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Cults

[ STUDY] CULTS

(1412) IN DEFENSE OF JEREMIAH WRIGHT- Last night an interesting thing happened; as I was channel surfing the news shows I saw that Larry King had on a few ‘ex’ conservatives who are now under fire for their left wing leanings. These are traditional white guys basking in their new found social justice beliefs. I could only watch for a minute or so, it just came off as inauthentic. Then as I scrolled thru Fox, MSNBC, and a few of the CSPAN channels I came across a Tavis Smiley forum that was being held in Chicago. I was fixated for 2 hours [or more!] The panel included many of the famous Black progressives- Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, Michael Eric Dyson, just to name a few [Rev. Wright was not there by the way] and in the center of the roundtable discussion there was a simple sign that said ‘love’. The amazing thing was though these men were espousing many of the same ideas as the white liberals on the Larry King show, yet I was not offended in the least. I listened intently to Farrakhan freely quoting scripture along with the Quran, he actually only quoted from the Quran one time, and he quoted the bible more than all the others. But the bible was also quoted freely thru out the discussion; many of the questioners from the audience also were pastors and Christians. Now, I have written on the Nation of Islam before [under the cults section] and I do not accept that religion as even a legitimate expression of Islam, so don’t take me wrong on this. It was the simple reality that these Black leaders would freely see their cause for racial justice tied in with scripture. Some did express the belief that the older Black church did hinder the Black people because of their ‘wait on the Lord’ attitude; but all in all they were up front and willing to speak what they felt was the truth in an open way. Tavis Smiley also brought out the fact that many Black leaders felt like doing a public forum discussing the short comings of the president would be wrong; many on the panel challenged the presidents ‘bi-racial’ stance in political matters. Many in the Black community feel like the president has let them down because he does not hold to the more radical ideas of Black justice. Overall it was an excellent discussion that I was glued to, and to repeat, there was absolutely no feeling of offense or animosity with any of the speakers. I found it odd that I couldn’t stomach a few minutes of the white guys on Larry King, but was enthralled for 2 hours with this forum. When Reverend Wright came under fire during the Obama campaign, he obviously was demonized by the media and the repeated showing of his statements that were wrong and offensive to many people [including Blacks]. Yet Wright comes from a Black liberation theological background, it’s in his DNA to challenge the current system of government and to see strains of the gospel in communistic type systems; he isn’t the first to embrace these beliefs. Many Catholic theologians in Latin American countries hold to the same ideas; the Catholic Church officially rejects this idea. One of the tragedies of the Black people is the fact that so many young Black kids make bad choices that land them in prison, many of these young men become effected with the Black Muslim leanings in the prison system; they are sold a bill of goods that simply is not true; if we really believe as Christians that Jesus is the only way, then how can we sit idly by and not be concerned over the Black exodus into Islam? Though I disagree with many of Rev. Wright’s ideas and beliefs, yet if I had the choice between sending my Black brother to the Nation of Islam or to Rev Wright’s church, I would choose Wright 7 days out of the week.

(1390) THE EXCLUSIVITY OF JESUS CHRIST- John chapter 8 begins with the woman caught in adultery, Jesus refuses to judge her but also tells her to go and sin no more. Then we launch into a conversation between Jesus and the religious leaders. Basically they claim belief in God and tell Jesus that he is their father. Jesus replies that if they do not believe that he is the Messiah, then in reality they do not have God as their father- he flat out tells them that satan is the father of those who claim belief in God while not accepting and honoring the Son. This chapter is important for the pluralistic society we live in today. How should believers approach other faiths that claim belief in God, but do not accept Jesus as the Messiah? First, we should respect the various beliefs/religions of others people groups. Now when I say ‘respect’ I mean we should give people room to form their own beliefs while at the same time challenging them with the truth claims of Christianity. We should not leave the impression ‘well, we all believe in the same God, so what’s the difference whether or not you believe in Christ’ well frankly the difference is between heaven or hell! The point being Jesus is ‘exclusive’ in the sense that you can’t really have God as your father without having Jesus as your savior. He can’t just be ‘one of the prophets in a long line of prophets’ no, he alone is the God man! God became flesh and dwelt among us thru the Son, Jesus said if you don’t hear his words, believe that he is the one sent from the father, then you don’t have God as your father. Jesus is ‘inclusive’ in the sense that he even accepted the woman taken in adultery, something the so called ‘God believers’ would not do. The religious acceptance of belief in God, absent the reality of Jesus, treats women and others with disdain [wearing veils, etc.] those who ‘have God’ and the Son, are truly the liberators of society. The world might accuse the church of being arrogant and believing in exceptionalism, but in the end we have the only answer to the human sin problem, that which G.K. Chesterton called the only Christian doctrine that has 100% empirical evidence of being true! Truly Jesus is the answer to fallen man, let’s not be ashamed of that fact.

(1388) 1, 2 MANY BISHOPS? In John chapter 6 Jesus is confronting the religious leaders, they are always appealing to some ancient hero of the faith [Moses, Abraham] and they are doing it in a way that violates the supremacy of Jesus. Jesus tells them ‘look, you guys are always appealing to the writings of Moses, if you really believed in the guy you would have also believed in me- he wrote about me!’ In ‘blog world’ there has been a scuffle over an overseas church that many have labeled as a cult. On the site ‘religion news blog’ they have been doing an expose’. The church is led by a man who calls himself a Bishop and one of his satellite churches had a Pastor walk out and split the church. The coverage of the ministry that I have read seems to place them in the prosperity/apostolic covering type movement. I have written on this before and have always felt that there were too many independent churches-ministries claiming ‘apostolic authority’ and these well intentioned people have crossed the line when it comes to the freedom of the individual believer’s conscience. Many are famous for rebuking ‘the maverick spirit’ while at the same time they seem to be totally mavericks themselves! In the above case I think the religious site went too far in calling them a cult. I have read from this site in the past and they are run by fine Catholic Christians, but they are too quick to holler ‘cult’. I personally do not recommend these types of church movements, but avoid the cult label. I also read an article a while back written by a leader in one of the more historic churches, they were rebuking the rapid spread of these types of churches thru out the world. The leader said they were sprouting up like wild fire, all with their self proclaimed bishops, who were basically starting their own independent churches and everyone in the organization is ordaining everyone else as a bishop, the leader saw this as a major problem. What exactly does the bible teach about this? The words for ‘bishop, overseer and elder’ in the bible seem to speak of the same office. Though different Greek words are used, most scholars agree that they seem to be used interchangeably. One thing we know for sure is in the New Testament there were no Bishops in the sense of an ecclesiastical authority over a number of churches. This developed over time and my purpose here is not to get into the whys and how’s this happened, I am not ‘anti clergy’ in that I reject the modern role today [in the historic churches]. Does the bible have any office that does show an extra local authority? Yes, the apostle Paul had a very effective oversight ministry to most of the churches we read about in the New Testament. So the idea of a church planting ministry to have a number of ‘satellite churches’ is okay. The Catholic Church has Bishops in the Cathedral cities who oversee the entire region. I live In Corpus Christi; the cathedral for this south Texas region for the Catholics is located in my city. San Antonio has another region. While living in New Jersey, Saint Patrick’s was the Cathedral in N.Y. that covered the region. So you have different views and out workings of how bishops work. The thing I would warn about is when these bishops [the independent ones] seem to teach a strong type of ‘covering’ authority over people. Many of these movements [sometimes referred to as the shepherding, discipleship movement] teach a controlling type spirit that has the main apostle as the person that the community submits to, but it is done in a way that violates the freedom that we see in the New Testament. The religious folk of Jesus day were enamored with Moses, to the point where they were never fully able to move on to Jesus as being the true authority figure that they would submit to, I think we could all learn from their mistake.

(1387) FOR THE FATHER HAS LIFE IN HIMSELF, AND HAS GIVEN TO THE SON TO HAVE LIFE IN HIMSELF; AND HAS GIVEN HIM AUTHORITIY TO EXECUTE JUDGMENT ALSO- In John chapter 5 one of the statements that irks the religious leaders is Jesus calling God his father- thus making himself equal with God. Those who doubt the deity of Christ should look at the way the religious leaders viewed him, they knew that he claimed equality with God. In some of the recent musings on the liberal ideas of ‘the evolution of God’ [those who see the church evolving in her view of God as time goes by] I want to say a few things. First, the incarnation is Gods way of saying ‘yes, your view of me was limited, the very fact that the incarnation is the full revealing of myself to man, shows that man never had the complete [full] view of me yet’. So in a sense, yes, our view of God ‘evolved’ [so to speak] from the wrathful God of the Old Testament to the merciful God of the New Testament. Now, are these contrary views of God? No. Are they views like some in the early days of the church taught- that the God of the Old Testament was a different God than the God of the New [Marcion and other Gnostic cults]? No. But our view of God from the Old Testament is a view of Gods holiness and judgment apart from the grace of the New Covenant. He is the same God, seen absent the Cross [for the most part, yet we do see Gods attribute of mercy even in the Old Testament]. Now, without getting off track too much, in the New Testament we are told that Jesus is the complete picture of God to us; Colossians says that ALL the fullness of the God head dwelt in Jesus bodily. We never had this fleshly reality of God before- the apostle John will say ‘we handled the word of life’ [1st Jn]. A few weeks back while watching an apologetic show I mentioned how some of the staunch apologists were labeling the UPC [united Pentecostal churches] as a cult because of their unique view of the oneness of God. The apologists at one point quoted the verse ‘all things were made by him’ referring to Jesus, and said ‘therefore Jesus is God’ true. But they were trying to combat the UPC brothers by using this verse, the apologists were using it in a way that said ‘see, Jesus created everything too, just like it says about God’ sort of in a disconnected way. In John 1 we read that in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. In Genesis we read that God ‘spoke’ all things into existence. Jesus in the New Testament is called ‘the word of God’ to try and simplify it, when Colossians says ‘all things were made by him’ it does not mean that Jesus created things separately from God, it means God spoke and that ‘the vehicle’ of creation was the Son. The act of God’s word [also called Jesus] going forth created all things. God did not create separately from the Son, or the Son from the father. I really loathe teaching this stuff because church history is filled with names that get tagged on all the various views of explaining the oneness of God while at the same time upholding the reality of the Trinity. The main point today is mans view of God did ‘evolve’ in a sense, it became fully revealed in Jesus. Now the liberal view of the evolution of God is something different than this, but I wanted to make clear that if the only view of God is seen thru the Old Testament, than yes we are not ‘fully’ seeing God, the full view comes thru Jesus. We reject the Marcion idea of 2 different Gods, the Gnostic belief that the God of the Old Testament was the God of matter and thus an evil God, while the God of the new testament is the spirit God- this is true heresy, but as Christians we accept the incarnation as the complete picture and revelation of God to man. This in no way negates the wrath of God [eternal judgment] but it tempers it with mercy.

(1377) Last night I caught a good program on Christian apologetics. Apologetics is the term used to describe the ministry of those who contend for ‘the faith’. In the early church you had men like Justin Martyr who defended the nascent church from those who would accuse her of wicked things [like cannibalism! A misreading of the Lords supper]. The show last night had a bunch of apologists that dealt with cults; they included the main ones as well as some Christian branches of Pentecostalism. They critiqued the UPC [untied Pentecostal churches] as a cult because of her unique view of the ‘oneness’ of God as seen thru Jesus. Now, I have written on this before [under the Trinity section] and don’t want to explain it again, but I do want to examine the way believers view other churches. During the program the able apologists used lots of wording from the early creeds and councils; Subordinationism, Monarchianism, Modalism, etc. These are all words I am familiar with and have used on this site, as a believer who loves to study church history I understand where these men are coming from. But at one point it seemed as if they were critiquing certain aspects of other churches, sincere believers who have certain views that they have developed thru their reading of the bible, and that these apologists were really not giving a fair shake to these other groups. You also had both the cults and some of the more extreme restorationist groups [restorationism refers to those Christian groups who reject the Protestant Reformation as being ‘the offspring’ of the Catholic church and view their faith thru the idea that we should return to the original sources, primarily the book of Acts, and start from scratch] share the view that the historic Orthodox churches [Catholic, Orthodox, Reformed] were basically pagan expressions of Christianity and their creeds and councils usurped the word of God. I believe there are real expressions of Christianity found in all of the above [excluding the actual cults] and that the Christian church should know the historic creeds and councils, but also be willing to see how these other Christian groups have come to form their opinions thru actual scripture. I mean at one point there were so many categories being quoted by the apologists to refute the Pentecostal view, that they weren’t really allowing the scriptures to be the final authority on the matter [I agreed more with the apologists, being I am one myself, but at the same time sensed too mush rigidness]. I also believe it’s dangerous for any Christian group to leave the impression that most other historic expressions of Christianity are out right pagan. Overall we all need grace when dealing with others that we disagree with, yes there are times when we need to take a strong stand on stuff and let the chips fall where they may, but at the end of the day we should be striving for unity as much as possible.

(1362) SPANDEX! The other night my daughter called my wife and invited her to go workout at the gym, I told her ‘tell her dad wants to go too, he’s changing into his spandex right now’ she replied she can only take one guest per day. Now, were her words accurate? Yes. Was that the primary reason I wasn’t going? Highly doubtful. In the Christian world there are times when the things we say might be ‘orthodox’ but the motives might be questionable. The other night I caught Hank Hanegraaff’s [bible answer man] show. I at one time was accused of being like him [heresy hunter] but it’s only been the last few months that I’ve ever really heard him. We don’t get his radio show in Corpus and his TV show just started airing on the religious networks. But I did read his groundbreaking book ‘Christianity in Crisis’ and some thought my stand against the prosperity gospel came from that, they were wrong. I did not agree with all the arguments and style of the book. But this month’s magazine from Hank [which I also don’t subscribe to] deals with the ‘Local Church’ movement started by the great apostle/missionary Watchmen Nee. I have written on Nee before [under the cults section- not because I think their one!] and have read on the movement before. Nee started an indigenous Chinese church that has been persecuted for years by the communist govt., he died for the faith in prison and his house church movement is considered one of the most influential in the world today. Back in the 70’s during the Jesus movement on the west coast they had some influence in the area, this was at the same time the ‘counter cult’ movement sprung up. Many of the statements from Nee and his successor ‘Witness Lee’ were scrutinized and labeled as cultic, a war raged between the apologists and has even gone to the courts. The Local Church sued Harvest house [Christian book publisher] and claimed they were defamed by the cult books that included their church in them, and the Texas Supreme court eventually sided with harvest house, the Local Church is appealing. Enter Hank H., the original research done against the movement was by Hank Hanegraaff and CRI, others followed. The reason they were labeled as a cult was primarily because of their statements on the Trinity and the ‘deification’ of the believer. Some of their official statements said ‘Jesus is the Holy Spirit’ and ‘Jesus is also the Father’. These statements were deemed ‘Modalistic’ [an ancient heresy condemned by the early church that described God as having different modes as opposed to being One in 3] and thus the title cult was stuck on them. But after many years of research and fellowship with the group, Hank changed his mind and came to their defense. This made him a target for the other apologetic groups and they strongly disagreed with his change of mind. Hank said that even though many of the statements sounded questionable, that as you read further into their materials and personally interview members of the group that they for the most part accept the Trinity and do not fall into the cult category. Some of the on line stuff against them states ‘they believe that Jesus is the Spirit, this is heresy’ yet the movement quotes Paul in Corinthians ‘The Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty’. This verse actually says ‘the Lord is that same Holy Spirit’ does this mean that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are ‘the same person’? No, but it does use language that is in keeping with what the Local Church movement has said. The other verse in Isaiah speaks of Jesus as ‘the mighty God, everlasting Father’ so this also is language that the movement has used ‘Jesus is the Father’. Though these statements from the movement cause some concern, overall Hank believed that they did not finally fall into the cult category. When reading some of their statements on line last night I still had some problems with the way they said stuff [that after Jesus rose from the dead he became the Spirit] but I also see how difficult it is to explain both the Triune nature of God and also declare his Unity. When Jesus was asked what the great commandment was, in Marks gospel he begins the famous answer with ‘hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one’ he is quoting Deuteronomy. So those who focus on the Oneness of God can see these verses as saying ‘yes God is Father, Son and Spirit- yet they are also one’. So as you can see we need to be careful when parsing words like this. All in all I always accepted the Local Church movement [which is not a name they have given to their movement, but it is how they are labeled when reading about them] as fellow believers in Christ, while at the same time having problems with some of the official statements that the church has made [and still holds to] but wanted to give Hanegraaff credit for his change of mind, while I have not read the article in their magazine [Christian Research Journal] I have been familiar with this debate for a few years. I appreciate Hanks willingness to say ‘we were wrong’.

(1307) CHRISTMAS- being I mentioned Christmas the other day, let’s talk a little. First, does the bible give us [in the New Testament] any special memorials to celebrate? Yes, the New Testament teaches us that when believers celebrate the Lords supper that we ‘show the Lords death’ until he comes back. This is the only explicit memorial given to New Testament believers. Does this mean it’s wrong to celebrate other days? Not really. The early church, contrary to popular opinion, did celebrate ‘Christmas’ before the days of Constantine in the 4th century. They celebrated Christ’s ‘birthday’ on January 6th. But they also celebrated ‘Easter’ as well, and Easter played a more significant role in the church. But in the 4th century the church was grappling with different issues, one of the main ones was the nature of Christ [Christology] some questioned his true humanity. So as a result the celebration of the Incarnation [Jesus being born and taking on real human flesh] took on special importance, the church wanted to stress the ‘birthday’ of Jesus as a theological event. Now the story of Constantine and his conversion to Christianity is famous and many different groups see it in different ways. Many see him as the enemy of true Christianity and as a Roman Emperor who paganized the church. Many associate Catholic Christianity as the false religion set up by Constantine in the 4th century- I do not hold to this view myself. But the fact is that Constantine did legalize Christianity and he did ‘change’ the celebration of Christmas day from January 6 to December 25. Everyone knew that 12-25 was the official pagan holiday of a pagan god. Rome had Sun worship going on and December 25th was a pagan celebration day. So why did the church allow for the change? In reality Constantine was trying to bring a degree of stability to his empire and the fact was that many of his citizens [and soldiers] did practice the pagan holiday of 12-25. So as a compromise move, with the churches new found emphasis on the humanity of Christ [new found in that they willingly wanted to emphasize Christ’s birth in a greater way because of the theological controversies going on] they changed 12-25 into the celebration of Christ’s birth. It really was not some type of secret pagan takeover of Christianity. It was more along the lines of how in our day many believers celebrate ‘Halloween’ by calling it ‘fall festival’ and simply are redeeming the season for God. If in a thousand years Christians are all celebrating ‘fall festival’ instead of Halloween, I think that would be a good thing. But if you went back and found out that it started as a pagan thing, then would you consider all the ‘fall festival’ folks as pagan? So that’s the dilemma. Many serious minded believers do not celebrate Christmas and that’s fine, the scriptures don’t mandate it. But many serious believers do, I think it’s wrong to simply make the connection of the pagan roots of the day and to see this as a reason to reject it. Like I just showed you, you can look at it in a way that sees it as the church ‘taking over’ the pagan day and redeeming it back unto God.

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

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

(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.

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

(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’.

(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.

(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.

(1067) 1st KINGS 16- Jehu, a prophet, receives Gods word and rebukes Baasha, king of Israel. What is God upset about? That Baasha not only sinned himself [bad enough] but that he chose to cause Gods people to sin. Last night I watched an excellent program on P.B.S. about Jerusalem and its history. They covered the story of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I still can’t bring myself to view Islam as a faith that is legitimate. Now I know and love Muslim people, as a matter of fact I recently had some emails from a Muslim friend who defends his faith, he found our site a few years ago and has corresponded with me. But the problem I have with Islam is it has introduced religious beliefs and ideas that are totally contrary to the revelation of God thru Christ. What do I make of a faith that calls God ‘Allah’ and Jesus ‘Isa’, that denies the deity and incarnation of Jesus. That basically decimates the truth of God as seen in the gospel. I think believers should be fair and balanced and NON RACIAL when dealing with stuff like this, but we cant take lightly a ‘world religion’ that has introduced error on such a large scale. Now Jehu will be mentioned again, he was a prophet with a ‘violent streak’! He will be recognized by those who know him as ‘one who rides furiously’ that is he tended to ride outside of the perceived parameters of prophetic/pastoral leadership. When he was coming to town, everybody knew about it. Also at the end of this chapter we are introduced to king Ahab, one of Israel’s worst kings. He also will lead Gods people astray, Elijah the prophet will become his nemesis. Jesus said of the religious leaders of his day ‘you compass land and sea to make one convert, and when he is made you make him twice as much the child of hell than yourselves’. It’s interesting, you would think people who are zealous to make converts would always be doing it out of a right motive, but Jesus told us this isn’t always the case. Sometimes people are power hungry, or they simply want a following for the sake of being in charge. I admire the dedication of the Mormons and the Jehovah’s witnesses, their founders sacrificed much in the pioneering of their movements. But just because leaders/movements manage to gain a following, that in itself does not mean the outcome will be good. There are many adjectives used in scripture, to be a ‘child of hell, twice as much as your founder’ is one description we ought to avoid.

(584) [THIS ENTRY IS FOR ALL OF YOU ON THE ‘MOVING ON’ WEB SITE, THOSE WHO I HAVE BEEN IN CONTACT WITH THRU THE SITE]- This version is ‘Post critics!’ Thanks to ‘Fish’ ‘Limmiwinks’ ‘smshgrl’ ‘sar’ ‘afflic’ [Sp?] and all the other comments from you guys. I sure wish you guys had real names!

I had the book ‘Jesus freaks’ sitting on my desk still wrapped in the box that Amazon used to send it in. I cut the box open and read the whole book in one sitting [around 225 pages, not real big] I have read on this group before and want to share some stuff. First, the thing that caught my interest was not that they are a ‘sex cult’. It was the fact that they started at the time of the Jesus movement out in California in the late 60’s early 70’s. The Jesus movement was a time where many hippies and young people rebelled against authority and were dropping out of the ‘suit and tie’ establishment of their parents.

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

A lot of good came out from this time. Some of the converts wound up back in their ‘daddy’s religion’. That is after they ‘got saved’ they became true students of the bible and church history and began ‘rebelling’ against their ‘rebellion’. They saw that many of the historic churches had great roots and were not totally worthless. Some went back to the older churches. Jack Sparks had a ministry called ‘World Liberation Front’ and espoused many of the ideas of the strong authoritarian ‘Apostolic’ ministries. These were the ‘shepherding’ movements that were very influential in ‘covering’ young Christians. Bob Mumford and others were leading the Discipling Movement. Sparks got into the strong apostolic stuff and would write ‘we are going to get noticed, those in the churches that do not recognize us, we will take your people’ pretty authoritarian don’t you think? Well Sparks also got into the ‘cult exposing’ movement, which also was birthed at this time, and he eventually became a Greek Orthodox Priest and as far as I know is still one today [Sparks eventually would become one of the critics of the ‘Local Church Movement’ of Watchman Nee, being led by ‘Witness Lee’ in California. The ‘Local Church’ would eventually take the cult exposing ministries to court over this] so you had some interesting fellows at this time.

One of the most interesting was a man named ‘David Berg’ AKA ‘Moses David Berg’. He was the son of Christian ministers, his mom, Virginia, was a traveling evangelist who would eventually set up shop in Florida. David learned ministry and the gospel from his years as his mother’s main helper. He also did a short stint as a Pastor of a Protestant church. David was in his 50’s about the time the Jesus movement hit, he wound up back in California at his moms house. He eventually worked his way into reaching the kids of the area, Huntington Beach and places where the hippies were hanging out. His ministry grew, eventually they would be called ‘the Children of God’ ‘The Family’ and the ‘Family international’. They were around at the same time as the other good ministries that I mentioned.

They were like a commune of hippies/Jesus freaks that eventually would have outposts all over the world. Their language and beliefs were a lot like any evangelical group of the day. Over a period of time their leader ‘David/Moses’ would espouse the doctrine of ‘free love’ which taught ‘we love everyone like ourselves’ and should share everything with everybody else. I mean everything! They became known as a sex cult. They are not the first to believe this either. John Humphrey Noyes of the Oneida Community in upstate New York taught and practiced this ‘open love’ in the 1800’s. Bergs group got a lot of heat when word got out that they practiced sex with under age children. A few magazines and news papers would introduce this strange cult to the world as they covered the story in the 70’s and 80’s. As I have read a lot about this group over the years, I have come to see how many of the kids sincerely thought they were following the Lord, and some were never involved in the strange sex practices [most knew of the open love doctrine, but some did not experience the under age abuse. I say ‘some’ for the benefit of those still in the group who have said this, but there are tons of stories of children who were abused]. Some of these today are still on the mission field with their families and are witnessing for Jesus in the exact same way that many other missionaries do. But of course the doctrine of the leader of this group was classic cult material.

You can go on line and find both pro and con web sites. Just Google ‘The Family’ or ‘Moses David Berg’ and you will find them. The reason I just read this most recent book [the other one I read is ‘Heavens Harlot’s’] is because after a few years of them fading away from public memory, one of the sons of the wife of David Berg [though not Bergs actual son] who was being groomed to be the prophet to take over the group, killed another group member out of revenge and a feeling of trying to get more heat on the group and to bring the group down [The boys mom was Karen Zerby, the leader of the group today, she became pregnant from an Hispanic waiter thru the ‘flirty fishing’[actually called ‘FFing’!] doctrine of the group which taught witnessing and ‘fishing for men’ can be done thru sleeping with men, you sleep with them, show them ‘Gods love’ and there you have it!]

This boy was sexually abused from birth and was to be an experiment on what it would be like if someone enjoyed open sex from birth, sort of a guinea pig for Moses Berg’s doctrine. Eventfully the boy left the group and became part of a growing number of second generation defectors who have made it their goal to expose and bring the group down. Many who are still in the group live in various parts of the world and have said they do not practice sex with kids any more, but still believe in the ‘open love doctrine’.

The young prophet who was to eventually take over the group was called ‘Davidito’ he eventually changed his name to Ricky Rodriguez. By all accounts he was a good young man, who rejected his cultic upbringing and was trying to make a life for himself after leaving the group. A smart, intelligent well liked young man. He could never get over his rage and in 2005 made a videotape of himself getting ready to murder one of the female leaders who molested him as a little boy. He would stab the woman to death, send three copies of his confession video to 3 friends and pull up on some deserted highway in California and put a bullet thru his head. This is why the recent book ‘Jesus Freaks’ just came out, they covered this most recent affair.

This is such a sad story. Many still in the group are trying to change it into a more ‘respectable’ group, those who have defected are trying to bring the group down. All of these kids, being taught scripture, growing up in this perverted environment. Learning true bible stuff along with the distorted stuff. Lifetimes of trying to serve Jesus mixed in with these cruel ideas and actions that are a part of their lives. Many who have defected have committed suicide. Truly David Berg was a false Prophet of the highest order, he has met God now.

There actually has been a very popular well known preacher out of the Atlanta area, Earl Paulk, who I have been praying for now for a few years. I liked watching him on TBN for years. He had a few accusations against him over the years of sexual misconduct. I do not know whether they were true or false. Paulk admitted to certain past indiscretions, but never to the allegations of certain women. They claimed Paulk secretly taught them ‘kingdom /covenant relationships’ which were basically a doctrine to justify adultery. I was hesitant about sharing the Paulk story, but I did so for a reason. Why would I see this doctrine as false, and those who teach it as ‘cultic’, and not hold the same standard to a Jimmy Swaggart or a Ted Haggard? All humans can fall into any type of sin, Paul wrote the Corinthians and told them ‘you have a brother who is sleeping with his mother, this must stop’ If a believer falls into a sexual sin, he either repents or falls into Gods discipline. But if a teacher begins justifying sin as a doctrinal truth, then you have problems. Many of these cults have done this, they see the truth in scripture about loving each other and living communally and sharing what you have with everyone else, but they don’t see the other warnings against immorality. They find polygamy taught in the old testament, or the fact that Adam and Eve’s kids had to have married each other, and they will teach incest or polygamy is for today, not realizing that the new testament speaks of being married to one wife and any thing else is adultery.

When leaders use scripture to justify sin this becomes a cult. I think we should all pray for those involved. Brother Earl Paulk has been sick [he might have even died by now?] but the latest accusation from his worship leader of many years has caused him to step down [a good thing!] but I still pray for the man. Let’s pray for all these kids still in the ‘family’ as well as those who have come out, they need our prayers.

[NOTE; I was just outside praying for you guys as a ‘community’ of people. To be honest I have added all of you as a group to my ‘prayer region’ [whole groups of people I fiercely pray over]. This is what I felt the Lord saying. Many of you have without a doubt come to know the Lord thru this time period in your lives. Many ‘regular’ Christians can’t really discern this. Much of what you see and hear in other Christian groups looks and sounds almost identical to the ‘family’ except for the ‘free love’ stuff. This dynamic has made it hard for you to relate to other Christians. They just look at you as ‘thank God you are free from that sex cult, now God brought you to us to show you all this true stuff’. The problem is many of you already know the ‘true stuff’. I felt the Lord was encouraging you as a group of people to ‘move on’ with him. Many of you are so turned off by what you have seen in other Christian groups, it’s like ‘I’ve been there’. God loves you guys so much [even this sounds abusive to you, you have heard this your whole life from the lips of people that abused you]. My heart breaks for you guys, I am so happy to read some of your stories and how some of you are still walking with ‘Jesus’ so to speak. I personally am worried that I too might come off as a religious nut. All the ‘prophecy’ and stuff I do. Teaching on Prophets and all. I do believe that God has placed Prophets in the church, but what you experienced thru Berg was almost a demonic type of Prophet. A man that had real gifts and talents, but also developed a doctrine that would justify to himself his own impulses and sinful desires that he struggled with his whole life. I believe there were aspects of David’s life that truly wanted to serve God, but like others before him [Noyes] he developed a ‘scheme’ that would appease his own conscience, and he released this evil desire on a whole community of young people. The most difficult thing for some of you is to realize that you truly do love God and have found him while being in this group. I love you guys and will continue to pray for you. As you read [or listen to our radio show] and you hear me speak on Prophets and the Prophetic movement, understand I in no way am speaking of the abusive ‘family’ that you have been involved with thru out your lives. God bless all of you and feel free to email or write me at my P.O. Box. If any of you want to get together while in the area contact me before you come and I will try and get with you. Thanks, John.]

During the time of Bergs rise to ‘Prophet’ he was in an atmosphere where other well known ministries were espousing many of the same views on end time things. You also had Hal Lindsey and many others who taught the same as Berg in the area of the Tribulation and the nearness of the end of the world. Hal wrote the bestseller ‘The Late great Planet Earth’. While Hal obviously isn’t near the category of Berg, it was common for people at the time to be living on the edge of their seats thinking that the world might end at any moment. This led to an environment amongst many well meaning followers of Jesus that had an attitude of ‘if the world will end soon, what the heck, why bother going to school or even worry about planning for a future’ This mindset would later make it hard for those who tried to get out of the cult. They found the most basic things, like writing a check, difficult.

The thing that first interested me about this group was the ‘apostolic’ concept of community. Many who have studied ‘ecclesiology’ [church government] have seen in scripture the more biblical idea of church as community. Some have tried to duplicate the early environment seen in the book of Acts. A common purse and sharing of their goods with the needy. Berg also was a student of communism like Jim Jones, a whole other story. Even though you had all believers sharing and helping each other in Acts, you didn’t see an environment where people surrendered their individual identities and ‘morphed’ into the identity of a group.

In Acts they still lived in their own homes and maintained a family idea. To be sure today’s idea of ‘church at the building on Sunday’ as being ‘the church’ did not exist, but you also didn’t have communes. I believe it is OK for believers who radically sell out to leave the comforts of a home environment and to live daily trusting God. I have met ‘homeless’ friends who were on their own serving God and surviving. But to force a communistic idea upon people, and to cause them to loose their own personal identity for the ‘cause of the group’ is cultic right from the start.

God wants us to be more than ‘pew warmers who are preached at every week’ he wants us to experience this Journey with him as being part of a wonderful Christian family, with many wonderful brothers and sisters. Seeing the ‘other churches’ not as the institutionalized monster, but as sincere Christian’s in the Lord. I know there are times in my own writing that I seem to be hard on ‘the church’ but I do not hold to the view that they are all of the devil!

Berg seemed to confuse the ‘religions of men’ and the establishment with the true boundaries put down in scripture. He would view his own feelings of guilt about his sexual weakness and failure and eventually blame the ‘established church’ for his ‘guilt feelings’. He would develop a doctrine that fit in well with the ‘anti church’ atmosphere of the time. He would see all the free loving hippies and how they jumped in to the open love of the 60’s and 70’s sexual revolution, and then compare that to his own struggle of trying to suppress his sexual desires for many years under what he saw to be the authoritarian religious morals that he heard time and again thru his mothers preaching. It was natural for Berg to view the ‘established religions of men’ as the cause for all the years he spent repressing his sexual urges. Hey, he thought, if God created me [and others] to be able to enjoy the feelings of sex from a young age, then why do I feel guilty if I act out sexually in a way that society deems wrong?

Berg would challenge the mindset of minors being sexually active. He thought it was society that caused the guilt, not his sin. So in the California environment of ‘church religion’ being deceived, he thought ‘they must also be wrong on the sex part too’. Well if Berg was a true student of scripture, he would not have come to this conclusion. Scripture most definitely speaks of God as the creator of sex, but it also puts down definite parameters. ‘Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled. But adulterers and whoremongers God will judge’ [Hebrews]. Berg thought for sure his belief in open sex with anyone at anytime was a true revelation from God, as opposed to the ‘moral old time religion’ of the past.

His great experiment would be to raise a child from day one in a hyper sexualized atmosphere and to then have the child diagnosed by professionals to see if any emotional damage was done. This experiment was what happened with ‘Davidito’. As Ricky grew older they tested him and others to see if they were harmed emotionally in any way. The ‘family’ found doctors to go along with their belief and to testify that the children were emotionally healthy. Later when Ricky [Davidito] would leave the group and kill one of the ladies who abused him as a child, the group tried to explain that when Ricky was in the group he harbored no ill feelings. It was when he got out and then ‘society’ taught him that what he did was wrong, that at that time he had guilt.

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

NOTE; I am not speaking about the guilt that some one might experience as a result of being abused in this group. It is common for victims of sexual abuse to ‘feel guilty’ even though they were victims. In some cases people feel guilty because they might have responded sexually while being abused, thinking that they in some way condoned the abuse, this is not so! Many of you guys have had to deal with this, maybe this had something to do with Ricky’s rage? So I just wanted to release you guys from this.

Let me mention some other stuff on cults and prophets. I have studied various cults over the years, some of them have definitely had demonic powers behind the leadership. When studying ‘heavens gate’ there were things that people experienced that fall under the category of demonic power. People who had a sense of being ‘mesmerized’ while listening to the leader. Or the leader’s ability to actually know what happened or predict future events. A fake imitation of a true prophetic gift.

Others, like David Korresh with the group ‘the branch davidians’ which were an offshoot of the seventh Day Adventist Church would come under the ‘spell’ of Korresh and begin viewing him as one of the end time witnesses spoken of in the book of Revelation. They would eventually see themselves as directly being referenced in scripture. They fulfilled their own ‘prophecy’ about being destroyed at the end of the world. Other ‘non cult’ prophets have also had this strong influence over people. William Brahnam was a very gifted Prophet in the middle of the last century, he without a doubt had extraordinary gifts, some till this day see him as either one of the seven angels in Revelation, or as one of the 2 witnesses in chapter 11.

So it seems to be a theme in some of these groups to come under the ‘mesmerizing’ influence of the gifted leader and to begin to view him in a way that associates him with actual biblical figures. The early church had some doubts about putting the book of Revelation in the New Testament, one of the reasons for this was they feared individuals might interpret it in a way that could cause trouble, a bit prophetic don’t you think? While reading about David Berg I have come to believe he had demonic powers working with him. You might think ‘no kidding man’. I don’t always believe this to be the case, I feel many contemporary Christians have a tendency to over do the ‘demon possession’ thing, always trying to cast a demon out of someone ‘I cast the demon of Marlboro cigarettes out of you’ or the ‘demon of poverty’ and silly stuff like that. I think in some of these cases we should cast the ‘demon of thinking that everything is a demon’ out of them! But in Bergs case there have been some leaders who ran into him thru out their lives and sensed a ‘presence’ that was strange. The brother who had a commune in Texas that Berg would eventually take over and call it ‘The Texas Soul Clinic’ felt like the group had a force behind them that was unstoppable, he till this day has never gotten over his impact with ‘the family’.

So it is more than likely that Berg had some demonic stuff going on. I am asked sometimes about people like John Edwards of the show ‘crossing over’ or other people who seem to have true gifts. I try to distinguish between out right fakers, and those who are really operating with a supernatural ‘element’. I believe many of the Psychics actually have a connection with the ‘spirit world’ that would simply be in the category of ‘soothsayer’ or like the witch of Endor spoken of in the bible. In her story she is requested by King Saul to bring back the Prophet Samuel from the dead. God’s people were forbidden to consult a soothsayer or ‘psychic’. The fact was she was well known, sort of like all these ‘card readers’ and stuff I see as I travel thru South Texas. Well this witch does bring back Samuels spirit, to the amazement of Saul and herself! She actually is portrayed as being afraid when her ‘soothsaying’ works. She was surprised he came back! Some think this was because she knew her gift was fake, and when it worked she scared herself. It’s also possible that the usual ‘spirits’ that did come thru for her were not there this time, she really got Samuel.

The point is in some of the people that are doing these things it is possible that they are ‘picking up’ something in the ‘spirit’, it’s just not what they think! In Edwards’s case he feels he is ‘crossing over’ and contacting the spirits of dead relatives, he might really believe that this is who is speaking to him during his shows. The truth is scripture speaks of ‘familiar spirits’ and demons. A person might have some real gifting going on, but it might not be what they think.

Edgar Casey [sp? It might be Cayce] is another example of a famous ‘prophet’. He was dubbed the ‘sleeping prophet’ because he would give readings while lying down and falling asleep and going into a trance. In all of these cases Christians are forbidden to delve into the ‘unknown’ thru these means. Some believers have gone too far in rejecting ‘prophets’. They do not see the true biblical gift as spoken of in the New Testament. God has clearly placed Prophets in the church, the book of Ephesians says this [as well as Corinthians and other references]. Some Christians believe it is because of the lack of biblical Prophets today, that this is why the world runs to the psychics, that if the church just functioned in the real gift, then you wouldn’t have all the popular psychics. Some who say this have some truth, but then I get a little worried because they seem to espouse the idea that true prophets should have their own call in shows and stuff, sort of ‘1-800-prophecy’ and stuff like that. I don’t think so!

So anyway I think Berg had some demonic stuff going on, as believers we should ‘test the spirits, for every spirit is not of God’ it says this in 1st John. If you read it in context it is not speaking of ‘disembodied spirits’ that are floating around in the sky [which is another off balanced teaching in the Church, Christians starting whole spiritual warfare movements and going around casting these spirits out of the sky. Jesus never cast demons out of the sky, but out of people!] But this verse is speaking of ‘testing spirits’ that are operating in people! That is whether people are ‘true prophets’ or’ false’. Don’t allow the strong giftings of leaders ‘pull you in’ but test everything by Gods Spirit. Be open to true prophetic gifts, don’t reject all prophecy, but be discerning.

I just reviewed the family photos of Ricky Rodriguez on the site ‘moving on’ he looked like such a wonderful kid. Go check them out, they give a face to this whole sad story. A few years ago someone wrote a book on dangerous communal groups, I believe the author was Ron Enroth [churches that abuse?] while the book served a good purpose, they drew some heat over the fact they included some Christian groups that seemed to be serving the Lord. One of the groups they singled out responded in defense of their faith. They answered their critics well [not like the official response of those still in the family. I have read some of the articles from their web site and something seems ‘off’ sort of like a ‘stepford wives’ type response] They explained while it is true that many cults have embraced communal living, Christians have also experimented with these models. They showed that those living in this type of atmosphere, where you are always together [sort of like my job as a firefighter in a way, when you live in 24 hour shifts with people, you get on each others nerves] lends to the complaints of authoritarianism and control.

The fact that the average Christian only spends an hour on Sunday with other believers, while those in a communal atmosphere live all the time with other believers, then you are going to get more complaints from those living together, it’s only natural. So I didn’t want to group every ‘communal group’ as being bad, though they do have a tendency to ‘lord it over the people’. The Boston Churches of Christ [a specific movement, not all the churches of Christ in Boston] are not communal, but they practice a fierce ‘shepherding’ doctrine, where the people must answer to the shepherds in a way that is dangerous.

This was the error of the ‘discipling movement’ also know as the shepherding movement. Berg’s group most definitely had this going on. This type of idea teaches a strong accountability to ‘over shepherds’ in a way that violates the true freedom that we have in Christ. So you don’t have to be living communally to be cultic, you can be ‘doing church’ the Sunday way and also be ‘cultic’.

I am a little hesitant to put this in, but will take the chance. I believe in God giving us prophetic signs and stuff, but many have used ‘signs’ and ‘prophecy’ as a tool of abuse. Yesterday I was out among a lot of my friends who are homeless. Ran into a Pastor friend and some other old friends. For some reason they were calling me ‘David’ and then they realized my name is John. I kinda felt this to be a little strange. I have been praying for the ‘moving on’ group as a Father would pray over his ‘spiritual children’. Now stick with me, I AM NOT SAYING THAT I AM CHANNELING THE DAVID BERG SPIRIT! In a strange way when leaders oversee a group of people they become a ‘Father’ to the group. They carry a special responsibility to lead the people. Berg had this ‘fathering’ responsibility, and he became a ‘child abuser’ towards a whole family of people. So I just felt the ‘sign’ of people calling me David, the day after I spent time praying and trying to speak into the community was in a sense prophetic. Sort of like God saying ‘One by the name of David abused these people severely, I will raise up other ‘spiritual fathers’ who will make up for the abuse they have received, David’s who are men after my own heart’ [King David in scripture is called a man after Gods own heart].

Just felt like the Lord was saying this about multiple people, those who will care for you in the original way God intended, as representative in some way I would like to say ‘please forgive us [Christian leadership] I am so sorry for what I have done to you’. ‘I am the good shepherd, all that ever came before me were thieves and robbers. I come that you might have life. The robber came to steal, kill and destroy you. I am the good shepherd, I have given my life for the sheep’ Jesus Christ.

(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’.

(945)1 CORINTHIANS 2- Paul tells them that when he came to them to declare Gods wisdom, that he did not do it with excellency of speech or with enticing words of men’s wisdom. What is he saying here? Remember, Corinth had the background of traveling philosophers of rhetoric who could ‘dazzle the average folk’. Sort of like the role science would come to play with modern man. All science is good, it’s when man in his arrogance begins to espouse or ‘twist’ things to his advantage that the problem arsies. That’s when the arrogance of mans wisdom simply says to the average Joe ‘who do you think you are to question me! I am a man of wisdom’ Phooey! [I know it’s corny]. The fact is that natural man has always had the ability to deceive or come up with ‘evidence’ just in the nick of time. Did you know there was/is an entire cottage industry in ‘finding’ fossils to prove evolution is true? Do you really think men were above deception in the 1800’s? That they were above the temptation to come up with findings so their funding would not be cut off? Darwin wrote his famous book ‘the Origin of Species’ in 1851. Right after the book became popular there was a race among the archeologists to find the missing link. It just so happened that within a few short years they found it! [or something they thought fit]. It was also a ‘coincidence’ that some of the findings were discovered right before the grant/funding would run our for the researcher. Now, don’t you think the poor brother was tempted to fudge? Do you think that some of these findings, which later fell into the category of various bones simply being found in one location, were simply hyped for the benefit of the researchers to continue their work? You bet stuff like this happened. Some of the discoveries of skeletons that looked a little different were determined to be modern humans that simply suffered from various growth deficiencies. Scientists said this publicly! But this finding didn’t ‘fit’ all the excitement that was happening around the ‘new knowledge’ of Darwin. And the fact is that some of these early findings, with all of these obvious opportunities for fraud, stand today as the best evidence for evolution. After 150 years, these guys just happened to come up with the best evidence under these highly suspicious circumstances. But the average man, like the brothers living in Corinth, were simply dazzled by all the technical jargon. ‘Neanderthal man’ wow, that’s scientific brother! The name comes from a Christian whose name was ‘Neander’ and the famous discovery of the bones were in a field where he lived. Now that’s what I call the wisdom of man! So Paul lets the Corinthians know that his gospel isn’t some fabricated wisdom that has no basis in reality, he was preaching the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ! [chapter 15]. He does say this wisdom and truth of Jesus is ‘hidden wisdom that the princes of this world can’t grasp’. He teaches that only God himself can teach a person this true wisdom of the gospel. But when Paul says ‘hidden wisdom’ he is not talking about the Gnostic belief [early cult of Christianity] of ‘special wisdom that only an elite few have’. Paul is saying mans unregenerate nature cannot grasp the great riches of the gospel. God regenerates us and gives us freely of his Spirit so we can ‘know the things of the Spirit of God’. Make no mistake about it, in Christ there are tremendous sources of riches and wisdom. This wisdom is sound and sure, not like the wisdom of the philosophers. There wisdom often times was based on sheer fantasy.

(931)2ND SAMUEL 15- Absalom sits daily at the city gate and when the people come to the king, Absalom ‘steels their hearts’. He says ‘o, if I were the king I could do such a good job. I am better than the one God appointed’. Avoid trying to gain peoples acceptance by comparing yourself with others. God might use you to be an example in some way, but this is a matter of grace. Paul said he excelled more than the other apostles who were ‘in Christ’ before him, but nevertheless it was Gods grace that caused this to happen. Absalom slowly wins the hearts of the people and stages a takeover. Some men go willingly, others followed ‘out of simplicity’. They were led astray like sheep. Remember, when dealing with followers of groups who have ‘rebelled’ [classic cults] some have been raised innocently with their beliefs. Try and honestly talk to them and treat them courteously. God can give you an open door with them if you see them as people who have value and worth. We see David as a type of Christ in this chapter. He is forsaken by the city of Jerusalem and loses his following. He even ascends the Mount of Olives while weeping! He says ‘If God chooses to forsake me, so be it. But if he brings me back again [resurrection!] and allows me to see the Ark in Jerusalem, then let his will be done’. Jesus said ‘not my will, but thine be done’. The Father, who forsook his Son, did delight in him and ‘brought him back again’ to see ‘the Ark in the city of Jerusalem’. Jesus saw the tabernacle of God [Gods people, the dwelling of God] in ‘the city of God’ [the church is called the city of God that comes down from God out of heaven] and he was restored to his former place of exaltation at the fathers right-hand. David is reaping some stuff here. He makes some plans for a future return to leadership, but recognizes when it’s time to retreat. Now, I realize that God wants us to move forward and ‘take the kingdom by force’. But Jesus also gave us a principle; he said ‘when one king is facing another king. He sends out messengers to check out the opponent. If word comes back that you are really out of your league in this battle, then try and come to terms of peace if possible’. In essence there are times where taking a step back and re-evaluating is a wise thing. David plants a few spies in Jerusalem who will report back to him every now and then. David also finds out who his true friends are. Some follow him instead of Absalom, even though Absalom is the ‘hot ticket item’ at the time. These brothers who stick with you till the end are true friends, but they aren’t always the most encouraging. Thomas [one of Jesus disciples] says at one point ‘Lets go, we might as well follow him all the way to our deaths’. Thanks for the willingness to follow Thomas, but you think you could change the attitude a little! So David is doing the best with what he has, Gods people are surviving, but they are being used as pawns on Absalom’s chess board. Absalom looked good at the start, but he will not finish well.

(848)ROMANS 9: 1-8 Paul returns to an earlier theme ‘Christ came, as pertaining to the flesh, in response to the covenants that God made with Israel’ [my paraphrase!] Paul says that natural Israel played a very important role in the coming of Messiah. He was [is] the fulfillment of the prophecies that came as a result of Gods interaction with ‘the commonwealth of Israel’. Now Paul again says ‘they are not all Israel, which are of Israel, but “in Isaac shall thy seed be called’”. Understand something here, Paul is not teaching ‘another’ natural lineage to Christ. The mistake of the worldwide church of God [Herbert Armstrong] which teaches British Israelism, trying to trace the natural lineage of Europeans and saying ‘these are the lost tribes’. Paul is simply saying ‘those who are of the Law, the natural tribe of Israel [Jews] are not automatically counted as ‘the seed’ [children] but those who ‘are of promise’. Paul also uses this in Galatians 3 and 4. ‘Of promise’ is simply saying ‘those who have been born of Gods Spirit [Jew or Gentile] are the children that God promised to Abraham’ he is the father of ‘many nations’. All who would believe. These themes are building upon Paul’s earlier theology in this letter. This letter [Romans] has a little more ‘weight’ than say a pastoral epistle [Timothy, Titus]. Now, I am not saying it is ‘more inspired’ but I want you to see that even in the book of Acts you see Paul place special emphasis on ‘I must make it to Rome’! Paul fully realizes that this letter will be read among the believers and Jews at Rome. Rome is the capitol city of the Empire. He wants the early believers to understand the role and purpose of God for Israel. Paul’s efforts are being seen by some Jewish believers [Jerusalem] as antagonistic. Paul wants to make it clear that he was not trying to start some type of movement that rejected natural Israel. At the same time he wants natural Israel ‘my kinsman according to the flesh’ to receive their Messiah! So in this context Romans is a theological treatise saying ‘God wants to bring both Jew and Gentile together as one new man in Christ [Ephesians]’. When he argues ‘they that are the children of the flesh ARE NOT THE CHILDREN OF GOD[verse 8] but the children of the promise are counted for the seed’ he is simply saying ‘all people, both Jews and Gentiles [which includes all races that are ‘non Jews’ even Arabs!] can partake of this free gift by grace’. The promise is to all who ‘will believe’.

(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!

(732) GENESIS 44- Joseph feeds his brothers and fills their bags with food and sends them off to Jacob. This time he put the food and money back in their bags, but also he put a silver cup in Benjamin’s bag. After they leave Joseph sends his servant to stop them. He searches the stuff and finds the cup with Benjamin. Now, Joseph is doing all this just so he could keep Benjamin and have the boys return with Jacob. But the boy’s know how nervous pops gets! Joseph doesn’t realize what a panic button pops has become. The boys realize how bad dad is and they tell the servant ‘well, you got us! I guess we will all go back together to Egypt’. These boys had the chance to escape without Benjamin, they figured they would rather face Joseph than dad, OUCH! If you read thru the story you will see that they really don’t want to go home. Joseph actually says ‘go back, leave Benjamin and see your dad’. Finally Judah says ‘look, our dad has been distraught ever since he lost the other boy [Which is the actual guy they are talking to!] and he took it hard. If we leave without Benjamin he will die. I will stay in the place of the boy’. Once again we see Judah offer ‘substitution’ as an answer to the problem. It seems as if atonement was built into the DNA of the tribe of Judah. Also during this whole scenario the servant mentions ‘divination’. The silver cup that was found in Benjamin’s bag was for the ‘purpose of divination’ [or so the servant thought/said!] Joseph tells his brothers ‘why did you steal from me? Don’t you know a man of my stature can divine’? The art of divination, or obtaining ‘secret knowledge’ thru spiritism existed in ancient times. The pagan nations even had priests for their false gods. All of this is Babylonian in nature and forbidden by God all thru out scripture. The fact that Joseph rose to fame because of his ‘interpreting of dreams’ surely put fear in people, they assumed he was a great ‘diviner’. Now Joseph has said all along that God was giving him the interpretations, but it’s likely that the broader culture just viewed Joseph thru the already existing paradigm of ‘divination’. All people are seeking for some spiritual meaning in life. They often flock to new age teachings or eastern religions. God condemns, in no uncertain terms, all uses of the horoscope and sorcery or witchcraft to seek ‘hidden sources of wisdom’. God does have prophets in the church [no new cannon, but true spiritual direction by those filled with the Holy Spirit] and of course God regularly gives directions to his kids by his Spirit. So I just wanted to clarify, just because this chapter says Joseph used the cup ‘to divine’ in no way means that Joseph was ‘divining’ in the mystical sense.

(661) [The reason I put this in ‘cults’ is because the Nation of Islam had it’s beginnings during the cult phase of the 1930’s where you had UFO cults and other strange groups. Many people are unaware of the very strange beginnings of this group!]

DREAM- MARTIN LUTHER KING; Just had a dream. It is the day after Martin Luther King Day. A few weeks ago as I was channel surfing I stopped at a local preacher’s message. A good man who has Pastored for many years in our city. I visited his church [though I use ‘church’ you know what I mean!] a few times over the years. I listened to him on TV and it was a good testimony of his coming to know the Lord and his calling. Though I knew this brother for years, yet this day was different. Sure enough I watched him again the following week. To catch him twice in a row seemed strange, I very rarely do this. Then a few weeks later I opened the paper and read that he died. I prayed for his wife and church family for a few days, prayed that they would make the transition well. Prayed for the new leadership to actually experience a new resurgence of life and growth. Sort of like what has happened with Jerry falwells son. After Jerry died his son took over the pastorate and they are really growing and on fire for the Lord! The dream I just had [an hour ago] was me going back in time before this pastor’s death and spending the day with him. I knew he was to die soon, and realized he was living his last few days not knowing this [in the dream at least, I know he in ‘real life’ was sick and knew he had cancer]. So as I observed and fellowshipped with him he had to run some errands and I didn’t have time to drive him. But I knew his time was short and made the sacrifice. I was also talking to someone else in the dream and we both knew he had already died [in the future] but wasn’t aware how short his time was. I heard Martin Luther’s speech yesterday, they played a part of the ‘I have a dream’ [notice, Kings dream wasn’t to become ‘all he could be’ it was giving his life for a greater purpose than self fulfillment]. They played the part you normally don’t see. It was a few minutes before the famous part. At one point you could see a very brief moment of fear/anxiety. Sort of a glimpse into the thin veneer of mans flesh and weakness when he is at the crossroads of destiny. A hidden reality of the cost that was to be paid for his cause. I also heard a speech [and read it a few years back] that King made right before his death. He said ‘longevity would be a good thing. But I have been to the mountain and have seen the promised land’ he prophesied of his death. In so many words he knew he would pay for his cause with his death. I just thought the Lord wanted to remind us today that we are like ‘smoke’ that appears for a little time and vanishes away [James]. Or like grass, we grow in the morning and are ‘cut down’ at night. Why are we wasting our lives? We seem to be living for temporary things. Our dreams are all about ourselves. We are not applying our hearts to wisdom. We are not numbering our days. NOTE; During Kings time you saw a dynamic taking place that would become a major cause of strife in our time. The Nation of Islam was founded in the 1930’s in Detroit under Wallace Fard. After his death in 1935 Elijah Muhammad would lead the group until 1975. Malcolm x and Louis Farrakhan would follow. The ‘Nation of Islam’ is not a legitimate Muslim group! Their founding had ideas about ‘UFO’S’ and other very weird doctrines that you would find in the black ‘Jewish’ groups of the time. Groups that tried to trace their ancestry to being ‘the true Israel’. And they would couch the black mans struggle for freedom thru an ‘historic’ mindset. The only problem was the whole ‘history’ of ‘Black Jews’ is just as much fantasy as ‘White Jews’ or British Israelism. The doctrine that the white Europeans are the lost tribes of Israel. These ideas were prevalent at the time. This is also why you hear strange stuff from Farrakhan on UFO’S and stuff. King was a prophetic Christian who was carrying the cause of Civil rights along with the banner of Jesus Christ. The Nation would be a demonic force [copy cat] of the true mantle of King. You would hear ‘white devils’ thru the racist lips of the Nation, while King would include the white man in his struggle for freedom. Today you see Islam continue to counterfeit what the Spirit of God is doing in the earth. The black ‘church’ [I don’t like this term, there is only one church!] needs to understand that in her continued struggle for justice that she does not align herself with the truly demonic Nation of Islam.

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

(64) I was watching a special the other day on cults. They spoke on Jim Jones and others. I have researched cults pretty extensively in the past. One of the most important lessons from Jim Jones is the fact that he started well, and was even on the cutting edge of certain truths for his day. He was sincere, originally preached the Gospel and many of his followers till this day feel like they were truly seeking God. The mass suicide was done as a ‘protest action’. Jim had read this in some of the socialist materials that he studied. He saw their deaths as a protest against society. Well obviously the movement became a cult and they were wrong in the things they did. Today there are many Christian groups who have the same mindset of ‘siege’ and isolationism that Jones temple had. I mentioned earlier about being a part of a Fundamental Baptist Church in the past, while I don’t want to call them a cult, the group had a mindset that saw all other groups [even Baptists] as either heretics or backslidden. They had a mentality of ‘the worlds out to get us’ and we must separate from it at all costs. But the extreme separation they practiced caused them to ‘separate’ from the rest of the body of Christ. You can be part of a big group and still be ‘isolated’ if you see the rest of the world [Christian and lost people] as something you are separating from inside the four walls of your fortress [church or community]. As an elder of this fundamental church I remember how we had a special meeting to decide whether or not we should cut off support from a missionary. The ‘heresy’ he fell into was he became a ‘mid tribber’. He believed the ‘Rapture’ would occur after the first three and a half years of the tribulation as opposed to occurring before the tribulation starts. Well even at that time I expressed my disagreement over cutting someone off for this. The funny thing is I believe now that the ‘Rapture’ and the Second Coming are one event. So we were all ‘heretics’ at the time! The point here is when Christians develop the sectarian mindset that Paul rebuked the Corinthians for, we are in danger. I am not saying we will all commit mass suicide, but we do harm to ourselves and others. Let me add here a little on the ‘Rapture’. Just a few weeks ago I was fellowshipping with a brother and he brought the subject up. I really try to avoid it in general when fellowshipping and witnessing [which we were doing at the time]. Well he wanted to know whether I was ‘pre’ or ‘mid’ trib. I then regretfully confessed that I believe there is only one second coming, I don’t believe the ‘rapture’ is speaking of a different event at all. Well my friend, who was quite knowledgeable in the scriptures, emphatically agreed. He also said he saw only one ‘Second Coming’, but to him the rapture was something else. If you read 1st Thessalonians 4 [the rapture chapter] I can’t see how you can honestly see this as different from the other scriptures that speak of the second coming and the resurrection. I find it a contradiction to read these events as ‘separate’. I am familiar with all the arguments on the trumpets and every other little detail. I just see the overriding text being that of one event. In the discussion with my friend he jumped to all the various ‘proof’ texts to back up his belief. I simply believe the plain reading of these verses show it to be one event. You should interpret the plain meaning first, before going to lengths to defend something else. Well I don’t want to argue about this, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

(130) NOTE: [this is the 3rd attempt of trying to write this entry. I tried 24 hours ago at work and the computer messed up and I lost it! I then decided to re write it and we had a big structure fire. I am now up at 2:06 am and giving it another shot, obviously this is for you! Whoever ‘you’ are!] Let me do an overview of some things. The last few weeks I have mentioned the ‘Word of Faith/Prosperity movement’. In the late 1800’s there was a preacher by the name of E.W.Kenyon. Brother Kenyon is the ‘father’ of the modern ‘word of faith’ movement. Brother Kenyon brought out some good things in his teaching. The 1800-1900s were right after the great awakenings in our country, many churches emphasized the sinfulness of man and mans need to confess his sins. Brother Kenyon took hold of the truths in scripture where we are to confess ‘Jesus as Lord’ instead of always confessing sin! The focus of much of this teaching emphasized the things we do to change our circumstances. If you ‘walk’ in the ‘sense realm’ [5 senses] you are walking by sight, but if you walk by faith you are not living by the senses. The way faith was taught was more like ‘you create your world by the things you speak’ and stuff like that. The focus was on ‘acting right’. If you say wrong things or ever admit to any problems or failure you are not in faith. While many of these things sound good, the result was you become self-conscious and begin seeing yourself as the person who is in charge of ‘changing your world’. If ‘your world’ is messed up, well it’s ‘YOUR’ fault. Biblical faith is based more on the ‘person’ of God. You are not trying to say and think positive all the time, in as much as you are depending on God even in the midst of your problems and failures. While many of the Word of Faith brothers focus on Paul’s teaching in Romans on ‘looking not at the things that are seen, but unseen’ they seem to forget that Abraham was the man of faith that these scriptures reference. Abraham did not say or do everything right! His life is not shown as someone who had this perfect impenetrable faith confession. He blew it many times. But he always had the ability to ‘look to the promise of God’ instead of his own failures. This type of faith works for you right now. You don’t see the answer in you becoming this ‘robot’ type person who can never say something wrong or even admit to failure. You simply tell God in the midst of your trials ‘I can’t make it, but you can!’ Now bother Kenyon had a background in the metaphysical cults/groups. These are the groups that believe you change reality thru thought and meditation [Christian science and others]. They believe that reality is not this material world, but what you say and think create ‘your world’. Many modern word of faith brothers don’t realize that the type of faith they espouse is a lot like these groups. I have bought and read many of brother Kenyon’s books over the years, also many of the modern word of faith brothers as well. There was always a sense of ‘mystical’ or ‘strange’ stuff I would run across. These brothers teach that Jesus was ‘born again’. They take the verse that says Jesus is the first begotten from the dead and they see this as ‘being born again’. Most Christians see this as meaning Jesus was the first to rise from the dead with a resurrection body. While others were raised from the dead before Jesus, they all died again. Not Jesus! So this is kind of a strange way to take scripture and ‘twist’ it into a form of faith that has Christian elements in it, but really doesn’t present the Christianity of the New Testament. I remember sharing with a person who was heavily into this movement. They were struggling financially for years. They were always living under this guilt of ‘creating this poverty world’ and constantly focusing on rebuking the devil and trying to ‘create a prosperous world’. I tried to show this person that they weren’t really living by simple faith and trust, but more like under a legalism that you are responsible for not being wealthy and you must do and say everything right or its your fault! I showed them 1st Timothy chapter 6. It says its O.K. to not be wealthy and not feel bad about it. I showed this person that faith was simply being able to thank God that all your needs [not wants!] are being met and if you live the rest of your life without becoming rich it’s O.K. ‘BE CONTENT WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, DON’T DESIRE TO BE RICH’ these are actual scriptures! Well this person finally saw the legalism and guilt that their understanding of faith brought upon them. They later sent me a message thru a mutual friend that said ‘tell John thank you, I am now free from the legalism that I was living under’. I do believe that brother Kenyon [and all the others] are Christians who mean well. But we need to recognize that some of our teaching has gotten off track and return to the biblical message. I know some of you are uncomfortable with these things, and I am sorry about this. But I felt it was important to drop this in. God bless! NOTE: Let me add that it was a matter of choosing to believe scripture over and above the teaching of this movement. Its fun to see yourself as rich and happy. Even spending your whole life just thinking about it can be addictive! This is what Jesus meant when he said ‘you can not serve God and money’. Affluence becomes ‘your God’ in many of these groups. I used to watch these weekend realtor infomercials because its fun to strategize and think ‘money thoughts’. In the past I have made money by investing in real estate. But there came a time where I laid that aside for a higher purpose. I am not saying you can’t be in real estate, or that you can’t be rich! Just don’t confuse biblical faith with a ‘get all you can’ mentality!

[I AM GOING TO ADD A FEW ENTRIES ON THE SABBATH AND HOW BELIEVERS RELATE TO IT. MANY CULTS TEACH SABBATH OBSERVANCE. THERE ARE ALSO SOME CHRISTIAN GROUPS WHO BELIEVE IN OBSERVING IT]

(286) When God wants to do a reform/revolution he does it at many levels at the same time. The difficult thing for the reformer[s] is you get those ‘being challenged’ all mad at you at one time! It does take ‘guts’ to be a pioneer. One time when Jesus was rebuking one group, the other group said ‘don’t you know you are offending us too’ [Pharisees and Lawyers] Jesus said he didn’t care. Let them get offended. Every plant that the Father didn’t plant will be uprooted. It’s funny because we have a lot of Apostles/Prophets upset with us. Though we all believe and function in these gifts together. Then we have the whole crowd of old time churches who simply think we are heretics because we believe in Apostles! It can be funny at times [or if you don’t have boldness you could describe it like the Governor of California says ‘girly men’ it wont be ‘funny’ you will be scared! I would attempt to spell Arnolds name but I don’t have time to spell it right!] So lets do a little ‘reforming’. Recently those who are feeling challenged in the whole area of ‘going to church’ have resorted to the classic verses to defend ‘going to church’ FORSAKE NOT THE GATHERING OF OURSELVES TOGETHER AS SOME. HE THAT SEPARATES HIMSELF SEEKS HIS OWN DESIRE lets put some context. Those in the radical ‘out of the church building on Sunday’ movement for the most part practice the ‘assembling of themselves together’ in a more scriptural way than ‘Sunday church’. Also Paul wrote this to the Hebrews, the Jews had a custom of meeting on Sabbath; Paul is simply saying when you transition into this New Covenant keep getting together! You are forsaking old sacrificial ways and law, but keep assembling. This is also why you find the ‘congregation’ and assembly mentioned in James. The Jewish context of those being addressed required them to deal with ‘assembling’ because they already ‘assembled’ as Jews. Also to use these verses to ‘push back’ against the Body of Christ finding freedom and maturity is simply a result of Pastors responding to reform out of insecurity. You can ‘go to church every Sunday for the rest of your life’ and still be ‘separating yourself’ from the purpose of God. When old time preachers do this kind of defense, I know they are sincere, but we must be willing to change!

(407) Been studying an apostolic movement. I am familiar with this church. They have a few of them in our area. A lot of stuff on line says they are a cult. They really are not one in doctrine. The leader of the movement has a legalistic background from an old time Pentecostal church [four square] and it seems to me that the movement, though Christian, has embraced a lot of the mistakes from the ‘Shepherding/Discipling’ movement. I am not studying what the so called ‘cult researchers’ are saying about them. I am reading from their actual story on line. It really is a great story. One of the limitations of these movements are the limited way they see ‘church’. For the most part these groups see church as sending someone to a city, either renting, buying or building a building [too many of us still cant get past this building centric mindset- none of the disciples or New Testament Apostles EVER did this!] They then set up ‘a Pastor’ to ‘run’ this ‘New Testament Church’. And then the strong authoritarian types will basically teach a strong doctrine of submission to this ‘New Testament order’ and anyone who questions this very limited/unbiblical view of ‘Local Church’ is ‘out of order’ and seen to be ‘departing from the faith’. We need to get back to the biblical model of Jesus and the Apostles. Jesus sent them out ‘2 by 2’ to go and bring this message [the gospel] to the cities and towns where they were sent. Later you see Paul doing this same thing. The ‘planting of churches’ was the actual speaking the gospel to people groups. Those who would believe and get baptized became ‘the church’. These believers were encouraged to get together, have fellowship meals [the original pattern of the ‘Lords Supper’] and to basically be ‘Gods Ecclesia’ in their town. They were seen to be Gods ‘dwelling place’. There was no ‘church’ that they were going to on ‘Sunday’. Paul told the Corinthians that when they got together on the 1st day of the week they were to take up an offering. We take stuff like this and turn it into a commandment. We teach Sunday as some type of New Testament Sabbath [it is not!] and we say ‘go to church on Sunday, obey your Pastor [singular] and put in a tithe’. This is permitted to a degree, but in no way is this some type of mandated New Testament order. That’s why those Pastors who lean towards grace and liberality are seeing growth. They are operating in this system while not teaching that this system ‘is church’ to the same legalistic degree as the other guys. Now when you take this limited way of seeing church, and you put it into the hands of strong authoritarian types. Then you have the ingredients of a ‘cult like’ culture within the group. You find well-meaning Pastors telling Christians ‘how dare you challenge my biblical authority, you are under me’ well this is an abuse of the grace of God. These well meaning guys have taken a pattern of ‘church’ that is common for our day, and have turned it into THE MEASURE of a person’s faith. Any question from the parishioners is seen as rebelling against ‘Gods Man’. Well just remember Paul was not teaching this strong Sunday church, tithing to the church, obey your Pastor mindset. Paul actually teaches [Romans] that the weaker Christians [in faith] will observe certain days and foods and stuff as clean or unclean. He then teaches those who are stronger [more mature] in the faith don’t do this. So for believers to meet on Sunday and to give offerings and to share in Gods grace is a good thing. But to teach that a limited system where you are under ‘a Pastor’ for the rest of your life can become ‘cult like’ in its expression, especially if you have a legalistic background to begin with. [The movement I am studying is known as ‘the door’ or the ‘Potters House’, not to be confused with T.D. Jakes]. NOTE: A few things that I want you to see about the biblical mindset of every believer having the potential to go and evangelize the world. When a believer goes forth with the gospel and brings the good news of Gods forgiveness and acceptance thru Christ. Others want this. To simply see ‘church planting’ as a natural outgrowth of evangelism allows for there to be a rapid increase of the gospel thru out a region. Everybody can ‘pass it on’ to everyone else. You are not viewing ‘church planting’ as going somewhere to start an organization that will need lots of money to function; you are simply preaching the gospel. Those who believe get together, there will be elders [more mature ones] that will have special ability to ground these new believers. But for the most part the only ‘finances’ needed to do this is enough money to get you to the place of ‘sending’. You then teach these new believers to share of their resources with the less fortunate. This is actually the biblical model of church planting. This is why Paul could evangelize large territories in his day. The modern idea sees the need to raise tons of money to support ‘other pros’ who are doing it for a living [missionaries]. They see church planting/evangelism as the ‘job’ of those in ‘full time ministry’. The average believer is told ‘your primary responsibility is to work in the secular world and bring in the finances for the ‘church’ [Christian business] to have enough money to pay the pros’. We have effectively ‘de clawed’ the average believer from the divine mandate to go and preach the gospel to all nations. That’s why when the well intentioned Pastors get mad at me for preaching against tithing, they really can not see how the ‘law of the tithe’ has actually put people back under bondage. The average believer is under the bondage of seeing himself as the ‘resource pool’ that brings the money in for others to do the ‘ministry’. This is actually a form of legalism that puts believers under bondage. Every so often you get a radical believer who breaks the mold of simply being a ‘funder’ and then he goes off and enters ‘full time ministry’. He is then taught all the above and the cycle repeats! The Pastor feels like he is doing right because he now is so fulfilled [it cant be wrong if it feels so right]. But he doesn’t realize the fulfillment he is experiencing is to a large degree the sense of well being that God intended for all the saints to experience as they express themselves and give themselves away for the gospel. In essence the Pastor had the courage to break the mold and step into the journey, but where we have failed is to then take that person and make him into a propagator of the current system. God wants a change in the current system. God wants all his kids to see that we all have this freedom to run the race and be active. It is not limited to the ‘full time clergy’! NOTE: When the well meaning Pastor in the current system looks at the statistics ‘only so many percent of all Christians tithe, therefore we are not reaching the world’ he is seeing ‘reaching the world’ from his limited paradigm. This type of Pastor truly believes it is the lack of tithing that is hindering the gospel. It is not the lack of tithing that is doing this, it is the above system that is limiting the gospel! NOTE; The other day I was trying to open some bag of lunchmeat or something. I remember how hard it was to get the bag open. So of course I thanked the Lord for this obstacle and praised him as I looked for a pair of scissors [I am lying]. I did think to myself ‘what a wonderful product. I am sure it will taste good. I am sure the producers went out of their way to produce the product. Much thought went into the marketing of it. They only forgot a very small thing, they made it next to impossible to actually access the thing!’ This is what we do in modern church. The most valuable asset are the People of God. They can do unbelievable things in the area of reaching the world. We have made it next to impossible to ‘get the product out of the package’.

(416) Let’s talk about divine healing. Over the years I have heard different ‘angles’ on this. I absolutely believe God can and does heal. If you do an in depth study of scripture there is no question about it. ‘He is the God who healeth thee’. The problem, like anything else, is we have a tendency to go to ‘extreme views’ on this. Recently in some of the movements I have been studying I have seen the idea surface that ‘if you did not act by faith in the healing, it’s your fault’. These sincere people get to the point where they teach if someone is in a wheel chair, and you say to them ‘arise and walk’ and if they don’t do it, they didn’t obey [act upon the word] and it’s their fault. Surely it can’t be Gods? Well you then develop a healing theology of condemnation. You begin teaching ‘if you are not healed you have done something wrong’. All redemptive purposes are in Gods plan. The most obvious one is to redeem man from actual death. ‘O death where is your victory’. Jesus is the resurrection and the life right now. He said this to Lazarus sisters. ‘This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God’. It was not Gods will to heal him during these 3 days. In Gods sovereign plan he chose to allow death to happen so he would be glorified in raising him. So even though healing and the defeat of death are parts of God purpose in redemption, we do not understand why all of the aspects of it are not fully revealed now. We should not develop a teaching that says to the person in the wheel chair ‘if you don’t ‘get up’ when I say ‘get up’ then you didn’t obey the word!’ This has been done more times than you know, in various scenarios. I have used the comparison that if it’s always something the person is doing wrong, then what about raising the dead? Jesus taught healing in the great commission just like raising the dead. He said those who believe would even raise the dead. Raising the dead has happened and does actually happen. Why don’t we go and raise all the dead all the time? I actually heard a brother on the radio who was defending the teaching that every time someone isn’t healed there’s something wrong. And he defended the idea that the person being healed is not believing right or else they would be healed. He then gave an example on ‘well why then are not all people raised from the dead?’ He actually taught an experience he, or someone else had, where the Lord showed them that when a dead person is told ‘rise from the dead’ that the spirit of the person hears it, and if they don’t ‘obey’ well there you have it. As you can see, when preachers want to be extreme, they are like kids. They will come up with the most elaborate schemes to make themselves right. Lets just say all of Gods purposes are not fully revealed yet. Even the promise of ‘never dieing’ does not mean we will ‘never die’. It just means that we will win at the end. I believe God is the healer; all of our doctrines and teachings are for the benefit of man. If you turn them into something that condemns man, then you have defeated the main purpose of God. Like what the Pharisees did with the Sabbath. Jesus said the Sabbath was given for man, not man for the Sabbath. We worship our doctrines and put them on pedestals and we make man fit into them. If we can’t find a satisfactory explanation, we then make it mans fault, surely it couldn’t be Gods?

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

(431) Isaiah 56 ‘Keep judgment and do justice, for my salvation is near and my righteousness is ready to be revealed’ God says he is about to do some major things. He wants you to ‘judge right’ actually stand strong in discernment with mercy. It’s easy to give up on the things God has shown you and to fall into the status quo. God says stay true to what I showed you because it’s for a purpose. ‘Blessed is the man that doesn’t pollute my Sabbath and keeps his hand from evil’. Remember what we recently said about the Sabbath? God says ‘blessed are those who remain in my rest. Those who abide in me and allow me to bring forth the fruit’ this is the only way we can keep our selves from ‘doing evil’. In Gods grace! ‘These are the ones I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in MY HOUSE OF PRAYER’ we also just discussed Gods house of prayer. God will gather all those who are in grace and make them ‘joyful’ as they join in intercession for the nations. You are a ‘house of Prayer’ you will only be fulfilled when you are doing what you were created to do! Remember, we are corporately his facility, our ‘use’ is to be a habitation thru whom God intercedes. ‘His watchman are blind, they cant see. They are greedy, they can never have enough wealth. They are all out for personal gain, they look for it to come to their areas. They say ‘tomorrow will be much more abundant’. Here God rebukes the leadership for always wanting more finances. They live day by day with the goal of ‘great material abundance’. They have usurped Gods purpose for his ‘house’ and made it into a den of thieves! [These are the leaders who teach it obsessively, they have made the goal ‘material wealth’ not so much the Pastors who are raising money for unselfish things! Also see the specific rebuke to those who say ‘tomorrow we will have more wealth’ the actual confession and excitement of seeing more wealth as the goal is being rebuked here!]

(452) Let me give you a little example of how ‘so not in control’ I am. I have been trying to post this blog site in the Bergen Record for a few months. As far as I know they have posted it a few times already [at least I know they deducted the payment from my checking!] Well I finally got a hold of the person who does the church ads, she is a nice lady. But I was kinda concerned because I didn’t get any ‘hard copy’ of the ad, and you cant find it on the papers web site. So after weeks of trying to get this straightened out, I finally got her to send me a page of the paper thru the mail. I was looking for it for a week or so and it never showed up. Then my wife finds it last night in a stack of junk mail [by the way ‘junk mail’ is the name I use to refer to all types of stuff. Critical prosperity brothers who send me rebukes, bills and all sorts of stuff!] I am happy to realize it made it to my house; they did have the wrong zip code on it. I was tempted to open it up while sitting on the couch trying to recuperate from some hard days I have been having. I already have learned to not open mail unless you are prepared to deal with whatever problem might arise. It’s like just picking up the phone when it rings. I NEVER answer my house phone [maybe one time out of 500 hundred]. I will be sitting right next to it, reading the paper or eating. It can ring 50 times [my wife and daughters friends must have the same genetic problem that causes someone to do this!] and I refuse to even look at the caller I.D. I always carry my cell phone and my family knows if they need me to call me on it. Sometimes my kids will see me sitting there as the house phone rings 20 times, they will be in the restroom or something. They will be upset that I didn’t even care to look at the caller I.D. Well anyway the principle is if you allow any interruption to hit you at any time, you will not accomplish much. So even though I was excited to finally have a chance to actually look at our ad that has been running for a few months, I figured let me wait until the morning before I open the envelope, my wife cant do stuff like this! So anyway I just opened it, the religion section looks great. I haven’t read a ‘hard copy’ from a Jersey Paper in a while. I enjoyed seeing all the church ad’s and stuff. I am kinda expecting our ad to be wrong, which would mean I have been paying for a wrong ad for months. It wasn’t wrong at all. As a matter of fact it wasn’t even there! O well, I knew I wasn’t supposed to look at it last night. NOTE: At least all you tithers can now say ‘we told you the Lord was gonna get it from you one way or another!’ NOTE: I know some of you think it’s irreverent to even kid like this. In the New Testament ‘the tithe’ wasn’t the main ‘standard’ of spirituality as it has become today. The main standard was the Sabbath. The Sabbath became the key tool of measurement that the Pharisees would use to judge Jesus. You could have said that Jesus actually ‘was in their face’ on this issue. Jesus purposefully would heal on the Sabbath. In today’s mindset you could have thought ‘well, we know the Pharisees were wrong in the way they elevated the Sabbath to something that it wasn’t, but we do live in a pluralistic society, and in keeping with the respect for all religions, Jesus could have simply avoided healing on the Sabbath. He still could have healed as many as he wished and he would have also been making the gospel more ‘acceptable’ to the religious mindset of the day’ Jesus would have none of it! Why? Because one of the major barriers that would stand in the way of the fledgling church would be legalism. Jesus wanted to be the ‘first’ prophetic sledgehammer that would open the way for the other ‘grace preachers’ who would come after him. In essence Jesus HAD TO HAVE DONE THESE THINGS ON THE SABBATH or else it would not have offended the religious mind enough to provoke it into reformation!

(468) ISAIAH 58 ‘Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins’ When prophets go thru difficulty, the first thing they question is ‘have I been too hard on your people?’ God is going to deal with this in this chapter. He starts by first of all telling Isaiah ‘I have called you to reveal to my people their sins, it is my calling for you to show them the areas they don’t fully see yet. Their ‘sins’ of ignorance. They often ask for me. I am going to show them things about church and the way they worship me that are limited. Showing them ‘their sins’ is not a function of judgment, it is a necessary ‘uprooting’ that they need in order for their prayers to be answered.’ God is basically telling Isaiah ‘when things are hard and difficult, don’t question my basic revelatory ministry thru you. You don’t have the right to stop speaking what I am saying!’ ‘Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, they ask of me the ordinances of justice and take delight in approaching me’ we as believers take the act of seeking and asking and learning, and we turn it into ‘doing what God wants’. In essence we have developed a mindset that says ‘I go to church, I learn all the bible tricks on how to have a happy and prosperous life. If I am ever confronted with teaching that doesn’t appeal to me, or requires sacrifice, I have already learned to ignore it, you cant fly with eagles if you think like a turkey’ we basically have bypassed the instructions on self sacrifice and giving our lives away for the Kingdom. We simply think the ‘acts’ of going and learning from bible truths, even if it is all based on self, that this in itself is pleasing to God. God says why do my people by pass all my instructions and then delight that they are going to approach me? It’s because our ‘approaching God’ in the present mindset of the western church is simply for self-fulfillment. We approach him like a cosmic Santa Clause and this delights us. God says I want to show you things that I require from you and I want you to do them. Don’t simply think that you are pleasing me by ‘approaching me’ I want the action/obedience to be the fruit of your ‘approaching/church going’. [NOTE: It is not totally wrong to seek God for self help/improvement. It’s just many of us in today’s church have made this the priority. When people watch the ‘get rich and famous’ infomercials on the weekends, there is a feeling of ‘hope and self fulfillment’ that simply comes from surrounding yourself in an environment of ‘maybe that can be me someday’. Its OK to hope, but scripture does teach us [1st Timothy 6] to ‘not desire to become rich’ as well as Jesus many other warnings in the gospels. So I just want to warn you to not fall into the trap of making ‘church/approaching God’ a format for self help. It might ‘feel good’ to see Christianity thru this materialistic lens, but in the end it can be dangerous] ‘Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo heavy burdens and to let the oppressed go free, that you break every yoke. Is it not to feed your food to the hungry, that you bring the poor to YOUR house. You should clothe the naked, and help your own natural family. If you do these things you will get healed, your goodness will shine like the morning sun. You will call to me and I will hear. Take away from you the bondages, the blaming of others and speaking vanity. Draw out your soul to the hungry, feed them and satisfy them [even with your ministry/teaching] and your light shall rise in obscurity and your darkness will be like day’ you find all the elements of Jesus earthly ministry contained here. The Pharisees lived for religious ritual. They fasted and afflicted themselves [and others] Jesus reached out in love and poured his soul out for the needy, Isaiah is prophesying the heart of Jesus here. God accepts a lifestyle of giving your life away for others. Jesus would teach that this type of love is the greatest commandment. Here we see the heart of ministry. I want to challenge everyone [especially leaders] to re examine your ‘ministry’ does it contain these most fundamental elements? Do we carry out ministry in a way that simply tells the world ‘hey, look at us, we are a highly motivated business and we can compete with any other organization in our area’. Do we view ministry this way? Jesus values the souls of those who lay their lives down for others, don’t fall into the trap of establishing religious functions for the purpose of impressing men. This is what 1st century religion digressed to, even though one of their own prophets [Isaiah] warned against it centuries before! ‘thou shalt be like a spring of water who’s waters fail not. They that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places and make the desolate cities to be inhabited [I added this last part from another place, I am so used to saying it like this] Thou shalt be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in’ God is saying when you give yourself away for others, when you obey him. When you show compassion. When you do not view ‘ministry’ as trying to attain some degree of respect in the ‘corporate world’ when you approach it like Jesus, then the Lord will allow your influence to go far. The people you impact will be used to spread the Kingdom to various cities. The people will be ‘faithful to the things you spoke’ because they are enjoined to you like a ‘band of brothers’. There memories of you will truly be that of a friend who gave himself away for them. These also will ‘repair breaches, restore paths’ there are so many true Christian values and principles that Jesus taught were the foundations of his Kingdom, things like self sacrifice and laying down your life for others. God will use your ‘seed/offspring’ to restore these ‘lost’ teachings back into the Church. We are so consumed with ‘self help’ that we have lost the foundational principles of the Cross. ‘ If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing what you want on my holy day’. In context God is saying ‘if you rest in me, and stop doing your own works in my day of grace, then I will move mightily on your behalf’. If you remember I already showed you on this blog how the Sabbath is a type of entering into the covenant of Grace. When you cease from your own legalistic attempts to do Gods work, then God will come in and do them thru you! ‘not doing thine own ways, nor speaking thine on words’ much of modern ministry [especially Pastoral] is under the burden to ‘come up with something to speak on for an hour on Sunday’ many of these brothers are well meaning, but because we have structured the church in today’s world around the ‘Sunday meeting’ it has put a burden on Pastors to come up with something to say every Sunday at a certain time. The New Testament churches didn’t function like this. Therefore we have a lot of ‘speaking our own words’ we don’t realize that we are doing this, but in essence we are. I would simply encourage all Christian teachers/speakers to speak only what you hear God saying. If God has a certain vision or direction that he has planted in your heart, then build that into the people. Don’t go thru 20 verses all over the bible and then try to make them fit some theme. The bible has plenty of ‘themes’ already. Focus on whole portions of scripture and teach them as God directs. A lot of the unbalanced teaching in the church today is a result of teachers jumping all over the bible in a 30 minute time span and then making the bible say something that it never meant! ‘If you do all this, then I will cause you to ride upon the high places of the earth’ lets conclude this chapter with an overview. If you do all the things in this chapter: give yourself away for people. Have true religion as described in the book of James. Don’t point the finger in accusation at people, when reproving, which is a function of the prophetic, do it in love. When you speak and do what God is saying, instead of coming up with your own ‘peculiar brand’ of seeing everything, then God will exalt you to a high place. In essence this is the ministry of Jesus, who lowered himself more than any man, who did all the things you read about in this chapter and then God gave him a name that is above all others. Do the will of God my friends and he will exalt you in due season.

(551) Deuteronomy 20-25 You read ‘the elders of the city’ a lot in these chapters. Paul will eventually choose to use this terminology to describe the leadership of the New Testament church. These were plural leaders among a group of believers in a city. Not singular preachers of groups of people in buildings on a set day of the week! You did have the singular model in Paul’s day. Where? In the system of the Pharisees and Synagogues! The concept of a ‘president’ of the synagogue leading the people on Sabbath day in Christian [Jewish] instruction was being carried out in Paul’s day. Paul used to be part of the system! He chose the concept of elders over a city, instead of a singular title over a part of the people that met in a building. I think we need to get back to the better model. Also instruction is given that when the children enter the land they are to share the fruits of the land with the stranger. They are not to totally reap all the fruit from the trees or the fields. The stranger can walk in your fields and eat whatever he wants; he just can’t take it with him. These guidelines are given for the benefit of the alien [stranger]. God says I want you to remember that you too were strangers in Egypt. This cuts to the heart of so much of the present debate over the illegal alien issue of our day. I do understand the anger that some have over this issue, God says ‘remember, you were all aliens at one time or another, don’t get so self righteous. If I tell you to share your goods with those who don’t deserve it, then do it. I am the one who brings forth the produce, so share it with others’. God has blessed us financially and materially, he requires us to share it with others. A few difficult verse’s 23:1 God says if a man is wounded in the ‘private area’ he cannot come into the congregation. God is not telling people if they have had some sexual accident that they cant serve God, he is saying he wants people who can ‘procreate’ in his church! He wants people to be able to ‘reproduce’ [soul winners] for his Kingdom. 23:14-15 God says when you ‘go to the bathroom in the land’ dig a hole and bury it, because he is in the land and your land must be sanctified. If it isn’t then he can’t ‘walk among you’. The spiritual lesson is we can’t accomplish anything without God’s presence. We need him, stay clean so he can work among us. Only by the blood. Also when a man dies without having children, his widow shall marry the brother so he can have seed remain in his name. If the brother says ‘no, I do not want to raise up seed to my brother’ then he is taken before the elders and they take off his shoe, spit in his face, and his name is called ‘the man who has no shoe’. What’s this all about? God is saying be willing to build others up, your gift is not given for you to build your ministry, or the people who relate only to you [church members]. But I have given you gifts to raise up ‘seed to your brethren’ as well. Use your gift to help others, others who can’t repay you [I think I heard this somewhere before? Jesus!] If you don’t, all the people will know your church well, it will be the one in town where every body where’s one shoe!

[THESE 2 CHAPTERS WERE TAKEN FROM THE HEBREWS COMMENTARY. THEY HELP IN UNDERSTANDING THE CONCEPT OF SABBATH FOR THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH]

CHAPTER 3:

‘Wherefore HOLY BRETHREN, partakers of the heavenly calling’ I want to submit to you that these terms found thru out Hebrews are really speaking of the privileged position of the 1st century Jew before his final rejection of Messiah as a nation. Most times we read these verses and debate whether it is speaking of someone who is ‘saved’ or not. Later we will see this in chapter 6 ‘those who were once enlightened and partakers of the Holy Ghost’ all these terms can apply to Israel as Gods peculiar people and chosen nation. I feel Paul is still addressing them this way because they are still in a transition stage in the 1st century. There is still hope that they will receive Messiah as a nation. All these terms are referring to Israel as being Gods special people who came for a special purpose. Ultimately they will not live up to this calling [yet!] because they will reject Jesus as a nation, though there will be a remnant of Jews who will believe. So as we read thru out Hebrews we will look at all these privileged expressions as speaking of Israel as Gods special nation.

This will clear up the arguments that many believers have over portions of this letter. ‘Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus…and Moses was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things that would come later…but Christ as a Son over his own house WHO’S HOUSE ARE WE if we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of hope firm unto the end’ a main theme from Paul is to compare Moses and Jesus. Paul will take lots of Old testament verses and quote them in this letter. I believe more than any other New Testament letter. He quotes them freely, not even giving the chapter and verse, he says ‘somewhere it is said’ and then goes right into it. Sort of like what I do on my blog! The point is Paul is seeing so many shadows of the Old Testament fulfilled thru Christ that his mind is exploding in revelation. It is almost like he can’t stop proving this point. Jesus is seen all thru out the Old Testament and Paul is obsessed with showing this to the first century Jew, his own cultural family. He says in Romans that he would be cursed himself if he knew it would open the eyes of his nation. Paul also reveals that Israel can become this house, if she ‘holds on to the end’. We will read stuff like this a lot in Hebrews. This causes some to read the letter as in if Paul were writing Christians.

Jesus taught in John 15 that the branches would be cut off that would not bring fruit. Paul also said that Israel, the natural branches, were cut off so we [gentiles] would be grafted in. These terms of ‘holding on, staying steadfast’ can be applied to Israel in the sense that Paul is pleading ‘you have a few thousand year history with God. God has sent you prophets and anointed your kings with his Spirit [by the way this is why in chapter 6 it will say those who were once enlightened by the Spirit and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost- no other nation on earth had the Spirit of God actively administrating their government like Israel- the argument isn’t whether it’s talking about people who were ‘truly saved’ or not!] you, Israel, have been walking with him for a long time, DON’T FALL AWAY NOW!’ So in context the ‘holding on’ can describe the transition stage. Don’t fall away after all these years of waiting for Messiah as a national hope and promise. You will see Paul use this argument in Acts when he says ‘you guys are accusing me of heresy, and I am just preaching the fulfillment of the promise that our fathers have been waiting for, for over thousands of years’.

‘Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost says, today if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, the day of temptation in the wilderness, when your fathers tempted me and saw my works FORTY YEARS… so I sware in my wrath they shall not enter into my rest’ Now, a common theme is to teach that Christians cant get the promised land because they don’t have faith. It is taught that Israel in the wilderness are a type of believers and to get the promise you must believe. While all this can be true, this is not the context in Hebrews. Paul is trying to get Israel to BELIEVE in Christ for righteousness, as opposed to her trying to work for it [Romans 9-10].

Paul sees the story of Israel not entering into the Promised Land as an example of the danger of not entering into the new covenant by failing to believe in Jesus and be justified by faith. He will later do this in chapter 11, the great faith chapter. He will show Israel how all of her Patriarchs received A GOOD REPORT [justified] by faith. I will explain it when I get there. So keep in mind that Israel in the wilderness is a type of Israel in the first century, and Paul is trying to tell them ‘just like our fore fathers couldn’t get into the promised land because of UNBELIEF, so too you are in danger of stumbling over the righteousness of God which is by faith, not of works!’ I also find it interesting that Paul includes the 40 year period of judgment. It was around 40 years after the crucifixion of Jesus until the destruction of the temple in AD 70.

It was a prophetic sign, a sort of probationary period for Israel as a nation. It was like God said ‘40 years are now up, the temple is going to be destroyed just like my Son said, those who haven’t moved on and made the transition into the ‘new temple’ are now being judged’. Israel hasn’t had true temple worship since! ‘Wherefore the Holy Ghost saith, today if you will hear his voice harden not your hearts [as opposed to the voice of Moses which is the law] as in the provocation, the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me and saw my works FORTY years…so I sware in my wrath they shall not enter into my rest, take heed brethren [fellow Jews] lest there be in any of you AN EVIL HEART OF UNBELIEF IN DEPARTING FROM THE LIVING GOD’ We are going to enter a theme that speaks of Israel not entering Gods true rest because of unbelief, not because of a lack of works [law].

The apostle will begin to use the story of Joshua entering into the Promised Land as a story of Jesus [which the Old Testament translation of Joshua means Jesus] and his offering true rest [grace] to 1st century Israel. The fact is the only ones who entered in were the ones who believed. The unbelievers [all the adults except for Joshua and Caleb] all died out over a 40 year period in the wilderness. Just like many of the first century Jews would reject Messiah for 40 years until the destruction of their temple. Jesus said we must become like little children to inherit Gods Kingdom. The children of the older generation entered into the Promised Land, the parents died. Why did they die Paul? Was it because they didn’t have the law or do ‘works’? NO! They died because of unbelief. Paul is stressing that the 1st century Jew is also in danger of ‘not entering into rest [grace] because of unbelief’. We often read these verses applying them to Christians, which is OK. But when you read them in context, then you see the real meaning. This will help later when we read others passages. We wont argue over Arminian or Calvinistic interpretations of stuff, we will see that neither one is right as it pertains to certain portions of this letter. ‘And to whom sware he that they should not enter into rest, but to them THAT BELIEVED NOT, SO WE SEE THAT THEY COULD NOT ENETR IN BECAUSE OF UNBELIEF’ Do you see the significance of this argument? Brilliant Paul is using all of these well known Old Testament stories to convince Israel that they must believe [justification by faith] in order to ‘inherit the land’ [the promise of eternal life]. This is the whole context of Hebrews. That’s why when modern preachers use all these verses to say you must believe to get material things, that they are way off the mark. It is true that faith does obtain things. And when we believe God for healing and finances and answers to prayer that it is vital to believe. But so many modern teachers have taught these promises as getting stuff, while in context you begin to see the true meaning.

CHAPTER 4:

‘Let us therefore fear [Jews in the first century, not Christians in the 21st century! At least in this context] lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest [now defined as the New Covenant rest. Paul is telling Israel God has left you a promise of rest in Messiah, where you will cease from your own works [law], beware Israel, our forefathers missed out on the promise because of unbelief, don’t do the same!] any of you should come short of it, for unto us was the gospel preached [1st century Israel] as well as unto them [Israel at the edge of entering the promised land had the gospel [good news] preached to them by Joshua and Caleb, they gave the ‘good report’ that the land was great and it was there for the taking, of course they didn’t believe and therefore couldn’t take it] but the word did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

For WE WHICH HAVE BELEIVED [the remnant of Jews who were believing in the first century were entering into the rest of the New Covenant of grace, they left off trying to be made righteous by the law, they ceased from their own works] do enter into rest…for he spake in a certain place of the 7th day on this wise, and God did rest the 7th day from all his works, and again, if they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it still remains that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: again he limits a certain day in David [Psalms] today if you will HEAR HIS VOICE [as opposed to the voice of the law/Moses] harden not your hearts. For if Joshua [my king James says ‘Jesus’ this is because the translation is the same] had given them rest then he would not have spoken of another day, there remaineth therefore a rest TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD! [Jewish people ‘of God’ not gentile converts!]. Well, we covered a lot here. Paul takes the creation account, the verses that will later speak of a future rest for Gods people, and then a verse from Psalms where David prophesies that there still remains a future rest. He puts them all together to show Israel that God has ordained a future ‘7th day’ for his people to enter into. He uses the 7th day as a symbol of Gods ‘day of Grace and rest’.

He then shows Israel that it really wasn’t speaking of the rest of the Promised Land after all, because eventually Israel did inherit it, but yet David still spoke of it in the future tense. So Paul concludes that the future rest of the 7th day that ‘Gods people’ [Jews] still must enter is the offer of grace to the 1st century Jew. Wow! This is why some theologians feel Paul was a little too loose with the scriptures. I think this stuff is great! Paul basically was using all of his understanding as a first century theologian [Pharisee] and was absolutely proving Christ to Israel in a way that none of the other Apostles could do. He was the only Pharisee out of all the Apostles, one born out of do time. This is obviously why Jesus chose him. It is so important to see the connections that Paul is making here. If Israel were following the timeline that Paul is giving, they will see that their own Old Testament scriptures testify that there was a future ‘place of rest’ that would be offered to them as a nation.

And Paul also shows that in history, Israel had a pattern of not entering into ‘this rest’ because of unbelief. And then he says ‘but the rest that Joshua finally did give them [the promised land] wasn’t really the true rest after all, because David still spoke of it in a future tense’ then he says ‘see, there remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God’. Seeing this in context clears up many wrong interpretations of these passages. You can still read Hebrews as a Christian and get wonderful principles, but you must see it in context to truly understand what its saying. ‘For he that hath entered into rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his’ amazing, Paul says just like God ceased from creative activity on the ‘7th day’ so likewise when we enter into the covenant of grace, we too will cease from the works of the law. This is so significant to the Jewish community whom Paul is addressing. He is showing them, in their language [Old Testament] the same things he writes to the gentiles in Galatians and Romans.

He is using the story of Genesis to show the truth of grace. Out of all the Apostles, Paul is unique in his ability to see Jesus in all of these Old Testament stories. No one could have made a better apologetic for the Christian faith than Paul. ‘Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall into the same example of unbelief’ Now, I have heard it taught that this is telling Christians to ‘work for your rest’. This would be a complete contradiction to this entire letter. But if you see this in context, that the recipients of this letter are 1st century Jews who are already under the bondage of the law, then you read this as ‘those of you Jews who are always working to try and make yourselves righteous, you need to stop working for this, but instead let all your labors and struggles end up at the Cross’ in essence ‘labor [struggle] to see these things I am showing you, and if you do you will find rest’ in the New Covenant of grace! ‘Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession, for we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.’ This of course applies to all of us. Paul and other New Testament writers saw redemption in a way that naturally included everybody. It was only those who rejected it thru unbelief that were missing out. This is why you will see statements made like ‘Jesus is the savior of all men, specially of those that believe’ there was a real sense in the early church that Jesus really redeemed everybody.

They were not preaching universal salvation in the sense that everybody will be saved. But the gospel was presented in a way that simply included everybody. So here Paul says ‘we have a high priest’ he is including Israel in the ‘we’. I also like to apply these verses to all of us. How many times do we feel intimidated to come before Gods throne? We feel unworthy and God seems unapproachable. Sort of like Saint John of the Cross who experienced the ‘dark night of the soul’ as well as Mother Theresa. There are times where believers feel separated from God’s real presence. It is during these times when God says ‘come boldly, I too have experienced weakness and separation thru the incarnation. I know what it is like. Come to me, I can see what you feel like, I can feel your feelings of weakness and inadequacy, come to me for help my child’. In the next chapter we will read this in depth. Jesus and all the high priests of the law were able to identify with man because they were at one time in mans shoes. This is one of the great realities of the incarnation.

(157) Just remembered a conversation I had with a ministry leader in our city. At the time we were discussing the prosperity gospel. I was telling him the story of how a very popular prosperity preacher wrote in one of his best selling books that he had a vision and went to heaven, and in heaven he saw King David as well as many others. King David told the prosperity preacher that one of the things he regrets was all the negative confessions he made in the book of Psalms! [To be honest stuff like this still gets me mad!] Well I surely thought the ministry leader would be as upset as I about this. Instead he challenged me in defense of the prosperity preacher and said ‘how do you know the vision is fake’? Now I got upset. How do you know Joseph Smith [the prophet of the Mormon church] didn’t find the ‘gold tablets’ in the earth [or even if he found them, how come I know there not from God?] We know by spiritual discernment. Scripture commands us to ‘test the spirits’ and every spirit that is not from God must be rejected. The simple fact that this ministry leader could not discern and willingly reject the prosperity preacher’s vision was appalling. We cannot ever accept a vision that would have a writer of one of the Canonical books basically say he wished he could take something out of the book [in this case Psalms]. The book of Revelation places a curse on those who ‘take away from the Word of God’. I finally answered the question of ‘how do you know the visions fake?’ with the answer GOD TOLD ME! To my surprise the ministry leader accepted it and seemed to submit to this Word. It was almost like this movement casts a spell on people who defend it. Sometimes it takes a prophetic word spoken in authority to break this spell! Paul told the Galatians ‘who hath bewitched you to not obey the truth?’ I have had friends who were Pastors come out and publicly defend this movement because they visited one of their ministry centers and said they ran an efficient operation. Hey, you can visit the Mormon Temple in Utah and you’ll see efficiency! But God help us if this becomes the criteria that we use to judge a thing. I really have struggled with the leaders who were not learned enough to know what they were defending, but would defend it any way. Sort of like ‘hey, I have been attacked before and I didn’t like it, therefore I will defend any one else who gets attacked’. Well I don’t like being attacked either, but leaders need the ability to see things for what they are and try to bring correction in love. I do believe these prosperity guys are fellow believers, but stuff like I just showed you can’t go unchecked. The popularity of some of these things is a direct result of leaders not taking a stand when they should have. I don’t want to offend you guys, but I felt the Lord wanted me to share this.

(410) I want to talk about the reality of gifted Prophetic/Apostolic people in church history who had real gifts, but embraced false doctrine. This is an area of stumbling for those who are trying to break away from false movements. The Mormons are good people, whenever they come to my house I have real good talks with them [a little too good, after a few visits they go back to their elders with questions and they never come back!] I actually become real friends with them. I honestly discuss their movement’s history and I give an honest evaluation of the Prophet Joseph Smith [the founder of their church]. I do not demean them in any way. I simply acknowledge that the giftings of Joseph Smith were tremendous in the area of pioneering a religious movement. I also challenge the belief that Joseph was the prophet that the Lord chose to restore the true church. I find agreement that the true church are all those who have come to embrace the sacrifice of Christ [which they believe in] and then I explain how Jesus said the gates of hell would never totally prevail against the church. If Jesus words were true [they were!] then there never was a time since the 1st century that the church didn’t exist in some form. The gates never prevailed against her. Therefore Josephs teaching on him being the restorer of the church to the degree that God supposedly told him there was no true church left, has to be wrong. I do make headway with the younger guys. Once you honestly become true friends with people, you can have influence. My position on all the extra biblical doctrines and visions and other so called supernatural things [finding gold plates in the ground!] I simply ‘compromise’ to the point of saying ‘it is possible that Joseph [or any other leader of any other movement] had visions or experiences that they felt were true. They might have actually saw someone/something’. But we go back to the reality of Jesus being the way to God, and we put these other things at the foot of the Cross. The history of the pioneering Mormons is tremendous. The people are all good people [for the most part] there are strides being made right now to influence certain key leaders of this movement and to bring them back into alignment with historic Christianity [like what happened with the seventh day Adventists on the west coast. A few years back some evangelicals established relationships with key leaders and certain seventh day groups came back to the historic church- The worldwide church of God group [not the Pentecostal church of God] had a total reformation from the top down!] The point is, it is possible for certain religious groups to experience great success. In some strange way the fact that there is a small degree of the gospel present within the system [remember the leaven affecting the whole lump?] enables a certain degree of success until the time comes for true reformation. This approach can be seen with the more extreme word of faith/ prosperity teachers. Many were good men who did good things. We should not allow this to be an open door for the other doctrines and stuff that are wrong. Acknowledge the good, and honestly face up to the things that went off track. God requires all of us to do this at certain times. NOTE: After a few talks with these Mormons they see that I am a Christian; I know the bible and am even aware of their history. I use this fact as an example of God revealing himself to people without them joining or identifying with some religious group or organization. One of their beliefs is God has a true real church in society [true] and therefore which one is it? I try to show them that I too believe there is ‘one true church’ and that this church [society of people- not an organization or denomination] is actually made up of all those who have come to the reality of God thru Christ. They will challenge this view [as do some Christians!] and say that it is wrong. That how could people just come to a true knowledge of God unless they are in the true church [which to them is Mormon] I then bring them back to the fact that we have spent hours discussing and sharing many truths about Jesus. We all know many of the same verses [to be honest I usually know more by memory than them] and we have been discussing all these truths of God and his purposes and redemption thru Christ. And yet I have never met you before. I am not Mormon. How did God break thru to me and show me all these things that we have been sharing? It wasn’t thru some organization; it was the fact that God is revealing himself to mankind thru Christ. All who have come to this reality ARE THE TRUE CHURCH. Therefore everyone who worships the Father thru the Son are the true church. This leaves room for them and all others. I don’t whitewash the many wrong teachings of Mormonism, I simply try to bring them to the reality that even if Joseph Smith never existed that the reality of all of us [I include them] right now believing in God and the sacrifice of his son would qualify us as the ‘true church’ you don’t need Joseph Smith for this!

(615) Took a ride yesterday to San Antonio to pick up family from the airport. It reminded me of the old days. I tuned in to one of the classic rock stations and caught a ‘re-play’ of the first Led Zeppelin concert in 19 years! They played the night before in London. I hope to catch the replay on VH1 some day. The rock station was playing the list that Zeppelin sang, but it was from their old albums. It’s too soon to play the live stuff. Well any way it felt good to jam to Zeppelin while driving thru some real traffic, you know the cutting in front of people and stuff, while all the time not wearing my seatbelt. I guess the old rebellious nature comes out every now and then. At the airport the ladies with the Jehovah Witnesses had a stand and invited me over. I spent around an hour just really having an open discussion. One was an older black woman, the other Hispanic. Very nice ladies. I did the normal routine of quoting scripture and really relating one on one. I actually quoted John 17 ‘to know God and his Son is life’ and then the Hispanic lady walked up [she didn’t hear me] and says ‘do you know what John 17 says’ and the Black lady had to admit ‘he just quoted it!’ I like prophetic stuff! I could tell I was truly having an honest impact with the ladies. The Black lady at one point said ‘do you mean I might have been wrong all these years, I can’t accept that’ she kinda said it in true concern. I was treating them nice [not like the prosperity guys!] I really brought the reality of Gods ‘true church’ as being all who have come to know the Father thru the Son [one of their favorite verses] and tried to show how this ‘true group’ are made up of all those who believe, even the ‘deceived Catholics’! That was a little too much for them. But as I had to leave, they really wanted to keep talking, not so much to convince me, but they seemed taken aback by meeting someone who was knowledgeable and all about their group. Quoted scripture and all, plus looks like one of these hippies who is looking for a fix! I had to go but left them my info. I told them to get the Saturday San Antonio paper and our blog ad and radio stuff is in it. They were too old to know the blog stuff, but the radio program does reach San Antonio. I enjoyed the time, hopefully if I get back to the truck in time I can catch some more Zeppelin on the way home!

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

(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 [almost half of the entire ‘Catholic’ church] 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.

(483) There are a lot of teachings I have done thru the years over radio. You can get an overview of them by reading the tape catalog on this site, but you don’t really get all the teaching unless you listen to all the programs. This would take years! So let me share a little old stuff that I think is relevant. A few years back I was working on my classic mustang in the garage. A couple of Jehovah’s witnesses stopped by. I was dirty and under the car, but I got out from under the car and had one of my good conversations with them. I tell them right off that I do embrace the new Kingdom on earth that God will establish in the future [all Christians do believe this whether they know it or not!] and then I shared how all who know Jesus by faith will have an inheritance in this new Kingdom. Partaking of it is a gift thru Christ, it is not only given to those who join some group. During this particular discussion the lady [they were a couple] mentioned something about the bible, to which I agreed, but I also told her that the 1st century church had no bible [like we do today, they did have the Old Testament and the early epistles were being written] and yet they were a strong church because they were established on the actual person of Christ. Jesus was building his church and this was a real living relationship that he had with his people. To my surprise the husband totally agreed with me. It was like one of those moments where someone has believed something for a while and someone else comes along and confirms it. It was funny, because both me and the husband were agreeing while the wife was ‘on the outside’. The point is we often confuse what the book of Acts describes as ‘they preached the word’. When Acts uses this terminology, the ‘word’ is expressly speaking of the message of God to man thru Christ. The ‘word of reconciliation’ if you will. That Jesus [the word] has now become the fulfillment of all the promises that were made thru the Prophets to Israel. This central message of Jesus gospel is ‘the word’. Now I do believe in scripture and the inspiration of it, but I want you to see that the actual reality of Jesus rising from the dead was the power behind the New Testament church. It wasn’t all the wonderful bible stories that we have today. You didn’t find them preaching on Jonah accept how it would relate to Christ [Jesus says ‘as Jonah was in the belly of the whale, so shall the son of man be in the heart of the earth’] so all scripture, especially the Old Testament, was now presented in a way that pointed to Jesus as the way to God. We often think ‘preaching the word’ is simply going to all these great bible stories or teaching some great bible principle. While these stories and principles are good for learning [Paul taught that all scripture is profitable] they are not the foundation of the church. The church [Spiritual community] is actually built upon the reality of the person of Christ. Jesus was actively administrating the growth of the New Testament church thru his Spirit. He said in the gospel of John that he was leaving them for a little while and then HE would come back. In this text he was speaking of the Holy Spirit. So the message [which by the way the gospel can also be called ‘the message’] was the actual person of Christ. Once the reality of the simple gospel began to spread in the 1st century, there was no stopping this simple truth. They did not have the availability of bibles like we do today. It was not until many centuries later that all Christians would have there own copies of the bible. Yet these ‘bible less’ churches were unstoppable! Lets ‘preach the word’ again like they did in the old days and we will see the same results! NOTE: In all these conversations I have with the Jehovah’s and Mormons I do what Paul did ‘I become all things to all people that I might save some’. I do not compromise to the points of heresy that these groups do embrace, but after a few minutes of talking with them as friends, and them seeing me quote both scripture and the histories of their movements, they begin to see me as one of them. I actually have had some tell me ‘wow, you know all the stuff we know’. One innocent ‘elder’ from the Mormons made the mistake of telling his ‘overseers’ this and he never came back! The point is I truly relate to them as real people who are on a quest for God. If they weren’t really seeking God do you think they would be going door to door for what they believe is Gods truth? Paul preached a sermon in Acts [I think Mars hill?] and the people were ‘superstitious’ which means ‘religious’ in this context. They believed in many gods. Greek culture had this type of Pantheism where all gods were welcome. Rome [who was heavily influenced by Greek thought- the word for this is ‘Helenization’] allowed you to have other Gods. You just had to worship the roman Caesar as ‘lord’ and this is what got the early church in trouble. While Paul was preaching to these ‘religious’ people, they had an altar to so many gods in their town, that to play it safe they even had an altar to ‘the unknown god’. They figured ‘hey, if we missed a god, this will cover it’. So Paul uses this ‘unknown god’ and tells this group ‘I am declaring to you who this unknown god is’. Paul took this opportunity of their religion and used it as best as he could to preach the true God. I see this in my approach to these groups. Identify as best as you can with them. They often don’t have real good conversations/friendships with true believers. If you are solid in the faith, become friends with them. Get the conversation back to ‘who there god really is’ and you will see God reveal himself on the ‘altars’ of religious people!

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

(172) A few years back a popular preacher in our region [Houston] was speaking about a guy who got stuck in a freezer [walk in!] He shared how even though the freezer was not plugged in, they found the guy dead in the morning. The brother said he believed the guy froze to death, because in his ‘mind’ he believed the freezer was on. I do like this preacher [Joel Osteen] but this is a type of ‘metaphysical’ belief. The groups ‘Christian Science’ and others hold to these views. The biblical view of ‘renewing the mind’ and meditating on Gods Word is a profitable thing. This type of belief [the freezer guy!] is really not biblical. We don’t ‘create reality’ with our thoughts or words. While it is good to keep a positive confession and to ‘set your mind on things above’ yet these practices don’t actually create reality! They can have an effect on our circumstances and help us in our walk with God, but in and of themselves these are simply ‘window dressing’. The basic tenets of Christian belief put the emphasis on character, faith, trusting in God, being diligent and overall ‘root’ issues. The modern focus on words and thoughts are a superficial approach. Though there is some biblical truth to them, they are not the deep issues of walking with God. What about the brother in the freezer? Well it’s possible he died of a heart attack or something, but he didn’t ‘create’ an environment with his mind that caused him to freeze to death

(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!

(378) 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].

(410) I want to talk about the reality of gifted Prophetic/Apostolic people in church history who had real gifts, but embraced false doctrine. This is an area of stumbling for those who are trying to break away from false movements. The Mormons are good people, whenever they come to my house I have real good talks with them [a little too good, after a few visits they go back to their elders with questions and they never come back!] I actually become real friends with them. I honestly discuss their movement’s history and I give an honest evaluation of the Prophet Joseph Smith [the founder of their church]. I do not demean them in any way. I simply acknowledge that the giftings of Joseph Smith were tremendous in the area of pioneering a religious movement. I also challenge the belief that Joseph was the prophet that the Lord chose to restore the true church. I find agreement that the true church are all those who have come to embrace the sacrifice of Christ [which they believe in] and then I explain how Jesus said the gates of hell would never totally prevail against the church. If Jesus words were true [they were!] then there never was a time since the 1st century that the church didn’t exist in some form. The gates never prevailed against her. Therefore Josephs teaching on him being the restorer of the church to the degree that God supposedly told him there was no true church left, has to be wrong. I do make headway with the younger guys. Once you honestly become true friends with people, you can have influence. My position on all the extra biblical doctrines and visions and other so called supernatural things [finding gold plates in the ground!] I simply ‘compromise’ to the point of saying ‘it is possible that Joseph [or any other leader of any other movement] had visions or experiences that they felt were true. They might have actually saw someone/something’. But we go back to the reality of Jesus being the way to God, and we put these other things at the foot of the Cross. The history of the pioneering Mormons is tremendous. The people are all good people [for the most part] there are strides being made right now to influence certain key leaders of this movement and to bring them back into alignment with historic Christianity [like what happened with the seventh day Adventists on the west coast. A few years back some evangelicals established relationships with key leaders and certain seventh day groups came back to the historic church- The worldwide church of God group [not the Pentecostal church of God] had a total reformation from the top down!] The point is, it is possible for certain religious groups to experience great success. In some strange way the fact that there is a small degree of the gospel present within the system [remember the leaven affecting the whole lump?] enables a certain degree of success until the time comes for true reformation. This approach can be seen with the more extreme word of faith/ prosperity teachers. Many were good men who did good things. We should not allow this to be an open door for the other doctrines and stuff that are wrong. Acknowledge the good, and honestly face up to the things that went off track. God requires all of us to do this at certain times. NOTE: After a few talks with these Mormons they see that I am a Christian; I know the bible and am even aware of their history. I use this fact as an example of God revealing himself to people without them joining or identifying with some religious group or organization. One of their beliefs is God has a true real church in society [true] and therefore which one is it? I try to show them that I too believe there is ‘one true church’ and that this church [society of people- not an organization or denomination] is actually made up of all those who have come to the reality of God thru Christ. They will challenge this view [as do some Christians!] and say that it is wrong. That how could people just come to a true knowledge of God unless they are in the true church [which to them is Mormon] I then bring them back to the fact that we have spent hours discussing and sharing many truths about Jesus. We all know many of the same verses [to be honest I usually know more by memory than them] and we have been discussing all these truths of God and his purposes and redemption thru Christ. And yet I have never met you before. I am not Mormon. How did God break thru to me and show me all these things that we have been sharing? It wasn’t thru some organization; it was the fact that God is revealing himself to mankind thru Christ. All who have come to this reality ARE THE TRUE CHURCH. Therefore everyone who worships the Father thru the Son are the true church. This leaves room for them and all others. I don’t whitewash the many wrong teachings of Mormonism, I simply try to bring them to the reality that even if Joseph Smith never existed that the reality of all of us [I include them] right now believing in God and the sacrifice of his son would qualify us as the ‘true church’ you don’t need Joseph Smith for this!

(422) watched a special last night on the gang ‘MS 13’. I have seen it before and felt like the lord wanted me to speak on it. I do realize that there are things that I have spoken on that are not safe. I advertise this blog in North Bergen, N.J. This area is full of Muslim radicals. The type of ‘brothers’ who would kill you for speaking against Islam. I basically have taught that Allah is a false god. And Muhammad is his prophet. I have to be careful if I get an invitation to do a ‘cell’ group in this area. It might be a Muslim cell wanting to ‘fellowship’ with me! I also have mentioned the ‘Mexican Mafia/Texas Syndicate’ on this site. I had a good friend who was a member [he is dead]. This ‘gang’ is one of the most serious gangs in the prison system in Texas. They make these ‘kid gangs’ look like punks. So speaking on these groups is dangerous. The show I saw last night showed how the gang MS 13 started in L.A. as an innocent young gang. It expanded from L.A. to other parts of the country [Texas] and when the prison system deported a bunch of them back to El Salvador, it spread like wildfire. Gangs are the enemies’ imitation of what the Ecclesia was supposed to be. A group/family of people [brotherhood] who would find identity as a family. Many gang kids see their membership ties in a stronger way than they see their family. The gang is their family. The rapid spread of these gangs is an organic thing that is out of the control of their founders. The church was intended to spread this way. They have no ‘gang houses’ that they call ‘the gang’ [Christians call the ‘church’ building the ‘church’]. Their strength is in their identifying as a family. When we first started our ministry in 1987 I had some of the original group of friends [addicts] that wanted to extend the ministry with ‘outreaches’. We were grappling with the way the Victory Outreach does it. We actually bought an old lumberyard building and were going to set up a drug/outreach type thing. All good stuff. I feel one of the reasons these things never got off the ground was because the Lord was going to change my understanding of church to the family/brotherhood mindset. I was too ‘building centric’. Trying to start programs instead of seeing our guys as a brotherhood. It’s OK to start these types of things, but as the lead vision implanter I felt the Lord wanted to transition my vision into one of rapidly spreading the Kingdom by influencing people as a brotherhood. Today I have friends who see themselves as a ‘part of us’ even though we don’t identify around any particular building or ‘church meeting’ environment. If you study movements like ‘the local church’ which is an apostolic movement started by Watchman Nee, you see some good stuff. Watchman Nee was a Chinese Apostle who got a hold of many of the things you see me write on. He spread the ‘local church’ movement thru out China as an underground church. No official denomination or recognition of ‘clergy’ but a movement that was persecuted by the communists. They spread worldwide and have many churches in the U.S. today. They also erred [in my opinion] on the side of strong authoritarianism and began to see themselves as ‘the Local Church’, that is they viewed their group as the true restoration of the Local Church. While I do not view them as a cult [like other cult watchers do] I do see the mistake as seeing their group as the true group, as opposed to all the other ‘groups/churches’ in a city. The sectarian mindset. The true power behind these apostolic movements is the instilling of vision into people. People see the church as a brotherhood [like the gangs] and they are not identifying with programs that their ‘church building/business’ is doing. They are identifying along the lines of a ‘gang/brotherhood’ in a noble way. The same thing that the Victory Outreach or the Door does. Things that I see as good. Recruiting people into a brotherhood mentality. The danger is becoming ‘cult like’ in your view of seeing your group as ‘thee group’. These underground churches cannot be stopped thru persecution or the ‘closing down of their churches’ like other denominations have experienced. Communist govts. have been able to oppose the organized church because all they had to do is shut down the church building and remove the Pastor/Priest and the functioning would stop. You can’t do this with a brotherhood. Just like the gangs. They will thrive whether you put them in prison, shut down their ‘meeting houses’ or anything else. Their secret of survival is in their brotherhood mentality. Jesus obviously knew the power of this, that’s why he said ‘the gates of hell will not be able to prevail against the church’. He knew the movement that he was founding would have the allegiance of a brotherhood. It would not simply be a social club. When human govts came against the 1st century church, it couldn’t stop them. Rome even said that as they spilled the blood of the early believers, it was like seed falling into the ground [a bit prophetic, Jesus did say that martyrdom was like planting seed ‘Except a grain of wheat falls into the ground and DIES it abides alone, but if it dies it will produce much fruit’] so man could not stop a true movement of people. Man can stop a denomination who needs the ‘church building’ and the clergy to function!

About ccoutreach87

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

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