Living Witnesses and His Secret Place

Israel 2014 May 015-001Hayden Planetarium, in New York City, some time ago, offered applications for those who desired to make the journey to another planet, when the opportunity would arise. 18,000 applicants applied and were subsequently interviewed by a panel of psychologists who measured their mental status for making such a trip. When asked why they desired to leave this planet and start a life somewhere else, the vast majority replied that they were totally discouraged with life on planet earth.

Discouragement is not a respecter of persons. Anyone who has lived any length of time, will have been subject to situational experiences that can impact life and devalue the very zest and joy for living. Broken relationships, failed dreams, betrayal, the loss of a loved one- all of these are but a few examples of circumstances that can rob us of enjoying life to it’s fullest.

Yet, I feel that more times than not,chronic discouragement is not caused by a singular event but is symptomatic of a much deeper wound that is rooted in unfulfilled expectations and hopelessness and a sensing that nobody understands my situation nor experienced my pain. In other words, I am the only one to have walked my walk. More than once in counseling sessions, I have been told that nobody understands.

We only have to examine the words of two great pillars of the faith to understand the error of such thought. John Calvin,a great theologian said,” In addition to the great troubles by  which I am consumed, there is almost no day on which some new pain or anxiety afflicts me.” The great teacher Spurgeon said, “Depression creeps over my heart and dreadfully weakens me.” There is a cost involved concerning our walk of faith, and there are times when things don’t go as planned. But the Apostle Paul, in II. Timothy 1:7 says this. ” God has not given us the spirit of fear( the cousin of depression) but of love, power, and of a sound mind.” Let me make it very simple. Jesus did not die for you or me to live our lives in a perpetual state of depression. It is natural that depression can impact any of us emotionally through life’s events, but it should never be accepted as natural or a part of your experience with Jesus.

Today, I want to share practically and spiritually how depression can be effectively dealt with once and for all. Practically speaking, there are many scriptures that teach us about hope, encouragement, and trust but recently, one stood out in the midst of me feeling sorry for myself. I know that none of you reading this deal with such struggles, but for me ,I just felt all alone in my circumstances and it seemed that there was no one to understand. Then the Holy Spirit drew me to Hebrews 12:1-2. ” Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses to the life of faith surrounding us, let us lay aside any weight (depression, fear, anxiety) that slows us down. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.” Suddenly, fond memories of those who have shaped my spiritual walk for almost 50 years, flooded my heart and spirit. Those guideposts who helped me to understand the Christian walk, seemed to appear before me, one by one, extorting me on to His higher calling for my life. I was both elated and guilty at the same time. So many have given me so much out of their richness of faith, and here I was forgetting all the relational miracles (witnesses) that Jesus had placed in my life. Suddenly, in the light of their examples of overcoming faith and endurance, my petty grievances faded away into a sea of thankfulness and love! Faith isn’t just a blind leap but a record of living testimonies beginning in scripture and impacting our lives today by His Living Witnesses, who have been through history, a living pledge to us that we can make it; men and women,who defied their culture to live Jesus Christ before a disbelieving world. And that is why their testimonies found in Hebrews chapter 11, have been labeled chapter wise, “The Christian Hall of Fame.”

Spiritually speaking, there is a place that the Holy Spirit wants to take you to. It is a place only seen by the Believer. It is a place only understood by those who know Him. The Psalmist said in Chapter 91:1-2 ” He who dwells in the “Secret Place” of the most Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. There, He is He is my refuge and and my fortress-my God and in Him, I will trust.” Now, here is an important key spiritually. Moses, part of that cloud of witnesses, in Hebrews 11:23-27 is described as seeing the King invisible or “seeing Him who is unseen.” How was that possible and how is it possible for us to hear His voice and perceive and see our Lord’s plan for us? Exodus 33 :7 tells us that Moses would leave the familiarity of the camp and pitch a tent away from the people to wait and hunger for God to speak in that “Secret Place.” He left all the distractions of life to go away to wait and seek the Lord. If we want more of Him, we must be willing to put down those distractions that rob us from intimacy with Him. I believe that depression takes over when we are like a hamster on the proverbial wheel- spinning in our circumstances and unable to take time for that Secret Place.

Hebrews 13:12-13 tells us, “so that Jesus might sanctify the people through His shed blood, suffered outside the gate, so therefore, let us go outside the camp and bear the disgrace He bore.” Simply, be willing to leave the familiar set of daily routines and seek Him in that Secret Place. In I. Corinthians 3:3, Paul rebuked the church for being like “mere men”-settling for status quo and spiritual mediocrity. Let us be willing to seek Him out and hunger for Him in that Secret Place where the King is made visible to all who seek Him. With that approach to life, there is no time left to become depressed.

Realizing the Living Testimonies who have given us spiritual life and seeking Him in that Secret Place-which is really a place of your choosing where His Presence is welcomed and unhindered, are two important keys that I have found to overcome those events in life that would curtail the every day joy that is mine in Jesus Christ.

The Silencing of the American Conscience (2)

“If you say the wrong thing in America today, you could be penalized, fired, or even taken to court. Political correctness is running rampant, and it is absolutely destroying this nation. In his novel, 1984, George Orwell imagined a future world where speech was greatly restricted.

He refers to the language of  the  totalitarian state as “Newspeak”, and it bears a striking resemblance to the political correctness that we see in America right now.

According to Wikipedia, Newspeak is ” a reduced language created by the totalitarian state as a tool to limit free thought, and concepts that pose a threat to the regime such as freedom, self expression, and individuality. Any form of thought alternative to the party’s construct is classified as “thought crime”. As of now, people are not being hauled off to prison for what they say, but we are perilously close to that becoming reality.

Every day the mainstream media bombards us with subtle messages about what we should believe and what ‘appropriate speech ‘ consists of. Sadly, most of the American public is falling in line with this unwritten speech code”.

Michael Snyder (American Dream August 14, 2013)

I remember George Orwell and his chilling Novel, 1984- but few of us in my generation, took it very seriously. As I shared about my experiences in Buchenwald concentration camp in 1995 (last blog), few prisoners that I talked with believed in 1938 that the Nazi reign of terror was about to fall upon their race and country. We are watching a sickening repeat of one of history’s greatest tragedies.

No longer is free debate a given in our culture, but rather, if you do not say what is politically expedient or correct, you are shouted down, ridiculed, or called a bigot racist, or un-American. To challenge some of the absurdity going around today, compare what Holy Scripture’s account of society at the end of time has to say. Romans chapter 1, verses 21-25 states,” Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were they thankful, but became futile( incapable of producing any useful result; pointless) in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…exchanging the truth of God for a lie.”

I am sure that you have your own examples of what the “thought police” are up to, but let me add a few to your list. Janet Napolitano, University of California President and former Obama government official, recently stated that some scientists who do not believe in climate change, were worthy of jail. The California state legislature, is considering a ban on using “Mr. and Mrs.” because the terms create gender bias. A professor at Ball State University was recently banned from mentioning the concept of “intelligent design” because it violates” academic integrity.” A high school track team was disqualified earlier this year because one of the runners made a gesture  thanking God, once he crossed the finish line. A student at Sonoma State University was ordered to take off a cross that she was wearing, because it might offend someone. A teacher in New Jersey was fired for giving his own Bible to a student that did not own one.

The plan is very simple. Silence the American Conscience through intimidation, fear, and ridicule. P.D. James writes,” I believe that political correctness can be a form of linguistic terrorism, and it sends shivers down the spine of my generation who went to war against fascism.” Jaacques Barzun added,” Political Correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred.”

Glen Beck said it best. ” Political Correctness doesn’t change us-it shuts us up.” I challenge all of us who believe in individualism and freedom of thought to not fall under the” trance of political correctness.” As believers, there are two aspects to keep in mind. First, Jesus told us that towards the end of time and his Second Coming, we would experience unparalleled spiritual warfare, but He promised to be our Strength. Secondly, the church’s greatest moments have come through history, when we have been on the fringe of culture providing restoration and healing for broken lives and hearts. Our culture is in need of cleansing and purifying, and it is the church that can bring that about. This is going to be our finest hour, if we surrender in obedience to His will and calling. It is time for Revival; It is time for the church to go on the offensive because we have the mind of Christ, and our thinking is not clouded by futility. Proverbs 16:3 tells us,” Commit your ways to the Lord and He will establish your thoughts.”

George Orwell might not have been a spiritual giant, but is writings have given us ample warning concerning the times in which we live. The Word of God has given us the antidote for futile thinking, and our Testimony practically challenges the kingdoms of this world. For 2,000 years, the church has never been silenced, and no social or political directive from any worldly system will be able to silence our message now.

The Silencing of the American Conscience

GatehouseSaying the Wrong thing these days can get you in a lot of trouble. To be specific, the Tyranny of Political Correctness is running rampant, denying the freedom of thought, expression, and speech. It is the same tyranny rooted in Marxism and which also began in Germany just before the Nazi reign of terror. In fact it was a precursor to the hijacking of the German Conscience in the late 1930’s-ending in the deaths of millions worldwide.

Let me state up front that I am not a Conspiracy Theorist, but I have experienced up close the insidious nature and end result of government sponsored political correctness. In this, the first of two blogs on this subject, I want to take you with me to Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Eastern Germany. It is April 1995 and I, along with 5,000 ex-prisoners, and 38 former American liberators, were part of a 50 year celebration anniversary of the liberation of Buchenwald. Please excuse the length of this blog, but I want you to first grasp the end result of what happens when a nation’s Conscience is silenced by tyranny. Therefore, I am re posting this article which I wrote several years ago.

Jedem das Seine-“Everyone Gets What He Deserves”

It’s as plain as the nose on your face, or so some psychologists say. Smells can bring to mind memories long since forgotten. In fact, various scents have a greater ability to bring about remembrance than seeing an image or hearing a voice. I had no idea how the truth of those words would soon impact my life.

I will never forget the date nor the bone chilling cold that swept across the now barren parade grounds in the early morning hours of April 18th, 1995. As we entered the old barracks with the towering brick smoke stack, it was no longer 1995, but the specter of World War II and the nightmare that was Hitler’s death camp lay before me. There, rising just several yards in front of me, stood four red brick ovens with small black doors that represented Hitler’s “final solution” in Buchenwald for 60,000 Jews, Christians, and other political prisoners. What I was about to experience the next few days, would impact my heart and understanding of the Holocaust forever.

Myself and a friend, accompanied a former Jewish prisoner at Buchenwald, to Weimer, Germany for the 50th anniversary of the death camp’s liberation by American soldiers in April 1945. Buchenwald was located just a few kilometers north of Weimer on a beautiful plateau that overlooked the village below. It was out of our love and respect for our friend Joe, and our desire to share our faith with anyone who would listen, that brought us on this epic journey.

Joe’s experience at Buchenwald and several other interment camps, plus a forced march that had taken the lives of 24,000 fellow prisoners, had deeply scarred his understanding of God as his Heavenly Father. Though he had survived those horrors, the years which followed were a living nightmare. Now we were at the place of his torment, and each visual reminder only added to the internal pain buried deep within.

As Joe and I stood on the parade grounds and viewed where the prisoner’s barracks once stood, he began to tell me his story. He began with the moment he had been taken off the train and walked through the camp’s heavy iron gates engrained with the words, “Jedem das sceine,” or Everyone gets what he deserves.

Joe’s duties included daily collection of dead bodies from the barracks after roll call at 4:00 am and then taking them to the crematorium for disposal. Ironically, standing before us was an old cart identical to the one that Joe had used. He had often thought how lucky were those who died on their beds of straw, because no one could rob them any longer of their dignity and respect.

Early in the morning, just before the ceremony was to begin, Joe and I went back to place a bouquet of flowers in front of the ovens as a tribute to his comrades and friends. It would be a walk that I would not soon forget. As we approached an area overgrown with brush, Joe stopped and stared. In the midst of the undergrowth, was a huge steel cage, big enough to house a large animal. With trembling lips, Joe muttered, ” There’s where dey kept dem damn dogs!” Then, he pulled back his coat sleeve revealing a gaping hole in his forearm. One morning, just for sport, a prison guard had released a German Shepherd from the cage and told him to attack Joe. The damage had been extensive.

A short distance away was a small amphitheater . In chilling detail, Joe explained its purpose. Sunday mornings, after German officers had attended the official government church, they would gather in the amphitheater at Buchenwald , along with their families and enjoy an afternoon of entertainment at the prisoner’s expense. Just behind the arena, stood several larger cages, and in those cages, were kept giant Russian brown bears, towering nearly eight feet tall. The entertainment was simple- each family was allowed to pick one prisoner to be placed in the center and torn apart by the bears. Nailed to a nearby tree, was a picture of of one of the camp’s bears whose large body and frightening face revealed the terror likely felt by the prisoner’s before their brutal deaths. In addition, each officer’s child was allowed to pick out a prisoner for hanging on the gallows nearby.

Just before we entered the crematorium, a man carrying a Ukrainian flag approached Joe, and both men embraced and began to weep. Fifty years before, they had been prisoners at Buchenwald in the very same barracks and had experienced the horrors together. Now, as free men, both were seeking that same freedom emotionally and spiritually,

Then, another man approached us and gestured towards the giant red chimney. His words sent chills down my spine. He pointed towards the metal ladder attached to the chimney and related how each morning the camp guards climbed the ladder carrying a large basket. At the very top, using a large ladle like spoon, they would scrape the chimney walls collecting human fat that had collected over night. The fat was then placed on moldy bread and fed to the prisoners. I thought to myself– such brutality only resonates from minds that have been numbed to the truth espousing only the party line. 

As we entered the crematorium, the silence was deafening; save for Joe’s murmurings.. It was his first trip back to the nightmare that had robbed him of so much of his youth. Now on this visit, Joe was addressing the demons that had kept him in bondage for so many years. As I walked around the large dark room, I wished that the walls could reveal the hidden secrets of of those brave souls who had perished in Hitler’s ovens. Then it happened. I will never forget the smell. I first convinced myself that it was my mind and emotions playing a cruel trick on me. I took several breaths believing that each would dispel what I was thinking and smelling. Suddenly, the door opened and in walked a man that we had talked with the night before. Jim was one of 38 American veterans who had been invited for the anniversary. He had been one of the first soldiers through the iron gates of Buchenwald during the camp’s liberation– an experience that had haunted him ever since. In the early morning fog, directly in front of him, lay a pit approximately 40 feet across and 20 feet deep filled with emaciated bodies, many dead but some still moving. The night before, Jim had shared his story with us concerning the trauma of that experience. He had been so overwhelmed that neither his parents, nor his wife, had ever known the details. In a small restaurant, in downtown Weimer, Jim released his burden and pain and asked Christ into his life. It was Jim’s time and one Divine Appointment had allowed us to meet.

I walked over to Jim and placed my arm on his shoulder, as tears streamed down his face. He explained that it wasn’t returning to the crematorium that, after so many years, that upset him as much as the smell– the very same smell that he remembered 50 years before. He said that the ovens had been filled with burning bodies that fateful morning and the smell of burning flesh was so strong that he nearly fainted. In some bizarre way, I was identifying with his feelings, because I too was experiencing the same thing.

I cannot say that I fully understand what happened that cold April morning in Buchenwald. But I will add that the smell stayed with me for months after returning home. And even today, at family cookouts, I have a hard time with the smells.

Now, years later, as I look back over my experiences at Buchenwald, several thoughts come to mind. We were, first of all, ambassadors for Christ before Joe. Secondly, through a Divine Appointment, an American soldier was set free from 50 years of emotional torture. But thirdly–we gained a  new understanding of what can take place when a whole nation loses it’s understanding of truth and righteousness. We saw first hand what happens when the conscience of a nation is silenced by the roar of the crowd and the loss of self expression, as well as the ability to think for oneself and express individual ideas.

The killing chambers of Buchenwald will forever make me a witness for the innocent who died there, because for a few short days, I relived their story! Today, from Hitler’s ovens, to the slave labor camps in North Korea and China, to the holocaust happening presently in the Middle East, and to every other place in the world where freedom of speech is being silenced through an aberration called Political Correctness, it is imperative that we stand up for our God given rights so that the German atrocity of Hitler’s Holocaust may never happen again. Remember–we do get what we deserve,and apathy, indifference, or ignorance can never be an excuse!

In 1952, Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson spoke these words. ” A free society, is a society where it’s safe to be unpopular.” Political Correctness is quickly eroding that premise. My next blog will deal directly with the nature of political correctness, and it’s danger to our personal freedom.

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I Want What You Have

CSC_0475It was like most other Wednesday nights when Youth Group was over. It was the early 1970’s. The Vietnam war was  dragging on and America was divided racially, politically, and culturally. Yet something very distinctly spiritual was happening among  denominational young people as well as Catholic youth-both of which were leaving institutional religion by the tens of thousands-seeking spiritual answers.        It was after our weekly youth meetings, that we would go to a restaurant called Lujans, which had a big room in the back, and there we would occupy until closing time, sharing with each other the amazing things that Jesus was doing in our lives. Literally, we would be there until the management let us know that it was closing time. Our passion,love for one another, and expressed desire to share with anyone who would listen about Jesus made us loud and obnoxious at times, but no one could deny that what we had was from the heart and authentic.

We had been touched by a movement, not created by man, but released from the depths of heaven. Some referred to it as “The Jesus Movement” while others called it simply “The Charismatic Movement”. Whatever title you gave it, our youth group, meeting out of a Methodist church and filled with Catholic young people, had given up religious “mediocrity and status quo religion.” We had claimed to be Christ followers, but now everything had changed. We had fallen in love with the one we had professed and the change could not be expressed in words.                                                        

During one of our Lujan’s adventures, a young waitress walked over to my table and asked if she could address the whole group. Because there were over 70 of us, it took a moment to quiet everyone down. Then she spoke with trembling lips and tearful eyes. She began, ” I have observed from a distance, for weeks your joy and overheard some of your testimonies. I am not a religious person, but I so desperately need what you have.” That was a night that I will never forget, because right there, in the middle of a restaurant, we shared our faith and led her to Christ.                                       

Those were amazing times. Thousands were being baptized in the Pacific Ocean, through the Ministry of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, revival broke out in all different types of churches, and people of all backgrounds were experiencing something called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. In a time of national crisis and division, we were unified under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In my circle of influence, it was a time when inviting people to church seemed rather strange, because so many individuals were being drawn by the joy, enthusiasm, and passionate love being modeled, that our bigger problem was finding rides for so many new believers that wanted to go to Youth or Church. More times than not my little Corvair had so many young people in it, that I could still be in jail if the police had stopped me and taken a count!

Recently, I have witnessed more than one church develop slickly produced ad campaigns to get people to come to church. Their people are pressed to “hit the streets” and get the lost to come. With deep nostalgia, I have to admit that such campaigns leave me with a sense of frustration and sadness. Because, you see, “you can’t give to others what you don’t personally possess.” The Good News cannot be mass produced and packaged in such a way that those sharing the message don’t have any personal role in changing lives. It is a Person not a program that touches hearts. Let me explain.                                                                                                   

I had received Christ, as my personal Savior sometime in 1968, but for several years I felt that there was more. I knew that in accepting Jesus, my life had changed forever, but I sensed there was something else waiting for me-It was that “something” that had gotten a hold of my heart and those in my youth group years before and filled us with a passionate desire to share our faith.               

I want to Introduce you to my friend the Holy Spirit. If you know Him- the Third part of the Holy Trinity, you know where I am headed. The Word tells us that the very Spirit that Raised Christ from the dead dwells in you and me, and that same Spirit wants to flow out of and through you to others Naturally Supernaturally!

I knew that I had received the Holy Spirit when I had received Jesus, but, in my spiritual innocence, I also knew that there was more that God wanted to do. It was when I first met a little old lady who probably weighed 90 pounds dripping wet, that my spiritual walk was turned upside down. I was fearful of her because she and her husband, who was an eye doctor, prayed for people, and they were supposedly healed. This notion was counter to my denominational teaching and background. She asked me if I had the power. Power? What Power? Then she asked if she could pray for me. She began in English and suddenly switched to another language. I had never heard of”speaking in tongues”, but all I knew was that when she asked me to surrender all of me that He might flood me with His overflowing power- my passion, love for others, and desire to share Jesus transformed this shy and introverted guy forever!

My desire in this blog is not to debate whether the Holy Spirit Baptism is a valid experience. For me and a band of youth in the 1970’s and millions of others it has been; whether experienced at Spiritual Rebirth or another time. My desire is to challenge you that if you feel spiritually empty or powerless more times than not, The Holy Spirit wants to overflow out of you as rivers of living water-with Spiritual intimacy that you have never known.

Today, following Jesus, in this culture, is getting increasingly difficult. Therefore, we need every spiritual weapon at our disposal. And it is so simple. He is simply waiting for you to invite Him to fill You with all that He has for you.

Let me conclude with this quote from a seminary professor of mine, Dr.J. Rodman Williams. “In the face of rising secularism, Communist aggression, and Muslim extremism in the Middle East- Believers today must know the Spirit that possessed the Believers in the book of Acts. Our need today is unmistakable- We need all that God has for us to do battle. We need to be reintroduced again to that Spirit that captured the hearts of believers in the early church!” I want all that He has for me, and I hope you do! Spirit Fall on each of us reading these words-NOW!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Katharos-” A Heart That is Singular to the Purpose of God”

Twenty Years ago, with the dawning of  “Social Media”, our ability to communicate with one another radically changed in a moment’s time. The vastness of our world seemed to dissolve overnight into a vast array of new terminology. Gone were the days of the telephone hanging on the kitchen wall; replaced by such terms as “Facebook, username, twitter, tags, blogging, cell phones, and the like. And while most of us would agree that our gadgets are quite helpful, the advent of the Internet has brought about a social transformation that has blurred the lines socially, morally, and spiritually of the character and fabric of this great nation.
So then, why do I want to toss my hat into the ring, so to speak, by adding my thoughts through my weekly blog called “Katharos?” The answer can be found in the previous paragraph. From my vantage point of being a “Christ Follower” for nearly fifty years, I want to share the knowledge that I have gleaned from many experiences- good and  bad, that I might help to bring Biblical clarity to those tough issues that we are facing today in our culture. By no means am I claiming that I have all the answers, nor do I expect you reading my thoughts to always agree with me, but it is my heart’s desire that our hearts come in alignment with His and hopefully together that Truth can set us free!
“Katharos”-It is all about our Heart becoming like His. The English translation for this word is “pure”. It means being free from anything that soils or corrupts. The Sixth Beatitude of The Sermon on the Mount is where we see this word used. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” While this verse is often used to denote, “one who is free from the pollution of guilt and sin,” the term “heart” in both the Old and New Testament sense refers to man’s innermost soul. Simply stated then, the eye of those pure in heart becomes free from anything that would cloud or impede it’s understanding in the pursuit of truth, which in turn brings clarity of thought and purpose. Within this sermon, Jesus explains the pure in heart as the eye single to the truth. And if the eye is single towards the truth, the body is full of light and the confusion and blurred lines cease!
My Purpose therefore, is very simple. I want to encourage each of us to develop a heart that is single to the truth of the Gospel by unraveling complex issues clouded by our present culture and media bias, and growing us in obedience to hear that clarion trumpet sound and discerning His voice over the roar of the crowd . Hang with me; I’m not sure of where He is taking me on this journey, but one thing I do know is that when we know His Heart on an issue, the blurred lines fade in the face of His justice and truth. My desire is to blog weekly, and I welcome your comments and questions.My first blog will follow soon.Zack Rinehart_00000008Jack Rinehart