Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sawdust and Paper Fans

"LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy."
– Habakkuk 3:2 (NIV)

To a thunder of applause, Bob Dole took the podium to accept the 1996 Republican presidential nomination.  "Let me be the bridge to an America that only the unknowing call myth," he said in his acceptance speech.  "Let me be the bridge to a time of tranquility, faith, and confidence in action."

Dole's Democrat opponent, Bill Clinton, responded with, "We do not need to build a bridge to the past; we need to build a bridge to the future."

Well, there's no telling whether Dole might indeed have marched us all across his bridge to tranquility, faith and confidence.  We do know that Bill Clinton was ushering America into his version of the future---fraught with scandal and disgrace of his high office---even as he uttered that tart comeback.

How about God's people?  Some of us reminisce about great moves of God in "the good old days", secretly wondering where to draw the line between substance and legend.  Others look forward to a Great Harvest in the distant future, much as the Samaritan woman in John 4, who said, "Someday Messiah will come and set us all straight."

As for me, I tend to be more of a Bob Dole.  Raised in the 60's, I saw first-hand the tail end of what's referred to as the "Great Healing Revival."  Healing evangelists were still casting their long shadows across the American churchscape---A.A. Allen, T.L. Osborn, Oral Roberts, and many others.

I recall the time when you could find some sort of tent revival meeting to attend just about any night of the week, anywhere across the South.  Wooden folding chairs, cardpaper hand fans, pump organs, and of course...the regulation three-inch-thick layer of sawdust on the ground.  Many people spent a good portion of the meetings lying in sawdust.  I know.  I was down there with them.

But, as novelist Thomas Wolfe reminded us, You Can't Go Home Again.  Don't expect to see a revival tent sprouting in the local Best Buy or Mega Mall parking lot.  Look again at the prophet's prayer.  

"LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD."  King David makes a similar statement saying, "I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands." (Psalm 143:5, NKJV)

So, we ought to meditate on God's historic deeds, but we build our bridge to the past only by building one to the future.  That's the second part of Habakkuk's plea: "Renew them in our day..."  Notice that he asks, not for reruns, but for renewal of His awesome deeds! 

Church in America, let us assault the Throne with our prayer, not for sawdust and paper fans, but for the power of God that was manifest under those tents to be renewed in our day, in our time.  When God responds by doing a New Thing among us---when He Who dwells in past, present, and future builds His bridge of revival in our nation---the deed will be more awesome than what our minds could have conceived.

Even so, come Lord Jesus and work among us! Amen.

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2010 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, November 25, 2010

If Satan's Such a Hateful Fiend, Why Is There So Much Good In the World?

A Thanksgiving Meditation for the Believer

With Thanksgiving Day so close I can almost smell the hot, buttered rutabagas, it seemed appropriate that I should spend the evening giving my neglected old thank-u-later a tune-up.

So, for starters, I got to thinking, "What's the number one objection we humans raise—consciously or otherwise—to unreservedly expressing our gratitude toward God?  And how should we deal with it so as to become duly thankful?", that unquestionable authority on all human knowledge, lists 305,000 places to visit across the World Wide Web that attempt to deal with that #1 question:
"If God is such a loving God, why is there so much evil in the world?"

How excruciatingly depressing!  305,000 worthy philosophers have stocked the shelves of cyberspace with answers of all sorts.  And what’s more, in a mere 31,000 verses, God Himself has provided the right answer!  So, where does that leave me?

Being a reasonably resourceful chap, I decided to tackle a different, and possibly more relevant, question that might prove more of a challenge for Google:
“If Satan’s such a hateful fiend, why is there so much good in the world??"

You see, God is so incredibly, unfathomably good!  The world is simply asking the wrong question.

Think about it!  After God made us a little lower than the angels, crowned us with glory and honor, and set us over creation, what was our response?  High treason!  We bit the Hand that made us, broke the Heart that conceived us, sold ourselves and out to His archenemy, and ultimately murdered the Chosen One Who came to offer eternal love and redemption.

And yet, that offer stands.  In Him we still have free access to glorious salvation and all good things if we only lay down our weapons.  But while we spurn both gift and Giver and persist in our wanton dissipation, even so He still causes the sun to rise and the rains to fall in their due season on both the righteous and the unrighteous.  All His creation—vast oceans teeming with life, majestic glaciers, innumerable heavenly bodies, and warm, fuzzy pink-tongued puppies—all these things He has given in abundance for our admiration and enjoyment as well as His own.

Why??  How can so much good endure on a planet that is in a state of flagrant rebellion against its supreme, benevolent Maker?  Why doesn’t He simply kick us to the gutter of the universe as we deserve?  Herein lies the mystery of the love of God that defies all comprehension.

This Thanksgiving season, I choose to focus my heart...

- Not on the 0.1% of mankind the were the tragic victims of our hateful fiend's murder plots this year, but rather on the 99.9% that God preserved alive and unmurdered, with a hope and a future (and to die of natural causes at the appointed time).

- Not on the 0.004% of American soldiers that have tragically died since 2001 while deployed in the Global War on Terror perpetrated by the same hateful fiend (to say nothing of deluded terrorists, sympathizers, and innocent civilians caught in the crossfire), but rather on the 99.996% of American soldiers that God has brought back alive to their homes and families.

- Not on the 0.000006% of American college students that have tragically died in campus shootings instigated by our hateful fiend during the past 10 years, but rather on the 99.9999994% of them that God has graced with the opportunity to complete a higher education degree.

Of course, this sort of list might continue ad infinitum, but the point is obvious.  Without minimizing the shock and heartbreak of our hateful fiend's heinous war crimes against humankind—which is precisely where he strives, through his news agencies, to keep our attention focused—we can choose, instead, to sing joyfully to the Lord, because...well...let's cut over to Psalm 33 for a few good reasons!

Psalm 33: A Thanksgiving Perspective

1 Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous;
   it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
2 Praise the LORD with the harp;
   make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
3 Sing to him a new song;
   play skillfully, and shout for joy.

 4 For the word of the LORD is right and true;
   he is faithful in all he does.
5 The LORD loves righteousness and justice;
   the earth is full of his unfailing love.

 6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made,
   their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars[a];
   he puts the deep into storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the LORD;
   let all the people of the world revere him.
9 For he spoke, and it came to be;
   he commanded, and it stood firm.

10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations;
   he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever,
   the purposes of his heart through all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
   the people he chose for his inheritance.

13 From heaven the LORD looks down
   and sees all mankind;
14 from his dwelling place he watches
   all who live on earth—
15 he who forms the hearts of all,
   who considers everything they do.

16 No king is saved by the size of his army;
   no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
   despite all its great strength it cannot save.
18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,
   on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death
   and keep them alive in famine.

 20 We wait in hope for the LORD;
   he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
   for we trust in his holy name.
22 May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD,
   even as we put our hope in you.

(New International Version)

“If Satan’s such a hateful fiend, why is there so much good in the world??"

Because of the incomprehensible, majestic King of the Universe, Lover of our souls and—if we will have Him—our eternal, personal Father.

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2010 All Rights Reserved

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hope for America - Part III: Gate Busters!

"...upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
– Matthew 16:18b (KJV)

What are gates for?  Why, that's easy!  They either keep something in, or they keep it out.  Or, they might do both.

Have you ever been attacked by a gate?  

I can't say I've ever been chased and assaulted by any gate, large or small.  On the other hand, I did once have an extraordinarily strong-willed garden gate.  It was bent on doing what gates do best---keeping me out.  Sometimes the gate prevailed and I didn't.  And if I was in a particular hurry, I would have to find some other way into my own backyard.

And what is the most common device of hell to be found in America today?  The Gate!

There are gates of hell that keep America OUT---out of the garden of God's wisdom and provision, out of all opportunities for a hope and a future, and most importantly...out of touch with God Himself.    

Then, there are gates of hell keeping America IN bondage---to sickness and affliction, substance abuse, physical abuse, demonic oppression, false religions...even empty forms of religiosity in the church itself.

Where is the Church?  The one that God has built upon the great Gibraltar rock of His own lordship and living being?  

Are those hellish gates pursuing the Church?  Are they assaulting us?  Pummeling us into the ground?  Absolutely not!  But, there's no denying that they are prevailing against us, because they're holding strong  In other words...strongholds.  Strongholds that defy our polite remonstrances.  "Open up and say 'Ahhh', won't you, please?  Come now, don't be a naughty-naughty little gate!  Jesus would be very cross with you, don't you think?  ... Oh, bother.  I guess this one just won't open up today.  Can't say we didn't try!"

Blast it!

I had a vision of an Abrams tank leveling its fire on an obstinate gate. Nothing can stand up to an Abrams; why, it's the mother of all tanks!

It's about time that the Church stop seeking diplomatic solutions to the gates of hell.  Blast them!  And if they don't fall the first time... Blast again!  THEY SHALL NOT PREVAIL!

- The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but they are mighty through God for the pulling down of strongholds!

- Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might!  He's not daunted by those gates, and neither should we be, because...

- Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.

On the Great Rock---the lordship of Jesus---we the Church have been built.  We have a position of high advantage!  Those gates are nothing but a bluff, guarded by flaming and thundering apparitions that keep us trembling in our boots.  But when we enter the presence of Jesus Christ, He pulls back the thin veil of deceit and we see an emaciated, defeated little enemy working the machinery of fear.  "Pay no attention to that little rat behind the curtain!" he bellows.  But we see the rat is all that's guarding the gate!  Blast it!

Hope for America must emerge within the heart of the church.  It's time for us to stop "looking like our own eyes" like the Israelites did as they stood at the gates of the Promised Land.  No!  Shut off that TV and spend time in the presence of God.  And soon, those impish, bluffing little gatekeepers of hell will shrink down to their true size before our spiritual eyes.  They are the grasshoppers.  Blast them!  And let the Abrams tank of the Church of Jesus Christ roll in and reclaim what's His...set the captives free...bring a Hope and a Future once again.

Can you see it?  I can see it!  Let's do it!  Amen.

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2010 All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Greater Than a Gulf Gusher

   A certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD. And the creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves.”
  So Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.”
  Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors—empty vessels; do not gather just a few.  And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.”
  So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured it out.  Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.”
And he said to her, “There is not another vessel.” So the oil ceased.  Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest.

– II Kings 4:1-7 (NKJV)

Yep! Heard it before.  Nice Bible story about how God took care of a poor widow.

But, reading this passage again, something jumped out and sank its teeth into my soft parts astern.  You see, a dear missionary friend e-mailed me today from Central America in response to the question, "What is your A-Number-One most urgent prayer request?"  Here’s the reply (in paraphrased form)…

"My wife and I have developed serious health issues, but we lack the funds to get medical attention.  We’re inundated by ministry needs, but barely have enough resources to get by.  God recently provided a new Youth Center, but we lack the money to fix it up so it's serviceable.  Bottom line, the needs are plentiful and the dollars are few.  Please pray that God would provide 30% more per month than what we’re taking in now," he said.  "That ought to do it."

This got me thinking… Why does it feel, sometimes, like God's late cutting the paychecks, and when He does, the net take-home pay barely covers rent and a few groceries?

Come on. Don't say you haven't been there!

When I brought the matter to prayer that evening, I saw a picture of my own daughter all dressed in rags.  Rotten, smelly ones.  Her face was grimy and her hair matted and tangled because she had no access to fresh water.  She was sprawled outside my front gate on a tattered old mat.  As I approached, she asked if I could spare a crust to take the edge off her hunger.

"But, Sarah!" I said.  "My home is yours.  Come in and have a hot meal—all you can eat!"

"Oh no, sir.  A crust’ll get me by.  Maybe two, at the most.  That oughtta do it."

Absurd...preposterous!  This is my daughter we're talking about.  Why, she needn’t bother knocking.  Just march right in and sit a spell...wash up...take a the fridge!  But, how do I make her understand?

You know, most traditional Jewish blessings start with the words, "Baruch Atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech Ha’olam…”  which means, "Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe..."  Before we enumerate our needs, let's remind ourselves Whom it is we're addressing.  Our loving Father happens to be King of the Universe.  He's King of the Universe!  And, if the thing we need is to be found anywhere in this universe, it's a good bet He can pull some strings and get it for us.

Trouble is, we're so used to reaching for the old adding machine.  "Let’s see.  A crust'll get me by for today, Lord.  I mean...well, two crusts would be awfully nice, but…only if You can manage it.  I hope I'm not asking too much…am I?" 

Surely we make God weep.  "Keep your numbers off Me!” He says.  “Yes, I'll toss you that crust today, if only to keep you from starving.  But, when will you understand that everything I have is yours? When will you stop limiting Me?"  In fact, there are times when even the ration of crusts dries up because He’s trying to get our attention.  Break our "Poor God" mentality. 

Is this all about "God wants you fat and happy?"  Not at all.  But, He absolutely does want His children fit and fully provisioned to fulfill their destiny. 

“And how much provision might that be?”

No!  Forget the "how much!"  We humans quantify everything in finite terms because we’re finite ourselves.  But, God thinks in terms of infinite provision because He's the infinite One.

On April 20, 2010, an explosion and fire on the BP-licensed Transocean drilling rig "Deepwater Horizon" in the Gulf of Mexico unleashed a horrific oil spill that lasted five months and cost billions of dollars for cleanup efforts alone, not to mention the havoc it wreaked with the regional economy and, of course, the environment.

About two months into the nightmare, a CBS News/New York Times poll1 was conducted to solicit Americans' opinions on how long it might be before this volcano of petroleum would be controlled at last.  Responses ranged from "a few weeks" to "a year or longer", while 7% of respondents said they believed the gusher would never be capped.  In other words, roughly 14 million Americans believed the oil might be flowing into the Gulf of Mexico forever!

Surely, it could not have gushed forever, since the reservoir of petroleum beneath the Gulf of Mexico is finite.  There is, however, a record in Scripture of an even greater flow of oil—an infinite one. And, it all came from one small jar.

In II Kings 4, we see how God plugged that little oil jar directly into His infinite supply pipeline.  But, no need for alarm!  He's never the Author of catastrophe because His system is based strictly on demand. 

Let's suppose the number of containers that poor widow had gathered was exactly fifty.  So then, fifty containers were neatly filled, and then the oil stopped flowing.  And, had there been five hundred containers?  Or five thousand?  Or five warehouses full of them?  No difference to God; they would all have been neatly filled, and then the oil would have stopped flowing.

Think of it this way.  The only limiting factors on God's provision are: (a) need and (b) demand.

"But wait!" you say.  "Isn't demand the same thing as need?"

Sadly, no.  Although, it ought to be!

You see, need is an objective measure.  If I were honest with myself, and assuming I had a clear idea of what God wanted me to accomplish in the next month, or year, of life... ("But, I have no clue!" you may say.  And that is the topic of a whole other discourse.)  Again, assuming I know what I must do, I should be able to work out a rough idea of the resources I'll require in order to get it done—i.e., need. 

But, demand—well now, that's a different concept.  Demand is a very subjective measurement.  It represents how much of my need I will try to secure resources for.  And alas, this is where things get dicey.

Logically, I should say, "Lord, I'm here to ask for Your divine resources to meet my calculated need. Here are the numbers, and I trust You to provide the full amount."  So, demand = need.

In real life?  It sounds more like, "Dear Heavenly Father, my flawed human calculations suggest this exceedingly great need.  May Your holy will be done.  Whatever Your gracious hand is willing to contribute...  I know You have ever so many other people to worry about.  Help me be duly appreciative no matter how little You can manage to scrape together for me."  So, demand = hmmm...nothing, really!

And, which of the two approaches is correct?  Which is truly pleasing to God?  Let me suggest—neither!  What does Scripture teach?

- Consider the Prodigal Son.  He came with numbers: "Hire me on and pay me an hourly wage like the rest of your employees."  The father answered with abundance: "Best robe, best ring, best party.  You're part of the household again, and everything is yours."

- And his brother, of course.  Numbers: "You never gave me one single goat so I could throw a party."  And Dad said: "You don't get it.  All I have is yours."

- How about Jesus feeding the multitudes?  The disciples worked out the numbers: "Two hundred denarii might buy 'em each a Ritz cracker and a sardine to top it with!"  Jesus responded with abundance: "Pass out the food.  And when they're all stuffed, collect the surplus in baskets.  It'll feed people you never planned for (but I did)."

- And the disciples' fishing expedition?  Numbers: "Worked all night.  Zero fish."  Jesus' abundance: "Haul the net in and fill the boat.  Supply your need in full.  Oh, and did you notice how the net broke?  That's because the lake's entire fish population was in your net.  Don't worry, though; they'll still be there whenever you need to dip that net again."

God doesn't think in finite numbers, but He understands that we do.

- "Whatever measure you decide to use, that's what I'll use to measure it back to you.  But, it'll be pressed down, shaken together, and running over!"

- In Exodus 16:17-18, the Israelites had a specific need for a specific amount of food each day.  They walked outside with a container just the right size.  But this manna was a divine provision, so it followed divine laws rather than physical laws.  The guy who didn't quite fill his container?  He walked into the house and...presto!  It was full.  How about the greedy one who heaped it high?  "Boy,” he thought, “this stuff sure does settle in transport."  So, the container was simply a reservoir to hold the full-and-abundant provision to meet that day's need.

- How about Malachi 3, where God demands His tithe?  Is it because He's having trouble making ends meet?  On the contrary, it's an exercise of the soul.  He says it sets the stage for Him to respond with an abundant blessing that we cannot contain!

- In Luke 18, Jesus had just concluded a conversation with the rich young ruler.  The one He admonished to "sell all you have, give it to the poor, and come follow me."  The disciples seemed to misunderstand; they asked Jesus, "You know, You’ve got us worried.  Because we left everything we had.  What now?"  But Jesus responded, "You will surely receive in this life more than what you sacrificed.  Not to mention what's waiting for you in the life to come!"  And so it was; the believers in the early Church didn't live a fat and happy life, but they always had what they needed, and enough to share with those less fortunate.

Back to the principle of need vs. demand.

God does not want us begging like the epileptic boy's father, "Oh, please, oh, please!  If there's anything You can do, won't you please try to help us with this need?  ...a crust or two, maybe?"

The straightforward approach is always a vast improvement: "Lord, we need a loaf of bread today.  Your bread is fresh every morning, and we trust You to provide the loaf."

But, though He's pleased to deliver the loaf, He sometimes keeps us waiting.  Until we get really hungry.  "Where are you, Lord??"  And make eye contact.  And he walks us over to the delivery van.

That's when God opens the doors and an abundance of bread drops into our lap.  "Wait, Lord, but I only demanded one loaf!  That's all I needed."

"Better start expecting more!  Look behind you."  And then we see the needy multitudes lined up.  We find that God delivers, not only enough to keep us fed, but enough to pass along to the whole world.  Wherever there’s demand, it will be filled.  And the delivery truck is larger on the inside than what we saw of the outside.  It's an infinite supply.  Because He's an infinite God.

So, in conclusion, what are we saying?  That God's perfect plan is: “Everything is yours!”  In other words, demand = supply!

Get your oil jar plugged into the heavenly supply line.  God wants to supply all your need according to His riches in glory.  But, it'll be more than what you calculated your need to be, since He expects you to be overflowing—filling the needs of others as well as your own.  

Truth is… As I write this message, God is addressing my own point of weakness.  All too often I find myself whipping out the old adding machine and telling God what I think I need.  For today.  For me.  And, sometimes I'm not so sure He's even willing or capable of filling the order. " least a crust, Father...if it be Your will…pretty please?"

Then I discover that the oil's stopped flowing altogether.  Until I get desperate and look in His eyes.  And He tenderly reminds me, "Your demand is too small.  Bring your empty vessels—not just a few!  Bring an abundance of vessels, and let's get filling, you and I, because the supply is infinite, and the world is waiting!"

Oh, and don't worry about an out-of-control gusher.  The infinite supply flows no further than the demand.
1The New York Times often purges content from their site. If unable to locate the CBS News/New York Times poll article online, please contact Brad Fenichel for assistance.  Please use the contact information within this blog.

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2010 All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hope for America - Part II: Picking the Bones

History repeats itself, sure.  Man will create the same "pool of cess" again and again and again and again... 

Prophecy repeats itself too.  The God of boundless mercy will come through again and again and again and again...

Downstream from our 8/27 post---about hope for revival in our nation---we come to a valley full of bones.  Oh, we've visited this valley before.  It figures from time to time in trite little pep talks about recovering our spiritual "get up and go"---whatever that may be.  We hear the bones emit a feeble rattling that sounds something like "Rah! Rah!", only to clatter back to earth exhausted by the effort.

But, hey!  God really meant it.  He took a Major Prophet to visit the valley and deliver a personal prophecy.  One that echoes down the tunnels of time announcing hope beyond hope to the dismembered people of God in generations past, future, and present.

Why not revisit Ezekiel 37 and pick through these bones in their Scriptural order?  And as you do, may God put the puzzle together in your own spirit and add flesh to it.   

- In a Valley.  They had descended to their death.

- Very Many.  Untold potential had met untold defeat.

- Very Dry.  A long, slow process---losing every trace of the fluids of life.  Picked over by scavengers. For years.  For a lifetime.  Many, many lifetimes.

- Son of Man, Can These Bones Live?  God solicits a human evaluation.

- Lord, Thou Knowest.  The only source of hope would be a miracle.

- Prophesy!
   (a) God does nothing but He prefaces it with prophecy.
   (b) He speaks the impossible into being.
   (c) He awakens hope where there was none.
   (d) He challenges us to take notice of our hopeless state
        so His glory is evident when it changes.

- Noise and Rattling.  God begins to get our attention.

- Dismembered Skeletons Come Together.  Reconciliation among believers who had drifted apart.

- Sinews, Flesh.  Teams begin to form around goals and objectives that God is birthing in them.

- Skin.  Suddenly, the body has integrity.  A sense of identity.

- Prophesy That the Breath May Come.  The Spirit had departed and was at work elsewhere---the Four Winds.  At His people's call, He returns and brings Life.

- They Stood.  Up and ready to act.

- An Army.  The prophet recognized the multitude as an army.  He must have noticed their armor.  And their mighty weapons.

- Exceedingly Great.  This army exceeds expectations.  Exceeds man's hope and imagination.  What hath God wrought!

- My People Say, "Our Bones Are Dry, Our Hope Is Lost!"  Sounds like the church in America.  Anything God ever did is in the past, and there it'll stay.

- "And We Ourselves Are Cut Off."  It seems Humpty Dumpty has fallen, and not even God Himself can put us back together again.

- "I Will Open Your Graves and Cause You to Emerge."  Don't forget...bones...dead.  But, God is the God of resurrection.  Death doesn't bother Him.

- "And Bring You Back to Your Land."  What purposes and destinies does God still have for the Church in America?  Has His arm become short, that it cannot bring them to pass?

America is a graveyard of disconnected splinter denominations---relics of revivals long forgotten.  Even these groupings have fallen apart.  Even the churches within them are in disarray.  All very dead, very dry in God's perspective.  But when they come back by His sovereign move, it will be as a single army.  An Exceedingly Great Army!

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2010 All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hope for America - Part I: Pay Attention!

"These are the... men armed for battle who came to David at Hebron to turn Saul's kingdom over to him, as the LORD had said... 
Men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do..."
– I Chronicles 12:23,32 (NIV)

Space Camp--the movie.  It doesn't rank among the classics of the silver screen, by any means.  But, I like the message.  A group of average American teens gets to spend the summer at a NASA facility, but all they care about is having a good time know...youthful frivolity.  Except for one.  This gal has a sense of destiny, and she expects that one day she'll be "going up."

I won't give away the plot, but in a nutshell, the group of teens is headed for disaster during a flight mission when the pilot is wounded and unable to pilot the craft.  Who saves the day?  Of course--the one teen aboard who's cared enough to pay attention.

There comes a time in the history of a nation that's been adrift, when God says, "Enough is enough!"

It doesn't take much looking to see that the Church in America, by and large, has given up.  We're like passengers on an aircraft with no pilot, fully aware that we're headed into a mountainside.  The other folks on board can't see it coming, but we Christians can.  And we figure, "Hey! There's no saving this crate, so let's just pull into our little make-believe religious shell and hope the end will be quick and painless."

There IS hope for America--if God's people will understand the times and know what to do!  As in David's day, there are a number of ingredients that God will pull together to rescue our nation.  We just need to pay attention.  As in David's day, we need to watch for...

God's Timing
We must connect with God and listen to the voices He's raising up in our generation to help us understand His timing.

God's Message
We need to pray for a clear word that will rally His people, like a trumpet call, to assemble for battle.  In Lincoln's day, for example, the wake-up call was Uncle Tom's Cabin.

God's Leaders
The Church in America needs strong leaders to unite us.

God's Visionaries
That's us--the men of Issachar.  Time to poke our heads out of the shell and catch His vision!

God's Sovereign Move
Pray, pray, pray!  Battle cannot begin until the mighty wind of God stirs in the treetops.

God's Plan
Don't run off half-cocked like the Israelites who tried--and failed--to take the Promised Land after God had told them they would need to wait forty years.

God's Battle
It won't come without a fight.  Read Ephesians 6 and practice dressing for battle.  This is no game, but take courage!  We know Who wins in the end.

God is about to proclaim over America, "Enough is enough!"  And when He does, let His people be ready for the battle that follows--and the victory!  Amen.

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2010 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I haven't Seen It Yet

"You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.’"
– Revelation 3:17 (NIV)

I'm not a big fan of inane movies, but Ernest movies are definitely worth the time.  Jim Varney is a veritable genius in his field.  And his best role, in my opinion, was in Ernest Saves Christmas. 

It's a comedy that tugs at something dangling from the heart.  You see, deep down, each of us wants to find something meaningful to do with the brief time we have on this planet.  Trouble is, there are many things that claim to be meaningful but turn out to be...well, let's just fast-forward to what I'm talking about...

It's what writers call an "HCM"---a "Heart-Clutching Moment."  Santa Claus himself (well, we haven't decided yet whether he's the real Saint Nick) is running out of time to recruit his replacement before Christmas Eve.  And now, he's standing on the doorstep of the most caring, personable, eligible candidate in the world---Joe Carruthers---trying to talk him into taking the job.  Not surprisingly, Joe's suspicious that this sweet old fellow may be off his rocking horse.

Santa's brought the one thing that should convince Joe---his magic toy sack.  Or, at least it looks like it.  But, things haven't gone exactly per plan today, and it turns out someone's pinched the real sack and left Santa with a facsimile stuffed with feathers.

"Look," says Joe, "I have an appointment to keep...with people who want to give me more than know...feathers."

"Joe, search your heart. There must be something that can convince you of the truth."

"In a way, I wish there was.  But I haven't seen it yet."

Freeze frame.

God is at work reconciling the World to Himself.  And to that end, says the Apostle Paul, He has made us His ambassadors of reconciliation.

How often we stand at the door of some unfortunate person, who so needs a shot in the arm of hope, who is so ready for a personal encounter with the God of all hope.  And then...we invite that person to reach into our magic "God sack", and out comes...a fistful of feathers.

Why? Because we started the day, like so many other days, thinking we had God in the sack.  Didn't even need to check---no time for that.  Truth is, we left God behind waiting for us to connect with Him for the day.  Instead, the enemy filled our sack with a lot of feathers.  You know what those feathers are---things that take up the space where God should have been.  Make the sack look all round and jolly on the outside, but tragically useless when it comes time to impact the world.

Sometimes, it's been so long since we opened the sack and let God in that...well...we don't even know the difference.  "What do you mean, saying my sack is full of feathers?  Just goes to show how far gone you are! Can't tell the Living God from a fistful of goose down.  There must be something that can convince you of the truth."

"In a way, Christian, I wish there was.  But I haven't seen it yet."

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2010 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Just Touch Me!

"And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, 'Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.'  
"A ruler questioned Him, saying, 'Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?' ... He said to him, 'One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess ... and come, follow Me.'  But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.  And Jesus looked at him and said, 'How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!'"
Luke 18:15-24, NASB (excerpts)

Children just wanna be touched.

I recall some of the earliest words out of my little girl's mouth, as she was learning to talk---" up! up!" 

In her plaintive, wee voice, with chubby little arms stretched upward for Daddy's love and attention, the plea sounded exactly like "Beam me up!  Beam me up!"---until she was magically transported through the air and into her father's arms.

Children just wanna be touched.

Not so with us adults.  We're more reserved.  Like Richie, the young aristocrat, who came to Jesus for a to-do list.

Or worse yet, we're protocol people, like the disciples:  "Orders are, Nobody can see the Great Oz!  Not nobody, not nohow!"

Jesus surely cut loose a hearty laugh, as he called over the shoulders of his self-appointed bodyguards.  "Nonsense...Step right up, kids! Children just wanna be touched.

"And by the way, if you oafs had half a brain, you'd line up for a touch too.  You're so busy guarding the doors to the Kingdom that you haven't entered it yourselves!  Step inside.  You'll discover that it's not about rules, to-dos, or protocol.  The babies have it right---it's all about touch."

These two vignettes---Jesus touching the babies and Jesus confronting the young ruler---are listed back-to-back for a reason.  He's speaking to us across the centuries, saying, "Some of you are missing My touch because your rules and religiosity keep you away.  And, some are held back by other affections such as money or status.  Have a good look at these babies!  See the joy and laughter?  Children just wanna be touched!"

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2010 All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Why the Golden Scepter?

 "The king extended the golden scepter to Esther.  So Esther arose and stood before the king."
– Esther 8:4, NASB

As in a fevered dream, Hadassah watched herself totter into the chamber, then press her back against the arch of the door.  How foolish to expect such a frugal thing as a linen shawl to conceal the violent shivers that racked her slight frame. There it lay—the treacherous thing!—across the marble threshold.  Could it be…was it possible…they would see the wild throbbing of her temples?

“What in seven thunders is this!” bellowed a great black-maned figure across the vaulted hall, thrusting his bushy jaw in the intruder’s direction.

“Your Supremacy, it is the queen of Persia—the new one, Sire.”

For a flash instant, Hadassah thought she would be sick.  No! Better…and keep running until the palace was far, far behind.  But they would see her.  All the people would see her.  And the guards had horses.  She couldn’t outrun horses in this long gown…

“HA! Ha-ha!” The black bearded chin was bouncing.  Up and down, up and down.  “Haaaaaaaaaah!” he bawled. 

“My last beauty queen is banished.   BANISHED!  For refusing to appear on command.  But, this new one?  Why, she just blows in whenever she pleases, eh!”

“Your king…your…Sire!  The reason…” began Esther.


“Your Supremacy, shall we seize her?  I’ll give the order…” said the Captain of the Palace Guard.

“SILENCE, I said!” A glint of white punctuated the massive beard, as a golden scepter drew a neat curve in the air, then came to a stop pointing directly at the queen.

“Esther, First Lady of Shushan and queen of my heart, you have my permission to interrupt any boring old meeting in this palace anytime you please.  Come forward!”

Haddassah.  A young immigrant girl from a vanquished civilization, transplanted to the capital of the most powerful nation on earth.  And through a bizarre sequence of happenstance, she is now Esther, Queen of Persia.  But, even her royal title cannot save her from the king's law: death to anyone who appears in his presence unbidden.

Ahasuerus' surprise at seeing his bride standing in court led to an action of grace, as he held out the golden scepter--the only act that could override her death sentence.  Why?  Because "the king loved Esther more than any other woman." (Esther 2:17)  It was his love for this, his chosen bride that gave her free access to his presence and, consequently, to the favor she came to ask.

In the end, what the young queen came for was to beg the life of her people, who had been condemned to genocide by the villain Haman.  King Ahasuerus held out no golden scepter to the Jews.  If any of them had appeared in his court, it would have been the end of them.  But, through the king's love and grace toward Esther, she had access to stand in their place and beg for their life.

Under the old covenant, we see a few examples of this intercessory model.  Moses had such a powerful relationship with God that he could beg for the life of his people--"...And if not, blot me out of Your book...!"  David pleaded for his people at the threshing floor of Araunah, saying, "They are but sheep!"

But none paints as vivid a picture of our own place of sonship under the new covenant as does Queen Esther's scene.

God has no contract with the world at large, sold under sin, until and unless each of them comes of a freewill to seek Him in repentance.  But, through our relationship with the King--as the bride of Christ and objects of His love--we can enter His presence at any time.  The golden scepter is perpetually extended.  The veil is forever rent.  

And, by entering and touching that scepter, we receive grace to preach the gospel to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted.  His healing gifts and acts of grace flow out from us---salt to a dying world, light to those in darkness.  

So, then...  Don't just stand there by the doorpost!   Approach our loving King and lay hold of His scepter.  The world is waiting.

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2010 All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 1, 2010

Lost in My Attic - A New Year's Meditation

"Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, ‘I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD.’"
– II Kings 22:8, NASB
At-tic ['at-ik] (n.): A place where time stands still

In the summer of ’99, my kids and I explored an abandoned Victorian house along the back roads of Pennsylvania. Judging by the odds and ends strewn about, this structure had last housed a young family in the late 1950s. My favorite part was ascending a dilapidated staircase to the cavernous attic and finding a stack of ancient newspapers—including one with a prominent article about the return of space monkeys Able and Baker (May 28, 1959). Being in the center of the stack, this newspaper was hardly yellowed after forty years!

2 Kings chapters 22-23 tell of Josiah, the most godly king since David and Solomon. He led Judah in a search for the purposes of God that they had lost under a clutter of sin and neglect.

As the priests, by royal command, set about cleaning and repairing the temple, they discovered the “Book of the Law”—God's revelation and covenant as recorded by Moses. The king was stunned to realize how much God had invested in His people, and how they, in turn, had walked away from His presence into spiritual wilderness. He immediately launched the most ambitious plan of repentance and restoration that Judah would know under the Old Covenant.

What’s this got to do with me?

I’m often expecting God to toss me some salient new morsel of revelation or guidance. Instead, I should be probing the cobweb-covered corners of my attic. There I would find the lost purposes of God buried beneath the clutter of a thousand failed agendas and projects of my own.

But, the good news is that "the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." (Romans 11:29, NKJV) As soon as I set my heart to "stir up" what God has already placed in me, it will blossom into fulfillment as surely as it might have done long ago. The only tragedy is that all those years lost in the attic cannot be recovered.

Is reconnecting with God your #1 New Year priority? Consider an exhaustive search in the attic of your heart. You may stumble upon the “lost” purposes of God—still fresh and un-yellowed after years of neglect!

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2010 All Rights Reserved