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Church History- 1

[STUDY] CHURCH HISTORY- 1

(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.

(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.

(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.

{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’.

(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’.

(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.

(1288) 2ND KINGS 22- Josiah takes the throne at the age of 8; he institutes reform among the people. He begins a restoration of the temple and finds a hidden copy of Moses law. He reads the law and realizes that they need to repent. It’s probable that the wicked king Manasseh destroyed all the copies of the law and one was hidden in the temple by Solomon. Either way the finding of the law sparks reform. This chapter says they did not take an audit of the money that was given to the builders because they could be trusted; it’s too bad that this standard wouldn’t work in our day. Josiah does some great stuff and God tells him he will honor his repentance and humility, but the nation has gone too far down the wrong path. The course for the nation was set in stone and judgment was still going to come, yet under Josiah there was a season of mercy. As believers study the history of Christianity one of the most well know events/times is the 16th century Protestant Reformation, it was a reform/time period that truly could be credited to a rediscovery of the Christian scriptures. Though there were learned men who knew scripture [like Erasmus and his efforts to get ‘back to the sources’ and his love for the Greek original New Testament] yet the populace at large did not have the availability of owning their own copies of the bible. But this time period produced the Guttenberg printing press and an aggressive effort to publish English versions of the bible. It would not be an understatement to say that the Reformation period was the single greatest upheaval and change that the church would go thru in her 1500 year history. Of course Catholics and Protestants would disagree on the value of these changes, but the reality is that the restoring of the bible into the hands of the common people was revolutionary. Josiah was this type of reformer, he sought the Lord after the discovery of the missing copies of the law and he acted upon Gods word- two basic principles that could apply to all of us. I want to note that historians sometimes make the mistake of discounting the ‘dark ages’ of the church, the term itself is misleading. There were many noble believers and movements that took place prior to the reformation period. The Christian mystics, the great thinkers like Anselm and Aquinas, the tremendous value that comes from reading the fathers of the church. The creeds and councils of this period. It is a wrong view to say that everything that was going on in Christianity prior to the reformation was darkness, there were some bright spots, but without a doubt putting the English bible into the hands of the common people would have reverberations that the world has yet to overcome.

(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.

(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.

(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?

(1155) let’s do something for our intellectuals out there. Over the course of the last few hundred years you have had smart philosophers/atheists challenge the Christian faith. The current bunch [Dawkins, Hitchens or a comedian like Bill Maher] are really lacking in the intellectual prowess of past atheists! Let’s hit a few arguments that are made against the Christian faith. In the field of proving the reality of God, one of the classic arguments is a First Cause. I have taught it before under the evolution section. If you study things you realize there are no events in history that happen without a cause, nothing happens out of thin air. Logically this would lead us to the conclusion that somewhere down the line you have to have an ‘original causer’. Logically you can’t go on forever without an initial cause somewhere down the line. This is a real argument made for the existence of God that has been popular over the centuries. In the 18th century you had a Scottish philosopher by the name of David Hume who challenged our ability to know causes. He taught that man simply observes stuff happening, he perceives supposed connections to what the cause is, but he can not say 100% what the cause is. The famous example he used was the pool table, we see a man use the cue stick to hit one ball and it bangs into another and goes in the hole. Hume said it sure seems like the cause of this series of events is the act of the pool player hitting the ball, but he said we don’t know for sure whether this is the cause. Grant it, Hume had a point, but we observe things all the time in the field of science, we come to conclusions based upon reasonable evidence, and we ‘trust’ our senses to a degree. But some have taken this argument by Hume and have used it to rebut the Christian argument for a first cause. This use of Hume is dishonest. Hume did not say there were no causes for things, he simply said we can’t be 100% sure of what the cause is. Hume himself said ‘chance is simply a word used to define our ignorance of real causes’. Many appeal to Hume and use the argument that things can happen ‘by chance’ sort of like chance has the ontological status of causing things to come into existence! Hume said chance was simply a word we use to fill in the blank until a true cause is determined. Well, I hope I didn’t lose you guys today, but this is one of the more popular arguments used in the field of philosophy to try and refute the Christian faith. So I thought it good to refute the refuters!

(1152) In Luke 4 we read the temptation of Jesus by the devil. The basic temptation to lust [eat bread- hedonism] to gain self glory [all the kingdoms will be yours] and last but not least, the temptation of victim hood [cast yourself down!] Being I am reading somewhat on the various ideas of the inspiration of the bible, let’s do the response of Jesus to the bread test. Jesus said ‘man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God’. Over the centuries you have had various views on the inspiration of scripture, did the historic church believe in it, some ask. Others say the doctrine was invented by scholars in the 19th century. Some say the main intent of God is inspired ‘the voice’ of God, while the individual words are not. Karl Barth is considered one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century. The Swiss scholar had a view of inspiration that said the bible ‘becomes’ the word of God to us when the Spirit himself communicates to us thru it. It was sort of a ‘Rhema’ type teaching, that which is popular among Word of Faith churches. Barth was actually making a noble effort to regain the authority of scripture at a time where many scholars were throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Is Barth’s idea the same as what the historic church believes? No. Does his idea have some truth to it? Yes. There are times where we as believers ‘hear’ God in a special way thru scripture. He might even speak to you in a way that is ‘out of context’. Sort of like if you were seeking insight to something, and then a verse says something that causes you to see things from a different perspective. The verse might not be speaking directly about your situation, but you know the Lord has spoken to you. This is okay for personal stuff, but you should not use this method to develop doctrine. Jesus told the devil that we need to live off of every word from God, the whole voice of God in context with the whole story. To proof text stuff [picking out single verses and making them say what you want] is not eating every word! As the church changes and reforms in our day, some have seriously questioned the idea of inspiration. Some have questioned the idea of whether or not we can even know what God is saying! Ultimately, the truth of God must be objective in order for any case to be made about anything. Is it possible for things to be true even if the record of those things are not infallible? Of course! We believe the history of our country and the history of the world based on fallible documents. We can know certain facts beyond a reasonable doubt with out having to have an infallible recording of those facts. But this is not what the church teaches about the bible. The church teaches that we have an inspired record of those facts. The word of God is true, it does not err! I believe this, though I am somewhat of a radical in the things I teach, whether it’s on church reform or end time stuff or railing against the prosperity movement. Yet without a truth standard that we can all go by [the bible] these arguments would all fall to the ground. As we change and reform as the people of God, we want to be open to different sides of the debates that go on in the church, hear and listen to what people are saying. But don’t reject/challenge things just because it’s popular to do so, in the end we don’t want a whole new crop of believers who don’t believe in the word of God, this would hurt the cause of Christ.

(1147) Lets do a brief overview. Those of you reading these last 10 or so entries from the Genesis Study will see that I taught the chapters 12-50 a few years ago. I had no real reason to have left out the first 11 chapters; it just worked out that way. It gave me some time to look at both sides of the creation debate [young versus old earth]. First, I want to say that I still lean towards old earth myself, but do not consider myself a Progressive Creationist. These brothers view the creation days as long ages, the problem I have with that view is it has God intervening directly and creating life at many different intervals over millions of years. I don’t hold to that. But I do believe it’s possible to have an old earth and a literal reading of the days [I already explained it in these last few posts]. Most of all I want to stress that the bible is not clear when it comes to the age of the earth. The young earth brothers have made a very noble effort from verses that connect the beginning of creation with man [Mark 10:6] or other verses speaking about things from the start [Mark 13:19-20, Luke 11: 50-51]. Too much to do now, but it is a long argument for a young earth. The other word that comes up often is Phenomenological, this word is used to explain the language of scripture that is used when speaking to the common man. Like when the bible speaks of the Sun set and Sun rise, most of us realize that the Sun is not the object that is moving! So to technically argue something that we know is ‘not true’ would be silly. Mark Noll wrote about stuff like this in the popular book ‘Scandal of the Evangelical mind’. So, how much science do we accept? Do we use these arguments to open the door to Evolution and everything else that comes down the pike? Of course not! But we try and stay open to science while at the same time staying true to Gods word. For many years science and philosophy believed in an eternal earth and universe. It wasn’t until the tremendous breakthroughs of the 20th century that the Big bang Theory became accepted science. If you listened to Einstein’s theories at the beginning, they seemed utterly ludicrous! His ideas about time not being fixed, and the relationship between time and space were way out there. Many Christians did not accept his ideas. But there were many atheistic scientists who were more troubled, if Hubble and Einstein were right [they were] that would mean the universe had a starting point [the so called point of singularity] the atheists knew that this would sound the death bell for their belief in atheism. If there was a starting point to time and matter, then there was no way to get around it, you would need an initial starter [Aristotle and Aquinas would be right- prime mover, though they both believed in an eternal universe]. So today the majority view of cosmology is the Big Bang theory, some scientists still argue for the eternal universe, but most believe in the Big Bang. In essence this is an example where science has handed to the theologian one of the greatest weapons to argue for the existence of God. But just like the age of the earth debate, you have believers who challenge Big Bang cosmology. Some are smart and have good reasons to challenge it. When I say I believe in the Big Bang, I am not saying I hold to the various views of evolutionary processes that come along with the theory; things like the stars producing the matter that swirled out over millions/billions of years and formed planets. There are obviously parts of the Big bang theory that are questionable. So scientists try and come up with ideas to make the questions go away. A major problem to the Big bang theory is how can the universe have such a stable balance of temperature all over the place. If everything expanded [that’s really a better word to explain it than explosion] at such a rapid rate, you would not have the stable atmosphere that science shows us. So a professor at M.I.T., Alan Guth, came up with an idea called ‘inflation’ he guessed that at the initial point of singularity, everything first expanded to the size of a basketball and all the matter of the universe was stabilized at this point. Then the massive expansion took place and that’s why you have a steady balance when there shouldn’t be one. To say the least these ideas are very questionable, that’s why some scientists don’t accept the whole theory. But for the most part the accepted truth that all matter did have a beginning point is one of the strongest apologetic arguments that science could have ever given to the church. The point being we as believers need to look at both sides of these issues, the debate between young and old earth creationism has at times lost the Christian mandate to deal charitably with each other. I realize the views held are sincere, and many believe the integrity of Gods word is at stake. But we need to present our views and let the chips fall where they may. I will probably finish this short excursion into Genesis tomorrow, but those of you reading these entries from other parts of the blog besides the ‘Evolution/Cosmology’ section, I would suggest reading the stuff I have written in that section along with these last 10 posts. It will help give you a better idea of where I am coming from.

(1142) MAN, GODS UNIQUE CREATION- Okay, we already saw how God made the animals and fish and birds, but when he describes mans creation he shows us that it is unique. Out of all the other created things, man alone is in ‘Gods image’ and bears his likeness. Man is a moral being with a built in conscience, he has the capacity to know God and live with him forever. This is the basis of the Judeao Christian value on human life. Those religions who believe in the Genesis account of creation, see man as having special value. The Darwinian worldview [social Darwinism] sees man as a simple blob of meaningless flesh, no different than the other life forms along the line. I always found the atheists reasoning to be a little illogical; they will argue that they are the real intellectuals, the so called ‘brights’ [a recent term they have come up with to describe their group] they will then explain to you how their view of their mind and brain is purely naturalistic, their brains are simply these jumbled masses of cells that are the result of thousands of years of meaningless process. Their whole being started as an accident, they have no initial purpose or final end. They see themselves, and along with it, all their reasoning and education and knowledge as being the result of years and years of luck and chance, and then they want you to trust in their conclusions! Ah, the utter foolishness of mans wisdom. God formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed into him his own breath and man became a living soul. Though the basic material of man is the same as the other material things God made, yet he only breathed his own image into man. The great 17th century philosopher/mathematician Blaise Pascal was reading the gospel of John one night, he was meditating on John 17 and had an awakening, he began to see that God was ‘the God of Jesus’ not the God of the philosophers. He saw that having a real relationship with God was different than simply knowing the things about him. God built into man the capacity to know him, while all other creatures are valuable and special to him [Jesus said not even a little sparrow dies without God caring about it!] yet man alone has the capacity to know and be in true communion with his creator, man was created in Gods image.

(1140) CREATION DAY 7- On the seventh day God rested and enjoyed what he had made. This does not mean he was tired, or that he ceased from activity. But is shows us the process and ways of God. When you read the parables of Jesus he often uses land and seed analogies to explain God’s kingdom ‘the kingdom is like planting a seed’ and stuff like that. God rested because it was his purpose to initiate the first 6 days of creation and for that creation to be self sustaining/propagating [under his sovereignty]. It’s important to see this aspect of creation. In chapter 1 God chose to use the words ‘let the waters bring forth’ and ‘let the ground bring forth’ when speaking of land and sea creatures. Why not simply ‘let there be animals, fish’? It seems as if God himself is leaving some room here for a reading of the text that has more to it than meets the eye. Does this mean the Progressive creationists are right? [or theistic evolutionists] not necessarily, but is shows us that there is some language in the text itself that shows a sort of ‘co-operative effort’ where God caused the initial base elements to ‘bring forth’ life. Some see this as God using simple language to describe deep scientific truths that would be found thru out the ages. Some equate this language with deep time ideas [old earth]. Also in chapter 2 we see the Lord describe the entire creation event as happening in ‘a day’ [singular]. This simply meaning ‘at the time period’ the young earth creationists are correct in pointing out that this does not mean the first 6 [or 7] days were not literal 24 hour periods. Scripture does use the word Day to speak figuratively at times; the ‘day of the Lord’ and stuff like that [meaning both a day and a time period]. But the point can be made that very early on [Gen 2] God chooses to use the word Day in the singular to describe the entire event. Also the writer of Hebrews will ‘spiritualize’ the phrase ‘and God rested on the seventh day’ to describe the age of grace, the new covenant ‘rest of God’ [read my Hebrews commentary, chapter 4- To be honest I don’t remember what I said at the time, but I’m sure I must have explained it!]. Once again, this would not necessarily leave the door open for a symbolic, non literal reading of day 7. But it shows us the various ways other new testament teachers used these scriptures, they were not afraid of applying them in theological ways. Of course we can get into trouble if we carry this too far. In the early days of the church you had the Alexandrian school, a great 3rd century Christian school, that adopted a highly symbolic way of reading scripture. The famous teacher Origen would head up the school at one point. He taught a type of spiritual interpretation of the bible that had 4 meanings to it, it was a little [or way] overboard to be honest about it, but the school was very influential. Eventually saint Augustine would embrace many of these ideas. Augustine was a titan in the early church and has been said to have had more influence in the later centuries of the church than any other teacher next to the apostle Paul! So we have had somewhat of a history at how far we should go when reading these texts. I would simply point out that there is some room here, early on in the bible, to see that even a straight forward reading of the text leaves room for some progressive ideas, some ‘spiritualizing’ of certain aspects, and a certain feel for the text that seems to say ‘there’s more going on here than initially meets the eye’. This does not mean we should abandon a literal view of the days, but shows us that God can use natural, normal days and extend his ideas to us in a manifold way [like Jesus use of the seed in his parables- real seeds, greater meaning]. Also the text shows us that God created the heavens and earth first and used language that said ‘let the waters/ground bring forth’ showing us that all other things were made from the basic stuff of the original heavens and earth. Does natural science go along with this? Yes, science shows us that all the base elements of all things come from the initial base elements that were used in the creation of the material world [The 90 or so elements found in the periodic table- hey, it’s been a long time since high school!] So even science itself would agree with the biblical record! How would the writer of Genesis have known this at such a pre scientific time? These things testify of the Divine nature of scripture itself. So we need not abandon a literal view, but we also see there is room for more than initially meets the eye.

(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.

(1123) FORM CRTICISM back in the early part of the 20th century you had various scholars come up with new ways to approach scripture, it seems as if the intellectual capacity of certain scholars was not being satisfied by the normal historical approach and belief in scripture. While most scholars accept the reality that there are different styles of writing in the bible; poetry, symbol, apocalyptic, etc. The form critics would take this study another step [out in left field!] and say that the gospels are actually stories that ‘were formed’ by the evangelists from small portions of deeds and sayings of Jesus. In essence they were saying that between the time of the actual events in the gospels and the recording of them [20-25 years] that the early Christian communities simply developed the stories in the gospels for the sake of the community, the only ‘reliable’ historical portion was the passion narrative. One of the most famous of the form critics was Rudolph Bultman. Over a period of time these brothers would make it next to impossible to accept the basic truths of the gospels. The famous writer C.S. Lewis found it amazing that these 20th century German thinkers, some 2 thousand years removed from the actual events themselves. Those who did not live in the actual culture of the time, didn’t speak the language. Yet these modern day critics somehow stumbled across this way of interpreting the bible that really unlocked the true intent behind the writers. Lewis himself lamented many times over the way the critics of his own writings were almost always 100 % wrong when it came to their judgment of his own motives behind what he wrote. He did not ‘mind’ the actual criticism of his writings, but the criticisms that said ‘this is what he really meant to say’ or ‘this is why he said this’ Lewis would testify that they were almost always [if not always!] wrong when they leveled these charges at him. He then turned the table on the form critics and said that they were engaging in this same type of criticism of the gospel writers, who were removed from the present day by some 1900 years! Lewis simply found it unbelievable to accept the possibility that they were even right 1% of the time. Ultimately these higher critics would be proven wrong for the most part by the discoveries that were taking place in archaeology. Many doubted the stories of scripture, their historical accuracy; things like the names of families in the book of Genesis, many said these family trees were fake, archeology proved otherwise. Or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, most of the new critics simply saw these stories as ‘myth’ symbolic stories meant to convey spiritual truths, but were not really true. Then lo and behold, they uncovered the historical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and also found evidence of some type of natural disaster that actually ‘rained down hot hailstones that burned up the cities’ Ouch! The higher critics were squirming in their seats as these historical facts were being uncovered. For the most part these popular early 20th century ways of approaching scripture have now been rejected. Of course you still find some who lean towards that system, but most able scholars realize that these brothers went so far out into left field that they were ignoring the most basic principles of true historic criticism and were engaging in a type of philosophical critique that had no real basis in truth. How in the world did these brothers determine what sayings of Jesus were really his, and which were not? The same goes for Paul’s letters and the rest of the New Testament. C.S. Lewis was open to modern ideas and concepts about Christian truth, but he could also see the things that were simply trends that had no real foundation in truth, Lewis was a wise man indeed.

(1118) In Matthew 24 Jesus speaks about the end times, some day I will try and fit everything into what I believe is the proper perspective. I basically hold to the classical view of end time events. I realize there are varying ‘classical’ views, but I mean I reject the late development of dispensationalism. One thing I will note is in this chapter Jesus warns the Jews that a time is coming when the temple and city will be utterly wiped out, most teachers rightfully see this as the destruction of the temple in a.d. 70 under Titus, but Jesus says ‘when you see the abomination that makes desolate stand in the holy place’ and then the writer says ‘[let him who reads understand]’. My bible has this in red letters, meaning these are Jesus spoken words. They might be the words of the writer of this gospel. In the last few years Christian teachers have come to understand more fully the oral nature of first century Judaism. Many things were passed on by word of mouth, some feel the writer of Matthew [or Jesus?] might have been saying ‘when this is read someday, make sure “he that readeth” understands what in the heck they are saying’! Get it? This insert might be a warning to the future lecturer. They were warning of the possibility of people misunderstanding this part of the teaching. Most modern prophecy teachers read this ‘abomination of desolation’ as a future political figure who will enter into a restored Jewish temple and claim to be God. Others view this thru an historical lens and see the invasion of the Roman soldiers with the marks of pagan gods on their shields as the desecration of ‘the holy place’. In Jewish thought, the room of the temple that contained the box that held the 10 commandments was super holy; the fact that Roman pagan soldiers went in and defiled it could be what the abomination of desolation is speaking about. It is an historical fact that many Jews who believed that Jesus was a true prophet took his warning literally, when they saw their city compassed with the Roman armies they ‘fled to the hills’ and did escape destruction. This was somewhat of a testimony to the accuracy of Jesus prophecy at the time. The whole point today is we need to be aware of various ways to read these prophetic portions of scripture, the original writer of Matthew said ‘let him who is reading this stuff understand for heavens sake!’ I think we need to ‘understand’ a little bit more.

(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.

(1114) Jesus makes his entry into Jerusalem and the Pharisees are mad, the people and children are praising him. He overturns the prosperity preacher’s tables and whips them! He rebukes the Pharisees ‘the whores and tax collectors are entering the kingdom ahead of you!’ WOW, talk about rough speech! He tells them that the sinners listened to John the Baptist, they came to hear what he had to say and changed their lifestyles, but the religious leaders were too hung up on their own agendas. And after they saw the results of John’s ministry, they responded out of jealousy and still didn’t re-think their views. Who were the Pharisees, how did thy come to represent hypocrisy and religious vanity? A few hundred years before Christ you had the nation of Israel taken captive and living under foreign occupation [like Rome was doing during Jesus day] it was in this environment that the Synagogues were established, they were meeting places where the Jews could gather and practice their religion while in exile. This was when the Pharisees and Sadducees were introduced. They regulated the religious worship of Israel while in exile. The Sadducees were less of a religious order than the Pharisees. The Sadducees were more of a political class that traced their natural bloodline to the priest Zadok [sort of like a Holy Grail thing, the DaVinci code type stuff]. Eventually the Pharisees turned into a class of professional ‘pains’. They knew all the rules and traditions surrounding their religious office and often laid these rules as burdens upon the people, rules that went against Gods commands. It is real important not to underestimate the common themes found in synagogue worship and the ‘church service’. I have written much on what the New Testament church is and how she should function; I have also traced the modern day practice of church to Constantine and the 4th century. But I have also taught that it is very possible that much of modern-day ‘church practice’ might also have come from the practice of Jewish synagogue worship. They bear a striking resemblance to say the least! It is a common mistake to think that Jewish-Christian worship ceased as a distinct practice after the destruction of the temple in a.d. 70 under Titus, but the synagogue made it all the way into the 2nd century, I believe it was the Roman emperor Hadrian who finally put an end to it. Some historians will tell you that there remained a Jewish church all the way up to the 5th century! If so, then it would be a major historical mistake to discount the possible role that the synagogue played in the ideas of Christian worship. Well anyway, these are the same religious leaders that Jesus rebuked in his day, they had their own ideas of what true worship meant, and they would not receive correction! Jesus said the whores and tax collectors had more spiritual discernment than them, sad thing.

(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.

(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?]

(1105) Isaiah says ‘before you call/ask I will answer’. Have you ever had your prayers answered before you called? Here in my office I have these maps all over the place; Texas maps, U.S. ones and world maps. I recently felt like I should pray for the Lord to expand us on the world map. I picked India and simply began praying for India. I mark off the countries/nations when they contact me and I can see the progress as time goes by. I mean I was believing for India! ‘Lord, let me mark off the country, I know I will mark it soon!’ Then as I was updating the ‘Texas/global’ section of the blog, I realized that I have had India on there all along. They contacted me a while back and I simply forgot! They were on the blog, but not on the maps. So now I marked them on the map, they weren’t there before, I trusted they would be there soon, does this qualify for an answer to prayer? Yes. God said he would answer before we ask, he simply gave me the exact answer to this payer before I asked, strange isn’t it? Jesus tells his disciples ‘you guys are seeing and hearing things that many prophets and holy men have desired to see and hear, have not’. As Jesus was teaching the terms used to describe the responses from the people are ‘astonished at this teaching’ ‘where did he get this wisdom from’ ‘he teaches as one who has authority, not like the regular preachers’ it was obvious that when you heard him there was something more gong on then just the dispensing of knowledge. Jesus was fulfilling a divine destiny that would impact the world, those listening were just experiencing the tail end of the great drama, he wasn’t doing these things to gain a audience for heavens sake! He was simply fulfilling destiny; the audience came along for the ride. Scripture says ‘the people who sat in darkness saw great light’ the confluence of events in Jesus’ life allowed people who would normally be in no position to hear good teaching, to hear it. These people would benefit directly from the destiny of Jesus. In 1st century Rome there was a profession called ‘rhetoric’ if you lived in an influential cosmopolitan city [Rome, Corinth, etc.] you had the benefit of availing yourself of higher learning. Sort of like saying ‘I went to M.I.T.’ or Harvard, but in the lower class areas of Jesus ministry these things were not readily available. The Old Testament prophets said that ‘those who sat in darkness [these areas that had no real opportunity for improvement] would see great light’. God permitted the ministry of Jesus to bring ‘higher education’ to those who normally would not be able to access it. Jesus said ‘many prophets and holy men wish they were seeing the things that you are now seeing, but have never seen them’. God reveals things ‘to babes’ the humble class, so they might confound the wise! [Corinthians]

(1104) was watching one of those ‘prophecy conference’ things last night, you know, the brothers with the charts on the wall and all. Kind of funny, as they were being introduced the moderator shared their backgrounds ‘he belongs to the pre-trib study group for advanced stuff’ and then mentions the books and all the brothers wrote. ‘In the 1990’s he wrote the best seller THE END IS NOW UPON US, THERE IS NO TIME LEFT!’ [something to that effect] it does seems strange that it is now 2009 and he’s still around to talk about it! Don’t get me wrong, these are all fine believers, it’s just we need to take a second look at the persona/image that we are projecting out to society at large. As I have been reading the gospels I like the mindset of Jesus ‘the Kingdom of God is now here/coming’ to be sure the historic church has had battles over these concepts, and I don’t want to re-do it all here, you can read more on it under my end times section. But I want to look at the scope of Jesus teaching/outreach ‘ministry’. Even though he limits himself physically to a small region of the world, he had no desire to travel the globe, but yet he sees his purpose thru a much broader paradigm ‘the kingdom of God is here!’ How could such a limited charitable ministry make such bold claims? He was giving himself for ‘the least of these’ and the Father would recompense him for it ‘the gentiles shall come to your light, kings and nations shall be influenced by you’ declared the prophets. Now, in the current day we often see ‘ministry’ as going to a town/area and establishing some type of meeting environment where people will attend every week and hear preaching. While this is okay to a degree, it is fundamentally disconnected from the kingdom mindset of Jesus. He believed that he was starting a word-wide movement that would shake the foundations of all mankind! Quite a bold mission statement from such a seemingly insignificant life ‘Come on Jesus, you have never even studied in the upper-class schools of the day’ but that didn’t stop him. These followers of his are not the primary focus of his calling; understand that in today’s ‘church mindset’ everything is focused on getting so many people to attend/join/partner up [money!] we measure our self worth by these things. Jesus told us ‘cast the seed on the ground; sure some will be eaten by birds, others will spring up quickly and have no root. But some will take root, these will change the world!’ He didn’t spend a whole lotta time trying to convince the unproductive seed/plants to ‘re-dedicate’ give it one more shot ‘please attend my meetings’ type of a thing, he had no time for that sort of silly stuff, he was changing the world for heavens sake! I want to challenge you today, God does have a great purpose and destiny for you, you do not exist simply for the purpose of helping people ‘get saved’ while the rest of the planet goes to hell in a hand basket! Jesus started a world wide revolutionary movement that has competed with all the major world philosophies of the last 2 thousand years, the church has been the greatest influence in society for good, more than any other single institution [despite what Christopher Hitchens says!] we are truly the people of God. See yourself as a citizen of this movement, as Christians we are members of the city that is set on a hill; our purpose isn’t just to ‘be the city’ but it is to shine to all of those that see us on the hill and affect the planet for good. It’s time to tear down the silly prophecy charts and get to business, don’t you think?

(1103) A few posts back I discussed John the Baptist, just read Matthew 11 and this is the chapter where Jesus says much about John. Now John was in jail and he sends the messengers to Jesus asking if he is the Messiah or not. I explained this a few days back and won’t do it again here. But Jesus begins telling the people that John was the one the prophet Malachi spoke of ‘God will send the messenger Elijah before the Messiah; he will prepare things for me’ John was also called ‘the voice of one crying in the wilderness’. Jesus says to the people ‘what did you go to see? When you went to hear John in the desert, were you finding a reed shaken with the wind [a wishy washy pleaser of men] or did you expect someone in a three piece suit?’ John basically ran rough shod over the entire image of sophistication and affluence, yes he was rough and looked a little scraggly [leather loin cloth and eating locusts!] didn’t dress the part, that’s for sure! Then Jesus gave a description of the day, he said they were like kids in the market place saying ‘we sang for you and you didn’t dance, we mourned for you and you didn’t cry’ he was telling them that they expected performance, they wanted to illicit a response from those who were supposed to be teachers of the law. He said they were never satisfied, they complained that John didn’t eat regularly and must be demon possessed. Then they accused Jesus of eating too much! Ah, there was just no pleasing this bunch. Reminds me of the political world of our day. A few things; these last few weeks I have tried to share the story of Jesus and his disciples. The feelings they were experiencing and the things they had to deal with. In the case of John the Baptist Jesus said he was the specific person spoken about in the Old Testament, as we identify and see ourselves in these stories, we should NEVER begin viewing ourselves as the actual persons spoken about in the stories! For instance, many have read revelation chapter 11 and began seeing themselves as the actual witnesses spoken about, the ‘two witnesses’ thing. Many have become cult leaders by doing this! From my part of the world David Koresh did this in Waco. But the Muenster prophets did this 500 year ago during the Reformation, so the tendency to begin seeing yourself as actual biblical characters ought to be rejected! But you say ‘well brother, how do you know I’m not one of the two witnesses spoken about in revelation’. The reason I know is because I’m the other one and your not one of them! ONLY A JOKE!! Take my word for it, none of us are the two witnesses in Revelation 11. Just needed to make sure everyone stays on track here. Now back to John [the Baptist!] he challenged the people to ‘repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ in the message bible it says ‘change the way you think and act, because Gods kingdom is here now’. Yes, this does include turning away from sin, but it also means we need to look at things from a different view. Much of what I have written on the nature of the church would fit in here. As people see the church for what she really is [community of people] they will act differently, their priorities will change. I took a few homeless brothers to a park/lake area in my town and we had a good fellowship. These guys are smart! One was a realtor in San Antonio for many years, the other is like a scholar of sorts. I mean I mentioned the philosopher Immanuel Kant and my friend read and was aware of his system of belief! As we talked we shared a little about the wrong priorities of much of modern day church. My one friend [the realtor] said if the church was really doing it’s job in reaching out to the poor and oppressed, then there would be no need for the mission out post that we meet at. He understood how so much of modern church spends millions on facilities and salaries and stuff, yet the lost world is really not being touched in a real way. The overall discussion was good, these guys knew their stuff. The lake area we were at is off the beaten path, hidden inside some nice subdivision. We were surrounded by nice expensive homes, I’m sure many sincere believers were in them at the time, others at work trying to make a future for themselves. The collective offerings given by all the residents on any given Sunday is probably in the thousands, yet right outside their windows were a few homeless Christian brothers. If I weren’t with them they probably would have had the cops come and harass them. John was preaching in the wilderness telling the people ‘change the way you think and act, God’s kingdom is here right now’ I think John knew what he was talking about.

(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.

(1091) it’s funny [or sad?] the other day I told you how when I read Micah chapter 6, the first verse spoke to me. Then recently I have been going thru some things, and this morning the first verse in chapter 7 is ‘WOE UNTO ME’ old brother Micah was definitely a prophet! Lets do one of those Jeff Foxworthy things, you know ‘you might be a redneck if your front yard looks like a salvage yard’ type stuff. I get amused when brothers/Pastors tell me about their sufferings, you might ask them ‘okay brother, tell me what’s going on?’ and they might say ‘well, my parishioners are gossiping about me’ oh please, this stuff doesn’t even register on the meter! Here’s a good way to define it ‘you might be going thru some stuff if people say to you ‘cheer up things cant be that bad’ and after they get a glimpse of the things, they say ‘you know brother, things cant get much worse’! Hey, we all need a sense of humor. Or say if your history was one of eating chocolate cakes, and you say ‘I fell off the wagon, I ate too many sweets this month’ of course that would be bad, but the difficulty will be measured by what type of wagon you fell off of! So Peter tells us to rejoice thru suffering, he also tells us that we shouldn’t suffer as evildoers. That is if your in prison for murder, sure your gonna suffer, but what the heck do you expect! But Peter also suffered for past sins, things that he did wrong. One of the gospels says right after the Rooster crowed, Jesus looked at him and he went out and ‘wept bitterly’. You see, Peter had a destiny to fulfill. Jesus knew that he had to taste some difficulty in preparation for it. Time was running out, Jesus has been training these guys for three years, he has given them all the great teachings about the kingdom, tried to instill in them a new mindset, showing them that this new movement of his church/kingdom would be lead by people who are like sheep going to the slaughter. These leaders would taste much death in their lives; as a matter of fact these death experiences would be totally necessary for the purposes of God to be fulfilled. But its been three years now and Peter is still struggling with pride, trying to create this macho image of himself, in on this great revolutionary movement ‘hey, look at me, the Messiah has come and I am one of the inner circle’. But he saw Jesus lean on John the disciple’s breast at the supper ‘the special disciple who Jesus loved’. Jesus would confide in him that Judas was the betrayer ‘what about me Jesus’ thinks Peter ‘why not let me in on some of the secrets too’? still struggling with self worth. He will see some things, but first he has to face his Cross, his day of failure, the thing that will torture him for the rest of his life ‘How could I have been so stupid! I denied the Lord! My whole purpose for existing, the reason I am here; I have committed acts of betrayal against Jesus and myself!’ Now hang on Peter, this is part of the preparation, be careful to not get too consumed by this failure, it has a purpose ‘what purpose, what good can come out of this whole sordid affair’? Now, there is something else going on down the road, Judas starts feeling guilty too, he is appearing before the religious leaders, he tells them ‘I have betrayed an innocent man, I have stooped very low in my life. Not only do others see me as a failure, the one of whom Jesus said ‘it would have been better if this man were never born’ [the man who cant escape his own guilt!] but I too see myself as one of little worth’ he tells the leaders ‘here’s the damn money, 30 pieces of silver, please take it back’. They don’t want it either! ‘No, please take it, I’m trying to penalize myself in some way for what I’ve done, you don’t understand, I need you guys to take it, to in some sense absolve me of my guilt’ it was too late, he set the course and could not change the outcome, he tried, but the eternal laws of guilt and reaping were bearing down on him ‘too much to bear! I can’t stand this damn guilt anymore’ he does the tragic deed; he ends it all on some tree. As he hangs himself his ‘bowels’ gush out, his insides were killing him and it just seems fitting that he detached himself from them in his death. He chose wrong, make no mistake about it, this act is never acceptable! Well Peter will go on to be one of the greatest leaders in Gods church, I’m sure he remembered the words of Jesus when he said ‘don’t forget Peter, the least will be the greatest’ Peter will ascend the heights of church leadership; he will be used of God in a great way. History tells us when Nero killed him that he requested to be crucified up side down, he did not feel worthy enough to die like his Lord. Old brother Peter, I guess he never really overcame the guilt of that day. That one damn offense that haunted him thru out his life, this terrible thing allowed him to taste death in such a way that would qualify him for great things. But why couldn’t there have been some other way? who knows, Peter will write to the believers ‘it’s good if a man suffers justly, if he lives with difficulty as an innocent victim’ but he also said ‘let none of you suffer for your own faults and actions. Don’t put yourselves in situations where you will have to live with the penalty of your own guilt, it can be tormenting!’ Peter knew what he was talking about.

(1088) still jumping around in the prophets, was surprised to see how many verses I quote during prayer that come from Micah. Just read the famous prophecy about Jesus ‘out of thee Bethlehem, the least of all places, shall come forth one that will rule, have great authority’. The strange thing about the calling and destiny of Jesus was he grew up and spent his whole ministry in a sort of backwoods region of the ancient world. His spoken language [Aramaic] was considered underclass. You see two very distinct types of living in our New Testament; Rome was a strong civic center, an upper-class place where knowledge and politics ruled the day. These outlying areas that Rome conquered and placed leaders over them, these areas were low class places. You see this play out in the gospels, a sort of fishing/agrarian lifestyle, as opposed to Rome and her obvious ruling aura. Paul going thru all these legal loopholes as he defends himself. Appearing before these puppet kings and rulers, going up against the quasi religious authorities that Rome allowed some freedom for the sake of stability in their realm. That’s why you see the religious authorities appealing to Pontius Pilate, he, as Rome’s representative, had the power to execute Jesus, the religious authorities did not. So anyway Jesus starts his ministry in these territories that are basically low class. He gathers around him a hapless bunch of followers, and starts his little ‘movement’. That’s fine, let him humor himself; after all he isn’t the first to claim some type of Messianic title and to think he will challenge society. He does seem to have somewhat of an aura that compels people to listen to him, this irks the religious class ‘why are you listening to him!’ They figure if they ignore him he will go away. His family actually thinks he is becoming unhinged, the type that would need one of those interventions ‘Now Jesus, we love you, we know your into this religious thing and all, that’s fine. But we are now getting a little worried, you seem to think you are on this special mission from God, that you must complete it at all costs’ They feared he was losing his mind! But hey, there is only so much you can offer a person, if they don’t get the help, it is their choice. So Jesus continues riling up the authorities, his silly movement consists of him spending all his time with these low life’s of society. I mean, can’t he see their pulling him down! He has these whole nights where he prays to God, and then these underclass are pulling at him, always needing help! Geez, they are in their circumstances because of their own sins, just let them reap what they sowed. Well don’t worry about it, he will soon fade. He is causing somewhat of a stir with the Roman authorities, they really are not up on all the religious questions that seem to be causing the problems between him and the Jewish religious figures, but the territories are experiencing disharmony, Rome does not like this! So settle it quickly before things get out of hand, these Jews might seem harmless, but they have a history of rebelling against other nations who bring them under tribute, so we need to quell the uprising. So Jesus continues on this somewhat destructive course, I mean even Peter tells him ‘there is no way we are going to let you go to Jerusalem and be killed! Now this thing is getting out of hand, listen to some sense man’ Jesus responds ‘get behind me satan, you are more concerned with the things of men than of God’. Jesus really believed he was on this divine mission, nothing we say to the guy can dissuade him! But really, how much ultimate effect can he have, he is from this low class area, what an ignorant bunch of hopeless slobs! Well the day has come, enough is enough, for some reason the Jewish leaders won’t leave it alone, now they managed to frame him with some trumped up charges and get him before the Roman court. Pilate has a lot on his plate, the leaders at Rome want him to settle this thing, quickly! So he does a brief reading of the charges and sees that this Jesus is accused of claiming to be Gods Son, this sent one from eternity past into this time and place of human history. How could this be, what type of god would predetermine his own Son to arrive in these low class areas, this cant be. Pilate asks the man himself ‘do you really think you are Gods Son? Brother, you better start speaking up for yourself, you don’t realize we are not playing games here, you managed to stir your people up to the point where they are pressuring me to execute you’. Jesus is somewhat different than all the other criminals, he seems to be in control, saying his only crime was speaking the truth. He claimed to be Gods Son, the promised messiah spoken about in the Old Testament prophets. How does he know this, how can he be so sure that this destiny he seems to be fulfilling is really from God? Maybe he’s just misreading the whole thing, sure Micah says Gods predestined one who will come from this area, but how does he know it’s him? Pilate has a tuff decision to make, as he mulls it over his wife tells him ‘don’t have anything to do with this man, I dreamed a dream, this man is just!’ Wow, my wife never told me anything like this before! I know, I will give the Jews what they want, convict him of the crime and pass the death sentence on him, but this is this tradition they have, during this special religious season [Passover] they have a custom of pardoning one who is going to face death. Surely they will pardon Jesus, the only other guy scheduled for execution is Barrabas, everybody knows he deserves it! The day arrives, Pilate goes thru with the plan and the people holler ‘crucify Jesus, let Barrabas go!’ What! He has really done nothing wrong, I wouldn’t have even passed the sentence if I knew you would actually go thru with the whole thing. He is mad, the Jews tricked him ‘I know, I’ll put this accusation over the cross- THE KING OF THE JEWS, this will stick in their craw!’ he does it, they are infuriated ‘don’t say he is our king! Say he claimed to be our king’ Pilate says ‘what I have written, I have written’. Well this isn’t the end of our story, but I have gone on too long for now. Who would have ever thought this simple carpenter from such an insignificant town could have stirred up so many emotions, man he is carrying this destiny of his thru the lives of many people, he took it all the way to the leaders of the empire for heavens sake! Oh well, we tried to help the poor guy, we tried to talk him into dropping this whole purpose and destiny thing. We tried to tell him ‘good, we are happy you are healing and helping people, you managed to get this little following of unlearned men’ [not illiterate, but no higher learning in the whole group, not even Jesus!] but he took the thing too far, he wouldn’t back down. He got way too many people mad, the ruckus made it back to Rome and they did what they thought they needed to do to settle things down, just make it go away. Boy were they wrong.

(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.

(1086) the last day or so I didn’t write any posts, but if I did, they would be something like ‘to be honest, today was a difficult day. Recently there have been some ‘old demons’ from my past that have haunted me. They visit every now and then, they always eventually leave, but they have a tendency to leave some marks’. Now, that’s as close as you can get to confessing stuff on a public blog! James says ‘confess your faults one to another, and pray for each other that you might be healed’ it’s hard to confess your faults when the modern church is consumed with image ‘how we look, who’s the new up and coming ministry on the horizon’? Geez, I feel like ‘if I can survive this day, that’s fine with me Lord’. Well enough of me. I have been reading the prophets, let me give you some advice; if times are hard, read Psalms. If you need wisdom- Proverbs. And if you’re in the mood to get chewed out, read the prophets! It’s hard to not feel convicted when reading the brothers. I was also thinking about the lives of people who have impacted society to some degree, often times they are tragic figures. Jesus, from the natural standpoint did not look like he had it together; sure, he was healing [helping] people, a couple of resurrections and all, but as the leader of this rag tag team of radicals, things weren’t going to well. The disciples thought they were in on the beginnings of a revolutionary movement that would throw off the oppression of Rome. The war that led up to the eventual overthrow of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 was actually initiated a few years earlier by this type of mindset. In the apocryphal books [the catholic books between Malachi and Matthew in the Old Testament] you have the recording of the Maccabean revolt, when the Jews attempted to throw off the ruling govt. The whole history of Israel was one of learning how to be a free people, coming out from the rule of other human governments [Exodus, Joshua, etc]. So these disciples of Jesus really thought they were in on the right political party, the one that would succeed in turning things around. After all, if you were waiting for some Messianic figure to show up, if your bibles [old testament] said he was going to come and deliver you from the Roman oppressors [read Mary’s magnificat] you would naturally think that Jesus was going to set up a physical throne out of the city and Rome would be cast off. But what happened? This great religious leader, this miracle worker, he is always talking about this new kingdom. He’s dropping little hints that it’s not going to be what they think, he says things that seem to not even make sense ‘the last shall be first’ ‘he that seeks to save his life shall lose it’ ‘this kingdom does not come with observation, it’s within you’. Oh well, the disciples figure ‘what the heck, we cant understand all that he’s saying, but man he’s got the authorities scared. I mean you can feel it in the air brother!’ So they stick it out, but he also drops little hints ‘the son of man is going to go to Jerusalem [Yea, now were talking! This is the part we’ve been waiting for Jesus, no more of this talk about laying your life down, that’s just depressing] and be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified’ What! What are you telling us? We quit our jobs, left our homes; we gave up a lot for this movement, now your telling us your gonna die! This is way too much to handle! By all outward appearances he seems like such a tragic figure. They accuse him of not being able to help himself ‘if this man were the Son of God [legit] surely he would come down from the Cross [a place of weakness, public humiliation] and save himself. He helped others, and he can’t even save himself!’ The accusation was he must be a hypocrite, he talked a big talk, but even his closest friends are no where to be found. One of the most vocal [Peter] is out right now swearing up and down that he doesn’t even know the man. ‘Jesus, I have no idea who your talking about’ the bible says he cursed and swore, lets try and be tactful, this is a Christian site ‘I don’t know what the hell your talking about’ how’s that? What a sad ending to such a promising career, he seemed like he had so much going for him. Man, could he teach! You know we heard when he was only 12; he was asking the scholars questions that they couldn’t answer. One time he stood up in the synagogue and opened up this scroll, you know the Isaiah one. He read this strange verse about Gods Spirit being on some future person, how that person would do justice for the poor, speak out against things that he felt were wrong. He would be genuine, then you know what happened? He said “this day is this prophecy being fulfilled in your ears” Man, it gave us all chills. But what in the world happened to the guy? We heard he was unstable and all, the religious leaders have diagnosed him as a nut! But how do you explain all the good he was doing, after all nuts don’t raise the dead? Oh, that’s easy, he was doing it by the power of satan. Well I guess they were right, after all look at him now, such a pathetic figure. Naked on a cross! All that we expected from you, you could at least have the courtesy of deconstructing in private; I mean really, do we all have to watch this tragic end? Well of course we know the rest of the story, it didn’t actually end tragically. But he couldn’t seem to find help/vindication until after he died, can you wait that long?

(1082) ‘For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth. For they are the messengers of the Lord’ Malachi 2:7. I remember a few years back, I was listening to the various teachings that were on the radio station that I broadcast on. Some brother out of the Fort Worth area used to buy air time and all. One time the focus was ‘what is Gods essential character?’ if there were only one word to describe who god is, what his essential makeup was, what would that word be? And of course the answer was ‘abundance’ specifically ‘financial increase’. I know of know other way to describe stuff like this, it falls under the category of ministerial malpractice! God commands leaders/teachers to seek the truth coming from him, we are responsible to at least get the most basic things right! What would be the most obvious answer to the question of how to define God in a word? Surely every preacher should know the answer. It would be ‘God is love’. While there are many attributes of God [omnipotence, omniscience, etc.] yet the ‘one’ word definition, if you had to give one, would be love [yes, he is Spirit too]. The last word you should use to describe God would be ‘much money’. Paul said the false teacher’s god is their belly; their appetites, they live to satisfy their desires. Jesus taught us one of the greatest desires of man is acquiring great wealth. He said you can’t serve God and money [mammon]. Why people still send their offerings to ministries like this is beyond me. The challenge to wealth and oppressive wealthy nations/peoples is sown all thru out human history; Homers Iliad revealed the monster 12 centuries before Christ in his writings on the Trojan War. Adam Smith penned his famous book ‘wealth of nations’ in 1776. Challenges to oppressive govt’s. of men who use wealth and power to come against the poor in society are noble themes that all great prophetic voices have hit on [Gandhi, Martin Luther King, etc.]. Who was thee singular greatest prophetic voice who engaged in this type of polemic? Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Most know him as the carpenter, but the actual word used to describe his trade in the Greek means ‘hand laborer’ [or day laborer] you know, those poor brothers we see waiting for a job on the corners of streets, going to ‘labor ready’ [a local place to find daily work]. It is quite possible that Jesus was ‘less’ than a carpenter/tradesmen, but more of an odd jobs worker. Willing to take any job he could get. Well, once he entered his teaching ministry, boy did he speak to power and wealth. If you read all the actual words of Jesus [yes, the red ones!] and try and come up with a singular theme thru out his writings, it could very well be his contrast of the rich and poor. The powerful oppression of wealth and unjust govt. against the poor and weak in society. His incessant condemnation of the wealthy and affluent, I mean you can’t possibly miss this! Unless you are not seeking the ‘law’ [words] that actually were coming from his MOUTH! Malachi rebuked the priests of his day, they were functioning and active and everyone knew they were priests, yet they were not really listening to the words of God himself, I think we need to all give heed to what the brother said.

(1080) In keeping with our recent train of thought, lets talk a little on who wrote the new testament, and when did they write. During the rise of higher criticism in the universities [a type of learning that cast serious doubt on many of the truths of scripture, though some of the elements of higher learning were helpful; like the historic method, learning to study scripture thru a contextual lens] you had some who dated the gospels as being written by the end of the first century, even into the second! Today, no serious scholar would put them anywhere near the second century. And like I said the other day, those who attribute Paul’s writings to various unknown sources, they also can stick the older label on Paul’s stuff. Do the scriptures themselves give us any hint at when they were written? Sure. They don’t tell us exactly, but some good hints. The gospels contain lots of historical records in them, who was ruling at the time. Certain census that were being taken, things like that. Of course this doesn’t mean the writers were writing at the exact time of the events, but it shows you their familiarity with them. Or if a gospel writer [I think its Luke] says ‘just as others compiled stuff about Jesus and all that he did, so I thought it good that I should do the same’. This would show you that the writer was not as close to the actual events as others. Or when Luke writes the book of Acts, he states that he had already written his gospel. Luke is pretty meticulous about historic stuff in Acts; he records the believers who were killed for the faith [Stephen, James- the disciple, not the Lords brother who was one of the main leaders at Jerusalem, who is also believed to be the author of the epistle]. The point being, if Luke ends Acts with Paul living in a rented room in Rome; plus he never mentions the martyrdom of Paul or Peter, this would indicate that Acts was written before their deaths. Nero killed them both in the 60’s, Nero died a couple of years before A.D. 70. It would seem rather odd for Luke to have left their martyrdoms out of the book! Peter and Paul are the two main characters in the book. If Luke is recording the martyrdoms of less known figures, you think he would have at least mentioned them. So this is kind of internal stuff you look at, and if Luke says he wrote his gospel earlier, Walla! This would give you an early date to his gospel, before Acts was written. Also, we have various common names; did John the apostle write all the ‘Johns’? The gospel, the 3 letters and Revelation. Most scholars have him writing the gospel and letters, some attribute Revelation to another John ‘John of Patmos’. They feel the Greek text in revelation is too different from the other writings, so they think another John wrote it. When I wrote my Hebrews commentary, I think I must be the only person left on the planet who still thinks Paul wrote it! I realize that this makes you look ‘illiterate’ in the scholarly world, but I have my reasons. If you believe in the real late dates to some of the books, you can cast too much doubt on the accuracy of the sources, if you go too early, you reject too much evidence. And in some cases, the dates are very important to the beliefs of the group. Preterists believe you can make a case for all the apocalyptic portions of scripture having been fulfilled in A.D. 70, they will bring up historical evidence of witnesses seeing chariots in the sky at the time of Titus overthrow of the city, signs and stuff that Jesus said would happen ‘at the end’ so to them ‘the end’ was A.D. 70. If revelation was written around A.D. 90, then it doesn’t fit. John [whether the apostle or the Patmos brother!] still shows the apocalyptic stuff as being in the future. So they make a case that revelation was written before A.D. 70, is it possible, sure. But we really don’t know. Plus, if you think it was written late, you place Domitian as the possible anti-christ figure, early- it’s Nero. So you see some brothers have put a lot of thought into this stuff. It’s good to be familiar with some of these basic things, especially when you have anti Christian activists using some of these things as sources for their activity. Christians should be able to debate coherently with them, if not they win their point. Most of all we have a tremendous amount of textual/historical data that backs up the record of Jesus and the New Testament. There is absolutely no other writing from antiquity with this kind of backing, the gospels and the new testament are historically trustworthy, whether or not we know for sure which John wrote revelation, or which James wrote James, really doesn’t matter. We KNOW which Jesus rose from the dead!

(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.

(1072) 1ST KINGS 21- Ahab wants the field of Naboth, he owns a field next to Ahab’s palace and Ahab wants to make a deal for it. Naboth says ‘no way, this is a part of my family inheritance’. So Ahab goes home, falls on his bed and refuses to eat, in the Greek this is called ‘being a big baby’. So Jezebel asks him ‘what’s wrong’? He gives her the scoop and she says ‘what’s wrong with you, you are the king! Your word/name has great power, use it to get what you want!’ So she manipulates the situation and sends letters to the elders of Naboth’s city, she signs the kings name and says ‘set up 2 false witnesses against Naboth, hold a public mock trial and kill the man’. The accusation against him is blasphemy. This sure looks like a prophetic sign of the Cross. So the plan is carried out, the guy is killed and Ahab gets the land. Now, the Lord speaks to Elijah about the whole thing and he confronts Ahab, he pronounces judgment on him and his wife. Ahab repents somewhat and God delays the judgment. In the book of Revelation God warns the church of Thyatira ‘you have permitted that woman, Jezebel, to teach and seduce my servants to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed unto idols’. John the Baptists head was taken off by a Jezebel [the wife of a king who used her husband’s authority to get what she wanted- manipulation]. What/who is Jezebel? A few years back it was common to hear teachings on her, whole books have been written on the subject. It was one of those fads where the church thought we were really doing ‘spiritual warfare’ by exposing her, but in reality we were being duped by focusing too much on the enemy. So what about the rebukes? How do we ‘spot her’? In the cases mentioned above, it is speaking of a form of manipulation that gets the ‘authorities’ to commit wickedness. When the govt. can stamp its approval on an act, like abortion, then the wicked act can be carried out because the ‘law’ permits it. In Naboth’s mock trial, he was murdered, but it was under pretense of law. Of course Jesus trial was the same. And John the Baptist was beheaded because the ‘kings word is law’. Oliver Cromwell, the 17th century parliamentarian reformer, would face his Jezebel in the king’s wife, she was the Catholic wife of King Charles [Stuart the 1st] and the puritan reformer saw her as a threat. He would eventually lead parliament to execute the king and himself hold the title ‘The Lord Protector’ his epitaph would read ‘Christ, not man, is King’. So every age has had to deal with Jezebel. One thing for sure, when the people of God permit, and at times agree, with the unjust manipulation of human govt. [like Supreme Court decisions that give voice to the murder of children] then we are to a degree ‘suffering that woman Jezebel’. The reason John the Baptists head was removed was because he spoke up loudly against a public sin. The king married his brother’s wife, they were committing adultery. Now, everyone knew it, it was the sort of thing that you learned to live with, but John felt it his duty to publicly speak out against it. So today, when we as believers become desensitized to the sins that take place with the governmental stamp of approval, then we too are allowing the unjust manipulation of human govt. [Jezebel] to have her way.

(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].

(1057) 1ST KINGS 9- The Lord honors Solomon’s request and tells him he will hear the prayers of the people. He also warns Solomon to walk in the ways of David his father. God tells him that David walked right and did good, funny thing, the Lord doesn’t bring up the Bathsheba incident! His mercies are new EVERY morning. Now Solomon becomes firmly established as Israel’s king, he puts the pagan nations under tribute/slavery and sets his people up as the overseers. I just finished reading the book on ‘Revival and Revivalism’ and started a new one on ‘in search of Paul’ yes, it’s written by a few of the Jesus seminar brothers! [you know, the guys looking for the real Jesus, Yikes!] but the book does have some excellent historical content. It brought out a recent archeological discovery of a synagogue on the island of Delos [in the Aegean]. Delos was never visited by Paul, but he sailed by it on his journeys. It is the supposed birth place of the Greek god ‘Apollo’. The interesting thing was that the synagogue looked like any other meeting place of a voluntary society of people. It did have ‘Moses seat’ [the Jewish pulpit!] and the ‘collection plate’ [at least the history of the Jewish collection late was discussed. By the way, this backs up my theory [over against Frank Viola’s] that it’s very possible that the development of the ‘church as the building’ concept came from Judaism as opposed to paganism!] But anyway, the island of Delos, under Roman rule, was encouraged to allow for the free worship of the Jewish religion. The Roman empire wanted freedom of religion! As long as it did not challenge their multitude of gods [Pantheon]. Solomon did not totally wipe out the enemies in the land, but he let them know who was in charge. He understood that there are realities to living in a pluralistic world, you don’t have to always agree with every point of view, but it’s noble to treat people with respect [I am not saying slavery is respect!] and get along as much as you can with those of opposing views. But also don’t feel intimidated by being part of a victorious kingdom that God himself set up, Solomon allowed the pagans to function in the land, but they knew who was in charge.

(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!

(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]

(1047)KINGS; INTRODUCTION- There is no greater Old Testament king and dynasty than that of David. While there are many other types and symbols that point to Jesus [Moses, Joseph, etc.] yet the rule of David and the promises of God to him [raising up a son from his lineage with an endless life who will sit on the throne forever!] are directly related to the purposes of God for his church and the messianic fulfillment of Jesus and his kingdom. Kings was originally one book [1st and 2nd kings]. It was divided when the Septuagint was written [the Greek version of the Old Testament] and stayed divided in Jerome’s Latin vulgate. We will see the division of Israel as a nation [northern tribes-10, southern tribes-2] take place in this book. More time will be spent on the history of the northern tribes, possibly because they needed more prophetic correction, so the recorded words of the prophets are more prevalent in Israel’s history than Judah’s [Paul said to the Corinthians that it was needful for heresies to rise up among them, this gave opportunity to deal with problems that would be beneficial centuries later to all who would read the story!] We also see some practical stuff that applies to the present moment [2009]. The division of the kingdom will be spurred on by the immature decisions of Rehoboam to listen to the bad advice of inexperienced advisers, should I say more? I can’t stress enough the role that David’s dynasty played in the national psyche of Israel and her future hopes of a restored theocracy. In essence their entire national hope was based upon a restored Davidic kingdom that would usher in the Messiah and bring deliverance to the nation from her oppressors [Rome]. Herod the great, Rome’s political leader who oversaw Israel and her land under Roman rule, built the restored temple in hopes of being seen as the leader who would fill the shoes of the promised Davidic restorer. Though Herod was not Jewish, yet he adopted Jewish custom and law in an effort to be seen as the legitimate savior of Israel. Saint Augustine [the bishop of Hippo, North Africa] would later say ‘I would rather have been Herod’s pig than his sons’. He would not eat his swine, but yet he would murder his own sons! Herod was a madman at heart. Well let’s cut this intro short and keep our eyes open as we see Jesus and his messianic kingdom in this story. The church herself will become the fulfillment of this future kingdom under the reign of Jesus as king over all the earth. The New Testament writers will eventually portray Jesus as being the present fulfillment of the promises of God made to David centuries ago, they saw the promises of God as being a presently fulfilled reality thru the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the Son of God. And his being seated at God’s right hand as the ultimate fulfillment of ascending to the throne.

(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’ that’s where we get the current term for meteorology. 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 visa 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.

(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. Their 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 new 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.

(1015)‘THE LOCATABLE LOCAL CHURCH’? I remember how we were taught in the Baptist church that the local church is ‘locatable’ that it is a real ‘place’ that you could find when visiting a city. This tended to confuse the matter somewhat. In church history you can find teachings on the visible church versus the invisible church. Saint Augustine is famous for this distinction, as a matter of fact Augustine taught that it was possible [not probable] that a person who is a member of the visible church might not really be a believer, and that it was possible for someone to be a believer and not be a member of the visible church, though he did see this dynamic as a rare thing. Even some of today’s organic church teachings seem a little confused at times on this. They seem to indicate that a ‘locatable church’ means a home type meeting that you can find if you visit a particular city. While it is true that in the New Testament you most certainly could locate a home meeting [or temple one or one at the synagogue while Paul was teaching the local Jewish community- evangelistically] yet I prefer to see it like this. If I were to tell you that a wonderful community of people exist, let’s say in Houston. And I described these ‘Houstonians’ as being bright, progressive go getters. I explained to you that they are all real people who live and function as citizens of Houston. If you then studied the history of Houston a thousand years from now, how would you describe them? Were they ‘locatable’? Well yes, of course. If you went to Houston you would be able to most certainly ‘locate’ them. How? Well you would run into them at the store, see them shopping. Possibly playing ball at one of the parks. There are hundreds of ways to ‘locate them’. You would even be able to locate them at some home meeting [or church building]. But you certainly would not describe their ‘locate-ability’ [if this is even a word!] as being the home or building. They were/are locatable because they really exist as citizens from another place! So likewise I think it would be better to describe the ‘locatable, visible church’ as being the actual communities of people who reside in your area and are believers in Christ. Now, you should be able to locate a place where they meet and celebrate the Lords Table and stuff like that, but don’t confuse locating a meeting with the actual people themselves.

(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].

(1011)CORINTHIANS 15:20-28 here we see the guarantee of mans resurrection based on Christ’s resurrection. ‘As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall ALL be made alive’. Is Paul teaching a form of universalism [all being saved]? He is showing us that all men will someday be raised from the dead. Now, does Paul leave room here for a type of Pre-millennial resurrection? A ‘raising’ of the dead prior to a thousand year literal reign of Jesus. Then another resurrection at the end? Yes he does. If you read Revelation you will see this type of scenario play out. Also Jesus speaks of the resurrection of the just and the unjust. Historically the church has held 3 basic views on this. Pre-millennialism says Jesus returns first [pre] before the literal thousand year rule occurs. ‘Post’ says the thousand year rule is literal, and after that Jesus comes back. Those who held to this view were excited at the turn of the first millennium [1000 ad] they thought it possible for Jesus to have returned after the first thousand years since his death and resurrection. And then you have A-millennial, they spiritualize the thousand year reign spoken of in the book of Revelation as being a symbol of Christ’s present rule and kingdom. Now, today’s most popular form of Pre-millennialism is not historic, it dates back to the 19th century. Today’s form is called ‘Pre-tribulational, Pre-millennial’ this teaching [dispensationalism] says Jesus comes back 2 more times. One is called ‘the rapture’ the other is the second coming [revealing]. The proponents of this form find little [or no] early Christians who believed this. There is one early writing by a Syrian brother who speaks very clearly about a rapture type event. Some think he speaks a little too clearly! The writing is believed to have been a fake. Either way we do have Paul teaching stages involved with the coming of the Lord and the kingdom. It is possible to have 2 future resurrections, this would not mean you need two future ‘second comings’. The first resurrection takes place at Christ’s return. He rules a literal thousand years and ‘the dead are raised again’ at the end of the literal rule on earth [ a literal reading of Revelation]. Also Paul does use the language of Jesus submitting to the Father at the end so ‘God will be all in all’. I feel believers have been confused and at times contradictory while trying to explain the nature of God and the Trinity. I recently read a teaching on the Trinity that tried to compare the Trinity to the nature of the organic church. It seemed confusing to me, they tried to say that just like in the Trinity you have no one ‘being’ having authority over the other, but instead you see all three persons equally submitting to one another [Father, Son and Spirit] so in the church you have equality. Now, I do believe that there is equality in the church, but I felt the example was way off. The New Testament clearly teaches the willful ‘submission’ of the Son to the Father. God [the father] is clearly the one ‘in charge’. Now, I admit it’s difficult and brothers have spent years trying to explain all the ins and outs of this. Here Paul shows us that the Son has willingly submitted to the Father so the father can put all things under him. Then once again at the culmination of the kingdom the Son submits to the father and God receives the glory. We will praise and worship Jesus thru out all eternity, it is his willful submission to the father’s plan that makes this happen. NOTE- Some believers spiritualize the first resurrection spoken of in Revelation, they relate it to those who have been ‘born again’ spiritually. Modern ‘Preterism’ holds to this view.

(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’.

(1009)A PALESTINIAN PASTOR- Let me share a little about our Christian brothers who live in Palestine. The purpose of sharing this is so we as American believers could have a different way of viewing the Middle East situation. Not for defending terrorism or embracing anti Semitism, but a whole ‘other worldly’ view. I recently read a story from a Lutheran Palestinian pastor. He is part of a small percentage of Christians living in the land. Around 3% of the population are believers. Some of these groups date back to the early centuries of the Christian church, others to the Reformation period. The point being a historic church actually exists amongst the Palestinian people. The Pastor was looking forward to his son’s graduation day, they were going to travel to the ‘Holy city’ for the special occasion and it was considered the big graduation day for the whole family. The Pastor made sure he had all the paperwork together for the trip. The big night of the graduation celebration they were stopped at a border checkpoint by an Israeli soldier and were denied entry. The Pastor humbled himself and showed the soldier that his paperwork was in order, that he was a Christian minister who meant no harm. He went out of his way this night to show the soldier that he and his family were really no threat at all. After much pleading the fine Pastor and his family turned around and had their celebration back at home. Now, I do not know what the situation was on the ground that night, maybe there was a threat in the area. The point is too many American believers view the whole situation in the middle east from some type of ancient old testament story in which the Israelis are possessing their promised land while driving out the ‘Canaanites’. This ‘lens’ is not in keeping with the Christian gospel. The Palestinian Christians were asked how they felt about having true fellowship with Christians from the outside. They said they were often viewed as ‘cultural Christians’ only. Sort of like in name only, they were not seen as truly being ‘born again’. They were excited at times when Christian groups did interact with them as fellow believers in the faith. But the majority of contact from the outside Christian world were the various ‘prophetic/evangelical’ type Christians who were visiting the holy land as tourists. For the most part these American believers were there to see ‘the holy sites’ to view the restored Jewish state. To see how work was going among the various orthodox groups who were re making the utensils that were to be used in a future rebuilt temple. But for the most part the American believers viewed these brothers in the faith as something less valuable than the actual land that they were visiting. These mindsets show us that we have a long way to go to regain a pure biblical view of the gospel and how it relates to society today. The gospel puts tremendous value on the people for whom Christ died [both Jews and non Jews]. When Jesus spoke of ‘the restoration of the temple’ he was speaking about his own Body, not Herod’s building. When American evangelicals place a greater emphasis on the natural land and the hope of a restored temple with renewed animal sacrifices, than on the actual living Body of Christ on earth [believers of every ethnic background] then we have shown a tremendous lack of discernment equal to those who mistook Jesus words as applying to the natural temple of his day.

(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.

(999)1ST CORINTHIANS 13:1 ‘THOUGH I SPEAK WITH THE TONGUES OF MEN AND OF ANGELS, AND HAVE NOT LOVE, I AM BECOME AS SOUNDING BRASS OR A TINKLING SYMBOL’ Over the years I have seen how the church can ‘have a voice-make noise’ without actually effecting change. Last night I watched some Martin Luther King stuff. Without ‘sucking up for political purposes’ I must admit that Martin is at the top of my list of personal heroes. Martin spoke with a revolutionary purpose in mind, he was not ‘delivering sermons’. One time I spoke at a friends church, I only spoke for around 15 minutes [much like my radio show] and the pastor said ‘no wonder John doesn’t have a church/ preach regularly, you have to at least speak for 45 minutes’ [something like that]. Though after the message I had good comments from the people, the sincere pastor felt like we didn’t ‘put the time in’ in order to fulfill the Sunday morning practice of ‘church’. Were did we get our modern sermon from? [The actual format]. If you go to Bible College you can take a course called ‘homiletics’ this course will teach you the structure of speaking and putting a message together. If you study Greek rhetoric you will find that this science existed in the Greek intellectual world before Christians embraced it [the actual format and structure taught in homiletics comes right out of the Greek system of rhetoric, to the tee!]. I find it funny how many modern pastors seem to measure a persons degree of ‘being scriptural’ by this measuring rod. ‘Well brother, didn’t they preach in scripture’ you bet they did. We see Jesus reading from the scroll in the synagogue. Paul and Peter were master ‘preachers’ if you will [though Paul himself was no ‘golden tongue’] basically the biblical concept of preaching/teaching was more of a spontaneous thing. It’s certainly not wrong to borrow the sermon from the Greeks [which we did do] but we don’t want to fall into some mindset that sees modern ministry [pastoral] as being a professional speaker. Here Paul says there is a danger of believers becoming like ‘sounding brass and tinkling symbols’ we can lose the reality of simple communication. We also can lose the prophetic edge of speaking into society over issues of justice. If we become too mundane and ‘professional’ then the world simply views as another program to simply pass over when clicking the remote. Both Martin Luther King and Charles Finney were known for their social activism. One of the charges [actually true] made against them was that they held to liberal theological positions. Finney was effected by the higher criticism of his day [the trend in the universities to deny the supernatural elements of scripture] he embraced certain doctrines that could be viewed as heretical [things on the atonement and mans sinful nature]. King’s critics make note of the fact that he also accepted certain types of bible interpretation that viewed some of the miraculous stories as ‘myth’ [not fake, but simple allegorical stories that were not literal but simply meant to convey a spiritual theme]. Things like Jonah and the whale, or Ballams talking donkey [or the talking snake in the garden!] Some intellectual brothers view these stories this way. Is there any validity to these views? Actually yes. I personally hold the ‘literal’ view with stuff like this, but ‘literal’ does not mean the bible does not contain different styles of writing. You do have poetry, allegory, symbol and other types or forms of grammar in scripture. Even the strong literal brothers will contradict themselves when they fully accept the ‘Lamb on the throne’ as not being a literal Lamb! [or when they interpret the scorpion like demons in Revelation as Black Hawk helicopters] So scripture does use allegory and symbol. But why did Luther and Finney associate with the more liberal trends in theology? I feel it was because of the strong anti social gospel that the fundamentalists embraced. The more conservative thinkers who rejected the liberal trends in teaching, would also reject social activism. Luther and Finney simply gravitated towards those who were like minded in their concern to speak into society. Basically they didn’t just want to be theologically correct [though they might have been in some of there views] but they wanted to be able to effect change in society. They wanted to be more than just a tinkling symbol that could tickle your ears.

(996)1ST CORINTHIANS 12:27-31 Lets talk about ‘the fivefold ministry’ [some say four]. In the 90’s there was a real interest in this subject. It comes from this portion of scripture [and Ephesians 4]. The basic teaching is/was that God was restoring all these ministries [Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers- some see this as one combined gift] and that this restoration was one of the final things to happen before Christ’s return. I read and bought lots of books on church planting and how Apostles are gifted to ‘plant churches’. This teaching really wasn’t a new thing. Back in the 1800’s you had Edward Irving head up an apostolic movement called ‘the apostolic catholic church’ [Irvingites]. You had interesting folk like John Alexander Dowie who would start a modern city of God called ‘Zion’ in Illinois. Brother Dowie saw himself as an apostle and felt the Lord lead him to start an apostolic city. You can still visit the city today. It was also common for many ‘up and coming’ preachers to begin seeing themselves as ‘apostles/prophets’ and actually advertise their callings in this way. Well of course the old time brothers who reject the gifts all together, saw this as another sign of the end time apostasy. You also had a strange phenomenon take place. It was common for ‘apostolic/prophetic’ people to be taught ‘the missing ingredient is covering and authority’- the churches are weak because they are under pastoral authority, they don’t have apostles ‘covering them’ [ouch!]. So it was not uncommon to have respected men kind of stepping over the normal boundaries of relating to churches and to say things like ‘you need to do this’ ‘you over there, be quiet. I don’t give you permission to speak’ and stuff like this. These sincere men thought it their responsibility to act this way. They felt this was a part of the restoration of apostles. Now, do apostles exist today [and prophets]? To be honest with you, yes. If you read this section along with Ephesians chapter 4, it is next to impossible to teach that they passed away in the first century. These scriptures make it clear that after Jesus ascended he gave ‘some apostles, others prophets’ they are included in the list of evangelists, pastors and teachers. If you lose one gift, then you lose them all. Also the timing of their ministries is given ‘till we all come to the unity of the faith unto a perfect man’. These gifts are all given to build Gods people up until we come to fall maturity. We aint there yet! So it’s pretty obvious that these gifts exist. Those who believe they don’t exist usually refer to the fact that the apostles of the Lamb [a category unto itself] did pass away. They will show you the truth of these apostles having to have been witnesses of Jesus actual resurrection. But these are a different category of apostles. The ones in this chapter were not even ‘made’ until after Jesus ascended on high. The same for the prophets. So, what do these strange fellows do? In all the books and stuff I have read on these movements, I feel some have been too limited in their definitions. Some taught that they were primarily itinerant men [traveling church planters]. Of course Paul was the master at this. But you find James as a stable pillar of the church at Jerusalem. Peter did travel, but he was no Gentile church planter like Paul! And Timothy in the New Testament had an apostolic type gifting, yet he was a protégée under Paul. So for the most part apostles do carry a special ability to ground Gods people in truth. Those who are called to ‘plant churches’ need to be more in tune with the example of Paul. Many modern day ‘apostles’ see church planting as going to a region and organizing Christians to meet in certain ways. I have heard it said ‘I have planted an organic church’ ‘I have planted a home group’ or of course the standard ‘I have planted a building based church’. The main ‘church planting’ of Paul was bringing the gospel to UNREACHED PEOPLE GROUPS and evangelizing those groups. Now of course he did give instructions to them on ‘how to meet’ [like in this book we are reading!] But don’t confuse ‘church planting’ with organizing believers around a new way to meet. All in all God gave us these gifts to build each other up and bring us to maturity, a place where we are no longer dependent on these gifts to function. I feel one of the greatest dangers was the strong authoritarian mindset that some of the apostolic brothers had, they meant well, but they stepped over their boundaries at times.

(987) SPOT THE TREND LINES- One of the themes of proverbs is reproof, correction. Proverbs teaches us that correction/reformation are noble things. Fools despise it, wise men take it to heart. Over the years of dealing with controversial issues in the church, I have found different responses from good men. Most leaders do not initially appreciate correction, they [we] have a tendency to want to use our knowledge and experience as an excuse to not receive correction. We often defend our positions by thinking ‘look how many other men/leaders are doing it [it being whatever area you feel threatened in] so I am at least in good company’. While there is some truth to this [being in the majority] this doesn’t work well when there is a groundswell of reformation on the horizon. For instance, during the 16th century Reformation, I am sure the new reformers looked and acted like contrarians at the time. There were many good catholic priests doing their best to serve the Lord in the limited understanding of the ancient church. I am sure many of these men simply steered clear of Luther and his ‘rebels’ but ultimately God was wanting change! So today we have certain undercurrents of reformation, sure not all the current trends fall into this category, but some do. So leaders should be open to correction or reproof coming from a broad range of influential men. Over the years I have spotted ‘trend lines’, certain changes that I see/hear from a wide range of Christian expressions. When I see them coming ‘from afar off’ I try and make the adjustment before the trend ‘hits the fan’. This is another wisdom nugget from Proverbs, a wise man sees the change coming and prepares himself, the simple pass on and make no adjustments. Another important characteristic is the ability to ‘not change’ too fast or too much! ‘Meddle not with those who are given to change’ reformation takes time and is a process. If I learn or see some knew area of truth that most of my contemporaries don’t see yet, then it would be foolish to think that God has called me to ‘straighten them all out’. God often shows you ‘the trend lines’ so you in wisdom can plant certain seeds that will keep the other leaders on track as the train moves along. In essence your job isn’t to say ‘see, I know more than so and so’. Your job is to be open to avenues of influence that eventually bring ‘correction/course change’ to the rest of the body. I felt like the word for today was for us to re examine the reproofs that we might have heard over the years. Does it seem like we keep hearing the same reproof from different voices thru out our lives? Maybe there’s more to it than just a bunch of disgruntled believers. Wise men take note and seek God for his timing in the course change, foolish men make no adjustment.

(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’.

(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].

(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]’.

(950)1ST CORINTHIANS 4: 8-20 Paul tells them he’s glad they have an abundance of material things, though he as an apostle is lacking. He’s happy about their sterling reputation [among the elite, though a bad reputation as believers- see chapter 5!] though he is mocked and treated badly. He even says ‘till this hour I labor, working with my own hands trying to make ends meet’. I don’t want to harp on this too much, but I am trying to show you one of the themes that we overlook in today’s pastoral ministry mindset. When we taught the book of Acts [chapter 20] I showed you how Paul purposely worked to leave an example TO THE ELDERS at Ephesus. He called them over to Mellitus and gave them these instructions as he was about to depart. Here we see Paul telling the Corinthians, in a letter [he is not with them at this time] that he is STILL working with his own hands. We often think Paul only worked while at Corinth, in order to not take offerings from them. But a careful reading of the New Testament will show you that Paul made a habit of working all thru out his life. He never became ‘a fulltime apostle’ who was supported thru his apostolic gift. Now we also see Paul send Timothy to them as a ‘carrier’ of doctrine and order. Paul wrote 3 pastoral [I prefer to call them apostolic] epistles. Titus and 1st and 2nd Timothy. These brothers were Paul’s apostolic co-workers. They deposited the faith [basic Christian truth] into the communities they were overseeing. Paul knew he could trust them to ‘set things in order’ [an apostolic characteristic]. Some teach that in today’s ‘church world’ you can’t ‘have a church’ without the interplay of an apostle. That basically you need an apostle [in person] to interact with your community to keep things in order. Now, I think apostolic men are needed and helpful, but we also need to realize that we live in a day of mass communication like never before. The web, telecommunications. All sorts of stuff that Paul didn’t have. So let’s not be too dogmatic on stuff like this. I am sure Paul would have used these things if he had them. The basic thrust of Paul having a Timothy who could be sent to a community was for the purpose of seeing and impacting them in a ‘real time’ way. Paul was hearing rumors about their conduct, he is writing these letters to them. But he really needs to have ‘boots on the ground’, he needs to know firsthand what’s going on. Today this real time knowledge could be gained with a simple phone call, or e-mail. Paul also says Timothy will bring them into remembrance of his ways/teachings that Paul teaches ‘every where in every church’. Paul was depositing a consistent message of ‘faith and rule’ with all the churches he was planting. This of course didn’t mean the gentile churches had no individual expression of church life, but it did mean there were some consistent ‘rituals’ they were to follow. Things like we read in Acts ‘continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and breaking of bread and prayers’ simple instructions on living as a community of people. The historic church has a tendency to use these verses to say ‘Paul taught high church liturgy’ well, not really. The ‘radical house church brothers’ [they describe themselves this way!] tend to teach that any consistent rule, or way ‘to act’ violates the ‘no leader rule’ [no pastor] and prohibits the free expression of the ecclesia. Well, this sounds noble, but Paul told the Corinthians ‘Timothy will show you my ways that I teach in all the churches’. It’s not wrong to have some basic order and instructions on ‘how to act, function as the New Testament ecclesia’.

(946)1 CORINTHIANS 3:1-10 Paul tells them that because of their immaturity he has ‘fed them milk, not meat’. He continues to correct them on their penchant for ‘men worship’. He says ‘I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase’. He even says ‘we are nothing, its Gods Spirit that counts!’ I guess poor Paul wasn’t up on the contemporary self esteem movement in the church? Paul says ‘as a wise masterbuilder I have laid the foundation and others have built upon it’ also ‘ye are Gods building, Gods garden’. I have studied this concept of the ‘wise masterbuilder’ a lot over the years. The Apostle is known for his wisdom. Jesus said ‘I have sent you [Jerusalem] wise men and prophets’. The Apostles are the ‘wise men’. If I remember I will try and paste some entries on the reality of the apostolic ministry today. That is the teaching from scripture on the ongoing apostolic ministry. Don’t mistake it for the original ‘apostles of the Lamb’. They were special eyewitnesses of the resurrection. The ongoing gift which is spoken about in the New Testament plays a different role, yet we can glean things from Paul and others on this ministry gift. Paul was primarily a ‘foundation layer’ he spent no time building ‘buildings’ or human institutions, but he knew the reality of foundation laying. His proclamation of the gospel had the inherent ability to change a region for Christ and his kingdom. He had the wisdom to build into the communities a self sustaining mentality. A few months to a few years was the amount of time Paul spent in these communities. When he left them they were for all practical purposes self sustaining communities of Christ followers. How in the world did he do this on such a shoestring budget? The reality of Jesus and his resurrection was tremendously good news. Paul started them right. In today’s church world we seem to lay all sorts of other ‘foundations’. Faith, prosperity, healing, the ‘house church’; all good things in their proper place, but the reality of Christ seems to take second place. Also, Paul did not institute the pastoral office that we have come to depend on in the modern church. He did establish Elders, but he did not leave a ‘professional minister’ as the primary functioning ‘elder’ in their midst. Why is this important to see? Because when people are given ‘crutches’ they will use them! If momma eagle never kicks baby eagle out of the nest, then baby eagle will wind up on food stamps [Don’t feel bad if you are on them, I am just using this as an example]. In essence Paul built into the first century churches a self sustaining mindset. They were the church and they had the responsibility to represent Christ in their locals. They couldn’t pawn it off on ‘the pastor’. Paul would also do some writing. These letters would circulate throughout the communities and were regularly read by a literate believer in these churches. I know it’s common to think that the early believers ‘had bibles’ but this wasn’t the case. Paul’s letters were part of the early ‘canon’ but you wouldn’t have total agreement on the canon until around the 4th century. But these letters played a major role in ‘foundation laying’. The modern believer is primarily educated thru the sermon. Sermons are okay, but without literature, the job won’t get done. Say if your doctor, or mechanic or tax man told you ‘I have never been educated in school, but every Sunday I attended a lecture at the local lecture hall. I did this for 50 years. So let’s get on with the operation.’ Ouch! But we approach Christianity with this mindset. Paul wrote letters, short booklets if you will. These letters could be looked to as a stable source of doctrine for the early church. They would eventually be canonized and would be passed down to us 2 millennia later. We are reading from one right now.

(944)1ST CORINTHIANS 1:18-31 Paul declares the actual preaching of the Cross to be the power of God. The Jews sought for a sign [remember the sign of Jonas?] and the Greeks prided themselves in wisdom. Paul declares that Jesus IS the wisdom and power of God. In Christ is contained all the wisdom and power [signs] in the universe! Paul says God destroyed the wisdom of unregenerate man and that Gods foolishness is wiser than men’s greatest achievements apart from God. Wow, what an indictment on enlightenment philosophy. Man goes thru stages of learning and knowledge [renaissance, enlightenment. Industrial, scientific revolution] these are not bad achievements in and of themselves. Many of the greatest scientists and scientific discoveries were made by men of faith [Newton, Pascal, Faraday, etc] the problem arises when men think that sheer humanistic reasoning, apart from God, is the answer. Right now there is a movement [11-08] going on where some atheists bought ad space on the sides of buses that say ‘why believe in a god? Do good for goodness sake’. So they had both sides [Christian /Atheist] debate it. The simple fact is, sheer humanism cannot even define ‘what good is’. ‘Good’ becomes a matter of what serves me best at the time of my decision. Without God and special revelation [scripture-10 commandments] good can be defined by Hitler’s regime as exterminating one class of society for the benefit of the whole. Only Christian [or Deist, Jewish, Muslim] beliefs place special value and dignity on human life. It is a common misconception to think that all the enlightenment philosophers were atheists; this was not the case at all. Locke, Hume and others simply believed that thru human logic and reason people could arrive at a sort of naturalistic belief in God. This would form the basis of Deism, the system of belief in God but a rejection of classic Christian theology. Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers of our country were influenced by this style of belief. Now, getting back to the Greeks. Paul says ‘God destroyed the wisdom of this world’. What wisdom is Paul talking about? The enlightenment philosophers of the 18th century had nothing on the Greek philosophers going all the way back to a few centuries B.C. Plato, the Greek wrestler turned philosopher, had one of the most famous schools of Greek philosophy. At the entrance of the school the words were written ‘let non but geometers enter here’. Kind of strange. Geometry simply meant ‘form’ in this use. Most of the great theoretical physicists were also great mathematicians [Einstein]. The Greek philosophers were seeking a sort of ‘unified theory’ that would explain all other theories and bring all learning together under one intellectual ‘roof’. Sort of like Einstein’s last great obsession. The Greeks actually referred to this great unknown future ‘unifier’ as ‘the Logos’. Now, some atheists will use this truth to undercut the New Testament. They will take the common use of these words ‘The Logos’ and say that Johns writings [Gospel, letters] were simply stolen ideas from Greek philosophy. This is why believers need to have a better understanding of the inspiration of scripture. John’s writings were no doubt inspired, he of course calls Jesus the ‘Logos’ [word] of God. But he was simply saying to the Greek/Gnostic mind ‘look, you guys have been waiting for centuries for the one special ‘Word/Logos’ that would be the answer to all learning, I declare unto you that Jesus is this Logos’! So eventually you would have ‘the wisdom of the world’ [both Greek and enlightenment and all other types] falling short of the ultimate answer. They could only go so far in their journey for truth, and ultimately they either wind up at the foot of the Cross [the wisdom of God] or the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’. God said this ‘tree’ [sources of wisdom and knowledge apart from God] would ultimately lead to death if not submitted to ‘the tree of life’ [the Cross]. You would have some of the enlightenment philosophers eat from this tree all the way to the ‘death of God’ movement. Man in his wisdom would come to the conclusion that ‘God is dead’. If this is true, then the slaughter of millions of Jews is no moral dilemma. If God is dead then man is not created in his image, he is just this piece of flesh that you can dispose of at will. To all you intellectual types, it’s Okay to have a mind, but you must love God with it. If all your doing is feeding from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will surely die.

(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.

(942)1st CORINTHIANS INTRODUCTION- Out of all of Paul’s letters, this one is ‘the most verified’ as being his. Of course we know this because Paul says so in the letter! But for all those intellectual higher critics, this helps. Corinth was a city of great influence and trade, many land and sea routes converged at Corinth and her port. The city was also known for her philosophers and ‘preachers of wisdom’ [Rhetoric]. They actually had a custom at Corinth in which you could ‘hire’ your own ‘preacher of wisdom’. These were the traveling teachers who made a living at speaking. This also might be why Paul specifically said ‘when I was with you I did not take money from you’. The custom of the traveling preachers was you could pay a one time honorarium for a single speech, or you could actually hire a regular speaker and have him ‘on salary’. Paul did not want the Corinthians to think that he was their hired preacher! How much influence this type of trade would have on the later development of the ‘hired clergy’ is unknown, but the similarities are striking. The famous 5th century bishop of Hippo, North Africa, Saint Augustine, made his living as one of these traveling teachers of philosophy before becoming a Christian. It’s believed that Paul wrote a 3rd letter to the church at Corinth, so what we know as 1st, 2nd Corinthians might actually be letters 2 and 3. I personally think Corinthians holds special value for the church today. The 21st century believer is being challenged on her Ecclesiology, the whole idea of what the church is. In Corinthians we see a specific picture of what the church is and on how she should meet. Paul will not address ‘the Pastor’ [there was none in the modern sense of the office] but he will speak directly to the brothers at Corinth and give them some heavy responsibilities to carry out [like committing a brother to satan for the destruction of his flesh! Ouch]. Paul went to Corinth on his 2nd missionary journey and spent 18 months with them [Acts 18] one of the longest stays at any church. Because of the pagan background of the city Paul will address specific issues related to believers and certain practices of idol worship. Eating meat offered to idols and stuff like that. Corinth also practiced a form of idolatry that included prostitution, so he will deal severely with the loose sexual morals of the people at Corinth. Well we have a lot to cover in the next few weeks, try and read Corinthians on your own as we plunge into this study, it will help a lot.

(933)HAS MODERN SCIENCE PROVEN THE EXISTENCE OF GOD? Does the long age theory of the earth and universe disprove God? After the enlightenment era and the general scientific/industrial revolution, many people were taught that science held to ‘real truth’ while scripture dealt with ‘myth’. Myth in this context did not mean ‘fake’ but simple stories that conveyed spiritual meaning. In the field of theology you had what was called higher criticism. Well intended theologians tried to come up with liberal ideas that could join science and theology together in a compatible way that would suit the modern man. Many people grasped a naturalistic explanation to the universe and world and life on our planet. After Darwin advanced his theory of Macro- Evolution, science began a long haul survey of the data and came up short. After 150 years of honestly searching for the proof of Evolution, the sincere scientists [many of whom are Atheists] have seen the writing on the wall. What they were told to look for is not there! The data show that even if you were to follow the old age theory of the earth and universe [15 billion for the universe, 5 billion for earth- approximately] this in no way would leave enough time for the random development of life on our planet. Even the old age model doesn’t work. The evidence for the old earth perspective shows that life appeared on our planet around 3.5 billion years ago. Even if you believe in the spontaneous generation of the living cell [which is actually very difficult to believe in!] the short time period between the earth’s age and the first appearance of life [according to the science itself] is in no way enough time for the random development of life to have occurred. In actuality the 15 billion year old date of the universe would still not be enough time, according to the scientific statistical odds, for life to have spontaneously developed by mere chance. The problem is the average public school taught citizen does not know this! He thinks that science has somehow proven that all life and existence has come about by naturalistic means. Science has PROVEN this to be impossible! Even unbelieving science. In 1980 you had the famous conference on macro evolution held in Chicago, the famous paleontologist from the Museum of natural history in New York, Niles Eldridge, said ‘the pattern that we were told to find for the last 120 years does not exist’ [New York Times- Nov. 4, 1980]. He was stating the obvious findings of the scientific community, that Darwin’s ideas, no matter how noble and ‘enlightening’ they seemed to be, were completely shown to be false. Some from the scientific community were willing to accept this truth and begin a new journey for a different explanation of life. Some espoused that life could have started some where else, and wound up on our planet by chance [or design!]. This explanation seemed to give a little room for the impossibility of random chance to have brought about life in the short timetable and constraints of earth. Simply put, this idea acknowledged that life could in no way have developed on its own; therefore some other set of circumstances that might exist in some other place [extra-terrestrial] might have done this. Of course this idea is getting very close to the biblical world view of life having started with a creator. In essence the ‘extra terrestrial’ is actually God! The whole point is the ‘average Joe’ simply believes that science has answered all the questions of the origins of life, but the scientific community knows otherwise.

(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.

2ND SAMUEL

(916)2ND SAMUEL 1- David returns to Ziklag after recovering everything and a messenger from the battle with Saul comes thru. David asks ‘what happened at the battle’? David hears for the first time that Saul and Jonathan died. He asks for details and the Amalekite tells the story of Saul’s death. This story is a little different from the one previously recorded. In the previous chapters Saul is said to have fallen on his sword. Here the Amalekite says ‘I saw Saul wounded and he asked me to slay him. He was at the point of death so I killed him to take him out of his misery’. Some feel this is a lie, that the brother was trying to make himself look good by fudging. I think he might be telling the truth. After all if he were trying to make himself look good, you probably wouldn’t say ‘I killed a wounded guy’. Either way he tells the story. David responds in anger ‘why do you think your bragging about this is noble! You killed a leader who God used mightily’ and David instructs his men to kill him. David finishes the chapter with a song of praise and remembrance for Saul and Jonathan. He extols their virtues in battle ‘swift like eagles, strong like lions’ and he invokes Israel to mourn for the great loss. I see a noble thing here. Even though Saul was rejected and his leadership style was being removed, yet the ‘new order’ [David] refused to despise the reality of the good times that were initiated under Saul. He still showed respect for ‘the old order’. Many times in studying church history you read of ‘the dark ages’. The centuries that are between the intuitional period of Christendom and the renaissance/reformation era. Often times this period is looked at as a period of ‘no value’. But in reality there were some spiritual things that came forth from the ‘old order’ that were of great value. The desert fathers and other great Christian mystics. The reality that the church became the sole arbiter in many international disputes of the times. Yes there were some bad things, but good stuff too! David was smart enough to begin his dynastic rule with crediting his former enemy with the respect and honor he deserved.

(915)SAMUEL 31- The Philistines pursue Israel and Saul and his sons are killed. Saul tells his armor bearer to kill him, the armor bearer is afraid to do it. So Saul falls on his own sword. The enemy takes Saul’s body and cuts off his head and they pin him and his sons up on a wall for public humiliation. The inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead hear of it and they get his body and give him a proper burial. David will soon become the king. It’s kind of a sad way to end 1st Samuel. Saul and his sons really die, Jonathan was killed. A true warrior with a pure heart. I think we need to recognize the danger involved with the kingdom. There are times where men and woman of God have come under attack and have fallen. A few years back there were a few public scandals of believers who fell. Some just go away, others try and get back into the ministry. Often times there is no real facing up to the issues and an honest appraisal of what happened. I think many of these believers would be helpful if they wrote a book or shared openly about their struggles and difficulties. But the church has a tendency to cover up the real dangers involved in the ministry. Also Saul commits suicide. There are few suicides in scripture. We know Judas killed himself as well. If I remember right there is a Psalm that speaks of the sword of your enemies entering into them! A basic reality of a curse that comes upon those who fight believers [Gods anointed ones] that they will die at their own hands [or you don’t have to ‘get them’ yourself!]. Jesus taught us to not resist and take out vengeance on our enemies. It seems as if in both of these cases [Saul and Judas] that they fell victim to this judgment from God. How should we view this? Jesus and David were Gods ‘anointed ones’. Can we say that those who challenge present authority structures are rebelling against ‘Gods anointed’? This challenge has been made many times over the years. The two great divisions of western Christianity, the ‘Great Schism’ of 1054 [where the Eastern church- Orthodox, split from the Western branch] and the 16th century Reformation. Both had to do with believers resisting what they felt to be unscriptural authority as seen in the doctrine of apostolic succession thru Peter to the Popes. In both of these cases the ‘rebels’ were considered to be resisting ‘Gods authority’. I see it a little different. In Saul’s case he actually was the old order authority who was resisting change to the ‘old way’. God was bringing in a new anointed one thru David, and Saul was fighting the change. And of course Judas was coming against Jesus, who would institute the most radical change to mans approach to God that would ever come on the scene [in essence Jesus was eliminating the old order priesthood and making all believers priests!] I feel that these truths can apply to the current of change in our day. As the people of God transition from an ‘old order’ idea of leadership, to a more communal concept, both sides need to have respect and appreciation for each other. The new order [organic ecclesia] needs to appreciate all that the old order accomplished, and the old authority structures need to see the writing on the wall.

(897)SAMUEL 14- Saul and the people are hiding in fear, Jonathan tells his armor bearer ‘Lets go up to the enemy and show ourselves. If they tell us ‘come here’ we will take it as a sign from the Lord and fight. God can save by many or by few’. They go up and defeat around 20 men in half an acre of land. The scripture says the enemy trembled and the earth as well! It seems like the Lord shook things up, literally! [Another reminder of the book of Acts]. Saul and his people see the enemy fleeing and can’t figure out what’s happened. He takes a quick roll call and realizes Jonathan is gone. They figure out what has happened and enter the fray. The people pursue the enemy and have great victory. Saul says ‘let no man eat today until the sun goes down’. He begins making community wide decisions that are harmful to the people. Jonathan doesn’t hear this rash decision and eats some honey. The people are shocked. They know the curse of Saul. They finally win the battle and they seek the Lord for further instructions. God is silent. Saul figures it’s because there is sin in the camp and they find out that Jonathan was the one who ate the honey. Jonathan says ‘yea, I did eat it, and now I must die’? Sort of like ‘what a stupid and rash thing for you to have said! The people were all tired and drained because of following your singular ideas that were pronounced to the whole community. They would have gained strength if they simply did what was natural and ate when they were hungry’. Saul honors his stupid agenda over his own son and says ‘that’s right, you must die’. He was more willing to kill his son then to admit he was wrong. The people stand up with one voice and say ‘no way Saul, Jonathan has won a great victory. You will not get away with this’! What happened here? Was Saul so inherently evil that he couldn’t help himself? I think what we see here is the result of the mistake for Israel to have wanted a king like the other nations. When the church historically began to be centered around singular authority figures [monarchial episcopacy] you began to loose the freedom and health of the people of God to ‘feed themselves when hungry’. They began to become dependant upon the institutional church to tell them about God and his truth. Eventually you would have the modern expression of highly entrepreneurial ministries that would find well meaning Pastors trying to make corporate wide decisions in ways that were absent from the local churches in scripture. When the people of God lean too heavily on the gifts and leadings of one man, there is a tendency for the leader to come up with goals and decrees that are contrary to the full purpose of God. It is inherent in man to set goals and make broad decisions. That’s not wrong in itself. But the people of God in scripture are formed along the lines of a community of people, not a 501c3 corporation. So the well meaning Pastors have a natural tendency to say ‘what decisions should I make for the church this year? What goals and dreams should we put before the people’ and this inevitably leads to entire communities of believers being too focused on the singular directions of well meaning men. I think Saul simply came up with things to say because he felt he needed to exert leadership. God’s people really didn’t need Saul from the start! As far as I can see from reading the New Testament, the only corporate ‘goal’ or project that Paul would put before the people was his collecting of money for the poor. Now of course there were many spiritual goals of growth and becoming mature believers who praise and glorify God. But I don’t see any other ‘project’ that Paul was regularly laying before the people to join. No structure in the churches of scripture where Paul would say ‘Now Corinth, when I come back next year lets see 50 house churches, reaching 48 % of this region. And oh yes, lets raise this much money for this project’. Much of the modern church is too centered around these types of pleas. The many well meaning men who are operating out of good intentions for the most part are ‘just doing what kings [leaders- C.E.O.’s] are supposed to do’. The fundamental flaw is God never originally intended for his people to be structured along these lines. Many up and coming believers are seeing this and coming out of these limited structures. They are telling Saul with one corporate voice ‘you wont get away with this anymore’. [‘Saul’ in this scenario is not your individual Pastor, who for the most part is probably a good man who loves God. But ‘Saul’ is speaking to the whole concept of modern pastoral ministry that is absent from the churches in scripture].

(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.

(890)SAMUEL 7- The Ark arrives at Abinadab’s house in Kirjath Jearim, it will remain there until David retrieves it [it was there for around 100 years in total-1100 BC- 1004 BC]. Samuel calls the people to repentance and makes intercession for them at the same time. This leads to great victory over the enemy. Jesus ‘lives forever to make continual intercession for us’. We need to combine repentance and dependence upon Christ’s mediation in order to gain victory. This chapter also has the famous name ‘Ebenezer’ that makes it into the history of the church. Both songs and churches will use it in their names. Martin Luther King preached at Ebenezer Baptist church. This stone was simply a rock of remembrance for the victory of God. It spoke of Gods help for man. Jesus is the ultimate ‘stone/rock of defense’ for man. Scripture says ‘there is no rock like the Lord’ ‘Jesus is the precious stone, all who believe will be delivered’. The imagery of Jesus/God as a rock of defense is all throughout scripture. We see Samuel as the key leader of Israel and scripture says he judged them at this time. He lived in Ramah and ‘rode a circuit’ between the various cities on a rotating basis. He was the first ‘circuit rider’! The circuit riders were the famous American evangelists during the 19th century. As the Puritan east coast churches were becoming well established in the original colonies, there was a need to reach out to the West [and south] with the gospel. The circuit riders were the evangelists who traveled to various areas preaching the gospel and establishing churches [The great Methodist Frances Asbury became famous for his circuit riding and church planting]. During this time you had the famous ‘camp meetings’ where many believers from all over would gather at these outdoor ‘brush arbors’ and hear the gospel preached and commit their lives to the Lord. Over time the more staid Reformed churches of the east coast would view the ‘camp meeting’ brothers as a little ‘un hinged’. You would also have some of the ‘Spirit led’ groups condemn the old time reformed brothers as ‘unconverted’. There was a tendency to lean towards one side or the other. The various Quaker [shaker] type groups would emphasize the Spirit being premiere in all Christian understanding. While this is of course true, this in no way means believers do not learn thru the normal means of study and reading. Some of the more ‘Spirit minded’ believers would come to view the more ‘head knowledge’ brothers as ‘unconverted’. One of the worst cases was the Ann Hutchison controversy. She was a believer who began teaching under the ‘Spirits guidance’ and would give the impression that the more refined ministers were not of God. She would ultimately pay with her life for her beliefs. NOTE- The terminology of ‘New lights’ versus ‘Old lights’ was often used to describe the different emphasis between these 2 camps. There was a brother by the name of Davenport who would travel around and accuse all of the old time preachers as being unconverted. While it is possible for a minister to have never truly made a strong commitment to Christ, to paint them all with this broad brush was very unbalanced.

(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.

(875)ROMANS 16- Some debate the ‘canonicity’ of this chapter. They feel that all the personal greetings from Paul are too personal. Let’s talk a little about the Canon [inspiration of the scriptures]. First, I am a ‘bible believing Christian’ who holds to the historic doctrine of scripture. But you do have varying views on what the historic doctrine is. I hold to the idea that God never intended for the letters that were written in the first century, which have become our New Testament, to be writings that were pulled out of time. That is the writers had to have been writing with a contextual purpose in mind. The recipients of the letters had to have had some type of practical instructions that they could wrap their minds around. So for John to say something to the seven churches in Asia Minor [Revelation] it was just common sense that the actual recipients of the letters would expect something practical for their day. This of course does not mean there are no further applications or instructions for us today, but we need to have a more personal understanding of the give and take between the Apostles and the people they were writing to. So this is how I think we should view the personal stuff in the Canon. This also needs to be understood when interpreting scripture. I have made the argument before for the 1st century belief in Christ’s literal second coming. I have also taught how the early church had no concept of a Rapture that was separated from the return of Christ. The event spoken of by Paul in Thessalonians chapter 4 is a real thing that takes place at Christ’s return. We get ‘caught up to meet him in the air’. Now how confusing would it be for the first century readers of Paul’s letters, to have one letter that speaks of a second coming, and another that spoke of a rapture? It would be next to impossible to have any coherent view of scripture if they did stuff like this. You could then make an argument for any doctrine. There would be no coherent thinking if you were living in Thessalonica and read a letter from Paul that used the same terminology about the return of Christ as he used in a letter to the Corinthians. And if you relocated to Corinth and said ‘Oh, yes. Paul wrote to us about the resurrection and return of Jesus. But when he wrote to us he was speaking of the rapture, but when he wrote to you he was talking about a different event called the second coming’. This type of thinking would have been disastrous for the early church. They were all receiving letters from Paul that contained basic truth. The fact that these letters were not included in an entire collection [as we have today] leads us to believe that the basic message had to stay the same in all of these letters, or else you would have had havoc in the early church.

(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.

(854)ROMANS 10: 1-13 Many years ago I referenced all the back up scriptures for this chapter [and book!]. The study was intense because I saw a fundamental ‘fault line’ that ran thru many in the Evangelical church [the revivalist tradition]. The ‘fault line’ was reading this chapter as in if it were saying ‘ask Jesus into your heart, or you won’t be saved’. Now, I have no problem with those who trace their conversion to an experience like this. But I want to give you my understanding of this chapter, based on the exhaustive study I did years ago. Also, I will probably quote some verses and you will have to find them later [I forget where they all are]. Paul begins with his desire for ‘all Israel to be saved’. I taught in chapter one how come the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Because all who believe ‘become righteous’. After 9 chapters of Romans, we have seen that when Paul refers to ‘justification by faith’ this is synonymous with ‘believing with the heart unto righteousness’. Here Paul’s desire is for Israel to experience ‘all facets of salvation’ [present and future] to ‘be saved’. Now, he will say ‘Christ is the end of the law to all who believe’ Israel did not attain unto ‘righteousness’ because they sought after it by trying to keep the law. But it comes only by faith. Then Paul quotes a kind of obscure verse from Deuteronomy saying ‘Moses says the righteousness which is by faith’ [note- this whole description that follows is describing ‘the righteousness that comes by faith’] and says ‘the word is near thee, in thy mouth and heart’. Paul then says ‘whoever calls on the Lord will be saved, with the heart a man believes and becomes righteous [which according to Paul means ‘justified’] and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation’. In this text, Paul once again is ‘dividing’ the common understanding of ‘salvation’ meaning ‘getting initially saved’- which is ‘believing and being justified’. And simply saying ‘believers will inevitably call and be saved’ [in a generic sense]. Why would he do this? In the context of his argument, he is simply showing the ‘righteousness which is from the law’ [the man under the law is described as ‘doing something’ continuing under the load and strain of law] versus the ‘righteousness which is by faith’ [described as a person who believes and speaks, as opposed to ‘does stuff’]. It is not inconsistent for Paul to use the term ‘confessing and being saved’ as speaking of something different than meaning ‘accepting Christ into your heart’. Paul is simply giving a description of those who believe ‘all who believe will call’. And yes, they will and do experience ‘salvation’. It’s just in this example Paul is not saying ‘they are saved initially upon confession, calling’. At least not ‘saved’ in the sense of ‘getting justified by faith’. Why? Because the rest of the chapter doesn’t make a whole lotta sense if he were saying this. ‘How can they call on him in whom they have not believed’? He already showed us that ‘believers are justified’. The very argument Paul makes distinguishes between ‘believing unto righteousness, and calling unto salvation’. You can see it like this, there is a verse I stumbled across years ago. It is in one of the prophets [Old Testament] and it says ‘Gods wrath will come upon all them WHO HAVE NOT CALLED UPON HIM’. In this context Paul can be saying ‘whoever calls upon God will never enter judgment/wrath’ [a description of a particular lifestyle, remember Paul said Gods Spirit makes us cry ‘Abba Father’] in this light Paul can be saying ‘all who call [both Jew and Gentile- simply making an argument for inclusion. God accepts ‘all who call’] will not come under future [or present!] wrath’. This would be in keeping with Peters scathing sermon in Act’s where he quotes the Prophet Joel and says ‘whosever calls upon the Lord shall be saved’. If you go back and read Joel you will see that in context he is saying ‘at the future time of God’s revealed judgment, those who cry for deliverance will be spared’. Peter quotes it in this context as well. He shows Gods future time of judgment and ends with ‘all who call will be saved’. How do we know that Peter was not quoting Joel for some type of ‘sinner’s prayer’ thing? Because after the Jews say ‘what should we do’? He doesn’t lead them in a sinners Prayer! I don’t want to be picky, I simply want you to see context. Paul has already established multiple times thru out this letter how righteousness comes to those who believe. One of the descriptions of ‘those who believe’ are they ‘call upon God’. They even call upon God ‘to save them’. In this chapter the reason Paul uses ‘whosoever calls upon the lord will be saved’ is to simply show God will deliver both Jews and Gentiles. His promise of salvation is ‘to all’. When he uses ‘believing and being made righteous’ along with ‘calling and being saved’ he obviously can not be speaking about the same thing! He even states it this way in his argument. ‘How can they call unless they already believe’? He was simply giving a description of ‘those who believe’. This ‘calling for salvation’ that ‘all who believe’ partake of can speak both of a ‘present tense’ being saved, that is from any and all types of bad things, and a ‘future tense’ deliverance from wrath. Even when Paul quoted David in Roman’s 4, he is ‘describing the blessedness of the man unto whom God will not impute sin’ [Psalms 32] if you go back and read that psalm David says ‘for this shall EVERY ONE THAT IS GODLY PRAY UNTO THEE’. David uses this in the context of his confession of his sin. So the ‘everyone that is Godly’ describes ‘the righteous’ and they WILL CALL! Also in 2nd Corinthians Paul quotes Isaiah ‘now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation’ in the context of ‘God heard you and saved you’. Why would Paul use this in 2nd Corinthians? They need not be told ‘pray and get saved’. In context he used it to encourage them to return back into full communion and fellowship after their restoration and reproof he gave them in the first letter. He is saying ‘I rebuked you guys harshly, you repented and asked for forgiveness. God ‘heard you’ in his acceptable time, now get over it and ‘be restored’. Salvation to them came by ‘calling’ but it was not describing an initial conversion experience. Well, I didn’t realize I would go so long, but this is a good example of having a ‘holistic view’ of scripture. You try and take all the quotes the writers are using, put them in context of the broad themes of scripture. Add that to the immediate context of the letter [Romans] and then come to a deeper understanding of truth. I am not against those who see this chapter thru an evangelistic lens, I just think the way I taught it is more faithful to the text. [NOTE- Thru out this site I have taught the doctrine of ‘the salvation of the righteous’. I mentioned it earlier in Romans and have spoken on it before. If you can find these entries they will add some insight to this chapter. NOTE- verse 20 actually has Paul quoting Isaiah ‘I was found by them who did not ask for me’. This would sure seem strange to say in the same chapter that taught a concept of ‘all who ask for me will enter the kingdom’. It is quite possible to ask and pray and confess everything ‘just right’ and still not find him. And according to this verse, the ones who did ‘find him’ [Gentiles] did not ask! After years of coming to the above understanding I read a church council [Council of Orange?] and I was surprised to see how they actually dealt with the issue of believing versus ‘calling upon God’. They quoted some of these texts to show that before a person could call upon the Lord, he first needed faith. They used this example to show Gods sovereignty in salvation. I though it interesting that they came to the very same conclusions that I did. They even used the same examples! This shows you how the corporate mind of the church is manifestly expressed thru out the ages. I think the council was in the 8th or 9th century?

(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.

(844)UPDATE- TODD BENTLEY AND THE LAKELAND REVIVAL- Well, sad to say, but I just found out that Todd and his wife are separating. I feel I need to speak a little on this [not the separation, but the whole Lakeland Revival] because I spoke on it before. What happened? First, those of you who read this site realize that I believe in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. Second, you also realize that I am not a fan of the fame and image that go along with many contemporary expressions of ‘church and ministry’. I am not one of those critics who simply jump on the bandwagon either. Did God do some things at Lakeland? I think so. Were there lots of mistakes made? I think so. I was really uncomfortable when some very ‘well known prophets/apostles’ spoke of the revival in very ‘exalting’ ways. Some went to endorse it at the beginning and went way overboard in their language. I feel the ‘platform’ persona and the absolute lack of discernment from God T.V. in broadcasting something beyond the intended parameters led to this fall. I appreciate the willingness of Christian networks to want to get the Word out, but most all of the networks have no [or very little] discernment on what they do! So as of now I think believers should pray for Todd and his family. I think the networks should simply stop broadcasting it altogether. And the people of God need to re-focus on Christ and his Word.

(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.

(827)ROMANS 4:13-14 ‘Now the promise that Abraham would become the inheritor of the world was not going to be fulfilled thru the law [natural Israel] but thru faith [all who believe, both Jew and Gentile]’. I have spoken on this before [see note at bottom] and will hit on it a little now. The historic church can be defined for the most part as ‘a-millennial’, that is they interpreted the parables on the Kingdom of God and the promise of ‘inheriting the world [which includes the Promised Land]’ as being fulfilled thru the church. That Jesus established Gods kingdom and the church basically fulfills these promises by expanding Christ’s ‘rule’ thru the earth. Some historians saw the 4th century ‘marriage’ of Rome and Christianity as a fulfillment of this. During the 19th and 20th century you had the rise of Dispensationalism, a ‘new/different’ way of interpreting these land promises. Many good men showed the reality of Christ’s literal coming and pointed to a future time where Jesus literally sits on a throne in Jerusalem and rules all nations. These brothers are called ‘Pre-millennial’, they believe that Jesus comes back first [pre] and then establishes his ‘millennial rule’ on earth. The Premillennialists would see the Amillennialists as ‘replacement theologians’. They said that these brothers were taking the actual promises that God made to Israel and ‘replacing’ Israel with the church. In essence they accused the Amillennialists of spiritualizing the promises to Israel and saying the church would be the recipients of the promises. Now, both sides have truth to them, I personally believe the Amillennialists have a lot more truth! But I do see some of the good points that the Premillenialists made. I want you to simply read these verses [Romans 4:13-14, Galatians 3:18] and see for yourself how Paul does teach the reality that the promises to Abraham are to be fulfilled thru the church [spiritual Israel]. This does not mean that there is no future physical return of Jesus. But the body of scripture leans heavily on the Amillinnialists side. [see entry 703] NOTE- To be fair, some historic thinkers held to the Premillennial position. The majority were Amillennial.

(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’.

(818)The recent discussion over ‘pagan church practices’ and the organic versus the ‘church building’ model have been good. It might have surprised some of you to see me ‘defend’ to a degree the ‘church building’- let me explain. Some teach a type of ecclesiology [church govt.] that says ‘you have the institutional church’ [church building, denominational, organized] and the ‘organic’ church. The distinction they seem to be making is ‘although there are Christians in the institutional model, the ‘out of church’ brothers are really the ‘truest form of church’. Sort of like trying to trace ‘your roots’ thru out church history. I covered this concept in the study we did on the book of Acts [read the intro and conclusion]. The problem I have with this is it seems to trace the ‘truer church’ as to a specific historical group of believers, who thru out the centuries resisted the ‘intuitional church’ and these ‘out of church’ believers have really carried the torch for the Gospel. I see this idea fundamentally flawed. It seems to not take into account that many of these groups were outright heretics! It also seems to miss the fact that many believers who were in the ‘organized church’ were actually part of the ‘organic church’ in the sense that they were a living, breathing functioning part of Christ’s church! So you might very well have had a true believer in the ‘organized church’ and an unbeliever in the ‘unorganized church’! That is you really can’t trace ‘the true church’ along these lines. Now, I believe there is a fundamental fault line that does run thru the collective mind of many Christians. Too many of us seem to not make the functional distinction between ‘Ecclesia’ versus ‘church’. We do need to be challenged in the way we read the New Testament and apply current miss-concepts of ‘the local church’ to the text. It is a fact that as far as we [we being those who try their best at studying the history of the 1st century church] can tell, the idea of the modern Pastoral office, along with the strong ‘go to church’ idea was absent in the 1st century church. Some scholars have made a noble effort to present the other side [institutional] but the weight of historical evidence falls on the ‘organic church’ model. As we struggle to become ‘the church’ in a more biblical way in the 21st century, we need to be careful that we don’t give Christians the idea that all ‘church building’ churches are outright pagan! The fact that many true believers worship according to this model shows us that the ‘organic Body of Christ’ is truly being represented in them. I thank God for all the recent discussion over these issues. It was a much needed ongoing conversation. We need to have this conversation with much grace!

(817)ARE CHURCH BUILDINGS, PAID LEADERS AND PUBLIC SCRIPTURE READING PAGAN PRACTICES? There are a few reasons why I avoid ‘going too deep’ on this site. The obvious one being I can’t do it very well! Plus it has its ups and downs. I turned 46 the other day. I like taking the kids to the beach and all, growing up in Jersey it was cool to ‘show off’ and ‘go deep’. I have this inner temptation to ‘go deep’ in the Gulf. But there is also a restraining factor; It works like this- I can risk looking cool at the age of 46 and swim out real far, it might be over my head, but heck the kids will think ‘wow, he is really deep’! Then this nagging fear pops up in my mind. I see my self being pulled to shore by some 18 year old lifeguard. I am strung out on the beach with a group of spring breakers hovering over me with Budweiser cans. The local news channel has their cameras in my face as the lifeguard explains how they ‘brought me back with C.P.R.’ and the college kids are saying ‘are you all right old man’? As you can see ‘going deep’ has its risks! Now, what does the bible teach about ‘church [sacred] buildings’ ‘paid clergy [leaders]’ ‘the public reading of scripture’ ‘meeting on Sunday’ and all the other practices associated with ‘the institutional church’? Well actually these things are not as ‘Pagan’ as you might think! In fact the public reading of scripture is commanded in scripture. The ‘paying money’ to Elders is taught. Christians meeting in ‘scared buildings’ actually did happen to a degree in scripture! Both the Temple and the Synagogue continued to be places where early Jewish [and some Gentile- ‘God- fearers’] believers ‘met’. The point is these actual practices are not necessarily ‘Pagan in origin’. Am I defending the later development of ‘the church being the church building’ along with the clergy system and all that it entails? No. I believe Christians have been confused on what the ‘church is’ and how we as the people of God should function in society. But I also believe that a strong case could be made that the present ‘ideas’ about church that are unbiblical could be traced to ‘Judaism’ instead of ‘Paganism’. The development of the church [sacred] building along with the Altar and officiating Priest can be seen as Legalistic [law mentality] as opposed to Pagan. Now I see both of these developments as bad, but the basic idea of believers having recognized leaders [Elders] who are supported financially [free will –no tithe or ‘salary’] is in scripture. The fact that Paul rented a building in the book of Acts [hall of Tyrannus- Acts 19:9] to teach in a public forum is not pagan! The whole point being we as the Ecclesia are the actual dwelling place of God. As we learn and grow as believers we have tremendous freedom to have public places dedicated to God, scenarios where leaders speak to us in a public forum. Actual ways of supporting leaders who are dedicating their time to teaching and preaching. These things are permitted and at times commanded in scripture! Where we need to re examine our beliefs is when we see the ‘church building’ and the ‘Sunday message’ and all of the things associated with ‘Sunday church’ as actually being ‘the local church’. It is the limited mindset that hinders us. Now, to simply replace the ‘Sunday church building mindset’ with ‘the house church mindset’ doesn’t necessarily fix the problem. Some teach the idea that the ‘natural habitat’ of the believer is the ‘open meeting’. That when you remove the believer from the open meeting format, that in essence you have taken him out of his natural setting and therefore he cant develop right. If you read the teachings of Jesus on how the believer is to ‘act’ and function in society. If you follow the ministry of Jesus and imitate as much as possible his life and precepts. If you do the things Jesus said to do, then you are ‘living in the designed natural habitat’ of the believer! The idea that the ‘open house meeting’ versus the ‘Sunday public meeting’ is the answer for the modern believer is very limited. The problem with most for us is not how or where we are meeting, it is our natural instinct to not want to carry our cross. To live an unselfish life. To give ourselves away for a higher purpose. The main body of the New Testament has very little to say about ‘how to meet’. Sure we have a few well-known scriptures that we are all familiar with ‘forsake not the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some’ [Hebrews]. In context this is speaking of the ‘open meeting’ idea. It speaks of exhorting one another. More like Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians. But the point I want to make [without the risk of getting pulled to shore!] is that the answer to the present day dilemma of ‘non functioning’ believers is not going to be found in changing the way we meet. Our natural habitat is not sitting in someone’s living room! It is going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature. It is being an example of living a sacrificial life as much as possible. Trying to follow the admonition of James on pure religion ‘to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and keeping yourself unspotted from the world’ [not how you meet!]. In a nutshell the problem is most of us are falling short in actually living the life! So I don’t want to contradict all the writings that I have done on this site about the need to change our mindset on ‘what is Local church’. But I feel some have tried to replace the way believers meet, thinking that this in itself is the main problem with modern Christianity. I see it a little differently.

(814)OUR WE A BUFFET OR A PARK? I guess we need to do some more on ‘the house church movement’. First, the New Testament addresses ‘the church’ as the corporate people of God. The great mystery is that Christ is dwelling in our hearts by faith. That all believers are walking around as ‘the mobile dwelling place of God, THE HOUSE OF GOD!’ Now, from this standpoint we live and function as the people of God. As we learn and grow we realize that ‘along the way’ we have grasped on to limited ideas about who we are and what the church is. Many of these concepts are shared by both Catholic and Protestant believers. Some who have been helpful in showing us the limited perspective of ‘church at/as the building’ as being silly, seem to have grasped on to the idea that ‘church at the house’ is the basic organic nature of ‘church’. I disagree. In society today you have all sorts of family units. Kids are being born and leaving home and going out into this ‘brave new world’ and imprinting their name on the world. All over the earth you have parents who are writing and keeping in touch with their offspring as they learn and grow as people. These kids are doing all sorts of things [shopping, eating, going to movies, going to the buffet on Sunday]. Now say if you as a parent changed the way you wrote your letters; ‘Dear Johnnie and family’ turned into ‘dear kids who meet and eat every Sunday at the buffet’. The kids would be wondering ‘what’s up with dad, why does he see us only thru the lens of us eating on Sunday’ [or whatever day you eat]. The basic mistake that dad is making is he is seeing one of the functions of his kids [meeting for the purpose of eating] and mistaking that function for ‘the kids’. That is he is beginning to identify his kids in a limited way by viewing them only thru this lens. Now say if dad does some research and finds out that the first century ‘kids’ were having their meals in the park. It was only as time progressed that they built ‘buffets’ and places to go on Sunday to eat. And as time progressed all the kids from future generations starting viewing themselves thru the lens of ‘we are families, we are people who eat at buffets on Sunday’. Now say if the researcher who has discovered that the early families really never ate at buffets [met in buildings!] begins to teach that ‘true family’ are those who meet at parks. The fundamental mistake, in my mind, would be defining ‘the people’ [church] as the kids who eat/meet at the park. While in reality, these first century ‘kids’ were defined as being ‘real kids, who were living and ‘eating’ and functioning as real people as a result of really being born by real parents’. That is the real definition of ‘being kids’ is neither ‘meeting at the 4th century church building’ [or calling the actual building ‘the kids’!] nor is it ‘meeting at the first century park’ [home meetings]. The researcher, as helpful as he’s has been in showing us the limited model of 4th century ‘buffet eating’ has also been limited in his replacing of ‘the church’ as building based versus home based. Would you address your kids as ‘buffet based’ or ‘park based’? That is would you define them by using the measuring rod of ‘where they met to eat’? Of course not! They are ‘kids’ [children of God] because they have been born into human [spiritual] families. Their fundamental nature as ‘children of humans’ [of God] is what makes them ‘kids’. So today I wanted to re focus our attention on what the ‘church’ actually is. The church are all the people of God [both those in buildings, parks and any where else they happen to be] who are alive because they have been actually born from God the father. Our identity is not based on 4th or 1st century ‘ways of meeting’. Our identity is based on being ‘born from above’.

(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.

(805)A BIG NET- Jesus said the kingdom was like a net that was cast into the sea and caught all types of fish [people]. After it was full they pulled it to shore and put the good fish in baskets and thru the bad out. He explains that at the END OF THE WORLD the angels come forth and separate the wicked from the just and cast them into a fire, there will be ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth’. Again we see the simple end time teaching of Jesus. Don’t overlook the truths in Jesus simple sayings! He was a master teacher not because he was one of those theological brains that you could never fully grasp, but because he communicated tremendous truths thru simple stories. For those who fight and argue over whether or not Jesus will ‘rapture’ all the believers away and then the unbelievers have a time by themselves on earth before the final judgment. All you need to do is look at Jesus sayings. He teaches again that both good and bad fish are on the shore together. The bad fish are the ones who are separated and removed, the good get to stay [new heavens and new earth]. Jesus says this happens at the ‘end of the world’. So you see the believers being here right up until the end. Now the main point is Jesus wants the message of the kingdom to go out into all the world. The fact that this net ‘catches’ all types of fish signifies the very broad casting of the message. All people have heard and been effected in some way by Christ’s message. This does not mean all make it into the new heaven and earth! Jesus shows that the full net is a time of full harvest. There comes a real future time of judgment. Jesus teaches the good will be spared, the bad will suffer. When we studied Acts we showed how judgment was part of the message. I had a discussion the other day with a well meaning person. They shared a belief like ‘well, it doesn’t matter what type of religion you are, God just wants us to treat others right’. They were sincere and asking me questions about the Lord. I simply shared the historic Christian belief that even though you have differing religions and different types of Christian churches, yet Christianity teaches that salvation comes exclusively thru Christ. There is coming a time when the bad fish get thrown out. Now God most certainly wants good fish [treating people right]. The way this is accomplished is thru faith in Christ. God ‘imputes’ righteousness to those who believe [not trying to become ‘good’ by their works!] and this imputed righteousness eventually makes them good [note- at the moment of belief you are completely good and righteous. The process of this being made evident, sanctification, is showing a real distinction between the ‘good versus bad fish’]. What about the bad fish? A famous preacher a few years back was branded as a heretic because he publicly came out and rejected the doctrine of hell. I sent him some stuff at the time [books]. He did attend Oral Roberts University and stirred up a lot of stuff. Many Pentecostals distanced themselves from him [rightfully so]. As I heard him speak [T.V.] about his reasons for rejecting the doctrine, I realized he suffered from a lack of historical thinking. Now I don’t want to be mean, but as he questioned his own beliefs he came to see for the first time that other Christian thinkers of the past also embraced a ‘no hell doctrine’. This seemed to confirm in his mind that the ‘no hell’ belief was an historic belief that traditional Christianity suppressed. If he had a rounded education from the start, he would have learned this early on. The fact that hell and other historic doctrines have been questioned and debated for centuries should have come as no surprise to him. But in his area of learning and the churches he was familiar with he never found any need to venture out into the world of theology and church history. And when he finally did venture out he saw these beliefs for the first time. He was also very inconsistent in his thinking. He shared how he found in the Hebrew and Greek languages that the bible says different stuff than in the English [true to some degree- some words for hell speak of the grave, others of judgment]. But this also is no real secret. Then the conversation jumped to ‘John the Apostle was delusional when he wrote Revelation’. Geez, you don’t have to reject the Canon of scripture to be a universalist! The point here is the historic Christian doctrine of eternal judgment comes from the basic themes of scripture. Sure, some have studied the various texts that speak of judgment and have come to differing ideas. But the historic belief is hell is a real place of eternal separation from the presence of God. The rejection of Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died for your sins, was buried and rose from the grave is the only sin that will send a person to hell. As much as we should love people of all religions, we also need to let them know there is coming a time where the bad fish get cast out of the net. NOTE- Jesus referred to hell as ‘a furnace of fire’ here. There are other descriptions of ‘hell fire’ in scripture. This is why hell has been historically seen as ‘a place of fire’.

(795)JUDGES 20- The nation of Israel gather together as ‘one man’ to figure out what is going on. They all received the body pieces of the concubine as a sign of judgment. Remember, the law [Levite] can not give life to that which is ‘dead in trespasses and sin’ [the dead wife!] but the law can only reveal sin and call for justice. So the tribes are gathered to meet out judgment! They decide to get an army together, 400,000 men. They go to the town of Gibeah, where Benjamin [the tribe] lives. They tell the people ‘you have done wickedly, give to us the men who have infected this whole tribe [denomination/whole groups of believers who have been affected in a wrong way by certain teachers who have ‘crept in unawares’]. Benjamin says no! There is a strange dynamic that takes place in the Body of Christ. Whenever the Lord moves in a big way to correct or reform wrong doctrine, very rarely do the victims of the wrong doctrine want to admit that they were wrongly influenced. The sin of pride says ‘are you telling me that I was duped’? Benjamin actually goes into this protection mode and defends the wicked doers in their midst! So Israel encamps against Benjamin and they fight. Sure enough Benjamin wins! Wow, they must have thought ‘see, we were correct in refusing to deal with the wrong stuff in our community’ [whole groups of believers who harbor false things]. Israel is distraught, were they wrong in going against Benjamin? You honestly have to ask yourself this question at times. God might really have raised you up to deal with some stuff. You might actually lose a battle or two! The Lord tells them ‘No, you weren’t wrong in dealing with the false stuff in the tribe of Benjamin, go back and give it another shot’. The next day Israel attacks again, and again they lose! They ask the Lord about it and he says keep trying. On day three they adjust their procedure; they set an ambush and eventually overthrow Benjamin. Now, this is no great victory, God actually called the rest of the people of God to deal with an aberrant tribe. The church goes thru reformation seasons where she needs to deal with wrong stuff on a global scale. The history of Christianity shows us the great ecumenical councils of the church. Times where the whole Body of Christ had to agree that certain things were right or wrong. It is only natural for those being rebuked to fight back and not admit their fault. This process is very difficult. Paul wrote the Galatians and told them if a brother is in a fault, that the more mature [spiritual] ones should correct it in love. Over the years I have been involved with trying to explain to sincere believers, some of them who hold positions of leadership, how we can’t keep teaching things that have been shown to be blatantly wrong. Often times the ‘tribes’ [groups] will fight back, and win a war or two! Understand, Benjamin was running their tribe as an efficient unit to a degree. Even though they had ‘bad seed’ in their group, yet the fact that they did exist as a functioning unit allowed them to successfully resist a few previous challenges to their tribe [belief system]. But ultimately there came a challenge that was too hard to resist, the rest of the nation joined as ‘one man’ to say ‘enough is enough, we love you as a brother tribe, but this stuff has gone on way too long’. It was the radical act of the Levite that brought the attention to the rest of the tribes of what was going on. It was the responsibility of the nation as a whole to deal with the ‘lost tribe’.

(780)JUDGES 12- Jephthah has a great victory over Ammon. Ephraim confronts him and says ‘why didn’t you tell us you were going to battle? Who do you guys think you are, hogging up all the glory’? Jephthah responds ‘I did ask you guys to help! You guys are always talking a big game, but you never show up when we need you!’ Ephraim does have a history of doing this. They said the same thing in an earlier chapter, I think to Gideon? There is a Psalm that says ‘Ephraim turned back in the day of battle, even though they were fully armed’. They truly were a legitimate tribe, who had the goods to war, but they seemed to be more concerned about ‘their image’ and what so and so was doing down the road, than in actually going out and winning some wars! Jephthah is the type of brother you don’t want to mess with. He is mentioned in Hebrews 11 among the great heroes of the faith. Why would he be in there? He led a tribe that was insignificant, yet he rose to the occasion and displayed great courage, at the risk of his own life, and was a true warrior. Jephthah responds to Ephraim’s big words by ‘beating the hell out of them’. He strapped it on! Ephraim was one of the big 12, a legitimate warring tribe from Israel. Jephthah made a name for himself and his people. He was like the Arturo Gatti’s [Jersey City] who were simple hometown boxers who rose to fame and put his town on the map [even though Gatti was out of his class against De Lahoya]. Or a Bret Favre from Green Bay [Packers] who in the heck ever heard of ‘Green Bay’? Jephthah put Gilead on the map of history. I just recently studied some stuff on the Jesus movement of the 60’s -70’s. One of the interesting characters was a brother by the name of Lonnie Frisbee. Someone just made a documentary on him [Life and times of a Hippie preacher] and tried to show how he had a lot of influence in the beginnings of the Calvary Chapel and Vineyard movements [2 of the most successful Church movements that came out of this time]. The brother who made the documentary felt like the leaders of the movement did not give him due credit because he died of Aid’s. Lonnie struggled with homosexuality for most of his life. Many of the people who were interviewed gave strong testimonies of Lonnie’s influence in their lives. While looking up some stuff on U Tube I found a few videos of him sharing his testimony, there seems to be no doubt that he was a child of God. Some apologists [Hank Hannegraff] attribute Lonnie’s ‘anointing’ to the demonic realm. They brought out the fact that Lonnie’s initial conversion took place while he was high. They showed how some of the Shamans shared the same types of things that Lonnie operated in [Jim Morrison of the doors is thought to have been a Shaman, the name ‘Lizard King’ spoke to this]. I for the most part accept Lonnie’s own testimony of believing in Jesus. I know it’s difficult to understand how the Lord could have used someone who struggled like this, but some of these judges [Like the next one we will discuss- Samson] had many struggles along with their victories. I dont want to give people excuses for sinning, but I want to encourage you to allow God to use you right where you are at. With all the faults of Lonnie Frisbee, the Lord still used him to play a key role in the early Jesus movement.

(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.

(770) JUDGES 1-2 This part of the story of Israel’s walk with God is a stage where God ‘raised them up judges’. When God initiates divine leadership, it works. Don’t confuse the act of God with the ideas of men. There will come a time where Israel tells God ‘we want a king like the other nations’ and God says by asking this they rejected his headship over them. Being we are coming off of our study in Acts, I want you to see these judges thru the lens of God ordained Elders [leaders]. In Acts, God used men. He even allowed Paul to tell the Christians ‘ordain [recognize] elders in every city’. So it is fine to have a recognized leader in the community [actually in Acts it’s ‘leaders’ plural!] Now the children of Israel ask the Lord ‘who should go up first?’ and the Lord says ‘Judah’. Remember, Jacob blessed Judah and said ‘the scepter shall not depart from Judah’ Judah [praise] is ordained for battle! They start inheriting the land and they leave a remnant of the old ‘ites’ in the land. They basically are so excited about the amount of ground they are covering, that they fail to maintain what God is giving them! ‘Strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die’ REVELATION. An angel rebukes them in chapter 2 for failing to fully [with all their heart] follow the Lord. Caleb’s daughter asks Caleb ‘you have given me a southland, give me also springs of water’. Lets read this thru the eyes of ‘LECTIO DIVINA’ , an ancient way of reading scripture in a devotional sense. You basically try to hear God personally speak to you thru the text. This ‘way’ of reading is not in context, you shouldn’t develop doctrines from it, but it is useful for personal stuff. I just finished praying for ‘the southland’, all the regions in South Texas that we are reaching out to. I [we] need ‘springs of water to go along with the land’. Paul said we can plant and claim and confess all day long, but if Gods Spirit doesn’t fall [water] we will never see a harvest! Israel catches a king on the run and chops off his big toes and thumbs. The king says ‘God paid me back, I too have done this to other kings’. What’s up with this? Basically the guy without thumbs and toes is simply surviving. He can fetch you some water, hold the bucket and all. Or walk around and be your ‘go- for’ guy. But don’t dare try and wield one of those heavy swords, it will come out of your hand! Or don’t try any quick foot moves, you will fall in an instant. The enemy wants to ‘immobilize you’. Give you a retirement mentality ‘sit back and worry about whether or not you have enough resources to make it to 76 and die’. Geez, get up out of that Lazy boy and act like you got some big toes and thumbs! The Israelites also catch some guy fleeing one of the cities and they make him tell them how to get into the city. They then raid the city and take it. Work smarter, not harder! Sometimes we have the mindset of ‘If we just had more money we could change the world’ they could have beat on the walls of the city all day, hired guys to bang on it with hammers! But once God shows you the entrance [key to get in] it goes much smoother. God can knock the walls down [Jericho] but seek him for the process he wants to give to you. Don’t assume the pattern that so and so used will automatically work for you. Don’t confuse the goal [taking the city] with the procedures of the past. God just might want to give you a secret entrance into the city, and you are praying for ‘more wall breakers’ [didn’t me to be crude!].

(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 losing 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.

(768)ACTS 28- After the shipwreck they wind up on an island called Melita. Paul meets the barbarous people and they welcome him. During a bon fire type thing, Paul is collecting wood and a poisonous snake bites him. The people think ‘surely this man is a murderer and ‘vengeance’ got him!’ Notice the fact that moral/natural law was imbedded in the consciences of these savage like people. Where in the world did they come up with such an idea of right and wrong and justice? The atheists say ‘well, all people simply come up with some type of code to live by. This is really not proof for moral law’. The Christian answers ‘so how come you never find some isolated tribe who rewards murder and punishes goodness’! Now, I realize there are distant tribes who practice violent stuff. The point is in all of these societies, there is a basic right and wrong that is honored. If the tribe is violent, they still don’t reward the cowardly killing of one of their own kids! These savages had the built in conscience of moral law that Paul teaches in Romans. Now after Paul doesn’t get sick or die from the bite, they ‘change their minds’ and say he is a god! People are fickle. Paul heals the father of the chief of the island, a small healing revival breaks out. Paul demonstrates the power of the gospel in word and deed. Even today, in many 3rd world countries you see healings and miraculous signs along with the preaching of the gospel. They launch off and land in a few more spots and finally make it to Rome! Paul calls the Jewish leaders and makes his familiar defense. He lists the accusations against him and defends himself. He thought the whole Jewish world knew about the gossip! The leaders tell him ‘we haven’t heard any stuff about you, but tell us more about this sect’. Leaders, don’t make the mistake of defending yourself over personal stuff from the pulpit! Often time’s people don’t now what you are talking about. Paul does set up a day and teaches the Jews in Rome from morning till evening showing them all the scriptures that testify of Jesus in the Law of Moses and the prophets. He ‘testified of the Kingdom of God and Christ’ [they go hand in hand!] Some Jews believe, others don’t. Paul then quotes the most quoted verse from the Old Testament in the New Testament ‘Isaiah was right about you! Having eyes you can’t see, ears you can’t hear…’ Luke ends the chapter [and book] with Paul living 2 years in a rented room and preaching the kingdom of God to all who will listen. Paul finished his days infecting the capitol city of the empire with the gospel! Church history tells us that Paul [and Peter] were martyred under Nero’s persecution. John [the apostle] writes about the beast making war against the saints and killing them. No wonder why the early church called Nero ‘the beast’. Paul writes one of his best letters to the Roman saints and the church will forever have an ‘eternal witness’ in the city of Rome. Paul got his wish.

(766) ACTS 26- Paul makes his case before Agrippa. Paul says that he is being accused of the hope that all the Jews are waiting for and serving God day and night to receive! It’s funny how all the religious requirements of the law and temple, the whole culture of Judaism. All the symbols that made up their heritage. All the times they would quote Moses or Abraham ‘we have Abraham as our father’ ‘we know God spoke to Moses’ all of these things were for THE SOLE PURPOSE of coming to a point in Jewish history where the Jews would receive their Messiah. Paul states ‘this actual hope and reason for our existence as a Jewish nation is the cause of contention that the Jewish leaders have against me’. What an amazing thing! Now once again Paul will state the basic Christian doctrine of Jesus and his resurrection ‘king Agrippa, why would it be so hard to believe that God can raise the dead’? Did you ever ponder this question? A few years ago you didn’t exist [30-50-70?] since you were born you have been taught that you exist because of certain natural means. You learned the process of birth, and some of you have actually had kids yourselves. During you life you have heard and learned about the universe, planets, the history of man. We have lived thru an industrial and technological revolution. We put men on the moon, we splice genes, we take men’s hearts out of their bodies and put pumps in there place! Plus all these things came from a point in time where there was no thing! Hebrews says God made every thing from nothing! Science actually does agree with this [read my section on Evolution] and after all this experience and knowledge you have attained in your very short life, yet if God were to say ‘I will raise the dead’ people say ‘now, how can you expect me to believe that?’ We do have pea brains at times! Paul also retells his conversion and says how Jesus told him he would be a witness of the historical events of Christ and his resurrection, but Jesus also said ‘and you will testify of the things I will reveal to you in the future’. Now we have to do some stuff. What were the things that Jesus was going to reveal to Paul in the future? We read these things in Paul’s letters. Basically the great reality of our sharing in the divine nature [actually this is Peter] our sonship. The great mystery of God making one new man out of Jew and Gentile. Truths concerning the ascension and the heavenly realities of redemption [Hebrews]. The point is the ‘future revelation’ of Jesus to Paul was not some knowledge outside of the boundaries already laid down in the gospels. The doctrine of the Apostles was already being taught thru out the book of Acts. God simply gave Paul greater insight and revelation into the truths that already existed. The Gnostics [early second century cult of Christianity- the word comes from the Greek term ‘Gnosis’- knowledge]. They taught a type of special knowledge that said the basic Christian who only has the historical truths of Jesus are at a lower level. Once you become a Gnostic, you then have special revelation that can’t be learned thru normal means. A popular Christian teaching comes close to this ‘revelation knowledge’. Many years ago I was a student of E.W. Kenyon and the word of faith movement. Brother Kenyon taught a type of mystical teaching that said God can reveal things to people outside of the 5 senses, and this is ‘revelation knowledge’. Can God do this? To a degree, yes. We actually read how Agabus gave Paul a prophecy about being bound at Jerusalem. Or Paul dreaming about a man in Macedonia asking for help. I see the reality of God being able to reveal things to us supernaturally as a gift of the prophetic. We are born of Gods Spirit and we do receive understanding from God as his Spiritual children. But yet Paul will write ‘study to show yourself approved’. So Jesus told Paul he was going to show him stuff in the future. Paul based his apostolic authority on this fact [Galatians 1-2]. He would say ‘the gospel I preach was not given to me by men, but God revealed it to me’ what gospel is Paul talking about? The gospel [good news] of the grace of God. Jesus revealed the more important stuff to Paul as time went on, Paul was seeing more and more grace!

(760) ACTS 23- Paul continues his defense before the council and chief priests. He realizes that the council is divided ‘politically/religiously’ along the lines of the Pharisees versus the Sadducees. Though these were both religious groups who were Jewish, yet they had major disagreements. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection or spirit or angels [why in the heck would you even want to be religious if you rejected these things? ‘Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die’! The philosophies that rose out of the enlightenment era and the French revolution were based on ‘nihilism’ the idea of having no moral compass. The rise of Marxism and other communist expressions of Government had good intentions at times! The problem was they espoused the atheistic philosophies of the time and ultimately this leads to a total loss of purpose and meaning. Though these philosophers tried to say that religion and the ‘God delusion’ were the cause of all the ills of society, there grand scheme would ultimately lead to forms of human government that disrespected human life. Hitler of course was an extreme example. He did embrace eugenics, the idea that the stronger races will eventually win and the weaker races/classes will die off. He simply thought he was speeding up the process by exterminating Jews. Though the philosophers of the enlightenment fall into different groups. Some for example did believe in deism and they felt God could be proved from natural means. Others saw religion as the ‘opiate of the people’ and ultimately did disgrace unto the human race!] The Pharisees believed in resurrection. So good old Paul stands up and says ‘I am a Pharisee, and the very reason I am in trouble is because I believe in the hope of the resurrection’ Paul knew how to ‘triangulate’ [politically]. Well of course the Pharisees say ‘well, we see nothing wrong with this man. If an angel or spirit appeared to him, then Gods will be done’. So the group splits. Paul is put under guard and eventually appeals to the next step. The authorities send him to Governor Felix in Caesarea for the next appeal. Why is it important to see the legal maneuverings of Paul? Jesus even appears to him again and says ‘you will testify of me in Rome’. The religious leaders of the 1st century did all they could to not report the facts of the early followers of Christ. The gospels tell us that they even resorted to outright lying to cover up the fact of the resurrection. Paul’s interjection into the legal arena caused there to be a written record of these events! The historians of the day were covering the legal events of the day. The record of Jesus and his followers would be forever imbedded in the historic records of the time. God wanted Paul in this system as a sure testimony of the witness of Christ’s resurrection. We end the chapter with Paul waiting at Caesarea for the accusers to come and make their case.

(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.

(758) ACTS 21- Paul goes to Tyre and the saints prophesy for him not to go to Jerusalem. He makes it to Caesarea and Phillip has 4 daughters who also prophesy. Agabus shows up, he is a prophet, and he takes Paul’s garment and does one of those weird prophetic actions and wraps it around him and says ‘the Lord says whoever owns this garment will be bound like this at Jerusalem’. A few things, many good men teach that the word for ‘Prophecy’ [to prophesy] is simple preaching. Now, true simple preaching of the gospel is a function of the prophetic. Paul says in Corinthians that whoever says the name of Jesus is speaking mysteries that only the Spirit knows. So preaching does fall into this category. But a simple reading of the text shows you that Agabus, who functioned in the office of a Prophet, was doing more than simple preaching. There obviously was a predictive element to what he did. Agabus is an ‘ascension gift Prophet’. In Ephesians Paul teaches that after Jesus ascended he gave gifts unto men. Some of these gifts are Prophets. Why would Jesus establish an entire class of New Testament Prophets, and take them away as soon as the New Testament was complete? Now Paul makes it to Jerusalem despite the warnings. Right away James and the Elders call him to a meeting. They rejoice over all the Lord is doing with Paul’s gentile outreach, but they tell him ‘look, we have many Jews. They are all believing in Messiah, and they all keep the law’. There is a fundamental rift between James and Paul. Most preachers do not say or admit this, they feel to admit it would violate the Canon of scripture. First, read my commentary on Hebrews 11 on this site. Second, I believe we are simply seeing the historic development of truth as we progress thru Acts. Peter, James and Paul [later we read Johns epistles] never contradict each other as far as the overall message of the Cross is concerned. But God does allow us to peer into the different insights that these key 1st century elders were seeing. So James might really be seeing things from a different vantage point than Paul. Paul might not fully see James reasoning. They are both being used of God, their writings will harmonize. But they don’t necessarily see it yet! James pressures Paul to take a vow with some brothers to basically show he isn’t teaching Jews against the law. Paul does it. The city finds out Paul is in town and they drag him out of the Temple and they beat the guy! The local police come and rescue Paul. As he is being carried away he speaks Greek to the soldiers, they are surprised he speaks Greek. He then addresses the Jews and speaks Hebrew. Paul used positioning and all the influence he had in any area [even language] to make his point. In the next chapter we will read his defense. I want to close with us seeing that Paul was being accused of teaching Jews against Moses and the law and Temple. Was he? Actually as Paul’s understanding of the gospel of grace increases, he does teach this. If you believe Paul wrote Hebrews [the letter] then you see it there. But Paul initially was only preaching grace to the gentiles. James even says ‘show the people that the rumors about you are wrong, show them that you too are keeping the law like all Jews’ and basically Paul gives in by agreeing to join in the vow with the brothers. Some times we read Acts [as well as the bible] as if it were a single book written at one sitting. When you do it like this you don’t leave room for the development and growth of the characters themselves. God is allowing Peter to preach in a more limited way in the first few chapters, after Peter hears from Stephen and Paul he seems to leave more room for believing and being justified. He is learning and growing as the story progresses. The same with James. His epistle is obviously a different view point from Paul. Do they contradict? No. But some commentators do not honestly look at the different angles. James will actually say ‘see how a man is justified by his works, and not faith only’. Now, he does say ‘faith without works is dead’. And many good teachers say ‘all James was saying was you need active faith at the time of conversion’ [James isn’t speaking about the ‘time of conversion’!] Well actually , he was saying more. Was he teaching justification by works? No, at least not in the way most theologians see ‘justification’. But James was seeing justification thru the lens of the future result of the believer actually becoming just! [What some believers call sanctification] He was seeing the Genesis 22 justification of Abraham offering Isaac, not the Genesis 15 account that Paul emphasizes. So James is teaching ‘justification by works’ that is, Gods grace that legally justified you when you believed, actually changes you to the point where you do good works, and at that point God continues to say ‘good job son- you are doing what’s right’ [another word for doing what’s just/right- justification!] Now, I can’t explain the whole thing here, the point is James is dealing with Jewish believers and he is seeing things from a different timeline than Paul. The strife between the early Jewish believers and Paul is intense. Ultimately the Temple will be destroyed and the future of the Christian church will be shaped by Paul’s theology. James writes a great letter! But Paul will carry the day. NOTE- I see James saying ‘see how a man is justified by works’ meaning the future act of God being pleased with the changed life of the believer. We see ‘see how a man is justified by works’ and try to make that fit ‘see how a man is initially saved/born again’ but James, in my view, is not speaking of the initial act of justification [which is solely by faith] when he says ‘see how a man is justified by works, and not by faith only’ James is working on a different timeline!

(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’.

(752) ACTS 15- Some brothers from Judea came down to Antioch and taught the believers that they had to be circumcised and keep the law in order to be saved. These are the Pharisees out of Jerusalem who became believers. They tried to put the gentile believers under the yoke of the law. Paul and Barnabas disagree strongly with this teaching. They decide to bring the question before the Apostles and Elders at Jerusalem. This is the first ‘church council’ in history. The ‘Jerusalem council’. At the meeting the dispute arises. Peter speaks up and recounts his experience at Cornelius house. How God showed Peter that he would justify people by faith, without having to become converts to Judaism. James chimes in and quotes a famous verse [famous now!] from the prophet Amos ‘in those days I will rebuild David’s tabernacle and all the gentiles upon whom my name is called will see me’. I want to stop here for a minute. On this blog I wrote a chapter on David’s tabernacle. It is in the booklet ‘The great building of God’ you might want to read it if you are not familiar with David’s tabernacle. I want to note that scholars disagree on what James means here. Some see ‘David’s tabernacle’ as the house or dynasty of David. Like Paul saying ‘house of God’ when speaking of ‘the family of God’. Others say this verse teaches the rebuilding of the Temple. The main reason James is quoting this verse is really not for the ‘rebuilding of David’s tabernacle’ section. It is for ‘all the gentiles who call upon my name’ part! James is agreeing with Peter and taking the side of grace when he says ‘look, even Amos said gentiles would call on Gods name’. Paul does this in Romans, he quotes the Old Testament prophets in context of the gentiles being accepted. So I wanted to just put some context to why James is bringing up this verse. But I also give credence to seeing ‘David’s tabernacle’ as speaking of the New Testament house of God [the Body of Christ] and Gods intent to ‘tabernacle in his people’. Acts does teach that Jesus has ascended and is seated on a throne that includes Israel as well as the whole universe! So in this context Christ can be seen as ‘building the tabernacle of David’ [spiritual temple of believers] that includes all ethnic groups. Yes, gentiles too can call upon his name! The Apostles and Elders and brothers all reach agreement and write a short letter and send Judas and Silas along with Paul’s group back to Antioch to read the final decree. They told the gentile believers they were not under the law and did not have to convert to Judaism to be saved. They did give four simple restrictions. Don’t eat meat with the blood in it, don’t eat food offered to idols or strangled animals. Don’t commit fornication. Basic requirements that later on will lose their emphasis as the church grows in grace [accept for fornication! God does require believers to walk in holiness]. Now this chapter is vital for every believer. The 16th century reformation restored the truth of people being saved freely by grace. Many Christians were lost in the legalistic requirements of religion. Many believers thought they could buy their way out of purgatory with money! Others thought they would be saved by keeping church law. This early church council gave freedom to the church in seeing herself accepted by grace. The church grew in her understanding of Gods grace. As God’s revelation of himself progressed thru out the early church, they saw him as being ‘inclusive’ not exclusive! The more they learned about God, the more they understood him justifying people freely. It is easy to lose the reality of God justifying man freely thru grace. No excuses for living in sin, but true acceptance and forgiveness because of Christ. This is truly the heart of the gospel. The first church council laid the foundation of Gods free grace. The gentiles at Antioch and the other towns were ecstatic over this decision. Truly the gentile churches are experiencing more freedom than the church at Jerusalem, after all they had the ‘Pharisees who believed’ at Jerusalem, and they weren’t willing to give up on their belief of the importance of the law and circumcision. They will haunt Paul thru out his life. After the letter is read, Paul and Barnabas continue to teach at Antioch and the 2 brothers who were out of Jerusalem are free to leave. Judas goes back, but Silas likes the freedom at Antioch and decides to stay. Paul says ‘lets go visit all the brothers in the cities where we preached’ Barnabas says ‘great, lets take John Mark!’ Paul doesn’t want him because he abandoned them on an earlier missionary journey. Paul takes Silas and John goes with Barnabas. The ‘visiting of all the brothers’ is also described as ‘visiting the churches’. Once again, the brothers [and sisters] in the cites are defined as ‘the churches’. They were called out groups of believers who were recognized not because they ‘attended church on Sunday’ but because they were followers of ‘the way’.

(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.

(746) ACTS 9- Paul gets permission from the high priest to go to Damascus and arrest the believers. On his way the Lord appears to him and Paul is told to go to Damascus and wait for instructions. He is blind for 3 days. God gives a vision to Ananias and tells him to go to Paul in Judas house, because he too had a vision of a man coming to him and laying hands on him. Ananias is afraid but does it at the Lords insistence. I want you to see the role of visions and divine guidance in this event. The purpose of the visions and supernatural events has nothing to do with the canon of scripture. Some teach that the only reason you had supernatural guidance in the early days was because the canon was not complete. But after its completion you no longer had these types of things. First, no where is this doctrine taught in scripture. Second, you did not have total agreement on ‘the canon’ [all the books that make up our bibles] until the 4th century! Now you did have a basic group of letters and writings that were accepted as authoritative, but there was not total agreement. Many early believers had the epistles of Barnabas and a few other letters that were accepted. Some did not include Revelation at all. Others questioned Hebrews and James. You also did not have a workable, readable ‘bible’ in actual book form until the 12th-13th century! That’s right, the actual form of our modern books was not invented until that late date. Plus the availability of books on a mass scale did not appear until the Guttenberg printing press of the 16th century. Just in time for Luther’s Reformation! The first book printed on his press was the Guttenberg bible. So the point is, the idea that somehow right after the early Apostles died off you had all believers going to ‘their bibles for direction’ as opposed to having dreams or visions or other divine guidance, really isn’t a workable solution. In this chapter God needed to get orders to his people, he gave them visions! Now Paul immediately preaches Christ as the Son of God and Messiah. He stirs up the waters and they sneak him out of town and send him to Jerusalem. The church at Jerusalem are leery of him, Barnabas vouches for him and he is received. He starts preaching there and once again they want to kill him. He eventually is sent back to his area of Tarsus. Now Peter is still on the road preaching Christ. He heals at a man at Lydda and many come to the Lord. A woman named Tabitha dies at Joppa, a town close to Lydda. They call for Peter to come and he does and raises her from the dead. What are we seeing here? An early church [community of believers] preaching the gospel and doing miracles and affecting large regions without lots of money. Without hardly any organization. Without setting up ‘local churches’ in the sense that each area has separate ‘places’ they see as ‘local churches’ with salaried pastors running the ‘churches’. You are seeing a radical movement of Christ followers who are sacrificially giving there lives away for the gospel. No prayer meetings on ‘how in the world are we going to reach the region for the Lord. We need tons of cash’! They believed the simple instructions Jesus gave to them on going into all the world and preaching the gospel. Sure there will be times where support is sent to help them make it to the next location. But the whole concept of needing tons of cash and to build huge ‘church buildings/organizations’ and to set up salaried ministers is not seen in this story. I do not think the development of these things over the centuries means ‘all the churches are deceived’ type of a thing. All ‘the churches’ [groups of believers who are presently identifying themselves this way] are great people of God. They are doing the works of Jesus and functioning to a degree in the paradigm that they were given [either thru their upbringing or training]. But today we are seeing a rethinking of the ‘wineskin’ [that which contains the new wine] on a mass scale. As we read this story in Acts I want to challenge your mindset. Don’t fit the story into your present understanding of ‘local church’. But let your understanding of ‘Local Church’ be formed thru scripture. This chapter said ‘the churches had rest and were edified and were walking in the fear of the Lord’. The ‘churches’ are defined as all the communities of believers living in these various locations!

(745) ACTS 8- After the death of Stephen the church scatters thru out the region. We see Phillip being used and directed by God. An angel will speak to him, he will be supernaturally translated from one place to another. We see the simple reality of all believers having Gods legitimacy to function. This is important to see! Later on we see the first gentile church at Antioch being told ‘separate me Paul and Barnabus unto the work which I have called them to’[Acts 13]. Some will develop unbiblical restrictions from this verse. The strong ‘local church’ view [the view that sees local church thru the 501c3 Sunday building mindset!] will later teach ‘see, you can’t function on your own. If you are not under a ‘local church covering’ you are an independent rebel out of Gods authority’. Here we see the simple reality of God sending and communicating to Phillip on the basis of him being a child of God. In Acts 13 the Spirit communicated his purpose to an entire group, in this chapter he communicates to an individual. The legitimacy comes from the reality of God being the one who is giving the directions! Now, we see Phillip at Samaria preaching the Kingdom and doing miracles. The sorcerer Simon gets converted. The church at Jerusalem sends Peter and John to see what’s happening and they lay hands on the Samaritan believers and they ‘receive the Holy Ghost’. This is also described as the Holy Spirit falling on them. This chapter is used as a proof text for pro Pentecostal theology and anti! The Pentecostals say ‘see, believers don’t have the Holy Spirit until a separate Baptism takes place’. The anti Charismatics say ‘this is an anomaly. God did this because he didn’t want to have a competing church in Samaria that did not have the approval of the Jerusalem church’. I will agree and disagree with both of these propositions [yes, at the same time!] Paul will teach in his epistles that it is impossible to believe without having the Spirit. He will also teach a doctrine of being filled with the Spirit. The arguments over the terms used can be confusing. The fact is we see both the experiences of believers [who have the Spirit] still experiencing greater empowerments down the road. And we see believers ‘getting it all at once’ [Acts 10]. Theologically, you can’t be born again without having the Spirit. But you can call ‘the Spirit falling on you in a fresh way’ ‘getting the Spirit’. The different expressions people use do confuse the matter. The hard and fast Charismatics will not agree with me. And the old time Calvinists might disagree with me. I believe both sides have things to add to the debate. I want all of us to be open and daily expecting God to renew us with the Spirit on a daily basis. I know one thing for sure, Paul taught we can water and plant all day. But if the Spirit doesn’t do his work we will never see any real increase! Simon the sorcerer sees that thru the laying on of hands the Spirit is given. He asks ‘Hey, I will pay you money for the gift of being able to lay hands on people and have them receive the Spirit’. Peter responds ‘you wicked sinner! How dare you think you can purchase Gods gift with money! You and your filthy money will perish together! You better pray that God forgives you for this’. Simon says ‘can you pray for me’? He didn’t want to get struck down that instant! Peter will later teach in his letters ‘take oversight of Gods flock, not for filthy lucre. But of a ready mind’. James will write in his letter ‘woe to the rich, their day is coming’. John writes in 1st John ‘love not the world neither the things in the world’. Paul will pen ‘The love of money is the root of all evil. Some went coveting after it and have left the faith’. Where in the world did all these first century Apostles get this idea from? Was it the devil tricking them out of the truth of wealth? Were they under the spell of church tradition? Lets see, Jesus said ‘the rich man dies and goes to hell. The poor man to Abrahams bosom’ ‘it’s harder for a rich man to go to heaven than for a camel to go thru the eye of a needle’ ‘the rich man went away very sad because he had much riches’ [after Jesus said go sell all you have and give to the poor] ‘you can not serve God and mammon’ ‘the deceitfulness of riches choke Gods word’ ‘thou fool! This night thy soul shall be required of thee’ [to the rich man who was planning on building more storage for his stuff!] The simple fact is the early church had imbedded in their minds a non materialistic gospel. The modern church seems to read scripture thru the lens of the prosperity promises that you do find thru out scripture. The prosperity promises are true and should be understood, but we need to also see the reality of what I just showed you. The church will eventfully coin the phrase ‘Simony’. It will refer to those who use money to gain influence and official positions in the church. Simons name does becomes famous, but not in the way he wanted!

(742) ACTS 5 – As the word spreads rapidly, all the surrounding towns bring the sick and vexed to lie in the streets. Even the possibility of Peters shadow passing over them for healing is hoped for. Notice the charismatic reality of this early church. I do realize the many reasoning’s that intelligent people use to explain the miracles as limited to the Apostolic period, but for the most part we see a supernatural church in Acts as well as thru out the epistles and well into the first few centuries of Christianity. The 20th century story of Pentecostalism and the awakenings just prior, seem to show the reality of a supernatural church existing alongside a theological one! There is much proof to the orthodoxy and giftings of the church all thru out scripture and church history. Peters shadow healed people, how can we explain this away? [p.s. Phillip, who is not an Apostle, will also perform miracles. Just thru this in for those who teach the Apostles were the only miracle workers!] Now, the immediate response of the high priest and religious leaders was ‘if we don’t do something about this, their movement will gain momentum’. They imprison Peter and the Apostles. An angel appears and frees them and tells them ‘go back to the temple and speak the words of this life’. When the authorities realize what has happened they once again warn them about using Jesus name in their ministry. They even say ‘do you intend to bring this mans blood upon us’. Basically Peter says ‘yes’. Peter has been ‘putting it in their face’ ever since Pentecost. He has blamed BOTH the nation of Israel and her leadership for the death of Christ. He does not worry about offending them! During this time some priests become believers. The majority of them do not. Why? What has happened is common among movements. When an initial movement starts up, there is always the question of ‘is it from God or not’? A few years back the church went thru a renewal movement. Some referred to it as ‘the Toronto blessing’ ‘the laughing revival’ and other names. You had those who were 100 % against it and those 100 % for it. Who was right? Well, to a degree both of them! The point is there were some things that were needing rebuke, but to throw it all out was wrong. The defenders appealed to Jonathan Edwards’s writings and how during the first great awakening he experienced many of the same manifestations as the Toronto movement. Edwards left quite a bit of room for God being present in the religious emotions of the people. The critics were offended that the revival guys were appealing to Edwards and they would appeal to other stuff Edwards wrote in concern over the religious affections. You also had the same manifestations a century later under the second great awakening. The revivals in Kentucky had laughter and ‘strange barking’ and other weird stuff. The point is you always have a response to a religious movement. Once the battle lines are drawn, it is very hard to switch sides. In this chapter we see Gamaliel, a very respected Pharisee, stand up for the Apostles and say ‘lets give them some room, others before them rose up and gained a following, they all passed on. If this work is of God you can’t stop it, if it’s of men it will fail’. There was some breaking thru to the religious mind that was taking place in the elite religious thinkers of the day. After all, Peter has been quoting Psalms and Joel in ways that were confounding the religious thinkers. Don’t forget, Peter is an uneducated fisherman. Jesus deposited some stuff in his men that was way beyond the basic understanding of the day. Some ‘thinkers’ and intellectuals were humble enough o listen, most were not!

(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.

(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 ‘no know 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’.

(603) 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 ‘sinner’s 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!

(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. Some also embrace a dual covenant idea. 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 these people see 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’. NOTE- To be fair to John Hagee, read the rest of the stuff I wrote in the section ‘Messianic, Jew, Gentile’.

(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?

(668) I am really going to jump around today. Those of you who read this section in order have realized that I still have to finish our study on John’s gospel! I sidetracked and read Proverbs and wound up teaching highlights as an ‘aside’. So yesterday I woke up and felt the Lord wanted me to read Revelation 11. I have been praying for a few years now with a ‘rod’ [stick] in my hand as I walk in many yard [it’s dark so I don’t look too insane]. Let’s read Revelation 11 [by the way it IS NOT SPEAKING ABOUT ME!] ‘And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, rise and measure the temple of God, and the altar and them that worship therein’. This last week I once again had a discussion with a brother who assumed all the language in the New Testament about the Temple was speaking of a future rebuilt one. Some language MIGHT possibly refer to one. But some referred to the ones in the past; some refer to the people of God as the holy Temple [Ephesians]. So God might be telling John that he will wield authority in ‘judging’ the church. That thru John’s prophetic ministry [the actual writing of this vision called ‘the book of Revelation’] he will wield a rod of purging and chastening. ‘But the court that is without the temple leave out’ John’s prophetic vision is specifically designed to ‘line up’ the people of God. The ‘court’ can represent all the gentile nations whom represent those outside of the church. In essence ‘prophesy into the church John, don’t judge the world! I have not come to condemn them; I have come to save them’. The church has gone thru this ‘moral outrage’ stage and has railed against lost man. People who feel they have no hope, who have tried to overcome their addictions and have failed. They then tried to justify them. Why? Because they want to be accepted, they want society to say ‘we affirm you’. Am I saying we should affirm them? No. But we have used the ‘rod’ to condemn them and God is saying ‘leave those in the courtyard alone’. ‘These will tread the holy city [people of God] 42 months’ God was revealing to John that there would be a set time where the world would ‘tread’ on the church. John is actually living at the beginning of the rule of a bunch of demonic Roman rulers who will ‘destroy the people of God’ for a season. We have also seen a season of mocking and outright laughter at the American church. Some of it was deserved. We have allowed our ‘immature’ spokesman to broadcast their images to society as a whole [thru Christian TV] and some of them truly don’t realize how silly they look. I know they don’t mean to look silly, but they have grasped hold of a temptation that Jesus warned against. He told us leadership in the church was not designed to function like ‘gentile leadership’ seeking fame and position. So the American church fell into it and the ‘gentile’s tread us under foot 42 months’. ‘And I will give power unto my 2 witnesses and they will prophesy’ many cults and well meaning believers have erred terribly in thinking their Pastor/Prophet was one of these guys! I have taken this 2 ways in the past. I have seen it as either Israel and the church [2 witnesses in society] or the 2 offices of Apostle and Prophet. The point is after the humiliation and defeat [both in Johns day under the emperors and in every other day] God restores a prophetic voice back into the church. Be assured this voice will not be seen or heard thru many of the mediums being used today to broadcast Christian stuff. ‘Clothed in sackcloth’ part of the price of prophetic ministry includes ‘being clothed in sackcloth’. There just seems to be a principle you find in the Prophets of scripture that at the same time they are prophesying, they are going thru hell! ‘If any man hurt them, fire proceeds out of their mouth and devours them’ there is this funny dynamic wit prophetic ministry. There critics wind up getting ‘corrected’ by the words of the prophets! ‘And when they finish their testimony the beast makes war against them and kills them’ the reality is/was that there was a real price to pay for their prophetic ministry. I recently wrote on Martin Luther King, there is a real question on whether or not his ‘ministry’ would have took hold in the minds of the public if he were not killed for the cause. John will write thru out this book on the power of the blood of the saints being spilled! Their prayers are like incense to God! ‘And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of THE GREAT CITY WHICH SPIRITUALY IS CALLED SODOM AND EGYPT, WHERE ALSO OUR LORD WAS CRUCIFIED’ Wow, I wonder how well this would have gone over if John preached this at one of those ‘Christians defending Israel’ conventions! All kidding aside, John refused to exalt natural heritage at the expense of the Cross. It is important to see this language in a book that many American preachers use to exalt natural Israel. They will confuse all the imagery of the Ark and the Temple and stuff like this with natural Israel. They truly don’t see what I just showed you! The imagery in a prophetic book like Revelation is IMAGERY! Don’t accuse people of ‘not literally believing the book’ because they interpret this book the way it was meant to be seen. Even the ‘literalists’ will concede that the ‘sword proceeding out of Jesus mouth’ is the word of God. That the ‘lamb on the throne’ is not a real lamb. The one I like is ‘God puts his mark/name on his servants’ and you never see movies being made about Christians getting computer implants in their heads! [Or hands]. ‘And all the nations SAW their dead bodies and refused to bury them [public humiliation] and were so excited over the fall of the believers that they sent gifts to each other’ cant you just see this mindset in the church today. How the late night comedians mock us. They are overjoyed when the church falls openly. They don’t want to ‘bury the mistakes’. They still use Jimmy Swaggart as an example. Even though many of them have secretly been just as guilty as swaggart! ‘After 3 and a half days the Spirit of God entered into them and THEY STOOD ON THEIR FEET and fear fell on them who dwelt on the earth’. God will recover his testimony in the earth. An interesting thing is happening right now with our American political scene. The New York Times announced how the ‘religious right is dieing in influence’. But they don’t seem to realize that Christ’s testimony is not limited to the ‘religious right’. You see the Tony Campolo’s and the Jim Wallis’s are just as much ‘filled with Christ’s Spirit’ as the Chuck Colson’s. The secret to Jesus kingdom is it starts like leaven. It eventually invades all areas of society. Wont the Times be surprised when they see ‘the Spirit of life enter into them’ from both sides of the aisle! ‘And a great voice said to the 2 witnesses, come up hither’. Funny thing here. This is the exact wording that the rapture guys use in chapter 4 to say ‘Jesus took all the believers off the planet’. Well here God says to 2 prophets ‘come up hither’. According to this reasoning more believers left on this flight! ‘The Kingdoms of the world are become the Kingdom of our God and his Christ’ John is preparing the church for a few centuries of real persecution. He is reassuring them that they will ultimately win! ‘And the nations were angry, and the time of the dead to be judged. And rewards given to the prophets and to those who fear your name’ you have multiple times in Johns Revelation where he sums things up. One of the problems with popular interpretations of this book is they try to teach everything in a ‘Line’. Here John is simply summing up the judgment and nature of all that is to come. Man has been and will continue to be angry at God. The more proof rebellious man sees of the reality of God causes him to hate even more. The church is here to do her best to glorify God and bring people into his Kingdom. But make no mistake about it, the world and her rulers have at times done all they could do to fight against God. John is reminding the early church that the rulers who are setting them on fire and hanging their bodies like lamps along the road have their day coming! ‘And the temple of God was opened in heaven [not a man made Temple! God’s people are ‘the Temple/dwelling place of God’. Heaven is also called ‘the sanctuary’ in Hebrews!] And there was seen in his temple the Ark of his testament [The box with the commandments in them. Not Noah’s Ark- this is for the critics of my theory in entry # 662. Those who say ‘get the boat off the planet’! You will have to read the entry!] and there were lightnings and thunder and earthquakes and hail’. Johns Revelation is a great prophetic encouragement for the church in every generation. When John describes a ruler called ‘the beast’ and the number ‘666’. It is only natural for the early church to have seen this figure as Nero. His nickname was actually ‘the beast’. And one of the numerical spellings of his name and title came to ‘666’. Is it heresy to apply modern interpretations to these figures? No. But it is also ‘immature’ to read a prophetic vision like revelation without a basic understanding of how the church read it for 1900 years! This book has tremendous spiritual significance for all believers. To see it as an exact literal translation of geopolitical events of our time is not being ‘mature in our thinking’.

(670) MORE ON REVELATION- Yesterday I spoke with a believer in New Jersey. They had some questions about a famous radio preacher in the area. He is famous for predicting second coming dates. They have passed and he has missed it. Well what do you know, he has come up with another one! I used to really correct him a lot to this person. He holds to end time stuff that I disagree with. He is also ‘Calvinist’ in his belief, and teaches that all the ‘churches’ are deceived and God is calling true believers out of them! As hard as I have been on the ‘local church’ concept, I couldn’t disagree more with the guy! So in the discussion I told the person, first. John wrote the book of Revelation under present persecution from the Roman government. It is the beginning of a few hundred years of unbelievable persecution. Rome would actually kill believers because they would not say ‘Caesar is Lord’. They were not against ‘the Christian God’, they believed in many gods. They had the Pantheon! But they would not permit this new religion to pledge allegiance ONLY to their God. So John is actually giving images of Rome and her leaders in Revelation. Rome would be THE NUMBER ONE threat to the fledgling church of Jesus. She will ‘kill those who do not worship the beast or bow down to its image’. Now over the last 2 thousand years, if you take a broad look at the scene. You will see the first 3 centuries to be the worst in Roman persecution. You will read John writing that ‘the city on 7 hills’ is the one who is guilty. There are actual historic records referring to Rome as ‘the city on 7 hills’. You can read in history how Nero was nicknamed ‘the beast’ and other images that clearly speak of Rome as the persecutor. Now, which Rome is it? The Rome of Protestantism who saw the Catholic Church as ‘Babylon’? Or the restored Rome of the modern day prophecy preachers? Well all evidence points to the ‘Rome’ spoken of by John as the Rome of his day. There has never been official executions of believers for their confession of Jesus on the scale of the Rome of Johns day. Why look for her in some other day? No need. The point I was trying to make to my friend was don’t be limited in your understanding of scripture. When a preacher starts predicting dates for Jesus return, that is a warning right there! The friend explained how the first ‘date’ he set was explained like ‘something really did happen that day [1994?] but it was hidden’. I told them this is the exact mistake the Millenarian movements made in the last 2 centuries. The ‘Millerites’ were founded by William Miller. A well meaning preacher who was a former game warden who got a hold of dispensational theology. He had a tremendous ‘knack’ for memorizing scripture. He would gather his followers together on more than one occasion to stand on a hillside in white robes and wait for Jesus. When the first date didn’t work, they would come up with a ‘secret’ thing that happened on the day. And then set another date! The Jehovah witnesses and the 7th day Adventists would follow this idea. The point was the setting of dates, and then later saying ‘something really did happen, but it wasn’t what we thought’ is a popular hobby with end time brothers. Now, will Jesus actually return some day? Yes. But we don’t know when. Don’t try to figure out all the details. Don’t re make Rome and the temple and all the hundreds of actual things that have taken place at multiple times over the years. If your scenarios demand a re doing of all these events, then check your facts. The Pharisees could not see how Jesus was already the fulfillment of many prophecies. The thing that blinded them was their intricate interpretations of specific prophecies. They came to hold dogmatic views that were idols in their minds. They tried to make Jesus fit the way they had believed for years. He plainly rebuked them for their narrow ideas ‘you know where the Messiah will come from’ he will shout at one time, responding to their narrow interpretation of prophecy. We need to hear the whole counsel of God. Keep an open mind. I think the Apostle John would be stumped as to how, after all the slayings and killings of believers that took place under the ‘beasts’ of Rome. And how history tells us there was never a time of such religious persecution as this time. That we are still looking for a ‘revived Rome’ to fulfill these things. Why look for her, it is plain to find her in the annals of history!

(687) SERMON NO THE MOUNT- Two things before we leave chapter 6. Jesus repeats ‘take no thought’ while dealing with mammon and the material things of life. We all know he didn’t mean ‘don’t be responsible’. But he did mean ‘take no thought’. He did tell us to watch out and be ware of the snare of money. I must say it plain like this because the contemporary church doesn’t believe this any more. The modern success gospel sees any teachings from Jesus against materialism as ‘that old tradition’. There minds are blinded from the fact that this theme of ‘material success versus spiritual riches’ is seen over and over again. Now, the Gnostics and the Docetists [early century Christian cults] taught a type of materialism that said ‘all material things are evil’. The reformers of the 16th century would later correct this [as well as the catholic brothers thru out the centuries! Augustine in particular] the church would show that the bible and tradition do not hold to this wrong view of material things. Matter itself is not inherently evil. The word ‘flesh’ in our English bibles sometimes gives the wrong idea. ‘I know that in me is no good thing, that is in my flesh’ yet Paul would also say ‘present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to the Lord’. So the ‘flesh’ that has no good thing in it is not saying the natural body [material thing] but the sinful nature [carnal-flesh] is absent from any self righteousness. So as the church would correct the false teaching of material things being evil, she would later fall into the snare of seeking material things! It’s like going from one extreme to another. So here Jesus says ‘take no thought’ don’t be consumed with always thinking and meditating and confessing and going to church with the obsession of ‘bringing in my harvest/changing my world’. This inward focus causes us to lose the character of Jesus in giving ourselves away. In forsaking all to gain a true eternal reward. Have you been ‘taking thought’ about these things all the time? Does ministry to you mean ‘finances, buildings, staff, etc..’? All OK things in their proper order, but if you have become consumed with the resources, where it takes up the majority of your thought life, then you are ‘taking thought’ contrary to Jesus commands!

(434) I woke up today with nothing to say. I actually thought I would take a break. I made the mistake of asking the Lord if he wanted me to speak, and here we go! A few years back I had a Pastor friend who was an ex addict/convict. We ran in the same group of guys. He was ‘solo Jesus’ [Jesus only]. All these brothers are Christian! Let me talk a little about this way of seeing the Trinity. In the gospels Jesus says ‘go and baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost’. If you look at the actual baptisms in scripture [Acts] you will see that every time they mention the ‘name’ as they baptize, that it is ‘in the name of Jesus’. So what you get from this is when Jesus said ‘baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ he was actually saying that there is only one proper name given in the New Testament for any of the Godhead. Father, Son and Spirit are not names, they are titles. So the reason why the Apostles baptized in Jesus name was because of this. Now the ‘Jesus only’ groups got hold of this as well as other truths and are identified as ‘Jesus only’. I believe in the doctrine of the Trinity as stated in the ancient creeds. I am not a ‘Jesus only’. But this shouldn’t prevent us from seeing truth. Basically the Jesus only groups teach that in heaven you will see ‘Jesus only’ on the throne. God is a Spirit, is he a different Spirit than the ‘Holy Spirit’? Jesus is the only person in the Godhead with a Body. Does Jesus have a spirit? Well if God is a Spirit and all the fullness of God is in Jesus bodily, then they teach you will not see God in heaven as a ‘disembodied Sprit’ that you will see Jesus on the throne, and he will be the express image of God. This is surely interesting. Do I totally hold to this? No. But I wouldn’t classify someone as a heretic for this. I believe there is truth that God gives us from many camps. The problem is as the church developed thru the centuries they had debates over the nature of Jesus and the creeds came down on a certain side. I agree with the creeds, but they had a tendency to say ‘take one side, if not you’re a heretic’ so some of the early fathers had no choice to express other views on these things. I mentioned the ‘Local church’ movement that started under watchman Nee. His disciple that carried the torch after Nee died was ‘witness Lee’ this brother has been fighting the old time apologists for years over this issue. Witness Lee sees some of this stuff. He actually was called a heretic by the apologists for saying ‘Jesus is the Father’. The apologists say ‘you are rejecting the historic Trinity’ the apologists argued with him over the verse in Isaiah that says ‘His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God the Everlasting Father’ this verse is no doubt speaking of Jesus. Lee says ‘see, Jesus is the Father here’ I agree! The strong Trinity guys [of which I am one myself] say that in this verse ‘the Father’ is not God the Father, but a reference to Jesus as the Father of a new race. Lee shoots back and says ‘then you believe in 2 Fathers’. I fall on Lee’s side here. The ‘Father’ reference is speaking of God. The fact is Jesus is the revelation of the Father to us. Scripture says ‘all the fullness of God is in Christ’. Jesus told Phillip ‘if you have seen me, you have seen the Father’. I just think we take revelations from God, like the Trinity, and we cant fully comprehend all there is in it. And then we come to limited human understandings that get us into trouble. It is obvious to me that the strong apologists who are fighting Lee in this one verse are wrong. They are trying to make it fit. It’s hard to make God ‘fit’. God has revealed great truths to the church thru the centuries. I don’t advocate ‘undoing’ the creeds. But we have to be open for further insight into things that we don’t fully comprehend. I remember telling some friends this once. I explained that it isn’t real easy to understand all this. I shared how God is a Spirit, and how the Holy Spirit is God. And God is one. Are there 2 different Spirits? As you can see it’s not easy. So for all my Jesus only brothers, they do have truth. For all those like me [classic Trinitarian] we also have truth. But I also am able to see the truth about all the references in the book of Acts on being baptized ‘in the name of Jesus’. They actually did do this! The strong Trinitarians say ‘that’s right, because Jesus is God, so we should say ‘Father, Son and Spirit’. The point is, because Jesus is God, that’s why they all said ‘Jesus’ at the actual baptism! It’s like if I told you ‘go and cash this check [baptize] in the name of my father, my son and my spirit’. And you went down to the bank and put ‘my father, my son and my spirit’ on the check. They would look at you funny. You would understand that I meant the name ‘Chiarello’ not the title’s ‘my Father, Son and Spirit’. I really don’t see why Christians kill each other over this stuff. I am not advocating re baptizing everyone who did it the historic way. I also think it is more scriptural to say ‘Jesus’ when doing it. Frank Barltleman, who I mentioned earlier on this blog, was one of the smartest Christians at the turn of the last century. He documented the Azusa street revivals and wrote the book ‘another wave rolls in’. He actually saw a lot of this and became identified as a ‘Jesus only’ and lost a lot of influence in the church because of it. I think its good to see it like this. ‘Jesus is the only revealed proper name given to any of the Trinity in the New Testament. He is the singular revelation of God to humanity. All that we ‘see’ and know about who God is and how he reacts is seen thru the incarnate God/man Jesus Christ. When he told the disciples ‘go and baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost’ he was once again speaking of himself in the 3rd person [like in John chapter 3, Jesus says ‘God so loved the world that he gave his son’ He didn’t say ‘that he gave me’ he spoke of himself in the 3rd person because it is the work of the Spirit to actually reveal Christ to man. Jesus was letting the Spirit reveal him, he wasn’t doing it thru self proclamation] The reality of the baptisms being done in the book of Acts under the name ‘Jesus’ is a revelation to us that Jesus is the only revealed name of the Father, Son and Spirit given to us in the New Testament, he is the express image of God to man’. So instead of labeling everyone a heretic, we need to see Jesus more fully! P.S. I believe 100 % in the Trinity! NOTE: It’s OK to say ‘Jehovah’ or ‘Yahweh’ or other names of God. But it’s important to see that because Jesus is the revelation of God given to man, that in the New Testament the name ‘Jesus’ is the only proper name given to describe any of the Godhead. This doesn’t mean that there is no Trinity, it just shows us that all of God was in Christ. Not just one third! Also to be a little technical, Jesus said ‘baptize in the NAME’ not NAMES. The Jesus only groups will tell you that Jesus was speaking of a singular name here. The fact that all the baptisms in Acts that give you the reference to the name being used, it’s always the name ‘Jesus’ it never shows an example of them saying ‘in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit’ when they are baptizing someone. The churches that do use this formula will say ‘well, we know they must have said it, because Jesus told us to say it’ he really didn’t tell us to say it, he did tell us to use the NAME of the Father, Son and Spirit, so the fact that they said ‘Jesus’ when they baptized shows us that he told them to use his name, he obviously was referring to himself in the 3rd person. There really isn’t a better explanation for this. It just seems to me that this is a truth that you can’t get around.

(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.

(436) Let’s go back to the ‘Jesus only’ stuff. The Jesus only brothers will take the verses that say ‘Jesus is God’ and combine them with the verse that says ‘Jesus name is the Everlasting father’ and come to the conclusion that ‘Jesus is God’ well he is! They will then say ‘when you go to heaven, you will see ‘Jesus only’ because God the Father is a Spirit, and this Sprit lives in Jesus’! Now on the other end of the spectrum you have whole groups of Christians that say ‘Jesus is the Son of God [true] but not God [untrue]’. Even in the first 3 centuries of the church this became a debate. Some priests and Bishops said ‘Jesus is Gods Son, but God is the only God. God is 1, not many [3]’ These brothers will show you how Paul addresses the Christians in his letters and says ‘God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ but Paul never says ‘Jesus, the God of the Father’. So they simply say ‘Jesus is Gods Son, but the Father is God’. Now there is truth to some of these things, but not all. Then in the 4th century under the Emperor Constantine, he calls a worldwide Council of Bishops and they come to the conclusion of the historic Trinity and the Divine nature of Jesus. Those who disagree will show you that Constantine did this for political reasons [calling the council] and therefore will see the ‘Trinitarian formula’ as a false doctrine from ‘Rome’. There are whole groups of Baptists that also believe this! I had a friend of mine who joined the Air force, he attended the Fundamental Baptist Church I went to. He got stationed somewhere and found some ‘Independent Baptist churches’. They were just like the one we attended, except that they all taught that the Trinity was a false doctrine that was invented by the Catholic Church, and that all the other Baptists that believed it were in apostasy! Now these brothers will point to all the scriptures that say ‘God is one’ and tell you the language for the Trinity ‘God in 3 Persons’ is unscriptural. The Jesus only brothers will do this too! So as you can see it’s not easy to explain this stuff. The New Testament tells us ‘God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen on by men, received up into glory’ Jesus is God. We know this. But it is easy to see how when you look at certain ‘angles’ of truth, that it’s also easy to fall into categories where you make the other side a heretic. Let me say also, the reason why we form our view of God thru Christ is because God chose to reveal himself to us in this way. I do believe the ‘God of the Old Testament’ is God. The reason he is seen as wrathful and ‘transcendent’ is because this is how God is, apart from the Cross. In the Old Testament you see God dealing with man based on mans attempt at making himself righteous. Man couldn’t come close, so you ‘see’ God as wrathful and far away. In the New Testament you see God relating to man on the basis of the Cross. God’s wrath and anger are appeased and he is seen as someone who is not ‘far away’ anymore. Some historical Christians actually taught that the God of the Old Testament was a different God. One guy even came out with the first ‘cannon’ of scripture. It basically left out the Old Testament and contained only Paul’s letters, I think his name was ‘Marcion’ if I am remembering right? There are not 2 different Gods, the God of Israel is the same God as ‘the God’ of the Christians, it’s just you cant ‘have him’ without having his Son! Jesus did teach this. Now what about ‘Allah’, isn’t he also the same God with a different name. No he is not! This is why when we try to strive for unity and pluralism in society [all Muslims should have the right to worship as they please!] we also should be able to discern between Christian and Muslim belief. Allah is the ‘god’ of Islam, this is not the same God of Israel or Christians. NOTE: I have a friend of mine who is a Christian, but not real active in ‘churchy’ type things [sort of like Nacho Libre/Jack Black ‘a real religious man I am’!] and he says to me ‘What about those Mormons [we had a mutual friend who was Mormon] they believe in some God called ‘Yahweh’. I told him ‘this is not only the Mormon God, but ours too!’ Yahweh is the Name of God in scripture! Thought this was funny.

(481) Let me talk a little on ‘revival’ and ‘revivalism’. In the above meeting there was a real desire to ‘encourage’ the people to get aggressive. A sort of ‘up beat’ tempo that was trying to stir the people up. There is nothing really wrong about getting ‘hyped’ for the big game. There just needs to be an understanding that the locker room hype is only for a short time. The majority of the game is played and won by the consistent diligence of the players. Revivalism describes the rise in the 18th/19th century of strong ‘movement’ ‘revival’ type ministers. This country experienced great revivals during this time. Jonathan Edwards as well as Charles Finney and George Whitefield are well known ‘fire starters’ of these great awakenings. Today you have ‘old time’ preachers who still look for the ‘revival’ as the goal. Then on the others side you have the more refined preachers/theologians [who also can be seen as ‘old school’] who tend to lean more towards the classic strain of Christianity as seen in the creeds of the church. This is why when the ‘more refined’ brothers hear statements like ‘leave behind your doctrine and creeds’ they cringe at that. The strong revivalists are focusing on a repeat [or greater] of the great awakenings. The orthodox brothers keep plodding along at a slower pace, but do seem to have some truth about the turtle finally passing up the rabbit. The strong ‘hype’ type Christianity can really burn you out. Christians cant live on the hype plane of meeting to meeting and getting this adrenaline rush all the time. God does have a few occasional ‘mountain top’ experiences for you. There are set times of drastic change and mountain moving faith. But if you find yourself needing to live daily on a miracle, then something is wrong. What would you think if your kids depended on you like that. ‘Daddy, Daddy, oh please feed me today. I don’t know if I can live another day without you feeding me’ You would say ‘what’s wrong Johnny, you know I have fed you ever since you were a baby. You are now 55 years old, I was hoping you were going to get past this!’ [sorry, I couldn’t help it]. So in reality it is good to expect God to move miraculously on our behalf, and he does! But eventually we need to see that ‘revival’ is not a state of being where Christians live in this ‘high’ atmosphere continually. Pentecost was a good thing, a great thing! But the church eventually settled down and continued STEADFASTLY in the Apostles doctrine. They didn’t ‘put doctrine behind them’ after revival, they allowed the revival to charge them up for the next level of Christian growth.

(712) GENESIS 26- There is a famine in the land and the Lord warns Isaac not to go down into Egypt. Isaac stays and dwells in Gerar and the surrounding area. He pulls the ‘this is my sister, not my wife’ thing. The king finds out she is Isaacs wife and rebukes him for lying. Isaac is really blessed in the land. Scripture says ‘he sowed and reaped a 100 fold’. Now, let’s do a little stuff. The modern church went thru a whole phase where believers were confessing and believing and doing everything [but working!] in order to get ‘the 100 fold return’. We have previously showed you how when Jesus spoke of ‘the 100 fold return’ in the parable of the sower, he in no way was speaking of money! [Read the chapter ‘twisting the parable of the sower’ the book is ‘HOUSE OF PRAYER OR DEN OF THIEVES’ on this site]. But because the Old Testament is the ‘shadow’ of things to come, and not the true riches. That’s why in this story it is speaking of natural stuff. Now the church went thru this stage of believers doing all they could to ‘reap the financial harvest’. We taught believers to think on money, confess it. Basically consume your thoughts with ‘money thoughts’ [all in violation of Jesus teaching on ‘the gentiles are always thinking about this stuff, let it not be like this with you’!] So we had a whole group of young believers violating the mandate in scripture to work and be diligent. And they often times were doing it by believing a distorted doctrine on the 100 fold return. Well Isaac reaped because HE SOWED. He planted that darn farmland! [To be nice about it]. So today we should teach the believer the responsibility of working and living diligently and being responsible. And we need to teach that the way you reap the 100 fold return is by actually planting that field! Isaac also will re open the wells that his father had dug. They were stopped up out of jealousy by the philistines. Sometimes people ‘who are not doing the work themselves’ [sowing] have a lot of free time. What do they do with this free time? Figuring out ways to stop up other peoples wells! Paul called them busy bodies in the New Testament. These brothers just make more work for those who are in the harvest field! Isaac opens up the wells and honors his fathers heritage. The church goes thru these stages every so often. A re opening of the church fathers. Studying Patristics again [1st 7 centuries of church history]. I think it’s a good thing to honor our spiritual heritage. These wells go deep and have been feeding people for centuries!

(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.

(108) Let me also say that the current popular ‘end times’ teaching that you see and hear in much of American Evangelicalism sprouted thru the fundamentalist reaction to higher criticism. In the 1800’s there were certain Christian groups in England [the Brethren and others] that took hold of ‘Dispensationalism’. The ‘Rapture’ doctrine and other scenarios of bible interpretation sprung up out of these movements. When the American fundamentalists used the ‘Bible Conference’ as a tool to counteract the higher criticism being taught in the universities, Dispensationalism sort of tagged along. It became common to think ‘defending the historic faith’ meant defending ‘Dispensational theology’. This was a major mistake. The ‘Historic faith’ did not teach certain elements of dispensationalism [Rapture]. So today you find many American Christians who are all too willing to embrace certain end time scenarios [Tim Lahye stuff!] thinking there ‘defending the bible’ not realizing that some of the things there defending are not in the bible! [At least not in the way that they see it]. When you fail to read scripture thru an historical paradigm you fall into the danger of trying to fit current geopolitical events into certain Old Testament prophets, and this is dangerous. You would never want to do world politics with a view of Israel and other nations [Russia- Gog and Magog] as a type of ‘newspaper prophecy’ that speaks to every current world scenario. One of the fears of certain believers is the fact that President Bush [current President as of this writing] holds to a view like this. I remember certain ‘end time preachers’ disclosing the fact that the Bush administration contacted them early on about certain end time things. I am real uncomfortable about this. Many of these end time preachers do not realize that many of these scenarios concerning Israel and other nations have played out time and again over the last few thousand years. To take these Old Testament prophets and think that they are all speaking about current affairs is misguided!

(173) In the early church of the first couple of centuries there was a group of ‘Christians’ who were called Gnostics. These people believed in ‘special knowledge’. They felt that God revealed things to them thru spiritual means that the average Christians didn’t access. Today you have the equivalent of this in ‘revelation knowledge’. This is a type of belief among Christians that sometimes contradicts scripture, but slips in as ‘special revelation’. While it is true that God does give us prophetic insight and allows us to see things thru dreams and visions and other means, yet all of these ‘things’ are subservient to biblical authority! When things slip in under the title of ‘revelation knowledge’ we must judge it by scripture. If scripture contradicts the ‘revelation knowledge’ then we go with the Word!

(219) Let me give a small example of Gods truth versus an exasperated clergy. One small area of truth that we deal with is the second coming. We teach the historical majority view. There is only ONE second coming spoken about in the New Testament. The scriptures commonly used to teach the ‘rapture’ as a different event are really talking about the 2nd coming. Now this one area [not to mention all the other stuff!] is enough to make us permanent enemies to some renown preachers in this area. Some churches call us heretics for this alone! I know this and really don’t care to be honest. It’s funny, because all the railing that they would do against us in this one area is wasted time. God’s truth is Gods truth. No matter how much time is wasted defending a so-called ‘fundamental’ of the faith, it’s wasted time for the defenders if they are defending something that is basically wrong. It’s hard for preachers to admit their wrong in any area. I know this is true with me too. I just find it funny that those who go to great lengths to defend a thing will eventually find out the truth. No big deal, just make sure your spending your time and energy on stuff that will make a real difference. Don’t waste it on stuff that’s fake!

(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!

(83) 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]

(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

(280) Scripture actually speaks of ‘speaking out on behalf of the poor and oppressed’. There is a fundamental principle of speaking up for social justice issues and defending the innocent. This is why it was a prophetic ministry when Martin Luther King led the civil rights movement. There were many ‘southern denominations’ that did not grasp this reality. The church doesn’t just exist to ‘get people saved’ she exists also as a voice for justice in the earth. Today one of the ‘unseen’ forms of institutional racism is economic oppression. For various reasons you have entire groups of people that have been ‘left behind’ as society around them progressed. This is also why you have certain black preachers who honestly preach the prosperity message, thinking they are ‘speaking’ economic justice into the black community. They mean well, but preaching materialism isn’t the answer, preaching biblical responsibility and racial equality is. Today you have some black leaders, like Bill Cosby, who are taking a real stand by coming against the ‘victim mentality’ that certain leaders embrace. Cosby says it’s time to teach responsibility and ethics to the young generation of black kids coming up. I do agree. I believe it fundamentally hurts racial reconciliation to teach affirmative action. To simply look at 2 black kids, and one white. And to flat out say ‘these 2 get 5 points on their application for their gene pool, and you, the white kid do not get the points because you are white’ is racist at it’s core. I do understand the tortured reasoning that leads people to do this. They feel this is the answer to undoing the years of institutional racism that has locked the door to many blacks in the past. Some feel that the opportunities were closed for so long, that to be neutral now still doesn’t open the door. The main problem is to give anyone ‘extra points based on genes’ is racist. Even if you think it is for a good cause. Racism is racism no matter what. Doing ‘reverse racism’ leads to the growth of white supremacists and others. They see the obvious racism of what I just told you. They see the politicians unwilling to admit it, and this leads to an extreme response. You have ‘the black congressional caucus’ in congress. You would never get away with a white one. All representatives should represent all people. If a white guy said I am elected to look out for the rights of white people, this would be wrong. In the fire service you have the ‘Hispanic firefighters union’ of course you couldn’t have a white one. These things are unequal. Some believe we should be ‘unequal’ in order to even the playing field, but this simply discriminates against one race for the benefit of another, which my friend is what I call ‘racism’. NOTE: I also am aware of the black leaders who teach it is impossible for a black person to be racist because he doesn’t have the institutional superiority to affect it. All you have to do is listen to a Farrakhan or many of the past comments of Al Sharpton to see that racism isn’t a sin evident only in the white community.

(308) I just remembered something that I wanted to share. I heard a brother speaking on Revelation. One of the rebukes to the 7 churches is they held to the ‘doctrine of the Nicolatians’. There have been different ideas about who they were. Most commentators agree that it speaks of ‘those who would rise above the saints’ or the rise of both early ecclesiastical offices [Bishop, Priests, etc] as well as later protestant titles [Pastor]. Some feel that the unscriptural foundation for the way these offices function are what this ‘doctrine of the Nicolatians’ is about. You can interpret many of the passages that deal with authority in either ‘family’ terms or ‘authoritarian’ terms. A famous, well respected evangelical scholar [reformed] actually did a whole book on the King James translation and how they chose to interpret many of the words in authoritarian language as opposed to family language. OBEY THOSE WHO HAVE THE RULE OVER YOU and other scriptures that could have said FOLLOW THE GUIDANCE OF SPIRITUAL ELDERS IN YOUR MIDST. Some feel the reason the most popular version today [King James] opted for this way of translating was for political necessity. The Church of England chose to use this terminology to reinforce the mindset of ‘submission to authority’ that is the authority of England and it’s ‘church’ as they were blatantly moving out from under the ‘authority’ of Rome. Sort of ‘you can have your cake and eat it too’ type deal. The historical background to the political motivation of this is no secret. I usually don’t approach it from this angle because it challenges the strong ‘King James only’ crowd a little too much. I believe exposing the simple fact of the New Testament not showing the modern role of ‘Pastor’ as we practice it today is enough to cause us to ‘re think’ the ‘ruling’ offices in the church. I do believe the Lord has Elders/leaders that function in the Body of Christ, but I also see truth to the fact that many modern offices have been ‘developed’ outside of the original intent of the Spirit of God.

(319) The enemy uses systems and structures of speech and thought that are closely related to godly avenues in order to sidetrack people. When the serpent came to Eve in the garden, he is using speech [confession] scripture [the words God spoke, though distorted] and the form of communication that God initially established for his purpose [by the way, those involved in Christian TV networks, many of you do broadcast very good stuff. I was just watching God TV last night and enjoyed a Rick Joyner meeting, also I like the I.H.O.P. meetings with Mike Bickle and many other good prophetic ministries. It is the enemies strategy to ‘mix’ the good stuff with the ‘bad’ wheat/tares strategy] The fact that the enemy uses the means of communication that God initiates should cause us to be more selective in discerning that which is holy [good] from that which is not! Pastor[s] can feel like I am ‘threatening’ their livelihood. I understand this. This is a direct result of the modern day phenomena of the ‘full time minister’. Paul and the other New Testament leaders were not trying to ‘defend their jobs’ they were laying their lives down for truth. Sometimes literally! True reform is difficult. People are happy and comfortable with a steady income stream. Regular supporters who are really blessed by other ministries who might broadcast thru the station. All the natural feelings of being threatened and losing that sense of security are involved with reform. Many Catholic Priests were shaken during the reformation. It was a time in history where God said ‘I am going to change some things permanently in the history of the Church’. I am not saying everything the reformers did was right. But the time had come for a shift to happen. Shifts are very uncomfortable. They cause you to re evaluate all that you have known and held onto in the past. Shifts are necessary. No chastening at the present time seems to be joyous, but grievous. Nevertheless afterward it produces right things as well as peace. To some it brings destruction. That’s not the purpose of chastening, but some are steeped in rebellion to the point where they have staked their lives on it. NOTE: Let me try to help some of you who are sincerely worried. The reality of God being our provider. The truth behind all the scriptures of God wanting to prosper us and God being a good God and all of these things are true. They were true for Paul who said ‘Preachers will rise in the last days, preaching that gain is godliness. From such turn away’ they were true for Jesus who said ‘be ware of covetousness, a mans life doesn’t consist in the amount of things he owns’. These scriptures of God being our provider teach us that God is good and will most definitely meet our needs. This is a far cry from the other stuff I am trying to ‘root out’. God being our provider is one thing. Making the entire gospel and kingdom about money is something forbidden in scripture! Discern this guys. Especially you Pastors and Leaders, you cannot keep getting away with letting this slip thru to your people. Ideas and wrong teachings have long lasting results. Don’t let your people go down this road! Teach them about the goodness of God, but don’t let them get ruined by this stuff! NOTE: The serpent actually accomplished his goal thru the speaking of Gods word in a distorted version. He ‘marred’ the image of God that was in man. Man continued to exist, but his ‘image’ was not the complete original intent of the Father. This is what I showed you earlier about idolatry. Many in this movement ‘believe’ in Jesus, but the true image of Christ is ‘marred’ by the distorted view of scripture!

(385) A few things from Isaiah ‘I have seen your ways and will heal you, I will restore comforts unto you and to your mourners’ I spoke on the Cross a few entries back. One of the hard things was Jesus would say to the disciples ‘you must also take up the cross and follow me’. A central area of identifying with Christ was going thru the Cross. This is a difficult thing. There are times in life where all seems to be going well. You have your life organized and happy. The ‘dose’ of Christianity that you have embraced is just strong enough to insure that all your needs will be met. You have the verses down and all. Then there comes some ‘strange’ preacher you never heard of before. He seems to be a little different. He is speaking the same language and all, it’s just different ‘Jesus spoke with authority, not like the scribes’. The average people could really identify with him. He rubbed the ‘elite’ class the wrong way. One of the main parts of his teaching was those who were ‘well off’ now, would pay later. Yet the ‘poor’ would inherit the earth. This didn’t sit well with the ‘well to do’. The religious leaders were getting tired of him. Every time he opened his mouth it seemed like he was teaching stuff that was right on, and it often reproved the systems of belief that the average preacher was ‘hawking’ at the time. Then the day comes where his zealous followers are going to prove to everybody that Jesus is the Messiah, they have been waiting for a few years to be vindicated. Peter was this ‘zealot’ type reformer who was tired of the oppression of Rome. Being treated as some type of ‘illegal alien’. ‘You wait and see Rome, our Messiah has finally arrived. It was even prophesied that he would deliver the Jews from Rome’s oppression. Our day is here’. Then a funny thing happened. The road to Jerusalem is nearing, our vindication day. All the prophets spoke of the triumphal entry of the Jewish King to take David’s throne. This obviously will be fulfilled in Jerusalem, the city of the great King [David]. Well as the day approached, Jesus started talking about death and leaving us. We couldn’t grasp what he was saying. We gave everything to him; we looked like fools following him against the opinions of the preachers of our day. Jesus doesn’t seem to understand we can’t have him dieing now. It will ruin our ‘day of getting even’ with all those who spoke against us. If he dies now we will feel like we have allowed the enemies to win. We want to win! Then they remember the teachings of Jesus. He told them the Cross was not just something he would experience. He told them a day was coming where they too would identify with him in this process. A day of humiliation and defeat. Those who would experience it would be different on the other side. Peter swallows hard and readies himself. “Though all the others forsake you, I wont’’ He even cuts off the ear of one of the company who come to take Jesus. A very brave thing to do, knowing your out numbered and all. I guess he really wanted to show that he was willing to die this day. But this wasn’t his day to die. Then the hour comes. Jesus begged the Father if there was another way please help me find it. He determines to allow the Cross to take full course. He sees Peter cursing and denying him. Peter tastes it too. They drive the nails thru his hands and prop him up over this hillside. It looks like something out of Hollywood ‘the place of the skull’. Something strange happens. The sky turns dark. It’s eerie, the people were just making fun of him and now they are terrified. One of the others being crucified that day decides to ask Jesus if he could be with him in Paradise. Jesus has so much on his plate right now. The ‘weight of the world’ and yet has time to pray for him. ‘Today you will be with me in Paradise’ still putting others first. As the sky darkens the earth shakes. Later we find out that the tombs of believers broke open from this event and after the resurrection many saints rose from the dead and were seen witnessing in the area! A Roman guard is seeing all this, he sees this strange religious leader cry out to his God ‘O my God why did it come to this. You have forsaken me. Into your hands I commit my spirit’ the soldier simply says ‘truly this man was the Son of God’. He is taken down and put in a tomb. Others will come who will teach that Jesus was part of the ‘aristocracy’ that he was from the ‘rich class’. They put him in a ‘rich mans tomb’ but it had to be donated! His followers are distraught. Especially Peter. Peter was thinking ‘what have I done, I cant believe the weakness of my flesh. All that I worked for in this revolution is now lost. I will be remembered as the one who failed. My image is forever stained’. Jesus appears to the women who were his followers after the resurrection. A strange thing for sure. If someone were writing this story and it was all made up, you wouldn’t have Jesus going first to the women. It would take away from the ‘believability’ of the story. 1st century Rome was a bit ‘patriarchal’ you know. The women are amazed. Jesus did it. ‘Go tell the disciples I am alive. Especially Peter. I know he gave it all he could to not deny me. But it had to happen. It was part of his Cross’. They go and tell the others. The disciples will go on and found the greatest religious movement known to man. Peter will gain his boldness back. History even tells us that when they crucified him he asked to be killed upside down, because he wasn’t worthy to die like his King. They finished well. God restored comforts unto Jesus and to his mourners. But first the Cross. NOTE: The martyrdom of Peter. Jesus tells Peter one time ‘where I am going [the Cross] you cannot follow me at this time. Later you will follow me, but your time has not come yet’. Jesus knew it was necessary for Peter’s denial to still take place. Peter had an ‘appointment’ with failure. Peters desire was to be a martyr for the cause. He was a ‘zealot’ a political activist of his day who would have been willing to die for freedom. He tried to show this at the point when they came to take Jesus. The act of cutting off the ear of a Roman soldier is something that you get executed for. The 1st century means of execution was the Cross. Peter actually took a step towards martyrdom with this act. Jesus interrupted the process by miraculously putting the guys ear back on! Its like Peter wanted death, but Jesus already told him it wasn’t yet time. You find Peter after Pentecost preaching to the Jews in such a way that it seemed like he was back to the ‘martyrdom complex’. He says things that could very well get him killed. It’s like he can’t wait to pass thru the ‘tunnel’. When the day finally comes he does get crucified upside down. He never really overcame the guilt of his initial denial. He still felt unworthy over what he did. The early church had a ‘movement’ where Christians were wanting to get martyred. They read verses like the one in Hebrews 11 that says ‘those who are martyred receive a better resurrection’ so this group of ‘Christian zealots’ were actually doing things to get executed for the faith. The early church fathers/Bishops had to put a stop to it. These guys were like Peter after the resurrection! There was a real sense of ‘I want to get killed for the faith’ that some of these brothers had. What a contrast to today’s gospel. We appeal to people by telling them your gonna get rich if you follow Christ. Things will be great. We seem to appeal to the flesh of people. The early followers knew if they embraced the faith that there was a chance that you might get killed.

(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.

About ccoutreach87

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

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