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Emergent- Reformed- Orthodox- Catholic stuff.

EMERGENT, REFORMED, ORTHODOX, CATHOLIC [part 1]

(1240) 2nd KINGS 1- The king of Israel is on his roof in Samaria and falls thru. He sends his men to inquire from a pagan god whether or not he will get healed. On the way Elijah meets them and tells them because he sought information from a forbidden source, he will die. They go back and the king realizes it was Elijah. So he sends 50 men to tell Elijah to come and see the king; Elijah calls down fire from heaven and they get ‘sacrificed’. This happens with the second group of 50 as well. The third group comes and says ‘please, we don’t want to die like the rest, just come and see the king for heavens sake’. Elijah goes. He tells the king that he will die because he sought foreign gods and rejected the true God. In Luke 9 the disciples ask Jesus ‘do you want us to call down fire from heaven and burn them up, like Elijah did’? They treated the story as literal. Why did the disciples ask this? Jesus was going to Jerusalem and he sent two men to Samaria, the same city where the king of Israel was associating himself with. The people did not welcome him because he had his mind already set on Jerusalem. The whole history of Israel and Judah [northern and southern tribes] involved a debate over where true worship occurred. Samaria was considered a low class place; the people had little respect in the eyes of the pure Jew. Jesus disciples saw nothing wrong with the death of these Samaritans. Jesus told them that his kingdom was not about getting rid of the ‘heretics’ but redeeming them. It seems strange that the disciples would even contemplate the death of these ‘illegals’, after all Jesus is going around healing and helping people who are considered low class. He is trying to instill this mindset into his men, but yet somehow on the road to the Kingdom they see no contradiction in thinking that part of the process would include the destruction of a whole society of people. Many sincere Christians/preachers seem to make this same mistake in their treatment of Muslims/Arabs. No matter how theologically wrong a certain class of people are, yet their destruction is not part of the plan. Let me also mention the error that many well meaning Catholics have fallen into in my part of the world. Over the years I have had the privilege of working with lots of brothers who have come from strong Mexican/Catholic backgrounds. Often times they would see nothing wrong with going to a ‘Catholic fortune teller’ or hiring someone to place a curse on an enemy. The Catholic Church expressly teaches against this. There are many differences between Catholics and Protestants; one of them is the teaching of asking the saints who have died to intercede for us. The Catholic Church does not teach ‘praying to the saints’ in the sense of praying to God for prayer to be answered. Many Catholics and Protestants are confused about this, many do think that praying to the saints is like asking God to answer a prayer. The official Catholic doctrine is you can ‘pray’ in the sense that you are asking a believer who has died to ‘pray for you’. In essence the doctrine teaches you can ask a believer who has died to pray for you, because in reality they are still alive. Okay, I personally don’t go for this, but I get the difference. Here close to Mexico there is a superstitious mixing of saints with actual occult practices [Santeria]. Many Catholics have a misguided understanding of seeking these practices and thinking they are Catholic in nature. They are not. So in this chapter we see that seeking wisdom from a pagan/occult source brought death upon the king. I want to warn all of our readers [both Catholic and Protestant] that the official teaching of both churches condemns doing this, don’t do it!

(1239) CATHEDRAL OF THE MIND- I came across this phrase the other day while reading some church history, I liked the idea that it expressed. These last few years I have ‘weaned’ myself off of the standard preaching shows. But I have watched/listened/read from theologians, both Catholic and Protestant [primarily from the Reformed tradition]. I include Eastern Orthodoxy under the subtitle of Catholic [though they would see it the other way around]. Now, the Christian church has had a voice of justice to the nations for many centuries. The Catholic Church gets credit for having a system in place that can speak cohesively and with authority to the nations. The Protestant church has yet to achieve this type of unity. But there are many noble scholars and teachers from the Protestant tradition that the average Protestant is unfamiliar with. Most of the preacher friends I know and have fellowshipped with over the years have spent lots of time listening and learning from the popular media channels, the books read and programs watched are for the most part modern success teachings. Much of it is void of the gospel as seen in the New Testament. During the Reformation you had a transition from the ‘church meeting’ that went from sacrament/Eucharist as being the central theme of the meeting, to preaching/pulpit as becoming the center. While this was a noble attempt to get the average church goer back to Gods word, it also produced a passivity in the life of the average believer. He became accustomed to thinking worship primarily consisted of going to a building and hearing a lecture. So even though the ancient Mass had some problems, the New Protestant church service had some of their own. Now, the ‘cathedral of the mind’- the manifold wisdom that exists in the intellectual mind of the church is tremendous. But you really can’t access it unless you read and learn from the classics. There is a verse that says ‘son, cease to listen to the teaching that leads you astray’ the Christian needs to make a conscious effort to ‘cease to listen’ to some stuff. Now I am not advocating the boycotting of any contemporary preachers, but to truly become educated we need to choose wisely. Many of the Catholic voices have tremendous wisdom, but to listen to them you need to acquire a different type of ear. Father Groeschel says listening to the Protestant sermon is often like trying to get a drink from a fire hydrant. He doesn’t mean to offend, but I understand where he is coming from. To listen to certain scholars you need to develop a new intellectual capacity that contrasts the average way Protestants learn [the preaching of the word]. I do believe there are important doctrinal differences between Catholics and Protestants, that’s why I am still a Protestant. But many times Protestants are misinformed on some of these things. Bishop Fulton Sheen used to say ‘there are 10 thousand people who hate what they think is the Catholic Church, only a few actually hate the church’ while he might be overstating his case, I get his point. For the believer to truly understand why he associates with either the Catholic [Orthodox] or Protestant wing of Christianity, he first needs to develop an appetite for true learning, there are many areas of knowledge and wisdom that the average believer needs to become familiar with. God does not require all believers to become intellectuals, but he does want us to love him with all of our hearts, souls, minds and might. Do you love God with your mind?

(1238) PSLAMS 37- I have been meditating on this Psalm for the past few days, it speaks to our day ‘fret not thyself because of evildoers, for those who seem to prosper in what they are doing’. Recently we have had the political storm over ACORN, the community group who has it’s hands in all types of things. They actually have done some good in helping the poor, but the conservatives finally got them! What do you expect when your people offer help to a fake pimp and prostitute when they are looking for ‘housing’? Oh my, how have we fretted over the wicked. Or ‘a little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked’ last night I was reading the bio’s of John Wycliffe and John Hus, the two great ‘pre-reformers’. Wycliffe preached/taught out of Oxford England and would contrast the riches and wealth of the Pope with the poverty of Jesus and his men. He taught the ‘true church’ were those who knew God and were part of the spiritual community of believers, not limited to any earthly institution. He would send his poor preachers out 2 by 2 and they would infiltrate England [they were called Lollards]. Hus would read the writings of Wycliffe and lead Bohemia down the same road. Hus preached at the influential Bethlehem church in Prague and also had influence at the university. These men believed that ‘the poverty of the righteous would go further than the riches of many wicked’. They truly turned their world upside down while rejecting the idea that we all need to become rich in order to have real influence. This Psalm says the meek will inherit the earth and delight themselves in the abundance of peace. The wicked might seem like he’s spreading out like a huge tree, but his efforts are temporary. Jesus said the kingdom of God was like planting a small seed and it becoming a huge tree, are you looking to plant ‘a huge tree’? We often view the kingdom thru God using us to gather great wealth and resources, organizing some corporation, and then this ‘huge tree’ will get the job done. Jesus approach was to gather these outcasts of society, invest his life into them, and his life, death, resurrection and example would become the ‘seed bed’ that would start a worldwide revolution. Don’t fret over what it seems like the ‘wicked’ are getting away with, just simply follow Jesus, your little bit can accomplish much more than the riches of many wicked [geez, ACORN was getting millions, but the church of Jesus has been helping the poor for 2 thousand years. I don’t know why we fret over this stuff!]

(1237) WHAT DOES ‘SOLA SCRIPTURA’ MEAN? During the 16th century Protestant Reformation you had the Reformers [Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc.] come down on the side of ‘sola scriptura’ which meant ‘the bible alone’. That is they felt the scriptures should have the final say in deciding the doctrinal matters of the church. Many modern Protestant groups have taken a wrong view of sola scriptura; they seem to think it means ‘solo scriptura’- me and my bible. What’s the difference? The historic Protestants felt the bible had the final say, but they also taught that the scriptures should be understood and read thru the historic framework of the church. That is the ‘sense’ that most believers have had when reading Gods word. Calvin would appeal to the past writings of Augustine and other church fathers when making his case. During the time of the Reformation you also had what came to be called ‘the Radical Reformation’ or the Ana-Baptists [which meant re-baptizers]. They rejected infant baptism and wanted to make a clean break from all traditional Christianity. The Magisterial Reformers thought they went too far, I stood at the spot in Zurich where Zwingli ‘baptized’ them in the river [he drowned them]. So as you can see there are various degrees of ‘sola/solo scriptura’. Is it possible to come to a right conclusion from reading the bible alone? Sure, most of my ideas have come this way. The problem seems to be when preachers/believers read things out of context. When reading any book, if you took a verse/sentence from one chapter and added it to another chapter. And then memorized all these sentences and put together your own meaning, then no matter how ‘well meaning’ the person is, he is going to get the story wrong. The Reformers believed it was important to read and understand the bible in the context of the wider church. Pope Benedict agrees, he said it was important to know how the whole church has viewed a particular truth thru out all time. These insights are important for our day. Is it possible for ‘all the church’ to have missed it on a certain subject? You bet, the point is when ‘the whole church’ begins to rise up and say ‘yeah, we missed it’ then you have true reform. Too often you find separated groups of believers who have grasped onto some truth, maybe it’s a real insight that others don’t see yet, but then they become isolated and their truth becomes a stumbling block. They often use their truth as the criteria to judge all other Christians. They will discount everything the other Christian groups have to say, because they ‘know for sure’ that they are wrong on that one particular doctrine. I think it’s time for the Protestant/Evangelical church to get back to ‘sola scriptura’; that is to read and believe in the bible as the final authority on doctrinal decisions, but to also have a working knowledge on how all other Christian groups see, or have seen these same truths.

(1236) 2ND CORINTHIANS 13- Okay, it took 13 days to do this brief study. Paul finished up his letter by telling them that God gave him authority to build them up, not tear them down. The message bible says ‘to not tear them apart’. Why say this? Because after 13 chapters [yes, I know the chapters are not in the original!] it sure felt like he wrung them thru a wringer. In Jeremiah 1:10 God gives him power to root out, tear down, uproot and also build up. If you read the exact wording Jeremiah does 4 ‘deconstructing acts’ and 2 constructing ones. It is part of leadership to spend more time dealing with the problems than doing the good stuff. Dealing with the problems is actually part of ‘the good stuff’. We spent a few weeks simply trying to look at the context of Paul and his relating to the Corinthians. How many good men and churches spend whole lifetimes quoting a verse or two from this letter, maybe during an offering time. Then applying it in a way that has people focused on money and wealth building [a verse like ‘he became poor so we might be rich’] and yet the verse is totally taken out of context. You might hear it a million times thru out your whole church going experience, and yet never really come to a sober understanding of the text. These types of problems [proof texting] are a major problem in the Protestant/Evangelical churches, good men simply losing their way. Paul was tough on the believers, but when he was thru with them they were much better off for it. The level of correction and reproof in the modern church is very low, we simply do not receive or listen to reproof. Those who wish to excel in their callings and purposes in God are those who listen and make the proper adjustments. Proverbs says reproofs and correction are the path to life. As I finish up another one of our many blog studies, I am not sure what we will do next, but as you read these brief New Testament studies, see them in context. Look at them as whole letters that have meaning, don’t just see individual verses. When you read these letters as a ‘whole’ you will stay on course and avoid the snares and weeds that may prominent preachers and teachers have fallen into, you will avoid the pitfalls of creating a story from a few chopped up sections of a letter. Seeing these wonderful New Testament letters in context will ground you in grace and keep you on course, in the end you will be built up on a good foundation. Like Paul said in his first letter to them ‘if any man build wood, hay, stubble- or precious stones’; the day of judgment will show what you valued the most. Those who take these letters and turn them into moneymaking schemes, or techniques for worldly success, they have built things that will burn up. Those who take these epistles and build their lives on Gods grace and the reality of the Cross, their lives will show good fruit that will not be burned up on the Day of Judgment.

(1235) 2ND CORINTHIANS 12- Before I get into a long history discussion with you guys, let’s hit a few verses. Paul says ‘when I was with you, did I gain a profit from you, take advantage of you?’ or ‘when I sent Titus, did he gain a profit from you?’ He then goes on and says the fathers lay up money for the kids, not the other way around. He says he has spent out of his own pocket for them, and he will continue to do so. He says he does all this so people won’t have the excuse ‘he’s just in it for the money’. Notice, Paul himself did not have the common mindset we see in ministry today. Often times financial appeals are made from Paul’s writings in Corinthians, these appeals often say ‘we are not asking for ourselves, but for you’ it is put in a way that says it would be wrong to not take money from people. That in some way not taking an offering would violate scripture. Paul flatly said he did not take money from them for personal use, nor would he. When the modern church uses Paul’s other sayings in this letter to appeal to giving, we need to share ‘the whole counsel of God’ not just a few verses that fit in with what we practice. Now, Paul speaks about being caught up into ‘heaven’ [Gods realm-Paradise] and hearing truths from God that were not lawful for men to speak. He states that God gave him truth that came from Divine revelation. If you skip a few pages over in your bible, you will hit Galatians. In the first chapter he says how after he was converted he did not confer with the other leaders at Jerusalem, but received teaching straight from God. Let’s discuss what revelation is, how we come to know things. The last few centuries of the first millennium of Christian history you had the ‘Holy Roman Empire’ which was a political/religious union of church and state. Under the emperor Charlemagne the territories of the empire were vast. Those who came after him did not have the same control over the regions that were vast. Eventually you had a form of rule arise that was called Feudalism; the sections of the empire that were too far to benefit directly from Rome would simply come under the authority of the local strongman [much like the present dilemma in Afghanistan, I think it’s time to get our boys out of that mess]. People would come under the authority of a ruler and he would lease out land to the citizens and they would benefit from his protection. The citizens were called Vassals and the land was called a Fief. At one point king John of England would do public penance in a disagreement he had with the Pope and all of England would become a Fief under the rule of the Pope. Now, this would eventually lead up to the development of the strong nation states, an independent identifying with your state/region as opposed to being under Rome and the papacy. This type of independence would allow for the 16th century reformation to happen under Luther. If it were not for Frederick the Wise, the regional authority in Germany where Luther lived, he would have never had the protection or freedom to launch his reformation. Luther also had the influence of being a scholar at Wittenberg. Around the 12th-13th centuries you had the first university pop up at the great cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. The word university simply meant a co-operative effort from two or more people. It applied to many things besides learning. It was also during this time that the church began to develop a system of harmonizing Christian doctrine; she began to do systematic theology. The writings of the Greek philosophers [Aristotle] were rediscovered after centuries of them being hidden, and the great intellectual Saint Thomas Aquinas would wed Aristotle’s ideas with Christian truth. This became known as Scholasticism. Aquinas believed that men could arrive at a true knowledge of God from pure reason and logic. But man could not know all the truths about God and his nature without ‘special revelation’ [the bible and church tradition]. All Christians did not agree with Aquinas new approach to Christian truth, the very influential bishop Bernard would initially condemn Aquinas over this. Bernard said ‘the faith that believes unto righteousness, believes! It does not doubt’. The Scholastic school taught that the way you arrive at knowledge was thru the continuous questioning and doubting of things until you come to some basic conclusions. These issues would be debated for centuries, and even in the present hour many argue over the issue of Divine revelation versus natural logical reasoning. Tertullian, an early North Afrcian church father, said ‘I believe because it is preposterous, illogical’ he became famous for his saying ‘what does Jerusalem have to do with Athens’ meaning he did not believe that Greek philosophy should have any part with Christian truth. Origen, his contemporary, believed the other way. So the debate rages on. Why talk about this here? Some believers ‘believe’ in a type of knowledge called ‘revelation knowledge’ they mean something different than the historic use of the term. Historically ‘revelation’ meant that which God revealed to us THRU THE BIBLE, not something outside of the bible. For instance, the first canon of scripture put together was by a man called Marcion. His ‘bible’ contained the letters of Paul and parts of :Luke. He believed the revelation God gave Paul was for us today, not the Old Testament or the historical gospels. He was condemned by the church as a heretic. The point being some took Paul’s writings about receiving knowledge from God as an indicator that what God showed Paul was different than what the church got thru the other apostles. In point of fact the things that God revealed to Paul, or to you or me; all truth is consistent, it will not contradict any other part of Gods truth. Paul’s letters are consistent with the gospels, not in contradiction. When believers cling to an idea that their teachers are sharing ‘special revelation’ or a Rhema word that is somehow above the scrutiny of scripture, then they are in dangerous territory. Paul did appeal to his experience with God as a defense of his gospel, but he backed up everything he said with Old Testament scripture. God wasn’t ‘revealing’ things to Paul that were outside of the realm of true knowable ‘truth’. You could examine and test the things Paul was saying, he wasn’t saying ‘because God showed it to me, that’s why I’m correct’. So in today’s church world, we want all the things we learn and believe to be consistent with what the church has believed thru out the centuries. Sure there are always things that are going to be questioned and true reform entails this, but beware of teachers who come to you with ‘revelation knowledge’ or a ‘Rhema word’ that goes against the already revealed word of truth.

(1228) 2ND CORINTHIANS 6- Paul tells them to not receive Gods grace ‘in vain’. He quotes a very popular verse among Evangelicals ‘now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation’. He says the Lord heard their prayer and ‘accepted/saved them’. Paul is referring to salvation in the sense that after his first letter, they repented, asked God for forgiveness and responded in the right way. Now in this letter he’s saying ‘look, God heard your heart. He has received you. Don’t keep repenting over the thing’. Paul also gives another list of his trials. He gave one in chapter 4, will give another one in chapter 11. I like the part where he says ‘we are unknown, yet well known’. In today’s Protestant/Evangelical churches, we are often ‘well know, yet unknown’. Let me explain. In Paul’s day he raised up quite a stir. In the book of Acts we see how when he was at the temple in Jerusalem someone finally recognized him and accused him. He wasn’t’ well recognized/known like we are today. Yet his writings and the communities of believers he was establishing were well known. People knew his message and gospel. Yet today, we have so many Christians who follow a cult of personality. They associate ‘the church they attend’ with the main leader. Often these men are well meaning, in some cases their public persona is known world wide. Yet the average viewing audience has no grasp on what they are teaching. They see our famous images [well known] yet what we are speaking is often irrelevant [unknown]. And last but not least Paul teaches what I like to call ‘an incarnational ecclesiology’- in simple terms, God lives in his people in a real way. The real presence of God in society is manifest thru his actual people. Often times the historic churches will emphasize the Eucharist as the way Gods presence is in the world. Some argue for ‘an incarnational sacramental’ view of Christianity. They teach that because God manifested himself in a material way thru Christ [the incarnation] that this principle continues today thru the sacraments that the churches practice. I respond this way; while this is true that God has/does manifest himself in real ways in the world, the primary method of him dwelling in the world in a real way is thru the people of God. Paul refers to us as Gods temple in the world. While the history of Israel in the Old Testament is somewhat liturgical, I feel to carry sacramental theology too far into the New Covenant misses the point. Jesus did give us the communion meal, and we do ‘show his death’ while celebrating it. But Gods primary means of ‘showing’ himself to the world is thru the charitable deeds of his saints. They will ‘know we are Christians by our love, by our love’. This theme is woven thru out the entire New Testament. Its’ fine for believers to have ‘sacred space’ [church buildings] to celebrate liturgy and traditional forms of Christian worship, but to keep in mind that we are the actual dwelling place of God in the world, we are his temple. During the first millennia of Christian history the church developed an idea that said because Jesus did come in the flesh, therefore it is now permitted to have Icons [special religious paintings that have special meaning in the Greek/Eastern Orthodox churches] and physical ways for Gods presence to manifest. The western church [Catholic] would struggle over this issue. One of the Popes would condemn iconography and some would destroy these religious paintings from the church buildings. Eventually an Orthodox theologian [I think John of Damascus?] would develop the theology that I explained above and the church would accept the practice of God manifesting himself in a special way thru religious objects. I personally enjoy the Catholic/Orthodox and traditional expressions of Christianity, but I think they over did it in this area.

(1227) 2ND CORITNHIANS 5- Paul speaks of the Christian hope- resurrection! This chapter can be confusing if not taken in context. You could think that Paul is saying when we die we have a house/room in heaven ‘waiting for us’ and this seems true enough. But he is really saying something more along the lines of ‘in heaven [Gods realm] we have a promise of a new body. The Spirit in us is the down payment, but full redemption will be complete when we are raised from the dead’ the hope is a new body, not our souls living some type of disembodied existence in a heavenly mansion. Now, Paul teaches us that this new covenant [last chapter] is one of reconciliation, not condemnation. That because of the work of the Cross, all men have been reconciled to God! It is therefore our job to tell them. In the field of Christian thought there have been thinkers [Origen, Carlton Pearson, etc.] who have dabbled with the doctrine of universalism. They believe that ultimately all people will be saved. I do not believe in this doctrine myself [though I wished it were true- I mean wouldn’t you want everyone forgiven and with God?] but those who embrace it find there reasoning in these types of verses. The New Testament teaches a theme of redemption that says ‘all men have been reconciled to God; Jesus has died for all men. God wills for all to be saved’ and it is because of this theme that some have held to universalism. The point I do want to make to all my orthodox friends is the New Testament message is one of total acceptance based on Christ’s death for us. Sometimes Christians ‘make it hard’ for people to ‘get saved’. The bible doesn’t make it hard, it says it’s a free gift that anyone can have [I know my Calvinist friends are upset right now, but heck I cant please all the people all of the time]. We want the world to know that ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself’. These major themes need to be engrained into the mind of the church and the world. I am not talking ‘easy believism’ in the sense that God requires no repentance, but I am talking the reality of the free gift based upon what Jesus has done. There are so many people struggling with so many things, many have prayed and pleaded with God for change. Many have given up; they see God as a demanding judge whom they could never please. The message of the Cross is ‘you can’t please God, make up for your own sins. God placed those sins on Jesus, that’s why you can be accepted’. He was made sin for us, who knew no sin. That we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Once you see this truth, God will set you free. You will change, you will become ‘righteous’ but it’s a result of the Cross, not your own efforts.

(1226) 2ND CORINTHIANS 4- In chapter 3 Paul said we are beholding/seeing God in an open way as compared to the old covenant. In this chapter he shows us how we ‘see God’. We see him in his Son. God has chosen to reveal himself to us thru his Son. One of the first Christian councils [after the one at Jerusalem in Acts 15!] was held in the 4th century under the Roman emperor Constantine. The reason was to bring unity to the church on the issue of Christ’s divinity. These councils played political roles as well as theological. After Constantine became emperor he established the great city in the eastern empire called Constantinople. This city [named after him] became both the theological and political seat in the eastern half of the empire. So you had both a religious and political competition going on in the empire. Rome, situated in the west, was feeling like she would loose her position if the eastern half started gaining too much influence. So you had differing reasons for these councils. But you also had sincere men who held to various beliefs at the time. The bishop Arius came to teach that Jesus was the Son of God, but not God himself. This created a stir in the empire and Constantine called a council to settle the question. The debates went forth, both views were discussed and classic Orthodoxy came down on the side of Jesus being God. Now, there would be more councils dealing with Gods nature and Christ’s role, but this was a defining moment in Christian history. The church [and the scriptures] teach that God became man [incarnation] and thru Jesus we ‘see God’. Paul also relates the many sufferings and trials he was going thru. He says he tastes death and bears in his body the death of Jesus. He simply does not give a picture of the Christian life that is common in today’s world. Many believers are taught that these types of difficulties and sufferings are a result of their lack of faith, or their inability to rightfully ‘access their covenant rights’. Paul refutes this doctrine strongly. Paul has already mentioned those who ‘peddle Gods word’ or who twist the scriptures for their own benefit. It always amazes me to see well meaning believers/teachers go thru the entire corpus of the New Testament and never see these things. It’s so easy for preachers/teachers to read the scriptures with blinders on. Here Paul taught that the many sufferings [both physical and spiritual] were an honorable thing, they were his way of sharing in the sufferings and death of Christ. They were ‘death in him, but life in you’ he saw his difficulties thru a redemptive lens. He says the present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us. The first verse of this chapter says seeing we have received this great ministry, we don’t faint. I like Eugene Petersons Message version, he says ‘just because times get hard, we don’t throw up our hands and walk off the job’ I like that.

(1225) 2ND CORINTHIANS 3- Paul defends his apostleship, he states he needs no letters of approval for them or from them. They are his ‘letter of proof’ written on their hearts. Paul puts more weight on the work of the Spirit in them as a church, than on written letters. I find this interesting; the historic church has been divided over the issue of how much weight should be placed on tradition versus scripture. There is some confusion on the matter; lets clear it up. First, the Catholic Church does not teach that there are 2 words from God, sort of like tradition is one word and the bible is the other. They believe Gods word comes to us in two forms/ways- both scripture and tradition. The Protestant reformers did not totally reject tradition, they are creedal churches! They simply taught that Gods word was the final arbiter in issues of faith and morals. I do find it interesting that Paul put more weight on the ‘fleshly letters’ [the church] than written ones. He also contrasts the Law of Moses [10 commandments] with the New Covenant in Jesus Blood. He says if the glory of the old law, which was fading away, was so strong that Moses had to put a veil on his face. Then how much more glorious is the New Law in Christ! Some feel that Paul was saying that Moses veil was covering up the glory on his face that was fading away. When Moses went to get the law, on his return from the mountain his face shown, some feel this glory/shining was beginning to fade and Moses put the veil on so the people wouldn’t see it fading. In context I don’t think this is what Paul was saying. The thing that was fading [passing away] was the law itself [see Hebrews]. Moses was not a vain man; I don’t think he was hiding the fact that the glory was leaving his face. All in all Paul says this New Covenant of Gods grace is much greater than the Old Covenant of condemnation. That in this New Covenant we behold Gods face openly, by the ministry of the Spirit. No more veil, we are changed by the Spirit of God and the work of Jesus. Paul says these two covenants are like comparing apples and oranges; they are in a whole different class.

(1223) INTRO, CHAPTER 1- Out of all of Paul’s letters, this one is the most autobiographical. This is Paul’s 3rd letter [some think 4th] to the Church at Corinth. There is a missing letter that we don’t have. Some scholars feel parts of the missing letter are in this letter [chapters 6, 10-13] either way, we know the letter is inspired and part of the canon of scripture. In chapter one Paul recounts the difficulties he went thru [and continues to go thru] for the sake of the gospel. Paul sees both his sufferings AND his deliverance as beneficial for the communities [churches] he is relating to. He says ‘God establishes/strengthens us and anoints us together with you’. Paul’s view of the church [his ecclesiology] is that God works with corporate groups of believers. His view on discipline is seen from this angle. In 1st Corinthians he says because we do not live to ourselves, therefore if one is in open, unrepentant sin, then commit him to judgment. Why? Because everything that one member does affects the others. I would not go so far and say that Paul taught ‘no salvation outside of the church’ but he sees salvation and Gods working with humans as a corporate experience. The Catholic Church for the first time in her history accepted other Protestant churches who confess Christ and his deity as ‘separated brethren’. This happened at Vatican 2 [1962-65]. The council explicitly taught the other churches were actually ‘churches’. They specifically used the word ‘subsists’ when describing their view of the church. They said the church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church in it’s fullness. They still believe that the fullest expression of Christ’s church on earth is contained within her, but they rejected the hard line doctrine that the church exclusively resides within her. They realized that God was working with all Christian groups/churches, not just one. I recently saw an ad in my local paper from one of the traditional Latin churches, these are the old ‘tridentine’ churches who observe the mass in Latin. The ad said that salvation is only in the Catholic expression of the church. I hate to correct my Catholic brothers [being I am a Protestant] but this language is not in keeping with the spirit of Vatican 2. Paul understood that God was working with him along with the corporate groups of people that he was relating to as an apostle. He will even teach that this dynamic can take place when they are physically separated, i.e.; he did not have to be in the same room/city for God to be working with them as a community. This is very important to see, it comes against certain expressions of local church. It also opens the door for other expressions of church, like ‘on-line’ communities. There are passages of scripture where Paul does say that whether he is with them in body or not, yet he is present in spirit joying and beholding their growth in Christ. Or he says word got back to him about their growth and he rejoiced in it. While believers should physically meet together as a testimony of their faith, yet the fact that there are occasions where this might not be possible does not mean that they can’t be joined together in spirit and truth. Peter says ‘you who were not a people are now the people of God. You who did not obtain mercy have now obtained it’. God ‘birthed’ churches [communities of believers] thru the apostolic ministry of Paul, these groups were both birthed and received mercy as a corporate event, they understood that they were brothers and sisters in Christ.

(1221) Lets finish up some thoughts on the book ‘surprised by hope’ [N.T. Wright] all in all I liked the book and brother Wright, but to be honest I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. Wright is the very popular Bishop of Durham [Church of England] and has sort of a ‘cult’ following. Let me state a few things that I disagreed with [I have already written some posts on the agreement stuff]. Wright believes third world debt/economic imbalance is the number 1 moral problem of our time. He equates it to slavery and the holocaust, I would not go that far myself. He makes a strange case for a new type of epistemology [way of knowing things- it’s a philosophical thing!]. He calls it an epistemology of love; he challenges the ‘modern’ [as opposed to post modern] epistemology of Objective truth. He believes post modernism has shown us that you can’t separate objectivity and subjectivity, they go hand in hand. Grant it this is somewhat of a difficult discussion for a brief review, but this is an area where emergents would line up with Wright. He uses the example of Thomas and his insistence on Objective truth before he would believe in Jesus [Thomas says I will not believe unless I see it myself]. The next week Jesus appears to Thomas and tells him ‘see, go ahead and touch me. Here’s the proof’! Thomas then says ‘my Lord and my God’. Wright uses this example to refute a purely objective epistemology. I think he’s contradicting himself on this one. All in all, he’s okay- but not as good as I thought [hoped?] One more thing, Wright does say that it’s obvious that the gospels have contradictions, I know where he’s coming from [Barth Erhman types jump on this stuff] but I personally don’t use this language. I prefer ‘discrepancies’ or ‘biographical literature standards’ to explain this stuff. Some pastors/believers are not familiar with the varying accounts of certain events in the gospels. There are some; one gospel says there was one angel at the tomb, another says two. One gospel says Peter will deny Jesus 3 times before the rooster crows once- another says before the rooster crows twice. There are a few other things like this that caused some to develop differing views on inspiration. Karl Barth [the great and influential Swiss theologian of the 20th century] developed an idea that said the early church practiced a form of ‘Docetism’ when teaching the infallible inspiration of the scriptures. Docetism is an early Gnostic cult that embraced Greek Dualism. The Greek philosophers taught that matter itself was evil, and that salvation/freedom comes to man when he separates himself from the material world. This view is not the Christian view. But early cults [Manichaeism] formed these systems where salvation comes thru God freeing man from all these levels of materialism. Docetism had a too exalted view of the Divinity of Jesus, in which it taught that Jesus was never really a true man, this view denied both the incarnation and resurrected body of Jesus. So, Barth said those who unduly exalted [in his view] the ‘divinity’ of scripture were making the same mistake. The liberal scholars tried to form views that said the scriptures do have mistakes in them, and this doesn’t mean the faith itself should be doubted. Barth made this defense in a well meaning way; it’s just not the historic orthodox view. So anyway I got the feel that Wright [as many noble and good scholars] might hold to something like this. Good book overall, just thought I should give both sides. NOTE- Most of the discrepancies in the gospel accounts can be resolved. For instance to say ‘there was one angel at Jesus tomb’ and for another gospel to say ‘there were two’ in itself is not a lie/contradiction. If I told you there was ‘only one angel’ then that would be a logical contradiction. So the reason I mentioned this is not to cause believers to doubt the scripture, but for them to be aware of both the problems and solutions to these types of things. Some believers go off to college and depending on how liberal the college is, they get attacked with stuff like this and many of them abandon the faith.

(1218) REMEMBER ALL THY OFFERINGS, AND ACCEPT THY BURNT SACRIFICE Psalms 20:3- A few years ago the Lord began showing me the concept of ‘accumulated prayers/alms’ [good deeds]. The medieval church developed a distorted view of this idea; they began to teach that the good works of the saints who have died are like a bank of good deeds [treasury of merits] and that when Christians die without being fully purged [made holy] that they go to Purgatory. In Purgatory they ‘do time’ in order to be made fully ready for Gods presence. Right before the Reformation the doctrine of indulgences became a hot issue among many Catholic scholars. These Catholic teachers disagreed with the churches position on buying the good works of the dead saints in order to lesson the time of their loved ones in purgatory. The famous priest named Tetzel was selling these indulgences and that was what sparked Luther’s Reformation. Now, is the doctrine of purgatory/indulgences scriptural? No. Is the doctrine of ‘stored up good deeds/prayers’ scriptural? Yes. In Acts 10 the angel tells Cornelius ‘your prayers and alms [good deeds] have come up as a memorial before God’ in Revelation the stored up prayers of the martyrs ascends up to God like incense. Our good deeds and prayers do not earn us salvation, but they most definitely affect things. James says the fervent effectual prayer of a righteous man avails much. John says that when we walk in holiness then we have confidence that God hears and will answer our prayers. Doing good is very important, not ‘religious’ ceremonial goodness, but religion as defined by James ‘visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction and keeping yourself unspotted from the world’. These are what ‘alms-deeds’ mean, works of charity. I find it interesting that 2 conservative Catholic scholars of the 20th century disagreed on the doctrine of purgatory as a waiting place after death. One was named Rahner, the other one was Ratzinger [Pope Benedict]. During the Reformation you had a Catholic group called the Jansenists [the leader was a priest named Jansen]. They held to the doctrine of Predestination [like Luther and Calvin]. They rejected certain forms of Catholic teaching; when the practice of devotion to the ‘Scared Heart’ of Jesus was introduced, they called it ‘cardi-olatry’ [idolatry and cardiology combined]. The point being you have many intelligent Catholic scholars who disagree with the official stand of the church. Even though the doctrine of purgatory is unbiblical, yet the concept of our accumulated prayers and good deeds going up to God as ‘a memorial’ [sort of like when Nehemiah prayed- ‘Lord look upon my sacrifice that I have made for your people and reward me’. Or Hebrews ‘God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love which you have showed toward the saints’] is biblical. We certainly don’t earn salvation or merit grace, but to say to God ‘remember all your offerings and accept thy burnt sacrifices’ is okay.

(1217) THE VOICE OF THE LORD IS UPON THE WATERS: THE GOD OF GLORY THUNDERETH: THE LORD IS UPON MANY WATERS Psalms 29:3 Last night I was watching the news, I was doing something at the time [reading?] but for whatever reason I was listening and not looking at the screen. I heard a reporter asking one of the ‘tea party’ protesters about his views. As I listened to him speak against the socializing of the country, his disgust over the free hand outs and all, I thought I recognized the voice. As I looked up, it was Larry! One of the first homeless buddies I met in Corpus. He went West quite a few years ago, haven’t heard from him in a while. Larry was really smart, he had a couple of old boats, an old ice cream truck and an old school bus scattered all over the Bluff [where I live]. One of the boats was a small 10 footer, he had it at some boat dock, the thing was probably worth around 20 dollars. Every day he went and pumped the water out, it was funny. I had this old Datsun 280 zx that I bought during an early mid life crisis; I blew the darn motor in it. I was gonna junk it. Larry saw that I had an extra junk car sitting in my yard, I bought it for the wheels for around 100 bucks. He said lets put the engine from the junker into the good car. Sure enough we did it in a couple of days; pushing the cars under my garage doorway, using a bumper jack and chain as a lift. Pulling engines out and dropping the good one in, I could have never accomplished it by myself, he was a talented brother. He looked a little like Ted Kaczynski [unibomber] scruffy hair and beard. He looked exactly the same on the news show, I think Larry worked about five days the whole time I knew him, yet he was protesting Obama’s socializing of the country and the free handouts, stuff like this is too funny to not write on. Okay I read more from Wrights book [surprised by hope] he brings out the biblical basis of the believer’s hope, which is the resurrection, not heaven. He is correct on this. He traces the roots of Western thinking all the way back to the ancient philosophers [Plato]and shows how the Greek belief in the ‘immortal soul’ did effect the thinking of Western Christianity and eventually made it’s way into the church thru the medieval influence of men like Dante [his inferno] and other beliefs on purgatory and so forth, Wright is an excellent scholar and historian. He does quote the verse I used when first defending against the concept of ‘soul sleep’, the famous verse from Paul ‘to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord’ he rejects soul sleep and teaches the correct doctrine of a believer being in Gods presence at death. Wright, like myself, does not see the future hope of the believer as ‘going to heaven when you die’ but correctly teaches the hope of a resurrected body and a new heavens and earth. He also correctly shows how immortality of ‘the soul’ is really not a biblical doctrine. For as long as I can remember, I have always believed that immortality referred to the resurrected body of believers and not to the soul/spirit. I have heard/read many good men speak of it as pertaining to the soul, Wright correctly shows us the biblical view. When I first read his defense a while ago, I was a little confused when he used an argument from scripture that immortality belongs ‘only to God’ and his argument that the ‘immortal soul’ was a Greek doctrine not founded in scripture. The reason I was a little hesitant when I first heard him make this argument [reading on line a few years back] was because I heard the same exact argument made by the 7th day Adventist church in their defense of soul sleep [the view that the soul is unconscious at death until the resurrection] but Wright has clarified that he does not accept this view. He also rightfully shows us that in scripture the divisions of ‘soul/spirit/body’ are not as clear cut as many modern Protestants teach. Over the years I have often heard the famous verses on the soul ‘receive with meekness the engrafted word which is able to save your souls’ ‘he that corrects a sinner from the error of his way saves a soul from death’ [James] and in Hebrews ‘the word of God dividing asunder soul and spirit’ there is a very popular teaching that relates the three ‘parts’ of man with the Triune nature of God [Father, Son and Spirit] and tries to say that when the New Testament speaks of ‘soul’ it is speaking of mans emotions/will, and that the spirit and body are two other things. This really is not biblical, the two verses I quoted from James are speaking of the whole man, not his emotions/will only. This is a wrong teaching that many have embraced because of a low level of education in the pulpit [to be frank about it]. Which gets me to my final point, to all my Pastor/leader readers, try and read/listen to university level scholarship as much as possible. Avoid leaving the radio-TV on and hearing hours and hours of teaching that is really not high quality, it will affect you in a bad way. I called a ministry a few weeks back to order a special offer from the scholar/theologian who is the teacher. The cd’s were lectures given in a university classroom from a real theologian [not the guys running around with honorary doctorates!] I did have the chance to do something I have been wanting to do for a while. The offer was whatever gift you want to give to the ministry [money] you can give and get the cd’s. The poor sister asks me ‘and how much will you be donating today for the cd’s’ I of course tell her ‘I will be donating one penny’ she is silent for a few seconds until I tell her I’m just kidding. The point is try and read/listen to scholarly stuff as much as possible ‘the Lords voice is upon many waters, it thunders’ when God speaks to you thru the collective voice of the church triumphant [in heaven- I mean read the works of the saints who have died!] and the church militant [on earth] then you are hearing his voice over the ‘many waters’ the various communions that make up the corporate people of God, Gods wisdom resides in her.

(1216) lets try and do a few things; first, I read a few more chapters in Wrights book [N.T. Wright] and as much as I really like his writing, I do have a few problems with some of the ways he states stuff. He kinda tries to walk the middle road in the area of the second coming and the physical nature of it. He does say he believes in the real second coming and that it did not happen yet. He does teach that Jesus is ‘in heaven’ [Gods realm] physically- good. But he also says stuff like ‘when Jesus ascended you don’t believe he lifted off vertically from the planet’ [actually I do!] or when Jesus comes back it wont be like some spaceman descending out of space [well I know he’s not a ‘spaceman’ but I do believe he will come from ‘out there’]. It was statements like this that caused me a little concern in the past. He also states that he is not a full Preterist, and distances himself from those who tried to claim him as one. But you can hardly blame them, he really does at times sound like he is one [Preterists believe the second coming happened in a.d. 70- it’s a long story] Wright empathically says he does not believe that. Yet he says all the statements from Jesus on ‘his coming’ do not refer to an actual second coming in the future. But he believes Paul and other New Testament passages do teach a real, literal second coming, but that Jesus never spoke of it. To be frank, I think brother Wright opens up the door to all the accusations and confusion that some people have about his position. I still like Wright, he is an excellent N.T. scholar and 1st century historian, but I think there are some problems with his views on the second coming. He definitely states he believes in a real, physical second coming. But instead of it being ‘Jesus coming down from somewhere’ it will be more like ‘Gods realm [heaven] joining our realm’ and at that time he will physically be with us. Well I do believe that at the second coming ‘both realms unite’ that at that moment we will have a ‘new heavens and earth’ I just don’t see the point in Wright’s language when he seems to make light of the physical aspects of Christ’s return. I also agree with him 100% about the New Testament not teaching a ‘rapture’ he rightfully shows us that the ‘rapture chapter’ [1st Thessalonians 4] is the same as 1st Corinthians 15. There simply is no ‘secret coming’ taught in the New Testament [some will be caught by surprise, but it will be no secret!] All in all I like Wright, will continue to read him, just thought I needed to mention these points. Okay, let’s turn to politics. The climate in the country continues to be really bad at this time [9-09] I watched MSNBC show over and over again a picture of a man toting a sub machine gun on his back at some Obama town hall. Of course this is dangerous and nuts! The problem is Chris Matthews portrayed it along with the mindset of ‘see these white skinhead radicals, these racists who are against change’ his whole rant against the people opposing Obama is done in this vain. Sure enough, another news organization showed you the full picture of the man with the gun on his back; he was a black man. Why mention this? Stuff like this, purposefully not telling the whole story, or taking an incident and being dishonest about it to prove your point, this stuff creates racial tensions all on its own. There is no need to try and fabricate a scenario in order to make it fit your story. There are enough real nuts in the country for the news media to not have to fabricate stuff like this, to make the audience think that the ‘gun man’ was an anti Obama ‘right winger’, he obviously was not. Those who oppose the president should do so on purely political grounds, those who support him should take the same view. To be against or for a person because of their race is wrong, very wrong. But people should not feel intimidated if they want to oppose him for the right reasons. When the country sees this type of race card being played, this breeds a type of racism all on its own. Did the bill being floated on Capitol Hill fund abortions- you bet it did! I know the denials have gone forth vehemently, Obama himself publicly said that his position in national health care would include provisions for women’s reproductive rights; he was point blank asked this question. In no uncertain terms he said it would. But after the heat hit the fan they of course would not say it like this. In essence the proposed bill would have included language for ‘women’s reproductive rights’ but because the term ‘abortion’ was not specifically stated, the politicians said ‘oh no, those who think abortion is in there are misleading you’ they lied to you. So let’s try and pass what both sides agree on; pass laws on making it illegal for an insurance company to drop you if you get sick. Provide funding for those who can’t buy insurance and try and get everyone insured. Do tort reform. Get the stuff done that can get done, don’t create all types of problems by bringing up ‘reproductive rights’ there are too many people [Democrats and Republicans] who are truly opposed to abortion in a fundamental way, leave that language out. And for heavens sake, if the media has a picture of a man with a gun strapped to his back, don’t portray him as some white skinhead, especially if the guys black!

(1215) BE WISE NOW THEREFORE O YE KINGS, BE INSTRUCTED YE JUDGES OF THE EARTH- Psalms 2:10 This is the psalm that speaks about the rulers of the earth trying to cast off the restraints of God and ‘his anointed’. Scripture says God will have them in derision; he will laugh at their stupidity. This reminds me of the atheistic enlightenment philosophers, men who embraced ‘rational thought’ and supposedly would not believe anything unless it was ‘scientific’, men like Nietzsche and Freud who felt like the problems with man were the restraints that the church put on people. Freud taught that the reason mankind suffered from so many ailments was because the church and religion put these Victorian restraints on man and that these false restraints [like not sleeping around] were the root cause of mans problems. So Freud tried to ‘cast off the restraints of God and his anointed’ he taught that man should fully embrace sexual freedom and do whatever he wanted, the result- total devastation of mans psyche [and body]. God had them in derision. Getting back to N.T. Wrights book that I’m reading [surprised by hope] Wright brings out a great point, he shows how the materialist [those who say they will only believe things that can be proven scientifically] are contradicting themselves when they reject the resurrection and historical claims of Christianity on these grounds. Wright shows that every one of them accepts all types of historical facts that can not be proven ‘by science’. Let’s see, do you believe in Lincoln? Or say the civil war? There are tons of non scientific historical events that people believe all the time, one time events that are nor repeatable and can’t be proven by the scientific method. He makes a good point. The rationalists said ‘we will only believe in reason, not in faith’ this is a false view of faith. Pope John Paul the 2nd said ‘faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth’ [Fides Et Ratio]. To believe in God, and to be reasonable/rational go hand in hand. The atheist claims to only believe in things that can be proven, yet the claims of Christianity [the death and resurrection of Christ] have more historical/rational proofs then any other historic event in history, the historical method used to examine things shows us that these things did happen, for real! Just because an event is a one time supernatural event, this does not automatically make it ‘irrational’ or untrustworthy. If the event passes the smell test of historical inquiry [which it does] then it is as ‘believable’ as any other historic event in history. You see, God said those who try to cast off the restraint of God and church would make fools of themselves, that they would think they were wise when they were fools. I think this is a good example.

(1214) YOU WILL NOT LEAVE MY SOUL IN HELL, OR ALLOW ME TO DECAY- Psalm 16:10 [my quick version of it!] This verse is quoted in Acts 2 and 13; it speaks of the Fathers promise of resurrection to the Son. Being I am reading Wright’s book on the resurrection at this time, I thought it good to talk a little. Wright lays out a good historical argument for the resurrection of Jesus. He shows how the liberal belief that the disciples ‘felt a real spiritual change after Jesus died’ wouldn’t cut it in a society that had other messianic figures rise and later be killed. The fact that these others stayed dead was a sure sign of their failure. Wright goes and gives a little parable on how the followers of past dead messiahs would have never gotten away with ‘let’s claim victory for our movement, even though our leaders died’. Good point, but the skeptics could point to Muhammad in the 7th century to refute this. But I get the point. Also, when I say ‘liberal theologians’ on this blog, I am speaking of historical liberalism, not the truncated view that certain fundamentalists hold to; you know, those who view liberalism thru the lens of what bible version a person uses, or whether or not you hold to certain end time scenarios. These views are not what I mean when speaking of liberals. Classic historical liberalism is a tag that gets put on those who begin denying the physical resurrection of Jesus and other fundamental truths of Christianity. So both Catholic and Protestant groups are not considered liberal, unless they deny the basic fundamentals [i.e.; you are not liberal, in the classic sense, just because you embrace the sacraments or other disagreements between Protestants and Catholics]. Now some liberals have done some good. The 19th century liberal scholars- Van Harnack and Albert Reitschal [I know these names are spelled wrong, but no spell check can fix stuff like this] challenged the development of historic theology by promoting the view that because the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the New Testament in Greek, that the early councils and systematic theologians lost the feel for story/narrative because they allowed Greek philosophy to influence their creeds and councils. They would point to the fact that much of the language used to ‘dissect’ the three persons of the Trinity was borrowed from the Greek philosophers and stuff like that. They argued that the church should return to her Jewish roots as seen in the Hebrew culture and begin ‘telling the story’ once again, as opposed to getting into the technical aspects of Greek language and thought. Now, were they right? Partially, in my view. But the problem with their view is it did not fully appreciate the fact that the New Testament did come to us thru the medium of the Greek language. So just because the Hebrew language is short on detail and long on story, this does not mean that the church also needs to be ‘short on detail’, because our New Testaments are in Greek. But they did make some good points. So anyway God promised Jesus [and us] that he would not leave us ‘in hell’ or allow us to corrupt/decay. The early church most certainly believed in the physical resurrection of Jesus from the grave, though the liberals have some good things to add to the conversation, some of their ideas are down right lethal.

(1213) MY EYES ARE EVER TOWARD THE LORD, HE SHALL PLUCK MY FEET OUT OF THE NET- Psalms 25:15 There’s a verse that says ‘our souls have escaped like a bird out of the snare of a fowler’. I hate snares, here where I live we have these lawn stickers, you know the type that when you walk in the house they stick all over you. You usually don’t know they are there until you take your shoes off and step on them. Proverbs says that when you walk by the house of the sluggard the weeds and stuff have overtaken it, the wall is broken down. God delivers us from these snares, he ‘plucks’ our feet out of the net. When you’re in a net you can’t pull yourself out. It’s not a matter of strength or effort, its gravity! You basically need an outside source to act on your behalf. That’s what we call original sin and substitutionary atonement. I just started N.T. Wright’s book ‘surprised by hope’ I think I am going to like it. He lives in England and is sharing from a ‘beyond the pond’ perspective. He already has laid out the case that the hope of the believer is resurrection, not evacuation! He will challenge the traditional belief of heaven as the goal, and speak about resurrection and how it relates to the here and now. That is when the church embraces a view that sees the departed soul in heaven as its goal, then we have a tendency to neglect the kingdom here and now. I get the point, and also see how Wright would appeal to the emergent brothers, but I have read Wright on line in the past and felt like he might go a little overboard in the ‘soul sleep’ category. These are the groups that believe the soul is in a state of ‘sleep’ or unconsciousness at death, and at the resurrection it reunites with the body again [true enough] and ‘wakes’ up back into a conscious state. This is not the classic/orthodox view, though some ‘Christian’ groups embrace it. The New Testament most certainly teaches that ‘to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord’ [Paul] and ‘he had a desire to depart [die] and be with Christ which is far better’ [Paul again]. So let’s see what happens in the book, I do like his approach and style, as long as Wright doesn’t totally abandon the present, as well as future hope of the church. We have the assurance that no matter how difficult things get, no matter how many ‘nets/snares’ we have to deal with, that the lord will ‘pluck us from the net’ our hope truly is in the Lord, are your eyes ever towards him?

(1211) LIFT UP YOUR HEADS, O YE GATES; AND BE YE LIFT UP YE EVERLASTING DOORS; AND THE KING OF GLORY SHALL COME IN. Psalms 24:7 God sees us as his temple, his city, his vineyard. We all have ‘gates’- doors, areas where we have been ordained to function; people groups who make up our parameters. God put Adam in a specific setting, he placed him in the garden and told him to take care of it, watch over it. Many animals would come and go and dwell within its borders, there was even a 4 lane river that flowed out of it. There was much activity in the garden; Adams job was to maintain the garden. The other aspects would basically take care of themselves. Over the course of Christian history there have been times when Gods garden has lost her focus, become haphazard and full of weeds. At these times he raises up people/movements to help bring her back into shape. Around the 7th century you had a man named Benedict start the first monastic order, the Benedictines. He would establish the famous abbey at Monte Casino; these monasteries would eventually become centers of learning and wisdom for the people of the time. In the 13th century you had the Dominicans and the Franciscans. Around the time of the Reformation you had the Jesuits, a brother named Ignatius left his wealth and former life as a soldier to found these ‘soldiers for God’. The Jesuits would play a major role in the scientific revolution, the percentage of leading scientists who were Jesuits was very high compared to their numbers. They would send missionaries into Japan and make the first inroads for the gospel. They would be persecuted and martyred in a famous city, they were crucified on the sides of the road as a witness for their faith. The name of the city where this happened was Nagasaki, sometimes the previous acts of violence that a society permits opens up the door for all types of future bloodshed. These movements arose out of a sense of the people of God losing her way, the church becoming rich in goods, but not in spirit. So God raises up people/movements to tell his people ‘lift up your heads o ye gates- look to me again and I will come in’ there are times when the garden lost her luster, the Lord didn’t simply plow it under, he allowed those who were tilling her time to get her back in shape. I think it’s time for all of us to ‘lift up our heads/gates’ so the king of glory can come in, he is a strong king, mighty in battle. When he comes in [thru our praise] then a banner of war is lifted up against the enemy, victory will not be far behind.

(1210) SAVE THY PEOPLE AND BLESS THINE INHERITANCE. FEED THEM ALSO AND LIFT THEM UP FOREVER- Psalms 28:9 I guess I will hit a few scattered Psalms, these last few weeks I have been reading the Psalms and trying to add a verse to memory every day or so. Sort of praying/meditating on them like the famous ‘Jesus prayer’. The Jesus prayer is an ancient simple prayer that says ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner’ but you actually say it all day long until it becomes part of your psyche. So these single Psalms can be used in this way. Okay, God wants to feed his people and bless them, Jesus told Peter ‘if you love me, feed my sheep’. In the 20th century you had the famous existentialist/atheist philosophers like John Paul Sartre and Albert Camou, these guys sought for purpose and meaning thru philosophy but wound up as nihilists [no hope] because of their rejection of God. Sartre would say ‘man is a useless passion’, Camou would say the only question left for philosophy to answer was the viability of suicide. The famous atheist Antony [Anthony] Flew, who has now become a believer in God [Theist], used to use a parable about a garden to challenge belief in God. He said man and his religious quest is like men who are journeying thru a forest and all of a sudden they come upon a garden; it is manicured and detailed in every way, it ‘appears’ to be a product of a designer. But then flew said as the men look around for the gardener they can’t see him, they then espouse all types of ideas about the master gardener. They come to various conclusions; he must be all knowing, very talented, transcendent- they develop views about this gardener/God that in Flews mind were just as silly as saying you might as well have no gardener at all! Flew thought if believers came to all these ideas about God, what’s the difference whether you believe in a God or not? The obvious answer is ‘then where in the world did the garden come from’. The challenges to Christianity, Theism, Deism try and convince people that there really is no purpose to your existence, you are a ‘useless passion’ you came from nowhere and are heading nowhere. Initially, this philosophy sounded liberating to those who embraced it. Sort of like telling the kids that schools out and you have no more teachers to listen to. But when you embrace this form of meaninglessness, you can not then try and instill purpose and meaning into people. Sartre and Camou rejected the foundational basis for man to have meaning in life, they tried to tell man ‘look, here is the purposeful garden, but it came from nowhere’. After many years of Anthony Flews insistence that there was no gardener, the evidence that caused him to change his mind was the evidence of design. He kept telling himself ‘there is no gardener’ and realized he was trying to convince himself of a lie, he knew he was logically wrong. He has since joined the ranks of those who now seek to know more about the master gardener.

(1209) Okay, in the last post I was kinda hard on Deyoung. I said I wouldn’t write any more posts on it unless there were some real surprises in the last chapter of the book. Well, lo and behold, in the last chapter Deyoung gets saved and admits the error of his way! [Not] Well actually I want to end my critique in a nice way. I did go to ‘church’ yesterday and on my way out heard someone call my name. As I turned I saw it was a former church member of my original church that I planted in the 80’s. She was married to one of our main guys, was the daughter in law to one of the original drug addicts that we worked with [who died a while ago] and was the daughter of one of our faithful women preachers [ordained by Joel Osteen’s church when Joel’s father was pastoring] all in all we have quite a history together. We had a good talk; I asked her how long she’s been attending, around 4 months. She introduced me to her young family [she has a few young kids, the ones I knew from the early days are all older [20’s] but these she described as a new crop]. I was real glad to see her, glad to see she had her kids in church and all. I wanted to mention this because the last chapter of Deyoung’s book [why we love the church] was pastoral and came from a concerned heart. Deyoung is writing from the view of a pastor who has been reading all these emergent books, with titles like ‘velvet Elvis’ ‘blue like jazz’ ‘blue steel’ [oh wait, that’s a Ben Stiller character!] names that make me want to say ‘what the hell does this mean’ [sorry] when browsing thru the book store. Many of these types of books have espoused real heresy, denying central truths of the gospel and stuff like that. Deyoung, as a good pastor, also sees the danger of many believers thinking its fine to just drop out of church all together and simply meet at Starbucks. I understand his concerns and they are sincere. To be honest I have never read any of the emergent books with all the strange titles, my first emergent book will be Mclaren’s ‘everything must change’ that is here sitting on my shelf [just remembered, I read Tony Jones sacred way] the point being I have come to rethink the usual model of ‘local church’ thru years of personal experience, reading scripture, and reading the works of those who teach on the organic expressions of community/body life. I don’t come to the table having overdosed on a bunch of theologically questionable authors [which is the feel I get when reading Deyoung, he has researched and read all these books in a short period of time, and it’s natural to blast the whole bunch of them in one shot]. So I too was glad that a past friend of mine was ‘back in church’ and had all her kids in the cool looking youth groups [boardwalk stuff, Noah’s ark theme, cool things that mega churches do] so as an ‘ex-pastor’ I understand Deyoung’s concerns. There is always the danger of Christians just dropping out of community all together and leaving all expressions of meeting as believers and praying and sharing the common meal and continuing in the apostle’s doctrine; all important things that Christians should be doing. My main disagreement was the limited concept of the traditional Sunday meeting as being the actual ‘local church’. This theme is engrained into the minds of many well meaning believers/pastors and is quite unbiblical. So any way this really will be my last post on the issue, unless something really big happens [like say Deyoung flips out and makes the headlines by cursing out Obama at a town hall meeting, then yes I will write one more post!] I am not sure what we will do next, I’m finishing up Luke and going thru Psalms, kinda hitting some high spots. Tune in tomorrow and let’s see what happens.

{1208} yesterday I went to my daughter’s ranch house to work on her A.C., it was over 100 degrees in the direct sun. I thought I threw my tee shirt in the car, but couldn’t find it. I worked in a long sleeve black shirt, wound up taking the whole darn thing apart [in direct sun at noon!] and felt like I got some heat exhaustion. So, it was in this environment that I finished [almost finished] the book ‘why we love the church’, boy do I have some major disagreements with Deyoung’s fundamental view of church. I think his view is very limited, I think it’s unbiblical and I almost don’t want to recommend the book at this stage [contrary to my earlier endorsement]. I was not sure if I should try and go thru some quotes and refute them, this mode often turns into a ‘he said, you say’ type of argument and usually does not convince either side. Let me simply hit a few things; page 110 ‘I do appreciate church as staged drama’ [quoting someone else] page 164 ‘the Body of Christ becomes visible to the world in the congregation gathered around word and sacrament’ [quoting the great martyr Bonhoeffer] 166 ‘you and your buddies who never ‘go to worship services’ are under no ecclesiastical authority’ 168 ‘the office itself [pastor] is not to blame’ then quotes Ephesians 4:11 to justify the modern office of ‘the pastor’, and on pages 132-135 his overall view of the crusades, well I simply wrote ‘unbelievable!’ on the margins. I always found it untenable when someone quotes the actual interaction between Paul and his first century ‘organic, communal, mystical, house churches’ in order to justify the institutional church against the ‘out of church’ church. Many learned scholars have looked at the term ‘pastor’ in Ephesians 4 and none of them [learned!] believe that this term defines the later development of pastor as the head of a local congregation who ‘administers the sacraments to the people in the building on Sunday, the Lords day’. Which reminds me of Deyoung’s use of John ‘on the Lords day’ in the book of Revelation. He believes John was speaking of Sunday ‘the Lords day’, this term more than likely is speaking of the great dramatic view of revelation and of course Jesus future coming as well as the whole period of conflicting kingdoms and Jesus final great victory. ‘His day’ simply speaking of Jesus victorious time period. Some see a set period of wrath as ‘the Lords day,’ to see an early ‘Lords day’ as Sunday as church day from this verse is ridiculous. And the overall argument that Deyoung makes about Christians ‘leaving church’ and trying to be Christians ‘without church’ is simply a huge blind spot of Deyoung. He tries to say [or says] that because the word ‘church’ [ecclesia] means assembly [true enough] that those groups who practice community without ‘church building, liturgy, offices, etc..’ are trying to ‘be the church without the church’. Yet every single New Testament church in the bible, according to Deyoung’s view, would be ‘the church without the church’. Needless to say I disagree almost 100 percent with his view of what the Ecclesia is. This will probably be my last entry on the book [unless the last chapter has some major things that need to be addressed] Deyoung’s view of church is important for all to see [emergents, out of church believers, etc.] it is probably the basic view that most well meaning men would use to defend the traditional view. I believe this view to be very limited and fundamentally disconnected from scripture and the first century churches described in the bible. For the record, in a few hours I will be ‘attending church’ at the mega church I attend here in Corpus. I also appreciate the historic church tremendously, I agree with Deyoung [and Kluck] on the bad attitude that many in the ‘out of church’ movement have towards the historic church. I just think Deyoung went way over board in trying to say that ‘the Sunday church meeting, in the church building, with the liturgical sacraments being administered by the ecclesiastical authorities’ is what church really is. I see this view to be extremely limited and disconnected from the Ecclesia’s spoken about in scripture. I simply believe Deyoung has got it wrong. [If you think this review was too tough, just imagine if I wrote it yesterday with the heat exhaustion!] Note- To be fair Deyoung does say that you can ‘have church’ without the building, as long as you have the offices, liturgy, etc. Sort of like saying if you move the entire Sunday liturgical drama into the basement, then yes you can ‘have church’ without the building. I simply disagree with his entire view of ‘having church’.

(1206) CASH FOR KLUNKERS AND KLUCK- Okay, I mentioned a few weeks back about the cash for klunkers program, I thought it was a bad idea. A day ago the govt. officially scrapped the plan. Dealers all over the country were decrying the red tape and bureaucratic hoops that they needed to jump thru to get their money, they started dropping out. I also read a story in the paper how many used car dealers were losing their normal used vehicle flow; some actually went out of business. One guy said ‘what about all my customers that needed the $3,ooo dollar cars? Where can they go for the cars, the govt. is crushing them at their expense’ in essence the people who were smart enough to trade in their $1,ooo dollar cars for $4,500 were not the ones who were really struggling financially, these folks had enough to finance new cars at the publics expense, the public tax payers were footing the bill, and losing the used cars that they needed to meet their needs. Wow, and you want the govt. to run your healthcare. Okay, I read a few more chapters of ‘why we love the church’ Deyoung [Pastor] and Kluck [sheep- he attends Deyoung’s church] take turns writing their own chapters, just like their first book. Kluck shares a story about being at a Pastors convention, all the good preaching and a few top notch evangelicals. He shares from a sincere perspective how all these men are sincere, how they were encouraged to get back to expository preaching in ‘their churches’ and he gives a few examples how ‘at his church’ they have a time when everyone gets a chance to talk every few months, you know a service of testimonies. And how it usually is not the most edifying thing in the world, but he appreciates it when his Pastor [Deyoung] is prepared and teaches a good old expository message. Okay, I think I too would appreciate attending a theologically reformed church [I don’t] and probably would like hearing good in depth stuff, but these examples show me that Kluck and Deyoung are dealing with a different type of thing than the organic church movement is trying to address. They are basically saying the ‘churches’ on every corner are a good thing, the stable preaching from the heritage of fine pastors over the years has served a noble purpose, but they don’t seem to realize that the New Testament concept of church [Ecclesia] is much different than this. Now, I too think lots of good men have pastored noble ‘churches’ and have served the Lord well. I too think many emergents have stepped over the line and have fallen into the category of heresy, questions on the Atonement and stuff like that. I just get the feel that these brothers [Kluck and Deyoung] are addressing certain issues, while probably not fully seeing the other side. The whole idea of ‘churches on every corner’ [a critique that the authors made of another author] and defending that mindset is really not biblical. While the example used, that the ‘churches on every corner have done a good job’ was understood, yet this idea of buildings on every corner, as separate ‘local churches’ where the main form of community is sitting in a room every Sunday and listening to a sermon, as noble and well meaning these expressions are and have been, yet this very concept is being challenged by the organic church movement. It simply is not biblical to see all these fine church buildings, with fine Pastors and parishioners as ‘local churches’ in the biblical sense. So, without re-teaching everything I have already taught over the years, I appreciate these authors’ skill and honesty in their writings, but I think they are not fully seeing the other side.

(1205) THE LAMBS TABLE- Jesus has the meal with his men, he tells them because they have stuck it out with him thru the temptations he is appointing to them a kingdom just like his Father did with him. They will rule [exercise authority] over the 12 tribes and ‘sit with him at his table’. A few verses earlier Jesus said ‘the hand of him who will betray me is at the table’. I want you to see that ‘the table’ is a reference to the communion of the saints that Jesus brings into existence by the breaking of his Body and shedding of his Blood. Jesus was more than likely telling the disciples ‘because you guys have stuck it out, you will be the first tier of leaders in my new kingdom [the church] and will sit at my table in this kingdom [a type of the communion table]’. Now, he just gave them a lesson on what it means to exercise authority in his kingdom. He told them the world exercises authority over people by being in charge of them, ruling over them. But Jesus says he is among them as one who serves, that authority in the kingdom means you will serve others and give of your life for others. Truly the apostles will go on to found the great church of Jesus Christ thru much difficulty and suffering, none of them held the honor of a 4th century bishop in Constantine’s Rome. So the picture of them having authority at the table in his kingdom can very well mean the church. Now, I do not discount a real [literal] future application to stuff like this. I know I have riled up all my dispensationalist friends over these last few years, and I fret every day because of this! [Not] But I do realize that many good Christians read these verses and do not apply them in this way, that’s fine. My job is to show the other points of view and allow believers to come to their own conclusions. I like the Catholic scholar Scott Hahn, I don’t agree with everything he says, but I like his teaching on the book of Revelation and the ‘Lambs Supper’. Scott sees the prophetic significance of the kingdom and the church meeting around the communion table thru these images. It’s a glorifying of the Lamb type of a view, as opposed to seeing the anti- christ on every page. I disagree with Scott’s application of these truths when he applies them only to the Catholic faith. I like the idea of seeing ‘the lambs Supper’ as a glorious view of the communion of the saints of all ages, I would just give it the broader application of applying to all the saints, not only Catholic ones. Jesus told his men that they continued with him in his time of trial, because of this they would have authority in his church. I think this is a lesson for us all.

(1204) There was this man stuck on a deserted island, he was there for 30 years. Finally one day he saw a ship pass by and he started a fire to signal it. When they came to his rescue they saw that he had made 3 huts. They asked him what they were for; the first one was his house, the second was his church. What about the third one? Oh, that’s the church I used to go to [you have to be a Pastor/ex-Pastor to get his one]. I am about 1/3rd thru with the book ‘why we love the church’ [Deyoung, Kluck]. While it’s too soon to review it, let me make a few comments. First, I really like these guys a lot, I read their first book [why we’re not emergent] and will stick with their journey for now. They write from an informed historical perspective. Unashamedly Calvinist [like myself] but yet cool enough to challenge the other cool guys [emergent cool]. I don’t know if they did a chapter on ‘ecclesiology’ [their view of local church] but it would be helpful if they did/do one. They do a great job defending the historic gospel, they defend the ‘church’ and all of the great things the old traditional ‘churches’ have done over the years. They rightfully take the emergent crowd to the woodshed on their willingness to reject certain historic claims of Christianity. But I think they do not really see the legitimate challenge to the church as community versus the people who ‘go to the church on Sunday’. I think their voices are important to hear, and everyone who is reading the organic church stuff should read these guys, but I am not sure they fully see the biblical idea/concept of church as community in the New Testament. In their noble efforts to refute those who have gone too far in other areas, they might be missing the truth of the Ecclesia as defined in scripture. Okay, enough said. Jesus is eating the Passover with the disciples, he tells them he will not eat/drink with them again until the Kingdom of God comes. Was he speaking of a future restoration of nationalistic Israel and his eating the restored Passover/Communion meal at that time? I don’t think so. After Jesus rose from the dead it was important for the ‘witnesses’ [disciples] to have seen testimony that Jesus rose bodily from the grave. He tells Thomas ‘thrust your hand into my side’ he eats with them on a few occasions. He was showing them he was really alive. John’s gospel is the only one [I think] that mentions the blood and water coming from Jesus side after being pierced on the Cross. In John’s letters he speaks of the blood and water as a testimony. John also says that they were testifying of the Son, who they saw and whose hands have handled. John was combating the soon to rise Gnostic/Docetist heresies that would doubt the physical resurrection of Christ. They would say he was ‘a phantom’ [spirit]. So, why did Jesus emphasize his eating with them ‘when the Kingdom came’ [after his death and resurrection]? I think he was giving them a sign/truth that he was physically coming back. They still did not fully grasp what he was going to do, there would be some who would doubt that he really died and rose [see 1st Corinthians 15]. He was telling them that he was really going to die and really come back from the dead. The whole Christian faith stands or falls on this single reality, Paul said ‘if Christ be not risen then we are of all men most miserable’. Jesus said ‘don’t worry guys, when I come back we will eat again’.

(1202) I hit Barnes and Noble yesterday, picked up; 1- everything must change, Mclaren [couldn’t find generous orthodoxy] 2- surprised by hope, N.T. Wright [the one on justification was there, but felt this one would be better] 3- why we love the church, Deyoung and Kluck [I liked their first one, ‘why we’re not emergent’ they seem to be filling in the role of countering Viola, Barna] and last but not least 4- will Catholics be left behind, Olson. I have heard him before, he is an ex fundamentalist/evangelical and defends against the dispensational model of eschatology. The reason I wanted to mention these books is not to show off, but I want to encourage our readers to get a broad depth of what’s going on [and has gone on] in the Church worldwide, the current trends if you will. I of course realize that these few books don’t cover everything, but they challenge us to think and read from a broad based perspective, hearing what the Lord ‘might’ be saying thru other groups of Christians. Okay, lets hit one verse, in Luke 21 Jesus says as the times of judgment draw near, be careful to not fall into three traps; 1- Overeating 2- Drunkenness 3- excessive worrying. I find it interesting that Jesus mentions excess and worry as traps that believers need to avoid. How do these fit together? I finally started a subscription to the San Antonio paper, I’ve been running our blog ad in there for a while and got tired of picking the paper up every other Saturday to make sure the ad was running. I also get the Corpus paper delivered. Sure enough they did an article on one of the major prosperity ministries in the Fort Worth area, they were holding some meetings in the area. They were critical of course, quoted the main speaker ‘God has ways to get the money to you’ spoke on reassuring the audience to give, don’t let fear keep you from giving. One trucker who was in debt said he came to test God because he really needed to get out of debt. The whole environment was money focused, the article mentioned how many millions the ministry brings in annually. Jesus said fear and worry lead to excess, wanting ‘excess food, drink’ or creating an overabundance to kind of be your safety net if things go bad. Paul said we live in the world, but we use the things in it [money, material stuff] without abusing them, we don’t center our lives around wealth and investing like the unbelievers do. Sure we can be responsible and knowledgeable in these areas, but don’t make it your God. After reading the article in the paper you got the feel that the Christian group who was holding the meetings were joined by a common bond of wealth, that is the desire to make it, talk about it, focus on all the scriptures and techniques to get it. And of course at the end of each sermon they would be challenged to ‘give it’ these types of environments are focused on the wrong thing. Jesus said beware of excess, beware of letting the cares and worries of life lead you down a road where you are trying to find security in your portfolio. God will meet your needs, don’t get me wrong, but the focus should be on God, not on getting our needs met.

(1201) In Luke 21 Jesus tells his men that there will come a time when they will be persecuted and brought before the authorities as a testimony. He tells them not to pre meditate what to say, but that the Spirit will speak thru them. God will supernaturally give them ‘a mouth [ability to communicate] and wisdom’ [something worth communicating!]. In Isaiah 8 the word says ‘take a great scroll and write in it with the pen of a man’ in Jeremiah 36 the Lord says ‘take another scroll and write in it all the words of the first scroll’. God historically has communicated truth to his people. Our bibles are like ‘2 scrolls’ if you will, all the words that were in the first part [Old Testament] were brought forth and revealed in the 2nd part-scroll [New Testament]. God has communicated much to his church; Isaiah was to write on a ‘great scroll’ lots of good stuff. Now, we [American church] have a tendency to master one part of the verse that says ‘mouth AND wisdom’. We have all the techniques down to get our message out, we know how to teach the verses that talk about ‘sowing into this ministry for a harvest’ and we communicate this type of limited message to the nations. I recently wrote an entry on how the Latin American countries have been inundated with this type of TV message, and many preachers proclaim this limited message over and over again to the masses, we have mastered ‘the mouth’ part. There are many African churches who have read the Gospels and New Testament and have come to reject the American success gospel. They came to this conclusion by their own reading of scripture, yet the American gospel mastered the techniques of broadcasting a limited message into the country. The natural indigenous church has come to rebuke us. We had the ability/finances to communicate, but lacked wisdom. In the 5th century [452 to be exact] Attila the Hun and his hordes marched up the Danube and struck fear into the hearts of the people, he seemed to be this unstoppable force that would make it all the way to Rome and topple the seat of the Western Empire. The emperor sent a party to try and reason with him, Pope Leo would personally speak to the raider and turn him back from sacking the city [though it would fall a few years later under Geaseric]. How could a simple Pope, without military might, stop a man that no human army could stop? God gave him ‘a mouth and wisdom’ he obviously spoke something that touched the mans heart. I think the American church needs to trust the Lord for more wisdom to go along with ‘our mouth’. We simply speak/communicate much too much, we have too much to say and not enough depth in what we say. We have churches in other countries who have been hurt by the tremendous immaturity of the things we are teaching them. These fellow believers have rebuked us and told us to please stop teaching this materialistic gospel to their nations. We desperately need both a mouth and wisdom to go along with it.

(1198) GET OFF THE TRACKS! Jesus said the stone that the builders rejected became the head of the corner, the chief cornerstone. Whoever falls on the stone will break, but whoever the stone falls on, watch out, you will be ground into dust! Jesus said this in the context of Israel rejecting him as the Messiah. Christians are notorious for making the main thing a side issue, and then making side issues the main thing. In the history of Christianity there have been numerous times when the Lord used people to encourage radical change in the church. Right before the 16th century Reformation you had a sort of pre reform movement. The English scholar/clergyman John Wycliffe headed up a strong teaching ministry out of England [14-15th centuries]. He had such a strong influence on the population that during the Catholic repression of his movement many people died all over the country. Wycliffe taught the basic New Testament doctrine of the mystical church, he had said that the true church consists of all the spiritual children of God, whether they are part of the institutional church or not. He did not claim that there were no believers in the Catholic Church, but he resisted the idea that God had placed the sole authority on the earth within her. He rejected the Petrine doctrine of the Pope. His books were eventually condemned and he died for his position. Then you had John Huss, the Bohemian reformer [modern day Czech Republic] who also headed up a strong movement in his land, he was a student of the writings of Wycliffe and many local Bohemians supported him. He too would eventually be killed for his position. A few years ago the Catholic Church officially did an investigation into their treatment of Huss, they apologized for the mistakes made and recognized that Huss accepted the Pauline idea of the mystical church versus the Papal system. I found it interesting that the church acknowledged that there was a difference between the two. These men were fire starters who’s ‘fires’ would burn right up until the present day. Jesus said when you live in a time of significance, a time when God is doing real reform. You can respond in a few different ways; you can resist the thing the Lord is doing and hurt your purpose and destiny, in effect you can ‘fall on the rock and be broken’. You can fight the thing God is doing [the main stone] and suffer for it. Or you can find yourself sitting on the tracks, not realizing that the thing ‘the stone’ [prophetic voices] is targeting are the actual things you are doing! When that happens the best option is to get off the tracks, these reformers have a tendency to not slow down.

(1195) Was reading Psalms 19 and it speaks of Gods law being perfect; it converts [restores] the soul, makes us wise. By them we are warned and in keeping of them there is great reward. It reminds me of James ‘be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves’. Some day I will teach the letter of James in it’s entirety, it is important and generally misunderstood. Many Reformers [I lean towards reformed theology personally] tend to say that James was saying ‘the faith that saves is active/working faith’ and that’s what James was talking about. While this certainly is true, James does say ‘see how Abraham/Rahab were saved/justified by their works’. This statement is saying something different than just ‘the faith that saves is active’ this is saying these folks ‘were saved’ by their works. I believe in the classic Pauline doctrine of justification by faith, don’t get me wrong. I think we miss it when we don’t leave room for something like ‘see how God also declared them righteous/acceptable when they did good works’. I think the statement ‘saved by works’ can actually mean something different than ‘accepted the Lord and got saved’. The solution is in seeing the fluent language of the New Testament when it deals with salvation/justification [soteriology]. It’s perfectly biblical to say ‘these people were saved [declared pleasing and acceptable in Gods eyes] by their works’ without having to apply it to the initial act of legal justification that Paul emphasizes in Romans/Galatians. Well I cant do it all right now, but will get to it someday. Today’s point was ‘keeping Gods commands, doing what he says’ brings great reward. It is easy to fall into the trap of becoming a professional learner/hearer of Gods word. Basically seeing our role as someone who learns a lot about the bible, preaches it, talks about it, but has little time to actually apply the things that it says. I was listening to a preacher who excelled high up the ranks of scholarly things; he became very smart in many things. He earned his masters and other degrees and was an accomplished writer and theologian. He then shared how the Lord began leading him to actually obey the things he learned in the Gospels. To take literally the words of Jesus on serving others and giving all your material goods away to serve the poor. He did it. He left his influential position as a teaching scholar, he moved to a foreign country and started a mission to the poor. I heard him speak on TV. I find it interesting that it can be so easy to make Gods word and Christian doctrine a priority, that is we can master knowledge of the things in them, but yet we might not actually be doing what it says. This is a danger for all of us. A big part of the present challenge to ‘institutional church’ deals with this. Many organic/community based movements are trying to get back to functioning and acting like the early churches acted. I of course think this is a good thing. One of the dangers can be falling into the trap of seeing ‘how we meet’ as the main criteria of what’s really ‘true church’ versus ‘institutional’. The New Testament does not teach that the way we as believers meet is the way to identify who are ‘true or not’. The New Testament says those who do the works are the ones who are of God. Works in an active/charitable sense, you know ‘pure religion before God is visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction and keeping yourself unspotted from the world’ type thing. So anyway today we learned that actually doing what God says brings great reward. It’s good to pray and read the bible and attend church, but if we are not doing the stuff, we are missing out.

(1193) The rich ruler asks Jesus ‘what good thing must I do to inherit eternal life’? Jesus responds ‘you know the commandments, do these and you will live’. The man says I have kept them since I was a kid, Jesus says there is still one thing lacking ‘go, sell all that you have, give it to the poor. And come and follow me, you will have treasure in heaven’. As you continue thru the chapter [Luke 18] you see that Jesus then gives the famous ‘it is easier for a camel to pass thru the eye of a needle than for a rich man to make it to heaven’. The disciples wonder ‘who then can be saved’ and they also tell Jesus they forsook all in this life to follow him, Jesus says they will be rewarded both now and in the future for their sacrifice. Now, I explained this section of scripture many times over the years, the camel quote and what Jesus was telling Peter about ‘getting more in this life and later as well’ either read the short book ‘house of prayer or den of thieves’ [on this site] or go thru the ‘prosperity gospel/word of faith’ section on this blog for an explanation. I just want to hit on one angle today, over the years it has become popular to make a charge against the historic church that when they made vows of poverty and did stuff like that, that they were simply being deceived out of the truth of wealth and the devil tricked them into ‘forsaking all to follow him’. Many preachers who have made this charge are well meaning men who have been wrongly influenced by the prosperity/materialistic gospel without realizing it. In this story Jesus clearly challenges the rich person to sell his goods, give to the poor and follow him. If this type of teaching was limited to this one story, then I could see where people might be taking it out of context, but this theme of choosing Christ over the material pursuits of life is woven all throughout the New Testament. You find it in the writing of the epistles, the book of Acts, the Revelation of John. I mean this is a central theme of scripture. To charge that the people in church history who have actually felt that Jesus wanted them to ‘sell all and follow him’ to say that they were being tricked into doing this by ‘church tradition’ simply is not true. Many believers have made these choices because of what they read in the bible, many of them went on to found great worldwide movements [some of the famous Monastic movements were started this way] and their lives truly were a fulfilling of this type of teaching. In essence they left the pursuit of material wealth and founded movements that continue today for the cause of Christ. I do realize why many well meaning Pastors have overlooked this, but this still does not excuse the fact that a majority of the New Testament speaks against the pursuit of wealth versus the Kingdom of God. It wasn’t a Bishop, or Pope, or Reformer or Orthodox priest who told the man ‘sell all you have and give it to the poor’ it was Jesus himself! I think it’s time we stop accusing the saints of old who have made this same decision because of the words of Christ, they were not acting out of ignorance or tradition. It is our modern day ignorance that often is the problem.

(1192) ARE WE SUPPOSED TO BE DUMMIES? Still in Luke 18, the disciples forbid the young children from coming to Jesus; Jesus rebukes the disciples and tells them that the Kingdom of God is made up of little children. There is a theme in the New Testament that goes like this ‘become childlike in your faith and trust in me, but be mature in your thinking and understanding’. Often times these two things are confused. Why? In the letter to the Corinthians Paul will rebuke the wisdom of the world, he states that when he was among them he did not use men’s wisdom to convince them of the message of the Cross. Paul also encourages believers to be ‘child like’ as well. Many confuse Paul’s teaching with an idea that says Christians should not be engaged in the development of the mind. Paul was not rebuking all wisdom and forms of knowledge, but a specific kind of wisdom. In Acts 17 we read of Paul at Athens, the Greek intellectual city of his day [Alexandria was the philosophical center in Egypt]. As Paul disputes with the philosophers of his day he actually quotes their own poets/philosophers in his sermon, he does not quote from the Old Testament, but uses the sources that they are familiar with. Right after Athens Paul goes to Corinth, the cites are very close geographically. There was a form of philosophy at Corinth that was very popular, you had the Sophists and the professional speakers [Rhetoric] operating out of Corinth. The Sophists were the philosophers that came right before Socrates in the Greek cultural world, around 6 centuries or so before Christ. Their form of philosophy was what you would describe as the first Relativists [or post modern thinkers who appeal to subjective knowledge as opposed to objective] they taught that philosophy and arguing were simply things you do ‘just for the heck of it’. Sort of like a hobby of simply disputing things while never being able to arrive at truth, something Paul will rebuke in the New Testament by saying some people were ‘always learning and never being able to come to the knowledge of the truth’ Paul himself tells the Corinthians ‘where is the disputer of this world’. So the Sophists were famous for this type of thing. Now the great philosopher Socrates disagreed with the Sophists, Socrates taught that thru the practice of thorough debate and the art of constantly asking questions, that you could arrive at truth [seek and ye shall find type of a system]. He believed real knowledge could be found thru seeking after it. Socrates stirred the waters too much, he was put to death by being made to drink the famous hemlock, the city where this happened was Athens. So Paul more than likely is disputing the system of thought that said you could not arrive at objective truth. It’s no secret that his letter to the Corinthians has one of the strongest statements of factual [objective] belief found in the New Testament. The great chapter 15 reads like an early creed to the church ‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures…’ It’s very probable that this chapter was used as a sort of creed in the early Pauline churches. So, what exactly was Paul saying [and Jesus] when they taught us to be like children, to reject the wisdom of the world for the wisdom of Christ? Simply that our approach to God and the things of God should be done in a humble manner, being childlike and open to God all throughout our lives. Paul was not teaching us that the following ages of great Christian thinkers was wrong; men like Anselm, Aquinas, C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton. It is perfectly acceptable for the believer to become well versed in the field of philosophy, to argue the Christian worldview from a biblical perspective. While it is true that no church was founded by Paul after his Athens visit, and some feel he abandoned his use of ‘worldly wisdom’ at Corinth because of this failure, but I think Paul continued to appeal to the intellectual world thru his great wisdom [God given] thru out his life [read Galatians and Romans!]. Ultimately it is the wisdom of the Cross that saves people, a wisdom that Paul said he communicated not in the words of mans intellect, but in the direct ability of the Spirit to speak. Sometimes that ability came thru a sermon that quoted the philosophers of old [Athens] sometimes thru the simple sharing of the message of Christ. Jesus grew in wisdom and stature with God and man, he knew the ideas of his day, so did Paul. Do you?

(1189) In Luke 17 the Pharisees ask Jesus when the Kingdom of God is going to come, Jesus tells them that the kingdom does not come by observing things; it’s not about geopolitical events if you will, but it is ‘within you’. He then says some will come and say ‘see here’ or ‘look there’ and Jesus says ‘go not after them, don’t follow them’. What were the Pharisees asking Jesus? To the first century Jewish mind, their expectation of the kingdom entailed the setting up of the messianic rule thru the messiah. They were looking for an outward, physical kingdom that would be set up at the capital city of Jerusalem and throw off the dominion of Roman rule. They in essence were looking for the same exact thing that the modern prophecy teachers have popularized over the last 50 years or so, they wanted Jesus on the throne and openly fighting off Israel’s physical enemies. Jesus clearly told them this was not the way the kingdom would come, or be expressed. He also warned of those who would be obsessed with ‘looking there’ or ‘seeing here’ those who would be scanning the geopolitical landscape with the goal of finding specific signs that would ‘hasten the kingdom’. Over the years I have observed various strains of belief that exist within the Christian church, I have always been uneasy about the proliferation of end time books that espouse a very limited view of end time events. Many of these scenarios are a compilation of prophetic portions of scripture from all over the bible, but they seem to ‘paste’ them together as one divine master plan that will all culminate in our day. They take Daniel, Ezekiel, Thessalonians, the Gospels and Revelation and seem to find a pattern that has all these various references speaking of one specific period of time, namely the late 20th [or early 21st] century. These passages speak of ‘the beast’ ‘the anti christ’ ‘the prince that will come’ and other descriptions of wicked men and rulers, but they apply all these verses to one man who is yet to appear on the scene. This is not the proper way to do ‘bible study’. Some of these passages might refer to the same person, but some have had their fulfillment centuries [or millennia] ago. Let’s just hit one scenario for today. In Daniel we read of a prince that will come and in the middle of the last week [7 year period] will cause the sacrifice to cease. Most commentators teach this in a way that has a future ruler who is yet to establish a peace treaty with Israel and in the middle of a 7 year period he breaks the covenant and stops the sacrifices that are taking place in a restored Jewish temple based out of Jerusalem. Now, the prophecies of the Old Testament do have remarkable accuracy. You find the appearing of Jesus prophesied to the tee from the 490 year prophecy of the ‘70 weeks’ of years. You can actually trace the years of the prophecy and they do bring you right up until the time of Christ’s appearing to Israel in the first century. But what about the last 7 [or 3.5] years? Does the prophecy about ‘the prince causing the sacrifice to cease’ mean that we have to postpone the last 7 year period for at least 2 thousand years? Right after Jesus appeared to Israel he entered into a 3 and a half year period of ministry, he in essence was with them for the first part of the last week. What happened in the middle of the week? He dies on a Cross and becomes the final sacrifice that God will ever accept for the sins of man. He in effect was the prince that caused the sacrifice to cease in the middle of the last week. But what about the other 3 and a half years? And the abomination that makes desolate that Jesus himself talked about? Let’s see, you have the nation of Israel rejecting the messiah for a 40 year testing period. They continue to practice animal sacrifices and this practice itself is called an abomination in the book of Hebrews. God was telling the 1st century Jewish community that they had so much time to accept or reject their messiah. 40 years has always been a time of probation for Israel. But they continued to reject the final sacrifice of Jesus right up until the destruction of their city and temple in A.D. 70. When Rome sacked the city under the military leader Titus, they actually besieged it for 3 and a half years. This time period was considered one of the most terrible times of trials for the nation. It was reported that women actually reverted to eating their own babies! There were also a few candidates for the ‘abomination that makes desolate, standing in the holy place’ you had the zealots [radical group] who actually desecrated the holy of holies on purpose to bring a quick uprising, you had various periods of time where certain Roman emperors attempted to set up an image of themselves in the sacred court [Caligula]. You had times where swine were purposefully sacrificed on the altar of God [Antiochus Epiphanies in the days of the Maccabees] and of course you had the actual sacrificing of animals, which the New Testament describes as an ‘abomination’ taking place in the city of Jerusalem. The point is we have a whole bunch of historic events that we can look at and see if they play any role in the various scattered prophecies in scripture. I am not saying that this view is the only valid view, but we have a type of ‘prophecy teaching’ that takes place in the U.S. that seems to discount all these other options. It is a view that is obsessed with outward signs and telling the average Christian ‘look over here, see this sign’ it is a view that Jesus rebuked when he was confronting the Pharisees. They, of all people, had every right to believe that Gods kingdom was about an actual setting up of a military type rule that would throw off Israel’s enemies, Jesus flatly told them that this was not what the kingdom was about. If the Jews of the first century were told not to look at the kingdom thru this lens, how much more should the American church re evaluate her view on end time things?

(1181) Well we had a good day at the river yesterday, we went to San Antonio [New Braunfels] and rode the river in the inner tubes. I actually pray regularly for this area, stuff like ‘your people will rise up and overflow the river banks and flow into Judah’ ‘you will be like fountains dispersed abroad, like rivers of waters in the streets’ [bible verses] so it was cool floating down a river with hundreds of people who you regularly pray for. On the ride back I also noticed some famous churches along the highway, basically good people, charismatic type personalities who I used to catch on TV [I haven’t watched shows like that in a few years now, not because their bad or wicked, but too disconnected from the historic context of Christianity- a simple success gospel with no real attachment to the historic church]. So it was fun. Okay in Luke Jesus says when you have a dinner [B.B.Q.] invite the poor and down and out, don’t invite the rich and well to do [man, he is so hard on the affluent!] because if you invite people with the mindset of ‘reaping a harvest’ now, you forfeit a true reward. Jesus says the reward you get will be at the resurrection [no material mindset here, no money thing in the here and now] this is Luke 14 by the way. It’s a mystery to me how so many well meaning streams of Christianity can completely by pass this central mode of Jesus teaching. James, Jesus’ brother, wrote in his epistle ‘when you favor the rich in your assembly and treat them better than the poor you are doing wrong’ [James 2- by the way this is the only reference in the New Testament that speaks of an assembly that can be translated as a place to meet. The context of James is Jewish believers, he obviously is referring to meeting at the synagogue. That probably would have been a better translation. The term for church, Ecclesia, never refers to a building]. So James obviously picked up this mantra from Jesus, you know, the whole negativity on the rich type preaching! Well today we see how Jesus wants us to approach our service to him, when we love our neighbor we are to act and show kindness and spend money [hey, brisket isn’t cheap!] and do it all with a mindset that says ‘no, I am not doing all this so I can get some type of financial reward in the here and now, Jesus will reward me at the resurrection’ I like this stuff, you might not like it, but I love it.

(1175) Lets talk a little; here in my office I have a couple of tool boxes that are around 70 years old. They are machinist tools that belonged to my father’s dad. He died before I was born, but as a boy growing up I used to regularly go thru the interesting tools, micrometers and stuff. The reason they are in my office is funny, a few years ago I was in New Jersey visiting family. My mom would kid with me about stuff, and sure enough I found out that my sisters ‘boyfriend’ was gradually depleting the inventory of the tool boxes for drug purposes! My sister has had a long, sad history of drug addiction, and her friends too. I actually have made some headway in helping her present boyfriend of a few years, he is almost like one of the buddies I help here in Texas, the same type of friendship and all. So I would kid my mom ‘gee, I always looked forward to getting these tools as an inheritance someday, I thought at least I will get something. And now I find out that they have been making their way out the back door for the last year or so’. Now, my mom laughed and all, I know it sounds strange, but it was kinda funny. But she does ask me if I feel bad about it, I told her I would get over it. But I said if I’m on my way back to Texas on the plane, and we have some bad turbulence. And per chance the pilot informs us ‘folks, we regret to inform you that we have encountered mechanical problems. They are so serious that we believe we might suffer loss of life before the flight is over. If you have loved ones you need to call, go ahead and do it now. One more thing, we might have a slim chance of repairing the engine, but we don’t have the proper tools. Does anybody on board happen to have a micrometer’? I told her then I will be mad! One other thing, my mom asked my advice about borrowing money from a reverse mortgage, I told her if the charge and interest are in a reasonable range, then do it. I feel my parents at times have felt guilty over the years because I left Jersey when I was 18 years old, and they thought I would eventually move back. You know, it’s common for kids to launch out when their young, to face the brave new world. And after a few years wind up back home. But in my case I never went back. So there has always been a sense like ‘gee, we never really helped John, he’s had to fend for himself all these years’ and I felt my mom was asking me about the reverse mortgage sort of like getting permission to ‘sell’ part of any future inheritance. I of course have advised her to sell her house and do whatever she needed to do to get herself in a better situation. My parents are divorced and my mom lives in an expensive home that is taxed at a very high N.J. rate. So my advice has been to sell it years ago. But anyway I told my mom to do the reverse mortgage if the price was right. So she borrowed around 25 thousand from the equity at around 6 %, an okay deal. Then I find out that they charged her 25 thousand as a one time fee, along with the 6%! I told her ‘mom, that means they charged you 106%, not a good deal’. Oh well at least I still have a few micrometers. The point is my poor mom does not know financial stuff, I felt bad for her, not me. They basically ripped her off. In Luke 12 Jesus said some servants that knew their lords will and did not do it would suffer many stripes [punishment] and those that were ignorant and did wrong stuff would suffer few stripes. The fact that my poor mom was ignorant of the deal didn’t protect her from taking a loss. In the world of reformation, God changing things in the church, new ways of seeing and doing things, I have Pastor friends who really are like my mom, they are good people who have a basic grasp on stuff, but they are out of their league in other areas. Then there are those who do see and recognize the real problems that the church is facing, they see the limited paradigms that the people of God have functioned under for all these years. Jesus said both groups would give an account for their response to truth. Those who really knew what was wrong, and let it slip by will suffer much. But those that didn’t really know what was going on in the current church world, they served faithfully to the best of their ability in the limited mindset of church and ministry, they too will suffer, not as much as those who had more understanding, but yet they will suffer. I believe God wants all of us to serve him and do our best to live up to the things he requires of us. I also believe that too many of us [Pastors/Leaders] struggle for too long in places and ideas that are outmoded and calling for change. If we simply take the attitude ‘well, people have been doing it this way for years’ without truly educating ourselves as much as possible, then we too will suffer. Hey, don’t get stuck on the plane with out a micrometer, it good prove hazardous to your health! [get it? The right tool for the journey- hey it’s the best I can do]

(1174) Almost finished with Noll’s book [scandal of the evangelical mind] and thought it time to comment. The book was published in 1994 and I realize a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. Noll brings out great points; he shows a fundamental weakness in American evangelicalism because of the way the movement shaped a sort of anit intellectual way/thought pattern of viewing the world and society. He really takes the dispensational wing of the church to task, frankly, I was surprised how willingly he dismantled many of their belief systems. I agree with him on this issue, but was surprised that a very popular book would go this far [and still be nominated book of the year by Christianity today- back in 1994!]. I think an area of weakness in the book is Noll’s ‘over association’ of young earth creationism with the Seventh Day Adventist church, and his repeating of the charge that creationists [and fundamentalists in general] are practicing a form of ‘modern Manichaeism’. He basically links an ‘anti material spirit’ that was seen in the early Christian heretics [Gnosticism, Docetism and Manichaeism] and applies this to the views of creationists and their so called unwillingness to allow the facts from nature speak for themselves. I wrote the note ‘way too much’ a few times when reading the book. I think he’s basically mistaken on this, many early Christian thinkers did hold to a young earth view, and they were the same thinkers who rebuked these cults who rejected the natural world as evil. Overall the book is a worthwhile read, it exposes the weakness of the fundamental/evangelical movement to ‘think Christianly’ about the world and society around them. Too often believers think ‘thinking Christianly’ means introducing bible verses into the conversation, this is not what Noll is speaking about. He shows the fundamental error that arose during the modernist/fundamentalist debates of the 19th/20th centuries, and how this caused the church to accept modes of thinking and learning that were disconnected from the fathers of these movements. For instance, Jonathan Edwards, who is considered to be the greatest homegrown thinker of the American experience, he embraced an acceptance of the natural sciences as a way to learn more about the ways of God. True studies of the earth and universe and things in the world were accepted as a means of God communicating truth to his people thru the ‘book of nature’. Noll shows how the fundamentalist movement came to reject this willingness to look at the natural world and learn from it. Thus his overstated charge of Manichaeism, a group that saw the natural world as evil. A blind spot of Noll is his seeming belief that the majority of all Christians/scientists accepted as fact the old earth views of the Geologic table and the other sciences that arose at the time [like evolutionary theory]. He paints a picture that says ‘see, most believers were open to learning from science back then, but the fundamentalist movement and the rise of creationism side tracked the church’. This is simply not true. Many scientists and Christians did not accept the science of an old earth and the interpretation of the geologic table. Many fathers of the church accepted a young earth view [Noll’s creationism] since the beginning of church history. Though Noll quotes saint Augustine in his defense of thinking critically, yet Augustine himself believed in a young earth. He actually believed God made everything in an instant and the 6 days of Genesis 1 were symbolic, that God used the ‘6 day framework’ to show us his creative acts. The point being, Augustine’s spiritualizing of the days of creation did not make him an old earth believer! So there were a few things like this that I take issue with, overall I think every evangelical/protestant believer would benefit from reading the book. Noll’s challenge to the evangelical church to ‘think Christianly in all areas of life’ is a needed rebuke to many in the church. Noll is correct in showing the weakness of the American protestant church and her basic disdain of intellectual learning, thinking that higher learning in and of itself is a bad thing. This has fostered a community of believers that has cut itself off from the basic institutions that effect society as a whole [the research universities being one example]. If Christians shy away from the natural sciences and the reality that even unbelievers have at times revealed to us true things thru these studies, then we are going down a road that will eventually cut our influence off from the broader society at large.

(1170) yesterday I was reading the paper and saw an article on a local guy who attacked a cop with a meat cleaver, as I looked at the brothers face he looked familiar. It took me a few seconds to recognize it was Martin, a friend of mine. He stopped by a few months ago, just to say hi and all. I have had Martin over a few times, been to his apartment a few times. We fished together; he had lots of good questions. Martin is a good friend who I would get together with again if the chance arose. The picture and story in the paper would have you thinking he was an ax murderer, in reality the cop was off duty when he approached him. He is paranoid, and he probably thought they were going to jump him. Meat clever does sound bad, but it was probably a kitchen knife! We see people from different perspectives than God, people need the Lord. Well I know I said we were done with Luke 11 yesterday, but let’s get in one more. Jesus rebukes the lawyers for taking away ‘the key of knowledge’ and hindering others to find the truth. A few years back when Texas passed tort reform, I would be at the fire house and see the new commercials the lawyers came up with. Instead of advertising for accident victims, they ran commercials on other lawyers who were ambulance chasers. They were wanting the public to contact their law firm, so they could sue the other law firm who got to them first. Lawyers suing lawyers, now that’s what I call poetic justice! Here Jesus rebukes these ‘lawyers’ [religious leaders] because they did a specific thing, they rejected the gifts that God sent to them in the past. Jesus says ‘God sent you prophets and apostles and you rejected them’. In essence they wouldn’t hear the corporate wisdom/correction of God. I have heard this verse used in various ways over the years; some said this was speaking of the Christian church who reject these gifts today [apostle/prophet] some say it’s speaking of their own religious view of things. I think an overall understanding is God sends us messengers thru out the history of the church, we become acquainted with them thru their writings and the histories that tell about their stories. Often times the modern church is too quick to associate all past ‘churches’ as traditional, dead churches. This is a serious mistake in my view. When Jesus rebuked those who held to the traditions of men over God’s word, he was not saying that we should reject all tradition! He was primarily speaking of ‘the tradition of the elders’ a specific body of tradition that rose up around rabbinic Judaism, not tradition in general. Paul will instruct timothy to hold to the traditions that he was giving him [grounded in the word!] So Jesus rebuked the lawyers for their rejecting of the messengers of God, in essence they wanted to re invent the wheel all over again for each new generation, this in itself is a rejection of the communion of the saints that understands that we are all part of a 2 thousand year tradition of Christian believers. While wisdom allows us to discern between what traditions are good, and which are bad. Yet we don’t want to reject the entire body of Christian tradition that has come down to us from our forefathers. Jesus said he who receives those he sends, receive him. Jesus has been sending us prophets and wise men for centuries, are you hearing them?

(1166) yesterday I was finishing up Last Days Madness, by Gary Demar, and the book by Mark Noll showed up at my door [the scandal of the evangelical mind] I got thru the first 50 pages and really like it a lot. I do realize these books are dated, they’ve been around for a while, but I have been trying to catch up on the classics that I have never read before. Lots of my library has scholarly stuff, but most of the books were purchased at half price books, or ordered from Amazon, so I tend to miss some of the classics. I just read Luke 11, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. I like Luke’s version of it ‘give us bread day by day’ the daily bread request. Then Jesus goes right into the story of the guy whose friend shows up at his door, he realizes that he doesn’t have enough bread for his friend so he goes to another friend at midnight and asks for help. The other friend is in bed, but because of his friend’s boldness and persistence he gives him bread. James says we have not because we ask not, then he says sometimes we have not because we are asking out of selfishness, to simply get stuff to feed our lusts. Did James contradict Jesus? Did Jesus teach that we get whatever we want? I do find it interesting that Jesus gave us the story about the friend right after the Lords Prayer. In the Lords Prayer we ask ‘give us enough bread for today’ and then Jesus shows us what type of ‘bread asking’ this is. Asking for another! Basically when we recognize that we don’t have the wherewithal to meet the needs of others, we go to God and say ‘lord, I know these friends of mine are looking to me for answers, I really don’t have what it takes to be honest about it, but if you can give me some bread/life for them I will do my best to share it with them’. I like that, Jesus gives the bread to those who recognize that they are insufficient, they know they don’t have the ‘intellectual gravitas’ to cut it! When I was reading yesterday, I also grabbed one of my church histories off the shelf and started thru it. I like re-reading the good stuff, there are too many facts in these books to read them only once and think that’s enough. So as I’m reading thru I realize that it’s a very good read, you know, one of those books that reads easily. I was reading Karl Barth’s history on 19th century Protestant Theology and it was a tough read. He was teaching on Immanuel Kant and it was rough, maybe because it’s an English translation of the Swiss theologian? Kant is tough enough on his own, but reading him thru a translation of Barth might be a little too much. So anyway I felt good about myself when reading Bruce Shelley’s church history, I mean it was easy, I thought ‘yeah, maybe I can hack these intellectuals, look, this read is child’s play’ I then flipped to the title to see the exact wording, it’s ‘church history in plain language’ which in layman’s terms means ‘history for dummies’ oh well a good dose of humility does the soul some good. Jesus said those who recognize that they don’t have ‘the bread’ for their friends on the journey are in good shape, they know to go to ‘other friends’ and ask for help, they’re not too proud to realize they don’t have all the answers. I think we need more of this in today’s church world. We all need to receive from one another. I like Nolls book, he shows the need for the intellectual wing of the church to receive from the ‘non intellectual’ wing. But he also takes the evangelical church to task for its neglect of the Life of the Mind. Hopefully I’ll share more in the coming posts. But for today this is all ‘the bread’ I have, thank God we all know where to go for some more! [I also ordered Brian Mclaren’s Generous Orthodoxy, but the order messed up. I will try and review it in the next month or so, it’s important for the emergent critique]

(1163) Just read the story where the disciples tell Jesus that they found some people casting out demons in Jesus name and the disciples told them to stop because ‘they followeth not us’. It reminded me of one of the first official ‘church sermons’ I preached. It was during the early days of ministry, I was a youth pastor at a Fundamental Baptist Church, the pastor was a good man, he would ask me to preach every now and then. I remember speaking on this verse and sharing how we as Christians shouldn’t cut others off because they are not part of our group, it was a courageous message at the time, being young and all. This type of sectarian mindset was strong in this group. Jesus told his men to not forbid others who claim the name of Jesus. I realize that there are many different groups of Christians in the world today, it would be ignorant to believe that some of the doctrinal differences do not matter any more. But it would also be childish to view these brothers and sisters from a view point that sees them as all wrong, or even lost! The real fundamentals of the faith are held by the majority of these groups. Yes, it sounds liberal, but we all meet at the Cross. I noticed recently in the Corpus paper, that a church that advertises in the section where I run this blog ad, changed the name of the ad [and church?] they are a good Baptist church that would emphasize the ‘come as you are’ type of thing, the last time I saw the ad, it had a new name for the church called ‘acceptance’. I believe sometimes we might go overboard in the unity thing, we don’t want people to think there are absolutely no ground rules to this thing, there are some basic rules. But we want them to know that they do not have to be just like us [whoever ‘us’ is!] in order to be accepted, Jesus says if you name the name of Jesus, you’re in, can’t get much better than that.

(1157) I have been stuck in Luke 6 for a few days, let’s hit it briefly. Jesus is walking with the disciples thru the grain fields; they pick the grain on the Sabbath and eat some. The religious watchdogs got him now! ‘Why do you and your followers break the commands’ the religious leaders of his day are 3rd-4th generation Pharisees, their office began a few centuries earlier during a time of captivity from foreign powers. Though they know a lot about ‘the bible’ they have developed this entire tradition around their religious lives [the tradition of the elders- rabbinic Judaism] and it was this interpretation of the law that they used to judge people. Jesus responds by reaching back into the history of David and says ‘don’t you remember when David was on the run from Saul and he entered the house of God and ate the special bread and gave some to his men’. Notice, Jesus will also tell them ‘which was unlawful to do’. He doesn’t seem to challenge their accusation by saying ‘no, I am not violating the Sabbath, just your view of it’ instead he says ‘yes, I am greater than the Sabbath’ in so many words. I find it interesting that Jesus saw himself as the David who shared the holy bread with his men, a type of the future communion meal that Jesus will inaugurate. He associates his movement and followers with a time in David’s life where the world was against him. David was on the run, he was attracting disgruntled men around him, a time of difficulty and going up against the authorities of the day. Sure, David will also go thru a stage of life where he will become the legitimate king, but this is not the David that Jesus is identifying with at the time. As you read thru the chapter they will accuse him again of healing the mans hand on the Sabbath, and Jesus will give the famous ‘if the blind are leading the blind they will both fall into the ditch together’. It really took guts for Jesus to say stuff like this, he had more problems with the religious folk than any other group! In today’s ‘church world’ you have well meaning people who believe the main job of the church is to defend orthodoxy, to fight for the truth at all costs. Others see a re-thinking of everything, they will say things like ‘Jesus was not a Christian’! Simply meaning that Christianity developed a culture and system that became more important than the person himself. I see validity to both views at times. When you read Jesus and his following, try and look past the technical examining of Jesus thru a microscope, and see him thru a magnifying glass [the big picture] the psalmist said ‘magnify the Lord with me, let us exalt his name together’ the religious crowd were always looking thru a microscope.

(1154) Something else I wanted to mention about the book ‘Why we’re not Emergent’ was they bring out the penchant of some bible teachers to over do the comparisons between pagan myths and Jesus as Gods Son. When I was reading the book by John Crossan [ultra liberal scholar who denies the resurrection] I found the book to be full of examples that Crossan would quote, then after the quote he would say ‘see, the Romans believed in a divine incarnation who would come and save the world from sin’ but if you read the actual quote he used, it said nothing of the sort! Likewise the Emergent movement has some associated with it that do this same thing. It’s become a common internet ‘truth’ that there was a saying running around about Caesar in Jesus day; it said ‘there is no other name under heaven given among men where by we must be saved’. Wow! Doesn’t that sure seem to cast doubt on the Christian religion? The brother who popularized it seems to honestly want to challenge the traditional church and her views, sort of like saying ‘look how much we have been affected by the culture’. The problem is there is no evidence that this saying is true. As far as I can tell, this story about Caesar is not true. So in general we need to be careful when reading certain sources, some are over associating the early pagan myths with Jesus. Now, there are no doubt certain myths that shared common traits to the early church, but to over do these associations is not right. Also when I was reading the book from Crossan [in search of Paul] it had lots of heavy historical information, stuff that I personally like to read. But for some reason I could not get into the book. I got around half way through and quit. I very rarely do this. Then I was reading in another source how at one time Crossan posited the possibility that dogs came and ate the remains of Jesus Body, that’s why you had the empty tomb. Needless to say this is blasphemous. So when studying any subject, be open and willing to hear both sides. Don’t jump to early judgments about people or movements, but if there are enough warnings along the way, then feel free to come to a final conclusion. One of the more popular quotes from an emergent leader has him answering a question about homosexuality, he basically says no matter what way he answers some one will get offended, so he gives no answer. This response has been quoted a few times as a type of wise answer. I think this sums up one of the problems with the church, we at times want everybody to like us, there are times where we need to say what is true, sure we might not be 100% sure of our belief, but there are many beliefs we can be sure on. I am sure the dogs didn’t eat the remains of Jesus!

(1153) Almost finished with the book ‘Why we’re not Emergent’ [by Kluck and DeYoung]. It’s an excellent book, I recommend all of you guys to read it. I agree with much of the book, but it comes short when defending the historic reality of public preaching. It does show the biblical basis for declaring truth [public preaching] and shows the connection between a movement that questions whether or not truth can be known [Emergent subjectivism] and it’s de-emphasis on pulpit ministry [the two go hand in hand] but fails to see that the organic church reform movement does not really challenge the need for ‘preaching’ in so much that it challenges the style of church being a lecture hall environment where people simply sit and listen week after week, month after month and practice a form of ‘church’ that was absent in the new testament story. But all in all I liked the book. Now in Luke 4 Jesus says ‘you guys will want me to do the same miracles in my home town as in other places’ he prophesies their future questioning of him about the legitimacy of his calling. Jesus was ministering in an environment that was performance minded. The Pharisees and religious leaders loved to put on a public display. The people saw ministry as ‘we will pipe and you will dance!’ Yet Jesus will correct this mindset, he tells them the story of both Elijah and Elisha. He says there were many people who lived in ‘the days of Elijah’ who did not see him function. There were many lepers in Elisha’s day and only Namman got healed. He is telling them ‘your measurement of prophetic ministry is not based on Gods truth, you are basing it on public exposure instead’. They even tell him at another time ‘if you are for real, show yourself to the world!’ they simply associated ministry with public performance, and Jesus would have no part of it. Just because someone is sent by God, does not mean they will come and preach/publicly perform at the drop of a hat! Jesus actually offended people by not stopping and mingling with the crowd. In John’s gospel Phillip says ‘the Greeks want to see you’ they were at the big public gathering, the great feast. Word had gotten out about the success of Jesus ministry, now is the time to gain some exposure! Phillip tells Jesus ‘hey, these intellectuals are willing to hear you speak’ Wow, what an open door to the Greek thinkers, now’s the chance to show them my talent. Not! He tells Phillip ‘unless a grain/seed falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone. But if it dies it will bear much fruit’ in essence he was saying ‘these Greeks can find/see me if they want to die to themselves and take up the Cross and follow me. They can find me in true discipleship, but I am not going to go and put on a public show for them’. Leaders, have you fallen into this trap? We all have at times, don’t feel too bad, just repent!

(1151) Just finished reading ‘Coming to Grips With Genesis’ by Terry Mortenson and Thane Ury, probably the best argument for a young earth view put out in the last few years. Though I am still an ‘old earther’ it’s a good read. I am in the middle of ‘Last days Madness’ by Gary Demar [Preterism] and yesterday the book I ordered last ‘Why we’re not Emergent’, by Kevin Deyoung and Ted Kluck, showed up at my door. I am about 1/3 rd thru it. I recently read a quote from one of the famous philosophers that said ‘it is the mark of a mature intellect to be able to read and grasp another persons view, to understand what they are saying and where they are coming from, without fully embracing their view’ [paraphrase] I am applying this wisdom to all three of the above books. Not because they are not good, or because I disagree with everything in them, but because all people share from a limited view of the things they are seeing from their perspective [yes, me too!] that’s why God tells us there is safety in a multitude of counselors [not all counselors from your limited group either!] Okay, in Luke 3 John the Baptist is baptizing and calling people to repent [obviously not an emergent brother, or post modern or neo orthodox- yes, this can go on for ever- he told them what was right and wrong!] Look at the three groups coming to him; he tells the regular people ‘sell what you have, give it to the poor, share your stuff with those who are in need’. He tells the tax collectors ‘stop taking more money than you’re supposed too! It’s okay to collect a normal amount, but don’t go overboard’ and he tells the military ‘don’t use your power in an unjust way, when things go wrong, don’t bear false witness. Don’t cover it up’. I think all of these areas can apply to our lives today. There is somewhat of a resurgence of liberal social justice issues emerging in the church. It’s not out of the mainstream to talk about ecology, or ‘the military industrial complex’ and things of that sort. But we also must realize that in order to have these types of discussions there are times where we say to people ‘yes, we are not perfect, we have our faults. But it is still wrong to kill babies, or to discriminate against minorities, and to neglect our neighbor’. Would you tell a backslidden Christian who was hiding Jews in Nazi Germany ‘who do you think you are hiding these Jews, you are just as bad as Hitler’! Though the church has made mistakes, and Christians have been hypocrites, yet the reality of the ‘wrongness’ of killing Jews is not effected in any way by the perceived hypocrisy of the religious right. It’s still wrong to kill Jews whether or not Jimmy Swaggart messed up! The point being as the church tries to cast off the image of moral superiority that offends the world, we at the same time need to tell the world ‘yes, these things are still wrong, and these other things are still right’. When society came to John in the wilderness, he told them ‘what they must do’ he did not engage them in a long discussion on whether or not we can even determine what they need to do! He simply called them to repentance and back to the original intent of the law, he was preparing the way for Messiah.

(1143) THE FALL- God puts man in the garden, he gives him only one restriction ‘don’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil’ sure enough, he does! The serpent [satan] tempts Eve in 3 areas, the tree is good for food [lust of the flesh] good to look at [eyes] and can make you wise [pride]. In 1st John 2 we see these three areas mentioned as the common categories of all other temptation. These were the same areas the devil used on Jesus in Matthew 4. The temptation to Eve essentially said ‘look at this God of yours! He wont give you the freedom to do anything you want, he is withholding such a good tree from you’ sounds like the philosopher Freud, he taught that the problem with man was Gods restrictions. That if man would cast off the limits that religion imposed upon them, then all would be well. But what man did not know was that these basic limits were for his own good. When man would choose to walk out from under Gods limits, he would suffer for it. In this chapter [Gen. 3] we also see the great prophecy of the child of the woman eventually crushing the serpents head [called the Protoevangelium- Latin] a prophecy about Christ’s future victory at the Cross. God also covers man with animal’s skins, a type of the future sacrifice of Christ on behalf of man. Man tried to cover up with leaves, God said it wont do, so he sacrificed the life of an animal and used the skins as a covering. The wages of sin is death, the price was paid. In Romans chapter 5 Paul will show us that death and sin passed upon all mankind from Adams sinful act, but thru the obedience of one man [Jesus dying on the Cross] righteousness comes to those who believe. This is the basic Christian doctrine of original sin. Some refer to this as the federal head theory of redemption. I believe it’s vital for Christians to have a grasp of this doctrine. In the 19th/20th centuries you had liberal theologians deny the doctrine of Jesus dying on behalf of man. Along with this they also denied that original sin existed. Most believers realized that this denial was heresy and avoided it, but some are playing with the idea again. The bible clearly teaches the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the behalf of man [Isaiah 53] and it is a foundational doctrine for all true believers. To some it seemed unfair to charge God with the doctrine of original sin, and along with it the doctrine of Penal substitution [Christ being punished for us] these are core Christian truths, if people want to deny them, that’s their choice. But to be a Christian in the biblical sense of the word, these truths are necessary, they are part of the foundation of all true Christian churches.

(1131) Nehemiah 8- This is really a key chapter. After the walls are built the process of reviving the community can move ahead. Nehemiah already gave the ‘charge’ of the city to two men who he could trust [last chapter] sort of like a Timothy, Titus deal with Paul. Now he lets Ezra do the pulpit preaching! Ezra begins reading straight from the law and gives the understanding, read this chapter and see how many times it says ‘they gave the understanding, the people were very attentive’ it reminds you of the description of the people who heard Jesus! I want to emphasize that Ezra and the teachers [Levites] were simply giving the people Gods word in context! There is a trend going on right now where some of the ‘flashy, young’ pastors are returning to the historic gospel and preaching the word IN CONTEXT! These past few years many of the mega churches focused on a ‘be all you can be’ type message, but there is a new focus going back to the ‘old word’ and simply teaching it in context. You don’t need Paul’s ‘new perspective’ on justification to make it interesting, while some of these viewpoints have stuff to add to our learning [I like N.T. Wright personally] yet the classic Pauline doctrine of justification by faith is more than enough to satisfy the hungry heart! Ezra gave the ‘sense’ and meaning of the law, and the people soaked it in. They are all gathered together at the ‘water gate’ [too much typology to do it all] and the people as ‘one man’ receive the word. Let me quickly quote a bunch of scattered verses ‘the people will come up like a river who overflows her banks and pour out into Judah’ ‘the people will be like fountains dispersed abroad’ ‘out of our bellies shall flow rivers of living water’ ‘pour out your Spirit on our seed’ ‘let your doctrine drop down like rain, your speech distill like dew’. God pours and flows his Spirit thru his people to the nations. The fact that Ezra is pouring Gods word into the people, before the temple [building] is even rebuilt is important. In this picture Gods people are the temple! A few points; Nehemiah willingly functioned as the governor [a type of an apostle] when it came time to hand over the leadership to others, he did it! Often times in modern church scenarios we don’t practice this part well, we feel like ‘geez, I spent my time building this thing, I deserve to be the main person’! In the New Testament churches there were no ‘main persons’, that is the communities that Paul was building were not ‘local churches’ that were providing him with long term income. These communities were the people of God who had the ability to function on their own after Paul left. The local leaders [elders/pastors] were simply men who had a stable grasp of doctrine that the local believers knew they could look to for support. Elders were more like facilitators of the corporate/communal experience, they were not professional speakers that the people listened to week after week! So this distinction is important to see. To all you ‘church planters’ out there [we have a lot of contacts from Kenya, some from Pakistan] understand that the apostles/governors played an important role in setting doctrine, letting the elders and people know what was true and what was false, but the apostle/church planter doesn’t have to be ‘the weekly’ speaker to any specific group of people. It’s okay to have a routine forum in which you can communicate on a regular basis to the communities that your are planting [I use this blog and radio] but don’t think you personally have to ‘be there’ every week! Nehemiah had the self security to hand the daily functions over to trusted men and allow them to ‘get the glory’. I find it interesting that after many years of church planting the apostle Paul wound up living in a rented room in Rome and preaching to those who would listen. Was poor Paul ‘devaluing himself’ by not setting a high salary! [silly things that preachers fall into by using the standards of modern business as opposed to the New Testament] Paul purposefully told us time and again why he did not set up for himself a steady ‘cash flow’ from the communities he was establishing [read Acts 20]. Leaders today need to re evaluate what their doing and why their doing it. Leaders need the self confidence to be able to ‘walk away’ from the communities they are building and to allow the saints themselves to learn how to become dependant/interdependent. Governors [apostles] need to have the self assurance to let the Ezra’s [scribes/teachers] come in and ‘get the glory’ leaders need a basic overhaul in why they do the things they do.

(1127) let’s see, I wanted to do Nehemiah, talk a little about the recent abortion debate, and also discuss modern philosophy! Let’s see what we can do. In Nehemiah the workers are scattered all along the wall, they are responsible for their section. Nehemiah tells them that because they are so far apart, they need the ability to be able to hear the warning from the main overseer of the work [namely him!] so he has this trumpet guy next to him, if danger shows up he will blow the trumpet and they will be forewarned, hey in a day without electronic communication, this is a good idea! Recently [5-09] there have been some debates over the abortion issue and some high profile cases as well. Just 2 days ago one of the most notorious abortion doctors in our country was shot down in cold blood, his name was George Tiller. His abortion clinic was only one out of three places in the U.S. that performed late term abortions. This is the procedure where you insert a forceps into the womb, pull apart the legs and arms of the baby. Then you position the forceps over the head and squeeze till the brains come out [I know this is graphic, if you want to learn more about it, go to the Priests for life icon on my blog roll]. While we in no way shape or form condone the murder of doctor Tiller, it should be noted that he took part in the most wicked act that can ever take place, the murder of unborn children. Now in this debate some Christians [Catholics] have brought up the recent speech by president Obama at Notre Dame, some boycotted the speech. The problem was that Notre Dame actually honored the president with an honorary law degree. It is one thing to allow both voices to be heard, quite another to honor the most anti life president in the history of the untied states! He has made more pro death decisions than any other president in history. The U.S. Catholic Bishops had passed a resolution a few years back that stated no Catholic institution should give honorary degrees to those who are in violation of the churches teaching on major issues, obviously Notre Dame violated this rule. Now, some Catholic media persons were defending Obama, they even criticized their own church for hypocrisy! They were saying that honoring Obama was no different than honoring any other leader who might be pro capital punishment. These Catholic media persons were equating the churches stand on abortion with her stand on capital punishment; these two are not in the same league! The Catholic church teaches a sort of hierarchy of offenses [as a boy I still remember being taught mortal and venial sins] the church sees abortion as an intrinsically evil act, the outright murder of innocent defenseless persons. The church also teaches against the death penalty, but the execution of a criminal is not to be equated with the murder of unborn innocent children [some 4 thousand per day!] so these Catholic believers were wrong on the stance of their own church. Today’s ‘post-modern’ philosophy will argue that truth and morals are relative [subjective] they see truth thru the lens of ‘that might be wrong for you, but not for me’ or ‘I personally am against abortion, but I don’t want to push my views on others’. In the world of postmodern thinking, this is considered acceptable. This view of right and wrong is based on the view that there really is no objective truth, that is truth does not correspond to any outside reality. Truth, in their view, is simply the way various cultures perceive and understand things at different times in human history, but it’s possible for other societies to interpret the data coming into their senses and arrive at another view of truth, and who am I to say that ‘my truth is real and yours is false’. Obviously in the field of theology this would be [and is!] disastrous. Paul himself would say ‘if Christ be not risen [a real fact!] then we are of all men the most miserable’. The biblical worldview of truth is objective; truth is something that corresponds to something else that is real. This does not always mean material, but real never the less. For instance mathematical equations are real truth, or feelings of love are real, but not material. This would be the foundation for saying ‘the murder of babies is wrong, always has been, always will be’ whether my view is contrary to your view is meaningless, the act itself is wrong! Your view of that oak tree might be different than mine, but if you run into it with your car, the only view that counts is what reality is. It really was a tree that was there, it was not simply my perception of ‘a tree’ my perception corresponded with reality and the truth was that the tree really was a tree, whether you like it or not! The modern philosophers would say ‘the only real question left for philosophy to answer is the viability of suicide’ [either Sartre or Camou said this] When philosophy severs itself from true moral reason and foundational ethics, it has no leg to stand on. When society can accept that murder might be wrong for you, but not for me, then the basic fabric of civilization is no more. Well I think I covered all three of the things I set out to do at the start, hope it helped.

(1125) if you have been paying attention, you’ll notice that I have been reading thru Matthew these last few weeks. Let’s finish this sporatic thing with Jesus final command ‘go into all the world and preach the gospel to every one, baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Teach them to observe all the things I taught you, I will always be with you, all power is now given to me, I authorize you to go’ [my paraphrase] I wanted to hit on the command of Jesus for us to teach the nations the things he taught us. Over the years you will notice that one of my pet peeves has been the emphasis the modern church puts on the command to tithe found in Malachi, yet the many commands of Jesus about giving to the poor, helping out the down and out; these commands of Jesus seem to take second place in the tier of importance for the average church goer. In a sense we [leaders] have failed to actually teach the nations the things Jesus taught us! We have taught the nations good stuff from Malachi, boy do they have a grasp on Paul! And oh yes, John writes with such love and compassion, doesn’t he? I don’t want to be crude, I understand that as Evangelicals we believe all of Gods word [Malachi, Paul, etc.] the point I am making is all of these writings have to be seen thru the primary ‘constitution’ of Jesus and his gospel. The Old Testament says we should execute homosexuals, kids who curse their parents and women caught cheating! Now, most of us realize that these commands are no longer valid in a literal way [I hope you understand!] So as believers we need to view all of the words of scripture thru the ethos [values] of Jesus. How did he respond when the Pharisees brought the woman taken in adultery to him? They even said ‘Moses in the law said she should be stoned, what do you say’? He forgives the woman, does not condone her sin, and lets the religious leaders know that they were in no position to judge this woman. As the church embarks on the next millennium, we need to re focus our efforts and instructions on the life and purpose of Jesus. I am not advocating rejecting Paul’s teachings [as some advocate!] or doing away with the Old Testament [as others also advocate] but I am saying we need to take seriously the great commission that Jesus gave us. Are we really teaching people the actual things that Jesus made the priority? I know he told the religious leaders ‘you tithe and stuff, but have overlooked the heavier matters of the law; yes, you should have tithed [telling this to Jews under the law sitting in ‘Moses seat’ not to Gentile believers!] and also have shown mercy and love and compassion’ even the law put the emphasis on these things! Lets try and re balance some things these next few years, lets look seriously at the things that Jesus actually taught [the red letters!] and see if these are the same things we are focusing on. He doesn’t say a whole lot about the ‘just war’ doctrine, he seems like he’s always rebuking the wealthy folk! Let’s see the things he actually taught, and then teach those things! Got it?

(1121) ‘Dinosaurs with wings and Darwin’s winged rats’ Let’s do a short thing here; recently I have seen a few silly things and thought I should expound. First, the common argument on the road of evolution is that dinosaurs turned into birds [or as G.K. Chesterton expounded, evolutionists would have you believe that running rats turned into flying ones!]. I know that the average consumer of public school evolution does not fully realize the total lunacy of many of evolutions claims. What would be the most obvious problem with dinosaurs turning into flying reptiles/birds? If you had a very slow period where many thousands of species SLOWLY evolved wings where their front legs used to be, this species would be the first to die off! For Darwin’s theory to work, only the fittest survive! So according to Darwin’s own theory, the so called ‘in between’ species would have never been able to have made it! This is the exact observation that G.K. Chesterton used [famous Catholic writer] about the rats, he said it was quite obvious to any rationally thinking person, that if the walking rats slowly developed wings and turned into the flying ones, how in the world would the sad little rats have survived during the many thousands of years where they couldn’t walk or fly? You say ‘Now John, surely there must be a reasonable explanation to this dilemma, true thinking evolutionists aren’t that dumb’ the majority of evolutionists believe that all things came from no thing, a scientific impossibility. If they could swallow that, then surely they could swallow anything.

(1116) This past week Pope Benedict made his first visit to the Middle East. I caught a few of the appearances on E.W.T.N. I really liked his spirit and Christ centered approach, of course there will always be some disagreements [a little too much ecumenism when it came to Christian/Muslim stuff, but that’s to be expected, the Pope not only represents a large portion of Christians, but also is seen as a head of state to some degree]. Overall his words were measured and clear, human rights were at the top of the list. I then watched an apologists T.V. show, it’s a good show I catch every now and then. But sometimes they ‘stray’ into the old prejudices that have been around for many years. They were discussing Tony Blair [former P.M. of Britain] and mentioned how he took this new position where he is going to work for world cooperation amongst various groups, they then showed a picture of him with the Pope and mentioned Blair’s recent conversion to Catholicism, they were nice enough to say ‘we are not saying for sure that Blair is the anti christ [gee, thanks!] but we see in him all the signs of the anti christ’. I don’t want to do the whole anti christ thing again, I’ve hit on it in the past, but I want to mention the mindset that sees any ‘world cooperation’ amongst Christian groups as ‘the one world religious system of the anti christ’. Most of this mindset comes from the book of Revelation; John speaks about Babylon [Rome] and the religious ‘whore’ and stuff like that. Of course Rome was known as a great persecutor of the saints, and part of it had to do with the cult of emperor worship ‘Caesar is Lord’ type of a thing. So the apostle John is writing his Revelation while in exile under Nero’s rule. What type of connection would John be making when speaking of a one world religious system that uses the power of human govt. to kill and persecute the saints? Obviously the religious/governmental system of Rome, not the Pope for heavens sake! And any ‘anti christ’ figure is not going to be part of a Christian church that confesses Christ! During the Reformation of the 16th century, it was common for the Protestant reformers to view Rome and papal authority as ‘the anti christ’ they were battling centuries of religious tradition and dogma that they felt contradicted Gods word, so it was natural for both sides to brand the other as ‘the anti christ’ [both Luther and the Pope tagged each other with the title] and it was also common to read the commentaries and histories of this time thru the lens of ‘Babylon/Rome is persecuting the saints, Rome is even mentioned in the book of Revelation [city on 7 hills] as the oppressor, so there you have it, how much clearer can it be?’ The problem with this thinking is it overlooks what I just told you, the primary religious/governmental persecutor during the time of John, and well into the 3rd century was the Roman empire, not the Catholic church. So we need to read these books [Revelation, prophets- Daniel, Ezekiel, etc.] thru an historical lens. Of course this doesn’t mean there are no future applications to these writings, but to miss the historical aspect can cause real trouble. When reading the Old testament prophets there are stunning prophecies about Alexander the great, Antiochus Epiphanies and other world shaking events. Most of these prophecies have been fulfilled already. But some ‘prophecy teachers’ teach these things in such a way as to cause real problems for any true ecumenical spirit amongst believers. Jesus wants unity for his church, not at the expense of truth, but unity never the less. I have stated in the past that the system of belief that I most align myself with is Reformed theology, but I simply see myself as a Christian who is part of a 2 thousand year tradition [Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox] there are serious doctrinal differences that do need to be understood and not ‘white washed’ but at the same time we need to advance from some 500 year old ideas that were birthed at the time of the reformation, viewing other Christian traditions as ‘the anti Christ’. Jesus told the religious leaders ‘you do err not knowing the scriptures or the power of God’ when we make the mistake of reading scripture thru a limited perspective, we err.

(1115) I have been driving around the past few days with a package of materials that I needed to send off to my buddy in prison. I kept putting it off, then I got a message on my cell from his brother in Kingsville, he wants to know if I can send his bother a bible too. So I will stick a bible in the package in a little while, it saved me the extra mailing. Just read the parable of the vineyard owner who leases out his land to caretakers. When the owner sends his servants for the produce, they beat the brothers up! The owner sends his son [Jesus] and they say ‘here’s the son, if we kill him we can have the inheritance [worldly wealth] to ourselves’. I have seen ‘an evil done under the sun’ it’s virtually impossible to preach a materialistic gospel with the Jesus of the New Testament in it. I mean he rails time and again against wealth ‘what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and loses his soul’ I can go on forever quoting him. But some have ‘killed the son’ [eliminated his true image] from the vineyard, and now they can cease upon the inheritance! OUCH! [By ‘eliminate’ I mean they have refashioned his image and message and have presented him in a different light than what the scripture portrays]. I have been reading a little on the church fathers, these are the brothers during the post apostolic period up until around the 4th century. Many Anglicans/Protestants have converted back to Catholicism because of the reading of these men. These church leaders shared a sort of general view of conversion and Christian living. Evangelicals often have difficulty reading them, they don’t teach a strong ‘one time’ ask Jesus into your heart type conversion, more along the lines of ‘believe the gospel, obey Gods commands, get baptized in water and become a member of the church universal’. I love studying the brothers! Cyprian, the 3rd century bishop from Carthage, North Africa was embroiled in the ‘lapsed’ controversy. During one of persecutions many of the believers forsook Christ and burned incense to the cult of the emperor. After the persecution ceased, some wanted back in to the church. Those who did not reject Christ said ‘no way, you guys walked away, it’s all over’. But Cyprian would say that Jesus told Peter that even if your brother sins seventy times seven, you are to forgive. Cyprian erred on the side of mercy [a good way to err!] he would ultimately be killed in the year 259 for the faith. Though these church fathers were not doctrinally perfect, and they also weren’t the only expression of the Christian church in the first few centuries, yet they supply a wealth of knowledge and experience that we can all learn from, these are ‘part of the vineyard’ if you will. When you have a broad range of reading and study from all the various Christian communions, then it’s easy to spot the false, these might try to ‘kill the son’ but wisdom won’t allow it.

(1111) was reading where the disciples ask Jesus ‘who is the greatest among us’? And Jesus takes a little child and says ‘unless you become like this, you wont even see the things that I am doing’ [Gods kingdom]. Yesterday I was reading up on the Orthodox church, how in the 9th century the two great missionaries Cyril and Methodius evangelized the Slavic peoples of Moravia, the Latin rite churches were already there [Catholic/western] but these brothers knew Greek and had the ability to hold the Mass in the common language, the Catholic brothers were doing it in Latin. Eventually this drew more Slavs to the Greek Church than the Latin one. Well this caused some friction with the Bishop of the area and they sent them packing to the Pope, at this time the eastern rite churches [Orthodox] were still submitting to Papal authority to a degree. After making their case the Pope sent them back to continue their work [well one of them passed away while at Rome, but the other made it back]. True servants of God who gave their lives for the gospel, as opposed to living the comfortable life. In the 10th century, the story goes, the Russian prince Vladimir sent his men out to examine the various religions. They said the Muslims were okay, but they lacked joy. The Catholics seemed dedicated, but you can’t understand the Mass! It’s Latin. But when they visited the great Orthodox Church at Constantinople, they said you couldn’t tell if you were in heaven or on earth! The Divine Liturgy floored them. How true these stories are [this one comes from a 12th century telling] we don’t really know, but we do know that in their own way these churches have impacted entire regions of the earth with the gospel, long before we Evangelicals even existed! What am I saying here? In today’s world we measure ourselves ‘amongst ourselves’ to see who is the greatest in the kingdom, half the times we are not even aware of the history of the kingdom! There have been, and will continue to be many people whom the Lord will use to bring his truth to various people groups, these ‘little children’ will spend no time trying to gain a name for themselves, or to make it into the history books. Little children have no time for that sort of stuff, all they want to do is go outside and play with their friends. They don’t really get all uptight about their little Jewish buddies, the Protestant kid down the block. The little black kid who might be Baptist, they simply see them all as friends. Do you want to be great in Gods kingdom? Then start playing like a kid.

(1109) Last night my wife plugged in the vacuum and we lost power to part of the house! I have had this problem before, it was a loose outlet. So I started pulling out the outlets that were not working and began tightening the loose connections, of course I’m the type that over reacts so it’s getting late and I’m moving furniture, outlets hanging out all over the place [with the power on] and my wife is saying ‘are you sure your not going to electrocute yourself?’ ‘What, what do you think I am, some novice’! [To be honest I am the type that would electrocute myself]. So anyway I think I found the outlet that’s bad [they run in series, so if one goes out you loose the rest down the line] and hopefully will get to it soon [it’s 4:30am, too early to be waking everybody up- you know ‘where’s the screwdriver! Quick, go turn this breaker on and off!’ Somewhat of taskmaster!] It actually reminds me of a funny story, one year at the fire dept. me and one of the guys took the fire truck to some pre school church thing; you know, shoot some water, do a little safety class. So as we are doing our thing, I see out of the corner of my eye that one of the kids is grabbing on to what he thinks is a power line. It’s simply a cable going to the power line, but it’s still a bad thing to do! I hear the kid telling his buddy ‘see, it wont shock you to DEATH’! Geez, I’m like ‘hey, cut that out’! I could just see the story in the paper ‘Fire dept. electrocutes two church pre schoolers while giving a safety class’ that would have been an early retirement for sure. Okay, I was reading Matthew 16 and the famous confession of Peter; Jesus asks ‘who do men say that I am’ and Peter responds ‘thou art the Christ, the Son of God’ Jesus says ‘blessed are you Peter, for flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my father in heaven. And upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’. Our Catholic friends focus on Peter, they see Jesus giving special authority to Peter [by the way, he does!] and have developed the Papacy from this. Our Protestant brothers see little about Peter, they say Jesus was saying ‘you Peter, your just a pebble [a play on the Greek wording] and I Jesus, am the rock’ true enough. Our Word of Faith friends have said Jesus was speaking about ‘revelation knowledge’ [a type of prophetic thing] that Jesus was saying he would establish his church on the gift of being able to receive spiritual knowledge directly from God. To be honest about it, I think there is some truth to each one of these views. I primarily think Jesus was saying ‘Peter, this confession of me as Gods Son is the foundation of the spiritual temple that my father is building’ Peter referred to us a ‘living stones’ in his letter. We are called a spiritual temple that God is building out of spiritual stones, so we qualify as building stones in this temple, as ‘stones’ we are ‘chips off of the rock’ so to speak, so we are the corporate expression of Jesus in the earth ‘the Body of Christ’ and therefore Jesus is the rock, and as he ‘grows thru us’ we show forth his glory to the nations. But I also sensed the lord telling me ‘John, the things you build out of a response of hearing and ‘seeing’ me are the things that will last, the gates of hell will not prevail against these things’ [communities, reached people groups]. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would ‘take of mine and show it unto you’ God reveals his Son to us, Jesus told Peter that’s how he knew who Jesus was, when we live out our lives as a response of the revelation of God to us thru Christ, then these are the things that will last, the eternal riches if you will. When we live our lives based on our own priorities and desires, these are the things that fade away. I want Jesus to see me as one who is blessed because the father has revealed his Son to me, someone who is living and teaching and acting out of divine revelation, not out of human desires.

(1108) got up early today, did one of those 2-5am prayer things, happens every now and then. Here in my office I can see my old sea bag from the Navy, I still have it! I remember getting it around 30 years ago in Great Lakes IL. My boot camp city, I actually live right next to the base in Corpus Christi, the spot where they kicked me out 20 something years ago! Though I was stationed in Kingsville, I attended my ‘captains mast’ [court thing] in Corpus. It reminds me of a funny story, one of the guys went to his hearing and the judge says ‘salute’ so he puts his hand up and salutes, then the judge says ‘to’ which means put your hand down. Instead, he saluted with the second hand! [two- get it?] and we are the guys protecting you! Okay, I was thinking of sharing the verse where Jesus says ‘every scribe taught about the kingdom brings forth both new and old things from his treasure [teaching]’. Over the years I have noticed the different dynamics at work amongst various strains of Christianity. The danger with the strong independent churches is you can go thru stages where you are never taught ‘things new and old’. I used to read the prophetic type sites [Elijah list] but haven’t been there in quite a while. There is a tendency for various groups to overdose on one particular slant and to never ‘bring forth the old’ [sound, stable teaching on the scripture and foundational truths of Christianity]. You can spend years feeding at the trough of well meaning ‘prophets’ but the message never seems to move on, how many thousand of words about ‘rebuke the spirit of poverty’ ‘this is the year of increase’ ‘now is a season of suddenlies’ I mean all well meaning people, but the poor saints are overdosing on stuff that might be simple repetition of what people feel like saying! We need both new and old [sound doctrine]. The same can be said of the prosperity groups, or any other Christian group that has no real connection to historic Christianity. A good Pastor may get a hold of the truth of prosperity, then you might spend a few years simply talking about finances, every thing will be seen thru that lens. New Christians entering that environment may never learn the reality of justification by faith, or other foundational truths [things old!] that are vital for a strong walk with the Lord. So anyway I felt the Lord simply wanted to challenge us to bring forth both new and old. It’s okay if people focus on different areas for a short season, but avoid spending all your time and energy in one doctrinal ‘room’ we all need both new and old stuff to stay healthy.

(1107) let’s teach a little today. Recently I have been listening to lectures on Philosophy; they got into the modernist/liberal movement that took place in the 19th/20th centuries, the higher criticism that was taught mainly in the Christian universities in Germany. This view tired to ‘modernize’ the bible and make it more compatible to modern man, though these brothers meant well, they for the most part would come to reject the historic truths of the faith, including the bodily resurrection of Christ. But you had others who were not quite that extreme. The famous theologians Karl Barth and Emil Brunner taught that it was possible for Jesus, in his human nature, to make mistakes! Why? Jewish tradition attributes the first five books of the bible [Pentateuch- Greek word meaning ‘5 scrolls’, Torah in Hebrew, meaning Law] as being written by Moses. Later on certain scholars would challenge that assumption [after all Moses didn’t sign the books!] and reject the Jewish tradition. Is that a problem? Somewhat. Jesus himself speaks of the books as being from Moses, he often says ‘Moses said to you this’ and he is quoting the Torah. So now we have a problem. Barth and Brunner reconciled this by saying Jesus was simply speaking out of the tradition of the time, most Jews believed the books were written by Moses, Jesus in his humanity would have no way of knowing who wrote them, so he attributed them to Moses as well. Now this is a problem, theologically speaking. Barth and Brunner used a classic belief of historic Christianity to back up their idea; the early church councils had said that the human and divine natures of Jesus were separate and that they did not share each others attributes. The example would be when Jesus was asked abut his coming and he said ‘no man knows, not even the Son, only God’ so Barth was on some good grounding for his idea. The Catholic Church would come to reject the division between the human and divine natures of Jesus. Why? For theological reasons, the Mass teaches that the physical body of Jesus is actually present in all Catholic churches at the same time. The only way this could happen is if the Divine attribute of omni-presence was shared with Jesus’ physical nature. St. Thomas Aquinas would call this ‘the communication of attributes’. So anyway the liberal scholars tried to reconcile so called ‘modern historical truth’ with scripture. I personally do not accept the theory that Jesus might have made a mistake in his teaching, this would verge on the questioning of his sinless perfection and challenge his requirement to die for mans sins! During the time of the higher critics an interesting thing happened, you had the industrial revolution take place. Men began laying rail road tracks, digging up the earth for commercial purposes. And what did they ‘accidentally’ find? A ton of evidence baking up the historical claims of scripture! The very things the critics were doubting! This was the era of Archaeology; the historians would find evidence backing up the historical accuracy of scripture. Many critics doubted the New Testament [and Old] documents, they said the names of political rulers of certain districts were false. When Luke records things in Acts they said there was no proof of Luke’s accuracy. All this changed thru the science of archeology. As a matter of fact the historical accuracy of Luke [Acts] is now said to have been at the highest of levels! In the Popes recent book ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ he critiques the historical method [not the true historical findings, but the liberal trends coming from the universities] and warns that if your view of Jesus devolves into this forensic examining of him thru an historical lens only, then you run the risk of missing out on a true devotional experience with Jesus as Lord and savior. I agree. One time the religious leaders said to Jesus ‘tell these people to stop praising you’ and he said if they stopped testifying to who he was, that the ‘rocks’ would cry out. I think they have. [Rocks- archaeology, get it?]

(1097) Okay, lets do one on apologetics, the last few posts drained me too much! During the time of the Reformation, Enlightenment and scientific revolution [15-1700’s] you had people dealing with the reality that many of the former institutions that they trusted in [Catholic Church] were being challenged at the core. Though the scientific method was introduced by the church, yet as time advanced many would use science as an excuse to challenge the existence of God. As certain philosophers grappled with the effect that this would have on society [Immanuel Kant] they developed belief systems to explain the necessity of some type of belief in a moral higher power, versus the other extreme which is defined as Nihilism. That is the basic belief that nothing really has meaning at all, as the rock group Kansas put it ‘all we are is dust in the wind’ [p.s. try not to listen to this song if your feeling depressed!] Those who advocated Nihilism [Niestche] still had to explain away the reality of this almost universal belief in God. Where does it come from? Why do people gravitate towards this belief? For the most part the atheistic philosophers said it was born out of this innate desire of man to want more than Nihilism, basically man could not accept the reality that he came from nothing and was heading nowhere, so that’s why he came up with God and religion. Now it was important for the atheistic philosopher to come up with some answer to the dilemma, and this was basically it. What’s the problem with this answer? The majority view of God [Christian, Jew, Muslim] is a view that God is this all-powerful being who knows all things. He also has this moral code that if broken demands strict punishment, and man in his humanity has a really difficult time living up to this code [of course Christians solve this problem thru the Cross!] and any man who lives his life as a lawbreaker will not be able to escape this all knowing judge who has all power to carry out all justice for all men. In short, if man developed a god for psychological reasons, as some type of cosmic crutch to help him thru his meaningless existence, for heavens sake it wouldn’t be this one! Thus the explanation that the atheistic philosopher gave didn’t really solve the problem. Now Immanuel Kant rejected natural theology, he did not believe the arguments used to prove the existence of God from natural means were valid [Anselm, Augustine, Aquinas] but he was accused of driving God out of the front door and letting him in thru the back. Kant said in order for man to have rule and order, civil society, that you would need some basic things. Man would have to have some type of moral code to live by, he would also have to be assured that those who broke it would have to pay some type of penalty [in the after life as well as now]. In order for a just future judgment you would need an all knowing judge who you couldn’t slip something by, he had to be just, not one you could bribe! He would also have to be all powerful, if by chance he couldn’t execute the judgment then crime would still prevail. Kant called this basic moral requirement ‘ought ness’ that is the things that all people ‘ought to do’ the moral code implanted in man. Kant recognized the danger of Nihilism, if man had no outside moral agent to whom he was accountable to, then civil society would eventually be lost. So you now see the problem with the period of human history where men went thru a revolutionary stage. As they tried to cast off the church and God, they also realized that these things provided the very foundation of civil society. If Nihilism won out, society would eventually collapse.

(1096) THE FINAL DAY these past few weeks we have looked at the circumstances surrounding Jesus and his friends, their struggles and weaknesses. Thought it fitting to do one from the perspective of Jesus himself. Theologians have questioned how much Jesus himself knew of his own purpose and destiny. When he was 5 years old did he fully comprehend the things that awaited him? Of course not, but at the age of 12 he most certainly was seeing the ‘writing on the wall’. His own mother Mary was told early on ‘this child will effect many, nations and people groups will stand or fall based on his life’ oh, and one more thing Mary ‘a sword will pierce thru your own heart also’. Did she reveal this to her son? Did she embrace the fact that she too would experience terrible loss over her involvement in the life of Jesus? The bible says she ‘pondered these things in her heart’ she basically realized that a little more was going on than meets the eye, this strange experience, prophets and religious experiences that are intruding into her average life. Seeming to see future things about her son, things that he wasn’t fully aware of at the time. Oh well, file it away until another day. As Jesus grows in wisdom and stature he begins to grasp more fully the day that awaits him, he sees the prophetic things that surround him, things that were unexplainable, except for the fact that God was showing him what must happen next. Is he wondering somewhat? He goes out to his cousin John at the age of 30, John says ‘behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ he tells Jesus ‘I am not worthy to fulfill this task, I am not worthy to even untie your shoes!’ Now steady John, I know this seems to be going too far, you being the one prophesied by Malachi, the ‘Elijah to come’ but I have to deal with a much heavier matter, you said it right when you just called me ‘Gods Lamb’ I will fulfill my destiny in a way that my closest friends don’t understand yet. Some of them are very close to me, ‘swords’ will pierce thru their hearts. They do not fully see the bigger purpose, their attachment to me was meant for a higher purpose, my father knew that to get their attention they would need to be involved with me in some way, then when my destiny is complete, they will forever have been effected. John baptizes his cousin and from the sky a voice says ‘this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased’. Jesus knew the course by now, too many signs for all of this to be some type of coincidence. But what about my friends father? My disciples, people who have become emotionally attached in some way? The recent discussions over the DaVinci code and stuff like that have caused many to wonder about Jesus’ ‘love life’. Was Mary [the female follower] possibly more than a friend? [By the way, the answer is NO!] But people have asked. The Catholic Church has changed it’s stance on the traditional belief that Mary Magdalene was the same woman that Jesus cast 7 unclean spirits out of, the prostitute. But whether she was that Mary or not, we don’t know. But surely she must have been affected by this whole scenario. This person who accepted her fully, he truly did love her, but not in the way normal people would define it, but yet in a greater way! It’s hard to explain, he knew her brief attachment to him would end with a sword piercing thru her soul as well. But what could he do? This was part of the destiny he now fully understood, his friends can’t really see it all yet, they are being drawn into this drama by events that seemed to be an accident, Jesus knew better. As the tragic day draws near, though it will end great in the victory of mans redemption, yet tragic in the sense that he could not really live a normal life with his good friends ‘attending the school reunion’ are you kidding! I am about to fulfill a destiny that will impact the world! No time for that sort of stuff. Now we have already covered the emotions of Judas, Peter and others. Is Mary [the disciple] thinking ‘who knows, maybe Jesus will marry me? After all it is a custom for many of the religious leaders of the day’ was she hoping for more than his destiny would allow? He realizes that he has brought these friends along for a ride that they didn’t fully see yet, but when it’s all over it will have turned out all right, but for now they will sacrifice the normal pleasures of life. Jesus has now spent 33 years contemplating the big day, he now fully grasps what it’s all about, no more possibility of persuading him to not go thru with it. Sure, his friends will try ‘God forbid that you even have the thought of going to Jerusalem to die! Why are you even having these thoughts’? Peter felt responsible in some way to help his friend out, to intervene in any way he could. Jesus was determined; there was no stopping him now. Oh well, let the chips fall, we did all we could do. He begins to agonize over the actual event itself, wondering if there might be some other way. Mary [his mother and the disciple] was surely praying for it, they hoped with all of their hearts for another end, they have prayed and asked God ‘please help him, we love him so much, please let him live!’ Jesus is very tired now, it’s been quite a long road to this point, he now fully grasps what’s going to happen, he hoped he could have handled it a little better. He doesn’t want to show weakness right now, but he is fully man and fully God. The man says ‘Father, I know we have come to this predetermined place. My mother heard about it from the prophet at my birth, I realize that I have come for a much greater purpose, but PLEASE, PLEASE listen to me, if it’s possible, let me not go thru with this. If there is another way, please lets do it that way’. He knows deep down inside that he shouldn’t be asking this, he prepared himself mentally for this day for quite some time now, but a big part of ‘this day’ would be his struggle, his inner turmoil. His friends will one day read what went on behind the scenes, they will get a glimpse of the intensity of the struggle; they will see why he seemed so intense at times, things that they didn’t really know about, but the agony was part of the whole story. He will sweat drops of blood; the turmoil seems too much to bear. Sure, those around him would taste part of it, but they would have no idea how much it was effecting him, he was the target. He comes back to his disciples, they are sleeping! ‘Didn’t I ask you to pray? I really need you guys right now, please don’t give up on me now!’ they were dumbfounded ‘why is he so upset?’ they weren’t seeing it from his perspective. ‘It is enough, I am now going to be given to sinful men, they will do to me as they will’. Jesus once said ‘when the salt looses it’s flavor, it is good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under men’s feet’. The three year ministry of Jesus had lots of flavor, many who followed his calling were really blessed, I mean no one could teach like him! Plus he really did do a of lot good, lives were touched for ever, but things are now wrapping up with him, his friends didn’t turn out as good as he had hoped, they are denying him left and right! The flavor is being lost, he is about to be cast out and trodden under men’s feet! His long awaited for day has arrived, the day he looked forward to ‘for this purpose was I born!’ he would say, but yet he was in agony, you could almost taste it! So here we go Jesus, the time has come, any last words ‘You will see me coming in the power and glory of my fathers kingdom, do what you have to do’. Wow, we never had a final statement like that! They scourge him, a brutal act of whipping a person until his flesh falls off of his bones, ‘some king’ quick lets cover his face with this bag ‘Whack’ they beat the hell out of him ‘prophesy now Jesus, who hit you’. Well let’s nail the prophet to the tree. He is suspended between heaven and earth, he looks down. His mother is there, his poor mom. She somehow knew this day was coming, she hoped it could have been avoided, but it’s here. She remembers the prophecy from years ago ‘a sword will go thru your soul Mary’ the sword has penetrated. The other Mary now knows ‘it will never be! I had hoped that maybe this person who loved me more than anyone would be mine alone’ but he was given to the world, Mary will never be the same. Jesus is determined, it’s gone too far now, his friends are tasting death themselves. He mentally knew what the Cross would entail, being forsaken by God for the sins of men. A feeling of ‘forsaken-ness’ that no other person would ever be able to comprehend, though he intellectually knew it, yet he still had never really tasted it. No man ever has. What’s it feel like Jesus, if your who you said you were, come down and we will believe. They put a sponge on a stick with ‘vinegar and gall’ actually an act of mercy from his executioners, they had experience with others who have died this way, right at around this point they all drink the gall, it was a painkiller of sorts, helps you thru the pain- Mick Jaggers ‘mothers little helper’. He refuses ‘no, I’ll drink in the pain’ seems a little self destructive? He cries something that is misunderstood, they think he’s calling for Elijah, but his words are garbled, he is unrecognizable for heavens sake, a truly tortured man! He was once again calling to his God. It all seems too much, weigh too much intensity for such a short life. He had his struggles, don’t get me wrong, HE NEVER SINNED, but did go thru stuff. We heard lots of rumors about him, but now this day, this tragic day has arrived. Of course we know it was really a great victory, but tell that to the pitiful figure on the Cross as he screams ‘Oh my God, why have you forsaken me like this’ and dies.

(1094) I know I shouldn’t write posts when mad, but I can’t help it! I am on the verge of just deleting the Emergent Village icon from my blog roll. Just listened to an interview by Tony Jones, he’s talking to a Christian minister who wrote a book from the view point of Evolution as fact; now, I know there are many theistic evolutionists [Christians who embrace evolution] and I do understand their arguments, but the tone of this interview just irked me! ‘what’s the psychological reason/problem with believers not accepting it as fact’ [paraphrase]. I don’t want to get into all the scientific reasons that Christians [and many non Christians!] do not accept the theory, but it just seems like Tony Jones has responded to his many critics by taking on a casual persona that allows him to make statements that turn many sincere believers away. Any thinking Christian can easily find evidence against Darwin’s theory; the problem is certainly not a psychological one!

(1087) People like stories, there is actually an age old [few centuries] debate on whether or not the historic church got their theology messed up because of missing ‘the story’. In the 18, 1900’s liberal strains of Christian teaching showed how the Hebrew culture was one of narrative, stories. And that as the Gentile church grew and lost part of her Jewish heritage, that they messed up by taking ‘the story’ about God and his people and turned it into systematic theology. That basically the church allowed herself to be influenced by philosophy and intellectualism and they produced creeds and councils and stuff, but lost the romantic nature of Christ and his bride [the church!]. The early church father, Tertullian, said ‘what does Jerusalem have to do with Athens’? Meaning what does philosophy have to do with Christianity. So either way some think we have lost the story. I was watching King of Queens the other day, it’s the episode where Doug [Kevin James] is supposed o attend this overeaters class. So as he goes to the building where all these 12 step programs are being held, he sees that in his room the snacks are all fruits and carrots and stuff, but he catches a glimpse of a room across the hall and he sees these luscious donuts! So he wanders into the room and begins stacking up for the trip, and as he is about to leave the room the main counselor sees him and introduces himself and all. Doug tries to explain that he’s really not supposed to be in this class [it’s a program for men being beat up by their wives] but the counselor thinks he’s in denial. Sort of like ‘does your wife make you feel unworthy, is that why you eat too much?’ so as he thinks about it for a few minutes, the next shot is him walking back and forth during the meetings, eating the doughnuts and blaming all his problems on his wife ‘she calls me fatty’ and stuff like that. So what was supposed to help him [the 12 step program across the hall] turned out enabling him to eat! So as the weeks pass Carrie [his wife] is so happy about his enthusiastic attitude when that day of the week rolls around, he seems to be enjoying this program more than she thought he would, she gets a little suspicious as he is standing in the doorway getting ready to leave, as she looks at him she notices something; a real tangible difference in him since he’s been attending. She asks ‘Doug, are you getting fatter?’ Of course he’s put on a few pounds as he’s been consuming all the doughnuts. He tries to wiggle out of it, he responds ‘that’s the motto, you will get fatter before you get skinnier’ and he bolts out the door. Well now she has to see what’s been really going on with him, she goes to the building and finds the overeaters class, she asks one of the guys ‘is Doug here?’ and he tells her there is no Doug in this class. So as he is piling up his snack plate with carrots and stuff, she says ‘isn’t this the overeaters class’ and the poor guy gets offended and says ‘no, this is Jenny Craig’ and tells her ‘why do you have to hurt’. So she realizes something’s going on, sure enough she spots her husband at the doughnut bar with the guys who are getting beat up by their wives. The poor guys are dejected, living their lives with the stigma of, well getting beat up by their wives! So she confronts Doug, they get into it. The counselor and all the guys in the class who have been hearing all the stories of how terrible she is, come to his defense. Things get out of hand, she spills the beans on how he always was overweight, it’s not her fault; he leaves and as she is leaving the room she stops at the door for a moment; looks back at the room of dejected men, they look like they have lost all sense of self respect, such timid creatures, and she kind of makes a quick move at them, you know like if you were gonna hit someone, and they all flinch at the same time. She walks away smiling. Well, quite a long story/narrative. What did we learn? That if you are going to an over eaters class, don’t eat the doughnuts for heavens sake! Well, not really. We learned that stories are interesting, they catch peoples attention, and you want to hear ‘the rest of the story’ so to speak. Our lives are stories for people to read, God wants us to be open books as much as possible. This can be a very difficult thing, I mean really, do you want me to know about your personal history? The things you have struggled with in life. God wants us to be more than ‘doctrinal dispensers of truth’ [systematic theologians] now don’t get me wrong, that’s a part of it, but it has to proceed from the story of our lives. Twelve step programs help people because the basic concept is based on Christian principles. One of my main teachings is on what the church is, part of it includes a community of people who are open and honest with each other, who share their struggles with each other, so that’s the basis of the programs. As Christians I think we need to let people into our story, they need to not only hear proofs for Gods existence, or the quoting of bible verses. We need to let people into our stories, live openly and vulnerably before the world. Naked on a Cross, if that’s what it takes.

(1077) let’s talk a little about conversion and ‘being born again’. This past week was Easter week; I made it a point to watch the Catholic Mass from Rome. The Pope presides over this service. The English translator shared how the Popes usually do not give a message write after the reading, they always give an address to the world, but not an actual sermon. But Pope Benedict made it clear that he wanted to take the opportunity to actually preach. Hey, all good preachers couldn’t pass up an opportunity like this! Sure enough he gave the clearest Easter message of the week, out of the few other sermons I caught during the week, his was the clearest. He explained the Passover Lamb and how Jesus was the fulfillment. He gave a very ‘Christocentric’ message [centered on Christ]. I thought it was a great opportunity for the world to clearly hear the message of the Cross. Now, being ‘born again’ is a very real thing that ALL people must experience in order to have a relationship with God. The term comes from Jesus own lips as recorded in Johns gospel. John mentions it in his epistles [as well as Peter]. And Paul most certainly taught regeneration. If you read the chapter where Jesus speaks about it [John 3] you will see how he is challenging the religious mindset of his day, he is talking to a religious leader and telling him ‘you must be born again in order to see Gods kingdom, to understand the truths I am showing you’. In Johns letters [1st,2nd and 3rd John] he clearly defines being born again as believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. So the reality of all men needing this new birth is true, the problem arises when different Christian groups put their ‘slant’ on it. Some groups emphasize water baptism, others ‘the sinners prayer’, the more sacramental churches [Catholic, Orthodox, etc.] have a mix of the sacraments along with faith. My own view is the strong Justification by faith belief. Now, some believers who were raised in the more traditional expressions of the church, after they experience a definite conversion to Christ, will often view all of their former brethren as lost. They will associate their real conversion experience as being truly born again. The problem with this approach is some will view their experience as the plumb line for all other faiths. They sincerely see the other Christian groups as lost, they want them to experience what they experienced. Now, even though I do not personally believe in infant baptism, or adult baptismal regeneration [read my statement of faith section] yet I do see the reality of other church traditions grounding their people on the foundation of Christ. That is they might not have been ‘born again’ when their church officially claimed that over them, but if their denomination still teaches the gospel, and they believe it, then they are in fact ‘born again’ according to the New Testament criteria of ‘being born again’. I believe it is important for all traditions to emphasize the reality of Jesus and his death for us. For people to understand that God accepts us on the basis of the death and resurrection of his Son, this is the foundation of our relationship with God. Too many people are struggling with self worth, trying to live up to others expectations, to impress others. They then struggle with their inability to overcome sin, feelings of unworthiness, and they hear a message from the ‘church world’ that sounds condemning. They have no real hope in God. We need to reorient the message around the Cross, to let people know that God accepts them based on the redemption that Christ accomplished on the Cross. Christian churches might [and do!] disagree on the technical aspects of ‘being born again’ but we all agree on Jesus being the Messiah, the Son of the Most High.

(1076) Being we are in between studies I thought I might talk a little on the books I recently read. One was an older scholarly work on revivals and ‘revivalism’. It covered the history of the great awakenings [18th-19th century America], while I am familiar with this period and have read on it before, the interesting thing I learned was the intense disagreement between the Arminians [those who reject the classic doctrines of Predestination] and the Calvinists. The degree of anti-Calvinism was surprising. Many average readers of church history do not realize the role that Calvinism played in the beliefs of many of the famous reformers [Spurgeon, Edwards, Whitefield]. Also the intense disagreement between the ‘new measures’ [altar call] and the more reserved churches. I must admit I personally came to distrust the amount of weight that is put on the evangelical ‘altar call’. I remember as a new believer, being excited about the things of the Lord, I was working for a construction crew and worked with a bunch of good old boys. They were around my age [19-20] and were local Texans. I was this Yankee from New Jersey, but I liked the brothers. I remember how after witnessing to them non stop for a period of around a year, one of them sincerely tells me ‘Oh, we are all saved, we all got saved as kids in our churches’. I realized the popular terminology of ‘getting saved’ and associating that with the evangelical altar call, was just as legalistic as some of our Catholic brother’s trust in infant baptism and the sacraments. That is the Protestants would criticize the Catholics for ‘trusting in tradition’ while they were just as bad! So in the recent book they showed the intense disagreements over this, many reformed brothers felt that telling people to raise their hands ‘in church’ and come to the altar to ‘get saved’ was simply giving false hope to many people who clearly had no real understanding of the gospel. But the other extreme was the strong Calvinists who seemed to indicate that total passivity was the way to go. Some got the impression that you could not make ‘a choice’ to follow the Lord, so they didn’t. For the most part I recognize that it is possible to have gone thru all the motions [whether Protestant or Catholic] and to lack a real trust and faith in Christ, but some carry this too far and judge others as ‘not being saved’ because they did not say ‘the sinners prayer’ or ‘accept Jesus into their heart’. The scriptures clearly teach that those who believe in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that they are children of God. Now, I realize this is not speaking of simple American ‘I believe in God’ type faith, where people have no real walk with the Lord. But we also don’t want to reduce salvation to an evangelical [or Catholic] technique that you blindly follow in order to ‘get saved’. My well meaning friend who told me ‘we are all saved’ was simply viewing ‘being saved’ from a religious lens, just like a cradle Catholic might view the sacraments. I believe we should encourage people to have a strong commitment to the faith, trusting and relying on Christ’s work for our redemption, but we need to be careful that we are not viewing ‘being saved’ only thru our own religious paradigm.

(1075) Last night I caught a good interview on ‘the Colbert report’. They had Bart Ehrman on, the author of ‘Jesus interrupted’. I had just read a critique of his book on Ben Witherington’s site [go check it out, he did a great job. His site is on my blog roll]. Colbert actually used some basic Christian arguments to refute Ehrman. Basically Ehrman is somewhat of an intellectual critic of Christianity, his background is one of ‘fundamentalist’ and as he learned of various criticisms of Christianity he became a vocal opponent. When young kids are brought up in church, taught the basics of bible faith, they then go off to college [Christian ones] and depending on how ‘liberal’ the university is, they get challenged on many of their core assumptions. Now, some of these challenges are good, believers should be familiar with the basic challenges to the authenticity of the faith. We often fail to prepare younger believers for this world. What Ehrman seems to be doing is taking many of these basic challenges and saying ‘see, all true university professors know that there are many contradictions/falsehoods in the bible, it’s a secret that the average bible toting Archie Bunkers don’t know about’. Well, he does overstate his claim. What are some of the basic challenges to the faith? Some teach that the scriptures [gospels] teach contradictions, last night Ehrman said that the crucifixion accounts were contradictory. He quoted from various accounts and said ‘see, one writer has Jesus depressed, the other upbeat’ to be honest, NO gospel shows Jesus ‘upbeat’ on his way to the Cross! But he was basically saying the gospel writers told conflicting stories. Geez, I could have come up with better challenges myself! Or the accusation of plagiarism, I am presently reading a book written by John Crossan, an ultra liberal ‘Jesus Seminar’ brother. They challenge everything about the faith. He chops up the scripture in a way that would make it next to impossible to comprehend. He has the list of the letters that most accept as legitimate [Paul’s] then the list of ‘maybe Paul’s, maybe not’ then those he says were not written by Paul, though the letters themselves claim to be written by him. Is it possible that a letter in the New Testament could have been written by someone else? Sort of like a ghostwriter? To be honest about it, it’s possible. Now wait, I know some of you will write me off for this. It’s possible because 1st century writers did do stuff like this, the official name for doing this is [I know I can’t spell it] called ‘pseudepigraphal’ or something like that. The point is it would not be wrong or deceptive for a first century Christian writer to have done this, it would not be considered lying. Do we have any examples in scripture where stuff like this happened? There are references [not symbolic] that have writers in scripture saying ‘greet those at Babylon’ or ‘to those at Babylon’ and the writer means Rome [I think Peter and John do this?] In these few cases it is understood that they used Babylon because they were writing to areas that they did not want to be exposed, they did not want Rome to know who or what they were writing about. So this is considered acceptable, not a deception. Likewise in the gospels you read one account of Peters denials where it says ‘before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times’ and another gospel says ‘before the cock crows’ well, which one is right? They both are, one is just giving more detail than the other. Is this lying, of course not. It was perfectly acceptable in 1st century biographical writing to do stuff like this. Biographies are held to different standards then intense historical accounts. That is not to say the gospels are not historical, it’s just to say the writers were writing biographies and it should be understood that way. Even Colbert [a Roman Catholic believer] brought this out in his mock challenge to Ehrman, he used the classic elephant example. Four blind guys all give different descriptions of the part of the elephant they feel. I think believers should be familiar with the historical arguments against the faith, they should not simply respond ‘that’s God’s word and that settles it’ while this might suffice for ones personal faith, it does nothing to refute Ehrman, or his disciples! NOTE- I believe all the letters, writings in the New Testament that say who wrote the actual letter, were written by that writer. The problem is some writings do not say who wrote them. But we can still figure out some of them by other means. Luke tells the person he addressed Acts to, that he wrote his gospel account on an earlier occasion. John’s gospel says it was written by the ‘disciple who Jesus loved’. So even writings that do not specifically say ‘written by Matthew’ or Mark or whoever, you still can find hints to who wrote them.

(1059) 1ST KINGS 11- THE SIN OF SOLOMON- Now we get to the part where Solomon blows it. As I read these stories of the great men who failed, I continually fall into the trap of rooting for them, even though I know the end of the story! The trap being that failure in a sense was built into the story. How could God fulfill his purpose thru the coming Messiah if one of the sons of David actually lived up to the standard? Solomon, in a sense, was destined to fail. So what happened? This chapter says Solomon loved many women [1,000 to be exact!] and IN HIS OLD AGE began worshipping their gods. He set up altars for sacrifice and allowed the pagan gods to affect Gods people. I find this interesting, it wasn’t the actual act of having all those other women, but the sin of being too accommodating to the other ‘world religions’. I’m presently reading a book written by what you would call a liberal scholar, you know, the brothers who challenge the authenticity of just about everything. But I also have some good scholars that I read from. To be honest, at times you still might read something that makes you a little uneasy; they too at times have been affected by higher learning. But the difference between the ‘good and the bad’ ones is the fact that the good ones remain true to the historic gospel. N.T. Wright is a great scholar, he sits in the middle category, between the conservatives and the liberals [in my view]. The prolific Bishop of Durham [Church of England] has written excellent stuff on the resurrection and the kingdom of God. The liberal scholars view him as ‘behind the times’ why? Because he actually defends the historic resurrection of Christ! Yet you can read some higher criticism in Wrights stuff, not real bad stuff, just things that the average fundamentalist might be uncomfortable with. So getting back to Solomon, he became way too accommodating to the religions of his day. Sort of like calling Islam, Christianity and Judaism the ‘great Abrahamic faiths’. Now, I love Muslims/Arabs, I have written in their defense! I also think some Muslim apologetic arguments for the existence of God are good, but I would not describe Islam as one of the great Abrahamic faiths. Just like I would not call Mormonism one of the great ‘restorationist faiths’. A while back a bunch of believers had an ecumenical meeting with Muslims and Jews. Noble efforts to tone down world violence in an attempt to all get along, I think stuff like this is good. But some Christians defended Allah as being the same God as the Christians, just a different name. In my view they went too far. So Solomon became too pluralistic in his old age. Beware of the trend to abandon central elements of the faith as you mature in your thinking. There is a real temptation to want to look ‘enlightened’ to try and put distance between your intellectual faith and those ‘silly fundamentalists’, because if your not careful you might just end up with a bunch of pagan altars at your doorstep. [Ben Witherington and R.C. Sproul are other favorite scholars of mine; one is Arminian and the other Calvinistic, it’s good to read scholars from various points of view].

(1056) 1ST KINGS 8- This chapter shows the coming together of the Ark and Temple at Jerusalem. Solomon makes a great dedication to the Lord. He acknowledges the reality that God does not ‘dwell in temples made with hands’ but he asks the Lord to show preference to the temple and the prayers of the people. We really have a tremendous picture of Gods kingdom and rule thru these images. The temple centers the people on the reality of God dwelling in their midst. They worship him from Jerusalem and their king honors the father and leads the people in community wide intercession. There are even provisions made for ‘strangers’ who will become influenced by God’s reality, they will hear about Gods great story with his people [narrative!]. They will then come and also make intercession to him. I find it interesting that in the book of Acts [and 1st century church history] we read about the pagan converts to Judaism, the ‘God fearers’. Israel always maintained this aspect of their culture with God, they left the door open for converts. I also find it interesting that converts came! After all, the Jews did not practice a type of ‘soul winning’ that actively sought proselytes. It was simply the reality of God working with his people that drew others in. These last few years much has been said/written on the church and her mission. Is the gospel too small or too big? Sometimes in our efforts to ‘go deep’ we make it difficult for new converts to come into the church. In all of our efforts to present a gospel that affects society as a whole, the social aspects of our calling. The greater kingdom vision of Jesus as seen in ‘the gospels’ we also want to make sure that the simple initiation of new converts is made plain and easy to understand [in essence we need the Gospels AND the epistles both. A kingdom message is not complete without the reality of Atonement!] Solomon makes a great speech/prayer in this chapter, he worships God for standing true to his promise that he made to David his father. The people hold a seven day city wide celebration and go back to their homes. Even though the temple and it’s structure were not in Gods original plan [go read about David and Nathan] yet God will honor and use this limited system for a season. In the present day reformation of the church and her structures, we always need to keep in mind that we are still dealing with the people of God. Many of them worship God in ‘limited structures’ but yet they still worship God! So as we reform and grow in the coming decades, we also want to leave room for the prayer of Solomon ‘I know you cant be limited to a structure like a temple, but please honor the prayers and simple sacrifices of your people. They are doing it out of dedication to you’ [my paraphrase].

(1055) 1ST KINGS 7- We have more details of what went into the building of the temple. The ‘foundation stones’ were large and costly. Remember, Solomon was said to have ‘largeness of heart’. In the New Testament the Apostles are called the foundation stones of Gods spiritual temple. Peter calls us living stones. Let’s do a little house cleaning; in all areas of church renewal/reformation, we need to be careful when handling the foundation stones. In some efforts to reform [Emergent] there is an attempt to return to the teachings of Jesus, as opposed to Paul. The problem with this effort is the historic church [and scripture!] teach us that Jesus appeared to Paul [Acts 9] and told him he would be a witness of the things that Jesus would reveal to him. So if the revelation/teaching from Paul on the atonement and the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ, if these teachings are things that were shown to Paul from Jesus himself [which I believe they were] then to ignore them would be like removing the ‘foundation stones’ of the temple. These are ‘large stones’ [doctrines accepted across the broad stream of Christian churches; Catholic, Orthodox, Reformed, Radical Reformers, etc…] large stones that form the foundation of all Christian truth, C.S. Lewis’s ‘common hall’ if you will [though Lewis himself said some shaky stuff on the atonement]. I want to restate that we sometimes confuse the foundational doctrines of Christianity with the limited practices of Christianity that have developed over the centuries. We need to understand/embrace the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’ while at the same time being flexible in the various structures that Christians have developed over the centuries to express their faith. As we challenge ‘high church’ [liturgical] structures, we need to be careful that we are not also challenging the heart of the gospel as well. I have heard/read too many statements from certain reformers that are way too pluralistic in their expression of the gospel. Denials of the Cross being the key mechanism that God chose to use to redeem man [foundation stones!] Or the mistake of thinking that the Cross was simply a display of the injustices of man, a challenge to unjust governments oppressing men. While the apostle Peter does teach us that the Cross was a display/example left to us on how we should react to suffering and oppression, yet it wasn’t ONLY that. It was also a redemptive sacrifice made on the behalf of sinful men; ‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures’ [Corinthians]. Well, lets just keep in mind that as God’s ‘living temple’ we are being built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets [Ephesians] Jesus himself being the ‘chief corner stone’, be careful when messing with the stones!

(1054) 1st KINGS 6 ‘CONCERNING THIS HOUSE WHICH THOU ART IN BUILDING, IF THOU WILT WALK IN MY STATUTES, AND EXECUTE MY JUDGMENTS, AND KEEP ALL MY COMMANDMENTS TO WALK IN THEM; THEN WILL I PERORM MY WORD WITH THEE, WHICH I SPAKE UNTO DAVID THY FATHER’ [verse 12] Part of the promise of God to David was he would set up a son, from his natural heritage, that would take an everlasting throne. God would be faithful to his part of the bargain as long as his son walked in obedience, ultimately these promises would be fulfilled thru Christ. We can also apply them to our lives as well, we are all ‘building a house’ in a sense. Jesus said those who heard his words and did them were like those building on a sure foundation, those who ‘heard only’ were building on sand. I find it interesting that many of us seem to think that gathering one day a week to ‘hear words’ is what God requires, in a sense we have become professional hearers! [and speakers] As you relate to the house you are building, seek the Lord for wisdom and insight into how you should build. God gave Moses specific directions in the building of the tabernacle; these are the same blueprints Solomon used, only on a larger scale. Solomon did not have to get ‘another blueprint’ he simply needed to be faithful to what the Lord already revealed. Recently in the ‘church world’ we had the passing of two good men; Avery Dulles and John Neuhouse [spelling?] If I remember right, Avery Dulles said that he was no innovator, he would not be known for his new ideas, but he was just a faithful servant in Christ’s church. I liked that, we too often want to find ‘new blueprints’ sometimes the Lord is simply looking for those who will hear and obey. [Both Avery and John were Catholic’s involved in the evangelical/catholic alliance]

(1052) 1st KINGS 4- ‘And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness [generous] of heart…and his wisdom was greater than all the children of the east and Egypt…and all the people and the kings of the earth [gentiles shall come to thy light and kings to the brightness of thy rising] came to hear the wisdom of Solomon’- In this chapter we read of the tremendous storehouse of goods and resources that God gave to Solomon. His wisdom was in many areas, not just ‘theology’! He was a true Renaissance man. Before the reformation and the ‘enlightenment’ you had the Renaissance period. For many years the wisdom and knowledge that prevailed in early Greco-Roman society was lost/hidden from the public. Through process of time and events [like the crusades] some of these hidden resources of knowledge were re-discovered and the world went thru a renewal period in wisdom and philosophy. It was thanks to the catholic churches preserving of these early works [Monks and monasteries] that would later lead to them being recovered. Now, even though these works were recovered, they weren’t readily available to the general public on a wide scale. You simply did not have the tools [internet/public libraries in abundance] to disseminate the information at large, but you did have men who became educated in these areas and they were the ‘renaissance men’. Sort of like walking libraries of wisdom, ‘Solomon’s’ if you will. Solomon wrote and studied on all sorts of subjects, he did not limit himself to one field only. Often times in the area of ‘full time preaching’ we send kids off to college [okay] and they get an education that only applies to one field [full time ministry]. I think it would be better if all the ‘preachers’ became well rounded in many practical areas of learning, getting skills in various areas [Paul-tent making] that would enable them to transition when reformation happens [like the current challenge on church practices and the full time pastoral office. Many sincere men are too dependant on their jobs as full time ministers to seriously reconsider the scriptural grounds for their office]. So Solomon was the type of brother who could converse with you in all types of fields. Many of the world’s greatest scientists/mathematicians were Christians, a common mistake is to think the scientific revolution was launched by anti religious men, this is simply not true. A careful study of history would show you that the majority of the great scientific minds were products of the church. It was common to major in theology and use that field of study as the foundation for all the other fields of learning. Jesus said of Solomon that kings and queens went out of their way to hear the wisdom of Solomon [the Warren Buffet of his day] but yet a greater than Solomon was here! [speaking of himself]

(1045) Okay, I am up early and just finished prayer time. I kind of heard [spiritually speaking!] the lord speaking to me about a few various subjects, things I haven’t recently studied. I also ‘heard’ the verse ‘there are 12 hours in the day, if a man walks when it is light out, he does not stumble. Walk while you have the light, for a dark time is coming when no one will be able to walk’[Jesus- John’s gospel]. These last few weeks have been pretty bad for me, my work injury has been bad. I really am not sleeping at night because of the severe back pain. I only missed one early prayer time because of it. Not because I am some super hero, but if I don’t ‘walk when it’s light’ [or dark! 3-5 am] then I miss the daily opportunity of real prayer. I realized that to miss a daily prayer/study/teaching time is detrimental to my own health. To get up early and start is difficult, I make a few attempts at standing before I make it to the yard for prayer. I always walk while praying, but after the hour or so prayer walk, I can function okay for a while. I realized that my day starts at around 3:30 am, and it usually ends around 3-4 pm- 12 hours! Jesus gave us a 12 hour work day, we complain about 8! Actually the Jewish day was a 12 hour day, that’s why he said it. Now, let’s talk a little on apologetics. I recently read a few statements from various church traditions that seemed ‘apologetic’ and defensive. The historic church still ‘smarts’ over the whole Galileo affair. Let me defend the historic church a little. A few hundred years before Christ the great philosopher Aristotle developed a cosmology [stars and stuff] that wasn’t that bad. It is a common error to believe that we all believed the world was flat before the 16th century, only a few people believed the flat earth theory, most accepted Aristotle’s [and later Ptolemy] view. Aristotle’s concept was improved a few centuries later by Ptolemy. Ptolemy developed a system that had the sun and planets and stars all orbiting around the earth on a system of ‘Crystalline spheres’ sort of like the earth was the center of an onion and the stars/planets were stuck on these outer layers and they appeared in certain places at certain times. Now, Ptolemy did not differentiate between stars and planets. He simply saw the planets as stars that were ‘irregular’ in their patterns. These ‘irregular stars’ were called ‘wanderers’. Well anyway this system was obviously flawed, but it worked well for almost 2 thousand years. So during the 15-16th century when Copernicus came up with a more accurate system [our present understanding of the solar system- one where we orbit the sun and not vica versa] he was initially rejected on good grounds. What! Do you mean to tell me you believe in the old idea? Of course not, but the first system Copernicus floated was actually wrong! Many people don’t know this. When the church and science looked at the initial theory they found it to be lacking in certain areas. Copernicus had the planets orbiting the sun in a circular orbit, they orbit more on an Ellipsis like pattern. Also Kepler had to make other adjustments to the system to get it to work [complicated stuff like the retrograde motion of mars]. So the church had some ground to stand on when they rejected Copernicus/Galileo. Of course we later accepted the truths of science and do not see science and reason as ‘anti’ Christian. But it is this embarrassing history that puts us on the defense at times, that’s why some notable Christians have embraced evolution as a tool that God used to create man. These Christians are over compensating [in my view] for the bad history on stuff like this. I reject evolution based on scientific grounds, not biblical. If God wanted to use evolution as a tool to create man, he most certainly had that option. But science does not show that ‘tool’ to be true. Those who reject all the evidence of Intelligent Design are standing with the Bishops of Galileo’s day, who when invited to just look into the telescope and ‘see for yourself’ rejected the invitation.

(1039)Ecclesiastes 10:7-9 ‘there is an evil I have seen under the sun, AS AN ERROR WHICH PROCEEDETH FROM THE RULER: folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place. I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth’. In the last few weeks [3-2009] we have had an interesting dynamic at work. Our new president [ruler] has engaged in a type of class warfare; it goes like this ‘the rich and successful have been riding high on the hog for too long, the poor can not afford the same privileges as the rich. So we are going to tax the rich more and provide for the rest of the people who can’t provide it for themselves’. Now, I am not a staunch republican free market capitalist who believes that the free market solves all things. I have said in the past that the mandate for fair wages is actually found in scripture! That’s why many of the historic churches [Catholic] have sided on the side of labor. But in the current scenario we have dragged the corporate ‘big wigs’ before congress [which is always a joke, these guys are like the kettle calling the pot black!] and we have fostered a sort of attitude that says ‘lets make the rulers walk, while the servants ride the horses’. Even though I have been hard on the rich and famous in many of my writings, yet the reason many of them are successful is because they worked hard at it. I have been retired for over a year now, I retired with 25 years in as a firefighter. The main reason was because over the years my back started killing me. You get various injuries that come with my type of job, that’s just the way the ball bounces. Now, my retirement is solely the money that went into my account over the years, I get no type of injury pay at all! I always found it sad that there were many days when I would be at the homeless mission and many of these guys are in much better shape than me, yet many of them have been receiving govt. aid for years. I mean young guys who spend their whole check on crack! When the ‘ruler’ decides to put in place policies that simply say ‘even though you didn’t earn it, we will give it to you’ this undermines society as a whole. At the same time when the rulers call the business heads together and berate them, this is a game the servants love. It’s sort of like a dignified execution type thing. Third world countries kill the authorities they don’t like, we mock them. ‘Folly is set in great dignity, the rich sit in a low place’. I believe there is a time and place for our country to seriously look at corporate abuse, I myself have been a defender of the poor. But when you treat the poor in a way that says ‘nothing is your fault, we will solve your problems by taking from the rich and giving it to you’ you dignify folly. Many of my friends are poor because of very bad decisions they have made. Many of the ‘well to do’ have made wise decisions, when you simply transfer wealth from one group to another, without dealing with the underlying issues, you really haven’t addressed the issue at all.

(1031)ECCLESIASTES 7:19 ‘WISDOM STRENGTHENS A WISE MAN MORE THAN TEN MIGHTY MEN IN A CITY’- this chapter has a few good verses in it. It says it’s better to go thru some stuff than to live in continual ‘abundance’. Wise men have increased in the ‘house of mourning’. I watched some stuff on Lincoln the other day, it’s obvious that he grew in wisdom and stature as he battled depression and difficulty. His life’s motto was not ‘discover the champion in you’! When I went to Kingsville the other day I noticed our blog ad was not only running in the Kingsville Record, but also the Kingsville Journal. I am not sure how it got in there. I also have a bunch of papers lying around my office, papers from New Jersey and Houston and stuff. I have been getting some contacts from ‘former’ church members of years ago, they are on fire for the Lord. I kinda think they have friends who learned about us on their own and then they realized that they were talking about us. These old buddies see themselves as part of us, but many of them are not on-line geeks. So they run into other locals who follow us on-line and then they realize they are following our story. The point being ‘wisdom strengthens wise men more than ten mighty men in a city’. A few years ago I felt the lord said to start the blog and put the ad in regional papers. The ‘effort’ to do this was not as much as the various outreach projects I have been involved in over the years, but the results have gone much further. If you gave me ‘ten mighty men’ [employees/staff] and I sent them all over to effect the region, I don’t think they could equal the simple effect of me hearing and responding to the Lord in these simple ways. Now, we most certainly have ‘ten mighty men’ a group of both leaders and ‘regular saints’ [ouch!] who follow the journey, but they are a result of hearing and responding. The wisdom [ideas] from God have a greater effect than the efforts of men. Remember, the battle is not to the strong or swift, the victory comes from the Spirit of God. When we learn to listen and respond, the things we do will go far. When we put a lot of money and effort into stuff, without really listening, we get stuck with Ishmaels [something our govt. should learn!] Also, it is often in the ‘house of mourning’ [seasons of extreme difficulty] that God deposits the wisdom into you. Padre Pio [Catholic Priest] said ‘souls come with a cost, somebody has to pay the price’ are you willing to pay the price?

(1025)GREAT AWAKENING- In between studies I have been reading the ‘shelf of books’ I bought a few months ago. I bought about 70 dollars worth of books at the half price book store, they are worth a few hundred at least. The last three I just went thru were published by universities; Oxford, Princeton, etc. I have learned over the years that your time is well spent in the ‘higher education’ category. You can spend a lifetime reading the popular Christian culture stuff and never really get educated. The book I just started is called ‘Revival and Revivalism’ it was put out by Princeton and covers the history of the first great awakenings. I want to give you a long quote from Samuel Davies, the son in law of Jonathan Edwards. The Lord used him in Hanover, Va. ‘In all the sermons I have preached in Virginia, I have not wasted one minute in reasoning against the peculiarities of the established church; nor so much as assigned my own reasons of non-conformity. I have not exhausted my zeal in railing against the established clergy, in exposing their imperfections, or in deprecating their characters. I have matters of infinite importance to spend my time and strength upon, to preach repentance towards God and faith towards Jesus Christ.’ ‘What an endless variety of denominations, taken from some men of character, or from some little peculiarities, has prevailed in the Christian world and crumbled it to pieces…what party names have been adopted by the Protestant churches, whose religion is substantially the same common Christianity, and who agree on much more important truths than in those they differ. To be a Christian is not enough now-a-days, but a man must be something more or better, that is he must be a strenuous bigot to this or that particular church…but to glory in the denomination of any particular church, as my highest character, to lay more stress on my denomination than on my being a Christian…to make it my zeal to win people to my peculiar denomination than to Christ, to overlook the faults of those in my own party and to be blind to the good in others, or to diminish them; these are the things that deserve condemnation from God and man. These proceed from a spirit of bigotry and faction, directly opposite to the generous catholic spirit of Christianity, and subversive of it. This spirit turns men from the important matters of Christianity, to vain jangling and competitions about circumstantials and trifles. Thus the Christian is swallowed up in the partisan, and the fundamentals are lost in extra essentials’ [I paraphrased a little] I find it interesting that Davies and the other leaders in the awakening were anti sectarian, though most of them were Presbyterian/Reformed, yet they saw their task above denominationalism. In Davies case the main denomination he came up against was the Anglican church, many in Virginia contrasted the traditional church with the ‘new light’ brothers. Many associated with the revivals were seen this way. You can still find prejudicial comments made against Catholics during this period, but I find it interesting that many of the revival leaders were aware of the sectarian spirit and saw it as a danger to the work of God. They warned against what many of their ‘offspring’ would become. I find it hard to understand how many of the offshoots of the awakenings can read and study their history and not see the error that their own fore-fathers warned them about. But for the most part God was working in their day and they were wise enough to rise above religious bigotry.

(1022)ECCLESIASTES Solomon said there was nothing new under the sun. During the 16th century reformation you had a number of ‘offshoot’ movements that sprouted. Some define these as the radical reformers. Groups like the Anabaptists [re-baptizers] and others. As you read the writings of many of these groups you find that they were definitely seeing truth for their day. George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, was hitting the nail on the head when it came to ‘church as the building’ he exposed the limited mindset that many believers embraced. He would refer to the churches as ‘steeple houses’. Many of these groups were deemed heretical for a myriad of reasons. The Quakers would embrace a belief that emphasizes the truth from the Spirit versus the letter of the law. Some would carry this to an extreme and associate all ‘head knowledge’ faith as wrong. Any doctrinal correction from the more reformed brothers was seen as ‘dead knowledge’ coming against Spirit truth. So they would get branded with the heretic title by some. The same goes for the Anabaptists and many others. The sad thing is many of these movements were partial ‘reformers’ in their own right. They had good things to add to the debate. If you read some of their writings you would think they were a few hundred years before their time. I have read scholarly works from Catholic theologians on the Ecclesia [church] and what she is. These works were right on! Even though the average Catholic might not be aware of them. So you find real treasure in many of these groups. There really is ‘nothing new under the sun’. You should avoid a mindset that begins seeing ‘my group’ or ‘my way of seeing things’ as the true group, and the majority of other Christian groups as false. While it is easy to see whole mindsets of limited understanding that exist in the church at large, I feel it’s dangerous to grasp hold of an idea that says ‘90% of all Christianity is dead wrong, they have all been duped until now’. This is sort of like the teenager saying to dad ‘you’re so behind the times, my new way of seeing things is better than yours’. Most times the teenager later realizes that this was an overreaction. I think we all need to read the great writers of days gone by, Bonhoeffer wrote excellently on the communion of the saints. Our Church of Christ brothers had real truth on the church as the people. The Catholic mystics knew that there was more to the Christian way than simple knowledge, they sought a real experience with God. As you enter into this glorious communion of the saints, there will be obvious blind spots that you can find in many of these writers, but maturity allows us to by pass the faults of others [love covers a multitude of sin] while receiving the valuable stuff. Avoid the strong ‘they are all wrong’ spirit, remember ‘there is nothing new under the sun’.

(1019)CORINTHIANS 16:1-4 ‘When you come together on the first day of the week, let every one of you put some money aside as God has provided for you. So when I come we won’t have to waste any time taking offerings. And we will use this money for the purpose of meeting the needs of the poor saints at Jerusalem. Whoever you approve to take the money to Jerusalem can do it, I might also go with them if the Lord permits. I gave this same order to all the churches in the Galatian province’ [my own paraphrase]. These verses are usually used to justify the Sunday morning offering. They are also used to teach ‘Sunday as the Lords special day’. Let’s talk a little. Paul gave these instructions to at least this church and all the churches of Galatia. We have no idea if all the first century churches actually did this. But let’s say they did. What exactly are they doing? They are taking a Sunday offering and using it 100 percent for charitable purposes. Remember how I have taught in the past that the main teaching from Jesus on giving dealt with the poor? So if we want to use this text to command believers to give on Sunday, then we need to use ALL THE MONEY for helping poor people. Paul also says ‘do it before I arrive, I don’t want to have to spend time messing around with collections’. I find it interesting that it is common today to spend a good portion of the Sunday service [any church U.S.A.] to kind of do a celebratory offering thing. Lots of time to stop and emphasize the importance of worshiping God with our money. The point I would make is Paul did none of this. He actually said he did not want to have to set aside time for the collecting of money when he arrived, and for this very reason he said take up the offering on Sunday! One more thing; it is obvious that the early believers began a tradition of meeting on Sunday. Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection on 2 consecutive Sundays. Acts 20 has believers meeting on Sunday. Jesus of course rose from the dead on Sunday. But there is no indication from scripture that believers are under some type of New Testament Sabbath law. Sort of like Sunday is now the ‘special day’ just like Saturday for Judaism. Various groups argue over this issue, I have taught on it before. In the New Covenant we have tremendous freedom to meet or not meet on Sunday. Or to meet or not meet on Saturday for that matter! But doctrinally we are free from the law and all of its observances. I appreciate the work that has been done by various scholars [Especially some catholic ones] on showing how Sunday became the special day of observance for believers. But we need to be careful when we read what the believers did in the New Testament and then proclaim it as law. I believe its fine to meet on Sunday, to take offerings and to do all of these types of things. But when we grasp hold of limited ideas, and then exalt them to a place of law, we err. Paul was simply telling this church to collect some money on the first day of the week for the sole purpose of charity. If modern day believers want to apply these scriptures literally, then we should use all of the Sunday offering for charity. If we apply them literally, then there is absolutely no sense of a tithe system to pay for salaries, building upkeep, insurance, on and on. For modern day believers to engage in such things is fine. If these expenses seem needed for the overall purpose of Gods work, then fine. But to use these verses and actually tell believers they are robbing God if they don’t tithe on Sunday is absolutely not true. I have written a lot about these things over the years [you can find stuff on my ‘statement of faith’ section and ‘what in the world is the church’ section] I do not condemn all the churches who practice these things, it’s just we need to be careful when we take examples from scripture, lift them out of context, add a few verses from Malachi and then teach some air tight system that if not obeyed brings the curse of God on someone. Do all things in grace, remember THE POOR, and you will do well.

(1013)CORINTHIANS 15:29-49 the resurrection body is a real ‘spiritual’ body. Paul describes the natural body [us now] as fleshly and like Adams body. He then describes the promised resurrection body as being like Jesus in his raised state. These verses can be a little confusing. When Paul says the resurrection body is ‘spiritual’ as compared to earthy, is he saying it is not real? No. But you can see how some early sects could use these verses and teach a ‘phantom’ type resurrection [Gnostic, Docetist type groups]. I was once asked by a Catholic believer if the church taught the physical resurrection. I assured the person that both Catholic and Protestant [and Orthodox] expressions of Christianity embrace the real future resurrection of the body. Now, is it the same body? Well, the way Paul describes it is by comparing the planting of seeds. When you plant a seed you don’t simply get a bigger seed! But you get various types of growth, whether it’s a tree or plant or whatever. So Paul says our future bodies will be new and glorious in this way, but if it weren’t really you, then it wouldn’t be a resurrection! So you will come back, but it will be a ‘new you’. Over the years I have studied various theologians [Christian ones] and I have seen the penchant for various groups to focus in on a certain doctrine and to stray somewhat from the faith. Now, they aren’t always cults, some of them are highly knowledgeable Christians who seem to be testing the boundaries of orthodoxy. I like N.T. Wright, the famous Bishop of Durham [Church of England] but you need to be grounded in what you believe before you can really read him. I feel at times he is helpful in bringing new perspectives to things, I have seen some of the things he teaches myself. But there is also a danger of ‘re-thinking’ stuff a little too much. By the way Wright has written on the resurrection and has done a great job at defending the historic churches position. He’s in somewhat of a theological controversy at the moment, some of the strong reformed brothers have come out and challenged his view on Justification. Wright teaches that the historic reformers kind of missed what Paul was saying. Wright ‘extends’ the doctrine to mean ‘a sign/badge of those who are already in Gods covenant community’. The historic reformers taught a more forensic meaning of the doctrine. That justification is primarily saying that God imputes the righteousness of Jesus to the believer. That Jesus took our sins, and we get his righteousness. Now, I feel there is some truth to Wrights view. But I would be careful to throw out the reformed view all together. There certainly is much truth to the reformed view. John Piper [a reformed Baptist] just released a book on the reformed view, Wright has one coming out pretty soon [Wrights is already published overseas, but the states wont get it for a few months]. So, the point is I believe the historic church and the ancient creeds ‘got it right’ on the resurrection. It is real, it will happen to all people some day. Those who have ‘done good’ [wow- these are Jesus actual words when describing the final judgment!] will be ‘raised to life’. Those who have done evil will be raised to face judgment. We can all escape the coming judgment, Jesus died for us. If we believe and accept his death, burial and resurrection, then we will be raised to a new life some day. 378- (I stuck this entry in here because it deals with the ‘baptism for the dead’, I didn’t want you to think that I just skipped over the verse) Let me give a little example of the ‘overriding act of redemption’ trumping any little verse or experience. Paul actually tells the Corinthians ‘if the dead are not raised, then why are you baptizing people in ‘proxy’ for the dead?’ This is tough stuff. Let me give you one way to see this. The ‘baptism for the dead’ seems to have been a real cultural thing that took place in a specific time and setting [like the slavery verses I mentioned earlier]. There seems to have been a concern specifically to the 1st century church that said ‘this new doctrine of Jesus is great, but being its only been around a few years, and you are telling us [Paul] that you must embrace it to be saved. Then we have a problem. A lot of our loved ones never got a chance to hear. How do you expect us to quell these concerns?’ And it’s possible that the ‘baptism’ by proxy [like a father or son getting baptized in the place of the loved one who died] was a 1st century cultural thing that grew out of this. The fact that they were doing this does not mean that Paul the Apostle was condoning it. Paul was simply saying ‘if you guys really don’t believe in life after death, then why are you bothering with this rite?’ Its like Paul was using their own cultural thing to show them the inconsistency of their thinking. He wasn’t really teaching the baptism for the dead. [This is my view, Mormons believe different. They do practice this today and they use this verse as justification].

(1010)CORINTHIANS 15:1-19 Paul will deal with the greatest threat yet to the Corinthian church, their doubt over the physical resurrection of the body. Various ‘Christian’ groups over the years have doubted the physical resurrection. Now, some have done this out of a sincere attempt at trying to defend the faith! [their view of it] In the 1900’s you had one of the most popular theologians by the name of Rudolf Bultman [most of his career was spent at the University of Marburg, Germany. Much of the higher criticism of the day originated from Germany] He wrote a book called ‘Kerygma and Myth’. What he tried to say was that any modern man living in the 20th century, with all the breakthroughs in science and knowledge, could not ‘literally’ believe the miraculous stories in scripture. Or even the way scripture spoke of heaven and hell and used limited terms to describe spiritual truths. He used the bibles terminology on Cosmology as an example. How could man believe in a Cosmos where ‘heaven is up there, with the stars and all’ and he felt that enlightened man needed to ‘re-tool’ the bible and cleanse it from all these mythical images, but yet keep the spiritual aspects of it. The moral teachings of Christ and stuff like that. So you have had sincere men doubt the truth claims of scripture. The problem with this attempt [higher criticism] is it throws out the baby with the bathwater. The resurrection of Jesus is presented by the apostles as a real event. The fact of this resurrection can also be attested to by examining the historical events of the day. Simply put, there is a ton of proof for the real resurrection of Christ. Bultman and others meant well, but some of the ‘facts’ that they were using were later proven to be false. Bultman used a model of cosmology that would later be rejected by science. Yet the testimony from scripture would remain sure. Paul told the Corinthian’s that they needed to reject any attempts at spiritualizing the resurrection of Christ. Sometimes believers grasp hold of limited proof’s for certain doctrines. For instance, the New Testament does speak of a spiritual resurrection. In Ephesians Paul says we are presently raised with Christ. In Romans chapter 6 we have all ready been raised with Jesus. This reality does not mean there will be no future resurrection of the saints. In Johns gospel Jesus speaks of the resurrection as being a future real event, as well as a present reality. Those in the graves will hear his voice and be raised from the dead. And those who were presently ‘dead in sins’ would ‘come alive’ [spiritually] when they heard and believed the testimony of Jesus. It is important for the believer to be familiar with the various theories and ideas that theologians and believers have grasped over the years. It is a mistake to simply see all higher learning as ‘liberalism’. There are some very important things that we have learned thru the great intellectuals of the church. But we also need to stick with the ancient traditions as seen in the creeds, as well as the plain testimony of scripture. If Christ ‘be not raised from the dead, then we are of all men most miserable’.

(1003)CORINTHIANS 13:4-10 Okay, what exactly is this love that we need? Paul has told us that all religious activity apart from it is vain. Paul here simply gives us a picture of the way it acts. You can read this section and substitute your name for the word love ‘love puts up with stuff and is kind’ ‘John puts up with stuff and is kind’ [ouch] ‘It does not boast or show off’. ‘It does not seek its own benefit’ a ‘what’s in it for me’ type mentality. Love is being just like Jesus. James tells us ‘if you fulfill the royal law of scripture, you do well’. The law is to love thy neighbor as yourself. Paul also shows us why love outshines the other gifts of tongues and prophesy and knowledge. He says ‘we know in part, prophesy in part. But when we are made perfect and mature at the appearing of Christ the partial gifts will no longer be distinguishable. Only love will rule’ [my paraphrase] I find it interesting that Paul says knowledge itself will cease. Will actual knowledge cease? What exactly is ‘knowledge’? When we use this term in society what we usually mean is the degree of ones learning/education compared to someone else. If you have a masters and I have a high school diploma, we see a difference. We measure knowledge by the amount we have as compared to others. Now, at Christ’s appearing when we all ‘shall know, even as we are known’ this fine distinction will ‘pass away’. We still will have knowledge, but as a tool that we use to measure one another, it will cease. It wont make a difference how much of the ‘knowledge pie’ [know in part] you possess, at that time everyone one will have ‘all pie’. Knowledge is a funny thing, our understanding of it has developed thru the centuries. During the enlightenment era the concept of ‘what does it even mean to know’ was tackled. One of the famous sayings was ‘I know/think, therefore I am’ [Descartes? Hey, I forget sometimes] the study of ‘how we learn/know things’ is called epistemology. The enlightenment produced a way to approach knowledge that can be called ‘modernism’ mans modern way of knowing stuff. In essence, there exists real truth that a person can know and learn. There is/was a challenge to this mode of thought. Many in the Emergent church movement would grasp on to another theory of ‘knowing’ loosely defined as being in the category of ‘post modernism’. Some challenged the actual ability to know a thing. The emphasis is on who is actually viewing/learning the thing. The terms ‘metta- narrative’ are sometimes used to describe this dynamic. There is some truth to the fact that our context, who we are and where we are coming from, can shape the actual stuff learned. But the question is ‘does our perspective actually change the thing, make it real or not’. Some in the field of Cosmology have grasped on to this post modern theory and have surmised that the very act of human beings studying and examining a thing can in and of itself cause the thing ‘to be’. You can see how this theory would be helpful to the atheist. ‘Where did every thing come from?’ ‘it is a result of human kind’s thoughts and inquiry’ [Ouch]. This sounds a lot like the metaphysical cults that espouse that reality is a product of what you think, confess. That man has the power to create reality simply by the act of studying a thing. Well this is of course a challenge to the truth of God. Jesus and the Cross aren’t ‘real’ because men ‘put their mind to them’. They are real whether or not man ever thought about them. ‘Let God be true, but every man a liar’ Romans. Paul tells us that all these varying degrees of knowledge will some day ‘pass away’. We will all stand before a self existent God and give an account of our lives. This day is coming whether you ‘think about it or not’.

(1002)1ST CORINTHIANS 13: 2-3 ‘and though I have the gift of prophecy [Pentecostal, prophetic expressions] and understand all mysteries and all knowledge [Orthodox, Reformed, intellectual creedal churches] and though I have all faith that I could remove mountains [the Faith camp] and have not charity [Agape- love] I am nothing’. Whew! Thank God us mission/outreach type guys are not in there. ‘And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor [ouch] and have not love it profits nothing’. I love the various expressions of the church, I feed from the Reformed brothers teaching, Love reading and studying Orthodoxy and Catholicism. I of course favor the outreach/hands on type ministries, but according to this text we can have all these things and still be missing the mark. Our intellectual type brothers are engaging the culture and defending the faith, but without love we don’t even put a dent in the culture. The apologists are great at refuting the new atheists, to be honest about it the Christian intellectuals are head and shoulders above the atheists [Craig Lane and men like him] but I have noticed that we don’t really change that many minds even when all the proof is on our side. And I cant tell you how many well meaning missions and soup kitchens I have been too, but often times there is a disconnect between the people being served and the ‘servers’. You get the feeling sometimes that the well meaning helpers are simply punching a time card. We all need to reevaluate our motives. People can tell when we are in ‘ministry’ for the love of the business. Or for the self glory and adulation that comes with our service. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they truly were in it for the recognition of men. They wanted others to see that they were ‘successful in the ministry’ so they could receive recognition in public. Paul tells the Romans ‘he that shows mercy, let him do it with love [cheerfully]’. It’s easy to fall into a rut and simply be functioning out of a sense of duty. Now duty can be a good thing, there are times where we just need people to report for duty! [The harvest is plenteous, but the workers are few] but we need to examine ourselves and make sure we are functioning out of the Love of God. Often times the various ministries and expressions of the church are simply God ordained ‘places’ where we can connect with people. As we interact with the lost world, lets do our best to win the arguments, give proof for the legitimacy of Christianity. Combat false ideas and mindsets that are imbedded in our culture, but lets leave room for the other side to get in with us. Understand that they have a ‘missing piece’ [Augustine’s hole in the heart] and we are the only ones that can show them how to fill it.

(994)1ST CORINTHIANS 12: 12-26 Paul uses the analogy of a body to describe the church. Keep in mind that the ‘church’ in Paul’s writings mean ‘all Gods people in the region/city’. Not just the gathered assembly! It’s important to make this distinction because much of the talk on the restoration of the organic church versus the institutional church focuses too much on the way believers meet. Here Paul is saying ‘you are all individual distinct members in the local community, you express Christ in various ways, though you have unique gifts you also are part of one corporate expression of Christ in your city’. The distinct gifts function in your community, not just in the meeting! [Whether it be the Sunday building type thing or the living room!] Paul also tells them to be on the guard for the ‘one member dominating the group’ expression of church. If everyone is centered on one particular gift then the corporate expression of the Body of Christ is diminished. Or if everyone saw ‘full time ministry’ as being a modern Pastor then you would have too many sincere believers all seeking to serve God in a limited way ‘if all were an eye, ear, mouth [speaking gift]’ then where would the Body be? I find this chapter to be a key chapter in the current reformation of modern church practices. As Gods people strive for a more scriptural expression of ‘being the church’ we need to keep this chapter in mind. Now, a word for the strong organic church brothers. The fact that Paul encourages a corporate expression in the church does not mean the gatherings of Gods people must be leaderless. Paul includes the concept of Elders in his writings. To be sure these men were not to dominate the meetings, or be the weekly speaker on an ongoing basis. But some hold to a type of idea that the way the church is supposed to testify of the ‘headship of Christ’ is by demonstrating a human leaderless church. That is God ordained the local bodies of believers to have no functioning human leaders in order to show forth Christ’s headship. To be honest I don’t see this in scripture. I see leaders in plurality [never a one man show] and Paul was not afraid to tell Titus and Timothy to ‘ordain’ [recognize!] Elders in the church. But the overall instruction in this chapter is God wants all of his people to function on a regular basis in the Body of Christ. This of course includes the gatherings, but it is not limited to them. The primary way we ‘show’ the world the Lordship of Jesus is by the selfless love we have one for another. When we daily live charitable, sacrificial lives, this demonstrates the ‘headship of Jesus’ over the church. The way believers meet has some effect on this, but most of Jesus instructions to the disciples was on how they would go out into the world and bring the great message of the kingdom to society. The primary ‘battlefield’ of the church militant is the world, not the meeting place!

(990)PROVERBS 31: 8-9 ‘Open thy mouth for the dumb [voiceless] in the cause of ALL such as are appointed to destruction [abortion, poor, unjust death sentences]. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy’. This chapter is famous for the second half, the virtuous woman. I have been praying parts of this chapter 3-5 times a week for around 20 years now. I pray the part ‘your wife we be like the merchant ships that bring their goods from afar’ over my wife. I also pray ‘your wife will be like a fruitful vine by the sides of your house, your children like olive plants round about your table’. For some reason the ‘plant’ imagery stuck in my head as a good prayer reminder. The other day, before Shelby passed away [my homeless friend] I was going thru the pictures on my cell phone. I happened to come across a picture I took of Shelby. I have a few pictures from the fellowships and stuff. This one was taken with Shelby and a few other homeless brothers at a park in Kingsville. Sure enough I put the picture as the ‘wallpaper’ [the first picture that shows up as you turn on the phone] on Sunday. He passed away on Wednesday. My daughter says ‘don’t put my picture on your phone’! Actually I kind of see it as a prophetic thing. In some way the Lord was telling me my friend was going to become a ‘memory’ real soon. Also a reminder for prayer. The day I found out about Shelby’s death I took a few homeless people around town to run errands and stuff. We stopped for coffee and one of the brothers insisted on paying this time. He had around 10 bucks and really wanted to. I paid, he left a 2 dollar tip. During the day they were trying to accomplish small tasks that can become real obstacles in their lives. I took one of the guys to the driver’s license place, he got his I.D. but could not get his license. They have a very old charge against him about not appearing for court on some minor thing. He never got the notice, they sent it to his last known address, he hasn’t lived there for years! He simply can’t fix this problem, he has no resources and ability to fix it! I of course helped him with the ride and some money and stuff. But when these guys get into these seemingly small obstacles, when you’re homeless and without a phone and regular transportation, they seem hopeless at times. Now, what do you think happens when the entity they are dealing with decides to mess with them? I canceled a credit card a few years back. I paid the balance and specifically said ‘make sure you cancel the card, I don’t want to keep getting notices that I owe an annual fee and stuff’! Sure enough, a few months go by and they send me a notice that I am delinquent for around 70.00 dollars [not an old balance, but a new annual charge!] and if I don’t pay it the fine will go up. What happened? Someone decided to simply ‘screw me’ [sorry]. The point being, when you are homeless you have very little ability to correct any wrongs done against you, the entity that is messing with you always wins. Society seems to think ‘they got what was coming to them’. The reason God wants us to speak up for all those who are ‘voiceless’ is because this is part of the purpose of Gods anointing. Jesus clearly was anointed for this purpose [Isaiah 11, 61. Luke 4]. There are times when the voiceless are ALWAYS innocent [abortion] and times where they did ‘get what was coming to them’. But Jesus requires us to treat the poor and hopeless with respect and concern. Every now and then I catch a show on E.W.T.N. [the catholic channel] the name of the show is ‘the church and the poor’. It’s the ministry of some priest [Wen Ho Lee? Something like that] who was a Jesuit priest living in the states and having a comfortable life. Then the Lord challenged him to give it all up and move to some foreign land and give his life away for the poor. His message is soul stirring. He often tells the people during the Mass ‘do you think coming to church and going to confession and doing religious things are the main requirements for a Christian’? He then goes on and shares the judgment scenarios that Jesus gave in the gospels. He shows how Jesus couches the judgment of man based on his treatment of the poor and down and out. He sounds like me! God requires us to speak up for those who cannot, he requires us to give our lives away. As you read thru this chapter [Proverbs 31] you will see that kings [leaders] are not supposed to get drunk [like Paul’s admonition to elders]. Why? So they don’t forget to do justice and look out for those who are under their care, specifically the down trodden. God wants us clear and sober minded for a divine purpose, to be social activists on the behalf of those who ‘have no voice’.

(986)CORINTHIANS 12: 8-10 this section deals with the various gifts of the Spirit. The list is not exhaustive, Paul speaks in Romans and Ephesians about other ones as well. Instead of diving into a definition for each gift, lets look a little at the various ‘modes’ and characteristics of the Spirit of God. In revelation we have a scripture that many seem to stumble over, it says ‘the 7 spirits of God that are before his throne’. Some associate Isaiah 11 with this. In Isaiah 11 you can find 6 distinct characteristics of the Spirit of God, some see 7. Or you could say ‘God has 7 actual Spirits’. Does God have 7 spirits? Or 25 or 10,000? God is the creator of all spirits. He is the Father of lights! In revelation you have Jesus holding the ‘7 stars’ in his hand, which are said to be angels. Then you have the ‘7 angels of the 7 churches’. I showed you before why these angels are not ‘Pastors’ they are angels! [You can find the post somewhere under END TIMES STUFF]. Revelation has 7 seals, bowls, candlesticks. The book is a prophetic book that has angels revealing and operating and functioning. The 7 spirits before God’s throne are probably the 7 angels spoken about in the book. Hebrews says the angels are ‘ministering spirits’. Well let’s get off the rabbit trail. In Isaiah 61 we have the famous verses that Jesus read and applied to himself in the New Testament [Luke 4]. Jesus opens the scroll and reads about the Spirit of God upon him, the eyes of everyone in that place were fixated on him. Notice how both in Isaiah 11 and 61, one of the main purposes of the anointing was to administer justice to the poor and oppressed. Much of Evangelicalism has opted out of this responsibility. There was an overreaction to the social gospel of the late 19th, early 20th century. The social gospel had a tendency to overemphasize good deeds, without focusing on conversion. But the Fundamentalist movement of the 20th century neglected the social justice aspect of the kingdom, thank God for the Catholics who picked up the torch. The point today is the purpose of the gifts, which we will get into tomorrow, is not simply for self glory and edification. Or should I say the purpose of the anointing. Jesus made it very clear that his mission involved justice for the poor and oppressed, he did not limit his ministry to ‘the church’.

(983)1ST CORINTHIANS 11:16-34 ‘When you come together IN THE CHURCH’ [king James version] ‘when you come together AS THE CHURCH’ [new king James version]. In this section of scripture we see a real good definition of ‘church’ and also a bad one. The word for church is found over 100 times in the New Testament [114? – if I remember right] in every occasion, bar none, it refers to the people of God. Sometimes it refers to them as ‘coming together’ or simply as ‘the called out people of God’ [that is they are all spiritually gathered as a community in Christ]. The word never refers to a ‘church building’ [there is one reference in James that can seem to indicate a place to meet. James is speaking to Jews, the synagogue [or Jerusalem temple] as a building is different from the term for church in Paul’s letters!]. In the example I just gave you from the king James versions, it shows you how Gods people viewed this term for church [Ecclesia/Ekklesia] as time rolled along. The original translators of the King James saw it as ‘a place you meet in’ the new version saw it ‘as when Gods people come together’. You say ‘what’s the big difference’? Well I am sure the original translators meant well, but in actuality there is a big difference between ‘being an organic family’ or ‘being a building’! As Paul addresses the Corinthians he says ‘your coming together is not for the better, but for the worse’. They were using the gathering as a means of self gratification. ‘What can I get out of this’ type thing. I do see a parallel in much of today’s ‘church meeting’. Do we see Christianity thru the lens of ‘what am I going to hear this Sunday that I can implement in my own personal life for self improvement’? This mindset prevails in today’s church environment. The ethos of Jesus was contrary to this. He challenged his followers to lay down their rights and desires and seek another kingdom, one that was not measured by the standards of this world. Paul rebuked the Corinthians for seeking ‘their own wealth [benefit] and not the other’s’. He also told them to examine their hearts before coming together so they would not be judged. I have heard the new generation of church thinkers [which I am one myself!] kind of mock the old time churches by saying ‘Oh they tell you communion is some dangerous thing that you must approach with a holier than thou attitude’. Most mean well when they level this charge, but the ‘old time churches’ are not without scriptural support for this approach. Paul did say ‘you guys are too flippant in your attitude towards the Lords table, you need to straighten up and take more seriously your corporate call to those around you’. Understand, the celebration of this ‘love feast’ was to ‘show the Lords death till he come’. Who were they ‘showing it to’? The entire ‘unchurched’ community around them! Their selfless lives of being the community of God, loving and sharing of themselves as a spiritual family, was for the intent of having an effective community wide witness. They reminded not only themselves, but those around them ‘of the Lords death’. It was truly a corporate witness! Our Catholic brothers might not be as wrong as most Protestants seem to think. The Catholic Church sees the Eucharist as the central witness and part of their meetings. The Protestants see the preaching of the word from the pulpit. Though the Protestants are sincere in their efforts to teach the word of God, there is a tendency to become ‘pastor/pulpit’ centered, as opposed to being ‘Christ centered’. All in all Paul rebukes and corrects them based on their self centered actions when meeting together. He also sees ‘the gathering’ as ‘the church’. Not the place their meeting at! It’s easy to confuse this when reading ‘when you come together in the church- in one place’ it sure seems like he can be referring to a church building. Take my word for it, he’s not.

(982)WILL JESUS RULE FROM A REAL ‘ALTAR’ SOME DAY? Watched an interesting show last night. The brother was sharing on the ‘Davidic kingdom’ and all the scriptures associated with it. I am familiar with the man, I used to get a Christian paper from him years ago. It’s obvious that he has a tremendous storehouse of ‘knowledge’ he can take you all over the bible and quote all types of stuff. He comes at you from the fundamentalist/dispensationalist viewpoint. He laid out the case that all the promises of God to David have to be literally fulfilled thru David. He even espoused that David himself might actually be the one reigning from the Millennial throne! [most see Jesus in this role- but to be fair, those who see Jesus do spiritualize the promises to David [Solomon] and apply them to Christ, which is what they despise doing!] Any way the brother espouses the idea that Jesus might actually be sitting on the Mercy Seat during his millennial reign. I have taught you guys what this seat is in the past. It was the actual lid to the box [Ark] that held the tablets of the Ten Commandments. It was a place [altar] where the blood of the yearly sacrifice [Day of Atonement] was placed. If you will it was the ultimate picture of sacrifice and altar that could be found in the Old Testament economy. This example will show you the danger of not being able to rightly understand and interpret scripture. Right now, as I write, there is another all out war going on between Israel and Palestine [Hammas]. Truly bad stuff. Of course I condemn all terrorism, make no mistake about it, Hammas are terrorists! I also see the right of a nation to defend itself against terrorism. But the overall viewpoint of the believer should be ‘we are not of this world, we represent Jesus, the prince of peace. He offers salvation to all mankind [Jew, Arab] and we do not advocate a view of Jesus that has him coming in a militaristic way, in a way that says ‘he will return and lead the Israeli military to victory and actually kill your women and kids’! [a view that does more harm to true evangelism than any other thing! How would you feel if I was trying to convert you to be a follower of some king who was going to come back and kill your natural family?]. Now, first of all we need to know the underlying intent of all the sacrifices and ‘altars’ in scripture. They all point to Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice for man on The Cross. They are SYMBOLIC! That is Hebrews teaches that they have all been fulfilled thru Jesus and any future idea of a restoration of animal sacrifices or altars would be considered blasphemous! This is one of the reasons protestantism does not celebrate the catholic mass, they feel the catholic teaching is a ‘re-doing’ of the sacrifice [the catholic theologians deny this]. Either way any idea that there would be a restoration of the altar system is anathema! Now, for you to see Jesus actually sitting on the ‘mercy seat’ while literally ruling from a restored Temple with renewed animal sacrifices, this has to be one of the most heretical ideas you could ever espouse. The New Testament teaches that any return to a sacrificial system, after the Cross, is doing ‘despite unto the Spirit of grace, treading the Blood of the Covenant [Jesus blood] under foot’. The language used to warn against a return to the animal sacrifice system is very strong. The dispensationalists belief says ‘God will put a ‘hold’ on the church age and return to a ‘kingdom age’ in which he deals with Israel again as a natural nation’ they see Jesus violating his own teaching that ‘my kingdom is not from this world’. This view places Christ back into a law system, in which Jesus will oversee a restoration of a literal temple [another violation of the symbols in scripture] and from this literal system, he physically wars against, and kills Arabs and Muslims as he directs their military. Now, can you see how destructive this view can be? Can you see what a violation it is to the spiritual kingdom of Christ who is the final sacrifice for man? When revelation says ‘a Lamb is sitting on the throne’ don’t you see it as a symbol of Jesus in a position of authority? Hebrews says Jesus entered into the true Holy Place [heaven- Gods presence] and presented his Blood to the Father on our behalf. Any view of him returning and reinstituting a literal reign from an earthly ‘holy of holies’ while actually sitting on a physical altar is blasphemous! I believe in a literal second coming. The church historically has had differing views on the millennial rule. But wherever you come down on these issues, you must not present Jesus future reign in a way that violates the fundamental truths of reconciliation and salvation [i.e.; him sitting on an altar from a physical holy of holies!] the types and pictures in scripture that have been fulfilled are not to ‘make a comeback’. The New Covenant and Kingdom of God thru Christ are one of where all men are offered forgiveness and peace thru Christ. Whether or not there ever will be a restored temple and sacrificial system in Jerusalem is questionable. But no matter what your view on this is, be assured that Jesus is not going to come back and rule while being seated on some sacrificial altar! This would violate one of the most fundamental teachings of the New Testament. [Note- it is possible that natural Israel will rebuild and reinstitute a sacrificial system, but this would only be a sign of condemnation. A result of their denial of the one sacrifice of Christ. Any return of Jesus would not be to vindicate their restored system, but a judgment on them for rejecting the one and only sacrifice and returning to the law!]

(980)1ST CORINTHIANS 11: 1-16 at first I was just going to skip this section and say ‘I know you didn’t get your moneys worth, but wait, you guys didn’t give me any money!’ But this would be a cheap shot. So what do we do with portions of scripture that are difficult? I have heard this taught in a way that says ‘Christ is the head of the church [both men and women- true] and any distinction between a man being ‘the head’ of the woman only applies to natural families’. The problem is Paul mixes the analogies ‘Christ is the head of a man, a man [husband] is the head of the woman [wife], and God is the head of Christ’. To dissect these verses into a ‘secular/religious’ division is next to impossible! So what do they mean? I believe the New Testament does teach a type of functional difference between men and woman. Now, Paul teaches that women ‘can prophesy’ in ‘the church’. He says so in these verses! In Romans 16 Paul refers to Junia as an apostle and Phoebe as a deaconess. In the Old Testament Deborah was a mighty judge. Peter says that both sons and daughters will prophesy [Acts 2, quoting Joel]. I could go on. Then why make a distinction? Paul gives his rationale in this section. Believers show the order and submission of the Godhead when they willingly take their God ordained positions in society. When husbands love their wives as Christ loves the church, God is glorified. When wives submit [oh no, I can’t believe I said it!] to their ‘loving’ husbands they show the role of Christ’s willful submission to the Father. And yes, Paul also teaches we all submit to each other in love as well. Those who see all of Paul’s teaching on women as a cultural thing will have a problem with the inspiration of scripture. But on the other hand the strong fundamentalist/literalist also has a problem here. Should we mandate the wearing of ‘coverings’ [hats] when women prophesy? I don’t think so [some do think so!]. But most fundamentalists have no problem chalking up the ‘hat wearing’ portion to culture. Also in this debate, one of the obvious questions is ‘can a woman be a Pastor over a church’? Or Bishop or whatever. Remember, no one was a ‘Pastor over a church’ like we think until around the 4th century. So before we judge whether or not it is fair to restrict women from certain roles ‘in the church’ we need to understand what roles there are ‘in the church’. Did you ever wonder who was marrying and burying the people for the first few hundred years of Christian history? It is quite obvious that Paul and the first century Apostles/Elders were not doing it. So when did the ‘clergy’ pick the practice up? During Constantine’s legalization of Christianity in the 4th century, the church took over the rites and ceremonies from Rome. The Roman ‘philosopher/speakers’ could be hired to speak a eulogy when someone died, they could conduct wedding ceremonies. They for the most part were ‘the Pastors’ of the day! Now we simply took the job from them. Does this mean all Pastors are pagan funeral directors? No. It simply shows us that when we ask the question ‘why can’t women be pastors like men’. Maybe the question should be ‘were men ever supposed to be pastors either?’ [in the contemporary use of the term] So in this little excursion into history I think we all have some lessons to learn. The people of God are made up of men and women and Jew and Gentile, scripture says in Christ there are no more distinctions like this. We are all considered the Body of Christ equally. Yet this does not mean [in my view] that everyone does the same job as everyone else. The New Testament clearly says ‘are all Apostles, all Prophets’. God has distinctions in this Body. Do these distinctions carry over to the woman/man issue in functionality? It seems so to me to a degree. Those who are striving for more equality in function for women, I think the best way to approach it is not to by- pass all these difficult portions of scripture. But to take the approach that as the church grows she allows the greater overriding truths of scripture to over shadow any personal advice given by Paul to a specific church in the first century. Now I don’t fully take this approach myself, but to a degree many of us do accept this approach when dealing with the ‘hat/covering issue’. So instead of just showing you my view, I wanted to paint a little broader picture. Ultimately how you come down on this is between you and God. Women most certainly can and do function in Christ’s church today, they always have and always will.

(977)1ST CORINTHIANS 10:15-17 ‘The cup that we bless, is it not the communion of the Blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of Christ’s Body? We are all one bread, we all partake equally of Christ’s Body and Blood. We exist as a community because of him’ [my paraphrase]. Here in my study I have various volumes on church history. I own catholic volumes, protestant ones, and even some from ‘the out of the institutional church’ perspective. Over the years I have learned that most believers tell their story from their perspective. This is not a wrong thing, nor is it a purposeful act to distort history. It’s just natural to see ‘your world’ thru your lens of past experiences. Around the 17th century the Jesuit priests were some of the first Christians to write systematic church histories. Though you had many scholars who were informed on the subject, the Jesuits were the first to try and bring all the previous centuries together and present them in an orderly way that could be understood and read by the average student. There is some debate on how accurate some of these first ‘tellings’ of history were. For instance, some classic church histories [both catholic and protestant] show an early 2nd century development of belief in the Eucharist as being the literal Body and Blood of Jesus. Also most volumes focus on church figures such as Iraneus , Tertullian, Augustine [4th-5th centuries] and many other good men [I know I spelled these names wrong!]. There seems to have been a basic belief that this history is the only ‘history’ of the first few centuries. The problem with this approach is we now have archealogical evidence from the first few centuries that would support the idea that the early church might not have been as ‘institutional’ as previously thought. For instance, most histories say the development of the monarchial episcopacy [single bishop over ‘a church/region’] was early. But the evidence discovered shows that as late as the 2nd, possibly early 3rd centuries you had bishops who were simply elders/overseers in the early church. Burial places were uncovered that showed multiple ‘bishops’ all buried in one spot. The evidence seems to indicate that these were all men who served at the same time. Not one bishop dieing off while others took his place. This would mean that some practicing Christians never fully accepted the institutional idea of the single bishop. But you really couldn’t find this out from a wide reading of all the different church histories. Why? Were the Jesuits who put together the first cohesive history trying to deceive people? Of course not! They were seeing church history thru ‘their lens’. Now, what in the world does this have to do with the verse on communion? The word for communion here is a translation from the Greek word ‘koinonia’, which simply means ‘fellowship’. The church at Corinth practiced ‘communion’ as a love feast. The early believers had their ‘communion service’ as a type of buffet type fellowship where they all shared and came together in real friendship. Now in the next chapter we will deal with some of the problems that arose out of this practice, but the point today is I want you to see that when Paul says ‘we are all one bread who are partaking from one loaf’ he is simply saying ‘just like when we all get together and share in the communal meal, this is the same way we all spiritually live off of the Body and Blood of Christ. We are ‘one bread’ [people/communion] because we all derive our life from Jesus, the true bread that came down from heaven’ [John 6]. I simply want to give you the flavor of what Paul is saying. It’s easy to read these verse’s from the sacramental perspective. To see the focus being on the actual bread and wine of the meal. I think it’s better understood from the broader communal idea that I just espoused. Our entire New Testament is the most verifiable collection of first century documents ever to be found. Though we as believers take them as Gods word, they also show us the most accurate historical picture of what the early church believed and practiced. I think the reformers of the 16th century were right in stating that the final authority should be the word of God. They did not reject church tradition, but they said the final arbiter in controversial issues was Gods word. Even the great Catholic humanist, Erasmus, was known for his desire to ‘get back to the original sources’. He was helpful in urging the Catholic Church towards reform by going back to the Greek New Testament [most scholars were using the vulgate version, which was the Latin translation. The Latin did not do justice to the Greek!] Well today’s point is our New Testaments are accurate first century documents on early church belief and practice. I think Erasmus cry to ‘get back to the sources’ would do us all some good.

(974)1ST CORINTHIANS 10: 5 ‘But with many of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness’. As I just sat down and was debating on how much to cover, I felt the Lord wanted me to stop with this one verse. Let’s review a little. Does this experience of being ‘scattered in the wilderness’ define past experiences for you? [Or present!] Historically the church has always had to deal with wilderness times. St. John of the Cross called this ‘the dark night of the soul’. After Mother Theresa’s death we found out that she struggled with doubt many times thru out her life. The historic church has been ‘scattered in the wilderness’ over truly insignificant stuff. I find it ridiculous that one of the main reasons the western [Catholic] and eastern [Orthodox] churches split in 1054 a.d. was over the silly distinction of whether the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father [the historic creed] or the ‘father and the Son’. This is considered the official cause of the split, though there were many other factors as well. In a day or so we will cover a verse that says ‘God is the head of Christ’. I had a friend that used to point out the fact that many Baptists would refer to ‘God and Jesus and the Spirit’ he would think this was in error because they would leave out ‘the Father’. To be honest he was consistent with Trinitarian thinking [I am one by the way!] If the ‘sole’ definition of God in the New testament were ‘3 separate persons who equally posses the Divine attributes’. Then the phrase ‘God is the head of Jesus’ would not make sense. It would be like saying ‘God [Father, Jesus and Holy spirit] are all the head of Jesus’. What am I saying here? Basically the historic church came to certain ways of framing the argument that were limited in their application. Does the New testament teach the Trinity? Yes. Does the word ‘God’ primarily refer to ‘the father’ in its language? To be honest, it does. Though the reality of the Trinity is there, yet the normative language of ‘God’ is referring to ‘the Father’. So my Baptist buddy was right in seeing a contradiction when Baptists said ‘God, Jesus and the Spirit’. If they were true to all the historic language, then they should have said ‘the father’ not ‘God’. Because ‘God’ would be the all encompassing language of ‘3 distinct persons who all posses the divine attributes’. But in fact, my friend was wrong. Why? Because the language of scripture mostly means ‘God the Father’ when simply saying ‘God’. Now why go into all this? Because the historic church has been divided over the language used. Arian, the Catholic Bishop/Priest, said that Jesus is ‘not God’. That ‘God the Father is God’. He was rightfully condemned, and the Trinitarian language would prevail. The problem is some of the language of the creeds and councils that would follow were not totally accurate. Some of the Creeds would say ‘Jesus was eternally begotten [always begotten]’ this statement was for the purpose of refuting those who said ‘Jesus had a beginning’ [Arianism]. Now, did Jesus ‘have a beginning’? John’s gospel says Jesus was with the father from the beginning, and that ‘the Word was with God, and was God’. Jesus had no beginning! But, does this mean he was ‘eternally begotten’? No. He was begotten by Mary 2 thousand years ago. Begotten refers to the incarnation, not the preexisting Son who was with the father from all eternity. So the well intended phrase ‘eternally begotten’ was wrong. Why even discuss this? Because most of Christian Orthodoxy would still condemn certain aspects of the Syrian and Ethiopian churches over this. We at times are ‘scattered in the wilderness’ and our ‘bodies’ [denominations, divisions in Christendom] are a sad representation to the world. [NOTE- I want to restate what I have said in the past. I believe in the Trinity. But I also want you to see how other Christian perspectives have viewed these things in the past. There are large groups of ‘historic churches’ [not Gnostics and stuff like that, the so called ‘lost Christianities’] who lean towards Arianism. Most of the invading barbarians who sacked the Western Roman empire were converted to this ‘brand’ of Christianity. So while I hold to the historic orthodox view, I wanted you to see that we too have been inconsistent at times].

(963)1ST CORINTHIANS 7: 25-40 let’s be a little unconventional today. This passage deals with Paul’s counsel on celibacy and marriage. The historic church has had a bad rap on this issue. It is common today to say the church devalued marriage [and sex] and therefore we should exalt it. Sometimes this attempt at trying to correct the perceived imbalance puts a stumbling block in the way of those who are truly called to live the single life. Though marriage is an honorable thing, a true gift from God, yet living the celibate life can also be considered a very noble thing. It is rare in contemporary evangelicalism to leave this option open. Paul does say this option is not only available, but a noteworthy calling! He also makes it clear that only those who are called to this single lifestyle should attempt it. The church should not force celibacy on people. Now, do our catholic brothers force it upon the Priests? In a way, yes. But don’t forget that no one is ‘forced’ into the priesthood. Some feel like the scandals of catholic priests who abused children can be blamed on forced celibacy. The problem with this idea is many protestant ministers have also fallen sexually, and they were not celibate! The point being we need to be careful when we brand any Christian denomination with an accusation. Now, Paul also makes an interesting statement that we need to look at. He says ‘for the present distress I give these guidelines’. Is it possible that Paul’s seeming harshness on marriage was due to the fact of some type of distress that he saw coming? Possibly the Neronic persecutions? If so, Paul could be saying ‘because of the upcoming severe persecution I recommend everyone just laying low for the time, if married, seek not to be single and vice a versa’. This is possible, we need to keep this in mind when reading this section of scripture. But most of all I think the modern evangelical church needs to retool her message in this area. Marriage and sex are good, God ordained these things in their proper place. But living single and celibate is also considered a very noble calling, we do not normally reflect this balance in the present atmosphere. Also as an aside, a few years back it was common to teach ‘the world/public schools have taken sex and taught it to our kids. They have usurped the job of the family/church’ while there is some truth to this, the problem was some well known TV evangelists began to discuss sex in the sunday morning setting that was improper in a way [If you local Pastors who read this have done this, be assured I am not talking about you!]. I remember watching a national minister speak openly, with grandma’s and children in the service, and say ‘now speaking about sexual climax’ Yikes!! Just because the family/church dropped the ball on these issues, this doesn’t mean there are no barriers at all while dealing with these issues. Those who do this type of stuff seem to be saying ‘sex is not a dirty thing, therefore we need to bring it out into the open’ while this is true to a degree, there are also age appropriate subjects that should be taught in a private setting. If the church feels the need to delve into these subjects, we need to be careful that we are not crossing boundaries when doing it.

(960)MATT 24:36-39 what in the world does ‘as it were in the days of Noah’ mean? Let’s go on a rabbit trail today. The other day I took my daughter to the Laundromat [our dryer broke!] and had some ‘down time’ to kill. So I grabbed a few news papers and sat in the truck while listening to Christian radio. I heard an old time brother who has broadcast on the station I am on for years. They are good Christians, from the ‘tribe’ of dispensationalism. The fundamentalist ‘King James only’ type. They taught a little on the verse above. I also recently saw a TV evangelist [may there tribe decrease] deal with the verse. The TV brother, who by the way also had the same type of fundamentalist background, taught his own spin on the verse. He said ‘just like in Noah’s day, you had aliens/fallen angels visit the earth and cohabitate with women, so Jesus taught that near the end time there would be an increase in u.f.o. sightings’ [ouch!] The radio brothers have taught that just like Noah entered into the ark, so the church would be raptured before Christ comes, because Jesus said ‘just like the days of Noah’. If you read the passage [Matt. 24:36-39] Jesus plainly tells you what he means. He is not talking about aliens or ‘raptures’ he is simply warning the people about the suddenness of the coming judgment day. Jesus is saying ‘just like in Noah’s day, the people were marrying and partying and living it up, right until the day when Noah entered the ark, and then the flood came and caught them off guard. So shall it be in the day when the son of man returns’. Basically Jesus is saying the people of Noah’s day didn’t give heed to the warnings of Noah, they probably looked at him as some nut! But their lethargy and sinful state put them in a position that caught them off guard. Sure enough the judgment that Noah warned about did come. So Jesus is warning people not to be caught off guard like the people of Noah’s day. Now, why would preachers take these types of verses and teach aliens and raptures? For the most part this branch of Christianity means well, there are times where I have learned interesting facts and stuff from them. But there is an approach to scripture that says ‘because Gods word [King James] is perfect [true] therefore we can find all these hidden meanings that are not in the original context’. Is this what the historical doctrine of verbal inspiration teaches? Not in a million years. The reformers taught that scripture still needed to be seen thru the historic churches understanding. They did teach that all believers had the right to expect God to speak to them thru his word, but they did not teach the type of private interpretation as seen above. To the contrary you had other radicals who were reading the book of Revelation [or more commonly known as ‘the Revelations’] and began seeing themselves as the end time witnesses who were to establish the New Jerusalem on the earth. They would mount a violent rebellion and get killed! These groups were straying outside of the magisterial reformers ideas on scripture. Though it seemed silly to hear some of the recent preaching on Noah’s day, these types of ideas can become dangerous if they lead us away from the actual meaning of Gods word. Even though these brothers highly value the doctrine of verbal inspiration [their view of it] they do a disservice to Christian learning when thy do stuff like this.

(958)1ST CORINTHIANS 6: 1-7 Paul rebukes them for taking each other to court. He tells them ‘don’t you have any wise people among you who could handle this? Why go before unbelievers!’ he also tells them ‘plus, why even fight for your rights, if you think you have been wronged in some way by your brother, then simply see it as part of the cost of carrying your cross’. Paul contradicts the prevalent mindset in much of Christianity today. He doesn’t teach ‘get what’s yours, know your rights!’ he teaches the ethos of self denial, of living with the expectation of giving up your rights and dreams. Of taking loss, if it glorifies the Father. Now we get into some ‘stuff’. Paul appeals to them by saying ‘don’t you realize that we shall judge angels some day, we shall judge the world’. A few years back there was a debate going on in theological circles. Some theologians popularized a new way to look at God’s sovereignty. This new system was called ‘Open Theism’. Scholars like Clark Pinnock and others held out the possibility that God doesn’t foreordain all future events, they actually went further and said ‘he doesn’t know all future events’. Well of course this sparked off a firestorm among the Calvinists. Does scripture teach that God is sovereign and does know all that will happen? To be honest about it, yes. But the idea of open theism was saying ‘because God has chosen to give man free will, he, by his own design, has chosen to limit his knowledge in the area of knowing all of mans future choices’. In essence that God purposely ‘does not know’ the future outcomes of decisions that have not been made by humans. If free will is real [of course the Calvinists say no] then God must limit himself to knowledge in these areas. I personally do not believe this, but I think I needed to share it to explain this section of scripture. Paul does tell them they will judge the world and angels. In second Peter 2, the apostle says the fallen angels are being held for a future day of judgment. In Matthew [19-?] Jesus says those who follow him will play a part in a future ruling over human government. These scriptures do indicate that believers will play a role in future judgment scenarios. So if we ‘judge angels and the world’ we should be able to arbitrate between ourselves! Now, in the world of theology you have sincere questions on ‘is it fair for God to judge people who have never heard the gospel’ or ‘if God is truly sovereign in all things, even in predestinating certain people to salvation, then this is unfair’. Many have turned to universalism, or a belief in ‘no hell’ in order to quell these questions. I want to simply float a scenario to you. Jesus says ‘whosoever sins you remit [forgive] they are forgiven. Those you retain [not forgive] will be retained’ while there are differing views on these verses, I want you to see how these scriptures, in keeping with all that I just showed you, might leave us room for another possible way out of all the so called questions on Gods ‘fairness’. Say if at the judgment, we are all gathered [Calvinists, Arminians, Catholics,…] and say if we are all waiting to see who’s right ‘I’ll show that Arminian…I’ll show that Catholic…’ and we are at the day where the future destinies of millions are at stake. What will God do? It’s possible that much of the final decision will rest in the hands of the church. I know it sounds heretical, but keep in mind all the verses I just quoted to you. Say if all of our pompous pontificating [wow!] amongst varying theories of the atonement and universalism and all the other stuff. Say if Jesus turns to us and says ‘You are now going to make the most important judgment of your lives, you shall judge the world and angels’ and all of a sudden all of our scrutiny of God’s fairness turns on us. We see in the crowd of masses, faces of people who we hate. People who have been demonized by history [Darwin, Hitler]. Those we always wondered about [eastern religions] and now much of their final destiny rides on us. Even the possibility of fallen angels being forgiven! [Hey, maybe Origin was right?] The whole point of this scenario is to simply say we might have been asking the wrong questions all along. Now for sure, no one gets in without Jesus and his blood! But there are also a few other verses [Peter] that seem to indicate a second hearing [or first!] of the gospel before the final day. The point being how willing are you to really carry out something like this? Are you really ready for the great responsibility of having someone’s destiny depend on how forgiving you are? I really don’t believe 100 % in this scenario I just floated. But Jesus does put us in positions of responsibility all thru out our lives. He does say ‘whoever’s sins we don’t forgive, these sins will be held against them by your own choice’ we keep people in ‘chains of bondage’ today! Never mind the future. God has committed to us great responsibility as believers, if we are still fighting each other over insignificant things [taking our brothers to court, if you will] then we are truly not ready to ‘Judge the world’.

(956)EMERGENT STUFF- yesterday I spent most of the day reading up on the Emergent movement and its trends. I am not one of those critics who never actually reads the books that these brothers put out. Nor am I one of the guys who simply reads to find fault. A few years back I read ‘The sacred way’ by Tony Jones. I enjoyed the book. I incorporated some of the ideas [Jesus prayer] into my prayer time. And I even begin my intercession time with the historic crossing of myself [in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit] this was nothing new to me, I did grow up Catholic and was confirmed and made my communion in the church. Now, what do I see as a little dangerous [others see a whole lot that’s wrong]. Some of the teachings say ‘Jesus really didn’t come to start a new movement, he was a Jew who was simply incorporating others into Judaism’. Also lots of talk on the Sabbath and the religious rhythm of the ancient church. Fixed time prayers and stuff like that. Okay things that many believers practice. But all of this type of talk needs to include why so many Evangelicals do not practice these rituals. One big reason is because the New Testament has a theme of grace that teaches us that Jesus did institute a ‘new religion’ [new covenant] that fulfilled all the types and symbols of the old. Paul would rebuke the early believers for wanting to return back to these things [Galatians, Colossians]. He would say ‘you are observing days and seasons and old covenant rites, I fear for you’. Paul did not teach the Sabbath as an ongoing practice for the Gentile churches. There were SOME symbols left to us [Lords Supper, baptism- I wouldn’t argue with other Christians who have a few more] but the overall Ethos of this New kingdom was not one of liturgy and symbol, it was one of fulfillment. I liked Tony’s book, but some of the ideas could easily lead a new believer down the road of legalism. If we put [or offer] too many ritualistic practices back into the New Covenant community of grace, then we are in danger of going back under a legalistic mindset. Now, what about the issues of slavery and women in the church and homosexuality [gee, you think I might be biting off a little too much?] This conversation says ‘just like preachers used scripture to defend slavery, but later the church needed to shape her overall view by the broad themes of scripture, as opposed to any single verse. So likewise we need to approach the issue of women in the pulpit and the ordaining of homosexuals thru the same lens’. Okay, I see some merit to this argument with the ordaining of women [some!] but the issue of sexual morality is different. The scripture never said ‘slavery is good, freedom is bad’. To the contrary scripture teaches the opposite. Now I have mentioned how you could justify slavery from certain passages, but freedom itself is never explicitly condemned. The scripture specifically condemns the sin of homosexuality, no bones about it [not just the Old Testament either]. Does this mean we should be mean and discriminate against the gay community, no. But we need to be open and honest about the way scripture deals with this issue. Some challenge the idea of scripture being authoritative in this way for our day. Well that’s an argument some make, but the Orthodox view of scripture doesn’t see it like that. So basically I think we need to be careful when telling new believers that Jesus never intended for the old rituals to pass away, he was starting a new revolutionary kingdom movement that would be free from the former restraints of the law. This is basic to the whole teaching of the NEW covenant.

(955)1st CORINTHIANS 5:6-8 Okay, lets get back to Corinthians. ‘Your glorying is not good, get rid of the old leaven. Don’t you know that a little yeast can affect the whole lump? Get rid of it, you are all unleavened, Christ is our new Passover Lamb who has been sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’ [my own paraphrasing]. A few things. I want you to see something here, over the years I have read and studied lots of great theologians. It is common for these brothers to go back to the reality of the early church fathers belief in the ‘Real Presence’ of Christ in the Eucharist [Lords supper]. It is also becoming less common [in theological circles!] to defend the symbolic view of the Lords Supper. I believe Paul is presenting the idea of all believers spiritually sitting at the ‘table of life’ on a daily basis and receiving from Christ’s new life in a spiritual/symbolic way. He clearly says ‘let us keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’ [clearly symbolic!] Peter writes of the new sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. Jesus speaks in an interesting way about this in John chapter 6. The Jews ask him ‘show us a sign, Moses gave us bread to eat from heaven. If you’re from God then prove it like Moses’. I find it interesting that in the key chapter of Jesus being the bread that comes down from heaven, the conversation turns to Moses. The beginning of the chapter does say the Passover feast was getting close, but the imagery is Moses and Manna. Moses represented the Old system of law and works, John’s gospel tells us that ‘the law came from Moses, but grace and truth from Jesus’. Jesus contrasts himself with Moses. He says ‘I am the real bread that has come down from heaven, if men eat my flesh and drink my blood they will live’. Now we must understand the tremendous offence this statement caused. The Jewish people had Levitical laws [commands in their law] that forbid the drinking of any type of blood, never mind the blood of a person! But yet Jesus would speak this way to them. In the conversation the hearers acknowledge the difficulty of the saying, Jesus will say ‘the flesh profits nothing, it is the Spirit that gives you life. The words I am speaking to you are Spirit and life’. At the last supper [which was the symbolic end of the Passover and the beginning of a new celebratory meal centered on the final scarf ice of Jesus, the Lamb of God] Jesus seems to be saying ‘from now on, as long as you do this, you are showing my death until I come again’ [we get this from Paul later on in Corinthians]. As you put all of this imagery together, you get the sense of the New Covenant being one of an ongoing continual New Covenant meal from which all believers daily eat from and ‘keep the feast with the new leaven of truth and sincerity, not the old leaven of sin and wickedness’. You clearly see a symbolic element in this language. Now, I do not discount the importance of the actual ordinance of the Lords Table. I recently defended the Catholic idea to an ex Catholic who is now Protestant. They said ‘how can people believe something so silly’ I had to say that many serious intellectual believers accept the Real Presence doctrine by faith in the literal reading of Jesus words. Luther himself believed it, he made no bones about it when he slammed his fist on the table in his dispute with Zwingli and said ‘this IS MY BODY!’ Standing for the literal interpretation of the sacrament. John Wesley, the founder of the great Methodist movement, wrote many hymns speaking of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. So make no mistake about it, many good believers hold to the literal belief. I just wanted you to see that it is also in keeping with the scripture to see the entire Christian walk as one huge ongoing ‘feast’ that is kept with spiritual sacrifices and symbolic language. Jesus is the bead that came down from heaven, those who would stay with ‘Moses bread’ [law] would die, those who would eat from this new table would live forever.

(953)Yesterday I managed to catch a few TV shows that were good. National geographic did a special called ‘the first Christians’. It was excellent. They covered more historic truth in one hour than you would get from years of sermons. They basically taught the New Testament word for ‘church’ [Ecclesia] and showed how because the early Christians did not believe the ‘church’ was a building, that therefore they spread rapidly without lots of money. They then covered the historic development of the ‘church building’ and the effect this had on them. They also got into the ‘end times’ scenarios that are played out over and over again by today’s prophecy teachers. They interviewed true theologians who put Johns Revelation in historical context. Just an excellent job overall. I also caught the show ‘Journey Home’ on E.W.T.N. [the Catholic channel]. I do like the show, it often gives good historical stuff. Last night they were a little ‘too Catholic’ [I know, what should I expect]. They had a good brother on who left ‘non-denominational Christianity’ and became Catholic. Now, most of these brothers are very intelligent believers who make this choice out of sincerity. They usually study the early church fathers and realize the ‘Catholic tone’ of these early believers. I simply felt the brother who spoke last night was a little too critical of his former church experience [Willow Creek]. I then caught Scott Hahn [an excellent Catholic scholar and apologist], he always has stuff that interests me. He brought up an argument I have heard before on how the early church saw the ‘real presence of Christ’ as being in the Eucharist. Others have made this argument before from the Catholic perspective of Jesus being with us, as opposed to the detractors arguments that he misled the early followers to think that he would soon return and set up a literal earthly kingdom. I have heard and do understand this reasoning. In essence it defends Jesus and his followers by saying ‘Jesus didn’t let down the early church by not returning and ‘being with them’ he was with them all along thru the Eucharist’ good intentions. I would prefer to argue the same point thru the fulfilling of the Fathers promise and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. Jesus says in John’s gospel ‘I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you’ it is understood by most theologians [Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant] that Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit. Jesus actually refers to the Spirit as ‘One just like unto myself’. The new testament very Cleary speaks of the Holy Spirit as Gods presence tabernacling among us in a real way. So in my thinking I would prefer to argue the real presence of Christ as being among the early believers as fulfilled thru the Comforter. Overall it was a good night of viewing some good teachers. I also couldn’t help but notice how I have been skipping over the ‘more popular’ preaching shows of the day. I did click on one of the prophecy guys, he was defending ‘the rapture’ and I couldn’t help but notice the difference between the good theological discussions from the earlier shows, and the ‘silliness’ of what this brother was teaching. I don’t want to demean you if you hold to the rapture theory, it was just such an obvious ‘step down’ from the level of theologian to the level of popular prophecy preaching. In our current study of Corinthians we just went thru the verse ‘though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you have only one father’ [Paul referring to himself]. I couldn’t help but get this sense of the modern seen. You could flip thru all the religious broadcasting of our day and get every possible conceivable viewpoint on some subject, ten thousand of them! But there is a consistent voice of truth and wisdom that comes to us from both scripture and church history/tradition. I think we would be better off sticking with ‘the father[s]’.

(952)1ST CORINTHIANS 5:1-7 Okay, now we get into some tough stuff. Paul tells them that he has heard about a situation where one of the brothers is sleeping with his step-mom [fathers wife, though probably not his mother]. And the rebuke is they are not repenting over it, but instead are kind of proud of the whole thing! Paul says to ‘deliver him to satan for the destruction of the flesh so the spirit may be saved’. Now I already showed you the way I view this verse. I tried to follow the other times where Paul speaks this way in this letter and when using this type of language I see him speaking of physical death [chapter 11- sleep-death as judgment to a believer who sins]. I often ‘day dream’ how bout you? I’m not sure if it’s the lord at times trying to tell me stuff. One of my noble fantasies is I can picture myself as the sole Christian preacher who has survived some nuclear holocaust and I am responsible to train the survivors. In this scenario [I am kinda ad libbing here, I don’t day dream this much!] I have both Catholic and Protestant believers. Although I am tempted to raise this new generation of people as Protestants, I instead teach the Catholics true Catholic doctrine [though I don’t fully agree with it all] and I teach the Protestants their stuff. Now, I think this little day dream in some way speaks to what I need to do at times on this blog. I need to honestly tell both sides! In this verse ‘commit to satan for the destruction of the flesh’ some do see it a little differently. You can read ‘flesh’ as meaning ‘fleshly nature’. Paul does use the word this way at times. You can’t really make the distinction by going to the Greek. Instead you have to simply look at the context. So this view would be saying ‘deliver this believer to the enemy, don’t allow him to remain ‘in the camp’ and continue to receive the benefits of the believing community. As you ostracize him he will feel the effect of not being with you, he will come to his senses and leave his sin’ [which in this scenario is ‘his fleshly nature’] so the ‘destruction of the flesh’ in this interpretation would fit in well with Arminians. Now, do I believe it this way? No, but I sure feel noble, sort of like the Protestant preacher in my ‘day dream’. [p.s. if you tell anybody about this day dream, I will deny it!]

(947) 1ST CORINTHIANS 3:11-23 Paul teaches that once the foundation of Jesus is laid, that no other foundation can come in and replace it. Remember, Paul is speaking about a spiritual foundation. He is not building ‘a literal building’! I know we know this, but for some reason modern church planters can’t seem to break the mindset of having a building ‘to do church’. Now we begin to get into some doctrine. I believe Paul begins a New Testament doctrine here that could be called ‘the sin unto natural death’ or the judgment of a believer when he falls into open sin and rebellion and refuses to repent. Now, I have looked at this doctrine from different views over the years. I try not to allow my own leaning towards reformed theology to effect me. But I have come down on the side of ‘eternal security’ in viewing these verses. Paul teaches that even though the foundation of Jesus is laid, it’s still possible to build a life of worthless things upon it. He says ‘if any man defiles Gods temple, him will God destroy’. This same language will be used in chapter 5 ‘deliver the sinning brother to satan for the destruction of the flesh so the spirit may be saved’. Paul also uses the term again here in chapter 3 ‘yet he will be saved as by fire’. Also in chapter 11 ‘for this cause many sleep [physical death] and are sick among you’ he uses this as a judgment that came upon them for their abuse of the Lords table. So reading this in context it sure seems that Paul is saying ‘if you, as a believer, allow yourself to fall into sin in such a way that you are doing permanent harm to the temple [which he describes as their bodies, both individually and corporately] then God will destroy you’. This seems to fit all these other verses. The apostle John also speaks on the ‘sin unto death’ [which I see as physical death] in his letter. He says ‘if any one sees his brother sin a sin unto death, I do not say you should pray for them’. Now, the Arminian brothers [those who do not believe in eternal security] obviously see these a different way. They would apply some of these verses as meaning the loss of salvation. Though I personally do not see it this way, yet they have some of their own scriptures to back up their belief. They are certainly not out of line with historic Christian belief to hold to this view. So Paul introduces [in my mind] the concept of the possibility of the rebellious believer falling into such a sin that he can ‘be destroyed’ [lose his life] while at the same time saying ‘yet his spirit will be saved’. This ‘in house’ instruction [in house meaning Paul’s dealing with them as believers who fall into sin] should not taint the overriding view of Paul in his entire corpus of teaching. His main teaching on ‘those who live in constant sin’ is they will not inherit the kingdom of God. John also teaches this doctrine in his epistle. So we begin to see the ‘minefield’ we can get into as we tread thru the New Testament. It will be important to make these distinctions with much grace as we continue our journey thru the New Testament. Many well meaning believers view the ‘other camps’ as heretics over these issues. I see it more as a matter of believers being influenced to see these verses from a sincere standpoint of their upbringing. If you were raised Baptist, you more than likely view them from a Calvinistic lens. If you were raised Pentecostal [or Methodist], from an Arminian lens. Both good camps, with their own ‘slant’ affecting their view. I don’t think we should call each other heretics over stuff like this.

(943)1ST CORINTHIANS 1:1-17 Paul greets them as an apostle called by God, he affirms his authority and ‘fathering ability’ as coming from God. He tells them he thanks God all the time for the fruit that he sees in their lives, the thing that made Paul rejoice was the work God was doing in the communities he was establishing as an apostle. Today ministers have a tendency to ‘rejoice’ over the Christian enterprise that we oversee. Whether its’ how well the budget went this year and stuff like that. Paul’s joy wasn’t in the fact that God called him to some great personal ministry where he would find self fulfillment. His joy was in the actual growth and freedom that ‘his churches’ [communities of people] were experiencing. He also defines them as ‘those that call upon the name of the Lord like all the others’. Remember what we said when studying Romans chapter 10? One of the signs of the believer is ‘they call upon Jesus name’. They are believing communities of ‘Christ callers’. Not so much a one time evangelical altar call, but a lifestyle. Jesus said we are ‘a house of prayer’. A spiritual community/house who intercedes for all nations. It’s in our very DNA! Paul also commends them as being enriched by God in all ‘knowledge and utterance’ [speech]. It seems funny that he would say they were blessed and enriched in speech. Paul will give some of his strongest rebukes over speaking gifts [tongues, prophesy] to this community. Yet he does not approach it from the strong anti charismatic view. He doesn’t say ‘your speech is demonic’ he says it is enriched by God! We will deal with the gifts later on. Now for the first real rebuke. Paul says he has heard reports that there are divisions and strivings among them. They are already dividing up into various sects. Some follow Paul, others follow Cephas, some say ‘we are the true Christ followers’. Paul rebukes them sharply over these divisions, he does not want the early church to identify with individual personalities and gifts at the expense of true unity. Was this the early development of denominationalism? To a degree yes. But I also don’t think we should view the various Christian denominations as deceived or ‘lost’. The modern church has become what we are thru many struggles and difficulties over a 2 thousand year history. My personal view is we should strive for unity, not by trying to dissolve all the various ‘tribes’ that exist in Christ’s church, but by growing into a more mature view of all who name the name of Christ as being fellow believers who partake of a common grace. I applaud all the efforts being made by various Christian churches today to come to a greater outward unity [for example the Catholic and Orthodox dialogue] but I also believe as we see each other as fellow believers and learn to appreciate our different emphasis, that this approach can also lead to greater unity among believers today. Paul saw the beginnings of division in the early Corinthian community, he did his best to quell the coming storm.

(932)2ND SAMUEL 16- As David flees Jerusalem, Ziba, the servant that was under Mephibosheth joins with him. David asks ‘what are you doing here? You should be home with your master’. Ziba says ‘as soon as Mephibosheth heard about the take over, he said “I will stay in Israel and become the new king, God will restore to me Saul’s throne”’. Now David believes it and says ‘I now put you in charge of all the household of your former master, it belongs to you’. Later on Mephibosheth will deny all of this. Its possible Ziba made this up for his own benefit. Leaders, be careful of advice from people with a personal agenda. They often make themselves look better than others. Now as David flees another enemy comes out and curses and throws stones at him along the way. This guy says ‘look at you now, you rebelled against the old king [Saul] and now you are receiving the just reward’. Now David responds with a Christ like attitude and says ‘let the guy curse me, I will not retaliate. Maybe God will look on this persecution and reward me’. One of David’s men wanted to ‘take his head off’. Gee, David has all types in his leadership circle! Did this guy who was cursing David misread the whole situation? Yes, but don’t forget we are reading this story from the real perspective, some people living at the time of David and Saul saw this new king [David] as a threat to the old ways. It’s only a few days after the 2008 presidential election. Barack Obama won. Though there were many reasons for and against him, now that he won we ALL need to pray for him. But some of the supporters of McCain sincerely saw this ‘new kind of person’ as a rebellious threat to the ‘old order’. Sincere people who saw things from a different angle. So David’s accuser sees the story from a wrong lens. David was being judged by God, but not because he toppled the old order of King Saul. Back at Jerusalem Absalom listens to the advice of Ahithophel and sleeps with his fathers concubines. The advice was that when all Israel heard about it, they would realize that this rebellion was a real rebellion and the people would unite under his illegal rule. Scripture says Ahithophels counsel was like ‘hearing from God’ in those days. Leaders, be open to the counsel that is coming forth from particular streams at certain times. It is not only important for believers to ‘learn the bible’, but also to be able to discern the signs of the times. Specific things God is saying and doing in our day. If you were living in the 16th century the issue of the reformation was vital for every one who was a believer. Whether you were Catholic or Protestant, you needed to be up on the issues. Erasmus, the great Catholic scholar and humanist [not ‘secular humanist’] wrote insightful criticisms against his own church, yet remained within her fold. So matter what Christian tradition you align yourself with, you need to be aware of the seasons and purposes of God for your generation. In Absalom’s day, Ahithophel was the go to man.

(922)2ND SAMUEL 6- David attempts to retrieve the Ark and bring it to the new capital city of Jerusalem. On the way back one of the brothers tries to steady the ark as it was about to fall. They were carrying it on a ‘new cart’ with oxen pulling it. This was not the way the law prescribed carrying it! This was the formula that the Philistines used earlier. So David’s man touches the Ark and is killed. They leave it at another brother’s house for three months and the brother is blessed, David goes and retrieves it. This chapter doesn’t say what changed, but obviously David went back to the law and used the prescribed manner this time around. As he enters Jerusalem with it there is this joyous picture of everyone leaping and dancing and praising the Lord. Sort of like the triumphal entry of Jesus [Gods ‘fleshly’ ark, who had all the fullness of God dwelling in his physical body!] to Jerusalem when the people shouted ‘Hosanna’. David places the ark in a tent/tabernacle that he personally made for it. I wrote earlier how this was an open tent that had no barriers between the ark and Gods people, a contrast between Moses tabernacle where God and the people were separated [law versus grace type thing]. David’s wife mocks him because he took off his royal robes and wore an ephod [priestly garment] and danced and humbled himself before the Lord. David says ‘I will even be more lowly than this’. His wife is barren for the rest of her life as a judgment for mocking David. What ever happened to the ark? Well let me give you some history. The ‘story’ [tradition] says that when the queen of Ethiopia visits Solomon to see his wealth, that eventually he ‘marries’ her and they have kids. The queen goes back to Ethiopia and supposedly takes the ark from Solomon as a gift. The Ethiopian orthodox church claims to have it in the main ‘church’ in Ethiopia. Because of this history all the Ethiopian churches have replicas of the ark in their buildings as well. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is one of rich tradition. They are technically not considered ‘Catholic’ [western] or ‘Orthodox’ [eastern]. They are part of the church who are sometimes referred to as Oriental. This referring to the historic churches [not necessarily Oriental in geography] who never accepted the traditional churches belief in certain expressions of the Trinity and the relationship between Jesus and God. They stuck with the Arian view of Jesus deity and are not considered ‘orthodox’ in this area. As the centuries developed and various barbarians who were raiding the empire were converted, they also believed in a Christianity that would be more aligned with this type of belief. Now, I know Christians do not consider this to be correct doctrine, but I am simply sharing the history with you. I am not siding with their belief! We really have no idea where the ark is today, to be honest it doesn’t matter. We ‘see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the purpose of dying, and he was raised again for us’! [Hebrews]. We have the real McCoy!

(917)2nd SAMUEL 2- David inquires of the Lord if he should go up into the cities of Judah. The Lord tells him to go to Hebron. David becomes the king of Judah and rules from Hebron for 7.5 years. From this point on the southern portion of Israel will be referred to as ‘Judah’ and the northern tribes are called ‘Israel’. Abner, king Saul’s commander, anoints another son of Saul as the king of the other tribes. So you have Joab, David’s commander and Abner, the military leader of the opposing king. Joab and Abner meet up on the field. Abner suggests a sort of competition between the men. A fight ensues and good men die needlessly. Joab pursues Abner and his men and Abner winds up killing a brother of Joab. He did not want things to escalate to this degree! He tried to spare the brother, but in self defense he killed him. Abner tells Joab ‘stop chasing us, why should there be more bloodshed between us, we are all brothers’? I see here the ‘innocent’ spirit of competition that got out of hand. When God’s leaders begin comparing the skills of their people against the skills of others, then people become pawns on a ministry chess board. Competition is a deadly thing that exists in the church, the lines between successful corporate ideas and Gods communal church have been blurred for a long time, this causes us to be vulnerable to this type of thing. Joab and Abner retreat and go home. David becomes king of Judah in Hebron. He will eventually consolidate the kingdom under his rule [he will reign for 33 years out of Jerusalem. A type of Jesus, who walked the holy land for 33 years until the Cross] and the kingdom will split again under Solomon’s sons rule. The divided history of the northern [Israel] and southern [Judah] tribes are seen as a judgment from God for various reasons thru out Israel’s history. For the most part the kings of Judah are better than the kings of Israel, but they will both have good and bad kings over time. I see a picture of the historic divisions of Christianity thru this history. Eventually you will have some who feel they have a ‘more pure religion and priesthood’ under the Orthodox and Protestant expressions of Christianity [I too hold to this to some degree] but yet God will eventually rebuke Judah as being worse than her northern ‘sister’! As we teach the Old Testament in the years to come I will try and trace these developments as we get to them.

(896)SAMUEL 13- DON’T RETREAT TOO MUCH! In this chapter we see the famous story of Saul offering a burnt offering at Gilgal. He was supposed to wait for Samuel and he got impatient and offered it himself. Samuel tells him that the Lord will judge him severely for this and raise up a man after his own heart [David]. In the beginning of the chapter we see Saul and Jonathan separate into 2 camps, Saul keeps 2 thousand men and Jonathan a thousand. Jonathan is a capable warrior and has some good victories. The Philistines say ‘enough is enough!’ and mount a counter attack. They muster so many resources that Israel fears. They retreat into the rocks and hills, some go back over the Jordan! I read a recent Christianity today article that had one of the leaders of the Emergent Movement speaking with one of the more Reformed defenders of the faith. It was a sincere meeting between two seemingly opposing camps. The Emergent brother questioned the Reformed guy ‘what did you tell the people about what was taught in the first thousand years of Christianity before Anselm’? Anselm is the great Christian theologian who is often credited for ‘coming up’ with the ‘theory of Penal substitution’. Now, I love church history and do understand that this is an idea that many good men have espoused, that Anselm came up with the doctrine of Penal substitution. The point I want to make is this fundamental doctrine was taught by the first century Apostles. Our scripture is filled with the doctrine of Penal substitution! So in these cases I think the Emergent brothers have ‘retreated too much’. In their honest and good efforts of changing the way the church interacts with society, they have damaged their movement by doing stuff like this. Challenging too many core beliefs of the faith. In essence they went ‘all the way back over the Jordan’. The Philistines learn a trick from Israel and divide up into three groups and send out ‘raiders’ my King James says ‘spoilers’. They begin chipping away at the confidence of Israel. Saul has 600 men left with him and they are all trembling. Saul himself must be in tremendous doubt about his own life. He just received a strong rebuke from Samuel. He might have been preparing for the worst. But we will find out that there are still more battles to be won, Jonathan will make his dad proud of him.

(893)SAMUEL 10- Samuel anoints Saul with oil. He gives him very specific prophetic direction ‘you will meet 2 men, then 3. They will be carrying 3 loaves of bread and give you 2’. Very particular information. Saul will meet a company of prophets and prophesy with them. The scripture says the Lord changed Saul into another man thru this prophetic experience. Once again we see not only the significance of Israel being under the divine direction of the prophetic [thru Samuel]. But his prophetic office also opened the door for a ‘whole company of prophets’ having freedom to function in their gifts. Over the years I have found it interesting to see how easy it is to live your entire Christian experience in different camps. Some of the more refined brothers [Reformed, Orthodox] have a great advantage in the field of intellectual pursuit [which is a good thing!] but might not be aware of the sector in the church that deals with the prophetic. The prophetic ministry has grown and even produced some fine intellectual material [some bad stuff too!] The point is we need to try and be aware [at least have a working knowledge] of the many streams that operate in the Body of Christ. You might not agree with a lot of the doctrinal positions that these various groups hold to, but as members of Christ’s church they do represent a certain sector of the church. Saul will follow thru and see all the prophetic signs come to pass in one day. Samuel instructs him to wait for him to come and publicly recognize him as king. After 7 days Samuel comes to town and Saul is hiding. He feared all the things that were coming upon him. Samuel finds him and publicly recognizes him. Also Samuel told the people that their choice of a human king was rejection of God. Some of the people are glad about Saul, others despise him from the start. There is a strange dynamic that I have seen at work over the years. When individual personalities and goals pit themselves against other people’s visions, there seems to be a division that is not healthy. I have had good friends who wanted to publicly join and be identified with ‘my ministry’. I would simply tell them ‘there really is nothing to join, we are simply believers trying to live out the Kingdom of God’. Then other pastors would see that some of the homeless people that they are working with have become ‘joined’ to us in a strong relational way. Then I would sense a kind of mindset that would say to the homeless person ‘well, if brother John has such good influence with you, maybe you should be with him instead of us’. They would not say this in a bad way, just in a way that is prevalent in the present mindset of ‘doing church’. I see all these divisions as silly, they come from an idea of local church that has many various ‘local churches’ [Christian ministries] as seeing themselves as independent entities who are trying to instill loyalty in people. ‘Are you with us or against us’ type attitudes. In Saul’s case he had friends and enemies right from the start. When individual personalities and agendas [which God warned them about!] become preeminent in the minds of the people [contrary to the corporate comminutes as seen in the local churches in scripture] then there is a natural tendency to take sides.

(887)SAMUEL 4 CONTINUED- Okay, let’s finish it up. In this chapter we see an important historical event, the capture of the Ark of the Covenant [the box that held the 10 commandments, not Noah’s Ark!] The children of Israel fight with the Philistines and take a loss of 4 thousand men. They go back to camp and regroup. They decide to take the Ark of God and involve it with human warfare. A big mistake! This speaks of the sad history of the crusades and other mistaken ideas of ‘holy war’. God does not involve himself in mans efforts of domination thru power. So the Philistines hear that the Ark is in the battle and they fear. ‘Oh my God, this is the God of Israel who defeated the Egyptians’. They knew the history of Israel and how the God of Israel was great. The battle rages and Israel takes a greater loss of 30 thousand men. Plus the Ark is captured and the two sons of Eli are killed. The runner runs back to Shiloh [the headquarters of the Ark, where the tabernacle of Moses still stood] and brings the terrible news to Eli [the high priest]. Eli hears about the Arks capture and falls back and breaks his neck and dies. One of the daughters in law to Eli goes into labor and delivers a boy. She names him Ichabod, which means God’s glory has departed. She did this because the Ark was taken. The Ark represented Gods glory and presence among the people. It seems as if Israel began to treat it in an idolatrous way. Sort of like what happened with the brass serpent that Moses made in the wilderness. God has to step and rebuke his people when they mistake the true worship of God with religious objects. The history of the Christian church has been divided over this for centuries. You can have religious art, it should not become a thing of worship. The iconoclast controversy of the Catholic and Orthodox churches have gone to extremes on both sides. At times believers would go into the ‘churches’ and destroy all the religious art they found. Others would hold to a view of icons [religious paintings] and statues that would seem to cross the line in areas of worship. I remember hearing a story about a prophet who stood up in a church meeting and said ‘thus saith the Lord, I have judged this church and people. My glory is no longer here. I have written ‘Michelob’ on your door posts’. Well, after he sat down he realized he mistook the word ‘Michelob [beer]’ for ‘Ichabod’. He then stood up again and said ‘Thus saith the Lord, I meant to say Ichabod’.

(876)ROMANS 16- CONCLUSION Okay, lets try and finish up Romans. We do see some good stuff in this last chapter. We see Paul addressing women as functional ministers in the church. Phoebe is a deaconess, Junia an apostle! I still believe that Elders were only men, but women did function in the first century Ecclesia’s. Paul also says ‘mark those which cause divisions contrary to the doctrine you have learned and avoid them’. Now, I have heard the strict Baptists use this against the Pentecostals, and it did put the fear of God in you! But then I heard the Pentecostals use it against the strict Baptists, and it also put the fear of God in you! [maybe another fear?] The point being you could use this to defend any doctrine you ‘have been taught’ by well meaning men. Here Paul is warning against those who were early on departing from the faith [the basic elements of the gospel and Gods grace]. The apostle John addresses those who ‘went out from us, but were not of us’ ‘whoever rejects Christ as come in the flesh is anti christ’ [1st John]. You did have those who rejected the basic elements of the gospel and the incarnation of Jesus. Paul warned the Corinthians not to depart from the reality of Christ’s resurrection [1st Corinthians 15]. And of course Paul openly rebuked the Judiazers for trying to put the gentile believers under the restrictions of the Mosaic law. So even though these types of verses seem to fit in to our present day controversies and differences among various denominational groups, yet in context they refer to those who were rejecting the basic tenets of the faith. Paul also encourages ‘God will crush satan under our feet shortly’ ‘God is able to establish us thru the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ’. Let me defend the concept of ‘old fashioned preaching’ a little. While I and many others have publicly taught a type of new testament ecclesiology that is absent the ‘weekly pulpit Pastoral office’. Yet there is biblical precedent for the preaching of the Word. Paul taught in chapter 10 ‘how can they hear without a preacher, and how can they preach unless they are sent’? God strengthens believers thru the preaching of Gods Word. While it is wrong for the average believer to depend solely on this preaching to become educated in the things of God, yet there is a strengthening that God gives to the believer when he comes under the pure preaching of Christ. As we end Romans, I want to re emphasize the major doctrine of justification by faith. The reformation of the 16th century did not happen in a vacuum. God restored a very vital truth back to the people of God. All Christians should be grounded and well versed in the reality of God freely accepting us based on simple faith in Jesus Christ. Now, I realize that many are returning to a more ‘sermon on the mount’ orientation of the Christian lifestyle. As I have taught before I think this is a good thing. A ‘re-focusing’ on the teachings and instruction of Jesus. But I think we also need to emphasize the many statements from Jesus himself on those who believe having everlasting life [John’s gospel]. Romans is a masterpiece letter from Paul, one of his main points was justification by faith. God wants believers to be grounded in this truth.

(869)ROMANS 14:1-9 Paul discusses Christian convictions. Things that are personal habits of discipline where the scripture is silent on. Some believers abstain from certain types of food. Others see certain days as ‘more special’ than the others. It’s important to see that in this discussion Paul is not concerned with ‘who is right’. Though he will describe the legalistic believers as ‘weak in the faith’. And he himself will say he is convinced that ‘nothing is unclean in and of itself’. He is speaking about the convictions mentioned above. When I first became a believer I attended a good church. It was a Fundamental Baptist church that was a little legalistic in these areas. I remember a funny story, some of the brothers went on a canoe trip. We had a blast. One of the guys was wearing these old cut off shorts that looked like ‘blue jean hot pants’ [who wears short shorts, we wear short shorts!] the pants were old and the ‘fly’ kept unzipping. We told the brother ‘hey James, your gonna get us arrested or something if you can’t keep your shorts on!’. He got mad and called us a bunch of legalists! As you can see there are times where this accusation can simply be an excuse. But seriously the church was old fashioned [though well meaning]. I had another friend of mine that I led to the Lord and he asked ‘what’s wrong with the Christian rock, I like it’? He had heard some songs from the group Petra and he thought they were great. He also questioned why it was wrong for his boys to play mixed sports in public school. He was taught that the boys and girls wearing shorts in mixed company was wrong. So things like this are personal convictions that believers should not use to judge others. I want to stress that Paul does not condemn the more legalistic brothers, but he does make it clear that this is a sign of ‘weaker faith’. A faith that looks at the insignificant things and makes them significant. Many ‘Emergent’ church folk [of which I am one to a degree] seem to have had this type of background. Or at least are familiar with the classic evangelical message and preaching. Some have found a revolution in their thinking by re-organizing their lives around the actual lifestyle and teachings of Christ [which is a very good thing!]. But some seem to despise the older type churches and expressions of Christianity that they experienced while growing up. Some even cast away the good with the bad! Though many of the more legalistic churches practiced this type of Christianity, yet I commend them on spreading the gospel of Gods grace. Taking seriously their faith in the Lord. And being historic defenders of the faith at a time when the more liberal universities were throwing out the baby with the bathwater [the 20th century fundamentalist movement].

(862)ROMANS 11- let me make a note on the previous entry. Over the last few years, as well as many years of experience with ‘ministry/church’, I have seen how easy it is to fall into the well meaning mindset of ‘I am going into the ministry, this is my career choice. My responsibility is to do ‘Christian stuff’ and the people’s role is to support me’[ I am not taking a shot at well meaning Pastors, I am basically speaking of the many friends I have met over the years who seemed to think ministry was a way to get financial support]. In the previous entry I mentioned how Paul seemed to have a mode of operation that said ‘when I am residing with a community of believers, I refuse to allow them to support me. I will work with my own hands to give them an example, not only to the general saints, but also to the elders. I am showing you that leadership is not a means to get gain’. It does seem ‘strange’ for us to see this. Of course we know Paul also taught the churches that it was proper and right to support those who ‘labor among you’. I have taught all this in the past and I don’t want to ‘re-teach’ it all again. The point I want to make is we ‘in ministry’ really need to rethink what we do. How many web-sites have I gone to that actually have icons that say ‘pay me here’. The average person going to these sites must think ‘pay you for what’? Paul did not teach the mindset of ‘pay me here, now’. Also in this letter to the Romans we are reading Paul’s correspondence to the believers at Rome. He often used this mode of ‘authority’ [writing letters] to exercise his apostolic office. Of course he also traveled to these areas [Acts] and spent time with them. And as I just showed you he supported himself on purpose when he was with the saints. Basically Paul is carrying out the single most effective apostolic ministry of all time [except for Jesus] and he is doing it without all the modern techniques of getting paid. He actually is doing all this writing and laboring at his own expense. He told the Corinthians ‘the fathers [apostles] spend for the children, not the children for the fathers’. So in todays talk on ‘apostles’ being restored. God ‘bringing back into alignment apostolic government’ we need to tone down all the quoting of verses [even the things Paul said!] that seem to say to the average saint ‘how do you expect us to reach the world if you do not ‘bring all the tithes into the storehouse’! When we put this guilt trip on the people of God we are violating very fundamental principles of scripture. Now, let’s try and finish up chapter 11. Paul is basically telling Israel and the Gentiles that God’s dealings are beyond our understanding [last few verses]. God is using the ‘unbelief’ of Israel as an open door to the Gentiles. He is also using the mercy that he is showing to the Gentiles as an ‘open door’ to Israel! He will ‘provoke them to jealousy’. There are a few difficult verses that would be unfair for me to skip over. ‘All Israel shall be saved’. Paul uses this to show that God’s dealings with natural Israel as a nation are not finished. Who are ‘all Israel’? Some say ‘the Israel of God’ [the church]. I don’t think this fits the text. Some say ‘all Israel that will be alive at the second coming’ I think this is closer. To be honest I think this can simply mean ‘all Israel’ all those who are alive and also raised at the return of the Lord. Now, this would be a form of universalism [all people eventually being saved]. I am not a Universalist, but I don’t want any ‘preconceived’ mindset [even my own!] to taint the text. I think God has the ability to reveal himself to the whole nation of Israel in such a way that ‘they all will be saved’. If I were a Jewish person I wouldn’t wait for this to happen! Just like the Calvinists argument of ‘why witness’? Because God commands it. So even though you can make an argument here for a type of universal redemption at Christ’s revealing of himself to Israel at the second coming [which is in keeping with this chapter, as well as other areas in scripture; ‘they will look upon him whom they have pierced’ ‘God will pour out the spirit of mourning and supplication on Israel at his appearing’. Which by the way would fit in with ‘whoever calls on the Lord will be saved’ which I taught in chapter 10. This is a futurist text implying a time of future judgment and wrath’]. So God’s dealings with Israel are not finished. Paul also warns the Gentiles ‘don’t boast, if God cut out the true branches [Israel] to graft you in. He can just as quickly cut you out too’! It would be dishonest for me [a Calvinist] to simply not comment on this. You certainly can take this verse in an Arminian way. Or you can see Paul speaking in a ‘nationalistic sense’. Sort of like saying ‘if Germany walks away from the faith, they will be ‘cut out’. [France would have been a better example! Speaking of the so called ‘enlightenment’ and the French Revolution]. In essence ‘you Gentiles, don’t think “wow, look at us. God left Israel and we are now special!”’ Paul is saying ‘you Gentiles [as a whole group] stand by faith. God could just as quickly ‘cut you out’ and replace you with another group’. I also think the Arminians could use this type of argument for the previous predestination chapter [9]. But to be honest I needed to give you my view. One more thing, Paul quotes Elijah ‘lord, I am the only one left’. He uses this in context of God having a remnant from Israel who remained faithful to the true God. God told Elijah ‘there are 7 thousand that have not bowed the knee to baal’. Paul uses this to show that even in his day there were a remnant Of Jews [himself included] who received the Messiah. An interesting side note. The prophetic ministry [Elijah] seems to function at a ‘popular level’. Now, I don’t mean ‘fame’, but Elijah was giving voice to a large undercurrent that was running thru the nation. If you read the story of Elijah you would have never known that there were ‘7 thousand’ who never bowed the knee! Often times God will use prophetic people to ‘give voice’ or popularize a general truth that is presently existing in the ‘underground church’ at large. Sort of like if Elijah had a web site, the 7 thousand would have been secretly reading it and saying ‘right on brother, that’s exactly what we believe too’!

(857)ROMANS- Let me overview a little. This entry goes along with the last one [#856- those of you reading this straight from the Romans study will need to find it under one of the ‘teaching’ sections]. Paul deals with the issue of ‘being provoked by/to jealousy’. Many times believers remain divided because of pride and jealousy. We often do not want to accept the fact that God actually is working thru other camps, groups of Christians who are ‘not like us’. It challenges our very identity at times! We feel like ‘well, my whole experience with God has been one of coming out of [name the group- for many it’s Catholicism] and I KNOW that I have found and experienced God by leaving mistaken concepts about God. Therefore any other ‘defender’ of Catholics is challenging my core experience’. I myself attribute my conversion to ‘leaving religious ideas’ and reading the bible for the first time. Though I had various believers witnessing to me, it was the actual reading of Johns gospel [and the whole New Testament] that clinched it for me. The reality of ‘whoever believes’ as opposed to religion. But my own experience should not limit [in my mind] the reality of others who also embraced the Cross without ‘leaving’ their former church. It is quite possible that other ‘Catholics’ arrived at a serious level of commitment to the Cross, while remaining faithful to their church. Now I realize this in itself can become an issue of contention, all I want to show you is we should not limit the power of the gospel to our own personal experience. During the recent controversy [2008] over certain Pentecostal expressions of ‘revival’ some old time churches simply made a case against all the Charisms [gifts] of the Spirit. The fact is most theologians accept the gifts of the Spirit as being for all ages of the church. Sure, there have been problems with them, even early on [the Montanists] but the fact is there has always been some type of Charismatic expression of Christianity thru out the church age. But the more Reformed brother’s sound [and are often!] more ‘biblical’ than some of the crazy stuff that happens under the banner of ‘Pentecostal/Charismatic’. So the divisions exist. In this chapter [Romans 11] Paul is dealing with a very real dynamic that says ‘I find my whole identity in the way God has worked with me for centuries [Judaism]. The fact that he began a new thing with other groups who I detest [Gentiles] has offended me to the point where I can’t even experience God any more’. Israel could not see past her own experience with God. The fact that God was ‘being experienced’ by other groups in ways that seemed highly ‘unorthodox’ did not mean that their former experience was illegitimate. It simply meant that Gods experience with them was always intended to ‘break out’ into the broader community of mankind. They lost this original intent and used their ‘orthodoxy’ as a means of self identification. An ‘elite’ religious class, if you will. I find many of these same dynamics being present in the modern church. We should stand strong for orthodoxy, we also need to expose and correct error when it gets to a point where many believers are being led astray. But we also need to be able to see God at work in other groups, we should not use our own experience with God [no matter how legitimate it is!] as the criterion of what’s right or wrong.

(856)PARABLE FROM A PLANE [or any other mode of transport!] this parable is in response to all the various ‘Calvinistic’ sites I have read from in the last few years. I believe in the doctrine of classic predestination [Calvin, Augustine, Paul] but I feel there are some problems with the way believers approach this issue. Say if you were taking a flight from New York to Texas. You have been on this flight hundreds of times. In fact your father is the pilot! Now, when you were growing up you were reassured that the plane was safe, the pilot is well trained and for all practical purposes you know nothing can go wrong [I realize this analogy isn’t perfect, but just pretend that this flight is guaranteed not to have any problems]. Over the years you have enjoyed the journey. Then one day you meet a fellow passenger [an Arminian- Someone who does not believe in the doctrine of predestination, at least not in the way you do]. You begin having some good discussions, he espouses his belief that it is quite possible for something to go wrong. He agrees that the plane itself is safe and the pilot is qualified. But he states ‘if you want to jump out you can’. This idea never entered into the original passenger. He always believed that the security of the flight was so ‘secure’ that even if he tried to jump, he couldn’t open the exit. Now, the Arminian says ‘I think you could’ the Calvinist says ‘no way’. During their discussion they disagree, but no one attempts to actually ‘jump’. Now a few weeks later the Calvinist is afraid to get on the plane. He has taken the flight many times, but now he wonders ‘What if the Arminian was right? Say if the pilot [his dad] actually has the ability and power to open the hatch and throw me out? The possibility of this actual thing has now frozen me with such fear that I will not get on the plane’. The father [pilot] would seem offended. How many times have children fallen asleep in the car when their father was at the wheel? Even though it’s in the realm of possibility that dad will ‘throw you out’ [I don’t embrace this, but follow me] it would still seem dysfunctional for the child to say ‘I refuse to drive with dad until I have some guarantees that he will never open the door and dump me’. As a matter of fact, I feel so insecure of the possibility that dad can throw me out, that I even hate the other kids [or passengers!] that even brought it up! As I have read from some ‘Reformed sites’ I have seen this type of dynamic more than one time. Some of the brothers see the Arminian camp as heretics. I think we need to step back and take a breath. Even in the Arminian camp, they have faith that ‘dad isn’t going to stop short and open the exit’ [for the most part]. Most simply believe that ‘dad’ leaves this option open for the ‘jumper’. I know this silly parable doesn’t do justice to the whole issue of Gods sovereignty. I just find it disturbing how some of my fellow Calvinists seem to view the other side as ‘the enemy’.

(850)PROPHETIC UPDATE! As of today [8-08] enough has happened in the last few years to kind of encapsulate the state of the church [Gods people] and where we are heading. Whenever you have ‘prophetic people’ and movements make some real obvious mistakes, I always feel tempted to go thru this site and delete everything that deals with ‘prophecies, dreams and visions’. This has happened to me on more than a few occasions. But the Lord kind of stops me. Now, why do I mention this? Because these last few years the charismatic/prosperity churches have gone thru some turmoil. The ‘Emergent’ movement has also struck a nerve with the Reformed defenders of the faith, and they have also had some battles. In the midst of it all you also had a resurgence of Catholic apologists [Scott Hahn] and ‘the defend the fullness of truth’ conferences. First, I felt the Lord was going to deal with the more obvious abuses of the prosperity movement a few years back. I even ‘prophesied’ that this would happen [on this site!]. So this is a legitimate ‘correction’ that is taking place as of this year. Some of the main leaders of the movement have come under some serious ‘judging’. Also, the more theological/mature Emergent movement has come under fire by the Reformed preachers because of some real problems. Some in the Emergent church have espoused ultra liberal ideas on the Atonement, Hell and other basic Christian doctrines. The problem is the older reform minded ‘correctors’ are for the most part absolutely ignorant of their own ‘blind spot’ in the area of Ecclesiology. They seem to think ‘defending the historic faith’ includes defending a ‘limited’ Ecclesiology. It’s too easy to just believe that Edwards, Luther, Calvin and all the other great minds of their eras must have been right on Church government and structure. For the most part they were not. So this part of the ‘emergent church’ have it right [those who challenge limited ideas of ‘church’]. Now, the recent ‘fiasco’ of the Lakeland revival. I believe the whole ‘group’ of Apostles and Prophets [?] that initially gave their approval are very questionable. Some of the men I do like [Rick Joyner], but the whole ‘apostolic network’ that some of these brothers belong to is very questionable [when I say ‘questionable’, I do not mean they are frauds or fakes. I mean the whole idea of having an ‘apostolic network’ seems to be missing the target]. I believe most of Gods true Apostles and Prophets today are men of great humility, they suffer persecution [like Watchmen Nee] and for the most part are serious students of the Word and ‘followers of the way’ [Christ’s example of a servant]. So today [2008] we need to be open to correction in the areas that are off base. We also need to be careful not to reject all ‘prophetic things’ out of a feeling of being embarrassed to even use the same terminology as some of these guys. And we need to recognize that some of the old time defenders of the faith [Sproul, Macarthur, Colson] do have very good points they are making when the emergent brothers reject the very basis of ‘knowable truth’, but they also have a huge blind spot in their ecclesiology [thinking defending the truth includes ‘Sunday Church’]. Also, the Catholic resurgence is important not to discount, some Evangelicals are becoming so frustrated with the Protestant ‘craziness’ and divisions, that they seem to find refuge in joining this ancient expression of Christianity. Let’s have a good vigorous debate, let’s strive for unity. The prophetic movement needs to receive correction. The prosperity movements more extreme elements need to be rejected outright. At the end of the day God is still going to do a great work in the earth. His people will show forth his glory and truly be the glorious temple that he desires.

(849)ROMANS 9:9-23 now we get into predestination. Paul uses the example of Jacob and Esau [I spoke on this in the Genesis study, see chapter 18], he says God chose Jacob over Esau before they were born. He also uses the story of Pharaoh and says God was the one who hardened his heart. Paul says these things show us that God’s mercy and choice are a sovereign act. He specifically says ‘God chose Jacob, not on the basis of any thing he did [or would do!] but because of his own sovereign choice’. Now, this is another one of those arguments where Paul says ‘you will then say to me, how can God find fault? If everyone is simply doing the things he preordained, fulfilling destiny, then how can God justly hold people accountable’? First, I want you to see that this statement, that Paul is putting into the mouths of his opponents, only makes sense from the classic position of predestination. Second, if predestination only spoke of Gods foreknowledge of the choices that people were going to make [like asking Jesus into their heart!] then the obvious response to the argument would be ‘Oh, God chose Jacob because he knew what a good boy he was going to be’. Not only would this be wrong, Jacob [the supplanter] was not a ‘good boy’, but Paul does not use this defense in arguing his case. He simply says ‘who are we to question God? Can the thing formed say to him that formed it “why have you made me like this”? It seems as if Paul’s understanding of predestination was in the Augustinian/Calvinistic Tradition. A few years back a popular author on the west coast, Dave Hunt, wrote a book called ‘what kind of love is this’? He took on the Reformed Faiths understanding of predestination. Dave was a little out of his league in the book. He seemed to not fully grasp the historic understanding of the doctrine. He quoted some stuff from Charles Spurgeon that made it sound like he was not a believer in predestination. Spurgeon did make strong statements against certain ideas that were [are] prevalent in classic Calvinism. Some taught that Christ’s Blood was shed only for the elect. This is called ‘particular redemption’ or from the famous ‘Tulip’ example ‘limited atonement’. Spurgeon did not embrace the idea that Christ’s Blood was not sufficient to cover the sins of the whole world. The problem with Hunt using this true example from Spurgeon, is that he overlooked the other obvious statements from Spurgeon that place him squarely in the Calvinistic camp. Some refer to this as ‘4 point Calvinism’. I myself agree with Spurgeon on this point. The reason I mention this whole thing is to show you that major Christian figures have dealt with these texts and have struggled with the obvious difficulties involved. I think Paul does a little ‘speculative theology’ himself in this chapter. He says ‘what if God willing to show his mercy and wrath permitted certain things’. He gives possible reasons for the seeming ‘unfairness’ of this doctrine. The point I want to stress is Paul never tries to defend it from the classic Arminian understanding, that says ‘God knew the way people were going to choose, and he simply ‘foreordained’ those who would choose right’. To be honest, this argument does answer the question in the minds of many believers, I simply don’t see it to be accurate.

(846)ROMANS 8:29-30 ‘for whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed into the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: whom he justified, them he also glorified’. Let’s talk a little. When I first became a Christian I began a lifelong study of scripture, where I continually read a certain amount of scripture every day for many years. Over the years I have varied on how fast I should read [that is how many chapters per day and so forth]. But during the early stages I always took these verses to teach predestination in the classical sense. Simply put, that God ‘pre chose’ me [and all whom come to him] before we ‘chose him’. The Fundamental Baptist church I began to attend [a great church with great people!] taught that ‘classic Calvinism’ [predestination] was false doctrine, and they labeled it ‘Hyper Calvinism’. I simply accepted this as fact. But I never forgot the early understanding that I first gleaned thru my own study. I also was very limited in my other readings outside of the scripture. I did study the Great awakenings and Charles Finney. I read some biographies on John Wesley and other great men of God. These men were not Calvinistic in their doctrine [which is fine], as a matter of fact Wesley would eventually disassociate from George Whitefield over this issue. Whitefield was a staunch Calvinist! Over time I came to believe the doctrine again, simply as I focused on the scriptures that teach it. Eventually I picked up some books on church history and realized that Calvinism was [and is] a mainstream belief among many great believers. I personally believe that most of the great theologians in history have accepted this doctrine. Now, for those who reject it, they honestly struggle with these portions of scripture. Just like there are portions of scripture that Calvinists struggle with. To deny this is to be less than honest. The Arminians [Those who deny classic predestination- the term comes from Jacob Arminias, a Calvinist who was writing and studying on the ‘errors’ of ‘arminianism’ and came to embrace the doctrine of free will/choice] usually approach the verses that say ‘he predestined us’ by teaching that Gods predestination speaks only of his foreknowledge of those who would choose him. This is an honest effort to come to terms with the doctrine. To be ‘more honest’ I think this doesn’t adequately deal with the issue. In the above text, as well as many other places in scripture, the idea of ‘Gods foreknowledge and pre choosing’ speak specifically about Gods choice to save us, as opposed to him simply knowing that we would ‘choose right’. The texts that teach predestination teach it in this context. Now the passage above does say ‘those whom he foreknew, he also did predestinate to be conformed into the image of Christ’ here this passage actually does say ‘God predestinated us to be like his Son’. If you left the ‘foreknowledge’ part out, you could read this passage in an Arminian way. But we do have the ‘foreknowledge’ part. So I believe Paul is saying ‘God chose us before we were born, he ‘knew’ ahead of time that he would bring us into his Kingdom. Those whom he foreknew he also predestinated to become like his Son.’ Why? So his Son would be the firstborn among many. God wanted a whole new race of ‘children of God’. Those he predestinated he ‘called’. He drew them to himself. Jesus said ‘all that the Father give to me will come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no way cast out’. Those who ‘come’ are justified, those who are justified are [present tense] glorified. Gods design and sovereignty speak of it as a ‘finished task’ like it already happened. God lives outside of the dimension of time. I believe in the doctrine of predestination. Many others do as well. You don’t have to believe it if you don’t want to, but I believe scripture teaches it.

(840)ROMANS 8:5-13 Paul will teach the impossibility of the ‘carnal minds’ ability to submit to Gods law. Those who are ‘in the flesh’ [the unregenerate nature- not simply ‘in the body’. We will get into these distinctions in a minute] can’t submit to God. Society spends so much time and effort trying to get the ‘lost man’ to do what’s right. The prohibition movement [outlawing liquor], the increase in the severity of punishment for crimes dealing with drugs. Making the child kidnappers crime punishable by death. While all these laws are necessary and good [though some debate the wisdom of the kidnapper one, they think the kidnapper might just go ahead and kill the victim if the same punishment applies to both crimes] they have little effect on getting ‘the carnal man to submit’. Paul also says ‘if the Spirit of him who raised up Christ from the dead dwells in you, then he that raised up Christ from the dead shall quicken [make alive] your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you’. Let’s do a little teaching here. Most commentators see this as speaking of the promise of the resurrection ‘your mortal bodies’. I see this more in line with the context of chapter 7. The discussion of ‘mortal bodies’ [your actual body, the flesh- which is different than ‘the fleshly nature’ which refers to the sinful nature] speaks of your actual life now ‘let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies’. Also in verse 13 of this chapter the same theme is seen ‘if ye thru the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body ye shall live’. I believe Paul is primarily saying ‘if you are in the Spirit [born of God] the Spirit of life will make alive your physical life in such a way that you will glorify God in your body and spirit, which are Gods’ [Corinthians]. Chapter 12 says your bodies are living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God. Now later on in this chapter [8] we do see the resurrection, which is called ‘the redemption of the body’ [verse 23] so these two concepts work together. The fact that the believer is ‘training his mortal body’ for God [thru obedience] is sort of a precursor to the resurrection! Now, some believers confuse the resurrection of the body and the work of regeneration in ‘making you alive’ [Ephesians 2]. The work of regeneration brings your dead spirit back to life [born again] when you believe [which is a Divine imputation of faith at the moment of conversion, a sovereign act]. This ‘coming alive’ is purely spiritual. This qualifies you for the future physical resurrection of the body [Ephesians calls this the ‘down payment’, the ‘earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession’. The word ‘earnest’ here is used in the same way as ‘earnest money’ in a real estate transaction. The fact that we have been ‘sealed’ with the Holy Spirit is our ‘guarantee of future bodily resurrection’]. Bishop N.T. Wright, the bishop of Durham [the church of England- Durham is the 3rd most influential post in the Church of England. Canterbury is at the top] has recently written on the truths of the resurrection of the body. He is an excellent scholar, way way above my league. He has been instrumental in ‘re introducing’ the reality of Christ’s resurrection as well as our future resurrection as a very real Christian belief [and historic truth as well]. I have read some of Wrights stuff and am a little surprised at some of the ideas on ‘soul sleep’ and the immortality of the soul. Bishop Wright seems to side with some of the ideas that certain restorationist groups [7th day Adventists] espouse, that the Catholic Church kind of corrupted the ideas of heaven and the soul by being overly influenced by Greek thought. While it is possible for Bishop Wright to have come to his understanding entirely thru scripture and history, yet I felt it a little strange to see him make these arguments. For the most part I like brother Wright and totally agree with his stance on the future ‘new heavens and new earth’ as the final place of rest [as opposed to dying and going to heaven now, which is a temporary place] but there is the biblical reality of a present ‘heaven’ and this doesn’t only come from Greek thought. I have often used the Christian doctrine of the new heavens and new earth while speaking with the Jehovah’s witnesses, I always agree on the reality of a future kingdom on earth. I simply steer the conversation back to ‘who qualifies for it’ and get straight to the gospel. Well anyway we have a promise of a future resurrection, and also a ‘quickening of the body now’ [God actually using our physical life to glorify him]. These are both great truths!

(839)ROMAN 8:1-4 ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh [sinful nature] but after the Spirit [new nature]’. Now, having proved the reality of sin and guilt [chapter 7] Paul teaches that those who ‘are in Christ’ are free from condemnation. Why? Because they ‘walk according to the Spirit’ the ‘righteousness of the law is being fulfilled in them’. Having no condemnation isn’t simply a ‘legal function’ of declared righteousness, and Paul didn’t teach it that way! Paul is saying ‘all those who have believed in Jesus and have been legally justified [earlier arguments in chapters 3-4] are now walking [actually acting out] this new nature. Therefore [because you no longer walk according to the flesh] there is no condemnation’! This argument helps bridge the gap between Catholic and Protestant theology, part of the reason for the ongoing schism is over this understanding. After the Reformation the Catholic Church had a Counter Reformation council, the council of Trent. They dealt with a lot of the abuses of the Catholic Church, things that many Catholic leaders were complaining about before the Reformation. They did deal will some issues and reformed somewhat. To the dismay of the more ‘reform minded’ Catholics [with Protestant leanings] they still came down strong on most pre reform doctrines. This made it next to impossible for the schism to be healed. But one area of disagreement was over ‘legal’ versus ‘actual/experiential’ justification. The Catholic position was ‘God can’t declare/say a person is justified until they actually are’ [experientially]. The Protestant side [Luther] said ‘God does justify [legal declaration] a person by faith alone’. Like I taught before, both of these are true. The Catholic view of ‘justification’ is looking ahead towards a future reality [The same way James speaks of justification in a future sense- He uses the example from Genesis 22, when Abraham does a righteous act] while the Protestant view is focusing on the initial legal act of justification [Genesis 15]. Here Paul agrees with both views, he says ‘those who walk after the Spirit [actually living the changed life] have no condemnation’.

(835)ROMANS 7:1-4 Paul uses the analogy of a married woman ‘don’t you know that the law has dominion over a person as long as he is alive’? If a married woman leaves her husband and marries another man she is guilty of breaking the law of adultery. Now, if her husband dies, she is free to marry another man. The act that freed her from sin and guilt was death! Every thing else in the scenario stayed the same. She still married another, she still consummated the new marriage. But because her first husband died, she has no guilt. I always loved this analogy. For years I wondered why these themes in scripture are for the most part not ‘imbedded’ in the collective psyche of the people of God. We have spent so much time ‘proof texting’ the verses on success and wealth, that we have overlooked the really good stuff! Now Paul teaches that we have been made free from the law by the ‘death of our husband’ [Jesus] so we can ‘re-marry’. Who do we marry? Christ! He has not only died to free us from the law, he also rose from the dead to become our ‘husband’ [we are called the bride of Christ]. Paul connects the death and resurrection of Jesus in this analogy. Both are needed for the true gospel to be preached [1st Corinthians 15]. Notice how in this passage Paul emphasizes ‘the death of Christ’s body’. The New Testament doesn’t always make this distinction, but here it does. In the early centuries of Christianity you had various debates over the nature and ‘substance’ of God and Christ. The church hammered out various decrees and creeds that would become the Orthodoxy of the day. Many of these are what you would call the ‘Ecumenical councils’. These are the early councils [many centuries!] that both the eastern [Orthodox church] and western [Catholic] churches would all accept. Some feel that the early church fathers and Latin theologians [Tertullian, Augustine and others] had too much prior influence from philosophy and the ‘forensic’ thinking of their time. They had a tendency to describe things in highly technical ways. Ways that were prominent in the legal and philosophical thinking of the West. Some of the eastern thinkers [Origen] had more of a Greek ‘flavor’ to their theologizing [Alexandria, named after Alexander the great, was a city of philosophy many years prior to Christ. This city was at one time the center of thinking in the East. That’s why Paul would face the thinkers at Athens, they had a history in the east of Greek philosophy]. Well any way the result was highly technical debates over the nature of God and Christ. The historic church would finally decree that Christ had 2 natures, Human and Divine. And that at the Cross the ‘humanity of Jesus’ died, but his ‘Deity’ did not. I think Paul agreed by saying ‘we are free from the law by the death of Christ’s Body’ here Paul distinguishes between the physical death of Jesus and his Deity. Note- actually, Augustine would be in the same school as Origen. Alexandrian.

(831)ROMANS 6- Lets talk about baptism. To start off I believe that the baptism spoken about in this chapter is primarily referring to ‘the baptism of the Spirit’, that is the work of the Holy Sprit placing a believer in the Body of Christ. The Catholic and Orthodox [and Reformed!] brothers believe that Paul is speaking about water baptism. The MAJORITY VIEW of Christians today believe this chapter is referring to water baptism. Why? First, the text itself does not indicate either way. You could takes this baptism and see it either way! You are not a heretic if you believe in it referring to Spirit or water. You are not a heretic if you believe in Paedo baptism [infant baptism]. ‘What are you saying? Now you lost me.’ Infant baptism developed as a Christian rite over the course of church history. The church struggled with how to ‘dedicate’ new babies to Christ. Though the scriptures give no examples of infant baptism, some felt that the reason was because the scriptures primarily show us the conversion of the first century believers. There really aren’t a whole lot of stories of ‘generations’ of believers passing on the faith to other generations. So some felt that the idea of dedicating babies to the Lord through infant baptism was all right. The examples they used were the circumcision of babies in the Old Testament. Infants were circumcised [a rite that placed you under the terms of the Old Covenant] though they weren’t old enough to really understand what they were doing! This example was carried over into the Christian church and applied to infant baptism. Now, I do not believe in infant baptism. But I can certainly understand this line of reasoning. As Christian theology developed thru the early centuries, particularly thru the patristic period, you had very intellectual scholars grapple with many different themes and ideas. Some that we just studied in chapter 5. Some theologians came to see infant baptism as dealing with original sin. They applied the concept of infant baptism as a rite that washes away original sin. The church did not teach that this meant you did not have to later believe and follow Christ. They simply developed a way of seeing baptism as ‘sanctifying’ the new members of Christian households. This basic belief made it all the way to the Reformation. The Reformers themselves still practiced infant baptism. It was the Anabaptists [re-baptizers] who saw the truth of adult baptism and suffered for it, at the hands of the reformers! Ulrich Zwingli, the Swiss reformer, would have them drowned for their belief. Some Protestants stuck with the infant rite, while others [the Restorationists] would reject it. Today most Evangelicals do not practice infant baptism, the majority of Christians world wide do. Now, the reason I did a little history is because Evangelicals [of which I am one] have a tendency to simply look at other believers who practice this rite as ‘deceived’. Many are unaware of the history I just showed you. The reasons the historic church developed this doctrine are not heretical! They used scripture and tradition to pass it down to future generations. I do not believe or practice infant baptism, many good believers do.

(823)ROMANS 2:1-13 ‘Therefore thou art inexcusable, o man, whosoever thou art that judgest’. Now, this chapter will run with the theme ‘who do you think you are to judge, you do the things that you say are wrong’. Yikes, this type of preaching convicts us all. But we need to understand that Paul is saying a little more [well, a lot more!] than this. Here’s where we need to do some history. This letter is addressed to believers in Rome, those ‘called to be saints’. Paul is also giving one of his strongest defenses of his theology, he realizes that a large Jewish population are also at Rome [Acts 28]. By the time of this letter the lines are being drawn between ‘Paul’s gospel’ [the true gospel] and the ‘Jewish law gospel’ coming from the Judaizers out of Jerusalem. The main fight is over whether or not Gentile believers need to be circumcised and come under the law in order to ‘be saved’ [Acts 15]. Now the mentality of the Jewish mind was ‘we have been given Gods precepts [true] and because we are the inheritors of the law and moral standards of God, this puts us in a better class than the Gentiles’ [false]. In essence the law was supposed to reveal mans sin to himself, it was to show us our need for a Savior. But in the legalistic mind it created enmity between Jew and Gentile. This is what it means when Paul writes the Ephesian letter and says ‘the middle wall of partition has been removed in Christ’ this ‘middle wall’ is referring to the law and how it divided Jew and Gentile. So here Paul is saying ‘you Jews who are trusting in the fact that you were the recipients of the law, who use the law as a measuring rod to justify yourselves. This measuring rod was actually given to show you your sin. Did it never occur to you that the very fact that the ‘rod’ says “don’t commit adultery, don’t steal” that these things are actually sins that you yourselves do [the legalistic Jews]. And yet the very rule [law] of God that you are using to justify yourselves, this law you actually break!’ Now you are beginning to see the context. And not only were they breaking the law, but at the same time they were saying to Paul’s Gentile churches ‘unless you get circumcised, you are not accepted with God’. The Gentile believers were actually born of God and stopped doing the things that the law commanded them not to do. They were ‘fulfilling the law by nature’. So Paul is really rebuking this hypocritical mindset that said to the Gentile believers that they weren’t saved. And at the same time the ‘judgers of the law’ were actually breaking the law, while the Gentle converts were keeping it by nature! In this context verse one means a lot. Now to an important verse ‘for not the hearers of the law are just before God, BUT THE DOERS OF THE LAW SHALL BE JUSTIFIED’. Just the fact that this statement is made by Paul in this letter is amazing. Paul will spend lots of time in this letter saying ‘those who try and become justified by keeping the law are missing it’. He will go over and over again stating that trying to become righteous by works and law keeping are futile. Yet here he says ‘the doers of the law SHALL BE JUSTIFIED, not the hearers’. Keep in context what I just showed in the beginning of the chapter. The New Testament has a theme that I have hit on before [read the Hebrews 11 commentary on this site]. The theme is ‘men are justified [declared legally righteous] by faith. This faith also ‘sanctifies’ [which can also be called ‘justified’ a sort of progressive justification. James uses this in his letter. Paul says in Galatians ‘having begun in the Spirit [legal justification] are you now made perfect by the flesh’ [law keeping]. Now the New Testament teaches that God wants people to actually ‘be righteous’. Johns 1st epistle uses this as the marker of whether or not you are a child of God ‘by this we know… those that do what is righteous are born of God, those that do evil are not’. In Jesus judgment scenarios ‘those that have DONE good are raised to life, those that have done evil to damnation’. So Paul in essence is saying ‘God ‘justifies’ [using the term in a ongoing- futuristic sense] the righteous, not the ones who only hear the law [the Jewish legalists] but those who by nature do it’ [Paul’s gentile converts]. Got it? This distinction is very important. One of the historic reasons why the Protestant and Catholic churches are divided is over this issue. The Catholic Pope [Leo] who initially condemned Luther did so on grounds like this. The Pope who succeeded Leo re-read all of Luther’s documents, in an honest effort to bridge the schism, and came to the same conclusion. Now I like Luther and side with him more so than the Pope, but one of the problems was some of Luther’s writings seemed to say ‘Justification is solely by faith [true] therefore sin hardily’ [false]. Now Luther didn’t intend to come off this way, but that’s the way it sounded. So the Catholic doctrine fell more on the side of ‘Gods grace makes you righteous, God cant declare people actually righteous until they actually are righteous’ this is called the ‘Legal fiction’ argument. They said Luther’s idea was a ‘legal fiction’. In essence some of what the Catholic scholars were saying was correct. Now God does declare us righteous at the moment of belief, before we actually ‘become totally righteous in practice’. But the error of the Catholic argument saying ‘God cant declare you righteous until you are’ was missing the point. When God says ‘you are righteous’ then you are! God doesn’t lie. But I understand the Catholic point. I think Paul understood it too. In this chapter Paul says ‘not the hearers of the law, but the doers shall be justified’.

(813)I was going to do the parable [some say story! – I explain it later] of the rich man and Lazarus, but felt we should go another way. Yesterday I was reading some stuff on line and learned of the book Frank Viola wrote ‘Pagan Christianity’. I have not read it, but I have read other books from Frank and I think he is an excellent teacher. As I was ‘perusing’ the comments from Pastors and others who read the book, I realized that it stirred up a controversy in many circles. I thought it interesting that a big part of our teaching has been debated recently and I wasn’t even aware of it. Let me make some comments about ‘the comments’. The title might be a little strong, I understand the actual fact of many modern Christian practices arising form ‘pagan’ sources. But this in itself was no secret to the believers who willingly did this at the time! I remember reading one of my ‘history of Christianity’ books and hearing a Catholic author explain why the 4th century church did embrace, to a degree, certain pagan things. Some Protestants seem to think that the fact that Christmas and Easter have obviously pagan histories is a secret known only to them [them being protestants]. But the Catholic author explained that ‘changing’ pagan holidays into ‘Christian ones’ was done on purpose. The intent was to allow the pagans to keep their special days, though the institutional purpose of those days was changed, as the Emperor Constantine was legitimizing Christianity [his brand of it]. Now was this ‘compromising’? Sure. But was this a secret pagan take over of Christianity? Probably not. So when we see ‘pagan’ things [cultural changes] being mixed in with Christianity, sometimes it doesn’t mean what we think. Paul teaches in Timothy to give honor to Elders and respect those in authority. Paul says ‘I am writing these things so believers will know how to behave in the House of God’. In context, the elders and the ‘House of God’ are simply speaking about the mature saints who were living and dedicating their lives for the propagation of the gospel and spending extra time ‘building Gods House’ [the actual community of believers in their midst]. But later on as Christianity developed the ‘House of God’ would be seen as the ‘church building’. The hired positions of clergy were seen as ‘Bishops, Pastors, and Priests’. So when you would have a reformer rise up [Luther] it was easy to initially brand him as a heretic who was ‘going against Gods House’. Who was ‘not honoring’ the Elders [Pope and Bishop]. The mistake was reading the New Testament and simply applying the names [House of God- church building. Bishop [of Rome] – Catholic apostolic succession from Peter] of things to the present understanding. So the Protestants would have their Reformation and only go so far. For all practical purposes the ‘House of God’ was still seen as ‘the church building’. And the Protestant Pastor was still seen as the office of someone who ‘oversees the church’. There really was no reformation of ‘church practices’ or the way ‘we do church’. Now, are all of these practices inherently wicked? No. Do they hinder growth and maturity among believers? To a degree, yes. Paul’s words to Timothy on honoring Elders, giving them ‘double honor’. This speaks about actually sharing your material goods with those in the community who were dedicating themselves to learning and teaching this ‘new way’. All believers did not have access to scripture like we have today. The scrolls of the Old Testament and the letters of Paul were circulating, but some of the new believers couldn’t even read! So in these communities of people, which Paul describes as ‘The House of God’ you had ‘spiritual parents’. More mature Elders who had a stable grasp of doctrine. They would help keep the believers on course in a day where there was no internet, libraries [available to the general public at large] no radio or T.V. [this one could be a blessing!]. In essence these Elders, Bishops [overseers] were simple believers who were worthy of ‘double honor’ [feed them, help them out materially, they are meeting a real need and for all practical purposes they are needed!]. But as Constantine would ‘marry’ the Empire and institutionalize the church, the ‘double honor’ portions of scripture were used to justify a ‘tithe system’ that would support ‘the church’. Priests and Bishops took on a different meaning than the way Paul would use the term. The development of hired clergy and the overall institutionalizing of the church used common New Testament terms, but for the most part these terms were taken out of context. The Protestant Reformation dealt with important doctrinal issues, but this basic ‘way of seeing church’ did not change. While I haven’t read Franks book yet, I plan on reading it in the future. Understand I am not commenting on what frank Viola means when he says ‘Pagan Christianity’. I am simply sharing my thoughts on the development of Christianity.

(797) [I stuck this here because it shows a little on the communion of the saints] INTRODUCTION TO THE PARABLES- I was going to finish our study in Judges today, but I felt like sharing something else. Recently I have been reading the parables of Jesus out of my first King James Bible. Even though I give away lots of my books and stuff, yet I managed to hold on to this keepsake. Actually I did give it away and eventually got it back! That’s why I am writing this entry. If you read the first 50 or so entries [1-50!] from the section ‘Prophecies, Dreams, Visions part 1’ you will read the story of my journey to Texas as a young rebel and how after I became a believer I led one of my old buddies from Jersey to the Lord. This friend became a believer and we learned and grew as Christians. Eventually he would die of Aids. I had given him my first bible and years later got it back. As I read thru it I realized he made notes and stuff in it. Things like ‘ask John about this?’ and other interesting stuff. Of course this bible is special to me because it contains personal insights from my first convert to the Lord. So let me share a few things I recently read. He wrote ‘God will take care of you if you have faith’ and ‘the presence of contrary winds does not mean you are out of Gods will’. Hebrews says ‘though he is dead he yet speaketh’. I consider this a privilege of being part of a Christian communion that all believers belong to. We have brothers who are looking at us from heaven right now. We truly belong to a ‘communion of saints’. After all these years, for you to get something from this simple sharing of my brothers thoughts is part of the process of being in this communion. Look at the simplicity of these words ‘God will take care of you if you have faith’ ‘the presence of contrary winds does not mean you are not in Gods will’. As I finish our study in Judges I think I am going to share a few of Jesus parables. In these parables we see Jesus ethos of the Kingdom, the things he puts value on. These things are contrary to what we value, especially as we look at ‘modern ministry’. Jesus will teach the value of not being famous or recognized! The value of becoming ‘the least of all’. Things like the mustard seed being the least of all seeds, but when it is sown it becomes the greatest. We often see faith from this. While this does apply, we also see Jesus ‘the grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying’ [John’s gospel] Jesus, who Isaiah prophesied ‘I am a WORM AND NO MAN’. The Son of God who would become the least of all ‘seeds’. Who actually experienced the accumulated ‘feelings of unworthiness and absolute condemnation’ that all the sins of the world could bring upon a person. He personally experienced the actual act of being forsaken and told by God ‘you are now a worm and no man’. You think ‘how could this be’ this was an aspect of bearing the sins of humanity on himself. Jesus will teach us the importance of being last, how it is of great value if in the eyes of man you look like a failure, but in the eyes of God you lived humbly. Jesus even values the words of people who lived sinful lives and failed often. He never condones sin, but he still values these ‘little ones’ [in the eyes of men] he will even use the words of one who died of aids.

(791)JUDGES 18- The tribe of Dan sends 5 spies to check out the land of Laish, it was supposed to be part of their inheritance. On the way they pass Mount Ephraim, where Micah and the ‘hired priest’ live. They enquire in the house of Micah about their journey. They are assured God is with them. They see Laish and return with the good report. Laish is a land where the people are ‘isolated’ they do no business with any other tribes. Too sectarian in their little community [ouch!]. So the tribe of Dan hears the report and arms 600 men for battle. As they go to get their land, they once again stop at the idolatrous house of Micah. They make a ‘job offer’ to the ‘hired priest’ and appeal to success and status among clergy ‘do you want to come and be our hired priest? Wouldn’t you rather be priest of a whole tribe instead of one household’? He takes the job promotion and on their way out Micah tries to stop them from taking his priest but doesn’t have the manpower to do it. Dan introduces this false priesthood on a large scale to the people of God. Scripture says while they were involving themselves in this false worship, the House of God was still in Shiloh. Now we have covered a lot of ground here. I want to be careful but truthful about wrong worship in the church. First, I do find it amazing that the Lord did not cut Micah off originally when he got into his stuff! The history of Israel includes a time period where they thought the high places in their land were a sign of true religion. When some of the kings institute a return to the Lord, they leave the high places alone. Although these high places were idolatrous, yet in their ignorance they really thought they were honoring God. I see a degree of this here. Now the hired priest continues to represent the mentality of the hired offices of the clergy. All good people, but often operating in systems that lend themselves to the co dependency of Gods people. It is easy to see the idea of false worship and simply use this to bash Catholics. I prefer to see the false worship of Dan as a mark of all wrong tradition and teaching that come to us from the mind of man. Jesus rebuked the traditions that made void the Word of God, but Paul will tell his spiritual sons ‘hold to the traditions you have been taught by me’. Some traditions are needful. Things that our spiritual fathers have passed down to us. Don’t despise all tradition! Don’t see ‘the ministry’ as a way to gain status and climb the ladder in the corporate world. This priest of Micah took a position based on gentile authority. Something Jesus forbid for the leaders of his church. This priest saw self advancement in moving ‘his ministry’ to oversee the tribe of Dan. This root of pride will cause the limited idolatry at Micah’s house to leaven an entire tribe. Often times well meaning people become part of ‘extending wrong ideas’ thru out the church as they seek fame and recognition. Jesus taught us that true servants will not make decisions based on ‘how will this move promote me, how will I gain a name for myself’ these motivations blind us to the idolatry that exists in the church in our day. The New Testament equivalent of idolatry is covetousness. Leadership often overlooks the blatant abuse in this area as they pursue a name and advancement for ‘their ministries’. It’s easy to not want to hear Paul’s strong words in 1st Timothy 6 concerning leaders. We want to be able to ‘seek fame and fortune’ because it does feel good to be famous! Hebrews says ‘sin does have pleasure for a season’. So I see the whole scenario of Micah’s hired priest in all of us. I see the idolatry of Dan and false worship as leaven that affects all of Gods people [Protestants and Catholics alike]. I see the fact that God still used Micah to be a voice and instrument to the people of God even though he thru ignorance allowed idolatry to be entrenched in Israel. God is merciful and he will put up with our ignorance for a season, but I think that season has already passed. [Though his mercy endures forever!]

(790)JUDGES 17- This is quite an interesting chapter. Micah steals money from his ‘mother’. He tells her ‘I took it’ [managed to gain precious riches from you] and she commends him. He then says he took it from her to give it back to her. Let’s spiritualize a little. The ‘sons of the church’ [the New Jerusalem is the corporate church, the ‘mother of us all’] some times take by violence the hidden riches that were contained ‘in the church’ [which possesses the mind of Christ!] so they can ‘give the riches back to the mother’ [feed my sheep!] and receive commendation from her. Now, all analogies eventually break down. Micah’s mom says she was going to build an idol [institution?] with the money. Micah becomes the overseer of this ‘false system of worship’. He actually ‘hires’ [hireling mentality- seeing ministry as a profession] a legitimate priest from the tribe of Levi to call ‘father- priest’ [ouch!] Micah pays him a salary [double ouch!] and says ‘now I know the Lord [God of the Christians] will bless me seeing I have a priest under my authority’. [Rome and her emperors?] Lots of imagery here. First, Micah felt like he would gain Gods blessing if he ‘hired’ and institutionalized the real priesthood. We must see that what happened during the first 4 centuries of Christianity was a type of ‘hiring’ and legitimizing the ‘priests of God’ for the purpose of favor and unity within the Roman Empire. It is no secret that the emperor Constantine looked for unity in his empire by embracing and professionalizing the ‘priest hood’. They will actually be called ‘fathers, priests’. Also, this priest that Micah hired was a real representative of God! He did come from a true tribe. It is difficult for Protestants to see that although the institutional church ‘married’ Rome, yet she still contained part of the real people of God. This is not to say all that happened in the first millennium [thousand years of Christianity] was of God, but it also means we need to understand that there are some ‘precious riches’ [1100 pieces of silver!] that are hidden within her for the purpose of ‘true sons’ to go and take these riches and re distribute them back to her for her own benefit. You would be surprised by the amount of spiritual truths contained in the writings of the Catholic [Orthodox] fathers. Many of these truths are being ‘re found’ by protestants! And some of these Protestants have given them back to the church and shown her ‘look, even your own church fathers saw such and such’. I see the whole concept of Micah hiring the Priest as a type of ‘hired clergy’ mentality that all the people of God wrongfully took hold of. We need to recognize that just because this Levite went down this road, this does not mean he was not a true Levite [person of God]. It just meant he allowed his gift/office to be used in a wrong way to bring legitimacy to a form of worship that had vestiges of idolatry contained within.

(769)ACTS CONCLUSION- As we finish our study in Acts, I want to review a few things. The ‘church’ [ecclesia] as seen in Acts are without a doubt ‘organic’ this term describes the community of people in the various locations who believed the message of the Messiah. These people were not establishing ‘church meetings at the church on Sunday’ to compete with the Jewish meetings at the synagogues on Saturday. The transition from the old law into the new covenant was not only one of a change in message [law versus grace] but also a transition from shadows to reality. All the ways of worship and ‘liturgical’ form were part of the old law. The temple and priest and altar were important types and symbols of what was to come. But in the New Testament communities these ideas of physical worship changed. The actual praise of Gods people and doing good deeds will become the sacrifices that God is well pleased with [New Testament]. The Lords meal was actually a meal! The gathering on the first day of the week became a good tradition in memory of Christ’s resurrection. But as time went on many well meaning believers would return to the symbols and incorporate them into their worship. The church would be seen as the ‘church house’ the altar would be seen as a real place upon which the ‘bloodless sacrifice’ [Eucharist] would be re offered again for the sins of the world. The priest would be seen as having special powers given to him by Jesus, that during the mass the host becomes Jesus flesh and blood and as the people ‘eat’ him they are partaking, literally, of Jesus flesh and blood. Now, are all these believers wrong? Should we see the development of sacramental theology as pagan? I personally don’t think so. I prefer to view the changes that took place in the church as part of a process of Gods people grappling with doctrines and beliefs while at the same time struggling to maintain unity as the centuries progressed [I am not making excuses for wrong doctrine, I think well meaning church fathers grasped wrong ideas out of a fear of loosing their identity. The idea of a strong magesterium [teaching authority] gave room for wrong doctrines to become firmly entrenched in the collective mind of the early church]. For the first 1000 years of Christianity the people of God were primarily seen as Catholic. In 1054 the official split between eastern and western Christianity will take place. Another 500 years until the Catholic Church split again [1517]. The host of churches that came out of the Protestant Reformation are too innumerable to mention. Should we view all of these groups as deceived religionists? Of course not. Do we find a pattern in Acts that would allow us to trace ‘the true group’ and lay claim to being the most authentic? I don’t believe so. But as all the people of God strive for the unity that we actually posses in Christ, we have the great resource of the church fathers, the wisdom and insights of the reformers. The heritage of the outgrowth of the restorationist movements. The excitement of the Puritans as they launched out to found a new world free from religious persecution. If it weren’t for the strong institutional church we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have even had a Luther [Wittenberg] Calvin [first Paris then Geneva] or Zwingli [Zurich]! Or the ‘pre reformers’ Wycliffe, Huss and Knox. These men were products of Catholic higher learning! It was the reality of Catholic institutional Christianity that allowed for these men to be trumpets of truth in their day! The university cities that they taught in as Catholic priests allowed for their influence to spread far and wide. In each generation of believers you have had Gods people progress so far and leave us with great treasures that were intended to be passed on to future generations If we severe ourselves from historic Christianity, then we lose the great gains that have been made in the centuries gone by! The book of Acts shows us the freedom of the people of God. ‘Where 2 or more are together in my name, I am in the midst’ isn’t some description of ‘local church’. As in if we copy the formulas of what happened in Acts [break bread, prayer, etc.] then you ‘have a church’. Jesus promise to be with us when we are together is the act of brotherhood. Surely we saw Jesus going along with the people of God all thru out Acts. The Spirit of God that indwelt them in chapter 2 was the promise that he would be with them. He legitimized them! Not some institution [‘local church’] that they were to start! So today all the people of God are striving to find a closer identity with each other as fellow believers in the Lord. I believe the book of Acts gives us a beautiful picture of the church in her infancy stage. I also believe the growth seen as we read Paul’s letters to these churches indicates the heart of God for his people to remain in grace. Paul warns the churches to not fall into the legalism of observing days and regulations and legalistic requirements. He wants them to live simply, free from sin and to be the people of God in society. Some branches of Christianity took hold of the strong ‘we are pilgrims’ view [which is true to a degree] and would separate from society. Not realizing we are pilgrims and strangers to the worlds system, but our Father is God of heaven and earth! We are here to impact this planet! So let’s run with the exciting message and revolutionary mindset that the early church possessed. They weren’t in this thing for what they could get out of it, they were really laying their lives down for the gospel. They were sharing their stuff with each other. They were loving God and their fellow man in ways that were uncommon for their time. It wasn’t only what they said that allowed them to ‘turn their world upside down’ it was who they were, the People of God.

(765)ACT 25- Festus hears the Jews at Jerusalem, they want him to bring Paul to Jerusalem. Festus goes back to Caesarea and asks Paul ‘why don’t you go back with me’? Paul appeals to Caesar! Of course going to Rome was part of the plan. Now King Agrippa [another one of the many ruling authorities that Rome had over the people!] comes to Caesarea and Festus tells him about Paul. Agrippa will get a strong word in the next chapter. Also the Jews come down from Jerusalem and accuse Paul of many things. I want to make a note here. In the area of apologetics, which we do a lot of, you need to be careful that you don’t jump on the bandwagon of unfounded accusations. There are and have been real doctrinal heresies that needed to be dealt with, but some of the apologists really get personal. Even calling family members degrading names! In Paul’s case he had accusations that were not true. He does defend himself against the false ones, but also admitted that he believes in Christ’s resurrection and that this is considered heresy among certain Jews. Paul’s main message was Christ and the resurrection! As we get ready to close our study in a few more days, I want to recap the importance of seeing Jesus and his fulfillment of the Old Testament prophets as the main message of the Apostles. This early teaching by the Apostles needs to be the ‘tradition’ if you will, once again. We [believers] have a tendency to delve deeply into all sorts of stuff. Paul will warn his spiritual sons ‘don’t get lost in endless genealogies and debates about the law’ and Hebrews says ‘it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace, not with meats [legalistic doctrines] which have been unprofitable to those who have gone that route’. Now, you guys know I believe in correct doctrine, and Paul wasn’t advocating ‘no doctrine’. But it is easy to get lost in endless debates that lead to nowhere. Ultimately our goal is to present every man perfect in Christ. Paul will stick with this message all the way to Rome!

(759) ACTS 22- Paul makes his case before the Jews at Jerusalem. As he speaks in Hebrew, they give him special attention. We learned earlier [Acts 6] that Hebrew speaking Jews were looked upon as better than non Hebrew speakers. Paul tells the Jewish people that he too used to be zealous of the law and also hated the new movement of Messiah. He informs them that he was raised under Gamaliel’s school of Phariseeism! You had different schools of learning, even within the class of the Pharisees, Paul was what you would call a Harvard man. He explains that on his previous trip to Damascus he encountered Jesus. He gives his conversion testimony, which by the way contains most of the elements of all the various conversion accounts in Acts ‘arise, be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling upon the name of the Lord’. Paul was such an anti Christian that the Lord made sure he would cover all the angles![and also be received amongst all the different groups of believers thru out the church who will claim strong baptism verses, or calling on the Lord verses. In essence you can find in him the varied experiences of believers thru out the centuries]. Now Paul recounts how after his conversion he had a vision in the Temple at Jerusalem. He has his audience captivated until he says how Jesus appeared to him and told him to go to the gentiles. This was too much for the elite Jewish mind to grasp. The people chant ‘away with him’ they want him killed! As the soldiers are getting ready to beat him some more, he says ‘is it lawful for you to be a Roman citizen like this?’ Paul was quite a guy, he used any advantage he had to win the argument. The soldier’s enquire how he obtained Roman citizenship, he tells them he was ‘free born’. All people under the rule of Rome were not Roman citizens. The region of Judea and the area of Jesus and his men were considered the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ Galileans were a low class. Most scholars believe Jesus spoke Aramaic, the language from his area. Paul was the first out this bunch of radical followers who had an upper class image. His pedigree was good. He surprised his opponents by having a good education and being a Roman citizen. Paul also wrote [Corinthians] how not many noble and educated people were chosen by the Lord. It wasn’t because the lord didn’t want the upper class folk! It was the fact that education and ‘class’ can be such obstacles in the minds of those who posses it. It’s the sin of pride. Also in this chapter Paul describes his vision at the temple as ‘being in a trance’ the same language used of Peter in chapter 10. A trance is a different type of experience. St. Thomas Aquinas, considered by many to be the most intellectual apologist of the latter middle ages [scholastic period] shared experiences he had right before his death. He would call them ‘being in a state of ecstasy’. These were sort of ‘trances’ where he would experience the presence of God so mightily that he would describe it as almost unbearable. He would say that the Lord revealed so much to him during these times that all he had ever written or taught in the past seemed trivial compared to what he was ‘seeing’ during these events. Paul himself will write about being caught up into the 3rd heaven and not knowing whether he was in the body or out of it. He would say he saw things that were impossible to explain in human words. In this chapter Paul says Jesus appeared to him at the beginning of his journey, it seems as if this wasn’t the only time he saw the Lord.

(757) ACTS 20- Paul travels with some brothers on the journey. This mode of visiting different regions and bringing brothers with him is exciting! They are truly seeing the Kingdom of God becoming established in the earth. Scripture says ‘they broke bread on the first day of the week’ we read later in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that when they met on the ‘first day of the week’ he asked them to take up a collection before he arrived [so he could take the money and meet the needs of the poor saints at Jerusalem]. Do we see here some type of Sunday Sabbath, that is the ‘church day to pay tithes’ so you don’t get cursed? Of course not. You are seeing the simple practical outworking of a people who are becoming the people of God. It’s fine to meet on a Sunday and to ‘break bread’. Hey, the group needs to know when to meet for the meal! But don’t develop liturgical/sacramental ideas out of this. You say ‘hooray for John [me], he is really giving it to those Catholics’ well, don’t say hooray yet. Now he calls for the Elders at Ephesus to come to Miletus so he can give them some instructions and a farewell. This address from Paul is one of the best in the New Testament. He covers the basics for leadership and church growth. Now, he tells them ‘all the time I was with you guys I was upright. I taught you publicly and from house to house. I showed you repentance toward God and faith towards Jesus Christ. I worked and did not covet your money. I did this to prove I was not there to gain financially from you. To give you an example as Elders yourselves, so you would not see the responsibility of oversight thru a covetous mindset. Beware! After I leave you there will be an attempt by the enemy to undo the work of the Cross. Some men, even from your own group will rise up and speak twisted doctrines. They will try to become eminent in the group, drawing away disciples after themselves. Don’t become sidetracked and become followers of men! Guard the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Feed them Gods good word’. Paul lays down strong guidelines here. He actually teaches the elders that he worked when he was among them to leave this example of leaders not seeing ministry as a means to get gain. In one of his future letters [Timothy or Thessalonians?] he actually says this ‘working’ that he did was a tradition for them to keep. He said this in context of those who refused to work. Very strong indeed. Peter also will teach the Elders to take oversight of Gods flock ‘not for money, but out of a pure motive’. In the wars that rage over ‘simple church’ versus the modern 501c3 model, both sides have shot at each other wrongfully at times. There are very intelligent brothers who will take this chapter and teach that the modern Pastor has fallen into the trap of ‘making disciples after themselves’. They see the development of the role of Pastor as becoming the fulfillment of this. Now, I do see some merit to this, but I see most pastors [all the ones I know and have known personally over the years] as Elders who are striving to help Gods People. I see a real need for all leadership to see that ministry is not a fulltime clergy type office that has developed over the centuries! Paul is simply addressing the Elders [more mature ones- in the gospel, not necessarily old!] and showing them that their purpose is to help the people of God grow in grace and make it to a place of self sufficiency in Christ. Paul is pretty much laying down the gauntlet that leadership is not some ticket of ‘now that I am in ministry, my income comes from the God ordained tithe’. This is never taught as a means of support for New testament ministers. These ideas have developed out of the Old Testament idea of the tithe supporting the Levitical Priests. In the New Covenant all our Priests and we don’t practice this type of thing. But Paul does teach that it’s good to support materially [financially] those who are feeding you spiritual food. He does teach ‘don’t muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn’ [he called us ox’s!] seriously, he lays down the biblical guideline of supporting those who minister the word. But it is important to see he was not establishing some type of clergy system, the fact that he was working while with these Ephesians and actually used this as an example for OTHER ELDERS as well as the believers shows you this. All in all the main point Paul is getting across is he wants the basic truth of the gospel to prevail and he does not want top heavy leadership to come in and draw away disciples after them. That is for strong gifted leaders to become the main focus of these Ephesian believers. So this chapter is important because we see Paul address these elders that he has been ‘ordaining’ in the churches [groups of believers]. We see the basic character and function of these men. We see the warning that cults will arise. In Paul’s day groups did come forth from the basic Christian communities [Gnostics and Docetists] that had a basic understanding of certain Christian things, but would deny the reality of Jesus. Paul bids them Farwell as they all embrace on the shoreline. The Elders were heartbroken over Paul’s words that he will probably see them no more. He wanted to keep the upcoming feast at Jerusalem and eventually preach at Rome. He was on this obsession to carry this gospel to the seat of the empire, even if it means his life.

(756) ACTS 19- Paul runs into some of Apollo’s disciples at Ephesus, he asks them if they received the Spirit ‘since they believed’ [Notice what they were believing!] And they said they have never heard about the Holy Spirit. He questions them on what they are believing in. They answer John’s baptism. They only knew the message of John the Baptist on repentance. The basic preaching from Apollos before he was ‘instructed in the way of the Lord more perfectly’. Paul does not say ‘now, believe in the Holy Spirit and you will have the baptism in the Spirit’. He says ‘John [the Baptist] preached that you should believe on him, that is JESUS, who would come after him’ after hearing THIS [the basic message of Jesus!] they were baptized in Jesus name and Paul laid his hands on them and they received the Spirit. There are lots of things here that different groups use to justify there beliefs. I fully believe in all the gifts and workings of the Spirit, but once again many well meaning pastors [from Pentecostal backgrounds] teach this chapter as saying these disciples were believers in Jesus and did not have the Spirit. This is not true! They were not yet believers in Jesus and the actual person they believed in to get the Spirit was Jesus, not the Spirit! But all in all we see the laying on of hands, prophecy and tongues happen. So these guys are charismatic! But also Calvinist [in my mind- I believe Paul was strong in predestination, but also operated in the gifts]. Now Paul goes and ruins his reputation! Can you believe he is actually sending handkerchiefs to sick people and they are getting healed and delivered from evil Spirits! Old Jonathan Edwards would never do that! [Or Calvin or Luther…or would they?] Paul casts out some demons in Jesus name [that’s it, he is cancelled from speaking at our reformation conference!] and 7 sons from a Jewish family try to cast out a demon from some guy using Jesus name. The demon says ‘Jesus I know, and Paul too! But who in the heck do you think you are’ and the guy who’s possessed beats the hell out of them! Ouch! I find it funny that the demons knew Paul by name. They must have heard how Paul was one of the deadliest enemies to satans agenda. The demons who were showing up for orders were scared they would be assigned to Paul, they knew he had some strong handkerchiefs! Demetrius, a guy who made his living building idols to Dianna, a false goddess, realizes that if Paul keeps preaching about Jesus that his living will be threatened. So he stirs up trouble. He says ‘if we don’t stop these guys, our shrine making business will be in jeopardy, oh, and the great goddess Dianna will also lose her honor’ He couldn’t give a rip about the fake god, he was worried about the bottom line! I find it funny how people will choose which image of ‘God-Jesus’ they believe in based on the bottom line. Some choose to grasp an image of Jesus contrary to the New Testament, if you challenge this belief, they will simply ignore you based on the bottom line. The Jesus of scripture challenges the materialistic gospel that permeates many in today’s church. Some grasp this modern image of Jesus because they can’t let go of the possibility that there ‘trade’ [belief system of profit] is going away!

(754) ACTS 17- Paul heads to Thessalonica and preaches 3 Sabbath days in the synagogue. Once again the unbelieving Jews follow him and stir up trouble. Paul heads to Berea and speaks the word. The Bereans are said to be more noble because they heard Paul out and then searched the scriptures to see if he were telling the truth. The message he preached is that Jesus is the Messiah that the Old Testament prophets spoke of. In 1st John, John says ‘whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God’ Paul was showing them that Jesus was the Christ. Again trouble arises and Paul sails off to Athens and sends for Timothy and Silas later on. Now, Paul spent 3 weeks at Thessalonica. No huge budget, no message on ‘how can we reach Thessalonica without lots of money’ [I have heard it taught that you cant even begin to think about planting a church unless you have $250,000 dollars!] Paul believed in the power of the gospel. It took 3 weeks of simply sharing the gospel to plant this church! He will write them a few letters and give them some instruction, but the simple truth is every believer has the ability to ‘plant churches’ [speaking the gospel to people groups and those people believing and becoming ‘the church’]. At Athens Paul is troubled by all the ‘superstition’ [religion]. He runs into the philosophers. It said the people there spent all their time in either telling or hearing some new thing. An ancient form of ‘the view’ [the television show where the ladies talk about nothing all day long!] So Paul disputes with them and uses their own altar to ‘the unknown God’ and declares Christ unto them. Recently a Catholic priest made headlines because he advocated for Christians to use the name Allah instead of God. He felt the name was referring to the same God. Does Paul’s use of the ‘unknown God altar’ fall into this category? No. When any religion names their god and defines him, then this god is a false god [unless your speaking of the true God]. So in this case Paul was simply saying ‘this altar to the God you don’t know, I will show you how to come to know him’. Now, why were these philosophers in Athens? A few centuries before Christ you had the rule of Alexander the great. The Old Testament prophet Daniel speaks in detail of his rule. Alexander ruled one of the greatest empires known to man. He established the greatest library of the ancient world. He made Greek the common language. This is why the New Testament was written in Greek. Though Rome was the ruling empire of Jesus day, the culture was still Greek to a degree. This is called ‘Hellenization’. The Greeks even translated the Old Testament into Greek before the days of Christ. This translation is called the Septuagint, which means 70. This comes from the supposed number of scholars who worked on the translation. This period just prior to Christ was the time of the great philosophers. Plato, Aristotle and others. These Philosophers laid down a foundation of sorts for morality and the cultures that would develop down the road. The church fathers disagreed somewhat to the degree of mixing Christian faith with the thought of the pre Christian philosophers. Origen thought these men were Christian to the degree that God used them to instill types of thought and belief in the immortality of the soul and other concepts as a precursor to Christ. Others thought they were competing worldviews for the religion of Christianity and should be rejected. Paul himself will write the Colossians and warn them of the philosophies of men. Many thinkers were affected by the ‘new age’ concepts that came from these groups. Augustine, the great 4th-5th century Bishop from North Africa was into Manichaeism prior to his conversion to Christianity. He eventually would sit under the sound teaching of Ambrose and leave his former ideas. These groups had strange beliefs and concepts that would sound like the scientology adherents of our day. Others were not as drastic but would still be seen as on the verge of Christian truth. Marcion was sort of in this class. The point is Paul will take advantage of the philosopher’s willingness to delve into all types of ideas, and use this as an open door to preach Christ. Some breakaway groups from the more Orthodox churches will claim that the Catholic churches belief in the immortality of the soul is not scriptural. These groups teach that the ancient church picked these beliefs up from the philosophers of the day [some of the seventh day brothers say this]. You also find some Protestant brothers challenge the authenticity of various bible translations based on the Septuagint translation from ancient Greece. The church father Jerome will use the Septuagint in his popular translation of the Latin Vulgate. Some Protestants see Jerome’s version as less than pure. This is also why the Catholic bibles have the Apocrypha in them [The books between Malachi and Matthew that the Protestant bibles don’t have]. When Jerome translated his vulgate, he brought these books over from the Septuagint version. Jerome did put an asterisk next to the apocryphal books, he noted they were included from the Septuagint, but were not seen as authoritative. Simply added for historical content]. So we see the tremendous influence that Greek culture and philosophy played in the early stages of the church. Paul knew their thought, but his gospel was founded on more than some new belief system. Paul claimed that Jesus had been raised from the dead!

(753) ACTS 16- Paul and Silas hit the road. They are being led by the Spirit and are evangelizing large regions without a lot of money, organization or ‘corporate help’. Now, these things are permitted, but we need to make sure we are seeing this story right! Jesus imbedded a mindset into the Apostles, he told them ‘don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this. You are the equipment! No special appeals for funds [ouch!], keep it simple’ [Message bible- Jesus instructions when he sent them out by two’s]. So here we actually see the Apostles living the vision. Paul by the way has a vision! He sees a vision of a man in Macedonia saying ‘come and help us’. Luke writes ‘we took this as a sure sign of God sending us’. Wow, what childlike simplicity. The great theologian Paul, the man who could argue orthodoxy all day [and win]. He has a vision and says ‘we took it as Gods will’. Don’t develop doctrines that cut you off from God’s supernatural guidance. Sure, people have gotten into trouble with visions. Cults have ‘prophets and apostles’. But the church also had these things and it helped on the journey. Now at Philippi they convert a woman down by the river. They cast out a demon from a fortune teller. The ‘masters’ see they lost their ‘money maker’ and stir up trouble in the city. Paul and Silas get thrown in jail. They praise God and sing, an earthquake happens. The doors swing open. The jailer thinks they all escaped and is going to kill himself. Paul and Silas preach the gospel and he asks ‘what must I do to be saved’ they say ‘believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, your family too!’ The whole house gets baptized and the city leaders send word ‘tell them to leave’. Now, Paul is a lot like me. He doesn’t let stuff slide. He says ‘they beat us unlawfully, we are Roman citizens! Now they want us to leave secretly. Let them come and tell us publicly’ the leaders hear they are Romans and are worried. Paul made them squirm! Let’s do a little overview. We are halfway thru the book of Acts and we see the ‘churches’ as these free flowing believers carrying out the gospel. Baptisms and healings and visions. We also see doctrinal growth. We challenge the mindset of many evangelicals, baptismal regeneration is not taught [at least I don’t see it] but baptism in water is the immediate outward identification of the believer. In essence it was the New Testament ‘altar call’. Our Catholic friends will eventually develop an idea of baptism as washing away original sin. But sometimes we miss the other idea of putting off adult baptism because of fear of future sins. Saint Augustine, the emperor Constantine and others delayed their baptism thinking they would use it to ‘clean them up’ after any future faults. The doctrine of baptism in Acts is seen as an immediate rite that does affect the believer [as do all outward acts of obedience! Even the Lords Supper strengthens the faith of the believer]. But justification and believing are prior to baptism. But not two weeks or two years prior! But a few minutes. I also forgot to mention that Paul has Timothy circumcised in this chapter. The great Apostle Paul, who will eventually pen the words ‘circumcision means nothing, but a circumcised heart is what matters’ here he gave in. Paul and Silas are fresh off the recent Jerusalem council. They have been accused of teaching Jews ‘abandon the law and circumcision’. The decree from Jerusalem said the gentiles don’t need to worry about these things. But they were still teaching Jewish converts to maintain Jewish law and custom. Timothy was not circumcised, and everyone knew it! His mother was Jewish but his father was Greek. So Paul realized that the judiazers would eventually say ‘see, Paul is even teaching Jews to break Moses law’ so Paul gives in and compromises here. Do the restrictions at the Jerusalem council still hold sway over Jewish believers today? No. Paul will eventually abandon all Jewish law and custom from his doctrine of justification by faith. But at this stage they are still learning and growing. The mindset of ‘God’ in this book is one of ‘less restrictions’ and more acceptance as time rolls on. We see enough stuff on baptism to not call the churches who emphasize baptism ‘Cambellites/heretics’ [the term Cambellite comes from the founder of the Church of Christ/ Disciples of Christ groups. There founder was Alexander Campbell. He falls into the restorationist camp. He saw the emphasis on adult baptism in scripture and many of his followers see the act of water baptism as the moment of conversion]. But we also see the basic ‘ingredient’ for acceptance as faith. So God is not excluding those who focus on baptism [Peters initial converts] but showing us greater acceptance among ‘those who believe’ [Acts 10]. This is what I tried to say in our introduction to this study. As we read we shouldn’t be looking for formulas or hard and fast verses to simply justify our churches beliefs against the church down the block. But we need to see the heart and mind of God. We also shouldn’t trace our peculiar belief to this historic church and say ‘see, our group is the most accurate one’. Why? Don’t I believe my idea of simple church is closer to the historic church? Yes. But the ‘church’ will develop in good and bad ways as the centuries roll on. The fact that many Catholics and Orthodox and future Protestants will grow and fight and reform, means the church herself has within her the inherent ability to ‘get back to the Cross’ or the reality of all of these groups believing in Jesus causes there to be a fundamental unity that exists because we all possess Christ’s Spirit. So even though I personally see the organic church in Acts, this doesn’t mean that I see the other expressions of church as totally illegitimate or lost! So let’s end this chapter rejoicing with the jailer who heard the gospel and ‘believed with all his house’.

(751) ACTS 14- Paul and Barnabas continue going thru different cities [Iconium, Lystra] Paul heals a man who was lame from birth and the whole city says ‘these men are gods who have come down in human form’. Paul barely stops them from offering sacrifices to them! In each city they travel to, they have a routine. They go into the synagogue and speak to the gathered. Both Jews and ‘God fearers’ [gentile followers] the pattern of some believing and others resisting becomes routine. Paul also has to deal with the Jews who were following him from past cities. They were sort of 1st century ‘apologists’ who made it their purpose to simply stop Paul. I want you to see that the ‘churches’ were the various groups of people who believed. They did gather together [Ecclesia] but they did not see ‘church’ as a place they went to for religious instruction. They did not start ‘gentile synagogues’ in competition with Judaism. Now Paul goes back thru the cities and at that point ‘ordains Elders in every church’. This is important to see. The ordaining of Elders was the simple process of seeing who had the maturity of understanding in the gospel and could be looked up to as a spiritual guide. Any questions or new converts in the towns would know ‘so and so’ is a responsible believer who Paul put his stamp of approval on. Why even do this? Remember, the enemies of Paul [Jewish law keepers] are going behind Paul’s back and trying to undo all the work that Paul was doing. Elders were gifted men who had the ability to push back against those whose ‘mouths must be stopped’ [Paul’s future language against false teachers]. These Elders were not full time Pastors in the modern sense. They were not singular authorities who ‘cover the flock’. They were not hired clergy! The reason why it is important to see this is because we want to stay as close as possible to the historic picture of the church as we read thru Act’s. These ‘local churches’ were caring communities of Christ followers who did have spiritual oversight that were to be respected and held in high esteem. Paul and Peter will teach the concept of giving honor to those who have spiritual accountability for you. But we can’t apply this to unbiblical forms of ecclesiology/hierarchy that will develop over the centuries. In Luther’s day many well meaning men felt Luther [the 16th century reformer] was rebelling against God ordained authority by going against the Pope. We need to understand that John the Apostle rebuked the rise of singular authorities who would seek to have the preeminence amongst Gods flock [Diotrephes- 3rd Jn]. Paul will warn the Ephesian church [later in Acts] that after his departure men would rise up seeking to make disciples after themselves. The point is any future use of the teaching of Elders/Pastors and the true responsibility to honor and submit to godly authority has to be seen in context with the complete story. While Luther’s [and Paul’s] critics could make the case that they were rebelling against God ordained authority, yet at the same time true revolution always carries an element of casting off old systems and restraint. Paul will confront Peter openly over his hypocrisy between treating Jewish believers different than Gentile believers. Peter was an Apostle before Paul and the argument could have been made ‘who does Paul think he is, going over the head of Peter’. So we need to see the biblical truth of God ordained leadership. The fact that many good Pastors and men of God have faithfully served Christ’s church. But we do not want to develop mindsets contrary to the freedom that we have in Christ while teaching the truth of godly leadership. Paul ordained ‘Elders’ on his way back thru Lystra and Iconium. He sails back to Antioch and recounts all the wonderful success that they had with the gentile believers. Antioch has this free flowing spirit amongst the church. They are gentiles and are not keeping the Jewish law. Paul and Barnabas were getting a reputation amongst the Jewish leadership in the cities and towns. Word gets back to Jerusalem and we will see whether Paul’s gospel will prevail before the ‘church authorities’? I believe we could describe Luther’s response before the Catholic church as fitting Paul’s spirit ‘unless I am persuaded by scripture I can not go against my conscience. Here I stand, I can do nothing else’.

(749) ACTS 12- Herod kills James [not the brother of Jesus who is one of the lead Apostles at Jerusalem] and puts Peter in jail. The church has a prayer meeting for Peter and an angel goes into the cell and wakes Peter up. He leads him outside the city and frees him. Peter thinks it’s a vision and realizes it really is happening! Note how real their visions and dreams must have been, Peter at times can not determine fact from vision! He shows up at the prayer meeting and a girl named Rhoda hears a knock at the door. She asks ‘who is it’? He says ‘It’s me, Peter!’ She can’t believe it and leaves him standing at thee door! She tells the prayer group ‘it’s Peter’ they tell her ‘no way, maybe his angel?’ Funny, you can believe his angel showed up, but no way could the Lord deliver him from jail. At the end of this chapter we see the return of Paul and Barnabas after they brought the relief money to the saints at Jerusalem. It calls it ‘their ministry’. This early church did not see ‘the ministry’ as the actual business and the need to raise funds for the ‘church’. Now, it’s fine to pool your money for good cause’s with other believers. When I teach we are not ‘under the tithe’ this does not mean we shouldn’t support good ministries with 10 percent or more of our money. The point is, here we see Peter going back out to the field, Paul and Barnabas returning back from ‘the field’. Spontaneous prayer meetings. No set time or way to give offerings, just a true freedom of giving themselves away for the cause of Christ. Leadership does exist, but the normal function and flow of this church is not centered around ‘the Sunday Sabbath’ [EEK!] There is a real sense of this community of believers being led by the Spirit. It would be wrong to say ‘hey, Phillip went out on his own! He is not under the local church covering’! Or ‘now that we are back from Jerusalem, lets ask Pastor so and so [the supposed Pastor of the ‘church at Antioch’] what’s next’. There were no ‘Pastors’ in the sense of the fulltime Christian minister who oversees the ordinances on Sunday. Now, these developments will arise as the centuries progress. Many good Pastors and Priests will function this way for centuries. They will see the church ‘building’ as ‘the church’. Our Catholic brothers will begin to see ‘the altar’ as the actual place ‘in the church’ that Jesus Body is ‘re offered’ [presented] as a ‘bloodless sacrifice’ for the salvation of the world. All developments that are not seen in Acts. The point is, we limit the flow of Gods Spirit thru his people when we regress from ‘the true has now come’ [the whole reality of Jesus and the church being the real image of things. The law and it’s shadows were only an incomplete picture]. When we as believers go back to ‘the shadows’ thinking that form and ‘pictures of things’ [symbols] are the way we will touch the world, then we lose the reality of us being the actual people of God showing the world Christ thru our unselfish lives. Jesus said when the people of God love each other and lay their own desires and goals down for his Kingdom, then the world will see our actions and believe. Jesus did leave us memorials ‘do this in remembrance of me’ ‘as often as you do this you SHOW the Lords death till he come’. I do realize that the church does have an element of ‘presenting thru picture [art] the Lords death and resurrection’ [passion plays and so forth] but when we lose the real fellowship mentality of this first century church, we then lose the greatest picture of all. Being the actual functioning Body of Christ on earth. John writes ‘how can you say you love God, who you don’t see. When you can’t love your brother, who you do see?’ [1st John] the New Testament clearly shows us that the love we have in word and deed is the greatest ‘sacramental’ picture we can declare to the world. Our Catholic friends have a song ‘they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love’. I agree.

(747) ACTS 10- This is another key chapter in Acts. Peter is still in Joppa and while praying on the roof he has a vision. God shows him all the non kosher animals that Jews were forbidden to eat and says ‘rise Peter, kill and eat’. Peter refuses and tells the Lord he has never allowed himself to eat unclean stuff. The Lord reveals to him the principle of not making judgments of what is ‘clean or unclean’ according to the old standards of the law. It is important to fully see this. God wasn’t simply saying ‘now all things are clean’ he was saying ‘the old prism of law and moral standards are no longer to be used as the measuring rule of clean or unclean’. Now, was God throwing out all ‘measuring rules’? No! He will flatly show Peter that ‘all who believe in Jesus are justified from all things that you could never be justified from BY THE LAW’. In essence God is saying to Peter ‘Jesus is the new measuring rule!’ [Actually he was the original one the law always pointed to]. Well at the same time Peter has this vision, a man named Cornelius has an angel appear to him and tells him to send men to Joppa and get Peter. So as Peter is wondering about his vision of the unclean animals, the brothers knock on the door and relate the angels message to him. Peter goes to Cornelius house and preaches the gospel and the Gentiles become believers. Is this the first time we see Gentile converts in Acts? No. Phillip converted the Ethiopian eunuch in chapter 8. But this is seen as the Lord giving Peter the ‘keys’ of the kingdom to the Gentiles. In the gospels we read how Peter was given the keys to the kingdom. Our Catholic brothers see the office of Pope as ‘the keys’. I think a better view is to see how the Lord used Peter in Acts 2 and here to be the one to ‘introduce’ the gospel to both Jew and Gentile. Keys open things. They open doors. Jesus is the open door that Peter walked them thru by faith. Now we also see Peter preaching justification by faith for the first time in Acts. His other invitations were legitimate, but they focused on repentance and baptism. Here Peter says ‘and to him give all the prophets witness that whoever believes in him shall receive remission of sins’. Now I have taught this before on this blog. I try not to make excuses for the teaching by Peter on baptism. He even says in his epistle ‘the like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us, not the washing away of the filth of the flesh but the answer of a pure heart towards God’ [quick quote, go find it for an exact wording!]. Now, if you do a word check on this blog, probably in the section ‘prophecies, dreams, visions part 2’ and you find the teaching on baptism from Acts 2:38, I do give an explanation on this. I believe we are seeing the natural progression of greater understanding that Peter and the brothers were attaining as they progressed on the journey. I showed you how Stephens sermon in acts 7 hit on Pauline theology for the first time in Acts. A few chapters later we see Peter quoting a scripture on ‘all who believe’ are justified. The first connection from Peter on ‘believe and be justified’. Now that Peter has opened this ‘door’ we will see Paul preach this thru out the rest of the book. We see the famous verse in acts 16 ‘believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, and your house’. The point is we are seeing not only the development of the Body of Christ in this book, but also the development of Christian theology. Many believers fight over these various verses and even trace the authenticity of their movements to these verses. Others try to brand you as a heretic over which scriptures you see as the ‘conversion text’. While I fully agree with the doctrine of Justification by faith as one of the foundational doctrines of scripture, I avoid calling the churches who trace their ‘altar call’ experience to water baptism as ‘Cambellites/heretics’. I also disagree with those who are strong water baptism advocates when they say those who do not believe in full submersion are not Christian. In this chapter these Gentiles were justified by passive believe! No evangelical altar call at all ‘the Spirit fell on all who heard the word’. Peter says ‘can we forbid water to those who received the Spirit like we did’? There was no altar call because Peter would have never given one! Even though God gave him the whole vision and all, yet they were shocked when God actually ‘saved them’. So we see the will of God in accepting all who believe in Jesus. The justifying of these Gentiles was passive, they had no ‘sinners prayer’ they were justified before they got in the water. So to all those Church of Christ [or even Catholic and Orthodox brothers] it is not totally wrong to trace your outward experience of becoming a Christian to the time of baptism [I will not get into infant baptism here!]. But it also is not wrong to trace it to the time of simple belief. Gods purpose is to save people. Acts is revealing to us the progressive journey of man with God. God does put down the requirement to ‘believe in Christ’. The entrance into communion with God is limited to all who believe in him! But don’t make it harder than this. NOTE- I didn’t get into all the particulars of repentance and baptism and exactly how many ‘steps’ you need to ‘get saved’. Seeing Acts this way misses the main thrust of the book. But let me add, why don’t we see Peter mention repentance here? Cornelius is called ‘one who feared God’. This description didn’t just mean ‘he prayed and fasted’ it actually described Gentile converts to Judaism. These were called ‘God Fearers’. They practiced Judaism already, except for the rite of circumcision. So this fact meant they ‘already repented’ to a degree. The law did teach repentance well. It had a system that engrained the moral concept of sin and repentance into man. Hebrews chapter 6 teaches this. So you can say Cornelius and his relatives were already aware of sin and the need to turn from it [also the basic elements of Johns baptism] so here Peter bypasses the repentance part and simply shows them the missing ingredient, which was faith in Christ.

(744) ACTS 7- At the end of chapter 6 we saw the accusation against Stephen ‘he teaches the temple will be torn down and that Jesus will change the laws and customs of Moses’. There are a few key chapters In Acts, this is one of them! Up until this point we have seen Peters message of the Messiah thru the lens of repentance and baptism. You will notice Peter is very strong on ‘you guys need to repent and show it’. Strong word indeed! Peter also introduced the scripture ‘the Lord your God will raise up a prophet like unto me [Moses speaking of Christ] whoever doesn’t listen to him will be destroyed’. But Stephen is the first one to teach publicly the passing away of the law and the temple and the new ‘house of God’ to be the people. It’s the beginnings of Pauline theology. Now I have read how this chapter was questioned and doubted as to why Stephen was teaching this. Some theologians thought the chapter was questionable as canon because of it’s seeming to be so out of context. These are the times where I do agree with the ‘seminary as being a cemetery’! This chapter is absolutely brilliant! I don’t want you to miss the main point. Stephen traces the history of Israel and uses the verse from Moses ‘the Lord will raise up a PROPHET LIKE ME’. Stephen explains that when Moses first showed up on the scene to deliver his people, that the people said ‘man, who do you think you are! Who made you the boss’? Then Stephen says ‘yet this Moses, who the people refused. He was actually the ruler and deliverer that they refused’. Stephen is showing them that the prophets actually prophesied of the first century reality of Israel rejecting Jesus because Moses said they would! Don’t miss this point. This is the main point of Stephens message. He is telling the religious leaders ‘you simply fulfilled prophecy by rejecting the Messiah’. He even compares the miracles and great works that were done by Moses to the great miracles Jesus did. Stephen ends the chapter by also tracing Jewish history to David’s son Solomon and how the future temple that he would build was simply a shadow of the New Testament house of God. He quotes David in Psalms ‘God will not dwell in temples made with hands’. Now, this has nothing to do with ‘church buildings’. This has everything to do with Stephen’s insight into the theological truths contained in Jesus teachings about the destruction of the temple. In today’s ‘church world’ we have a very unbalanced view of temple rebuilding and the significance of the passages in Matthew that prophesy of its destruction. In Stephen’s mind the future destruction [that is future from his time. A.D. 70!] showed the passing away of the old law and its entire system of worship. The first century Apostles and teachers saw the eschatological portions of scripture from a redemptive lens. Peter earlier said ‘repent and be baptized… so your sins will be blotted out at the return of the Lord’ ‘whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things’. He couched individual salvation in with Gods ‘full world’ purpose of redemption [Romans]. They saw it from a wider angle than just ‘me and Jesus’. Now Stephen is doing the same. The whole Apostolic tradition concerning the destruction of the temple showed the purpose of God in ending the old concept of law and ‘limited kingship’ [from Jerusalem’s throne] and how God raised up his Son and placed him at his right hand and made him Lord and Christ. The passing away of the temple and Stephens preaching on ‘the customs being changed’ was right on! When I taught Hebrews I tried to bring this out. I realize that some teachers say Paul didn’t write Hebrews. I attribute it to him simply because no one else had the revelation he had in these areas. But I wouldn’t argue with saying Stephen might have penned it [depending on the dates!] Now we end the chapter with Stephens’s famous martyrdom and him saying ‘lay not this sin to their charge’. Saul [Paul] is a witness to this killing, he will become the greatest advocate for grace versus law that the church will ever know. NOTE- I forgot to mention that Stephen even compares the mass killing of babies at the time of Moses with the mass killing done under Herod during Jesus time. He shows how Moses and Jesus were alike in many ways.

(741) ACTS 4- The religious leadership at Jerusalem bring the Apostles in for questioning. The reality of the lame man being healed and the fact that Peter was doing it in the name of Jesus was an offence to them. Part of the group were called Sadducees. We often think of them as simple Pharisees who disbelieved in the resurrection of the body. While this is true, we must not overlook the demonic strategy behind the rise of a religious group, just prior to the resurrection of Jesus, who would imbed doubt in the minds of people concerning resurrection. Peter and John are questioned concerning the healing of the lame man. The leaders really had no problem with the healing, they did not want them doing this stuff in Jesus name! Why? Once again we see the fact of mighty works being done in Jesus name as proof of his resurrection. If the resurrection is true then Jesus must be the Messiah. If Jesus is the Messiah then this first century group of religious leaders killed the only Messiah that they will ever have! Peter actually tells them this in the chapter ‘you rejected the chief cornerstone’. Jesus was not simply one religious figure in a religion of many religious figures. Let’s see, we have Mary the mother of Jesus, a great woman to be sure. What about old John the Baptist, man was he a firebrand! And don’t forget Moses and the prophets. But Jesus stands out because he is the cornerstone. He alone is the mediator. Peter says ‘neither is there salvation in any other, there is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved’. These religious leaders killed the main person! Once again we see the church practice ‘communal giving’. They sell their lands and houses and bring the money and lay it at the apostle’s feet. The money is used 100 percent for distribution to the communities needs. Why is this so important to see? As you read all my writings you will see me teach over and again this basic Christian principle, that giving in the New Testament churches was primarily focused on meeting the needs of people. There was no sense of tithing to the storehouse as being a practice of ‘giving to the church meeting on Sunday or you are under a curse’. Now, it’s fine to give 10 percent on Sunday, it’s just we shouldn’t by pass the actual documented practice of giving as seen in the New Testament. Now, we do have the advantage of hind sight. Paul will continue to write the epistles of the New Testament and never once stray from this principle. In every single case, bar none, is New Testament giving taught as a voluntary free will offering. It is radical, taught in proportionality [as God has blessed you lay by you in store- Paul] but never once is it taught as a compulsory tithe that if not obeyed will bring the curse of the law upon the believer. Now, in the very next chapter we will see 2 people die because of lying in the area of giving. But it’s not because they didn’t tithe. Nor is it because they didn’t give all the price of the land. It was because they were lying to the Holy Spirit, they were introducing a deadly poison into the fledgling church. Jesus warned them in the gospels to avoid this cancer. He told them ‘beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy’. He wasn’t saying ‘beware of their doctrine’ in the sense of don’t listen to what they teach. He was saying ‘beware of actual hypocrisy’! The leaven of trying to present an image of yourself contrary to truth. Faking it so you look good. Now the leadership will warn the Apostles not to speak or teach in Jesus name. Peter says ‘we ought to obey God more than you’. Was he being rebellious against God ordained authority? Jesus did teach in the gospels ‘they sit in Moses seat, do what they say, not what they do’. Paul will respond later ‘I didn’t know I was speaking against the high Priest, I know he should be treated with respect’ as he defends himself before this same group. Some believe Luther and the reformers and even people like me are rebelling against authority when we question the system. To be sure Peter was ‘rebelling’ against an authority system that actually served God to a degree. This religious system [Judaism] did preserve the writings of the prophets. Peter was quoting the Psalms and prophets and utilizing the actual writings the scribes passed on to him. But there comes a point in time where ‘we ought to move on with God, rather than man’ a radical break from past well meaning systems, and a moving forward with God and the working of his Spirit. We end the chapter with the Apostles and believers rejoicing over the fact that Jesus movement is winning and Gods word is being fulfilled ‘of a truth the kings of the earth and its rulers are coming against God and his holy Son Jesus’. They knew they were in some rough waters but heck, Jesus has been raised from the dead! What can they really do to us? We will soon see.

(740) ACTS 3- Peter and John go up to the temple and heal the lame man. This stirs up a commotion and gives opportunity for Peter to preach Christ. I want you to see something here. The miracles of healing thru out this book testify of something specific. They do not simply prove the existence of God. These first century people were not ‘post moderns’ they had no pre enlightenment era that affected their minds. For the most part they were highly religious! Paul will tell them this later in Acts ‘you are too superstitious’ [religious]. The miracles are testifying to the fact that Jesus is alive, he really rose from the grave! Peter’s sermons are centered around the reality of Christ being the fulfillment of all that the prophets have spoken about! The church must not be ashamed of the gospel. Recently the ‘church world’ was up in arms over the Popes recent reinstating of the Tridentine Mass [the Latin Mass]. After Vatican 2 the Mass was done solely in the language of the hearers. Many old time Catholics were wanting the Latin too. So Pope Benedict said fine, you have the option to practice it either way. Now, this ancient Mass had a prayer that simply prayed for the Jewish people to come to know Jesus. Well, this upset the Jewish groups and they demanded a change in the prayer. At first the Pope re wrote it but it still asked for prayer for the Jews to come to Jesus. This still offended them. So finally the church produced some prayer less offensive. We should not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ and his resurrection! Peter was preaching the reality of the resurrection and was in their face about it! Jesus has proven himself to be alive, we are not just witnesses of the existence of God, we are witnesses that Jesus is the way to him. The only way! Now Peter ends this chapter in a unique way. He invokes the ‘blessing of Abraham’ and says it means ‘the blessing of Jesus in turning you away from sin’. We just finished a study in Genesis. I emphasized how the New testament apostles viewed the Abrahamic blessing thru the lens of redemption. They did not teach it in a materialistic way. Peter also quotes Moses [as well as David] and says ‘Moses said the Lord would raise up a prophet like myself, whoever doesn’t hear him will be destroyed’. Peter sees the fulfillment of ‘the Moses type prophet’ in Christ. Peter has a great gift of taking the old testament prophets and proving Christ from them. There is a young hearer in this early church. He will eventually become one of the first Deacons. His name is Stephen, boy he must be drinking everything in. He is seeing and hearing the testimony of Jesus straight from those who walked with him. He hears Peter’s teachings on Christ. He becomes familiar with the way Peter associates the ‘Moses prophet’ with Jesus. This young man will testify in Acts 7 of the reality of Jesus being the fulfillment of the Moses prophecy. He will give the longest recorded sermon in scripture. He will brilliantly trace the roots of Israel and show how Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophets. He will be accused of going against the law and the temple. He has the first grasp of ‘Pauline theology’ [actually Paul got it from him!] and does such a convincing job of proving Jesus to be Messiah that they stone him to death. He becomes the first martyr in the book of Acts. At his death he says ‘forgive them; don’t hold this sin against them’. A witness named Saul is sitting by. God answers Stephens’s prayer and Saul will become one of the greatest fire starters known to man.

(739) ACTS 2- The Apostles are gathered together in the upper room. As they continue in unity and prayer the Spirit of God comes upon them like a rushing wind. There appear ‘cloven tongues’ like fire above each of them. Why this image? Why not ‘ears’ or some other sanctified body part? God is going to give supernatural power to the words that they will speak. In a few chapters we will read how an angel will supernaturally deliver Peter from prison and say ‘go, speak the words of this life’. These tongues are a precursor to the tremendous fire that will be loosed from their lips. James says the tongue is a little member but boasteth great things, it has the ability to start fires. Jesus said he came to earth to ‘start a fire’ and how he wished it were already burning. Here he gets his wish! Now the Apostles and early believers experience the gift of tongues. They begin speaking and prophesying in the unknown languages of all those who are gathered together to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. God ordained this event to be strategically done at this time. All the surrounding regions heard the believers speak the ‘wondrous works of God’ in their native tongue. Peter stands up and delivers a scathing message! He basically tells Israel ‘this is that which the prophet Joel spoke about’ he goes on and says this outpouring is part of Gods predetermined plan to pour out his Spirit on all flesh in the last days. He speaks of divine manifestations [dreams, visions] and carries the prophecy right to the end of the age. He then speaks the gospel of Christ and tells Israel ‘this is the Jesus you killed’. Wow, these guys are bold. Peter leads them to faith in Christ, their public baptism is the immediate sign of their willingness to be identified with Jesus and 3 thousand Jews become believers this day. Now, what is the church? This corporate group of first time followers do 4 basic things. They ‘continue in the Apostles doctrine and breaking of bread and prayers and share their goods with all in need’[true fellowship]. This early community was a brotherhood who actually gave priority to the teachings of Jesus passed on to them from the Apostles. Don’t miss this! Many will develop all sorts of practices and beliefs that ‘make up church’. Some will justify extra biblical beliefs under the guise of ‘the Apostles doctrine’ as in if it were something totally contrary or not known thru the gospels or the writing of scripture. Paul will tell Timothy to stay true to the traditions he passed on to him. But I want to focus on the fact that the Apostles doctrine was not something different then the basic instructions Jesus left us in the gospels. Paul will add to this basic body of Christian doctrine thru his letters to the churches, as well as the whole New Testament. But we do not see a bunch of strange or unknown doctrines that come from this time period. The basics are mentioned above. I do want to stress the fact that this early expression of church life had no ‘Pastor’ in the sense of their gatherings being a time where a singular authority figure had oversight of the entire community. They had strong leaders to be sure, but would avoid the Protestant idea of Pastor. They had no church building or belief in a strong liturgy. The ‘breaking of bread’ was a common meal where they all shared together in a real life setting. And of course their giving was radical, it was not ‘a tithe’ and it was done to meet the real needs of the community around them. All these elements are basic to what the New Testament church is. A functioning society of people in whom Christ Spirit dwells and who see themselves as a real spiritual community of people. As we progress thru out the history of the church as seen in Acts we will never lose this basic mindset. It will be carried into the epistles of the New Testament and remain the best idea of ‘local church’ as found in the first century. There is a trend going on right now in Evangelicalism that says ‘lets return to the ancient practices of the church and see what we can find’. As an avid reader of church history I am not totally against this movement, but I do see a danger in thinking ‘the ancient practices’ are the 2nd or 3rd century development of liturgy and Eucharist and other early ideas, and by passing the ‘real ancient’ story in the book of Acts. To put it simply, some of the Protestant and Evangelical ‘practices and beliefs’ that have developed since the reformation are ‘ancient’. I believe we all have a long way to go, but the ‘low view’ of the Lords Table [low as opposed to ‘high church view’. Though I personally believe in the Lords table as a memorial, not as the actual Body and Blood of Jesus. Yet I personally don’t like referring to such an important practice as low!] seems to be the true ancient practice as seen in Acts. The absence of the Priest officiating over the altar is no where to be seen in the actual ‘church’ setting. This ancient church is really a simple brotherhood of believers having all things common and having the resurrection of the Son of God as the central organizing principle of their lives.

ACTS study

Introduction; Yesterday I took my kids to the mall after church, I usually get lost in the book store. Even though I bought an entire shelf of books a few months back, I still can’t help from buying more books! So I picked up a few more and found a comfortable bench and started reading the History of Christianity. At the house I am almost thru with another ‘history of Christianity’ that covers the story of the church from Pentecost to the present day. I own a few complete volumes and have checked out many from the libraries over the years. I read from both the Protestant and Catholic [Orthodox] perspectives. I also read from the ‘out of the institutional church’ perspective. These are the histories of various groups of believers who never became Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant. I consider all these groups Christian and appreciate the tremendous wealth of knowledge that these communities provide.
Now, as we go thru Acts, I want to stay as close as possible to both the doctrine and practices of the early church as seen in scripture. We are not the first [or last!] study that has attempted to do this. That is attempted to ‘get back to the original design’ as much as possible. Historically you have whole categories of believers who fit into this mindset. They are referred to as ‘Restorationist’ as opposed to Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox. The Church of Christ, The Disciples of Christ, the Anabaptists and others fall into this class. I believe you find true believers in all of these groups.
As you read the history of Christianity as told by the other perspectives, you will find it interesting as to the way the institutional church describes these ‘out of church’ groups. Some are called heretics [Waldensians] others are simply seen as fringe groups. The strong institutional church has branded those who would reject her authority as schismatics and heretics on the grounds of their refusal to submit to the hierarchy of the institutional church.
As we go thru Acts, I want us to read carefully and see the story as told by Luke. We will not find ‘another more true group’ in the sense that I want to start some new denomination. I also don’t want to simply find proof texts to justify doctrine. Many well meaning believers can find the verses they like the most and use them to combat the other points of view. We will see verses emphasizing the importance of water baptism, or various truths on the outworkings of the Spirit. We will see prophets functioning and read texts that clearly teach Gods sovereignty [as many as were ordained unto eternal life believed]. Instead of getting lost on these side trails, I want us to read with an open mind and allow our beliefs to be shaped by ‘the story’.
I will spend time defending my own view of Local church. Not because I believe ‘my view’ is the only thing worth arguing about, but because I believe we see the intent of God for his people to be a living community of believers in this book. Right off the bat we will see giving taught in a radical way. The early church at Jerusalem will ‘continue in the Apostles doctrine and breaking of bread and prayers’. They then sell their goods and distribute to all who had need. Where in the world did they get this idea from? The Apostles doctrine obviously taught the plain teachings from Jesus on sharing what you have with others. So instead of seeing an early tithe concept, you see an early ‘give to those in need idea’ straight from the teachings of Jesus. We will see this early Jerusalem group meet daily, as opposed to seeing ‘Sunday worship’ as some sort of New Testament Sabbath. Of course this group will meet at the Temple [actually an out door courtyard called Solomon’s Porch] and from ‘house to house’. But the simple realty of Christ’s Spirit being poured out on them as a community of people will be the basic understanding of what ‘church’ is.
You will find citizens of many surrounding areas going back to the their home towns after Pentecost. These believers shared the gospel with those in their regions and this is how the early church would spread. Some commentaries will show you how when Paul will eventually show up in Rome there already was an established church there. They obviously heard the gospel from these early Roman Jews who were at Jerusalem during Pentecost. So we will see ‘church planting’ from the paradigm of simple believers going to areas with the message of Christ. Those who would believe in these locations would be described as ‘the church at Corinth’ or ‘the church at Ephesus’ and so on. So we see ‘local church’ as communities of believers living in different localities.
We will see the development of leadership along the lines of ‘appoint elders in every city’. Not a top heavy idea of ‘Bishop’ in the later sense of Catholic belief, but a simple ordaining [recognizing!] of those in the various cities who were stable enough in the basic truths of the gospel, that in Paul’s absence these elders were to be trusted as spiritual guides. Now, many of our brothers can trace the historic office of Bishop as a fairly early development in church history. Polycarp and others were considered direct disciples of the Apostles who would be seen as Bishops and even write of the importance of Bishops for the church ‘Where there is no Bishop there is no church’.
This will cause many well meaning believers to eventually become Catholic/Orthodox as they read the church fathers and see the very early development of Catholic Christianity. In many of the church fathers writings you will also see an early belief in the Eucharist as being the actual Body and Blood of Jesus.
To the consternation of many Protestants you even find Luther condemning fellow Protestants for not taking literally the words of Jesus ‘this IS my Body’. Now, I will not defend transubstantiation, but try to follow the trend lines in Acts as to the lack of this doctrine being a part of the early church. We will find Paul’s letter to the Corinthians addressing the Lords Supper, but for the most part we do not see a strong belief in the transmitting of divine grace to the soul thru the eating of Christ’s literal Body and Blood as they ‘broke bread’. We do see the sharing of the common meal and the ‘Eucharist’ as one meal called the ‘love feast’. Only later on in church history is there a division made between the full fellowship meal and the Eucharist.
So to be frank about it, I will challenge both our Catholic and Orthodox brothers on some very fundamental beliefs. Well I hope this brief introduction sets the proper tone for the rest of this study, God bless you guys and I hope you get something out of it. John.

(711) GENESIS 25- Isaac and Rebecca are married for around 20 years and still have no children. Isaac prays for kids and Rebecca is pregnant with twins! The first one out is Esau and then comes Jacob. Scripture says ‘the older will serve the younger’. Paul will quote this in Romans 9 to explain Predestination. The doctrine of God saving you based on total grace. He chose you before you were born! Now, I have said before that Christians have fought wars over this stuff. After all the studying I have done over the years, I fall down on the side of Calvinism [or Augustine or Paul!]. The critics of this doctrine have good reasons to be critical, there are some difficult questions that come with this teaching. For the most part you see Paul defending it in Romans 9 by using this story. He says God chose Jacob before the boys were even born, they had done nothing to earn Gods choosing. Now those who reject Predestination will say ‘God saw ahead of time the future decisions that the boys were to make’. Fine. But Paul still defends the doctrine from the point of view that ‘before the boys did right or wrong God chose Jacob’. Paul then says ‘you will then say to me, how can God find fault? People are just doing what they were predestined to do’. If God was just choosing Jacob based on his foreknowledge of their future choices, then Paul would have said ‘easy, God is being fair because he based this decision on his future knowledge of what the boys would do’. But Paul doesn’t say this. He answers the critics of predestination by saying ‘who are you to question God? Can the thing that God created question the creator’? Paul will go on in the rest of the chapter and defend classic Calvinism using this defense. I believe there are some real answers to be found thru out Romans that might be a little too ‘heavy’ for us to get into. Most believers who have argued over these 2 Christian views [Calvinism versus Arminianism] have argued over the seeming unfairness of the doctrine. There are things that we don’t fully understand or grasp as humans. When we try to ‘adjust’ scripture to make it fit our rational minds we err. I believe we should rejoice over the mercy of God, teach all people that Jesus loves them and Christ died for them. And thank God that you and I are in this thing because of Gods sovereign choice, it had nothing to do with what we did [or would do!].
We also see Esau sell his birthright to Jacob. Paul uses this in Hebrews 12 to warn Jewish people not to despise the privileged position of ‘being first’. The gospel came first to the Jews. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah! The fact that they rejected Jesus has caused there to be a ‘despising’ of that which was originally theirs! Many Jewish people have fallen into the error of Esau. They have rejected something that was designed for their benefit. And while others have benefited from this rejection, they actually despise hearing about their rightful place in Messiah! Many Jewish families see it as heresy for a family member to convert to Christianity. Esau sold what was really his, and he hated Jacob because of it.

(706) GENESIS 20- Abraham does it again! He travels to Gerar and tells the king ‘Sarah is my sister, not my wife’. This time the king takes her but before he sleeps with her God appears to him in a dream and tells him not to do it. In this chapter we see dreams, prophets and healing mentioned. All before Pentecost! In the following days we will cover Joseph and his dreams. I want you to see the reality of God communicating and interjecting himself into the human story as he wills. The fact that all thru out scripture AND CHURCH HISTORY we see an ongoing work of God in supernatural things shows us that God is still sovereign and can do all the things he has ever done. One of the big divisions in Christianity today has to do with the Charismatic movement and the more Orthodox/Reformed brothers. While I realize the Reformed brothers do accept the supernatural workings of God, some of them hold to cessationist views of the gifts of the Spirit. The Charismatics will accept the gifts, but often fall short in the simple teaching of scripture. I have been frustrated over the years in trying to tell Charismatic brothers that you can’t teach that Jesus was a very wealthy person who taught a money message. No matter how much proof from scripture or history you give them, they dismiss it as ‘that old tradition’. I can see why the more Reformed guys just avoid the whole deal. But to be honest to scripture we need to see and have a basic belief in a supernatural God who can communicate thru dreams and can use Prophets and does heal miraculously! Now after God appears to Abimilech and tells him ‘don’t do it, she is the mans wife’. The king is also told ‘restore her back to the man and he will pray for you and I will heal you, he is a Prophet’. So Abraham makes it right. Now, the king also gives restitution to Abraham. Lots of stuff. Does this contradict what I taught earlier about Abraham? We showed how he didn’t take free handouts. In this case this is really not a free handout, it is the biblical doctrine of restitution. Jesus taught this in the New Testament. When someone is wronged by you, do what you can to make up for it. So we leave this chapter with Abraham once again coming out on top, even though he messed up! This shows you that it is only by the mercy and favor of God that you are where you are today. You might think ‘you know, I really am a pretty talented guy. If I weren’t with the lord I probably would have succeeded in some other endeavor’ NOT! It is his grace alone that has exalted you to success. If it weren’t for the Lord you would be a big mess!

(695) CONCLUDE SERMON ON THE MOUNT – Well, we have come a long way. Look at this interesting ending ‘When Jesus finished all these sayings, the people were astonished at his teaching. For he taught as someone who had authority [he knew what he was saying!] not like the regular preachers’. OUCH! Old brother Matthew couldn’t help it, he had to stick it to them! Why was Jesus teaching more powerful than the hired clergy? He was on a mission. His goal was to start a Kingdom revolution that would end in him facing Pilate and winning! Rome will look straight into the face of this radical and say ‘don’t you realize we have been pushing your buttons all along. You had the gall to call us ‘foxes’ [Herod] we have had you in our sights for a while. Now don’t you realize I have the authority to kill you like we did John!’ [The Baptist]. Jesus says ‘you have no authority except what my Father gave you. You are still a bunch of lying foxes! And oh yeah, I am the Son of God!’ WOW. He had authority. As you sum up the sermons message, you see the Jesus style. He embodies the stuff! I think the church needs to see the teachings of Jesus as the ‘constitution’ of the family. I have heard extreme teachings on both the Catholic [Orthodox] and Protestant [dispensational] sides of Christianity. Some Protestants teach the Sermon in a way that says ‘all this was before the Cross, and has no relevance today’ [bad stuff!] and the more liberal believers kind of say ‘Jesus wants us to be nice, and the Sermon should regulate us as opposed to harsh Paul’s epistles’ [too soft!] We should see the attitudes of the sermon as the goal of our faith. We should do the stuff Jesus told us to do! We do overlook the obvious at times. Now the ‘doing of it’ won’t save us. But if God has imputed his righteousness to you [if your are justified by faith] the ‘justification’ will eventually ‘slip out’. And you will look righteous! According to Jesus, ‘looking righteous’ is measured by these things. The religious leaders thought looking righteous was being religious and moral crusaders. Jesus set the proper criteria. God wants us to be like his Son. Don’t build up a record of ‘I went to 10 million church meetings, tithed for 50 years’ but never once did the things Jesus taught in this Sermon. This is the danger of strong Orthodoxy, you can have all the right answers and still be ‘hearers only’. Jesus warned against being ‘good hearers’. The doers are the ones building right! So I would encourage all of us to regularly read and give priority to the words of Jesus. Not at the expense of ‘all scripture’ [the emergent brothers kind of fudge on this at times!] but as the filter thru which all scripture should be seen from. Too many of us do not believe in the actual lifestyle that Jesus called us to. He was a fantastic preacher, because preaching was not his goal! He was leading a revolutionary movement! And like I said before, letters from a revolution have great authority.

(693) SERMON ON THE MOUNT- ‘Many will SAY UNTO ME in that day “Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out devils and have done many good works” and I will say “depart from me, ye that work iniquity, for I never knew you”. I remember how we used this verse as fundamental Baptists to teach how all the Charismatics were going to hell! First, if this is what Jesus meant, then even those who ‘do good works’ [the whole context of the sermon on the Mount!] don’t make it! The point is there are those who see Christianity thru the lens of being familiar with Christian tradition and activity. Hey ‘I have been around the culture my whole life, surely I’m in’? Not necessarily. Also Jesus didn’t say they actually cast out the demons and prophesied, he said ‘they said they did it’. Who knows, maybe this group was fudging? I believe in all the gifts of the Spirit. I don’t believe that all the Charismatics have the definitions right! I was taught a whole view of ‘word of Knowledge, word of Wisdom’, gifts Paul defines in Corinthians. As being ‘knowing the past, or knowing the future’. It was a very limited perspective taught by Brother Hagin that seemed to miss the real intent of the gifts. So you can believe in the gifts, and really be seeing your own idea of what they mean. I also reject the cessationism of certain dispensational groups. The whole idea that the gifts passed away. The broad view of scripture [and church history!] show the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost to be an ongoing ‘life of the Spirit’ to be expressed thru the Church thru the Spirits Charisms. God never intended for this major event to be a temporary thing that would pass away. The majority of Christians believe in the gifts of the Spirit. Catholics [this only reaffirmed the anti gifts mindset in the fundamental circles. They would see the catholic churches embracing of the Charismatic movement as proof of the one world churches end time deception] Orthodox and Protestant churches for the most part accept the gifts of the Spirit. Some strains of Protestantism reject them. Well anyway Jesus is telling us don’t rely on ‘religious function- performance’ as a means of ‘getting into heaven’. We don’t want to fall into the error of ‘I was born and raised in ‘the church’ therefore I am Christian’. You might be Christian, but it’s because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and your faith in his Blood that saves you, not religion! Even Father Groeschel [a favorite Priest of mine on EWTN] will emphasize ‘we are saved thru Jesus Christ’ when asked by sincere Catholic callers to his show ‘how do I overcome guilt and sin’. The point is, we need to re focus people on the meaning and reality of Jesus death and resurrection as being the actual payment for mans sin. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking ‘I am surrounded by a Christian environment, so I must be one’. If you truly have trust in what Christ has done, then your are one. Even if you have ‘prophesied in his name, cast out devils and done many wonderful works’.

(692) SERMON ON THE MOUNT- ‘Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. But he that doeth the will of my Father’. In John’s gospel Jesus says “this is the will of him that sent me, that you would believe on him who God has sent”. So Jesus isn’t saying ‘you get saved by your works’. But he is showing us that the Evangelical altar call is no guarantee! To be fair, the rise of the ‘altar call/sinners prayer’ was a well intended tool for evangelism. But carried to the extreme it seemed to teach whoever says this prayer [Lord, Lord?] will enter into the Kingdom of heaven. It created a strange type of soteriology that said ‘you might have believed in the gospel. You might have been baptized and joined the church. You might have a vibrant faith life and ascended the ranks of church leadership [Pastor, Priest or Pope!] You might have led a changed life thru your Christian faith. But if you don’t remember when you said the sinner’s prayer, and if when you did say it. If all the preceding ‘stages’ were not ideal [first you fully realized your lost state, then you went to the meeting, then the altar!] Then you are lost! This strange idea taught a type of salvation that was dependant on what you prayed and how you prayed it. The problem with this is Jesus does make it very plain that you very well might know the exact day you prayed the thing, and still be lost! The point is the New testament [1st John] as well as Jesus himself always point to ‘those who have actually done righteous deeds’ as being the outward sign of having been made righteous! John says ‘by this we know we are born of God. He that doeth righteousness is of God, he that doeth evil is not’. Jesus says ‘those that have done good will be raised to the resurrection of life, evil to the resurrection of judgment’. Now, I do not believe these statements are saying ‘you are saved by works’ but they most certainly show you what the life of the believer will look like compared to the life of the unbeliever! So for whole groups of Christians to teach a type of ‘salvation’ that is reassured by the saying of ‘Lord, Lord’. For these brothers to then almost teach a theology that says ‘and after you prayed this formula, if you lived the next 50 years as an old bubba who cheated on his wife. Had a few drinks with the boys, never really had any true faith. But you go to heaven any way because you were just backslidden’ Yikes! I think these brothers need to re read this verse! So The New Testament shows us the end result. The goal of justification by faith is the outcome of actually being made just! Or actually doing right things. Now, there can be some controversy here. One of the main issues surrounding the Reformation had to do with the Catholic belief that ‘we are saved by grace. But this grace infuses us with righteousness and then the righteous works that we do ACTUALLY MERIT a degree of salvation’! [Believe me, it is much deeper than this, and both sides [Protestant/Catholic] have miss represented each others ideas at times]. I do not believe this type of ‘good works’ theology. I know there are many Christians who believe it [Orthodox, certain Pentecostal groups, etc] I hold to the Pauline formula in Ephesians ‘by grace are you saved, not by works’ now, in context Paul is saying ‘the faith God gives you is not of works’. Paul isn’t saying there are no works included in what God is calling you to. He goes on to say ‘created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them’. So the simple fact that Jesus and the writers of the New Testament actually make statements saying ‘those who have done good go to heaven, those who have done evil don’t’. This should steer us away from a doctrine of salvation that is heavily dependant on ‘what you said’.

(678) SERMON ON THE MOUNT- I believe this section may be the most ‘theologically’ important part. ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets, I have not come to destroy but TO FULFIL’ . I have heard this explained ‘see Jesus himself stressed the importance of the law, therefore we should exalt the law as believers’ [Reformed brothers sometimes hold this view]. Or ‘Jesus only did away with the ceremonial law, all the traditions and stuff that rose up along with the law. He never did away with the moral law, the 10 commandments’. Those who hold this view will teach that all the references by Paul about ‘the law being nailed to the Cross’ [Colossians] or ‘if there had been a law given that could have given life than righteousness would have been by the law. I do not frustrate the grace of God, for if righteousness had been by the law, then Christ died in vain!’ [Galatians, Romans]. Or better yet ‘The law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. But now that the fullness has come, there is no longer a need for a schoolmaster’ [Galatians]. Those who see this as ‘ceremonial law’ say these references are not about the 10 commandments, the ‘moral law’. Hebrew says ‘the law was a shadow of the things, not the real image. Now that the real thing is here [Christ] the shadows are getting old and fading away’. Now, all these references are without a doubt speaking of the ‘whole law’, not just ‘the ceremonial law’. The New testament flatly teaches that believers are not under the law. And when it says ‘the law’ it really means ‘the law’! Yet Paul will teach ‘does this mean we go out and kill, steal, commit adultery’? NO! he says now that we are new creatures we have the law of love working in us and we don’t do these things. But there is no doubt he teaches the law having no ‘control’ in the sense that we wake up every day and think ‘now, today my life must be regulated by the rules’. This was a type of legalism that Paul would spend most of his time fighting against in the New Testament. So lets get back to Jesus words ‘for truly I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no way pass, TILL ALL BE FULFILLED’. This verse is not saying ‘the law will never pass away’. It is saying ‘it will remain in force, it will continue to stand as the ‘standard’ of righteousness that will forever be a reminder of mans total inability to live up to God standards. It will even be the ‘the strength of sin’ in a sense [Paul-Romans] that as man looks to the perfect law and character of God, as seen in the law, he will forever be reminded of his utter inability to be righteous in and of himself’. But then, WHEN ALL IS FULFILLED [thru the perfect life of Jesus and his death and resurrection!] then it will ‘pass away’. It will cease to be a means of condemnation by which sinful man can never live up to it. Now Paul will teach ‘is the law sin, God forbid’. In no way am I saying [or Jesus!] that the passing away of the law means man no longer has to live right! Jesus is saying that when he finishes his work on earth, all ‘new creatures in Christ’ will be fulfilling the law by the new Christ nature that is within them. Sinful man will still be under the condemnation of the law, the only way it ‘passes away’ for them is to ‘get in Christ’. You are either under the law [condemnation] or in grace, there is no middle ground! Be assured Jesus said ‘except your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees, you will not enter heaven’. His wasn’t telling the people ‘try harder’. He was saying the standard is so high, no man can do it thru his own works. It will take the divine work of redemption to pull it off. A righteousness equal to the very nature of God. An ‘imputed righteousness’. So in a nutshell Jesus hits on the whole underlying theme of the New Testament, justification by Faith. He in no way is saying ‘see, the law exists along side redemption in the life of the believer’. That my friends would be pure legalism!

(673) JOHN 21 (radio # 604) wow, I have been putting this off for a while! If you go back a few months you will see that I never finished this study. Jesus finds the disciples went back to fishing. As they near the shore he yells ‘did you guys catch anything’? No! They reply. ‘Cast your net on the other side’. Sure enough they fill the net! Notice something, there is another account where Jesus says ‘cast the nets’ and in that story they only cast ‘one net’. Why? Fishing was a tough business. After pulling in and cleaning all the commercial nets it is not easy to ‘cast them all back out for one last try’. So in that story Peter sort of says ‘Oh fine Jesus, will humor you’ and he cast ONE net. What happened? The net broke! [I think I am remembering right? If not this story will still have some meaning]. Here Jesus says ‘cast it’ they do and he fills it. The point is prepare for the capacity that he wants to give you! If he says ‘nets’ [multiple] do ‘nets’. Don’t think ‘fill the building’ here. Think in terms of harvest. The ‘fill the building’ could be part of it, but I think there’s more. Let the Lord direct your ‘casting’. Don’t focus on ‘my church in my city’ only. You often see these appeals on church web sites. It is not uncommon to find a web site on the other side of the world saying ‘come visit our Sunday meeting’. For heavens sake, if you have a web site [interNET] use it to cast to a broad region. Actually teach and interact with the thing! All the ‘virtual community’ are a real community of people. Don’t take a possible few million potential readers and say ‘come visit my building’. Geez! Get the word out! As the disciples get to shore they realize its Jesus and Peter jumps out and leaves the brothers to bring in the nets. Thanks a lot! But oh wait, then Jesus says ‘bring the fish’ and Peter runs down and grabs the net right at the end! Sort of like what Saturday night live used to say about Bill Clinton. He was a nice guy, the type who would offer to help you move the furniture, but when you let your side down you realize he wasn’t really lifting! Peter was a little ‘showboat’ here. Leaders, be careful about arranging your ‘ministries’ around your personas. Are the majority of the funds being spent on broadcasting your gift and image to people? This is not primarily New Testament ministry! Peter tells Jesus 3 time ‘you know I love you’. Most of you are familiar with this story. Jesus says ‘do you love me’ 3 times to Peter. In the Greek Jesus used the 3 different words for love. But don’t lose the context. Scripture does say Peter was grieved that Jesus asked him this 3 TIMES. Peter understood that Jesus wasn’t asking him 3 different things one time each! Maybe Jesus was allowing Peter to work in his own mind for the 3 times he publicly denied him? Maybe we need to say out loud ‘I LOVE JESUS’ to reaffirm to ourselves that if we really weren’t sincere why in the world would we even be doing these things! It’s easy to question all your motives, especially after reading this site! For the most part all you Pastors and leaders I relate to, you guys are real ‘players’. If you didn’t really love the Lord most of you wouldn’t be doing the stuff you are doing, I commend you! In verse 18 Jesus basically tells Peter ‘I am going to give you one more chance. You feel terrible about not dieing for the cause. Your denials of me were done out of fear of loosing your life. The church is going to enter a period of great persecution, many will die for the faith. When you get old Peter you will stretch forth your hands and be martyred’. It’s almost like Jesus said to him ‘don’t worry, I am giving you another chance at it’. I think this scenario is very possible, he doesn’t tell the others they will die like this. As we conclude John’s gospel, let’s recap some stuff. I said earlier that Johns gospel could be called the ‘gospel of sovereignty’. I believe Jesus taught Predestination in this gospel. At least he hits on this doctrine more in this gospel than the others. I think you could also call it ‘the gospel of belief’. There are more statements on those who believe having eternal life than in any other gospel. I think we should not take this lightly. It is common in Christian circles to add a bunch of stuff to the gospel. Many evangelicals preach a type of altar call that says ‘if you think simple belief in Jesus is going to save you, well you got another thing coming’. But simple belief in Jesus does ‘save you’ [Actually Jesus saves you!]. There is a recent resurgence in Reformed theology going on in the Evangelical church. Good stuff on Orthodoxy and Eastern roots also. Studying Patristics. We need to be careful that we don’t stray from the simple offer of eternal life to those who believe! It is all too easy to ‘fall in love’ with a sort of romanticism with all things Orthodox and mix sacerdotalism in with justification by faith! This gospel falls down heavily on the justification by faith side! [I know my Catholic friends will say ‘hey, chapter 6 says this is my Body!’ I don’t want to re teach it here. Go back and read chapter 6 on this study]. So thank God that he so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have Everlasting life!

[The next 2 entries speak on ‘not moving the ancient landmarks that your fathers have set down’. One of the problems with strong ‘back to the bible’ Protestantism is the light regard for the church fathers of the Patristic Period [1st 7 centuries]. So I thought these entries would fit in here!]

(658) OVERVIEW OF AMERICAN CHURCH HISTORY- Let’s do a little overview of my story. When first coming to Texas I had a catholic upbringing but was pretty well ‘lost’. After truly coming to know the Lord I had the privilege of meeting believers from various backgrounds. I knew good Baptists, Assembly of God, Church of Christ and other good Christians. It didn’t take long to see how the more legalistic believers from all the above groups [some more than others] would view the ‘church down the block’ as either a cult or heretical. They would develop these views from sincere differences they saw from scripture over water Baptism, Gifts of the Spirit, Eternal Security and other important doctrines[I had a friend who would point to the statue of Mary in front of a catholic church. It showed other statues of kids kneeling and praying around Mary. He would say ‘Look, Idols worshipping Idols’!] The infighting from some of these brothers was really detrimental to unity in the Church. Many, like myself, would eventually move on in the Christian experience and continue to hold to the historic doctrines of Christianity while rejecting the strong sectarian mindset that can exist in many of these groups. I still see all of the above groups as Christian. I still actually hold to some of the basic tenets of the Baptist church, as well as the assemblies of God. You would even find me agreeing with my Church of Christ brothers on stuff. But for the most part I see many of these differences as divisive. Some ideas are important to discuss, some basic historic truths are worth dieing for! But not necessarily the ones these brothers have argued over. Other believers who have left the more independent churches will eventually become ‘anti Christian faith’ some will view all Christianity from a negative standpoint because of being burned by one of the above expressions of Christianity. As you study Church history along with the Bible you will begin to see the great revolution of the people of God and the reality of Christianity as the major hinge factor in world events for the past 2 thousand years. You can not trivialize the impact that Christianity has had on world affairs. Some recent books written by Atheists have tried to blame Christianity for all the ills of society, while at the same time others atheists will try to say that Jesus and his movement are a farce and have had little impact historically. Hey, you really cant espouse both of these views at once. The simple fact is Christianity has had a major impact on the world. To refute Christopher Hitchens recent book ‘God is not Great’ he tries to prove that Christianity and religion have done no good whatsoever and the world would be a better place without it. He is not honest about the facts. The truth [historically] is that Christianity has been the major force behind the most noble institutions in our country. The hospital system in the United States as well as the University system was founded by the Church. The major scientific thinkers of history have been Christian [or deist]. The majority of the founding fathers of our country were without a doubt Christian. It is common today for our Public schools to focus on Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson or George Washington when teaching on the founding Fathers. And because you will find certain non Christian statements from Franklin, yet he himself still embraced religion. But more from a Deist standpoint [belief in God while not being a Christian]. This small focus on a few of the fathers [there were at least 50 historic figures who would fall under the category of founding Fathers. Some actually started bible societies. Wrote their own version of the Bible and stuff like that] seems to leave the impression that the founding of our country was by men who were ‘fleeing Christianity’. To start a new world free from religious expression. This is in no way true. Most of the early settlers of our country were called ‘Puritans/Pilgrims’. ‘Pure’ from what? From religious expression? They got the name from being ‘Non Conformists’ under Queen Elisabeth’s rule in England. During the reign of Elisabeth England was dealing with the problem of the ‘Non Conformists’. These were the Christians in her realm who were Protestant, and they didn’t feel the ‘Protestantism of England’ went far enough in her reform. The Church of England was ‘too catholic’ for these brothers. So Elisabeth actually persecuted Protestant brothers under her reign, though she herself was considered to be the ‘Protestant Queen’ after her sister Mary, the infamous ‘bloody Mary’ martyred Protestants. You would think the Protestants under Elisabeth were happy, but they weren’t. Eventually Elisabeth would pass a law that told all the Protestant Pastors to keep wearing the catholic Collar on their vestments during ‘church services’. Eventually these ‘non conformists’ would get their name for not wanting to conform to these regulations. So these eventually would flee England. Some to Holland and other areas. Eventually to the Americas. This is the basic moral underpinning of the religious Puritans [pure form of Christianity as they saw it] who founded our country. In this background you will find the idea of ‘Separation of Church and state’ seen. Though our founding documents reference Christ and God many times, yet this phrase comes from a letter during this time. The phrase itself has been used in the hands of strict separatists as meaning something different from the original ideas of the fathers. Our constitution does have what is called ‘the establishment clause’ ‘Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise’ but if you read this in the context of all I just showed you, it is quite easy to see that they didn’t mean society should be free from all religious/Christian expression. But they used this language to protect the church from the intrusion of government interference. These fathers were fleeing England and a Queen who kept telling them to ‘conform to the states standards’. They wanted to make sure no state, not even the new one being founded, would ever tell the church how to run her affairs again. I know the other side [the strict separatists] have a different belief about the founding of the country. But this is simple history, you don’t have the option of changing the facts! This is also why Congress still opens in Prayer. Why the Ten Commandments are still found on the walls of government buildings. Why they still ‘have the gall to have our Senators sworn in on the Bible’! It is quite obvious that the majority of the founding Fathers were not atheists who were founding some new world that would be free from religion! Now, this new religious freedom allowed for the ‘starting of many churches/religions’. You would have the rise of many types of religious movements. The breakaway groups from both the catholic church as well as the protestant church would find new freedom in America. Many of these expressions are the churches that I mentioned at the beginning of this entry! But you would also see the rise of ‘cults’. The first major wave of ‘anti cultism’ seen in this country was the strong resistance in the early 20th century against the metaphysical cults. These are the groups known as ‘unity’ ‘Christian science’ or ‘theosophy’. These groups were seen as THE major threat to Christianity in the first part of the 20th century. You would have scholars from the universities, that were founded by Christians, writing against these movements. Princeton, the university from my home state, was one of the Universities that had these scholars. You would also have a strong anti catholic spirit among some of the writings of these Reformed scholars. These were good men who held faithful to what they still saw [and see!] as the major errors of Catholicism. This backlash and anti catholic spirit was seen in the real fear that Many had when John Kennedy ran for President. Kennedy would have to make it clear that his religion would not interfere with his allegiance to our country. The Pope would have no control over him in matters pertaining to state and government. Some feel this is what was behind his assassination, a strong anti catholic spirit. Of course we know this not to be true, Oliver stone [movie maker] has shown us the truth behind his assassination! [of course I had to put this in!] So this leaves us with a good country, with much religious freedom. This also has lead to the freedom for one type of Christian church to bash another type. Even to view them as heretics! So the Christian church of our country is not forced to ‘love our brother in Christ’ by human law, but I think we could find another law in scripture that supersedes human law! Note- There is a ‘curse’ or judgment that believers bring upon themselves when they view other Christian faiths as in total error or apostasy simply because they are catholic, or traditional. I know and believe there are important differences that still need to be dealt with in love. I believe heresy should be dealt with. But I have seen on too many occasions how Christians ‘use’ their judgment on the traditional church in a way that blinds them to truth. How many times have I tried to show someone that Jesus was not about materialistic living. Though he told his followers he would meet their needs, yet he walked above the pursuits of this life. I would get responses like ‘Oh that’s that old tradition/religious teaching the Catholics teach. Vows of poverty and stuff like that.’ These believers sincerely cant see the major body of truth in scripture dealing with the warnings of money because they grasped an idea that all the Catholics or traditional churches are simply wrong. Proverbs says ‘don’t move the ancient landmarks that your fathers put down’ we need to be careful that our view of ‘those deceived Catholics’ is not a blind spot [or should I say log!] in our own eye! NOTE- If you think about it, the effect of the founding fathers writings, our constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Who would have thought these ‘documents from a revolution’ would have had such a major impact? Even today it is considered ‘heresy’ to question the Constitution. Is it a ‘living document’ that changes and grows with the times? Some conservatives will burn you at the stake for saying this! I believe a reason for the influence of these writings can be attributed to the same ‘idea’ as Paul’s letters. Paul wrote most of the New testament. These letters were not ‘university papers’ that Paul spent hours pouring over in some library. These were ‘documents from a Revolution’. Things written during a time of major world upheaval. The instituting of Gods rule thru this new King called Jesus! Writings produced from a Revolutionary mindset. I think we need to get back to laying everything down for this cause once again. We are living and writing from a ‘safe’ harbor. This explains the tremendous lack of authority in the things we are communicating!

[this is a section from entry 584- very long entry!] This diabolical social experiment that Berg thought would surely justify his sexual indiscretions did not work the way the family thought. While there are obvious problems with ‘organized religion’ we have to make sure we are not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Many of the old churches have carried the true gospel of Christ for centuries before us. Scripture says we ‘shouldn’t remove the ancient landmarks that out fathers have set down’. This speaks of being very careful when we critique older religious churches that have been serving God for centuries. There were many ‘Jesus Freaks’ that left the old time churches of their fathers and have done well, they are still serving God and have never went back to the old church model. Others have gone back and even become ‘part of the old church’. But regardless of where you find yourself today, you must be careful that the things you think are ‘just religion making me feel guilty’ aren’t really things that the bible says are wrong. Many people ‘feel guilty’ because they are guilty! The way to get over the guilt is to receive Gods forgiveness and ask him to help you ‘sin no more’.

(649) Let me pick up a little on the history/purpose of the church and kingdom. As the fledgling movement of Jesus followers were launched out after Pentecost, they went everywhere ‘preaching the word with signs following’. Gods ‘plan of salvation’ if you will included more than simple evangelism. Now, simple evangelism is very important! Some liberal trends of the social gospel of the early 20th century saw the importance of social action and would neglect the need for redemption on an individual basis. As the early church ‘preached the Word’ people in these areas of hearing would believe and thru baptism become outwardly marked as Christ followers. They were literally called followers of ‘the way’. Early believers were not setting up separate Christian social clubs that they called ‘local church’. They were the actual tabernacle that God would dwell in! As Paul will address the letters to ‘the churches’ he was addressing ‘the actual believers’ in these communities, not some separate ‘group’ that were defined by having a Pastor/Priest who was functioning as the ‘under shepherd’ in a way that each city had ‘the church I belong to’. You ‘belonged to’ the believers and the lord Jesus that were present in the community in which you lived. They were all ‘local church’. The Kingdom would be an outward reality of Jesus manifesting his works thru them as his body. The work of evangelism [making new citizens of this Kingdom] and the sending out of these new citizens [ambassadors] would go hand in hand. The church was present in society to impact and affect it for change. Social justice was a major part of the ‘prophetic voice’ of these ‘new people’ who were inhabiting the planet! They weren’t ‘starting churches’ in the sense of setting up ‘lecture halls’ so people could come and ‘do church on Sunday’. As time progressed [lots of time!] Christians in our country would begin seeing the need to ‘preach the gospel of the Kingdom’ and emphasize the importance of the church having a voice in society. You would find a funny dynamic taking place. Many of the strong independent church movements would get a hold of a ‘Kingdom message’ and without realizing it begin imitating both the ecclesiastical structures and programs of the ancient church! In essence many of these Protestants were rejecting the historic expressions of Christianity as seen in the Catholic Church, and then adopting the name ‘Bishop’ and building cathedrals [Atlanta] and begin impacting society in a way that Catholics have been doing for centuries. In essence they were seeing the need for a kingdom message and then mixing it in with their ‘501 c 3 Christian organization’. This would lead to the appeal for money from all the ‘rebellious Christians who are not tithing’ so the ‘church’ could fulfill her mandate to impact society thru ‘the church’. The better perspective [in my view] is to see the great reality of all of Gods people, under the headship of our high priest Jesus, to go forth and be the actual vessels whom God is using to touch the world. The simple strategy of Jesus to empower and entrust the Kingdom message with all who believe. To a degree the Catholic Church had the most influential ‘Kingdom church’ ever! In the sense of ‘institutional church’. After the fall of the Roman Empire [loss of power and influence] the Catholic Church would at one point in history become the sole arbiter in all things pertaining to religion and human govt. The ‘Kings of the earth’ would appeal to her to speak into the ongoing conflicts in the history of man. So in a strange way the 20th century ‘reconstructionists’ [Protestant ideas on the church being very involved in human govt.] were just babies in the sense that our catholic brothers ‘have been there and done that’.

(635) Yesterday morning I got up early and prayed a weekly prayer that includes the nations. Part of this time goes like this ‘Lord I pray for all religions outside of the covenant of your Son. All Jewish people, that they would see Jesus their messiah. All Muslim people, that you would give them signs and prophetic visions and dreams to show them Jesus is the way’. Then this morning I had a dream that family members were converting to Islam. That they were being ‘attacked’ or influenced by the ‘spirit of Islam’. In the dream I felt helpless against this force. We went to sleep [in the dream!] and I awoke [still dreaming this] with a radical spirit of intercession. I began praying and breaking the power of Islam off of the family members that just a few hours earlier seemed to be fully lost to Islam. I felt this dream spoke to the effectiveness we have been having recently with Muslims. These last few weeks have given opportunity to share with a homeless Muslim Iraq war veteran. Good friend. Then a Muslim friend from England started conversing with me and asking how to become Christian. He is reading this site! It never dawned on me that these were fruits from the prayer time! Like I said before, I can be dense at times. Let me cover some church history. I have had someone argue with me about the history of Islam. Not a Muslim, but a Christian who was saying ‘why do you say Islam started in the 7th century, it started around the 11th’. My answer was ‘Muhammad lived in the 7th century’. Not to hard to see this. So I thought I should cover some history. During the time of the rise of Islam, the Christian church was already dividing from east and west. After Constantine [4th century Roman emperor] consolidated the Roman Empire in the 4th century he set up the capital city of the eastern empire, Constantinople [named after him]. As time progressed the western church would take on the form of Roman Catholicism, the eastern [Constantinople area. Modern day Turkey-Istanbul] would be known as ‘Orthodox’. Though the official split of eastern and western [Catholic-Rome!] churches occurred in 1054 AD, yet the division started years before. The official split is called ‘the great schism’ of the 11th century; it would not be until 500 years later that the church would have her ‘reformation’. The official reason for this split was over a rather silly thing. For centuries the Catholic church had an expression that said ‘the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father’ than they included ‘he proceeds from the father and the Son’. Well the eastern brothers didn’t like Rome telling them what to believe and used this as the official reason to ‘have the schism’. To be honest the divisions were coming for years. After the Roman Empire consolidated under Constantine, he tried to strengthen the eastern territories of his empire and for centuries you had the struggle for which region would be the most influential. At first you had 5 major areas that were divided under 5 main Bishops. As time went on the argument would be ‘which bishop has the most say so’ and it was really a power struggle. Finally Rome said ‘the bishop of Rome is the FIRST AMONG EQUALS [a term that many in the Protestant strain of the discipling movement would later embrace] he holds Peters seat’ and this is really where the divisions started. Eventually Muhammad would rise and Islam would take control of the eastern capital. This later became the reason for the crusades. The Catholic church wanted to regain the territories that she lost in the east. The eastern churches are very much Catholic in many ways. They also hold to a view of Christianity that sees man being ‘joined’ with God and becoming pleasing to God thru Christ’s grace uniting with us and making us like him. A perfectly scriptural view, but a different emphasis from the strong intellectual power that you read about from the western fathers of the church. The Catholic church is noted for her social action in ways that the eastern church is not. So both of these communions have good things to bring to the table. The Orthodox [eastern] churches would not be affected by the major social and political upheavals that took place in the west. The Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment had major impacts on western Christianity, while not affecting the eastern church in the same way. During the 13th century you would have ‘pre reformers’ rise up in the western church. John Wycliffe, the great Catholic Priest who was at the center of learning in France would become known for his translating the scriptures into the common language. Then you have John Huss and John Knox [3 Johns, scripture says 3 fold cords are not easily broken!] who would have their own influence in western Christianity. At this time you had whole movements of believers who would be seen as neither ‘western or eastern’ but restorationist [the restoring of the early practices and beliefs of the church] Peter Waldo would be the Father of the Waldensians and in the 12th century you would have the Albigenses in the south of France. These groups would be looked upon as ‘cults’ [though the term was not used yet] by the traditional church. So you can see how the church has been growing and reforming ever since the first century. Even though we see many divisions that exist till this day, there are strides being made for unity. The eastern and western church are very close to‘re uniting’ once again. While I do not personally hold to the doctrine of the Pope being the occupier of Peter’s seat, I also see him as a Christian man who is striving for unity in Christ’s church. Some believe the whole attempt for outward unity is futile. The more ardent Protestants see it as ‘the one world church of the anti christ’ I reject that language out of hand. Well I hope you got something out of this short overview of world history [real short!].

(645) Many years ago I would teach and preach many of the concepts that you read on this blog. At the time I had Pastors who were friends and co laborers in ministry. At times as I would learn and grow in my understanding of church, I would sense a feeling of ‘is John saying I am wrong’! Sort of more of a defensive thing. Older believers would feel like ‘John doesn’t really see the modern office of Pastor as a New testament office’. Today there are many movements and expressions actually operating in many of the ideas that I spoke about. This is not to simply say ‘I told you so’ but to show how we often [we meaning preachers] judge truth from a defensive posture. The same with tithing. Most good men think ‘tithing can’t be wrong, I have done it for years. All the Pastors I know, the great men of the faith teach it, how can it be wrong’! Most men view it from ‘how will this affect the income of the organization [what they see as church]’. All defensive postures. These same men will never question all the well meaning Catholic Priests of the 16th century who were totally uprooted by the truth of the Reformation. The modern Pastor will simply say ‘well, truth is more important than the security of all those Priests and Catholic churches. If the truth of Luther disrupted the whole function and flow of the well meaning churches, then so be it’. Now, I do agree with this to a degree, but then these same brothers will judge the ‘modern reformation of the practices of local church’ from the standpoint of ‘it is disrupting things too much’. They don’t use the same standard that they apply to the Catholic brothers of the 16th century!

(630) JOHN 19 (radio # 602) The reality of redemption! I want to stress the fact that Jesus actually dieing on the Cross and really shedding his Blood for us is what saves us. No spiritualizing here! Over the years I have seen and read how believers in an attempt to ‘see’ the deep truths of God will sometimes fudge on the real Blood of Christ redeeming us. Let’s make it clear, the New Testament teaches that it was the real Blood of Jesus and his death on the Cross that saves man. Now, were there spiritual aspects to it? Sure. But don’t ‘spiritualize’ the death and real shedding of Blood. Like the recent reproof we did on some who taught that Jesus was not the Messiah, so here we warn that his Blood really saves. I remember reading one of the founders of the Word of faith movement, E.W. Kenyon. He would eventually teach that the ‘death of Jesus [physically] didn’t touch the sin issue’ he would then teach that it was the ‘spiritual death’ that saved us. Then teach that Jesus was the ‘first born again man’ who was separated from God and ‘born again’. The New Testament teaches Jesus was ‘the first begotten from the dead’ meaning the first to rise from the dead to never die again. Not the first person to ‘be born again’! Later on you would have another famous Word of Faith brother teach the same thing. I don’t know why we have to always ‘see deeper’ than the plain truth? I guess it offends the natural mind to believe that Jesus physical death and separation from the father actually redeems man. I do believe Jesus ‘went to hell’ I don’t teach the ‘hell’ being a separate place called ‘paradise’ that was really like heaven. It would seem strange for David in Psalms to say ‘thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [paradise] nor suffer thy Holy one to see corruption’. It just seems to fit as being ‘hell’, not ‘paradise. But I also believe it was the real death of Jesus on the cross that saves us. He really died and really shed his Blood and it was really finished when he said ‘it is finished’. Jesus will also say to John ‘behold your mother’ and tell Mary to go home and live with John after his death. Catholic apologists use this to defend their belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary. They say ‘if Mary had other natural kids, then it would have been offensive in Jewish culture for Mary to not have gone and lived with them’ good point. But heck, I defend our Catholic brothers an awful lot. Let me defend the Protestants a little. It is also possible that Jesus strong teaching on putting the spiritual family before the natural one might have played a role here. This could be the beginnings of the strong family mindset that you will see playing out later in the book of Acts. True believers living and sharing as strong [or even stronger!] than natural families. Also we already taught how Jesus knew that John would outlive the others. Even Jesus brother James, one of the lead apostles at Jerusalem will be martyred. Maybe Jesus knew [maybe!] that committing Mary over to Johns care was a more long term thing than handing her over to his brothers? We also see Nicodemus openly follow Jesus in this chapter. He is the first of the Pharisees to confess Christ openly. Later in the book of Acts we will see ‘Pharisees who believe’ but most times leaders are the last to repent and change positions. Why? Well some of it has to do with the whole persona of leadership. With this calling comes a type of character that says ‘I preached it, any one who disagrees is simply persecution’. While there are times when this is true, there are also times where God calls leadership to new levels. Some get it on it early [Nicodemus] others later! [some never!] Be part of the early group. I forgot to mention we also see the Jews appeal to ‘King Caesar’ as opposed to King Jesus. They will tell Pilate ‘we have no King but Caesar’. They hated Caesar. The whole Jewish nation were treated like 2nd class citizens under Roman rule, sure they benefited from ‘Pax Romana’ [the peace of Rome] but they hated to be living under an occupying govt. Jesus told them earlier in this gospel ‘you refuse my testimony of who I am, yet you will accept the testimony of another’s name’ some feel this is a reference to anti Christ. I think it fits in good right here!

(626) -EMERGENT STUFF. Let me explain ‘Emergent’ a little. Some of you guys have no idea what this is, in a nutshell that’s one of the ‘problems’. Not so much that all Christians need to know about this movement, but the movement has a tendency to be a little ‘ivory tower’ isolationist. A lot of theologizing among intellectuals while by passing the ‘nuts and bolts’ stuff. Grant it, they intend to do this on purpose to some degree, but I think they are getting a little too experimental for me. Now, when I first read on this movement I liked the trend towards simple church, the challenging of the ‘way we do church’. There are a whole bunch of radicals like me who see church as a real lived out thing as opposed to ‘going to the church house’ [UGHH!]. It was this part of ‘being Emergent’ that I liked. As I have read a bunch of stuff these last few months I have come to see the war raging in the blogasphere between the ‘Anti Emergent’ and Pro Emergent groups. As you read all the comments I have made you will see there are obvious times where I had to openly disagree with some of the trends. While I believe homosexuality is a lifestyle that scripture sees as sinful, I also do not believe we should discriminate against gays. I also see the point of being open and discussing the ‘pro gay’ side of whether or not gays should be ordained. I think if you are open and honest about it, you would see that they frankly shouldn’t be serving in positions of leadership in the church. We should recognize and not stigmatize people who struggle with this lifestyle. We should help those who struggle with this lifestyle. Those who have a radical agenda to promote it, well I think Christians should disagree and have the freedom to disagree! But when it comes down to it, there is enough scripture and church tradition [AND!] that should lead us into a view of what’s right or wrong. Some in the emergent debate seem to have all the characteristics of being open and willing to hear both sides, but then seem to never come to any firm conclusions. Hey, ultimately we do need some answers! That’s where the other problem comes in. Some feel we really can’t know the answers! This is where you have the Chuck Colsons and others come out openly and fight the movement. I like Chuck, I have disagreed with him in the past. I kinda see Chuck as embracing the ‘pre evangelism’ philosophy that says ‘until you change society’s worldview, you can’t really present the gospel effectively’. Sort of like because we live in a postmodern culture, so we need to do battle on the field of ideas and establish the fact that there is ‘true truth’ [some have flipped over this statement] before we can present truth. I actually disagree with this. I think Paul nailed it down in Galatians [chapter 4?] when he said ‘after the fullness of times was come [what fullness?] God sent forth his Son’ if you read it carefully, you see the ‘fullness of time’ as describing the whole period of Old Testament law. God gave man an ‘age’ where he instituted, in humanity, a basic philosophical underpinning of right and wrong. This was law. Since Jesus [fullness of times] all mankind [postmodern, pre modern and every other group!] have been ‘victims’ to the power of the presentation of the gospel. It truly is the power of God unto salvation. You might think you need to go to great lengths to convince people of right and wrong and ‘true truth’ but according to Paul, the ‘pre evangelism’ stage is over! Now, there is some merit to Apologetics and dealing with stuff like this, but the point is God went out of his way to redeem man, the early church had a simple way to present the gospel in ‘a nutshell’ and we need to see it as the answer to peoples needs. We can’t get lost in thinking we have tons of ‘pre evangelizing’ to do before we present the truth [the real true truth- I hope you guys know I’m kidding a little here!]. So Colson fights the Emergents over knowable truth and to be honest the Emergents seem to be saying at times that you really can’t have the final answer. I commend their willingness to be open and invite everyone to the table of ideas, but ultimately we have to eventually come to conclusions. Like the guy in the movie ‘Office Space’ and his ‘jump to conclusions mat’. The debate on ‘penal substitution’ [whether or not God was punishing his Son in anger and wrath when Jesus died on the Cross]. Over the years while reading church history and theology, I have come to see how smart scholars have proposed different ‘ideas’ on Redemption. If I remember right C.S. Lewis, in his famous ‘Mere Christianity’ mentions the different ideas on this. I thought he said we know that Jesus death redeems us, but how it happens we don’t know. Hitting on this idea of differing views of Redemption. Some scholars say we really have multiple choices on the ‘theory’. I think scripture makes it plain. I think Penal Substitution is the plain answer. Isaiah 53 says ‘it pleased the Lord to bruise him’. Some say ‘this is an outrageous idea, how can God punish an innocent man for others crimes!’ some very influential scholars say this! Well, the answer is in the great mystery of the incarnation. God became man so he as man [Jesus] could bear the sins of man. In a mystery that is impossible to explain ‘God was just, and the justifier of those who believe’ [Romans]. At least Paul saw the ‘philosophical’ answer to how a just God could punish his own Son. I realize some great scholars have espoused different ideas like ‘God ransomed man back, as opposed to being the kidnapper’ and they show the ransom idea as opposed to the penalty idea. I see these as both true, not conflicting theories. God ransomed man back to himself, not from satan who now ‘owned them’ but Jesus death ‘saved man from God!’ [his own just wrath- as R.C. Sproul puts it]. So ransom and penal substitution go hand in hand. I don’t want to go on here, I just wanted to show you how we can be open to hearing all sides, but there are final truths that we need to know. We should help all people, we should not discriminate against gays any more than the good old bubba who cheats on his wife every now and than. They are both sinful! We need to be merciful to all sinners [after all we are very familiar with this camp!] but also tell them the truth in love. Contrary to Colsons ‘pre evangelism’ they are dieing to hear the gospel right now! Note; Let me explain my theory on why we do not need to do ‘pre evangelism’ to the extent that Colon sees it. When people reject truth, even as a whole society. That ‘rejecting’ in and of itself is actually sin. Thomas Aquinas [the great 13th century Doctor Angelicas of the Catholic church] said it was possible for man to come to the truth of God thru the study of the natural sciences, but it would take a very long time and only a few could attain it. Therefore God gave us revealed truth so we can quickly see the truth of God without going to great lengths to find it. If we live in a post modern society that rejects the basic premise of ‘knowable truth’ than we live in a willfully ignorant world, much like the world that Paul wrote about in Romans chapter 2. Willful ignorance of the truth of God is not some modern plight, it was around in 1st century Rome. Most adherents to the Colson doctrine seem to see post moderns willful ignorance as a different kind of willful ignorance. The kind that the simple preaching of the gospel can’t really undo! A sort of special class of rebels! My belief is the power of the gospel [Romans 1!] has the power to ‘undo’ this willful ignorance in a millisecond! Hey, you would be surprised at how powerful the gospel really is. It, my friend, is what I call TRUE TRUTH!

(623)In the last entry we showed how it can be dangerous for independent churches, no matter how big or influential they are, to really get off track doctrinally. In Hagee’s view, he grasps the doctrine that Jesus was not the Messiah to Israel. Others also embrace a dual covenant idea [see note at bottom] they see the scriptures in Romans about a remnant of Jews who are still with God, and see that as saying there are Jewish people who are still in covenant with God outside of the New Covenant [a view by the way that Charles Taze Russell embraced, the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses]. Most theologians view the remnant as those who have embraced Jesus as Messiah. Like the writer of Romans and all the original Apostles. Even John who would later say ‘he that denies Jesus as Messiah is anti christ’. So the fundamental flaw is this view sees the remnant as being outside of Messiah, while scripture shows them to be in Messiah. Over the years I have seen believers who would start their walk with the Lord and then after a while be introduced to the broader Christian community. Like myself I see all the traditions of Christianity as a real part of this mystical Body of Christ that we call ‘the church’. Some are so excited to find the hidden treasures contained in the study of church history that they eventually become Orthodox or Catholic. They see all the great stuff of the past and join the great traditions. I personally don’t go that far. While I do see merit to this argument, I feel the 1st century church as seen in scripture was a much more organic form than the later development of traditional church. I don’t see the later development as ‘devil worshippers’ as many Protestants do, I see them as true Fathers of the faith with many good things to contribute to the community. I want to espouse the idea that from the development of the Lords supper we can see in microcosm the trend that the Orthodox/Catholic church took as she moved away from Organic church. When Jesus instituted the ordinance of the Eucharist, he told the disciples that from now on when you do this [do what?] that you show his death till he comes. You can almost take it like he was saying ‘as often as you get together [organic community] and eat the fellowship meal, you will be a symbol of the spiritual reality of the truth of all believers feeding and living off of the actual life that is in me’. Not so much a liturgical thing, but more of a spiritual thing. Sort of like saying ‘no more Passover meal, but instead a true sharing of my life as seen in community’. Now, if you read 1st Corinthians 11 you will see this play out. Paul tells the church at Corinth that when they were getting together for these meals [which are actually called ‘love feasts’] that some were eating and getting full and drunk while others were not even getting any food. A far cry from the liturgical thing! This section of scripture also is important to understand the mistaken idea of church at ‘the church building’. Our English bibles say ‘when you come together in the church [ouch!]’ it is easy to read ‘in the church’ as ‘in the building’! Actually ‘in the church’ means in the corporate get together. When believers meet corporately they ‘are the church’. So right off the bat you can go down the later road as seeing the ‘church’ and the ‘Eucharist’ as liturgical, while it is not! As you read the chapter you see Paul saying ‘as you come together [church!] you are disrespecting the great reality of Jesus being the bread and us being the ‘eaters’ or receivers of his life’. He is the bread of life! [John’s gospel]. Now, the reproof is ‘you are disrespecting Christ’s Body [the other believers in the assembly!] by doing what you are doing!’ He reproves them in the context of community. He is not speaking into the later development of liturgical Eucharist! So, as you read the New Testament you see this truth all thru out its pages. Paul referring to all the believers as ‘church’. Never once addressing the ‘Pastor of the church’, but instead all the brothers in the city! He actually tells the church at Corinth ‘you have a brother in open sin, when you all come together [as a communal group] deliver him over to satan for the destruction of the flesh’ he isn’t addressing a Priest or Pastor or Bishop. He is telling ‘the church’ to do this. So as time goes by you have the early development of church and offices and liturgy as a sincere reaction to the fear that the church would apostasize if she didn’t have a strong ‘magisterium’, a teaching authority that could say ‘this is true, this is false’. The well meaning development of strong liturgy was a natural out growth of seeing church this way. At the reformation the Protestant church dealt with important issues, but really didn’t change the way we ‘do church’. The Protestants just replaced ‘the Priest’ with ‘the Pastor’. All good people on both sides, just not what God originally intended. So today you are seeing the idea of church as the strong liturgical communion being challenged by many ‘communal/organic’ ideas of church. A return to the original model [some think ‘model’ is too strong of a word]. But in this whole debate, you also find good men, who have ‘discovered’ the church fathers and all the great wisdom of the Mystics [Christian spirituality] and they cling to liturgy as a welcomed communion as opposed to the truncated independent rebels! These ‘ex Protestants’ are doing a service by re introducing the themes and practices of the early church. But the ‘real early church’ as seen in the New Testament was not liturgical! The above example from the Lords table shows you this. So as we continue to either ‘reform’ or ‘restore’ [those who see a return to the early practices of organic church can be seen as restorationist as opposed to ‘reformists’] we want to embrace and understand the ancient practices of the church, like popular writer Tony Jones speaks about [One of the key leaders in the Emergent church movement] but we also want to use the actual New testament as the most pure form of ‘early church’ [John has clarified his belief on the dual covenant, he has stated that he does not believe in dual covenant. But he seems to have not rejected the idea that Jesus is not the Messiah to Israel- as of 5-08].

This fits in a little with the last one. As I read and study on ‘emergent church’ stuff, I see some good stuff [ortho-praxy; the living out of Orthodoxy] and some bad stuff. I must disagree loudly on some ‘bad stuff’. Classic liberal theology had strains in it that denied the doctrine of ‘Penal Substitution’. The teaching that Jesus was being punished for the sins of the world [or for the really reformed, the ‘world’ of the Elect!]. Some have actually described Penal Substitution as an evil doctrine that a just God would never be a part of. I of course see the doctrine of Penal Substitution as the only hope for mankind! A Christian can’t have a different view on the substitutionary death of Christ [at least in my way of seeing it!]. I know some challenge the way we see things. They feel Evangelicals need to be more open in the discussion. The point is, if you become a ‘flat earther’[ someone who believes the earth is flat] you then don’t say ‘we have different flat earthers, some believe the earth is round’. There are certain basic things that all Christians believe. If you want to have a differing view on Jesus paying for the sins of man on the Cross, you can have that view. But if I really believed the earth was round, why in the world would I want to be accepted by the ‘flat earthers’?

(610) As you can tell by now, I like to jump around a lot! Recently I have been studying various movements in Christianity. To some degree people would define me as ‘Emergent’ that is I challenge the way we practice church. I have been doing this for years. I have also seen some in this movement who challenge the ‘myth of the Cross’ [ouch!] and historic Christianities content. Just thought I would let you know I do not align my self with this part of being ‘Emergent’.

(597) Just outside praying, nice and cold! A few days after Thanksgiving and its nice. Had a thought. We have a tendency to excel in the paradigm that we are given. We have so many talented young men [Pastors] who we graduate from college and put them ‘into the ministry’. They often excel beyond their ‘fore fathers’ in advancing the ministry. Usually they do it in the current ‘framework’ of building centered church. The idea that ‘to excel’ means better ways to do ‘Sunday church’. More innovation, new technology, a ‘jet set’ ideology that goes further and faster than the ‘old time’ guys. All of this is okay to a degree. I think it would be better if we instill the idea of ‘church’ into the next group of leaders as being various communities of people whom you will implant the gospel into and the people themselves become ‘church’. A highly mobile community of people on the move for God. You can have ‘on line campuses’ [which, by the way, I feel are really on the cutting edge of ‘new paradigm’. We often speak in terms of ‘new paradigm/ new wine’ but are really just speaking of doing church in different ways in the same old auditorium mindset!] free flowing ‘open air’ [parks] groups. Meeting in clubs [bars!] on a weekday. Making ‘church’ available in all new types of ways. We can still have the old cathedrals, our eastern orthodox friends, and yes, even a good Old Catholic church! Hey, I like getting in on a Mass every now and then. You would be surprised how ‘prophetic’ the traditional scripture reading can be! My point is we need to ‘re think’ our approach on ‘how to do church’ in this next century [millennia!] Jesus spoke of ‘new wineskins’, as believers we need to ‘divorce’ ourselves from the marriage relationship that we have with ‘going to church on Sunday’. It’s time to expand the paradigm! NOTE; Let me say this. Recently I have had some good conversation [interaction] with a very popular orthodox writer. Most theologians would know his name. I realize that when they first come to our site, we LOOK STRANGE! Many of these guys are very uncomfortable with ‘dreams, visions,…’ and stuff like that. At the risk of offending all my charismatic friends, I confess that out of all the ‘theological communities’ out there, I like Reformed theology the most. I consider myself ‘non denominational’ for the most part, but have found reformed theology the ‘most likeable’ if you will. NOTE; in the ‘Emergent conversation’ I think the danger is in ‘the conversation’. We have a tendency to ‘talk things to death’. I too am guilty of this. The hardest thing for believers is to transition into ‘the doing’ aspect. There is a ton of good teaching out there right now on the church transitioning into this new paradigm, but I feel there really aren’t enough ‘doers’. Jesus said ‘look on the fields, they are ready to harvest. But there aren’t enough doers’. I don’t want to sound self righteous, I too am guilty! I just thought I would throw this in.

(598) I am going a little ‘theological’ today! In the ‘Emergent conversation’, as well as just ‘the conversation’ there are questions about the Kingdom versus the ‘Church’. When Jesus sent the disciples out he told them to cast out devils [demons] heal the sick and proclaim ‘the Kingdom of God has been here’. I see the Kingdom being expressed and manifested wherever Christ’s ambassadors are journeying at the time. In these areas where the gospel would spread certain groups of people would ‘submit’ to the message of the King. The outward sign of this submission was baptism. Those in the surrounding areas knew who these subjects of the Kingdom were, they were ‘branded’ if you will, with the ‘mark of the Kingdom’. Now, these cities [Ephesus, Corinth, Galatia { a group of cities}] would become ‘out posts’ of the Kingdom on earth. The ‘church’ [Ecclesia] in these areas were actual territories of people in whom the King would dwell and have expression thru. From these ‘local churches’ [groups of believers residing locally! Get the idea of a 501 c 3 organization out of your head!] Others would eventually go out and establish ‘new outposts’ thru the proclaiming of this good news [of the Kings reign!]. This organic thing we call ‘Ecclesia’ was the natural outgrowth of the Kingdom in the earth. The scholar N.T. Wright says the Kingdom message was really a proclamation of the Kings reign thru the lips of the Apostles. In essence they weren’t just preaching ‘get saved and join a ‘local church’ but were saying ‘the Kingdom has been inaugurated, submit to the King while you still have time!’ I like this! So today you have ‘regions/groups’ of people on planet earth who are ‘citizens’ of this heavenly Kingdom. The fact that the Spirit of God has taken up residence permanently in these groups of believers shows the ‘long term’ thinking of the Father when he started this thing! There most certainly will be a future aspect of this Kings great entry back into the planet, at that time all will see the outward reality of the fact that the King has been alive and well for a few thousand years [or more, depending on when he returns]. But make no mistake about it, the Kingdom of God has been invading this planet ever since the King took his seat of authority and vested the church with this authority by the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost. Be assured that ‘the Kingdom of God has come among you’.

(599) Let me talk some on why I align myself with reformed thinking. After I first ‘got saved’ I became a student of scripture. Within a short time I read the New Testament. I simply saw the passages dealing with Predestination as meaning ‘Predestination’ in the classical sense [Augustine, Luther, Calvin, etc…] .I was then taught that this belief was heresy! So I rejected it. The Baptist Pastor who said that this was ‘hyper Calvinism’ meant well. I would eventually see that believing in Predestination was not heresy. Many of the churches greatest theologians have believed in it. Many groups of Christians have embraced it thru out the ages. I most certainly am one! Now, I am very familiar with the arguments for and against this doctrine. Paul knew about the arguments against it. He actually takes the ‘Augustinian’ view in his defense of this doctrine in Romans [I know Augustine got it from Paul!] the simple fact that Paul, in his defense of this teaching, would actually not defend it from an Arminian view, but from a Calvinistic one, show’s you that he believed it! This really doesn’t take a genius to see [though it takes some basic level of thinking!] So any way I thought I would throw this out there being I have already come out of the closet as being Reformed. To be honest the passages that lead me to this belief, before I was even aware of any historical anything, were the verses in Ephesians from my old King James bible. They make it very clear that Predestination not only speaks of being Predestined to conformity into Christ’s image [which Arminians bring out] but that Predestination most definitely speaks of a chosen group of people [the elect] as being predestined before birth unto the adoption of Sons. I always found it strange why Arminians, who are most certainly good brothers, would use the argument that Predestination refers only to those who accept Jesus and are ‘predestined’ to become like him. It takes only a surface, one time reading to see that Predestination speaks of this as well as what I just showed you. Many modern defenses of Arminianism [or semi Pelagianism- wow I really let the cat out of the bag now!] seem to overlook this simple fact. I can’t explain all the ramifications of this, neither could Paul! And the fact that he even said he couldn’t, proves it to be a biblical doctrine! [I blame any recent correspondence with Scot McKnight for this entry!]

(600) I do not feel like writing today. I want to be very honest with you guys. To have a history like I have had, struggling with things thru out my life. It might sound like a good testimony, but make no mistake about it, to have made bad decisions thru out my life has played a toll on me. Don’t think you can dabble in rebellion with out it affecting you! Now, why am I here right now? This last week I took a break from getting with my homeless friends, it was thanksgiving week and I spent time updating this blog. I wound up interacting with a very famous Orthodox scholar. I ‘accidentally’ went to his sight ‘Jesus Creed blog’ [great site, go check it out!] and meant to give my blog to him, I sent it on a comment section and realized it posted to all his readers. I didn’t mean to do this! After an hour or so they took it off the blog. I don’t blame them! We are a little radical for a bunch of orthodox brothers! But I guess the Lord wanted it. Let’s talk a little about the communion of the saints. I feel that protestant/independent Christians make a grave mistake when they view the older church traditions as ‘those deceived traditionalists’. Our brothers and sisters who are either Orthodox or Catholic are truly believers. They have come to the table with things to contribute. We often view them in a wrong light. It is common to hear ‘they practice infant baptism’ or ‘iconography’ [inclusion of art in worship] and to think ‘wow, what a bunch of idol worshippers’. Not realizing that they have come to these beliefs with much thought. Now do I agree? No. But I see how they have come to this belief. Infant baptism [pedo baptism] for the most part was seen as the New Covenant sign of dedicating children to Christ. Sort of like the rite of circumcision in the Old covenant. Those who were circumcised as infants were certainly not aware of what was going on, but God initiated it as a rite to introduce infants into his covenant. So certain new covenant believers saw infant baptism in this same way. Does the New Testament teach this? Probably not, but the Jailer in acts 16 got baptized ‘with his whole house’. Were there younger family members in this? Possibly. Did they all know the doctrines of Christian faith before their baptism? I doubt it. So the possibility of younger family members being baptized can be argued from scripture. Do I believe in infant baptism? No. But I can see how other Christians can believe it. So we shouldn’t just assume that our Orthodox/Catholic brothers are all deceived! It works like this with a lot of stuff. The historic church is really the ‘Father’ [or mother] to a lot of us today. Where did we get our bible from? Whether you like it or not, the Canon developed out of the ancient church. The reformed brothers say ‘we have a fallible collection of infallible books’ the Catholics say ‘we have an infallible collection of infallible books’ hate to say it, but the Catholics are right! Do I believe in the Apocrypha? No. But the truth is God most certainly used the historic church to give us the bible. Protestants who say ‘the bible was simply in existence and the church recognized it’ don’t understand history! God most definitely used the church, thru divine guidance, to give us his word. You can’t get around it. To think that ‘a bible’ was circulating in the first few centuries, like we have today, is simply historically inaccurate. God used his people to get the Canon together and deliver it to the rest of the church, no bones about it! The church is the pillar and ground of the truth, Paul did say this in the New Testament. So today, we have a beautiful people of God, made up of all types [denominations] of believers. We should strive for the unity of the church as Jesus taught us in John 17. We should avoid the mindset that simply looks at all of our brothers and sisters as being lost or deceived. Do we have differences? Yes. Are there important differences that have meaning. Yes. The Protestant reformation didn’t happen in a vacuum, God had real truth that he wanted to bring forth at that time. He brought it forth. As the church progresses in to this next millennia we need to honestly evaluate where we are at, and also see where our brothers and sisters stand. I am not one of those who think returning to orthodoxy [Frankie Schaffer] or Catholicism [Newman – or more recently Frances Beckwith] is a viable alternative, but we need to at least see them as viable Christian communions. Let’s not approach it like George from the Seinfeld episode. He was going to convert to Greek Orthodoxy so he could date some girl. So he goes down to the Greek Orthodox Church and meets with these 2 Priests. As they are testing him for his conversion, they ask him ‘why do you want to be Orthodox’? He answers ‘I like the hats’ to the dismay of these 2 Fathers who are wearing these pontifical looking hats! NOTE; The justification for the use of Art in worship comes from the fact that God himself allowed the use of actual images in worship right after he gave the restrictions on graven images in the 10 commandments. He gave Moses instruction on making images of Angels that would be over the Mercy seat in the Holiest place in the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was the central piece of furniture for worship in the Old Testament story. Also God will instruct Moses to make a Brass serpent and put it on a pole and have the people ‘look at it as an image of Christ’! Jesus of course uses this story In John 3 with Nicodemus. So in both of these cases images were used with Gods permission [Explicit permission!]

(598)I am going a little ‘theological’ today! In the ‘Emergent conversation’, as well as just ‘the conversation’ there are questions about the Kingdom versus the ‘Church’. When Jesus sent the disciples out he told them to cast out devils [demons] heal the sick and proclaim ‘the Kingdom of God has been here’. I see the Kingdom being expressed and manifested wherever Christ’s ambassadors are journeying at the time. In these areas where the gospel would spread certain groups of people would ‘submit’ to the message of the King. The outward sign of this submission was baptism. Those in the surrounding areas knew who these subjects of the Kingdom were, they were ‘branded’ if you will, with the ‘mark of the Kingdom’. Now, these cities [Ephesus, Corinth, Galatia { a group of cities}] would become ‘out posts’ of the Kingdom on earth. The ‘church’ [Ecclesia] in these areas were actual territories of people in whom the King would dwell and have expression thru. From these ‘local churches’ [groups of believers residing locally! Get the idea of a 501 c 3 organization out of your head!] Others would eventually go out and establish ‘new outposts’ thru the proclaiming of this good news [of the Kings reign!]. This organic thing we call ‘Ecclesia’ was the natural outgrowth of the Kingdom in the earth. The scholar N.T. Wright says the Kingdom message was really a proclamation of the Kings reign thru the lips of the Apostles. In essence they weren’t just preaching ‘get saved and join a ‘local church’ but were saying ‘the Kingdom has been inaugurated, submit to the King while you still have time!’ I like this! So today you have ‘regions/groups’ of people on planet earth who are ‘citizens’ of this heavenly Kingdom. The fact that the Spirit of God has taken up residence permanently in these groups of believers shows the ‘long term’ thinking of the Father when he started this thing! There most certainly will be a future aspect of this Kings great entry back into the planet, at that time all will see the outward reality of the fact that the King has been alive and well for a few thousand years [or more, depending on when he returns]. But make no mistake about it, the Kingdom of God has been invading this planet ever since the King took his seat of authority and vested the church with this authority by the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost. Be assured that ‘the Kingdom of God has come among you’.

(601) These last few years reformed theology has made a strong resurgence back into the Church. A few years back, the President of the Southern Baptist convention, Al Mohler, was a noted Calvinist. Mike Piper, a very popular Baptist preacher is also having great influence with many up and coming Evangelicals. I feel some of this is due to the fact that younger believers are really hungry for good theology. They are getting tired of all the motivational stuff. Also, like in my own case, if you see these things in scripture you tend to be drawn towards those who see it like you. It is all too common in the American Church to outright reject the true godly heritage of many of our Calvinistic brothers. Men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield and others who were plainly Calvinistic in doctrine. When a younger believer is taught that they weren’t [like I was taught] it is a great revelation to find out that other great thinkers saw the same as you. I remember when I first read in one of the ancient councils of the church [council of Orange?] I read how many of my own conclusions were the same as brothers who lived centuries before. Or when I first studied the Puritans and realized how many of them were Calvinists. To underestimate the influential people who have held to this doctrine thru out the centuries is really miss guided. Now for sure there are some problems when man tries to logically explain the issues involving Predestination. And I feel that many of these explanations have done harm to the truth of this doctrine. I can’t see how telling people that Jesus didn’t die for them [limited atonement] squares with scripture. Some call this ‘4 point Calvinism’ as opposed to ‘5 Point’. My POINT is we do get into trouble when we try to figure out all the logical conclusions. Some times logic doesn’t work! [Sproul would be mad at me for this one]. So in all our teaching, especially when bringing young believers along, don’t hide the historical fact that Calvinism played a big role in our heritage. It does a disservice to Christian education to tell people ‘Edwards wasn’t a Calvinist’ or for that matter ‘that Finney was’. We need to simply tell the truth about the historic record. Some great men were, some weren’t, no big deal. When you lay out the facts people can come to their own views. When you hide the facts you do a disservice to the work of the Spirit in education.

(389) Let me jump back to a small group of our readers who are from the ‘fundamentalist’ background. A lot of the issues on the Rapture and end times and ‘getting saved for real’ that I deal with is helpful to this part of our ‘on line’ community. One of the other areas that I saw when I was attending a fundamental Baptist Church was the inability to see or accept the fact that some of the ‘heroes’ of the faith were not like them. Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield and other great revival leaders who were part of the historical great awakenings of this country were presented in ways that were intellectually dishonest. The Pastors didn’t mean to be ‘dishonest’ it was simply a result of the sectarian mindset that works within this group. The church I attended described classic Calvinism as ‘hyper Calvinism’. The above preachers all believed in classic Calvinism. They honestly held to the historic doctrine of predestination as taught by the Apostle Paul. Now the groups who do not hold to ‘predestination’ in the classic way are called ‘Arminians’. Most of the Evangelical church in America fall into this group. The point is when the ‘fundamental Baptists’ spoke on these historical preachers they taught that they were all like them. They would say ‘some are trying to teach that Edwards was a hyper Calvinist, we no better than to believe this’. The fact is Edwards was actually a ‘hyper Calvinist’. The point I am making isn’t to debate the different positions of the fathers of the faith. Whatever side you fall on is up to you. But no matter how you believe, this doesn’t give you the right to distort or misrepresent history. To some of the brothers the simple reality that there were great heroes of the faith who actually believed in ‘hyper Calvinism’ was too much for them to handle. This grows out of being insecure and sectarian in your faith. In order for believers to be able to embrace the other parts of the church that they are unfamiliar with, there needs to be a basic security of accepting the fact that others are not like you. You can still teach about them and the historic movements that they were a part of, but to deny the reality of what they taught and believed does a disservice to true Christian learning.

(602) Let’s delve into some stuff. In the discussion with my Orthodox friends, there are real differences. But in order to dialogue, Evangelicals need to see beyond their own mindset. While many Evangelicals today would reject ‘Sacerdotalism’ [sacramental salvation, a view of Sotereiology that incorporates the sacraments into salvation] many are also unaware that this belief existed in the minds of the great reformers. Especially Luther’s view on the Eucharist, as well as infant baptism and the remission of original sin! I found it funny how the Baptists, in an effort to be strong on Justification by faith, would kind of find ways to explain away the verses that seem to teach that water baptism has some role in salvation. Acts2:38 ‘repent and be baptized every one of you for the remission of sins’ [I think it’s there, I am too busy to even check it out!] The Baptists would do cartwheels trying to get around this. I have a way to explain it, if I have time I will! The point is there wasn’t a totally honest approach to some of these verses. Peter again will say ‘the like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a pure heart towards God’ [somewhere in Peter. I like the way the writer of Hebrews does this ‘somewhere it is said’. He also didn’t look up the verses!] The Baptists would also explain these texts in ways that seemed to get around the text. ‘Well, we know water cant wash away sins’ Peter knew it too! He actually states it in this verse. This fact doesn’t answer the seeming ‘sacerdotal’ meaning of the verse. I even found it funny that the Baptists would quote Paul during water baptisms ‘buried with him in baptism, raised to walk in newness of life’ and not even see that applying this ‘baptism’ verse to water baptism is in itself sacerdotal! I believe the baptism spoken of by Paul in Romans is primarily the baptism of the Spirit placing us into the Body of Christ. Paul’s primary revelation was deeper than Peters. Peter will even say in his epistle that some things from Paul were hard to understand. There seemed to be a growing reality amongst the apostolic leadership of the first century that Paul was ‘seeing’ at a higher level. Some have developed this a little too much. Marcion would eventually develop a cannon based solely on Paul’s writings. The Protestant church has leaned heavily on Paul, while the Catholics on Peter. I see a prophetic significance to this. Now, I believe most of the baptism verses from Peter are dealing with water baptism, most of Paul’s with Spirit. I do not explain away, or spiritualize the water verses and say ‘it’s talking Spirit’. The main verse from Peter [acts 2:38] can be said to be speaking of an aspect of ‘salvation’ that deals more with ‘remission’ than ‘forgiveness’. The Greek word can mean both, but it is a little more than just basic forgiveness. My King James, which I quoted, says ‘remission’, newer ‘models’ say ‘forgiveness’. Don’t mean to split hairs, but there’s a reason for my madness! I feel it is perfectly in keeping with Paul’s theology to see Peter as saying ‘all who have just heard this gospel, if you get baptized, you will ‘sin less’. In essence ‘sins [actually doing them] will be removed. You will live better’. Now, I don’t want to be guilty of ‘explaining it away’ either. I believe it’s possible for Peter to be looking at a different timeline, a more surface understanding of ‘remission’ than Paul. Paul seems to see things from a longer trajectory both past and future. Paul is seeing the work of the Spirit baptizing before the actual ‘work of the water’ baptizing. How can Peter say ‘those who get baptized in water will have sins remitted’? Well he is seeing things a little later on the timeline. Possibly a few seconds later, but later. Peter didn’t know all the ramifications of legal justification like Paul. He did know that Jesus told him to go and baptize. He knew that those who believed and got baptized would ‘sin less’ [remission]. No need to twist all of Peter’s baptism verses into Paul’s way of seeing it. Paul was focused more on deeper stuff in salvation. Another difficulty with believers seeing this is a limited view of soteriology [doctrine of salvation]. Salvation in the New Testament is a much more fluid concept than we grasp today. Evangelicals have a tendency to see it solely on terms of the initial act of conversion, while the New Testament is much broader. The Catholic Church sees the communal aspect of Gods grace being present in society to ‘infuse’ grace, thru the sacraments, into society at large, and thru this making salvation a reality to all people. They see the church herself as a divine sacrament in the earth. Now, I don’t think Protestant’s are as far away from Catholic/Orthodox Christians if we can see some of this stuff. For a Baptist minister to tell a new convert ‘you are now justified, but you need to be baptized so you don’t ‘backslide’ [sin less] and for Peter to say ‘get baptized so you can get sins remitted [sin less]’ might not be as much of an obstacle as we have made it! NOTE; Some of the explanations of Acts 2:38 [wow, as much as I am quoting this, you would think I would go make sure I am quoting it right!] said Peter was saying ‘be baptized for [because of] the remission of sins’ that Peter was saying ‘because you have just accepted the Lord [at some hidden altar call!] now get baptized’. Or later in Acts ‘rise up and be baptized, washing away your sins’ speaking of Paul’s conversion. I think the best way to see it is like the way I just showed you. It seems obvious that early Christians saw a connection with water baptism and ‘washing away, remitting of sins’ but many believers try to interpret everything from the current context and damage scripture while doing it. These verses can all actually be saying ‘wash away, remit sin’ without referring to the act of legal justification that is the foundation of Paul’s teaching. Paul says ‘I thank God I baptized only a few of you guys [Corinthians] Christ sent me not to baptize, but preach the gospel.’ Paul has a deeper thing going on. Some dispensationalists try to ‘explain away’ the Peter verse by saying ‘Jews need it, Gentiles don’t’ and then go into the dispensation of works and explain that the ‘work’ of water baptism saves under the law dispensation that was existing for Israel and will ‘pick up again’ at the beginning of the tribulation. I see this also as silly. The first century church [and Judaism] connected ‘ceremonial/sacred’ cleansing in some way with their faith. In the gospel it says some disciples had a question over cleansing, speaking of baptism. John the Baptist ‘baptized for the remission of sins’ now, I can show you the whole thing on ‘Johns baptism’ versus ‘Christian baptism’ but that would be doing too much! Later on in church history you will see how many restorationist movements [church of Christ, Christian church] also saw water baptism as a restoration of truth and incorporated it into their understanding of salvation. The Baptist brothers would at times view them as a cult over this! Besides the Pentecostals down the road who were going to hell because they spoke in tongues [or didn’t believe in eternal security!]. I believe all of these brothers are Christians, hey they believe in Christ! I guess that would make me a liberal ecumenical heretic that believes in the one world church? [I felt like saying ‘if that’s true than I will at least be with all these brothers in hell’! But Christians get too uptight when you kid like this]. I believe the answer is in coming to the table with grace and humility. Don’t look for reasons to exclude people, but to include them. God’s revelation of himself tends to lean towards inclusion, not exclusion! Peter learned this lesson in Acts 10. NOTE; just to make sure you understand me, I believe a person is born again at the moment of belief. Prior to anything else. Even the ‘sinners prayer’. If I had the time I would show you how Romans 10 is not saying a person is saved [justified] when he asks Jesus into his heart. To see the word ‘saved’ as justification by faith would contradict the verse. The verse says ‘with the heart man believes unto righteousness [justification by faith] and with the mouth confesses unto salvation’ once again Paul’s point is if scripture says ‘whoever calls on the lord will be saved’ shows God is not partial. He ‘saves/delivers’ all who call, not just some. But in this argument he says ‘how can they call [pray] unless they already believe’? He just said all who believed were already ‘saved’ in the justification ‘sense’. So once again the fluid concept of Salvation is not seen because every time we see ‘saved’ we think of the initial act! So any way I guess I just explained it. So to me, the moment you believe you are born of God. God himself divinely deposits the ‘gift of faith’ into you, you don’t ‘choose to get saved’. He births you into his family and you are raised from the dead spiritually at that instant. Baptism in water is the outward sign, that also ‘remits’ sin in the same way you would tell any convert ‘obey God and you will grow in sanctification’. I know it’s a little stronger than this, but hey, that’s the best I can do. NOTE; by the way, seeing the word ‘saved’ in this more fluid context helps with all the other difficult passages. James ‘see how a man is saved by his works and not faith only’. I wont explain it now, I will try and just ‘cut and paste’ that entry [the one where I explained this] along with this entry, and put them under the section ‘REFORMED STUFF’ on this blog!

(257) Lets go back to an original thought. I want to throw this out to our intellectual readers. The whole idea that Paul wrote Hebrews, and specifically chapter 11 as a way to bring the truth of Justification by faith to the Jewish church is what I want to propose. If you read Romans and Galatians you see Paul’s entire argument for justification by faith as seen in the Genesis 12, 15 story of Abraham. When James teaches Abraham in the book of James, he is primarily seeing the view from the story of Abraham offering Isaac on the altar [Gen 22?] James is seeing ‘actual, experiential justification’ Paul is seeing ‘judicial, declarative justification’. Paul says ‘God declares you righteous at the moment of faith, before you ever see it actually working out in the life of the person.’ James doesn’t contradict this, but James says ‘look at Abraham, when God declared him righteous [Gen 15] he eventually became what God declared! [Gen 22. Actually doing right things, offering up his son]. Now where most Christians [including theologians] miss it is when they try to bring these 2 truths together. They usually say ‘what James is saying is active faith saves you, not works’. If you read James carefully he is not saying that! He actually says ‘see how a man is saved by works, not only faith’. I believe the truth is James is seeing God declaring a person righteous when he actually does a righteous thing. Now this can get hard, but in Paul’s view Abraham became justified in Gen 15, true. And in James view when Abraham actually did the work of obedience, God also said ‘well done, you did good!’ In essence God has the sovereignty to declare you ‘right’ whenever he wants. Now we know the only reason a person can ever get to the point of ‘doing right’ is because he already passed the point of ‘being declared right’ [Gen:15 versus Gen:22]. It’s just that the Jewish church was emphasizing the ‘actually righteous’ part, where as the gentile churches were focusing on the ‘believing and being justified’ part. No contradiction, just seeing at a different timeline. This is also one of the main areas of division between the Protestants and Catholics. Luther was seeing the Gentile view [Romans/Galatians] the Catholics were seeing the ‘actual’ view [James]. The Catholics actually called Luther’s [and Paul’s!] view ‘a legal fiction’ they said Luther taught a man can be legally Justified without ever showing it. Luther really didn’t teach that, but he did say once God justifies you, it’s not up to your works to save you. Many don’t realize that Luther also strongly believed in predestination. All the major reformers did as well! Now you read Hebrews 11 with this in mind. All thru the chapter Paul is saying ‘look, all these heroes of faith acted by faith. They actually did works of righteousness by faith. They ALL obtained a GOOD REPORT [declared right!] by faith’. Read this chapter with this in mind and you will now see the whole point of the chapter. It’s Paul’s treatise of ‘justification by faith’ written anonymously to the Jewish nation. Here my friends is the solution to the problem. This view bridges for the first time [I believe] the whole problem of the book of James and the epistles of Paul. It also helps bridge one of the major divisions in the church today. Take this and run with it! NOTE; Luther called the book of James ‘a straw letter’ and at one point thought it should not have been added to the canon, though later he did include it in his bible versions! Also Paul includes Rahab the harlot as someone that was justified by faith, showing it didn’t matter how many sins you have committed in the past, if you believe you too will be justified.

CHAPTER 11: [took this chapter from the Hebrews commentary, thought it would help]

‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, FOR BY IT THE ELDERS OBATINED A GOOD REPORT [JUSTIFIED]’ This is the key verse to the chapter. Paul will go on to prove that all the Old Testament figures that ‘pleased God’ did it by faith, and not by works! ‘Through faith WE UNDERSTAND that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear’ Faith is not ‘blind’. It informs and gives understanding. This understanding is real! Let me show you what I mean. All of the universe and creation had a beginning point. Science did not always know or believe this. Today science teaches this. It is called ‘the point of singularity/density’. Science has traced back the origins of all things and has found scientific evidence to prove that all things had a ‘beginning point’. Now if you were to ask science ‘what did you have right before the beginning point’? They are stumped. Some of course believe in God and will boldly proclaim him at this point. To the others they can not answer this question. Why? Because they realize, thru science, that matter is not infinite.

Some have theorized that either all things always existed [which science has now disproved] or that at one point nothing existed [which science also teaches that if this were true then you would have nothing today. You can not get something from nothing!] So all true science has gone back to this ‘point of singularity’ and can not see what is right before ‘the point’. The Christian ‘sees’ God at this point! He ‘understands’ that by necessity there has to have been something that existed before creation, science teaches this. This something can not have been created also, because then where did the ‘being’ who created ‘it’ come from? So science teaches us that whoever got the ball rolling [Saint Thomas Aquinas calls this the ‘prime mover’] had to have been preexistent/ self existent in order to have done it. And we know that creation couldn’t have done it by itself, so therefore all reasoning and understanding leave us at the philosophical point of ‘there had to have been something/someone who existed forever in order for anything to be today’. So now you see how ‘by faith we understand that all things that now exist were brought into existence by someone who we can not see’. FAITH UNDERSTANDS!

As we go thru the rest of this chapter I want you to focus in on all the references of justification by faith. You will be surprised [I think?] on how many examples Paul gives to Israel from their own history [his too!] on God justifying people by faith. I will also try and show you [if I remember] how this chapter links the division between Paul’s epistles to the gentiles [Romans, Galatians] with James letter to the Jews. James was one of the lead Apostles at Jerusalem [Acts 15] and the Judiasers who were always accusing Paul of preaching grace in a way that justified sin, they came out of Jerusalem. James and Paul were rivals in a sense. James had the difficult job of overseeing the Church at Jerusalem, who had all the Pharisees who believed, while Paul was preaching this radical message of grace. This is why James’s letter [book of James] focused so much on faith and works. James was seeing the Genesis 22 account of Abraham’s justification when he offered Isaac on the altar. James will say ‘see how Abraham was justified by his works’. While in Paul’s letters he focuses on the Genesis 15 account of Abraham believing God and being made righteous. James was not contradicting Paul; he was showing the actual outcome of the life of a person who was previously justified by faith. James was saying ‘When God made Abraham righteous [Gen 15] he later actually became what God made him!’ [Gen. 22].

Now when Abraham would later do righteous things, he only did them because he previously had faith in Gods promise. But the fact still remains that when Abraham did a righteous act, God still justified him [in a sense, God has the prerogative to say ‘good job son, I am pleased with you’ so this can be described as an act/function of justification]. Well, now that I already showed you all this, I guess I wont have to remember telling it to you later. The point is in this chapter Paul will go down and show all these examples of Jewish leaders acting by faith and doing righteous deeds. This sort of bridges the gap between the strong emphasis on faith in Paul’s letters, with the strong emphasis on works in James letter. Paul is telling Israel ‘yes, all the old saints did do good works that pleased God, but they did them by faith!’ ‘Faith without works is dead’ [James]. So in a sense this single chapter bridges one of the key divisions in the early church between Jerusalem and Antioch [Acts 13 and 15]. Note; I believe all the chapter references above are correct, I write all this from memory so you might want to go back and double check the references. I know all the stories are right.

‘By FAITH Able offered …by which he obtained witness that he was RIGHTEOUS…by FAITH Enoch was translated…he had this testimony that he PLEASED GOD…without FAITH it is impossible to PLEASE HIM [all these ‘please him’ references are like saying ‘being justified’ when a person is justified by God, God sees him as acceptable, pleasing. ‘Thou art my beloved son in whom I am well PLEASED’ God to Jesus!] By faith Noah… prepared an ark to the SAVING of his house…and became heir to the RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH IS BY FAITH [wow, he makes this one real plain] By faith Abraham…went out into a strange land…and sojourned’ interesting, both the aspect of ‘going out to a new land’ and ‘staying in it when you get there’ are both functions of faith. Let me throw in some practical stuff here. Over the years of ‘doing ministry’ I have seen and been a partaker of both of these experiences. Sometimes it takes an act of faith to uproot us from familiar territory and move on to the next level. And do you know what can happen next? The enemy will try to intimidate you once you get in the land of promise, and tell you ‘you cant stay here, look at all the people who hate you. Look at all the mistakes you made’ and it often takes an act of faith to STAY IN THE LAND. Don’t leave the land of your destiny; all true leaders will go thru both of these dealings.

‘For he looked for a city which hath foundations [Jesus is the foundation of this city!] whose builder and maker is God’ All of these great heroes of the faith were looking forward towards a future promise of being in Gods true church, the ‘City of God’ the Bride, the Lambs wife. Paul shows Israel that this 1st century appearing of Messiah was for the purpose of Israel coming into the ‘new land’ the Body of Christ. It is important to see this. There are many preachers today who are treating natural Israel as in if everything is just fine. It isn’t! They need Christ as much as the Muslim does. God was telling Israel ‘come into this new city’ [New Jerusalem versus Old Jerusalem] he wasn’t appealing for them to stay in ‘old Jerusalem’ and be a ‘completed Jew’. [I know this sounds harsh, but I want to emphasize to all my evangelical friends that Jews need Jesus, they play a special role in Gods plan, but ultimately they need Christ!]

‘Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed’ it takes faith to produce spiritual offspring! It might look impossible, but with God all things are possible. ‘Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky and the sand by the shore’ sometimes God will allow you to bring forth one ‘seed’ [person or act of ministry] and you will be surprised how much fruit can come forth from this singular effort. This is why it’s so important to simply hear and obey God. Often times in ministry we do tons of ‘leg work’ which is OK. But when God gives you an idea or mode of function that you weren’t even thinking of, go with it. These are usually the ‘little seeds’ that produce the great harvest! ‘THESE ALL DIED IN FAITH, NOT HAVING RECEIVED THE PROMISES’ I want to emphasize here that it is possible to live your whole life in faith without actually seeing the fulfillment of all that God has told you.

Now faith does obtain promises [verse 33] but sometimes we also see things many years down the road and we must realize that the measurement of faith is not whether or not you are currently getting the actual promise. In the above [and below] verse’s we see Abraham and Sara being told that their offspring would number in the millions. They believed these promises, but it is obvious that they didn’t live to see it fulfilled, but they sure knew that after they were gone it would come to pass. So I want to exhort you to believe to see certain things fulfilled in your life time, but have some greater goals that you initiate while here on earth, knowing that after you depart they will be fulfilled. ‘And truly if they had been MINDFUL of the country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned’ what is Paul saying here? The greatest threat to the gospel taking root in the Hebrew community was the desire to go back to old law and culture. How many believers ‘revert’ back to an older form of church simply because they missed the old culture and ‘feelings’ that they had when they were younger? Many of the Jews would not go all the way with the gospel because they were ‘mindful’ of the good old days of law and sacrifice.

I just watched a show the other day that told how even some gentile believers began celebrating certain feasts of Israel with their Jewish neighbors. While it is good to understand and see the significance of the feasts, yet we know Paul wrote the early believers and said ‘you observe days and times and feasts, and I am concerned about it’. So when we [or 1st century Israel] are ‘mindful’ of the ‘good old days’ then there is always a danger of going back! ‘By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac…of whom it was said in Isaac shall thy seed be called. Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure’ Abraham exhibited characteristics of the Father [God] as well as Isaac being a type of the Son [Jesus]. It’s interesting that these verses show that Abraham knew for a fact that God was going to give Isaac millions of children, Abraham also knew the voice of God so well that when he ‘thought’ he heard God say ‘offer up this boy’ that in the mind of Abraham, the only way these 2 things could be reconciled, is he came to the conclusion ‘I guess God will have to raise him up, being he has told me this boy will have millions of children, plus he is telling me to kill him’. Most of us would not have come to this conclusion! We would have doubted either the original promise, or said ‘surely this can’t be God telling me to offer Isaac’ [most likely we would have doubted the latter!].

There is a real important reason for Abraham to have been a real man of faith. God wanted this ‘picture’ of the offering up of Isaac for a type of the Cross and Resurrection. The only way he could have shown this example was to have had someone so radically filled with faith, that he would have come to this conclusion of ‘well, I guess God will just raise him’. It was necessary for the figure to have been truly fulfilled. It took Abraham many years of hearing and believing God before he would get to this stage. The part of Abraham’s mind that said ‘God will just have to raise him up’ was important for the figure to truly work. God knew he could only bring someone to this conclusion by arranging the whole scenario around a person of faith. It truly took a real person of faith to have come to the conclusion of resurrection as being inevitable! [For Abraham to fulfill the type of God, he had to have been convinced beyond all doubt that after he offered up his son, that he would be raised again. This is exactly what the Father [God] believed and knew about his own Sons death. So not only did Isaac fulfill the type of Jesus in this story, but Abraham also fulfilled a type of God!] [NOTE; Today is September 22, 2007. Israel’s Day of Atonement. I just heard a brother preach on the feasts of the Lord [I have done this also] but he preached it in a way that said ‘because God said you were to observe these feasts perpetually, therefore all gentile believers need to start observing these days’ he added ‘I know Paul taught the law passed and all, but these feasts are supposed to be forever because God said so’.

How are the feasts ‘perpetual’? Thru the fulfilling of them in Christ! Paul makes this plain all thru the New Testament [as well as this letter!] I was surprised to hear the brother preach that the first 2 feasts [out of the 3 main ones] were fulfilled and memorialized, but the 3rd one [Atonement/tabernacles] has yet to be fulfilled! What? Jesus fulfilled Passover and Pentecost for sure, and they are still being ‘fulfilled’ God is still bringing people in thru the blood of Christ and the Spirit is continually being poured out on people, and of course the ultimate reality of our atonement thru our high priest is a daily reality [he ever lives to make intercession] that is ‘fulfilled’ all the time[ I understand what the brother meant, that both Passover and Pentecost were fulfilled at the Cross and the day of Pentecost, and Tabernacles still has a future fulfillment. That Jesus will ‘ingather’ all peoples to himself at the end. The way he said it was in a way that he said Atonement, the beginning of Tabernacles/booths, still has to be fulfilled. It really came out badly!] I just thought it worth noting that today is natural Israel’s feast day, and we hold this feast in reality 24/7!]

‘By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of pharaohs daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, then to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward…by faith the harlot Rahab perished not…’ I want you to see that faith in Moses situation caused him to forsake great riches and leave a successful future. This is in keeping with all the times Jesus called people in the Gospels ‘forsake all and follow me’ mentality. We too often equate the ‘treasures of Egypt’ with following Jesus; the scripture puts a different spin on it! Also Rahab ‘perished not’ because she ‘believed’. Paul teaches in Corinthians that those who believe are ‘being saved’ and those who don’t believe are ‘perishing’. I want you to see that Paul is really making a theological argument for ‘being saved by faith’ in this chapter. Even a harlot can be saved! Wow. The law seemed to have no mercy on someone like that!

‘Who thru faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, stopped the mouths of lions…women received their dead raised to life…others were TORTURED not accepting deliverance…others had mocking and scourging and bonds and imprisonment, they were stoned, cut in half, were slain with the sword… being destitute, afflicted, tormented…they wandered in deserts and mountains and dens and caves of the earth, ALL THESE [both the ones who shut the mouths of lions as well as the one’s who were tortured without deliverance] OBTAINED A GOOD REPORT THRU FAITH, AND RECEIVED NOT THE PROMISE’ Faith does not always cause you to be better off in this life. I am very familiar with all the verses of God blessing us and providing for us ‘the blessing of the Lord it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow to it’. I believe and claim these verses just like the next guy. I also don’t want to tell people ‘give your life to Christ and all will go well’ did it go well for the ones who were tortured not getting delivered? Sure did. It went well the moment they saw the face of God. The same for those who were cut in half. It also went well for the women who received their dead raised to life. The point is ‘going well’ is not always defined by your outward circumstance.

We must see the overall biblical worldview of all things here being temporary, while all true spiritual riches are eternal. Moses actually was ‘less rich’ by the choice to follow Christ. But he was ‘more rich’ in that he fulfilled Gods purpose. It is important to see that many of these great heroes of the faith died without fully seeing the promise in this life. Now the last verse does say ‘that they without us should not be made perfect’ and this does show that the promise is now fulfilled thru Christ. We have all become recipients of eternal salvation thru Christ. The Old Testament patriarchs have ‘found that city’ in that we are all now members of the great ‘City that comes down from God out of heaven’ we are all in Christ today, even our Old Testament brothers who had faith. The point is don’t always measure a persons faith by their outward wealth and condition. James rebuked this idea in his epistle, he taught us not to show partiality to people who were rich while despising the poor.

When believers see faith only from the standpoint of outward things, they are missing the true riches. Jesus taught that all these outward things were not the true riches; I am surprised how many believers spend so much time hoarding and storing things that will all pass away some day. Let’s close this chapter on a good note. Paul has offered Israel all of their Old Testament heroes as an example of being justified by faith. He is saying ‘look, all the great fathers of the faith pleased God, just like you have said and taught for ages. I am declaring unto you they were all ‘justified/pleasing to God’ by faith, not law’. Therefore if you want to follow the example of Abraham and Moses and all the other wonderful fathers, then you too MUST BELIEVE!

(473) Yesterday I watched a few Catholic services as well as a few Protestant guys. The Lord did speak to me thru the Catholic Church more so than the others. I share this to let you know I am not too proud to receive from any Christian church. Now the other day Pope Benedict ‘clarified’ some things from Vatican 2 [the council from 1962-65]. In this council the Catholic church made a big step towards Christian unity. It for the first time acknowledged other Protestants as ‘separated brethren’ in this statement the church was not teaching that all Protestant churches are viable ‘churches’ it was simply saying they recognized these Christians in these churches as ‘separated Christians’. That is separated from ‘the one true church’. Now Benedict simply clarified this, and many are saying he is going back from the changes that were made in Vatican 2. So I just thought I would ‘clarify’ this as well. Why do Catholics, as well as other Protestants, do this? In the world of theology it is common to try and trace the natural roots of your communion to the original church. Many do this. To be as honest as I can, if this is the rule for ‘orthodoxy’ then I think the Catholics would win this argument. Why? Because the church in her early stages [1st few centuries] did digress into a ‘Catholic form’ early on. This is not to say that all believers took on this form. Nor is it to say that there wasn’t a ‘remnant’ of faithful believers who stood closer to the original intent of the church. This is saying that much of the historical evidence points to the church as being ‘Catholic’ in its expression early on. This is why you find thru out history famous brothers ‘returning back home’ to the Catholic church. I see all these communions as Christian though I certainly find disagreements in certain areas. Paul tells us in the New Testament to ‘know no man after the flesh’ I see the whole exercise of tracing your churches ‘roots’ back to the original Apostles [Apostolic succession] as fruitless. Scripture tells us that even the early Apostles made drastic mistakes that would be rebuked by Jesus saying to Peter ‘get thee behind me satan’ or later Paul rebuking Peter to his face and calling him a hypocrite. So if the ‘rock’ could have made such historic mistakes, you might simply be tracing your roots back to ‘the mistakes’ which I believe some of us have done. I see the true church as every one who names the name of Christ [Catholic, Protestant, etc.] but I do put the limit on having to ‘name his name’ that is I am not so ‘ecumenical’ that I believe all religions lead to God, this is not true! You must embrace the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the only way to the Father to get in. Well if you are trying to trace your roots, go ahead and trace them to the man whose name is the branch. John calls him the Vine in his gospel. If your ‘roots’ go back to him you will ‘abide for ever’.

(493) It’s Sunday morning. I am watching a few local churches on TV. I caught one of the non denominational guys. Good message [I guess?] a little too much of ‘I am your Pastor. You need to be submitted to me and be under my authority’ he meant well, just doesn’t see the overall view. Basically everything I have taught [and others!] about the office of Pastor and it not being a singular authority position over ANY OF THE CHURHCES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT! I switched to the Catholic mass. They were much more humble. They had a deacon sharing on forgiveness; they then cited the Apostles creed. It got me to thinking about the brother who I wrote on a few weeks ago who said ‘leave behind you the creeds and doctrines’. The contrast between these 2 ways of ‘doing church’ are tremendous. While I do not embrace all Catholic teaching, it is obvious to see that the Protestant brothers meetings were saturated with them. You see their gifts, their abilities. The whole service is really about them. They don’t mean for this to be so, its just the result of ‘doing church’ thru the lens of ‘I am the Pastor, my job is to speak to you every Sunday for the rest of your life. Your job is to come and listen and put the tithe in. Anyone who disagrees is in the camp of those who challenged Moses authority. The earth might just open up and swallow you’. Now, I am being a little sarcastic. The point is ‘church’ is supposed to be the healthy gathering and communing of all believers around the reality of Christ. It was never intended to be a ‘place’ where people are spectators in an audience who are watching others perform. It is very obvious to see how the Protestant church has allowed herself to become ‘personality oriented’ as opposed to Christ being the real center of attention.

(499) The benefit of blogging like this is it allows you to hear God and just write what you hear. When writing a book you really cant jump like that. For some strange reason I just saw a whole scenario of legitimacy that comes from being a child of God and how that relates to family/community. We often see believers as a ‘part of the church’. God does deal with us as a community, as well as individuals. You will find the strong Orthodox/ Catholic brothers emphasize the community aspect of Christianity. You will also see the more individualistic style of Christianity emphasize the ‘individualistic’ aspect. ‘Me and Jesus’ both of these are true. What I want you to see right now is how we often try to ‘de legitimize’ Christians by saying ‘who’s local church are you under? What family do you belong to, you cant function/operate outside of the family. You derive your authority from the family’. Now look at this for a moment. When you are born, you are born into some type of family. It might not be fully functional, but there at least had to have been a mom and a dad at the beginning. Now as you develop you are part of a family. You are part of this family by virtue of your birth. You actually do not derive your life from the family. God created you. But family is vital to your growth and health. As you grow older you learn to depend less and less on the authority figures that God has placed over you. Some times the parents want the children to stay ‘under their authority’ for insecure reasons. The empty nest syndrome. But if the family is healthy the children will eventually launch out. There may be times where the waters get rough and they return for a season, but ultimately they launch. If you were to tell little Johnny ‘who do you think you are leaving us? Don’t you realize that you really don’t have a life apart from us? You were born here, we raised you, everything God has done thru you up until this moment has been in the family context. You leaving us is rebelling against our parenthood over you. Don’t forget what happens when you rebel against us. O well you’ll find out the hard way’ Johnny’s parents are sincerely seeing his role as it relates to them, they don’t fully see or function in the reality that their roles are meant to change over the course of Johnnies life. They sincerely think his step of independence is rebellion. After all they have been ‘over’ Johnnie his whole life. Who does he think he is anyway? Sure enough Johnnie will launch out [to the dismay of his other siblings who tried to launch before and had failures. They later returned back home and thought their failures were a sign from God that they should have never launched] When Johnnie does eventually succeed there is an initial reaction of ‘who needs families anyway, they were just holding me back’ this is a natural result from the way the family tried to hold him past the ‘launch date’. As Johnnie matures he will lose this harshness that he is experiencing at this time. Ultimately Johnnie and a whole new generation of ‘Johnnies’ will grow and leave and become all that God originally intended. The insecure parents will warn all the older children who are still relating to them in co dependant ways ‘don’t do like all these rebels, you know what can happen’ and this reinforces the mindset of never fully growing up. And yet the parents will at times say ‘when are you ever going to grow up?’ not realizing that they have had a big part in creating this unhealthy long-term environment. I feel today we are seeing this play out on a large scale in the Body of Christ. There are so many ‘Johnnies’ who have been told ‘your identity to our family is Gods purpose [true] therefore you really have no authority on your own’ [false]. The authority for both family and Johnnie launching are both from God. They all receive their right to do what God is telling them because they were all born of God. It is easy to only view legitimacy from the standpoint of ‘family’. Not seeing that God originally told the man ‘When you launch out on your own someday [a God given thing] then you will leave your parents and cleave to your wife’ [the wife can be the Ecclesia/oikos that God wants you to relate to as an ‘elder’ as well. While all believers are not ‘5-fold’ ministers, they all are to grow and mature. Becoming an ‘elder’ more mature one who gives oversight to others, is a natural function of your growth] God always intended the oversight role of parents [Pastors/Elders] to be temporary. This launching will eventually create a whole new family, with a whole new home of Johnnies. And the process repeats. I find a lot of believers at the ‘launching dock’ who are fearful to launch. They have seen some launch, and sad to say they drowned. A natural risk inherent in all journeys. These have made ‘shipwreck of the faith’. Others launched and never returned for reunions because they were so mad at the original parents calling them ‘lost children’ when they first left. Ultimately when enough Johnnies do it right then the whole family will see and realize that they were at an immature stage and are now seeing this ‘launching’ as in Gods original plan. Have you launched yet? NOTE: Often times the ‘parents’ [Pastors/elders] find their identity in ‘being parents’ they feel good functioning in this oversight role. They preach, organize, strategize and do many good things. Sometimes out of insecurity they add to their preaching, themes that warn the children ‘don’t ever leave us, it would be a big mistake’ and if they see someone leave, they will often say ‘well, now that you left, who is your new father [Pastor] and which family did you join in order to pay your dues?’ [Tithe]. The former Pastor is trying to say to Johnnie ‘well, you left this nest, you cannot function outside of it’ unless you yourself become one of us [a Pastor] then you have the right to not be under one of us. ‘This is Gods order’. The whole thing can be a big mess. Truly God does have order in his family, but we need to be careful that we are not superimposing a modern way of church, and then calling that ‘Gods Order’. NOTE: It is common amongst ‘apostolic people’[people who feel they hold the office of Apostle] to struggle with ‘who’s local church will I be under’. They often start a 501c3 ministry, relate to other ‘local churches’ and preach a very strong ‘You must be under a Pastor’ type message. They then will struggle with ‘which Local church will be my covering, as I also ‘cover’ many other Local churches/Pastors’ all of this language and covering and everything associated with it is really not seen in the New Testament function of Apostles. Apostles were not people going around ‘covering’ all ready established groups of Christians. The true fruit of an Apostle is someone who has the gift to ‘birth’ communities of believers thru the preaching of the gospel. You never find Paul, ever, telling the new believers to be ‘under the covering of a Pastor’ you do find admonitions to submit to Godly leadership that God has placed in ‘your church’ meaning ‘your community of believers that are around you’. You actually will find references in the New Testament to the ‘Elders of your Church/ Elders of your city’ [i.e.; ordain Elders in every city as I ordained you] so the submission to Elders was the simple ‘growing up stage’ in your life as a believer, until you are mature enough to ‘launch’.

(500) I was watching ‘journey home’ on E.W.T.N. last night. I do like the catholic station. They had a panel of ‘ex-Pastors’ from Pentecostal churches who are now Catholic. It was a good discussion and I do see them as Gods people. One area that I often hear on this show is ‘When I was Protestant/Pentecostal we all had our own ideas of what scripture meant. Without the teaching authority [magesterium] of the Catholic Church there is no true order to what scripture means’. Let me address this a little. I too see the danger of everyone coming up with their own interpretation of scripture. Believe it or not I also believe in the ‘teaching authority of the church’ but I see ‘the church’ as all the corporate people of God from century one until today. Therefore all that the Spirit has communicated in unity to the people of God thru out the last 2 thousand years is ‘the teaching authority of the church’. It is obvious to me, and many other voices [even Catholics!] that the ‘Catholic church’ has things that most believers understand to not be true. If most believers [Even many Catholics] as well as many great reformers of the church, who also were Catholic, if they with one voice disagree with the hierarchal interpretation of the ancient church, then this in itself is a function of the ‘teaching authority of the church [Holy Spirit] revealing truth to and thru the Church [corporate people of God]’. Now I don’t want to get too technical here, and I love my Catholic brothers. But the argument that because there are so many wrong interpretations of scripture, for that to lead a person, as humble and sincere as he is. For that person to say ‘therefore, because of the inconsistencies of my former Pentecostal Pastor friends, I have now come to accept a certain strain of hiearchacal truth. Now I am in truth’ without being offensive, this part of the church [Catholic] have erred in the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception as well as other things. It is not me saying this, but the ‘Spirits witness’ thru the church down thru the ages, as expressed thru her own people [i.e.; the many Catholic reformers who have spoken out from inside her walls]. So to be clear, I love the Catholic people, our only safety to guide us into all truth is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He has surely operated inside of the Catholic Church, as well as all the others ‘churches’ who have spoken in line with the Spirits testimony thru the centuries. The ‘magesterium’ if you will, is the Spirits corporate witness of unity as he has spoken thru the people of God down thru the centuries. The ‘teaching authority’ of the church is not limited to that which comes down from any one ‘part’ of the Body of Christ. God does not ask us to lay down our own moral conscience to accept teachings that in our heart we know are wrong. In many of these testimonies when the Protestant Pastor who has converted to Catholicism is asked ‘how did you overcome your ‘inner rejection’ to finally accept Mary’s role in the Church, and to accept that she was born sinless?’ Many of the brothers simply say ‘I got to a point where I had to overcome my own beliefs [conscience!] and to accept the witness of the ancient church’. This to me is not what God asks of his people. To ‘overcome your inner witness’. Scripture speaks of truth being revealed to us by Gods Spirit as an inner witness. ‘Well brother, then where is the safety mechanism from keeping everyone from going off track’? Well, ultimately it is a function of the Spirit of God working in the people of God [the true magesterium] thru out the centuries. Why does over 90 % of all the church believe in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ? Who has ‘engrained’ this truth into the minds of so many various denominations? Was it a function of the Catholic churches ‘teaching authority’? It was a function of the Spirit guiding the people of God thru out the centuries into all truth. If someone out of fear or confusion relinquishes his own conscience to the interpretation of any ‘institution’ no matter how early their institution began, then you are overlooking the ability of the Spirit, to reveal all truth to all men. I realize that the Catholic argument is ‘the Spirit does this thru the church’ to which I say ‘Amen’, but once again I see the church as all who have seen the father thru the Son. If no man can come to the Father, but by him. Then all who are now in him [all believers regardless of background] are ‘in him’. Therefore all who are ‘in him’ [including Luther, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, etc.] are part of the corporate voice of the Spirit as he ‘speaks thru the church’ down thru the ages. The ‘safety mechanism’ to keep every one from his own interpretation is the ability of the Spirit to speak with one voice thru all of his people. Thus we wind up with over 90 % of all believers embracing the true gospel. Well, what about the other 10%? Well, some who don’t embrace this gospel are in all of the other camps. Catholic, Protestant, etc. Liberalism that denies Christ’s bodily resurrection can be found in all ‘churches’. Therefore the ‘magesterium’ did not prevent their own catholic people from ‘departing from the faith’. All Christians are dependant on the Spirit, as well as the guidance from the majority of Christian voices that have come to us down from the centuries. I include Catholics as well as Protestants in this ‘corporate voice’. It’s humility to be able to embrace this.

(512) 500 years ago the bible was written in Latin. A man named William Tyndale secretly published thousands of New Testaments in English. The ‘church’ saw this as absolute rebellion. It wasn’t just the ‘wicked Catholics’ it was a mindset that began to see as ‘sacred’ something that was once truly used of God. But the church couldn’t distinguish between that which they saw as ‘untouchable’ and the true intent of God. I see the same thing among Protestants today. Many of them see it sacrilegious to challenge the whole idea of ‘Sunday Church’. They see this structure that worked well for hundreds of years, and they cant see that God can operate ‘outside’ of this limited perspective. Many believers were killed if they were found with Tyndales bibles. The ‘institutional church’ came against the organic one in a big way. Today we see our mistakes, and we understand that God is merciful. Those who are fighting against the purpose of God for his Ecclesia really think they are ‘doing God service’. In a few centuries we will see different. NOTE; why do I harp on this issue so much? Some theologians actually understand all the things I have written on the ‘Local Church’ and agree that she was a ‘community of people’ as opposed to what we think today. They believe that maybe it was Gods plan for the church to ‘grow into’ a hierarchal institution as seen in the Catholic/Orthodox church. Some think ‘what the church has become is what God wanted, even though it is not what she was like in the first century’. The reason this is bad/wrong is because one of the most basic truths of Christianity is the believers ‘full access and acceptance with God by faith’ Luther’s doctrine of ‘the Priesthood of all believers’. To then develop an idea about ‘church’ that seems to say to believers ‘you are not legitimate unless you do such and such’ this takes away the heart of the believers right to function and spread the Kingdom by virtue of the fact that ‘they believe’. God chose ‘justification by faith’ I know we usually see ‘justification’ in terms of ‘being saved’ but it carries with it someone who at one time was ‘illegitimate’ and has now become ‘legitimate’. So any so called ‘development’ of an institutional church, that lends itself to the de legitimizing of the average believer, in my view is not what God intended. In essence these ‘structures’ can be a real hindrance to the freedom of all believers, if we use them to declare to Christians ‘you are not under the authority of a local church’.

(525) Isaiah 60 ‘Arise, shine; for thy light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. Darkness shall cover thee earth and gross darkness the people, but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee’ Like we said when we spoke on the kingdom of God, though the world is getting darker, the church gets brighter! We are ‘the light of the world’ the world needs us! They don’t want to admit it, but at the end of all atheism, humanism and every other ‘ism’ there is a void. They will be drawn to the light! ‘Gentiles SHALL come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising’ ‘thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side’ though these verses are Messianic in nature [they speak prophetically of Christ] yet they are also fulfilled thru us, because we are ‘extensions of Christ’ in the earth. We ARE his Body! ‘Then thou shalt see, and FLOW TOGETHER, and thy heart shall fear and be enlarged’ When the Lord is magnified, when his will and purpose take precedence, we FEAR him and are enlarged. We also flow together as Gods people. There is a real sense of your success being found in your brothers and sister’s success. We flow together. ‘In my wrath I smote thee, but in my favor I have had mercy on thee. Therefore thy gates shall be open continually’ in the ‘New Jerusalem’ [the Church] our gates are ‘open always’ people find access to come in and rest in God. But open gates also allow for there to be exit. Not ‘damnation’ here, but a going into all the world to preach the gospel. The people of God are made to find rest in him and be by still waters. Then there comes this churning, this ‘inner pull’ to go out ‘is it from God’ yes! God allows you to have seasons of rest and refuge, and then he calls you to the example of Christ. He compels you to look at the harvest and say ‘here am I, send me’. ‘The glory of Lebanon shall come to thee, the Fir tree, the Pine tree and the Box tree together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary, AND I WILL MAKE THE PLACE OF MY FEET GLORIOUS’ God will bring great diversity [Pine, Box, Fir tree’s] into one corporate function and purpose. We will no more say ‘I am Charismatic’ I am Baptist, I am Catholic, I am this or that. We will truly bring our diversity together and lay them at Christ’s feet. He makes the place of his feet glorious. Jesus washed the disciple’s feet; he was showing that this place of humility and service will be honored in Gods economy. It is the place of value and exaltation. He offers it to all, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of takers. ‘Whereas thou hast been afflicted and hated, I will make thee an eternal excellency; a joy of many generations’ God allows affliction and hatred for a season. Both natural Israel and her Messiah went thru this. We all will partake of it at one time or another; REJOICE when it happens, because God is preparing you for eternal excellency! ‘For brass I will bring gold, for iron silver, for wood brass and for stones iron, I will make thy officers peace’ we often preach and teach ‘for stones you will get gold’ we ‘skip’ the steps! God’s prosperity comes to those who patiently and consistently give and love and work and invest and do many things in stages. These people are not trying to turn stones into gold. They realize you go from stones to iron to silver and to gold. They have realistic expectations on living a consistent life. God will make our ‘officials’ peace. The verse that says let all your requests be known to God and Gods peace will keep your hearts and minds, this speaks of Gods peace being the ‘officiator’ Christians make good decisions when they cast all their care over to God. Gods peace comes in to officiate for us, we don’t have to worry about the next step, we simply need to rest and walk in it as it is revealed. ‘Violence shall be no more in the land, nor destruction in our borders, your walls shall be Salvation and your gates Praise’ this is speaking of a spiritual/heavenly city. God is already showing that his future place of rest, the ‘eternal city’ that needs no light, because the Lamb is the light, God is showing that it is a place where walls and gates are praise and salvation. Not brick and mortar! He will make this place glorious. ‘The Lord shall be the everlasting light, the days of mourning shall be ended Thy people shall all be righteous, they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified. A little one shall become a thousand, a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will do it in my time’ God will extend you and cause all the people you work with to be right. A day is coming where the smallest one [least significant] shall have great influence. He will ‘grow you and your people like a branch thru the earth’ thru the people you bring into the Kingdom, God will allow great influence to go forth. God told Abraham ‘thru your seed shall all nations be blessed’ you are simply the ‘instigator/initiator’ of the thing, it will get carried out thru your spiritual children!

(527) I was reading on a movement of Christians out of Austin who left the concept of ‘church’ as being the ‘place we go to on Sunday’ and have relocated their families to the lower class areas of town. These are Chinese believers who are seeing ‘church’ as community. I also remember reading an article a few years ago on ‘out of church Christians’. The article spoke on why so many people are ‘leaving church’ and addressed a lot of good things. Later in the article the writer then talked about ‘coming back from the wilderness journey into the church’. He still ‘saw’ church as the Sunday meeting. He misread what God was doing. Those who have left the ‘Sunday church model’ are not ‘in the wilderness’ so to speak. They are seeing ‘church’ as the entire community action that they are involved with. This is much different than simply ‘seeing’ the people who are ‘leaving Sunday church’ as disgruntled or dissatisfied believers. The new paradigm [really not new, it was around for the first few centuries] sees the actual community of people as ‘the church’. So for these to then see ‘going back to the Sunday model’ as coming out from the wilderness is not seeing the heart of the movement. I also read the critics who are against the ‘emergent model’. Some feel that they are giving in to liberal trends in theology [I am sure some are] and are fighting against the community model thinking they are ‘defending the faith’. You don’t have to embrace theological liberalism to see this new way of doing church. The first century Apostles were certainly not theological liberals, but they viewed church as community. I just thought I would share these few thoughts today, hope it helped. NOTE; Another interesting fact about the ‘out of the church building’ movement is that the Lord allowed for there to be a whole new way to communicate this truth thru the internet. During the time of the reformation you recently had the printing press invented by Guttenberg. It’s like the Lord opened up a door of mass communication right at the time of him raising up prophetic voices who would speak into the church at large. There were new groups of believers for the first time publishing all these small articles [Tractarians] and these writings were having a tremendous impact on the church. So today you have the availability of the net to allow the ‘common voices’ to speak into the church at large. This is actually part of the concept of the corporate voice versus the singular one [Pastor]. Many home church movements see the teaching of Paul in Corinthians as telling the church to all have an input, not just one main speaker. This is what is happening thru the net. Many voices are being heard. You then of course have the danger that our Catholic brothers raised during the reformation. The Catholics [some] believed if the bible was translated from Latin into the common language there would be all sorts of interpretations and stuff. Some of this came true! You had certain radical people who started ‘Waco’ [Muenster Prophets? If I remember well] type cults during this time. And it was a result of individuals coming up with their own ‘private’ interpretation of scripture. But the answer wasn’t to stifle the church, but to allow all believers to freely read and see the truth of God, despite the danger of a few going off track. So in the world of ‘being on line’ you can see a real revolution take place, are there possible areas of danger? Sure. But overall the internet has become a ‘printing press’ for the modern reformation! NOTE; another result of the reformation was the fact that many new believers would no longer ‘pay tithes’ into the old system. The instigating factor of the reformation was the abuse of indulgences, a money issue! So likewise today you are also seeing the strong ‘tithe or you are under the curse’ versus ‘give to your brothers in need’ mentality. It is only normal for those dependant on the tithe to fight against this. They see all the good things they want to accomplish, and they realize it can’t be done unless so many people tithe. The new churches are getting away from this. They see the actual concept of all Gods people living every day as ‘the church’ to be the real ‘change factor’ in the world. They don’t view the need for lots of money to come into the institution, they see all the people as the ‘institution’ and therefore the act of releasing them into the harvest will have a greater effect than all the money in the world.

(564) DREAM- I just woke up, I dreamt that I was in this room with a Catholic Bishop. We were friends and helping each other out. He was going to go to some nation or place, before he left I laid hands on him and he was being filled with the Spirit. I feel like this spoke to us ministering to a large Catholic community of people. I have both given and received ministry from Catholics. I felt the Lord was saying we would have influence with our Catholic brothers. Sometimes I ‘spiritualize’ these dreams, it might be that a Catholic Bishop was filled with the Spirit while listening to us?

(568) John 6- We see the first miracle of the feeding of the multitudes. It has been commonly taught that this was a miracle of ‘location’, that is they were far from the market and couldn’t get food to feed everyone. This is not the heart of the story. It is actually a question of finance. Jesus in essence asks ‘how can we buy enough food for everyone to eat, where’s the money gonna come from?’ His disciples say ‘200 pennyworth is not enough to feed them’. They tell Jesus we don’t have the cash to cover it. This is important to see, many have taught a doctrine that says Jesus and the disciples had a large treasury with lots of money. This refutes that. This story is one of God being our supply, we don’t need to trust him for the millions of dollars we think we need to reach the world. We need to believe that he can use our limited finances to reach the world! He did it with Paul, why not you? We also see the doctrine of sovereignty again. Jesus says all who the Father gave to him will come to him, and he will raise them up at the last day. No man can come unless the Father draws him. The Father will draw all who are called. Jesus will lose none of the ones the father gives to him. These doctrines are without a doubt taught in this Gospel. I believe them. Some try to make them ‘fit’ the reasoning of men. They eventually taught that Jesus died only for the elect. That the ‘world’ in John 3:16 speaks of the ‘world of the elect’. Others taught that Jesus blood was only shed for the elect [limited atonement]. Christians have fought for centuries over these doctrines. Our Catholic brothers do not officially teach predestination, though Catholic scholars have believed in it [Augustine]. Some will later be called ‘5 point Calvinists’ others ‘4 points’ and so on. I simply believe the words of Jesus. All that the Father gave to him will come to him, those who come will be raised at the last day. No one comes unless God brings them. The point is God is the initiator, sustainer and completer of our salvation. In our minds we can’t grasp this, but without a doubt Jesus teaches it in this chapter. Now, Jesus will also teach that he is the bread from heaven and unless a man eats his flesh and drinks his blood he will not have eternal life. Many good Christians have taught that the way this is carried out is thru transubstantiation, they teach that the bread and wine turn into the literal body and blood of Jesus at the Mass [Catholic theologian Scott Hahn believes John chapter 6 is the foundational chapter for all Catholic theology]. That it just looks like bread and wine, but it is really flesh and blood. Luther and Calvin taught something almost identical, consubstantiation. The doctrine that the bread and wine stay bread and wine, but that the flesh and blood of Jesus are also literally contained within the bread and wine. This doctrine differs very little from the Catholic one. Both of these doctrines are called ‘the real presence’. The only reformer who taught what much of modern Evangelicals believe was Zwingli. He took it to be a symbol only. Zwingli was the dear brother who killed the Ana Baptists for their faith! I visited the spot where this took place in Switzerland many years ago. There is this huge statue of Zwingli overlooking the town where he drowned the poor brothers! The Jews in this chapter say ‘how can this man give us his flesh to eat and blood to drink?’ They are clearly seeing this in the natural. Jesus goes on and teaches that all who believe in him will never hunger again. He is associating eating with faith. He also says ‘the flesh profits nothing, the words I am speaking to you give life’ he is clearly teaching that he was not going to figure out a way to change bread and wine into his literal flesh. He was teaching that all who would believe in his death and resurrection were eating and getting life from Jesus, they would have eternal life. The bread that if a man eats from will live forever. I believe my Catholic and Orthodox and Lutheran brothers are Christian, I do not hold to the view that the ‘real presence’ is a doctrine from hell. I believe good Christians took the words of Jesus literally and developed a belief that became an historic belief amongst many Christians. Some of the greatest Christian theologians hold to this belief. I simply disagree with them.

(584) [a portion from 584- it’s a long entry] Many of these kids found Jesus for real, some great ministries came out of this period. Calvary Chapel with Chuck Smith, the Vineyard Churches with Ken Gulliksen and JohnWimber, and the great music of Keith Green and ‘Last Days Ministries’ that was headquartered in Lyndale Texas [now owned by Teenmania ministries with Ron Luce]. One of the ‘coffee houses’ was called ‘The Living Room’, people like Arthur Blessit were popular at the time, the group from the Living Room would also be called ‘Jesus people U.S.A.’ and re locate and start a great magazine that also did a lot of ‘cult exposing’ and even did an expose on ‘ALBERTO’ the Catholic Priest in the ‘CHICK TRACKS’ it showed him to be a total fraud. They also exposed Mike Warnke [sp?] the author of the best selling ‘Satan seller’ who claimed to have run a coven of witches before he was converted. Mike was also a Christian comedian. I actually read the book in the early days and was a fan of Mike. I even invited him to come to our little church at one time, it never worked out. I liked Mike, and after he was ‘exposed’ it seemed to show that Mike really liked ‘telling stories’. A lot of his friends said Mike was sort of a chronic story teller. Mike was a Christian, and after this incident he did submit to other Pastors to oversee his restoration, but the fact was Mike made up most of the stuff in his best selling book. I think the name of the magazine that the ‘Jesus People’ put out was Cornerstone? It is no longer in print but you can find old copies on line.

(586) John 8-9 before I cover this, last night I was watching a preacher from a classic type ministry. Not the flamboyant ‘prosperity’ type with gold hanging off and all. I was a bit surprised [let down] to hear him teach the classic errors of the prosperity movement. He took the verse in Corinthians where it says ‘though he was rich yet for your sakes he became poor’ and taught that Jesus died to make you rich financially [ a direct violation of 1st Timothy 6]. He went to Genesis and showed how Abraham was rich, then jumped to Galatians 3 and taught ‘we are Abrahams kids, therefore we get his blessings[stuff]’ a classic mistake in doctrine. I explained this in the book ‘House of Prayer or Den of Thieves’ in the chapter ‘The Abrahamic Blessing’[you can read this book on this site!]. This stuff shouldn’t have been coming from this program, they are not the type that teach this stuff. You could tell from the look on the faces of the audience that they were feeling uncomfortable with what this guy was teaching! Now John 8-9. Jesus says ‘you seek to kill me, a man that has told you the truth that I heard from God’ often times when people are reproved, they don’t like it. It’s not that what the ‘reprover’ is saying is wrong, it’s just we don’t like being confronted with truth. We usually take it out on the messenger. Jesus says ‘before Abraham was, I AM’ this is the name of God in the Old Testament ‘the I AM’. Jesus is the ‘I AM’ in Johns gospel. I AM the door, I AM the resurrection, I AM the way and the truth and the life. I believe you find 7 different ‘I AM’s’ of Jesus in this gospel. Jesus now heals the man who was blind from birth. They ask him ‘who sinned, this man or his parents’? They had a mentality that always wanted to place blame on someone for sickness, sort of like some in the healing movements of today. Jesus said ‘neither’. He simply said ‘this happened to him so I would heal him and God would get glory’. He heals the man and the leaders are mad. ‘Who healed you’? A man called Jesus. They get the guys parents and say ‘you say he was blind, then how come he can see?’ They say ‘ask him’. They go back and ask again. The healed guy answers ‘how many times do you want to hear it, I told you already’. Though the man still doesn’t know Jesus is the Messiah, yet he starts to defend him, and even prophesy! ‘We know that if any man be a worshipper of God, and does his will, him God hears’ good stuff coming from an ‘unsaved’ guy! Jesus hears that they rejected him, he tells the guy ‘I am messiah’ and the guy believes. Jesus says ‘I come to give sight to those who are blind [admit they need help] and to take away sight from those who see’ [think they know it all]. We often can’t receive correction because of religious pride, we think we ‘see everything’ someone comes along and shakes the cart, our first response is ‘who does he think he is, doesn’t he know that we all know more than him’. Quite often whole groups of leaders have the same blind spot. This is what enforces the belief that they must be right! Jesus told them ‘you guys are blind, if you could just admit you didn’t know it all, then I could show you some good stuff, but because you think you already ‘see’ everything, then you are gonna miss out’. Pride is destructive, it keeps us in the dark spiritually. NOTE; Let me give an example. I remember reading an article on tithing from one of the best Christian historical review magazines in print. They do exhaustive historical research on many subjects. To the surprise of the readers, this well respected historical magazine, read by many theologians, showed that all the historical evidence points to the fact that the churches of the first century did not practice tithing! This seemed to go against the grain of what many of the theologians believed, who regularly read this magazine. But you could have easily come to this same understanding from simply reading the New Testament in context. I have basically taught you guys this for years, from scripture. Yet this ‘blind spot’ was an area where many intelligent ‘religious leaders’ were all wrong. They ‘corporately’ were wrong on this subject. It took a ‘jolt’ from true historical evidence before they could ‘see’ the obvious! It would be too humbling to have seen it from a ‘layman firefighter’ who has a web site. NOTE; Tithing as a practice for Christians developed at the same time as ‘the church building’ and the office of ‘Priest’ and eventually the altar [in the Catholic system] and the mass. The church got away from the family/community mindset and took on more of the ‘church building’ form. Tithing fit in easily into an idea of church that asked ‘how much should we put in the offering basket on Sunday’. The whole language and style of church called for the doctrine of tithing to be taught, sort of like a ‘tax’ on the people of God to support ‘the church’. Now, there are some good things that came out of the ‘dark ages’ of Christianity. The ‘desert fathers’, the Catholic mystics and other good spiritual disciplines. I don’t want to fall into the category of those who see the dark ages as a time of no good whatsoever. But we also need to see how the church during that time was very legalistic in the sense that the Mass and Altar and ‘Priest’ presiding over the liturgy were all forms of Christian service that were absent from the churches in Scripture. The tithe was just one added aspect of this legalistic approach that seemed to make it all the way into the Protestant churches of today. All these churches are good Christians in my view, but we need to be open to change and reformation as the Spirit leads.

(435) This fits in with the last entry. It is important for Christians to form their view of God thru Christ. You often hear good reformed theologians [whom I like] focus on the holiness and transcendent nature of God. Some will even teach that the reason the church is in a ‘worldly’ state is because we preach the Gospel without the Law. They seem to be saying if we preach God in an Old Testament way, and we preach the law, that this will bring the church back into holiness. The message of God thru Christ was one of reconciliation. There is no doubt that Jesus was against sin. The times he taught that if you looked upon a woman with lust you were just as guilty as committing adultery. These statements were intended to show mans inability to reform himself. Many of the law keepers were counting on their ability to not commit outward acts of sin, even though in their hearts they were just as lost as the prostitute and drunkard. Jesus was not ‘exalting’ law here. He was showing those who trusted in their own righteousness that they didn’t have a chance at being accepted this way. He then of course would die for mans sin and man would receive this ransom freely. This is why you see the Apostle Paul stress justification by faith. I feel we do damage when we believe the answer to ‘worldliness’ is to preach more law. The preaching of law has a tendency to appeal to mans sinful nature. It actually stirs up in man a feeing of ‘I will now go and do what I was told not to’. When you mix this in with an Old Testament revelation of God [one of wrath] this doesn’t produce the desired result of holiness. It is the unconditional message of grace that people need. Not an ‘easy believism’ type thing, but a radical view of Gods mercy as seen thru the incarnation of Jesus. The way Jesus treated sinners and unbelievers gave them an avenue to approach God. His ‘exalting’ of the law was for the purpose of bringing man to him, in some of the reformed circles they think that if you exalt the law it will bring a degree of ‘self restraint’ to the church. I do not see this as a New Covenant function. Once you are in Christ it is the ability to rest in him that brings ‘holiness’. If people aren’t ‘holy enough’ the preaching of the law and the focus on Gods holiness will only increase the level of condemnation. All righteousness comes by faith in Christ, we are to form our ideas about the way God sees us thru the actual way Jesus lived. This is the revelation of God to us. Jesus did not condone sin, but he functioned in such a way that sinners did not see God as far away and ‘transcendent’ they saw God as close and accessible to meet man where he was at.

(606) JOHN 13- Jesus says ‘I am come from God, and I am going back to him’. He had this divine sense of mission. Theologians have disagreed over how much Jesus knew about his own calling as a young person. I kinda see it like he gradually came to greater wisdom and understanding as the father was revealing the mission to him. The fact that Jesus became human also brought with it certain limitations of knowledge and growth. He did come to see his mission at a young age. When he was in the temple as a boy he said ‘I am doing my fathers business’. So I see how he grew in his sense of mission and destiny. You have come from the father, you will some day go back. Live with destiny in mind. At the table Jesus tells the guys ‘I am giving you an example’ as he washes their feet. Peter is like preachers today ‘heavens forbid that you wash me, are you saying I need some correcting’! I have found this response common among leaders [even me!] we sought of cant get corrected, then when we do realize we need it, we go to the other extreme ‘well, go ahead and give me a bath!’ We want to tear everything down and start all over! It is funny. Jesus says ‘what I am showing you, you don’t really know what it means yet, you understand it in your head, but not for real’ I feel the example of ‘servant leadership’ is a subject that most leaders ‘know’ but the fact of it being really lived out is rare. We still see ‘ministry’ and ‘church’ from the paradigm of ‘my successful career’. I am not saying everyone is wrong, I am saying the level we are at is sort of where the disciples were. We ‘know it’ in our heads, but we still ask ‘who will be the greatest in your Kingdom. Can we sit at your right Hand?’ Jesus makes one of the worst statements in all of scripture ‘one of you shall betray me’ he also says in another place ‘it were better for that man if he were never born’ WOW! How would you feel if this were said about you? At the table the disciples were feeling insecure. ‘John, ask Jesus who it is for heavens sake!’ John and Judas know, I don’t know about the others. It seems as if they leave the meal with the possibility of ‘Oh my God, could it be me’ this lets you see into the later distress that Peter has over his denials. He must have thought ‘I am the bad one’. Peter makes every attempt to not be the one. Jesus says ‘where I am going, you can’t follow’ Peter says ‘why not, I will die for you’! Jesus says ‘I tell you, before the cock crows, you will deny me 3 times’! “OH MY GOD IT IS ME!’ do you see the drama here? Why would Jesus say about Judas ‘it would have been better if you were never born’? It sure seems hard. Jesus said this for Judas benefit, not his own. Jesus knew that for the fathers plan to work, someone would have to hate him so much that he would betray him. Jesus loved Judas, he lived with him for 3 years. He saw THE SINCERITY of Judas as a zealot for his political cause. You say ‘but he was a thief from the start’ true. But I am sure he justified it like cheating on your taxes! The point was Judas really thought he was getting in on this new ‘progressive’ political movement of the day. Sure he was stealing, but after all ‘I deserve it, the Pay Jesus gives us isn’t cutting it. Doesn’t he realize we are risking our lives with him. I am deserving of it’. Jesus knew Judas was the average Joe. Jesus had some good times during the 3 years of friendship. Jesus didn’t lie when he said ‘friend, why are you betraying me with a kiss’? Jesus wished he had never been born. NOTE; in the current discussion with ‘Emergent Church’ stuff, some are bringing up the possibility of hell being symbolic in nature. Does ‘fire’ mean ‘fire’ and stuff like that. I believe it does, but want you to understand that true thinkers and movers have differences of opinion on this. Origen, one of the early intellectual church fathers, taught universalism. That all people will ultimately be saved. Of more recent fame, Carlton Pearson left his charismatic roots and embraced ‘no hell’. To be honest, he has gone a lot further than simply being ‘no hell’. He denies the authority of scripture, thinks John wrote Revelation as an expression of being delusional. I feel Pearson, in his journey towards universalism, went way too far. Clark Pinnock, a modern theologian has taught ‘annihilationism’ that all the wicked will be burned up and non existent. There are a few verses where you can get this from! The point is some very good people [and bad] have differences of opinion on this. My point is this statement from Jesus ‘it would have been better if Judas were never born’ sure seems to indicate that every one will not wind up in heaven! It seems as a harsh thing to say if Jesus knew his buddy would one day be in heaven. Judas could rightfully ask ‘why did you say it would have been better if I were never born, after all, all people who were ever born wind up in heaven.’ [I WAS GOING TO COPY CHAPTERS FROM THE ‘JOHNS GOSPEL’ ENTRY, BUT I DEAL WITH PREDESTINATION THRU OUT THE WHOLE STUDY, SO JUST READ THAT STUDY IN CONCERT WITH REFORMED STUFF!]

(115) Had quite a discussion the other day at the mission for homeless people. Spent a good 2 to 3 hours teaching some guys the history of the reformation [16th century] and how both the Catholics and Protestants had certain truths on each side. It got quite technical, but a few of these guys are serious bible students and they were drinking it in! I shared a little on how the ‘continental reformers’ [Luther, Calvin, Zwingli] were producing booklets [Tractarianism] and how these protestant books were ‘smuggled’ into Catholic England and were influencing certain key people in the realm. King Henry was having his own internal dispute with the Pope over getting an annulment, and he found the protestant writings to be to his advantage in the area of the freedom of the ‘nation states’ to worship God without being subject to Rome. The Protestants were wanting religious reform, but Henry was looking for a way to break from the Popes authority without having a religious rebellion on his hands. Well eventually King Henry does break away and starts the ‘Church of England’ the continental reformers have the protestant reformation. The Church of England, also known as the ‘Anglican Church’, was very much Catholic in her doctrine except for the area of being under the Pope [Henry got what he wanted!]. The reformers on the continent had varying degrees of ‘reform’ in the nation states. I find it interesting that certain Catholic scholars believed that the breaking away of these countries from Rome was a rebellion that would lead to world disaster. These Catholic scholars saw the ‘divine right of Kings’ to be the threat. They believed the Protestants were simply replacing the authority of the Pope with the authority of the Kings. That this would eventually lead to world anarchy because the nations could produce any type of theology that they wanted. I don’t necessarily agree with this, but do find it interesting that Germany, Luther’s country, eventually produced a ‘Hitler’ and Hitler actually read some of Martin Luther’s anti Semitic writings. Luther referred to Jews as ‘dogs’ and other derogatory terms in his writings. The Catholic scholars were prophetic in a way by foreseeing certain world events in this way. Well any way I had this discussion for a few hours and it was a good history lesson. These guys hung in and even asked some very intelligent questions. By the way I see all my Catholic friends as Christian! As an evangelical I recognize there are some serious doctrinal differences [Justification by faith] but take the more liberal view of seeing them as my brothers in Christ. I recognize that the Catholic Church has carried the baton in social justice areas when the Protestants were sleeping at the wheel! The Catholics also were doing missionary work for centuries before the Protestants got with it. So the point is we all need humility in this journey that we are on and our goal is towards having Christian unity as much as possible. I still remember a song I learned as young boy in Catholic school ‘they will no we are Christians by our love’. To a great degree the Catholic Church has done her best at being a voice for Christ in the nations, and her witness [along with her faults] can be found in every generation of man for the last 2 thousand years! You can’t say this about any protestant church! Well I hope this added something of value to the debate. God bless all my Catholic and Protestant friends who have made it this far on this site! Note- England continued to struggle between Catholic and Protestant views for quite a while. The rule of Henrys daughters, Queen Elisabeth and Mary [also known as ‘bloody Mary’ for her executing protestants!] both showed the internal struggle that was going on behind the scenes. There were key religious and political figures that were trying to influence the country towards their views. Many of these were sincere believers who truly felt like they were defending the faith. Some were Protestant, others Catholic. There were terrible executions and horrendous acts committed by both sides during this time. You had very dedicated Catholics, as well as Protestants, die for their faith. Obviously this was a tragic result of religion at any price. In the world today you see this in radical Islam. Some believe I shouldn’t say this, but as Christians we must take a stand against any religion that sees its mandate to convert by force or death. I find it interesting how so many social justice groups and women’s groups criticize the United States and Christianity, but wont say a word against radical Islam and how it absolutely subjugates women today. Women must cover their faces like animals, in some of these societies it’s permitted for a father to kill his daughter if she commits adultery! Give me a break, where are the voices crying out against these atrocities?

(57) The other day I was listening to an old time Baptist preacher on the radio. He is a good man who preaches the Gospel. He talked about a Pentecostal woman visiting him and how she was so deceived. He wasn’t being critical, he really believes this. We all have a tendency to ‘see’ God from the paradigm that surrounds us. We as Christians have a tendency to judge others who experience God in a different way then we do. I am not saying that ‘all religions’ lead to God, they certainly don’t! But as Christians we should leave room for those other communities of believers that might have a different history but also embrace the Gospel. This larger community of believers is what I like to call ‘the greater storehouse’. God has tremendous riches to be found in all of these Christian churches. I love studying reformation stuff, but I also like the Catholic fathers. The history of Methodism under Wesley is great, as well as the later Azusa revivals. To be able to see beyond our limited communities and embrace the ‘whole Church’ is a gift that will bring in many rewards, I urge you to partake of the table that the Lord has prepared for us in the midst of our enemies.

(58) Being I have been speaking a little about Catholic/Protestant stuff lately, let me talk on ‘authority and covering’ issues. Recently when certain evangelical leaders fell into sin, others speculated on why this happened. Some Protestants taught that certain Prophets who ‘fell’ were not ‘under covering’ or under the authority of ‘a local church’. I have spoken at length in our books and thru radio on what the Church is and what it means to ‘be part of the local church’. All I felt like saying here is our Catholic brothers historically view ‘all’ Protestants as being ‘without covering’ or not under proper biblical authority. I do find it interesting that some who feel they are ‘apostolic’ in the protestant church start highly independent and entrepreneurial type ministries and then preach that if people are not ‘under one of these apostolic coverings’ then they are in rebellion. Many of these ‘apostles’ have absolutely no ‘covering or connection’ to the historic church and yet preach a form of authority that seems to begin and end with them! To put it simple, we as Christians are all related and responsible to each other. As New Covenant priests we are directly under the authority of our high priest Jesus. I thank God for all the gifted Apostles and Prophets in the church today, I just think we need to remind ourselves of the basics once again.

(48) What I really wanted to speak about [above] was what I call ‘the incarnational principle’. The concept of God manifesting himself thru Christ, and thru us as an extension of his Body in the earth. I will get a little technical here, but bear with me. Paul teaches [in the New Testament] that the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth. Historically this issue has been one that divided Protestants and Catholics. During the reformation the Protestant position was the Bible was the ground of truth and final authority on matters of conscience and faith. The Catholic Church agreed in principle to the canon of scripture as ‘inspired’ but also taught that the Church herself possessed separate authority as ‘the pillar and ground of truth’. The Catholics said the Church produced the Bible, while the Protestants believed the Church ‘recognized’ it. That is to say that the ‘Bible’ was already infallible and the Church just recognized it. Well anyway the point here is Gods people [Ecclesia] are the pillar and ground of truth. There is no other ‘thing’ in the planet that God actually lives in. Though scripture is inspired and infallible, God doesn’t actually ‘dwell’ in its pages. I know I open myself up to criticism here [for the first time, not!] but I agree with the great evangelical thinker John Stott. He sees the evangelical Church as practicing a form of ‘bibliolatry’ in the way we express ‘sola scriptura’ [the bible only]. In the earth right now the only actual place where God is literally dwelling is the Church. Not some top heavy institution, but in the people [community]. Because of this in some sense the only real hope for the world is us! God sees us as the ‘pillar and ground’ of truth. We are his ‘superstructure’ that exists in the midst of ‘Babylon’ [the world]. We live here to both testify and actually ‘dispense’ Gods grace thru the gospel. Jesus told the disciples ‘whosoever sins you forgive, they are forgiven’ [I don’t want to teach the Catholic/Protestant view on this here] in essence we carry the gospel in us as well as on our lips. God ‘contacts’ and interacts with the world thru us. This is the ‘incarnational principle’. In military terms its ‘ground truth’. It’s having the perspective of ‘boots on the ground’ as opposed to some defense secretary living in an ivory palace [or pentagon]. We are Gods ‘boots’ on the ground. God has entrusted us to carry out the rest of the ‘invasion’ that Jesus started 2000 years ago. The only problem is too many of us think we are in the guard and are trying to avoid ‘active duty’! [No offense meant to those in the National Guard!]

(107) When I spoke a few weeks ago on not being able to attend college, I want to clarify my thoughts on higher education. I believe one of the problems with ‘fundamentalism’ [some types of evangelical preachers] is the lack of a well-balanced education. It’s good to get a university level of education if you can. In the last century there was a movement in the Christian church that was called ‘higher criticism’. Many of the scholars that were influenced by the previous stage of the enlightenment [from Europe] taught a type of bible interpretation that denied many [or all] the supernatural stories in the bible, even the resurrection! As a result many American universities were inundated with a type of teaching that ‘old fashioned’ preachers thought was apostasy [some of it was, but not all of it!]. The American ‘fundamentalists’ reacted by simply saying ‘we believe the bible literally’. The problem with some of the literalists, was they lacked a balanced historical understanding of the times and life of the early church. They seemed to have no time to become educated on the historical aspects of Christianity. So ‘literalism’ said ‘if the bible says it’s going to happen, then it is going to happen’. Not realizing [because of a lack of education] that certain things already happened. One example of this is the present preoccupation with the ‘antichrist’ and the prevailing hobby of trying to find out who he is. Is he alive today? A lot of speculation on a person that the first century church believed to be fulfilled in the emperor Nero. Without teaching this whole subject, the early church taught and understood that there would be a person who would be a great persecutor of Christians. He would even kill those who would not ‘worship his image and bow down to him’ those who would not ‘receive his number 666 couldn’t survive’. The Roman Empire of the 1st century allowed for religious expression. There form of Government actually ‘deified’ their Caesars. You could believe in other Gods [Pantheism] as long as you bowed the knee to its emperors. Well obviously Paul and other early writers could see the writing on the wall. Early Christians were not to sware allegiance to any other ‘god’ but Jesus Christ! As the early church progressed, the apostles understood that there would eventually be a ‘Caesar’ that would demand allegiance to himself. Those who wouldn’t ‘bow’ and say ‘Caesar is Lord’ would eventually be killed. Polycarp and other early Christian leaders met their fate this way. Nero was the worst. He blamed catastrophes and other events [arson!] on the Christians, though its believed that he himself was the arsonist! Nero’s name, along with his title of ‘Caesar’ does spell out to the numerical value of ‘666’. It just made sense for the early church to have believed him to have been the antichrist! There are many other debates on this subject, and I do leave room for the possibility for the ‘antichrist’ to be a future person, but I doubt it. Also during the reformation of the 16th century, many of the reformers [Luther and others] saw the ‘antichrist’ as the pope. The book of revelation speaks of Rome and both a political and religious ‘Babylon’ as coming against the saints. It was easy for the reformers to ‘see’ the marriage of the Catholic Church with the governments of men as the culprit [The Holy Roman empire and stuff like that]. But again this view doesn’t seem to take into account that Rome of the 1st century was religious, and that wasn’t speaking about Catholics! So I believe a basic understanding of world history, along with a literal interpretation of the bible go hand in hand. Those who despise education [calling the seminary the ‘cemetery’] seem to lack this balance.

(116) I want to go back to Germany and the fact that after WW2 the United States brought over from Germany all of the scientists that eventually were the originators of our ‘space program’. The U.S. acted wisely in recognizing that the German scientists had a level of knowledge that exceeded what we had. Einstein actually gave us the technology to build the bomb that eventually ended the war. Einstein is the most well known of these German scientists [though he came over before the war ended]. Einstein truly was a genius. One of the goals he had was called ‘the unified theory’. He believed it was possible to ‘tie’ all the various fields of science together, and see a harmony that would show that everything didn’t just happen by accident, but there had to be some greater overall ‘thing’ that was at work. Though Einstein wasn’t a Christian, he did believe in God. Some of his fellow scientists came up with a theory that said chance and ‘luck’ played a role in how things work. Einstein disagreed and said ‘God doesn’t roll dice’. All of these guys held to the idea that there had to be a beginning point to all things. Today we call this the ‘big bang theory’. A basic scientific reality that things did come into existence at a certain point in time. It has been said that the fact that something exists now is proof that God exists! I know this is simplified, but let me explain. The fact that we have a creation today, sun, moon, stars and the intricacy of our planet earth. The tremendous complexity in the human body. Even the most ‘simple’ cell is now known to be highly ‘complex’. These realities lead us to question ‘how did all this happen’. If the earth were a little closer to the sun we would all burn up, a little further and we would all freeze! As science learned these complex things over the years, she has grappled with the question of ‘how’. Science has racked its brain on the beginning stage. Was there a time where nothing existed at all? And if so then how can anything exist now? If matter is infinite [which some try to leave as a possibility] then this contradicts everything else we know from science! Thermodynamics teaches that all things are ‘decaying’ from the original stage. The sun loses its strength over many years. The earth and the solar system and everything else are resources that deplete themselves. This fact shows us that ‘matter’ or things didn’t always exist. If at the beginning you had a few cells and things floating around that eventually ‘exploded’ into this tremendous organized universe [which in itself takes faith to believe!] then where did these gases and early forms of matter come from? They had to start somewhere. And if you eventually traced it all the way back to the time where this was nothing, then the scientific fact is you would have nothing today! Matter doesn’t just appear, and matter is not eternal. These simple scientific proofs lead us to the conclusion that something [or someone] outside of this present world had to initiate these things. This ‘someone’ also had to have been around forever, if not then you have the whole problem of where did he come from, what was his beginning, and all the same questions would arise. So Einstein and others saw these things. The most brilliant minds of man came to the conclusion that a greater being had to exist in order to get the ball rolling. If you took a sealed room with absolutely nothing in it, and nothing else could get in or leave. And then after a million [or billion!] years you opened it up, nothing would be there! This is a scientific fact! The process of time, in and of itself, does not have the power to create something out of nothing! Well then we wind up at the place we started, the fact that ‘anything’ exists is proof that God exists! [Note: Let me give credit to our Catholic brothers once again. Saint Thomas Aquinas ‘Doctor Angelicas’ wrote heavily on these issues long before the Protestants began looking at them. St. Thomas is considered to be one of the greatest theologians and apologists of the Catholic Church].

(178) I read an article from Christianity today the other day. It was on Prophets and their role in the Church! It was an excellent article; it kind of surprised me that it was in Christianity today. Out of all the Christian magazines in circulation this is the best. I don’t say this only because of this article. I have subscribed to Charisma and Christianity today and a few others for many years. I don’t subscribe to any write now, but I read from some on line. I canceled the Charisma magazine many years before Christianity today. I felt that Charisma was making an honest effort, but the only valuable stuff seemed to be coming from Lee Grady. He only wrote a brief editorial. The bulk of the magazine was messages by popular preachers, and a lot of them on ‘you can have what you say’ and stuff like that. I actually said to myself one day ‘how many messages does it take on ‘you can achieve some goal, or get what you want’ before they move on to the ‘university level’. Well I feel Christianity today is at the ‘university level’. In the past the majority of preachers/teachers that taught on Apostles and Prophets were the charismatic brothers. I do credit Brother Hagin for re introducing this teaching to the church. I am really excited that more of the mainline Christians seem to be more open to these gifts. It’s hard for believers to distinguish between the reality that some things can be good from a preacher, while other things can be bad. I have seen so many brothers leave the Baptist faith and become Charismatic [OK] but then they view their Baptist heritage in a negative way. They seem to think the future of the church is Charismatic. The future of the church is CHRIST! All charismatics and Baptists and Catholics and every one else who names the name of Christ plays a role in this thing. The message of the church is the Cross of Christ. We are to carry the ‘evangelical’ gospel as the primary voice of the church. If you used to be some denomination and are now another, that’s fine, but don’t think that now the message is ‘the Spirit’ or ‘the anything else’. The message stays the same. Now I believe we should teach and embrace the working of the Holy Spirit, it’s just some brothers have actually said stuff like ‘when I was Baptist I focused on the Cross, when I became charismatic I now focus on the resurrection and the Spirit’ one brother even said the Cross was only for a few hours, leaving the impression that those ‘few hours’ are now over and we move on to other things. This brother is an Apostle out of San Antonio who is a true elder in the church. He has done many good things and I have received from him in many ways. He made this statement at a conference in Corpus Christi and I felt I needed to correct it on radio. I did! Paul told the Corinthians that when he was with them he knew nothing ‘but Christ crucified’. This message doesn’t mean we don’t ‘move on in growth’ it simply means the growth God is looking for is the Body to grow ‘into him’. God’s goal is for us to be mature ‘in him’. Growing is not a matter of moving away from him [or the cross!] Paul told the Galatians ‘MY LITTLE CHILDREN WHOM I TRAVAIL IN BIRTH AGAIN UNTIL CHRIST BE FORMED IN YOU’ Ephesians says we are to grow up into the full stature of Christ and allow his headship over us to fully function as we develop more into being the Body of Christ. All these images show us that the goal of Christian growth is not moving to some other belief, but moving more ‘into him’.

(210) Something that has made me uncomfortable for some time is the dynamic of speaking a strong prophetic word/teaching and then realizing the aftermath. For instance the ‘judiazers’ of the first century were teaching a form of Christianity that embraced legalism. They were doing well for a season until God allowed Paul to ‘blast it’ out of the water. Once the Apostolic authority of Paul exposed the heresy, it was difficult for the Judiazers to continue. They sure tried, but Gods authority was now working against their doctrine. I recognize that there are certain truths that we teach that are contrary to the normal tradition of ‘church’. I do not teach them simply for this reason, in as much as I feel it’s time for certain things to be dealt with [like the judiazers]. After these things are dealt with, many good Pastors will continue to embrace what they have known and are familiar with. This creates a tension in the community. Many of their ‘parishioners’ will embrace the truths they have learned from us and Gods authority always falls on the side of truth. Many of the authority structures that are presently functioning in the church are not really biblical. When you have believers moving in grace in certain areas, and church authorities coming down on the wrong [incorrect] view of the subject, you then have a dynamic where Gods authority is falling on the side of the ‘parishioners’ and not on the side of the clergy. This dynamic was also seen in Jesus ministry with the disciples. It was unthinkable for the 1st century clergy to admit that Gods authority was being expressed thru this rag tag team of unlearned men, as opposed to their theological doctorates! I feel uncomfortable when this happens with us. I used to Pastor, and I do not like people who come to a community just to start trouble and cause division. But sometimes we mistake a true prophetic challenge to the status quoi, as being rebellion [Martin Luther and the Catholic Church of the 16rh century!]

(212) Recently Pope Benedict [formerly Cardinal Ratzinger, defender of the ‘doctrine of the faith’ for the Catholic church] moved against an influential Priest for his teaching in the area of Liberation Theology. This is a popular view with certain south/central American countries. Many political leaders [Daniel Ortega] embraced this view as a part of their Socialist revolution. This view focuses on the radical aspect of Jesus ministry in the area of social justice and his identification with the poor. Most Christians feel that Liberation Theology is too closely aligned with Marxist views and therefore reject it. I simply want to note the New Testament teaching in the area of social justice and how many ‘white conservative Protestants’ dismiss out of hand certain aspects of the gospel. No form of human government is ‘inherently just’. Capitalism, in and of itself is not ‘just’. As a form of government it provides freedom in the marketplace for the free flow of ideas. It works better than most other govts. on the planet, but it in and of itself is not ‘just’. Justice is only found in any earthly govt. to the degree that that govt. is being influenced and ‘infected’ by the ‘just one’ [God] and his ‘justified ones’ [the church]. As human govts. ‘make room’ for the people of God and godly institutions, then there is a degree of justice released into that society thru the church. The book of James talks about ‘just wages’. A doctrine that capitalists don’t fully embrace. Most capitalists argue ‘whatever the market place pays is right’. They feel that the idea of free competition in and of itself is just. If you can get someone to do a days work for $5.00 and that’s the going rate, well they feel that’s OK. The New and Old Testaments don’t agree! God has lots of instruction on fair wages and the treatment of the poor that govt. should comply with. Now I am not advocating socialism, which robs people of hope and independent thought. But I want to show you how no earthly govt., even the best forms of them, are equal to the Kingdom [govt.] of God. I for the most part agree with Pope Benedict and his statement on liberation theology, but I must admit there is a part of the radical revolutionary in me that finds aspects of it to be exciting! NOTE: I would like to note that the Catholic Church has been great in the area of social justice through out the entire history of the church. During the ‘dark ages’ the church actually became the institution that nations appealed to as the highest authority in the land. Our Catholic brothers were speaking out in defense of the unborn long before the Protestants. I just wanted the critics of the Catholics to give credit where credit is due!

(222) Been up since 3 AM praying for you guys as well as a few other things. Was thinking about a conversation I had a few years ago with a ministry leader in our city. He was trying to raise money for his ministry. He attends a great church that I used to attend. The Pastor is a good friend of mine. The ministry leader was asking where I attend church. I told him the church. He then criticized the church for spending money on certain things he thought could be used for other things. I just ignored it. This leader wanted to raise money to build a prayer center building. I guess it’s a worthy cause? Without boasting too much, I have been praying from 2-3 am [sometimes midnight] till around 7- 8 am for more than a few years now. I really didn’t need some ministry building to do this! In my mind the money for so many of our projects is a waste! It seems like we are too often building things to satisfy men’s egos more than anything else. God’s people are called ‘A HOUSE OF PRAYER’. God sees the corporate community of saints [all Christians, Catholics, Protestants, etc.] as a ‘building’ of prayer. Once again there might be a scenario or two where God is calling people to build these types of prayer centers, but most times he simply calls his people to prayer. He wakes you up and you pray! Where? Wherever you happen to be at the time. Religion has ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ divisions that say this is the place to perform ‘religious activity’ and this is the place for ‘secular stuff’. These divisions are contrary to the Kingdom that Jesus preached [I am not advocating a theocracy!] Jesus simply taught that the true worshipers of God would worship [pray] in ‘SPIRIT AND TRUTH’. There is this tremendous liberating aspect to the Kingdom of God that allows it to function everywhere. The church is always looking to start some 501 c 3 that can be the ‘Christian enterprise’ that takes all our time and money when God is simply looking for people to PRAY!

(229) Let me try and do this. I just kind of had an ‘overview’ of old testament history and the ‘history of the church’ run thru my mind in a few minutes. A lot of the stuff I am going to share is from many years of memory. So bear with me with the little details! In the Old Testament Gods people were represented by the nation of Israel. During the journey of Israel from captivity in Egypt to the Promised Land God deposited certain ‘sacred/religious’ rituals into their society for the ultimate purpose of revealing the gospel and reality of Christ’s sacrifice for all people. During this journey Israel ‘divides’ over certain issues. Israel has a northern tribe [Israel] and southern one [Judah] The northern part develops a separate priesthood under Jeroboam, and the southern keeps the original priesthood under Reheboam. The inheritance being divided during the possessing of the Promised Land becomes a theological issue for Jewish orthodoxy. The ‘jeroboam’ group identifies with the altar of worship deemed ‘unorthodox’ while the southern group has the ‘true’ place of worship. By the way this was the issue seen in the gospel of John chapter 4, when Jesus speaks to the woman at the well. She was a Samaritan, part of the ‘unorthodox group’ and was asking this exact question! So the history of natural Israel is one of division and ‘who has the real priesthood’ [sound familiar?] It is interesting to note, that though theologically the southern tribes are more ‘correct’ God later reproves them for their ‘correctness’. The prophets will eventually address Judah and say ‘thus saith the Lord, you pride yourself on being more faithful than your sister [northern tribe] and yet you are worse!’ So already God is dealing with the aspect of pride that comes along with theological correctness. Today the church historically is divided. Most evangelicals think of the 16th century reformation as the ‘dividing point’ but historically it’s the division of the 11th century between our Catholic and Orthodox brothers that is seen as the ‘great schism’. Either way you have the Catholics/Orthodox representing historic orthodoxy and the protestants/evangelicals on the others side. The debate rages on who has the more pure form of orthodoxy. We are like the woman at the well, we are asking Jesus ‘who’s right?’ and Jesus simply tells the woman ‘I am not here to take sides in your theological arguments, I am here to call you to repentance and lead you into true worship with God’. So we find ourselves in a place in history where truth does matter [at least to me!] but where Gods prophetic voice is calling all of his people back to true worship. Sort of like the Sienfeld episode where George is going to convert to the Orthodox religion so he can date some girl. The orthodox priests are questioning George on his reason for conversion and George replies ‘I like the hats’ to the dismay of the priests who were wearing these religious looking hats! We try to come up with reasons to why we associate in our divided groups, and sometimes it’s as silly as the hats! Well I know I got a little theological with you guys today, but I felt the Lord wanted to get you to thinking on these things. God wants unity, and all sides have to display ‘humility of mind’ in the process!

(244) Doing THE FOOTBALL THING again [in the yard praying, walking around with the football]. Got the image of ‘screen pass’. A while back I read a prophecy from Patricia King [extreme prophetic] about the image of water balloons, or some type of ‘bomb’ landing in areas. An image of words and ministries ‘hitting’ areas and having great influence. I had already seen this myself. One of the ‘prayer’ images I use is ‘throwing the football’. I kind of see the Lord ‘launching’ the radio/blog into large regional areas and ‘hitting the ground’ with great influence. I ‘see’ the ball landing in large influential cities and having a wide impact. But I just got the sense of the ‘screen pass’ as well. Sometimes you get so caught up in the ‘hail Mary pass’ [our Catholic friends will like this one!] that you forget to throw the short screen pass. Sometimes you have done all you can do in launching the ‘bomb’ and as you wait for the results you might as well gain a few yards here and there!

(275) Let me speak on abortion. I mentioned earlier on this blog about the Catholic and Protestant divide in the 16th century. One of the fears the Catholic Church had was the fear of the divine right of Kings. That if nation states ‘broke away’ from Rome that eventually the states would do whatever they wanted. Some look at the atrocities of Hitler and point to this as a proof. I personally don’t hold to this view, but I do find it interesting that Hitler came along after Darwin and Eugenics. Eugenics is the science that teaches certain races are more ‘pure’ and others are less pure. It taught a type of ethics that said if you get rid of the weaker ones in society that eventually you would have a healthier, purer race. You saw this mindset in Hitler’s attempt to have an ‘Aryan race’. The man who came up with this ‘science’ was a relative of Charles Darwin. Charles Darwin was the ‘popularizer’ of Evolution. If someone truly believes that all Humans are simply an accident of evolution; there is really no moral grounds to value life. If we are all simply blobs on this experimental earth, then why not eliminate the weaker ones for the benefit of the whole race? After all we know this to be true, science teaches it! There you have it, a slippery slope down a course that ultimately leads to a time in our country where we actually allow, by law, a woman to come to a clinic/hospital. Walk in at 7 months of pregnancy, get an appointment with a Doctor and get a ‘partial birth’ abortion. This procedure allows for the actual baby, living and feeling safe in the mother’s womb to be ‘partially’ delivered, leaving ‘part’ of the baby inside the mother. The other ‘part’ sticking out and the Doctor kills the baby. By law it’s not murder, the baby still has a ‘part’ in the mom. The only difference between this child, and others who are born and live a wonderful life, is a few inches. The procedure is defended by politicians who say ‘I personally am against abortion, but I am for a woman’s right’ What about the right of that beautiful little baby girl who you just destroyed in a manner equal to Hitler’s holocaust? This little girl has rights too. Some of our Politicians couldn’t care less about the ‘right’ of the woman; they allow murder for the political expediency of their constituents! Thank you Pontius Pilate. I recently saw on the news a state that is trying to pass a law that would require the mother to see a sonogram of her baby before she gets the abortion, they are persuaded that if a woman ‘looks at the baby’ that she will of her own free will decide to not kill it. They then had the opponents/proponents give both sides. Those against it said things like ‘ we don’t require a person to look at a tumor before its removed’ babies are not ‘tumors’ or any other type of ‘matter’ that you dispose of at will. I once had actual pictures of ‘buckets full of babies’ that were taken outside of some abortion clinic back in the 70’s. These buckets were filled to overflow with burned, chopped up, mutilated little babies. Just sitting there waiting for some dump truck to haul them to the local incinerator. Now we have cleaned up our act, we ‘burn’ them before they get a chance to be spotted by the public eye. God forbid that we would force society to look at ‘these tumors’. May God help us all. NOTE; a few years back there was an abortion doctor who took an actual sonogram of an abortion procedure. They later made a video. The picture was front page on one of the national magazines of our country. It was called ‘silent scream’ it showed the baby actually grasping hold of the instrument that was inserted into the mother’s womb, and the baby was trying to keep it from stabbing it. The babies face could clearly be seen screaming bloody murder. This doctor, who was not a Christian, could not continue performing this procedure no matter how many politicians call this ‘a woman’s right to choose’! UPDATE ON PARTIAL BIRTH ABORTION # 305

(98) I wanted to mention something. After first becoming a believer, I realized that I couldn’t afford to attend college. I was 20 yrs old, had my first daughter in my early 20’s, and by my 30’s I had 4 girls! But what I did do is borrow and read tons of books from the public library. I would purchase college level books for half price at ‘half price books’. I basically utilized what was available to gain an education, without paying some professor $100,000 dollars to tell me to read a book! Now I am not demeaning those who have, I just want you to see that you can accomplish things if you want to! [Added later; I want to make a note here, I have bought books from ‘the Christian bookstore’ and from ‘regular bookstores’. The Christian bookstores have a tendency to promote ‘pop Christian culture’ some of it is good, some not. The ‘theology’ sections of good bookstores contain better stuff for a Christian education. You would benefit to read the classics and other fields of study that you would get if attending some ‘divinity school’ from Harvard [or Notre Dame for my Catholic friends!] then to just read the pop psychology stuff being promoted today!

(609) Over the years I have seen how division happens among good believers. On this site you can read some good stuff [I think!] on doctrine. You can also read lots of stuff on visions and dreams. I realize that there is a whole sector of the church who believe that the current church ‘is rampant with false doctrine’. I here a local commercial on the radio station that I broadcast on say this. When I here it I hope I am not coming across as someone who only sees ‘rampant false doctrine’ in our day. I also see how these reformed guys see ‘rampant false doctrine’. But sometimes there are honest disagreements that wouldn’t fall into the ‘false doctrine’ category. Paul was a tremendous theologian, reformed as much as any one! Yet what would you think if your favorite reformed theologian was raising the dead? Or sending handkerchiefs to sick people to get well? [it might have been Peter?] Or casting blindness on demon possessed followers? We often see only one side of the argument. Then you have the Charismatics who operate in these things, but it is next to impossible to show them that this same Paul who did these things wrote first Timothy 6, one of the strongest reproofs to the money gospel ever written. So we all have a tendency to take what we like and leave the rest behind. Sort of like some of the first canons of scripture, some guys just cut out the stuff they didn’t like! Even the great Luther had problems with James, Hebrews, Revelation, 2nd Peter and others. Sometimes our minds become idols. I want to exhort all my reformed friends to read the New Testament with an open mind, as well as my Charismatic friends. We all have blind spots that we don’t know are there [even me!] God ordained this to be so! That way we would realize we need each other in order to complete the mission. Let the iron sharpen iron.

(610) JOHN 14- Jesus says he is going away to prepare a place for us. He tells the disciples they know where he is going and how to get there. Thomas says ‘we have no idea where you are going, how can we know the way’. Jesus wasn’t talking ‘location’ as much as communion with the Trinity. He was saying I am going to THE FATHER and you now know the Father, because I have revealed him to you. You have seen me, you have seen him. Also, the way to the father is thru the Son, so you not only know where I am going [Father] but the way [Son]. Now I get it! You can take this 2 ways [not three!] you can look at it as Jesus speaking of the sending of the Spirit as his ‘coming again’, in verse 18 he does say this. He says ‘I will come to you’ and he is speaking of the Spirits coming. Thru this chapter the comforter is one just like him. Also you can read this as the literal second coming. We believe Jesus will come again! Some have said this chapter is speaking of something else besides these 2 options, they think this ‘coming’ is the rapture. A separate event from the 2nd coming. I don’t see how you can believe it this way. Also in this chapter Jesus is showing the intent of redemption. He didn’t just come to take us to heaven. In chapter 17 we will read that he prays to the father for us not to be taken out of the world, but to keep us from the evil in it. Thomas seems to be thinking ‘location and how to get there’ when he says ‘we have no idea where you are going, how can you think we know how to get there’? But Jesus is really speaking the language of fellowship in the Trinity/Unity that he has with the father and the Spirit. He is telling Thomas ‘my purpose is to bring you into this oneness that I have with the father, to invite you to partake in this fellowship’ in essence ‘I am not talking about getting you to a location [heaven] in as much as bringing you into a state of being with me and my father’ true ‘HOLY COMMUNION’! You do see this concept thru out the chapter. The disciples seem to be struggling ‘how will you come back and reveal yourself to us and not to the world’ Jesus says ‘if a man loves me he will keep my words, the Spirit will then come and indwell him and we will all have community together’ [Father, Son, Spirit and all believers]. They are grappling with these ideas. They were like us, always thinking in terms of being saved to go to heaven when we die. Now, I thank God for this benefit. I am very happy that I am not going to Hell! Don’t underestimate this blessing. But Jesus is speaking on a much higher plane. He even says ‘the words I am speaking are not mine, but the Fathers’. A few practical things. Jesus says when I leave you will do greater works because I am leaving and the Spirit will come and indwell you. The ‘non Charismatics’ say this is evangelism. Jesus will give us the Spirit and we will evangelize on a mass scale, greater works. The Charismatics say this is doing more miracles, raising the dead and healing the sick and casting out devils. Who is right? Take them all! Just be sure and bring people into the Kingdom. The gifts are not for you to get famous or gain a following, they are for the purpose of evangelism and expanding the Kingdom. In this chapter we see Jesus great promises of peace and his dwelling with us forever. The promise of the Spirit showing us the things of the father. We are invited into this wonderful communion with him. Let’s allow the work of the Spirit to use us to bring others into this community. The 2 great commandments Jesus gives us is to love God and others. The ‘others’ speaks of his desire to bring people into this community. NOTE; on the radio when I spoke on this entry I mentioned some stuff on the historic creeds and the language that the early church used to define the Trinity. In the world today the 3 main religions are Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Islam and Judaism claim to be Monotheistic. Christians also claim this, but Islam and Judaism don’t agree. The reason for this is in the way the historic church came to define the Trinity. There have been Jewish converts to Christianity who accept Jesus as Messiah but do not accept the classic language of the Trinity. The verse that says ‘the Lord our God is one’ is a main text for both Muslims and Jews in their understanding of Gods oneness. Some of the Trinitarian language has been an obstacle to Muslims and Jews converting. Now, like I said before, I do believe in the Trinity. But if you notice the language that Jesus will use in our study in John, it seems more in line with ‘Unity’ then ‘Trinity’. The truth of the Trinity is there, but the explanations that Jesus gives sound better than the way the creeds say it. One of the creeds says Jesus was begotten eternally. That there was never a time where he was begotten. He was always ‘begotten’. They came to this language by trying to defend Christ’s deity. The problem is scripture teaches us that there was a definite point in time when Jesus ‘was begotten’. The fact that Jesus existed always with the father is different from saying ‘he was always born as a man’ which is what begotten refers to. So to be honest about it, the language in this creed is an obstacle. In my recent conversations with my Muslim friend I stood strong for the deity of Christ and God becoming man thru the incarnation, but I also tried to use the actual language of scripture when explaining it. This is going to be important for the future of the church as she tries to bring both Muslims and Jews into the church. We don’t want to compromise on the historic truths of Christianity, but we also want to express our belief in Monotheism in ways that are in keeping with scripture. Also when I say ‘into the church’ I mean bringing them to God thru Christ, not into some ‘culture of Christianity’ that the world sees as ‘church’. NOTE; I also spoke on the second coming and Preterism. Preterism is a way of interpreting the Second coming as having happened in A.D. 70. This belief arose out of a well intentioned answer to the critics of Christianity. Some critics have brought out the idea that the early church were all expecting an imminent return of Jesus, that they took the obvious scriptures that speak of Jesus coming quickly and stuff like that and were let down when Jesus did not come for the first few centuries. So some scholars developed the idea that Jesus did come in ‘judgment’ and fulfilled all the verses of the second coming in A.D. 70. Others have taught how the early church had to later adjust it’s theology around the ‘obvious’ mistaken teachings of Jesus. Some of these guys are believers, but they fall into the liberal camp. My belief is Jesus will literally come again. A Protestant scholar actually made an argument for the ‘literalness’ of Jesus return thru the Catholic teaching on Transubstantiation. He defended our Catholic brother’s ideas on the Real Presence in the Eucharist. He said the church has been faithful to the literal return of Jesus and his immediate presence by the reality of Jesus being present in Communion. Good effort, but a little too much spiritualizing for me. I believe the best argument that can be made, if you were going to go down this road, would be this chapter. Jesus says he will come again and also says the comforter will be the fulfillment of this coming. Now, I also believe in the future literal return of Jesus, because later on in the New testament you see Paul teaching a future return after the initial outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. I was watching an end time teacher using the verse where Jesus spoke on the destruction of the Temple and he was applying it to a future Temple. He was wrong. I also believe the Preterists are wrong. I believe the rapture as a separate event from the second coming is ‘extra biblical’. But in all of our seeking for truth, I don’t throw out the historic belief of Christ’s return. I believe the best way to explain the supposed delay of his return is to look at the character of God. The New Testament says the longsuffering of God is because he wants to bring as many people into the church as possible. That which seems to be a delay is really mercy. No need to try and find ways to explain this to the critics, Jesus is delaying his return for their benefit!

(625) JOHN 17 [radio # 600] Jesus prays to the Father and asks God to ‘glorify him’ with the glory they had in the beginning. In verse 22 he says he gave this glory to the church. That’s strange. Scripture says God will not share his glory with another, yet here he gives it to the disciples. How can that be? Well, as the Body of Christ we are not ‘another’ we are one with him! He also says ‘I have given life to those who you gave to me, you have given me power over all flesh. I have given life to the ones you have chosen’. Here you see the ‘reformed’ part of me. Jesus is not simply offering life to those who want it [though he does this at other times!] but here he is giving life to those whom the father chose. You find both of these themes in scripture. Don’t fight it, we can’t explain it, but praise God, he chose you! [and me]. ‘I have finished the work which you gave me to do’. What work? He hasn’t gone to the Cross yet. I guess you can say in a way that the work was finished from the foundation of the world, and Jesus is saying ‘the course has been determined, I will go!’ But I also see some truth to ‘the work’ being him revealing the Father to the ‘men which you gave me out of the world’ the work of the 3 year mission to disciple and train the 12. God has determined for people to cross paths with you thru out your life. These are ‘the men’ that God has given you out of the world. It is your destiny to reveal THE FATHERS NAME unto them! In present models of church leadership we fail miserably at this. We see ‘the men’ that God has given us as supporters of our ministries. People whom we try to instill ‘faithfulness into’. ‘Be faithful to the vision of this house’ and stuff like that. When these men go their way, we look for ‘new men’ to come and fill the gap. We basically reveal ‘our name’ to them! Keep in mind that you have a destiny to cross paths with people thru out your life. You will have ‘finished the fathers work’ if by the time you part ways, they have seen and come to know HIM. ‘I have given them the words which thou gavest me’ Give people the words that God is speaking. Don’t fall into the trap of communicating only that which benefits the ‘vision’ of your ministry. We often communicate that which brings the crowds in. If we teach something and the offerings go down, we have a tendency to not teach it again! There is so much pressure in modern ministry to tailor the message to the hearer. Speak the things God is saying. Talk on social justice issues. Not only on the popular ones, it’s ‘in’ to be against racial profiling, but how about the truth on quotas and affirmative action? Speak truth in all areas. Speak the words that God wants communicated. You have a destiny to cross paths with people, avoid the temptation to speak with the goal of being accepted. You know, saying things that you know are popular. Speak truth to power! ‘Father, I will that they be with me where I am. That they may behold my glory’ Is he talking heaven only? Remember how Jesus said the Comforter will come and manifest and dwell in those who believe and keep his words? Jesus is speaking in terms of community here. Organic ‘local church’. Where 2 or more are, there is he ‘in the midst’. Jesus wants us to be where he is, Jesus told the Greeks earlier in this gospel ‘If they want to see me, they can meet me at the Cross’ [a grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying]. I think Jesus is speaking of meeting him in true discipleship and union with him and the father. The reality of the New birth and Jesus dwelling in us by the Spirit. Let’s end with Jesus desire for oneness and unity. In the beginning of this chapter Jesus said all who know the father thru the son have life [a big group of believers!] he also wants all of us to be one. This ‘oneness’ is actually a present reality in Spirit, though it is not fully functional and ‘seen’ yet in the world. Jesus wants it to be ‘seen’. This is how the world will know that he was sent by God! Let’s strive for this unity in Christ. I know there are so many divisions in the Body of Christ it isn’t funny. Some people miss read my own belief on this when they see how we reprove lots of stuff in the church. I don’t reprove from the standpoint of ‘we are right and you are wrong’ more from the standpoint of ‘we are all striving to be what the father wants, lets be honest and open with one another. Let’s reprove because we care for each other and don’t want the other to ‘fall off the cliff’. Lets do all we do with the purpose of true unity in mind. I don’t care how afraid you are of ‘the one world church’, but whether you like it or not, you are part of Gods ‘one world church’.

(629) MEGA CHURCH- I want to speak a little on the trend of ‘mega church’. Those of you who have read all my stuff know the way I view ‘church’. Not so much the ‘church I go to on Sunday’ but more of ‘the group of believers residing in my city’. Now, I am not against mega church. Recently a mega church in Texas taught some stuff that was in the class of real heresy. They denied that Jesus was the Messiah of Israel. This got us to discus how stuff like this can happen. In the idea of church as being ‘to get as many people to attend the Sunday meeting as possible’ this environment often breeds a corporate mindset that sees the ‘filling of the building’ as the goal. Along with this comes the ‘meeting of the budget at all expense’. When we first started reproving the doctrine of Jesus being a millionaire, the disciples having a huge budget, Jesus owning an expensive house and all the other stuff that went along with this distorted view of Jesus. It was hard to ‘correct’ the average Pastor who would hear a ‘proof text’ like Jesus wearing an expensive coat and then falling headlong into the money camp. It really upset me that average Pastors could be so easily ‘moved from the gospel of Christ’. I then began to see that in the context of these men’s lives, the major pressure was to ‘fill the building and meet the budget’. All well meaning guys, just distracted from the real goal [the developing of the character and image of Christ in the people groups [oikos] you relate to over your life]. Now, in this environment [the fill the building one!] you grasp hold of any teaching that helps with the accomplishing of the mission. So good Pastors, wanting to meet the budget, hear something from the prosperity group and take it in hook, line and sinker. Any reproof is seen as ‘these rebels don’t see the truth of money and its major role in the Christian life’. While in reality money is dealt with in scripture, but the overall view can be summed up in Paul’s statement ‘using the things of this world while not abusing them’. An overall balance of finances without falling into the trap that Paul warned about in 1st Timothy 6. But in the highly individualistic style of a Pastor overseeing thousands of people [like the San Antonio mega church- 18,000 members] you can become isolated thru viewing everything thru the lens of million dollar budgets and having people come and listen. The safety mechanism that Jesus put in the ‘church’ [corporate body of people] was when all the believers are together, they share and correct and keep each other in balance. The ‘big church’ model can be in danger of losing this ‘safety mechanism’. Some see this and encourage home groups, that’s a good thing. But some mega churches have Pastors who don’t participate. So these brothers are on a course to accomplish huge goals and then when they get off track doctrinally it is next to impossible to correct them. The members are so enamored with the strong preaching of the leader [in the more authoritative situations, I don’t see this in Corpus Christi] that they fall into the category of hearers only and would never confront the leader. Even if he starts to deny that Jesus is the Christ! [Messiah]. So in all of the varied expressions of church, let’s stay balanced and be open to receive from all the Christian communions that are out there. Don’t go down the road of viewing other Christian churches as ‘those deceived traditionalists’. I find it disturbing that when talking with Jehovah witnesses they espouse the same feelings towards the Catholic Church as many Baptists do. While not defending all the teachings of the Catholic Church, this mindset is inherently unhealthy. When a strong mega church is ‘ruled’ by an authoritarian Pastor, this whole dynamic is absent from the New Testament. There was NEVER a situation, NOT ONE TIME EVER where you would have 18,000 believers under the weekly preaching of any single person who was called ‘the Pastor’. Now you can see why the way you view your function as a Christian can be limited if your whole experience in Christianity is one of sitting in a pew and passively hearing bible words being preached. This perspective is not what you find taught in the New Testament assemblies of believers.

(644) OVERVIEW OF NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIANITY AND THE CHURCH. Pretty tall order! As I finish our study on John’s gospel, I am debating on how much New Testament study to plunge into. I know we will cover the letters and all, but don’t want to finish the whole New Testament in a year or two. I heard a few ideas these last few weeks that I want to cover. One was that we are called to be the ‘21st century church, not the 1st century one!’ Good point, needs to be clarified. People will say this to counteract the strong ‘organic church movement’ to which I am a part of. The best way to understand the ‘21st century church’ is to understand ‘church’. If you have the biblical view of church, as found in the ‘1st century bible’ you see church as a community of people. As she grows thru the centuries she will form and interact with each generation as a real ‘person’ changes with the times. She shouldn’t lose her fundamental message [reconciliation of God and man thru Christ] nor her fundamental nature! She is and always will be the people of God! So any development or ‘seeing her in the 21st century’ has to keep in mind the basic nature of community. If you lose this idea of her, and begin to define her as ‘mega church’ or huge Christian corporation, then you are not really sticking with the actual ‘person’ [Ecclesia] that she is. So any growth has to stick with this basic idea of the church as the corporate people of God. The expressions of mega church or ‘Sunday church’ are fine, just don’t lose the fundamental 1st century idea. It’ not so much a following of a model in as much as it is sticking to the organic person we see as defined by community, got it? Now as we proceed from the Gospel into the book of acts and the letters we do find the basic nature of church. Some have made it harder than it needs to be. For example, the whole area of giving. By now you guys should know my position on ‘tithing’. I believe it’ fine to give 10% of your money, it’s just the whole New Testament is filled with direct instruction on giving. It is always seen in the community context. The later ‘idea’ of tithing into ‘the church basket on Sunday’ as being ‘the local church storehouse’ is really a silly development and digressing away from the idea of community. Not so much ‘those wicked Sunday churches’ an idea seen in George Foxe’s preaching. He was the founder of the Quakers, he would call the ‘churches’ ‘steeple houses’ as he was challenging the mindset of ‘church’ as the building. You would also see the ‘Church of Christ’ emphasize ‘the church of Christ meets here’ as opposed to the word ‘church’ on their buildings. All good people seeing real truth. So as you read into Acts and the epistles you will see Gods people adapting to society around them while not loosing the fundamental nature of being the corporate people of God. We must keep this ‘1st century revelation of Christ’s body’ just as much as keeping the ‘1st century revelation of Christ’. The ways we present the message can change, we don’t have to avoid modern technology or using corporate innovation as a means to advance the gospel. But we cant begin defining ‘church’ as the actual corporation itself! This seems to be the mistake of some who espouse ‘the 21st century church as opposed to the first century one’. So as we begin our way into the New Testament lets keep this in mind. We are going to learn about the great story of redemption, how God chose us and saved us by his grace. Being called the ‘people of God’ and partaking of all the blessings that were once limited to the commonwealth of Israel. Christ destroying racial barriers and ‘making in himself one new man’ from all races of men. Jesus himself being the preeminent ‘stone’ of this building. The singular ‘test’ of whether or not you are ‘one of the stones’ in this building will be defined by Jesus himself who said to Peter ‘upon this rock [your confession of me as Christ] I will build my church’. Jesus himself will be seen as the criterion of whether you are a believer or not. Yes, the message can be seen as ‘narrow minded’, some will challenge this idea ‘who do you think you are telling us we all need Jesus’? But the fact will remain that we all do! You will see thru out history that some will emphasize the teachings of Jesus more than the letters of Paul [Catholics and more orthodox churches] and the Protestants will become focused on Paul’s revelation as seen in justification by faith. While some see these as opposing views, I see them as 2 strains of truth that are destined to merge as Christ becomes more preeminent at the close of the present age. He will truly ‘bring all things together in him’ in ways that we don’t fully understand yet. So as we move ahead, lets fix our eyes on the ‘Captain of our Salvation’ and let him steer this ship the way he wants.

(658) OVERVIEW OF AMERICAN CHURCH HISTORY- Let’s do a little overview of my story. When first coming to Texas I had a catholic upbringing but was pretty well ‘lost’. After truly coming to know the Lord I had the privilege of meeting believers from various backgrounds. I knew good Baptists, Assembly of God, Church of Christ and other good Christians. It didn’t take long to see how the more legalistic believers from all the above groups [some more than others] would view the ‘church down the block’ as either a cult or heretical. They would develop these views from sincere differences they saw from scripture over water Baptism, Gifts of the Spirit, Eternal Security and other important doctrines[I had a friend who would point to the statue of Mary in front of a catholic church. It showed other statues of kids kneeling and praying around Mary. He would say ‘Look, Idols worshipping Idols’!] The infighting from some of these brothers was really detrimental to unity in the Church. Many, like myself, would eventually move on in the Christian experience and continue to hold to the historic doctrines of Christianity while rejecting the strong sectarian mindset that can exist in many of these groups. I still see all of the above groups as Christian. I still actually hold to some of the basic tenets of the Baptist church, as well as the assemblies of God. You would even find me agreeing with my Church of Christ brothers on stuff. But for the most part I see many of these differences as divisive. Some ideas are important to discuss, some basic historic truths are worth dieing for! But not necessarily the ones these brothers have argued over. Other believers who have left the more independent churches will eventually become ‘anti Christian faith’ some will view all Christianity from a negative standpoint because of being burned by one of the above expressions of Christianity. As you study Church history along with the Bible you will begin to see the great revolution of the people of God and the reality of Christianity as the major hinge factor in world events for the past 2 thousand years. You can not trivialize the impact that Christianity has had on world affairs. Some recent books written by Atheists have tried to blame Christianity for all the ills of society, while at the same time others atheists will try to say that Jesus and his movement are a farce and have had little impact historically. Hey, you really cant espouse both of these views at once. The simple fact is Christianity has had a major impact on the world. To refute Christopher Hitchens recent book ‘God is not Great’ he tries to prove that Christianity and religion have done no good whatsoever and the world would be a better place without it. He is not honest about the facts. The truth [historically] is that Christianity has been the major force behind the most noble institutions in our country. The hospital system in the United States as well as the University system was founded by the Church. The major scientific thinkers of history have been Christian [or deist]. The majority of the founding fathers of our country were without a doubt Christian. It is common today for our Public schools to focus on Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson or George Washington when teaching on the founding Fathers. And because you will find certain non Christian statements from Franklin, yet he himself still embraced religion. But more from a Deist standpoint [belief in God while not being a Christian]. This small focus on a few of the fathers [there were at least 50 historic figures who would fall under the category of founding Fathers. Some actually started bible societies. Wrote their own version of the Bible and stuff like that] seems to leave the impression that the founding of our country was by men who were ‘fleeing Christianity’. To start a new world free from religious expression. This is in no way true. Most of the early settlers of our country were called ‘Puritans/Pilgrims’. ‘Pure’ from what? From religious expression? They got the name from being ‘Non Conformists’ under Queen Elisabeth’s rule in England. During the reign of Elisabeth England was dealing with the problem of the ‘Non Conformists’. These were the Christians in her realm who were Protestant, and they didn’t feel the ‘Protestantism of England’ went far enough in her reform. The Church of England was ‘too catholic’ for these brothers. So Elisabeth actually persecuted Protestant brothers under her reign, though she herself was considered to be the ‘Protestant Queen’ after her sister Mary, the infamous ‘bloody Mary’ martyred Protestants. You would think the Protestants under Elisabeth were happy, but they weren’t. Eventually Elisabeth would pass a law that told all the Protestant Pastors to keep wearing the catholic Collar on their vestments during ‘church services’. Eventually these ‘non conformists’ would get their name for not wanting to conform to these regulations. So these eventually would flee England. Some to Holland and other areas. Eventually to the Americas. This is the basic moral underpinning of the religious Puritans [pure form of Christianity as they saw it] who founded our country. In this background you will find the idea of ‘Separation of Church and state’ seen. Though our founding documents reference Christ and God many times, yet this phrase comes from a letter during this time. The phrase itself has been used in the hands of strict separatists as meaning something different from the original ideas of the fathers. Our constitution does have what is called ‘the establishment clause’ ‘Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise’ but if you read this in the context of all I just showed you, it is quite easy to see that they didn’t mean society should be free from all religious/Christian expression. But they used this language to protect the church from the intrusion of government interference. These fathers were fleeing England and a Queen who kept telling them to ‘conform to the sates standards’. They wanted to make sure no state, not even the new one being founded, would ever tell the church how to run her affairs again. I know the other side [the strict separatists] have a different belief about the founding of the country. But this is simple history, you don’t have the option of changing the facts! This is also why Congress still opens in Prayer. Why the Ten Commandments are still found on the walls of government buildings. Why they still ‘have the gall to have our Senators sworn in on the Bible’! It is quite obvious that the majority of the founding Fathers were not atheists who were founding some new world that would be free from religion! Now, this new religious freedom allowed for the ‘starting of many churches/religions’. You would have the rise of many types of religious movements. The breakaway groups from both the catholic church as well as the protestant church would find new freedom in America. Many of these expressions are the churches that I mentioned at the beginning of this entry! But you would also see the rise of ‘cults’. The first major wave of ‘anti cultism’ seen in this country was the strong resistance in the early 20th century against the metaphysical cults. These are the groups know as ‘unity’ ‘Christian science’ or ‘theosophy’. These groups were seen as THE major threat to Christianity in the first part of the 20th century. You would have scholars from the universities, that were founded by Christians, writing against these movements. Princeton, the university from my home state, was one of the Universities that had these scholars. You would also have a strong anti catholic spirit among some of the writings of these Reformed scholars. These were good men who held faithful to what they still saw [and see!] as the major errors of Catholicism. This backlash and anti catholic spirit was seen in the real fear that Many had when John Kennedy ran for President. Kennedy would have to make it clear that his religion would not interfere with his allegiance to our country. The Pope would have no control over him in matters pertaining to state and government. Some feel this is what was behind his assassination, a strong anti catholic spirit. Of course we know this not to be true, Oliver stone [movie maker] has shown us the truth behind his assassination! [of course I had to put this in!] So this leaves us with a good country, with much religious freedom. This also has lead to the freedom for one type of Christian church to bash another type. Even to view them as heretics! So the Christian church of our country is not forced to ‘love our brother in Christ’ by human law, but I think we could find another law in scripture that supersedes human law! Note- There is a ‘curse’ or judgment that believers bring upon themselves when they view other Christian faiths as in total error or apostasy simply because they are catholic, or traditional. I know and believe there are important differences that still need to be dealt with in love. I believe heresy should be dealt with. But I have seen on too many occasions how Christians ‘use’ their judgment on the traditional church in a way that blinds them to truth. How many times have I tried to show someone that Jesus was not about materialistic living. Though he told his followers he would meet their needs, yet he walked above the pursuits of this life. I would get responses like ‘Oh that’s that old tradition/religious teaching the Catholics teach. Vows of poverty and stuff like that.’ These believers sincerely cant see the major body of truth in scripture dealing with the warnings of money because they grasped an idea that all the Catholics or traditional churches are simply wrong. Proverbs says ‘don’t move the ancient landmarks that your fathers put down’ we need to be careful that our view of ‘those deceived Catholics’ is not a blind spot [or should I say log!] in our own eye! NOTE- If you think about it, the effect of the founding fathers writings, our constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Who would have thought these ‘documents from a revolution’ would have had such a major impact? Even today it is considered ‘heresy’ to question the Constitution. Is it a ‘living document’ that changes and grows with the times? Some conservatives will burn you at the stake for saying this! I believe a reason for the influence of these writings can be attributed to the same ‘idea’ as Paul’s letters. Paul wrote most of the New testament. These letters were not ‘university papers’ that Paul spent hours pouring over in some library. These were ‘documents from a Revolution’. Things written during a time of major world upheaval. The instituting of Gods rule thru this new King called Jesus! Writings produced from a Revolutionary mindset. I think we need to get back to laying everything down for this cause once again. We are living and writing from a ‘safe’ harbor. This explains the tremendous lack of authority in the things we are communicating!

(538) This past week the Jehovah Witnesses held a regional convention in our city, the theme was ‘Jesus Christ’. The papers said they were making an all out effort to appeal to Christians at large by doing this. The Pope’s most recent book is ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ he is defending the supernatural and historical accuracy of Jesus as described in the Gospels. He is basically defending the truth of Christ. I find it interesting that most ‘Christian’ groups, even those like the Jehovah witnesses, who historically fall into the cult category, realize that the way to be ‘politically correct’ amongst other groups is to acknowledge Christ. Now I am not saying all groups are doing this out of a pure motive, Jesus said many would come in his name and say ‘I am Christ’ this not only can mean they are claiming to be Christ [Moonies] but it can also mean they are saying ‘Jesus is Christ’ but they don’t truly acknowledge his full deity. The point is even Muslims acknowledge Christ as well as do the Jews. They see him differently than Christians, but they can’t deny him fully! God will draw men to Christ; some of them will preach him out of impure motives, like Paul said. But he also said ‘either way Christ is preached’. I find it interesting that God will even use his enemies to preach his name! [Note: I am not saying this about our Catholic brothers!]

(578) We are still going to cover the gospel of John, I just felt like the Lord had me sidetrack for these last few entries. I actually have been reading this morning as I penned the last 2 or 3 entries. Let me overview something. I am reading chapter 8 right now, I will cover it soon, but I want to focus you in on the greater objective of Jesus and the introduction of the Kingdom of God to planet earth. In Jesus dealings you see him dealing with the issues of forgiveness, restoration and the breaking in to society of a different kingdom. His concerns are not those of today’s church for the most part. We have a tendency to view scripture and Christianity thru the lens of ‘starting churches’ [Christian places for believers to meet] we view the Kingdom [those of us who don’t believe it is on hold!] thru the lens of man. We see change as something we effect by becoming wealthy and influential in society ‘the world will have to pay attention to us now, look at all the wealth we have’ or ‘look at the big voting block we represent, they will pay attention to this sleeping giant now’ we lose sight of the principles of sacrifice and humility and truly being Christ like. We want the world to notice us because we are more ‘threatening’ and influential than they are. This might get their attention, but it doesn’t really reach them for the kingdom. As we read thru the gospel of John, pay attention to the ‘other worldliness’ of Jesus statements ‘I am not alone, the one who sent me is with me’ ‘you are from below, I am from above’ ‘you can not hear or understand me, you are of this world, I am not’ there is this whole sense of Jesus operating outside of the structures and influence of men. He says ‘I am speaking these things to the world’ yet he never traveled far from his hometown, he did not have the types of journeys that Paul had. Yet he was confident that if he spoke what the Father was saying, then it was Gods job to get the message out. He knew his job was humility and the Cross, he chose to not seek the honor of men, and yet he has had more honor than any other person who has walked the planet. I just wanted to do a little ‘course correction’ here at midstream of our overview of John, don’t just read it for principles to fit in to your present paradigm and structure. It is a gospel that calls us to new birth and new ways of seeing the kingdom. Get your eyes off of the natural, see Jesus for real in this book.

(580) I picked up a book at the bookstore a few weeks ago, I didn’t get it at the Christian bookstore, but at a regular bookstore. It was written by a Catholic theologian and it’s defending Paul’s writings in the New Testament against his critics. A hobby among people today is to say that Paul ‘hijacked’ the real message of Jesus and preached this anti gay, women hating, anti Semitic message. These critics will tell you how Jesus never said anything against homosexuality, but the homophobia you see in the church is a result of Paul. Well needless to say I disagree. Even though the author is trying to defend Paul, he is one of those higher critics who questions the authenticity of some of Paul’s letters. In his defense of Paul he falls into the category of ‘New Perspective Theology’ that just looks at Paul’s statements on Gentiles being brought in to the community of fellowship that Israel already had with God, sort of like focusing only on the verses of us sharing in the fellowship with God that Israel had. This truth, apart from the other verses on how Israel too must accept Messiah, leaves the perception that Israel is just fine in her current state [of being!]. Well in our study of John we read the Jews respond to Jesus ‘God is our Father’ and Jesus says ‘if you don’t honor me, you can’t have the Father’ though Israel ‘believes’ in the true God, yet she doesn’t know him, according to Jesus. So anyway the book wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. A few weeks back I read ‘My new kind of normal’ [I think that’s the title, it’s by Carol Kent] it was real good. She tells the story of how her son joined the military and married a nice girl who had some children from a previous marriage. The son winds up shooting and killing the ex-husband to protect his step daughters. The story is very real, that which is lacking in Christian books today. We have famous Christian celebrity authors writing things that don’t really matter, this book matters. I also just got a book in the mail from Amazon Books on the ‘Children of God’ group. I have studied this movement before, they are a cult. And I have another book coming in a few days on the story of the conversion of Jeffrey Dahmer, he was the serial killer who ‘ate’ his victims. He did accept the lord in prison and I have been wanting to read his story for a while. Have you read any good books lately [or at all]? NOTE; when I went back to spell check this entry it sounds like all I am reading is on cults and killers, trust me I read other good stuff too!

(229) Let me try and do this. I just kind of had an ‘overview’ of old testament history and the ‘history of the church’ run thru my mind in a few minutes. A lot of the stuff I am going to share is from many years of memory. So bear with me with the little details! In the Old Testament Gods people were represented by the nation of Israel. During the journey of Israel from captivity in Egypt to the Promised Land God deposited certain ‘sacred/religious’ rituals into their society for the ultimate purpose of revealing the gospel and reality of Christ’s sacrifice for all people. During this journey Israel ‘divides’ over certain issues. Israel has a northern tribe [Israel] and southern one [Judah] The northern part develops a separate priesthood under Jeroboam, and the southern keeps the original priesthood under Reheboam. The inheritance being divided during the possessing of the Promised Land becomes a theological issue for Jewish orthodoxy. The ‘jeroboam’ group identifies with the altar of worship deemed ‘unorthodox’ while the southern group has the ‘true’ place of worship. By the way this was the issue seen in the gospel of John chapter 4, when Jesus speaks to the woman at the well. She was a Samaritan, part of the ‘unorthodox group’ and was asking this exact question! So the history of natural Israel is one of division and ‘who has the real priesthood’ [sound familiar?] It is interesting to note, that though theologically the southern tribes are more ‘correct’ God later reproves them for their ‘correctness’. The prophets will eventually address Judah and say ‘thus saith the Lord, you pride yourself on being more faithful than your sister [northern tribe] and yet you are worse!’ So already God is dealing with the aspect of pride that comes along with theological correctness. Today the church historically is divided. Most evangelicals think of the 16th century reformation as the ‘dividing point’ but historically it’s the division of the 11th century between our Catholic and Orthodox brothers that is seen as the ‘great schism’. Either way you have the Catholics/Orthodox representing historic orthodoxy and the protestants/evangelicals on the others side. The debate rages on who has the more pure form of orthodoxy. We are like the woman at the well, we are asking Jesus ‘who’s right?’ and Jesus simply tells the woman ‘I am not here to take sides in your theological arguments, I am here to call you to repentance and lead you into true worship with God’. So we find ourselves in a place in history where truth does matter [at least to me!] but where Gods prophetic voice is calling all of his people back to true worship. Sort of like the Sienfeld episode where George is going to convert to the Orthodox religion so he can date some girl. The orthodox priests are questioning George on his reason for conversion and George replies ‘I like the hats’ to the dismay of the priests who were wearing these religious looking hats! We try to come up with reasons to why we associate in our divided groups, and sometimes it’s as silly as the hats! Well I know I got a little theological with you guys today, but I felt the Lord wanted to get you to thinking on these things. God wants unity, and all sides have to display ‘humility of mind’ in the process!

(238) A while back I mentioned how the prophet Jeremiah [and others] spoke about ‘tearing down, removing obstacles and building up’. I have been in the ‘demolition stage’ for a while and want to do some ‘building up’. I spoke on the extreme forms of ‘renewing the mind’, things like focusing all your thoughts on money verses, quoting scriptures that seem to focus on what you want out of life. These types of ‘mind renewing’ are not primarily what the New Testament is talking about when it speaks of renewing your mind. Paul the Apostle, who most frequently uses this image, had a basic thrust to his theology JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH Paul was a radical Apostle with a message of God accepting us freely as we believe in his son. Paul knew the terror of legalism and trying to keep Gods commands in order to be saved. The entire Old Testament Jewish law was a complete drain on the human psyche. Man over and over again would attempt to ‘live up to the standard’ to no avail. God allowed the sacrificial system of animals to temporarily ‘cover’ their sins as a future sign of the one sacrifice that would pay for all of mans sin. The Apostle Paul lived under this condemnation for most of his professional life. Paul was a Pharisee who taught Jewish law and was enmeshed deeply into this system. The revelation of being ‘saved’ thru simply believing in the single sacrifice of Christ was a tremendous ‘paradigm’ shift from legalism to grace. It was hard for someone of the Jewish faith to make this transition. It was almost as in if it were too good to be true! This is why Paul says things like ‘If there were a law given that good have made us right with God, then we would be made right by it. But being there is no such law, God has chosen to justify us by faith’. You find this singular theme repeated over and over again in Paul’s writings. Faith in Jesus is not only the way we get into the Kingdom, but it’s also the way we grow and mature once we get in! ‘HAVING BEGUN IN THE SPIRIT ARE WE NOW MADE PERFECT BY THE FLESH [LAW]?’ Galatians. Now with this underlying theme of grace, always warring against the mindset of law, Paul speaks of ‘renewing the mind’. It was a battle to keep at the forefront of the early believers this central reality of the gospel. Paul was continually warring against other religious leaders [judiasers] who did not walk in grace. This is primarily what the New Testament is speaking about in the area of renewing the mind. Some actually teach the renewing of the mind in a legalistic way. They make you think that you have to change your circumstances and ‘world around you’ by some type of mental gymnastics. You fall into this type of ‘mind renewing’ that puts the pressure on you to change things. This is not the biblical image of renewing the mind! The biblical image is seeing all the great things that God has done for us thru the Cross, and living our lives out of this radical gratitude that causes us to lay down all of our agendas for Gods agenda! The fact that this legalistic mindset of trying to live up to some religious standard is now over, this releases us into a radical way of life that makes Gods Kingdom the priority. As Paul teaches this radical good news, he clearly says ‘you are not saved or accepted with God based on your performance. You are accepted because Christ died for you’. Many people in society today don’t know this! They see the ‘church’ as a bunch of ‘moral hypocrites’. They don’t realize that God is not holding things against them. The account has been paid. God is not requiring them to join some church, or convert to some religion. He is simply trying to get this message to them. Why isn’t it getting to them? O that’s right, when they tune in to our TV shows they see us talking about money! [I forgot, I wasn’t going to tear down today]. You see, the thing that should be compelling us to go into all the world with an urgency to preach Christ is a gratitude for what he’s done for us. We don’t have the right anymore to live for ourselves; we have been bought with a price THEREFORE GLORIFY GOD IN YOUR BODY AND IN YOUR SPIRIT, WHICH BELONG TO GOD.

(252) Just woke up, I am at work. It’s real early and I felt like we should overview some things. In the old days when I pastored I would get a thought/idea and then research it and develop it over a 2-4 day period and then preach it on a Sunday [OK]. To just wake up and start writing from scratch allows me to cover a lot of territory, but also risk missing a fact or two. Nothing major, just maybe a side detail. So to my critics, hunt and you will find. To my friends I hope we are breaking thru. A few days ago I spoke on Paul and the underlying theme of our acceptance with God by faith. As a religious teacher of the Jews, Paul was well instructed on the life of Abraham. The Jewish people looked to him as ‘the father of the faith’. In Genesis chapters 12 and 15 you find stories that become the basis of Paul’s theological argument for Justification by faith. Even though Paul and the other Pharisees knew about these stories, it never ‘dawned’ on them until the Spirit of God revealed it to them. Paul will go to these time and again. The books of Romans [4] Galatians [2-3] and to the surprise of some, even Hebrews [11] are actually ‘justification by faith’ arguments. [I will develop the Hebrews argument at another time, but it ‘dawned’ on me one day that this was Paul’s ‘open letter’ to the Jews of his day. This is why it’s unsigned. The Jews would not read something from Paul after all the slander he received by the judiasers. Hebrews ‘theologically’ bridges the gap between the book of James and Paul’s epistles, a lot can be taught right here] Paul lays out for the Jews the simple fact that God counted Abraham righteous [accepted and just] when Abraham ‘believed in God’. It was AFTER he believed in God that he then was circumcised. The law of Moses [10 commandments] weren’t even around yet! This simple truth showed the religious community of the 1st century that acceptance with God was not a cultural [circumcision] or religious/legalistic [10 commandments] thing. God was already receiving people based on their belief in Him years earlier. Now Paul does some tremendous ‘brainwork’ on revealing things from The Old Testament and showing how they were ‘precursors’ to Christ. But I want you to see this simple truth today. One of the main teachings of the New Testament is that God accepts you when you believe in his Son. This is no excuse to go out and sin, but your living different is a result of your free acceptance with God. It is not the CAUSE of it. I find it interesting that the bible actually says that no person can ever be saved by trying to live good, go to church, obey the commandments and all the other things we put on people. Paul actually makes the statement [Galatians] IF A PERSON CAN BE MADE RIGHT WITH GOD BY DOING SOMETHING, THEN CHRIST DIED IN VAIN. Think about that. If there were some other way to ‘get saved’ and go to heaven [now God wants a lot more than this!]Then why would he have given his Son to die? If you owed 100 dollars on some debt and the creditors were calling. Would you say ‘well I guess I will go and die for the payment’. Not if you could get out of it by paying the 100 dollars! So this is one of the arguments that Paul uses. He then goes on to explain ‘why did God give us the 10 commandments’. He teaches that God gave us the law to REVEAL MANS SIN TO HIMSELF. Some believers are not as clear as they should be on this. Even if we could get all the 10 commandments posted in all the schools of the world, this still would not fundamentally change the way kids act. I would rather post John 3:16! I am being a little sarcastic. The point is God gave man the law [10 commandments] so after a few thousand years of ‘trying to be good’ he would come to a point of utter failure. The law did its job; it showed man his need for a savior. This is the New Testament argument. Today I want all my readers that are not really Christian to see this. I can argue all the merits of Gods existence and all the proofs from natural law and every other angle there is. But I want you to see that Christ died for you. God is not telling you to become a religious conservative. He is telling you you’re forgiven and accepted, IF YOU WILL ONLY BELIEVE. [Read Hebrews: 11 commentary on this site!]

(257) Lets go back to an original thought. I want to throw this out to our intellectual readers. The whole idea that Paul wrote Hebrews, and specifically chapter 11 as a way to bring the truth of Justification by faith to the Jewish church is what I want to propose. If you read Romans and Galatians you see Paul’s entire argument for justification by faith as seen in the Genesis 12, 15 story of Abraham. When James teaches Abraham in the book of James, he is primarily seeing the view from the story of Abraham offering Isaac on the altar [Gen 22?] James is seeing ‘actual, experiential justification’ Paul is seeing ‘judicial, declarative justification’. Paul says ‘God declares you righteous at the moment of faith, before you ever see it actually working out in the life of the person.’ James doesn’t contradict this, but James says ‘look at Abraham, when God declared him righteous [Gen 15] he eventually became what God declared! [Gen 22 Actually doing right things, offering up his son]. Now where most Christians [including theologians] miss it is when they try to bring these 2 truths together. They usually say ‘what James is saying is active faith saves you, not works’ If you read James carefully he is not saying that! He actually says ‘see how a man is saved by works, not only faith’. I believe the truth is James is seeing God declaring a person righteous when he actually does a righteous thing. Now this can get hard, but in Paul’s view Abraham became justified in Gen 15, true. And in James view when Abraham actually did the work of obedience, God also said ‘well done, you did good!’ In essence God has the sovereignty to declare you ‘right’ whenever he wants. Now we know the only reason a person can ever get to the point of ‘doing right’ is because he already passed the point of ‘being declared right’ [Gen:15 versus Gen:22]. It’s just that the Jewish church was emphasizing the ‘actually righteous’ part, where as the gentile churches were focusing on the ‘believing and being justified’ part. No contradiction, just seeing at a different timeline. This is also one of the main areas of division between the Protestants and Catholics. Luther was seeing the Gentile view [Romans/Galatians] the Catholics were seeing the ‘actual’ view [James]. The Catholics actually called Luther’s [and Paul’s!] view ‘a legal fiction’ they said Luther taught a man can be legally Justified without ever showing it. Luther really didn’t teach that, but he did say once God justifies you, it’s not up to your works to save you. Many don’t realize that Luther also strongly believed in predestination. All the major reformers did as well! Now you read Hebrews 11 with this in mind. All thru the chapter Paul is saying ‘look, all these heroes of faith acted by faith. They actually did works of righteousness by faith. They ALL obtained a GOOD REPORT [declared right!] by faith’. Read this chapter with this in mind and you will now see the whole point of the chapter. It’s Paul’s treatise of ‘justification by faith’ written anonymously to the Jewish nation. Here my friends is the solution to the problem. This view bridges for the first time [I believe] the whole problem of the book of James and the epistles of Paul. It also helps bridge one of the major divisions in the church today. Take this and run with it! NOTE; Luther called the book of James ‘a straw letter’ and at one point thought it should not have been added to the canon, though later he did include it in his bible versions! Also Paul includes Rahab the harlot as someone that was justified by faith, showing it didn’t matter how many sins you have committed in the past, if you believe you too will be justified. [see Hebrews 11 on this site]

(292) Let s go thru some stuff. I woke up yesterday at 3:00 am, felt like I needed to do some specific prayer. Some times I include about an hour and a half of specific intercession while doing ‘all night’ prayer. This ‘list’ of things has grown and evolved over the last 20 years, but it has kept the basic structure for the most part, Family, Nations, Fellow believers and even old friends from Jersey. I have actually been praying specifically for you guys, often by name, for over 20 years! Well I didn’t get to do the ‘specific set’ yesterday, so I am now up at 2:45 am, been up since 1, and will make a second attempt soon. First lets do some stuff. I recently read an overview of the first book the Pope put out since becoming Pope. I will get it when it comes out in English. He wrote exactly what I have been speaking on the last month or so. He speaks on the dangers of Marxism [communism] as a form of govt. that pushed out God, though it had noble designs in its attempt to have all people ‘equal’ in society. He spoke on the dangers of capitalism as a type of govt. that can fall to the temptation of materialism. He spoke on materialism as an enemy of the church and how western society has fallen into this sin without realizing it. These themes are almost exactly what I have taught! It’s humbling to see God speak the same thing to an insignificant hippie preacher on the gulf coast, as he is speaking to the Pope in Rome! During the time of slavery in this country there were many southern preachers who defended slavery from scripture. Many of these men were sincere, some were not. The sincere ones even had reputations as Christians that their own slaves vouched for. Some slave holders were cruel and abusive, some were actually good to their slaves [as good as you can be considering you have a slave!] The Christian slave holders read the actual verses in the New Testament where Paul writes to slaves and says SLAVES BE OBEDIENT TO YOUR MASTERS IN EVERY WAY, SO YOU DON’T GIVE THE GOSPEL A BAD REPUTATION the slave holders who were truly Christian read the other part that said MASTERS, TREAT YOUR SLAVES WITH LOVE AND RESPECT, KNOWING THAT YOU ALL ARE FELLOW BELIEVERS OF GODS GRACE. Now to read these real verses during the Civil war caused many sincere preachers to say that slavery should not be ‘undone’ because God addressed both the slaves and the masters this way. To be real honest, many of you who hold to a literalist view of scripture [I hold to a literalist view to a great extent] would see these verses the same way. It is the overriding purpose of the Gospel that causes one to fight for freedom despite the ‘verses’. Jesus primary goal in redemption was to set slaves free [spiritually] for this spiritual redemption to follow thru to a ‘physical’ one was only logical. To form your views at the time based on the overriding ACT OF REDEMPTION would trump any specific direction given, even in scripture, to a 1st century slave holder. Context tells us that Paul was addressing slaves under a different time and economy of societal rule. These 1st century slaves were governed by many Old Testament decrees that God allowed, for a multiple of reasons, to exist. It was easy for the ‘literalist’ preachers to say THE BIBLE SAYS SO in defense of keeping slaves; it was proper and just to free them as an extension of Gods purpose in Redemption! It takes courage and boldness to stand against a particular reading of scripture, that is popular at the time, in order to see and move down the bigger road of Gods overall purpose. Many today can’t follow this theme. Its possible to go to Old Testament scripture and find verses on putting to death kids who curse their parents, women who have cheated on their husbands and even those who live the Gay lifestyle. While none of these practices are considered good, even amongst most Christians today, yet to kill them is not an option! [Except maybe for that Westboro Baptist Church bunch of nuts who are going around picketing dead servicemen at their funerals!]. Christian’s today practice tithing under the same reading of scripture, many of them don’t know this, but its true. You can read the verse on robbing God in Malachi and scare people, just like if you read the verses on putting Gays to death. If you read that verse over and over every Sunday you could be persuaded of it. If you read Malachi and tithing as you read other Old Testament verses [with a spiritual truth behind the verse] then you would err on the side of grace. The old testament teaching on tithing shows us that God not only wants the ‘10 %’ of a persons income, but he wants the whole firstfruit. Spiritually we ARE the first fruits unto God. He wants ALL of us, we are his tithe! Simple, isn’t it. Now if you give 10% to your church on Sunday, fine! You shouldn’t read Malachi and tell New Testament Christians their under a curse if they don’t put 10 % in the bucket. The way people ‘rob God’ according to Jesus is by not meeting the actual needs of society WHEN I WAS HUNGRY YOU DIDN’T FEED ME, NAKED AND YOU DIDN’T CLOTHE ME, etc. Robbing God is not done by ‘not tithing’ it is done by not obeying the New Testament mandate given over our treatment of ‘our neighbor’. Now this is supposed to ‘leak’ over into society at large. That’s also why you see certain elements of catholic teaching that harbor illegal aliens [the sanctuary movement] they are responding out of this basic concept of ‘treating your neighbor well’. Neighbor in the 1st century context also meant ‘alien’ those who were living ‘in the land’ but were not really part of Gods covenant. God had specific instructions on how to treat ‘illegals’ and it was WITH GRACE. Sorry Sean Hannity! Well any way I felt the Lord had this word for you guys, hopefully I will get thru this prayer thing without coming back to write, many times I will write in spurts while right in the middle of prayer. Could it be that this is why the Lord allows these ‘words’ to have a big impact? Prayer is more important than ‘pulpit performance’ seek to speak what God is saying and the Lord will give you ‘an audience’. NOTE: When Paul was addressing the early believers and basically telling the slaves to ‘submit’ this was a practical reality that Paul was trying to instill in the new revolutionary movement called ‘church’. There were other messianic groups in the first century, some of these were called ‘zealots’ these people practiced a radical type of reform. A type of civil disobedience that Paul didn’t want the new believers to be associated with. Paul wanted the early believers to be seen as good citizens in society, not zealots. This explains the practical instruction on slaves being obedient. Paul wasn’t justifying slavery for all time!

(298) Let me overview some history from the Fundamental Independent Baptist Church and its beliefs. I used to attend a good one that did preach the gospel. I do want to share in love some examples from this peculiar type of Christianity. The church I attended had a sign that said FUNDAMENTAL, INDEPENDENT, PREMELLINIAL, PRETRIBULATIONAL BAPTIST CHURCH This ‘sign’ was in itself a sign of the danger that Christians fall into when they isolate themselves from the rest of the Body of Christ. While I understand this view and style of belief, I also see a type of theology [eschatology] that can develop when you truncate yourself from the mainstream churches. There are so many things that you can put on a ‘church sign’ why clutter it up with certain end time views [which in my view are actually incorrect!] You can put THE BLOOD OF JESUS WASHES AWAY SIN or John 3:16 or some other way to define your belief system, but this type of Church sees itself as THE ONLY truly Christian church today. Some are not this extreme, but even those have a ‘cultic’ spirit that sees everyone else as ‘straying from the faith’ while they are the true carriers of the faith. I was with a friend at work who is a Christian. I recently recommended the church I attend in Corpus [a great mega church] to him. They have a ‘branch’ church in Kingsville where I work. One day while I was reading the bible during lunch a city inspector came by to take care of business. He noticed I was reading the bible and started talking. I found out that he is a good Christian who attends a fundamental Baptist Church. I gave him some of the books I wrote and told him I am a little ‘radical’ but hoped he would get blessed [to be honest for a Fundamental Baptist to read this entire site would probably give him a heart attack]. It was good fellowship. He shared with me and the other fire fighter how him and his wife travel about 4 towns over [50 miles] to attend a Fundamental Baptist Church. It’s probably a small Church with around 50 people [OK] my friend later thought it strange for someone to do that. After all there are so many good Christian churches right here! I explained to him a little of the legalism that causes this. To see your ‘peculiar style’ of belief as the only ones you can truly worship with. Many Christians suffer from this. Some are more extreme than others. By the way my fire fighter friend did start attending the church I recommended, and he loves it. One day at work we were watching the history channel and they were doing a thing on the Mormon Church, my friend said ‘wow, I would never be a Mormon’ I looked at him with a real serious face and said ‘what do you mean’ he said ‘look at all the stuff they believe, I could never believe that’ I said ‘[my friends name] we are MORMONS! Bay Area Fellowship is Mormon!’ He was shocked, then I told him I was just kidding! I thought it was funny at the time.

(301) Was just thinking about a show I saw a while back. Larry King had a bunch of preachers and Priests on his talk show. One preacher was a ‘fundamentalist’ he was doctrinally correct on a lot of stuff, but you could sense an arrogance. Another brother was a well-known Christian author, I liked him the most. He stood strong for salvation being thru Christ, but was humble and real. The Priest was a little to ‘liberal’ for me. He kind of had the mindset that all people who believe in ‘a’ god are all right [not all Priests are liberal!]. He even had a famous guy who is very popular today, he teaches ‘eastern mysticism’ though they really don’t call it that. It’s easy to fall into categories. I believe true Christianity should be ‘served’ with humility and grace. This doesn’t mean that we give in to extreme liberal views on salvation ‘all roads lead to heaven’ type stuff. One road leads to heaven, his name is Jesus. You can be Catholic, Protestant or any other group, but you must believe in the death, burial and resurrection of Gods Son. God is not asking people to change their cultural heritage, but he is compelling you to ‘get in the lifeboat’ [Ark!]

(83) The other day I was listening to a good preacher on the radio. Sort of a ‘reformed’ thinker who frequently calls the church back to the Puritan days. I love Puritan history and writing. Many of these brothers would agree with some of the stuff I teach in the area of the church being self centered and materially minded, but they would absolutely reject our prophetic stuff. God’s intent for the church is more than ‘the church’. Jesus spoke on the Kingdom over and over again, very little on the church. The reason we exist as ‘the church’ is to invade and impact all areas of society until Christ returns. There are certain ‘old time’ defenders of the faith who cant get past ‘church’ being ‘the old time model’. They stumble over the current ‘mega church’ expression. Many have gone after Rick Warren and his ‘purpose driven church’ model. Our radical teaching on the church being the actual mobile community of God ‘journeying’ thru every generation till now, leaves room for the unique expressions of ‘meeting’ that would go from the simple ‘home based model’ all the way to the ‘mega church’ and even to the Catholic brothers! Our purpose isn’t to meet and argue over the many ways to meet, our purpose is to advance and communicate the gospel of the Kingdom into every arena of man. Some confuse my strong preaching against materialism with a call to come out of the market place. Nothing could be further from the truth! When Christians are able to live above the concerns of the unbeliever, and to do it in a way where they are so intricately involved in society, this itself is a testimony to them. Over the years I have had Christian friends try to tell me ‘why don’t you leave the Fire Dept. and get a building and be faithful to your calling’. I see now that some of them were saying this out of self-guilt. Many of the other Christians in the market place were feeling ‘threatened’ that a so-called ‘preacher’ [to which I hold no claim!] would be working and holding a job like them. Sort of ‘well if this guy can do it, then I am responsible to be more than just a fire fighter’. Then you would have those in ‘full time ministry’ who would get offended that we didn’t take offerings or money. After all they would make the ‘offering time’ 25% of the Sunday meeting. The fact that we weren’t even doing it was offensive [we did take offerings at one time, but I never took a salary from day one]. These examples show you that society is comfortable with secular/holy divisions ‘just keep the church in the church’ and they will be happy. Now to the point of the believer being highly involved in all aspects of society, even economically. It is most definitely Gods will for believers to excel in the stock market, real estate world and all other avenues of finance and influence. Its just we need to distinguish between a message of ‘the Kingdom invading society’ and making the Kingdom about money. This is a real distinction that needs to be taught and understood. Many prophetic people who advocate these things are not yet able to articulate this distinction in an effective way. They will read so far on this blog and think that we are against being progressive, which is not the case. Jesus instituted the Church so the Church would be the key vehicle for expressing the Kingdom in the earth [as well as the whole universe!] We are about much more than which particular style of church or meeting we should have. The style or methods are really un important in my mind. The goal is to harvest enough people who we can then turn out into society to affect it for Christ. The Kingdom starts as a little seed [our small church mentality!] and eventually moves out to cover the earth!

(377) A few entries back I spoke on not judging God or others based on our own experiences. I have noticed over the years how a lot of believers who might have had a Catholic background became very ‘anti catholic’ after being ‘born again’. I do believe in the New Birth. I believe all who believe in Jesus Christ are Born Again. In 1st John it does say ‘whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God’. Some times we associate ‘being born again’ with our own evangelical experience. ‘Have you asked Jesus into your heart?’ If not, then you’re not BORN AGAIN! This is what you would call ‘reductionism’ reducing everything to a simple ‘me and Jesus’ format. You know none of the Apostles ‘asked Jesus into their heart’ [the original 12]. It would sure seem like an awkward thing. ‘Jesus’ ‘yes Peter’ ‘would you come into my heart’ ‘I have been with you from the start, you will soon believe in my death and resurrection. You will be one of the key figures in the founding of my church’ ‘I know all this Jesus, but if I don’t get saved I cant go to heaven’. The point is simply, all the Apostles and every other believer since has had one thing in common. They have all believed in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They believe ‘he is the Son of God’. Don’t use your own personal experience to exclude others who might not have come to the Cross the same way. We all come by faith, the peculiar aspects surrounding the event are not what saved you, it was Jesus who saved you. Also it is a common hobby for the more extreme fundamentalists to question whether or not ‘you are really saved’. They often use verses like ‘you should know whether you are in the faith or not’ [Corinthians]. But they use them in a way that’s not really in context. Paul uses these verses to question Christians who are doubting the physical resurrection. He is not using these verses to ‘micro examine’ every little detail of their conversion experience! God gave his son to save the world; it would sure be strange to find out that the majority of people who believe in Jesus didn’t make it because of some technicality! God wants to save people, people need Jesus to be saved. Don’t make it harder than this! NOTE; Now that I mentioned ‘reductionism’ let me say a few things. In the world of ‘theology’ reductionism refers to the ‘reducing’ of Gods greater corporate and societal purposes [the Kingdom of God] to the simple act of ‘getting saved’. There are whole churches and movements whose entire ‘thought life’ is centered on ‘am I saved? If so I will find a church that tells me this every Sunday, and often these same churches will convince the ‘saved’ that they really didn’t get it the first time. And there you have it ‘they get saved for real this time’ and then the whole cycle repeats. The more ‘communal’ churches see salvation in a broader way. They often quote St. Augustine’s famous words ‘there is no salvation outside of the church’. Many good theologians hold to this. I believe this is true to a degree. In Paul’s teachings ‘the church’ are all the communities of people who have come to Christ. Paul does teach a form of ‘corporate salvation’. That is ‘if you’re in the church you are saved’. It’s just there is a tendency [Augustine] to see ‘church’ in an evolving way that restricts ‘church’ to the specific community that YOU personally relate to. So in Augustine’s mind [as well as other great Catholic theologians] to be ‘church’ is to be Catholic. Now after Vatican 2 [1962-65; The year I was born] the Catholic Church officially acknowledged the Protestants as ‘separated brethren’. A big step for them to have made. Some more liberal Catholic thinkers see ‘all religions’ [Muslims included] as being ‘saved’ thru the grace that is resident in society thru the Catholic Church. Sort of like ‘Gods grace to reveal God to people is activated by Gods Son. The only ‘true’ church that is ‘transmitting this grace’ is the Catholic Church. The fact that all Muslims are believers in God is a divine sacramental act that is taking place in society thru the Catholic Church. Therefore the fact that Muslims [or any one else] are truly in communion with God is a real work of grace that has been generated thru the one true church’. Now I don’t hold to this. All Catholics don’t either. This is to show you the broad range from ‘me and Jesus’ to that which borders on ‘universalism’ [the doctrine that says eventually everyone gets saved. Some very intelligent church fathers believed this. Origen was one of them. Though Origen is not considered ‘Orthodox’. He was a very influential teacher and figure in the early church. He actually taught that satan would ultimately be saved. He was a real Universalist. Some Universalists don’t deny the blood of Jesus, contrary to popular opinion. They actually believe the blood is so powerful, that it will ultimately ‘save all people’. There are very smart Christians who do believe this. I personally do not believe this. But I find it interesting that modern evangelicals do not for the most part see ‘universalists’ as other Christians. There are different types of them, the ones who believe in Jesus are Christians, even if they believe all people will ultimately be saved. The other types who reject Jesus are not Christians] NOTE; I remember hearing a story about one of these evangelists that preached one of these ‘you think you are saved, I’ll show you you are not!’ type sermons. The sermon was so ‘convicting’ at the end of the meeting he went down to the altar and had the Pastor ‘lead him to the Lord’, that’s strange. If his own sermon that he preached got him ‘saved’ then that means he ‘got saved’ from a lost mans message. That would mean ‘he’s not really saved’ wouldn’t it? This stuff gets ridiculous after a while.

(393) I felt like the Lord wanted me to share some things, I do not ‘feel’ like doing this at all. These last few days have been real difficult for me. This is an example of ‘doing what God says despite your feelings’. I want to speak on the Kingdom of God. The Christian church has had various ways to ‘see’ the Kingdom of God. For many centuries [19 of them to be exact!] the church for the most part taught ‘amillennialism’ a type of view that saw the work of the Cross as the significant event that ‘triggered’ Gods Kingdom. In effect believers saw the fact that Jesus died and was resurrected to be seated at Gods right hand as Gods Kingdom already being in effect thru this event. The giving of the Spirit to the church was Gods ‘program’ of expanding the Kingdom in the earth thru the growth of Christianity down thru the centuries. Some who held to this view [which for the most part I agree with] also ‘spiritualized’ all the verses of God dealing with Israel and the event of the second coming in a way that denied the literal return of Jesus to David’s throne. During the 20th century you had the rise of ‘fundamentalism’ and dispensational theology that saw the truth of the real second coming and Jesus actual return to Israel to be seated on David’s throne [John R Rice and other fundamentalist preachers brought out much truth in these areas. These brothers would come to be seen as ‘premelliannial’ in the sense that Jesus must first return and take David’s throne in Jerusalem before the ‘millennial’ rule of Christ can come] The divisions between these ways of seeing Christ return are strong. Some from the latter camp began to hold to a view of the Kingdom that said ‘man cannot bring Gods rule in, only Jesus. Therefore until he comes back all the church can do is win souls’. The other camp said ‘ we are here as Christians to initiate Gods rule. We are salt and light and therefore we have Christ’s Spirit in us to bring Gods rule in’. Both of these groups have truth. The fundamentalist for the most part rejected the reality of God initiating his rule thru Christ the King who is already seated at Gods right hand [the position of rule] and is working thru his subjects [the church] right now. In reality man cant change the world, but the church thru the present ministry of Jesus at Gods right hand does have the ‘ability’ thru Gods Spirit to bring in Gods rule. The idea that the second coming is the ‘event’ that God will use to bring about world change denies the reality of Christ’s rule right now. The American president is the president right now. He has certain abilities to effect change by this fact. He is ‘seated’ in the nations capital, you might never actually see him in person, but the fact of his authority is a real thing. The fact that Jesus rose from the grave and is seated at Gods right hand is the event that gave us the authority to affect the world thru the church. This is Gods idea, not mans. It is also true that Jesus will come back and literally return to Jerusalem. But the seat of authority that he now holds at Gods right hand is much greater than David’s throne. There are actually scriptures that show that Jesus has already ‘inherited’ the throne of David by virtue of the fact that he ‘sits on top of the mountain that trumps all other thrones’. The dispensational brothers will look to the world wars and other major events and say ‘see, this is proof that man cant change the world. Until Jesus comes back things will get worse’. The Bible says those in darkness will continue to get worse, those in the light will get brighter and brighter. The Idea is as Gods ‘citizenship’ increases [thru evangelism] more people become children of light. So even though the world is getting darker, the church isn’t. The more people who become ‘members’ of the church will become ‘brighter’. This obviously will affect the world for good. So man in and of himself cant bring in ‘Gods rule’ but the fact that Jesus is presently reigning [though you don’t physically see him] is where the real power of ‘world change’ is located. So for people like myself, I would answer the strong dispensationalist with this fact. Now to the Parables of Jesus. The strong dispensationalists have a ‘strange’ way they interpret some of the Parables. The one on ‘the kingdom of Heaven is like unto leaven that someone took and hid in 3 measures of meal until the whole loaf was leavened’ this Parable, as well as many others show the concept of Gods kingdom invading the planet in a small way at the start [Jesus and the 12] and eventually effecting all the earth. The dispensationalist teach that Leaven is always a sign of something unclean and because the ‘law of first things’ [the first time a certain theme is used in scripture will define it for the rest of scripture] that therefore the leaven here is wickedness, and that the Kingdom of Heaven is different than the Kingdom of God [they are the same by the way!] that what Jesus is actually teaching is that wickedness will eventually invade all of the ‘church world’ [which they say is the Kingdom of heaven-silly]and therefore when Jesus returns he will fix everything. To me this would be a failure of what Jesus is trying to do. He left all authority on earth to the disciples by saying ‘go into all the world’ after he said ‘all authority is given to me’. He commissioned the church to ‘invade the world’. If the evil in the world wins until Christ’s return that would basically be a big failure on the part of the church, which represents Christ Kingdom now! The first century religious mind had a view of religion that was based on Old Testament ideas. In the Old Testament, if a Priest who was ceremonially clean, touched something unclean, then the priest would become defiled. The ‘transmission’ of holiness to unholy things didn’t work. But the ‘transmission’ of unclean things to holy things did! This is why the Pharisees had such a hard time with Jesus ‘contact’ with sinners and prostitutes. The Pharisees saw the ‘church’ as an institutional fortress ‘flee into Gods community and be separate from society’. Now the New Testament gives a mandate for believers to ‘come out from the world’ but this is speaking about not partaking of the sins of the world while being salt and light in the world. Jesus instituted a type of Priesthood that transmitted ‘holiness to unclean things’. A better priesthood [Hebrews]. Scripture says ‘light came into the world and the darkness couldn’t overcome it’ [John] So in Jesus rule you find the ‘Priests’ [all believers] having Christ’s Spirit in them for the purpose of affecting the world with righteousness. Now the church has too often grasped a mindset like the Pharisees. You see this in the strong conservative elements of Christianity ‘the moral majority’ ‘the center for moral clarity’ and all these other silly institutions. These guys mean well, but they are dividing society into ‘sides’ that has the gay lobby and others fighting against the ‘moral crusaders’. In essence this is a return to the ‘Pharisee mindset’. But there is also a movement in American Christianity [by the way we are only a small part of world Christianity!] that is appealing to the other side of the political spectrum Sort of like liberal ‘yuppie’ type Christians who might vote democrat or republican. They don’t hold to the ‘religious right’ persona. They are concerned with environmental issues and stuff [they might even still go to rock concerts, amen!]. I see this movement as great. God can recruit from all sides of the political spectrum. This is Gods ‘leaven’ affecting the whole lump. [By the way, leaven can represent something that starts small and invades everything. Sin can be described this way, or Gods Kingdom. Leaven is simply a ‘material’ that God can use in symbol any way he wants. Just cause it was used for an ‘unclean thing’ doesn’t mean Jesus cant ‘re use’ it for a clean thing. This actually can be a sign in and of itself. Jesus took a natural thing that was ‘sinful’ in scripture [man/leaven] and turned it around into something clean!] Basically what I am trying to get across today is Gods kingdom was not ‘postponed’ in its entirety. Certain aspects of its ‘revealing’ in regard to natural Israel are ‘hidden’ right now. At the second coming all Israel will see that Jesus has been ruling and reigning for thousands of years already. He will appear to natural Israel some day, but remember its not always the way we think!

(406) We all have a tendency to ‘take refuge’ in a ‘completed’ belief system. We want to have every answer down pat. We decide to believe one way or another on certain doctrines [not talking about the basic truths of the gospel!] and then we move ahead in the journey. Whether we are right or wrong doesn’t seem to matter. We have already decided, we have preached it to others, and there is no way I can admit that I have been wrong. It’s funny because many who act like this are the same ones who will criticize the Catholics for holding on to tradition. These guys are worse! God is calling us to take refuge in him. For him to be the ‘rock of defense’ the ‘fortress and one who never changes’ our stability should be in him, not some system of doctrine that has come to us from men. Now the faith that was once and for all given to the church is not what I am talking about, but the other silly stuff we find ‘refuge’ in. Am I pre trib, mid trib or post? Well if there is only one second coming [and there is only one] then you don’t have a lot of choices, do you? ‘But I have been taught this historic doctrine from the great men of faith of days gone by’ no you haven’t, you believe in something silly that is not true. ‘Well I will believe my way, and you will believe yours’ I know that already, but the point is you guys are the same ones that get apoplectic over the Catholics! Just thought I would show you what a bunch of hypocrites you are. NOTE; Let me show you what I mean. If you read the passages in the gospels when Jesus is speaking on his second coming and the end of the world. He says ‘there will be tribulation like never before’ he talks about the obvious events of the great tribulation. He then says ‘after these things you will see the sign of the coming of the son of Man’ the pre tribulation brothers call this ‘the revelation’ part of the second coming. The ‘second part’. You then also have Jesus say ‘then one shall be taken and the other left’. Now he specifically says this ‘one taken and the other left’ is after the tribulation, at his second coming. This seems to make it real simple. Jesus will come and ‘take some and leave others’ at this event, which happens at the ‘second coming’ and his return. The Rapture guys say this is not the event of 1st Thessalonians chapter 4. Even though if you read that chapter Paul says when Christ returns some will be taken and others will be left [the unbelievers]. The rapture guys say this is a ‘different’ taking of people at a ‘different’ second coming. Well I think I could accept the doctrine of Peter being the first Pope before you could convince me of this one!

(727) THE DELUSION OF RICHARD DAWKINS, THE AUTHOR OF ‘THE GOD DELUSION’.
I have been wanting to write a few entries but have hesitated to break into the Genesis study. Recently a noted atheist/scientist Richard Dawkins has been making the rounds to defend the non existence of God. In his comments he has unwittingly defended the existence of God! He is on record as stating that it’s possible that there had to have been a pre existent being who started the ball rolling. He states that this being would have to have great ability and tremendous understanding, very advanced in wisdom. He also acknowledged that he would have had to have either been around forever, or some other being before this being who was around first. He even surmises that this being could be some type of extra terrestrial life. An alien for crying out loud! I am not kidding. Now, what’s wrong with this picture? He seems to not realize that he is making the ancient philosophical case for the existence of God! This whole train of thought is what the ancient philosophers used to prove the existence of God. Thomas Aquinas goes on for hours using this very reasoning. He doesn’t call the being ‘an alien’ but the whole theory of a pre existing intelligent designer is the exact case that Dawkins is making. He seems to be totally out of his league by making this argument. A knowledgeable atheist would never make the drastic mistake of arguing for a pre existent being who started the ball rolling. A true atheist knows that this is basically the proof for the existence of God! I do find it funny how so many people have fallen for Dawkins and the other recent atheists who have become popular. Its funny how one of there leading advocates has actually advocated for God.

(420) ‘Avoiding extreme forms of isolation’ my background with the Fundamental Baptist church allowed me to see how pride and sectarianism affect true corporate unity. There was always a sense of mockery when it came to any type of unity. It was truly deemed ‘part of the one world church that the antichrist is setting up’. Regardless of your views on this, the simple fact is Jesus prayed in John 17 that all believers would be one. If you were to study the New Testament from Matthew to Revelation and were looking for all the times where scripture speaks of ‘one Kingdom’ and ‘unity’ you will see that Gods purpose for this ‘one Kingdom under God/Christ’ and the unity of the church would far out number the times compared to the ‘one world church’ idea. Now there are a few instances where scripture speaks of the unity of lost men and how lost man does come up with religious ways to appease his conscience [tower of Babel]. But the overall truth is God speaks of ‘one Kingdom’ in a right way many more times. So this preoccupation with these isolated Christian groups is simply a sign of extreme immaturity. I remember stopping one time at some highway shop to purchase some lawn ornaments. I talked to the brother who was selling the stuff. I noticed he was listening to cassette tapes of some Old Testament book [Leviticus?]. We fellowshipped a little while. I kind of got the sense that he was one of these brothers who will spend hours listening to bible tapes, but would never partake of anything the Lord is presently doing in the church. Many of these groups wont even study church history or any other Christian writings. This causes there to be a total lack of understanding on how Gods Kingdom has been operating for the past 2 thousand years. Jesus never intended the doctrine of the completed cannon to cause us to not partake of all the great things God has been doing in society for the past 2 thousand years. Well I felt the Lord wanted us to be challenged to come out of our religious shells. Don’t be so consumed with the ‘one world church’ that you never partake of Gods ‘one world Church’!

(413)I want to talk a little about ‘Local Church’. As I am reading on movements who ‘plant’ Local Churches, it is reminding me of some things. First, nowhere in the New Testament is the command given to ‘go and plant New Testament churches’. Now I don’t want to be picky here. I want you to see why this is so. Protestantism has developed an understanding of ‘Local Church’ that is really unbiblical. I recently read about a movement that ‘sends out churches’ to cities as opposed to ‘sending out missionaries/evangelists’. They see the sending of a person to get a building and preach on Sunday and get the tithe and for people to be ‘faithful’ to the ‘local church’ as the right way to evangelize because ‘this is Gods plan’. Then another group says ‘we are a ‘local church’ with a worldwide vision’. The more extreme brothers will teach ‘you are not in right relationship with God until you submit to his plan, which is ‘the Local Church’. All these brothers mean well. They are just expressing views that are un biblical. The ‘local churches’ in scripture were all the believers living in a ‘locality’. In these ‘communities of believers’ there were gifted men who God placed there for the growth of ‘the local church’ [all the Christians]. Today’s idea of every city having 100 to 200 local churches, all with the office of ‘Pastor’ who is the authority over that specific group is no where to be found in scripture. Now all the brothers doing these things are not heretics [notice I said ‘not all’]. But when you take this limited view that sees ‘the local church’ as the separate organization that you start in your area. And then you teach a form of ‘being in submission’ as tithing to that thing, you are in essence usurping Gods authority that is being released thru a wide diversity of gifts in your area. God sees ‘the local church’ and its ‘members’ as those who are called out of the world unto Christ who reside ‘locally’. So you are ‘part of the local church/group of Christians in your area’ by virtue of the fact that you are all ‘partaking spiritually of the Body of Christ’. The outward sign of this is the Lords Supper. So for you to view your ‘membership’ with a particular group [among 100’s] and then to say ‘I am faithful to ‘my local church’ [the Sunday meeting I attend] and to not see the reality that all the believers in your area are ‘local church’ actually harms the church. Most Protestants do not realize how this limited view ‘colors’ the way they read scripture. In the book of Revelation you find the letters to the 7 churches. These ‘churches’ are once again all the believers living in different locals. God is speaking to the ‘Angels’ of these churches in this book. ‘To the Angel of the Church of so and so’ the word for angel is ‘messenger’. You have the majority of Protestants teaching these angels are the ‘Pastors’ of these ‘churches’. There was NEVER a Pastor over all the believers in these locations. Sardis, Ephesus, Thyatira, etc. When I do the radio ministry. It is not a ministry ‘to the radio’. When I speak into the cassette recorder, I am not ‘speaking to the recorder’. In scripture Angels are messengers. They receive and transmit the message from God. These ‘angels’ of these 7 churches were simply that! God is speaking to the ‘messengers’ and saying ‘if you don’t repent I will remove your candlestick’. These are not messages to Pastors over churches [see how your view colors this!] these are Gods words spoken to his ‘transmitters’ and therefore he is saying it ‘to the angels’ just like I preach ‘into the radio’. Now all of this is for the purpose to show you that God doesn’t send people or movements to go and ‘plant churches’ per se. He sends people to preach the gospel to people groups [Gods idea of ‘churches/ communities’]. These ‘groups’ of people who believe become the ‘local churches’ of the New Testament. When Paul writes to these ‘churches’ he is addressing ‘all the believers’ in the locality. If there were an office of Pastor like we practice it today, there would be no way that these letters would not contain strong instructions and rebukes ‘for the Pastor’ [by name if they were singular authorities]. For the ‘churches’ in the book of Revelation to have had ‘Pastors’ over these entire regions, and for us to not know their names is unthinkable! All the major figures [Paul, Peter, John, etc] were well known leaders in the first century church. To have had ‘Pastors’ as the singular authorities of entire regions, and for them to have remained anonymous till this day would have been impossible! So in essence you are not going around setting up some type of organization that people need to submit to in order to be in ‘proper order’. Gods ‘proper order’ is to be ‘under Christ’. This does carry with it the humility to accept and receive the gifts that God has placed in our communities. The Pastors and Prophets and all the other gifts. These are gifts to the entire community to build the people up. When you have ‘church planters’ who are going around [with a good intent] teaching believers that they must ‘submit to the local church, because this is Gods program for reaching the world’ they are seeing ‘local church’ in a way that is really unbiblical. God is sending all of us out into the harvest field to preach the gospel. I don’t see all the ‘Sunday Local Churches’ as wrong or in rebellion. I see that overall we are all Gods kids who are doing our best to please God. When we deal in grace with each other God works. When we use limited forms of church to the degree of seeing those who don’t fully operate in that mindset as being in rebellion, then we are not truly building each other up in love. NOTE: One of the faults with these strong authoritarian church planting movements is they use verses like ‘follow me as I follow Christ’. They use this to push back against their critics who say they are too authoritarian. ‘Hey, Paul told people to follow him’. Yes he did ‘as I follow Christ’. How did Paul ‘follow Christ’ well he certainly wasn’t setting up ‘local churches’ with Pastors ‘over the people’! NOTE; The first 3 centuries of Christianity you didn’t have ‘church’ as the place you go to on Sunday for religious worship. This mindset developed over time. Our Catholic friends developed a way of doing church that saw the ‘priest’ as the ‘minister’ empowered by Christ’s grace to ‘oversee’ the Mass where the Eucharist becomes the means of grace whereby God ‘infuses’ grace into the souls of the faithful. Basically the Catholic chapter for their belief is centered around John chapter 6 ‘unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood you have no life in you’. While I do not hold to the doctrine of transubstantiation I do not see my Catholic brothers as wicked devil worshippers for this. I see it more as an historic belief that did develop out of an ‘infancy stage’ of Christianity. Holding to Jesus words literally [which Luther himself held to in this area of disagreement with Zwingli, the Swiss reformer!] with a childlike belief that many Christians embraced. During the reformation of the 16th century you had many doctrines questioned, but for the most part the Protestants simply changed the office of the priest with the office of ‘the Pastor’ as the ‘clergy person’ who will administer this ‘protestant office’. This ‘office’ does not exist in the New Testament! So today we are seeing the Lord move in an area of ‘reformation’ [a process, not a one time event] concerning church form. Something that really wasn’t adequately dealt with in the 16th century movement. So we move on to maturity as we accept the good things of the church Fathers [even the Catholic ones!] and we ‘move away’ from forms and styles that are not mandated in scripture. We should not be ‘anti Sunday church/Pastor’ as much as we should be ‘pro Body of Christ’. Wanting to see the people of God fully functional under the headship of Christ. NOTE: This causes us to deal in grace with our fellow Christians. I have heard Protestant preachers say ‘the Catholics teach for doctrine the commandments of men’ while all the while they are declaring a ‘form of local church’ as THE SINGULAR TOOL OF GOD TO CHANGE THE WORLD that is nowhere to be found in scripture! NOTE; ‘Enlarge the place of thy tent and LET THEM stretch forth the curtains of thy habitations’ I spoke on this verse from Isaiah a few entries back. The LET THEM speaks of releasing your spiritual offspring to continue the growth of the spiritual lineage that God permits us to ‘birth’ into the Kingdom. This ‘letting them’ is a voluntary act of leadership releasing people to continue the journey on their own with Jesus becoming their ‘Chief Pastor/Shepherd’. In today’s ‘Local Church’ environment we do not practice the ‘letting go’ part well. NOTE; I have taught the term Ecclesia in our books. Let me mention that the way we view ‘Local Church’ rides heavily on how you interpret this word. The word ‘ecclesia’ is the Greek word in the New Testament for Church. In the early centuries we see how the believers understood this to mean a ‘called out community of people’, not necessarily ‘those called to the building on Sunday’. Later Christians [and theologians] began to develop a type of ‘ecclesiology’ [church form] that fit into the limited mindset of Church being the place where Christians go on Sunday. While it is true that the word ‘Ecclesia’ can describe a ‘city council meeting’ or other types of public assemblies. The true intent behind the ‘called out people’ are those who have been called out of society [separated in the biblical sense] and have become citizens of another country/Kingdom. So to limit the ‘church’ to the actual place of meeting is really not scriptural. The term for church was simply the best word to use at the time. Words are limited. It takes the Spirit of God to truly convey the meaning of them. We do not contradict the words that are used in scripture to make up our own definitions [which is a common hobby today] but we allow the Spirit of God to reveal to us things that the ‘surface reading’ can’t fully show us. NOTE; You never had a scenario where Paul would address the ‘church of Corinth’ or another area and say ‘and to you who live in Corinth, but are actually members of the church at Ephesus, because you have chosen to have membership there’ You were part of the church at Corinth by virtue of the fact that you lived in Corinth and were a believer. You didn’t have the idea of joining a separate entity [group] like the ‘Elks’ lodge or something of this nature. We have developed a way of seeing church that seems to tell believers you must join a specific ‘church’ in your city, out of the 100’s of ‘churches’ that exist there. While it is fine to ‘go to a church on Sunday’ we must not see them as actual ‘local churches’ in and of themselves, this cause’s a division to the Body of Christ that is not seen in scripture.

(416)There were a couple of things I felt like sharing, but I was waiting until I cover the book of Hebrews. I hope to overview it on this blog. But I just had a prophetic dream and it dealt with sharing it. The dream was I was on a roof with a friend of mine from the Fire Dept. This friend has learned stuff from me over the years. He wouldn’t be what you would call ‘a real active Christian’. Just a friend who has been kind of interested in all the stuff I do. Well while we were on the roof [sort of like a roof you might be on to ventilate during a fire] there was an authority figure [a military guard] that was keeping him on the roof. Not like he was breaking the law or being in a judgment type situation. Just the sense that the ‘authority’ figure was not permitting him to leave this post yet. I shared a few things and repelled down with a rope. I then was teaching some stuff [the stuff I was going to wait till I got to Hebrews to share] to one of the younger firefighters. He was sort of a rookie and was just beginning to learn some stuff. He had to go and I was not able to finish the teaching. I told my friend [who was now on the ground] to finish teaching him. He was not the type of person who would normally share his faith. But he knew exactly what I was teaching the other guy, and sort of said ‘yea, I’ll tell him John. I know what you mean’. Well let me share the stuff and maybe get back to the dream. The other day I spoke on the concept of ‘Sunday church’ and how we get this from Paul telling the Corinthians ‘upon the 1st day of the week take up a collection’ [1st Cor. 16] The early church began to practice meeting on the first day [as well as every day!] in memory of the resurrection of Jesus. Nothing wrong about this. As the church ‘lost’ her family/community mindset and digressed into a ‘Sunday church building’ mindset, it just became natural to develop ‘Sunday as the New Covenant’ Sabbath. This is not a biblical doctrine. There is no ‘New Testament Sabbath’ in this way. Now there is tremendous truth to what God wants to teach believers thru the Sabbath, but when we simply teach that God changed one religious day to another [Saturday to Sunday] we lose the truth. The mature believer does not ‘hold’ one day above another. It’s fine to ‘go to church on Sunday’ but to see Sunday as the old covenant Sabbath, and all the blue laws and stuff associated with it, is to not ‘see’ the truth behind the shadow. All people who are in Christ, who are new covenant believers have entered into a ‘place of rest’ where they have ceased from their own works [efforts to make themselves righteous before God]. This ‘place’ is the ‘Sabbath’ rest of God. It is not a day, or a mode of religious worship. It is an eternal ‘age’ of rest that comes to all those who are in Grace. Now Paul actually teaches this in Hebrews. I can’t do it now, but scroll down to the tape/book catalog on this site and read the descriptions on Hebrews. I cover some of it in there. Paul teaches that God created all things in 6 days, and rested on the 7th. He tells the 1st century Jewish community ‘you must cease from your own works too [the law, and trying to please God legalistically] and come by faith to the Cross’ Paul teaches it in a way where he says ‘if God rested on the Sabbath, so you must enter into this rest’. He does do a lot of spiritualizing of scripture. But it must be right, it is inspired! So basically the ‘Sabbath rest’ is entering into the New Covenant. The ‘age of Grace’. But as the church lost the family mindset, it just became easy to teach that Sunday is now the new day for religious things, as opposed to Saturday. You then have all the 7th day groups [7th day Adventists and others- there are whole regions in this country where the Baptists are 7th day Baptists. They hold to Baptist belief in every area, but they believe the same way the 7th day Adventists believe. That the Catholics changed the ‘Sabbath’ to Sunday, and that in so many words this is the ‘mark of the beast’] using scripture to prove that Saturday is the Sabbath and not Sunday. Now Saturday has always been the Sabbath Day. This has not changed [It’s just that in Christ the law has been fulfilled and we are not under any legal requirements in this way. We are in grace and not under law]. The issue isn’t ‘what day is church day’, the issue is once you enter into Gods grace and rest [the Sabbath] you are fulfilling the Sabbath by resting in him. In essence you have found Gods rest. This isn’t saying ‘church day’ is Saturday, or Sunday. ‘Church’ day was every day in the 1st century church. But you see how easy it is when you function out of the ‘going to church on what day’ paradigm, it becomes natural to go thru the bible and try to find ‘the right church day’. We do this with the tithe and all sorts of stuff. Well in the dream I felt like the Lord was saying that many of my friends over the years, even the ones that usually don’t view themselves as ‘preachers’ are going to be used to pass along some of these truths that they have learned from me. The ‘authority figure’ was simply God saying to these friends ‘you are to remain here [at the fire dept?] after John leaves and you are going to be responsible to pass along these things’. I also felt like some of my buddies at the dept have felt like the lord wanted to use them in a greater way, but maybe they felt constrained to be working there. To these friends, let the Lord use you by doing the things you have seen me do in ministry over the years. Use this blog. I share some stuff on the Kingsville fire dept. this will give a sense of purpose for the guys who feel ‘stuck’ at a menial job. The older brothers can use this blog and any other tools to pass stuff along to the new guys. In essence you haven’t missed your chance to have an impact in the Kingdom, maybe the Lord left you there by Divine appointment! NOTE; The 7th day brothers will make some arguments like ‘as believers we keep all the commandments, why not Saturday?’ They also point to the fact that one of the Catholic fathers actually taught that the proof that the Catholic Church has the authority to change ‘laws’ and establish new ‘commands’ was the fact that they changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. This is a true argument that a Catholic scholar has made. So this re enforces in the mind of the 7th day brothers that they must be right. Look at all this proof! Well to be honest, if the issue was ‘what day is church day’ as far as what day has God ordained as ‘the special day’ I think the 7th day guys would win. But I believe the truth on this is in the new covenant there is no ‘special day’ because ‘church’ isn’t a ritual at all. Paul actually told the Colossians that the Sabbath day[s] were shadows of truths that were seen fully in Christ. Sort of like what I just told you. The 7th day brothers say Paul was talking about ‘days’ not ‘day’. The point is when you are resting in Christ you don’t kill, steal, and all the other stuff mentioned in the commandments. Well what about the Sabbath? If Christians are ‘keeping’ all 9 commandments, how do you justify not keeping this one? We are keeping it! When you are in Christ you have ceased from all the religious works of the law and are being made righteous by faith. You are keeping the Sabbath like all the other laws. It is a natural outgrowth of your new nature In Christ. It is not ‘going to church on Sabbath day’ you silly Christians! It is daily walking in Gods free grace, being in right relationship with him by faith. You are in essence ‘keeping Sabbath’ because you have ceased from you own works. It is not some type of ceremonial thing you do on Saturday! NOTE: To all my radical readers [Apostles, Pastors, etc] I too believe that the kingdom involves radical continuous action. There are times where we are ‘non stop’. There are others [not like us!] who lay back and experience their Christian life by really not doing anything. They sort of justify it by ‘entering the Sabbath rest’; they think God requires no action. Let me put some perspective. When God entered into the 7th day of rest in creation, it was a time where he initiated 6 days of tremendous SELF SUSTAINING life and then allowed that creation to reproduce as he ‘sat back’ and enjoyed his heritage. So Gods ‘rest’ is not a ceasing of activity, in as much as it is a period of watching the things you ‘planted’ grow. So for you radicals, lets operate in grace and see the things we are planting ‘grow on their own’. Don’t think you need to be involved in all the ‘re producing’. Jesus said faith in the Kingdom was like planting seed and as you sleep and rise the seed is growing, but you DON’T KNOW HOW THIS IS HAPPENING. So be faithful to plant, and let God nurture and sustain and cause to grow [Paul said some plant, others water but only God can cause actual growth]. NOTE: Let me say a few things on cults. Most true Christians see the major cults as the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witness groups. I must admit I too see them as cults. The Jehovah’s primarily because of their denial of the deity of Christ. Their bible translation purposefully misinterprets the passage in John chapter one that says ‘in the beginning was the Word and the word was with God and the word was God’ they change it to say ‘the Word was a god’ a big no no! Simply put, this puts you on the ‘cult list’. The Mormons [Latter Day Saints] are a little more difficult. Their main reason why they make the list is because of the extra biblical book [book of Mormon] as well as the unbelievable amount of extra biblical doctrine that can only fit into the characterization of ‘fantasy’. A lot of Christians do not realize the amount of truly weird stuff they teach. They teach God was like us at one time. He basically ‘evolved’ to where he is now, and we are on this journey. Eventually we will be gods populating our own universe with the many wives [therefore plural marriage was originally part of the plan, but not any more! The only ones who still embrace plural marriage are the fundamentalist Mormon groups who believe the church ‘apostatized’ when it officially rejected this doctrine]. So besides all the other historically un true stuff [the whole so called civilization that Jesus appeared to in the Americas] the group has way too much extra biblical stuff to fall into the class ‘Christian’. The one caveat is they do believe in the sacrifice of Christ for man, it’s just how do you balance that with all this other stuff? Sorry, I do call them a cult. Now, I like Mormons and Jehovah’s Witness as people. I do not personally demean them! But the facts are there. What about the 7th day Adventists? Too many evangelical friends of mine have classified them as a cult too quickly. I am aware of the few strange teachings they hold to. Nothing even close to the Mormons. I am concerned about the credence they give to certain past ‘founders’ and stuff. Overall I see them as Christian, though they fall into legalism with the classic belief that they are the true church because of the 7th day observance. They say all others who ‘go to church on Sunday’ have received the mark of the beast. Basically I do have disagreements with them, but I do not see them as a ‘classical cult’ the way I see the other groups. I find it troubling that I have had evangelical friends who classified groups as ‘cults’ because they didn’t believe in the Rapture. They don’t even realize that the ‘Rapture’ is basically false! At least the way they teach it. So you can see that it is easy to label groups as ‘cults’. I don’t want to judge any of these groups, I just needed to be honest about these groups and try and share this stuff in love. I am grateful for all the Mormons and any other groups who read this site. I don’t want to lose you guys! God bless you all.

About ccoutreach87

my sites- www.corpuschristioutreachministries.blogspot.com- ccoutreach87.wordpress.com- facebook.com/john.chiarello.5

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