In the last couple weeks the Lord has woke me up several times from a deep sleep. Some people see long detailed visions or dreams, but that rarely happens with me. When God leaves a thought in my mind though, it is clear what He has said and I know it is something that He means for me to follow up on. One of those times here a handful of days ago, I woke up with the words, “Strange Fire” ringing in my head. I knew where it came from because of how it fits in with other things that He has drawn my attention to lately.
Most of the posts I have put on this blog-site since I started it three months ago have had to do with world-events and how they are pointing to the fact that the Messiah Jesus, is about to intervene in the affairs of this dying world, in a way that this world has not ever seen. People have different opinions on the how’s and when’s of the Lord’s return and how it all unfolds, but as it all comes about, our eyes will be opened more and more.
The last three posts were titled, “What Does God Want From Me Anyway?” Without going back over the materials written, I attempted to touch on some things that people think about, and for many, answers being searched for. That’s a good place to be. We should always look for answers to the questions that trouble us—especially when they have to do with us and our relationship with the God that created us to begin with.
This post will actually be a continuation of the last three, but has a different title. Since God thought it important enough to wake this old guy up with it, let’s take a look at it.
In the Old Testament we find many things that modern man has a hard time relating to—especially when God strikes people dead. In our “right’s” oriented life-view, we take great offense to some of God’s actions. We in our western cultural view have strong opinions on things needing to be “fair”. I have found that God is not “fair”, and that offends us greatly! God is however, “just”. We need to remember that, because as the world digresses deeper into darkness, many times we will wonder where God’s “fairness” is with things that we see happen and how they affect people’s lives. Remember, and don’t ever forget: GOD IS ALWAYS JUST. He is also always right! Whether we have the nerve to admit it or not, we many times think that God made a serious error in judgment with something that we witnessed. Really!?! We need to remember that He is the only one that has the complete view of everything that is happening. We see very little, and that really affects our judgment of God’s actions—or seeming lack thereof., whichever the case.
I won’t go into a study of the difference between “fairness” and “justness” in this post, but will use the Biblical story of God killing two of the sons of Aaron, because of “strange fire” that they initiated into what God was doing with the people. Let’s look at what the Bible says: “…Moses and Aaron then went into the Tent of Meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown. Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized (or strange) fire before the LORD, contrary to His command. So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Moses then said to Aaron, ‘ This is what the LORD spoke of when He said: “Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.” Aaron remained silent.’” (Leviticus 9:23-10:3 NIV)
We read this and take God’s actions as pretty extreme. We wonder what about these two men caused them to earn an instant death-penalty! Yet, apparently something did. Let’s take a look at it, and see what we can learn. Hopefully we can then also see how this applies to our modern day lives as well.
As already stated, God had set up a standard which He gave to Moses which covered everything having to do with their daily lives as well as their religious observances. Many of the observances were quite detailed and were highly symbolic of what was still to come—the ultimate and permanent Sacrifice of the Messiah Himself, at His first coming to this earth.
This story showed how Aaron had done things exactly as God prescribed, and as a result God responded supernaturally, by lighting the sacrifice Himself right in front of everyone present. The people were overcome with God’s Presence and responded in ways that would have made many of today’s educated and proper church people very uncomfortable. God’s glory was seen by everyone there and they could not help but shout praises, fall down on the floor and prostrate themselves before their great God, and worship Him with every fiber of their being! All was okay to this point, but then…
Aaron’s sons, seeing the tremendous response of the people, made the assumption that they could get in on the happenings and create more of the same. They made several mistakes when they did this:
- In the process of divine services did what was not commanded by God
- Offered strange fire—that of their own making and not the fire of the altar, before Jehovah
- Offered incense at the wrong time and place
- Failed to sanctify themselves before Jehovah and the congregation who were in a state of spiritual ecstacy
- Got drunk and sought to carry on the holy services in this state
In spite of the fact that most of us would think that the actions of Aaron’s sons were not all that bad and shouldn’t have been worthy of such a severe and sudden consequence, their actions were much more serious than we see just with a quick read through the passage. I won’t take each one of these items individually at this time because I am already way late in getting this post out, but their representation of God was sadly lacking. God had chosen a nation of people through Abraham centuries earlier, to become the vehicle for the Messiah to come into the world through. The Israelites were no more special than any other nation—as one can see by their many strayings away from their God. Many have said that they especially were examples of how badly mankind needed God’s intervention.
Back to the story…Nadab and Abihu decided to get in on the act and tried to produce the same kind of results that God had, but sadly by using human means. For the moment, forget the thing that we would notice first, their intoxicated condition. For the moment forget the fact that God had not told them to do what they were doing. Also forget the fact that they had failed to sanctify themselves before God and the congregation as was required of them, just for this moment—. What was the deal with this thing called, “STRANGE FIRE”?
God was very specific in the fact that He Himself was the One that was to ignite the fire and thereby initiate the consummation of the sacrifice on the altar. When Aaron’s sons put incense into their containers and then lit the fire themselves, they were attempting to draw the people’s attention away from God and what He had just done before them all, and to themselves instead. This is a classic example of what people do in their “service to God”, when they can’t get the results themselves. It’s a great temptation to do it for ourselves! I have been a “man of the cloth”, for many years now, and I have heard countless programs and gimmicks people have used over the years to con people into attending church, or to support a big financial program.
I want to get one thing straight right off the bat, and hope not to be misquoted by people reading some of the things that I am going to say. I am not condemning all programming, nor am I against special means to get the masses together as God makes it possible. I’m also not against all building programs! So, hopefully this has been gotten out of the way.
I would like to explain to you why I believe God woke me up with the statement, “STRANGE FIRE” ringing in my ears. First of all, I’m not the only one that is addressing this. I’m not unique; I’m nobody special; I’m not someone that considers themselves up a notch or two above others. In fact, I quite often see it more to the contrary. But…I DID HEAR HIM, which means that He expects me to do something with it.
Our society demands everything in an instant. “Fast food” was an American invention, I believe. We want instant access to the internet. We get irritated if someone doesn’t answer their phone within two rings. Supermarkets know that people have no patience and so very quickly call another checker if they see three people or so in line to get checked out. I could go on.
I believe this carries into our church life—for those at least that go. We don’t like it if the song service is too long. We don’t want too much time spent on announcements, but make sure not to forget the special announcement that I happened to have included in the list! Then there is the sermon!! I’ve heard it said that if a preacher can’t get it said in 20 minutes then he’s failed in his delivery. Really? I’d love to hear someone tell Jesus that! He talked to the crowds for hours at a time, on several occasions, days at a time. The Apostle Paul spoke for eight hours one time and because of a man falling out of an upstairs window and getting killed, stopped the sermon, raised him from the dead right in front of everyone, and then went on! Today, churches want quick results—with everything, including with God.
We live in a success oriented society. We also believe in production, the quicker the better. In our western church world, we want to squeeze God into our time slots, and we want to do it in a big way. We hire people that do nothing but come up with programming and gimmicks to get people to show up at our church instead of the one down the street. I’ve watched over the years how big names have been used, just to draw crowds. Is it all wrong? No. What is wrong however is the fact that we claim not to have the time to spend in waiting on God to show up on the scene in HIS time. Because of the fact that He rarely comes quickly, we substitute other means of bringing the “presence of God”. Problem is, it is not the presence of God we have brought to the table, we have brought our manmade quick production schemes.
Folks, God has not changed, and He is no fool! People that really want God involved in their lives in a big way will wait for Him—however long it takes! What do we think brought the real moves of God throughout history? Was it accomplished by the person on the church payroll that is paid to arrange an unending schedule of “gimmicks”, big or small, that will keep people in OUR church instead of someone else’s? We give away bicycles, candy, prizes, and everything imaginable EXCEPT the One thing that really works. We push programming, special meetings with the famous coming to help us draw the crowds. We push, pull, cajole, entice, or anything else that might work to build our attendance numbers up.
We do the same thing with finances. The church has become as proficient at bringing in funds as politicians have! And I’ll add this: Many means that churches use to draw in the funds necessary to meet the budget bring as much distain for the churches as the politicians get from most of the population. Again, please understand that I’m not condemning all building programs, neither do I believe that all means of bringing funds in are wrong. I am involved with a number of honorable Christian endeavors myself. As Christians though, we have to make sure that what it is we are doing has God’s approval. We need His backing, or we’re wasting our time, and the money He’s blessed us with to live on.
What God is involved in, He will see funded! I have talked to many people who have been so hurt by the means used by some fund raising methods that churches or church organizations have used. I’ve seen big graphs put on a church wall, with amounts of money listed in columns at the top, and people’s names in the category that tells the amount of their giving. People are awarded diamond, gold, silver, brass, etc. awards for the amount of their giving! Those that could not give much because they did not have much were often belittled and told that they did not trust God enough! What a disgrace to the Name of Christ!
Here is a thought. What if we got rid of all our slick manmade programs that we have employed to take the place of God’s Spirit doing what He does best! Does God not answer prayer anymore? If He hasn’t answered ours for a while, maybe it is because we haven’t been giving Him the time of day! Maybe we gave Him a time-limit! Maybe we had a greater need for a special TV program than to meet with God! Maybe it makes us uncomfortable to pray longer than 5 minutes or so. Well, life has a way of leaving emergencies on our doorstep, and then all of a sudden, we find ourselves rearranging our priorities. That is what is going to hit America this year. We are in for some severe shocks. Sounds nuts does it? We’ll see soon enough.
Third world Christians figure that we in America have it the hardest because we have so much materially, that there is no end to the distractions that keep us from truly having a close walk with God. I think they may be right.
Many think that because we are dealing with “carnal” mankind, we need to use carnal means of reaching them. WRONG! Where is that in the Bible? To the contrary; we find in the book of Acts of the Apostles that all the great things that happened, did so on account of the people doing serious business with God. Has He changed? Simon the Sorcerer wanted the Baptism of the Holy Spirit so that he could use it as a gimic, but found out real quickly that he had better repent of the thought or he would become a casualty like Aaron’s sons. Aaron’s sons weren’t mentioned, but the seriousness of the charge against him was made very clear.
How many of the things that are done in the Name of Christ our Saviour would be classified as “strange fire” in God’s eyes? We need to be concerned about that. I think God’s viewpoint on many things is quite a bit different than ours is. If that is the case, then we’re in trouble. “What about grace?” you might ask. It is because of the grace of God that any of us even has a chance for eternal life with our Creator. Grace however was never designed to give us the right to become religious fools and misrepresent our God. The Scripture that says, “Without holiness, no man will see the Lord”, has not been removed from the Scriptures. It still applies. We have taken the wonderful gift of grace and put it up on a pedestal way above where we should. We have allowed things to get way out of balance. We are about to stand before the God that created us and most of us haven’t moved past first base, where we accepted Him as our Savior. What about looking into the Word of God to see how we stack up to what God expects out of us? There must be some reason why Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”. WHAT commandments? Most of us figure that grace covers anything and everything that we do. Where do we get that kind of theology?
Even if we were not facing the things on the horizon that we are, we should still become as desperate for God as Jacob was in the Old Testament. Jacob needed a heart change and he knew it. What about us? The extent of most of our prayer lives is to say grace off and on—and of course pray for help when we are in trouble. I happen to believe that the church in America is going to be loved so much by God, that He is going to shock the living daylights out of us! All of the things that we have used as props will be knocked out. Will you know how to pray then? How desperate will we get? How hard will it be then to pray for hours on end, if need be? How much will we be reading the Bible when all of a sudden the TV and internet is not available? Hmmm. Will our faith be in tact when we really have to depend on it, or is it just something we talk about and never use?
God is going to call every church to record for what is being preached and taught. We are entering a time in the history of the church when God’s power will once again be displayed as it was in the story of Ananias and Sapphira. Where are the powerful people of God today? I’ll bet they’re not the ones that are making names for themselves! I’ll also bet that they are not the ones that try so hard to present a “seeker-friendly” message! They are not the ones that go around the country building up little organizations for themselves, calling themselves apostles, and so collecting income from every one under their wing! God help us!
Then there are the prophets of today! What a sham! I believe in apostles and prophets, as well as the other ministries that the Word of God speaks of. What I don’t believe in is the self-proclaimed charlatans that are doing so much damage to the cause of Christ. God sees it all! Most churches today would greatly fear having a true prophet show up, because he wouldn’t be coddling anyone. What do you think the prophets of old were like? They were hated—BY THE CHURCH! Amazing. They threw Jeremiah into a pit and left him to die because of their hatred for him and what he had to say. Isaiah was cut in half in the middle of a log!
People in the Laodicean church of today want soft things said. They don’t want to hear anything tough. They don’t want to be corrected on anything. They don’t like the word “sin”, or “hell”. They don’t even believe that there truly is right and wrong. It is all relative! They don’t want to hear anything about how prophecy is being fulfilled every day in front of our eyes either! It would mean very tough times coming! Jesus said, “WATCH”, not avoid the subject!!
The Lord is coming after His bride real soon! He said that He is coming after a bride without spot or wrinkle! Where do we stand today? I’m afraid we don’t really know how badly we’ve become blemished by the world around us. Can we be recognized in a crowd or are we just like everyone else? What do people feel from having been around you?
I think often about Samson in the Old Testament. He played around, getting himself closer and closer to being disarmed until it was too late. How much has the world around disarmed us? I pray that we see the danger and fall to our knees today. I know that I don’t want to hear God’s disappointment in how I have lived my life! Yes, grace covers me, and Salvation is a gift. Yet, we are commanded to be imitators of HIM! Wow!
Let’s make sure that we go straight to the God of creation for the power to live a true Christian life. There’s a whole lot of “strange fire” being offered, and God hates it because it is not the real thing! Let’s make the commitment that we will become absolutely serious about our Christian walk from this moment on…