We arrived home safely from Spokane, to a very happy son. Something about the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl. I was wondering why there were so many blue and green jerseys walking around . . . I thought there was a sale.
Anyway, I was prepared to continue with Amos, but then I got to thinking about the dream I posted in “The Church in Ruins.” It may leave some people wondering, what’s wrong with the church? So, I thought I’d share this.
When the Lord first called me to a season of prayer, He told me I’d encounter persecution because of it, but not to worry. This was all part of His plan in the lives of my persecutors.
I never dreamed the persecution would come from my own church leadership. Nor did I think it would come with such zeal.
Reeling from shock, to the point of questioning my sanity, I was encouraged by the Lord to trust Him—and take a closer look at Paul. What I discovered amazed me.
Paul was a Pharisee, and the son of a Pharisee. A member of the Jewish working class, bent on the idea of holiness through the strict adherence to the letter of the Law of Moses. A man had to live a life above reproach to be invited into this elite group, and Paul was at the top of the list. Just ask him.
When this radical Jesus came on the scene with His message of grace and forgiveness of sin through Himself, it flew in the face of everything Paul had lived his life for. There was only one way to please God, and the Jews had been doing it that way for centuries!
If Paul had been obeying God all his life, this new teaching must be against God. Otherwise, he had lived his life in vain. It followed that Paul would do whatever it took—down to murder—to preserve his concept of God. He would receive authority to do so from the Chief Priest, so it must be God’s will.
But was Paul obeying God?
I’d bought into the image of the temple, the priests, the sacrifices, and ritual. But, God showed me that just because His temple was all pretty and His priests were wearing all the right garments and performing all the right ceremonies, it didn’t necessarily follow that God was there. The scribes and Pharisees weren’t the only “whited sepulchres” Jesus was up against. But that’s another blog.
The focus here, is what happened when Greece conquered the Media Persians. In a radical attempt to Hellenize the Jews, Antiochus Epiphanes fulfilled (for the first time) Daniel’s prophecy concerning the abomination of desolation, by erecting a statue of Zeus in God’s temple and sacrificing swine on the altar of God.
More importantly, he removed the true High Priest, Onias (ordained by God), and this office, created and sanctified by God, became a puppet operation, basically open to the highest bidder. He later had Onias killed.
Now, the Jews weren’t merely an ordained people going through the motions with no real relationship with God. Now, they had subjected themselves to a power operating under the guise of God’s authority. In short, anti-Christ.
It was this power to which Paul went for written authority to murder those crazy people whose faith flew in the face of his tradition.
Paul was completely convinced in his heart that he was serving God.
Then what happened?
He met Jesus.
In an incredible move of irony, Jesus opens Paul’s eyes to the truth by blinding him with a light that outshone the noonday sun.
How did Paul respond to the Lord? What’s the meaning of this? Do you know who I am? I have papers! How dare you get in my way!
No. He asked one question.
“Who are You, Lord?”
Paul’s response to Christ was what turned a radical, hate-filled Pharisee, guarding his precious tradition, into a Holy Spirit-filled instrument for the Kingdom of God.
After three days of fasting and prayer, Paul was about as humble as he could get. He was ready to let go of religion and see things God’s way. It was then that God opened Paul’s eyes.
What he did next reassured me that I was not only hearing God, but that I was hearing correctly.
In Galatians 1:15-17 Paul tells us,
“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,
“To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
“Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.”
What? Paul didn’t go to seminary? He didn’t go to Peter, to find out what God was saying? He went to Arabia? What’s in Arabia?
The primitive Hebrew root of Arabia is the same as, “to braid, or intermix—to exchange pledges, and have fellowship.” It carries the idea of covering with texture.
Mt. Sinai is in Arabia, and it’s theorized that Paul went there, seeking God—possibly for forty days (the number of human probation).
First, Paul asks, “Who are You, Lord?” Then, his eyes open to the emptiness of “the Jews’ religion” (see Gal. 1:13), he goes to the source to find out for himself.
That is where I am. On Mt. Sinai. Seeking the face of God.
Religion can’t save me. Church activities can’t fulfill me. The best speakers and seminars can’t make me know Christ, and who I am in Him.
I admit, there are times I miss being one of the crowd. I am a social creature. But, before I can communion fully with others, I must first learn to be with the One who created me for communion. Or rather, be in Him.
Then, when I come down from the mountain, I won’t just be communing with others—I’ll be loving them.
God’s grace and peace be with you,