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Leadership [2-11]

[2-2011 posts] LEADERSHIP

[1558] ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call his name Immanuel- which is translated “God with us”. Matthew 1:23. This is an interesting- and important verse for all believers- we celebrate the reality of the virgin birth of Jesus during this season. Do you know where this verse comes from originally? It comes from the mouth of the prophet Isaiah [chapter 7]. The scenario is the king of Judah [Ahaz] is targeted by 2 other nations- Israel [the northern tribe of Israel] and Syria. These 2 kings make an alliance against the southern tribe of Judah and decide to make a breach [hole] in Judah’s wall and use their land as a staging ground for future military and economic purposes. The king of Judah hears about the plan and the bible says ‘he- and all the people shook like trees in the wind’- yes it felt like Rumsfeld was coming with a shock and awe campaign. Then in the midst of this fear- God tells Isaiah the prophet ‘go to the king and speak with him’. Isaiah gives him a prophetic word to not fear these 2 nations- their plans will not succeed. Then Isaiah tells the king ‘ask God for a sign- in heaven or earth’ and Ahaz says no, he will not test God. Isaiah then prophesies the above verse about Jesus. It just seems so strange for this verse, about Jesus- the Prince of Peace- to come in the middle of a military setting like this. The other day I saw some video of our troops in Iraq/Afghanistan- it was video leaked by the Wikileaks organization. They showed a few instances of our pilots in attack helicopters chasing down suspected insurgents in vehicles. You see the video of the chase, and the men in the vehicle getting out of the car and holding their hands up to surrender. The pilot radios back to his commander that they are surrendering- the commander tells them they are not able to take prisoners during the helicopter attack [obviously it would be difficult- you would have to land- slow down the entire operation for a few hours, and then go back to base camp and unload them- yes- it would be very inconvenient]. So the commander tells the pilot ‘we can’t take them’ the pilot doesn’t know what to do. The commander says ‘they are still targets’ after about 3 seconds of waiting- the pilot realizes the commander is saying ‘shoot them- with their hands up’ they do. Now, do I demonize our brave pilots for this- No. What about the commander- not really- though he bares more responsibility for the call- it was later shown that we do indeed take prisoners with helicopters. But I ‘blame’ the political miscalculations that were made years ago that allowed these men to kill these surrendering forces. They also showed video of a chopper targeting a building- as they unload the payload and destroy the building, you see a civilian walking right in front of the building- unaware of the impending attack. He’s blown away. Later- when the investigative journalists found the report for that attack- there was no mention of the civilian death. Just last week we pulled our station chief out of Pakistan- he’s the head C.I.A. guy running the drone operation from the country. In essence he’s in charge of the ‘remote control’ planes that bomb certain targets. Many innocent civilians have been killed thru these attacks. Mothers and fathers have sued the U.S. govt. over the deaths of their relatives and children. They showed protesters in the streets calling for justice for their loved ones. The Pakistanis finally realized the station chief is the person running the show and they ran him out of the country. How would you feel if someone was conducting a remote control war on your block and was accidently killing your son or daughter? King Ahaz was in the middle of the thicket- worrying about the next military move to be made against him- God sent a prophet to him in the midst of the action- he prophesied of one to come some 700 years later. A sign if you will- a virgin will conceive a child and this child will speak truth to power. He will stand before the governor of Rome [Pilate] and give no defense. Pilate will say ‘don’t you realize I have the power to take your life- my status and class have allowed me to rise in the political ranks to hold a position where I make the decision if you live or die’ Jesus responds ‘you have no power over me- accept what God permits- those who delivered me to you- they will have more to answer for’. It was the political posturing of the Jewish leaders- those who manipulated the system to get what they wanted politicaly- those were the ones who were to bare the greater blame. May Immanuel- may ‘God be with us’ all in this travesty.

[1556] REALISTS-NOMINALISTS- Let me do a little more on the development of philosophy and how Christians played a major role in new ways of thinking and ‘knowing’ [epistemology]. I mentioned Rene Descartes the other day- Descartes challenged the Christina thinkers of his day to approach apologetics [arguments for God’s existence] from rational grounds; instead of saying ‘God exists because the bible/tradition teach it’ he showed we can argue from the ground of reason. Descartes was a ‘realist’ that is a thinker who believed in Universal principles- the ancient philosophers [Aristotle, Plato- etc.] taught that there were universal ideas that existed- the example was if you think of a Horse- or a Chair- that in the mind of people we all have this concept of what these things are- but the reality of the universal idea of horse/chair exist outside of us- they are not only thoughts in our minds. The Nominalists rejected this idea- they taught that we interact with our 5 senses with things in the world- and thru this interaction our minds passively receive this knowledge and we come up with ideas- not because these ideas are universal ideas that already exist- but because our minds have ‘discovered’ them thru the senses. These thinkers were also called Empiricists. Men like David Hume would take this approach. Then in the 18th century you had the German philosopher Immanuel Kant challenge the skepticism of the Empiricists and he would become one of the most influential thinkers for our time. You would be hard pressed to find another philosopher who has had more influence on western thought than Kant. Kant too believed that man could not prove God absolutely thru natural means- but he did teach that it was rational/reasonable for man to believe in the existence of God- though he said you can’t totally prove him thru natural means. This was a different approach from the pure Empiricists- they taught that God/religion were irrational. Kant put a twist on Empiricism- he said that man does interact with the world thru his 5 senses, but instead of ideas/knowledge being a product of the mind of man passively receiving this knowledge- mans mind categorizes these interactions and it is thru this function of mans mind that we have knowledge. He carried the idea a little further than Hume. In the end of the day Immanuel Kant believed that not only is it rational to believe in God- but it is necessary. For society to ever function properly man needed to believe that his soul was immortal, that an eternal being existed that would some day judge man [or reward him] for his actions in this life. Though Kant did not accept the Realists view that we could prove God by rational means- yet he did believe in the necessity of man to believe in God. It has been said that Kant kicked God out the front door- but snuck him in thru the back. Okay- know some of this gets dry at times, but I think it is important for Christians to have some idea of the development of thought and philosophy thru the ages- many atheistic philosophers have argued against the existence of God- but many Christian thinkers have made just as strong [if not stronger] arguments on the other side- we need to know both sides.

(1554) MODERNISM- okay- need to take a break from politics [current!] and news! Let’s do some history/philosophy. Modernism [modernity] refers to the time period between the mid 17th century to the mid 20th century [loosely]. During the scientific revolution, coming off the heels of the Reformation- there were many challenges to past ways of thinking about religion, knowledge, politics and existence in general. Many new thinkers felt the old forms of thought were outdated- and as man advances he needs to ground his existence in rationality as opposed to religion [Descartes’]. Not all thinkers rejected religion- John Locke and Immanuel Kant tried to show that religion could be rational- not all religion had to be ‘blind faith’. Others rejected that idea [David Hume] and said if you wanted society to be rational- you had to reject religion as a foundation for thought. Modern atheists- like Sam Harris- would say the same thing. In Harris’ 2004 book- The End of Faith- he teaches that all true religion is radical in nature- that those who believe you can be moderate in religion are wrong- that the religious texts themselves [Koran- Bible] call for radicalism and violence and therefore the only hope for peace in the world is to eliminate religion. Basically I think Harris should stick to atheism and not delve too deep into Christian philosophy. The Christian ‘religion/ethic’, while possessing scriptures [Old testament] that certainty do advocate violence- yet the central historical event in Christianity is the event of the Cross and the person of Christ- whose message said ‘Moses said- but I say’. Christianity contains within her texts the mandate to reject the old forms of violence and to embrace a new way of love- so Harris missed the boat on this one. But you have had thinkers [past and present] who have said ‘we need to eradicate the world of all traces of religion in order for man to reach his highest good’. The thinker Nietzsche would pronounce ‘God is dead’ in his 1882 book called The Gay Science [I’ll leave it alone]. Both Marx and Freud would join him in their rejection of God in the last half of the 19th century. So many felt the rise of modernism- along with the descent of religion was mans ultimate goal- as man advances he would mature from this ‘psychological’ weakness and accept a world without God. Than in the 20th century you had some major events that questioned whether or not modern man could survive without true religious morality. We had the world wars and the most violent century in our history as ‘moderns’. The election of Jimmy Carter- the first self professed ‘Born Again’ Christian to become president- and the Iranian revolution in 1979- the rise of an Islamic state based on radical interpretations of Islam. These events challenged the ‘hope ‘of those who felt like religion was waning and mans rationality was winning the day. So that’s why you had the rise of the new atheists who began a campaign to revive the ‘death of God’ movement and to advocate for what they felt was necessary for man to advance along the modern path. Today we are actually living in what’s called ‘the Postmodern Era’ but for the purpose of this short note we don’t want to go down that road at this time. Has man advanced- ‘modernized’ to the point where he does not need ‘God’ anymore? Can man simply build a Utopian society without God? All those who advocated for a society without God- ultimately failed in coming up with a rational basis for law and order- for who has the right to ‘make the rules’ in this new society- in essence those who tried the Freudian way could never come up with a system of govt. and law without having to borrow from the Christian world view- man cannot simply govern himself based on some atheistic principle of ‘reason’ apart from God [who decides whose reason is right?]. The atheist’s charge that all religion at its core is radical and dangerous- without reason- has been proven false. True religion can very much be reasonable- that is being rational and religious can go hand in hand- all religious adherents do not have to be ‘Fundamentalists’ as Harris claims- and the Modern experiment has not shown us that mans ultimate destiny is to rise above religious belief and attain some type of society without God and faith- that experiment has been tried- and found wanting.

[1553] [to my blog- facebook readers. I know I have been pounding you guys with news and politics these past few days. Figured I’d give it a break and share this critique I shared with Scot McKnight. This is a critique of an article Scot wrote in the current Issue of Christianity Today. I recommend all of you subscribe to the magazine. It’s the best one out there at the time [First Things- Commonweal are good- maybe a little too scholarly for the new reader- C.T. covers a broader audience].

Scot- just finished reading your article in Christianity Today magazine. Liked the way you choose to harmonize Paul and Jesus thought. A few things; I never struggled personally with ‘whose gospel do we preach’? Or I never really saw it in terms of Jesus’ gospel versus Paul’s’. I prefer to see Jesus ‘kingdom message/gospel’ as the overriding message for believers and the church- yet Paul’s emphasis on justification by faith was due to the ‘crisis mode’ of the letters he was penning- in essence he was dealing with the 1st century Jewish mentality of ‘works of the law’ versus ‘believing in Jesus’ in essence Paul is battling with the very essence of who gets in the kingdom [justification by faith] and who doesn’t [those who seek it by works- Romans 4-9,10]. I would also note that you mention how the synoptic gospels use the word Justification only a few times- true. But even before I read the article I thought ‘I hope Scot deals with the many times John’s gospel says ‘believe- eternal life’ in the same verse’. In essence that’s John’s way of saying ‘justification by faith’. Overall- liked the article- God bless. John

[1550] ASSANGE- THE POPE- AND JOHN THE BAPTIST- Kinda wanted to cover the recent developments in the Wikileaks case- also a few more notes from the Pope’s book- and a little bible stuff; let’s see what I can do. First- The head guy in charge of the leaks that have exposed our govt. and other governments secret behind the scenes wheeling and dealing- has been arrested in London. They took him in on the Interpol charge that he ‘raped’ 2 women in Sweden. These charges stem from encounters that Julian Assange had with these ‘ladies’ while doing some type of seminar on their work as freedom of the press crusaders. It seems as if the women- who were attendees- found it worthwhile to have hooked up with the big shot of the week. Initially the reports said that the women did voluntarily agree to having unprotected sex with Assange- yet they later got together- after talking for a few days- and went together to the police to file their claim. Initially Sweden rejected the charge- it seemed like a voluntary type thing! A famous lawyer, who is trying to get Sweden to toughen their rape laws, to include stuff like this- took the case. That’s how it got back into the courts. Now- it seems as if this lawyer is using the publicity of the case to leverage his own cause- which is to extend the rape laws of Sweden. That’s the case- rapist? You tell me. In the midst of it all our country is trying to extradite the man to face all types of future charges. Where not ‘officially’ doing it- but the behind the scenes deals are in the works. First Sweden still has to get him. Okay- this whole case will be a future test case for freedom of the internet and just who qualifies as being ‘press’.

As more of the leaks come to light- we keep finding out about how our govt. lied to us, and deceived us. Last night I caught an interview with a family member of the victims of the Lockerbie plane attack. If you remember a few years back a terrorist shot down a plane over Scotland, 283 people died- many Americans. The case was tried in Scotland and the man was put in prison- with the guarantee that he would not get out. Yet Scotland let him go a few months back on ‘humanitarian’ concerns. He supposedly was dying of cancer and had only a few months to live. Now, when they released him our leaders were outraged! Yes Obama and all the rest were fuming! [in public] but the Wikileaks showed us that they all knew about the release 10 months before it happened- and we kinda turned a blind eye to the deal. Britain was accused of releasing him back to Libya because they wouldn’t deal with the U.K. unless they let him go. So the family member who found all this out- thanks to Wikileaks- was outraged, our govt. lied to them. Oh yes, and another talking head called for the assassination of Assange- Bob Beckel- a Democrat who works for Fox said someone needs to put a bullet in his head. Can you imagine any of the media talking this way so openly about a Muslim journalist? This case is important because it shows us how far the govt. and the corporate world will go to silence someone who is exposing them to the light [Assange is about to release leaks on a huge American bank].

Okay- just a few more things. While reading the Popes book I like the way he gets into the details of the different perspectives of the gospel writers and the give and take between Jesus and the disciples. I didn’t get this from the book- but the book led me into the study. If you read the account of John the Baptist in Matthew chapter 3- you see John baptizing in the Jordan and the big wigs of the day show up- they want to get baptized by John. You would think John would take the whole thing as a diplomat- you know- greeting them with pomp and stuff. Instead he calls them a bunch of snakes and serpents- he says ‘who warned you to flee from the judgment that’s sure to come’- the leaders and influential men of the day were facing their own judgment- and they didn’t like the writing on the wall [sound familiar?]. In Luke’s gospel [chapter 3] you have the soldiers also coming to John- they ask him ‘what should we do?’ John says ‘do violence to no man’ wow! Now you’re meddling. Society was being challenged by John in many ways- he himself was spoken about in Isaiah and Malachi [Old Testament books]. Yet Jesus comes to John to get baptized and John says ‘I’m not worthy to do this- to carry out the mission’ Jesus says it needs to be done. In another gospel [John] we read how they come to John and ask him ‘are you the Messiah? Are you the Elijah prophet who was to come’ and John denies it. He says he is simply the voice- a messenger. There was a prophecy about John in the book of Malachi- it said a prophet- like Elijah- would come before the coming of Jesus- so one time they asked Jesus ‘if you’re the Messiah- then where’s the Elijah prophet who was to come first?’ Jesus said it was John. What’s going on here? John seemed to not be able to accept who he really was- yes- he had a bad image of himself- yet even though he felt unworthy to fulfill the task he would take it to the end. John would finally be executed for his ‘free speech’ at the time it seemed like the right thing to do- now it seems like a gross injustice.

[1549] THEY WILL LEARN WAR NO MORE- Isaiah the prophet. This verse comes from the book of Isaiah- he also speaks of the nature of Christ’s kingdom by saying ‘the wolf will lay down with the lamb’. Isaiah has more prophecies about Jesus [Messianic prophecies] than any other Old Testament prophet. To all my ‘bible students- preachers’ most of us our aware of the various ways teachers interpret these passages; we see the dual nature of the messianic prophecies [that is many prophecies speak of Jesus first coming and second coming in one verse- you don’t see the time lapse between the 1st and 2nd coming]. At the same time we often overlook the fact that the nature of God’s kingdom is one of peace- not war. Yes ‘Make love- not war’ actually has biblical backing! Now when Jesus arrived on the scene in the 1st century, he came at a time when the nation of Israel was under ‘occupation’. Rome was the controlling authority- and the Jews knew it. Israel had different views among her people on how to deal with the Roman occupation- some wanted a violent overthrow of the Roman govt., these were called Zealots- others took a more moderate stance. Out of Jesus 12 disciples, 2 were Zealots- Simon and Judas. They thought they were getting in on a strong Messianic movement that would be violent in nature. Yet Jesus would teach them that those who live by the sword will die by it. He showed them a better way- when he said ‘greater love has no man than this that he would die for his friends’. He wasn’t saying ‘that he would risk his life in battle- while trying to kill others- and maybe die in the process’. No, he was speaking about non violent protest- even to the point of laying down one’s life. He taught them ‘war no more’. I understand that my position on these wars has upset people, and I do not see our brave men and women as ‘the enemy’. But I feel the leadership- especially in the church, has not rightly understood these things- the nature of Christ’s kingdom is one of peace- not war. When some of the most popular TV evangelists, and ‘end times’ books promote an idea that seems to pit natural Israel against Muslim/Arab nations- and they give scenarios that seem to ‘encourage’ one side fighting- and killing the other side- then in these ways we are teaching ‘war’ that is we are presenting Christ’s kingdom in a way that seems to say ‘yes, God is in this violent thing- and when he comes back he will personally wipe out the other side’. We have not done right in the church- we have not taught ‘war no more’.

[1547] THE SAGA CONTINUES- I guess I’m going to try and stick with our countries response to the Wikileaks ‘leaks’ and the medias total unwillingness to hold this president and his administration responsible for anything. Today the world is hunting down Julian Assange- the infamous head of the organization that leaked thousands of secret files. Interpol has him listed as a rapist- our people see him as a terrorist, who needs to be captured and tried for war crimes. For what? Whether you like the mans politics or not- he simply performed the same function that goes on everyday with reporters and ‘secret sources’ he received documents and made public the info- this is not a crime! Every journalist and free media fan should be shaking in their boots over the seeming willingness to go after this man and shut down his web site- whether we like it or not- this is what we call FREE PRESS. Now, did the soldier who downloaded the files break the law? Where not even sure about that! It seems as if the U.S. govt. blew it by not having these documents sealed [on-line] in a way that would not allow any person to access them. So what should the story be then? That the Obama administration was so incompetent that they let the thing happen! I have not heard a single criticism against this administration- he’s viewed as a victim- not a person who should be held accountable for the actual failure of our govt. to contain secret info. Can you imagine the calls for Bush- or his secretary of state to resign- if these things were revealed during his time in office? As the days go by we continue to see more fallout from the leaks- Hillary Clinton seems to have directed our diplomats to spy illegally during their duties. If Bush’s people were found out- Reid and Kerry would be roaring on the floor of the senate for a resignation- so far not a peep. Another news leak- during the Iraq war one of our tanks struck a hotel in Iraq that killed 2 civilian news reporters. The family of the Spanish reporter has sued the U.S. over his death- they have made a video over it. The leaks revealed that our govt. has been pressuring Spain to get the charges dropped- and that Spain has been negotiating with us to drop the charges. Yet the family of the reporter was being told all along that Spain’s leaders were fighting for them- they have been lied to- right now this story is dominating the news cycle in Spain. How does our govt. respond to these injustices? We label the news person who revealed these things as a serial rapist who has put people’s lives in jeopardy- we aren’t admitting that a lot of the things that are in jeopardy are the secret behind the scenes deals of those in power- and how they run rough shod over the common man. Today is 12- 2- 2010- let’s see how long it takes for the liberal media to wake up and see this story for what it is- if we as a people accept the fact that leaked info- that makes us look bad- can be responded to by accusing the ‘leaker’ of treason, terrorism, war crimes- etc. then that’s a bad day for freedom of the press.

[1545] POLITICS, RELIGION UPDATE [11-30-2010] Recently there have been a few notable news stories; The Popes new book- Light of the World- and the media frenzy over a MINOR statement about condom use [I was gonna name this post ‘Condoms- Condoms everywhere’ but heck- I post the blog all over the world- figured I’d reign it in a little]. The other story is the Wikkileaks release of hundreds of thousands of secret documents that give insight [and in some cases cause risk] to the major players in the theatre. A week or so ago I wrote a post named Risk- I spoke about the reality of other countries trying to manipulate our soldiers to do the dirty work for them- sure enough that’s the biggest story coming from the leaked documents. Many Middle Eastern states have been exposed thru the leak- leaders of those nations doing their best at getting us to strike Iran. The news is very damaging for these leaders- many of their people were unaware of the leaders desire to hit Iran. Now- what about the war? As I cover the ongoing war in Afghanistan, I am trying my best not to misrepresent the story. Yes, I’m against the war- want our guy’s out- within a year! General Petraeus has said [privately- Bob Woodward’s book] that this is a war our kids and their kids will be fighting- hope not. In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan- they were attempting to establish a communist state. We backed the ‘resistance’ fighters- the Mujahedeen. After 10 years- and an estimated 1 million civilian casualties, the Soviet Union pulled out and in 3 short years [1992] the Mujahedeen toppled the puppet govt. A few years later the Taliban would rise to power. The Soviet invasion destroyed the country- they did indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas and did not limit civilian deaths. So far the NATO forces have killed around 10 thousand Taliban and about the same number of civilians. Afghanistan has experienced around a 10% annual economic growth rate the past few years, many children are in school and medical aid has improved- over all our ten year venture has not been like the Soviet one. Yet- our people have died [around 1500 in Afghanistan- under 5 thousand in Iraq] and we have killed civilians. Our stated goal is to help the Afghan people establish a strong enough govt. that would be able to resist any future attempts for Al Qaeda or other terrorist networks to operate out of the region; the 9-11 attack was launched from Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Yet there are talks going on right now to make a peace deal with the Taliban- so I do feel that our guys dying in the field, fighting the Taliban- and at the same time Karzai is sitting at the table with them- it just doesn’t seem right. We also have our aircraft carrier doing ‘war games’ in the Yellow Sea [right off Korea- inside Chinas economic zone] and the tension for all out war between North and South Korea is as high as it has ever been. A few months back the North torpedoed the Chenoan- a South Korean warship- and killed 40 something men. Last week they hit the South Korean island right off of their coast and killed 2 civilians and 2 Korean marines. Our response has been laughable at times. We said ‘look- we don’t want war- lets all calm down’ [good]. Then the media say’s ‘the president is standing up to them- he is still going to do the war games’. We looked stupid- to be honest. Many South Koreans have been demonstrating for a stronger response- they want to go to war. So these past few weeks have been hectic- I don’t fully see the Wikkileaks thing as a total disaster- many have demonized the guy who runs Wikkileaks- Julian Assange- in some ways I think he’s doing the world a favor. Okay- guess I won’t get to the Condom story- maybe another day.

[1544] POPPA PAUL- It’s the Saturday right after Thanksgiving; around 3 a.m. in the morning. Been up for a few hours, actually praying [believe it or not!] ‘Wow, brother- you must be spiritual?’ Please. A few years ago, while still working at the fire dept., I spent the last few years staying up most of the night, walking outside- praying. Some days I’d fall asleep around 9- get up at 11- to be honest it was killing me! I just couldn’t sleep- it took me a few years to train myself to sleep in till at least 3- maybe on a good day- 4 a.m. Then a week or so ago the clocks went back an hour- and yes- I’m waking up at one again. So here we are. As I was praying I was thinking of an old buddy, Poppa Paul- don’t remember if I ever wrote about ‘Pops’ before. Paul was around 70, one of the older ‘White’ bro’s- most of these older guys have past stories of being in prison- many for murder- they wind up coming to Texas and I meet them here on the streets- the homeless bunch. Paul supposedly killed someone years ago in Fla. Did his time and wound up here. I liked Pops [died a while back] I’d invite Pop’s and New York Tony [my buddy the crack addict] to go eat- Tony would go- Pops just wanted his beer. Yet Paul was a friend- I did help him run errands every so often. The older guys protect themselves by having a dangerous reputation- Pops stabbed ‘Cowboy’ [Texas Heroin addict] almost killed him; you don’t mess with Pops. I guess one day Pops was thinking he needed to explain himself- so me and Tony and Pop’s are hanging out, somehow Pop’s brings up the stabbing [he did almost kill Cowboy] Pop’s says ‘you know, one day I was whittling some wood [LOL] and Cowboy fell on my knife’ it was kinda funny- I did tell Pop’s ‘I don’t know Pop’s- sounds like a story to me’. Hey, I couldn’t let him think I was that gullible. Over the years at the fire house I had lots of my buddies come by and visit- after a while the guys at the station caught on- they would tell me ‘hey John- your convies [convicts] were here looking for you the other day’. As I’m reading thru the gospels right now- you see a strange thing- Jesus is interacting with the religious crowd- enters the temple- goes to the synagogue- these are the ‘meeting places’ where all the religious elites of the day gather- they have a tradition where they meet once a week- read from their bibles [the Torah] and live these regulated religious lives- that never seem to touch the hurting world around them. Now Jesus comes on the scene and he gathers this rag tag bunch of guys- starts preaching and living in the streets, and yes- the hookers and the outcasts- they can’t get enough of him! As a matter of fact this is the very thing that ‘irks the hell’ out of the religious crowd- they say ‘look- everyone is listening to him’! Jesus came to seek and to save the lost- the N.Y. Tonies- the Poppa Paul’s- sure there are real risks involved- Jesus said ‘greater love has no man than this- that he would lay down his life for his friends’ damn- find some friends.

[1542] RISK- Okay- a little drained right now- I watched news from midnight till 5 am. The guys at the fire station used to kid me- they saw some 20-20 type program- it dealt with people who were actually news addicts, the running joke was some day they would find me at the substation dead- when they pulled my eyelids back they would read ‘Fox News’ [I watch them all- not just fox]. So I caught all the re-runs of the day- a few I watched twice! But I also caught a very informative CSPAN show- they were covering some geopolitical seminar out of the University of Chicago. The level of discussion was about a thousand times more mature than all the talking cable heads. They had on both Democrats and Republicans- past U.N. ambassadors and all. But the conversation was great. A while back I took an open stand against the wars [not our men and women] simply because I felt we needed to put more public pressure on the promise that the President made, that he would get us out. Realistically- yes we can’t leave ‘today’ but I fear another 10 years of the thing! In the discussion excellent points were made- some conservatives even said how many of our global enemies are glad we are in Iraq and Afghanistan- they see those struggles as us spreading ourselves too thin- sort of like when the worlds super power engages in ‘nation building’ then other nations can get away with more- because ‘the cop’ is distracted. So in a way we are playing into the hands of our enemies- but the political environment of our country does not leave room for an open discussion like this- I mean you can’t run a campaign on a serious thought out question like this- you would get branded as being weak on defense-or ‘un patriotic’ it’s sad. Last week the president of Afghanistan- Hamid Karzai- was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying we need to stop doing night time raids in their country. Ever since General Petraeus took over [after Stanley Mcrystal was pushed out for spilling his guts to a Rolling Stone reporter] he has re tooled the efforts, and one of the main changes was doing night time raids and routing the Taliban- he’s been highly successful. Yet many civilians have died. But I feel there is another possible reason why Karzai made the statement- he has been sitting at the table with the Taliban for months, they are talking and discussing future plans on settling the war. Plus Iran is also funding Karzai, and having friendly talks as well. So in a way they are using our guys as pawns- they realize our guys will kill so many of their guys, and they will bomb us every so often- but all of a sudden, in the middle of this chess game- comes the U.S. troops knocking off a bunch of Taliban men- hey- they’ve been buddying up with Karzai for months- it’s quite possible that the Taliban have told Karzai [over dinner!] ‘Damn it- cant you get these night time raids to stop’! Whatever the facts are- in a way our men are being used in this political agenda. Sure, we have our own agenda- and their lives are not ‘being wasted’ yet it’s sad to see the president of the country we’re ‘fighting for’ actually buddying up to the force that’s killing our men. But- all this is too much for a political sound bite- so your either branded as ‘for our troops’ or ‘against them’ and many of our enemies couldn’t be happier about it! Okay- time to confess- years ago at the fire house we got into a stage where we started playing the board game- Risk. It’s a fun strategic game- of course no one took it too seriously [I actually threw the whole game in the dumpster one night- hey- war is hell! LOL.] So one day me and a buddy get into a 2 man contest- and I figured I’d up the ante [you know- living on the edge] so I tell him ‘ How bout we play 10 bucks a game- and the loser always has the option of challenging the winner to another game- double or nothing’ so we shake on it. After about 5 hours- and one trip to my ATM [yes- this is sad] I win game number 4 or 5 and the pot is around 100 bucks. So I’m hoping my buddy had enough [he had his wife bring him money too!] and as I look into his eyes, trying to read the Poker face- instead of ‘Poker’ I see tears [yes- now the story gets really sad] ‘I say- bro- either pay up or challenge for the next round’ and he begins whining about me forcing him to play the last game- and he’s gonna tell the Captain I made him play the last game! So as you can see the night didn’t go too well. One of the strategies when playing with multiple people is if you can get your enemy to start a war with another player- you just sit back and watch him waste all his resources and money- and you even try and get other players to fight among themselves ‘Hey Joe- you gonna let Sean get away with that!’. As I watched the CSPAN program- the smartest minds said we have played into this game on more than one occasion. That’s what I mean when I say I’m ‘against the wars’ the whole nation building agenda- our guys getting caught up in the middle of the board game- at times, being manipulated by the political agenda of either party- that’s what makes it sad. Well, I need to go- just remembered something- need to go collect on an old debt.

[1541] SOCIAL JUSTICE- These last few months there has been lots of talk in the media about the role of the church- are all ‘liberal’ churches communist? Are the Sarah Palin’s of the world the future representatives of conservatives? I have been downloading songs form UTUBE these past few weeks- I stumbled across Nickleback, and found Daughtry also, there style is my favorite. As I viewed the videos I saw a bunch of stuff on the starving kids of the world- one of the greatest ‘injustices’ on the planet. Why? Do we in the West have any responsibility? What about our role in the global ‘village’? When countries compete for our customers- countries that have no child welfare laws [or if they have them they don’t enforce them]. When we buy their goods- are we responsible in a way for the abuse the kids [and adults] go thru? What response has the church had? For the most part we pump ‘Christian TV’ into their countries- and they hear a message equal to that of the real estate info-mercials that come on between midnight and 6 a.m.! In a great way we have become irrelevant- we have believed that Capitalism in itself is just! We think the market itself will answer these questions. Yet we have bibles that actually contain teaching on ‘unjust capital’ [the hire of the workers is fraudulently held back by the employers- James] Stories in the Old Testament where God told his people ‘when you harvest your fields- make sure you leave some ‘free food’ in the corners- so the poor- the ALIENS can have something too’! Our problem is we only see the things we want to see. The apostle John says ‘how can we say we love- who we can’t see- when we don’t love our brother- who we do see’. You tell me.

[1540] Jesus of Nazareth [pope’s book] chapters 3-4. Okay- I’m having a hard time ‘dummying down’ the Pope’s book- trying to explain it in simple terms- so those of you who don’t get into it- just skip these posts and read another part of my blog. Okay, Benedict covers three different ways of looking at the central message of Jesus –The Kingdom of God. He borrows heavily from the church father Origen [form the Alexandrian school- Origen is very influential on early Christian thought- he also was a Universalist- in the end everyone gets saved- even Satan!]. The Pope shows how Origen viewed the kingdom as the person of Jesus himself- that is when you see Christ- you’re seeing the kingdom. Origen also spoke of the ‘interior kingdom’ a spiritual reality of the kingdom ruling over people’s hearts. Then the Pope speaks about the 19th- 20th century emphasis as the Church as the Kingdom- he shows how the church began seeing the kingdom as present in the world thru her- that is the church herself is a divine presence of God in the earth- and the kingdom is here right now thru the church. I agree with all 3 of the above views of the kingdom- I would only disagree a little with the Popes perspective that the 3rd view is primarily a late development [probably just reads that way because the book is an English translation form the German- I can’t imagine a Pope as learned as Benedict [one of the most intellectual ones in many years!] would miss this]. Right from the early days of Saint Augustine [City of God- 4th century] the idea of the kingdom being present thru the church has been around. The Pope also gets into those who saw the kingdom message of Jesus- and teach that Jesus true Kingdom message was never grasped- and instead we messed up and started ‘the church’. Liberal thinkers like Albert Schweitzer and Adolph Von Harnack all played a role in this type of thinking, and early 20th century ideas about re-thinking the kingdom in general- as well as the philosopher Heidegger. In chapter 4 Benedict does an excellent job at portraying Jesus as the ‘new Moses’ who delivers the New Law thru the sermon on the mount- contrasting Moses receiving of the law at Mount Sinai. Jesus goes up on a mountain and ‘sits’ [showing the plenary authority of the teacher- being seated]. In the New Testament [Hebrews and the gospels] the religious leaders are said to ‘sit in Moses seat’- or Hebrews says ‘Jesus sat down at Gods right hand’. In Catholic theology the ‘seat’ [chair- cathedra] denotes the place of authority. I live in a ‘cathedral city’- Corpus Christi. New York’s Saint Patrick’s church is the cathedral for that area. That means the authority over the regional diocese is ‘seated’ at the cathedral- where the regional Bishop resides. So Benedict does a good job showing us Jesus as the ‘new Moses’ who sits on the new mount and takes the plenary authority- he also says that Jesus authority did not rest in the religious institutions of the day- like the priests and Pharisees- that Jesus authority was real. The religious leaders was too- but they were not sincere. Once again I find these types of observations consistent with my own thought [and Protestants thought in general] and I find it very surprising to see the Pope thinking along the same lines.

[1536] THE HAIR TONIC DRINKERS! Okay, it’s time to tell the story. Recently I have had a few old friends join my Facebook page. One of them I met doing the rounds with the homeless guys in Corpus- he’s now doing well and has a place in Kingsville. My other buddy [David] has been a great friend for 25 years now. I met Dave [and all his brothers and sisters] thru my friendship with Dave’s dad- a drug addict for many years who died a while back. I used to preach to Dave’s dad at the county jail in Kingsville. Eventually when the guys got out of jail [or prison] they would join my little house church and their wives and kids made up the church. Most of the sons were around my age at the time and we became good friends. When I went thru my ‘backsliding phase’ well yes- I partied hard, snorted some Cocaine with the bro’s- got high- the whole routine. Yet these guys are still good friends today [absent the drugs!]. So I was like the only White boy in the whole group, most [all?] of the ‘church members’ were Mexican. So you know- your gonna kid each other ‘White boy’ ‘Wet Back’ in fun. Many of my friends have done lots of prison time- one buddy was real proud of being in the ‘Mexican Mafia’ [or Texas Syndicate?] while in prison- these are the gangs that ‘run the show’ in Texas jails. So the White brothers really don’t have the ‘power’ in the Texas gang scene. So I would kid Dave ‘hey bro, you know you Mexicans can’t handle the white boys’ [yes, I had some bad fights with some of the guys at times- when ‘backsliding’]. So one day Dave tells me the story of these 2 White boys- the Tonic drinkers. In prison you can get drugs and stuff- but if you didn’t have the money- you could catch a buzz by drinking Mouth Wash. So these White brothers figured ‘what the heck, lets down this bottle of hair tonic’ yes, they almost killed themselves! So whenever I would bring up the Mexicans not being able to handle the White boys, Dave would reply ‘What! You mean you tonic drinking @$#%’. I can’t believe I posted this to my Blog!
[you leaders need to lighten up!]

[1535] I AM THE TRADITION!- Just started reading the Pope’s book ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ it came out in 2006, but never had a chance to read it. I recommend all our Pastor/Preacher friends to read it- especially those of you who are familiar with the Historical Critical method of scholarship, and those involved in the Prophetic movement. Benedict critiques the historical method very well; he’s even funny at times! [In a scholarly way]. Just the preface and intro give enough meat that if you’re not a ‘full book’ reader, these would be enough! The critique for the modern prophetic movement is that Benedict shows the real purpose of Prophets, as pictured thru Moses- he does a superb job at explaining how Jesus fulfilled the ‘prophet like Moses’ prophecy spoken by Peter in the book of Acts- excellent insights! Okay- let me cover a little more Catholic history- at the risk of losing my Protestant readers- but hoping to gain some Catholic ones. Being I’m talking about Popes and all, let me cover some 19th century history. In France you had the French Revolution [right at the end of the 18th century] and the feeling at the time was to throw off all outside control- many of the nation states rejected the Roman church for that simple reason, it was Roman! That is the states were flexing their new felt independence and the spirit of enlightenment and reformation that was running thru the land. In France you had 2 groups who were at opposite sides; The Gaulincansist’s versus the Ultramontanists. The first group represented the feeling of ‘lets break from the Roman church and be free’ the latter group wanted to maintain ties with Rome- the term meant ‘beyond the mountains/alps’. Meaning from Frances geographic perspective, they wanted to keep looking towards Rome. It was in this environment that the Catholic Church would convene the first Vatican Council [called Vatican 1]. Pope Pius the 9th started his pontificate as a liberal type Pope- open to new ideas and all, but as time progressed he took a more conservative stance. The council- starting in 1870- would take a very hard line stance against all the new ‘ism’s’ that arose over the last few centuries. Communism, Democratic spirit, Protestantism- the church took a hard line and seemed to come off as arrogant and unwilling to change with the times. The council would affirm for the first time the doctrine of Papal infallibility and the Immaculate conception of Mary- 2 doctrines that would make it much more difficult to bridge the Protestant/Catholic gap. It’s important to note that the church had a tradition of Papal infallibility for years- but it did not become official Catholic doctrine until Vatican 1. All Catholics at the council did not agree to the doctrine- a famous Priest by the name of Guidi would dissent and challenge the Pope, he asked ‘what about the tradition’? Meaning what about the authority of tradition that has come from a spirit of collegiality and cooperation among the Bishops- if you push a strong doctrine of Papal infallibility- the tradition will lose its power. Pius famously responded ‘I AM THE TRADITION’. The council would never officially close- Victor Emmanuel would sack Rome- The Vatican would lose most of the Papal states and there would arise a sympathetic attitude towards the Roman church! Many felt bad that she lost her standing in the world, this caused many Catholic states to rise up in Support of the Vatican, and she actually gained more good will than before! I would also note that when the council broke up, the leading Catholic scholar of the day- Durlinger- did not accept the doctrine of Papal infallibility. Others broke away with him and these Catholics survive till this day-primarily in Western Europe [Holland, Switzerland, etc.] they are called The Old Catholic Church and are Catholic in every way except for the doctrine of the Papacy. Some view Pope Pius as a stubborn man who was not willing to change with the times, but if you look at the overall political reality of the day- you can see why he took such a tough stance, the church was feeling threatened from the outside by many new movements and she felt that Christianity was under attack- Pius felt it necessary to exert Papal authority, so he did. Vatican 2 [1962-65] would ‘un-do’ the harsh spirit of Vatican 1 and be seen at a much more open and ‘liberal’ council- Pope John the 23rd [Pope during the council] would shape the mood of the council with the saying ‘let the windows be open’ implying a new freshness and openness for the church. Vatican 2 would refer to the Protestants as ‘separated brothers’ Vatican 1- heretics. Okay lets end for now, I encourage all of our readers to try and know the various Christian positions- don’t just allow rumor or gossip to form your opinions of others- strive for an honest conversation with other Christian groups- give others the benefit of the doubt- and if you still have sincere differences of belief, at least they’ll be informed differences- not simply hearsay.

[1534] CATHOLIC/PROTESTANT POSITIONS ON THE BIBLE. Let’s do a little teaching today. To all my Catholic/Protestant readers- when I teach on our respective faiths- understand that for the most part I’m giving you the official position of our churches. Now ‘official’ is a lot harder to say among Protestants- but the ‘best’ statements on Protestant doctrine probably come from the Reformed positions as stated by the creeds and statements of faith that came out of the 16th century Reformation- and yes, there other good statements as well [Baptist confessions, etc.]. When I talk ‘Catholic position’ I’m giving you the official position as stated thru the Catechism of the church- as well as the Encyclicals and decisions that have come from the councils. The Catholic Church does actually have official positions on stuff! [They call this the Magisterium- the church’s official teaching office]. It should be noted that both Catholic and Protestant churches have ‘dissenters’ within their ranks- Priests, Preachers, Scholars- who break ranks with the actual teaching of their own churches [Hans Kung- Catholic. Rudolph Bultman- Protestant. Just to name a few]. In some situations where the clergy are ‘less educated’ [I’ll be nice] sometimes they don’t know what the position of their church really is. So that makes stuff a little harder. Okay- what do Catholics and Protestants believe about the bible? Both groups believe the bible is the inspired word of God, infallible- with no errors. Both groups also have notable teachers within their ranks who dispute this- but remember- for the most part this is the official position. The Catholic church’s most ‘meaty’ statement on faith and doctrine still dates back to the 16th century Council that took place in Trent. Though there have been other important councils [Vatican 1 and 2] yet the council of Trent is the most definitive. That council was for the most part a clear restating of the historic position of the church, especially reaffirming the 7 sacraments. The council also produced a document on the church’s position on the bible- the church used stronger wording than most Protestants, they said the bible came to us by the ‘Holy Spirit DICATING’ the words! In fairness, the Catholic Church does not hold to a mechanical type dictation- that God actually said the words to the writers, but never the less, that’s the statement. The Protestants are known for the famous 3 ‘Sola’s’ of the Reformation [Sola= alone] Faith alone, Grace alone, Bible alone- basically ‘alone’ meant the bible was the final authority on the matter- though creeds and councils were helpful, yet they can ‘err’. The able Catholic scholar, John Eck [maybe Cajetan?] forced Luther to admit that the Pope and Councils could make mistakes, and this was a fatal blow to any agreement between the warring sides. Now, many Protestants also seem to be confused on the statement ‘the bible alone’. The Reformers did not mean that we were to cast off all the good things that came down to us from the church fathers- Calvin quotes Saint Augustine a lot in his writings- the Reformers just meant that when deciding on final matters, the bible has the last say. The Catholics held that both Tradition [oral tradition passed down thru the church] as well as scripture had a say. The main point today is both Catholics and Protestants agree that the bible is ‘the word of God’. Catholics have a few more books in their bibles, but we all agree that it is God’s word. [Just a side note- The Catholics say the bible is ‘an infallible collection of infallible books’. The Protestants would not accept this statement- they said ‘we have a fallible collection of infallible books’. Most Protestants are not aware of this. The main reason the Protestant side would not agree to ‘infallible collection’ is because that would side with the position that the church did indeed possess infallible authority, given by God, to make certain decisions that were binding- obviously the Reformers would not go that far.]

[1533] SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT- The other day I caught a documentary on Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain. They arose out of the Seattle grunge scene [music] and Kurt’s group, Nirvana, became one of the most popular groups of the day. Kurt would eventually stick a shotgun in his mouth and pull the trigger. Courtney’s all female group [Hole- ouch!] survives till this day and she has been successful in lots of ways. The documentary covered the theory that Courtney had Kurt killed; they interviewed friends and stuff- one of Kurt’s best friends, who rejects the theory- Kurt was always suicidal- said how one time Kurt was on the phone, trying to ‘score’ some Heroin- and he says ‘hey, don’t tell Courtney’ and at the same time Courtney calls on the other line to get some stuff- she says ‘don’t tell Kurt’. Sad. Many years ago when I first started doing bible studies at the jails I became friends with a lot of Heroin addicts, these guys were around 20 years older than me- but they were caught in the cycle and in their mid 40’s things were catching up. Eventually these guys made up the core group of the church I would start. Their wives and kids made up the church. Eventually I would become good friends with their sons, who were closer to my age; these guys were all on Cocaine. So it seemed strange that Kurt was hooked on heroin- in these parts that’s the drug of the older generation [my sister has been a Heroin addict for as long as I can remember]. I was reading 2nd Timothy chapter 4 the other day- Paul tells Timothy ‘when things get rough, ride it out like the rest of us! Taking it on the chin like Jesus’ [Message version]. The King James says ‘endure hardness as a good soldier for Christ’. Timothy was a protégée’ of Paul, like Titus- Paul wrote 3 letters to these spiritual sons [1st, 2nd Timothy- Titus] they are contained in the New Testament. We read about Timothy’s relationship to Paul in the book of Acts, Paul had a little controversy over how he was preaching to the Gentiles [a technical argument over whether or not to circumcise Gentile converts] and Timothy came from a diverse family, father was a Greek, Mother was Jewish- so for some technical reasons Paul winds up having Timothy circumcised [long story- read it in Acts]. Anyway when Paul writes his letters to Timothy he commends him on the faith that was passed down to him by his mother and grandmother [Eunice, Lois] but he makes no mention of Timothy’s father- it seems as if Timothy might have grown up without a father figure? So that’s why Paul steps in and encourages his young friend ‘ be strong son, there are going to be some very hard times- your gonna need to take it like a man [as Sharon Angle told harry Reid in the debate the other night- MAN UP HARRY!]. Paul knew this race was tough, and he knew young Timothy had some tough days ahead- he was prepping him for the journey. As I watched the documentary on Cobain, at one point they played a phone message that Kurt left on the answering machine of some author who was writing a critical book on Courtney. Kurt called her [because of Courtney’s prodding] and threatened her not to write too critical of a book on Courtney- Kurt says ‘look, I’m already at the end of the road, so believe me- don’t write the damn book!’ As gifted as Kurt was, his demons would eventually catch up with him. Paul also said to Timothy ‘this is the reason I’m sticking it out in this place, so all the other people that still need to get in on it will have a chance’. God has called us to help ‘other people get in on it’ part of the process is being able to ride out the storm [Morrison].

[1531] LENNY BRUCE- Last night I caught the movie ‘Lenny’, it’s the true story of the shock comic Lenny Bruce. Rose to fame in the 50’s for his vulgar comedy and social commentary. His story is much more than some George Carlin rebel comic- in a real sense he tapped into his Jewish Messianic roots and was fulfilling a prophetic type role; he spoke on issues that were hot [war] and he had an audience who were ready to hear. He would go thru lots of legal and personal problems- he would get hooked on heroin and die. The other day I mentioned Obama’s strain of Christianity- Liberal [reverend Wrights church is what you would call a social justice congregation]. In the late 19th, early 20th century liberation theology was in her hey-day. Men like Walter Rauschenbauch [spelling?] introduced a form of Christianity that was less focused on personal conversion- but tried to expand the churches thinking on social issues. The fundamentalist movement of the 20th century pushed back and labeled the liberals as heretics. Now, theologically speaking many were- some rejected the resurrection of Christ and the vital doctrine of reconciliation thru the Cross of Christ. But they were mostly right on the need for the church to engage in social justice issues, to deal with things like world hunger/poverty. To speak out against oppressive regimes [which the Catholic Church was doing all along]. The church should play a role in these areas- things that Bruce was talking about at the time. The last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, prophesies of John the Baptist future coming- it says ‘God will raise up one like Elijah’ John would come 400 years later and challenge the corruption that he saw. He was this radical loner who seemed to be unhinged at times- I mean who tells the king ‘your sleeping with your brother’s wife- your in sin’. He told it the way he saw it, and it would eventually lead to his death. There is a verse that speaks of John, it says ‘the law and the prophets were until John, but now the kingdom of God is preached and everyone is pushing their way to hear what he has to say’. John changed the atmosphere of his day, he was a kind of Lenny Bruce- he began speaking openly about issues that no one else would touch, sure- the regular ‘church folk’ had their preachers [rabbis, synagogue] but John was different- he wasn’t out to make a name for himself [though that would happen] nor was he trying to make a living [or get rich!] from ‘my ministry’. No he was a different breed, he could spot hypocrisy a mile away- but when he saw Jesus, he knew he was seeing the real thing ‘I am not worthy to tie your shoes’ he would say. Jesus himself would have his run in’s with the religious crowd- showed up at the temple and told them ‘what are you doing, merchandizing in Gods house!’ he made a whip and beat them, he turned over their tables and thru them out. Yes, Jesus made John proud. I think we as God’s people need to be willing to speak out about the social justice issues of our day- not enough voices are speaking out against things that need to be dealt with. A heroin addicted shock comic would be used to speak out against things that he saw were wrong, sure- he was definitely an imperfect vessel, but people never heard it like that before.

[1510] THE MOSQUE AT GROUND ZERO- The great reformer, Martin Luther, said that if we teach and preach about Jesus and the bible, yet overlook the issues of controversy that rage at the time; then we are not faithfully preaching Christ. Over the last 6 months or so a controversy has arisen over an Islamic center that is to be built close to the area where the world trade towers went down. As I have listened to the debate [thru talk radio, the main stream and cable news] I have tried to keep an open mind. As I heard a few snippets of audio from the Imam [leader] of the future mosque, I began to wonder whether we were getting the whole story. As of today let me share my view; it seems as if many well meaning people have been told that the first building to be rebuilt after the 2001 attacks is going to be this mosque. Many believe that this building will be a sort of huge Muslim statement that will overlook the entire area and be saying ‘look, we [radical Islam] have conquered’. First of all, the site in question is actually a couple of blocks away from the actual site where the towers went down; though the community center/mosque will be 13 stories high, yet this is really not big compared to the other buildings in the area. The Muslim community actually purchased the property before 9-11 happened, and the Imam is considered to be one of the moderate voices coming from the Islamic community. All in all, it’s not really a ‘stick it in your face’ type statement that the Muslims are trying to make. Number 2- is it unreasonable for people to ask ‘hey, even though you have the right to build the mosque, as a courtesy to the victims who perished at the site, build it somewhere else’. No, this is an honest concern that good people do have- I think it’s not too much to ask the Muslim community to consider moving the location. The governor, David Patterson, kindly offered them free state land if they wanted to move it to another spot. Most of all, I think it does more harm than good to label this Imam as a radical Islamist, all the facts seem to say otherwise. Has he made statements that honest people have problems with? Yes. But overall he is not one of the more extreme type leaders of Islam. I realize that at this time this stand is very unpopular, and it’s too easy to simply jump on the bandwagon and condemn this man, but we want to do our best at being honest about these types of situations. I grew up very close to this area, right across the Hudson river on the Jersey side- there are many Muslims, Christians, Jews and other faiths that make up the melting pot of the area; if we begin singling out the moderate voices, and targeting them as radicals, when they are not, then this will do harm than good in the long run. As believers we should stand strong for our belief that Jesus is the answer, yes even for the Muslim/Arab community, Jesus is the answer. Yet at the same time it does no good to purposefully alienate the more moderate branch of Islam.

[1509] DWELLING IN TENTS WITH ISAAC AND JACOB, HEIRS WITH HIM OF THE SAME PROMISE- Hebrews 11. The other day I decided to listen to Christian radio instead of playing one of the C.D.’s that I own. I often listen to teachings from scholars and theologians while doing early morning chores around the house. So anyway as I listened to some out of town preacher I thought ‘that’s fine, this is obviously not scholarly stuff, but it’s practical’ then at the end of the radio show they said ‘if you would like to order DOCTOR so and so’s tapes’. The problem isn’t that we are not all scholars/theologians- that’s fine, but then when we produce a level of teaching that is basic, and claim to have doctorates [whether honorary or earned from a catalog type ‘university’] then this makes us look bad. But I also went to my daughter’s house over the weekend and we had a nice B.B.Q. I got the chance to catch a little public access programming that I don’t get at my house; I usually try and watch the local access station to see any local teaching/preaching. I saw the local Calvary Chapel broadcast, never heard the preacher before. He did a basic teaching on Acts and it was scholarly, though the preacher claimed no special credentials. In the above verse Abraham is described as dwelling in a land with other family members, heirs with him of the same promise. That is God brings people together and these individual gifts/callings are tied in together with other believers in your area. We are all believing and waiting for THE SAME PROMISE- not each believing for our own dreams/visions. We need to appreciate the various gifts and callings of others who also are part of the same calling- even if they come from a different tribe. I have no problem listening to a basic type teaching, Paul the apostle, though an intellectual, said when he was preaching at Corinth that he would not use the wisdom/intellect of the world- but he would preach the foolishness of the Cross. It’s okay for a ‘non scholar’ to share at a level of teaching that is high- it’s also fine for a preacher to teach at a basic level, it’s just that we should not be giving out ‘doctorates’ so freely- or producing them ourselves. If it’s truly an earned degree, that’s fine. But when it’s obvious that the level of teaching is not being done at a scholarly level, then it would be better to just call ourselves ‘bother so and so’ instead of ‘doctor’.

[1508] FRACTALS- The other day I read a front page news story about a church in San Antonio who shut down the Sunday public meeting and transitioned into home type groups. As I read the story I realized that the church was a church plant from the mega church I attend in Corpus Christi. The pastor is a younger brother who is ex-navy and I remember when he started the San Antonio church. As I read the article I realized that he is struggling, like many other Pastors, with the whole idea of church as being this building where people go and listen to someone speak; he basically has joined a growing number of ‘organic, cell, house, etc.’ church brothers who have been going thru this transition for years. I did find it interesting that he was a church plant from the church I attend in Corpus. The name of the movement is ‘Fractals TV’ they derive their name form a mathematical shape that has the ability to change and adjust, much like the idea of organic church. I of course have written and said [and tried to do!] much of this over the years, and I in no way discount the legitimate expression of church that this movement is trying to develop. As believers we all go thru various stages of growth and understanding as the years go by, it’s important for everyone in the conversation to value grace and mercy above all other ideas; too often the ‘organic’ church versus the ‘institutional church’ becomes an argument where both sides appeal to the scriptures that benefit/back up their positions the most, and after a while the fight does more harm than good in the long run. I have come to believe that there are some pastors, good men, who will never really grasp what the entire organic church movement is really all about; for the most part these are good men who really don’t have the time [or desire] to go back and re-think all that they have been taught about ‘church- ecclesia’ and they simply seek to do Gods will in the environment that they were taught at bible college. These are not wicked men, nor are their churches ‘pagan’ in origin [I know the argument, believe me]. But they are simply serving the Lord as best as they can, given the education they were taught- or the church tradition they were brought up in, as far as I’m concerned, more power to them. But the movement of those who begin re-thinking what church is all about continues to increase as the years go by; in God’s timing I believe we will all be able to achieve the unity that Jesus spoke about in John 17- the church of God still has many things that divide us, we need to value love and mercy and longsuffering as we all do our best along the way.

[1507] CONTEXT- One of the most important tools to use while reading the bible is reading it in context; that is to read the story as a story- all of the parts should be seen in the setting that they are appearing in. When reading the gospels we should seek to understand as much as possible the times and culture of Jesus’ day. When reading historical sections of scripture we approach it with a more ‘literal’ reading; wisdom literature and poetry have their own sense. And reading apocalyptic sections [Revelation, Daniel] we should see them in their context. Let me just give a brief example of what I mean; many years ago it was popular to read the story of Jesus and Judas and to teach that Jesus must have had a very wealthy earthly treasury because the bible says Judas was ‘stealing money from the bag’ and no one noticed any money was missing. Also the fact that Jesus owned an expensive coat, the one the soldiers ‘cast lots’ for at the Cross. It was common to develop a view that said ‘aha, Jesus was spending the money from the treasury on gifts for himself; therefore as followers of Jesus we should take the money given thru offerings and treat ourselves lavishly’. Now, why would doing this be wrong? First of all Jesus spoke often on the themes of the rich being on the outs with God, and the poor being blessed- he would say things like ‘beware of covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses’ or ‘you cannot serve God and money’. But what about the Judas verses brother? As you read the gospels in context you see that the disciples and Jesus had a traveling type ministry [itinerant] people did give gifts to them out of appreciation and love. We have a few instances that tip us off to what the disciples were using the majority of these collected offerings for; at the last supper when Jesus told Judas he knew he was going to betray him, Judas left the table abruptly. What did the others at the meal think? They thought he was going to distribute/purchase something for the poor- why did they not think he was going to make a personal purchase for Jesus? Because that’s not what they were using the money for. And when the woman poured the expensive perfume on Jesus, Judas said ‘what a waste, we could have sold this perfume and given the money to the poor’. Now we know Judas wasn’t sincere in this request; but we see that he tried to cover up his hidden agenda by appealing to what the treasury money was really supposed to be used for- helping the poor! So when reading the bible we need to try and look at the whole story, it’s easy to pick a sentence or 2 from any story and make it say what you want, and many sincere believers have done this- but when we mature in our understanding we will be strong enough to see where we have gone astray and by God’s grace make a course correction. There are many teachers/leaders in the church [predominantly on Christian TV] that still present the gospel in this ‘less than’ honest way, many of these teachings are appealing to the average saint, but when we take a sober look at the whole story we see that Jesus did not put priority on the riches of this world- to the contrary he quite often rebuked those who sought them.

[1505] GIVE TO THE POOR AND YOU WILL HAVE TREASURE IN HEAVEN- The other day I was talking to someone about the story in Luke chapter 12; the rich man whose farms were producing a lot and he said to himself ‘I will tear down my barns and build greater ones and say to my soul ‘soul, you have much goods for many years’- Jesus said the man would die that night and then who will get his stuff? Later on in the chapter Jesus says ‘give alms [charity- helping the poor] and you will have treasure in heaven that thieves won’t be able to touch’. As I shared the story I asked the person if they ever thought about how many times the New Testament relates giving by giving to the poor. The famous verse that most teachers use to teach ‘tithing on Sunday’ is 1st Corinthians 16, in actuality Paul is telling the believers at Corinth to take up an offering FOR THE POOR! We simply do not normally see what these verses are saying at face value. I could go on for a long time and show you how this very reality- that the majority of verses in the bible that speak about being faithful stewards [faithful givers] teach it in the context of giving to the poor. Yet the average believer today feels like if he gives 10% of his income on Sunday, that somehow he is fulfilling the mandate of Jesus. I want to encourage you today, as you read thru the bible, pay attention to this very thing- go back and read all the verses that you currently use as ‘tithing’ verses, and see whether or not they are speaking about charitable giving, you will be surprised at the outcome.

[1504] HAGGAI 2- The prophet asks the people ‘does this second temple and its rebuilding pale in comparison to the first one’? Yet even though what they ‘saw’ in the natural seemed less, yet God said his glory would actually be greater in this second house. We read in the other prophetic books [Ezra?] that when the Jews that returned to the land looked at the foundation of the second temple while it was being laid, that they mourned and cried, they felt let down because to them the former days would never be the same again; yet God was going to do a greater work [in depth] than what was done earlier. The book of Hebrews tells us that God takes away the first so he can establish the 2nd. This was speaking of the passing away of the Old Covenant and the bringing in of the New. Jesus also said that those who were ‘drinking of the old wine’ [partaking of the law] would not quickly be swayed to drink the new [accept Jesus and his New Covenant Blood]. So the prophet exhorts the people to be encouraged; even though this restored temple doesn’t look grand, it will contain more valuable glory. The prophet tells them ‘get back to work, don’t give up on the vision yet’- basically the people were at a point of discouragement and passivity, they really didn’t need a new game plan, they simply needed to work the plan they already were given! Sometimes we use the excuse ‘God is calling me to a new work’ while it is true that changes occur in the Christian walk, yet sometimes we abort the mission because the obstacles seem too great. Be encouraged today to do whatever it is the Lord has given you to do- the prophet said ‘is the seed still in the barn’? Then for heaven’s sake go and do some planting! You say ‘but what if some of the seeds don’t make it’? Hey, Jesus said 3 out of 4 wouldn’t! But if you don’t start planting you will never get the return on the few that do make it. Haggai was a prophet who spoke to the nation at a crucial time in their journey, he exhorted them to ‘consider their ways’ he told them they were brought back to the land for a purpose- yet they seemed to lose sight of that purpose and they fell into a survival mentality, they began living just to survive. I want to challenge you today, what are you living for? Is your life’s goal simply to make it? To exist long enough to collect social security and retire? God has a purpose and plan for your life, and it doesn’t revolve around you! Find your place in this ‘second temple’ [the Body of Christ] and get to work, do what you can do- if some of the seed doesn’t make it, that’s fine, the ones that do make it will be worth it all in the end. And for heaven’s sake, get up and get to work! Jesus said ‘don’t say the harvest is month’s away, look on the fields- they are ripe and ready to harvest, but the workers are few. Pray that the Lord of the harvest would send laborers into the harvest’. Isaiah said ‘here am I, send me’- how bout you?

[1503] HAGGAI 1- The prophet rebukes the people because they were saying ‘it’s not time for the Lords house to be built’ yet at the same time they were busy ‘dwelling in their nice roofed homes’. Haggai tells them that’s why they were experiencing economic judgment; because they were seeking first their own wealth and neglecting the house of God. Whenever I deal with these types of verses I always try and remind the reader that these verses are not talking about fixing up the church building! But the New Testament comparison would be neglecting the actual health and growth of the Body of Christ, the community [house] of God. Read Acts 6 and 1st Corinthians. The prophet rebukes the leaders and he tells them to consider their ways; think about what you are doing and make the proper course corrections. The people listen to the word of the Lord and they begin renewing their lives back to the purpose of God. It’s important to remember that at this stage the people had already come a long way; they were brought back from captivity and they had begun the work of restoration. But the books of Nehemiah and Ezra show us how after a season the people became discouraged, they could not see how much progress they had already made. The writer of Hebrews encourages the believers to not lose heart ‘God is faithful; he will not forget the love that you have already shown to the saints’. Sometimes during seasons of discouragement it’s easy to think ‘what’s it all worth, I have labored in vain’ [Isaiah]. It’s at those times we need to hear the prophetic word ‘God is still with you, you have not chosen me- I have chosen you’! Haggai’s message was simple; look at where you are at, examine whether the things you are doing are consistent with your purpose in life- and redirect as God leads. It’s the life story of Israel all thru out the Old Testament, the apostle tells us that these things were written so we too might not make the same mistakes as them [Corinthians]. Today if you will hear his voice, harden not your heart.

[1500] DO NOT FEAR THE REPROACH OF MEN- THE REPROACHES OF THEM THAT HAVE REPROACHED YOU HAVE FALLEN UPON ME- Isaiah. The other day I had the opportunity to walk across the street and talk to my neighbor who shot and killed a man last week. I thought he was in jail, but my kids said they saw him. So I spoke with Dave, I shared these verses with him; I think they spoke to him. He is waiting for the grand jury to meet and decide on his case. He and his wife are struggling with the stigma of being a ‘murderer’- Dave battles with what all the people are saying, some true and some false. I explained to Dave that reproaches are the things people say about us in a negative way. People can live in fear simply by going around and thinking about the accusations against us. I told my friend that these accusations [whether true or false] were laid upon Jesus at the Cross- we don’t need to carry them anymore. The other day I channel surfed the religious stations and heard a few minutes of preaching that I haven’t listened to in years. It’s not that there bad people, it’s just the whole style of flashy charismatic preaching/ministry is not my cup of tea anymore. I caught a brother from Dallas, has a worldwide ministry; he was talking about going ‘thru hell’ and all the trials and difficulties he is facing; most of this sort of preaching, though true, is centered on the trials and struggles that come from the fame and pressure of modern ministry. That is the heads of ministries that have a national persona are usually coming at it from the angle of the things you go thru while being the center of attention. While these men are for the most part good men, yet it’s difficult for the average saint to identify with these types of struggles. It takes time to see that the Jesus of the gospels has given us a different mandate, one where we all share the burdens of one another in the simple reality of daily life; ministry and Christianity are based upon humble principles, we need to re-evaluate what we are presenting to the world as ministry. I am not sure what is going to happen to my friend, I will continue to pray for him and his wife and will try and spend more time talking to him; he was so glad that I took the time to walk over and spend some time fellowshipping with him; he was under the weight of the reproach of men- I simply reminded him that these reproaches were taken at the Cross.

[1499] ‘Abide in me…I did the works that no one else did…I spoke the words that no one else spoke…because of this they have no more excuse for sin’ Jesus, John’s gospel chapter 15. It’s interesting to see that in this context Jesus was speaking to the religious class of his day; not ‘the sinners’. Jesus ministry and style were one where sinners would be drawn to him, they did not feel justified in their sin, but they for once felt hope and acceptance after years of guilt and condemnation. On the other hand the religious leaders were rebuked by what Jesus did and said- he violated their perceived ideas about God and ministry. Over the years I have heard many good men teach that as an individual believer you really don’t have the resources to ‘touch the world’ many have said ‘it takes thousands and millions of dollars to preach the gospel, you can only do you part if you chip in to this huge organization’. What these sayings do is in effect contradict the word of God. It leaves believers with the mindset that they really can’t have an effect unless they send money to a huge Christian ministry. But Jesus taught contrary to this; he told his men when he sent them out ‘don’t think you need a lot of equipment for this- you are the equipment- no special appeals for funds, keep it simple’ [message version]. The apostle Paul told the Ephesians ‘he that stole, steal no more, but WORK so YOU CAN HAVE MONEY TO GIVE TO THOSE WHO NEED IT’. And Paul addressed the church leaders at Ephesus, Acts chapter 20, and he told them ‘all the time I was with you I worked with my own hands to provide for myself and those who were with me- I did this to leave you guys an example’. The point is there is a lot of New Testament teaching on individual believers, working and living as normal people, not starting big organizations that collect/appeal for funds, who actually are having an impact in the world. It can be argued that the New Testament pattern is one of community and not one of nonprofit ministry. Many years ago I received a word that said ‘in your future ministry you will have no models to follow, thru your deeds and words you will show people Jesus’ ways’. Over the years I have tried to leave the example that you don’t need to appeal for money, you don’t need to see ministry as gathering all this money to do a great work- but you can simply work a real job [I was a firefighter for 25 years] and simply use your own money to do what God requires you to do- show mercy, do justice and love God and man. Jesus spoke and modeled in such a way that the normal way of doing ministry [the Pharisees of his day] felt convicted by the fact that he was doing things that they had abandoned long ago, he seemed to be violating the structures that they deemed important [healing on the Sabbath day]. Where are you at today? Leaders, have you simply modeled a way of church and ministry simply because that’s all you have ever known? It’s easy to get caught up in the rut of ‘ministry’ to go down a business type format that unconsciously makes void the word of God. Remember, Jesus taught us that we do not need to start with the mindset of collecting offerings/tithes from people, there are many examples [like the ones above] that appeal to believers to live simple lives, work for a living, and simply share the money you have with those in need. Don’t get caught up in the modern scenarios where we tell people ‘you really can’t have an effect by yourself, you need lots of money to have an effect’ the scriptures simply don’t teach that.

[1489] ‘till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man…that we henceforth be no more children, tossed back and forth and carried around by every new teaching, by the tricks of men who lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love may grow up INTO HIM in every way, he is the head- even Christ’ Ephesians 4:13-16. This passage comes right after Paul gives us a description of the gifts/ministers that exist in the church; the purpose of gifted people is to bring the people to a maturity in Christ- not just an increase in knowledge about Jesus, but that we as the body of Christ might fully mature and be more like him. Often times we confuse intellectual knowledge with knowing Jesus; or we think that the end goal is to simply increase in learning. While I love to learn and grow in all areas of teaching, I also realize that Jesus is looking for more than just smart people. In the gospels we see Jesus engaging at different times with the religious leaders, they usually have some trick question that they think will stump him- what were they doing? They felt like if they could ‘catch him’ in a contradiction, then that would prove to them that they were still the elites of the day and that this Jesus was just another one of the so called messiahs. But in every case Jesus would respond with a short, quick answer that would dumbfound the questioners. You got the feeling that he could have easily blown everybody away with his intellect, but he didn’t use his wisdom in that way. What we consider to be the best teachings of Jesus are his parables and the great Sermon on the Mount; though these teachings are great, yet they are simple. They call us to the Christ like life, not just to a life that knows more about Christ. In the above passage Paul tells the Ephesians that God is building us into a mature body of people who will express Christ to the world. The gifted people are not just great speakers who the people gather around weekly to listen to- they are carpenters who are building the people of God until we all come to a unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. God wants us to ‘grow up INTO him’ that is to be formed into a mature body of people- God is looking for real growth, not just a bunch of people who have all the best answers.

[1488] ‘I therefore…beseech you that you would walk worthy of the calling…with all lowliness and meekness, putting up with each other in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all, who is above all and thru all and in you all’ Ephesians 4:1-6. Last night I caught Tim Lahaye [famous end time’s preacher] on the fox channel, he was talking about the one world govt. system and the one world banking/economic system. He was saying how he believed that the Obama administration was a tool that would lead up to the apocalypse. The host, Mike Huckabee, was kind enough to let Tim speak but kind of gave a little more mercy to the president. I felt bad for Lahaye, you could see he is getting up in age and you could tell that that’s the way he saw the bible, the lens of end time dispensationalism and the one world order was what he saw, and that’s that. Often times in the various debates that believers have amongst one another, it’s easy to lose sight of the greater purpose of God. In the above passage the apostle talks about the necessity of seeing God’s people as one body, to avoid as much as possible any divisions that would rise up among us. In our day we have many sincere believers who see many things differently, how far down the road of practical unity we will get- I don’t know. But it is imperative that we give each other the benefit of the doubt, that we make room for the different views that other believers have- yes even those who espouse the end time scenarios that seem to be a little off base! As a student of the bible and church history, I realize that there are many doctrinal differences that are deep seated- these will not go away simply because we love one another; but at the same time there needs to be an overriding view of the desire of God for unity among his people. I need to make as much ‘room’ for you as possible when it comes to being a fellow believer in the Lord, I should not allow my beliefs in certain areas trump the unity that we all posses in Christ. This chapter speaks of the gifts that Christ gives to the church for the benefit of the whole body, if I am using my gift in a way that causes division, then no matter how gifted I am, I am working against the purpose of that gift. In the above passage the apostle speaks of the need for humility and meekness, we need to stop seeing each other thru the lens of ‘our group is better/knows more truth than your group’ even if we believe that ‘our group’ really is more doctrinally sound than the other members of Christ’s church, yet we are called to lowliness and meekness when dealing with one another- yes there will be times of honest and robust disagreement, but we must not forsake/forget the high calling to strive for unity amongst the people of God. Let’s give people the benefit of the doubt- if we disagree with them, whether politically or in areas of belief, let’s not jump to the conclusion that they are going to personally play a major role in bringing in the apocalypse for heaven’s sake! If these people are believers then it is our duty to give them the benefit of the doubt, even if we disagree with them strongly in certain areas.

[1487] WHERE IS THE HOUSE THAT YOU ARE BUILDING FOR ME AND WHERE IS THE PLACE OF MY REST? FOR ALL THOSE THINGS HATH MINE HAND MADE AND ALL THOSE THINGS HAVE BEEN- SAITH THE LORD. Isaiah 66:1-2. These last few weeks I have been jumping around in our studies from Ephesians to church history and Isaiah, I thought this verse fit in good with some of the themes in Ephesians. Paul talked about the eternal purpose of God that was planned before the world began and how our part in it has also been pre ordained. There is another scripture in Isaiah that says ‘I showed it to you before it happened so you would know that I was the one who did the work’. God asks us ‘what is it that you are building for me? What is the house/dwelling that you are constructing?’ The dwelling place of God is the church, the building ‘fitly framed together that grows into a temple of the Lord’ we are simply tools in the hand of God, his purpose and the part we play in it are all of God; the apostle said ‘I worked more than all the others, never the less it was not I, but the grace of God in me’ Paul knew that the things God was accomplishing thru him were pre planned things; stuff that he could not take credit for. I want to encourage you today; do you see yourself as carrying the load of ministry- of the things you are ‘building for God’? All these things God has made, and they ‘have been’ you and I have just appeared in time for a small moment to play our part, the success of the work rests upon God- not us.

[1485] ‘So here I am, preaching about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ… through Christians like yourselves this extraordinary plan is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!…All this is proceeding along lines planned long ago by God…so don’t let my present trouble on your behalf get you down’ Ephesians 3. It’s interesting that the great apostle could rejoice in everything that was happening as being a plan from God that was determined long ago- and yet he was presently suffering many things. He did not ask the Lord ‘why did you let me go to jail’ or ‘why has my career as a great religious leader, respected as a great teacher of the law, why has it all been thrown away on this new career- one where I’m going around, supporting myself by tent making! I mean I could have had a great career as a professional speaker! [Rhetoric]’ instead Paul realized that the troubles that were happening to him were a direct result of his calling in God. Isaiah says ‘for your shame they shall have double, and for your confusion THEY shall possess the double portion in the land’ ‘he shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied, he was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities’ the biblical theme is we often suffer as a result of the work that God is doing thru us for others. Paul encourages the church to not faint at his tribulations for them, which is their glory. If we can grasp the reality that to them that love God, all things are working together for good, then we can rejoice in the good times and bad. But if our measuring rod for success is the world’s measuring rod, then we will be like a ship in the wind- tossed back and forth and wavering with every change in the weather. Paul learned to be content in whatever state he was in- jail, freedom- lack, abundance; all these things were working for good, even the things that didn’t seem ‘good’.

[1483] ‘And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together grows into a holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are built together for an habitation of God thru the Spirit’ Ephesians 2: 20-22. The temple imagery is one of the great pictures of what the church is in the New Testament. One of the greatest Old Testament surveys done in the bible is Acts chapter 7; Stephen gives this tremendous overview of the history of Israel. One of the portions of scripture that he quotes is Psalms ‘God does not dwell in temples made with hands’ he is prophesying of the great living temple of people that was beginning to form in the book of Acts. One important note; over the last few years there has been some controversy between the organic church movement [house church movement, cell church, etc.] and the traditional church. An important thing to remember is the imagery of the temple/people of God is not describing a meeting at all- whether it be in the ‘church building’ or the home. The imagery is that of a people who transcend time and space, a company of people that share life with God, God really dwells in his people- not just on a meeting day, or in a meeting place, but all the time! It’s easy to lose the reality of the temple imagery and replace it with the ‘church building’. It’s also easy to miss read this imagery, Stephen himself as well as many of the early believers had no problem going to the temple or to a synagogue meeting, it wasn’t off limits to meet in a building- it’s just they were actually being built together as an holy temple in the Lord and this reality transcended the old temple concept. We are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone- which means everything lines up with him; he is the plumb line for the building. Thank God that he no longer dwells in temples made with hands, but in us- a living temple made up of living stones! [Peter’s letter].

[1479] ‘Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the cross, we are a free people- free from the penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free either. ABUNDANTLY free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything in planet earth’ Ephesians 1, message bible. Notice how the ‘long range plan’ of God has been revealed to us in time; that is God had all these things mapped out before the world even started! The plan is to bring everything together in Christ, that all things in heaven and on earth would show forth the full restoration that was accomplished at the Cross. Paul speaks about this ‘full world’ reconciliation in Romans chapter 8; the creation itself shall be delivered from the curse and enter into the full joy of the manifestation of the sons of God. One of the main themes of Jesus in the parables is to show forth the full world impact of the kingdom of God. Jesus talks about the kingdom as a small seed, and it grows into this great tree. Or a fishing net that brings in all types of fish [full harvest]. One of the mistakes that some believers made was they began interpreting the kingdom parables in a way that said ‘see, these parables speak of the religious world of Christendom, and how false religion will take over the planet’ Ouch! Jesus has a purpose for all of creation; he has let us in on these plans and has given us authority to fulfill our part of the plan. We have complete acceptance from God based on the work of the Cross, free from all penalties and punishments that we deserve because of our sins. Yet God who is rich in mercy has lavished upon us great grace, he has chosen us to be an important part of this plan, we are the actual Body of Christ on the earth that Jesus speaks and acts thru, we are major players in the eternal purpose of the most high!

[1476] WHOSOEVER BELIEVES THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST IS BORN OF GOD- 1st John. I am almost finished reading the Jesus Manifesto, by Viola/Sweet. About a month or so ago I read an article by Scot McKnight on Historical Jesus studies; these are the men who approach the study of Jesus while trying to not be ‘biased’ by the gospels and the church’s traditional teachings about Christ. McKnight spoke as an insider who spent many years engaging in the study. He basically concluded that the system itself was flawed; they tried to use certain ‘historical’ criteria and ended up in this hopeless process of never being able to agree on who Jesus really was! The great Christian writer C.S. Lewis spent many years rejecting the faith, but as somewhat of an intellectual he said he could not escape the deep roots of Christianity that he would find while reading the classics, studying the history of society; no matter where he went the testimony of the church was this unified declaration of who Jesus was and what his life and death and resurrection meant to humankind. The apostle John told us that those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, these are of God. Our bibles, as well as Christian orthodoxy declare to us who Jesus is; we do not need the testimony of those who are trying to examine him while being removed from the person, historically, by two thousand years. This is not to say that all historical study is wrong, but the flawed attempt at trying to restructure the Jesus of the gospels by embracing some historical method, a method that actually goes against all reliable historical studies, we surely don’t need this. There are 2 groups that reject the tradition of the church; those from the ultra liberal historical approach [Jesus seminar types] and the rigid fundamentalist camp. Now, in some ways I too am a fundamentalist, but I am speaking of the more extreme groups that reject the historic church and approach Christianity and the bible from a virgin perspective; that is these believers ‘believe’ that each new generation of Christians should read the bible without any historical context, both of these approaches can become hotbeds of heresy. I thank God that both the bible and the church have declared to us who Jesus is, the apostle John says ‘we have declared to you that which we have seen, and that which we have handled’ John and his companions spent time with the Lord, these original apostles are called ‘the foundation stones of the church’ [being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets] we today are part of a corporate temple that spans 2 thousand years; our forefathers have left us a great legacy, let’s not squander it by trying to reconstruct that which has been faithfully passed down to us- whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.

[1475] KNOW YE THAT THE LORD, HE IS GOD: IT IS HE THAT HATH MADE US AND NOT WE OURSELVES- Psalm 100:3. The bible also says ‘of his own will begat he us by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures’ ‘being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible; by the word of God that liveth and abideth forever’ [James, Peter]. Over the years I have had various groups of people that I have related to in ministry; ex-con friends, homeless guys, ‘church’ members- in each scenario I have to be reminded that these people are from the Lord, that is God has divinely positioned them and me to cross paths at each juncture of the journey. There are some of you right now reading this blog who I have never met before; some hear us every week on the radio as well. It is our responsibility to hear what God is saying in each situation. Some of you have wondered about many of the things we have taught over the years- that is you too have had thoughts and questions about many of these things and you have been confirmed in your beliefs as you read this site. Others are in the more traditional role of ‘church/pastor’ and you might benefit from another aspect of the teaching while by passing some stuff. Our job is to recognize that all of us have been brought to this place by Gods word; he is the one that has made us [even at all these different stages] and not we ourselves! If you find yourself questioning why some paths you have taken might not have been the same as others; then just realize that it is the Lord that directs our steps; he has allowed us to journey to the place we are at right now and it is simply our responsibility to hear him where we stand. Don’t try and hear him where someone else is standing, that is don’t attempt to be ‘like the next guy’ you are unique and God has fashioned his word to speak to you and from you in a unique way. I just finished a prayer time; I pray for all of the former friends who I have worked with in the past, their kids and their ‘kids, kids’. Some of the parents have died, but I still pray for their offspring. I believe God has a divine purpose for all of those who I have crossed paths with over the years. Some of you I have never met, and never will meet; just take what the Lord has been giving you and run with it ‘one shall chase a thousand and two will put ten thousand to flight’ run well my friends.

[1473] PRESIDENTS ADDRESS- Last night the president gave his first presidential address; he spoke for around 18 minutes and tried his best to deal with the gulf oil leak. His speech came just hours after the N.Y. times did a critical story on his handling of the spill, they basically said the president has done a terrible job in the overall cleanup effort. I would note that the times have been one of the president’s strongest supporters. Also the criticism from the media has not been as bad as it could have been. I do remember hearing many times that the so called reason for Bush’s slow response after hurricane Katrina was because of his inherent racist views. Many pundits openly said that if the hurricane hit some mainly white northern state that the response would be different; I have yet to hear one person say that Obama is reacting badly because most of the fishermen and gulf residents are poor white folk. Okay, what about the speech. First, the president came out strongly for a new ‘cap and trade’ law; basically it is a tax on the oil industry designed to wean the country off oil and force industry into clean fuel use. Though this is a noble goal, to try this at a time when the oil industry is being hit hard, this does not help our fragile economy. We are going to lose around 30-50 thousand jobs because of the 6 month moratorium on new oil rigs going up. Here where I live this effects many small businesses; these rigs don’t just go away for 6 months, they go and plant themselves in some other country and on average these jobs are lost for 5 years. To continue to hammer this industry with a new tax that would raise the cost of business and the price of fuel is simply irresponsible at this time. So why do it? The president realizes that in the upcoming elections they will lose seats, so this will probably be his last chance to enact any big things on his agenda, so that’s more than likely the reason he is trying for this. The president looked a little shaky during the speech, he appealed for prayer at the end [a good thing] and he tried to make the case that they have lots of resources in place to deal with the crisis; the main problem is there seems to be no real coordinated effort to handle the clean up. Most observers are saying there is a fundamental lack of leadership in the whole situation. I believe we should pray for the president, don’t impugn bad motives to the man [like he purposely wants to drag the country down so he can enact socialism!] and realize that ideologies have good or bad effects, if you believe it’s in the overall good for the nation to tax oil at this time; then your ‘belief’ will adversely affect many people who need help right now. I don’t think it would be fair to them to make them take another big hit at a time when they are already hurting.

[1472] JESUS MANIFESTO, 2nd post. Okay I read some more from Frank Viola/Leonard Sweet’s book. I really like the emphasis that they place on the importance of Jesus and on self sacrifice as major themes of the Christian life; a good quote would be ‘Jesus is in the self transcending business, not self fulfilling one’. This book is a change of pace from the normal fare of self help books that rank high on the Christian book lists of our day. A few problems; at one point you can hear the sound of the post modern emergent voice, they admit that the bible contains ‘logical contradictions’ [ouch!] and they also challenge the ‘modern’ [as opposed to post modern] view of absolute truth. Descartes name is thrown out and they use a strange reference to the 13th century theologian/thinker John Duns Scotus. They rightly trace the famous nick name ‘Dunce cap’ to Scotus, but then they say that the famous teacher earned the name by resisting ‘mystery’ as a legitimate means of knowledge , while embracing pure logic. My understanding of how Scotus got the nickname is actually the opposite of this. Scotus was a contemporary of Aquinas, during their day there was a rediscovery of the writings of the famous philosopher Aristotle; Aquinas became popular among the Dominicans for his embracing of Aristotle and his scholastic approach to learning [pure logic]. Scotus resisted Aristotle’s view that all learning comes to man thru the ‘5 senses’ and he taught there was a sort of 6th sense that man needs while approaching God. The point being it seems to me that Scotus got the nick name ‘Dunce’ not because he rejected mystery, but because he favored it! Anyway that’s just a technical historical point, as Will Farrell says in the movie ‘Anchorman’ let’s just agree to disagree. In the argument against the modern view of absolute truth, a few pages over they defend it! They explain that the reason the schools shy away from teaching character is because they won’t allow for ‘universals’ or ‘morals’. To be honest its trendy now a days to challenge the system, and most emergent’s will say stuff like this; I don’t think this to be a major problem with the book, just thought I should mention it. All in all the authors do a good job at re directing us back to Christ as being the center of the Christian experience; lots of excellent quotes from many historical figures, even one or two from the Pope! [Frank doing some penance over Pagan Christianity?] I am not sure if I’ll do another post on the book, I have a few pages left and I will certainly finish the book; but overall I do recommend the book, it is a must read for the ‘modern’ believer, we do need to be challenged in our day and this book does a good job of it. You will not find this book on the self help shelf of modern Christianity, and I think that’s a good thing.

[1471] LOST AT SEA- 2 days ago I saw a story in the news about a 16 year old girl who was attempting to sail around the world, she has been at sea for around 5 months and her family said they lost all contact with her and her emergency beeper went off. At first when I heard the story I thought the poor girl has no chance. The boat she was in was small, the last contact they had with her said she was somewhere in the Indian Ocean and she was in 30 foot swells. But in the morning when I do my routine prayer, when I got to the point when I pray for the nations [things like natural disasters, famine, world problems, etc.] I felt the Lord telling me to mention this girl in particular. So I did. Then I felt a feeling like I will hear something about her in the news that was going to confirm the importance of prayer. Sure enough I saw the news and they miraculously found this girl. Some search planes went out in the area where they thought she might be and right before they gave up they spotted what they described as ‘a dot ‘in the ocean, upon further inspection it was her. Her boat was ruined and she had lost all contact by radio. If these pilots didn’t just happen to see her, she would have surely died out there. I had a friend of mine who was a good man, involved in all types of ministry things. As I was talking to him one day, trying to give him some advice on some things, I asked him when he prays. Is there a time that you set aside to pray? His answer was ‘I pray all the time’. I realized at that moment that he did not have a set time when he prayed. To me it seemed unthinkable to not have this time; a real time to pray. I want to encourage you guys today, set aside time daily for prayer. It’s5:30 a.m. as I write, I usually spend the 3:30-4:00 till 5:30 slot to pray. You don’t have to do it that early, but it’s important that you have a habit of prayer. And when the Lord says ‘pray for this person/situation’ then pray for it, even if you think all hope is lost.

[1468] FOR THOU LORD HAST MADE ME GLAD THRU THY WORK, I WILL TRIUMPH IN THE WORKS OF THY HANDS- Psalms 92:4. The Psalms talk a lot about God establishing the work, revealing his works to his people. Israel had a history of recalling the works of God; often times you read ‘where is the God of our fathers, the God who we heard such great things about’? As somewhat of a student of church history, we always want to be conscious of the fact that God is ‘making history’ even in our time; that is he still wants to set down some important markers, he still is enacting key moments in time. As believers we want the Lord to reveal to us in a fresh way ‘the works of his hands’ that is we want to enter into the works of the Lord. Now I am not speaking about being busy for God; involving ourselves in all types of programs and churchy type things, but more of an understanding of the times we are in and how we fit into the broader picture. Once we ‘see’ the times we are living in, the things God is doing [as opposed to men] then we will be working smarter- not harder. Remember, as a child of God you possess all the legitimacy to walk as a kingdom person, God will connect you to the people he wants you to be connected to, but your legitimacy comes from God. Once you see his purpose in this generation, and you part in it, then you will be empowered with divine energy to do your part. ‘Write the vision and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it- for the vision is for an appointed time, though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come’.

[1467] JESUS MANIFESTO, Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet. The other day I received an interesting email, Thomas Nelson book publishers offered me a free advanced copy of the above book, they are giving away 200 advanced copies and they offered one to me. They simply said they would appreciate it if I mentioned the book on my blog. So here I am; I’ve read a few chapters and ‘Frank-Len’ make a good case for restoring the church back to a strong Christology [I think I would have said ‘Christ centric model’ instead]. The point they argue is that the people of God and Christianity itself has lost the matchless vision of a magnificent Lord and has replaced it with all types of other stuff. They give a list of some of the stuff; it includes end time things, prosperity, leadership…theology, evolution versus creation- well you get the hint. While it’s difficult to argue against the authors main point [who can argue against returning the church to Christ?] the danger is in thinking that ‘theology’ or any other attempt at clarifying the orthodox Jesus is a substitute for Jesus himself, that is we as believers do need to be aware of the many rabbit trails we often get sidetracked on but at the same time we need to understand the need for good Christian doctrine [theology]. I noticed that the authors did not include ‘organic church’ on the list. I do like the many quotes from historic church figures; Tertullian, Aquinas, Barth, etc. and I like the ‘folksy-popular’ style the book is written in, sounds like reading Eugene Peterson’s Message version. All in all the first few chapters are well worth reading, they do center you back on Jesus Christ, and the devotional style restores the soul. To be fair the authors do answer the charge that the bible itself teaches lots of subjects, so why be against all the other things on their list? They explain well that although we as believers will learn and teach various subjects, yet according to the apostolic pattern, these things are like ‘spokes on a wheel’ they are needed at times, but Jesus is the center of the wheel. All in all it’s hard to disagree with the main point of the book. I have found the argument ‘we focus on Jesus only’ to be at times an excuse for ‘unlearned preaching’ sometimes preachers have used this as an excuse to not delve into good Christian ‘theology’ but I don’t sense this with this book. Over the next few days I will finish the book [it’s not big, I’m just busy!] and hopefully will comment a few more times. I’m not sure how I got on the list to receive an advanced copy, but I’m grateful for the copy- as a book collector its cool to have a copy that says ‘advanced copy- uncorrected proof- not for resale’. I guess Frank must have recommended me for the book; I have blogged on a mutual site in the past. I have heard of Leonard Sweet before, but am not familiar with him at all. I should note that I have taught many of the same themes found in this book, and I think it would benefit all of us to re focus on the early church’s emphasis on knowing the Lord, not just doctrinally, but in a real way- this is the main point of the book.

[1466] ‘Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most high, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling’ Psalm 91:9-10. The other night we had some severe wind storms, as I walked out into my yard the next morning, I could barely open the door; one of my trees came down and covered the entire yard! As I spent the day cutting it with my new chainsaw; I realized that just a week or so ago I was looking at the tree and thinking I should cut it down some day. I have lived in Texas since 1980 and have never owned a chain saw, but a few weeks back I saw an ad in the paper and it was a great deal [35 dollars- electric] and I had to go for it. Then the morning I found the tree down I had first read Psalms 91 ‘he will give his angels charge over thee…no evil will come near your dwelling’ I realized the tree could not have fallen in a better spot. I had very little damage to my fence and no damage to the house, even though branches were up against the windows. As I spent the day cutting, I realized that in some ways this was a divine conspiracy! I mean why did I just happen to by a chainsaw, and why would I have been thinking about cutting this tree down just a few days earlier? As I watched the local news I saw all the damage that other trees did during the storm; it looked like a hurricane hit [you will see it with your eyes, but it will not affect you- Psalm 91]! The falling of the tree created a new area in the yard for me to see ‘further’ when praying early in the morning; it was a change in environment- in what I see as I pray. The Lord said to Abraham ‘look, all the places that YOU SEE, those are the places that I give to you, and your children/seed after you’. Sometimes the Lord allows some former markers to pass away so he can establish some new things. At first I was upset because I did not plan on spending a day messing with a downed tree, but then I realized if the tree had to come down, there really was no easier way to have done it. Sure these types of events interfere with you normal routine, but you might as well make the best of them when they wind up on your front [or back] door.

[1465] THE WORST ENVIRONMENTAL INCIDENT IN U.S. HISTORY! We are now in the 40 something day of the oil spill in the Gulf; it is now being called the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history. Both the critics and the supporters of the president have been giving there sides of the situation. I want to try and give a fair analysis of the incident. Could the president have done more about the situation? Some have said he has done everything possible [Douglas Brinkley] others have said no [both Democrats and Republicans]. Even though the president has little control over stopping the leak, he could have been more pro active about getting the cleanup resources in place. He has yet to mobilize the amount of resources needed to mitigate the oil coming to shore in the Gulf States; he could have had the govt. go in and contract with thousands of private haz mat workers and they could have been in place much earlier than they were. The president could have contracted with private business and had tankers going back and forth over these huge spills and skimming as much oil as possible. These are real things that were not done, and in some cases are still not being done. Number 2- the president seems to have had no initial concept of the ‘incident command system’ as a retired firefighter I have some experience with the concept. In the old days when fire depts. dealt with hazards they usually did their part at the scene, while the other entities did their own thing [Police, Highway patrol, etc.] but for many years now we use the Incident Command System; that is at each incident you have one main person designated as the go to man, he coordinates all the other heads of departments. He doesn’t do their jobs, but he is the person ON SCENE that is in charge. It took around 40 days before the administration began referring to Admiral Thad Allen as the incident commander. Many in the media began saying that they needed an incident commander, and it seems as if the administration realized they needed to say they have one. It is obvious to me that the fine admiral was not doing what incident commanders do. He has said over and over again that there were aspects of his job that did not mix with B.P. Though this is true, yet the incident commander does over see all operations. You have also had Parish Leaders telling us that the president has told them to call him directly if they have problems. In one instance the media reported that the president and the admiral were all meeting with the local leaders and the local leaders overruled admiral Allen about how to deal with a certain problem; this my friends is not an incident commander. All in all the president does seem to be learning these things as ‘on the job training’. I had a strong supporter of the president ask me why he seems to not be able to handle the situation. I reminded the person that one of the debates that went on during the campaign had to do with job experience; many argued that Obama had no executive experience- they said as a former intellectual, and his experience as a ‘community organizer’ that these things did not give a person the executive experience that was needed for the job. In some ways it does seem like they were right. I do not blame the president for the leak [though it was under his administration that B.P. and other drillers received special treatment to continue off shore drilling] but it is obvious to me that he has dropped the ball on some things. This morning oil is washing up on the beaches of Pensacola, why didn’t we have all the cleanup people out in force since last week? Instead they showed pictures of beach goers picking up oil balls with their kids! You do not have to be an oil professional to have the insight to get people in place ahead of time, but you do need some minimal ‘executive experience’.

[1463] BE OF GOOD CHEER, MASTER RIDLEY, PLAY THE MAN; WE SHALL THIS DAY LIGHT SUCH A CANDLE, BY GOD’S GRACE, IN ENGLAND, AS I TRUST SHALL NEVER BE PUT OUT’ Hugh Latimer, 16th century Bishop of the church of England. Many years ago when I first read this quote, it struck me. I recently came across it again, and it struck me again! Over the years of reading the lives of the saints there are certain words that were spoken at the point of martyrdom that for some reason have a lasting effect. One of the church fathers attributed this to the fact that the words that are spoken at this point are actually the words of God, not of men. Latimer was around 80 when he was burnt at the stake, under ‘bloody Mary’s’ reign. These words were to a fellow martyr, Ridley, who was also an influential Christian during the time of back and forth between Protestant and Catholic debates. During the reign of Henry the 8th he had various key influential figures that advocated for the Protestant position; many argued the Protestant position for the political expediency of not having to answer to the Papacy, or to continue to ‘pay tithes’ to Rome. Henry the 8th is usually known for his penchant for executing his wives, but a careful study of history shows us that at a younger time in his reign he was a great king. He informed himself about the debates surrounding the reformation; he knew both sides and at one point wrote a rebuke to Luther and defended the 7 sacraments of the church. For this noble effort he would be given the title ‘defender of the faith’ by the Pope. But as time went on Henry would break from Rome and launch the English church. In many respects the Church of England was simply a Catholic church without a Pope; or to put it another way, the king became the new Pope. The reformation happened at a time in history that was politically ripe for it. The rise of the nation states and the yearning for national identity played a major role as the individual nation states sought to break away from Rome. Luther would receive special protection by the political leaders in Germany because they liked the idea of independence. The same would happen in England, many around the King [and queens] were jockeying for position and trying to influence the leader in ways that they thought were the most advantageous for their own cause. But you also had some committed believers from both sides of the aisle that gave their lives for their strong convictions of their faith. Thomas More would die for his unwillingness to reject the Pope and accept the king as the new head of the church. And Latimer and others would die for their rejection of Catholic teachings. Though the king had many wives, he would only have 3 children to ascend to the throne. Edward, Mary and Elizabeth. Edward would die young [15 years of age] and Mary and Elizabeth would take turns at the helm. Mary was known for her ‘bloody reign’ and Elisabeth would turn out to be an exceptionally great leader, the greatest one sided naval victory in history took place under her realm while Spain suffered a great defeat. They too would be influenced by those insiders who had personal axes to grind. At first Mary wasn’t ‘bloody’, but she would eventually be convinced to execute those who were deemed a threat to the realm. The poor folks of England were at times dumfounded by those who were being killed; under Henry you could die if you rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation [the bread and wine being the literal body of Christ] but you could also be put to death if you believed the Mass to be a sacrifice of Christ. So you weren’t always sure what would get you killed! But those who died for their faith and refused to recant gave at rue testimony of their convictions; at the age of 80 Bishop Latimer encouraged a fellow martyr to ‘play the man’ he knew if they died well their testimony would light a candle that would burn on; he was right.

[1462] ANSELM- Over the next few months I will do some brief overviews on important historical figures from church history. They will be under a separate section after the same name. Anselm was born in Italy in the year 1033, he eventually became a very influential church teacher and is famous for a few things; he came up with an argument for the existence of God called ‘the Ontological argument’ ontology is a word that means the nature of being. His idea went like this ‘Because there is no other greater conceivable being than God, that means God must exist’ in so many words he said because humans have this conscious belief in God as the greatest being, that therefore he must be that being. I’ll admit when I first read this argument I had some difficulties with it, I think you can find problems with it. But he nevertheless introduced it and it has become one of the classical apologetic arguments for God’s existence. The second major teaching that Anselm gave us was the teaching on the Atonement; Anselm taught that Jesus died to ransom man back to God, the penalty of death was a penalty paid to God. You say ‘what’s so new about that’? Many other church teachers taught that Jesus died to pay a ransom to the devil, that at the fall of man satan gained dominion over man and that Jesus death purchased us back from satan. Though there is some truth to man being under the dominion of satan after the fall, yet Anselm was ‘more right’ in the way he approached it. As a matter of fact His teaching eventually became the norm for the church. Anselm introduced Reason into the argument for the existence of God. Many teachers used scripture and appealed to the church fathers to prove the reality of God, Anselm was one of the first to lean heavily on logic when arguing for Gods existence. He is considered one of the greats of church history and we still benefit from the influence of Anselm to this day.

[1457] THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE UPON THE RIGHTEOUS AND HIS EARS ARE OPEN TO THEIR PRAYER- Psalms. The apostle Peter will quote this Psalm in his epistle. The last few weeks we covered some verses on justification by faith; we also hit the book of James and spoke on ‘justification by works’. As we read thru the bible we find many passages where God says he hears the prayers of those who actually do what is right ‘God will not withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly’ ‘the face of the Lord is against them that do evil’ over and over again, doing right works means something. In the New Testament Jesus speaks of us as candles, he says ‘who lights a candle and puts it under a basket? But you put a candle on a candleholder and it gives light to all those in the house’ then he goes on to say that we should let our ‘good deeds’ shine like the candle. Notice what Jesus means by saying ‘we shine’. He is not talking about fame or performance as we usually view it; but he is talking about the good deeds of social justice. In context our good works are the works of justice we do; defending the poor, reaching out to the hurting, speaking up for the voiceless. Jesus was not saying ‘we shine’ when we achieve fame, contrary to this he told us the least among us would be the greatest, have the most influence. A commonly used example is mother Theresa, most people have heard and are familiar with the nun who gave her life to help the poor in Calcutta, she spoke to kings and presidents thru out her life; yet she really worked in obscurity for many years, others made her famous, she did not seek it. God says when we do what is right he will work on our behalf, turn our enemies back; he says to Israel ‘if you only listened to me, obeyed my voice, then your peace would have been like a river and I would have done great things for you’ God wants us to do just things, to forsake sin and selfishness and pursue his face. It’s easy to equate ‘serving God’ with putting in the hours required ‘for ministry’. Thinking that if we preach, teach or do some other function, that we have met the weekly requirement for service; God wants our hearts, he seeks for those whose hearts are turned towards him. If we do what is right he will hold no good thing from us.

[1456] THEY HAVE SAID COME AND LET US CUT THEM OFF FROM BEING A NATION- Psalms 83:4. During the time of the reformation in the 16th century you had various groups of Christians who felt the church lost her original purpose and purity, these believers sparked reform, that is they did not abandon all the previous creeds and councils of the church; they simply tried to bring God’s people back into shape. Because of this, most of the Christian denominations today have the same basic creeds and statements of faith that have come down to us from the early days. That is we have been able to maintain some sense of ‘national’ unity/cohesiveness even though we have many divisions. The enemies of Israel were not so much trying to wipe them all out; they were upset that Israel had achieved a national identity. When Gods people existed in Egypt, sure they were a thorn in the side of society at times, but they were still citizens of another people. In the New Testament Peter says we are a holy nation, a special people; that is the people of God right now belong to a kingdom made up of priests and kings [Revelation]. It is the enemy’s tactic to cause us to view ourselves as independent churches all doing good things for God, but still seeing each congregation as existing separately from the whole. In a sense the enemy has caused us to ‘stop seeing ourselves as a nation’ sure we still exist, and to be honest there are lots of us! But Like Israel in Egypt we too often are looked upon as a bunch of illegal aliens that the nation doesn’t know what in the heck to do with! Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating a theocracy [a govt. run by God] that is not a worldly/earthly one; but I am advocating that as believers, we should strive for a ‘national’ identity, that is we should appreciate all the great things that have happened and come down to us from the fathers of the past. We have sort of been given the baton and we need to run with it. But too often we don’t recognize that the baton is something that gets passed off to us, we are a living tapestry of people who together form this beautiful Joseph’s garment, the enemy would be happy if we simply lost this unifying identity. He doesn’t seem to care too much when we live in our own identities, when we lose the identity of a holy nation.

[1455] ‘IN MY FATHERS HOUSE ARE MANY MANSIONS’ Jesus- Yesterday I read a news story about a famous evangelist who is building a multimillion dollar mansion, 7 bathrooms- in home theatre, etc. The expose’ showed how the minister was doing it all with ministry funds and the title of the property will be in the name of the ministry. I am familiar with the man, even heard him speak in person once. He seems to be a good man, but he is a proponent of the prosperity gospel and he sees things like this to be in God’s will. Many of the ministries supporters who were interviewed defended the man; they said it was fine for this to be done. I will not quote to you all the passages that tell us these things are not fine [just scroll thru the prosperity section and you will find them] but overall we need to be careful that we are not justifying our actions by ideas that are contrary to the main body of scripture. Peter warned the elders not to take the oversight of the ministry for financial gain; God rebuked the Pastors who said ‘we never have enough’ and they were feeding themselves and profiting from the flock. These themes are found all thru out scripture. Many times these types of ministries mean well, they just don’t realize what they are doing. But it is common to hear appeals from these types of ministries for funds, many times they appeal by ‘the word of the Lord’ for people to give ‘till it hurts’. The audience is told ‘if it’s not sacrificial, it’s not a real offering’. There are many elderly people who respond to these appeals who are on fixed income, and these widows mites are often funneled into the million dollar budgets that are used for many of these types of expenses. This my brothers ought not to be done, especially in the name of Jesus. I have hope for the church, and I believe many have been seeing things differently in these last few years- I thank God for it. We need to pray for the people of God at large, even those who are still doing these types of things. But I thank God that we are seeing these types of things happen less as time goes by.

(1451) CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM BELIEFS- As I did the study on Justification by faith I hit a few verses that I felt were vital for our day; things that said Gods kingdom is not based on ethnic/racial lines, but it is based on faith in Jesus Christ. One of the major divisions between Christians and Muslims is Islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet from God, but they reject his deity. They claim that the Christian church fell into apostasy and over the centuries heresy was introduced thru the councils and creeds of the church. They believe that in the 7th century God restored true monotheism [belief in one God] thru the prophet Muhammad and that Jesus [Isa] agreed with this. In the 19th century you had the rise of religious liberalism and many theologians espoused a belief that ran along these same lines; many taught that the early message of Jesus became distorted thru the over intellectualizing of the faith, and that Greek philosophy and Latin legal minds [Tertullian] ‘extended’ the faith to parameters that went far beyond the teachings of Christ. The Muslim scholars saw this as proof that they were right all along, after all these Christian scholars were basically saying the same thing! And then within the past 30 years or so you had the rise of historical Jesus studies, and men like John Dominic Crossan [Jesus seminar] would basically deny much of the gospels. They used a skewed method of determining what was real or fake, and when all was said and done you basically had a few verses from Johns gospel that were deemed true as well as a host of other ‘questionable’ sayings of Jesus from the other gospels. Why was this an important development for the rejecters of Christ’s deity? John’s gospel is the strongest teaching in the New Testament on the deity of Christ. We call this ‘Logos Christology’ John’s gospel teaches us that in the beginning was the word [Logos in Greek] and the word was with God and the word was God. So you have a distinction between the word [Jesus] and God, and at the same time the word is described as God. So to be fair about it, the deity of Jesus was not a latter development that was spawned out of the Greek/Latin mind, but was a part of Christianity right from the start. Grant it that the later creeds and councils [4th century Nicene, 5th century Chalcedon] did use some technical language to distinguish between the nature of God and Jesus, but the teaching of Christ’s deity is found within the body of the New Testament. Islam teaches that Jesus was born from a virgin, and that he was a prophet sent from God- isn’t that enough? No, they also teach that at the Cross another person died in Jesus place and that Jesus never died and rose again, this my friends can never be accepted by true Christianity. I believe we as believers should respect Muslim people, we should not denigrate them or their religion- but to have an honest conversation we need to tell the truth. Jesus was given for the sins of the whole world, he was God in the flesh dwelling among man- he died, was buried and rose from the grave. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

(1451) CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM BELIEFS- As I did the study on Justification by faith I hit a few verses that I felt were vital for our day; things that said Gods kingdom is not based on ethnic/racial lines, but it is based on faith in Jesus Christ. One of the major divisions between Christians and Muslims is Islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet from God, but they reject his deity. They claim that the Christian church fell into apostasy and over the centuries heresy was introduced thru the councils and creeds of the church. They believe that in the 7th century God restored true monotheism [belief in one God] thru the prophet Muhammad and that Jesus [Isa] agreed with this. In the 19th century you had the rise of religious liberalism and many theologians espoused a belief that ran along these same lines; many taught that the early message of Jesus became distorted thru the over intellectualizing of the faith, and that Greek philosophy and Latin legal minds [Tertullian] ‘extended’ the faith to parameters that went far beyond the teachings of Christ. The Muslim scholars saw this as proof that they were right all along, after all these Christian scholars were basically saying the same thing! And then within the past 30 years or so you had the rise of historical Jesus studies, and men like John Dominic Crossan [Jesus seminar] would basically deny much of the gospels. They used a skewed method of determining what was real or fake, and when all was said and done you basically had a few verses from Johns gospel that were deemed true as well as a host of other ‘questionable’ sayings of Jesus from the other gospels. Why was this an important development for the rejecters of Christ’s deity? John’s gospel is the strongest teaching in the New Testament on the deity of Christ. We call this ‘Logos Christology’ John’s gospel teaches us that in the beginning was the word [Logos in Greek] and the word was with God and the word was God. So you have a distinction between the word [Jesus] and God, and at the same time the word is described as God. So to be fair about it, the deity of Jesus was not a latter development that was spawned out of the Greek/Latin mind, but was a part of Christianity right from the start. Grant it that the later creeds and councils [4th century Nicene, 5th century Chalcedon] did use some technical language to distinguish between the nature of God and Jesus, but the teaching of Christ’s deity is found within the body of the New Testament. Islam teaches that Jesus was born from a virgin, and that he was a prophet sent from God- isn’t that enough? No, they also teach that at the Cross another person died in Jesus place and that Jesus never died and rose again, this my friends can never be accepted by true Christianity. I believe we as believers should respect Muslim people, we should not denigrate them or their religion- but to have an honest conversation we need to tell the truth. Jesus was given for the sins of the whole world, he was God in the flesh dwelling among man- he died, was buried and rose from the grave. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

(1444) AND HE TOOK HIM OUTSIDE AND SHOWED HIM THE STARS AND SAID ‘LOOK AT THEM, CAN YOU NUMBER THEM’ AND THE LORD SAID ‘SO SHALL YOUR OFFSPRING BE’ AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED IN GOD AND HE CREDITED IT TO HIS ACCOUNT AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Genesis 15:5-6 [my paraphrase] As we journeyed from chapter 12, where God made the initial promise to Abraham, a few things occurred; God separated Abraham from his nephew Lot. The kings attacked Sodom and took Lot captive, Abraham took his men and went and freed Lot. The king of Sodom tries to reimburse Abraham for his good deed, Abraham turns him down. Abraham also went into Egypt and lied about Sarah his wife, out of fear he told the Egyptians she was his sister [so they wouldn’t kill him to get his wife] and the king takes her and later rebukes Abraham for lying. So he returns to the special place named Bethel [house of God] and regroups. Now in chapter 15 Abraham has some doubts, God gave Abraham this great promise of many children; but he has no kids yet! Abraham is getting up in years [around 75] and so is Sarah his wife; Abraham asks the Lord to consider counting his servant as his heir, this was done in those days. The Lord turns him down and says ‘no, one born from you will be the heir’ and this is just one stop of many along the path of Abraham’s doubts. Yes, he comes up with another winner down the road [like having a kid with the maid!] But this promise in chapter 15, and Abraham’s response by faith, is the actual text Paul uses in Galatians and Romans to show that being justified comes by faith, and not by keeping the law. I want to stress, this example from Abrahams life was real, he really was justified in Gods eyes by believing in the future promise of having a great dynasty; like I said in the last post, he was believing in Jesus when he believed in the promise. In the next few days I will try and cover some key verses in Galatians and Romans, but most of all I want you to see how God forgives people, makes them legally just in his sight, not because of what they have done- trying to do good, be a church goer, trying hard to keep the 10 commandments; all of these things are noble efforts, but they don’t earn God’s forgiveness, but God’s forgiveness is based on the grounds that Jesus died for our sins and rose again. All who believe in this promise are described as ‘the children of God, by faith in Jesus Christ’. Many of the Jewish people looked to Abraham as a great hero of the faith, Paul shows them thru these examples that all who believe, whether Jew or Gentile, become the ‘children of Abraham’ by faith, it’s not an ethnic/cultural thing anymore. If only the Muslims, Arabs and all other groups heard this message from the church; how liberating would this be! But we too often present an ethnic message based upon Old Testament verses that call certain Middle Eastern states ‘the enemies of Israel/God’. These views, not being rightfully filtered thru the message of the Cross, make it very difficult to evangelize the Arab world, after all would you want to embrace a religion whose book said ‘thus saith the Lord, all you white Europeans are a stench in my nostrils’! But because of our unwillingness to present a gospel based solely on faith, and not the ethnic backgrounds of individuals, we have reduced the message of the Cross from the wide net that the apostles used when presenting the message of Jesus- Lets declare with certainty ‘yes, we are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ’ Amen.

[comment on Ben Witherington’s site] I like it Ben; one short comment- I see Jesus doing healings on the Sabbath as a direct challenge to the religious authorities of the day, not just because the need arose. He was showing them that ‘Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’ I see it more as being a purposeful act. God bless, John

(1443) NOW THE LORD HAD SAID UNTO ABRAM, GET THEE OUT OF THY COUNTRY AND FROM THY KINDRED AND FROM THY FATHERS HOUSE, UNTO A LAND THAT I WILL SHOW THEE. AND I WILL MAKE OF THEE A GREAT NATION AND I WILL BLESS THEE AND MAKE THY NAME GREAT AND YOU WILL BE A BLESSING- Gen 12:1-2. I think for the next few days I will try and cover some key verses in both the old and new testaments that deal with the doctrine of justification by faith. I covered this subject in my Romans, Galatians, Hebrews [chapter 11] studies; and of course the doctrine of believing in Jesus and ‘being saved’ is found in the gospel of John study and the Acts study. But for the most part the main verses on the subject are these few in Genesis and the key chapters from Romans [3-4] and Galatians [2-4]. The doctrine simply means that God has chosen to justify [declare legally righteous] all those who have faith in Christ. There are many varied ways that Christian communions deal with the whole process of salvation, some churches are what you would call Sacramental [they believe in the process of God using the sacraments to administer grace to the soul of the believer, and that thru these sacraments, mixed with faith, believers become justified] and others hold more closely to the Pauline idea of faith being the actual mechanism that God uses to justify [which is my personal view]. Many modern Protestants who strongly disagree with the sacramental churches [Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican] fail to see that most of the reformers embraced some form of sacramentalism along with their belief in justification by faith. Luther being the strongest example; his embracing of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist [body, blood, soul and divinity] caused him to split from the great Swiss reformer, Ulrich Zwingli, and Luther believed Zwingli to be damned because he rejected the body of Christ! So for today’s ‘neo-reformed’ [the resurgence among Calvinism in our day] to be so quick to condemn many other types of Christians [Like those who follow Tom Wright] these are not ‘being fair’ to the broad system of belief that many of the great reformers held to. Okay, the above verse begins the journey between God and Abraham, thru a series of events thru out Abraham’s life God will reveal himself to Abraham, and at those times Abraham has a choice to either believe the promises of God to him- or reject them. These promises center around God telling Abraham that he will have a future dynasty of children that will bless the whole earth. In this dynasty there will be a special son that comes out of the tribe of Judah [Jesus] and he will be the promised seed to whom the promises were made [Galatians 3,4]. Paul the apostle will use the great father of the faith, Abraham, to convince the Jewish people that God justifies people by faith, and not by the works of the law. Paul goes to these past historic events [Gen 12, 15] and shows his fellow Jews that God did indeed justify Abraham [count him righteous] when he believed in the promise made to him by God [Gen 15]. Paul says ‘see, God justified Abraham before he was circumcised, therefore justification [being legally made right with God] is by faith and not by the keeping of the law’. This argument from Paul is simple, yet masterful. His Jewish audience knew these stories well, they just never ‘saw’ what Paul was seeing; once he broke thru ‘the veil’ [Corinthians] that blinded their hearts from the truth, then they could not escape the reality of what he taught them- these cultural stories of father Abraham would never be the same again. As I progress over the next few days I want to note that when we get to the book of James, we will be looking at a different type of justification than what Paul focused on. James will use the great event from Abraham’s life, the offering up of his son Isaac on the altar [Gen 22] as the event to define justification from his view. Many reformed do not fully see what James is saying, in my view. This type of ‘bible study’ [the type where we try and make everything fit our view] is common among many good men, but it fails to see that the scriptures come to us more in the sense of a portable library of books that cover the various perspectives of the time. Now, I am not advocating the view that the scriptures err, or that the bible has ‘competing theologies’ what I am saying is James use of the word ‘justification’ is actually a different use than what Paul means when he uses the Genesis 15 example to explain justification. Instead of trying to reconcile James with Paul by saying ‘all James means is the faith that saves has works’, which is limited indeed, we should leave room for seeing how James is coming to the table from a different point of view. James being one of the lead apostles at the Jerusalem council from Acts 15, and his defense of the importance of works from the strong Jewish background. I think Hebrews 11 actually deals with this subject [go read my commentary on the chapter to see where I’m coming from]. Okay, let’s leave off for now- go read the studies I just mentioned, familiarize yourself with the key chapters and will do some more tomorrow.

(1441) HE BROUGHT THEM TO THE BORDER OF HIS SANCTUARY AND TO HIS MOUNTAIN. HE CAST OUT THE HEATHEN BEFORE THEM AND DIVIDED AN INHERITANCE BY LINE- Psalms 78:54-55 As we wrap up our short study of Psalms 78, lets overview a few things. This Psalm covered the history of Israel and their trials and failings as they were brought forth out of Egypt and entered the journey for the Promised Land. God had places that he wanted them to be at, significant mountains that would be memorials for ages to come- mountains where he would give them the law, and hundreds of years later his only Son would be sacrificed on a significant mountain as well. These ‘high’ points were important, these were times/places where God was going to instill in them permanent change for the rest of their existence; they were to memorialize certain events [like the Passover] that were to become events that would forever be part of their culture [until fulfilled thru Christ!] God does stuff like this with us as well, you might have had a certain experience; been influenced by a certain teacher/preacher, studied a certain topic, or simply have had some supernatural experience with God, and you now realize that these were mountains, places that God determined to bring you to for a long time- and now you see that he has deposited something in you that will be with you for the rest of your life. Not all teaching/preaching falls along this line, but some does. These are usually things that carry more of a weight than simple exhortation, encouraging each other, or an ‘average’ Sunday sermon. These are major paradigm shifts, things that cause you to re-look at the way you see everything else, these are the mountains/borders that God has determined to bring you to. In this brief coverage of Israel’s journey with God we see they made lots of mistakes, times where God was truly mad with them; times where leadership was mad at them; and times when the people were really mad at the leaders as well. Yet thru it all God brought them to the mountain, they came to places where they could finally stand above it all and appreciate the eternal purpose that God was accomplishing in them- despite all the other stuff. Paul said the struggles of this present time were not worthy to be compared to the glory that would be revealed thru us; Paul understood that there were thorns in his flesh that God allowed in order for him to bring forth special stuff. Paul said God allowed these things to remain so he would not fall into pride over the abundance of revelations that he was seeing. I take it that Paul would have not been able to handle it, unless God left the thorn. Where are you at today? Has much of your thought life been centered around how to deal with the thorns? There is a time and season for everything, don’t get consumed with the juncture you are at right now, it’s only a place that in Gods Divine decree he has allowed, your purpose is not to ‘de-thorn’ the path, it’s to end up at the mountain, the place where you can rise above the mundaness of it all and see from a higher perspective. Trust God to get you to the mountain.

(1440) CAN GOD FURNISH A TABLE IN THE WILDERNESS? Psalms 78:19 The story is found in Numbers chapter 11, the children of Israel are stuck in the desert with no meat and fish and all the great food they had back in Egypt [they keep reminiscing about the good old days, sounds like Hannity and Reagan!] and God hears their complaints and gets angry. So how does Moses respond? He complains too! ‘God, why did you stick me with these people, did I give birth to them for heaven’s sake? Just take my life, I can’t do this anymore- I’m ready for a special rapture’ now Moses was running himself ragged, and actually God shows some mercy on him- before the lord deals with the complaining he tells Moses to take 70 elders and meet him at the tabernacle and God will take of the spirit/gifts of Moses and spread them to the 70, this will take some pressure off Moses. But then God will deal with the complaining, if you read the chapter it actually is Moses who makes the chief complaint ‘can God furnish a table in the desert’ and Moses gets into this debate with the Lord; God tells him in the morning they will have more meat they can handle, a whole months worth! Moses says ‘how, are all the beasts or all the fish in the sea enough to do this? There are 600 thousand footmen alone!’ The Lord says ‘can’t I do anything? I will do it’ and sure enough that night the lord brought a strong wind and it blew thousands of quail from the water over the desert and they were covered with quail. God did it. A few things to note; the people were being provided for by God with Manna, a type of wafer thing that appeared on the ground every morning- it seems as if this food was highly nutritious, yet probably didn’t taste as good as all the meat and stuff they were used to, they wanted what they wanted, and God gave them what they wanted! The church goes thru stages; one was the whole stage of mastering the techniques of getting what we want. You could attend seminars on it, watch your favorite TV preacher teach it, move to some city that has a mega church that embraces the doctrine- yet in the end God might just be giving us what we want, not because its best, but because we have rejected him. These debates go on forever; I have a prosperity brother who has been writing me for years; showing me ‘from the bible’ how Jesus was the richest man of his day, lived in luxury- on and on. These poor brothers have been taught a system of doctrine that gets them what they want, but not what God wants for them. I know the Lord will eventually bring the people into the promised land, and yes they will have abundance then, but to simply assume that the Christian walk is one where we live to fulfill our desires is very misguided indeed. Moses led the people on a dangerous journey, dangerous for him and them. The other day I posted an entry on Moses striking the rock out of anger and bringing the water out of it; we often don’t see the price Moses had to pay in order to fulfill his prophetic symbolism of the Cross. One of the punishments of Moses act was he would not be allowed to enter the promised land, which was a type of the Cross and work of God that he was to be a picture of; God needed Moses to strike the rock in anger in order for him to fulfill the picture we see from Isaiah 53 ‘it pleased God to bruise his Son’ that is Moses needed to be at a place of real wrath in order to fulfill the picture, yet mans wrath is not like Gods- Mans wrath always has a degree of human anger associated with it, God’s wrath is just and right. So how could God tell Moses ‘Moses, go and get perfectly mad, and strike the rock’ Moses was incapable of ‘perfect wrath’ so instead God used the wrath of man, which he could not really condone, to accomplish his purpose. In essence Moses really got mad, and paid a real price for it. He pictured God’s wrath in a limited way, and he pictured the reality of the punishment of Jesus, that is Moses punishment of not being able to enter the land was a type of Gods judgment on Jesus at the Cross. Get it? God allowed things to happen, even the mistakes, to work for his glory. We often measure ‘success’ by the worlds measuring rod, God does not use that as a standard. Maybe you’re at a place where you’re eating Manna every day, maybe the Lord is leading you thru a stage where he is restricting your intake for an eternal purpose; where you can say like the apostle Paul ‘I have learned to be content in whatever state I am, having enough or being in lack’ don’t get caught up in the vicious cycle of viewing the faith thru a lens of a never ending journey to get more, to feed your desires, to get back ‘what the devil has stolen’ sometimes we are actually getting the wrong stuff.

(1438) HE SPLIT OPEN THE ROCKS IN THE WILDERNESS, AND GAVE THEM DRINK OUT OF GREAT DEPTHS. HE BROUGHT STREAMS ALSO OUT OF THE ROCK, AND CAUSED WATERS TO RUN DOWN LIKE RIVERS- Psalms 78:15-16 The story of Moses striking the rock is found in Numbers 20, the Israelites were complaining about the lack of water and all the good things they had back in Egypt, but now thanks to this big shot Moses we are stuck in the desert without any water! So God tells Moses ‘I hear what they are saying, go speak to the rock and water will come out’. Now Moses had a temper, so he goes to the rock- preaches a short Baptist sermon ‘you bunch of no good nothings!’ and he hits the rock with his staff, twice! The water comes out and they all drink from the rock. In 1st Corinthians 10 Paul uses this story as an analogy of Christ and says ‘all our forefathers drank from the rock, which was Christ’. Jesus used the example of Moses making a snake statue and putting it on a stick [John chapter 3] as a type of his own crucifixion. One time the Israelites were complaining again and God sent snakes to bite them, so the people are dying and they don’t know what to do, God tells Moses to make a bronze snake image and stick it on a pole and when the people are bitten they just need to look at the snake and they will live. Jesus told Nicodemus that this was a type of his death on the Cross, that all who ‘look to the Son’ will live. The famous song ‘rock of ages, cleft for me’ also speaks of the imagery of Jesus being the rock from the Father who was opened up on the Cross. The above passage says God gave them drink out of the ‘great depths’; the New Testament says Jesus descended lower than any man, and that because of these great depths the Father exalted him to his right hand. I find it interesting that all these stories, written and experienced hundreds of years before Christ, just so happened to fulfill his destiny. We live in a day where we do not understand, or appreciate, the process of the cross in our own lives. Paul got to a point where he could glory in his weakness, in the fact that he died daily, he knew that it was these ‘great depths’ that would allow a river of life to flow thru his lips and pen; when God wants to bring forth some great rivers, he looks for some rocks that he can break.

(1437) FOR HE HAS ESTABLISHED A TESTIMONY IN JACOB, AND A LAW IN ISRAEL…THAT THE GENERATION TO COME MIGHT KNOW THEM, EVEN THE CHILDREN THAT SHALL BE BORN; AND THEY WILL DECLARE THEM TO THEIR CHILDREN. Psalms 78:5-6 I might overview this chapter the next day or so, it covers the history of Israel and Gods dealings with them. God set a testimony among his people for future generations to come and be influenced by it. This testimony was not only the written laws and statutes, but also the great works that he did; they were to memorialize them thru their holidays and holy feasts, just like the church does when celebrating the Lords Supper. This chapter will go on and tell us how God took King David from following the sheep and brought him to a position of authority in the kingdom. The Lord brought his people to a special border and mountain that he had foreordained for them to dwell in. He set up his tent among them and he poured down manna like rain all around their camps. This picture shows us how God dwells among us; he gives us certain prophetic people/leaders who will come from places of pastoral concern [following the sheep] and they will speak/teach things that are destined for generations of people to hear; that is this testimony is not simply a word about how to deal with your current problems, but it is a word meant to be transmitted to generations of people to come. God will let this ‘manna from heaven’ drop down all around the tents and camps where the people dwell, they will see/hear the works of God and be so impacted that they will declare it to their children and their children will also speak it to the following generation. I have found it interesting over the years when dealing with various subjects amongst the people of God. The other day I mentioned how some of my favorite theologians/scholars might have great insight into certain areas of God’s kingdom, yet they might have blind spots in others [like the nature of the ecclesia]. Yet I have found that there are whole generations of young believers who are now 2nd generation ‘organic churhcers’ and these kids, for the most part, have a better grasp on the principle and nature of the church. They don’t disdain the older guys, it’s just the idea in scripture of the organic church comes easy to them; they see right thru the old paradigms that many from the older generation can’t really see. Just a humble process of one generation of organic church movement ‘fathers’ having passed off to the next generation a ‘testimony in Israel’ a specific word/teaching that was meant to have long term effects for many generations to come in specific locations [mountains boundaries]. That is the things being taught by the Spirit are not simply one time truths that fade away in a few years, no these types of testimonies have staying power and future generations to come will all be affected by it. Have you been on the receiving/giving end of this type of testimony? Pastors, do you now say/see things differently in a permanent way? That is have you been taught in such a way that the things you have seen have changed certain ways you see church and the kingdom of God to the point where you will ‘never be the same again’? We all go thru stages like that, it’s important to remember what Jesus said ‘a good steward brings forth both new and old’ sometimes the new way of seeing things can be so overwhelming that we forget to teach the old stuff as well. It’s never good to neglect the great doctrines of the Atonement, justification by faith alone, solo scriptura, etc. But we also need to remind each other of the new things, the stuff that we have been corrected on during the journey. Gods purpose was to establish a testimony among his people that would be strong enough to reach down into future generations of people to come; he would rain this manna down from heaven all around their dwellings- it was an inescapable word from God that would become imbedded in the minds of many generations to come; when these things happen with Gods people, it’s always wise to get in on it at the beginning, it will benefit you more if you do.

(1436) COMMON CONSENSUS- The last few months believers from various philosophical/theological backgrounds have been debating various issues and there has been some good give and take in the process. Last night I caught a Larry King interview with Jennifer Knapp, the Christian singer who has announced she is a lesbian; once again you can read the debate raging in the blogosphere. Often times Christians can get a little confused when they see intellectuals debating things from opposite sides, the question comes up ‘if these learned men/women have sincere differences, then I guess that means there is no final word on anything’ and that’s where the Catholic apologists jump in and say ‘see, we have the magisterium [the teaching authority of the church] and that’s the answer’. To be honest, I have heard certain Catholic apologists use this argument a few too many times against a straw man; some have said that Protestants have a thousand beliefs on just about every subject, so that’s how you know they can’t be right. Actually most believers worldwide have come to a consensus on the main things, the things that matter. Now I do understand that there are still areas where we all fall short in our thinking, but there has been a fairly stable stream of truth coming down to us thru out the centuries. We can often look back and see how certain generations saw clearly in one area, yet might have had a blind spot in another. Then a little further down the road they correct that area, and other following generations repeat the pattern. Let me hit on just one example that I have seen a lot; as someone who likes to read/study good theology, listening to reformed and orthodox thinkers, reading the current scholars of the day, I have found that most of them come to the table with a certain view of church [this study is called ecclesiology] that is limited in perspective. They have usually been influenced by their background [as we all are] and they might have thought long and hard about many theological issues [the sovereignty of God, apologetics, etc.] but when challenged in some way [like a popular book on church government] they usually resort to arguments that are common across the spectrum, but limited in view. I don’t know how many times I have heard believers defend a certain form of church and tithing by going to the famous passage in the book of Malachi ‘bring all the tithes into the storehouse’ but yet have never really given serious thought to what they actually mean by applying this scripture to the New Testament church, they usually simply see storehouse as ‘the church building’. Now, it takes very little time to do a good study of this passage and see that this is a very limited view of the passage. And many scholarly men have done extensive study in the area of ecclesiology and these men have truly seen things that for the most part the other groups haven’t yet seen. But in time, as generations roll on, these realities of God eventually seep into the Christian populace at large. The problem is we all need lots of grace during the process; I have learned much good from many theologians who I know don’t fully see the truth in every area, yet many who agree with me on the nature of the church would never give the time of day to other scholars who have limited views of the ecclesia. So these will never benefit from the broader insights of the world wide Body of Christ, they only listen to those directly related to their own view of the church. Many of these believers will master the art of ecclesiology, to the degree where it can become an unbalanced focus, reading too much into the proper way to ‘do church’. I only share this as one example, you can find things like this all over the Christian landscape. But overall the Christian church has arrived at truth, has had real consensus on the major things. Yes, you will have debates about lots of stuff, but we shouldn’t resign ourselves to the hopeless excuse of ‘well, everybody has their own interpretation of the bible’ sort of like saying ‘you believe your way and I’ll believe mine’. No, this really doesn’t work in the long run. We need grace when dealing with each other, especially an issue like when a believer comes out and is dealing with sexual identity issues; we need to not set these individuals up as targets, but at the same time deal honestly with what the scriptures teach [yes, the bible is pretty consistent on the issue]. At the end of the day we can, and do arrive at a common consensus most of the times, it’s important that believers know this so they don’t fall into a snare of thinking that everyone has their own view of what the bible says- to be honest this really isn’t the case.

[Comment I left on McKnight’s Jesus creed blog] ‘I read what I said, and this is what I think I meant’ this can only be said by someone who has ruffled some theological feathers. I agree with you Scot, I never read you saying ‘historical work is wrong’ I read your criticism as being against the actual faulty method of hj [historical Jesus] studies- faulty in the sense that it ‘strives’ to present an unorthodox Jesus as its goal. Do we really want this Jesus?

[Comment I left on Trevin Wax’s site on an interview with Scot McKnight] I have noticed that Scot’s article was kinda like Stephen Barr’s recent shot against the I.D. movement! That is he seems to have stirred up a hornets’ nest. I agree with Scot on most of what he is saying, and I have noticed that many of his critics think he is against history itself, which is not what he is saying at all. Good interview Trevin, you might need to do another one with Tom Wright so you won’t be accused of taking sides. God bless, John

(1435) I WILLPOUR OUT MY SPIRIT ON THE SERVANTS…AND THEY SHALL PROPHESY- Acts 2. This morning I read this chapter in the Message Bible. A few things stood out; as the Spirit came to the church they spoke in such a way that all the various dialects of the Jews that were gathered at Jerusalem for the feast, these all heard the wondrous works of God in their own dialect. These Jews came from various areas that spoke in different ways, yet the message of God was spoken in a way that they could identify with. Also we in the modern church usually get the cart before the horse, we are expecting God to pour out his Spirit on those who can prophesy- we are looking for God to find gifted preachers/speakers and for God to bless the talent. God is pouring out his Spirit on servants, those who have been shaped in the community of laying down their lives and not seeking self promotion for their gifts, these are the ones who are getting the Spirit and pouring it out on others in such a way that these other groups can for the first time understand the message of the Cross in their own context. That is they are hearing things in ‘their dialect’ for the first time. This chapter has been one of controversy for many years amongst the people of God. I remember in the early days how one time the fundamental Baptist church I attended had an evangelist come and speak; he told of an experience he had when he was younger- he was baptized by some Pentecostals in the name of Jesus, came up out of the water speaking in tongues, became part of the Pentecostal church and after a few years finally got saved for real! He then went on and gave all the horror stories of people that spoke in tongues and a visiting missionary was there who understood the language and later told the pastor that the tongue talker was worshipping satan in this foreign dialect. Then you have the other side, those who were raised Baptist, and eventually had a charismatic experience and now view their entire Christian lives thru the context of the Pentecostal message as being the best thing since sliced bread. Often times this culture will truly have the expression of the gifts flowing, but many times its easy to make the Christian life all about the gifts; creating atmospheres [meetings] where people get together to hear/see someone function in the gift. Many times these believers will spend their whole lives in a charismatic environment and never really catch the vision to reach out to the poor and hurting, to grow in their knowledge of the things of God in a greater way. In this chapter God fulfilled the prophecy of Joel and poured out his Spirit on a bunch of servants, yes they did experience a legitimate expression of the charismatic gifts [no one was praising satan in some Haitian dialect!] and yet their excitement was over the message of the Cross, not the fact that the Spirit gave them some gifts. In today’s church world we value the talents more so than the service mentality. We look for talented ‘prophets’ [proclaimers] whom the Spirit can fall on and use, we have gotten the cart before the horse. Peter said what happened on this day was God found a bunch of servants that he could entrust with the gifts of the Spirit, and he chose these humble ones to speak in such a way that for the first time a bunch of various dialects/groups would finally understand and hear the works of God in a simple way, a way that they could come and identify with the message of the Cross.

(1433) THE LAZY WILL NOT WORK BECAUSE OF THE COLD, THEREFORE WILL HE BEG IN THE HARVEST TIME AND HAVE NOTHING- Proverbs 20:4 Out of all the writings I have done about the poor and homeless, over 99% is pro homeless. But every so often I need to deal with the other side. A while back I met a new homeless friend here in Corpus, his name was Nick and he seemed like a nice guy. Nick was from out of state and the rumor was that he might have been hiding from the law for some reason. Nick was around 30 or so, had a decent truck and was an able bodied person. But over time I realized his problem was he did not want to work. Now there are guys I know who are hopeless drunks, good guys, but these are the ones you usually see begging with the signs. Most of the others actually do work, and many times people pick them up at the homeless spots for jobs. But Nick just did not want to work. At first he seemed to put on a good impression, he would talk about different schemes to make money, he was smart. He even told one of the other guys ‘I’ll pick you up early in the morning and we’ll go down to the shrimp docks and make some money’ he told my buddy that he picked him because these other bumbs don’t want to work! Sure enough Nick never showed up, my buddy saw him at the mission and said ‘hey, I was waiting all morning for you’ Nick made some excuse about driving up and down the block and never spotting him, you could tell it was a story. Nick also hung out with another older drunk who was good at begging, he was sickly and you felt sorry for the man, people would give him money- Nick saw this as a good way to get some cash. One day he showed up at the mission after a few weeks of doing some painting job, his girlfriend, who was homeless too, put pressure on him to work and they both started painting. Then lo and behold Nick showed up with his arm in a sling, he even had the x-rays to show everyone how he broke his arm when some college kids stole his ice chest at the beach and he reached in and grabbed it out of their car and broke his arm. No cast, and the x-rays to prove it! I didn’t even bother to look at the x-rays, which Nick seemed to want everyone to see, to prove it was true. One day I saw Nick on the other side of town holding a sign for money, he looked like a normal healthy guy asking for cash. I had a friend tell me ‘hey, I saw some guy begging for money at the Wal Mart, he looked like he was able to work’ sure enough it was Nick. The point today is sometimes it’s our fault, if people don’t want to work during the years of their youth, when they are young and healthy, then they will beg during harvest and have nothing. Paul the apostle rebuked those who did not want to work, but caused trouble; he said they should not eat! So we need to distinguish between those who are truly in need and those who are in rebellion, Jesus said some people were following him because they knew they could get a free meal [John’s gospel] as believers we need to be discerning, we also need to help those who are truly in need, we can’t put all the homeless in the category of Nick, but every now and then you will run across a Nick.

(1432) WHEN I RECEIVE THE GREAT CONGREGATION I WILL JUDGE UPRIGHTLY- Psalms 75:2 Many years ago when I was the youth pastor of a fundamental Baptist church, I had a new boy join our youth group; it was common to get new comers from the navy base where the church was located. He was an older teen [17?] but would attend our little group’s outings and all. Good kid. One time he shared how he needed to recommit his life to God; that he had slipped away from his earlier time of being baptized with the Spirit and speaking in tongues. Now, the church we were in did not look upon these experiences in a good light, it would have been easy for me to have challenged the boy on his past experience with God, but that would not have been the right thing to do. As his youth pastor I just encouraged him to remain on course and stay in prayer and fellowship. There are times in our walk with the Lord where we need to simply judge uprightly, that is we need to do what’s best for the person at the time, not necessarily always win the argument or prove our point. In the Christian experience we interact with many various groups of believers who have come to the table with different backgrounds. It’s a common thing for believers to not really appreciate that other believers might have come to the table with a different background. We all have a tendency to view our particular background as the best one out of the bunch; at times we feel a sense of security ‘knowing’ that our groups particular slant is the best slant. Then we approach other groups with a less than sincere acceptance of their ‘slant’. We all have groups of people that we will speak into thru our lives, ‘the great congregation’ so to speak. God wants us to do what’s right when we receive them, when they cross paths with us at various junctures in the journey. There will be times for reproof and correction, yes sometimes that’s ‘judging rightly’ but there will also be times when we need to look past our own concerns and simply do what’s in the best interest of the other person. Jesus said the Pharisees went high and low to make one convert, and after they made him he became a ‘child of hell’ more than they were. Paul said the Judaisers were glorying in the fact that they convinced the Galatians to become circumcised; these examples show us that we can be in leadership roles with the wrong motive, we might even be fooling ourselves, thinking that ‘hey, I wouldn’t be doing this stuff if I weren’t sincere’ but in these scenarios the thing that was motivating the leaders was the fact that they were able to convince others that their group was the right one, they were winning converts for their own glory, not for the sole benefit of the people. I want to challenge all of us today, what are we in this thing for? Are we more concerned with fighting for our particular view point than we are for the people? Do we have a tendency to present our views as the only views that can be right? Are we able to actually give a fair hearing to other sides of the issues, sides that we think are wrong, but to be willing to come to the table with an open heart and mind. You and I ‘receive’ the great congregation in many ways thru out our lives, let’s try and do what’s right when it’s our turn.

[note I left on the current controversy over Warren and Piper] Good conversation. If we see ourselves as believers thru the paradigm of our group [whatever group that be!] then we will always have difficulty with the Warren’s of the world. If we take the more open approach of the mystical church of Wycliffe and Huss, then we won’t get so upset about this stuff.

(1431) HE THAT HAS PITY ON THE POOR LENDS UNTO THE LORD, AND THAT WHICH HE HAS GIVEN WILL BE REPAID BY GOD. Proverbs 19:17 The other day I read an interview by an author who attended Liberty University [Falwell’s bible school] as an undercover atheist, she was on assignment to see behind the scenes of evangelical Christians. She wrote her book and some of the insights are helpful for believers to see some of our blind spots. One thing that struck me was her criticism of how Christians talk about ‘giving to God’ she found it odd that to the majority of believers; they equated ‘giving to God’ with giving to their churches. She found it strange that believers seemed to make no difference between the 2. She also noted how when she asked believers about whether or not the church was responsible in the finances; that if this made a difference when speaking of giving to God. Most believers told her that it was their responsibility to put in the offering/tithe, and that they would not be personally responsible for the decisions of the leaders. I have always found it strange that in the bible, giving to God is primarily expressed thru meeting the needs of people, helping the poor, feeding the hungry, etc. and yet most believers do view giving to God as giving money to ‘the church’ or to a ministry. Jesus said things like ‘if you did not help the least of these, you did not help me’ and the above verse speaks of lending to God when we help the poor. I wonder if we will give an account to God someday for the fact that the majority of Christian funds in the American church are used to build/create comfortable environments for us to meet in? We spend most of our money on ourselves, and we do call this ‘giving to God’. Now many churches and ministries are doing a good work, sending missionaries out, helping the poor, etc. It’s just we as individual believers seem to think that this gets us off the hook. The bible says if we see a person in need and do not help, how dwelleth the love of God in us? There are many direct portions of scripture that say these things, most of the time we do not associate giving to God with what the bible actually teaches. We have developed unbiblical concepts on what the ‘storehouse’ in Malachi means, and we take this skewed idea of the storehouse and apply it to the meeting places of believers, and then we say ‘the tithe belongs to the storehouse’ it’s too much to do the whole thing right now, but I want to challenge you, are we overlooking actual direct commands of Jesus in scripture? Do we make the mistake of equating giving to God with putting money in an offering plate? I’m glad the author went undercover and gave us a glimpse into our own shortcomings, we could learn from her insights.

(1429) ‘There shall be a handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth’ Psalms 72:16. Most of the time there is a portion of good truth available to believers from various sources; as believers we need to be picky at times, because if we simply consume everything from the buffet, we will get sick. The bible says honey is good, but too much will make you vomit! Years ago there was a preacher that I liked to listen to, he was from another city and I had heard him speak before and ordered some of his teaching materials. I noticed over time that though he associated with many famous prosperity preachers, yet he would make statements that showed he was not in total agreement with their doctrine. I then read a news story on a problem the church was having; the minister came under fire for putting pressure on people to give for the new building fund and yet was kind of frivolous in the ministries spending of money. One of the leaders in the church sought to expose the minister as a false prophet, they went to the courts and eventually the courts sided with the church. One of the complaints that was made was the preacher had bought a 4 thousand dollar suit for one of the church board members as a gift of appreciation. The disgruntled member thought this was wrong to do at a time when the church was putting pressure on people to give. The minister defended this act by saying Jesus wore an expensive coat, and that a woman also poured expensive perfume on Jesus [I’m not sure if he used one or both of these examples]. I have heard this defense made many times in the past by prosperity preachers, it is a lame excuse to be honest; I have explained this before and don’t want to do it again here. Let’s just say that these examples do not excuse ministries from financial indiscretions. The main point is even though this well meaning preacher, who I liked to listen to, tried to separate himself from the more extreme teaching of the prosperity movement; yet when all was said and done he resorted to the same miss use of scripture in defending himself; he could not avoid the traps of those who surrounded him. He spent time inviting these ministers to ‘the church’ went to do conferences in their churches and was doing lots of ministry things with them. In the above verse we read that there is a handful of corn in the earth, a quality supply of good meat [teaching] that God has made available to us, if we associate too much with teachers that are not really giving us the good corn, then no matter how hard we try, we will become like them. I want to encourage you today, what are the streams you feed from? Do you read the latest pop culture Christian best sellers? Things on how to get what you want out of life, or how you can succeed in some venture; or are you reading scholarly stuff, the Christian classics, the church fathers. If you spend most of your time surrounded by unbalanced teaching, it will affect you in the end, even if you think it won’t.

(1428) THE NAME OF THE LORD IS A STRONG TOWER, THE RIGHTEOUS RUNNETH INTO IT AND ARE SET ALOFT [ARE SAFE]- Proverbs. Been reading a little in Psalms and Proverbs these last few weeks, so much of it deals with receiving correction; seeking wisdom, going after knowledge. The Christian life is a process of dealing with things that we thought were true, or that our viewpoints were the ‘best’ on a particular subject, and then we get challenged on those points and divide over those views. I was listening to a radio preacher one Sunday, comes on the same channel that we broadcast on. I listened to him, not because he was really knowledgeable [to be honest, he wasn’t] but because he reminded me of all the drug addicts/ex con’s that I have worked with for many years. He was a brother that has been down that road. One day while talking about Jesus’ baptism he described it as ‘the day Jesus got saved’. Most teachers cringe at a statement like this [for many theological reasons] but I managed to overlook it and tried to see what the sincere brother was trying to say. To my surprise I recently read some article by an able scholar, he spoke of Jesus’ baptism as ‘being baptized and washing away his sins’. Frankly, I was shocked that he would say something like this. But I understand that people see things, and use common phrases, that others are uncomfortable with, over time if these brothers are simply stating things in ways that seem highly unusual to our common Christian language, but are still embracing orthodox Christian beliefs, then we need to approach these things with much grace. Recently I have posted various comments on excellent sites that have been re-hashing the historical critical method of scholarship, I have written lots on this before and don’t want to go into the whole thing again. But I found it interesting that many of today’s most able scholars, men whose sites I have on my blog roll, have disagreed strongly with each other. Now these are good scholars, not men who are simply uninformed about the subject. As I have read some of this back and forth, I see how even some of the best men can read past each other, and not fully see what the other side is saying. We all have a tendency to put our critics in the worst possible light, and to represent our position in the most noble light. Sometimes the only way we can arrive at a ‘more noble’ understanding of the subject [whatever the subject may be] is by returning to a trust in the Lord, letting our souls be renewed by Gods grace. I have this gazebo in my yard, I built a deck on top and placed a chair on it. It’s like a loft, sometimes I’ll just sit up on top and enjoy the escape from all the things that surround me. I’ll be praying early in the morning, the stars out and the planets beaming; and I’ll climb the loft and sit in the presence of God for a while. I just want to encourage you guys today, spend time in ‘the loft’ seek the face of God- if you are embroiled in controversy, maybe have been the target of criticism; then just spend some time with God. King David said how he wished he had the wings of a dove so he could fly away and be with God. The bible says ‘our souls have escaped like birds out of the snare of the fowler, the snare has been broken and we have escaped’ we do have these wings, this ability to be free from the snares and dwell in the presence of God. Our wings are prayer.

(1427) THE LORD GAVE THE WORD; GREAT WAS THE COMPANY OF THOSE THAT PUBLISHED IT- Psalms 68:11 In the 14th century you had the Oxford scholar, John Wycliffe, challenge the church and publish an English bible that would be understood by the common man. His view of the true church was that all those who believed in Christ comprised the mystical Body of Christ thru out the ages; he held to the same view that many believers would later embrace. His works would eventually influence John Huss, the great Bohemian priest, and Huss too would preach a doctrine of the universal church which transcended institutional boundaries. In the 16th century William Tyndale would take up the charge to get the bible into the hands of the common man; he longed for the day that the simple plowman would know the scriptures as well as the trained clergy; Tyndale would die for the faith [as Huss] but would pray/prophesy that God would touch the heart of the king of England and make his word known. Henry the 8th would eventually place an English bible into every church building thru out his realm. The history of God getting his word into the hands of the common man is great, many divine interventions [or inventions!] came along just at the right time to aid in the efforts. Guttenberg would invent the printing press in the 15th century and Luther’s reformation would take off as his books and tracts would get published by the boat loads [as well as many other great teachers’ stuff- like Erasmus Greek New Testament bible]. The institutional church would resist the free flow of these writings, they feared that the people might teach wrong doctrine, or that the masses might interpret the bible in a wrong way. Were these fears groundless? Not really. Many did mess up in their reading of the bible, and others would start their own sects based on faulty interpretations. But for the most part God was in the business of getting his word out to as many people as possible. I have found over the years that believers have a sort of blind spot when it comes to the ‘sacred’ modes of transmitting the bible. For instance many well meaning men believe that the process of meeting in a building on Sunday, and the bible being preached to as many as you can get to come to the meeting; many feel that this expression [being only one of many] is the actual God ordained way of getting the bible taught to the people. Many who hold to this singular idea, to the point where they feel the doing of this is actually called ‘the local church’ will look down upon other means of getting the word out. The explosion of the internet has truly been the printing press of modern times. Many average believers now have the ability to reach the world from their computers; are their dangers with this process? Sure. Will some teach wrong stuff? As Sarah Palin would say ‘you betcha’. But all in all people should embrace the reality that we live in a day where once again the average saint has the ability to get the word out to the masses with little, or no cost. I don’t want people to get me wrong, going to ‘church’ to hear the sermon is fine [most of the times!] but the bible does not teach the concept that the meeting of believers in buildings on Sunday is actually called ‘the local church’. For sure this is an expression of ‘local church’ it is a way that many believers have come to practice their faith; but it would be wrong to exalt this view of church to the point where we hinder others who are getting the word out in many different ways. In the New Testament, the ‘local churches’ referred to communities of believers who lived in your city/region- the term does not refer exclusively to meeting in a lecture hall environment to hear a lecture! Psalms says God gave the word and great was the company of those that published it; lets rejoice in the fact that we live in a time where a great company of people can ‘publish it’.

(1426) ‘You brought us into the net, you laid affliction upon us; you caused men to ride over our heads, we went thru fire and water; but you also brought us out into a wealthy place’ Psalms 66:11-12. Yesterday I mailed off a letter to a child hood buddy who is doing time in prison. We grew up as little hoodlums, he was Greek Orthodox, I Roman Catholic- but the only ecumenical act we ever engaged in was jointly taking the Lords name in vain. This last year he has been in touch with me, I have written and been a friend. This last letter he asked if I could give a shout out to him by name and also to all the brothers in Rahway prison; his buddies think he’s making it up that we were friends as kids. He has lost all- family, business, home- he is going thru depression and all, but I am encouraging him to get with the other brothers and read and pray, I am printing relevant sections from my blog and sending them as well. I stuck a bunch of my ministry cards in the last letter and he obviously gave them to some Christian brothers from the ‘free world’ who have access to computers and stuff, that’s why they wanted the shout out. The guys in prison do not have access to the internet. If you want to write him, his address is ‘ James Dalskov 558763 lock bag R Rahway, N.J. 07065’. Sometimes in life we wind up in situations where we feel like we are in a net, others ‘ride over us’ being told what to do and what not to do. Going from the free world into these types of environments can be tuff. But God can also use these experiences to do things in us that we never thought possible. At the end of the above verse it says when the process was over ‘He brought us out into a wealthy place’. I also got an email yesterday from one of our original guys who used to be a mainline addict, spent many years doing robberies and spending years in prison; he has been out for a long time and been clean for many years. He was letting me know that one of our other brothers just moved to Corpus and wanted to get a hold of me. I gave him the cell #, but those of you who know me realize that getting in touch with me by phone is next to impossible; I never answer my phone unless I recognize the number. The point today is God wants all of us to interact with society, the lost ones! The religion of Jesus day was centered on religious performance and ritual; though the concepts of justice and reaching out to the poor and needy were engrained in the Mosaic law, yet for some reason this priority was lost to tradition. Jesus would quote the famous verse from the prophet Isaiah about the Spirit being on him to do justice. When questioned about his legitimacy ‘are you the one or look we for another’ he replied in social justice terms ‘the poor have the gospel preached, the dead are raised’ etc. The proof of his ordination was not being licensed by the religion of the day, but the proof was the works of justice that he did. Leaders, what is the environment that surrounds you? Is most of your life spent on a preaching platform or stage? Are you rarely in the environment that Jesus and his men were surrounded by? The leaders of Jesus day were offended by his closeness to the world, the crowd he hung with, the prostitutes who wiped his feet with their tears; this whole scenario was unacceptable to the religious class of the day. The only time they referenced the hurting in prayer was when they said ‘Thank you God that we are not like them’ they spent their lives in a net, a religious place of bondage, many of them never came out into the wealthy place.

(1424) AVOIDING THE ECHO CHAMBER- A week or so ago the president was asked his opinion about the cable news shows and the talk radio community; he wisely answered that he felt there was a sort of dynamic like an echo chamber with these shows, that people need to be careful that they are not simply spending all their time and effort bouncing their own ideas off of the walls of others who only think in the same framework. In Christianity this is a problem that we all regularly deal with. I remember listening to a tape by an ‘organic church’ brother one time, he was trying to explain where the idea of elders arose in the writings of the apostle Paul. Now he was speaking from/to a community of people that at the time were writing and teaching against the New Testament idea of leadership, many felt like leaders in the New Testament were forbidden based on verses like ‘the gentiles exercise lordship over each other, it will not be like this with you’ and other verses that speak of servant leadership. The well meaning brother went on to espouse his theory that when the Jewish Diaspora took place in the first century, many were sent to the Christian churches and they told the leaders of the churches ‘here are our people, who are your elders that they need to report to’ and that in response Paul and the others said ‘Oh yeah, here they are’ sort of like they were ad libbing just to appease the Jewish converts. Now, this idea is interesting, but there is no foundation for it to rest on. The New Testament had elders, leaders, etc. for this brother to have thought this deeply about the matter was simply a symptom of living in the echo chamber of others who also rejected elders/leaders as a normative role of the New Testament churches. But many of these brothers have brought out the fact that none of the churches in the New Testament had the singular office of ‘the pastor’ that functioned as the weekly speaking office that the believers would gather around and hear, week after week, month after month, year after year. The development of this office [often referred to as the pastor] took place over time; some ascribe its development to 4th century pagan sources, others see it as arising out of the synagogue to church model [it should be noted that in the synagogues you had a person overseeing the meeting, but anyone could take the scrolls and read as the lord led- that’s why Jesus could read from the scrolls, even thought the Pharisees did not think he was ‘ordained’ by God]. The point being we all have blind spots that we need to be aware of. Most bible schools, universities teach courses on ‘pastoral counseling, finances, budgets, speaking, etc.’ and to be honest they too usually are approaching things from the echo chamber of ‘church’ as the corporate model, the actual meeting place of believers, as opposed to a community of people. Many of these courses never really question the validity of this singular role that we define as pastor, they just teach around it as a given office that existed in this way. The other night I was watching the Huckabee show on Fox news, they had on the actor Jon Voight. I liked Voight in the movie The Deliverance and of course George from Seinfeld was elated when he thought he bought Jon’s used car [though Jerry doubted it was authentic, being the name was spelled differently] as Voight was being interviewed he read a prepared letter that he had brought with him. Voight expressed many of the key talking points of Beck, Rush and Hannity; he mentioned the Olinsky method, hit a few more ideas on Obama being a socialist, you know the whole deal. When he was thru Huckabee graciously defended Obama in saying that he disagreed with his policies, but felt like the president means well. Voight is a victim of the echo chamber, seeing and hearing things on a regular basis, without a regular inflow of contrary data. As believers we need to be willing to hear both sides of the issues, maybe the critics are right about one thing, and wrong about another. That’s fine, just be willing to hear. Living in the echo chamber can be deafening at times.

[another note I left on Trevin wax’s blog post on the fervor over John Piper inviting Rick Warren to a conference] your very correct Brian, many reformed do not see the reality of many reformers holding to a sacramental theology along with a strong stance on justification by faith.

(1423) WHO KNOWS WHETHER YOU HAVE COME TO THE KINGDOM FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS- The famous words to queen Esther in the book of the bible with the same name. God said to Abraham that he called him when he was alone; he had no support base, no family, nothing. God told him to go to a country that he would later receive as an inheritance, Hebrews 11 tells us ‘he went out, not knowing where he was going’ often times on the journey we end up in places that we never planned on being; strategic situations where we might influence key kingdom leaders- the bible says ‘men of stature shall come over to thee and be thine’ ‘gentiles shall come to thy light and kings to the brightness of thy rising’. God has ways of placing us in strategically important locations, places we are not even aware of! Yesterday I googled the ministry name and saw a few foreign blogs that have been posting our stuff, great! They are from Indonesia, the most populated Muslim country in the world; we have been ‘dwelling’ in a place that I knew not. Be sensitive to the people you are influencing, often times just your presence in a place can be a fulfillment of Gods calling, even if you have no idea how you wound up being there. Often times there are other key leaders [pastors, etc.] that God is raising up for a national/worldwide influence; part of your calling might be to influence them, keep them on course, so that they too will keep those they are mentoring in a straight path. I like the fact that God called Abraham when he was alone; it was really a personal calling between him and God; it’s good to have friends and supporters along the way, but in the end this thing started with you and God alone, it will be up to you and God to finish the race by faith. The bible says ‘look to the rock I have cut you out of, look to Abraham and Sarah, I called them when they were alone’ are you alone? Have people you counted on moved on? Are you feeling tempted to move on too? ‘Fear not, for I am with thee, be not dismayed for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee and uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness’ says the Lord- ‘endure hardness as a good soldier in Christ’ says Paul. ‘Blessed is the man that endures temptation, for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life’ James. ‘To him who overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of my God’ Jesus.

[just a comment on an article critiquing Scot McKnight’s recent CT article] Good response- Just a note or 2; Scot doesn’t seem to be saying that all historical studies of Jesus are wrong, but that the actual process called ‘historical criticism’ is actually flawed. Also the example in this article ‘how can we know the meaning behind the act of Jesus and the money changers without 2nd temple context’ most believers have a good grasp of the prophetic challenge of Jesus to the religious leaders of the day by simply reading this gospel account in context ‘my father’s house was to be a house of prayer. You have made it a den of thieves’. Simply reading this account from the gospels gives us enough context to glean the truth of the passage. Good response anyway. God bless, John

(1422) THE APOSTLE, THE PROPHETESS AND FIRST DEGREE MURDER- Last night I watched a dateline special on a church that made the headlines because of a series of actions that led to the murder of the youth pastor’s wife, by the youth pastor. The church started out as a nice independent church in a good community, the original pastor moved on and a new pastor came in. He felt his calling was that of an apostle and he instituted the casting out of demons and new concepts on spiritual warfare. They also had the charismatic gifts of the Spirit operating. One of the ladies was a ‘prophetess’, if I remember right I used to see some of her stuff on a fairly popular prophetic web site. Either way she functioned in what she felt was a prophetic gift and she eventually gave a prophecy to the youth pastor that his wife was going to die and she would marry him after the death. The youth pastor wound up giving his wife an overdose of Benadryl and started an ‘accidental’ house fire and she died. The youth pastor had a few affairs with some of the other church members and eventually the sister who functioned in the prophetic gift confessed. Okay, how does stuff like this happen? It is easy to come away from this story with a negative view of all charismatic expressions of the church; that would be unfair. Purely as a doctrinal issue you do find the gifts of the Spirit as a legitimate part of Christianity. The church’s emphasis on spiritual warfare techniques and the normative act of identifying demon spirits in its members, well I do have a problem with that. Christians go thru fads/phases as the years roll by, one of the popular ideas was the whole spiritual warfare thing that involved strategic level prayers and identifying territorial spirits and stuff like that. Most fads have some type of doctrinal truth; for instance you do read in the prophetic book of Daniel how his prayers were being resisted by a ‘prince’ which more than likely was referring to a demon spirit, and how God used an angel to break thru the heavens and bring the answer to Daniel. So we see glimpses behind the scenes at times. But the normative teaching on prayer does not carry with it a regular process of identifying and engaging with these demons. So you have some truth, but usually associated with error. Many who appeal to the Daniel example fail to see that Daniels prayer eventually was answered, not because Daniel did some strategic prayer thing, but because he simply prayed to God in faith. At no time did Daniel cast the prince down thru his own techniques. So basically this independent church got into the whole thing. Many years ago when I was pastoring my own independent church, I had a lady [she was a good friend and Christian] who too felt like she functioned at times as a prophetess. She was ordained by Joel Osteen’s church out of Houston and I worked with family members who were involved [married to] some of the drug addict guys I was helping at the time. She did become a member of our church and she was an able person. But at times I had to warn her off of beliefs that she felt were from God. Her previous church [a word of faith church] had a good pastor whose wife was not helping the minister; she felt like the Lord told her that some day she would be married to the pastor, that either the wife would die or the pastor would get a divorce, but that she felt God had told her this. She gave me examples from the bible that seemed to justify in her mind how God can tell people things that seem out of the ordinary [like God telling one of his prophets to marry a prostitute] but I always tried to steer her into the direction that the gift of prophecy never contradicts the known revealed will of God as found in the bible. The point today is as believers we need to be careful that our expression of Christianity does not become isolated from the broader Body of Christ, we should be reading the Christian classics, should have a basic view of the people of God as a worldwide community that we can all glean guidance from. Many independent type churches get a hold of some doctrine [even if it’s true] and make the error of exalting the teaching to a point where they get out of balance with the historic church, then they focus all their teaching and reading around a small group of authors and preachers who also hold to the same limited ideas. This reinforces in the minds of the adherents that they surely must be in a balanced group, after all look at all the other good people who follow the same path! I would advise all believers [pastors especially] build up a good library of the Christian classics, pick up Augustine’s confessions, collect some writings from the early church fathers; develop a library that spans the ages- you can read and study the current movements and all, don’t reject all movements and fads, some movements do have historic implications to them, but only time will tell. And avoid the idea that God is telling people stuff like ‘your husband/wife will die and I will marry you’ these ideas are way off the mark and should be rejected outright without any second thoughts.

(1418) IS COLSON A MODERN DAY ERASMUS? I have been re-reading volume 6 of the Story of Civilization by Will Durant; this volume covers the Reformation period. It resounds with the warnings of the Catholic humanist Erasmus to his fellow critic of the church, Martin Luther. Many good men challenged what they saw as the corruption of the church, they wrote and spoke out against her abuses, Erasmus was one of her strongest critics. He was a true renaissance man who traveled a lot during his career. At one point he settled down in Basel, Switzerland and would thoroughly enjoy the metropolitan character of the region. He loved being in a community where the classics were widely read, as well as the modern ideas on theology. Calvin himself would eventually wind up in Basel for part of his education and he too would be influenced by Erasmus’s works. One of the fears that Erasmus and others had was they felt like Luther’s protest was going too far, they feared the toppling of order in society if the nation states would throw off all ecclesiastical control. They were afraid of anarchy [the same fears that the Ultramontanists in France would feel a couple of centuries later]. In my recent Christianity Today magazine I read an interesting column by Chuck Colson [the famous brother of water gate fame- he went to prison and converted to Christ] Colson seemed to strike a tone much like Erasmus, he was speaking about the current Tea Party movement. Colson warned that a popular uprising in and of itself can be dangerous, that Christians have every right to be upset and protest against what they feel is unjust, but believers need to heed the teachings of the new testament in being good citizens who submit to earthly authorities [a theme found thru out the New testament, especially in Paul’s letter to the Romans]. Colson warned that believers need to counter what they see as bad government with positive ideas and other options; we should not simply be a party of rebels! I sensed a sort of fear in Colson, sort of like he sees a danger in the country which can lead to bad things. Luther would eventually reject the warnings of his less rebellious contemporaries and follow thru with his rebellion; Germany would divide as a nation state between catholic and protestant churches, other nations would soon follow. The actual term Protestant speaks of a technical protest over a proposed rule that would allow the catholic churches/regions to remain catholic without any interference from the protestants; this was protested by the ‘protestants’ and thus the name stuck. The point being the reformation moved forward with a viable alternative to what they saw as a corrupt system, Luther himself rejected others who did advocate for what he saw as leading to anarchy. The famous Munster prophets believed they were to cast off all control of human government and establish their own New Jerusalem as an earthly city that would be governed directly by God. Luther eventually would sound like Erasmus in warning against a total rejection of human government and would appeal to Paul’s writings as well, showing us that good Christians submit to human authorities as much as possible, this warning fell on deaf ears- they read some of the caustic language that Luther himself used against the church and they saw him as a hypocrite. All in all we as believers should voice our protests and displeasure with human government when we see its failings, but we also need to understand that the changes that we want to be made will be done thru prayer and the ballot box, not thru any actions that can lead to the things that former ‘reformers’ warned against. Let our voices be heard, but let our non violent action be a witness to the kingdom from which we derive our beliefs.

(1416) THE PHANTOM PASTOR? I read an article on multi site churches [one church, many locations] it was interesting; it showed how some were experimenting with hologram images of the main pastor being projected to the various sites every Sunday ‘for church’. I found it interesting that many of our modern concepts of legitimate local church revolve around the Sunday meeting, the main speaker, the tithe, etc. you know the deal. Many of these expressions seem to teach that the main authority given by God to a believer comes thru his or her submission to the actual meeting; if you are not in a meeting where you actually ‘see’ the minister, then you are not in ‘local church’ [limited indeed]. So Paul’s relating to the churches he planted, primarily thru letters, was really not ‘local church’. I know some will say ‘yet these churches had a pastor over them’ this simply is not true in the singular sense. They had groups of leaders [elders] who exercised oversight, but no weekly speaking office given to any one person. The point today is I find it interesting that some are seeing the validity of having a hologram of a pastor, but do not see the validity of other modes of local church expressions that do not submit to the actual Sunday church model. I think its fine to do multi site ‘church’ but we really need to define ‘local church’ more along the lines of the local community of believers, and less along the lines of a meeting [whether church building, movie theatre, home group, etc,] when we see the people of God as the actual expression of local church, then we won’t get all hung up on the different ways we communicate with one another. It’s good to actually meet, don’t get me wrong- but if a hologram pastor can be deemed ‘real’ why not other modes?

This was a comment I left on Scot McKnight’s Jesus creed blog; it was a response to his latest Christianity Today article on rethinking the historical Jesus school of theology. I advise all our readers to go read it. As of now it’s only in the print version- ‘Scot just finished reading the article in CT on the historical Jesus, it does seem you come some distance back from earlier beliefs. I remember reading you defend McLaren’s contradictions once by showing us how he uses that type of method to get his points across [the method of overstating something and then retracting it a few pages later!] Anyway I did like the article, will go read Tom Wrights response now. God bless from Corpus Christi.’

(1415) BENNY HINN VERSUS JOHN PIPER- Yesterday I was reading some Christian news on line, I was surprised to see that the famed author/pastor, John Piper, was stepping down from his pastorate to take an 8 month sabbatical. As I read the story there was no scandal, he just simply examined his soul and felt like he saw pride creeping in and thought it good to re focus. I also read the latest from Benny Hinn, the famous healing evangelist, his wife recently filed for divorce and his web statement said ‘I will keep going, and not slow down one bit’. I would note that Benny and his wife also have no sexual scandal to deal with, it must have been the pressure and all, it caught the family by surprise when Susanne filed for the divorce. Now, many view Benny as a false prophet and an outright huckster- I don’t. I have major problems with the entire character of ‘ministry’ that platforms the Holy Spirits gifts in such a public way that draws great attention to the gifted person, the New Testament warns against various gifted people becoming the center of attention in the community of believers. Paul rebuked the Corinthians for centering their spiritual lives around the persona of any man [this would even include prominent well meaning pastors, who often don’t see this dynamic in our day-many feel it’s scriptural to have the life of the community centered around the weekly speaking gift of an individual, there really is no mandate in scripture for this. It’s okay for gifted leaders to teach, prophesy, function in some spiritual gift, but the New Testament does not show us a pattern of local churches centered around the office of any individuals gifts. One of the common mistakes church historians make is we read some of the 1st, 2nd century writings of the church fathers [Clement of Rome, Iraneus, etc.] and we see how the able bishop rebuked the Corinthians for not submitting to the ecclesiastical office of Bishop, the letter portrays the Corinthian church as a bunch of rebels who are rising up against the authority of the Bishop and other leaders. It’s usually assumed that the Corinthian church was at it again, ‘there goes those darn troublemakers’ type of a thing. But it’s very possible that the Corinthian community was heeding the admonition from their founding apostle [Paul] and were actually resisting the idea of allowing any singular authority to take a position that was contrary to what Paul wrote to them in his epistles!]. The main point is you can have legitimate gifts being expressed thru a person [prophecy, healing, or even the pastor/teacher gift of speaking] but if these gifts are being used in a way that draws undo attention to the individual; then it is a violation of the character of New Testament ministry, although the gift itself might be legitimate. I was watching an ‘apostle’ out of Newark one day on Christian TV; they are a Pentecostal group that are heavy into spiritual warfare. The main leader was dressed in military type garb [corporal, cornel stripes and all] and they were doing the best they could. An interesting thing was they were doing a teaching on Paul’s words ‘the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty thru God to the pulling down of strongholds’ [Corinthians] and they actually taught it right! The apostle shared how many people mistake the meaning of the verse and apply it to strategic spiritual warfare prayer directed at territorial spirits and stuff like that. But the apostle explained how it was really speaking about apologetic type arguments that Christians make against the false ideas and strongholds of false doctrine. But then they went on to say that they arrived at this true understanding thru the apostolic gift of ‘revelation knowledge’ sort of like if it weren’t for the gift of the ‘apostle’ they would never have known this truth. I would venture to say that the majority of scholarly works that deal with this verse probably have it right; in the world of ‘intellectual Christianity’ [which is usually disdained by these independent type churches] most teachers knew this all along; we did not need the ‘gift of apostolic revelation knowledge’ to know this. Okay, the point being we have good people, who operate at times in true gifts, but also have a long way to go in growth and maturity. In the above example of Piper versus Hinn, I believe both of these men are good men, Piper comes from the baptist [reformed] tradition, Hinn from the charismatic wing. Maybe the Lord directed Benny to ‘keep on going, don’t slow down a bit’ and maybe Piper felt the Lord saying ‘slow down, take time off’ I just felt it striking that Piper was doing this because of what he sensed was the hidden sin of pride, no big scandal, just time to examine his soul. While Benny felt like ‘slowing down’ was not an option. These 2 examples give us a glimpse into the present day expression of church/ministry, and how we have all been affected by the times we live in.

(1410) ‘But the Jews were so exasperated by HIS TEACHING, by which their rulers and chiefs were convicted by the truth…that at last they brought him before Pontius Pilate, at the time Roman governor of Syria, and, by the violence of their outcries against him, exhorting a sentence giving him up to them to be crucified’ Tertullian, [160-220 a.d.] church father from Carthage- North Africa. Proverbs tells us that wisdom was dwelling with God before the earth and hills were brought forth, that this wisdom from God rejoices with the father in the ‘habitable parts of the earth’. Jesus told the disciples that they were clean [set apart] by the words he had spoken unto them, that he chose them before the world was made to use them to bring forth fruit. In a sense God has pre-ordained a skill set of wisdom and understanding that he foresaw us communicating in time. He pre-planned this wisdom before the actual land/earth even existed! In each generation God has ‘set people’ whose job is to deposit these words/truths from God into a set area [city, nation, world]. It is thru the depositing of these words that others will be ‘set apart’-be made clean thru the words that we have spoken unto them. Be clean- how? The word also means being sanctified, that is God setting you apart in a specific way in order to carry out his purpose. When Nehemiah started out he had a burden for the city of his father’s that was broken down and destroyed, he then embarked on a special mission to a set pace to build, yes he had lots of resistance and opposition, but God called him to finish the task for a set season at a set time. Leaders, have you learned and heard things these past few years that have caused you to make course corrections? Were there things that you never saw until now that have affected the way you see God’s kingdom? These things are for the purpose of God to be fulfilled, he wants you to impact large ‘open spaces’ he has pre-planned areas for you to speak into, but he had to first set you apart, make you clean thru these words that he has spoken unto you.

[Just a comment I left on an article about the camel method of evangelizing Muslims. This method uses the verses from the Quran that talk about ‘Jesus’ to convert Muslims. ‘If the verses quoted from the Quran are simply a bridge to get you to the Jesus of the New Testament, then I think we could let it slide; but if we are leaving the impression that the ‘Jesus’ [Isa] of the Quran is the same Jesus of the New Testament, then we have a problem.’

(1406) ‘Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him man. For he was a doer of wonderful works…this man was the Christ, and when Pilate had condemned him to the Cross, upon his impeachment by the principle man among us, those who had loved him from the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive on the third day, the divine prophets haven spoken these and thousands of other wonderful things about him. And even now, the race of Christians, so named from him, has not died out’- Josephus, Antiquities, 18.3.3 [1st century historian] A few months ago while surfing the internet, I stumbled across an interesting apologetic ministry, I forget the brothers name but he had a well developed radio and on line ministry. They had lots of great tools for people who wanted to learn good teaching, historic stuff and all. But I also noticed that they were very anti charismatic, to the point where I felt they weren’t being honest with both scripture and church history in their view of non charismatic stuff, it was also the time of the Todd Bentley situation in Lakeland Fla. I mean they left him no room at all, he was branded an unbelieving heretic thru and thru [I personally had lots of problems with the Lakeland thing, but still pray for Todd and his situation]. Within a week or so of finding the site, the ministry folded and the main teacher got divorced, I thought it odd that they were up and running for many years, and I just happened to stumble across them at the end of their career. One of the things that I have found troubling over the years is the inability of certain believers to ‘judge righteous judgment’ the bible says of Jesus that he will not judge by outward appearances, but he sees the true motives. Often times the charismatic expression of Christianity will write off all reproof as ‘those unbelieving intellectuals’ they see that their critics willfully reject the portions of scripture that speak of supernatural stuff, and they simply think that all the critics are blind; they don’t ‘see’ the truth. Then at the same time when trying to deal with other real problems [like the unbalanced prosperity gospel] they too think the critics just don’t ‘see’ the truth about prosperity, so they write the critics off. In general this type of thing happens all the time in the Body of Christ. Josephus gave us an historical account of the reality of Jesus and his movement; he based his account on factual evidence, not fairy tales! Josephus was a true historian who had little gain from making up a story that could be proven false; it would damage his reputation among the Roman elites if he did that. But he, like many others, looked at the evidence and was open minded, he came to the conclusion that the historical resurrection did actually take place in time, though it was a supernatural event, yet it passed the smell test of historical inquiry. The above apologist seemed to be a good man, he left no room open for the possibility of certain charismatic gifts as being legitimate for our day, he rejected the supernatural aspect of the gifts of the Spirit. And many who hold to the reality of the gifts, these often have little education in the other areas that they are not focused on, they too leave the door wide open to much unbalanced stuff. As the historical people of God, a true worldwide movement that the historians look at, they will know we are Christians by our love; as we correct and reprove each other, we need to make sure that we are doing it in love.

(1405) THE APOSTLES CREED
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. AMEN.
HE SHALL SEE OF THE TRAVAIL OF HIS SOUL AND SHALL BE SATISFIED; BY HIS KNOWLEDGE SHALL MY RIGHTEOUS SERVANT JUSTIFY MANY- Isaiah. This past year I have been doing some reading on the Emergent movement as well as always reading some book on the ancient church; there are many moderns who long for the old days, sometimes referred to as ‘the smells and bells’ liturgy. Then you have some who are drawn to 19th/20th century liberalism- the social gospel stuff. One thing that all these groups need to keep in mind is the classic message of the Cross, that God was ‘pleased to bruise his Son’ on the Cross [Isaiah 53]. Some in their efforts to make Christianity more acceptable to modern man began to reject this doctrine, the Atonement. Many are surprised to find out that one of the great evangelists of the first great awakening, Charles Finney, embraced some of these views in his writings. Today these views are deemed heretical [the denial of the Atonement] but at the time progressive thinking believers were affected by the charge of ‘how can a holy, loving God punish an innocent person on the behalf of other criminals’? So after hearing the charge for so long, some adjusted their belief to fit the times. There are some things that the church has said ‘I believe’ about; these things are the non negotiables; it’s not that we can’t discuss them, or should be afraid of others who do question them, but to say ‘yeah brother, I hear what you’re saying about these classic doctrines and I believe you are placing yourself outside of the borders of classic Christianity, I love you and like dialoging with you, but this is where I stand, along with the ancient church’. Many Protestants disdain the creeds of the church; they feel that they are simply tradition and that all we need is the bible. This attitude neglects the importance of listening to the council of our fathers and those who have gone on before us, a rule that scripture itself testifies about [Proverbs]. As the Evangelical movement struggles in our day for a unifying voice, I think the creeds are a good place to start.

(1404) UNLESS I AM CONVICTED BY THE TESTIMONY OF SACRED SCRIPTURE OR BY EVIDENT REASON [I DONOT ACCEPT THE AUTHORITY OF POPES AND COUNCILS, FOR THEY HAVE CONTRADICTED EACH OTHER], MY CONSCIENCE IS CAPTIVE TO THE WORD OF GOD. I CANNOT AND I WILL NOT RECANT ANYTHING, FOR TO GO AGAINST MY CONSCIENCE IS NEITHER RIGHT NOR SAFE. GOD HELP ME. AMEN- Martin Luther. This was the statement from Luther after previously questioning himself over his revolt in the church. The day before he was brought before the council and given the chance to recant his books. He acknowledged the books were his and said he needed time to think about recanting; Luther seriously questioned whether or not his revolt was going too far. The humanist Erasmus would write scathing criticisms against the Catholic Church, but would not join Luther in what he thought was a rebellious schism. It’s interesting to note that the pope of Luther’s day was actually quite a good pope [Leo] in Luther’s correspondence with him Luther regrets that the reform is happening under such a good pope. Luther will eventually call him the anti Christ! The interesting thing to note is in the midst of all the action and debate, Luther himself had questions. There were times when he thought other reformers were going too far. At one point Luther left the safety of a secluded castle hideout to return to the university at Wittenberg and reign in the radical teachings from the self proclaimed prophets who were teaching a total rebellion against the entire government of Germany; Luther said if the reformers do this, they will be siding with those who oppose law and government, things ordained by God. When the famous Peasant’s Revolt took place, Luther sided with the state and used harsh language in putting down the revolt. Many rebels saw Luther as the leader of their cause; they were shocked and disappointed when Luther would not join in their revolt. In all Christian controversies and debates there is always the danger of certain groups going too far in their view of things. While teaching on the true nature of the church [community of people] I have noticed that some mistake this teaching and embrace a radical anti clericalism and ‘anti church building’ mindset to the point where they are going to extremes at certain times. I admire Luther for his stance, after giving serious thought to whether or not he should recant and go the route of Erasmus, he chose to stay true to his conscience and lead the German reform movement till the end. In the current day, both Protestants and Catholics need to look at the past reasons for the protests, and allow room for unity where room exists. But to also acknowledge that there still exist official doctrines/statements from both sides that are quite difficult to reconcile; it is possible for Christian communions to work things out and truly achieve a greater degree of unity than what we have had in the past, but it’s also important for all sides to have a working knowledge of the differences. At the end of the day Luther sided with his conscience and what he felt to be true, the other side felt the same way- when working towards unity as believers we need to keep this in mind.

(1402) THIS IS WHAT I WANT YOU TO DO, ASK THE FATHER FOR WHATEVER IS IN KEEPING WITH THE THINGS I’VE REVEALED TO YOU; ASK IN MY NAME AND ACCORDING TO MY WILL AND HE WILL GIVE IT TO YOU. YOU’RE JOY WILL BE LIKE A RIVER OVERFLOWING IT’S BANKS- Jesus, message bible. In John 16 Jesus says the father will show us the things of the Son ‘all that the father has is mine, and he will take of mine and show it unto you’. I have been doing a little teaching on the nature of the church and how we as believers are affected by the way we ‘see church’. For instance in the bible the terms ‘where do you attend church’ ‘I am looking for a church to join’ ‘the tithe belongs to the local church’ all of these modern ways of viewing church are really not found in scripture. In the bible the gospel of the kingdom is proclaimed, those in the local communities who believed were baptized and became openly identified with the Jesus movement. From that time forward these communities of believers would be referred to as ‘the church’- they were not looking for a church to join, choosing between a buffet of ‘meeting places’ in their respective locals, no, they were actually referred to as the church! Of course it’s fine for believers to meet in buildings and give money to ‘the church’ and all the contemporary things we usually associate with church, but a part of the ministry of the Spirit is he takes what is Jesus’ and shows it unto us; he reveals the nature of the church to us [the church being the Body of Christ, his Body]. Recently I did some blogging at a Christianity Today article on Scot McKnight’s critique of Brain McLaren’s latest book. I Like Scot and have read McLaren. One of the critiques of Brian by Scot [of a previous book] Is Scot felt like McLaren left out Ecclesiology while talking Kingdom. While I do not defend Brian’s works [too much rejection of orthodoxy] yet in this area I think Scot may be confusing contemporary ideas of church [ecclesiology] with the idea of church in scripture. For instance, many theologians teach that Jesus really had no ‘ecclesiology’ in his teaching [or very little] and that Jesus preached a Kingdom message that was different than the church, I think this idea is wrong/limited. It is in the preaching of the reality of the kingdom of God, and the people of God actually doing kingdom works, it is in this atmosphere that true church occurs; people are begin called out of the world unto Christ and these people are becoming the church. It’s really a matter of fully grasping the nature of the kingdom alongside the reality of what church means in the bible. Now, I think modern expressions of church are okay. Much of my criticism of modern church has a lot to do with losing the real message of Jesus in the bible and having replaced it with a modern success gospel, but there are some mega church expressions that are utilizing all the modern means of communicating while at the same time holding true to biblical teaching. Mark Driscoll pastors Mars Hill church in Seattle, Mark teaches historic reformed theology in a contemporary setting. So the reality of the church being much more than we usually understand, does not mean that every modern expression of meeting in huge buildings should be condemned. The point today is Jesus wants to reveal to us much more than we have seen up until this part of the journey. When we ‘see more’ it usually brings with it adjustments and changes that at times can be difficult; I want to encourage all of our Pastor/Leaders to be open to the ministry of the Spirit in the area of him revealing to us the nature of the church, there are many learned men [Kluck, McKnight, Galli, etc.] who I think are not fully seeing what the more mature Organic church movement is really saying, we also need to be careful not to write off the historic church in one fell swoop- both of these extremes do not help the church in the long run.

(1400) IF I HADN’T DONE WHAT I HAVE DONE AMONG THEM, WORKS NO ONE HAS EVER DONE, THEY WOULDN’T BE TO BLAME. BUT THEY SAW THE GOD SIGNS AND HATED ANYWAY… THEY HATED ME FOR NO GOOD REASON- John 15, message bible.
This is the chapter where Jesus tells us he is the vine and we are the branches; the father is the main gardener. If we remain-abide in him we will bring forth fruit, if we do not ‘remain in him’ we are cut off and burned. In Johns other writings [1st John] he speaks about those who did not remain in the doctrine of Christ, they went out ‘from us, but were really not with us’. John was speaking of the Gnostic/Docetist groups that would reject the incarnation of Jesus; these did not ‘remain in him’. Also what about the immediate circle of disciples that Jesus was speaking to, did any of them ‘not remain’? Judas would also reject Christ, and Jesus said he too was not really a part of them from the start. In the above quote Jesus challenges the religious leaders of the day by doing the works that he did. The religion of the day viewed God’s will as religious performance, public praying on the street corners, fasting ‘to be seen’, their mindset was one of public performance. Jesus put priority on doing acts of justice, reaching out to the poor, spending time with the down and out, and also rejecting the ‘crowd pleasing’ mentality of the day. In John’s gospel his brothers tell him ‘go up to the public feast and show thyself, no man who does these things secretly will not eventually go public’ they thought there was something strange about his unwillingness to ‘go public’. I have often found it strange that we as believers put such a high priority on ‘public meetings-ministry’ to the point where we really believe that this is the main part of Christianity. A few years back I visited/stayed with some brothers in Europe, they ran a Christian community where they all lived and helped each other out [addicts and stuff]. I spent about a week with them and it was great, I immediately saw the work as a legitimate expression of ‘local church’ [Ecclesia] I even defended them to others who were saying ‘they are not church’. During the week I spent with them, the main leader of the group was just beginning to rent another building so they could ‘do church’. I went to a few of the meetings and it was okay. The point being they kind of felt like the public meetings were ‘really church’ and the actual community was ‘Para church’ a very limited view indeed. The same thing has happened with many well meaning churches/ministries thru out the years. Jesus put a priority on things that the religious crowd deemed ‘non legitimate’ they would ask him ‘where are you getting your authority from, who gave you this authority’? In today’s jargon it might be said ‘who’s covering are you under, what ‘local church’ has legitimized you’. We often err, not knowing the scriptures or the power of God. Jesus put such a high priority on social justice, reaching out to the poor and needy, speaking out for the widow and oppressed. This same theme runs thru out the entire teaching of the New Testament. Very little time is spent on the idea of public meetings/ministry. Yet we have exalted the idea of church and ministry to the point where we see public performance as the main thing, that’s what we usually regulate our lives around. Jesus told the religious crowd that he came and did all the things that Gods kingdom was really about [helped the poor, raised the dead, etc.] Yet they found fault with him, they fulfilled the scriptures that said ‘they hated me for no good reason’ do the things we do have good reasons, or are we just following the crowd?

(1397) IN MY FATHERS HOUSE ARE MANY MANSIONS- Yesterday I read an article by an Arab believer who grew up in a Muslim country. He shared how over the years he has learned how to dialogue respectively with Muslims and how important it was to share the Christian faith with respect, I really liked the tone. Jesus said ‘I have other sheep which are not of this fold, I must gather them too’. In context he is telling Israel that he too will gather Gentiles into the kingdom. I also read a verse [?] the other day that spoke to me about leaving the door open when dialoging with various groups. One of things that has surprised me since I started blogging is the Arab brothers [Christians] who have contacted me over the years and have been excited about our site. Many of them are pastors and are really laying their lives on the line to bring the gospel to Muslims. I do realize that my stance on natural Israel as well as how the western world should treat Muslims/Arabs is part of the reason why fellow Arab believers have been drawn to our site. For the most part I believe the church should put the gospel of Jesus above all ethnic/political concerns- when preaching the gospel we need to avoid getting into geopolitical wars or wars in general! Many believers in Palestine who are Arab face persecution from fellow countrymen who are Muslim, as well as persecution from Israel. These believers generally do not get support from believers from the U.S., instead when American believers go over there to interact, we usually are there to support natural Israel and to see how well the future ‘temple’ plans are going, and stuff like that. The Arab believers feel neglected by this attitude, some have actually said ‘why don’t you care for us, don’t you understand that we have been persecuted at times by Israel’? They feel confused and rejected when they read in the bible how Christians should love and care for one another, and then they see western believers taking sides in natural conflicts. Jesus said his house had many rooms, the people of God [Gods house] are diverse and come from many varied backgrounds. I do not hold to the thinking that says ‘all religions are Gods children’ in a pluralistic sense of all monotheistic faiths have the same faith. But when dealing with other fellow believers in the world [whether Arab, Jewish, etc.] we should defend our brothers and sisters and side with them in times of conflict, by ‘siding with them’ I mean we need to speak out in support of them and call for justice and help when they are in trouble. I do not advocate ‘siding with people’ when talking about actual warfare- believers should not be in the business of siding with any conflict when it includes killing other people [the sides you take as a citizen of a country are a different matter, I am speaking here as a citizen of Gods kingdom]. I am grateful for all my Arab friends and pastors who have been in touch with me over these past few years, I pray for them regularly and have embraced them as sort of part of the fellowship of brothers that I regularly reach out to. I do realize that they also enjoy the level of teaching we do [not that we are that great, but we do share from a broad range of teaching that many individual pastors might not be able to access on their own]. I thank God that ‘his house’ has many mansions, that Jesus calls sheep from ‘other folds’ that we might not be familiar with, let’s be open to those from other ethnic backgrounds that share the same faith in Jesus Christ- they are all our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

(1396) THE NATURAL STATE IS MOTION- Jesus said there are 12 hours in the day [Jewish day] and that if we walk during the day we would not stumble. He said that he came to do and finish the work that the father gave him to do, that he had to keep moving to arrive at the final destination, he described this work as his meat- the very thing that sustained him. Ancient physics taught a theory that said the natural state of things on earth was ‘rest’. They observed that if you drop something from the air that it always finds the lowest spot and stops. But they taught that the natural state of motion in the heavens was circular, they observed the stars and moon and planets and saw that things orbit, they go in circles. The ancient view of Aristotle [Ptolemy] was the earth was the center of the universe and that there was this crystalline type sphere surrounding the earth and that the stars and moon and sun revolved around us. Galileo and Copernicus shook the world of science when they discovered that the earth really wasn’t the center of all things [Anthropic principle- man being the center of everything] but that our solar system was heliocentric instead of geocentric [we orbit the sun, not the other way around]. Isaac Newton is often said to have discovered gravity, in the sense that he observed things falling to the ground [the public school story of the apple hitting him on the head] but this observation of things falling was really no secret. What Newton discovered was that the motion of things in heaven [celestial motion] and things on earth [terrestrial] was the same- that is the natural state of things was not rest for the earth, nor circular for the heavens. But that all things would naturally flow in a straight line, unless acted upon by another force [classical view]. This ‘straight line motion’ [inertia- Newton’s first law] would be interrupted by gravity and cause the things in motion to be drawn off course. Thus when the apple falls to the ground, if it weren’t for the ground stopping the fall, it would keep going in motion- gravity is pulling it to the earth and the ground is stopping the motion. The same for the heavens. The earth’s gravity is ‘pulling’ on the natural straight line motion of the moon and causing it to deviate from a straight line path and orbit the earth. The same with stars and planets and our sun. Depending on the size [mass] and distance of one body from another, you get varying degrees of pull and this is how everything functions. During the turn of the 20th century we entered the era of modern physics, and Einstein and others would challenge many of the classical norms. Newton’s theories still hold true, but not everywhere at all times, when things approach the speed of light, everything changes. But for the most part Newton’s laws are still valuable when dealing with modern engineering and the basics of science. So what did we learn? That God created things to be in motion, not stagnant. Jesus said he had to keep moving ‘in the day’ because when the night comes no man can work. Proverbs tells us that the lazy person will not work during the planting season, and therefore will wind up begging in the harvest. The Old Testament says ‘get out of the city and dwell in the fields, even Babylon, and there I will be with you and deliver you from the hand of the enemy’. We all know the story of king David, when it was the time for kings to be leading their men in war, David stayed home and saw Bathsheba. What has God called you to do? Are you doing it? Have you organized your life around the priorities of his purpose for you? The natural state of motion on earth [and in heaven] is forward motion, what’s stopping you?

(1395) GLTB community [might have left a letter out?] Last night I caught an interview on CNN with a transgender person. Tonight they will be doing a special on him called ‘my name was Stephen’ he has ‘transitioned’ and is now living as a woman. Then the next show [Anderson Cooper] interviewed Chas [former Chastity] Bono, the daughter of Sony and Cher who also is transgender. A few years ago I saw a documentary on a phenomenon where people had this compulsion, sometimes from as long as they can remember, to want to rid themselves of a limb. The interesting thing was many of these people came from various backgrounds and had no idea that others too grappled with ‘this feeling’. Eventually a community formed around them to affirm them and tell them there really is nothing wrong with them, after all many others have struggled with the same feelings from their youth, so it must be an identity thing. During the show they interviewed family members who dealt with the fact that many of their loved ones went thru with these desires and found ways to get their limbs amputated [freezing them to the point where the ER had no choice but to amputate the limb]. One person who finally gave in to ‘who he really was’ found out that after the first amputation, yes he felt a sense of relief, sort of like ‘well, I was told by many others that it was the answer to my problem, so I did it’ he was later interviewed and described how he eventually sought counseling and he now realizes that both his desires, and the good intentions of others who tried to affirm his desires, were actually very damaging. Others felt affirmed in their acceptance of his desires, but they really did not realize that their acceptance and encouraging was actually harmful. He said that after the first amputation, some time elapsed and he began having a desire to amputate another limb. He thanks God that a good counselor treated this disorder and he is happy he stopped at limb one. In the interview with the transgender person it showed how he went for many years without any inkling of wanting to go from man to woman, then one day he watched a show and they espoused this belief as the answer to some people’s problems. This idea stuck in his head and through the process of time he acted on it. His son and wife dealt with it the best they could, but it no doubt affected his entire life. They went thru the whole procedure of surgeries and hormone treatments and dealing with severe depression [and a high suicide rate] that many of these people deal with, and yet the whole flavor of the show was geared towards saying it was societies fault [church, morals] that has caused these people to feel unwanted. There was really no thought given to the possibility that these decisions, acting out on years of feelings, might in the long run solve nothing and actually lead to more problems. In so many words the psychologist who was also interviewed admitted that the depression rate is almost 100 % after the ‘transition’ is made. How should we as believers respond? In John 13 Jesus is with his men at the last supper, he takes a towel and begins to wash the disciples feet, Peter gets upset ‘No way Jesus, I won’t let you wash my feet’! Jesus says ‘Peter, if you don’t let me wash you, you have no part with me’. Then Peter says ‘fine, give me an entire bath’ and Jesus says he really only needs to admit that sometimes in life we need foot washings, not entire body makeovers! Some in the progressive church are trying honestly to deal with these issues by saying ‘they don’t need a foot washing, that’s the way God made them’ they are trying to be affirming towards people with struggles, but in the long run this affirmation will not work. Imagine trying that with the brother who kept ‘feeling’ that it was right to amputate his limbs! Jesus shows us that all people get defiled in life, whether a person’s struggle is with a sexual identity issue, or a heterosexual issue, we all have times where we need to go to Jesus for cleansing. It might very well be that some of our brothers and sisters in Christ will struggle and stumble in life with these things. We should help them ‘get clean’ even if it’s a life time struggle. But to espouse the idea of the world that says the answer is to affirm them in their sin, this is neither helpful to them nor the biblical thing to do. When the religious conservatives brought the woman in adultery to Jesus, Jesus received the woman; he accepted and did not reject her. He also told her to sin no more, he empowered her not by saying the lifestyle she was living was okay, but by telling her ‘yes, I love you, and this lifestyle you think is fulfilling you is not- you must let me wash you from it’. I know these issues are hot button issues, and I know many well meaning Christians are presently trying to work thru these issues, but the fact is many who have been told ‘to keep resisting this desire, to not give in to it is living a lie’, they are being misled. They are told year after year that to give in to whatever temptation they are facing would be the answer, this simply is not true. Many will eventfully find the same struggles all over again [remove another limb?] and finally realize that in life there are times when yes, our feet get dirty- we might fall and struggle for many years, but Jesus said you could still have a part with him, if you let him wash your feet- if you keep coming back, 70 times 7, he will keep working with you. The tragic thing is many of these precious people are told that this struggle, to keep trying to overcome, is not being open and honest, they are told this at times by the church. My brethren, we ought not to do these things.

(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.

(1386) DROP THE BED [AND GIVE ME THE WINGS] – I was reading a news story about a Dominoes guy who was robbed; the brothers who robbed him found out he had no money on him, so one of them said ‘just give me the wings’, now that’s a brother that I could go easy on if I was on the jury. Recently I made a few comments on line dealing with the Emergent movement and stuff, all things I have written on before. Though I have been both critical and at times supportive of certain aspects of the movement, I felt some who also made comments were not leaving enough ‘room’ [grace] for the author of the book being critiqued. In John chapter 5 Jesus heals the guy at the pool of Bethesda and he tells him ‘take up your bed and walk’- take up my bed! That’s the reason I have not been able to get healed by making it into the water after the angel troubles the water, I mean if I could walk I wouldn’t be in this dilemma. The poor brother didn’t realize that he was talking straight to the source ‘forget about the angel thing, I am the Messiah man! Take up the bed now’ the man walks. Now that’s a real miracle, something that we could all be happy about, right? Not. The religious folk saw the man and their first response was ‘who in the heck told you to carry that darn bed on the Sabbath’? They immediately saw the perceived violation of their religious point of view, the bible says ‘they sought to kill him’. What! The same 10 commandments that speak about keeping the Sabbath has a little bit to say about killing people too. Sometimes we as believers [defenders of the faith] need to be able to look past the things we perceive as wrong- now there are times where we take a stand and say ‘enough is enough’ but there are also times where we need to ask ourselves if we are just looking for some guy carrying his bed- the person who seems to be violating one of our ideas. There is a difference between true rejecters of Jesus, and people who believe in Jesus but are coming at stuff from a different point of view. To shoot a pizza delivery boy in a robbery is a serious crime, to say ‘give me the wings’ I don’t know.

(1383) WHEN PEOPLE REALIZE IT IS THE LIVING GOD YOU ARE PRESENTING AND NOT SOME IDOL THAT MAKES THEM FEEL GOOD, THEY ARE GOING TO TURN ON YOU- Jesus, message bible. In keeping with the above comment [those reading from the ‘most recent- teaching section’] let’s talk a little. Some authors have reintroduced some of the more liberal versions of Christianity and it’s good for people to be aware of the pros and cons. Recently I received a teaching catalog from an excellent company called ‘the teaching company’ as I perused the courses they had some really good stuff; I ordered and have already started on a course on Einstein and Quantum theory [Physics] I love the course and these teachings http://and%20book are really at the university level. But I have noticed an area where the able professor is mistaken; he says ‘the universe is ruled-governed BY CHANCE’. Now, I know what he means, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is violating the laws of logic and reasoning by making this assumption [by the way this professor is also a philosopher, he should know better!]. Basically you can say ‘there are causes, things happening in the material realm that we are unaware of, as of now we have no definite identified cause’ but to say that ‘chance’ itself is the ruling agency is nonsense. The point being we should all have some background before accepting anyone’s teaching 100%. So in some of the recent Christian teaching some have resurrected the older liberal theories that arose in the 19th century out of the universities in Germany. Some teachers taught that the first 5 books of the bible couldn’t have been written by Moses because at the time of Moses writing was unpopular, and that the concept of ‘codified law’ was foreign, and that the commandment against idols was ‘too advanced’ for Moses to have written down around 14-1500 BC. So these liberal theories espoused a sort of view of God and religion that was ‘evolving’ over time. Von Harnack, Wellhausen, the philosopher Hegel all advanced this view [sometimes referred to as the documentary theory]. Well as time rolled on and we became more proficient in archaeology, low and behold we found out that 3-500 years before Moses societies were advanced enough to write down laws. The famous code of Hammurabi was discovered, it was a law code with 282 specific laws written down; something that supposedly was never done at the time. So how did the liberal theologians respond? ‘You are right, Moses very well could have written down the 10 commandments around 1500 BC, as a matter of fact we now think he copied it from Hammurabi’! Yikes! You see when people exalt their view-theory above the actual evidence, then you have problems. It’s not to say that we should blackball their ideas, it’s just we need to know that some of these ideas have been around for a while and they have been fairly well debunked by other able theologians. Just because a ‘new’ theory sounds interesting, doesn’t mean it’s correct. In the teaching course catalog that the teaching company sent me, they also have stuff on the bible and early Christianity and theology. I did not order those courses because I am familiar with the theology of the professor [Bart Erhman] and though I’m sure he is a good man, I know he espouses views that are really not in keeping with mainstream thought. Now, if I had the teachings already, sure I would work the course, but I won’t spend a few hundred dollars on stuff that I already am aware of and have rejected. The point today is historic orthodox Christianity has answered many of the critics questions over the years, it’s not ‘wicked’ for a teacher/writer to reintroduce some of these ideas all over again, but people need to be aware that these things have been floating around for a while and the historic orthodox view is really the better [more historically reliable] view. Yes, momma and daddy’s church, old fashioned as it may be, probably had it right all along!

[just a comment I left on Scot McKnight’s review of Brian McLaren’s latest book- can read it on line at Christianity Today magazine] Is it possible that Brian leaves out the atonement because the classical view seems to not fit with the more advanced [evolved] view of God? The problem with those who do theology from a sort of philosophical/historical lens is that they often find themselves in conflict with biblical theology. I like Brian [somewhat] and appreciate his stance on social issues, I just don’t think we need to ‘re-shape’ orthodox Christian theology to get to the place where he seems to want to go.

(1381) DON’T THINK YOU NEED TO PUT ON A FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN BEFORE YOU START, YOU ARE THE EQUIPMENT… WHEN YOU ENTER A TOWN/CITY, DON’T INSIST ON STAYING IN A LUXURY INN, GET A MODEST PLACE WITH MODEST PEOPLE, AND BE CONTENT WITH THAT- Jesus, message bible [Matthew 10] One day I was reading the Billy Graham column in the paper; the question asked ‘Dear Doctor, I am having a problem with ED [erectile dysfunction] and would like your advice on…’ I thought, you gotta be kidding me man! Then I realized it was a question to another ‘doctor’ that gives medical advice on the same page. It’s easy to confuse ‘the way of the world’ with the way of God. Notice in Jesus above words that he clearly lays down the parameters for us; he flat out tells us ‘don’t go for the luxury, the expensive ‘go getter’ lifestyle, you guys are my witnesses and it won’t help the cause’. Now was Jesus saying there should never be an expression of ministry that uses lots of wealth? No. A good example would be Billy Graham, though his organization has used lots of money over many years, yet society at large does not view brother Graham as a luxurious high thrift spender. You don’t hear messages from Graham on ‘we are the king’s kids! We are the head and not the tail!’ type stuff. Even though you can find this ‘head and not the tail’ principle in scripture [Duet. 28] yet in context we need to hear the whole counsel of God. Jesus flat out gives us up front instructions on how to operate in the area of staying in motels for heaven’s sake, the last thing we need to see is another media expose on some evangelist who stayed in a 5 thousand dollar a night luxury resort on the peoples tab, and then using these other [out of context] verses to justify it! This week we had a guy fly his plane into the IRS building in Austin, as the story unfolded he was disgruntled about the way the IRS fined him and taxed him. In his on line rant he accused the catholic church [and churches in general] as being these hypocrites who use all this money, live these flashy TV lives, and yet have IRS exempt status. It turns out that the scam he was caught up in was he and a bunch of friends started their own ‘house churches’ and would use this as a tax dodge. The IRS caught up with them and fined them for back taxes. In the rant the man sort of admitted that they weren’t really ‘a church’ but at least they weren’t using there status to connive people out of money [like the churches- in his mind]. Do we as believers have a responsibility to examine our selves and how we approach ‘wealth and luxury’ and re-tool our lives/ministries back to the Jesus mandate? I recently had a bill from one of the news papers that I run the blog ad in; it was an unexpected bill that really was a mistake from the papers billing dept. But I did have some past months that they forgot to automatically deduct from my checking. So anyway as I was discussing the situation [thru emails] I finally worked out a deal, but also explained to the paper that I’m not trying to be a cheapskate, but that I pay for all of this stuff from my retirement check and do not take offerings [or accept money in any way]. I also do not use any ministry stuff in any way to gain a financial benefit [I do not deduct my giving from my taxes]. It seems as if when they realized where I was coming from that their attitude changed somewhat. The point being Jesus wants us to approach the kingdom thru a different lens, seeing things differently. How would you feel if you saw Billy Graham on TV doing some teaching on the end time transfer of wealth and heard him justifying his Rolex watch or something to that effect? It would seem to not fit the man’s message; I would hope that we could claim that too.

(1379) HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO UNJUST GOVERNMENTS? One of the most famous dissidents of the soviet era was Alexander Solzhenitsyn; Alexander was a simple school teacher who would serve in the military when Stalin was in power. He had written some critical things about Stalin in a letter to a friend and was put in the communist prison camps. While doing time he met believers and returned to his early faith as a Christian. In the year I was born [1962] he wrote the famous ‘A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich’ it was a fictional account of a man in the prison camps and how he dealt with his captors. The main character would meet a Baptist believer while doing time and sort of represented Alexander’s own plight. Alexander came to fame when Khrushchev would permit him to publish his book, Khrushchev was advancing his own program of Destalinization and he underestimated Alexander’s criticism of all communist type systems, not just Stalin. He would also expose the evils of the prison camps in his other work titled ‘The Gulag Archipelago’. Eventually he was exiled to the U.S. [Vermont was his home] and received much notoriety as a prophetic voice who spoke out for justice. He gave a controversial speech at Harvard [1978?] and the western media came to dislike him; he was critical of loose morality and the evils of western society as well, he was not the sort of liberal crusader that they mistook him to be. Eventually he would return home to Russia and live to see the fall of the system he despised. History is filled with people who stood for what was right against all odds and impacted society for the better, Alexander was a school teacher whose life took a turn of events that he simply followed; he was not ashamed of the gospel and did not tailor his message to please the audience. I like that style; it reminds me of another revolutionary who gave his life to save the world.

(1378) DON’T BEGIN BY TRAVELING TO SOME FAR OFF PLACE TO CONVERT UNBELIEVERS. AND DON’T TRY TO BE DRAMATIC BY TACKLING SOME PUBLIC ENEMY. GO TO THE LOST, CONFUSED PEOPLE RIGHT HERE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. TELL THEM THAT THE KINGDOM IS HERE [NOT POSTPONED UNTIL A NEW TEMPLE GETS REBUILT!] BRING HEALTH TO THE SICK, RAISE THE DEAD, TOUCH THE UNTOUCHABLES- FREELY YOU HAVE RECEIVED, SO DO THIS FOR FREE! Message bible/ my own ad libbing. I like this, Jesus sends his men out with a mission to declare that Gods reality is here. He even tells them not to approach this kingdom with a preconceived mindset of gathering wealth and funds. In another verse he says ‘don’t think you need a lot of equipment for this- you are the equipment’. One of the strange things I have experienced over the years is that I have had been acquainted with many pastors and leaders of ministries. Many times [some times] I would get the feeling that when they would stumble across some of our teachings, they would sort of think ‘yes, that’s what I felt all along!’ and yet thru their public statements you would have never known it [whether some teaching on the prosperity gospel or end times or whatever]. Some actually would use the same arguments from the groups that they supposedly rejected. Why not be upfront about their beliefs? Because modern ministry has lost the mandate from Jesus ‘go, don’t worry about lots of fund raising for heaven’s sake, just trust me to meet your needs each day and be like me’. We often approach ministry with the exact opposite mindset ‘well brother, how can we ever have an impact unless we have enough faith to bring in a harvest of money’? Well the way you will do it is by believing what Jesus just said, don’t start with your own preconceived mindset [God is big enough to get the money to me] but start with Jesus mindset [God is big enough to do it without all the stinking money!] Often times we simply need to re-evaluate along the way, re-tool some things. I want to challenge you today with the simple [yet great!] mindset of Jesus- yes Gods kingdom is here, he is alive and well and ruling in heaven and earth, we express this rule by being like him, not by amassing great wealth!

(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.

(1374) let’s talk a little about the current church scene in certain evangelical circles. I read a news article about a church in Texas, Fellowship church- pastored by Ed Young [the son of the able senior Ed Young] the article showed how brother Young came under criticism for possibly leasing a private jet and mixing the selling of his teachings too much with the non profit ‘church ministry’. Overall it seems like brother Young is a well intentioned pastor, not in the category of ‘the prosperity gospel’ [which some seem to think] and he is a good man, who has been affected by mixing in 21st century corporate models with the biblical idea of Ecclesia [church]. All things I have written about before. Also Pastor Rick Warren [the good pastor from the west coast- Saddleback church] made the statement that the church at Jerusalem was a Mega Church, because some historians tell us that the ‘church’ grew to around 100 thousand believers. Now, I consider both of these men good men, I do not put them in the category of some who truly have lost a biblical message and traded it in for a wealth gospel. But these recent examples show us how we need to re-evaluate the way we think and function. For instance if I were to say ‘the church at Corpus Christi numbers 50 thousand’ you would take that statement to mean there are around 50 thousand believers who reside in the city. To then justify an environment [building] being built to house 50 thousand people, because after all the Jerusalem church had 100 thousand ‘members’- this would be silly. The church at Jerusalem met at Solomon’s Porch, an open space outside the temple. You did not have 100 thousand people ‘showing up for church on Sunday’ [ouch!] but some historians estimate that the ‘church at Jerusalem’ [the believers residing in the city] eventually numbered a high number. Also how should we approach the sale of teaching materials that Christians produce? First we should look at the overall view of scripture, both the basic teachings from Jesus and how the early church operated. Jesus did teach his men ‘freely you have received, freely give’ in context he was talking spiritual gifts [casting out demons, healing, etc.] Both Paul and Peter would give instructions/warnings to younger leaders [elder’s- pastors] to be very careful about mixing in money with ministry. And even though it was possible to make a good living through the profession of preaching in the 1st century [Rhetoric] yet we know that none of the early apostles/pastors did this. One time Larry King was interviewing a prosperity preacher, King asked him ‘how can you believe that Jesus was a very wealthy man, doesn’t the bible show us that he was a humble man’ and the preacher, who obviously knows much more about the bible than King, responded by quoting a few proof texts [Jesus wore an expensive coat] and dismissed Kings criticism. Now, who was right? The image that King [and most people] have of Jesus and his humble life [carpenter] is actually the correct image. The image that the well meaning prosperity preacher had was actually wrong. Now it would take way too much time for me to explain the whole thing [go read my prosperity section] but this example shows us how we can sincerely believe the views we hold are in keeping with scripture, while the whole time they are violating scripture. The purpose of this post is not to condemn Rick Warren or Ed Young, I believe these are good men who I can recommend, I would not tell people ‘don’t give to their ministries’ but I do think we need to function in the 21st century, with all the benefits of modern technology and contemporary conveniences, while also keeping our motives in line with scripture.

(1373) JOHN 17:8-14 Jesus says he has given the words that the father gave to him, to his men. He is preparing to be ‘no more in the world’ but these are in the world, and I am glorified in/thru them. Jesus saw his mission thru the paradigm of having faithfully deposited Gods truth into the people that the father ‘gave him’. This group of men were planned by the father to have been impacted thru his life, Jesus did not see them thru the lens of ‘these men are here to promote/support my calling’ sort of like God gave them to him in order for them to help him reach some type of goal or personal achievement in life. Instead he realized that thru serving them and laying down his life for them, that thru these acts he would be ‘glorified/honored thru them’. That is the people of God would carry on the legacy of Jesus after he was gone, they too would be ‘sent out into the world, even as the father sent me into the world’. He would entrust to them Divine realities and they would pass these truths along to those who the father ‘gave to them’ [Paul- I do all things for the elects sakes]. I want to encourage/challenge our leaders today- do you primarily see the people around you [whether church members or simple friendships in the kingdom] as people God has brought to you in order to help you achieve your mission? That is are they simply assets to ‘the ministry/church’? It’s easy to fall into these mindsets, and it’s not wrong to see God as bringing relationships into your life for the purpose of a great goal, but I think it would be better if we saw these things thru the mindset of Jesus; he knew that his life being poured out as a sacrifice would impact his followers in such a way that for generations to come the ‘words that the father gave to him’ would continue thru the lives of his friends. Don’t be too consumed with the material aspects of the here and now [facilities, finances, etc.] they will all pass away, but those that do the will of God will abide forever.

(1372) JOHN 17:1-7 Jesus said his hour has come, ‘glorify me with the glory which I had with you before the world was. I have manifested your name [who you are] to the men that you gave to me, they were your men and you gave them to me. They have received the words that you gave me, and they know for sure that the things that I taught them came from you.’ There is an element in Christian ministry/teaching when the rubber meets the road, after a period of time people either say ‘you know, I believe what he is saying is accurate’ or when you say ‘enough, I really can’t take this anymore’. Now Jesus will also tell us later in the chapter ‘I have kept the men you gave me, but Judas had to fall away for the scriptures to be fulfilled’ Jesus also dealt with the pain of losing one of his guys. A while back I read an article about a famous evangelical in the UK, he made some waves by referring to the Mother of Jesus in a sort of Catholic way [I forget the exact wording] but he got some heat over it. While trying to defend his new view of becoming more open to the Catholic Church, he said ‘I am as sure about this as I was about the truth of the prosperity movement’ not too comforting for me. The point though is Protestants have a tendency to journey thru the Christian life in sort of a haphazard way, we often see a certain viewpoint about some doctrine [whether true or not] and that becomes what we teach the people, then we see another thing and that becomes the next road. Too often the individualism of the Protestant way of approaching Gods kingdom has us ‘revealing to them the next new thing coming down the pike’ as opposed to saying with Jesus ‘I have manifested thy name unto the men which you gave me’. We have all been put here with a predetermined purpose from God, we can’t say ‘glorify me with the glory which I had with you [father] before the world was’ but we can say ‘father, carry out the purpose that you gave to me before the world was, that eternal purpose that you destined me for, before I ever existed’ we need to grasp a better hold on the purpose of God for our lives. We need to stop following people, even good intentioned people, thru all their ups and downs and highs and lows of new experiences and teachings; in Ephesians Paul said the purpose of us being ‘a body/community’ was so we could be built up and not be tossed around by every whim and new doctrine that people come up with. The ‘Body’ imagery speaks of the people of God as a worldwide community, a living corporate being whom God indwells. When we hear and grow with the ‘whole church- of all time’ then we do well, when we follow too closely individual men/teachers we spend too much time going up and down.

(1370) BY FAITH THE WALLS OF JERICHO CAME DOWN, AFTER THEY WERE COMPASSED ABOUT FOR 7 DAYS- Hebrews 11. Also ‘Moses and the children of Israel went thru the Red Sea like it was dry ground, others drowned in the same attempt’. We often view ministry/serving God thru a mindset that says ‘I have this vision, this thing I want to do for God- I see myself being in ‘full time ministry’ and I am not cut out to live a normal life’. Now, many good men with noble goals have done great things ‘for God’, the point I want to make, in keeping with the previous post, is that Jesus gave us a way to approach ‘Christianity’ and it doesn’t start with ‘my big vision’ it starts with service and sacrifice. Years ago when I was pastoring I had friends who would come to our meetings, others who were members, who were ‘word of faith- prosperity’ brothers. I had one friend who was actually an ordained ‘WOF’ [word of faith] pastor. I advised him to try and get a ‘secular job’ while waiting on his ministry, he refused to work. It was common to run into brothers with this mindset. They meant well, but they were approaching the Christian life thru a lens that said ‘I am not cut out for the working world, so I aint gonna work, period!’ What can you do with these types of mindsets? In the above verses the people of God did not disconnect faith from action, real consistent action. Faith made the walls of Jericho fall down, AFTER 7 days of labor! Moses attempted something that others died attempting; he then kept the ordinances and remained faithful for 40 years in the dessert. We often say ‘well, it wasn’t Gods plan for them to wander for 40 years, they brought that upon themselves’ true; but then Jesus would have never been able to say ‘Moses gave you manna for 40 years, I am the true bread that comes down from heaven’. The point being we need to be prepared for a consistent life of faithfully doing God’s will, there will be times when the glory of the Red Sea experience will turn into a bunch of rebels whining about Quail! Much of Christianity in our day has mastered the ‘Quail request’ we say ‘give us abundance, more and more’ God said ‘okay, you got what you wanted’ and the bible says they ate Quail till it came out their nose! I believe God has some good things in store for us down the road, we are all in this together [Abraham dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob- all heirs of THE SAME PROMISE] Its just every now and then we need to make some adjustments, it seems this season is one of those times.

(1369) Been reading Hebrews 11 ‘by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things we see were not made from things that appear’ in keeping with the last few posts, it seems that God himself has said we will eventually get stuck at a point of irreducible complexity- or at least we will get to a point where the actual act of God creating the physical realm will be ‘unseen’ by physical means [Physics]. Any way I wanted to mention Moses, Hebrews says that by faith his parents hid him for 3 months, by faith he forsook the pleasures/riches of being a son of pharaoh, by faith he kept the Passover and sprinkling of blood, etc… Often times Moses and the story of the children of Israel fleeing Egypt is seen thru a materialistic lens- ‘look, God gave them all the riches of Egypt on their way out, a Divine transfer of wealth’ actually God simply made the Egyptians reimburse them for all their years of free slave labor, we call that evening the playing field [reparations]. The point I want to make is Moses made a conscious decision, by faith, to not walk the path of the highly successful ‘jet setter’ he rejected a lifestyle that would have elevated him to the top of society and instead chose to ‘suffer affliction with the people of God’. Hebrews 11 also speaks of those who ‘by faith’ were tortured, not accepting deliverance- that is in today’s church world we very rarely view successful faith thru this lens- we actually give the impression of Jobs friends ‘surely Job, you must be messing up in some way, look at the hell your going thru’ but the scriptures teach us there are definite times where the cost of faith will be making the decision to not take the bait, to make the decision to make less money- or to attain less status; these are very real choices that the bible tells us about over and over again. If we were told ‘look, I am going to give you a book by some revolutionary, in it he will give you the keys to greatness and being a true follower’ and then you received a New Testament, and you start reading it for the 1st time- you would be inundated with a message and calling that says over and over again ‘unless you forsake all, you can’t follow me’ ‘whoever loves this life, can’t be my disciple’ ‘unless you take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of me ‘you can’t serve God and money ‘it’s harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom than for a camel to pass thru the eye of a needle’ I mean you would be hard pressed to walk away from the New testament with a message of wealth and luxury! Moses, by faith, chose to forsake a life of luxury and success, he chose ‘affliction’ for the sake of a higher calling- I want to challenge you guys today [especially all our Pastor/leader readers] have you been influenced too much by the modern ‘health/wealth’ message? Has the busyness of ministry and the pressures of life ‘choked these words that they have become unfruitful’ [Jesus parable of the sower]. Remember, Jesus said the enemy comes to steal the words of Jesus; he tries to cause us to forget, to ‘not see’ the actual things that Jesus said. Don’t feel guilty if this is you, just rethink what I shared in this post and by Gods grace make the adjustments- God is challenging many ministries at this season, there are good men who mean well, but lots of ministry that is focused on extreme wealth and needing millions to accomplish the mission, these are going to be challenged in the economically challenging days ahead. But if your ministry/mission is seen the thru lens of the great revolutionary [Jesus] you will do well. Hey, sometimes faith is the act of walking away from the status and limelight, sometimes it’s ‘forsaking the riches of Egypt’ and embracing some affliction.

(1367) IS ‘I.D.’ DEAD? I read an article the other day on ID [intelligent design] it was written by an able scientist, Stephen Barr, and it severely challenged the science of ID. ID is a field of study that would fit under the apologetic category of ‘teleology’ the argument for the existence of God from design. That is we see design in the cosmos, in living things, etc. And all evidence indicates that design/information cannot randomly appear without an intelligent mind as the source. Many have challenged this idea; Richard Dawkins [the famous atheist] calls it ‘the appearance of design’. In the field of ID, many very capable scientists [Stephen Meyer, William Dembski, Michael Behe] and others [lawyer Phillip Johnson] have shown us that you can ‘use’ evolution as a tool to try and explain how things got here, but as a tool it is utterly helpless in showing us where design/information actually come from. Sometimes this argument is referred to as ‘irreducible complexity’. That you can simplify things down to the most basic form of life, and even at that level you have an extremely high degree of information [DNA] that evolution has no way of explaining how this information got there [this field is called information theory]. So the basic argument from the ID standpoint is science shows us that evolution is not the answer to the origin of life [which Darwin never claimed it was- he claimed it was how species got here, thus the 1859 book ‘on the origin of the species’]. Yet most average students of science [high school stuff] think that evolution is a proven theory that has answered these questions. If the truth be known the more we learn, the less likely evolutionary theory will answer these questions. Now in the article the Christian scientist challenged the other Christian scientists over the validity of ID. Science has various definitions; the actual word simply means knowledge. But some say unless you can demonstrate a repeatable experiment in the lab, that it’s not technically science. Yet evolution, in all of its efforts to demonstrate the most basic plank of its theory, has failed miserably. Science has not been able to demonstrate how one species can change into another [common ancestry] the many hundreds of thousands of poor fruit flies who have been genetically engineered in trying to get this to happen, has failed over and over again. Science can’t even demonstrate the most basic plank of evolution, never mind all the other impossible things that evolution supposedly does. So if the truth be known, according to this definition of science, neither evolution nor ID work. But this is not the only way to define science, when dealing with origins [how things get here] you can never find a theory that can be viable according to the definition of ‘repeated, observable testing’- creation itself is not a repeatable event [unless of course God decides to create something!] The article stirred up a hornets’ nest among both sides of the debate [the article is on the catholic site ‘first things’ you can also link to it from Christianity Today- it’s called the death of ID]. As you read some of the debate it can get a little Ivory Tower, but for the most part it’s a good debate to have and many well informed points have been made by both sides, I would encourage all of our readers to go check it out.

(1366) IT’S NOT A CHARGER! I was reading the account of Jesus on the Cross. One of the accusations that his enemies hurled at him was ‘he said that the temple would be destroyed and he would rebuild it in 3 days, wow, what happened to your big expectations’? Actually they misunderstood him, Jesus was speaking of his own death and resurrection when he said this, but the misunderstanding remained. Of course Jesus could have said ‘you fools! I am presently in the process of doing it’ but he decided earlier not to waste his time refuting all the accusations against him. Many years ago I had some neighbors who were good friends, but they kinda gave the impression ‘O no, these guys are one of those bible Christians’. Though they never expressed the thought, you could sense it. Anyway one time the wife rang the bell and asked if I could jump start her car, she was late for an appointment and had no time for a battery charge. So she expressly tells me ‘I need a jump, not a charger’. Well I have one of those ‘chargers’ that also ‘jumps’ the car [booster]. So as I was walking to her driveway she managed to start it, but not before expressing her attitude of ‘I told you I don’t need a charger [you idiot!] but never mind I got it started’. Now it would have taken around 8 words to explain why I’m not an idiot, but why waste the time. Till this day she still thinks I brought the charger. Some times in life it’s worth the time to correct and even at times defend your position, but you can also become consumed with trying to correct the record, in the long run its really a waste of time. This week the president shot back at his critics over the handling of the Christmas day bomber. He sent out one of his intelligence men [John Brennan] to defend their actions. The problem is that Brennan wrote an op-ed in the USA today that made it sound like they briefed the top intelligence officials along with the Republicans and that they had enough info to know that they were going to read the Miranda rights to the guy. But during the recent public hearings on the case, both Democrats and Republicans revealed that the top officials were not consulted, they were simply ‘informed’ of the decision that Attorney general Holder had made. Why did the FBI read the rights to the man? In their defense the administration has brought up the fact that Bush also did this with Richard Reid [shoe bomber]. Bush did this around 9 years ago, shortly after 911. Our govt. admittedly did not have the procedures in place to deal effectively with detaining terrorists. Bush and Cheney spent a few years retooling our govt. to fit the job. That’s why we built the jail and military court system at Gitmo, the ‘enhanced’ interrogation unit [water boarding] and various other tools to handle the new threat. The tapping of suspected phone calls leaving the country was a new procedure that also came under fierce criticism from the Democrats. One of the main tools Bush implemented was a team of top interrogators from the CIA who mastered the art of apprehending the suspects and interrogating them before reading them their rights. The whole system at Gitmo was Bush’s way of trying to bypass the entire American court system and have a way that these guys would be first dealt with as possible outlets of info. Of course the Democrats spent many years condemning all these new procedures, from accusing the administration as being torturers to saying we threw out the constitution in our efforts to deal with the problem. So Obama made a very conscious choice to say he would close Gitmo in a year [still not done] he ‘un-did’ the governments wire tapping program for suspects calling from inside the country- and he straight out dismantled the interrogation unit from the CIA. At the time there actually were military trials under way, Obama stopped them, read all the detainees their Miranda rights and started over. Okay, many felt that all these things seriously set back the country in its fight against terror, that’s why Cheney was so vocal. So why did we treat the Christmas bomber like a criminal? Obama never replaced the dismantled CIA interrogation unit with a new unit from the FBI [like he said he would do]. In essence they did drop the ball. But they are sending out their guys to make it sound like ‘look, we are doing the same stuff as Bush, look at Richard Reid’ but that was a few months after 911, grant it Bush did treat him like a common criminal ,because it took them a few years to develop all these other tools. But if you dismantle the tools, then yes, you are willingly going back to square 1 with the whole thing. The whole point is Obama certainly did ‘un-do’ many of the procedures put in place by Bush- fine. But don’t now defend yourself by saying ‘we are doing all that Bush did’. This new administration has made some very serious mistakes and dropped the ball on some stuff; both Democrats and Republicans agree. Lets rethink some stuff and if need be re institute the interrogation team from the CIA [absent the water boarding]. Don’t simply spend all your time trying to say ‘we did nothing wrong’ it’s about as futile as telling my neighbor ‘it’s not a charger’!

(1365) THIS IS MY BLOOD OF THE NEW TESTAMENT- I was reading Mark’s account of the last supper. The disciples realize the importance of keeping the ancient feast day and they ask Jesus ‘where do you want us to prepare the meal’? Just a chapter earlier they were glorying in all the ‘holy buildings’ of the temple and Jesus told them ‘see all these wonderful places- there shall not be one stone left upon another when all is said and done’- ouch! But now he seems to need a building, or at least a place to sit down and eat. He tells his men ‘go into town and you will meet some guy carrying a water container, follow him into the house and ask the master where the room is, he will show you a large upper room, all furnished- that’s the spot’. Jesus didn’t need to spend any money on building his own temple; he knew the voluntary community would provide places to meet. They sit down and he tells them ‘understand, this is the New Testament, the new ‘oath’ the scroll of redemption that John will write about in Revelation, it is being purchased with my Blood’ they seemed to not comprehend what he was saying. He often made statements that went right over their heads- then he quotes another one of those obscure prophetic scriptures that nobody seemed to focus on ‘the chief one will be smitten and the sheep will be scattered’ [Zechariah] he tells them ‘see, the prophets said you guys are going to be scattered, be offended and deny me’. Peter says ‘what! No way Jesus, maybe these other guys but not me’. Poor old peter, Jesus says ‘buddy, you will be one of the worst’. Man things don’t seem to be going good at this point, I mean when the leader of a community is about to face his toughest test yet, the last thing he needs is a bunch of offended staff! Nevertheless he takes with him Peter, James and John and they head off to the garden, you know the place where they crush olives to get the precious oil, very prophetic indeed. Jesus tells the guys ‘stay here while I go and pray’. He walks a little further and falls down and is in agony ‘Father, all things are possible with thee, I know I have come for this purpose in my life, but please, if there is another way to accomplish this, then let’s go the other route’. Who knows, maybe the father will do something that no one expects? He goes back to his men, hey maybe they will say ‘wow Jesus, as you were praying Moses and Elijah appeared to us, like before- and they told us ‘the father said there’s another way’. But instead Jesus finds them sleeping! What, you guys couldn’t even pray with me for an hour? I’m here pouring out my life for you, giving it all I got, and I was hoping that the 3 years I invested in training you might have had better results, you guys are letting me down. This happens 2 more times and Jesus says ‘enough, go ahead and sleep, I’m going to have to die and seal this scroll in my Blood- after 3 days I will be back and go before you into Galilee, but these will be the longest 3 days in the history of man’. Of course we know the rest of the story. As the church worldwide enters into Lent, let’s remember the price that Jesus paid for the New Testament signed in his Blood, as Protestants and Catholics let’s celebrate the historic churches 40 day season of fasting and prayer, you don’t have to do a ‘full fast’ maybe just a Vegan type fast, which was what the early church practiced, but let’s try and be a little more appreciative of the price that was paid so the ‘table’ could be set. Jesus said ‘this is my Blood, the whole thing rides on me’ he met the challenge and redeemed the world, may the world be grateful for it.

(1364) MANY SHALL COME IN MY NAME SAYING ‘I AM CHRIST’ AND SHALL DECIEVE MANY- Jesus, Marks gospel. Many years ago while reading thru this portion of scripture I saw this verse from a different angle; instead of seeing it like a false prophet claiming himself to be Christ [Sun Yung Moon] I saw it applying to many well meaning preachers who come in Jesus name and confess him as Christ, but yet are prone to propagating errors in an unconscious way. They say ‘Yes, we believe Jesus is Christ’ and yet mess up in other areas. I remember hearing a ‘revelation word’ [EKK!] on God’s creation of Woman. It went like this- Wo-Man means ‘wombed man’ and that after God made man, he then made woman [another man] and put a womb on him, thus the term ‘wombed man’. You might be laughing right now, but this silly way of interpreting the bible has been repeated over and over again on national TV networks where the network leaders agreed with the teacher and saw it as some deep truth, then the poor audience of millions is encouraged to give more millions so the word can be sent out into all the world. Basically well meaning people teaching fake stuff to the world, over and over again. Now, does ‘woman’ mean ‘wombed man’? No. Our bibles were primarily written in Hebrew and Greek, when these words are translated into English, the way the English word sounds has nothing at all to do with the actual meaning of the word. I mean this is very basic hermeneutics [way of interpreting scripture] so how can it be that a very ‘uneducated’ way of teaching would be broadcast to the whole world when even the most basic bible student knows it’s wrong? One of the great benefits of the 16th century Reformation was the return of interpreting the bible in a ‘literal sense’- now, many Protestants are confused by this term. Literal sense means the bible should be read as actual literature, like if you were reading history or poetry or any other book. So when you are reading portions of the bible that are historical narrative, you take it as history. When reading portions of poetry, you read it like you would read any poetry- in a literal sense, not taking the actual poetry as history! Like when the Psalms speaks of the hills skipping or the trees clapping their hands, you don’t take it literally in the sense that the trees have actual hands. This hermeneutic was not new, but it was a minority way of viewing scripture during the middle ages. Many teachers at the time were influenced strongly by the early Greek idea of scripture having 4 different ways it could be understood. Each passage having a moral, symbolic, literal meaning. In the third century you had the famous school in Alexandria, Egypt. This was the first ‘Christian school’ where you could learn theology and philosophy. One of the famous teachers was Origen, he was heavily influenced by a man by the name of Plotinus- a philosopher credited with the founding of a philosophy called ‘Neo Platonism’. This Greek philosophical way of seeing things impacted not only Origen [and many other Greek fathers] but also the highly influential Saint Augustine. So for many centuries you had very respected church teachers hold to this highly symbolic way of reading the bible. It’s important to note that when reading Augustine, if you are reading his earlier works they are more heavily influenced by Greek philosophy than his later works. Near the end of his life Augustine re-evaluated all of his former works and wrote a paper called ‘retractions’ in which he cleared up some of his earlier stuff. Anyway the Protestant Reformation returned the church to a more solid way of reading scripture. But ‘literal sense’ does not mean you take the portions of scripture that are poetic or symbolic and turn them into history! During the rise of ‘liberalism’ in the 19th century you had many holding to a view of scripture that rejected all the supernatural portions of the bible as ‘myth’. The story of Jonah being swallowed by the whale was considered a ‘well meaning’ story, but just a story. Was it only the ‘liberal’ theologians that rejected the historical truth of Jonah? No, you also have well grounded teachers that too take Jonah in a non historical way. Why? The book of Jonah starts out as historical narrative, but then you have portions [Jonahs prayer in the belly of the whale] that are a very high from of poetry. Does this mean the story didn’t really happen? No, but some good theologians would doubt the history of Jonah based on this [I don’t]. The whole point being when we read the bible, we should have some basic historical framework when reading it, that is how did other believers thru the centuries view these things. Be aware of the various different approaches to the bible, and for heaven’s sake, if a word sounds like it means something in English [woman= wombed man] do a little background study before proclaiming it to the whole world, for many ‘shall come in my name, believing that I am Christ, and shall deceive many’.

(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’.

(1360) Lets do a little Catholic/Protestant stuff. First, those of you who have read this site for any period of time know that as a Protestant I am ‘pro Catholic’ that is I read and study Catholic scholars, believe in the ECT statement [Evangelicals and Catholics together] and for the most part am pro Catholic in that sense. I have offended more Protestants because of this stance than Catholics. But sometimes I need to state the differences and be honest about them, true ecumenical unity should never be achieved on the altar of doctrine, we should not sacrifice sincerely held beliefs while seeking unity for Christ’s church. Last night I caught the journey home show with Marcus Grodi as well as Catholic scholar Scott Hahn [EWTN- the Catholic network]. Scott was doing a teaching on the sacraments of the church and shared a common belief in the ‘incarnational’ aspect of matter. Some theologians believe [both Catholic and Protestant] that since God became man in Jesus, that this united/sanctified matter in a way that never occurred before. They will carry this thought into sacramental theology and teach a kind of ‘connection’ with God thru material things; both Baptism and the Eucharist would be major examples. I believe the historic church was well intended when they developed this idea, they were combating the popular Greek/Gnostic belief that matter is inherently evil, not a biblical doctrine. As Scott Hahn made the argument I simply felt that he gave too much weight to the idea that because of the incarnation [God becoming man] that now there is a special ‘sanctity’ to material things when connected with the sacraments. Does the bible teach that there are actual physical things in this world that carry out the truth of the incarnation in a material way? Actually it does, the bible teaches that the bodies of believers have this special aspect because Gods Spirit lives in us. In essence the idea of ‘special matter’ that is often taught by well meaning scholars can be applied to the physical church in the earth, all who believe. I do not totally dismiss sacramental theology, many Protestants who dismiss it out of hand are not aware of the strong beliefs that the reformers held too in these areas. Luther is often misunderstood when it comes to his disagreement with Calvin, many teach and think that he split with Calvin over the doctrine of Predestination, he did not- Luther’s written views on the doctrine were just as strong [if not stronger] on the subject. Calvin never wrote a book dedicated solely to the doctrine, Luther did [bondage of the will]. But they did split on the sacrament of the Eucharist, Luther’s view [consubstantiation] was much closer to the Catholic view than Calvin, and Zwingli [the Swiss reformer] was further away than both Calvin and Luther. Lutheranism would eventually be developed by a protégé of Luther, Philip Melanchthon, and the Lutheran church would bear the image of Melanchthon more than Luther. The point being many good men have held to very strong views on these matters. I believe the biblical doctrine leans more heavily on the ‘material body’ of the believer as being the major material change since the incarnation, I do not hold to the idea that ‘God becoming man’ fundamentally changed the nature of matter when dealing with the sacraments. Matter is not [nor ever was] intrinsically evil, Greek dualism got it wrong from the start- we do not need a strong sacramental theology to refute this, scripture itself will do.

(1359) ‘Now go, write it before them on a tablet [in a table] and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come, forever and ever’ Isaiah 30:8 ‘Take a large scroll and write on it with the pen of a man’ ‘Write the vision and make it plain upon tables [tablets] that he may run that reads it’ ‘all these sayings were noised abroad, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts’ [Jesus in the gospels]. Last night I caught an interesting movie ‘the book of Eli’ with Denzel Washington. If you haven’t seen it yet then don’t read the rest of this post. Eli lives in this future apocalyptic world [Mad Max] and is on this mission to travel west, he encounters all types of obstacles on the way [lots of blood and guts] and finally arrives at his destination, it’s a publishing house stuck on Alcatraz where these survivors spend all their time copying any books they can get their hands on for the future world; Eli announces ‘I have a King James Bible’ and he gets in. The book of Eli was the bible. In the above verses God shows us how important it is in the history of Salvation for people to write and record his words. In the middle ages you had the Monastic movement [Monks, monasteries] and these Catholic brothers separated themselves from the corruption of the world and became spiritual hermits. They were experts at 2 things; farming and the copying of important manuscripts. In the middle ages secular society learned farming thru the monks. The art of copying ancient books not only preserved theological works, but also secular ones. It was their dedication to saving these works that led to the Renaissance and rediscovery of the ancient works of philosophy and Greek thought. They were like the scribes of Jesus day. Do you value the ability to have and access great treasures? Even the bible, as history, is incredibly valuable. I mean how many other First century [and earlier] documents are lying all over the place and are being read and quoted by 1st graders as well as professors? With the great library system of our day [which I used extensively over a 15 year period] as well as the internet we have the ability to truly learn stuff that past generations would have given anything to have learned. Proverbs says wisdom is lying in the streets, at the crossroads of every city- yet fools have no appetite for it. I want to challenge you guys today, especially all our Pastors and leaders, take time to acquaint yourself with the great classics of western literature, read the great Christian [and non Christian] works of the centuries, don’t spend all your time reading/learning from one group or movement [especially if it’s one of these isolated Christian denominations] God [and men] have gone to too much trouble to get these valuable words copied and distributed to the world, take some time to read them.

(1358) LOTS OF PEOPLE WOULD HAVE GIVEN ANYTHING TO SEE WHAT YOU ARE SEEING AND TO HEAR WHAT YOU ARE HEARING, BUT THEY NEVER HAD THE CHANCE- Jesus to his men- Message bible. This week we had the passing of the famed author J.D. Salinger. He wrote the famous Catcher in the Rye and around 3-4 other books. He dropped out of sight in 1965 and gave 1 interview thru out the years [1980]. Though he was considered a great writer [by some] he chose to ‘not write’ [or at least publish- some think we will find a hidden trove of his books]. He hated publishing and rejected the limelight and success. But in a strange way this added to his mystique and eventually his book would become standard reading in many high schools. In essence ‘many people would have loved to see what he was able to see/write, but never had the chance’. As I am reading thru the gospels right now it’s interesting to see ‘the Jesus model’- his men are arguing over who will be ‘the greatest’ as he is getting ready for the Cross! Come on guys, the time is short and you still haven’t learned? He asks them ‘who is greater, the one who serves or the one who is being served’? In their minds the one who is being served, the owner/master has achieved the greatness and success and notoriety. But then Jesus does the unthinkable [for a king] he takes a towel and washes the disciples feet, he tells them that he that becomes the least- walks away from the fame and recognition- this one is the greatest. Truly Jesus was the ‘small seed, the least of all seeds. But when he was planted he became the greatest tree in the earth’ He practiced what he preached. Who knows, maybe Salinger would have never gained the recognition of being a great author if he sought to be a great author. Either way he fulfilled the mystery of an enigma, he ran from the glory and it chased him till the end.

(1356) LET THE NATIONS BE GATHERED TOGETHER AND THE PEOPLE BE ASSEMBLED- In the gospels Jesus uses the imagery of a table to describe the kingdom ‘They shall come from the north and south and east and west and sit at my table in my kingdom’. Psalms says ‘thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies’ God has a way of ‘setting the table’ if you will. Now the church has been divided over the use of the gospels versus the epistles [letters of Paul]. Historically Protestants have focused more on the epistles, specifically Galatians, Romans- and the Catholic/Orthodox include much of the gospels in their services. When we leave out either we get into trouble. A strong focus on the gospels without the epistles can lead to a legalistic righteousness- trying to simply live up to the moral law type of a thing, without a good understanding of the Spirit empowered life. But too much of a focus on the epistles without a high regard for the gospels can lead to a view of Christianity that sees ‘right doctrine’ as being more important than ‘right acting’ [orthopraxy]. So for sure we need both. One of the other interesting things we see in the gospels is the ‘kingdom’ in action versus an ecclesiology focused on ‘church meetings’. For instance we read of Jesus sending out the disciples and telling them ‘go, preach, heal, do good- and whatever city/place rejects you then wipe off the dust of that place when you leave’ Ouch! Yet at the same time you find the crowds drawn to Jesus everywhere he goes. Sort of like a message/lifestyle that goes out into society to impact it, but not a whole lotta ‘come to my church’ type stuff. In American Christianity we see too much focus on ‘come to/support this ministry’ type of a thing, and not enough ‘shaking the dust off our ‘- that is doing the will of God and then being able to walk away. In John’s gospel John the Baptist [not the author] says ‘he must increase and I MUST decrease’ there really isn’t much of a choice. I want to challenge you today, are you [especially Pastors/ministers] spending too much time trying to raise support for ‘the church’? Do you primarily see your responsibility as filling up a meeting room? Reorient your life around the action seen in the gospels, impact people and give them leadership, but then be able to decrease, to let them see you ‘less and less’ as time goes by- and be willing to walk away from some things, not walk away from responsible leadership, but from things that center too much on our individual personas. Just because people want to hear us speak in person, or just because the crowds get bigger, this is not automatically a signal for building a bigger building! We need to re-look at lots of things, let the people be gathered together and the nations be assembled [i.e. be available to impact groups] but don’t be obsessed with forcing people to gather [come to church type of a focus].

(1354) O FOOLS AND SLOW OF HEART TO BELIEVE ALL THAT THE PROPHETS HAVE SPOKEN; WAS IT NOT NECESSARY THAT THE SON OF MAN SHOULD SUFFER THESE THINGS AND ENTER INTO HIS GLORY? Jesus said this to his men after he rose from the dead, they were doubting and wondering about his crucifixion and he told them that all these things were written in ‘the prophets’. Jesus also said ‘Moses said this, but I say this’. Moses said- was a reference to the first 5 books of the bible [Torah, Pentateuch] and the ‘prophets’ is referring to the rest of the old testament, apart from the wisdom books [Psalms, Proverbs, etc.] The rebuke was the fact that they had the truth all the time, they were ‘slow to believe’ all of it. As I was finishing up the Galatians study a few days ago I showed how Paul was always making his case from the Old Testament, he used the stories in scripture to prove his points. When teaching on this site, I try and share a broad range of church history, from many various perspectives. In essence I try and include ‘the whole thing, all that has been taught by the church fathers’ it’s important to read and learn from a broad perspective, it keeps you out of trouble. Today’s word is simply ‘are you listening to all that the prophets have spoken’ are you hearing all the sides of the issues your church/denomination teaches? This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have convictions about your own beliefs [I do] but it does mean that we are all part of a broad community of believers, many various ‘camps’ and perspectives. In order for us to fulfill our mandate to be ‘one in Christ’ it is our responsibility to be challenged in our views and to also have the love and concern for other believers to challenge them too. This should always be done in love and for the benefit of the whole body, take some time to hear what ‘all the prophets have spoken’ it will do you [and me] some good.

(1345) BUT BEFORE FAITH CAME, WE WERE KEPT UNDER THE LAW,SHUT UP UNTO THE FAITH THAT WOULD AFTERWARDS BE REVEALED- Galatians 3:23 Over the years I have grown in my understanding of ‘church/ministry’ and have come to see that God requires of us to ‘do justice, love mercy and walk humbly’- that is we often begin the Christian life [especially minister/pastor] with a bunch of noble goals and dreams and we become fixated on the finances and buildings and all the outward stuff that we think is needed to ‘reach the world’. All well meaning men with noble goals, but often times the whole thing devolves into ‘if these parishioners would be obedient and tithe 10 % of their income we could do great things’ and behind the scenes there begins to be an accusatory spirit by the leaders/pastors towards ‘these rebels’. As someone who does not receive offerings or money I have been freed from this whole scenario. Now, how does ‘faith come/ be revealed’? In contrast to the above picture, God will often speak to us and use us when we do not have the cart before the horse- when our time and efforts are not always consumed with building ‘our ministry’ or getting the funds needed for what we think is Gods purpose. In the parable of the great supper, Jesus says a man prepared this great meal/table and he sent his servant out at suppertime to call the guests, and out of the first 3 groups he goes to, 2 out of 3 couldn’t make it because they purchased stuff [land, livestock] then the master gets mad and sends him to the poor, blind and maimed [do justice] and there is still room so he is told to go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in. The point I want to make is those who were preoccupied with stuff missed the true riches, it’s not that they meant to be rebellious; it’s just the nature of the beast. I want to encourage all of our leaders to re-focus as the New Year begins, sure- you are going to have to deal with practical things [money, etc.] but don’t become so consumed with ‘the ministry’ that this becomes the driving factor of your life. I have had ‘minister friends’ who were always talking about, or trying to ‘build up the work’ some times when we would interact [run into each other] if I had a homeless guy they couldn’t wait until I would ‘lose’ the brother so we could talk ministry. I know they mean well, but they are so consumed with ‘the stuff’ they couldn’t see the true riches; they were missing the ‘great supper’ and didn’t even realize it. ‘In as much as you did it unto the least of these, you did it unto me’.

(1342) WHEN THE SEED SHOULD COME TO WHOM THE PROMISE WAS MADE- As I was teaching thru Galatians this verse ‘spoke to me’ in a personal way [will explain it in a second]. I felt like the Lord was saying that there are long term promises/destinies that he has planted within us, both as individuals and communities, and that often times he is waiting for the ‘seed to come to whom the promise was made’. In the parables of Jesus the seed speaks of a few things. Most of us are familiar with ‘the seed as the word’ imagery- ‘the sower sows the word’. But Jesus also speaks of ‘the seed’ as the children of the kingdom that his father has planted in the world. And of course in Galatians Paul is specifically referring to the singular seed, who is Christ. Every few years I go thru our radio messages and will adjust the programs I air. I often find that the messages that I marked as ‘o.k.’ are not o.k. anymore, it’s not that they are bad, it’s just I notice a tone/level of ‘seed’ [spoken word] that is not mature enough, it seems like as the years roll by the later messages just sound better. God has all of us in a maturing process; things that we thought were ‘deep revelation’ at one time, now sound quite silly. As I was marking off the programs that sounded too immature, I felt like the Lord was saying ‘the seed has come to whom the promise was made’ sort of like the lord was saying ‘son, I was waiting for your level of maturity to catch up to the promise’. Also in Romans it says ‘the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now’ I also felt like the Lord was saying the seed, as it pertains to all the people groups we relate to, were also in a ‘birthing process’ that too had to mature to a point where the promises could be inherited- ‘when the fullness of times was come, God sent forth his son, made of a woman, made under the law’ [Galatians] God has ‘fullness seasons’ times [Kairos] when he says ‘okay, the promises I made to you at the beginning of the journey are now ready to be experienced’ in essence the seed has come to whom the promise was made. Now, this sort of spiritual/symbolic way of hearing God, is it a good way to develop doctrine? No! Never, ever! Pope Benedict critiqued the ‘historical, critical’ method of liberal theology in his book ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ the method developed out of the liberal universities in Germany in the 19th- 20th centuries. Men like Rudolph Bultman would popularize it. It was a way of reading scripture thru an historical/archeological lens. Some of the ideas are good and profitable, but some are not. Many would reject the supernatural aspects of scripture and come to deny the resurrection. Not good. The Pope also warned against this way of ‘dissecting’ Jesus and Christianity to a point where you really don’t see the true Jesus anymore. The real Jesus of Christianity and history, the Jesus that we all have a relationship with by faith. The point being we want to go to scripture with an open heart and expectancy to ‘hear God’. While doing this, we also want to recognize that the scripture had the SAME MEANING to the first century church as to us today, the meaning never changes, the applications do. That’s the main point I want to make, so today the Lord might be speaking to you about certain ‘seeds’ coming to maturity in your own life, things that you have been waiting for and maybe the lord was saying he needed a maturing process to take place, both in you and the people you relate to. The ‘whole creation’ if you will.

(1340) GALATIANS AFTER-THOUGHTS: As I said the other day I will try and go back over a few verses and share a few more things on Galatians. One of the things I wanted to mention was the fact that I purposefully chose to teach the letter in the classic Protestant way [mostly] I avoided getting into the ‘New Perspective’ ideas on Paul and ‘what he really meant’. So let’s talk a little on it; as of the date of this writing there is a theological debate going on [mostly in the ivory towers, but seeping somewhat into mainstream thought] that re-looks at Paul and what the context of his day was. For instance when the Reformers of the 16th century spoke about being Justified by Faith and not by works, many of them were speaking about the works of tradition and the things they felt were wrong in the Catholic faith. Were they wrong in applying Paul this way? No. In context was Paul talking about the works of ‘Catholic tradition’ when saying men are not justified by works? No. So it’s good to point stuff like this out. The problem I see with some of the New Perspective theologians is they can explain stuff and when you’re done listening [reading] it’s possible to miss the heart of the New Testament doctrine on Justification by faith, we don’t want to lose people in the weeds when trying to peel the layers of the onion. So I purposefully chose to teach this letter in the plain way that most Protestants would understand it, but I do think that N.T. Wright [Bishop of Durham, Church of England] has good things to add to the debate [as well as John Piper- the Reformed Baptist preacher who has taken the New Perspective group and rebuked them]. It’s good and profitable to engage in these types of theological discussions, but we need to once again ‘keep the main thing the main thing’. I also avoided getting into the debate on exactly what ‘works of the law’ meant. Some think Paul was only referring to the rite of circumcision. In some verses [both here and in Romans] this is true. But some [N.T. Wright] apply this in a way that says the act itself was simply an ‘identifying badge’ that brought you into the community of God, while this is true, they get a little off track by not fully seeing that in Paul’s writings these things go hand in hand. Paul mixes in the ‘work of circumcision’ with the idea of keeping the moral law/10 commandments. When saying ‘we are not under the law’ Paul includes all of it, not just the ceremonial law. How do we know this? Because whenever Paul makes this argument he always adds ‘does this mean we go out and sin’? And his answer is always no, but instead of saying ‘no, don’t sin because we are still constrained by the 10 commandments’ he says ‘no, how can we who died to sin still live in it’. To be frank about it, many of the Reformed guys have problems with this as well, they teach a kind of theology that says the N.T. believer is under the law, I disagree. So as you can see this debate can go on for a while, that’s why I chose to avoid it in this study. I want all of our readers to be grounded in the basic truths of the letter before launching into a deeper level. Okay enough for now, tune in the next week or so and I’ll try and do some practical stuff from Galatians.

(1339) In Johns’ gospel, chapter 3, John the Baptist’s disciples tell him ‘look- Jesus is baptizing more converts than you and you are losing the crowd’. John tells them that he is fine with losing the limelight, he says his joy is in the fact that the bride [believers] is heading towards the bridegroom [Jesus] and he is glad that he can at least hear the interaction. I find it interesting that John did not find his identity in how many people he was personally ministering to, he did not need a large audience [or any!] in order to feel fulfilled. But he did need to hear the voice of Jesus; he had to at least have that. Over the years of ‘doing ministry’ I have always found it troubling that so many men in ministry seem to be in a race to get people to show up at some meeting environment, if you can ‘pack the parking lot’ you feel fulfilled. Now, God is concerned about numbers, don’t get me wrong, if you ‘pack the parking lot’ fine. The point is we should be able to ‘feel fulfilled’ by simply hearing the voice of the bridegroom. When the church gives in to the pressure of class and status, she loses her prophetic voice to society. In 14th century England you had a general distaste for the church, the people resented the wealth and class that the church achieved, many voices [John Wycliffe] spoke out against these abuses, even the great English poet Geoffrey Chaucer would write about it in his famous ‘Canterbury tales’ [how many of you still remember English Lit?] The church achieved numbers and wealth and fame, but lost her prophetic voice and influence to the world. To all you Pastors/leaders, are you more focused on big numbers and how many need to attend in order to bring in enough tithes to accomplish certain goals? If so then re-focus, don’t let your emotions go up and down based on stuff like this, one things is needful, John said that’s what made him happy, his ‘joy was fulfilled’ in hearing the voice of Jesus, how about you?

(1338) GALATIANS 6- Paul closes this short theological treatise with some practical stuff; help each other out with their burdens, if you see a brother struggling, restore him in the spirit of meekness. Those who are teaching you Gods word, ‘communicate’ to them in all good things [share with them financially and materially]. Good advice that Paul gives to all of the churches he writes to. As we close our study of this letter, I want to emphasize that the majority of what Paul is teaching [over 90%] is great theological truth, it would be silly for preachers/teachers to grasp hold of any single verse and to exalt that above the main body of truths that we have discussed. It isn’t hard for any preacher/teacher to go thru this letter on a few Sundays and teach the main truths of the letter. We desperately need to get back to doing it this way in many Pentecostal/Protestant/Evangelical churches- and yes, the ‘organic church’ guys too! We all have a tendency to pick out pet doctrines out of the New Testament and then to make the side issues the main thing. I think the main thing [justification by faith, the blessing of Abraham in context, etc.] is good enough without us having to try and find some type of ‘Rhema word’ that is not the main word of God. Recently a good man died, Oral Roberts. A few weeks have passed and I think it is okay to mention a few things. The media reported how many preachers showed up to the funeral in Cadillac’s and expensive cars, there have been various articles written about the legacy he will leave behind. Some wrongly said he was the father of the ‘Word of Faith/prosperity movement’ [E.W. Kenyon was the real father, and Kenneth Hagin and others lay claim to the title]. The point I want to make is Brother Roberts was a good man who did good things, but his way of doing doctrine is not my cup of tea. He was famous for popularizing the ‘seed-faith’ teaching. It comes from Paul’s letters when he does tell believers that if they give in faith God will bless them, true enough. But when we read the New Testament there are many warnings against greed and materialism, and when we take a simple practical truth from Paul, even though it’s true, and when this truth becomes our main message, then we err. In this last chapter of Galatians Paul gives practical advice about giving financially to those who are teaching you, good. But this is one verse in a letter filled with other main teachings, the important stuff if you will. For believers in our day to have built ministries/churches and to have as the foundation of these ministries the few practical side verses, is wrong. We need to focus on the main thing, and keep the main thing the main thing! [Redemption thru Christ’s Blood, eternal life to those who believe, etc.] I don’t want to speak bad about brother Roberts, he was a good man who went home to be with the Lord, it’s just the discussion that has happened after his passing shows us how easy it is for good men to get sidetracked with a verse or 2 and then to exalt it out of context. As I conclude this brief study on Galatians, I think I will go back over a few main verses in the next week or so and give you some ‘practical’ things that I have gleaned these last few weeks. In a sense I will show you how God can speak to us in a personal way thru these letters, yet at the same time not losing the original meaning of the letters. One of the distinctions of the early church fathers was this Christ centered approach to the scripture, they looked for Jesus on every page. I’ll end with an example form Saint Augustine; he shared a thought on the story of Jesus walking on the water to the land, and that the disciples needed a wooden boat to ‘cross over’ he then applied the wood of the boat to the wood of the Cross and said how the Cross allows us to cross over to God, just like the boat let them cross over to the land. Now this is a simple example of applying scripture in a sort of symbolic way that is not in context, but nevertheless it’s okay to do. So I will do a few things like this in the next few posts. But while doing this, we want to not forget the main meaning of the letter, a good ‘side example’ should never negate the main body of truth.

(1336) Just a comment I left on Christianity Today magazine- ‘Many good points- I think we need to distinguish between those who see ‘organic church’ as a vessel of transformation, and those who are seeking a historically/biblical understanding of the Ecclesia and exactly what the word means. The New Testament clearly speaks of ‘church’ as an organic community of people, to understand and come to terms with this reality might take different forms and have various ways people express it, but to understand the biblical basis of ‘organic church’ is more than just a new movement/way of ‘doing church’’.

(1334) One of the most important finds of the 20th century was a little book called ‘the Didache’, it is either a first or 2nd century document that encapsulates a short instruction for new comers who wanted to be a part of the church. It is important because it gives us a glimpse of how the early Christians viewed the faith. For instance it puts much importance on caring for the poor and doing works of charity, it goes so far to speak about fasting for the purpose of saving up some extra money to feed the poor. It warns strenuously against greed, it calls people false prophets if they stick around town too long and ask for money. I mean it’s strong. It also shows us how disconnected we have become from what the early believers valued. Yesterday I had a good day with my homeless buddies; I ‘heard’ that Buck had died. Buck was a good friend who struggled with alcoholism, many of the guys drink, but Buck was what you would call a ‘falling down in the street’ drunk. But when he was sober he was a good guy. I guess he was around 60 or so. I remember one time he showed up at the homeless hangout and he was all beat up, black eyes and stuff. The story was he went thru an ‘initiation’ at the camp, 2 of the other guys ‘initiated’ him by beating the hell out of him and taking his wallet, Buck said it was a voluntary thing that he agreed to go thru for ‘protection’. I said that’s funny, we used to call that ceremony ‘getting mugged’. All in all Buck was an all right friend, with many struggles. He did attend the local street ‘church meetings’ and made attempts to go to some of the retreats they hold for the guys. I spent some time with Henry; he is a very knowledgeable brother who always asks great questions. I mean he knows the bible by heart, studies the original Greek and Hebrew meanings of the words, he is a real pro. He has been living in an old run down RV for a few months. The people let him stay in it and he does some work around the property. They have a beautiful horse and a bunch of fruit trees; I filled up a bag with lemons and had a good time fellowshipping with Henry. My friend John David has been clean for 6 months now and is living up in Austin, that was great to hear. John was addicted to Cocaine, I told you his story around 6 months ago [in the homeless section]. His other brother Andy went to Mexico, he’s the brother I lent one of my good study books to, O well. All in all the guys are doing as well as can be expected, it’s pretty cold right now, that’s why some of them come south for the winter. My good friend Dirk is back, I have known Dirk for 20 years, he lives in an old beat up van and survives on a disability check, he’s legally deaf. He is a good friend, he comes for the winters and heads back to Michigan in the summer, he really is homeless but tries to pass himself off [to the cops] as a retired tourist, it is funny. And old Roger has been in jail since last Christmas, he walked into HEB [grocery store] and saw Tommy Nichols [a cop who the locals hate] Roger has been arrested many times by Nichols and Roger was drunk and told him ‘I’ll kill all you cops’ they arrested him and charged him with making a terroristic threat, he’s still got some time to do. I want to encourage you guys; do you spend any time reaching out to the hurting? Maybe fast a day or 2 and send the money to the feed the children groups? I just renewed my own effort in sending money to the kids, I was reading Christianity today on line and the screen kept asking if I would send some money, I kept clicking it off and then realized I need to send some. So I started sending $22 a month, not much, but it helps. I just want to challenge all of us to become involved in some way, maybe you won’t make as many homeless friends as I have, that’s fine- but try and make at least one! Make an effort and see what the Lord will do, it will be well worth trying.

(1332) Been doing some reading on church history/philosophy, it’s interesting to see the role that theology/Christianity played in the universities. Theology is referred to as ‘the queen of the sciences’ and philosophy was her ‘handmaid’. They saw the root of all learning as originating with the study ‘of God’. Many modern universities have dropped the term ‘theology’ and call it ‘the study of religion’. The study of religion is really the study of how man relates to God, his view of God; this would fit under anthropology/sociology, not under theology. Modern learning has lost the importance of the study of God and the role it plays in all the other sciences. The classic work of Homer [8th century BC] called the Iliad, has Achilles debating whether or not he should ‘stay and fight along the city of the Trojans’ and attain the legacy of a warrior; or to go ‘back to my homeland and live a long life’. He chooses to fight and lay his life on the line. The themes of the classics [courage, heroism, etc.] are biblical themes, even if God is not directly mentioned. The point being to try and exclude God from learning is silly, you can’t do it. Around the 17-18th century you had the philosophy of Existentialism rise up, as an ‘ism’ it really is a misnomer; ‘ism’ is a suffix that you add to the end of a word that makes it a system- ‘humanism’ ‘secularism’ etc. but existentialism is a word that means ‘anti-system’. Nevertheless the person who popularized this belief was a Christian, Soren Kierkegaard. The system he was rebelling against was the dead institutionalism of the Danish church, he felt that Christianity devolved into dead orthodoxy and lost all of its passion for true living and experiencing God. Nietzsche would pick up on this philosophy and apply it to atheism, and in the 20th century men like Albert Camou and John Paul Sartre would also embrace it from an atheistic worldview. They would say things like ‘man is a useless passion’ or write books titled ‘Nausea’ summing up the human condition. Though the 19th century atheistic humanists tried to give value and exalt the state of man, in their rejection of God and Christianity they were taking away the foundation for mans value. If you tell society that they arrived on the scene by some cosmic accident of evolution, and when you die you dissipate into nothingness, then how do you at the same time glory in his natural abilities to reach some point of Utopia? As the late Frances Schaeffer said ‘they were philosophers who had both feet planted firmly in mid air’. The point being when you neglect the reality and role that God and Christianity play in every sphere of life, you are then removing the foundation that these spheres were built on, true science and learning derive their basis from God. The greatest scientific minds of the past were either Christians or Deists, they were too smart to try and reject the reality of an eternal being.

(1331) GALATIANS 4- Paul says there was a time period before the promise would be fulfilled thru Christ; that time has come to an end [the law] and we are now in ‘the fullness of times’. When we were under the law we were no different than servants, but now in grace we are mature sons, people able to inherit the promise. Paul says why do you desire to go back under the ‘restraint’ phase, the time of discipline and legalism, we are now in a fullness stage thru the New Covenant and we don’t need the old mentality anymore. Once again Paul really ‘spiritualizes’ the Old Testament in his teaching, he says that the law [Old Testament] taught this difference between law and grace. He uses the story of Abraham having 2 sons [Ishmael, Isaac] and he says ‘cant you hear what the law is saying’? One son was born by promise [Isaac] the other thru the works of the flesh [law]. And just like it was back then, the one born after the flesh persecuted the one born after the Spirit, so today [1st century] those after the flesh/law are persecuting those born after the Spirit. It’s important to see that Paul DOES NOT use this analogy to describe Jewish/Muslim [Arab] relations; he actually refers to natural Israel as ‘Ishmael’! He says the Judaisers [Jews zealous of the law] were fulfilling the type/symbol by persecuting Gentile believers. We need to keep these distinctions in our minds, because when we don’t rightfully discern the truth we do damage to the non ethnic testimony of the gospel. Paul says the law relates to natural Israel/Jerusalem who is under bondage with her children, but the ‘New Jerusalem’ which is above is the mother of us all, and this Jerusalem relates to the church. The New Jerusalem is not referring to a physical city that will ‘hover over the earth during the millennium rule’ [EEK!] But it refers to the new community people of God, the church. I have written on this before and these references in the New Testament [Revelation, Hebrews- us being the new Zion, etc.] are speaking of the church, the people of God. Paul once again speaks of ‘natural Jerusalem’ in a negative light, in the sense that he teaches those who are under the law are not walking in the fullness of the promises of God as come in the Messiah. The New Testament spends no time engaging in the glorying of any ethnic group [whether it be Israel, Gentile, etc.] It’s not that the apostles were being anti Semitic, it’s just the emphasis is on the new kingdom of God and the new people of God [the church made up of both Jew and Gentile]. Its striking to compare the writings of the first Jewish believers to the current trends amongst many evangelical preachers, the two don’t mesh well.

(1330) GALATIANS 3- The main point of this chapter is God made a promise to Abraham that he would ‘bless’ all nations thru one of his kids someday [Genesis 12). This promise was given to Abraham 430 years before God gave the 10 commandments to Moses. Therefore the promise that men would be justified/saved by faith cannot be ‘undone’ by a later act of giving the law to Moses. The point being that Paul is arguing with the Galatians that their new view that they need to keep the law in order to ‘be saved’ [the blessing of Abraham IN CONTEXT!] is false because God already told Abraham it would be by faith in the coming Messiah. Paul then asks ‘is the law then against Gods promise’? No, it was given to man [Israel] until the time came for the promised child to be born [1st century], but now that the promised child is here we are no longer under the ‘schoolmaster’. The schoolmaster term can be confusing; the word in Greek means the person who walked the kids to school [truth] and then dropped them off AND LEFT. Paul is saying the law period served its purpose; it revealed mans sinful nature to him and then ‘dropped him off at the Cross’. Paul is saying the law fulfilled its purpose and we are now under grace. As new creatures in Christ we walk in love and fulfill the righteousness of the law by our new nature, it’s not a legalistic thing. There is some confusion today on this chapter; some were taught that ‘the blessing of Abraham’ was speaking of the promises in Deuteronomy on financial blessings. And that the curse is speaking about the curse of ‘poverty’. Though it is true that the bible does speak about this in the Old Testament, in context Paul is not saying this here. Paul explains what he means about the ‘curse of the law’. He says it’s the curse of never being able to do enough to appease God, the man that is under the law puts himself under this mindset of perfectionism and lives under this constant feeling of never being able to do enough. This was Paul’s previous experience as a Pharisee. When Paul teaches that we are delivered from ‘the curse’ so the ‘blessing of Abraham might come on the gentiles, that we might receive THE PROMISE OF THE SPIRIT BY FAITH’ he is not saying Jesus died to make us financially rich, he is saying Jesus delivered us from the old law mindset of legalism and we now have forgiveness and acceptance as a free gift- ‘being now justified by faith we have peace with God thru our Lord Jesus Christ’ [Romans 5].

(1328) GALATIANS 1- Mark Twain said ‘the classics are books that everyone loves to praise, but nobody wants to read’. As we begin this study I can’t emphasize enough the need for Christians to read the bible! Many of the current problems in Christianity would be solved if we simply got back to reading the bible in context. Okay, in chapter one Paul defends his authority as being one who was sent by God, not man. He explains how after his conversion he spent years receiving direct revelation from God; he was not taught the gospel of grace by consulting with man. Paul was in a unique situation compared to the other apostles, Paul was the first apostle to have had a strong intellectual background in both Judaism and philosophy; he knew his stuff. This ‘allowed’ God to reveal things to Paul FROM THE SCRIPTURES that revealed Gods grace and the reality of how men are justified by faith and not thru the law. In essence Paul wasn’t out in left field receiving Divine revelations about things that nobody ever heard about. They were new things in the sense that they were hidden in God until the time that God chose to reveal them [Ephesians 3]. Paul rebukes them for forsaking the true gospel and being drawn to another gospel ‘which is not another’. Okay, what’s the true gospel Paul is speaking about? It’s not only the definition given by Paul in 1st Corinthians 15 [the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus] but it includes being justified by faith and not by the law. The Judaisers did believe in Jesus, but they were rejecting justification by faith alone. The false gospel that Paul is refuting is the gospel that said the Gentiles must ‘keep the law in order to be saved’ [see Acts 13 and 15]. In no uncertain terms Paul condemns this message; there was no compromising the reality of Gods free grace given to the elect. The actual faith itself that is deposited in the elect is a divine act of God [Ephesians 2] the unbeliever is dead in sins with no ability to ‘resurrect himself’ and the new birth is Gods sovereign act of raising a person from the dead [spiritually] and giving them faith. This is the gospel of grace. Paul was adamant about rejecting false gospels! In our day there are so many ‘gospels’ going around it’s not funny. I caught a few minutes of a TV evangelist the other day quoting verses from all over the bible in order to entice people to vow money to him; yes he used these words in no uncertain terms. He told the people they must quickly pick up the phone and dedicate the money to him, because it was this act of faith that would release the harvest. Now I don’t know how much longer God is going to allow stuff like this to go on, how much longer networks will continue to air this stuff, but we as believers/preachers need to condemn these false gospels in no uncertain terms. Paul will use strong language when defending the gospel; we need to get back to defending it too.

[Just a comment I left on Trevin Wax’s site- good site by the way- Trevinwax.com] Good article Trevor. As somewhat of an advocate for teaching a biblical worldview, I too feel that we might be missing the boat at times. In Galatians Paul tells us ‘when the fullness of times came, God sent forth his Son…’ In context this ‘fullness’ was speaking about the time period God gave to man under the Old Covenant in order to bring man to a point of helplessness, knowing he could not justify himself thru works. Then after this predatory time he introduces the New Covenant and man is now ‘ready’ for the Messiah. Some worldview concepts seem to say that the ‘post modern’ man is not ready! That he needs another ‘fullness of time’ in order to prepare him for the gospel, C.S. Lewis’ pre-evangelism. Anyway the article was good. God bless from Corpus.

(1327) GALATIANS; INTRO- Okay, finally made it, been wanting to teach this letter for a while. Let me overview some church history that I feel would be helpful in understanding the book. During the 16th century Reformation you had an explosion take place within Christianity, though the official ‘schism’ dates back to the year 1054 between the western [Catholic] and eastern [Orthodox] expressions of the church, yet in reality it was the 16th century upheaval that really split the church. A few centuries before [14-15th century] you had rumblings within the church that had well taught Catholic men challenging many of the institutional concepts of the church; men like John Huss, Wycliffe and others. These men were extremely influential and had an effect on the church. Then in the 16th century you had Catholic writers who remained within the Catholic Church, but they too challenged the status quoi. Men like Erasmus of Rotterdam, these intellectuals would call for the idea of going back to the original sources of study [Greek New Testament and also other renaissance ideas] and this too would lead to the historic Reformation. But without a doubt Martin Luther [the Catholic monk out of Wittenberg, Germany] would be the firebrand of the movement. Martin was a well trained Augustinian monk who struggled with the guilt of sin for many years. Not normal guilt, but extreme. A fellow Catholic leader would encourage Luther to trust in the grace of God for his forgiveness. While reading the book of Romans [whose themes relate strongly to Galatians] he would come along the famous passage ‘the just shall live by faith’ and in Luther’s mind this was a total release from the bondage of trying to appease God thru all the religious works that he was going thru. In essence Luther discovered the historic gospel of grace thru the reading of Romans and was set free. Now Luther had no intention of leaving the Catholic Church, but as a very influential teacher/scholar out of the university city in Germany, he had lots of influence. The Catholic church at the time was worldwide and you had differing views of the church in various states. Many saw the state of the church in Rome as having given in to materialism and become too worldly. Rome was at the time trying to raise money for the restoring of the religious buildings at Rome and one of the priests going around selling indulgences was named Tetzel. The abuse of selling these ‘get out of purgatory early’ things was offensive to many Catholics, and Luther had ‘no small stir’ when Tetzel reached his area. These things would lead to the famous nailing of the 95 questions on the door of Catholic academia and would be the beginnings of the historic split. While it would take way too much time to go into all the theological differences between the Protestants and the Catholics, one of the main issues deals with how we as Christians view ‘being saved’. The historic Protestant position is called ‘justification by faith alone’ [Sola Fide] the Catholics counter with ‘the only time ‘faith alone’ is mentioned is in the book of James, where it says a man is not saved/justified by ‘faith alone’. Ouch! The main point I want to make is this letter deals with the early church’s belief that man is accepted with God based on the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Paul will challenge the ‘Judaisers’ [those who believed you needed to keep the law in order to be saved] and will argue that the law itself [Old Testament books] teaches that men are justified/accepted with God based on believing in the free gift of God thru Christ. Make no mistake about it, the New Testament clearly teaches this doctrine. Catholic and Protestant theologians BOTH agree that man is freely saved by the grace of God in Christ. But at the time of Luther’s day these glorious truths were lost in the morass of religious tradition and works. As we read thru this letter in the next few days, I want all of our readers to see the argument Paul is making from this basic theological view point. Is man saved by works [keeping Gods law] or grace? The bible teaches grace. Now I don’t have the time to also introduce the modern controversy between the ‘new view of Paul between Protestants [called new perspective]. There is an ongoing debate over whether or not the historic Reformation view of Paul is correct [men like N.T. Wright and John Piper are hashing it out] and I do think there are some merits to this discussion, but before we can delve into that aspect, we first need to see the historic question of works versus faith, and this letter is one of the best to deal with the issue.

(1326) FOR AS THE NEW HEAVENS AND EARTH, WHICH I WILL MAKE, SHALL REMAIN, SO SHALL YOUR SEED AND NAME REMAIN- Isaiah 66:22 Well the senate finally passed health care reform; they still have some hurdles ahead, but they got the 60 votes needed to move forward. I do find it utterly corrupt that any single party would actually pass something that took away benefits from Republican states and not take them away from Democratic ones. And then have the audacity to make the ‘losing states’ underwrite the ‘winning states’. I can’t imagine the uproar in the country if Bush did this. Nebraska [Ben Nelson] cut a deal where they will never pay for the extended costs of Medicaid, ever. The ‘Federal govt.’ will forever cover their new costs. They are the only state that gets this deal. The Federal govt. pays stuff by taxing other states; in essence the rest of the country will be underwriting Nebraska, simply because they needed the Democratic vote. Florida, under Bill Nelson, another Democrat, will be the only state that will not lose Medicare Advance. This is a very popular program with senior citizens and every other state will lose this program. Why not Florida? Florida has lots of retired seniors, they need to keep the senate seat Democratic, so to get the seniors votes they did this deal. These deals are fundamentally corrupt, we are doing this at a time in the nation where we will be forcing families to pay a yearly 750 dollar fine if they don’t get insurance [or a 2% fine of their income, whichever is higher!] and many average income earners are really going to be in a bind. Much of the money will pay the profits and salaries of multi millionaires; this is wrong. In the 1960’s Harvey Cox [professor at Harvard] penned the book ‘the secular city’ it was a play on words from saint Augustine’s ‘city of God’. Augustine, as a true Amillennialist, wrote about the influence of the church/kingdom of God on the nations of the world, and how you could not separate virtue from public/political life. Cox would challenge this idea and teach that you could have a separation; you could run a nation apart from the morality of the church. Harvard would also produce the philosophy of ‘Pragmatism’ you govern by what is expedient, do what it takes to get the job done- don’t worry about what’s right or wrong type of a thing. God says his word/standards don’t go away, the things he states/creates are there for good. The Democratic Party ran rough shod over some very basic principles of right and wrong, when Harry Reid was asked about these insider deals, he said that’s the way they do business. In essence he said if your state didn’t get to do some under the table deal, then that’s your senator’s fault. The senate leader was being very pragmatic, doing what he needed to do to get the votes. I think they might have traded for a few votes today, at the expense of a bunch of them tomorrow.

(1325) BEFORE SHE SUFFERED SHE GAVE BIRTH, BEFORE HER PAIN SHE GAVE BIRTH. WHO EVER HEARD OF SUCH A THING? SHALL I BRING YOU TO THE POINT OF BIRTH AND NOT FINISH THE JOB? FOR AS SOON AS YOU SUFFERED WITH BIRTH PAINS THEN YOU BROUGHT FORTH WHAT I WANTED- Isaiah 66:7-8 [my paraphrase] In Johns gospel Jesus said when a woman is going thru birth pains it’s difficult because her time has come, the moment of accomplishing the purpose. Jesus says ‘she has sorrow’ but after she gives birth she forgets the sorrow because a man is born into the world. Jesus makes this statement as he himself is entering into his time of sorrow; he prays ‘Father, if it’s possible for me to not have to go thru with this, if there is any way you think we can do something about this situation, then please lets go another route’! The agony was very real, he wasn’t afraid of death, but he dreaded the fact that he would ‘become sin’ for us; he would be separated from the Father and experience extreme turmoil. He sweat great drops of blood, a physical act of excruciating anguish that causes this to happen. Jesus told us that we too had to be willing to carry our cross. I know some feel Jesus was talking about his cross and death, but in context he was talking about the difficulties that would come along with following him and denying ourselves. Peter said that when we go thru fiery trials that we should take comfort in the fact that other brothers are going thru the same things, even worse things than us. A few years ago a prominent local figure was arrested and sent to jail for soliciting a minor over the internet; he worked for the parks/beach dept. and was active with the Fire Dept. and EMS. Of course the news shocked people; he seemed to be a good person who gave of himself to help others. A year or so later I read an article that he had died in prison, though the article did not go into detail there were enough hints to tell that after he went to prison he rededicated his life to God and tried to make amends. It also said how his kids attended his funeral but his ex wife wanted nothing to do with the man. I thought to myself how hard it would have been for him and his family to have gone thru this tragic thing. I put his family on my prayer list for a few years, a time where I pray for fellow believers who have messed up and are in jail, whenever I read these stories they become part of this prayer time. Or people who have terminal illnesses, don’t you think it would be hard to pray and continue to do God’s will knowing that you only have so much time left? There are times in life when the purpose of God must take precedence over the things we are going thru. I am not saying these examples are the only types of ‘cross’ experiences people go thru, but they give us some insight into the difficulties that can happen. In Hebrews the scripture says that Jesus endured the Cross, despising the shame and has been seated at the right hand of God. Make no mistake about it, the shame and agony of the Cross were not things that ‘felt good’ to go thru, they were things that were despised, but they were things that needed to take place in order for a greater purpose to come forth. I mean whoever heard of a woman giving birth before the pain, and likewise we believers will go thru some tough things before Gods purpose will be fulfilled.

(1324) THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE MYSTERY- Ephesians 3:9. One of my favorite historical persons is Einstein; I like him because he was sort of a rebel for his day. In the university he did bad, missed class and scored low. He could not find a job in his field of physics so he took a job in Berne, Switzerland as a patent approver. During his spare time he wrote a few papers on theoretical physics and these papers were circulated but had no good response. Why? No one took seriously the writings from a patent worker! Then one of his ‘letters’ made in into the hands of one of the top scientists of the day, Max Planck, and he would make history. Planck recognized the genius that others couldn’t see. In Ephesians 3 Paul says the Lord gave him [and the apostles and prophets] the gift of being able to ‘see’ and understand truths that were hidden in God since the beginning of the world. Now, it was good to have the gift, to be able to see the truths that others could not yet see; but this gift would be useless unless it came along with the ability to effectively ‘make others see’ it too. So Paul prays for the churches that he is writing to that they, by the Spirit, would have the gift to comprehend the mysteries that he was writing about. In essence the Spirit was Paul’s Max Planck! In time others would see the great things Paul was teaching but there needed to be the Divine work of revelation both on the part of Paul as well as those who were reading his stuff. Paul would call this dynamic ‘the fellowship of the mystery’. In the book of Acts there were those who willingly rejected this revelation and that was their own choice. Paul says they themselves made the choice to cut themselves off from eternal life. Today we don’t have ‘revelation’ [new truths] in the same way Paul and the apostles had, but we certainly have gifted ones who the Spirit is communicating truth to, but we must not make the mistake of Einstein’s peers, they saw him as a layman and initially missed out on the revolutionary truths he was seeing. They chose to cut themselves off from the ‘fellowship of the mystery’ how bout you?

(1323) WHERE IS THE HOUSE THAT YOU ARE BUILDING FOR ME? Isaiah 66:1, leaders- think on this for a moment; what is it exactly that you are building for God? What are the main themes of scripture that you are communicating? Verse 2 says ‘all these things hath [past tense] my hand made and all these things HAVE BEEN, says the Lord’. In Ephesians 2 Paul says that we are ‘his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works that he chose for us before the world began’. We are simply fulfilling the pre-ordained destiny of God. That is if we are proclaiming and doing what’s right. Yesterday I read a news article on a mega church out of Ohio, they broadcast a plea that they immediately needed 3 million in donations or they were in trouble. The plea was looked into and it seems like they ‘fudged’ on the seriousness of the appeal- basically they used ‘disaster’ language for a problem that was not as urgent as you might think; sort of like what our country did with TARP and what we are doing today [12-19-09] with saying we urgently need to pass health reform before Christmas, a false deadline that is being used as a political tool. Why do well meaning ministries/preachers often focus so much on money? Why is it common for many sermons and messages to be centered on this? In the first century when the Apostle Paul was circulating his letters, he would write about 95 % on real theological truth, maybe a few % of the letters would deal with giving, most of that small percent was in the context of giving to the poor. Then you had an even smaller % of that deal with giving to help Paul on his way to the next town, or giving to meet the needs of laboring leaders in their midst. So if you were a first century church receiving the letter you would not see Paul’s main message being one of always appealing for funds. But over the first few centuries of Christianity the church collected these letters and put them in a book [our New Testament]. This has enabled people to scour thru the corpus of Paul’s writings and to pick this small percentage of appeals for funds and to basically present them in a way that says ‘look how important it is to always speak about money, after all the bible is full of it!’ Which is really a distortion of the actual themes of the letters; much of Paul’s writings taken in context actually reprove what the modern preachers have done with this proof texting tool [read 1st timothy 6]. So you find many well meaning brothers seeing the need for more and more money, for a never ending series of good projects, and this causes there to be a general focusing on a very small percentage of actual New Testament teaching and presenting it in a way that causes the average believer to think that this is the main thrust of scripture. So what are you building? Have you never really seen this before? If not then ask the lord to help you re-focus on the important stuff. Pastors, leaders- most of you brothers mean well, just allow the Lord to bring forth out of you the things that he has fore ordained for you. One of those things might have been stumbling along and reading this blog.

(1320) Isaiah 65:17-19 ‘I create a new heavens and new earth…the former has passed away and shall not come into memory…rejoice in my work, I too joy in it’ [my paraphrase] When God does new things, he allows the former things to fade and eventually pass. Hebrews says the old things are fading quickly. Often the transition period from the old to the new is difficult; we become accustomed to certain patterns of thought and action and if these old structures are being challenged we have a natural tendency to resist, often in the face of irrefutable evidence! When Jesus challenged the religious concepts of his day the leaders made an effort to refute him. He of course would win all these theological skirmishes, but this made no difference to those who did not want to accept the truths he was speaking. As time went on they simply hated him and decided to stop him, it was no longer a matter of truth- they hated what he stood for and that was that. A few years ago I bought a book on the case of the military doctor who was convicted of murdering his family. The book is ‘fatal justice’ the made for TV movie was called ‘fatal vision’. The movie did portray the doctor as evil and it was easy to hate the guy. But the book brought out some real questions about the case and it did put doubts into my mind. Well anyway I was telling this to a person who has seen the movie many times and has a real hate for the man. I tried to present both sides of the case and in some way defend the doctor. The person was mad; they even said that they didn’t care anymore whether he was guilty or innocent, because he was such an ‘SOB’ that he deserved to rot in prison anyway. The religious views that the people held were more important than the actual truth, the enemies of Jesus got to a point where they really weren’t open to truth anymore, they had their view and they simply wanted to kill him. We are truly creatures of habit and when ‘new things’ are presented to us, things that we never really considered before, we have a tendency to harden in our position and it no longer becomes a sincere search for truth. In essence we want the guy to rot in prison whether he’s guilty or not!

(1318) PROTESTANT/CATHOLIC RELATIONS? Those of you who have read this blog for any length of time know that as a Protestant believer [though I prefer simply Christian] I write often on the Catholic tradition and I also see them as fellow believers in the Lord. I do realize that I have lost readers over the years because of this. Recently there has been another effort among Catholics and Evangelicals to join together in common cause; the name of this effort is ‘the Manhattan Declaration’ it’s a simple statement amongst Catholics and Protestants stating our common belief in areas of life and morality. It’s a good statement that I signed. Since the 16th century Reformation [the beginning of Protestantism] you have had varying approaches to these things. Some see the Catholic Church as a ‘non church’ they see her as a false religion who might have some Christians within her but for the most part it would be like saying Mormonism might have some believes in it despite the false beliefs. Others see the Catholic Church as a good church that has certain beliefs that Protestants don’t accept, but never the less she is part of the Body of Christ [this is my view]. So for the sake of unity amongst the various groups of Christians in the world today, I write on both traditions. Okay, during the Reformation the Catholic church had what some refer to as a ‘counter reformation’ the 16th century council was held at Trent and the church for the most part came down strong on retaining most of the Catholic tradition that existed for centuries; they reaffirmed the 7 sacraments, stuck with papal authority [though the doctrine of Papal infallibility would not become official doctrine until Vatican 1 in the 1800’s] and history tells us that the Catholics came down on the side of very little change in the area of doctrine. They even retained the doctrine of indulgences that is very questionable indeed. But they also dealt with corruption in their ranks to some degree and this was noble. They also had some good points to make in refuting what they felt was not enough emphasis on ‘good works’ amongst the reformers [Luther]. So the church in no uncertain terms rejected any idea that the Reformation was a move of God, they saw it as a rebellious split. Now in the 19th century you had Vatican 1 [the name of the council] and once again the church affirmed her stand on coming down strong for the traditional Catholic position; this council officially recognized the infallibility of the Pope [only when speaking ‘Ex Cathedra’ which means ‘from the chair’]. The church does not teach the infallibility of the Pope unless he is making a doctrinal statement in his official capacity as Pope. This teaching has a special importance for today’s Catholics. Pope Benedict was a prolific writer/theologian before becoming Pope and he has written extensively on doctrinal issues and it would not be difficult to find some of his teachings coming down more in favor of a strong Christology than previous Popes- a good thing in my view. So anyway it wasn’t until the last few centuries that some very difficult doctrines would become official; Immaculate Conception, the assumption of Mary and the infallibility of the Pope. These are all fairly recent developments that would make it more difficult for outward unity. But in the 20th century you had somewhat of a change in attitude from the Vatican [at least from Pope John the 23rd]. From 1962-65 Vatican 2 was convened and you had somewhat of a division between the conservative Catholic Bishops and the more progressive types. There were a couple hundred Bishops from the U.S. alone that would attend; it was really a worldwide council. The more liberal minded wanted less of a hard line position in some areas while the more conservative stuck with the old hard line position. When all was said and done there was a more open spirit towards change and acceptance of other Christian churches at the end. Many of the changes were seen to be too much from the conservative Catholic view; things like saying the mass in the common language, moving the altar forward in the ‘church building’ and the Priest facing the people during the mass [the old mass had the Priest facing the altar along with the people] so anyway lots of Catholics did not like the change and there was a dispute among many conservative Catholics. Then in 1968 Pope Paul issued an encyclical [official paper] called’ Humanae Vitae’, which rejected the use of contraceptives and it was a step back towards the old hard line church. Some Protestants go a little too far in praising Vatican 2, they might refer to it as a revolution in the Catholic Church, this might be going a little too far. I recognize and appreciate the new attitude of Vatican 2, and I believe some of the more hard line Protestants [Reformed] should show a little more tolerance because of it [some of the older reformers still hold to ALL the beliefs of the Westminster confession, which officially teaches the Pope is the Antichrist! Ouch] But as a realist myself I still see some real doctrinal differences that I still have major problems with. But in some areas I am in more agreement with the Catholics than with Protestants- especially on some of the end time teachings that American Fundamentalists hold to. So all in all I appreciate some of the changes, I think some Protestants need to be more willing to come to the table, and I personally would not go so far as to actually become Catholic [which many good men have done, and I do not reject their convictions at all, they did have personal reasons for doing so]. All in all I agree with the Catechism of the Catholic Church that states ‘Christ is the unique word of God in scripture’ this is something we should all be able to agree with.

(1316) I LIKE FREE STUFF! ‘FOR SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME MEN HAVE NOT HEARD, NOR PERCIEVED BY THE EAR, NIETHER HATH THE EYE SEEN, O GOD, BESIDE THEE, WHAT HE HATH PREPARED FOR HIM THAT WAITETH FOR HIM- Isaiah 64:4 Last night I caught a story on the news, it showed how terrorists were using an ingenious way to communicate; instead of sending electronic emails thru the internet, they would share a common email account and paste their messages to the saved drafts, then the other guy would simply read the drafts. The FBI/CIA could not detect the message. Over the years I have heard how people really don’t value teaching unless they pay for it, and the more they pay the greater the value. Some Christian motivational speakers have actually charged many thousands of dollars just to share a word from God. Paul wrote the greatest letters known to man [the New Testament] and circulated them freely and encouraged their duplication- we need to reevaluate the standards we live by. Isaiah said God would reveal things that were secret since the world began. In the gospels it says that Jesus fulfilled this verse thru his teaching. In Corinthians Paul said the Spirit is continuing this ‘revealing’ ministry thru the church. In Revelation chapter 5 you have the vision of John seeing God on the throne with a scroll; no man is worthy/able to reveal the things in the scroll. But Jesus, the Lamb who was slain earned the right to walk up to the throne and take the scroll and open it. Jesus continues to reveal things to the church based on his righteousness, not ours. He specifically instructed his men that the things he was freely giving to them [spiritual gifts and insights] should be shared with others free of charge [thus Paul’s unwillingness to charge for his very valuable insights]. We need to get back to the basic reality of scripture; no speaker/teacher was to become rich off of the revelation of God that was purchased by the Blood of Jesus. These spiritual gifts were not to be used for one preacher to gain authority over others, that is the idea that the most gifted one in the group would ‘be over’ the others was rejected. Jesus explicitly taught this to his men. The false teachers at Corinth were saying of Paul ‘sure his letters are weighty, but he’s not even on the scene, wait till he shows up’ in essence they tried to devalue the ministry of Paul because he was communicating thru letters as opposed to having some regular office where he was exercising authority over them. The important thing to remember is Jesus is the one who has earned the right to open the scroll, we simply freely receive the gift of communicating it as the Spirit wills. We should value the free things, on the news story about the emails they said how this tool of the internet and the free access of the emails were accomplishing more than the older ways that cost thousands of dollars to get the message out. As the people of God lets value the free stuff, don’t teach people that ‘the free stuff’ has no value. Don’t tell them that we are charging them for their good and not ours, these arguments fall on deaf ears as the media exposes the million dollar mansions and 5 thousand dollar a night hotel fees. Let’s use the wisdom of the terrorist, communicate the stuff for free, I don’t know how many lives have been changed over the years thru a free Gideon’s bible placed in the hands of some soldier or in the drawer of a hotel. These bibles are the free gift of revelation that Jesus poured out on Paul and the other writers of the New Testament, thank God that they never copy wrote the thing!

(1314) IN DEFENSE OF THE HOMELAND- As a young boy growing up in New Jersey I had the privilege of having many different ethnic friends, but at times I found it difficult to defend the homeland [Italy]. I mean the Brits could appeal to the heroism of a Churchill, the Russians could even have their Rommel, but I was caught between a rock and a hard place. Sure I could resort to ‘what about that El Duce’ but I was grasping at straws man! This week Italy has been in the headlines, they convicted an American exchange student [Amanda Knox] on murder and she got 23 years in prison. As I listened to the news media berate the Italian judicial system I realized that they weren’t upset about the high probability of the girls guilt, they were upset that the standards of the American system of justice were not applied. The case involved 4 students who were involved in some type of sex game and one of the girls did not want to do it. So one of the boys killed her. After the initial arrest Amanda Knox admitted to being there at the time, she told the prosecutor and police that she was there. But after a while she claimed it was a false confession and the Italian courts actually threw out her first confession on the grounds that she wasn’t properly represented at the time. The jury convicted her based on the high probability that she was there and she was seen as an accomplice. The person who murdered the girl confessed and it seems like a very sad case all around. But the American media portrayed it as an unjust conviction, even though common sense seemed to be part of the jury’s verdict. They did not claim she killed the girl, just that she was present. I remember a case a few years back where a neighbor was being tried for the kidnapping and murder of a little girl. During the trial at one point the defendant was in negotiations with the prosecutor about getting a lighter sentence if he showed them where the girl’s body was. These were private discussions that the jury was not aware of. Instead the body was found and the deal was off. The trial proceeded and the defense dragged the history of the parents into the case, they were swingers and the defense tried to say that one of the swingers could have done it. The problem with this type of justice is everyone behind the scenes knew for a fact that the man raped and murdered this little innocent girl, but according to our rules it would be ‘unjust’ to tell the jury. In Isaiah 63 the prophet says the Lord looked down and realized that no one was standing up for justice, so the Lord himself rode thru and set things in order. He used ‘the right hand of Moses’ and delivered the people. He put on Salvation and took care of some things. Over the years I have seen how it is so easy for the people of God to allow for wrong stuff to take place over long periods of time, things that everyone knows in their heart are wrong. But we become desensitized, we believe in the fair market and if religious TV networks continue to pump out blatantly false stuff, so what- it’s a free world. But yet Gods standards are different than ours, even if society as a whole has accepted lower standards, it’s still wrong to do/teach false stuff year after year after year without ever truly dealing with the stuff. The American church has infected the world with these materialistic teachings to the point where we have whole nations being sidetracked thru these networks and quite frankly the network leaders couldn’t ‘give a rip’. God got tired of the inability of his people to deal with stuff, the mindset that says ‘even though we all know he molested the girl’ yet our view of justice is it’s all right to legally allow for the defense to try and convince the jury that the parents friends did it, even though the judge and prosecutor and defense all know it’s a big game! God looked down and said ‘enough’ I am going to bring some things into alignment that have been crooked for too long. God is merciful, but when we refuse to honestly deal with stuff, he will step in.

(1313) GOD WANTS TO MARRY YOU! Isaiah 62- This chapter uses a lot of marriage imagery, the bridegroom rejoicing over his new bride and ‘all your sons being joined to you’. In the New Testament Jesus himself uses this imagery when speaking about Gods people and the relationship God had with Israel. Now, it’s important to see that the New Testament [especially Paul] uses the imagery of the bride and bridegroom when speaking of the church; Paul will teach that both Jew and Gentile are making up this bride that the Lord ‘is married to’. Some dispensationalists [end time beliefs] make a distinction between the language used concerning Israel [Gods wife] and the language used concerning the church [bride] but if you see the mystery that Paul is speaking about you see that the fulfillment of this bride [both Jew and Gentile] being joined unto Jesus includes both people groups. What I’m saying is the New Testament teaches us that all these Old Testament promises of God rejoicing over his bride are being fulfilled thru the ‘eternal purpose’ spoken of by Paul in the letter to the Ephesians. God has his bride! This chapter also speaks of the sons coming to this new land [the church-people of God] and being joined to her as a bridegroom is joined to his bride. Recently I have had some good brothers express a desire to ‘join up-team up-partner with us’ in some way thru the ‘ministry’. These are Pastors from Pakistan and are doing a great work reaching out to Muslims. They are doing a very dangerous work, pray for them [they just got out of jail; they were thrown in jail for preaching the gospel]. Anyway somehow they found this site and really like it, that’s great. But I gave them the same response that I give to everybody who contacts us with the well meaning intent to ‘join up’ with us; I simply told them that there is nothing to join, no money to ‘partner up with us’ we are simply a voluntary group of Christ followers who are trying to spread the kingdom by doing what the Lord tells us. In essence if you are blessed by the teachings, just do your best to follow our example and let the work grow on its own, no need for me to come and preach, take offerings, or anything along those lines- just take the word of God and run with it! The point is sometimes ‘our friends/sons’ [those we are reaching out to] are so excited about the stuff they are learning that they want to be joined to us. It’s our job [and yours] to lead them in a way that they are joined to Christ and find their identity in him. God promised his people that he would ‘marry them’ Jesus spoke about the great marriage supper of the Lamb. These are intimate images; Paul said this was a great mystery when speaking of marriage and how it was a sign of our union with Christ [Ephesians] we need to remind ourselves that we are joined unto the Lord- not to men and their well meaning organizations.

(1312) THE INCARNATION- The most influential philosopher on Western thought is probably the philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kant wrote the influential work ‘In critique of pure reason’ at the close of the 18th century in response to the pure rationalists [David Hume] of the Enlightenment. Kant read Hume’s works and was said to have been ‘aroused out of his dogmatic slumber’ and dispatched his response. Kant espoused that you had the physical and metaphysical worlds, and the 2 are completely separate. He refuted the argument for God made by the apologists and said it was impossible for man to ‘know God’ thru rational/physical means. Kant did not totally reject ‘the idea’ of God; he simply said the efforts of the Christian philosophers to prove God were futile. Was Kant right? Yes and no. In the 13th century you had another great Christian thinker by the name of Thomas Aquinas, Thomas is considered one of the greatest [if not greatest] thinkers of the Catholic tradition, Thomas wrote extensively and re-introduced the Greek philosophers back into Christian theology. Sometimes referred to as ‘Aristotelianism’ [Aristotle]. Thomas taught that it was possible to obtain true knowledge of the existence of God from the natural world, but that to have particular revelation from God you needed the church and tradition [revelation]. Some feel that Thomas was teaching a ‘secular/sacred’ division that hurt the work of the church. But if you read Aquinas in the context of his time he really was not doing this. Thomas ‘rescued’ apologetics [proof for God] from the philosophers of Islam who were teaching that you could have 2 types of truth- religious and scientific. They taught that religious truth could ‘be true’ by faith, but that it could be false by science, and vice versa. Thomas was refuting this idea and was showing us that real truth, whether from the natural sciences or from ‘revelation’ never contradict, it’s just science can only go so far in arguing for the existence of God. But the influence of Immanuel Kant on western thinking has many believing that God and ‘religion’ are okay things for people to believe, but that ‘real truth’ is found in the natural sciences and God is excluded from this ‘secular’ realm. This is a false view. God can be ‘proved’ by studying the natural sciences, like Aquinas said. Now this doesn’t get you all the way to the God of Christian theology, but it can take you up to the point where God’s existence is proven to be reality. The main point is it is wrong to think Christianity is relegated to the realm of faith while ‘real truth’ is in the realm of science. The Incarnation was God’s divine act of breaking into the physical world thru the birth of his Son. God became man and dwelt among us, you can study all the history of the time and find many historical proofs of the reality of Jesus and the fact that he died and rose again, these ‘truths’ are not only religious in nature, they are factual in history. So while I appreciate the work that Kant put into his book, I will stick with the other ‘Emanuel’ the God who is with us.

(1310) In Isaiah 61 the chapter starts with the famous scripture speaking about the Spirit being on Jesus to preach and proclaim to the people. At the end of the chapter Isaiah says ‘as the earth brings forth the plant/bud, and the garden causes the things that are planted in it to grow, so the Lord will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before the nations’. In the earlier verses it also said ‘they will be trees of righteousness’. Those who were in mourning, those who were oppressed and suffering, they are the ones who are given beauty for ashes and the spirit of praise and joy in return for the garment of heaviness. Jesus said ‘blessed are they that mourn/suffer’ these things are the currency of the Kingdom; you can trade them in and ‘buy’ the true riches. Notice also how the earth/garden causes the things that are planted in it to spring forth; as Protestants many times we emphasis the importance of the ‘preached word’ sort of like the art/profession of preaching is the vital thing. To be sure it is important [how can they believe unless one is sent- Romans, as well as the first verses of this chapter] but the chapter closes with the ‘ability’ of the garden itself to bud, to cause the things that were preached/sown to become reality. The field/garden is more important than we think [that is the people groups are the ones causing the things taught/preached to be fleshed out, in reality we can’t just ‘preach’ and be successful anywhere, sort of like the gift/talent itself is the important thing. In these verses the important thing is the garden/earth]. So for all of our leaders/pastors, your role is important, but God is the one cultivating and taking care of the garden [John 15]. You [me!] are expendable, God is the one who is going to make the praise spring up before all nations- we either partake of it or not [woe is me if I preach not the gospel- Paul] but the praise is going to come!

(1309) Got up early today, around 1:30, I usually try and lay down until around 2:30, but this morning I felt like the Lord was saying ‘no, today you need to start early’. So as I went outside to pray it was barely drizzling, but it’s really cold. I do pray in the rain often, but when it’s cold I adjust my prayer schedule. Right when I was wrapping up the prayer time at around 4 it started raining, I’m glad I started early. This morning I read ‘your people shall all be made righteous, they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of my planting the work of my hands’ Isaiah 60:21. I felt like the Lord was saying to leaders/pastors ‘these people are my work, my planting. When I made Adam I put him in the garden that I created. He had responsibilities to take care of it and be a faithful steward over it; but it was my garden, not his’. We often worry about ‘the garden’ [the work/people that God has called us to] but the lord says they are his people, his ‘branch’ the work of his hands and he simply allows us to enjoy the field/garden with him. Paul told the Corinthians that they were God’s field, that some water and others plant but God alone makes it grow. Jesus said the kingdom was like a man who planted some seed and when he ‘slept’ God made it grow. ‘What, you mean I was sleeping when the thing was really productive’? Yes, humbling isn’t it. Isaiah said ‘I was in difficulty, oppression, going back and forth and then I said “ who are all these children that I have born, where did they come from?’” sort of like when you are at a stage in life where you can’t micro manage the thing, God says ‘there we go, now I can do a thing thru you that you can’t take credit for’. God said the people would ‘all be righteous’ that the garden was his responsibility and he simply put ‘you in the garden’ sometimes your most productive seasons are when you’re sleeping! [when your hands are off the thing].

(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.

(1305) I’M USING YOU FOR THEIR SAKE, NOT YOUR’S! Isaiah 59:21 says ‘this is my covenant WITH THEM’. I have been quoting the last part of this verse for years, I am sure I have said it in prayer at least 10 thousand times over my life- ‘ the words that I have put in your mouth shall not depart out of your mouth from this time forth and forevermore’ God says your ‘seed’ [offspring] and your seeds seed will quote and teach them. Good promise for church planters—but when I recently read it I felt like the lord was saying ‘leader/pastor- listen up- I am going to consistently use you and speak thru you, not out of some favor to you, but as a promise TO THEM!’ In Isaiah God says ‘I will give him as a covenant to the people’ [Jesus]. God takes people and uses them to fulfill his promises to nations/people groups. He has covenanted with these people groups, made promises to them that he would teach them and show them things that they never saw before. The Message bible says when Jesus preached in his hometown, the people said ‘we knew he was a preacher, but we didn’t know he was this good’! God promised that the people who sat in darkness would see great light. That kings/leaders would ‘shut their mouths’ because they were learning things that they never saw before. Jesus told his men ‘many people wished they were seeing the things that you are seeing/hearing, yet they never had the chance’ [Message bible again] God used Jesus to reveal truths that were hidden from the foundation of the world, he promised this to the people. When God uses leaders/prophetic people to reveal things that were previously hidden, he is doing this out of faithfulness to the people. He is keeping his promise to the people, he has made a covenant with them and God does not break his promise.

(1304) ARE WE REALLY IN THE 2ND GRADE BUT JUST DON’T KNOW IT YET? As I was praying this morning I was thinking about the various ministers and testimonies I have heard over the years, many have spoken on/experienced a process where they went from ‘church/ministry’ as being some type of business enterprise, to transitioning and seeing themselves as humble servants in Gods kingdom. Both hearing and seeing these types of stories would make me wonder if there was an entire ‘body of people’ who have gone thru the ‘childhood stage’ and have learned the next stage of true discipleship. Are these people willingly withdrawing their images from the public forums? Are there whole groups of them who have been chastened over former ‘fame/glory’ seeking and now realize that they were really in the 2nd grade- doing things and acting out of the excitement of being entrepreneurs, versus true kingdom building? Are many of these believers possibly the ones that we have looked at thru out our lives and tagged them as ‘lost traditionalists’? Jesus gave examples of the kingdom often being something that we don’t see at the beginning, we are looking for ‘outward signs’ and it’s coming another way. I remember hearing a very gifted prophetic brother sharing some stuff along these lines, how he felt the Lord telling him that those who would reject fame and the lime light would be the ones God was going to use in a great way. Over the years I tried to Google him, find his web site- anything about his ministry and what he was up to! I found nothing, I then began to wonder if he actually implemented what he felt God was saying, that he left the entire atmosphere of ‘rubbing shoulders’ with the movers and shakers and actually began living his life without the fame and recognition of professional ministry. Every day we drive past schools full of children, great kids- but children. Many of them have dreams about life, all good goals and all. But as we see them we realize that at one time we ‘were them’ and they still have a long way to go and much to learn. We don’t despise their ‘childishness’ but the reality is the grownups all know they are children. I fear there might be a ‘secret group’ of grownups that see all the ‘children’ running around at the playground, trying to outdo their fellow playmates. Needing lots of attention, wanting to impress their peers. And I fear that there is another group, those who have ‘grown up’ and these don’t really despise the younger ones, they have simply learned it was time for them to grow up.

(1303) A few hours ago I caught a prophetic conference on TV, I wasn’t too sure if I was going to watch it but the brother opened up with talking about ‘high ways’ from Isaiah. This past week that has been a theme I have been focusing on. ‘Prepare a high way in the desert for our God’ ‘my ways are higher than yours’ ‘I will cause you to ride upon the high places of the earth’ Isaiah. Here in my office I have old model battleships and WW2 planes and stuff; in my yard I have signs that say ‘N.Y. C.C. port’ ports, waterways and highways are all familiar themes. The brother was also sharing about battleships, so the themes seemed to fit. So I get up to pour a cup of coffee, as I turn the light on there is this book sitting on my kitchen table, never saw it before- don’t know who brought it home. As I read the title it’s simply a dictionary on interpreting dreams, I was thinking ‘who brought this new age book into my home’ I open it up and the first word I see is ‘Port Authority’ the definition is having authority in new places/highways/ports, you can’t make stuff up like this [there are Christian books on dreams and also non Christian ones, sometimes the definitions are the same- I do not advocate looking for signs in non Christian books]. Well anyway in Isaiah 59 the Lord rebukes his people for believing and trusting in lies, things they know are not true. Sometimes people convince themselves of their own lies. I hate to harp on this but I want to be clear that as of today [11-09] I believe that many people simply do not fully grasp the major economic troubles that face us. The government is talking about another stimulus and I read the statement from a Ca. Democrat, she was incensed ‘we need to do something about jobs’! Well we all know that, and you agreed with others that you would not spend the trillion dollar stimulus on real jobs growth, sure it was an honest difference of opinion between a conservative versus liberal economic model- but you chose the liberal model [spend most of it on federal spending and programs] and you got the result. How you can now be mad about not having jobs is beyond me! But people believe ‘in lies’ that is they make choices that have certain real effects and they still believe their choices were right- even in the face of the truth on the ground. As we close 2009 I foresee a bad year for 2010, as well as the next 5-10 years. Now I’m not saying the world will collapse, but there are long term decisions our country has made and we are not going to escape by trying to manipulate the value of the dollar or by the fed acting in cooperation with the White House. We have run up very unrealistic debt, we are trying to pass some stuff that all honest economists know will cost lots of money, and the global markets are very worried about the possible collapse of our dollar. Some serious people are seeing this. But as a nation we have a tendency to ‘believe in lies’ not mean people who are partisans, just we reject the reality of the fiscal situation, we think we can simply survive by doing ‘jobs summits’ and extending unemployment insurance. This is not going to work, never has- never will. Now, the Christians who have ‘built upon a solid foundation’ will survive and even thrive thru these times, but many churches/ministries who depend upon million dollar budgets and high income will suffer. When underground churches in China function without owning property, paying salaries and having no ‘corporate identity’ these churches thrive during times like this, they are not dependant on needing lots of money to operate, they simply function like the churches in the bible. So we need to be clear about how we are building our churches/ministries, we need to be able to have a witness to society that we as Gods people survive because we don’t put our trust in the economies of men. And this does not always mean that our bank accounts won’t suffer, just ask any Christian 401 k holder! But it means that God’s people value their membership in Christ’s body and they will help one another out when in need. I don’t want to be an alarmist but I believe we are in denial, I read an article on ‘the jobs are coming back’ [something to that effect] the article said the number of those filing for unemployment was ONLY 400 thousand, a drop from the previous week of 450,000. Are we kidding ourselves or what? I have never seen the media speak about growing jobs and how many thousands were saved by the stimulus, if since January we have lost 3.5 million jobs, that means we have not ‘created/saved’ jobs, it’s that simple. But we want to ‘believe in lies’ we want to tell ourselves we can build an economy on free handouts without helping private business. Sure taxing millionaires sounds great, but most of these ‘evil millionaires’ are small businesses who file as individuals, you can’t consistently do the actual things that kill jobs and then say ‘lets have a jobs summit’ okay I don’t want to rant too much, we as the people of God live by different standards then the world [I try!] and we will not be immune to the economic difficulties that lie ahead, but our response and trust in the Lord will be a witness to those in need. Our willingness to help our neighbor, free of charge, will be a sign of the gospel to them. All in all we are going to have some great opportunities in the next few years, lets just stop believing in lies.

(1302) Isaiah 58- This is one of the chapters that I quote from a lot when praying. God rebukes his people because they were fasting and practicing religious functions but were neglecting the ‘weightier matters of the law’. They forgot about the poor, doing justice and showing mercy, the same themes you hear in Jesus teaching. But God does say if his people will return to acts of charity, to lifestyles of humility and not trying to ‘get their voices to be heard’ [seeking fame and promotion] then he will exalt them, he will allow their ‘light to rise in obscurity’ [great influence with little personal fanfare and glorying over men]. We will be like ‘a well watered garden and a spring of water whose waters fail not’ God will cause us to ‘ride upon the high places of the earth’ [positions of influence]. This chapter is a great chapter, but it comes with some strong correction- if we heed the warnings the blessings will follow, but sometimes we keep looking for the blessing and never receive the correction, this my friends will never work.

(1300) HE KNEW WHAT A SHAPE-SHIFTER WAS! Isaiah 57- This chapter contains a strong rebuke against God’s people for their ‘working knowledge’ of idolatry; the people were well taught in patterns and ways that were empty. I was watching an episode of Scare Tactics and they did a scenario where they had some oriental kid in a trailer out in the boonies and they set up a fake meteor crash. Part of the skit had the pranksters asking the kid ‘do you know what a shape-shifter is’ and to their surprise the kid answers yes! He then explains that shape shifters are humans who have the ability to transform themselves into animals; the kid knew the definition to the fake word! That’s funny. God rebuked his people for knowing wrong things, in Revelation one of the churches are commended because they were not familiar with the ways of satan. Over the years I have found it troubling that many young believers were taught things that were flat out wrong, it was plain to see that the interpretation of the scriptures that they were taught were wrong, and yet many of them clung to an obvious mistake. The problem was the teachers were continuing to propoagte a wrong view, even though they were told time and time again that the view was wrong. I am not talking sincere differences of belief, but blatant false stuff. In some ways we have trained God’s people to know and understand and believe definitions of stuff that do not exist! They know what shape shifters are for heavens’ sake! In this chapter God rebukes the people and also offers mercy. He says he will raise people up who will remove these stumbling stones, who will clear the way for God’s people and lead them back into paths of peace. When God’s people return to a trust and dependence on him once again, they will feel less troubled when the economy tanks. But when the people of God trust in material riches, they too feel a loss when the things they trusted in begin to fail. Jesus said ‘you believe in God, believe also in me- peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. Not as the world giveth give I unto you, let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid’.

(1298) THEY ARE GREEDY DOGS WHICH CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH AND THEY ARE SHEPHERDS THAT CANNOT UNDERSTAND: THEY ALL LOOK TO THEIR OWN WAY, EVERY ONE FOR HIS GAIN… THEY SAY TOMORROW SHALL BE MUCH MORE ABUNDANT- Isaiah 56:11-12 In the mid 18th century we had what is commonly called ‘the industrial revolution’. In Europe there arose a new class of people that never existed before, these were the capitalists that were making lots of wealth and the laborer was drawn from an agrarian type lifestyle [country/hamlet living] into the strong industrial cities like London. These poor workers were thrust into a system of profit that consumed their days and surrounded them with a new atmosphere of industry/factory. The invention of the steam engine by James Watt was one of the catalysts of this new era. Men like William Booth [founder of the Salvation Army] would see the hopelessness of these Londoners and start a ministry to help them. Even in our day the effects of the industrial revolution still impact us, as a boy growing up I listened to Black Sabbath, Ozzy came from an area like this. Contrast his songs with Kiss and you can see the difference! There was an observer of this scene who would write a document and launch a revolution as a result of what he saw as the encroachment of capitalism on the common person- His name was Karl Marx, his document was called ‘the communist manifesto’. Many people resent the western mindset because of its seeming inability to never be satisfied with finally having enough, we are a consumerist nation. I caught a quick few minutes of religious channel surfing the other day and of course I heard the normal preaching on ‘this year is the year of more abundance than any other year’. Have we ever asked ourselves when we will have enough? Seriously Isaiah is pronouncing a judgment on ‘greedy dogs- those who are never satisfied’ one of the condemnations in Revelation is to believers who say ‘I am rich and increased with goods’ yet they were spiritually poor. Jesus challenged his followers on many occasions to forsake all to follow him. Now I am not advocating irresponsibility, but I am challenging our western mindset and our inability to say ‘that’s enough’. We preach a message that never seems to leave this option open; we create an insatiable desire within the church to live each day with an obsession to gain more. The bible condemns this attitude over and over again, yet we as westerners never seem to get it, if we ever want to truly have peaceful relationships with the rest of the world, then we will have to change our mindset in these areas. Many Muslim countries see our materialist arrogance and use this as an excuse to reject ‘the Jesus of the west’ [though he was technically from the east!] We as the people of God need to return to our own ‘manifesto’ [the gospels] and live them out in reality, if not there will always be a Marx waiting in the wings with his own.

(1295) FOR AS THE HEAVENS ARE HIGHER THAN THE EARTH, SO ARE MY THOUGHTS HIGHER THAN YOUR THOUGHTS; AND MY WAYS HIGHER THAN YOURS Isaiah 55:9 the other night I caught an interview of Frances Schaffer on the Rachel Maddow show. Frances is the son of the famous Frances Schaffer senior, the prolific author/speaker of the 20th century who dealt with Christian worldviews. He wrote Christian Manifesto and How shall we then live, among other titles. Frankie and his dad were key leaders in the rise of the religious right and the moral agenda type groups. Frankie eventually converted to Eastern Orthodoxy and is now a vehement opponent of the religious right. First I want to commend him on his conviction of not being willing to abandon Christianity all together; some children of famous Christian leaders have taken that route, but Frankie [he calls himself Frances now, but for this entry I’m using the old title] has chosen a great Christian tradition to place himself in and for this he should be commended. But he is so vehement against the religious right that he equates it with the Muslim extremists. Now I believe that there are dangerous ideas that the religious right holds to, and that there are extreme elements that shoot abortion doctors and stuff like that. But to lump all the religious right with the radical Muslims is going too far in my view. Just like it would be wrong to lump all Muslims with the few who commit acts of terror. There have been Muslim Americans who have died on the battlefield defending the American side, we should not forget this. But Frankie just tore into all the religious right in a way that does more harm than good in my view. One of the reasons his father was so popular was because he dealt with Christian worldview issues, he was filling a void in the Evangelical world. After the Fundamentalist movement of the 20th century many Protestant believers were lacking a stable diet of ‘higher learning’ [to be nice about it]. There was this religious angst against many types of higher learning. The history of Protestantism in America shows a period where many of the great Protestant theologians [Edwards, etc.] accepted the idea that the mind and faith went hand in hand, but Protestantism for the most part would walk away from this heritage and begin seeing higher forms of learning as bad. The one bright light in the migration from Europe to the Americas was the teaching of the Dutch Reformed theologian Abraham Kyper; he wrote extensively on the Christian worldview and gave Protestants a good foundation to build upon. Well anyway Frances Schaffer also labored in this field. Isaiah said Gods ways are on a higher plane than ours, we often think and function for years at a certain level, and then God comes in and causes us to rethink the whole platform. It’s not so much more information at the current level, but it’s an overall paradigm shift from a previous way of seeing things to a whole new view of things. The philosopher William James describes it like this- He has a study much like my own, with maps and globes and books all over the place. He says when his dog comes into his study the dog sees everything that James sees, but the dog has no ability to understand what these things mean. Even though he ‘sees’ the stuff, he really doesn’t ‘see it’. Sometimes God opens our eyes to the things we have been staring at for years, when this happens we then see more fully what it means when Isaiah says ‘Gods ways/thoughts are higher than hours’ it’s like seeing stuff again for the first time.

(1294) EVERY ONE WHO IS THIRSTY, COME TO THE WATER AND BUY WITHOUT MONEY AND WITHOUT PRICE. HE THAT HAS NO MONEY, LET HIM BUY AND EAT FOR FREE! Isaiah 55:1 my own paraphrase. Last night I caught Larry King interviewing T.D. Jakes, I always liked brother Jakes. Larry did ask him about prosperity preachers and Jakes rejected being associated with the movement. He said his ‘good news’ was that Jesus rose from the dead- bravo for Jakes. King did say that Jakes was ‘selling God’ and Jakes did a rare mild rebuke, he flatly said he does not ‘sell God’. Many years ago I was a fan of the late Keith Green [still am]. I love Keith’s music and read his book and used to send money to his ministry in Lyndale Tx. Keith was one of the original Jesus movement brothers, though he was a musician he really saw what he was doing as ministry and you could tell he meant it. Keith struggled with whether or not he should sell his music, or just give it away. He read this verse from Isaiah and began offering his albums for free, something unheard of in the business. He would eventually settle on a policy of making his music available to those who couldn’t afford it. One time I went to a ministry site that I liked, I saw the on line teachings and thought ‘great, I’ll listen to a message’ after the first minute of listening, you were cut off and if you wanted to hear the rest you had to cough up money- what a shame on the gospel. Though I like brother Jakes, I have come to reject the entire media sensation type personality that comes with the territory of modern ministry. Many modern scenarios have huge budgets and often times ‘the ministry’ becomes a clearing house for the highly charismatic personality; millions are spent on broadcasting the personas of the talented leaders. The whole scene violates the New Testament concept of servant leaders and selfless living. If any of the churches in scripture were becoming platforms for one single personality in the group, this would be rebuked. Paul actually does rebuke this in Corinthians. So anyway Isaiah said let those who have no money come and buy and eat, we need to offer the gospel for free, we need to make Gods truth available for free. I realize that these concepts are often overlooked in today’s world, and people like Larry King sincerely view what we do as ‘selling God’ I think too often we are to blame for this perception. NOTE- If you go to U TUBE you can find a bunch of Keith Green stuff, if you never heard Keith I suggest you give it a shot.

(1293) 2ND KINGS 24- Babylon finally takes Judah captive, there is a specific sin mentioned in this chapter that said ‘God would not pardon’. It was the sin of King Manasseh and his introduction of the pagan rite of sacrificing babies at pagan altars. As I mentioned before, all sins can be forgiven by God, but there seems to be an inescapable national judgment on the sin of abortion. When nations willfully shed innocent blood on such a large scale, these nations cannot escape judgment. Around the year 605 BC Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, began taking people from Judah to Babylon. It was in this early group that the prophet Daniel and his 3 companions went. Then around 597 BC Jerusalem fell. All the nobles and influential people were taken captive, only the poor remained in the land. In a strange way ‘the meek would inherit the earth’. God’s principles are inescapable, often times we think that strength and influence come from wealth and nobility- we feel if we can attain some level of outward success then we can change the world. In Jesus’ kingdom the poor in spirit, the downtrodden, those who suffer ridicule and difficulty- these are the ones that ultimately inherit the promises. This week the president in on an Asian tour, he is trying hard to present a good picture to Japan and China; they are having doubts about lending us any more money. The political line that is given to the American citizen doesn’t cut it with these countries. They know full well that the money our nation is spending is way over the limit of being considered a low risk borrower. They basically don’t swallow the line that a country can initiate all these new programs and have them deficit neutral. So they are checking us out very closely, and if they don’t buy our debt like in the past, we really don’t have many choices. We can just print money, but that would make the problem worse. Israel’s final collapse was due to her national sin of shedding innocent blood, and her pride and arrogance. The ones who suffered the most were the well to do, the poor actually got blessed! They would inherit more under the judgment of God than they did when the nation was running well. I believe there is hope for our country, but I fear that the average American really does not see some of the major hurdles that we are facing, both on an economic and global scale. If we ignore the voice of those who are defending the rights of the unborn, we will suffer. If we continue to worship at the altar of wealth and success, God will ‘remove the wealthy’ from the land and exalt the humble [remove= slashing that 401 K!]. Right now some of the wealthy think all will go well- after all the Dow Jones just went up to 10,400! This indicator is not always what it seems. Sometimes stocks go up because they believe the fed will keep interest rates low, the reason the fed keeps them low is because all is not well yet. So sometimes these signs are not what people think. All in all there are some bright spots, I’m not saying all the signs are bad, but many are. God allowed his people to be judged by his Divine decree. Even in captivity there were still some noble stories to tell [Daniel and his friends]. But Psalms says as a nation the people hung up their harps, how could they sing the songs of Zion in a strange land?

(1292) I HAVE CREATED THE SMITH [blacksmith] THAT BLOWETH THE COALS IN THE FIRE AND BRINGS FORTH AN INSTRUMENT FOR HIS WORK, AND I HAVE CREATED THE WASTER TO DESTROY- Isaiah 54. God made the man who figured out if you get the steel hot enough you can shape it into a tool that will be effective. If God made the man who figured out this ingenious process, where do you think the man got the idea from? God will turn up the heat, so to speak, so he can re-shape some stuff in us. This last year I have tried to read up on some of the trends that go on in the world of Christianity. Sometimes I wonder if after all the great ideas, new ways of seeing things; lots of talk about the church needing to get back to social justice issues, all types of stuff I agree with, but at the end of the day I wonder how many of us are actually doing the stuff. Have we been duped into a system that enables articulators to have a forum, that produces a class of professional hearers of the articulators; but at the end of the day a great majority of us have not really been moved to act? Sort of like I can tell you how important it is to reach out to the poor and hurting, you might really belive me when I tell you this [in all sorts of ways- books, pulpit, etc.] but if all we have accomplished is to have come up with another subject to talk about, and for people to listen- then have we really accomplished anything? God wants ‘instruments’ for his work; tools that really function! It’s okay for the church to have great articulators and for people to have an attentive ear to hear- but it doesn’t stop there. After so much hearing and so much speaking, we then need some volunteers to get into the action! And this means more than just finding some ‘mission to the poor’ ministry that we can write a check to. I fear that the thing that’s lacking with most of us is the willingness to act, to get involved, to be the tool that actually works. Over the years I have bought tools that looked good, but were not well made. They might have been priced cheap, but they did not function well. Like buying the pens from the dollar store, what good is it if you got 50 pens for a dollar and none of them work? So in the kingdom God will often allow the heat to turn up because he wants to fashion some instruments that work, that do more than just speak or listen, but instruments that really get the job done. I have learned over the years that lots of people mean well, but if you want the job to get done you need people that don’t blame everything on others. People who are not professional victims, who find their whole identity in faulting others for their lot in life. I hired a guy to do a small job, to remove some wood from behind a rental house I owned years ago. It was maybe a 20 minute job, he had a truck. He was one of the guys I knew from working with addicts and ex-cons. I made the mistake of paying him the 25 dollars before the job was done. After a few weeks would pass I’d ask him ‘did you move the wood yet brother’? He would have some excuse why he didn’t do it. Finally I drove by the alley and saw the wood was gone. Great! I then found out that the renter got tired of the wood in the alley and hauled it off himself. We need people in the kingdom that act, that function and do what God tells them to do. We already have enough able articulators; enough people willing to buy the books and read about how the church should do more. We simply need some brothers who will actually move the wood.

(1291) I LOVE THAT COW! 2ND KINGS 23:28-37 Pharaoh, king of Egypt, sets up one of the sons of Josiah as a puppet king and gives him a new name. The people pay taxes to this new king and to Pharaoh, but their dominator does not totally dismantle their self rule. I have mentioned this before; that one of the primary ways one kingdom would take over another was to allow them the freedom to run things on their own, but let them pay tribute to their new ‘world order’. In the New Testament you see the kingdom of God grow this way, Jesus and the disciples were making followers of the king. But they did not see this as a means to make people totally co-dependent to the point where they did everything for them. In modern church planting scenarios we see ‘church planting’ as setting up places where people will meet. Providing a regular weekly preaching service. The ‘church/corporate entity’ will meet the needs of the people and the people in turn will ‘pay tithes to the storehouse’ we really have a very limited idea of church planting. It would be more effective if we led people to this new kingdom of God, but didn’t make them so dependent on a particular system, let them grow and govern themselves under the reality of them being servants of the king, this style allows people to experience God in a greater way. Okay, as I have been reading some of the parables of Jesus from the message bible, the one on the treasure hidden in a field spoke to me. The message bible says the kingdom is like a person accidently stumbling across a buried treasure in a field, when he realizes what he’s got he sells everything else and buys the field. At the risk of being crude this reminds me of a joke form the King of Queens, Arthur [Jerry Stiller] is dating Doug’s aunt [Doug- Kevin James] and Doug doesn’t like it. And obviously they are sleeping together and all. So Arthur falls in love with the aunt and informs Doug that he is going to propose marriage to her; Doug is furious. Arthur tells Doug ‘I know you’re wondering why I want to buy the cow if I’m getting the milk for free, well I love that cow, that’s why!’ Arthur was willing to give up everything for ‘the cow’. In essence he wanted to commit to the new found treasure, in a way this is what happens to people when they find the kingdom, you don’t have to set up systems to make people loyal to the kingdom [modern concepts on church membership that have all sorts of ways of trying to instill loyalty into people] when people realize the true value of the kingdom they are willing to give up everything in their pursuit. They will continue to function in society, you don’t have to go build places for these people to meet, let them meet wherever they were meeting before they were brought to the kingdom [homes, etc.] Just do your best to present the kingdom to them in its truest form, let them see the true riches that come with the kingdom. Don’t worry about gaining their loyalty, once they see the treasure they will sell all for it.

(1290) YES, I DID IT AGAIN! I have a confession to make, yes I’m gonna come clean- last night I committed an act that I vow never to do again every time I engage in it- I channel surfed the religious stations. It’s not totally my fault, I woke up at around 12:20 and I am trying not to get up until at least 2-2:30. For a few years [yes years!] I was getting up every night and praying most of the night. After that time passed I stuck with getting up early, usually try to lay down till around 3, then the clocks went back an hour and I’m all messed up. So that’s why I channel surfed, I caught a few good teaching shows but then surfed and saw the ones that are so outrageous that the viewing public usually watches as a joke. One brother was quoting Zechariah [Old Testament book] and using a verse about a plumb line [measuring rod, line- a type of judgment and God bringing his people into alignment. I had a friend who wrote an entire book on these passages from Zechariah] and the brother was teaching how the plumb line represented a 7 fold return on money and church members and all types of stuff- I mean he was teaching stuff that when the true plumb line shows up, these are the things that need to be corrected by the plumb line! Then I surfed a few prosperity guys, and I finally settled on the Catholic station, they were doing a documentary on a catholic nun who started a ministry to the Italian immigrants coming to N.Y. and how she helped them and stuff. It was peaceful enough to leave on. So as I opened the bible to Matthew 13 to share some stuff, I saw the verse in chapter 12 ‘the men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment day with this generation [group] and shall condemn them, for they repented when Jonah preached and yet a greater than Jonah is here’ it seemed to fit. Okay this week I read some from Matthew 13, from the message bible, it really spoke to me. A few entries back I shared how I tore out the ignition from my classic 66 Mustang and had to get some parts, well I wound up ordering them on line and it took 2 days to figure out a minor detail, it’s sort of a trick you do to get the ignition cylinder to fit into the ignition switch- a secret locking pin and all, any way I thought ‘geez, I am spending too much time stuck at this place’. But when I wrote the entry I shared a little about going to auto parts stores and all, and then I read one of Jesus’ parables ‘the kingdom is like a general store owner, he knows how to get just the right part at the right time- either a new or old part’ I liked that. Sometimes we [leaders/pastors] go thru stages where we grasp hold of some ‘new part’ and we spend years stuck at that spot, it’s not so much that the part is bad, or wrong, but it’s just ‘a part’. You might go thru a stage where you find out biblical principles of finances, that’s fine- but don’t go and change the whole bible into a money manual! Or the house church movement. Good part, but people still need to grasp justification by faith and the other ‘old parts’. A good auto parts store will get you the right part, it doesn’t matter whether or not it’s the latest technology [any part for a 66 mustang is not new] what matters is for it to be the part that works for you- sometimes we need the old parts!

(1289) 2ND KINGS 23:1-28 Josiah institutes the reforms that he learned when ‘re-reading’ the lost law of God. He tore down all remaining vestiges of the idolatrous high places. He reinstituted the Passover celebration and he dug up the bones of the false prophets and burned them on their own altars [ouch!]. A few things; in the New Covenant the Passover represents the new community life that we all share in Christ. In Corinthians Paul says ‘Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us’ and when he teaches the Lord’s supper he does it in a communal way, it’s not just a liturgical Mass type of a thing [or a Protestant time for grape juice servings!] but the Lords meal was more of a buffet type atmosphere and the idea was based on a community model. So I think one of the lessons we learn from the reforms of Josiah is God wants to restore ‘the communal Passover- meal’ or that God is challenging many current concepts of church and as we ‘re-read’ our New Testaments we are seeing the church [ecclesia] again ‘for the first time’. Number 2- it sure seemed a little drastic to have dug up the bones of the false priests and to have burned them on their altars! As we went thru this Kings study we covered the fact that Israel permitted certain wrong things to exist for various reasons. Many people eventually associated their worship of God with these idolatrous practices. These were good people who received these wrong ideas from previous ‘leaders’. Josiah fulfilled a prophecy given 300 years earlier that someday the bones of the false priests would be burned on their altars. To me this represents the need for believers in our day to be willing to look at some of the erroneous doctrines of past movements [remember, idolatry in the new Testament is covetousness, people who love and seek wealth!] and to realize that many of these un balanced teachings came from wrong things that were taught and accepted in the past. Things taught by good people, people who meant well, but wrong never the less. The ‘digging up of the bones’ represents the process of going back and doing a little history on some of these things and finally once and for all setting the record straight. All in all Josiah instituted more reform than any other king before him, he was the only king to restore the Passover, he had the courage to see things for the first time and to act in a righteous way before God. His reforms were great, but they came too late in Judah’s history to prevent final judgment, as a nation they dug themselves too deep of a hole and they were going to suffer for it whether they liked it or not. God is merciful, his mercies are new every morning, but when nations go down long paths of disrespecting human life; of mocking God and Christian principles [not right wing stuff!] then we can’t keep thinking that all will go well, that the recession will turn out just fine. No, there are many things not ‘just fine’, as an economy it is foolish to think that we can have 10.2 % unemployment and still have a jobless recovery. When the jobless rate is that high, and going up, then who are all the people that will be buying and spending and working and doing all the things that are part of a recovery? We are kidding ourselves when we think like this. Josiah did some good stuff, but the people needed to change course a long time ago, it was too late to avoid some national consequences.

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

(1286) ISAIAH 53- This chapter is without a doubt the most Messianic chapter in the Old Testament; I find the character of Jesus described in this chapter to be a challenge to many modern concepts of ministry and leadership. Jesus is described as a ‘tender plant’ who grew up out of dry ground [type of virgin birth] we a have tendency to want well watered ground, we do all we can to create a favorable environment around us, Jesus thrived in ‘dry ground’. He is described as someone who had no outward flash that would attract us to him if we saw him; he was not the type of personality that sucked all the air out of the room when he showed up. I was listening to a testimony of a minister who attended a ‘preacher’s convention’ he shared how he felt being in an environment where everyone spoke in a baritone type voice, putting on a preachers garb/persona. How when the pastor/preacher of a group showed up amongst the regular crowd, that there was an expectation of the leaders persona to take over and become the central voice in the group. While there are many well meaning men who fall into this category, yet Jesus was someone who when you saw him was unpretentious, there was no ‘beauty- outward persona’ that would attract you to him. Isaiah says he was acquainted with grief and was not respected, as he bore the problems and failures of others he remained faithful to intercede for the transgressors. God would give him a portion with the great men because he was faithful in obscurity; many judged his difficulties as being a sign that God rejected him. He would make no effort to hide his trials, contrary to the media image that the modern church presents. Jesus was truly a Lamb led to the slaughter who would not open his mouth or defend himself when maligned, his entire style of leadership goes contrary to what we see in the modern day. You read in the New Testament that certain authorities were excited when they found out that Jesus would appear before them, thinking ‘wow, here’s my chance to see him perform’ type of a thing. Yet they would be let down because Jesus didn’t play that game, he was not seeking an audience. I like this chapter a lot, it makes us re-think many of the things we do in our day, things that we associate with ‘successful ministry’ I think Jesus’ pattern is the way to go.

(1285) Yesterday I had some time to read my latest issue of Christianity Today, was kinda surprised that they had a few articles on the Prosperity Gospel. It’s really been a while since I dealt with it myself, but I always felt that the effect of the more extreme teachings from the movement had more bad influence on many good believers than the average pastor/preacher understood. To have entire groups/generations of Christians thinking that Jesus and his men were rich and that those who rejected extreme wealth were ‘old traditionalists’ these major distortions have had a terrible effect on biblical Christianity. But it usually takes a generation or 2 before people can really see the mistakes and grow in their understanding, most times people will defend to the death their positions with proof texts that ‘prove I’m right’ and that the other guy is wrong. Well anyway I thought it interesting that they covered the subject. I mailed off a package of tapes/materials to my friend who converted to Islam, I included the latest posts I wrote on the Ft. Hood tragedy. It really is a sad situation, I don’t mean to sound like I am defending the actions of the Major who committed the crime; we just need to realize that these radical ideas exist on the internet sites and they do have an effect on unstable people. Many Christians hold to violent militaristic views of the Old Testament in a way that they view the fulfilling of prophecy thru the lens of killing non Jews. These believers think that it is the purpose of God to involve himself on the side of the military of Israel and that current successful missions are a testimony to God’s grace. These views can be just as off base as those embraced by the Muslim extremists; they view God and his kingdom thru violent means that has one side killing the other and thinking that this is God’s will. Christians and religious people as a whole need to reject all types of killing scenarios as being from God. Yes nations and countries will fight and war, I am not advocating national pacifism, but when we mix in the wars of nations with the kingdom of God we err. Well anyway I felt like I should share these few thoughts today, it’s a rainy Sunday morning and I had a good early prayer time and got a little wet. But I like quoting the verses ‘let your doctrine drop down like rain and your speech distill like dew’ when praying in the rain, it ads texture to the prayer. Hopefully will do another chapter of 2nd kings tomorrow, I plan on doing Galatians after that. I will do both radio and blog when teaching Galatians, I haven’t done a new radio teaching in over a year! Just running old studies that have never aired yet. Try and read up on Galatians in the next few weeks and familiarize yourself with the text before I teach it, I will probably ‘correct’ some off balanced prosperity teaching on the ‘blessing of Abraham’ and some stuff like that. Okay that’s it for now, God bless for today and try and remember to pray weekly for us- check out the prayer request section on the blog and pray thru it weekly, it helps.

(1284) FOR A LAW SHALL PROCEED FROM ME AND I WILL MAKE MY JUDGMENT TO REST FOR A LIGHT OF THE PEOPLE Isaiah 51:5 I found out last week that one of my friends converted to Islam, he spent some time in New Jersey jails and rehabs and the Muslim influence is strong in Jersey. He explained to a friend how ‘God doesn’t share his glory’ and that he was taught that the Christian view of Jesus violates this truth. First, it would take too much time to overview the entire history of various beliefs and questions on different expressions of the Trinity, suffice it to say that there have been Christian groups from the first century up until today who have had difficulties with the Orthodox expression of the Trinity. I am Trinitarian, but understand how these various groups have had difficulty. Just to name a few; the Ethiopian Orthodox churches reject Trinitarian language. The Oriental Christian churches in general reject the language. The invading barbarians who attacked the Roman Empire were eventually converted to a form of Christianity that would reject Trinitarian language. The great Blasé Pascal thought it to have been a false teaching. I could go on and on with many groups who believed in God and Jesus but did not accept strong Trinitarian language. The point being, if someone thinks that all Christians hold the same views on the language, they are mistaken. I wrote a letter to my friend who converted to Islam, I simply shared the main difference between Christianity and Islam [and all religions], that Christianity teaches forgiveness and acceptance with God as a gift that comes thru the Atonement of Christ. Jesus died for men’s sins and rose again as a sacrificial atonement for man, Islam has some well meaning teachings in it but at the end of the day it is a religion that is legalistic. People attempt to gain Gods favor thru their own efforts; this is opposed to the Christian view of grace. I basically think it to be a red herring to use the language of the Trinity as a reason to reject Christianity and become Muslim, as I already stated there are many Christian groups who would agree with some of the issues that Muslims raise; this does not deal with the fact that man cannot atone for his own sins, man is unable thru any religious works to make himself right with God. The ‘law that proceeds from God’ to the nations is a law based on grace, not works. Paul calls it ‘the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus’ [Romans] he contrasts it with the law of works. Now the whole history of Justification by faith and how different Christian groups see it is another intramural war that rages within the church, N.T. Wright recently put out a book on it, John Piper wrote one in defense of the historic Reformation view- Wright’s view has some excellent points, but would be considered New Perspective. So there are differences in the way Justification by Faith is seen, but all groups agree that man is accepted by God based on the free gift of Grace that comes thru the Cross. Yes, Catholics and Protestants agree with this language, though there are other differences. The point today is I believe we as believers need to make clear the differences between law based religions and Christianity, Jesus offers free forgiveness based on his death burial and resurrection. Law based religions might seem noble at the start, but at the end of the day they lead to condemnation and frustration, they are a vain attempt by man to make himself pleasing to God- an impossible task.

(1283) TRAGEDY AT FORT HOOD- A few days ago as I was praying the regular routine of praying over areas of Texas I sensed a really strong leading from God to extend my prayer region to include highway 35 from San Antonio up thru the Dallas Fort Worth area. For years I have prayed over the area of 35 that extends from San Antonio to Austin, but I always stop at Austin. But the leading of the Lord to ‘pray further north’ was so strong, that I added some changes to my prayer maps in my office and even ‘staked out’ a new spot in my yard while praying in the early mornings. Yesterday we had the worst mass killing in US history that took place on a military base, it was FORT HOOD. Fort Hood is located directly off of highway 35 between San Antonio and Dallas, just a little past Austin. The tragedy is the reality that both Muslim Americans and military people will be hurt thru this event. That there are certain elements in radical Islam [not all Muslims!] that see the present situation thru ethnic/religious eyes. It’s also tragic that there are Fundamentalist Christians that see it the same way. I do not see this Army Major as an evil man who set out in life to hurt Americans, he is an American himself. Born and raised in the U.S. But the various ideologies of the wars and the disagreements between Islam and Christianity play a role in the way people’s ideas are formed, then these ideas can lead to violence on either side. The other day I received another email from some Pastors in Pakistan, they read the site and appreciate our teachings. If you look under the sections ‘Trinity, Christian, Muslim stuff’ and ‘Gentile, Jewish, Christian’ you will read many entries that stand against the popular American preachers ideas about Muslims and Christians. In a way I defend Muslims/Arabs to a degree. I also totally reject all acts of violence on either side, I do not support our current war in Afghanistan and want our troops out. I guess it’s because of this progressive/liberal stance that I have both Arab Christians and Muslims who read our site, great! I simply want to exhort all Muslims, Christians and other faiths; no matter how sincere we are in our beliefs, no matter how much we think certain views are right and others are wrong, we need to outright reject violence as a means of winning our points. We need to have the freedom of our beliefs and there expressions, the freedom to say ‘I believe Jesus is the way’ while at the same time respecting other cultures and religious beliefs. This entire incident is so tragic, it will drive a wedge between Muslim Americans and right wing radicals. It will play into the stereotypes that the radical Muslim fundamentalists want for recruiting purposes. It will justify the un Christian mentality of ‘let’s just blow them away’ that has been expressed by the religious right. A tragedy indeed. To all my Muslim readers, please reject these extreme views, they do no good for honest and peace loving Muslims. To all my Christian readers, do not view these events thru a ‘Christian lens’ that sees these events as justification for the killing of Muslims in other countries. We all need to pray for our country at this time and we need leaders from all religions to take public stands against this type of violence. May God help us all.

(1281) THE LORD HAS GIVEN ME THE TONGUE OF THE WISE THAT I WOULD KNOW HOW TO SPEAK A WORD IN SEASON TO HIM THAT IS WEARY…HE OPENS MY EAR IN THE MORNING- Isaiah 50. I was reading John 17 earlier and Jesus speaks about giving the words that the Father gave him, Jesus then communicates these words of value to his men. Jesus says ‘these are yours and yours are mine… you gave me these men out of the world and I have shared with them your truth’. There is a Divine sense of value on the words that God speaks. I read an article a while back written by a person who sold documentaries to TV stations, the person shared how they presented a valuable series of programs to one of the leading Christian stations. She was surprised that the station said they were not interested and would never pay a person/producer for a program. She explained to the station that these shows were high quality and that she would normally get paid for these shows, but the network said the only criteria they ever use is simply whether or not the church/ministry pays the required amount for airtime, the station never decides what to air based on quality. The person said they finally worked out a deal where the station accepted the programs but would not pay for them; the producer ran them for free. When we in the ‘Christian world’ operate along the lines of simply speaking/teaching words based on whether or not people can pay for the broadcast, then we are not even living up to the standards that the secular world uses. The same goes for Christian ‘movies’ many are done on a scale that’s quite frankly embarrassing. I rented a DVD a few months ago that was promoted by a Christian network, I got it for the girls and had them watch it. I asked them how it was, they said ‘it was okay dad, but you can tell it was cheesy’. Now there are excellently done movies with Christian themes, movies like ‘the mission’ with Robert Deniro, or ‘Les Miserable’s’ with Liam Neesan, these are high quality works of art. But much of what we call Christian broadcasting is simply the broadcasting of church meetings, very limited stuff. I simply want to encourage you today; God has given you a ‘set of words’ and a group of people that you are to communicate these words to over your life. Jesus understood that he was doing more than just ‘giving sermons’ he was getting the specific message across to the men that the father gave him out of the world, his ear was open to hear what the father was saying and he spoke those words. Let’s reevaluate what we as leaders/believers say and do, let’s strive for quality and be sensitive to what we are communicating, if the level of Christian programming that we are releasing is either low quality or low value [some high tech shows still teach silly stuff!] then lets reevaluate the stuff and if necessary pull some words back. It does no good to the minister/church or to the people when we speak words that are not coming from the Father.

(1280) 2ND KINGS 20 Hezekiah gets sick and the prophet Isaiah tells him that he will die. Hezekiah seeks God and before Isaiah leaves the courtyard God tells him ‘turn back, he will get another 15 years’ God extends his life. But he asks for a sign from the Lord to know that he will live, God gives him the sign of ‘the sundial’ it will go back 10 degrees and not forward. Hezekiah allows the Babylonians to see all his treasures and God rebukes him for ‘casting his pearls before swine’ and pronounces judgment that will take place when his son comes to the throne. This chapter also mentions the project that Hezekiah built, an underground water source [tunnel] that ran from the spring Gihon and brought water secretly into Jerusalem. This was a smart engineering move on the part of the king, in bible times when one king attacked another he would cut off the water source from the city; this secret underground tunnel was undetectable. For many thousands of years this story has been in the bible, some mocked it ‘where is the source’? In 1880 archaeologists found the tunnel with inscriptions on it. Let’s do a few things; the story of the sun dial going back is like the story of Joshua and God keeping the sun from setting a whole day until Joshua routed the enemy. One of the major challenges to believing the bible literally [face value] was the entire discovery of how our solar system worked [Copernicus, Galileo] and fitting that in with the biblical accounts [sun setting and rising language]. So many of the biblical critics came to reject these stories based on the fact that in order to ‘make the sun go back/stop the sun from setting’ you would have to stop the earth from rotating, or turn the rotation backwards! And science tells us that this would have catastrophic effects on the earth and seas, the gravitational effects would be enormous. In essence natural science tells us this can’t happen. Are all miracles like this? The event of the worldwide flood had natural events that caused the earth to flood. In today’s world a few well placed meteors hitting the oceans could easily repeat the event, so some supernatural acts of God coincide with natural explanations. But some don’t. The God of Christian theology is both Transcendent and Immanent, that means he is ‘above us’ [higher class than humans] and yet omnipresent, he has his hands in everything! Transcendence does not mean he is simply geographically far away, but that he operates in another dimension, he is not limited to the time/space continuum like we are. Einstein blew away many preconceived ideas about time and space with his ingenious theories, he showed us that things don’t always work the way we think. A being who can operate outside of these dimensions can do things that would defy all natural explanations, this is what I believe happened with these types of miracles, we don’t always have to find a natural explanation to a supernatural event. God spared Hezekiah and he was a great king, he made some mistakes and suffered for it. Yesterday I lost my vehicle keys, I looked all day and interrogated my wife and kids [they have taken them before] and after many hours of seeking I came to the logical conclusion that they were gone for good. My wife told me ‘lets wait and see, who knows maybe they will show up’ Oh yea sure, I guess they will just fall out of the sky! I am a man of action and decision; the keys were to my truck and my 1966 classic mustang in the garage. So I did what any reasonable man would do- I removed the ignition from the mustang [yes this is bad] and cut the wires out so I could splice the new ignition in its place. The official way to replace it calls for the removal of the dashboard and that’s quite a job. I could have called the lock guy and they could make a key, but I was already having a few problems with the ignition so I figured just do the whole thing. I also got the number to the dodge dealer so I could call them and get another key made from the VIN number on the truck. At around 11:00 pm the keys were found in the spot where I accidently put them, in a few hours I will be heading to Pep Boys for the ignition, the car sits in the garage with the wires hanging out from under the dashboard. Hezekiah was a good man, he did good things; but he also acted presumptuously at times, he let the Babylonians see the stuff that was supposed to be secret. Sometimes we can have all the good intentions in the world, this still will not immunize us from stupid decisions.

(1279) THE ROSE OF SHARON- Last Sunday I tried to catch one of the services on TV that I watch every so often, but when I checked the channel guide it wasn’t on. So instead of reading I thought I would see if there was anything else on that would be profitable. They were showing the classic movie ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ and I always try and watch it annually. Back in New Jersey we read Steinbeck’s classic in high school and I have the novel sitting here in my office. I asked the Lord to show me something that would have some spiritual meaning, I focused on a few things- Tom Joad [Henry Fonda] says about ‘preacher Casey’ [John Carradine] ‘He was a lantern/light, he made us see things differently’ and the name of Toms younger sister is ‘Rose a Sharon’. This term comes from the bible [Song of Solomon chapter 2] and most preachers use the language to describe Christ and his bride [the church]. So anyway I like the image of wild flowers and stuff, so it was good. The last day or so one of the Christian TV stations has been broadcasting some prophetic type meeting out of Kansas. I have written on these brothers before and over the years there have been some interesting prophetic type signs that I received from these guys. As I’m watching the meeting they are recalling their ‘prophetic history’ and they share how one of the key images that was given them thru a prophet was the image ‘Rose of Sharon’, I thought that was cool. In Isaiah God says ‘I have engraven you on the palms of my hands, your walls are continually before me’ ‘you will spring up like wildflowers/lilies along the water ways’. God uses lots of ‘flower’ imagery when speaking of his people. Paul uses the language of us being Gods garden. Jesus said he was the vine and we are the branches. The verse in Song of Solomon says that the Rose of Sharon is like the lily of the valley. God’s community of people are a natural outgrowth of the message and life of the kingdom going forth into all nations. We do a disservice at times when we [theologians/teachers] emphasize that the church technically started on the day of Pentecost; I really don’t disagree with this idea, I understand it was the day the Spirit birthed the church in a sense, but the problem is we tend to neglect the actual style that Jesus used when making disciples. That is Jesus is going around preaching the kingdom, healing people, doing all these great kingdom works and he is instilling in the disciples this free flowing mindset of simply sowing the seed and allowing God to ‘make them grow’. Jesus even says in his parables that when farmers plant seed, they sleep and rise day and night and the seed produces on its own. The disciples ask him once ‘these other guys are using your name and we forbid them because they are not part of our group’ and Jesus rebukes them and tells them to leave them be. He was challenging the ‘ownership mentality’ the idea of ‘local church’ and ministry as being things that we own/oversee as some sort of business enterprise. You never see Jesus trying to recruit people’s loyalty in a way that modern church scenarios do in our day. He was sending his men out to preach the kingdom, those who would believe and become followers would be part of his kingdom- no need to create all sorts of ways to tell people ‘if you are committed to this work/this vision- the vision of the man of God who oversees this house’ all well intended language that is often used to try and instill loyalty, but this type of mindset is really not seen in this free flowing ‘wild flower’ ministry of Jesus. He knows his followers will ‘spring up like wild flowers along the waterways’ they will be like ‘lilies in the valleys’ beautiful things that seem to spring up outside of the constraining barriers of man. Sure the potted plants at Wal Mart have some value, but then when you leave the store and see all the natural lilies springing up along these roads and high ways, you think ‘wow, these things look great and they need no maintenance and seem to be unstoppable’. The plants in the garden centers are high maintenance, the ‘Rose’s of Sharon and lilies in the valleys’ seem to have a life of their own.

(1277) These past few weeks I have been adding a bunch of new verses to memory from Isaiah. Every so often I will read chapters 40 thru the end of the book and I always see new stuff. This morning I was reading the first few verses in chapter 49; the Lord is confirming the special calling on Israel as well as speaking about the Messiah- ‘It is a small thing to me to use you to restore the nation of Israel, I will also give you as a light to the Gentiles’ Paul uses this quote in Acts [I think it’s Paul]. One of the responses of Israel to seeing the truth of Messiah is ‘I have labored in vain; all the years of my efforts were worthless’ [these are all my own paraphrasing]. I find this interesting, Paul says the same thing in the letter to the Philippians, after his conversion and revelation of the grace of God he actually viewed all of his previous efforts to advance what he thought was Gods cause, he now saw his own energies under the law as vain. He called them ‘dung’ his efforts at trying to produce a self righteousness were working against the actual grace of God. Often times in ministry we believe that the key to success is much effort ‘try harder’ ‘if we just had more money Gods work would get done’. One of the great dichotomies of the kingdom is that our efforts often work against Gods purpose, this is not to say we shouldn’t work and function for Gods kingdom, it’s just not a matter of self effort. This passage in Isaiah also talks about Jesus being despised and hated with a passion, yet he will touch kings and nations. A previous chapter says ‘men of stature shall come over to thee- you will influence kings and princes’ God will give us great influence to touch nations and kings, but we need to also embrace the words of Jesus in Johns’ gospel ‘how can you please God, you who are trying to please men- spending energy on the glory that comes from being recognized by man’. Let all our efforts be based upon the grace of God, this thing is not about us or are gifts being put under the spotlight, it’s about entering into the true purposes of God and ceasing from our own labors ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto thine own understanding’ we often lean too heavily on our own understanding.

(1274) VISION FOR THE CITY? As I’m doing the Kings study I have also been reading Isaiah, they kinda fit because in Isaiah God uses the prophet to rebuke and correct his people; in Kings we see Gods actual correction. In Isaiah 48 God tells his people ‘I showed you the future before it happened, I am doing new things with you; these are things that never existed until right now. I am revealing things to you for the first time ever; no one has seen these things before’. God really gives them some great promises, he also tells them ‘don’t you think I foresaw all the sins and mistakes you were going to make? I knew that you were going to be stubborn and not listen, I chose you anyway- not as some favor to you, but because this whole thing was my purpose from the start’ [my paraphrasing]. Over the years my thinking has changed/grown in certain areas, I remember a time when it was popular to focus on the ‘destiny of your city’. Many books written on the subject, studying the history of your city and looking for clues to Gods purpose. Now I want to be careful here, I do believe in the concept of God wanting to use his people to have a real impact on society, God does want our cities and nations to experience him. But now as I look back I feel some of the over emphasis on our cities was a little off balance. it was common to read/hear ‘what is happening now in our city [any name can fit] has happened before in other places on the earth, we are now living in a time of unbelievable destiny’ and yet as you looked at the actual scene, things pretty much were chugging along at the same pace as years gone by. In the New Testament you never see this type of emphasis on your particular city, there is a transitional mindset that went from ‘natural Jerusalem’ [your actual city where you live] to the New Jerusalem that comes down from God out of heaven [the church/people of God]. So instead of Paul writing letters to the churches and saying ‘you have no idea how great a destiny God has for Corinth/Ephesus/Philippi’ you read what a great purpose God has for those who name the name of Christ who live in these areas. So you see some excitement over what God is doing in these cities, but the actual emphasis is on the spiritual development of the communities of God dwelling in them. Got it? I say all this not to ‘pop anyone’s bubble’ so to speak, I just think we need to rethink some of the excitement that comes along with wanting God to work in our cities. God told his people he was going to do some awesome things thru them, he was going to show them things that no one has seen before- he would establish purposes and ministries that he had planned long before we were ever born. Just don’t confuse natural Jerusalem with spiritual Jerusalem. Earthly kingdoms and nations [and yes cities] will all pass away, but we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be removed, we are being built into a habitation for God, we look for a city that hath foundations whose builder and maker is God [Hebrews].

(1273) 2ND KINGS 17 in some ways this is a transitional chapter; up until now foreign countries attacked and suppressed Israel, but in this chapter we see the first real captivity of the people as a whole. Hoshea the king over the northern tribes [Israel] rebels against the king of Assyria who had them under tribute. So the king of Assyria puts Hoshea in jail and besieges Israel for 3 years, they take the city [Samaria] and they remove the majority of the people out of the land. He also places foreigners in the land to repopulate it. These foreign nations eventually mix in with the remnant that remained and these descendants are what we read about in John’s gospel, they were considered ‘half breed’ Samaritans. Now after the new inhabitants settle in the ‘Lord sent lions among them’. The people see this as judgment from God and request the Assyrian king to send them a priest so they could learn the ways of the God of the land and not die. This priest arrives and to some degree teaches these pagans the true worship of God, they of course kept their pagan beliefs as well, but it is interesting to see how the Lord even used a judgment scenario to redeem people. Okay, last night I was reading some of the history of the 18th-19th centuries and how after the French Revolution and the era of Napoleon many Europeans began to fear the idea of total and free Democracy, there was a sort of romantic musing upon the good old days of the Monarch. Many Frenchmen longed for the stability of the old Catholic church, these were called ‘Ultramontanists’ which meant ‘beyond the mountains- Alps’ and stood for their desire to re attach with the old Roman church in a way that allowed the church to reassert a global oversight over France as it used to have before the Revolution and Reformation. Part of the fear had to do with the nation states being their own sovereign, that whatever the nations wanted to now do they could do without any outside oversight; in essence part of the role of the Roman church was to provide a type of ‘united nations’ oversight over the individual states. Ultimately Democracy would eventually prevail and the new world of the Americas would be the first nation to adopt Democratic principles right from the start. When reading the history of the world, often time’s revisionists put their own spin on stuff. For instance we often read the history of Darwin in the latter half of the 19th century and see him as some enlightened figure who stood up against the bigotry of the church. But a generation or 2 before Darwin you had many ‘enlightened’ Evangelicals who fought for human rights and the dignity of man. William Wilberforce and the ‘Clapham community’ were men who used their political and social status as a means of freeing the Black man from the horrendous slave trade in Britain. Clapham was a small town around 3 miles outside of London; the town was sort of an elite place for the higher ups of society. Sort of like the Hamptons. Yet it was from this area in the late 18th century that many of the modern programs of the Evangelical movement were launched. The wealth and influence of these men launched the first bible societies, they started mission organizations for the poor; and even tried to instill a schema of social justice in their business dealings [the head of the East India trading company was part of the group]. These men wrought good social change and fought for the rights of the Black man, for him to be treated as a human and not some type of lower class chattel property. Darwin’s ideas would put into print the racist ideas of those who opposed the outlawing of slavery as a legitimate trade. Those who resisted freeing the slaves [both in Britain and the colonies] believed that the Black man was an inferior race to the White man. Darwin taught these beliefs openly in his books; he believed the Black race was proof of Evolutionary theory, that the Blacks proved to us that there were intellectually inferior races of men that did not advance along the more educated road of White men. The point being that a full 70 years before Darwin you had very influential Christian men who fought for the rights and freedom of Black men, and yet history normally portrays Darwin as the person who fought the bigotry of the church in his noble journey for truth. Okay, God allowed his people to be taken captive, they rebelled against him and they lost their freedom as a people, yet they still had a history of great and noble deeds, they accepted proselytes into their nation and treated the poor in their land with respect. It would be wrong to view the entire history of Gods people [both now and then] from the lens of the sins and wrongs that occurred, yes the church has made her mistakes and it sounds noble to say ‘lets cast off all the restraints of religion’ but in the end you might wind up looking past the Alps for some help.

(1272) THE O’RIELLY FACTOR- The other day as I drove past the auto store O’Reilly’s I had the sense that I would be going there soon. In the old days I used to do all my own work on the junker cars I purchased. I remember many days in Kingsville going to every auto store in town, I used to frequent a little rinky dink place called ‘GAF auto’. They had a real nice older Mexican brother named Red; he always helped find me just the right part in their disorganized store. So any way my daughter’s radiator on the Mustang had a few problems and I managed to take off the overflow reservoir and patch the leak. But then the electric fan motor [I hate them!] would not turn on. I actually replaced the fan motor a few years back and was not sure what the problem was. I told my wife ‘Look, I am not going to start replacing stuff [like the old days] until I hit the jackpot, this time you guys need to take it to the shop’. I am trying to get away from doing stuff like this nowadays. So she looks on line and says ‘it might be the resistor’ [type of fuse]. As I pull out these fuses you really can’t tell if their bad or not so I think one sounds bad as I shake it. I am also trying to check the connections themselves to see if I loosened one when fixing the reservoir. So any way I really can’t tell what’s wrong, I’m running the engine to see if the fan will turn on and messing with everything. I go into the garage to look if I have the repair book for this car [1998 mustang]. I have bought books over the years for the various vehicles we have owned but couldn’t find one for this car [I have one for my 66 mustang but not for a 98]. As I pull the books off of a top shelf a resistor falls down. It says ‘ford’ on it and it looks like the part I’m looking for. As I think back I must have replaced them when I originally changed the fan motor a few years ago and I guess I kept a good one. So I stick it in and sure enough it’s fixed. What are the odds that this loose part just happened to fall down off a shelf? Red would have been proud of me. I bought these original parts at O’Reilly’s auto a few years ago; I guess the lord was telling me I would be fixing a car with an O’Reilly part soon. In Isaiah God says ‘ask me about the future of my sons, concerning the work of my hands command me’ ‘these people I have formed for myself, they will show forth my praise’ ‘before stuff happens I show it to you, before it springs forth I reveal it’. God is telling us ‘look, I am the one who has brought you to the place where you are at today; I have guided your steps. I have the power to manipulate the environment to give you a favorable outcome- you have not chosen me but I have chosen you and ordained you that you should go and bring forth fruit and that it will last’ God is on our side, even little things like allowing a part to fall off of a shelf in the nick of time, God does stuff like this. I want to encourage all of our leaders who read this blog, be sensitive to the little ‘impressions’ God gives you on the journey, they might not seem significant at the time, but God does speak to us in simple ways. Look for the confirmation on stuff, I was really ready to give up on the car but I knew the lord had impressed ‘auto shop’ on my mind just a few days earlier, I had no idea how the details would work out but knew that God had spoken in this seemingly minor way. God is the one who brought us here, he will help with the little [and big] stuff along the way.

(1270) CONC. 2ND KINGS 15- Azariah the king had a long reign and also was a leper. We read earlier how Naaman the leper was a great military leader. A few weeks ago as I was channel surfing I caught a biography on Father Damien, a Belgian Priest who went to Hawaiian in the 1800’s to serve Gods people. Hawaii had a problem with Leprosy at the time and they eventually quarantined the lepers to an island named Molokai [sp?]. Father Damien used to visit the island and eventually requested permission to stay on the island and serve the people. He eventually caught leprosy himself and wrote how he so identified with the people that it was only fitting that he should die from the common disease of the people he loved. The next week I read an article or 2 on Father Damien, it just so happened that he was up for being canonized as a Saint by the Pope. So a few stories covered some of the controversy that surrounded him; some accused him of sleeping with some of the women on the island and they said that’s how he got sick. Other critics said he wasn’t really as dedicated as the stories portrayed; that he actually traveled to a part of the island where normal people lived and then he would later go back to the side where the lepers were. So the critics had their reasons, some of the critics were sincere in their beliefs and did not intend for their critiques to be made public. So to be honest reading these stories did cause me to doubt some of the heroic things I saw in the biography. All in all Father Damien was made a ‘Saint’ and in order for this to have happened under Catholic teaching the stories about father Damien’s infidelities had to be considered untrue. I actually found it fitting in a way that a man could still be recognized and honored even if he had these failings. Officially the church said these stories were false, but they might very well have been true and yet the good work Father Damien did was still honored. Now I in no way want to leave the impression that this would be some sort of accuse for sin, I just thought it fitting that the man was still honored even with the question out there about his faults. King Azariah ruled a long time [52 years] and yet he had a disease that was considered like having aids. There was a stigma to it. The people on Molokai were quarantined there because they were actually following the rules given in the Old Testament on how to deal with leprosy. In Jesus day you saw the same thing apply, people had to be separated from the population and there were cleansing rules for the houses they lived in and stuff like that. So in a primitive way the Hawaiians did their best to deal with the problem. Yet God shows us that some of his great leaders, men he used to do good things, also suffered from physical ailments that were considered tragic. In Isaiah 53 the bible says ‘it pleased the Lord to bruise him, thru his suffering my righteous servant shall justify many’. Jesus of course suffered by the will of God and God saw the things he was going thru, these things were the very acts that bought our redemption! Father Damien saw his affliction and eventual death as some type of redemptive price that he would pay for his efforts to redeem the people of Molokai, in essence ‘it pleased the Lord to bruise him, and thru his suffering he justified many’.

(1268) 2nd KINGS 14:21-28 Jeroboam [the 2nd] had a fairly long reign, he captured lost territories and extended Israel’s borders. Jonah the prophet lived and prophesied during his realm [Jonah the son of Amittai] and yet the scriptures say he was an evil king. Sometimes God allows people to come to rule during prophetic seasons, prophetic in the sense that the times themselves are significant. The church might be called to speak in a special way to society, you might have the rise of prophetic men [Martin Luther King jr.] and because of the significance of the time, even an ‘evil ruler’ [pro abortion, pro gay agenda, well you get the picture] can be used for good. Jeroboam accomplished much, not by his own laurels, but because he had ‘come to the kingdom for such a time as this’. The prophetic word of Jonah was going forth at this season and God was going to restore Israel’s borders whether or not the king was righteous. I was reading an article the other day, it showed how many of the Christian leaders in Africa had very high hopes for president Obama, they were seeing great significance out of the historic election of one who descended from a race who were formerly enslaved by White men. These leaders took a very different stand than the American believers, many of whom view the president as a threat to civilization! When I pray for the president, I also pray for the leaders of the world, my prayer goes like this; I pray first for those who are believers, I ask the Lord to guide them in right paths and to give them the courage to rule justly. I pray for those who are unbelievers, that the Lord would reveal the truth of the gospel to them and that they would rule justly thru ‘common grace’ that they would be like the ‘unjust judge’ in scripture who did what was right out of political expediency. And then I pray for the 3rd group, all those who are actively fighting against the people of God and are openly wicked; I pray that these would be removed from office and replaced with righteous authority, but then I add ‘until they are removed, may God be glorified even thru their rebellion as happened with Pharaoh king in Egypt’. I basically acknowledge that the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord and he can turn it any way he wants. So in Jeroboams case it would have been counterproductive to have fought against the man all thru his reign, he was chosen by God [and the people] to be there, he ruled during a prophetic season in the church [prophetic in the sense of justice] and God did use him to restore much land that was lost under ‘previous administrations’ all in all God used a king that ‘did evil’ but ruled during a crucial time in national history.

(1266) 2ND KINGS 13- Israel is under oppression from Syria, they cry out to God and he delivers them. But they have a diminished army when all is said and done. In the New Testament Jesus said wise kings take inventory of their forces; when one army comes up against another, wise kings look at the match up and if they think they can’t win they make arrangements for some type of peace. Strength isn’t always about how much force you have or can display, sometimes it’s realizing your limits and having the wisdom of not letting a bunch of your soldiers die for a lost cause. In this chapter we also see the death of Elisha, it’s been over 40 years since his last true public appearance, here at the end of his life the king comes and feels overwhelmed. Elisha was a true stabilizing force for the nation; the king knew he had an experienced prophet who could lend support when the time called for it. But now he realizes he will have to go it on his own, sure he had other prophets around; but they were young guys, still dealing with inexperience and stuff. It’s not that they were of no value, but you could tell that they were going to go thru some learning curves in the years ahead and Elisha had already been thru all that. So Elisha encourages the king and says ‘take your bow and shoot thru the east window’ so he does this prophetic act and Elisha tells him he will overcome the enemy from the east [Syria]. Then he tells him to stomp the ground with the arrows, so he does it 3 times. Elisha says he should have done it 5 or 6 times! But because you were a little lackluster you will only have a partial victory over your enemy. And last but not least Elisha dies and is buried and some brothers bury one of their dead in the same grave and as soon as the body touches Elisha the guy comes back to life. Elisha was raising brothers from the dead after he died! What do we make from this? Various Christian churches put different emphasis on what the dead can do; relics, praying to those who have passed on. I want only to stress the biblical importance of the body. In scripture the body is a holy thing, God himself dwells inside the bodies of believers. The New Testament doctrine of the resurrection speaks to the importance of the body. In Greek thought the body was seen as evil, a temporary ‘prison’ that the soul/mind was captive in until death. Some of these beliefs [Greek Dualism] did affect the thinking of the church over the centuries. Many good theologians have corrected these mistakes over the years [Augustine, Reformers, Etc.] They showed us that the body itself is not evil, but that when the bible speaks about ‘the flesh having no good thing in it’ it is speaking about ‘the fleshly/carnal nature’ not the physical body. But some who embraced Greek Dualism interpreted these verses as saying the actual body is evil. In Romans Paul says to give our bodies up to God as living sacrifices, HOLY AND ACCEPTABLE to God, which is our reasonable service [worship]. So the body is actually referred to as holy in this passage. Elisha obviously had some ‘residual’ anointing going on, as soon as death touched his body there was enough of Gods Spirit present to raise a guy from the dead, how much more so for those of us who are still alive.

(1265) Almost finished Brian McLaren’s ‘everything must change’ as is my habit let me close my comments before I read the last chapter or 2. First, I really agree with Brian’s stance on challenging western capitalism; he does it in a way that simply holds true to the biblical ethos of ‘beware of covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses’ [Jesus]. Yesterday I went thru around 5 news papers that built up at my doorstep this past week, if I don’t read them the day they come I try and go thru them on Saturday in one lump sum. I read some articles on the world’s poor, that every 6 seconds a child starves to death somewhere in the world; how there are a little over 1 billion people on the planet today who are malnourished. How many of the countries who can’t feed their people are paying back interest payments to the rich countries who lent them money. These kids starve because the country must pay the interest! In Isaiah God tells us often that one of the main functions of the church is to do justice; to speak out and also act in society as a plumb line. Too many times the American church has been aligned with a political ideology and has defended that view at the expense of doing what is just. As I close my comments on McLaren, I agree 100 % with him on these issues and appreciate his willingness to be branded as some ‘loony liberal’ for speaking out. I also would disagree on Brian’s seemingly ‘low church view’ when it comes to the classic doctrines of Christianity [Atonement, Original sin, etc.] There is a tendency among believers to either reject everything a person says, or accept everything he says; In Brian’s case I think we should take what is good and leave the bad alone.

(1264) 2nd KINGS 12- Joash institutes a process of restoring the temple that was broken down. Under the spiritual direction of Jehoiada the priest, he sets up a system [a box with a hole in the lid] where the people’s offerings would be ‘protected’ from the priests. The problem we see in this chapter is the priests were abusing the offerings that were set aside for ‘the house’. Now, they were being maintained by the Levitical offerings, they were getting a steady salary/support that was modest and commensurate with their service, but they went overboard in raiding the ‘household’ cash for personal profit. After they collected enough money for the repair of the house of God they gave it to the carpenters and workman to finish the job. These men contrasted the priestly ministry in that they used the money for actual building materials, they did not see it as simple compensation for being ministers. At the end of the chapter Joash is attacked by a foreign king and he takes all the riches that were in Gods house and gives it as a ransom to bribe the king to go away. This act is seen as disgraceful in the eyes of the ‘traditional generation’ and 2 of his servants kill him. Okay, there is a tension between the younger brothers [Emergent’s, contemporary expressions of ‘church’] and the older guys [Sproul, Macarthur, Colson, etc.] the younger guys are sincere, but at times seem to willing to ‘ransom out the goods in the temple’. That is along with the new style of church/ministry we need to be careful that we are not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Also this chapter shows us that it was perfectly legitimate to meet the basic needs of the priests, but they sort of fell into a habit where all the resources were being used for personal benefit. Now we need to be careful here, in the New Testament ‘the house of God’ is the actual corporate community of people, not the buildings we meet in. So a better way to see this is that we need to be careful that the money and resources that are being given by Gods people are primarily used ‘for the building’- that is the actual people. In the New Testament over 90 % of the scriptures on giving do show us this. The majority of the actual money contributed went to meeting the actual needs of people. In today’s church world we do not follow this guideline at all. Many millions are spent on many things, but in comparison to the ‘actual house spending’ [on the real needs of poor people] we spend very little on real needs. So God used Joash to do some good, but when he came out from under the influence of true spiritual elders [Jehoiada] he desecrated the ‘holy things’ and lost the respect of the people. As we in the 21st century strive to be relevant as Gods people, we need also be sensitive to the ‘treasures in the house’ the ‘old time’ classic doctrines that have been preserved and passed down to us from spiritual elders; things like the Atonement, the Substitutionary death of Christ, the Resurrection. Some of the new contemporary brothers seem to be raiding the temple a little too freely and thinking that this will bring us a little respite from foreign enemies, I fear that in the long run it will only lead to trouble.

(1263) [I stuck this here because leaders/Pastors really need to speak out more on these issues, many unsuspecting kids go off to school and are duped by this type of faulty science] THEY MADE HIM WALK ON NON WALKING FEET! A few weeks ago I wrote an entry on Evolution [Ardi the monkey boy] at the time I had read a few articles on this so called missing link, but it wasn’t until last night that I caught the show on TV, it was a 2 hour special done by one of the science channels. Boy was it eye opening. First, when I wrote the entry a few weeks ago I saw enough from the few articles that I read that they tried their ‘darndest’ to make these silly bones walk! That is one of the most sought after fossils in the evolutionary community is a bi-pedal monkey/man. A link that began walking on 2 feet. The show was unbelievably biased, they showed you the development of the find over the past 15 years, many efforts at making computer graphic images and artists rendering and all types of advanced technology and many man hours to make these scattered bones do what the evidence shows they could not do; walk on 2 feet! I was surprised to see them admit that the actual fossils of the feet [a toe bone] were the feet of a mammal that were exactly like the feet of other mammals THAT DO NOT WALK ON 2 FEET. They explained how the bone structure from Ardi’s feet were the bones of animals that did not walk on 2 feet. That all living species today that have these types of feet do not walk upright. They also admitted that all fossils ever found with feet like this came from animals that did not walk on 2 feet. Then in an unbelievable turn of events, they said ‘therefore Ardi is such a special find, he/she is the first fossil ever found where the creature walked on feet that were not designed for walking!’ This stuff is too funny to be legitimate. Why is this absolutely snake oil science? These men realized that the biggest problem of presenting this find as some type of link between men and monkeys was the fact that the feet were non walking feet. They waited 15 or so years before coming up with this absolute fantasy; and they made a conscious decision to tell the unsuspecting public that this animal walked on 2 feet with feet that were designed to climb, not walk. It would be like me trying to prove monkeys can fly, and I spent a whole lifetime looking for a flying monkey. But these creationists insist monkeys didn’t fly. In my mad rush to prove my point, I find a monkey fossil that I think might make the headlines, I present it as ‘the flying monkey’ and I realize that my creationist critics are going to be watching very carefully for the proof I have that monkeys actually did fly. And during my argument I show all these computer images of flying monkeys, I hire an ‘artist’ to draw me a flying money. But when I show you the actual bones from the monkey, Walla- they show no wings. So I state ‘this fossil is so special, we never anticipated such a find, this fossil is the first creature that used its feet to fly’. This my friends is not true science, which is allowing the evidence to speak for itself; this is false/faulty science with an agenda, after all their hours of work and effort and personal prestige on the line, they actually took the evidence of a non walking animal and made him ‘walk on feet that can’t walk’ this is what Paul described in the book of Romans ‘they did not want to retain God in their knowledge, so God gave them over to a reprobate mind’ these fellas have minds that do not function properly.
[This is the original article I wrote on Ardi] (1252) ARDI THE MONKEY BOY! Okay, I was gonna do 2nd kings 8 but I just couldn’t resist. The other day I read an article from the N.Y. times that spoke about the most recent discovery of a missing link. The problem is this ‘missing link’ was discovered in 1992, 17 years ago. The article showed you the drawing of a wonderful looking ‘half man/ half human’ being. It went on to tell us the story of Ardi, he/she was found in an area of Africa not too far from the famous Lucy fossil. Ardi is a little over 4 million years old, Lucy is over 2 million. So Ardi fits in well with a transitional species that could tell the story of human evolution. O how the story went on, it explained how Ardi lived and often would come down from the trees and walk on 2 feet [bi-pedal, to find a link that walks on 2 feet is essential for the theory of evolution to be true]. The article really described well everything that the evolutionist would need to tell his story. The problem? Ardi is a collection of monkey bones that were scattered all over the place; these bones are so brittle that the process of cleaning them for examination actually destroyed the bones. All indications are that these highly questionable bones are simply brittle monkey bones, this is why it took 17 years before ‘the find’ hit the headlines. So why did Ardi make it into the papers now? Because fellow evolutionists put the pressure on the original archeologists to ‘come out with the truth’! So they made up a wonderful tale, with pictures and all, and Walla- Ardi the monkey boy lives! How can I be so sure that Ardi was not a bi-pedal half man/monkey? Because science tells us this, not religion. If Lucy comes along 2 million years after Ardi, then surely Lucy must have really mastered the art of walking on 2 feet. Evolutionists have actually spent many years trying to ‘make Lucy walk’. The more they found out, the less proof she walked. First, the original find did not have hands and feet with it, so they gave her human like hands and feet. But after they found many other species of the same kind, they found many hands and feet also, they were not human like at all, the feet were truly monkey feet and not the structure you would find from a ‘walking monkey’. Next, they examined the bone structure of Lucy over many years and there were some major problems with the hip area that needed to be different if Lucy was to walk. Finally they made a documentary on Lucy and explained away the problem with the hip, they said that it was possible that a dear stepped on the hip and crushed it. So they had a brother on the show explain that he had to ‘re-make’ the hip back into the original hip. They actually showed him grinding down the model, with chips flying in the air, to get the walking hip. I mean it was hilarious! Years ago we also found a bunch of human footprints close to where Lucy lived in Africa, these prints were touted by the evolutionists as proof of Lucy being a bi-pedal monkey/human. The prints were so human like, many wondered if they were human. The only difference between these prints and a normal human print was the arch of the foot, it was a little flatter than ours. But after careful examination these prints did fit the exact prints of tribes that lived their whole lives bare foot. In essence these were human prints! The prints also had the foot prints of little feet inside the adult feet. How did this happen? More than likely the kids were having fun and stepping in the prints of their parents. So after many years of trying to make Lucy walk on 2 feet, the evidence shows otherwise. So if Lucy didn’t walk on 2 feet, there isn’t a chance in Hades that Ardi did! A few years back I was watching a Seinfeld episode and George wanted a cool nickname, so during lunch he orders a T Bone steak, he figures the nick name will stick. But sure enough the next guy orders a T Bone as well, and they give him the nick name. George is furious! So he confronts his co worker in the hall and you can see George jumping up and down and arguing for the right to the name ‘T Bone’. His co worker gives in and says sure, the only problem is the boss and the other guys saw George thru the window when he was throwing his fit, and they said ‘look, George looks just like a monkey’ and before George could tell everyone that he obtained the rights to T Bone, they stuck the nick name ‘Coco the Monkey boy’ on him. I appreciate the N.Y. times, the picture of Ardi looked great! But I think they tried to stick us with a tale, they tried to gives us Ardi the Monkey boy, when in reality he was just a bunch of brittle monkey bones.

(1262) 2ND KINGS 11- After Jehu killed the 2 kings he would become the king of the northern tribes [Israel] but who would take over the southern tribe of Judah? It would have normally gone to the oldest son of the king who died, but in this case the mother of the king that Jehu killed, Athaliah, would kill all her grandchildren so she could become queen. But they managed to hide one child from her, his name was Joash. He stays in hiding for 7 years and the priest Jehoiada brings him forth at the age of 7 to rule from the throne. They kill the wicked grandma and the throne is restored back to the king’s true lineage. Okay, what practical stuff can we get from this? The wicked grandma saw her own children as a threat, the natural flow of these sons rising up and taking their place was seen as competition. Over the years of ‘church and ministry’ as the church became more identified with the corporate 501 c3 model, this lent to the competitive spirit in a greater way than we see in the New Testament. Grant it you did have problems like this in the New Testament churches, but when we view church thru the lens of ‘I Pastor this church’ or ‘I attend this local church’ when we see it more along the lines of the corporation type model, then this leads to power struggles. One year I was reading the story of some church members who took their Pastor to court over ‘the church’. They tried to wrest it out of the hands of ‘the Pastor’ the Pastor fought back and gained control once again over ‘the church’. While stuff like this is the extreme example, the fact is many well meaning Pastors and church members view church thru this model, that it is actually the business enterprise as opposed to the community of people. This leads to these types of power struggles. You never see the Apostle Paul [or any other ‘church planter’] fighting over control of ‘the churches’ in this way. You do see Paul engage in some heavy theological debates with those who were trying to sidetrack the gospel of grace, but never the type of struggle that I just outlined above. Athaliah saw the kingdom thru the lens of ‘what can I get out of this, here is my chance to have authority’ she viewed the possibility of other gifted leaders as a threat to her goals. Healthy leadership today needs to release control of the people more so than we usually see; we often teach young Pastors how to spot threats to ‘the church’ how to fight back challenges to their authority, to be honest many of these skirmishes are fought outside of the biblical parameters of church. These are simply results of losing the biblical identity of ‘church’ and replacing it with a western corporate model. Nevertheless God had a Joash in the wings [a type of true headship- as seen in Christ as well as a return to the biblical model of leadership] and in Gods time Joash will come forth.

(1260) 2ND KINGS 10:11-36 Jehu heads to Samaria to clean house, he already wiped out the sons of Ahab and will now deal with the false prophets that Jezebel installed. He tells the people in Samaria ‘Let’s worship Baal’ and he sends his men out to gather all the priests and prophets of Baal, he says ‘make sure you get all the Baal worshipers, this is going to be a really big sacrifice to Baal’ ouch! So they get all those who were worshiping at the altar of a false god and they pack Baal’s temple out. Jehu tells his men ‘make sure we got them all- go in and give all the Baal worshipers these special robes- and make sure no one who worships the true God is in there’. So the men carry out the task and Jehu and his men ‘sacrifice’ the whole denomination in one shot. This chapter tells us that Jehu had ‘zeal for God’ and he purged Israel from false Baal worship, but it also says that Jehu did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam who made Israel sin. Jeroboam was the first king of the northern tribes when Israel broke up under the reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam. At the time Jeroboam made these 2 golden calves and placed one in the city of Dan and the other at Bethel. The purpose was strategic, Jeroboam feared that if the northern tribes went to Jerusalem every year to keep the religious feasts that eventually they would ‘long for the good old days’ and return to the leadership of the kings of Judah. Now Jehu is a noble warrior, he understood the idolatrous nature of Baal worship, why did he not deal with these 2 calves? Jehu was also a practical ‘patriot’ he wanted to maintain Israel’s identity as a separated people, he thought Jeroboams idea actually worked, so at the ‘altar of national unity’ he permitted a degree of idolatry to exist. Now we get into the tuff stuff; Jesus kingdom message calls people to a higher patriotism; he tells his followers that they are to be ‘patriots’ in a new way. Though their national alliances [the countries we live in] are to be respected and honored, yet when the rubber meets the road we owe our allegiance to ‘the Cross’. Jehu was willing to sacrifice total dedication to God for the sake of national cohesion, ouch again! Karl Marx [the 19th century socialist] once said ‘the economists are like the theologians, they believe every one else’s religion is a man made distortion, but that their own is an emanation from God’ it is obvious that religious divisions effected the way he thought, he saw the futility of manmade religion but made the mistake of rejecting God. He saw religion as a threat to true national pride and cohesion and tried to eject God from the national psyche, he failed. When believers of any nation hold the ideals of the nation higher than the ideals of Christ’s kingdom, then they have in a sense ‘left the calves of Jeroboam in place’.

(1259) 2nd KINGS 10:1-10 Jehu just wiped out 2 kings and a wicked queen, he sends a letter to Samaria and says ‘okay, here’s the deal, I just took out your kings; you have 70 sons of the king [Ahab] who are still alive. Go ahead and set one of them up as your new king and I’ll be there soon to fight’. Now Jehu has no intent on fighting, but as a strategic leader he is ‘working smarter, not harder’ [not more troops, but strategic thinking]. So the leaders who have raised up Ahab’s kids say ‘geez, the guy took out 2 kings like they were nothing, what chance do we have?’ and they send a message saying ‘we will be your servants’. Okay, so far so good. Jehu says ‘one more thing, if you mean this then take the 70 sons of your master and cut their heads off and send them to me at Jezreel’. The dirty deed is done and Jehu is told ‘the heads have arrived’. Jehu says ‘now, go and make 2 piles of heads at the city gate and let everyone in Israel see what happened’. They do it and Jehu tells the town ‘I know you guys are righteous, you decide what to do- yes I killed my master and it might have been unjust in your eyes; but your elders have taken the heads off of 70 sons of their king, so who do you think is worse’. Remember Jezebel said to Jehu ‘remember Zimri, he rose up against his master and was punished’ so this whole scenario needed to play out so Jehu would have the support of the local population [Afghanistan?]. He knew that just having the military might was not enough; he needed the support of the people. Jehu was a wise man, he could have easily taken the 70 sons out himself, without warning. But instead he let the city elders think he was giving them an option, he knew all along what needed to be done. Right now our country is on the verge of deciding about more troops going into Afghanistan, whatever your belief on this is; know for sure that if the people begin to view us in a bad way, then no matter how many troops are sent the mission will be a failure. My personal belief is I would not want my kids to die on the wasteland that is called Afghanistan, we have been there for 8 years and to try and establish some type of central govt. like we did in Iraq is much harder. The former ruling govt. was not a central ruling authority like Iraq had, the place has had a history of low rule and scattered tribal type living. In order for us to do what we did in Iraq, we basically have to create a nation out of nothing- in my view this is too much to ask at the price of our young men and women. Either way we need the wisdom of a Jehu, a real military commander who used wisdom and strategy to accomplish the mission, sure more firepower could have taken out the enemy, but to have the people themselves do it created an environment where he would be accepted after the action ceased. He was a smart brother indeed.

(1258) WHAT LASTS? – These past few weeks while praying early in the mornings, I have been meditating on verses like ‘the steps/paths of a good man are ordered by the Lord and he delights in his way’. David said he desired to always dwell in Gods ‘tabernacle’, while thinking on these verses I felt like the Lord was speaking to me about the effects we have, the planting of his word in regions. I even began thinking about the fact that we will die, and the people we minister to will pass away, but in some sense the words we taught will remain. In essence the thing that will last is the gospel and truth that is sown, not the institutions, or even the people, but the word. Now John says because we have the word in us we will abide forever, that is the word of God will raise the dead up some day and they will endure forever; but it’s the word of truth that is lasting. So anyway I felt like the Lord was directing me to read Isaiah, I read the first 10 verses of chapter 40 and the theme goes like this ‘all flesh is like grass, it will pass away; but the word of God endures forever’ basically exactly what God was speaking to me. This section also speaks of John the Baptist ‘prepare the way of the Lord, make a straight highway/path for him in the desert’ this was along the lines of ‘creating a path/ place for God’s word to flow’. Isaiah also has the famous verse ‘you will be called the restorer of paths to dwell in’. I felt like God was telling us to lay down some paths, have consistent areas where you faithfully teach and speak truth and these areas will ‘abide forever’ that is your impact will affect many generations to come. Right after the 16th century Reformation you had what is referred to as the Enlightenment, or the ‘age of reason’. Many thinkers began to challenge the institutional church [and institutions in general] and believed that reason and rationality would lead the way. In France [1700’s] Paris became a center of thinking for these Deists. These men were smart enough to realize that the total denial of God was too ridiculous to accept, they instead embraced Deism. Deism is a type of belief that said God started the ball rolling, but he left the rest on auto pilot; the same belief that the Greek philosophers embraced. Now, one of the famous ‘Philosphes’ [sic] was a man by the name of Voltaire, he is well-known as an infamous atheist today, but he did not totally reject God. These men did have tremendous influence and they produced the French Encyclopedias which backed up their cause. Eventually they would overthrow the Catholic Church and kill the king in their mad rush towards ‘reason’. They were wrong on their basic understanding of reason and rationality as they applied it to the church. They believed that rational thought meant ‘naturalistic thought’ that is in order for things to be rational, they could not be supernatural. They were wrong, in fact those who would later take the next step into full atheism would deny the laws of reason and logic all together. I saw Richard Dawkins do an interview the other day, he is one of the popular atheists of our day. These men who reject God accept a view of creation that violates the laws of logic; they teach/believe that all things came from ‘no-thing’ a scientific impossibility. This idea violates the law of ‘reason’ known as the law of ‘non contradiction’. This law states that a thing cannot be and ‘not be’ at the same time and in the same relationship. For all things to have come from nothing [self creation] would mean that all things created itself. It would have to ‘have been’ before it was. This common system of belief is absolutely irrational, even though the atheist believes it to be rational. To believe that God is a self existent being who created all things does not violate the laws of logic, you might think it does, but it doesn’t. For someone to have existed forever does not violate the classic laws of logic. So these thinkers who thought that their rejection of God was ‘rational’ were in fact wrong. Their ideas led to effects that were horrendous, they in effect ‘planted seed’ [bad doctrines] that would outlast them and their generation, their bad ideas had bad consequences. But the truth of God and his kingdom have also been ‘planted’ in the world, these seeds will last forever. If you want to effect society for good, then plant the seeds that will have an eternal impact, for ‘he that does the will of God will abide forever’ [1st John].

(1257) 2ND KINGS 9:7-37 Jehu receives the charge from Elisha and heads to Jezreel, the city where Jezebel resides. Her son Joram is the present king of Israel and Ahazia is king of Judah. By Divine appointment all three of them [Jezebel, and the 2 kings] are at the same location. As Jehu approaches the city, Joram sends a messenger to see what’s up ‘are you for peace’? What peace! Get behind me. A second messenger goes and gets the same response. Joram says ‘okay, let’s get the chariot ready and see what in the heck is going on’. He goes out to meet Jehu and it just so happens that they meet in the area where Jezebel illegally stole the land from Naboth and had him killed. Joram says ‘Jehu, is this a peaceful visit’ ‘peace, how can there be peace when your mother the witch is still throwing her weight around, and your fathers wicked deeds are still not avenged’. Jehu was on a prophetic rampage and would not stop until the house was purged. Joram sees the writing on the wall and turns to run; Jehu pulls the bow full length and drives an arrow thru his chest. Ahazia, king of Judah flees; he gets wounded and will die. Jehu is off to meet the queen, he approaches the city wall and Jezebel ‘painted her face’ and fixed her hair to meet Jehu. Why? Well we really don’t know, but Jezebel was a master manipulator, she did what she needed to do to survive. She was the power behind her husband Ahab’s wicked rule and she was doing the same thru her son. She very well might have been trying to look her best for the new king! Who knows, maybe she thought he would take her. She looks out a window on the wall and warns Jehu ‘remember Zimri, he rebelled against his king and God judged him’ she is trying to bide some time. Jehu is of noble blood, his father was a former king. He is also a trained fighter, a President Dwight Eisenhower type figure; someone who would rule as president but had a former military background. Basically Jehu doesn’t play games, he yells out ‘who in the city is on my side’? A few eunuchs look out over the wall; he says ‘throw her down to me’. He quickly accomplished his mission with virtually no civilian causalities. Jehu took out two kings and the ‘queen mother’ in one day. Jezebel’s body is quickly eaten by the dogs, a fulfillment of the prophecy of Elijah, and all this took place in the area that was well known as a place where injustice took place [the field of Naboth]. Okay, yesterday the country woke up to some surprising news, our president received the Noble Peace Prize, it was a surprise to everybody, even him! He actually made a tactful acceptance speech and acknowledged that he really didn’t deserve it, but would accept it in the spirit of good will and as a symbol of his role in the future, he did the best he could do. The reason? Because the conservatives tore him up over it, the London Times even said he did not deserve it. So he really was put on the spot, some even said ‘are you for peace’- translated, he is a bloody man who is bombing people every day in Afghanistan/Iraq, how come he gets it! First, as believers we should support the president as much as possible, it’s okay to be happy about the world honoring our president [or at least Norway!] Second, the criticisms against him not really deserving it, well he basically said the same thing. It’s really not the man’s fault that he got the prize. I do think that our president is ‘a man of peace’ and he has some real challenges down the road. Jehu was used of God to correct some long standing grievances that were in the nation, Jezebel operated for too long, the people knew her history. Jehu was charged by God to ‘wipe out the house of Ahab’ or to put an end to family lines that were destructive to the people of God. I’m talking spiritually now, not real war. There are times in the history of the church where things creep in and get a foothold; many times these teachings become accepted fair. We become comfortable with them, even though most of the nation/church realizes that it’s a manipulative thing, they learn to live with it. Prophetic voices are often raised up to say ‘enough, the whole house of Ahab will be wiped out’ in essence there are times when Gods people say ‘we understand that these doctrines have been around for a while; we also know the people who introduced these things on a large scale. We now reject the basic foundation upon which these things were built’ there comes a time when the ‘ministry’ of Jehu cleans house. We just need a few eunuchs [those who are separated for the purpose of serving the king. Because they were eunuchs, they could be trusted with the kings Bride, they would/could not take advantage of her for personal procreation/image building] who are willing to rise up and ‘throw her off the wall’.

(1256) 2ND KINGS 9:1-6 Elisha tasks a young prophet to go to Ramoth Gilead and anoint Jehu as the new king. He is told to set him apart and give him a special charge. When he arrives at Jehu’s spot, he takes him to a separate room and pours the oil on him. Jehu will clean house. First, this prophet had a special calling to leadership; Jehu had to be open to receiving direction from this source. This did not mean that Jehu was going to have an ongoing personal prophet to direct his life, it simply meant he had to recognize that in order for him to fulfill Gods mission, he had to be willing to receive the instructions from the prophet. Second, Jehu would be held to a higher standard in the sense that the other captains were not singled out in this way. Jehu had to be willing to go the extra mile and not follow the crowd. Often times God will challenge leaders to go a certain direction, sometimes the course is not popular, but often necessary for the completion of the work. Jesus called his disciples from their jobs and businesses; they had to sacrifice the normal pursuit of wealth and success in order to follow Jesus. Sure, there would be many ‘regular believers’ who would still believe in Jesus and not go this extra mile, but those who wanted to excel in discipleship would have to make some tuff choices. If you look long enough you will find just about any teaching to fit in with the personal pursuit of happiness, the American dream type mindset. But the calling of Jesus as seen in the bible always challenges us to sacrifice personal pleasure and success at the altar of a higher purpose. This does not mean you can’t experience a degree of success and stability in your life, but these things are secondary to the call of Christ. Jehu ‘got up from the room’ and separated himself long enough to hear the message from the prophet. There were other captains in the room, they would still pursue their military goals and live their lives as responsibly as possible; but Jehu would make permanent changes in the nation that would turn the course of history. In order for him to fulfill his mission he had to receive the word from the prophet that would set him apart from the rest of the crowd, he had to be willing to go the extra mile.

(1255) 2ND KINGS 8:7-29 Elisha goes to Damascus and the king of Syria hears about it, he sends his servant to inquire ‘of the prophet’ whether or not he will get well from some sickness. The servant goes and finds Elisha and Elisha says ‘yes, he would recover. But instead he will die’. What ? Elisha sees that the sickness would not be fatal, but that the king will be assassinated! The servant in front of him will be the killer. So Hazael goes back to the king and says ‘he said you would get well’ true enough, but he left out the part where he was going to kill him! So the next day he does the deed and becomes the king. A few things, I find it interesting that the Syrian king had no problem receiving Gods prophet. They believed in prophets! Now, they did not have a ‘Christian/Judeo’ culture, but they had a religious background that accepted ‘messengers from God’. In today’s world the church needs to take advantage of the willingness of other world religions to listen to prophets. We need to appeal as much as possible to the Muslim world and use any agreement on religious things as a tool to share the gospel. Right after the 16th century reformation the world would embark on a couple hundred year age of exploration and colonization. The Protestants were good at exploring the seas and impacting Europe, but they failed at reaching the Far East. Instead the Catholic Church had great success thru the Jesuits at impacting the Far East. They would make inroads into Japan and China and eventually take the gospel to the influential city of Peking. The problem arose when the Dominicans and Franciscans [Catholic orders] came in after them. They felt that the Jesuits were too accommodating in mixing in the religious beliefs of the east along with Christianity. Many Chinese believers were still practicing a form of worshipping dead ancestors and stuff like that. The Jesuits justified this by seeing these things as cultural beliefs and felt like allowing them to ‘keep their culture’ along with the faith was okay, the Dominicans and Franciscans disagreed and took the argument to Rome. Eventually this disagreement would leave a bad taste with the leaders in China and all Catholic expressions of the faith would be banned. This is called Syncretism, the mixing of religious beliefs. Now, why get into this? Christians should appeal to the willingness of Muslims and other world religions to hear religious voices. Both Jews and Muslims believe in Jesus, now they don’t believe the way Christians believe, but we should take advantage of this basic belief when appealing to them. Muslims reject the doctrine of the Trinity, but a careful study of history shows us that the actual Trinity they are rejecting is not the Christian understanding. Muhammad was actually rejecting a skewed view of the Trinity that saw Jesus and God and Mary as the Trinity. Obviously a pretty big mistake. So we as believers should be willing to correct and give a word to the ‘Muslim messengers’ when they come looking for answers. We should give them credit where credit is due, like their development of apologetical arguments in the Middle Ages [the Kalaam cosmological argument] but at the same time present the uncompromising gospel of Jesus Christ to them. I side with the Franciscans and Dominicans on this one.

(1254) 2ND KINGS 8:1-6 Elisha tells the woman whose son he raised from the dead ‘go, leave the land because a 7 year famine is about to come’. So she leaves, after 7 years she comes back and requests of the king for her land and goods back; understand the king might have been perturbed about this citizen who fled during the time of trouble, after all the other citizens carried the burden. But just as she was about to make her request, it ‘just so happened’ that the king asked Elisha’s servant about the great miracles he did. And Gehazi tells the king the story of this woman and how Elisha raised the boy from the dead, and at that moment the woman approaches the king to make her request. The servant says ‘look, this is her and her son’! Talk about Divine confirmation. Okay, let’s do a few things. When we read earlier in this study about the boy being raised from the dead I hesitated to share a story from my own life where something like this happened, but now I thought I would do it. If you want to read about it I posted it under the ‘prayer requests’ section, you can find it under ‘answered prayer’. God will give people signs at times that will be a precursor to future callings. The New Testament says the disciples went all over, the Lord confirming the word with signs following. We live in a day where the church in general does not have the maturity to truly walk in these gifts. Sure, there are some of these things operating in a limited way in the world today; but the American church is too geared up for display and personal promotion. Jesus gave us an example of someone who refused the honor that came from men; you read in the gospels that he would tell people ‘don’t go blabbing all over the place about what just happened’. He would say this after he performed some miracle, and sure enough the person would blab it anyway! Today’s ministry environment would have these miracles promoted in a shameless way, we think this is part of the mission. So in Elisha’s case God allowed him to do some supernatural stuff, not for self promotion but for Gods glory. In the gospel of John when Jesus opened the eyes of the blind man, he was a walking testimony to the ministry of Jesus. This same thing happened with the disciples in the book of Acts. We often think ‘how can I impact the world unless I have great resources’ [money] believe me, if you do one resurrection it will go farther than all the money in the world.

(1250) 2ND KINGS 6:24-33 The ling of Syria comes up against Israel and shuts her in. No one comes in or goes out [embargo]. Israel as a nation experiences a recession and the price of their goods rise exponentially [inflation]. Once again we see the conflict with Arab nations costing too much! As the king walks thru town a woman cries for help, he says ‘who am I, God? If the Lord does not intervene what can I do? Can I go to the storehouse and fix all these problems’? Many Americans are truly unaware of the economic danger that our country is in. Private business thinks that the govt. can bail out anybody, we can’t. The insurance money that the govt. provides for banks that fail is running out, the stimulus money will not have the desired effect because it simply filled the hole that was created by the recession and tremendous job losses. The king can’t do miracles by continually going to the barn floor! So the woman tells the king ‘I made a deal with another lady that we would cook and eat my son today, and the next day we would cook her son. Now she won’t live up to the deal’ the king can’t believe his ears. In the midst of all their economic and military turmoil, they are killing their children in a vain attempt to extend their own lives. This last year more official attempts have been made to increase spending and have the federal govt. provide funding for the development and killing of unborn children than ever before. Many appeal to the cause of helping others who suffer from incurable diseases ‘look how much good it can do for those who are sick’. The nation of Israel was so lost that she couldn’t see the connection between her economic and military problems, and how that related to the destruction of their own children. Gee, I wonder if the bible is relevant anymore?

(1248) AX HEADS THAT FLOAT!- 2ND KINGS 6:1-7 The prophets tell Elisha that their current ‘dwelling place’ is too small, they request permission to go to the Jordan and build a new dwelling. Jordan in scripture represents more than just a river that John baptized people in. In the history of Israel Jordan has been a type of crossing over from a previous identity and becoming mature and responsible as Gods people. It was a cutting off from the old land and economy and things they trusted, and coming into a new kingdom, one ruled by God. This also played a role in Johns baptism, Israel knew what Jordan meant; John was telling them to leave their old world mindsets and step into a new kingdom. So the prophets go and build a new place by the Jordan. One of the brothers dropped an ax head into the water and panics ‘Oh no, I lost the ax head, it was borrowed’. Elisha brakes off a stick and throws it into the water and the head floats, King James say ‘it swam’. So the brother got the ax head back. How do we relate stories like this and make them applicable to our day? I know, let’s say you were working at a building site and dropped the power saw in the water, and… Well not really. The bible has lots of ‘unorthodox’ stuff in it. I mean Paul sent handkerchiefs to sick people and they were healed. Jesus turns water into wine. Ax heads float. Our Christian experience very much entails supernatural stuff. The other side of the coin is ‘the fake stuff’. Recently the author Dan Brown released another book on supernatural stuff, he wrote the previous best seller ‘The DaVinci code’. These books appeal to mans natural desire for supernatural stuff. The problem with Dan brown is he mixes all types of fairy tale stories in with some valid points. The average reader can’t really tell the difference. I have a book here in my study titled ‘the lost books of the bible’. I bought it years ago for a few dollars at half price books. It really is a treasure; I mean it does have great books from antiquity in it, to get it for a few dollars was a great deal. Now, some of the books were legitimate contenders to have possibly made it into the bible. The epistle of Barnabus, the Didache, possibly the Shepherd of Hermes. There were a few books that the early church debated about including in the canon. But you also had a plethora of obviously fake stuff. The Gnostic writings were well known as cheap imitations of the real thing. These writings are from the late 2nd, 3rd centuries. No legitimate argument was ever made about these writings; all Christians rejected them as being authoritative. But the Dan Brown stories have people thinking that these writings were at one time up for possible inclusion into the canon, that’s just not so. How do we tell the difference between stuff that’s historically reliable and stuff that isn’t? In the field of historiography [looking at ancient writings and weighing their legitimacy] you have scholars who have spent years doing this sort of thing. You look at the actual recording of the events, were they written down fairly closely to the event? Did the authors know the people they were writing about, were they eyewitnesses? How many manuscripts are left? Were they widely accepted? There are real ways to determine stuff like this, the bible stands head and shoulders above all other ancient writings. The Greek New Testament has over 5 thousand original manuscripts. The only other work that comes close is Homer’s Iliad, it has a little over 6oo. Most others have around 10-20. If you include the Latin versions [and other languages besides Greek] you have around 25 thousand copies. The evidence is overwhelming. Now this does not speak to the inspiration of scripture, but it shows us that the bible itself is a highly reliable document when measured by historical standards. What about the Gnostic wrings? They do not stand the test of time in this way. The point being Dan Brown might have piqued the interest of many novice readers of history, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just Christians should be able to give a defense of their faith and appeal to a broad range of actual proofs that defend their position. Hey, if you want interesting stories, come ‘back to the bible’ it has ax heads that can swim for heaven’s sake!

(1247) 2ND KINGS 5- A Syrian army commander has leprosy, he hears about Elisha the prophet and goes to get healed. He is carrying a letter from the king of Syria that requests that the king of Israel heal him. The king of Israel is distraught ‘who does he think I am? Am I God?’ Elisha hears about the matter and says ‘send him to me, after I get thru with him he will know that there is a prophet in the land’. As Naaman arrives at the door of Elisha, Elisha sends out a servant to give him a message ‘go, dip yourself 7 times in the Jordan and you will get healed’. Naaman is upset, he says ‘I thought he would at least come out and make a big show and do some great healing! Are not the waters of Syria better than this stinking Jordan!’ He storms off. His men tell him ‘look, if he told you to do some great act, wouldn’t you have done it? So why not give it a shot and go get wet’. He dips in the Jordan and gets healed. He is elated! He goes back to the prophet and wants to give him an offering, Elisha refuses to take it. On his way back home Elisha’s servant stops him and says ‘my master changed his mind, 2 prophets just stopped by and he now will accept the money/gift’. He lied. As the servant arrives back at Elisha’s house, Elisha confronts him ‘hey Gehazi, where did you go’ he tells him nowhere. Elisha tells him ‘did not my heart go with you when the chariot turned’ he knew he was caught. Elisha rebukes him strongly over wanting to make material gain at this time ‘is this a time to build wealth! To gain land and servants and stuff’ he curses him and puts the leprosy of Naaman on him. Okay, let’s do a little stuff; first, the king of Israel felt like the expectations of the other ‘middle eastern’ Arab countries were too high. The king of Syria flat out treated him like he was God! Oh I don’t know, have there been any leaders recently that have been given the title ‘messiah’ [they gave it mockingly, but the expectations were very high]. And we must not overlook the strong rebuke of Gehazi, and Elisha’s unwillingness to take an offering. We often read all of these stories and only see the parts where God provided for someone, or reduced their debt [the woman with the oil]. We read and preach on the ‘wealth verses’ to the degree where we don’t even see the ‘rebuking of wealth’ verses. Then after many years we develop a wealth mentality in the people of God to the point where they never see the warnings. Without going too far down this road, remember Jesus told his men ‘freely you have received, freely give’. In context he was speaking of the divine gifts of the Spirit that they were given. He was sending them out to heal and cast out demons, he was telling them don’t turn this thing into a money making enterprise! And let’s end with some practical stuff- as I continue to read thru Brian McLaren’s ‘everything must change’ I appreciate his emphasis on helping the poor and reaching out to the outcasts of the world. I also understand his view of changing the way we see things, the language used is ‘framing story- narrative’. But I see a problem with overdoing the concept of ‘framing stories’. For instance some Emergent’s believe that the classic expressions of the gospel are no longer valid. That Jesus really didn’t come to call people to repent and believe in the way we think [Brian quotes N.T. Wright and supposes that the term ‘repent and believe’ was more of a popular saying that military commanders used to simply tell people to surrender over to the new empire. He uses an example from Josephus. I get the point, but believe that this association is rather week. Jesus very much did call people to repent and believe in the classic way we understand it]. Anyway to ‘re-frame’ the gospel in a way that says the real message/purpose of Jesus was to simply change the pictures we use in ‘our story’ is too simple. The best example I can think of would be Jesus conversation with Nicodemus in John’s gospel. Jesus is speaking from the ‘narrative’ of Gods kingdom, Nicodemus is hearing from his own religious frame work. No matter how hard Jesus uses the new framework, or how hard Nicodemus tries to see this new story, he can’t. Jesus tells him it’s impossible to change his ‘framing story’ without changing him! ‘Unless a man is born again, HE CAN NOT SEE THIS KINGDOM’ so I think we can go too far in restating the classic gospel. Yes, believers should be challenged to see things from new/fresh perspectives. But these new perspectives can only be truly seen when we experience personal conversion. Jesus very much wants us to see the story from his perspective, but realistically he knows unless we are born again, we will never truly see it.

(1246) 2ND KINGS 4:38-44 Elisha has a ministry to the younger prophets; they see him as a father figure in a way. He prepares a ‘great pot’ of food for them, but one of the inexperienced prophets accidently picked a poisonous plant and put it in the pot. Once they start eating they realize that they have all been feeding off of something that is damaging, they panic! Elisha quickly puts another ingredient in the stew to undo the bad effects. Okay, I see a parable here. Often time’s good young men are feeding from sources that have much good in them. These sources believe Gods word, confess it regularly, they have much good in ‘the pot’. But because of inexperience some bad things get into the pot. These bad things have a way of infecting the entire meal. When you first start eating from the pot, you don’t realize it’s bad. When someone tries to tell you there is some bad stuff in the pot, the normal reaction is ‘how dare you tell me that I have been duped! Who do you think you are, there is much good in this pot’? But eventually after the dust settles down, they recognize the experience of the older prophet and allow him to ‘add his meal’ to the pot. I want to encourage all of the ‘younger prophets/leaders’ don’t be too willing to eat everything in the pot, there are many sources of teaching and preaching that are very abundant in today’s church world, I mean it’s a big pot, but it’s takes discernment to know that sometimes bad weeds get into the pot. Let mature leadership add their part, it often neutralizes the bad stuff. And the last miracle in the chapter has Elisha multiplying the loaves and grain for the prophets. He does a multiplication miracle like Jesus did in the New Testament. The church went thru a stage where she rejected the miraculous stories in the bible, this period took place in the late 19th, early 20th century. It was called liberalism/higher criticism and it arose primarily out of the universities in Germany [Marburg being a main one]. Men like Rudolph Bultman reacted to enlightenment thinking and tried to create a view of scripture that still had value, but was not to be taken literally when it came to the miracles. This was called ‘de-mythologizing’ they used the word ‘myth’ to mean stories that had good moral value, but weren’t meant to be taken literally; sort of like a parable. So these brothers would say that Jesus really didn’t multiply the loaves and fish, but that he appealed to mans better instincts and the people all shared their food with everyone else. Or that the parting of the Red Sea was really the ‘Reed Sea’ and stuff like that. Some still hold to these types of things, but for the most part this way of seeing scripture is no longer a popular view. Elisha had some supernatural stuff going on, there was no reason to reject or disbelieve the things that happened, but this does not mean that there is never a time for correction and reproof. Many who operate in these gifts are very limited in their understanding and grasp of scripture. I don’t want to sound condescending, but the history on this stuff is out there; many have gone off the deep end doctrinally while operating in supernatural gifts. Elisha was prophetic, but he also knew when it was time to add ‘some meal’ to the pot, to put some stuff in that would neutralize the poison. I think we need some meal.

(1244) 2ND KINGS 4:1-7 A wife of the prophets whose husband died asks Elisha for help. She is in debt and the creditors have come to take her sons as payment. Elisha asks her what she has in her house; she says a pot of oil. He tells her to go borrow empty pots from her neighbors and go in her house and shut the door and fill the empty pots. She fills them all by a miracle and he tells her to sell the oil and pay off the debt, and use the rest to live off of. This chapter has a few more miraculous things that remind us of the ministry of Jesus, we will do it tomorrow. But this miracle shows us the ability of God to ‘take little’ and make it go far. Jesus does this with the loaves and fish. Some see these miracles as Gods way of telling us he will increase our material wealth, after all he gave this woman a goose that lays golden eggs! I see these stories thru a different light; Jesus was showing us that ‘our little bit’ can go very far. In the stories of Jesus multiplying the bread and fish, the disciples actually tell Jesus ‘how can we feed the multitudes, we don’t have enough money’? He shows them that they don’t ‘need enough money’ all they need is him! When people read the bible with their ‘pair of glasses on’ they naturally see these stories in ways that justify their preconceived ideas, we need to let God change these ideas.
Now to the book ‘Everything must change’ by McLaren. I read a few more chapters and thought I’d talk. Brian compares the conventional view of the gospel with the Emergent view. He seems to be too critical of some of the basic elements of the gospel. He kinda speaks condescendingly about original sin and Jesus death saving us from God’s wrath and how these things apply to God’s chosen. He actually states the gospel fairly well, but he does it in a critical way. He then states the Emergent view and shows how Emergent’s see a global justice picture for all people. I don’t see the need to reject the first view in order to embrace the second. He uses an example from the gospels and Mary’s Magnificat to prove his point. He shows us the expectation of natural Israel when they saw the appearing of the Messiah thru a nationalistic lens; true enough. He then uses this example to show us that the conventional view of Jesus and personal conversion is missing the point, that the true ‘framing story’ is about social justice in the nations. I think you can take the story the other way around; that Jesus actually corrects the immediate expectation of Israel and their nationalistic view and tells them ‘the kingdom of God must first begin in you’. In essence Jesus interjects the ‘conventional view’ and the need to deal with ‘original sin’ before they can expect any outward changes in society. I am not sure why Brian seems to be so against the doctrine of original sin, the only thing I can imagine is he has read a lot of social gospel material and 19th, 20th century liberal theology. These teachings were very much against original sin because they felt it instilled in man a sort of hopelessness to effect society as a whole. The liberal theologians rejected classic expressions of original sin because they felt these doctrines gave to man an excuse to not work for change and social justice in society. Good men like Charles Finney embraced these beliefs. The only problem with this is the bible most definitely teaches the doctrine of original sin! ‘In Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive’ ‘As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so thru the righteousness of one man [Jesus] shall many become holy’ [Romans, Corinthians]. The doctrine of original sin is biblical, and being saved from Gods just wrath thru the atonement of Jesus is the heart of the gospel. I accept McLaren’s call for believers to be more concerned and active on the social justice seen, and he does make some good points about the kingdom of God and how it’s much greater than the reductionist ‘me and Jesus’ view. But I disagree on his approach that the conventional expression of the gospel needs to change. Jesus kingdom does begin with the fundamental doctrines and beliefs of redemption and God restoring man back to God thru the atonement, to discard these truths and to replace them with ‘another framing view’ in my mind is a big mistake.

(1243) 2ND KINGS 3- Jehoram, king of Israel, goes after the king of Moab because he stopped paying him the taxes/extortion fees after his father died. Ahab, Jehoram’s father was feared [because of his wife Jezebel] and the king of Moab figured ‘heck, we were scared of the other president, but this new young buck doesn’t instill the same fear’ [sound familiar?]. Never the less the ‘young buck’ forms an alliance with two other kings [France, Germany? Or Britain, you pick] and he goes after Moab. They go on this 7 day journey to attack Moab, and lo and behold they realize that they don’t have the resources to finish the job [Afghanistan?]. They never took into account the actual problems they would run into with the terrain; they found no water sources for their troops or the animals. Now, Moab probably knew about the land situation, he knew it would turn to their benefit [Taliban]. So the 3 kings- Jehoram king of Israel, Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and the king of Edom are facing a dilemma. They have all their troops already in the field [their committed] and yet they don’t have the proper resources to finish [oh let’s say they need 40 thousand more]. So the King of Judah asks Jehoram if there is a prophet in the land who can help. Enter Elisha. They go to the prophet and he rebukes them, but for the sake of the king of Judah he seeks God and gives them a word from the Lord. He tells them to dig holes thru out the area and God will supernaturally fill them. I don’t know how God did it, but the chapter says he brought the water over the land, possibly some regional flood? The point is that what they saw as a major obstacle, lack of resources, turned out to be a key element of their victory. The fact that the king of Moab knew there was no water in the land, this led him to believe that what he saw in the morning was blood from the slain army. He looked out over the land and the reflection of the water looked like blood to him. So he mounts an attack and gets defeated. God often times allows our perceived weaknesses to become the key to our victory. Paul said he gloried in his faults and weaknesses, because it was thru these things that God’s power rested upon him. At the end of the battle the king of Moab realizes that he is in over his head and makes one valiant attempt to at least take the king of Edom down with him. He must be thinking ‘geez, I’m fixin to get wiped out, might as well make one last ditch effort to take out this punk’ he takes 700 men and makes a charge, he can’t break thru. So he offers his son on the wall as a sacrifice to his god. Moab would have been better off if they simply kept paying the taxes. Okay, I really don’t want to draw too much of a comparison with president Obama and the present situation, but there are some common themes. He does seem to have less ‘fear/respect’ in the area of military might than his predecessor. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it could turn out to be bad. Our situation in Afghanistan is not good; we do not presently have the troops in there to do whatever the heck we are trying to do. It looks like we are going to change strategy and downsize. And last but not least, we need to be more careful when making decisions that adversely affect our allies. The decision to drop plans to place a ground based missile defense system on the border of Poland and Russia was probably a good strategic move. But politically it did hurt some allies. The day Obama made the decision not to go ahead with the Bush agenda was the anniversary of a previous invasion of Poland by Russia, not a smart decision to say the least. All in all the king of Israel made some decisions, he got in over his head but thanks to some allies and a word from the Lord, things turned out for the better. I think we can all learn some lessons from this chapter.

(1242) Read a few chapters from Brian McLaren’s ‘everything must change’ thought I’d comment. I like Brian’s writing style, I agree with him on believers needing to be challenged to see things differently, but I disagree on some of his ‘everything’s’. He challenges the idea of objective thinking as defined as foundationalism. He explains well the questioning of modern intellectuals after the world wars and Holocaust of the 20th century. He shows how certain thinkers began looking for answers to the problem of society’s failure as seen in these events. He also shows how some blamed the events on ‘foundationalism’ which is a way of ‘seeing things’ [epistemology] as defined by Rene Descartes. These thinkers diagnosed the problem as society’s acceptance of absolutes, they felt that this led to an ‘overconfidence’ in right and wrong and this in turn allowed for these atrocities to happen. Many modern thinkers would disagree with this conclusion. I find it interesting that Brian makes some statements about Evolution that seem to say he accepts the theory, but yet he fails to see the role that Social Darwinism played as a precursor to the Holocaust. You could make the opposite argument that it was the rejection of absolutes, and the rise of liberal theology from the universities in Germany that led to these events. Many scholars began questioning Gods truth and laid a foundation that said ‘we really can’t trust Gods truth’ [or even know it]. To be honest these debates are a little philosophical and I didn’t think Brian would go down this road, but he does so I will deal with it. Many ‘post moderns’ believe that one of the things that must change is the ‘old’ [what is termed modern] way of thinking. These new thinkers assert that truth itself, as an absolute thing that people can know for sure, is out of mans reach. They question the modern way of thinking that teaches there are certain absolutes [preconceived ways of thinking that everyone accepts]. These new thinkers say this ‘foundationalism’ is the problem. Did the enlightenment invent this mode of objectivism? No. Thinkers from Aristotle to Aquinas to Descartes all approached thinking this way. It was defined more clearly during the enlightenment period. But this is a philosophical debate that goes on in these various camps. You have had very smart people disagree on these things. The great theologian Karl Barth would say you are not truly educated until you can ‘affirm both sides of an argument, accept contradictory definitions of the same thing’ many believe this would lead to lunacy! The two greatest theoretical physicists of the last century also disagreed on this. Neils Bohr would say that you can have two contradictory truths about a subject, and they could both be true, Einstein disagreed. So these things have been around for a while, many of the eastern religions teach the same [Zen]. So I would disagree with Brian on this, but do agree with him on the need for believers to expand their concerns from simple ‘going to heaven when I die’ concerns, to social justice concerns in the nations. He does give some good examples along these lines.

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

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

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

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

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

(1234) 2ND CORINTHIANS 11- Paul fears that the church will be drawn away from the simplicity that is in Christ. He warns of false teachers/apostles and defends his own calling. He says he espoused them to Christ in marriage, yet the false teachers were bringing in a different gospel, spirit and Jesus. He uses this same language in his letter to the Galatians. Who were these false teachers? Probably the Judaisers, the main instigators of Paul. Over the years many well meaning believers who are members of various churches have used verses like this to describe the ‘church down the block’. Whether it was over the gifts of the Spirit, water baptism, or a host of other doctrines. Often times these verses on ‘false teachers’ would be used to strike fear into the hearts of their members. In context these types of verses are speaking of those who reject historic Christianity, the reality of grace and other Christian teaching. Those who were trying to supplant the true gospel and bring the churches under legalism. Now, in this chapter we see Paul make a defense by saying he did not take financial support from the Corinthians, but ‘robbed other churches’ instead. Meaning he did receive financial aid from other believers. He says the churches of Macedonia helped out. We also read in the letter to the Philippians that they too helped Paul with money. I used to think that the only church that Paul did not receive aid from was the Church at Corinth. He does seem to say that he used this style of ‘taking no offerings’ only when at Corinth. Many believers are under the same impression. A careful reading of the New Testament shows us that this was not the case; in Acts chapter 20 [read my commentary on Acts 20] he teaches us that when he was staying with the church at Ephesus he also worked and provided for himself and those who were with him. He says he did this to give the leaders an example, so the Ephesian elders/pastors would not see ministry thru the lens of a hired profession. Peter says the same when speaking as ‘an elder to fellow elders’ taking the oversight of the believers, willingly, not for ‘filthy lucre’. And Paul says the same to the church at Thessalonica. Now some argue that leaders/elders should never accept financial help. I think that is going too far myself [though I never take a dime!]. The point is it was okay for Christian brothers to help other brothers out when in need. The things that Paul tried to avoid was elders/leaders seeing ministry thru the lens of ‘it’s my job’ type of a thing. But Paul clearly says stuff like ‘they that preach the gospel should live of the gospel’ here he is saying those who are actively giving themselves to teaching the word should be taken care of. I suggest you read the sections ‘what in the world is the church’ and ‘prosperity gospel’ I have many posts in there that deal with this issue. Overall Paul did not forbid fellow believers from helping him, but he certainly did not teach a doctrine of ‘sow into my ministry for a harvest’ type of a thing, in a way where he justified extreme wealth coming from the offerings of the churches. We need to keep the entire story/picture in mind when appealing to these verses in the current day. The New Testament is not a materialistic book, it warns against those who ‘peddle the word’ [taught for money]. It plainly tells leaders ‘don’t do it with financial reward in mind’. In today’s media environment these warnings are mocked and described as ‘that old tradition’ many err because they know not the scriptures.

(1233) 2ND CORINTHIANS 10- Paul defends himself once again, he says ‘the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but mighty thru God to the pulling down of strongholds. Casting down imaginations [arguments] and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God’. Contrary to popular opinion, Paul is not speaking about ‘spiritual warfare’ in the sense of casting demons out of the sky, but he is talking about refuting false opinions and ideas that the false teachers were popularizing. In essence true spiritual warfare is presenting the truth of Christ in its purist form and undoing false/popular ideas that don’t line up with scripture. Paul also defends his right to speak into their lives/location. He says he has been given a sphere/place of authority by God, and this area did indeed cover Corinth. He also claims authority for other regions. In scripture Apostles do have more of a regional authority/influence than other types of callings. Paul did not exercise his authority in a way that said ‘you guys must only listen to me’ in the sense that ‘submitting’ to authority meant actually listening to him preach every Sunday. The New Testament churches had tremendous freedom and sharing in their corporate get togethers. It actually was the false teachers who tried to cause these early believers to come under their control. In Galatians Paul says ‘who hath bewitched you’ or cast a spell on you. Paul would only come in and use his authority in a strong way when the churches strayed from the simplicity that was in Christ. In this chapter he says the authority that he had was for the purpose of building them up, not tearing them down. The main way Paul ‘did battle’ was thru the refuting of the false teachers thru the scripture [Old Testament] and presenting the fullness of Gods grace in Christ. Paul often used examples from urban life to help him get his point across- things like sports, arenas, military, etc. Jesus used more of an agrarian type setting in his parables- fishing, seed planting, etc… Of course they both used other symbols as well, but the point was they spoke and argued their ideas in ways that their hearers would be familiar with. When Paul refuted the philosophers at the Areopagus [Mars Hill, Acts 17] he made use of the public forum to get his points across. Paul operated in an intellectual world, as opposed to Peters fishing background. But they all presented Christ in his fullness, whether the message came from a fisherman or a theologian. Paul simply had a little better equipment when it came to refuting the false philosophies of his day. He didn’t buy the argument that ‘they were not in his sphere’ sort of like religion belongs ‘in the church building’ but leave the science and philosophy to us. He had authority from God to function in those spheres.

(1231) 2ND CORINTHIANS 8- Paul talks about giving in these next 2 chapters. It’s important to see the context in which he is speaking. Many fine men [pastors] and believers will use a verse or two out of these chapters and apply them in a wrong, or out of context way. We find verses like ‘he that sows [plants] sparingly will reap sparingly’ or ‘God shall supply all your needs according to his riches and glory’. These verses [as well as a few others] are to be seen in the context of giving in a charitable way, doing it by ‘choice’ and not by force, and giving freely to help the poor saints that were living at Jerusalem. But too often these verses are used to tell believers if they do not tithe 10 percent of their income into a Sunday morning offering, they will be cursed. Or appeals are made by the TV preachers that say ‘sow into this ministry and reap a harvest’ in many of these scenarios there is tremendous force and manipulation used to get the saints to give money for all types of projects, or to fund the rich lifestyles of charismatic figures. These things ‘ought not to be done’. In this chapter Paul says he that gathered little had ‘no lack’ how often have we taught believers to ‘get a full harvest’ and said it in a way that says unless you ‘gather much’ you will be in lack? Here Paul says those who gathered ‘just enough’ those who were satisfied with the basics ‘had no lack’. Or ‘give according to what you have, not according to what you don’t have’ how many appeals are made all the time telling believers ‘if you don’t have it, make a vow anyway’? We tell people to give according to what they don’t have all the time. And the churches of Macedonia did give ‘out of their poverty and great affliction’ you do not measure the success or spirituality of believers by the amount of financial wealth they have, these giving churches had ‘poverty’. All in all we need to rethink much of what the contemporary church/ministry does when it comes to money. In these chapters Paul teaches voluntary giving along the lines of helping the poor, we often use all these verses and simply apply them to our ‘churches’ ministries or personal callings. We err. In the next chapter Paul will quote Psalms ‘he hath dispersed abroad, HE HATH GIVEN TO THE POOR, his righteousness remains forever’ again, the whole context is giving to the poor. I know we mean well as believers, but we need to get back to really reading what the text is saying and applying it in that way. To give to churches, or ministries is fine. To give 10 % of your income is fine. To meet the needs of laboring elders/pastors is fine, but we should not use these types of scriptures in a condemning way when exhorting the saints to give, doing that is ‘not fine’.

(1229) 2ND CORINTHIANS 7- Paul tells them that at first he regretted being so hard on them in his 1st letter. But now he rejoices that he was so hard, because they fully heard him out and came to their senses. I have found over the years that many people initially ‘hate’ me for some of the stuff I write. But sometimes they really reconsider certain beliefs that they picked up along the way and they make adjustments, this is the purpose. So Paul was glad he did it. Now when he was in Macedonia he was in distress ‘without were fighting’s, within were fears’ he struggled daily with difficulty. But in all these troubles he rejoiced when the good report came back to him from Titus, his co worker who was sent to check up on the Corinthians. Titus came back and told Paul how they listened to him and repented. This was Paul’s reason to rejoice. I want you to see the give and take between Paul and these churches/communities. In the next chapter we will deal with money issues, but for now he is giving his life away for the benefit of these churches. He preaches the pure gospel of Jesus, he does not view ‘being a child of the king’ thru the lens of making wealth or having no problems, to the contrary he will teach that these doctrines are not from the Lord [see 1st Timothy 6]. Paul’s intent was to establish these churches on the reality of Christ and what the Cross meant in their lives. He urges them to separate from idolatrous and sinful practices and for them to be holy [set apart] for Gods work. He warns his churches not to come under the influence of false teachers, people who were bringing in ‘damnable heresies’ even denying the faith of Jesus. All in all Paul made plain the reality of Jesus and how we as believers do not pursue the desires of the world, he tells Timothy ‘we came into the world without wealth and material goods, when we die we can’t take it with us. So lets be happy with what we have’ no doctrine of seeking extreme wealth to advance the kingdom, but to live soberly and righteously in the present world. These letters that we are covering [all the studies we have done so far on this blog] are the foundational documents of the church, we need to read and hear what they are saying. Too many churches are built upon proof texts found all over the bible, but when you read the actual story in context, they tell a different story. Paul rebuked this church in a strong way; they were sorry and broken over the things he said. Then after a period of time they humbled themselves and made some changes. That’s all Paul wanted, for his converts to stay on course.

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

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

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

(1224) 2nd CORINTHIANS 2- Paul instructs the church to forgive the brother who was excommunicated earlier on [1st Corinthians] he tells them just as they were zealous to carry out the previous judgment, so now they should be willing to forgive. He says it’s possible for people to be overcome with too much sorrow. The other day I wrote a post on Obama’s green jobs czar, I felt [and still feel!] that he needed to resign, he resigned 2 days after I wrote the post. I have also seen some conservatives say good things about the man [Van Jones] that in essence he has also done some good things. But they feared that he will be tagged as this nut case who signed the 911 ‘truthers’ petition [well, he really should not have signed the thing]. The point was it’s possible to over do an attack on an individual like this, to not stop until all the czars fall type of a thing. Paul reminds us that there are times of being hard with people, but the purpose for it is too bring them to their senses. Here Paul warns against being unforgiving. He also says that when he shared Gods word with them he did not do it like others; he said they were ‘peddling/corrupting’ Gods word. This carries with it the idea that certain people/ministers were preaching for profit. Paul is not saying ‘too much profit’ he is simply saying those who were sharing the word and taking money in return. We already know that Paul’s mode of operation was to support himself when with the churches [see Acts 20] and at times he even paid the way for his fellow workers. Paul carried out the greatest apostolic ministry known to man [apart from Christ] and he did it free of charge at his own expense. Paul tells them that when he wrote to them he did it thru much affliction and difficulty. He previously spoke about God opening up great opportunities for him, but along with the gift came a great price. Let me share a little personal stuff with you guys. My wife went to the E.R. the other day with some serious problems; she has been admitted into the hospital. We do not have health care insurance. When I retired I couldn’t afford to keep it. I managed to get my kids insurance, but me and my wife are on our own. Out of the 2 of us I have a few more serious health problems than she does. Some have been self inflicted [past mistakes] others just happened. The way I ‘self-treat’ is I go on line and do ‘home cures’- this my friends is not good. Some have helped, others I am not sure of. But this past year I had some things that needed to be checked [like bleeding from places where you shouldn’t be] and frankly, I haven’t done it. But I needed my wife to stay healthy, so this has been pretty awful for me. At the same time we had some serious problems with one of our daughters, and we were/are in a real bind over this. During this whole time I started this new bible study [2nd Corinthians] and whenever I start a study I just do a chapter a day and it doesn’t take long at all to finish. But I wonder how many I’ll be able to do over the course of my life. I would like to do the whole bible, but I realize that it’s thru ‘much affliction and suffering’ that I have written to many of you. Paul said he had the ‘sentence of death within himself’ so he would learn not to trust in himself, but in God who raises the dead. As we read thru these letters, see the real problems and difficulties they were facing; hear Paul when he says ‘I am not peddling Gods word’ he was not taking offerings or collecting money for his own well being. He collected only for the poor saints at Jerusalem. Watch the give and take, the beliefs of the early church. We need an overhaul in our thinking and acting, ‘ministry/preaching/church’ all need to be re looked at, we need to teach/train the upcoming ‘crop’ of pastors in a new way. Don’t see these things as jobs, or opportunities for self advancement, see these things as opportunities to lay your life down for others, to cling to the death experiences and not run from them. Paul said we are the sweet fragrance of Christ to the nations; in both them who are dieing and those who are being saved. God reveals his knowledge thru us to all people groups, we die daily so this fragrance can go forth.

(1222) BY THY FAVOR THOU HAST MADE MY MOUNTAIN TO STAND STRONG- Psalms 30:7 These last few weeks we have been hitting some single Psalms and reviewing some good books. I wanted you guys [and gals] to start committing to memory some of these verses. I also wanted to develop an appetite in you for reading, reading good stuff [you know, avoiding stuff like ‘the mark of the beast is here’ and other silly stuff]. I was just outside praying [early] and in the distance I saw the lightning. This last week we have had rain, thunder and lightning. Texas has been in one of the worst droughts ever, one of the Psalms I added to memory this last week was ‘the voice of the Lord is upon the waters, the God of glory thundereth. The Lord is upon many waters’ I have been praying it and incorporated it into my intercession time- not for literal rain, but in a spiritual sense. Yet it worked for the real stuff too! I want to encourage you guys, be steadfast in prayer. These last few weeks I felt the Lord speaking to me about not growing weary in prayer; we covered the parable of the lady who kept pleading with the judge and finally got an answer. Jesus teaching us on consistent prayer. We hit some verses from James on enduring thru trials and difficulty. The scripture says not to grow weary in doing well, in due season we shall reap if we don’t faint. Getting back to our verse ‘you have made my mountain to stand strong’ your ‘mountain’ if you will is the whole area/region that God has ordained for you to function in. To some of you that’s the local church group you relate to, others it’s the state or country. And for others it’s a world wide ‘mountain’ [place of authority/ministry]. God alone can make you fruitful in the field/area of influence he has given you, but it’s your part to maintain the field, the ‘home base’ the capitol city if you will. Scripture says ‘David [King David] dwelt in the fortress city and called it the city of David [he knew who he was and what area of influence he was to wield] and he built round about from the surrounding terraces and inward’. He knew that for him to have a broader regional influence he had to have stability at the home base, the main city [Jerusalem in his case]. As you trust God to show favor to your mountain, remember to be faithful to the home base as well. Jesus sent the Spirit to the church and gave her a witness in Jerusalem, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. If you don’t start at home, it will never spread to the uttermost!

(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.

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

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

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

(1212) THOU PREPAREST A TABLE BEFORE ME IN THE PRESENCE OF MINE ENEMIES, THOU ANOINTEST MY HEAD WITH OIL, MY CUP RUNNETH OVER- Psalms 23:5 These last few weeks I have been praying/meditating these single Psalms. Remember, try and pray them in the attitude of the ‘Jesus prayer’ [continual repetition thru out the day]. In the last chapter of Luke Jesus ‘opens up their understanding’ he shows them all the things in the law and the prophets and the psalms concerning him. They say ‘did not our hearts burn within us when he spoke to us’ they were fixated on his ability to reveal the scriptures to them. He also tells them to wait at Jerusalem for the promise of the Spirit, he sends us out like him. In Luke we read Jesus quoting Isaiah about the Spirit of the Lord being on him, how his calling and teaching were Divine functions. He tells his men he will do the same for them. Here in my ‘prayer yard’ I have all these scriptures and maps of nations and signs all over the place, my yard is designed for early morning intercession. A few weeks back I painted a plastic table with this verse, it was an old table that I had for years. I drew a picture of the loaves and fish that I saw on the church page of my paper and added this Psalm. It speaks to me of ‘the table’ that the lord sets before us. Proverbs says wisdom prepares her table, mingles the wine and sacrifices the animal. Wisdom also ‘sends out her servants’. I see a great picture of Jesus and his disciples thru this. He prepared his table [with his own Body and Blood- mingled wine and sacrafice] he sends us out to tell the world ‘all things are ready, come and dine’ and he gives us the Divine unction to carry this out [1st John]. David said the Lord prepared a great table before him in the presence of his enemies, God didn’t say in their absence. Psalms 110 says of Jesus ‘sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool- rule in the midst of your enemies’. Paul said ‘a great door has been opened for me, and there are many adversaries’ [Acts]. God has prepared a table for you, a place and giftings for you to function and feed his people. The process is not without difficulty and testing, but the important thing is to get the riches from the table to the people, to ‘send out the servants’ if you will. Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days it will return. Have you cast the bread yet? Or is the seed still in the barn.

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

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

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

(1207) Jesus said ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but yours be done’. David said in Psalms ‘the troubles of my heart are enlarged, bring me out of my distresses’. Yesterday [Friday evening, the time Presidents release bad news for the least possible effect] the govt. released an updated deficit number. It went up an extra 2 TRILLION for the next ten years, it’s estimated now to be 9 trillion. This is totally unbelievable and absolutely irresponsible. Even Warren Buffet, who publicly endorsed Obama, recently wrote an op-ed warning of the global economic danger that this type of deficit can cause. I was reading in the paper how many of the normal 30 year mortgages are beginning to go into default, these are not the shady ones that already went under. These are the homes of unemployed people who can’t find jobs. Okay, what could we [the country] do? First, if you use the 800 billion dollars of stimulus to actually lift the burden on small businesses [tax breaks] that would do wonders. Second, if you simply stop using a national credit card [increased deficit spending] it would help bring down the debt. And for heavens sake, don’t implement any new laws that will actually hurt the economy [cap and trade]. Then why are we not doing these things? Because certain political leaders believe that the American people want all these things, Nancy Pelosi lives in a very liberal part of the country, she perceives these things as what everyone wants, even though California has an entire immigrant population going under because in their efforts to save a certain species they have stopped the water flow to these farmers. Unbelievable. I was talking to someone the other day and explained to them that many businesses would fire employees if the govt. mandated them to either cover the health ins. of their people or pay an 8 percent charge per person [of their salary], the effect; cut their pay or fire them. We don’t need to be geniuses to figure this stuff out. I believe our nation is going to ‘drink from a cup’ whether we like it or not, we are going to seek God and ask him to ‘bring us out of all these distresses’. I do not believe the overall economic picture is as good as the media seems to be portraying it, and we still are losing 200-250 thousand jobs a month, and the media says that’s good news! The responsible thing for the president to do is realize that he came in with many good intentions, people did want to hope and believe in change. After he got the job he saw the numbers were a lot worse than he thought, in this type of environment the responsible thing to do is spend the next 3.5 years dealing responsibly with our books. Sure, this will not create a great legacy, and it is easier to simply start a new program [Social Security, Medicaid,- universal insurance] because the programs will be remembered, whether or not they get funded. So it is a matter of having a fiscally responsible leadership, or leaders that are willing to cut off the water supply to thousands of farmers in order to save some rat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(1197) JESUS ASKS A QUESTION- In the beginning of Luke 20, the religious leaders ask Jesus who gave him the right to do what he was doing ‘who gave you this authority’? He tells them ‘I will answer you if you answer my question’ say on ‘the baptism of John [John’s destiny to impact the nations] was it from men or God’. Jesus clearly shows us that there are 2 different ways that men receive authority, from men or God. Now the religious leaders were no idiots, they knew that John was a prophet from God. So they reason among themselves that if they say God, then Jesus will say ‘why didn’t you believe him’ and if they say ‘from men’ well all the people would be in an uproar, they knew John’s mission was from God. So they tell Jesus ‘we can’t answer the question’ Jesus says neither will I answer you. What was going on here? Religion in general has certain protocols that people go thru to receive authority to function. In Jesus day you had all the hoops that the Pharisees and religious rulers jumped thru to become legitimate, to ‘be ordained’. Jesus operated outside of that system. Now, this did not mean that all those ‘in the system’ were not of God [you know, the strong anti –institutional church thing] but yet Jesus and John were not ordained in that way. Over the years I have seen how certain limited views of ‘local church’ and what it means to be ordained have at times fallen into this mindset. Ordination, in the bible [Paul ordaining/recognizing elders] was the simple process of Paul telling the local believers who they could look up to and go to for advice in his absence; it was a simple type of a thing. Though Paul himself had the official ordination of the day [he was a Pharisee] yet he himself would say that he had to go thru a process where he counted that past as ‘dung’ so he could gain Christ [Philippians]. His past knowledge and learning was not dung, but the whole idea of status and legitimacy that came thru that way of feeling authorized/accepted had to be abandoned. I believe the Lord uses both ‘ordained’ and un-ordained people to carry out his mission on the earth, when people are sent by God with a divine mandate, their authority comes directly from God. Ordination and all the other tools that the Christian church has used over the years are okay things in their proper place. But when it comes down to the bottom line, your authority either comes from God or man. I think I know who’s I want, how bout you?

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

(1194) HELP THE POOR AND YOU WILL GET TEN CITIES- It’s Sunday morning right now, around 4:40 a.m., just finished around an hour and a half prayer time. I want to mention that there are regular prayer times when I pray a specific intercession thing, and also just times where I talk without any particular structure. I have noticed that the structure really helps a lot, when you’re done praying your focus is much stronger, just a hint to all you Pastors/leaders. Now, I was going to do Zacchaeus [Luke 19] but think I will just hit a few things. Notice in the story that when he repents, he ‘gives half of his goods to the poor’. Also in our last post I mentioned how the rich ruler was told to ‘sell his goods and distribute to the poor’. Ever wonder why these guys don’t feel lead to run down to the temple and put in a tithe? We have a habit of reading the bible thru a certain lens, that lens ‘colors’ everything else. Now, when Jesus gives the story of the guys who were given so much money [pounds] and then when he returns he asks ‘what did you gain’ you’ll notice that the 10 pounds [around $450.00 dollars] gained the same amount, good, this guy gets ‘10 cities’. The guy with 5 pounds [around $250.00 dollars] gets 5 cities and the guy who hid the pound in the ground loses out. As I was reading this story, I realized that the money I spend every month on ministry stuff is between ‘5-10’ pounds. That covers all of the stuff I do, yet when praying this morning I realized that we are regularly preaching/reaching a whole region of Texas [at least 10 cities] plus the New Jersey area, and of course thru radio, blog and paper ads we have contacts all over the world. What! How can you have a ‘10 city outreach’ [large region] with only ten pounds? Don’t you know we need millions to reach the world? There goes that stinkin thinkin again. Jesus said ‘the things that are impossible with men [like reaching a large region with 10 pounds] are possible with God’. I want to challenge you today [especially you leaders] have you fallen into a mindset that sees money as the solution to the problem? Do you see ‘faithfulness to God’ thru the lens of giving money to ‘the church’? How often do you regularly, personally meet the needs of others out of your own pocket? When we obey the Lord in giving to the poor [not thru the church budget, but personally] then God will increase your parameters. As I was doing the Sunday morning prayer thing a little while ago, I walk around the yard and prayer over regions. I have around a 5 foot section of railroad track set up in my yard, these are real parts of track and piling that I picked up over a year period when they were tearing up all the old tracks and putting new ones in. They are a composite road of all the cities that I used to drive thru on my way to work. When I pray in the yard and see the tracks it reminds me of the Lord increasing our parameter. I used to personally drive by the tracks in Kingsville when picking people ‘up for church’ now we reach all the cities on a regular basis, the ‘10 cites’ if you will. Be faithful in the little and God will give you 10 cities.

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

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

(1190) In Luke 18 Jesus gives the story of the woman who keeps hounding the judge for vengeance, the judge is not a good man. He does not fear God or care about man, yet he finally avenges the woman because of her consistent pleading. Jesus says we should learn the principle of consistent prayer thru this story. At the end of this chapter a blind man comes to Jesus and begs for mercy, Jesus asks ‘what do you want me to do’? The man says ‘restore my sight’ Jesus did. Some times we as believers overlook the obvious, we plan and scheme and strategize, we come up with bible formulas to make stuff happen, often times we forget to simply ask. Now, sometimes we have to wait for a while before we see results, but it is during these waiting periods that God enlarges us. I like studying Cosmology [universe] and science, one of the major breakthroughs in science occurred in the last century with Hubbell’s discovery of the expanding universe. Some have a limited idea of what this means; for instance if you took a game board and placed a bunch of stars and planets on the board, you could move the planets and stars away from the earth and it would give the appearance that the earth is the center of the universe, how else could everything be moving away from one point, unless that point were the center? Well this really isn’t what is meant by the expanding universe, a better model would be like taking a balloon and placing a bunch of stars and planets on the balloon, as the balloon inflates the stars and planets all move away from all the other points at the same time. The stars and planets are not actually moving; they are simply part of an expanding universe. So in this model the earth would not necessarily be at the center, because the expanding universe creates an environment where all things are expanding at once. Okay, I don’t know if you got it or not, the point I want to make is during times of waiting and asking and trusting, God ‘expands our universe’ if you will, he doesn’t just bring us along further down the road [distance] but he ‘enlarges our steps under us’ [Psalms] The bible says a mans gift makes ‘room’ for him. Jesus said he was going away to prepare a place for us, that in his Fathers house there were many rooms/mansions. We often read this as meaning Jesus is building us a spot in heaven. A better reading would be that Jesus was leaving the disciples so that they would ‘move into the room/place’ that God had for them [on the planet]. His leaving would allow the Spirit to come and then they would function in the capacity that God had for them. Sort of like saying ‘I am leaving to prepare a place for your gifts and abilities to function, they will only function by me leaving and creating space for you to function in by my absence’ got it? So the bible says a mans gift makes room/space for him, it expands your field of operation. The gifts are described as precious stones, in whatever way it turns it prospers. This speaks of a multifaceted gem, a diamond that you can observe from many different angles. During times of waiting God allows us to grow, not just in size, but depth. The bible says ‘God stretches out the heavens’ this is a good description of the expanding universe, given centuries before science knew about it. God also taught us that we would grow and expand during seasons of waiting and trusting, I think he knew what he was talking about.

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

(1188) Right after Jesus gives the parable of the wise steward [Luke 16] he launches into the parable of the rich man and Lazarus [yes, I know some think it not a parable! I explained this before] it’s like Jesus was hitting the subject of riches and poverty thru the whole chapter. In verse 14 the bible says the Pharisees, who were covetous, were there. We often don’t think of them as covetous, Jesus says they esteemed the things of men highly while those things that men value are an abomination in Gods eyes. They valued their image/status a lot, how others viewed them. Often times people seek wealth and fame for these reasons, thus they coveted money for the wrong reasons. Jesus also speaks of John the Baptist ‘the law and the prophets were until John; since John came on the scene the Kingdom is being declared’. John was a transitional figure, the people of Jesus day knew lots about the law and prophets, they were sticklers when it came to ‘bible facts’ but John came on the scene and turned the tables upside down. He was a different sort of preacher, that’s for sure! With the preaching of John [and Jesus] all of a sudden there was this whole new context to put everything else in. The didactic teaching of the Old Testament was not being seen in context. Jesus himself will show his men all the things that were written about him in the law and prophets. In the end of this chapter Jesus tells the rich man that if his brothers don’t hear ‘the law and the prophets’ then they will not listen, even if one rises from the dead. Jesus was showing us that it’s possible to know bible facts, without really grasping the reality of God. I just read an interesting article in Christianity Today magazine [8-09] it showed how the countries of Latin America were being inundated with a very limited preaching of the prosperity gospel. How the country is flooded with ‘Christian TV’ and how many uneducated preachers have gotten a hold of the principle of ‘sow money into my ministry and God will bless you’ yet many of these ministries have no real preaching of the gospel. Jesus rebuked the lifestyle of the Pharisees because of their underlying sin of covetousness, they knew how to quote scripture and function as religious leaders of the community, yet they weren’t really listening to the one whom scripture testified of [Him]!

(1185) THE SHEEP AND THE COIN- Once again Jesus stirs up the crowd, as his teaching ministry flourishes he gains a listening audience of tax collectors and sinners. Basically he’s speaking the language of the people. It’s interesting to note that around 70 % of the Old Testament quotes of Jesus found in the New Testament are taken from the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. This translation was a collaboration of 70 scholars [so the tradition goes] and was the Greek cultural version of the Old Testament that was popular in the Greek speaking world, it was also seen as an ‘impure’ version among the religious leaders of Judaism, it was not the most pure Hebrew text that the orthodox used. But Jesus was attempting to speak to the common people as much as possible and he wasn’t the type of preacher to engage in these long debates over the most pure text of scripture! So anyway he gives the stories of a man who lost 1 sheep out of 99 and goes and finds it; also the woman who lost 1 coin out of 10 and she too seeks for it. Jesus says that’s what he’s doing when he receives these so called low class people; he’s seeking the ones who are lost. He says when they find the lost sheep/coin they bring it home and call their neighbors and friends and rejoice with them. Jesus did put a priority on spiritual riches versus natural stuff, to seek the lost and save them was valuable in his eyes, to live your life based on class issues was not valuable. The religious leaders despised these down and out folk, they wouldn’t stoop so low as to actually befriend them. That was the real accusation they made against Jesus, he was ‘their friend’ this just irked the religious leadership terribly! It’s too easy for well meaning Christian leaders to live their lives in an environment where most of your time and thought is spent in public speaking, running the 501 c3 operation of ‘ the church’ and mingling with the elite crowd as much as possible. The lifestyle of Jesus was a total repudiation of this professional ministerial class, they were building their careers while Jesus was out looking for sheep.

(1182) I JUST GOT MARRIED AND AM NOT ALLOWED TO COME- Ouch! In Luke 14 Jesus gives the parable of the great supper; he says a man makes this great feast and sends out his servant to tell the intended guests ‘all things are ready NOW, it’s supper time’ [not breakfast time! Supper time is a time of completion, Galatians says the fullness of the times were already present in the 1st century]. So the servant goes and tells the people ‘come’. But the people make excuses, one says ‘I have bought some land and need to go see it’ [his lucrative real estate business was too important] another said ‘I have bought some ox and need to go try them out’ and the last guy said ‘I just got married, I can’t come’. It’s been said in the annals of famous repeated jokes from previous Pastors/Teachers that this was the only brother who had a legitimate excuse [sorry about this]. So the servant comes back to the man and says ‘I invited all the intended guests [1st century Israel] and they couldn’t come’ and the master gets mad and sends the servant back out to gather all the poor and lame and outcasts of society, and they come. But the original guests are left out. This parable, like all the others, must be seen in context. Obviously Jesus is speaking to the nation of Israel and telling them that as a nation their time has come, he is their Messiah and the supper is ready. In New Testament thought [as opposed to the multitude of various theologies that people espouse] the appearing of the Messiah in the first century was the defining moment in all of human history. The national rejection of Jesus by Israel did not postpone Gods intended Kingdom work. The other guests that came to the table were all the Gentile nations who benefited by the rejection of Israel [book of Romans]. The supper time indicates that Jesus initial presenting of himself to Israel was not a sort of evangelistic call to get saved [though that was a small part of it] but it was Gods plan for the ages being fulfilled, it was a passing away of a former age [law- Old Testament economy] and a bringing into existence of a new way, the Blood of Jesus and his New Covenant. This new way was presented as ‘a full course meal’ so to speak. It was there in its fullness and would be inaugurated by the Messiah, whether Israel wanted it or not. So when we read the epistles in the New Testament we read a story of God bringing in many Gentile nations, the non Jews are now considered citizens of God’s kingdom and fellow partakers of all the Divine blessings that were restricted to Israel under the first covenant [Ephesians]. When we read the New Testament it is important to read it thru the proper lens [this being one of the pairs of glasses!] when you do it this way it allows you to see the truth of many other things. It puts the proper perspective on things. We as Christians are not waiting for a Kingdom that has been postponed for 2 thousand years, but we are already partaking of the benefits of ‘the supper’. Sure, there will be a great future day when the King returns, that’s true. But we are already living in the Kingdom at this time. In essence we are the eternal generation that Jesus spoke about when he said ‘some of you will not die until all these things are fulfilled’. If you see this ‘some of you’ as the church age, the people of God from day 1 until now. Then truly some of our brothers and sisters have gone on to be with the Lord, but there are still some of us hanging out on the planet; but whether we are alive or not when Jesus returns, I know for sure that ‘this generation’ [the church] will not pass away until all these things are fulfilled [note- I am not saying this is the only way to read these verses, but I think there is much truth to some of the way I just taught it]

(1180) FRIEND, GO UP HIGHER- its 5 a.m. right now, just finished around an hour prayer time. In a few hours I will be heading to San Antonio for the day. My daughter’s birthday is today [7-25 Bethany, the oldest is 24]. Her boyfriend of a few years proposed to her last night. We will be riding the inner tubes at one of the rivers and hitting the good spots, river walk and stuff like that. San Antonio is one of our outreach cities; it will be a prayer time as well for me. In Luke 14 Jesus says when you get invited to a wedding don’t take [seek] a place of honor and recognition, but take the humble seat. Because if you go ‘for the glory’ the person who invited you will have to tell you ‘I’m sorry, but this seat is reserved for someone else, but you can sit here in the back’ and the man will have been humbled on purpose, as opposed to having done it himself. This theme is pretty consistent in the teaching of Jesus, he was instilling the mindset that greatness in Gods kingdom would not be measured by worldly standards. Religion in Jesus day developed along the lines of class warfare, you had the leaders hold a special place over the people. God’s people were already under Roman dominion, they felt like they were always having to answer ‘to the man’ being on their guard for stepping on the wrong toes. And religious Judaism fell into this same mindset. The leaders primarily saw their role as being in charge of people, that is they derived joy out of knowing they were a special chosen group, better than the average laymen. In essence the leaders were always going for the best seat in the house. Now Jesus comes along, he really rebukes them all thru out his ministry, he’s been taking the outcasts of society and elevating them to a position that really offended the clergy! At the same time he’s been telling the elite class ‘you belong down here, in the back of the room’. Ouch! He was really changing the mindset of authority and leadership in a major way. Leadership was not to take a pre imminent role among the group, they were to be servant leaders. Jesus tells those who take the low road ‘friend, go up higher’. It’s funny, Jesus will exalt and use the lowly in a great way, it’s just they aren’t in it for the fame.

(1179) OFFICER CROWLEY VERSUS THE PROFESSOR- Okay, this week there was an incident that happened that has riled up the racial tensions in the country. In Cambridge Mass. a Black Professor was locked out of his house without his keys, a neighbor sees him trying to get into his house with a Black cab driver who drove him home. The neighbor calls the police thinking it’s a possible break in. The cop gets there and sees the Black guys in the house, he questions them. The Black owner [Gates] is mad, he is in his own home and a cop is there questioning him. Sure, I could see how I would be mad if this happened to me. Now, the White officer is simply doing his job, he was called to the scene by a concerned neighbor and he is being treated disrespectfully by the Professor, as was the Professor feeling disrespected too. So during the incident the Professor gets mad, it seems as if he was out of line in the way he spoke to the cop [can you really blame him?] but the cop is doing his job and is being labeled as a racist by the Professor. Now, Professor Gates is a Harvard Professor who teaches African /American studies, his whole life is dedicated to examining the class/culture realities of Black Americans. He is up on all the latest statistics on racial profiling, he has studied past incidents of Blacks being targeted by White cops, and he for the most part has spent more time than the average person looking at these things. Now the cop just happens to be the local officer who was chosen by the Black police commissioner to teach other cops how not to racially profile. Good enough so far. As things seem to get out of hand at the scene, the cop tells Gates to go outside and talk, obviously Gates knows he will be more susceptible to arrest if he leaves the house, so he musters up all the intellectual resources he can find, he draws upon his years of experience on how not to fall into the stereotypical Black mans response, and he says- quote ‘I’ll meet your mamma outside’. Probably not a good thing. So he gets arrested and the nation is up in arms, oh one more thing. As President Obama is giving a very lack luster speech on his effort to save his health insurance policy, he struggled thru a difficult time in trying to present his case. The last question of the night is ‘what do you think about the Professor Gates incident’ and he does his best to be measured, he says he wants to be careful because he doesn’t know all the facts, and then he ads ‘The police acted stupidly’ ah, just the thing we needed to tone down the tensions. The President is a personal friend of Gates and he knows he is an upstanding man, he of course assumes that something went wrong. Most of us would, but still he jumped the gun. And of course the conservative talk shows can’t get enough of reminding the world that Obama called the cops stupid. What happened here? Innocent people were drawn into a drama by innocent events and both sides are being demonized. It’s a shame that the cop does seem to be an outstanding cop when it comes to racial profiling. There are truly rogue cops in the world, who do treat minorities bad, this guy isn’t one of them. Gates has every right to be mad, of course he thinks the cop is a racist, he is in his home and being targeted. Does he know that a neighbor called about a possible break in? Not at first. Did race play any role in this, probably. We would be ignorant to think race played no role. Did the neighbor feel like there was a break in because there were 2 Black guys there? Possibly so, now that doesn’t mean the neighbor was racist, but I’m sure it played a role. But it seems wrong for Gates to have called the cop a racist, just as it was wrong for a Black man to be questioned in his own home as in if he was a criminal. It was not wrong for the cop [Crowley] to question him, but for Gates to feel like he was being treated like a stereotypical Black man by being treated like this in his home. We as Christians need to tone down the rhetoric, I have been strong on my disagreements on racial things [like affirmative action] and I have disagreed with the president on lots of stuff, but we need to be careful when choosing sides in these types of situations. Both Crowley and Gates have real legitimate complaints in defending their points of view. The national voices who are defending both sides also have real legitimate issues they are bringing up, but to only see one side of this issue would be a mistake. The President has since said he overreacted in his initial statement, the poor guy is trying his best at a very difficult time in the world, North Korea refers to Hillary Clinton [secretary of state] as a schoolgirl, or a pensioner shopping at the mall! I do find it ironic that Hillary was one of the vocal critics of Bush’s ‘Cowboy Diplomacy’ and used to criticize him for losing respect in international affairs. But Obama has since invited Gates and Crowley to the White House for a beer, I think we should try and see both sides to these types of issues and forgive those who we seem to disagree with.

(1178) Jesus is in the synagogue, the religious leaders are watching, sure enough he does it again. He heals a woman who had a sickness for 18 years. The ruler of the synagogue stands up and in a non direct way says ‘well, we have 6 other days to come and get healed, if you need to be healed get it in those days, not on the Sabbath’. Now this brother is the God ordained leader of this group, I mean Jesus himself said to obey those who ‘sit in Moses seat’ [basically the pulpit of the synagogue]. So how does Jesus respond? Does he simply think praising God and speaking only ‘nice’ words will get the job done? Jesus responds ‘you hypocrite! Don’t you rescue your own beast on the Sabbath if it falls into some ditch?’ Jesus minced no words, he let him have it. Paul does stuff like this as well, he says some teachers mouths needed to be shut, and Paul was on a mission to shut them! The point being we don’t take this approach with every one we disagree with, but there are times when leaders get in this mode of survival, they want to be happy and wealthy. They want that for their people, and any perceived intrusion by the Kingdom of God into their little world is seen as a threat, in these cases truth trumps personal doctrine and security. Sure Jesus was tough on the brother, but he showed him an error in his thinking, he showed him how he wasn’t allowing the same grace and mercy for human beings as he was for animals! He showed them how their ideas of Gods law [Sabbath keeping] were way off track, he then let the chips fall. The people in the room were obviously in shock, Jesus by passed Pastoral etiquette and rebuked this man to his face [Like Paul did with Peter] I know one thing, this was a lesson that he [they] would never forget.

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

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

(1173) I have a few things that I need to hit on today. First, recently there has been some criticism of the freedom to blog. Some have said that because blogging is so accessible, that for that very reason those who blog are not credible. I would like to point out that any venue of ‘speaking’ whether it be Pulpit, TV, Radio, whatever- has both good and bad aspects to it. Around a month or so ago the lord spoke to me from Romans [I think 13?] ‘The powers that be are ordained of God’ while it is true that anyone can do anything [blogging, public speaking, etc.] it is not true that anyone/everyone is doing it by Gods grace. So to be sure, anyone can blog, but if God is giving anyone a voice of influence, be assured that he alone [God!] has the power to ‘ordain powers’ or set up those who have authoritative voices in the community. Number 2, I want to comment on the book ‘scandal of the evangelical mind’ by Mark Noll, but I still have a few chapters left. But let me say I want all of our ‘followers’ to read it, especially you pastors and leaders. I recently checked my email [something I only do every few weeks, or once a month! I got away from the distraction that it can cause] and I had a few church planting networks contact us. I am glad we have some readers who are actively planting churches. One of the things Noll brings out in his book is the lack of good intellectual learning available to the average evangelical Christian. I like Noll, don’t agree with every thing he says, but I do agree with him on this. To all of our leaders/church groups that follow us, make an honest effort to buy, borrow or READ BLOGS that have good in depth teaching. You are a product of what you read. If the majority of your Christian experience is simply listening to modern success type preaching, then you and the people you lead will suffer for it. Now, lets do Luke 12; Jesus gives the famous story from the birds and flowers, he is rebuking the natural instinct of man to find security and interest in the pursuit of material wealth. He says the birds do not invest, they have no storehouses or barns, yet God feeds them. The flowers don’t struggle and toil, yet they look great. Then Jesus says he doesn’t want us preoccupied with the material pursuits of life. He says the unbelievers allow their lives to be consumed with this stuff and we should not be like that. Okay, Jesus is not teaching financial irresponsibility, but he is telling us not to allow wealth building to become an adventure that consumes our thoughts and time. When I first became a Christian I had the ‘disconnection’ that Jesus spoke about here. For many years I passed up chances to make wealth and stuff like that. Then after a period of listening to a lot of off balance teaching that focused a lot on money, I got into the money thing. Investing, real estate, the whole 9 yards. It wasn’t that awful, but I did notice that I spent lots of time thinking about investing, buying books and tapes on the subject; catching all the business and investing shows on TV. I did it all. Then I went thru a period of time where I walked away from the whole deal. It took time to sell the rentals and all, but I realized that for me it was a distraction, it affected the way I viewed God’s kingdom and work. Most of the money teachers/preachers had a feeling of disdain towards the verses like this. I realized that the overall environment of the financial/wealth building focus was something Jesus was against. Being consumed with the stuff. So today, where are you at personally? If you’re a Pastor, do you do this? Has your teaching become affected too much by personal success and wealth? Are you simply a believer who wants to sell out for the gospel? After I retired I stopped balancing my checkbook, put my investment money in a fixed interest savings, and really backed off of the regular overactive concern about wealth. Of course I still check my account on line a few times a month, making sure the automatic bills are being paid, checking up on my direct deposit from my retirement. But that’s all; I have no other schemes or ‘fishing lines’ out there trying to bring in some type of financial harvest. That’s a simple return to basic responsibility without spending an inordinate amount of time thinking ‘money thoughts’ all day long. Jesus said the world was consumed with this stuff, are you?

(1172) Yesterday was my birthday, I turned 47 [7-17-09] I don’t do stuff for my birthday anymore, but last night I caught the trilogy of the Gatti/Ward fights, watched all three back to back on HBO. It was a true present for me. The only sport I have ever really followed thru out my life has been boxing. Last week I saw a news brief on the death of Gatti, it effected me more than Michael Jackson to be sure. It’s sad for any one to die, but for boxing fans Gatti was a real hero. I grew up in the same area as Gatti [Jersey City, N.J.] Actually I run the blog ad in the Jersey Journal. Both Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward [Lowell, Mass.] were not world champions, but their fights were considered world class. It was interesting to hear Emanuel Stewart, one of the all time great trainers, really enjoy the fights. Plus the fact that these fights allowed the fighters to make more money [especially Ward] than ever before was a good story. They deserved it. Gatti and Ward became good friends during this time, Ward retired after these fights and Gatti fought seven more fights. Ward trained Gatti for the last fight. One of the things I like about the sport is you have Blacks/Whites rooting for their guy whether he’s Black or White. Gatti and Ward are White, yet Gatti’s corner man was Buddy McGirt, a great Black fighter in his own right. When Gatti broke his hand early in the second fight, he tells Buddy when he goes back to the corner, Buddy asks ‘what do you want me to do’ meaning you want to stop the fight, Arturo says lets go on. Only a good trainer is willing to stop a fight if his man is hurt. At the end of the Atlantic City fight you see a Black brother wearing a suit in the ring, you know when they are announcing the decision and all, he is happy about the results, the fight went all 10 rounds [as did all of them] and the Black guy tells Mickey ‘I am proud of you’ you could tell he meant it. He seemed to have been one of the promoters. Mickey was hurt at various times [as was Gatti] and it would have been easy to have not fought on, but he did. The promoter of course wanted to put on a good show, and he was proud that Mickey didn’t take an easy paycheck and quit. I liked the whole environment of these various ethnic guys all in it together, to accomplish a common goal. Sure you have bad guys that have been in the sport, but the Whites/Blacks [Hispanics] all working together, rooting for their guy regardless of race, the whole trilogy of fights was a real treat. True champions at heart who became good friends during their fights, guys who had many chances to stop their fights for valid reasons [Gatti’s broken hand!] but chose to fight on, I enjoyed re-watching the fights last night, it was one of the best birthday presents I could have gotten.

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

(1167) Last night I had a rough night, I thought I would skip the Monday morning intercession time, I do pray regularly during the week and figured it would be no big deal. But when I got up [a few hours ago] I felt the Lord wanted me to pray, so I did the normal intercession thing [3:30-5-5:30]. I read earlier in Luke 11 where Jesus is accused of casting out demons by the devil, he then corrects the accusers and says when a strong man is in control of his house, his goods are at peace, but when a stronger man comes upon him and overcomes him, he robs him of his goods. During my prayer time I quote lots of stuff, one of the regular quotes is ‘strengthen the bars of our gates, bless our children within, let peace be within our borders and let out garners be filled, providing all manner of store’. I felt like the Lord was telling me that when we pray we are ‘binding the strongman’ and ‘our goods’ [the people/communities we are working with] experience peace. Jesus said when the leader is leading his ‘goods are at peace’ I thought this was interesting. I at first felt like I was the one who was being overcome by the strongman, having a tough day and all, but then I felt like the lord was saying ‘no, when you persevere in prayer, you are overcoming his goods!’ [The people he holds in bondage]. Jesus also gives the famous quote ‘a house divided against itself can not stand’ I think Lincoln quoted this during the Civil war. As of today [7-09] I feel this is a sad description of the political environment of our country. I am not a conservative per se, or a liberal! But as a Christian I think we should be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. I want national heal care! I don’t have any medical coverage for myself right now, so yeah, I want it. Our country is in pretty bad financial shape right now, don’t let the media fool you. We have sent representatives to China and other nations that lend us money, we have asked them to please not cut us off as borrowers, this my friends is not a good thing. California has the eight biggest economy, in the world! They are giving out i.o.u’s for heavens sake! I am not an alarmist, but you would have to be blind to think that things are all right, and yet the politicians are making decisions based on their political interests. I know our president means well, but it is simply irresponsible to try and initiate a trillion dollar national health plan at this time, he realizes this, but they still talk about it as a possible option. Or to be the only country that passes ‘cap and trade’ laws [cutting back pollution- or simply new laws to make more money for the govt.] as of now the bill has passed in the house, but is having problems with the conservatives in the senate [Democrats and Republicans]. Obama just went to the G-8 [meetings with the top industrial nations] and not a single nation would bind itself to any pollution control mandates. But they agreed to ‘try not let the world temperature rise by more than a few degrees over the next 50 years’ wow, what a deal! The whole point being these other industrial nations laugh at us for doing what we do. In a time of national economic crisis, you cant pass laws that would put an extra burden on any type of business in the U.S. Now, I believe the environment is important, but we our not ‘the globe’! Global warming is warming effecting ‘the globe’ if the other nations on the globe don’t give a rip, we are fooling ourselves by strapping our nation with restrictions, we cant change the global environment by ourselves. Now to be doing all this at a time where the world markets are thinking of raising our debt risk is truly irresponsible. Then why are we doing it? Because the political wars are on and each side wants to score points with it’s base, truly sad. Lincoln quoted Jesus and realized that a nation divided against itself would not stand, I fear we are looking like that nation more and more each day.

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

(1165) Just read the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus is confronted by a lawyer. He asks Jesus what good thing he must do to have eternal life. Jesus asks him ‘what do you read in the law, how do you see it’? We all come to the table with glasses on, we have preconceived prejudices that taint the way we view scripture. Jesus was asking the man what pair of glasses he used. The man tells him ‘well, the law says we are to love God with all that is in us; our hearts and souls and minds, and love our neighbor as ourselves’. Wow, you got it right man! What an intellect, you sure showed us how smart you are. One more thing Jesus, who is my neighbor? Ah, he couldn’t leave well enough alone. So Jesus says there was a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, on the journey he gets mugged. The robbers beat him, strip him and leave him on the road ‘half dead’. Sure enough a priest and Levite pass by, they probably are on their way [or coming from] some great religious conference, you know, the type where we all get to show off our knowledge and skill, sort of like what the lawyer was just doing. When they see the man they pass him up. Were they thinking how they might use the poor victim in their next sermon? Maybe they will go home to their religious communities and bring the need before them and start some type of mission to the ‘road to Jericho’ homeless? Either way they certainly never thought about actually acting themselves! What, are you kidding me? I am a priest/Levite; my calling is to engage in the teaching/preaching of what God wants, to build a life/ministry around telling others what they should do. I am not responsible for this poor slob, he is reaping what he sowed. But Jesus says a Samaritan [a half breed, low class mutt!] passed by and saw him. He stopped, helped him and brought him to a place to stay. He took money out of his own pocket [not some church budget] and paid the hotel owner and told him ‘if the cost is more, when I get back I’ll cover it’. Wow, all the religion and ministry and preaching in the world didn’t help this man, but a simple act of true compassion reached him. Jesus asks the lawyer ‘which one of these do you suppose treated the man like a good neighbor’? The lawyer says the Samaritan. Great, you answered right again! You do seem to have all the correct answers to these questions. Now, go and do likewise. The problem with most of us is we really don’t want to act ourselves, we want to take this story, and maybe use it in a sermon [like now!] or think about the spiritual lessons of how if you don’t serve God you will wind up like the poor man. But we very rarely read the new testament and think we are required to do these things. There are many people within the vicinity of your home that are in some way like this poor man, they are surrounded by religious institutions [priest/Levite] that mean well, most of them have some type of charitable outreach that tries to meet the need. But the man needed someone to pro actively get involved with him, someone who would simply act like Jesus acted. Not keeping a record of how much he already tithed to the church this past week, but someone who would reach into his own pocket and cover the cost, no questions asked. The lawyer already knew the answers to Jesus questions, he knew what was right. The only thing he lacked was the doing of the things he knew in his heart were the right things to do. He knew that to truly love God was to also love his fellow man, Jesus helped him to see what he needed to do.

(1164) Went to the radio station yesterday to drop off some programs, picked up a local Christian paper and read an interesting prophetic word for our area, I did like it but felt some of the more ‘interesting’ aspects of certain images need to be kept to ourselves unless we feel strongly that God wants us to speak them. I stopped reading on line ‘prophetic words’ a while back, too much area for error, to many wild images that might, or might not, mean anything. To publish them to the world might be a mistake. Okay, I read Psalms 2 and Luke earlier, felt like ‘the word’ for today had to do with declaration/decree. In Luke Jesus sends them out by 2’s and when they come back they are excited about being able to cast out demons. Jesus warns them to rejoice over their names being in heaven and not over their authority. He tells them they have power over all the power of the enemy and nothing shall hurt them. In Psalms 2 God says he has set ‘his king on his holy hill- declare the decree, this day I have begotten thee, thou art my Son in whom I am well pleased’. There are times in prayer where we simply decree/declare stuff. I just finished praying from 4-5:30, early outside prayer under the stars. I look towards the regions of Texas and the country while praying for those areas. My yard ‘just happens’ to be located perfectly for this. I look south to the valley, scan over the Texas Mexico border and pray for the areas working up to Laredo and over towards Del Rio. Then scan over to the San Antonio/Austin section. Up thru Houston/Galveston, jump thru Beaumont and hit New Jersey, then the nations. I do lots of decreeing/declaring during this time. Things like ‘cities of Judah, behold your God’ ‘let your doctrine drop down like rain, your speech distill like due’ ‘you will call a nation you do not know, nations that do not know you will come running to you’ [bible verses]. Lots of stuff like that, this decreeing is a form of prayer. Now Jesus said we do have the authority to do stuff like this, but the church went thru a whole spiritual warfare stage where we spent years decreeing things to the devil! Every now and then you might need to tell him ‘get thee behind me satan’ but avoid getting into long drawn out conversations! In Psalms 2 Jesus is pictured as the king who is PRESENTLY sitting in his place of rule and authority, we are ambassadors of his kingdom on the earth, he tells us ‘ask of me, I will give you the heathen for your inheritance, the ends of the earth for your possession’. He says this right after the decree thing. You say ‘now brother, you don’t believe that for real, do you’ you bet I do! As I pray for these ‘ends of the earth’ on a regular basis, we have blog ad’s running in these cities, our radio show hits the Texas borders, and I get contacts from all over the world from people reading the blog. Yes, God will do what he said if we do our part. He said ‘ask of me-decree/declare’ are you speaking?

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

(1161) As I sat down this morning, I wasn’t sure what to share. I felt like the Lord wanted me to re-read my friends letter from prison. I always read them again before I send the packets of materials out to them, they usually ask a question or two and I try and make sure I respond to them. Sure enough, as I am reading the letter [a minute ago] he makes note of the drawing he sent me. It’s a great picture of a gang brother with tattoos and all, giving praise to God. Many of the brothers in prison are good artists and they have sent me things like this over the years. I hung it up yesterday, it’s been sitting in the envelope for a month. Well in the letter he reminds me that it is a drawing of a candle/man on fire for the lord, being ‘lit’ for God. So I got up and turned on my desk light and sure enough the picture is a man whose bottom half is a candle, I didn’t see it before. It’s significant because the past month or so I have been quoting ‘no man lights a candle and puts it under a bushel, but on a candlestick’. The image of Jesus words have been in my mind recently, so I felt the ‘candle-man’ to be prophetic. I really re-read the letter because I wanted to share Leonard’s testimony with you. Like I said in the past I have known Leonard for around 30 years, used to preach to him and his dad and brothers at the county jail. Many years of knowing him and his family. In the letter Leonard testifies and thanks me for the times I spoke Gods word to him, he testifies how Gods word has always stayed with him, thru the good times and bad. Days where he was living on the streets trying to grub up money for the next fix, yet the Lord was always with him, the ‘hound of heaven’. By the way he asked me if I could find this famous poem for him and send it, it took me a while to find a free copy on line! Everyone wanted to sell one [shame] I would have bought it if I had to but I needed to print one quickly, finally found one. Leonard testified how the Lord was the ‘hound of heaven’ who would never give up on him. Well I included the poem with my study on Romans in the packet [I already sent him Acts] and will be mailing it off soon, along with the other packet for my buddy in Rahway prison in N.J. Even though these are simple tasks, one on one stuff that might seem to have little effect, yet Jesus modeled this style of ministry for us, he showed us that if we faithfully plant seed, eventually we will get a harvest. Occupy yourself with helping and reaching out to others, don’t spend time trying to build ‘your ministry’ but give yourself away for Gods kingdom, whatever you do for the least of these, Jesus friends, you do for him. It’s hard to have a greater impact than that!

(1160) In Luke 8 Jesus gives the parable of the sower, in the parable the last group are the good ground that the seed takes root in and bears fruit with patience. In psalms one David says that the good tree planted by the water source brings forth fruit in its season/time. Both of these teachings show us that God’s kingdom, though explosive in nature [starts really small, gets really big!] works along the lines of patient, steadfast plodding. Faithfulness is needed because it takes time for the root system to develop and get to a point of consistent fruit bearing. When I moved to Corpus around 17 years ago, I bought a small grapefruit tree. It was about a foot high, now it’s a huge tree that always produces fruit. I have fruit all year long. Right now it’s got around 50 ripe grapefruits, and around fifty new ones ripening. I have had friends tell me that it’s not natural to have them produce all year like this. Maybe so? The point is it took a long time and lots of watering for the first few years. But now I hardly ever mess with it, just prune it every now and then. Jesus also taught that the things which grow fast [the seed on the rock] don’t have enough time to develop strong roots. They shoot up and are not around for the long term. This doesn’t mean every big ministry has no roots! But it warns us to be careful when things grow big fast, make sure there is some strong root connections to under gird the tree [good ministry relationships with other stable people!]. I like the parables of Jesus, they make a lot of sense and are not long, drawn-out sermons that nobody ever remembers! The psalmist said the tree planted by the water brings forth fruit that lasts, it is a mainstay for those who come back year after year looking for fruit. It is no good to have a tree that has great tasting fruit, but dies in a few years. It’s better to have fruit that might not be as flashy, but can sustain you for life.

(1158) Just finished an early morning prayer time [early means 3:30 -4:00 till around 5:30-6:00 am] I say this to let you know that doing regular prayer is still really important! We can get so hung up on the ministries [Christian business] that we are building that we neglect the real house of God [my house shall be called a house of prayer- remember?] Any way I got a letter the other day from a childhood buddy who is doing some serious prison time in Rahway N.J. I have had many, many good friends over the years who spent lots of time in prison, usually for robberies related to drug addiction. This friend has much more serious charges, he will not get out in a long time. He’s really going thru some serious depression, he is ‘trying’ church and all, but it’s not helping. It’s funny [not really] that this old buddy has kept in touch over all the years. This old friend knew me to be somewhat of a violent person, he ‘experienced’ my violence a few times. But after I converted to the Lord he still kept in touch, sort of like ‘wow, who would have thought John would get into religion’? You know, one of those types of things. But now, after 30 years I guess a real door is opening. I was copying some stuff for him off this blog [p.s. you preachers/churches that are copying our studies and books from this blog, great, keep doing it. But if you can, make me a bunch of copies and send them to me, I don’t have the capability to print mass stuff!] and the ‘darn’ printer messed up. I then went to delete the document, and lo and behold, I deleted the printer from the computer. You know, its stuff like this that makes it tuff to do the Christian thing. You wind up getting mad [at least I do] say a minor curse [you know, not the big one like the kid in the TV movie Christmas Story] and then you finish the project, asking the lord to forgive you, trying to download the printer hardware [who in their right mind saves the disk!] and trying to be spiritual while performing the whole task. Well anyway I got the stuff printed and will send it out soon. I have had a few letters from old friends in prison that I need to respond to. I already sent them some study materials, but need to do some more. I was reading Luke 7 earlier, Jesus heals the roman soldiers servant, raises a woman’s child from the dead. He’s doing one on one ministry while fulfilling the greatest ministry that any one could ever have. Jesus made time for people, while at the same time avoiding the ‘fame and recognition’ crowd. He just didn’t rub shoulders with the elite class! I had a good friend tell me ‘I don’t know who those people are’ when discussing some famous media persons [Benny Hinn, etc.] he was a homeless brother, who knew lots of stuff about the lord and Christianity, but told me ‘if these people you are naming are TV stars, I don’t know them’. I thought it strange how there are different groups of Christians who live their whole lives and never interact with the famous crowd [good thing in my view]. Jesus fame went out, don’t get me wrong. After he raises the kid in Luke 7, word got out. But you get the feeling that he really didn’t want the word to get out! It seemed to hinder his ministry, the whole town winds up at his door and he can’t hear the father’s voice like that. He finds time to pray all night, or to launch out in some boat. He had a mission to complete and becoming famous was not a secret desire of his, sort of like ‘I knew if I waited long enough my day would come’. His day came alright, but like the prophets said ‘why are people saying “we want the day of the Lord” they don’t realize what they are asking for’. Jesus day was great agony and suffering, yes a resurrection too, but first the Cross.

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

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

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

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

(1150) In Luke 2 we see the prophetic events surrounding the birth of Jesus, notice how his mother Mary is keeping these things in her mind. We also see the first recorded relationship of Jesus with the temple and its leaders. He is 12 years old and questioning the doctors of the law. Both his questions and later teachings amaze people. This will begin a long and strained relationship between the popular themes of the religion of Jesus day and the breaking in of God’s kingdom. He will combat a mindset in Judaism that was obsessed with the temple and the rites that surrounded it, the religious leaders had their ‘tower of Babel’ if you will. A system of temple and religion that said to the world ‘look at us, look at how important we are!’ Jesus will later rebuke the leaders for their love of men’s glory. He will say ‘how can they please God, who seek the honor that comes from men’. I believe one of the areas the evangelical church needs to ‘grow in’ is the popular end times scenarios that seem to be focused on a future literal temple being rebuilt, and the anti-christ making a covenant with natural Israel, and the whole teaching that places so much emphasis on some future temple. While there are varying views among well meaning Christians on this subject, we need to keep in mind the significance of the ministry of Jesus and the temple of his day. It would be a mistake to miss the spiritual significance of the destruction of the temple in a.d. 70 and how that represented the change from the old law to the new covenant age. I believe the most significant signs surrounding the temple and its destruction have already happened. I seriously question the popular teaching of the prophecy teachers and their obsession with some future temple. Jesus will eventually overturn the tables of the money changers in the temple courts. The religious leaders will even arrange the events of the crucifixion around the rites of the temple, making sure the religious requirement for cleanness was not violated while they kill their Messiah! The eventual destruction of the earthly temple will signify a new glorious building plan of the New Testament church, the true temple of God [made up of all ethnic races who receive the messiah]. Yes, Jesus had a long history with the temple, he told his men at one time ‘see all these expensive buildings? There shall not be left one stone upon another when all is said and done’! I wonder why we keep looking for the stones to be ‘set back one upon another’?

(1148) THE TOWER OF BABEL- Today I finish the Genesis study that I started a few years ago. Sort of a milestone if you will. In chapter 11 we see the famous story of the Tower of Babel. Man united his efforts, learned how to build things contrary to God’s initiative [brick and mortar versus stone] and gave his time and efforts willingly in order to make a name for himself [image building]. Over the years I have observed the church of God go thru various seasons, sometimes I cross paths with good men who are at different levels of the journey [like myself]. One of ‘the levels’ is the realization that ministers/pastors have often unconsciously built towers of Babel when they meant to build Gods church. Babel was an affront to what God wanted. Babel was an edifice that drew your attention to man and his ability to get things done, it shouted ‘look how much I have been able to accomplish, cant you see what I’ve done’! Contrary to mans building plan, God used stones that were honed and fashioned at the quarry before they were brought to the temple site. This represented the reality that though man is used in Gods building program, yet he is simply a stone carrier/placer. He doesn’t actually produce the building materials [brick and mortar]. The Lord stopped the tower of Babel by confusing the languages of men and scattering them throughout the land. The contrast to this chapter is Acts 2, where the Lord supernaturally allowed men of many different languages to once again come together and understand each other. Sort of like Gods divine imprimatur on the new building/tower that he was going to build [the church]. He would allow men once again to take part in this unified effort to build something. But it would be like the prophet said ‘not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit saith the Lord’ [stones versus brick]. On the journey most leaders will eventually see the common mistake that many Protestants have made in allowing the things we have built to bring honor and attention to who we are, what we have been able to do. This mindset of building is exactly what God rebuked at Babel, he did not want man to ‘build a tower unto heaven’ and believe in his own intellect and abilities. Jesus often challenged the mindset of the disciples on the nature of leadership, he built into them a new way of seeing leadership, it would not be a means to become the greatest, the most well know one among the group. It is common today for the leader/pastor of a congregation to unconsciously become the center of attention; this is a mistake that Christians have made by not seriously following the commands of Jesus about leadership in his kingdom. Most leaders will face a time where they will have to die to this addiction that is common among good men, men who mean well. When confronted with this challenge it is a conscious choice that leaders will make that is not easy, it truly will be a Cross to bear. But it’s better than God having to come down and personally stop the building program!

(1145) THE FLOOD- Okay, this is a hot topic. First, the flood really happened! Some old earth creationists insist on a local version of it, others say it was worldwide [I’m in the world wide camp]. God tells Noah to embark on a very long building program. He certainly looks like a nut to those around him. Eventually the Ark is finished and Noah and his family get in, they bring 7 of every clean animal and 2 of every ‘unclean’ type. It rains [some say 40 days and nights, others think it rained longer] and the ‘fountains of the deep are opened up’ obviously a reference to some type of Tectonic action. After everything dies, the Ark rests and Noah and his family repopulate the planet. The young earth creationists have good arguments from this story [real event!] some of the old earth brothers tend to trivialize it. Ever since the science of geology gained ground [19th-20th centuries] many have argued for a very old earth based on the geologic table. They look at the different strata of the earth [levels] and say ‘see, these levels took millions of years to develop, you have dinosaurs buried in the lower levels, then other types of animals, birds and then man is rarely found fossilized’ these brothers see a sort of scientific record that backs up the progressive creation view. They say the creation days are ages, and the science shows us deep time. Are there any other explanations for the various fossil levels? Yes. The young earth brothers will make a very good argument that the cataclysmic effect of the flood caused the levels. They say the reason you find dinosaurs and other land animals at lower levels is a result of natural panic and survival during the flood. The slower, heavier animals would die first and get buried first. The birds lasted longer of course; they kept flying to high land until they too died off. Man was the smartest of the bunch, he managed to survive longest, and that’s why you don’t find as many fossils of man as you do other creatures [those who die late would not get covered in sediment and would simply rot!] This argument isn’t that bad, to be honest. There are of course many other things besides this, the point I want to make is if you rule out the biblical record of a world wide flood, then you are leaving out other interpretations of the data. Most young and old earth brothers agree on the actual record [i.e.; we do see things buried at different levels] they simply disagree on the interpretation of the data. Lets do a few practical things here, God had Noah prepare things ahead of time. He also spent some down time in a huge boat with a ‘lot of dung’ [ouch!] Often times on the journey we hit spots that don’t look [or smell] that great. People might even mock us ‘look at that idiot Noah, he’s even got his family believing in this stuff!’ but when it was all said and done he was vindicated. Those who tend to spiritualize the stories of Genesis usually see the first 11 chapters as a mix of symbol and history. The genealogies of chapters 4, 5 and 11 are sometimes seen as not exact [by the way, in the last entry I used Enoch as an example of the ascension, the Enoch who was taken up was the Enoch of chapter 5]. The reasons are various [like the other ancient near east genealogies used 10 generation lists, both chapter 5 and 11 are 10 generation lists]. Some do this in order to fit more time into the biblical record. Jesus, Peter and the writer of Hebrews all speak of Noah and his flood as a real historic event! There should be no reason for believers to doubt or spiritualize these stories away. But we also want to be open to the reality that other cultures had their own tellings of these stories, and that the recording of genealogies does not mean there is no room for an older earth [the genealogies are accurate, but they don’t start right at the beginning of time!]. And let’s finish in a practical way, are you going thru a season of feeling stuck in a big box with a lot of dung? Sometimes the word of the Lord to us is ‘just survive at this time, when the storms over things will look better again’. The Lord used Noah to have an influence on the entire civilization that would re-populate the planet! God will increase your influence if you simply find a way to survive the flood.

(1144) CAIN AND ABEL- After the fall of man, God kicks him out of the garden and he loses intimacy with God. Eventually Eve has kids and Cain kills Abel his brother. In Hebrews 11 and 1st John we read the story. Abel brought an animal offering, Cain brought from the fruit of the ground. Some say this was a comparison between Jesus [typified in Abel’s sacrificial animal] and the law [Cain’s work of his hands, the ground]. Maybe so? Hebrews says God accepted Abel’s offering because it was in faith and rejected Cain. Cain got jealous and killed his brother, the first recorded murder in the bible. Cain has a son named Enoch [which means teacher- rabbi] he builds a city and names it after his son [God is building us, the city of God- we are named after his son, the Body of Christ] and Enoch will eventually be caught up bodily into heaven [a type of the ascension]. The skeptics often ask ‘where did Cain get his wife’? The most likely answer would be from his extended family. There was no rule against marrying your kin back then, so this sounds reasonable to me. But wait! The skeptic says because we don’t know for sure where Cain got his wife, therefore atheism is true. They then will tell you where all people really came from. Around 15 billion years ago nothing existed [not even God] and from this point of nothing something exploded into existence [without an exploder!] eventually the earth showed up and it rained on the earth for millions of years. Somehow the rain on the rocks produced this soupy mixture [primordial soup] that all by itself produced the first living cell. After millions of more years man showed up. Yeah brother, that explanation sure puts to shame the Cain and his wife thing! The story of Cain warns us of the danger of jealousy, comparing ourselves with others. Putting pressure on people to make things happen so you look better. I recently read a story about a mega church [not in Corpus] and they went thru a few years of battles. They were building a new expensive building; the pastor put pressure on the people to give. Some of the people felt like they were always being challenged to give more money. Then word got out that the Pastor bought expensive gifts for his friends with church money, 3-4 thousand dollar suits and jewelry. He was flying all over the world at great expense, doing public speaking and stuff. It was a big mess, lawsuits entailed and relationships ruined. From what I read about it in the news paper stories that were on line, it seemed like there were mistakes on both sides, both the church leadership and those who wanted to expose it. The bigger problem is this basic style of church, the high powered world traveling leader, spending lots of money on seemingly okay things. The people being supporters of the gifts and persona of the charismatic personality [whether thru media or personal travel] this whole system is being rightfully challenged at the present time by a new generation of community minded believers who see that this high powered style of an individual leader is not the pattern of church found in the New Testament. Often time’s jealousy can be a factor on both sides of these issues, but we also need to understand that there are legitimate challenges against this whole expression of church. Most of all we want to avoid taking things into our own hands, trying to personally stop what we might perceive as wrong. Cain was jealous; he allowed his rage to lead him to the killing of his own brother. He might have gotten rid of the thing he felt was an obstacle, but he would live with the guilt for the rest of his life.

(1136) Nehemiah 13- Nehemiah takes control once again and settles some scores. First, the main instigator who butted heads with him the whole time, Tobiah, is exposed. All along he had an ulterior motive; he had a personal chamber [room] for personal wealth that was part of his connection with ‘the ministry’ [like Judas]. He had connections to the regional priests and the money that was supposed to be used for Gods work was being used instead for personal cash flow! Nehemiah rebukes this strongly and also reinstitutes the real purpose for the tithes and offerings. Now, to be fair here, he does rebuke the people for not rightfully distributing the tithes to the Levites; they were supposed to provide for the leaders who were giving their time and efforts for the work. A few things; this also included the singers. The money was to be used as support for God’s city/work. I do teach the New Testament doctrine of ‘the laborer being worthy of the hire’ and I believe it can apply here. But we also must understand that the personal development of wealth was just rebuked! And these Levites [leaders] were not allowed to own anything themselves, the support from the tithe could not be used for their own personal investments. And last but not least, New Testament elders/pastors are not Levitical priests! He also rebukes the merchandisers, it reminds you of the scene where Jesus turned over the money tables in the temple. These business guys were doing business on the Sabbath, Nehemiah rebuked them and ran them out, they hung out at the gates for a few days and Nehemiah says ‘if you keep doing it, I will come and lay hands on you’ he was not talking ordination here! All in all Nehemiah was a radical reformer, he challenged the leadership and the people. He gave 12 years of his life free of charge, at his own expense. He restored the walls and dignity of the people, he often prayed ‘look upon me God, reward me for my sacrifice’ he really seemed to have a grasp on God being his audience, that he was not deriving some sort of self respect from the people. He wasn’t trying to impress the crowd or his peers, he had a job to do and he did it! When I first started this book a few days ago I had no plans on doing a study. So this is a ‘short study’ [no in depth chapter by chapter teaching]. In the future I will try and hit on short and in-depth stuff, let the Lord lead you guys in what you read from this site. Don’t get me wrong, I believe it’s all good, but many of you are at different stages of the journey. Try and be open to the Lords leading as you venture thru this very long blog, my goal is to deposit ‘meat in due season’ to be open to what the Spirit is saying and sharing it at the right time. God bless you guys, not sure what will do next, John.

(1135) Nehemiah 12- Nehemiah restores Davidic worship, he sets praisers on the city wall. They provide financially for full time worshippers of God to continually worship the Lord. They give much thanks and praise! When I just read this chapter a few hours ago, I did my normal prayer/praise time before writing; I made a conscious effort to thank and praise God. This chapter also speaks of the key leaders/books that are still to come in the Old Testament [Ezra, Jeremiah, etc.] Some men are mentioned as ‘chief among the priests/leaders’. God’s city [the church, the New Jerusalem] has various gifted ones. Some are leaders of other leaders [Apostles/Pastors type thing] others are priests [Pastors- note, we are all priests as Christians] Some gifts are meant to play a foundational role in the community, there are good gifted teachers that often share good truth, but there are times of upheaval and reformation/revolution that call for more than simply being faithful to a ministry. These times require Prophetic voices who often run rough shod over the routine experience of church and ministry. These men are no better than any one else, they just play a different role in the city/community of God. We also see the Fish gate, Sheep gate. We have already discussed the Water gate. These gates are obviously prophetic with meaning. Jesus said we are ‘fishers of men’ we are also called sheep, this picture of the city of God surrounded by worshipers on the wall; with gates that let things out and in [Jesus said he was the door, by him the sheep go out and in- access] these pictures are all prophetic types of Gods spiritual community, they pre figure us, the people of God.

(1134) Nehemiah 11- After the walls are up, the city now needs some residents! At one time Jerusalem was a glorious city, when David captured it, it was considered a tuff city to take. He built it into a strong capitol city. But after many years of captivity and difficulty, it lost its luster. Sort of like when Katrina hit Louisiana, at first there was lots of talk about rebuilding all the devastated areas, but the ‘rich folk’ [politicians and others who stood up for the rebuilding of the minority areas] underestimated the ‘detachment’ that poor folk have to temporary things. Many of the evacuees relocated [many to Corpus] and simply started over. So Jerusalem needs some volunteers! The bible says the leaders dwelt there [influential kingdom men] and they cast lots for 1 out of 10 to move back. God also didn’t want everyone at the home base; this would have limited Israel’s influence as a people. Let me be honest, pioneering is difficult; times of relocating to new places, starting over again. Thru out my life I have gone thru these various stages and it’s not easy. Abraham’s life and destiny depended on his willingness to uproot and ‘search for a city that had foundations’ [a symbol of the church, the ‘city that comes down from God out of heaven’]. The bible speaks of his willingness to go to a place that he didn’t even know yet! God would give him the plans as he moved ahead. Let me quote a few verses off the top of my head ‘get out of the city and dwell in the fields, even Babylon, and there I will be with you and deliver you from the hand of the enemy’ ‘remember the word which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying your wives and your little ones and your cattle shall remain in the land the Lord gave you on this side of Jordan, but you shall go before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valor, and help them to obtain their inheritance’ [saying this to the two tribes who settled outside of the promised land]. And the last one ‘David dwelt in the fort and called it the city of David, he built round about from the surrounding cities and inward, and the Lord was with David and prospered him for the sake of his people Israel’. God wants his people to be willing to dwell in the places that he has ordained, some made the sacrifice to move back to Jerusalem and rebuild. Others made the sacrifice to go out and pioneer new cities and nations. The key is being able and willing to make the steps of faith at the right time, don’t let anybody kid you, it’s not easy! But it’s always worth it in the end.

(1132) Nehemiah 9- as the people repent, they stand, fast, confess their sins and read from God’s law for a quarter of the day! There is a real renewal that takes place thru the reading of the word. In the last chapter we saw the emphasis on the teaching of Gods word, the bible says the Levites not only taught/read, but also gave the sense, the meaning of it. Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of his day, not because they weren’t ‘reading/quoting’ bible verses, they were doing it all the time! But because they weren’t really grasping the principles behind the word. In this chapter the people were not only hearing, but also understanding. Now they also do an historical remembrance of Gods great past works. They recount his promise to Abraham, the story of Egypt and Gods great deliverance. The giving of the law to Moses and the rebellion of their fathers during the time of the judges. It’s a great retelling of their history, sort of like Stephen in Acts 7. They also praise and worship God as the creator of all things. I have been reading a good book on the current debate between ‘young earth’ and ‘old earth’ creationists. Though I personally lean towards the old earth idea, yet the book brings out very good arguments for a young earth. They show the historical development of the geologic table [the levels of earth and the dating of these levels] and the book also brings out the fact that though many of the church fathers spiritualized the days of creation, this did not mean they were old earth creationists! Augustine believed in ‘instantaneous creation’ in a moment. So his idea was really young earth, even though he did not take the creation days as literal. One of the points brought out is the basic belief in God as creator, man seems to have a difficult time simply believing in the fact that God made all things out of nothing [Ex-Nihilo] whether you are an old earth or young earth advocate, the fact is God made it all by his word! The people in Nehemiah’s day praised him for his great works as seen in creation. It’s important to see the role that the reading of the law played in this national revival. We see this happen a few times in Israel’s history. Times where they rediscover the law after many years and repent as they return to Gods precepts. Recently I have been reading/studying from around 11:00 am to 3-4 pm. Not every day, but a few days a week. I found it interesting that the people were giving one fourth of their day to reading the law; God saw it as vital for the restoration of his city and people. I want to encourage all my Pastor friends, as you build Gods people, don’t underestimate the importance of good bible teaching. Don’t just give people verses to memorize/hear [what the Pharisees were good at] but give them the understanding too. God used his law [word] to revive the people after the walls were built.

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

(1130) Nehemiah gets the walls up, the doorways [gates] are in place, all that’s left is to put the doors on the hinges! The bible says ‘the wall was built, the spaces were large [broad in space] but the houses and people were not established yet’. As a man of wisdom Nehemiah knew that he had to get the walls up before he could build the town. Often times in ministry leaders read these verses and apply them to actual building plans for, well buildings! The better way to view these is thru the paradigm of Gods people being a glorious city, the ‘city that comes down from God out of heaven’ and we as leaders are given skills to help get Gods city established. One of ‘the walls’ that needs to be repaired is the basic lack of belief in the authority of scripture. Many believers struggle with the concepts they learn at college, the things the public schools teach ‘as fact’ that seem to contradict what they were taught as kids. Okay, let’s hit evolution again. I was reading an article from a scientist [I don’t believe he was a Christian?] who simply said that enough time and research has passed in the effort to prove whether or not life can simply spontaneously appear from dead matter. In order for the most popular form of atheistic evolution to have happened, you need spontaneous generation. Now, science has two major problems when it comes to trying to prove that atheistic evolution can actually happen; the appearance of matter from nothing, and the appearance of life from dead matter. Both of these things have been shown thru science that they never happen, not once! The scientist mentioned above simply was saying there comes a time where enough evidence comes in and you have to admit that the possibility of your theory is simply unworkable. Evolution [macro-Darwinian] has seen its day come and go. It is interesting that the foundational belief for many evolutionists, the science of ‘abiogenesis’ [the belief that living organisms can spontaneously come about from decaying matter] was actually disproved by Louis Pasteur in 1861, just a couple of years after Darwin published Origin of Species. Pasteur showed that the common belief that life sprang forth from dead stuff was false! This has nothing to do with religion or faith; this is pure scientific fact that simply states that the spontaneous generation of life springing up from some type of primordial soup can not happen! Now, is it still possible that matter came into existence from nothing? Or that life, living cells came forth from dead matter? Can ‘chance’ make the impossible happen? Chance is only a word that describes the odds of a certain thing happening, chance in itself can not make anything happen! The point is we as a society have swallowed the prevailing secular view that Darwinian evolution is a scientific fact, and the biblical worldview needs to be adjusted. This wall of secular thinking needs to come down, while the ‘wall’ of true biblical and scientific reason go back up. True science is in no way an obstacle to biblical faith, the problem is false science is too often peddled as true!

(1129) I am somewhat hesitant about sharing this, but will do it anyway. This morning I had a dream, I was back at the fire house and we had a major wreck. Somehow I found myself preserving the severed hands of a victim. Either his hands were purposefully amputated to save the limb, or maybe just severed. My job was to preserve the hands [to be honest, I think I also might have been used to remove them?] I wasn’t sure if this had any meaning at all. Then I read Nehemiah chapter 6 and he says ‘oh God, strengthen my hands for the work’. I also felt like the words of Jesus ‘if your hand offends you, cut it off’ applied. While we know the Lord doesn’t mean this literally, it does speak of removing the things that are in the way, getting rid of the trash, so to speak. One of the verses in Nehemiah says ‘the workers are tired and there is much rubbish’ speaking of the hindrances to the work. In this chapter the critics are trying to get a message to Nehemiah, they keep sending signals, but he won’t bite. They want him to come to them and justify his work. He says no way ‘I am doing a great work, I don’t have time to set it aside and go justify it to my critics!’ The critics went out on a limb already, they publicly prophesied of failure, now they have a personal reason to make their prediction come true! In this chapter we also read of a bunch of ‘prophets’ and a prophetess who tried to hinder Gods work. Let me make a note here, in Gods work in general you will always have people who feel that they are personally called to be ‘your prophet’ that is they become consumed with how you personally respond to their views. Some of these people mean well, others do not. In Nehemiah’s case the men who publicly reproved him were trying hard to stop him. They finally send an open letter accusing him of wanting to build the wall so he could become the new king! The charge was ‘he’s in this for himself, self gain’ now be careful here, Nehemiah thwarts this charge by actually not ‘being in charge for good’! there are many contemporary challenges to present church structures that do say ‘the modern view of church leadership is geared towards the promotion of the talented leader’ in many cases this reproof is accurate. In order for this charge ‘not to be accurate’ you must ultimately do the John the Baptist thing and decrease! John said ‘he must increase and I must decrease’ so here we see that Nehemiah had no problem using his skill and position to accomplish Gods work, but he will eventually walk away and leave the city in the hands of the people, he is not building the wall and city so he could have some permanent type of leadership position, he was not trying to ‘become the king’. Nehemiah finishes the wall in 52 days, quite a feat. He faces accusations, false prophets and much criticism, if you read the one liners from Nehemiah, you get the sense that he was so occupied with the work that he didn’t take a lot of ‘down time’ to think things out. He just shoots up a quick prayer ‘strengthen my hands’ or ‘look upon the critics and help us’ he simply rolls along and finishes the work as God ordained. He listens to good advice, but manages to discern between the good and bad. He refuses self preservation, one of the schemers tries to get him to hide in the temple [use Gods work for self preservation] and he refuses to do it! It would have taken away from his radical reputation as someone who was not seeking self gain. He asked God to strengthen his hands, to help him have the sufficient skills to complete the task. He, like the apostle Paul, will eventually walk away from the work, he will not create a ‘church/ministry’ that will become a lifetime financial source of income or personal prestige, he will simply build Gods work and then move on, how bout you? [note- this does not mean all Pastors have to eventually leave town! You did have elders who stayed in the communities of the new testament, but as an apostle, Paul functioned in an itinerant way. He was not looking to the churches as a permanent source of income or position]

(1128) yesterday I got with a few homeless buddies, found out that Eddy got arrested and sent back to San Antonio, some sort of serial killer charge, KIDDING! A child support thing, it is funny, the guys have picked up my morbid sense of humor. One time I had Tim with me, a good friend who has been homeless for years. We picked up my daughter from school, they know my friends and all, sometimes as they were growing up they would drive by them with their high school friends and all, see them at the corners. They would be like ‘oh, those are my dad’s friends’. So when I had Tim in the truck as we were picking up my daughter, I tell her ‘this is my friend Tim, he has spent many years in prison [she looks at me like ‘are you kidding me dad, picking me up from school with these bums in the truck!’] Tim tells her ‘yes, I had some serial killer charges that I was dealing with at the time’ he was kidding too! But anyway Eddy got sent to San Antonio, and the cops have been harassing some of the guys. I also wanted to talk a little bit more on Nehemiah chapter 5, Nehemiah really gets on the nobles/elders, he tells them that they were putting too much of a burden on Gods people, some of them were going into debt to simply pay the required taxes to the leaders. Nehemiah rebukes them strongly! He says ‘all the time I was laboring among you as a governor, I turned down the normal pay governors get. I also paid out of my own pocket for the expenses of my team and staff, plus I did not purchase any real estate of my own, but totally dedicated myself to the cause’. The nobles were engaging in the building up of their own financial fortunes, understand this wasn’t forbidden in and of itself, but at the same time the average people were being told to do and give more, to the point where they were actually going in debt as the leaders were increasing in wealth, Nehemiah felt this was wrong. Like the apostle Paul, he would lay down the right to build wealth [purchasing his own land] while working and leading Gods flock. He simply felt it to be a wrong example for him to be gaining in wealth while the people were going into debt; he laid down his own right to prosper for the sake of the people. One of the things Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for was they were putting heavy burdens on the people, but they themselves were not willing to bear the same load. Often times in the world of ‘full time ministry’ we see good men get into scenarios where they unwittingly fall into this mindset, they fall into patterns of becoming wealthy, receiving large salaries at the expense of many low wage supporters, they often see this as a legitimate expression of ‘church/ministry’ while the scripture warns against leaders profiting from the people, while the people themselves are under a burden. I like Nehemiah’s example, he willingly gave up the right to grow his own portfolio while the average church goer was struggling, although he had a right to the governors salary, he saw it to be more noble to donate his time and skills at his own expense, freely he had received, freely he gave back.

(1128) Let me share a few testimonies; I type all this stuff from my laptop, I never work from a desk top. I have 2 laptops that I use, one as a backup if the other goes down [I realized a while back that it disturbs things too much to not type until it gets fixed!] One laptop misses letters as you type, I used to think it was my novice typing skills [I am bad! My daughter caught me doing the one finger thing while looking at the keys and couldn’t believe it] that was the problem, but I actually started looking at the screen while typing and realized certain letters don’t show up, you have to backspace and do it again. The other laptop has a mouse problem, it won’t always respond, this is frustrating for someone who cuts and pastes all over this blog! So when one computer gets me mad, I switch to the other one. Yesterday as I was battling with the mouse problem, out of frustration I said ‘Lord, give me a break! I can’t deal with this’ and it immediately started working, for the first time ever since I got it [it was a used computer when I bought it]. I also prayed about it these past few days while typing, sort of like seriously believing the Lord could fix it, you know you forget stuff like this at times. Then the other day I told you guys how I had an old buddy from prison write me, I had a package of teaching stuff I was going to send him. In the old days I would write the brothers in prison while at the fire house, you have time in to sit around and do this stuff. But it’s really been a while since I regularly wrote any prison buddies [I have written many hundreds of letters in the past, no exaggeration] but I had the letter and stuff in the truck and kept putting it off. Finally the day I sent it was the same day my daughter got hired for a job with the state. My two oldest daughters attend college and have had good jobs. My oldest [24] is now a teacher at the high school she graduated from. My second oldest was a veterinarian assistant, but was looking for something else. She applied for some counselor thing with the state, a job that you usually don’t get unless you have connections. Sure enough the day I sent the packet, she got it! The bible says if you help the poor, reach out to the hurting, spend your time and resources freely for others, that God will reward you. I felt like the Lord returned the favor. As I just read Nehemiah chapter 5, Nehemiah rebukes the leaders for charging interest from the people. The Jews were mortgaging their lands and homes and going into debt trying to accomplish Gods work. The leaders were profiting from the situation. Nehemiah rebuked them, he even sounds like Paul when he says ‘all the time I was with you as governor [type of an apostle] I never took a salary, I provided for myself and my staff’ Paul says the exact same thing to the elders in Acts chapter 20. I think we as leaders need to re think some things. I was thinking the other day how that I have no Christian relationships with anybody in which I ever ask, or receive any financial reward. No offering thing, never speak in ‘a church’ and take an offering. I simply have the freedom to by pass the whole mess. One time the homeless brothers told me ‘brother, if you need your yard cut, or any work done at your house, let us know’ I could tell that they talked about it amongst themselves, sort of like ‘hey, the brother spends a lot on us, lets help him’. I turned down the offer anyway, they are used to local contractors hiring them at slave wages, I wanted them to know I wasn’t trying to get something from them. Although I have kidded about it at times, one time one of them finally got accepted for social security, they were gonna get a big check. I told them ‘you know I sense the Lord telling me that I am supposed to start hanging out with you a little more’! In the long run God will reward you if you really do stuff for free. Leaders, do you have regular friendships with people whom you never bring up money or offerings with? Are the people who know you most always being challenged in a financial way? Always needing to give more? Nehemiah rebuked the nobles because the ‘laity’ were being consumed with having to pay their own bills, plus support the nobles financially, and pay for the structures! Nehemiah said he wouldn’t charge the people, that God would reward him instead, I think he did.

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

(1126) Just started Nehemiah, I always loved the restoration books of the Old Testament; the prophets who were involved with the rebuilding of the walls and city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah hears about the sad state of affairs back in Jerusalem, he gets permission from the king to go back home and build. He faces opposition [of course!] and organizes the people to build their portion of the wall and gate. You will notice that once he gets a system going that works, he sticks with it! I recently read an article from David Brooks [writes for the Wall Street Journal?] it was in my local paper. He talked about a recent study that evaluated the top C.E.O.s of successful companies, the article was in keeping with previous studies. It basically showed that the most effective [not famous!] leaders were the old school guys who knew how to get the job done. They were skilled in their field, they knew how to implement steady growth over the long haul, and they were not ‘touchy, feely’ type leaders. They didn’t spend time getting their people to like them, or tried to empathize with them. They weren’t looking for the new fad thing to implement; they were steady, old fashioned guys that did not fit the mold of ‘the new, big idea’. Nehemiah was that type of leader. Once he organized the people and got them moving, he simply stuck with the plan. The critics said ‘what in the world do you think you’re doing!’ he just ignored them and moved ahead. I always get a kick out of it when I run into some ‘preacher’ during my normal rounds with the homeless brothers. My buddies will often introduce me as ‘John is a retired firefighter, and also a minister’ I have asked them not to say ‘minister’ but they say it anyway. I often look a little scraggly and the preachers will hear about ‘my little outreach’ and sometimes I get the sense of like ‘bless his poor heart, he’s trying’. They might say ‘and what do you do’ and it’s kind of hard to explain it to be honest, but every now and then they realize I’m the guy they’ve been hearing for years on the radio! Or they see the blog is all over the place and then they kind of change their tune, like people treat you better if you’re successful. I basically ignore the whole thing, it just hinders my work to be honest. But Nehemiah had his critics, they laughed at him ‘oh, and you think your gonna do what?’ One of the enemy’s strategies is to get you to listen to the critics, now there are times when you need to hear reproof and correction, but the critics are another thing. There the ones who can always tell you what you are doing wrong, but never get anything done themselves! These are the brothers that Paul called ‘busy bodies’ in the New Testament, they weren’t working or providing for their families, and had all this free time to critique everyone else. Let God give you the patterns and principles of how he wants you to accomplish the task, once you implement it, the key to success is sticking with it in the face of opposition. As the critics kept laughing, the walls kept going up, eventually you won’t be able to see them anymore!

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

(1120) Was reading the parables of the ten virgins and 5 talents [money]. The key to all the parables is reading them in the historical context in which Jesus gave them; The Jews are a nation that were entrusted with great riches [oil, talents] and they will be held responsible for how well they ‘spread the wealth’ so to speak [ spiritual truth, not money!] I also saw some practical stuff as well, all ten virgins had lamps [the capability to communicate, shine] but only the wise ones made preparation for the long haul, they ‘stored up’ oil in their vessels, the others were just winging it. We too often approach ministry with the mindset of ‘Lord, give me a pulpit and auditorium [church building] to speak, and I’ll be faithful’ the problem with this mindset is it is very limited in its capacity to ‘store oil’. Usually the well meaning weekly speaker [Pastor] shows up on Sunday with his lamp and does his best to tell you what he felt like God was saying in the past week; well meaning, but very limited. The wise virgins told them ‘go buy some oil from those who have it for sale’. Over the years I have ‘bought oil’ tons of books and teaching aids that allowed me to store up some stuff. Thru writing and radio I have had the privilege to share a storehouse of stuff that has been accumulated over many years, I am not simply trying to come up with ‘a message’. The Lord also gave 5 pieces of money to one guy, 2 to another and 1 to the last. As he reckons with them some turned out a profit, the last one buried the money in the ground. Those who put their gifts to work and gained more were rewarded, those who didn’t suffered punishment. Wisdom allows you to put the gifts and abilities God has given you to work. Establish systems that are not dependant on you actually having to be there all the time! I know we think ‘the weekly pulpit’ is Gods ordained way, after all we read how God uses the ‘preaching of the Cross to save the lost’ or ‘how can they hear without a preacher’ [Corinthians, Romans] yet we forget that we are READING these things! Paul had enough discipline to pen this stuff down and circulate the letters to the early communities of believers. Paul understood that it was necessary to write in order to have long lasting influence. We live in a day where it is much easier to write and communicate to the whole world [like this blog!] yet we don’t usually use the tool effectively. Many church web sites are simply ways to advertise their meetings. If I had the cure for cancer, I mean I knew exactly what you needed to do to get cured; and then I started a website that could reach the world with the cure, and if you went to my site and read ‘please show up Sunday at such and such location and I will personally tell you what the cure is’ you would think I was nuts! For heavens sake, if you have something worth saying, then say it! God has given us ‘lamps and talents’ to complete the mission, only the wise ones utilized what God gave them to the full potential, are you a wise one?

(1119) yesterday I took a ride to Mathis [a small town in the area] my daughter and her boyfriend invited me to do a BBQ at the lake. As I drove thru town [it was Sunday] I noticed all the church buildings, some had 20-30 cars, others just a few. It was obvious that the city didn’t need any more places for believers to sit on Sunday! Jesus said ‘who is a faithful AND wise servant whom his Lord makes ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season, when the Lord comes he will make him ruler over all his goods’. Recently the church suffered a loss, a very famous church leader passed away. The loss was two-fold, though this man was influential in fostering unity and was helpful in civil rights and other social justice issues, he was surrounded by scandal most of his life. I used to watch him on TV and did enjoy his ministry, but he was plagued with accusations of sexual impropriety. The straw that broke the camels back was the current pastor of this huge mega church [cathedral that’s worth 25 million dollars!] was thought to have been the nephew of the famous pastor, it was found out that he was actually his son, the ‘father’ was really his uncle, tragic indeed. The building is now on the market and the son now preaches ‘the gospel of inclusion’ [a message that accepts all religions as from God]. I remember one time hearing the famous pastor speak on tithing, he actually taught that those who did not tithe were violating Gods covenant and would not be saved! Much more radical than the normal fare. I thought how sad, the 25 million dollar facility was paid for by many innocent believers who were told if they did not put 10% of their money in the basket, they would go to hell. Now all the money will simply fall into the system of a real estate deal. Jesus said the servants who were wise and faithful would be given charge over all his masters goods, is it wise for Gods people to continue building facilities all over the world, at the cost of billions of dollars? Is it wise for any small [or large] city to see ‘church’ thru a lens that has all these buildings sitting empty on any given Sunday? Many good men start their service to the Lord this way, the church meeting thing, I started this way myself. Over time God adds wisdom to ‘our faithfulness’ he shows us smarter ways to apply our efforts. There are currently worldwide church planting movements who pay no salaries, own no buildings, take no tithes, yet they are literally reaching the world. This should cause us to re-think some things. Is it proper to tell Gods people they will be under a curse if they don’t tithe to the old system? Especially when the ‘new system’ [not really new, it was Paul’s system in the book of Acts] does the whole thing for free! Jesus said the servants are to distribute the meat in due season, faithfully and with wisdom. Paul said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 ‘feed the flock of God over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers’ he is talking to church leaders here, he tells them [the elders!] ‘All the time I was with you [around 3 years] I did not take offerings from you, I did not allow you to fund me or ‘my ministry’ I worked with my own hands to support myself and those who were with me. I did this to give you [leaders!] an example, so you too would see your ministry thru this voluntary lens, not as some type of career!’ [my paraphrase]. Its makes you wonder how ministers can read the bible and not see this stuff! I want to encourage all my Pastor/leader friends who do frequent this site, seek the Lord for wisdom to go along with faithfulness, examine the way you present Gods word to people, don’t say to them ‘I am appealing for money because this is Gods plan’ Paul didn’t think it was Gods plan [in the salary, building way- he did in other ways] Sometimes God gives us time to step back and sharpen the ax, you might feel like it’s your responsibility to keep hacking away at the tree [faithfulness] but wisdom allows you to step back and sharpen the ax, sure it means you might go a week or month or year without the familiar habit of hacking away, but after you sharpen the ax you will accomplish much more.

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

(1117) Was just reading the chapter where Jesus rebukes the religious leaders for their love of fame and recognition, they loved to be known and recognized. They loved places of honor. It’s the same chapter where Jesus tells his leaders ‘it shall no be this way with you guys’. He is trying to instill a new mindset in this fledging church. The New Testament speaks of godly leadership, but it warns against authoritarian leadership [see 3rd John- Diotrophes] Jesus tells his men ‘he that humbles himself [on purpose!] will be the greatest, have the most effect’. Would you be willing to live a life where you purposely removed your image and persona from those who wanted to exalt you? To purposefully not allow others to become too enamored with your gifts and abilities? Jesus says ‘among you guys, let none of you be called master, rabbi [leader, the main one] for you are all equal’. How do we reconcile this with the obvious portions of scripture that speak about leaders? A careful study of the New Testament will show a type of leadership that was not the predominant voice of any believing community [local church]. Though you see Paul traveling to different regions and having no problem telling them ‘listen to my instruction’ yet you don’t see any office where one person is the main functioning person in the community. Because of lots of reasons we do this in today’s ‘church world’ environment, but it was not this way at the start. I find it interesting that Jesus taught his men about true leadership in the same chapter where he rebuked those who loved the glory of being a successful leader [there is a difference between being fulfilled as a godly leader, and deriving great joy from the recognition of fame and success!] I see Jesus frustration with the religious leaders; he calls them vipers, hypocrites, fools! I know we have a tendency to read these words in King James English, and not realize what he is saying. It would be like basically saying ‘what a bunch of idiots you guys are! You have come to religious understandings that don’t even make sense’ they developed an idea that said the gift on the altar was special, but the altar that sanctified the gift wasn’t [they were technical hairsplitters!] Jesus says ‘what’s greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies/makes the gift what it is’? Well, I guess the altar? All leaders and gifted people face the temptation to exalt the gift to a place of honor that God never intended. All we have and accomplish in life is simply a gift that comes thru Christ’s Cross [the altar that sanctifies the gift] when we put the Cross first, ahead of the things it can give us, then we will do well.

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

(1113) just read the parable of the vineyard owner who goes out and hires workers at different times of the day. The ones he hires early in the day agree to a ‘penny’ a day. Thru out the day he brings more workers in and agrees to pay them the same. When time comes to pay them, he calls the workers who only worked a few hours and pays them the Penney. Now the guys who worked all day are thinking ‘Geez, he probably will pay us more than the original agreement, surely he wouldn’t pay these guys the same as us, we worked all day for heavens sake!’ But when it was their turn he paid them the same. Now, these guys got mad, why? Simply out of their own view of ‘fairness’ they were mad that the land owner made these other ‘less worthy’ workers equal to them. The guys who worked all day were not cheated, they got what the boss told them they would get, they were simply mad that the boss treated the less worthy guys the same. This story speaks to the mindset of the first century Jew with regards to their offence at Jesus acceptance of the Gentile nations. What offended the Jew was they felt like Jesus should not have been so willing and accepting of those who came in ‘at the last hour’ so to speak. The Jews went thru hell for many years, suffered as Gods people, stuck up for Gods name and honor. They were waiting for the day that God was going to teach these pagan nations a thing or two! Instead God treats them as equal partners! This offence would cause them to reject their Messiah, Paul speaks about this in Romans. God will work thru the jealousy that the Jews are feeling over his receiving of the Gentiles and this will eventually bring the Jews in, God ways are higher than ours. When I first read the story earlier I felt like it spoke to my situation as well. After I moved to Corpus from Kingsville, I had some of our old buddies feel bad ‘hey, John is now spending all his time with these homeless bums!’ They wouldn’t say it like that, but they did say things like ‘don’t forget about us!’ One of my buddies from Kingsville was the son of one of the heroin addicts that was part of the first-generation of guys I worked with [not the same family I mentioned the other day, we had a few families of addicts/convicts that made up the core ‘membership’ of our church] But it was funny, I would go and pick up the son [he was only a couple of years younger than me, I was in about the same age group as the sons, though the fathers were my friends] and the aunt would tell me ‘Emits in the back room brother John, go get him for church’ the whole family would come to our meetings. I would knock on the door and tell Emit ‘brother Emit lets go. I hope you guys are not in their smoking pot!’ [I was just kidding, or prophesying?] Years later Emit would tell me he was in their with his buddies getting high, and they would be in shock ‘who the hell is banging on the door!’ and ditch the pot! I would loved to have seen their faces! Emits dad would raid my fridge when he came to our garage meetings. We rented a building at first [an old hospital- just a conference room area] but eventually moved the meetings to my garage, I fixed it up nice, it looked good. As soon as Emit senior would arrive, he’d go into the house and raid the fridge! I eventually would hide the good stuff before church. These are the brothers that have expressed to me the feelings of ‘hey, we were with you from the beginning, these Corpus guys came in at the end, why are you making them equal to us’? Because they never raided my fridge! KIDDING! People go thru various stages in life, in the past I have struggled with letting go of some of the old ministry patterns, still wanting to travel to the old towns and help. I had to recognize that certain things were meant for only a season, they will hopefully bear fruit for a long time, but my active involvement was only for a season. They said to the vineyard owner ‘you are making these others equal with us’ and it offended them, but Jesus wasn’t dismissing his first group [Jews] he was simply helping others get in on it while there was still time left.

(1112) I was just reading Matthew 19 and the story of the rich guy. He asks Jesus ‘what GOOD THING must I do to be saved’ reminds me a lot of Evangelicalism, many sincere believers are hung up on ‘the good thing you must do’ or the singular act of conversion. While it is true that regeneration/conversion takes place in an instant, yet oftentimes believers can’t pin point that instant! Like Paul told the Galatians ‘I travail with you again in the birthing process, until Christ be formed in you’. So sometimes it’s more of a process than a singular act [or better- conversion has both of these aspects present]. Now Jesus tells the brother ‘keep the law’ ah, now were getting somewhere! He’s pinpointing Jesus down to a yes or no answer on conversion; the man asks ‘which one’? Again, back to the ‘one thing’. So Jesus quotes a few of them, the man says ‘great, I have kept these ever since I was a kid’. Jesus says ‘one more thing, go sell your stuff and give it to the poor, and come follow me’. The man left sad, because he was rich. Then Jesus gives the famous statement that I have explained many times on this site, it’s harder for a camel to pass thru the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom [for an explanation go to my ‘prosperity/word of faith’ section]. The disciples are shocked ‘who then will ever make it’ Jesus says not to worry, with God all things are possible. Peter says ‘we left all, what do we get’ Jesus says those who have forsaken things for him will receive back a 100 fold and in the world to come eternal life. I have taught this before as well, how did Peter get more ‘houses and mothers and brothers’ in this life? In the book of Acts they all shared and helped each other, their conversion brought them into a big family who had ‘all things common’ [common purse] and that’s how this was fulfilled, it is obvious Peter did not become rich [silver and gold have I none- remember?] But we see an interesting thing here, the rich young man prospered according to the laws of the old covenant, which many prosperity believers will rightfully tell you brings prosperity. The verses in Deuteronomy that speak of God giving us the power/ability to obtain wealth so his covenant might be established [chapter 8?] But Jesus is doing more here, he is telling the man who did become rich by obeying Gods law, he is saying ‘now it’s time to give it up’. What! I have prospered according to Gods explicit will as revealed thru the prosperity promises in scripture! What kind of preacher are you Jesus? Don’t you know that it’s mans tradition to tell the rich to give up their wealth? It’s the devil trying to trick us out of our wealth! Jesus says ‘give it up’ you have learned and mastered the basics of Old Testament law and blessing, and now you must master the art of self sacrifice, of laying everything down to follow me. It was my father’s will to have prospered you thru your obedience to his law, this was necessary, how else would I have ever been able to challenge you to lay it down? If you never had something to give up, then you could never have been in a position to show me your sincerity in giving it all away. Jesus was not telling him it was wrong to have attained this status in society, but he was giving him the choice of whether or not he would willingly lay it down for a higher cause. Are you willing?

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

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

(1106) been reading some of the parables, I have already covered them in the past and don’t really want to do them again. But do want to share a few thoughts; recently I have struggled with regretting certain words and things that I have said; the book of James says ‘in many ways we all offend others, if we learn not to offend with our words we are mature’ so anyway mistakes were made. But as I read the parables of the sower [planter of seeds] and the man who planted seed in the ground [2 separate parables n Matthew 13] I liked the idea that only 1/4th of what you ever say makes it! I know I’m taking it out of context, but it spoke to me. The birds eat some seeds [words we plant] thorns and weeds kill others, and the cares of the world creep in and people forget/forgive the past. In the parable of the guy who planted good seed, while he slept an enemy came and planted tares [weeds]. His men come and say ‘do you want us to go and root up the weeds’? And the owner says no, let them grow together until the harvest; because if you try and undo the mistakes you might affect some of the good stuff as well! Sort of like some of the people we offend have also learned some good things as well, and if you try too hard to make things right the end result could be worse. So I felt the lord spoke to me thru these things. Of course Jesus explains the parable to the guys, he tells them the field is the world [not the church!] and in the world you have good seeds/plants [Gods people] and bad seed [unbelievers]. I find it interesting that the servants wanted to tear out the weeds so they wouldn’t effect the good plants [they were members of the Moral Majority- you know the whole culture war thing!] But the owner [God-Jesus] says ‘leave them alone!’ let them both grow together until the harvest. Leave them alone! Don’t you understand if we allow gay marriage it will be the ruin of society!! Jesus says ‘leave them be’. At the end of the world [age] he will send forth his messengers [angels- or some translate ‘messengers’ as us! Christians] and they will separate the good stuff from the bad, he says the angels will ‘remove the bad weeds from my Fathers kingdom’ and the good stuff gets to say. What, a reverse Rapture? Yup. We see a redemptive purpose for the planet in these teachings, Jesus doesn’t take away the church and let the world [earth] go to hell in a hand basket, he takes away the bad stuff and calls the world his father’s kingdom! I guess he was one of those progressive types, always worrying about the environment and stuff? All kidding aside, God has a plan and purpose for society and the world, it is redemptive in nature [Romans 8] we need to avoid the ‘culture warrior’ mindset that is always looking to pull the weeds out of society, they wont hurt you! Jesus said so. And as we ‘re-think’ our purpose and place in the world, lets also hope that the bad seeds we have planted will soon be forgotten.

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

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

(1101) Jesus was telling the disciples that they were going to go thru some stuff ‘you think that I am come to bring peace? No, but a sword! Families will be divided, they will deliver each other up to death!’ he said we would be brought before kings and governors for his sake. How? By some type of presidential invitation to give the inaugural prayer? I don’t think so! We would be brought before authorities as a witness, just like Peter said, that Jesus gave a good testimony before Pilate, he certainly wasn’t on the way to a prayer breakfast! So Jesus is preparing his men, he is telling them that they too will have cross’s to bear, they will suffer and sacrifice for the greater purpose, they will die to their own desires and dreams, it’s not about us or what we can get or accomplish in life. This is what’s so insidious about the American gospel, it’s basically a cross-less message. We go to church and live our lives for self attainment ‘what can I get out this’ type of mentality, Jesus told us those who seek to save/preserve their lives will lose them. Yet the American church is consumed with building our portfolios for heavens sake! We need to hear Jesus words, there most definitely will be times of difficulty and suffering for a higher purpose, don’t try and get around the cross [your weaknesses] don’t cover them up [cross’s entail public humiliation] simply recognize the reality of them being part of the Christian life, when you get to the point where you can embrace it, allow it to take it’s full course, full impact if you will, then you can embrace the death experience and come out on the other side. That’s the only place where truth and life exist, every thing ‘pre-cross’ is simply mans agenda.

(1100) Yesterday I went to my P.O. box and had a bunch of mail. My prosperity friend wrote again, he writes every so often. He’s the older brother I mentioned before, kind of ‘corrects’ me every now and then, recently he has simply thanked me for the messages [long letters!] I also had a package from Jackson, Mississippi. It was a book by a brother who emailed me about a month ago. He is a reformed elder [minister] and must have found out about my site. He kindly asked if I would review a book he wrote last year. I really don’t have time to do a full book review; but Jack, if your reading this here are a few comments. I read the book yesterday, the title is ‘Corinthian elders’ by Jack Fortenberry, put out by bridgepoint publishing co. Brandon MS. I liked and agreed with 90% of the book, much like the themes I teach on organic church life. Jack lays out a good case for unpaid elders, but also makes the case for ‘paid’ apostles [not salary, just worthy of the hire type thing] I have heard and am familiar with this distinction. I believe the New Testament leaves room for the monetary support of elders/leaders, whether apostles, pastors or whomever. I also believe strongly in the ‘do it at your own expense’ mentality of Paul [I receive no money, ever!] But this would be about the only disagreement I would have. I do recommend the book to our readers. Okay, just read a little more from Matthew, Jesus healing and doing good, teaching in ‘their’ synagogues and going thru the cities and villages. I just like his style! Freewheeling, couldn’t care less about what the religious class were saying, his disciples said once ‘don’t you know your offending the leaders’? He said every plant that his Father didn’t plant would be rooted up. He had no time to present a phony image of himself to people, he knew he was losing support amongst the religious class, but he also knew that system was on it’s last leg [Judaism apart from Christ] so he said ‘let them be offended, who cares!’ Ah, what a preacher. The blind men come, he says ‘do you really believe I can do this’? He heals them, but he wanted to know that they were becoming convinced. They had to be willing to go out on a limb for him. After all, Jesus healed people who did not fully believe in him before. They asked once ‘who healed you’ and the man said ‘I don’t know, all I know is I was once blind but now I can see’ [Johns gospel] but this time it’s different ‘do you believe or not’! It was time to be willing to lay it on the line for Jesus. ‘Yes, we have been sick for too long, we need help! To hell with our damn pride, please help us’! Okay, they walked away seeing. No one did this stuff like Jesus! How could you not hear his teaching, the religious leaders were telling the people ‘he doesn’t fit our mold, stop listening to him!’ They were being eaten up by jealousy, the same thing that haunted Cain. He killed his brother Abel because his brothers works were accepted, his weren’t. The religious leaders could not stand the fact that Jesus was being accepted by the common folk, he was moving in on their place of authority. They fed off of the limelight, the prestige of position. Jesus would have none of it, he tells the people he’s healing ‘Don’t spread the word about this, okay’ and sure enough they go out and tell everybody! Jesus fame spread abroad thru the whole country, but he was heading to the Cross for heavens sake! No time to gloat in the honor of men. Yes Jesus was truly one of a kind, people were fascinated by him ‘isn’t he the carpenters son? Isn’t this the kid we played stick ball in the street with’? They couldn’t connect this Divine destiny with the boy they grew up with, he had them all wondering. But don’t forget, he told Peter and Andrew ‘follow me guys, I will teach you how to catch men’. He knew the way to ‘catch them’ wasn’t the route of the religious class, they just spouted their doctrinal positions all day long, told the people how bad they were, the average folk saw right thru the hypocrisy. Jesus had a different style, it would take him all the way to Golgotha, the ‘place of the skull’ [death].

(1099) in the temptation of Jesus, he told satan ‘man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God’ proceedeth seems to indicate an ongoing act, that God is ‘still speaking’ if you will. Now, as believers we understand that this does not mean God is giving more scripture, the canon [bible] is complete. But this does mean that God is the I AM, that is he reveals himself in the moment, we live daily by Gods directions and voice [not audible]. The word we use to define the nature of our bible is ‘inspiration’ it comes from the verse where Paul says to Timothy ‘all scripture is given by inspiration from God’. Some scholars feel a better translation would read ‘expiration’ not meaning it has expired/died! But that the actual meaning is ‘God breathed’ and it has the connotation of God breathing out his life/word [like when he created man, he breathed into man and man became a living soul] and the writers of scripture spoke out that which God breathed in. I like that, I feel this is the heart of all true teaching/preaching, it needs the element of being extemporaneous, a spur of the moment type element. Of course this doesn’t mean not to study, Paul also told Timothy to study to show himself approved, but we need to embrace the ‘I AM-ness’ of God. We need to live our lives based out of him being the source. Jesus also said in John’s gospel ‘my meat is to do the will of him that sent me’ the thing that sustained him was living out the Divine plan. These past few weeks I have tried to re-think some things, understanding that I need to wait on God a bit more [okay, a lot more!]. Sometimes as I review my mission statement I will hear ‘John, if you never made another radio message, or wrote another blog entry- there is still enough in storehouse to complete the job’. Sort of like learning to rest and understand that I don’t have to always be in ‘production mode’. I do have to struggle at times to enter into this rest, this idea of ‘standing still, and seeing the salvation of the Lord’ one translation says ‘you don’t have to do anything, God will fight for you’. I have a verse written down in my mission statement, it says ‘your warfare is accomplished, your iniquity is forgiven. Now is the judgment of this world, now is the prince of this world cast out’ it is a compilation of various verses, it grounds me in grace when I meditate on it. What do you ‘feel’ like today? Are you struggling with acceptance, wanting people to approve of you? Are you trying to earn Gods acceptance by what you do? Even in ministry things? Jesus said man lives by Gods breathed out word, his daily, active revealing of himself and his purpose to you thru an intimate fellowship with him. It’s hard to hear him if your always building stuff, the noise of construction drowns him out!

(1098) been reading a little in Matthew, lets look at chapter 4. After Jesus fasts for 40 days and goes thru the temptation, he ‘re-locates’ he hears that John is in jail and leaves Nazareth and goes to Galilee. Now in another gospel account we read how the imprisonment of John upset Jesus. John’s course is already fixed, he is going to die. Jesus knows this. Jesus also realizes that these things are happening to John as a result of his calling and relationship with Jesus. John actually sends a note to Jesus while in jail, he asks ‘are you the messiah that was to come, or should we look for another?’ Some feel John was doubting, others think he was saying ‘Geez, I am your cousin for heavens sake! Don’t you remember the day I baptized you? Even when Aunt Elisabeth, my mother, saw Mary when they were both pregnant with us, the story goes I ‘leaped’ in my mom’s womb. What’s going on FRIEND, cant you get me out?’ So it’s possible that Jesus was having a hard time not intervening for John. Maybe Jesus was thinking ‘John, I want to help you more than you know. For heavens sake I don’t want you to die! But some day you will go down in history for fulfilling this purpose. I too will die soon as well, you must foreshadow my death as the forerunner, the one prophesied to come and prepare my way. Its hard for me to let this happen, it’s part of my Cross too’. Now Jesus enters a new phase of his ministry, he begins teaching and gaining a crowd, the bible says ‘his fame went all thru out Syria’ and the last verse of chapter four says he gained a following that extended to 5 different regions/cities. God expanded Jesus’ borders and influence thru great difficulty. He just went thru a great test and the realization that he was about to lose a close ally in John. Certain sign posts on the journey are beginning to happen, and God is increasing his influence thru it all. I want to encourage you today, you might have just gone thru [or going thru!] some stuff, be aware that God might be expanding your influence, he might be positioning you for the next step. When God told Moses ‘my name is I AM’ God was saying ‘I am the one who is here in the present moment’ can you ‘see’ God from where you are at right now ‘in the present moment’ if you will? Yes, you might ‘lose a John’ someone that has been with you for quite some time, a person who identified and saw things like you, but we all eventually walk the road alone, doing what we know needs to be done because it’s our purpose. God told Abraham ‘I called you when you were by yourself, no one else was around, I made you into this great nation and people. Don’t forget your beginnings’ it’s difficult to lose those close friendships, it feels like we lost part of us. But God says ‘I AM present’.

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

(1096) I had one of those weird prophetic experiences yesterday, I was reviewing a radio tape that I made a while back [6 months to a year?] though I don’t listen to myself on the radio, I review the tape one time before airing, and I will be surprised how many times the thing I just wrote on the blog matches what I said a year ago! I mean the exact words. So yesterday as I am listening to the tape while cleaning the house, I am saying to myself ‘wow, this is exactly what I just taught’ and then on the tape I say ‘you know, sometimes people hear these messages years later and say “wow, that’s exactly what I just went thru”’ weird, isn’t it? Okay, being we have been talking somewhat about Jesus and his movement, let’s do a little about style/procedure. A few weeks back we had a busy day around the mission where I hang out; various Christians/ministers donating time to help out. I met a new brother who introduced himself and we both shared about our various ministries, I told him how I have made many homeless friends and we get together and do stuff. Sometimes we travel to another town and ‘see how the brothers are doing in all the towns where I have preached the gospel’ [Paul does this in the book of Acts] But most of the time we are just friends. During this day as the other Christians were chipping in, fixing things and stuff, my other ‘ministry friend’ kind of wanted to talk ‘ministry’ he saw me sitting with my friends and kind of couldn’t understand what I was doing [just being friends!] sort of like ‘when are you going to do the preaching/teaching thing and then talk ministry?’ He was well meaning, but he just didn’t get the whole point. I do not see/have a ‘ministry’ thing that takes place outside of the confines of simply trying to live out the kingdom of God as a real person with other real people. These people ARE REALLY my friends, I don’t wrap things up and then ‘talk serious ministry’ this is serious ministry! It took some of my preacher friends some time to really see this, sort of like ‘gee, John has some ability to teach and all, if he would only get his act together and start a ‘church/ministry’ he could really be successful’! I have heard/felt this mindset many times. I believe we need to live as real people in society, the great need isn’t for more ‘ministries/businesses/churches’ to stir people up to give more money in order to carry out another endless series of projects! The need is for us to return to the ethos of Jesus as seen in the gospels and try to emulate [by the Spirits power] the things he did and taught. Jesus spent much time among the hopeless; he was teaching and doing good deeds. At the same time you had the religious class of professionals living as some type of upper-class clergy. Jesus style works a lot better.

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

(1092) wasn’t too sure which way to go? Was thinking of the verse ‘for this reason have I brought you to this PLACE [of mourning] so you could see and understand and meditate on the things I am showing you and then you can speak it to my people’ [have no idea where this verse is!] Then started reading Jesus great Sermon on the Mount; he starts [Matt. 5] ‘blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek’ these are the ones who will inherit the earth. Just finished an early prayer time, it’s strange but when you pray regularly for nations and regions, in some cosmic sense you are ‘dwelling in the nations’, I mean you can see/sense yourself inheriting the earth! Yesterday I was going to get with the homeless brothers, but I had to run some errands with my daughter so I changed plans. I wound up driving to the gulf, where I live I am surrounded by bays, oceans [Gulf of Mexico] and all sorts of streams. So I spent a few hours under a bridge where you can listen to the cars driving overhead, right next to this channel. My truck radio went out a few weeks back, good! I would have probably had the news on and would have missed an opportunity to meditate. I was thinking about how I always have had the next project, mission, ‘thing to accomplish’ on my mind. I was too consumed with accomplishing some task. No matter what stage of my life, there always seemed to be the never ending thought of ‘what’s next’ and all the baggage that’s comes with it; ‘what will it take to accomplish it, what’s the ten [5] year outlook, who are the key people who will be involved’ [remember- don’t associate with people who will kill your vision!] Jesus is talking to his disciples and he says ‘blessed are those who struggle with stuff, who mourn [go thru deep valleys] these are the ones who inherit’ Jesus style of ministry is so radically different than ours. He had no need to make it to Rome, he was content to give himself away for ‘the least of these’. He invested in people who seemed worthless, people that you would disassociate from ‘look Jesus, we caught this woman in adultery, in the very act!’ [I guess they were voyeurs?] and how does he respond? ‘I don’t condemn you, go and sin no more’ he doesn’t whitewash the offense, chalk it up to some religious system of morality that man has inflicted upon society [Freud’s theory] but he plainly says ‘yes, you have been found out. You have sinned, like every one else on the planet, you have sinned’ this was no secret, she couldn’t hide anymore. Her dark secret has now been exposed, the lifestyle she has struggled with is now in the open for all to see! Not only that, but the long awaited for Messiah, the one who was foretold by the prophets, the holiest man to ever walk the planet! He too has seen my humanity, my utter failure to live up to the moral code. My story is forever recorded in the gospels for heavens sake! [Well, she didn’t now that] All the efforts to cover up, to bide a little time until she could get her act together have now been crushed. Her day of mourning has now arrived. Jesus tells her ‘I do not condemn you, don’t do this again’ Wow! Blessed are those that mourn.

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

(1090) this is the second post within a few minutes, I rarely [never?] do this. I just read Micah chapter 6 again, the verse ‘the Lords voice crieth unto the city and the man of wisdom shall see thy name’ 6:9 [or recognize the Lord speaking thru people, and not seeing/hearing mans wisdom] I want to say something to my Pastor friends who have known me and followed our teachings now for a few years. It makes me a little uncomfortable when I see leaders make actual changes because of what they hear me teach. Now, I commend you guys that have done this, some of it is obvious and noble. I just want you guys to know that when you hear something from me that is kind of strong, try not to take it personal, it’s not meant that way. Also, change takes time, I do not expect Pastors/churches to ‘live up to’ any/all the things I feel the Lord is presently communicating to this generation; sometimes he deposits lots of reformation truth into a generation, but this does not mean it is going to be fully implemented in that generation! It’s takes mature leaders to see and function in that reality. It also takes maturity to recognize when God is speaking, when he ‘cries to a city’ it takes men of wisdom to discern what’s from God and what’s proceeding from human intellect.

(1089) it’s a Monday morning right now, last night I had one of those nights where you can’t sleep. I was up until around 2 am, I thought ‘well, maybe I won’t pray the normal Monday intercessory prayer thing’. On Mondays I make it a point to do a consistent prayer time for family, friends, and nations, lost people groups, the persecuted church and many other things. I do this at least three times a week. Usually from around 3:30 -5:15 am. Every morning I spend time with the Lord, if it’s not intercessory prayer, it’s an hour or 2 of praise and meditation. I have often thought there might me something wrong with me, I mean I am still praying for friends from high school, the kids of some of my buddies who have died years ago. And to be regularly praying for nations, lost people groups, the persecuted church; to be doing this, even in the midst of personal turmoil, is simply not normal. I know you will think I’m kidding, but I do have somewhat of a compulsive nature, I think I have inklings of O.C.D. [obsessive compulsive disorder] to be honest about it. You know what also doesn’t help? After finally falling asleep at around 2 or so, I thought ‘well maybe I will miss a day, what harm could it do; after all the Lord is full of mercy, he’s no slave driver!’ Then the first verse I read in Micah was ‘arise, contend thou before the mountains, let the hills hear thy voice!’ [6:2] Gee, thanks a lot. Part of my prayer time actually quotes ‘listen oh mountains and you from afar, the Lord has called me from the womb, from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name! I will not fail or be discouraged until I have set justice in the earth, I will call a nation that I do not know, and nations that do not know me will come running to me’ [various collection of verses] I quote this, along with many other verses that I have added to memory over the years. Sounds kind of noble and dramatic, doesn’t it? Hey, I would have settled for ‘now I lay me down to sleep’ but the Lord had other plans. [I stuck this under leadership because leaders NEED TO PRAY!]

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

(1084) I was thinking of doing some politics, but it jut gets me mad. One of the homeless brothers has a unique tattoo; he has the letters that were on Christ’s Cross inscribed on his forehead! You can’t miss it, it’s huge. I have run into Grumpy a few times over the years, he was never really in the group of close knit brothers that I hang with. Some of the guys are heavy drinkers and violent, good guys, but you can tell the regular brothers try and avoid them at times. Not too long ago I had a good chance to fellowship with Grumpy, he was of course drunk, but it was early enough in the day for him to function coherently. He was staying at this ‘flop house’ with a few guys. Grumpy has a Catholic background, at one point he clearly articulated Gods majesty thru the story of Moses, he was quoting the famous ‘I AM’ name that God spoke to Moses. I could tell that he knew his stuff. Over about an hour conversation, and a short bible study thing that I was asked to give, Grumpy really opened up, he cried as he shared his past failures and stuff. Though he was one of the violent guys [fight at the drop of the hat] yet the Lord was dealing with him. After talking for a while, he even got into Revelation and the scriptures on those who have the mark of the beast or Gods mark on them. He then mentions the tattoo on his forehead, realizing that I must have been noticing it as we were talking. At first, when he mentioned the ‘mark’ I didn’t know what he was referring to, it did not register in my mind that he had this huge tattoo on his head, for some reason I simply did not ‘see it’ the whole time of our conversation. I guess it’s hard for people to live down their failures, the stupid things they have done in life. I don’t know if Grumpy regrets the mark on his head, but I know he seemed surprised that I really did not notice it at all, sort of like ‘how can he not see this mark on me!’ Scripture talks about people having marks/stains that they can’t seem to get rid of. After Cain killed Abel God marked him for life. Isaiah says ‘though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow’. My friend must feel self conscious about this permanent mark that he probably got when drunk, this sign of the guilt he feels because of the many failures in his life, seeing himself as one ‘cursed on a Cross’ but the fact the Cross happened means we don’t have to struggle with guilt [though we all do, at least I do] but his mercies are new every morning. Not too long after my conversation with Grumpy he took off to California, he will continue walking the streets with this mark/sign that will prophetically speak to the world around him. Christians driving to church will no doubt see him on some street corner, trying to stop their cars a few feet before the light, doing their best to not have to look into the face of fallen man. Then maybe as they speed past him they will get a good look at his eternal mark. Maybe for a second they will see Jesus thru fallen humanity, maybe they will think of the words of Jesus when he said ‘when you did not show mercy to these, you did not show mercy to me’.

(1083) Let me do a compilation of various readings. In Isaiah we read the famous verse ‘I have laid a cornerstone in Zion, a rock of offence and stumbling; those who believe will not make haste’ [somewhere in Isaiah?] Paul quotes it in Romans. If you go read the chapter [look it up] you will see that the reason God raises up this ‘cornerstone/rock of offence’ is because the leadership of Israel became wicked, they were fulfilling roles in the community, but they left the intent of God behind. So God raises up prophetic voices at certain seasons for the purpose of creating a divine tension in the community. Voices that will be a stumbling stone and offensive to others; this is part of the process. In Zechariah/Revelation you have the witnesses who also ‘devour those that speak against them by the words of their mouth’. The adversaries really cannot refute what the prophets are speaking; Jesus also metes out justice with the Sword coming from his mouth [the word of God]. The lord speaks to Joshua the high priest [Zechariah] and he is standing before God and making intercession with dirty clothes. Like Hebrews says ‘every priest taken from among men is compassed about with infirmity’ this is so the priest can identify with those he is interceding for. Then the Lord removes the dirty clothes and puts a clean garment on him [robes of white/righteousness- revelation] and does this divine act of cleansing. The lord also says he will remove the sin of the land in ‘a day’. All these images speak of the purposes of God, he allows people to speak into his community at set seasons for the purpose of a corporate work. These voices often cause turmoil, they shake things around; Pastors wish they never heard some of the stuff! Why? Because then they realize they have to reform also, a tough process indeed. As you follow along on this blog, you see how I ‘dwell’ in different camps at different times. Whole seasons of doing prophetic stuff, or history, or traditional church stuff. I believe the Lord wants all of us to come out of our secluded shells, our ‘peculiar’ doctrinal slants, and to embrace the broader context of what he’s doing in the nations. We need to quit viewing ‘ministry’ thru the lens of starting a business, raising money for the business [church/para church] to carry out certain functions, and then living our lives in the context of ‘God wants us all to be happy and have a good time, and whatever happens in the rest of the world is none of my concern’. Jesus challenges us with a kingdom message, he told us that we would need to lay down our lives/agendas for a higher, more noble purpose. He constantly challenged those on the edge to jump in and forsake all to follow him. As I read the prophets, I see that God uses them to directly challenge leadership, he raises them up as a result of leadership going off track. Jesus was the cornerstone/rock of offence that made the religious leaders very uncomfortable. The New Testament says they feared they would lose their positions of status if Jesus kept gaining a following. You see, the things he was saying were a direct offence to their way of life, the way they perceived their service to God. Those who believed [Nicodemus] would enter into the beginning of a new worldwide movement that would never end, those who stayed offended would wind up crucifying ‘their rock of offence’.

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

About ccoutreach87

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

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