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CALIFORNIA’S DAY OF REPENTANCE TWO YEARS ON

 

By James Wilson

 

September 9 marked the second anniversary of California’s first Day of Repentance.  The rolling event of 2015 grew to include coordinated and consecutive repentance days in Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska.  The harvest began with a steady rain within twenty-four hours of the event conclusion.  Over the following eighteen months the rain picture in California did an about-face and five years of the worst drought in state history was announced over in early 2017.  None of it was magic; it was miracle.

 

The human contribution was a process of corporate and identificational repentance in the spirit of 2 Chronicles 7:14.  Such a process features the people of God repenting on their own behalf, not on behalf of those we think outside the family of God.  For California’s Day of Repentance we begged forgiveness for complicity and participation in four pillars of sin in our state: shedding innocent blood, covenant breaking, sexual sin, and idolatry.  Have Christians – Bible believing Christians – shed innocent blood by having, supporting, or returning to office leaders who support abortion in similar numbers to secular society?  How about assisted suicide?  Have we reaped the economic benefits of the slaughter of Indians before, during, and after the Gold Rush?  Have we broken covenants by divorcing as often as the so-called unsaved?  Have we reaped the benefits of land stolen from and treaties broken with the tribes who lived here before us?  We can ask the same questions per sexual sin and placing agendas and priorities above service to God, the very essence of idolatry.  We will receive the same distressing answers.

 

God promises in that same passage He will hear our repentance, forgive our sin, and heal our land.  He predicates His promise on our humble acknowledgement of what we have done and failed to do, not on acknowledging the sin of others while we stand apart in lofty presumed innocence.  Leaders of the season of repentance were clear it was about ourselves needing forgiveness.

 

It got down and dirty.  If we read the scriptures depicting identificational repentance from Isaiah to Jeremiah to Hosea to Daniel, and up through the letters of Paul the assumption of responsibility is not a generalized phenomenon but an intensely personal admission.  Isaiah calls himself, for example, a person of unclean lips; Paul refers to himself as an abortion, though we sanitize his confession in English as “one untimely born.”  If I would dare to put myself forward as a leader in repentance it is clear I had best be ready to fess up and seek healing for my personal failings.

 

The way we did this was simplicity itself.  As the leaders met and prayed one of us felt led to the first four or five chapters of Nehemiah.  Someone else reflected Nehemiah needed fifty-two days to lead rebuilding of the wall circling Jerusalem.  It was my part to note if we counted back fifty-two days from September 9 – we had already chosen California’s Admission Day as our launching pad – we come to July 20.  This is the anniversary of Neil Armstrong landing on the moon and proclaiming, “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”  The aggregate convinced us we were called to a season of fifty-two days of prayer and fasting repentance – for our personal shortcomings – as we prepared and publicized the coming corporate season of a day in each of our states.

 

My personal fast was diet soda – to which I was addicted – and the occasional use of profanity – against which I have struggled all my life.  It was between each leader and God what the personal fast would be.  As leaders we encouraged others to undertake the fast – people we knew and people who read our posts and emails – but it was a deeply personal connection with God for each of us that counted.  I can say with honesty my time of fasting and prayer brought me immeasurably closer to the Lord who is always and already as close as a prayer.

 

There are two bottom lines.  One is that God is as good as His Word spoken in 2 Chronicles; He ended the drought even though the thousands who participated in the Day of Repentance process are only a pinch of leavening in a loaf of forty million Californians.  The other is that California remains essentially as estranged from God as she was before the process.  God awaits the rest of the Church in California’s return to the One Who – according to the State’s own constitution – gave us all we have.

 

When that happens the Golden State will become authentically golden.

 

James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, and Kingdom in Pursuit – available at local bookstores or by e-mailing him at praynorthstate@gmail.com

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MORE FRUIT OF PERSONAL REPENTANCE

 

By James Wilson

 

All that I wrote recently on this topic of personal repentance being both the default and the most rewarding response to challenges notwithstanding, one of the ongoing issues of my life is a persistent difficulty with forgiveness when I believe myself judged unjustly.  The re-focus of my attention on God and away from my outrage at injustice – whether or not I am culpable – remains the authentic path to redemption.  But it is hard, and it doesn’t matter how well I know this truth or proclaim it.

 

Decades ago I was wrongfully terminated from a teaching assistant position while waiting to enter the graduate program that would lead to my credentialing.  I was fired when a certificated teacher taunted and threatened a student until he erupted in rage.  After escorting the student to the office I told the administrator the whole truth and was promptly sacked.  God was good enough to put me into an accelerated program I could only enter absent my previous post; graduating early set me up to win a coveted teaching position in another school when jobs were incredibly scarce, and I went on to a most successful teaching career that would not happen had I been treated fairly.  Yet my resentment of the supervisor who wronged me simmered for more than a decade.  Eventual repentance replaced that resentment with the joy of thanksgiving – by the grace-ful intervention of my Lord – yet I wasted a decade in bitterness that could have been joy had I repented sooner rather than later.

 

I have described how I found myself on the receiving end of incredible blessing in the wake of being unjustly judged after my personal and professional life unraveled in 2015.  I quickly forgave, yet my resentment of those who cast me adrift re-surfaces periodically.  They won’t let me tell my side, I complain.  I did nothing wrong, I protest.  They had no right to expel me from fellowship when so many of them have done what they say I did, I whine.  And then I went to the Healing Rooms.

 

I went asking prayer for several ailments common to aging men.  I mentioned the forgiveness issue almost in passing; it did not seem like a big deal although it plagues my sleep when it erupts.  The prayer team acted as though they had been waiting for this, not because they knew, but because the words and impressions they had received from the Lord as they prepared to pray for me finally made sense.  One of them said the Lord says it is okay for me to confess my sins.

 

My first impulse was to think again how sinless I had been in the particular circumstances.  By God’s grace I asked Him instead what He might want me to repent.  In an eye wink He showed me I had placed my faith in my good behavior instead of His mercy.  Jesus Himself points out no one is good save God alone; that includes me amongst the deficient ones.  If I rest in my own innocence – whatever the exonerating circumstances may be – I am playing the Pharisee of Luke 18, the one who congratulates himself on being such an asset to God while the publican next to him cries out for mercy as one utterly deserving of damnation.  Jesus holds the publican up as justified before the Father while the Pharisee is left holding his own bag of hot air.

 

I repented with tears of joy.  I praised God for rescuing me from my own self-righteousness.  I received His peace that expels my resentment once again.

 

That does not mean I now admit wrongdoing I never did; if the Lord wants me to confess something else He will have to tell me.  It does mean I no longer take refuge in my own presumption of innocence but (solely) in His presumption of mercy and grace when I come running.  It does not mean anyone’s salvation is in jeopardy; God requires only that we forgive and forgive until we are done; I call it “staying in the game”.  It does not mean we should become fatalistic about issues of justice; quite the contrary.  But it also means it really is all about God and not about us at day’s end.  Our peace and heart wellbeing do indeed depend on coming to Him in humility rather than an outraged sense of justice denied.  The fruit is amazing.

 

God really does work all things together for good (Romans 8:28) in those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.  But only a repentant heart will see it.

 

James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, and Kingdom in Pursuit – available at local bookstores or by e-mailing him at praynorthstate@gmail.com

BY THEIR FRUIT WE SHALL KNOW THEM

 

By James Wilson

 

Jesus Christ claimed we are known by the fruit of our behavior.  He asked to be judged by the visible results of His work.  Are the dead raised, the sick healed, and the poor treated to good news?  If so, salvation has come in His Person; if no, look for another.  His followers can expect the same standard on themselves.

 

Likewise, His opponents exhibit fruit: rioting, suppression of differing views, and assassination for all who do not fit into their establishmentarian box.  While Jesus debates and even heals His enemies they sic the Romans on Messiah and His followers. Death is the fruit of their effort.  Resurrection – for any who are willing – is the fruit of His.

 

A similar – albeit more mundane – juxtaposition operates in Australia as people vote in a postal plebiscite about permitting same sex couples to marry.

 

In the past two weeks a former prime minister – Tony Abbott – has been head butted by a man wearing a “Yes” badge and declaring he was rebutting what Abbott says. The man now claims his attack had nothing to do with marriage, although Abbott has spoken of little else in recent months.  A traditionalist rally in Melbourne was disrupted by “Yes” demonstrators storming the stage; others displayed a banner reading, “Burn churches, not queers.”  Social media has erupted with abusive messages to Christians supporting traditional marriage; senders typically hope receivers’ children grow up to become homosexual in a context that implies self-loathing for senders.

 

Unsolicited text messages were sent to random thousands urging a yes vote; anyone taking offense found it impossible to block the message.  Even “yes” voters are angry over this; they want to know how a political campaign obtained their private phone details.  Meanwhile, a bomb threat was delivered to the Australian Football League after leaders announced official support for so-called marriage equality.  The only trouble is the threat turned out to be a hoax and the only side standing to gain by linking traditionalists to bombs would be the marriage equality folks.  This covers only the past two weeks and is not exhaustive.

 

Speaking of bombs and hoaxes, the man who drove a car bomb into the offices of the Australian Christian Lobby some months ago is now revealed as a gay rights activist who targeted that group for their views; police originally denied such motives.  Claims of abusive banners hung in Melbourne deriding gays – claims abetted by doctored television news footage – turn out to be a fraud perpetrated by same sex advocates.  Pundits defend the violence as compensating for attacks on gays over the years.  While I would never defend attacking gays or anyone else, truth compels me to point out these incidents occurred four decades ago and more; since then the shoe has been overwhelmingly on the other foot.

 

News commentators covering the rally in Melbourne have called for both sides to show restraint and respect in the debate but have failed to produce a single example of violence or intimidation against gay advocates.  Claims produced so far have been undocumented or fraudulent, although some traditionalist statements are insensitive. Confirmed abuse has emanated solely from those who demand the change.  By their fruit…

 

Same sex advocates demand the debate be limited to whether gays should be allowed to marry when they already enjoy all the rights of marriage in the civil unions that are allowed under current law.  They cry foul when traditionalists and Christians say the future of freedom itself is at stake.  Yet in every country that has legalized same sex marriage the persecution of those who disagree – for their objections and for their faith – begins as soon as legalization takes effect and often before the fact.  That is certainly the case in Australia and has been the pattern in the US and Canada.

 

Reality is the controversy is all about all living free or in bondage; the structure of marriage is the occasion for a larger conflict and the fruit is conclusive.  Nobody advocates stripping away rights homosexual people already possess; they will be neither damaged nor persecuted if marriage laws remain unchanged.  Yet both sides agree if these laws are changed such programs as the demonstrably abusive Safe Schools program will become mandatory for all families.  In addition, hard research shows a pattern of violence within the homosexual community against their own and against their perceived enemies.  Examples include activists wishing out loud for the rape of opponents.  If these laws are changed the jury is already in.  There will be abuse, loss of parental and children’s rights, and persecution.  The fruit shows.

 

In California traditional marriage was upheld in 2008.  Post election research showed the pendulum swung on the love and compassion exhibited by activists for traditional marriage – for gays as much as for straights.  Voters observed this fruit of commitment to a God Who loves and voted for it.

 

We Christians serve a God who came in human flesh to bring freedom and peace to all humanity.  Compassion for gay and straight alike requires a “no” in this plebiscite.  It is the only way to “yes” for all our brothers and sisters.  The fruit shows.

 

 

FREE EXERCISE COLLIDES WITH GOD’S METHODS OF WARFARE

 

By James Wilson

 

The biggest opponent of the free exercise of faith is not necessarily the secular forces arrayed against it.  Those forces are considerable, filled with hatred for all hopes they do not share, and hysterical fear of anything they see as threatening them with accountability.  In many venues around the world these forces are winning the war to stifle conversation; their successes include venues in which free speech and free exercise of faith are guaranteed in law and constitution.  But they are not the biggest threat to free speech and exercise of faith.

 

People who imagine they serve the God of Bible and Church are the biggest threat to the faith they espouse.  Do the math.  Most of us are either too busy or too intimidated to be bothered on the one hand, or too busy throwing an out of context interpretation of scripture at people we think worse sinners than we are.  A classic case in point is in the ongoing debate over the nature of marriage.  Although I estimate only about ten per cent of the vitriole emanates from traditional marriage advocates like myself, even that figure is unacceptably high.  All too often, for example, we want to fling words like “abomination” at gay people and their allies.  What is the truth to be told in love here?

 

The Bible Christians and Jews revere does indeed call homosexual behavior an abomination – in both Old and New Testaments.  But the word itself means something forbidden and therefore sinful; it is a generic usage if ever there was one.  Abominations in scripture include gossip, lying, theft, extortion, general trouble making, and verbal abuse of any kind.  For the Torah observant it includes dietary infractions.  The Bible labels homosexual activity as wrong, but no more than any other human behavior falling short of God’s intentions for us.  We become what we abhor when we single out any behavior for judgement when we commit acts every bit as grievous to the heart of our God and King.  Paul says exactly that – about us – in his first letter to the Corinthians.

 

This same Paul – the fellow who wrote a quarter of the New Testament – tells us we are indeed called to fight evil, but with God’s weapons rather than our own.  I find three such weapons in the Bible.

 

The first is blessing.  Paul writes in Romans 12:14 we are to bless and curse not, especially those we call enemies.  He leaves no human exceptions.  Jesus Himself sets the unwavering example.  He is not shy about telling it like it is, and neither should we be.  But He blesses all and utters only one curse throughout the Gospels.  The one exception that proves the rule is the fig tree he encounters outside Jerusalem.  When it bears no fruit He withers it with a word.  This tree symbolizes Jewish religion to first century readers, but here is the caveat:  He curses not His people the Jews.  He curses a religious system that alienates instead of drawing to Him.  He has just as little use for our systems; He loves us too much to tolerate what we substitute for relationship to Him.

 

Jesus is explicit in stating as well as demonstrating the weapon of forgiveness in John 20:23.  Appearing after the Resurrection, He blesses them and commands them to go out and forgive as they have been forgiven.  He says nothing about who qualifies because nobody does.  He just says, “Do it,” as the primary method to establish the Kingdom He has won.

 

The third weapon is again straight from the heart of the King.  In Luke 24:13-35 we hear of two disciples walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus and encountering the Risen Jesus on the road.  They don’t recognize Him when he comes alongside them, neither when He explains how the Bible really predicts everything that has happened to Him from birth to ministry to death to resurrection.  They see Him for Himself only when He celebrates His own Holy Communion with them.  The power of recognition in this simple act is that His enemies typically flee as much as His friends typically draw close.

 

Many will say we have to fight fire with fire; Jesus would disagree.  He fights the fire of hatred with the water of loving and healing.  Some will say that is just nonsense, like throwing verses of Kumbayah at people with guns, but if Jesus’ death on the Cross teaches anything it is that the Church is never more powerful than when it is out of power.  Martin Luther King turned a nation upside down with such nonsense.

 

James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, and Kingdom in Pursuit – available at local bookstores or by e-mailing him at praynorthstate@gmail.com

FREE EXERCISE COLLIDES WITH MILITANT ARROGANCE


By James Wilson

 

It is two decades since I penned a series of commentaries for the San Jose Mercury News.  In a piece on prayer in schools I argued students have a constitutional right to pray or lead prayer so long as they are originators rather than officials.  Federal law backs my position.  Yet the most interesting depressing response to my column came from a man who said others may speak freely of religion but Christians should be banned from public speech.  His reason?  “You have had your turn.  It’s our turn now.”  His view was extreme in 1995 despite school prayer being controversial.  Today things have gotten much worse for freedom.

 

In Australia as we vote on same sex marriage sporting associations – and Australian Football League – urge a “yes” – as is their right.  Yet prominent footballer Israel Folau is denied that right.  When this evangelical Christian announced recently his belief that marriage is a covenant reserved to one man and one woman he was chided and derided – not on the merits of his viewpoint but for expressing it at all.  Social media was especially condemning with many saying some variation on, “I respect your right to your opinion but you should have the decency to keep it to yourself.”

 

The same irrational approach to belief has bared its fangs in the US as business persons are fined or forced out of business for conscientiously declining to participate in same sex weddings.  Their alleged transgression is always a civil rights violation even though they in no way prevent weddings and always make referrals to other professionals who do not share their faith-based objections.  They are not homophobic; in many cases they enjoyed longstanding relationships with these complainants until singled out for abuse.  In all cases the statement was made as penalties were handed down that it was okay to hold whatever views conscience called forth but not okay to speak or act publicly.

 

            Does anyone else find it pathetic that judges and magistrates don’t seem to know the free ex guarantees in both America and Australia are spelled out as demanding public accommodation?  Does anyone else note these guarantees are meaningless without that public accommodation?

 

In America right now Congress is debating whether or not to confirm President Trump’s nomination of Law Professor Amy Coney Barrett to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.  At least two senators – Dick Durbin of Illinois and Dianne Feinstein of California – have declared her unfit because of her Christian faith.  Do these people – one representing the state of Abraham Lincoln and the other the state that launched more revivals than any other – fail to grasp the plain language of the Constitution they swore to uphold that no religious test may ever be invoked against a candidate for office?  Yet they and millions of others in both nations seem content that they are defending their nations against dangerous religious values.  These values are thought so dangerous they must not be spoken where impressionable minds could absorb them.

 

What are these dangerous views?  The King Christians worship stated He came that all might have life – and that abundantly.  His Bible is explicit that His life covers all at whatever stage of development or decline they present.  This same King claimed a principal vehicle of abundant life is a family centering on a male husband and a female wife.  These values have cored western – and eastern – civilization since time immemorial.  Yes, Greek and Roman culture tolerated homosexuality – as does our own – but at no time in history has any culture tolerated marriage outside the Biblical model for the simple reason it compromises and ultimately destroys marriage just as picking and choosing who is worthy of life destroys all lives in its path.

 

Back in Australia Paul Kelly, former senior editor of the national daily newspaper, The Australian, writes of the outright lie perpetrated by the pro same sex marriage lobby when it claims there is no religious issue at stake.  “Given legislation of same sex marriage means the laws of the state and the laws of most religions will be brought into direct conflict over society’s most essential institution the one certainty is ongoing…trench warfare.”  What Kelly does not say is in such warfare the state always wins the battles and always loses the war.

 

In such a war the Body overcomes by breaking out in revival – such was the non-violent but power packed fall of the communist Iron Curtain over Europe – or the state simply dies by self-strangulation.  The alternatives are everybody wins or everybody loses.  The question would be “Is the Body up for the struggle?”

 

James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, and Kingdom in Pursuit – available at local bookstores or by e-mailing him at praynorthstate@gmail.com

DREAMING FOR A MAVERICK SEASON

 

By James Wilson

 

I can count on my fingers the dreams I actually remember.  I had one of them about two weeks ago.  In it I was attending a pastors-and-leaders gathering of some sort.  Somebody famous was keynoting and there would be several speakers on the platform; I was not one of them.  I was dressed in my Anglican priest uniform – black shirt with white stiff collar – and seated at one of the tables waiting.  One of the organizers approached me and leaned down to whisper, “I just want to remind you not to say anything negative.” He handed me one of those polished smooth comfort rocks of volcanic origin.

 

I was a bit surprised as I had been minding my manners and making no fuss.  I do have a habit of confronting leaders – that is part of the maverick anointing I carry – and I supposed he knew my reputation and wanted to head off anything disconcerting I might do.  I was thinking of asking this leader who he thought he was, even so, to single me out for enforced silence amongst my peers, when I looked at the rock in my hand.

 

Comfort rocks are usually made of a hard volcanic rock, polished smooth, with occasional fissures visible in the hardened substance but no danger of the rock cracking or decomposing because of what it is made of.  This rock had several fissures in it and was more polished volcanic mud than rock.  As I looked the fissures began to widen and the rock began to crumble into soft sandstone – also a volcanic substance but with nothing like the strength of granite or basalt.  The crumbling spread out from the fissure lines and soon it was a pile of sand in my hand.  While this was going on the Lord spoke into my dream telling me that the things we turn to in the Church for comfort are crumbling before our eyes.

 

Once I woke I was reminded that comfort rocks are not the Word of God, much less the Rock of our Salvation, but rather our favorite doctrines and practices we think reflect the Word and the Rock so well we need not trouble ourselves to go deep.  We comfort ourselves that we have no need to repent of rabbit trails we may have taken or roads we have not followed far enough because…well, just because.

 

The Apostles were content to stop at the Mount of Transfiguration instead of completing the meandering tour of Galilee through which Jesus prepared them for Jerusalem and the rest of their lives.  They were just as happy to give Peter their tacit agreement when he declared the Christ could not die despite what He and Scripture plainly state.  They were quick to complain the mojo Jesus had given them for expelling evil spirits was not working when a demon refused to leave an afflicted boy when in reality – as He explains – they simply have not given themselves enough to prayer and worship, and perhaps fasting.  On the mountaintop He said, “Coffee break’s over; back to work.”  In Caesarea He challenged, “Whom do you serve?”

 

Reality is we miss the mark with God – the literal meaning of sin (hamartia) in New Testament Greek – not because of some gentle confusion or even ignorance but because of militant narcissism.  Who wants to pray all day when the right prayer of power should suffice to set a captive free and we get a share of the glory?  Who wants to watch our hero and mentor die ugly – and risk the same fate for ourselves – when it is so much easier to believe authentic peace comes without a price?  And why not relax atop the mountain after we have worked so hard for so long?  Let all the prodigals down below find their own awakening; we got here first and climbed all the way to the top.

 

Reality is the very word we translate as wicked (Hebrew ra) in 2 Chronicles 7:14 – as in “turn from their wicked ways” – actually stands for inadequacies.  There is, of course, nothing sinful about human inadequacy; we were born that way and that is why we so desperately need God.  Yet when we place our inadequacies above God, making them the reason we miss the mark instead of seeking Him for a straight shot, we worship our fallibility and that is about as sinful as it gets.  The good news is God saying in that same famous passage that when we turn from that idolatrous worship He will both forgive and heal.  The Gospel itself – Mark 1:1-4 – begins with this invitation to repentance.  Repentance is not a punishment, but the very privilege of approaching God as we are rather than as we would like to be imagined.

 

We find ourselves in a maverick season.  A maverick is simply one who does not conform to stereotype, pre-condition, or the prior restraint of long standing convention.  The term originates with one Samuel Maverick, a leader of the Texas Revolution against Mexico, who was known for his habit of thinking and acting outside the box coupled with his dependability.  He showed up where something needed doing, got the job done, and moved on to the next project.  He refused to be branded in an age when branding was all important to the culture of the cattle rancher.

 

In this season we Christians are called to re-engage with the whole of Scripture – not just our favorite passages – and that can be as uncomfortable as a comfort rock that crumbles in our hands.  Imagine some of us required take the passages proscribing judging others as seriously as we take those prohibiting certain behaviors – or the reverse.

 

We Christians are expected to embrace the whole of Holy Spirit, not just this or that Spirit gift, much less the smug fatalism of a Spirit who exists merely to lead us into truth without calling us to act in authority on that truth.  Imagine those of us who think – without scriptural justification – the gifts are for a bygone time; we need to pray God will awaken the gifts in us, including other tongues.  Imagine on the other hand those who jump from one power encounter to another – whether observed or participated – recognizing the Spirit does come to liberate our hearts in quieter ways such as committing to tithing, the prophetic activity that reveals and interprets present and past events far more often than predicting future occurrences, or just a recommitment to the sanctity of life and God-breathed marriages – beginning with our own.

 

Finally we are tasked with the sacrifice of our sacred cows – whatever they may be.  That is tantamount to sailing a ship from which we have cut loose every internal navigational aid from rudders to anchors to engines, trusting the wind in our sails to lead us into harbor.  Anyone with a denominational background – and even non-denominational fellowships function like denominations – will be especially challenged on this one.  Upon accepting the challenge, Anglicans like me might discover grape juice honors and communes with God as well as wine in the Holy Communion and Evangelicals might discover real wine actually is what Jesus used.  Our consolation is that He knows the plans He has for us – plans to prosper and bless us – and we need only assent to Him as the Apostles did on Pentecost – and every day after that – when they found themselves stripped of alternatives.

 

Same sex marriage is not evil because God forbids it. God forbids it because it compromises life in gay and straight alike.  He is the God of abundant life; He tolerates nothing less and brings all His mercy and grace to bear on bringing us all to that abundant life.  In the Body we are called to fight not against any one or any thing, but for those for whom Christ gave His life.  More than that, we are called to remember our God fights not for a cause but for the perfection of all in His glory.  When we love as militantly as He does we will see He does indeed work all things together for good (Romans 8:28) in those who love Him and are called according to His purposes regardless of this or that plebiscite or judicial decision.  That is when droughts end and peace begins.

 

James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, and Kingdom in Pursuit – available at local bookstores or by e-mailing him at praynorthstate@gmail.com

TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE AND THE GREATEST AWAKENING: REPENTANCE AT THE JORDAN RIVER

 

By James Wilson

 

What is it about crossing rivers as existential metaphors?  Caesar crossed the Rubicon and it sounded the death knell of the Roman Republic.  Allied troops crossed the Rhine and it symbolized the end of Hitler’s Germany.  Four Hobbits crossing the Brandywine launches the War of the Ring in a fictional but utterly existential moment.  Yet there is no greater river crossing for people of faith than the moment Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land.  And there is no more powerful metaphor for repentance than that same river crossing.  Of course it becomes an even more important metaphor precisely because the moment requires repeated acts of radical repentance before the Israelites can achieve victory and avoid annihilation.

 

When the Israelites arrive at the Jordan River around 1200 BC the Bible depicts a powerful fighting force that has mowed down any power daring to stand against them between the Egyptian capital of Thebes and any capital of the Arabian region.  They have risen suddenly after four-plus centuries of slavery.  Extra Biblical sources essentially agree with the Biblical account though not all include reference to the Hebrew God.  Yet there is no reasonable alternative explanation for their rags to riches climb in a mere forty years.  Moses and Yahweh by any other name would have to remain Moses and Yahweh.

 

All that nothwithstanding, this unstoppable horde gets jittery at the Jordan.  The river is in flood stage and they are called to repentance by immersion.

 

The Biblical Book of Joshua tells of the Hebrew leader – whose name means literally God-saves-us – consulting his God.  (For readers scoffing at the idea of God speaking intelligibly, let’s remember one more time Who invented speech.)  Yahweh instructs him to send the priests into the torrent while carrying the heavy Ark of the Covenant.  God has promised to stop the stream, but only after His people exercise their faith by stepping into what will surely sweep them away to death if He does not stop its flow.  These priests do as they are told, stopping in the center of the now dry river bed.  The people obediently follow, risking their lives on God’s promise to provide dry land.  This in itself is a supreme act of repentance, yet only the beginning of a series of repentance events.

 

Most Israelites are too young to recall God parting the Red Sea; those who do remember will have the same difficulty as the rest of us in believing He would do it again.  It is – after all – life and death, not theology, when push comes to shove.  Such a counter-intuitive activity is undoable without prior repentance – re-focus – resulting in a choice to judge circumstances by God instead of judging God by circumstances.

 

This is only the beginning.  These Hebrews have crossed the Jordan in full view of the hostile army of Jericho.  Arrayed for battle, they want to take on the city at once, but – according to the Biblical account – Yahweh says, “Not so fast.  You need to be circumcised if you expect to represent me.  You have no other path to victory – or survival – than in representing me.”  For any who wonder, circumcision is surgery without anesthesia.  These guys must disarm, undergo a painful procedure, and remain vulnerable for seven days of recuperation.  Of course God says He will protect them but it is not rocket science to comprehend the degree of repentance – re-focus – obedience will entail.

 

The week passes; they are raring to go into battle again.  Their God says, once again, “Not so fast.  It is time for Passover.  You need to spend the next week in camp – dressed for partying rather than battle – worshipping and praising me for delivering you from the Egyptians.  You can refuse and do what you think will work for you, or you can do what I say will work for you.  By the way, how has your way worked for you over the last four centuries?”  Again their God promises to protect them but only in the context of their obedience.  Again a mega expression of repentance – re-focus – is the call.

 

Once more the fruit is good; after the week of celebration they understand it is finally time to go out and conquer Jericho.  Yet one more time God says, in effect, “Not so fast.  The way I want you to attack is to march around the city seven times, worshipping me as you go.  I will protect you if you obey me but you are on your own – having placed yourselves beyond My protection – if you do as you think best.  On the seventh day blow your trumpets – of worship – one more time and see what I will do for you.”

 

Anyone knowing the old song about how “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho,” knows the walls came tumbling down.  Once again extra Biblical sources agree on the outcome though they fail to catch the echo of repentance – massive repentance – that enables these former slaves to do the counter-intuitive thing leading to massive victory.  The river crossing is finally complete in this event but the pattern of repentance as a lifestyle – or at least the call to repentance – is established in the life of a newborn nation.

 

This series of events – this escalating process of repentance – is starkly independent of any sins committed by Israel in the desert, back in Egypt, or preceding their time of captivity.  It is all about focusing and re-focusing our attention on our God simply because He is where it needs to be and we can never pay too much attention to Him as our focal point.

 

Repentance is not limited to showing remorse for bad behavior, nor for failure to act well.  Reality is the most significant acts of repentance bear no connection to sins of commission or omission.  The word comes from both Hebrew and Greek and carries the same meaning – to turn about or reverse course.  Pragmatically speaking it calls for re-focus of attention in a new direction.  For people of faith that re-focus is toward God.

 

It’s a great story but what is the takeaway?

 

The same God who called for the counter-intuitive moves that resulted in victory – because they re-focused the people’s attention on God rather than some implicit quality of courage expressed by walking into a flooding river or playing the trumpets beneath a city wall with arrow fire incoming – calls for that lifestyle of re-focus and re-pentance in each of the persons He has made.  He offers a life of abundance not as a reward for obedience but as a consequence of doing it His way instead of our own.

 

There is a catch.  He says to Americans and Australians – and the rest of us – as He once said to a band of former slaves stalled on the banks of the Jordan River, “You can try it my way or you can try it your way.  My way ends in resurrection but you only get there after abandoning your way.  How has your way been working out for you?”

 

God has promised His people all over the world something larger than a river crossing into a promised land of milk and honey.  He has promised an EndTimes harvest – the Greatest Awakening – that will activate the prophecy of Joel 2:28 and John 14:12-14.  Specifically Jesus tells the Twelve and those who come aboard as disciples down to this very day that they will do the things they have seen Him do and greater things than these.  He promises to pour out the fullness of His Spirit on all flesh.  All this will take place before His return.  But the catch remains.  The Greatest Awakening follows – it does not precede – a period of profound re-focus of attention in the Body of Christ.

 

The crisis over marriage is God’s provision of occasion for re-focus.

 

James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, and Kingdom in Pursuit – available at local bookstores or by e-mailing him at praynorthstate@gmail.com