-themed games, the reporter issued the following caveat: “They pretend to be vampires, but that doesn’t make them devil worshippers.” [3]

Souls under Siege
At first glance, “LARP-ing” might appear to be the activity of people belonging to one of society’s eccentric fringe groups (perhaps that’s why they consider themselves “nerds”), unless, of course, it is set against the backdrop of our overall culture, a culture fascinated not only by vampires, but also by werewolves, wizards, witches and warlocks (a la the popular Harry Potter novels and movies), Halloween, visits to and visitations from the netherworld (23 Minutes in Hell), near-death experiences (NDES), intergalactic soul travel, alien visitations (E.T., Cowboys and Aliens), spiritist séances, demon possessions (Rosemary’s Baby), Satanism (The Omen Trilogy), fortune telling, horoscopes, psychic readings, apparitions and poltergeists (The Apparition), horror films and TV programs (NBC’s Grimm), drug induced altered states of consciousness (experiencing the divine), extra-sensory perception (ESP), Sci-Fi, and on and on a listing can go. In fact, one can walk in any American shopping mall and see people, from adults to kids, wearing dark T-shirts and sporting tattooed bodies emblazoned with occult themes, grotesque human-like images, skulls and bones, and other occult symbols. The signs and stuff of the occult seem to be everywhere! [4]
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Intimacy with God

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Spiritual Life

A Meditation on Galatians 4:1-7.

And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Galatians 4:6, KJV

God’s saving lies in His having sent. One of the great words in the New Testament is the word “apostle.” It comes from the verb “to send.” It describes the action of a superior to a subordinate. It implies authority and obedience to that authority. “Send” is an action verb that implies a mission, like the President sending an ambassador, or a special envoy, to try and help solve a crisis in a foreign country.

God sent the prophets. He sent Moses (Acts 7:35). In the Old Testament, he called those He sent to Israel, “My servants the prophets” (Jeremiah 7:25). God sent John. He was “a man sent from God” (John 1:6). The Father sent Jesus into the world and He in turn, sent the apostles. “As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:18, NASB; See John 20:21).  Being “sent,” the apostles possessed authority in the church which was not their own, but was based upon the authoriy of Jesus who delegated it to them and sent them (Matthew 28:16-20). God sends angels. “And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matthew 24:31).
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On Meditating

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Spiritual Life

“Adjusted Living in a Maladjusted World.”

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. The Lord to Joshua, Joshua 1:8, KJV

In his book Life with God, Richard Foster describes Spiritual Disciplines as activities Christians engage in so that they might become the athletae dei, the athletes of God. Foster pairs some of the disciplines to be, “fasting and prayers, study and service, submission and solitude, confession and worship, meditation and silence . . .” [1] Note the author’s association of “meditation” with “silence”—it’s as if the one equates to the other—and superficially, at least, the pair do seem to be associated. But biblically, are they?

To answer to the question, we must go to the Old Testament where, especially in the book of Psalms, meditation is portrayed as a path to quality living, both spiritual and material. For example, the first Psalm exclaims, “How blessed is the man who . . . [delights] in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night . . . And . . . whatever he does . . . prospers” (Psalm 1:1-3; See 119:15, 23, etc.). In that meditation appears to be such an important avenue to divine blessing, it would be well to understand from a biblical perspective what the activity is, and its relation, if any, to silence.
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Quench not the Spirit

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Spiritual Life

A study of 1 Thessalonians 5:19.

Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20, NASB

In The Bible the work of the Holy Spirit is sometimes likened to fire (See Isaiah 4:4; Revelation 4:5.). On the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit came in His fullness upon the believers who waited, “there came a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house . . . And there appeared to them tongues as of fire . . .” (Acts 2:2-3).

Fire has many uses in life. It provides warmth in the winter. It allows for the preparation of food, or driving an automobile. In fact, fire is essential to life. Without the continual burning of the sun, earth, as we know it, would die a cold death. So when the “tongues as of fire” appeared on the believers that first Pentecost, that event indicated that the sovereign God was infusing into the church new life from above. But having received it from the Holy Spirit, maintenance of that life becomes the responsibility of individual believers and churches. So in his letter to the church at Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul commanded, “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19).
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Abiding in Christ

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Spiritual Life

A Study-Meditation on John 15:1-11.

Jesus told those who were and would become His future (That’s us!) learner-followers, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, NASB). Apart from Him, Jesus said we can do nothing, and that means “no” thing. In contrast to many contemplative-mystics who believe that they can self-engender “spirituality” by doing spiritual disciplines (Contra Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?“), abiding believers recognize that only in and by Christ can they produce anything of spiritual significance in their lives. That’s why Jesus admonishes His followers to abide or remain in Him, for it’s easy for our minds and hearts to be mystically “corrupted [i.e., distracted] from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). But what does it mean to abide?
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Thanksgiving Living

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Spiritual Life

A Meditation

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:18-19, KJV

At one point or another in our lives, all of us have lived beneath our circumstances. At times, the sheer weight of life can “get us down.” I’ve felt that way, and I am sure you have too. The story is told of W.H. Griffith Thomas (1861-1924), a Bible teacher and theologian of a previous generation, who was walking down the street. Approaching a lady he asked her, “How are you faring today Madame?” to which question she replied, “Pretty well under the circumstances.” Thomas then responded, “What, may I ask, are you doing under the circumstances?”
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