[STUDY] PROSPERITY GOSPEL – 2-2011
I have hesitated to include a separate section on this because so much of our teaching deals with this issue. So to get all the stuff on this subject, you really need to read all the stuff on this site. For a quick read, go to my book House of Prayer or Den of Thieves on this blog, it’s in the 2-2010 posts.
 THE KINGS SPEECH- Okay- I didn’t see the movie yet [though it’s supposed to be good] and I also didn’t watch President Obama’s speech the other night- but of course I heard the usual spin from the right and the left. From the snippets I did catch- it seems like the President did the best he could do with what he has to work with. Okay- I think the ‘high speed rail’ thing is kinda beating a dead horse at this stage of the game- sure- would I like to zip real fast around the country without having to go thru the plane molestation procedure- yeah. But in reality, even if we managed to accomplish it- it would basically serve the needs of the ‘blue states’ the most. I love the North East- grew up in Jersey- but its kinda playing to your base when you promote a major investment that will primarily benefit the home team. All in all there really isn’t a whole lot the President can do to turn things around. Though the stock market broke the 12,000 mark yesterday- in reality we have a long way to go before the country as a whole experiences real recovery. This year we are probably going to have more home foreclosures than last year. Last year we topped just over a million- this year it’s projected to be around a million and a half- we start the year with 5 million home owners 3 months or more behind in their payments- not good. Unemployment is still very high- 9.4 %- and we are still spending way more than we can afford as a country. The 3 main expenses of our govt. are the military- Medicare/aid and social security. Now I realize social security is not ‘part of the budget’ in the sense of borrowing and spending- yet we do have to address the reality that too few workers are expected to support too many retired folk- we need to change some things- and politicians in general don’t have the stomach for it. The military budget is another taboo- we can’t keep spending the amount we have been- this doesn’t mean we need to back down on national defense- but do we really need to keep hundreds of thousands of troops all around the globe- 50 thousand still in Germany- we need to retool this thing. Overall we have some major adjustments that need to be made- and we can’t just say ‘cut’ nor do I think the answer is ‘spend more’ we need to spend more wisely- and cut wisely. When talking about saving millions/billions by taking away a benefit from a person who is really in need- or saving a billion in one slice from some plane the military says they don’t even need- then of course- don’t keep the plane! Yet at the same time- there are lots of cases of people gaming the system. Look- I have lots of friends- for many years- who have gotten disability checks- or sold food stamps- or used the food card- to buy drugs. One of my buddies- been gone for a while now [Fla.] used to get his monthly check from the govt. [S.S. disability] and the entire check [around 500] was spent on crack- gone in 2-3 days. Okay- we have a problem with this system. Many years ago- while working as a firefighter- I got into the whole ‘buy a cheap house- fix it- rent it- sell it’. It was okay- made some money. After a while I made a conscious decision to get out of the whole thing- though I had lots of ‘preacher’ friends- who were ‘preaching money’ all the time- I mean the whole message was wealth- yet out of the whole bunch- I probably was the ‘richest one’ and I was the only one preaching against it! So I finally got out. I had a buddy at the Fire House- a new guy who came all the way from California just to take the job [it was a little strange for someone to move from Ca. to our little town for the job] and he was a few years older than me- but I had worked as a firefighter a lot longer. So as time rolled by he told me he still had a condo in Ca. and his renters were tearing up the place- lots of problems- things I was all too aware of. I advised him to sell- because Ca. has this screwed up system [because of their property tax] where the value of the residence is much more than what you could make on rent [I think he was getting around 800 a month on a condo worth 250 thousand] I told him- from a purely financial view- that this was a bad investment. That if I were him- I would ‘get out while the getting’s good’ [it was right before the big drop in the Ca. market] and that I would maybe buy a rental or 2 from the money- residentials were going for around 80 thousand at the time- nice rental homes that you could rent for 1000 a month- and that I would simply stick the rest of the money in some safe return instrument. Sure enough he sold- made the money- and told me all about these financial seminars he was attending. He also refused my advice- he was taught that you should spend every penny of the profit from the previous sale- to avoid paying taxes on the profit. I told him ‘yes- in theory it sounds good- but I’m giving you practical advice from experience- you should not blow all the profit- you need to keep some back for expenses’. So he didn’t listen- spent it all on 3 homes in San Antonio and later told me as the end of the year came up- that he was having trouble paying the huge tax bill. He also was going to invest all the rental profit into a life insurance policy- and instead of making interest income that would be taxed- he would take a loan from his policy- tax free- and then pay the loan back [with more rental income] in order to avoid the taxes. I told him ‘brother- we are in the middle of the worst insurance company meltdown in the history of the world [AIG] who are these geniuses telling you to put all your cash in an insurance company?’ he took my advice this time. The point? There are real financial difficulties that the country is facing- and there are not any quick fixes to get out- it’s going to be tough for a long time. We should all do our best- be charitable- it helps others, as well as yourself- and seek first the kingdom of God [not money!] and all the things you need will be taken care of- at the end make smart financial decisions and trust God as well- it does work.
 DOCTOR KING- This past week we once again celebrated the life of Martin Luther King- a few weeks ago I did some teaching on how important it is to keep things in their proper context. In the area of Christian preaching/teaching the worst example I have dealt with over the years was the very popular teaching- often described as ‘the prosperity gospel’. Maybe at the end of this post I’ll re-post my first little book I wrote- it dealt with the issue. Years ago, when learning the bible and pastoring my own home church- I had lots of preacher friends- and one time everyone got into this business [it basically was a pyramid scheme] I think it was called Diamonds- anyway my Christian friends all got into it. I avoided the whole deal. One day one of my buddies was telling me all about it- how it’s based on the bible and all. He went on and explained the verse in Matthews’s gospel [chapter 6?] where Jesus gives the famous teaching about the parable of the planter [sower] of seeds. In the teaching Jesus makes a statement ‘and some get a hundred times back from what they plant’ [the 100 fold return]. And as he went on he explained that the will of God was to make a hundredfold return on your money- so that’s why we should all be joining the ‘team’ because if we are not out- every day- pursuing ‘the return’ then we are obviously disobeying Jesus. As he was speaking- I realized he really did not see that the way he was reading Jesus words was so out of context- I mean in the actual teaching Jesus says ‘the deceitfulness of riches chokes the seed- so you don’t get a full harvest’ in this context- you see Jesus is not all about us spending every day of our lives seeking a huge financial harvest- I mean you can’t miss it! I did say to my friend ‘ hey brother- you do know the bible says ‘they that desire to become rich have gone off track- they have been sidetracked from the faith and have gone down the wrong path- the love-pursuit of money is the root of all evil’’ 1st Timothy chapter 6. He simply had no idea that the bible taught this- the preachers he was listening to never dealt with the bible in context- they just took bits and pieces of it- and developed teachings that were contrary to what Jesus actually taught. So I found it ironic that many in the media- who praise doctor King for his non violent stance- his statement on judging people- not on skin color, but character. These same people portray the president as a socialist because of his past associations with the labor movements. Yet Doctor King, the night before he was killed- gave the famous speech at Mason Temple- in Memphis- he said how he now wasn’t sure that he personally would get to see the final results of his mission- in a sense he knew he was going to die- but yet he ‘saw the mountain’ he knew he had traveled far enough on the road God had initially called him to- with all of his own personal failures- yet God permitted him to see that the end result would be accomplished- though he was beginning to doubt whether or not he would live long enough himself to see it. It was a very prophetic event for sure- the next day doctor King would give his life for the cause. But many in the media don’t tell you that King was in Memphis supporting the poor working conditions/wages of the garbage men- he was supporting a union cause! The point is- we often read- hear bits and pieces of the story- and if we are not familiar with the record- the life of the person- his struggles and personal convictions- then it’s easy to miss read what the person was all about. I guess I’ll post the short little book here at the end- those of you reading this on the sites that are not big enough to fit the whole post- you can go to the blog- corpuschristioutreachministries- and the books and studies can be found in the 2-2010 posts, and the 8-2010 posts [and next month they will also be in the 2-2011 posts]. The book I mentioned is called House of Prayer or Den of Thieves and the study is called Prosperity Gospel- you’ll get more from those teachings on this subject.
 WEEK IN REVIEW- Okay- I need to share one of those weird moments- at times in the past I’ve had signs and stuff that to be honest- do freak me out. So this week, as I have been reading various bible chapters- kinda skipping around- I read the words of Jesus in Matthew about the last days. So I realize I kinda joked about it the other day- wrote a post called ‘doomsday is here’ and shared a few thoughts. So as I was looking at some of the bible passages on the end times- I focused in on a verse- one that I have liked/written down in the past- It’s Jesus doing the talking [you know- the red letters] and he says ‘when I return- it will be no secret- everyone will know- it will be just like the lightning that shines from one end of the sky all the way to the other’ [my paraphrase- which means I’m basically making the king James version easier to understand] Some versions say ‘like a bright light that will shine from one end of the sky to the other’. Okay- no joke- I’m watching CNN the other day [yes- the doomsday channel- go read the other post] and sure enough Wolf Blitzer [In Letterman’s top 10 the other day- he had the top 10 things said at Larry Kings retirement party- one was ‘will somebody tell Wolf Blitzer to put on a shirt’!] has a story about a strange light that ‘shone from one end of the sky to the other’. So I watched the story- yes in some state [?] many people witnessed a bright unknown light that lit up the whole sky- and they said it went from ‘one end of the sky to the other’ they had one video of the reflection seen on the ground- it looked like a huge flash from a camera- only longer. It was weird- you say ‘Okay brother- you have gotten me mad with your politics- you rub me the wrong way with all your bible stuff- and now you got me a little scared- kinda wondering- so what do you want me to do’? Okay- sow a financial seed for $1,000 every time you see …. [okay- I know- I need to top doing stuff like this]. The story is true- just kidding about ‘the seed’ [I don’t take money- ever].
Kinda wanted to stay on track with the last few posts [guess I already blew that] but let me do this- let’s do a ‘week in review’ thing- and at the end I will post the study I did on the book of Galatians- it’s in keeping with the bible study I’ve been sharing.
Okay- the week is gone- we had the terrible shooting in Arizona and the nation mourned. The [liberal] media made total fools of themselves- they blamed the deaths on Sarah Palin and the right wing- day after day Chris Matthews said ‘where is Palin! Why won’t she talk! Come out and take responsibility [for something you didn’t do?]-or you will be erased’. Then- after the entire nation realized that the shooter held to no specific political ideology [though you could make the case that he is a radical liberal- he is an atheist- had Marx’ book in his possession- he certainly does not fit the description of a right wing radical Christian fundamentalist] after a few days of Mathews and one of the main stream news networks accusing her of being responsible- she finally puts out a video [yes- I now the blood libel thing] and she says she is not guilty for the shooting [which is true] simply defends herself in public after being accused, and the main accuser [Matthews] saying day after day ‘why are you in hiding- it’s proof of your guilt’ so what should the woman do? She ‘comes out of hiding’ and yes- the liberal media says ‘can you believe the gall of this woman! To have the nerve to make a statement and to shame the victims by trying to steal the spotlight from the dead 9 year old girl’ wow. I believe MSNBC should just go away- this network- along with the entire group of accusers who jumped the gun [Paul Krugman] these people are a shame to humanity [am I blunt enough?]
A few years back we had some guy fly his plane into the I.R.S building in Austin [Texas capitol] at first people though ‘right wing nut job’ found out later that he was a disgruntled left wing ‘nut job’ an avowed Marxist. Oh well. A year or so ago we had some guy try to blow up a car bomb in Times Square- mayor Bloomberg opined ‘maybe it’s someone on the right, disgruntled with the health care law’ wrong again- radical Islamist. Strike 2. Okay- one more chance to find a real right winger- I know- remember Ted Kaczynski [Unabomber]? He was the guy sending bombs to corporations and stuff- blowing up people for many years- they finally caught him- it turned out that he was a radical environmentalist- had Al Gore’s book in his hut- and he saw the industrialized world as the enemy- strike 3. I do not recall in any of these instances- a single media story about the danger of radical left wing speech- about Chris Matthews dangerous rhetoric when he says ‘someone needs to shoot a co2 pellet into Rush Limbaugh’s head’ in none of these stories was there even an inkling of blame placed upon those who hold to left wing ideology. But the media this week not only blamed Sarah Palin personally for the victims in Arizona- but the entire mainstream media, when caught with their pants down- haven’t themselves apologized for jumping the gun in the shameful way that they did- they haven’t retracted their accusations [in the main] nor have they personally apologized for doing stories about Palin ‘targeting’ the district of the woman that was shot- linking the silly political ‘targeting of the district’ with the horrendous shooting of the congresswoman- this single piece of reporting has been the most irresponsible piece of biased journalism I have seen in years.
So to finish for the week- I think the president gave an excellent speech the other day- did not play into this hype- and deserves credit for being a good president- a president who represented both sides of the aisle.
- WHERE’S THE CONFESSING CHURCH? During WW2 the German church was split on how she should respond to the rise of Hitler and the racist tendencies that were beginning to be revealed as time went on. Many German Christians initially embraced his ideas- they seemed to join a nationalistic/patriotic spirit in with the practice of their religion. Germany was coming off of years of national inferiority after their loss in WW1 and many Christians embraced the new felt spirit of ‘exceptionalism’ that was surging thru the land. On the other side you had men like Dietrich Bonheoffer who resisted what he saw as unjust govt.- others took his stance, these were called ‘the confessing church’ they believed it was their responsibility to speak out- to ‘confess’ the things they saw as unjust. Bonheoffer would get executed for his role in attempting to assassinate Hitler.
As we continue to read the release of the Wikileaks documents- we see more and more how our govt. has lied, deceived, been involved in the deaths of many civilians- and both the media and the govt. have denied these things- until they actually were exposed. Yemen. The last few years there were many attacks in the country of Yemen- when these attacks first started the U.S. govt. vehemently denied any involvement at all. The official reports and the N.Y. times ran stories that said ‘Today in Yemen- Yemeni fighter planes struck a terrorist compound and possibly killed some high level Al Qaeda terrorists’. During a press conference- state dept. spokesman P.J. Crowley was point blank asked ‘are we involved in ANY military activities in Yemen’- he point blank said no. There was speculation that we were doing secret drone attacks in the country- our govt. said ‘NO’. On average about 50 civilians die for every target we hit- quite a cost. So obviously these innocents demand to know the truth about why/who killed their kids. Yemen and the U.S. simply saw it in their best interest to lie. I mean- these people are just pawns on the grand stage- right? What rights does the average person have to really know what’s going on? So the Wikileaks revealed that yes indeed the U.S. did do the strikes- yes indeed we did kill many innocents- and yes indeed Yemen said ‘you do the strikes, and we’ll tell our people it was us’. They were caught in the act. So what is our govt. saying now? P.J. Crowley- the state dept. spokesmen who lied- he is now saying ‘well, I meant we weren’t involved in a specific attack’. When you read the actual transcript of the press conference- he was asked ‘are we involved IN ANY military activity in Yemen’? His answer- NO.
Last week our military began trial hearings against a team of U.S. soldiers for their involvement in what’s being called ‘a death squad’. This group of young men were caught killing Afghan civilians- they shot a farmer in a field- cut off his finger for a souvenir and eventually were caught. Now- do these guys represent the majority of our troops in the field- of course not! Yet this story runs as top news in the Muslim media- have you even heard about it?
How should the church respond to these types of things? Should we be the silent majority- like Germanys nationalistic church who saw ‘church and state’ as one big patriotic cause? Should we just keep ‘preaching the gospel’ while our govt. carries out hidden agendas and lies to us and the people who are being killed? Should we question the ridiculous strategy of engaging in these never ending campaigns? What’s out strategy? Do we believe that after more than 10 years- and thousands of lives- that eventually we can set up Democratic governments that will be allies to the U.S. ? What’s to prevent these radical religious countries from voting in some nut- like the president of Iran- and we spent all our time dying and killing for this?
We tried this in the West Bank- we helped the Palestinians set up some free and open elections. We wheeled and dealed with Israel and Palestine- we gave much aid and effort- after all was said and done they finally held their democratic election- and they elected Hamas!
What is the primary cause for terrorism amongst radical Islamists? They see our forces in their ‘holy lands’ as the number one cause for resistance. After our initial war [Bush 1] to expel Iraq from Kuwait- we for the first time established bases in Arab countries. Saudi Arabia- Iraq- etc. Bin laden and the rise of Al Qaeda were a direct result of what they saw as Americans’ ‘defiling’ their sacred land. Do you remember any car bombings and these types of efforts before that time? Yes- you always had some type of fighting- but not to the level that ratcheted up after the first gulf war. So, the number one reason these radicals are carrying out this insane agenda is because they see us as invaders in their land. So how do we respond to the threat- WE INVADE MORE LAND! Overall the strategy is not going to work. Right now we are fighting the Taliban- who are these people? They are ethnic Afghans who have NO WORLWIDE AGENDA. They see themselves as ‘freedom fighters’ who simply want to ‘restore’ their land to a religious theocracy. Not good- but no real threat to the U.S. So why are we fighting them? They gave space for Al Qaeda to operate out of their country. Okay- Al Qaeda’s been long gone- yet we keep fighting this group who sees themselves as defending their homeland. Its nuts! It’s like if some gang attacked you, they lived down the street in some hotel. So you start a war with the hotel owners and the gang leaves. Instead of spending all your time and resources hunting down the gang- you start a never ending war with the hotel owners! Not only is this stupid- but the gang is laughing at the strategy- it actually helps the gang to recruit more members- because the gang points to the fact that we are in their ‘holy land’ which after all is the original justification for the existence of the gang! All this would be laughable if it weren’t so sad.
So what does the church say about all this- not much. We keep hawking our religious wares on our TV channels- we keep appealing for a never ending need for money- and all the time the world is going to hell in a hand basket. It’s time for us to become ‘the confessing church’ to speak truth to power- because our govt. seems to have a hard time telling us the truth.
 HAPPY THANSGIVING! ‘In Jesus Christ, God has revealed himself in descending- we ascend to God by accompanying him on this descending path- as we witness the abuse of economic power, as we witness the cruelties of capitalism that degrades man to the level of merchandise, we have also realized the perils of wealth- the man destroying divinity- Mammon- which grips large parts of the world in a cruel stranglehold.’ Pope Benedict.
‘What has been the greatest sin on earth so far? Surely the words of the man who said ‘Woe to those who laugh now’” Friedrich Nietzsche.
In Matthews gospel we read that Jesus came from ‘Galilee, of the Gentiles’- strange. Matthew was writing for a Jewish audience, Luke’s gospel was targeting the Gentiles. Yet Matthew describes Jesus home turf in terms that would offend his target audience- the Jews of Jesus day honored Jerusalem, Judea- but Galilee? Right from the start Jesus entered the scene in a way and style that offended the religious mind of his day. The prophet Isaiah says Jesus was this Rod- this branch that would grow from the ‘root’ of Jesse. Jesus came from the lineage of Jesse, King David’s forefather- royal blood indeed. Yet the prophet says he will be set up as a sign- an ‘ensign’ that the people will look to- they will see things they never saw before. In the gospels we see Jesus as a highly unusual preacher/teacher- he simply does not fit the mold. Isaiah also says he will judge the poor of the earth with equity- he will defend them in anger! The prophets tell us ‘The zeal of thine house has eaten me up’. This prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus entered the temple courts and saw the merchandisers selling their stuff- he had it- in a rage he grabbed the tables and turned them upside down ‘My father’s house was supposed to be a place of prayer- look what you have done to it! You’ve made it a Den of Thieves’. Yes, anger was a part of his persona- at times it would eat him up- in a sense. Yet as he flustered the religious aristocracy- he was a breath of fresh air to the out casts, to those who society drew the ‘black line’ on. Dylan’s son would sing ‘the same black line that was drawn on you was drawn on me’ surely Jesus would ‘allow’ the black line to be drawn on him too. The common people heard him gladly. Again- Isaiah says ‘blessed are the women who are barren, who have not been able to have kids- for more are the children of the desolate than of the married wife’. In the Old Testament [and Jesus day] not being able to have kids was seen as a mark ‘the black line’ if you will. The poor wife would be stigmatized, looked at as someone who didn’t have what it took to fulfill her ‘womanhood’. Again, in a sense an outcast. Yet Jesus said ‘blessed are those who mourn now, who cry- who are empty’ for theirs is the kingdom. In the above quote, that’s what Nietzsche was decrying- he saw the words of the Master as contrary to mans inner greatness- his humanistic abilities to achieve- to fulfill all of his desires- to live for the full! Much like the gospel of our day. Yet Jesus emptied himself, he was ‘a man of sorrow- constant grief’ [Isaiah]. The apostle Paul tells us that Jesus emptied himself, he did not see his divinity as something to be used for self gain- some type of quest to reach this stage of religious Nirvana- no he emptied himself- he too became ‘barren’. Yes Jesus was quite a character, he simply was not what the people expected- he seemed to break the rules. Yet at the end of the day- this unorthodox preacher- this man from Galilee- yes he would change the world.
 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.
 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.
- Wasn’t sure which way to go today; felt like refuting [or as Sarah Palin says ‘refudiating’!] the recent Stephen Hawking book- he’s basically saying nothing new, and what he is claiming has been shown to be ‘less than true’ [heck, you don’t want the call the man senile, though who knows?]. In a nutshell the book claims that Gravity itself needed no originator, that it created all things, even itself! Yikes! This is a complete violation of the Law of Non contradiction- which states ‘a thing cannot be and not be at the same time and in the same relationship’ for gravity to have created itself [which Hawking is saying!] then it had to ‘be, and not be’ at the same time- not only is this not good science, it is lunacy. For my new facebook readers I’ll try and post a few notes at the bottom. I also just walked passed my T.V. while going into the study, sure enough there was a television evangelist on the tube doing the whole money thing- man if I get into that it will be bad. So for today let me stick a few relevant posts at the bottom and lets all remember the fallen heroes of 9-1-2001. It’s there day for sure.
 THE LORD THY GOD IN THE MIDST OF THEE IS MIGHTY, HE WILL SAVE; HE WILL REJOICE OVER THEE WITH JOY; HE WILL REST IN HIS LOVE, HE WILL JOY OVER THEE WITH SINGING. I WILL GATHER THEM THAT ARE SORROWFUL FOR THE SOLEMN ASSEMBLY…AT THAT TIME I WILL UNDO ALL THAT AFFLICT THEE…AND I WILL GET THEM PRAISE AND FAME IN EVERY LAND WHERE THEY HAVE BEEN PUT TO SHAME’ Zephaniah 3:17-19. The letter to the Hebrews says Jesus sings among us in the midst of the congregation. Many of the prophetic books speak about God restoring his people. Revelation says Jesus is the light and glory of the ‘city of God’ [the church]. Psalms talks about a river that flows thru us and brings us life and joy [Holy Spirit]. We are the city of God that God himself builds and rejoices over; the city that Abraham and his heirs were looking for as they dwelt in a strange land- a city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God [Hebrews]. God promises to gather those from every tribe and tongue [I will gather all nations and tongues and they will come and see my glory…and I will set a sign among them…and those that escape will go to the nations and declare my glory- Isaiah] those that have been ‘shot at’ [‘You will be like a vine planted next to a well whose branches go over a wall…the archers shot at you, yet you bow remained strong…God strengthened your hands’- Jacobs blessing pronounced over his son Joseph- Genesis] and have been thru much difficulty, these are the ones the Lord will gather and send back out to the nations and these will declare HIS glory. Those that have been ‘to the Cross’ have learned the lesson of the vanity of self glory- the lifestyle of trying to live up to the expectations of man, that which the bible calls ‘vain glory’. These can be entrusted with the gospel and the Lord rejoices and sings over them- these are the garden of the Lord that produce fruit because they have learned to abide in him [John 15]. I want to encourage you today; have you been struggling with stuff? Have you been confounded, confused? God will take those who have been put to shame and he will gather them as his city, the place where he will dwell, and he will rejoice over you; you will be in a position where you will have influence in all nations and cultures- the Lord will ‘extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the gentiles like a flowing stream’ you will ‘come up over your borders like a river in Judah that overflows her banks’ and you will be like ‘fountains that are dispersed abroad, rivers of waters that flow in the streets’ [various verses from the Old Testament].
- 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.
 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?
 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.
 ‘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.
 ‘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’.
 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.
 ‘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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(1392) CAN A DEVIL OPEN THE EYES OF THE BLIND? In John 10 Jesus defends his deity in sort of a strange way; he says ‘if those to whom the word of God came are called “gods” how much more shall it be said of him whom the father hath sent and sanctified, that he is called the Son of God’. Jesus is quoting Psalms 82, as far as I can tell this is the only attempt that Jesus makes to justify his deity thru scripture. He has said things like ‘before Abraham was, I AM’ and ‘how could David call the Messiah his Lord, if he is the Son of David’ all statements that speak of his deity, but this quote from Psalms 82 seems to be a direct reference to him claiming deity [Son ship] based on a verse that calls us ‘gods’. Over the years this verse has been used by certain camps to teach dominion theology, but I think they missed the point. The Psalm itself is a rebuttal to the religious leaders of Jesus day, it argues for the defense of the poor, the doing of justice- it is the ministry of Jesus in a nutshell, a strong reproof against those who refused to do justice and defend the poor and needy. I mean Jesus healed the crippled guy and all they could do was critique him for violating their view of the Sabbath. In this chapter they say ‘can a devil open the eyes of the blind’? Jesus purposely healed these people on the Sabbath, I mean there really were 6 other days to do these healings, why keep doing it on the Sabbath? I think he was sticking it in their faces, causing them to have to rethink their religious views. He was showing them the reality behind the law ‘the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’ the rebuke of psalms 82 ‘do justice and quit using the law as some religious measurement of class and status’. Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus didn’t heal every sick person he met- I know the bible says ‘he healed them all- he went around healing all who were oppressed of the devil’ but this does not mean every person on the planet. I mean at the pool of Bethesda he healed only one, I mean that pool was like a hospice, people who were ready to die were showing up for one last miracle, yet Jesus healed only one. But these outstanding cases were proofs that just wouldn’t go away. The religious leaders kept going back to those events in their minds ‘can a devil do this’? The father testified of the authenticity of the Son by doing these miracles, Jesus even says ‘look, if you don’t believe me because you think my doctrine and claims are wrong, then at least believe for the actual works that I’ve done’ no matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t deny the reality of those few outstanding miracles-‘can a devil really do this’? No.
(1391) NO MAS [SA]! Back in the 70’s us boxing fans were treated to one of those so called ‘super fights’ you know, a matchup between greats. Roberto Duran faced Sugar Ray Leonard. A few rounds into the fight Duran got so frustrated that he walked out of the ring while chanting ‘NO MAS’. Yesterday a Democratic congressman from N.Y. – by the name of Massa- resigned his seat and went on the war path against his own party. It seems like he has a history of making racy comments to other men, but his excuse for being rail roaded is that he voted against Obama Care. It’s quite sad, he is making the rounds [today he’ll be on Beck] and he’s describing all these encounters with the administrations men, he says they approached him in the showers at the gym, wearing nothing, and he describes Rahm Emanuel’s ‘tush’. He seems like he can’t escape language that pits him up against other men, while nude! All of this wouldn’t be so tragic if it weren’t happening to the most ethical congress in U.S. history! Plus, it really stains N.Y. politics, I bet Spitzer and Patterson can’t even sleep at night. Okay, in John chapter 9 Jesus heals a man that was blind from birth, the disciples ask him ‘who did sin, this man or his parents, that caused this man’s plight’? Jesus said neither, but this happened so the works of God could be manifested in him. This might be the most important verse in the chapter. This man and his family lived many years with the insinuation that they must have been children of a lesser God, sure their neighbors didn’t come right out and say it, but you could sure feel the underlying accusation. Now, the news makes it to the religious crowd and they find out he was healed on the Sabbath, a big no no, a real ‘No Mas’ moment. They question the man and his family, they can’t escape the fact that this is a real miracle, so they try and convince the man that he should thank God for the miracle, but this Jesus is not authentic. The more they question him, the more he becomes a vocal advocate for Jesus. Finally at one point the religious leaders get fed up and they say ‘who are you to teach us anything, YOU WERE ALL TOGETHER BORIN IN SIN!’ There it is, that underlying accusation that he always felt from the religious crowd- you know, the group who always had their act together, they prided themselves in their upper class status ‘thank God that I am not like this beggar’ type of thing. But now, at the moment of truth, they blurt it out ‘Look at you, your whole life has been a testimony of your utter worthlessness, sure we never said it openly, but we always felt that way’ so the truth came out. I had a good friend a few years ago, New York Tony, he was a homeless brother that came from my home turf, never knew him from the north, but ran into him while making the rounds. Tony was a good friend, hooked on Coke and Crack, but a hard worker and Army vet. Tony used to always question why he was like the way he was, he was adopted and he thought maybe his real mom passed something off to him- was he like this because of what he did, or what his parents did? In the religious world we often create mindsets that say to people ‘surely if you were right with God, these things wouldn’t have happened to you’ we often violate the mandate from James ‘Don’t despise the poor’. At the end of the chapter Jesus tells the man that he came into the world to make the blind see, and the ‘seers’ blind. The religious leaders would find no help until they got to the end of their rope, the point where they could say ‘No Mas’ to the road they were on, but instead they said to Jesus ‘No Mas’.
(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.
(1385) JOHN 4- Jesus does the unthinkable, he travels thru a bad side of town- Samaria. If you read our Kings study you will remember the history of the region, by the time of Jesus day they were considered the ‘dogs’ of society. Now Jesus meets the woman at the well and they engage is this intriguing conversation, she brings up the debate over where the true place of worship should be- do we meet in the church building or the house? Ah, Jesus says ‘woman, the time is coming and it is even here now when the true worshippers of God will do it in spirit and truth’. It really wasn’t a matter of ‘where’. Okay, she gets into this religious discussion with this strange person in the middle of her busy day, she really doesn’t have time to get into the whole thing. But for some reason she’s drawn to this person, he seems to have insight that is rare for the day. Jesus tells her ‘if you knew who it was that you were talking to, you would have asked for water and I would have given you water that once a person drinks from they will never thirst again’. Okay, another one of those strange sayings, but she’s running out of time, she needs to finish her business at the well at get back to town. What the heck, she says ‘Okay, give me the water’ well, first we have to deal with a few things- remember I’m looking for sprit and truth, brutal honesty about your life and situation. This isn’t an encounter with some ‘wealth coach’ for heaven’s sake! Here we go ‘call your husband’ what? What a strange question to interject at this point-okay, she knows how to answer questions about her past in a way that makes it sound like everything is all right, when we all know it’s not. She says ‘I have no husband’ got ya now. Jesus tells her ‘you have spoken the truth’ the man your living with now is not your husband, and you have been divorced 5 times already, so yes, you ‘have no husband’. Okay, this is where the rubber meets the road, this is what Jesus was getting at when he told her that worship is not about ‘where’ but about truth and honesty when confronted by God. At this point many walk away and stay offended for life, but she was thirsty enough to allow the confrontation/offense to happen. ‘Well, I know that the Messiah is going to come some day, and when he comes he will tell us all things’! It was really a shot at Jesus ‘sure, you know SOME STUFF about me, but the real Messiah knows everything!’ Jesus says ‘I that speak unto you am he’. At that point the disciples returned with the food, they are shocked that Jesus is engaging this woman, they must be thinking ‘thank God the Pharisees aren’t here for this one’ I mean they were always looking for an excuse to discredit him. Well the woman goes back into town and tells all the other ‘mongrels’ about Jesus, he is invited to the town and spends 2 days and this truly is the first great ‘gentile/Samaritan’ outreach of the first century. In our day there is much debate about the how and way to ‘do church’ much of what is missing from the conversation is the ‘spirit and truth’ aspect. I have noticed that when a famous preacher falls into some public sin, that when they make the rounds [Larry King, etc.] there is much interest. People want to know that the things that they have struggled with are also things that we all deal with. The ‘spirit and truth’ aspect is often missing from our modern practice of Christianity. This woman allowed the confrontation to happen; it needed to happen for her to get to the next step where she would believe that Jesus was the Messiah. She truly found the water that she asked for.
(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.
(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!
(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.
(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’.
(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.
(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’.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
Thought this article was pretty good, it was on ‘the Christian post’
Theology Group Reflects on Impact of Prosperity Gospel
The growing prevalence of the prosperity gospel around the world, and particularly in Africa, has prompted a group of theologians to release a statement of concern and a call for further reflection.
Thu, Dec. 17, 2009 Posted: 06:29 PM EDT
The growing prevalence of the prosperity gospel around the world, and particularly in Africa, has prompted a group of theologians to release a statement of concern and a call for further reflection.
While recognizing that “there are some dimensions of prosperity teaching that have roots in the Bible,” the Lausanne Theology Working Group says its overall view is that “the teachings of those who most vigorously promote the ‘prosperity gospel’ are false and gravely distorting of the Bible.”
The statement was released this month through Christianity Today and is derived from a number of papers that were discussed at the group’s meetings in October 2008 and September 2009.
The theology group, which includes the Revs. Dr. Chris Wright and Dr. John Azumah, makes clear that its intent is not to be “exclusively negative” regarding the health and wealth gospel and recognizes the social realities within which the teaching flourishes. But the group finds the overall impact of the teachings on churches pastorally damaging, spiritually unhealthy and may even deflect people from the message and means of eternal salvation.
“We … request the Lausanne movement to be willing to make a very clear statement rejecting the excesses of prosperity teaching as incompatible with evangelical biblical Christianity,” the statement reads.
Prosperity gospel, as defined by the Lausanne theologians, is the teaching that “believers have a right to the blessings of health and wealth and that they can obtain these blessings through positive confessions of faith and the ‘sowing of seeds’ through the faithful payments of tithes and offerings.”
Pentecostal churches are largely associated with the teaching. In a 2006 Pew Forum survey, majorities of Pentecostals in the 10 countries surveyed said they believe God will grant good health and relief from sickness to believers who have enough faith; and in nine of the countries, most Pentecostals say that God will grant material prosperity to all who have enough faith. Higher majorities of African believers were found to embrace the teachings.
The prosperity gospel, however, is a phenomenon that cuts across denominational barriers, the Lausanne group acknowledges, and can be found in charismatic as well as mainstream Protestant churches.
Among some of the prosperity teachings the theologians reject is the notion that “God’s miraculous power can be treated as automatic, or at the disposal of human techniques, or manipulated by human words, actions or rituals.”
They also “deplore the clear evidence that many of them have in practice moved away from key and fundamental tenets of evangelical faith, including the authority and priority of the Bible as the Word of God, and the centrality of the cross of Christ.”
While recognizing the phenomenal growth of the numbers of professing Christians and the testimonies of those who have been positively impacted by prosperity teachings, the group observes equally the many people who have been “duped” by the teachings into false faith and false expectations.
The Lausanne group also points out the flamboyant lifestyle and manipulative behavior of many leaders who promote prosperity teachings as unethical and idolatrous.
While the prosperity gospel enriches those who preach it, multitudes of people, particularly the poor, are left no better off than before and with the added burden of disappointed hopes, the statement adds.
The statement notes that much of the teaching comes from North American sources.
In the United States, six ministries that promote the prosperity gospel are being investigated by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) following media reports and allegations of opulent spending and possible abuse of nonprofit status. They have been asked to submit financial records and answer questions regarding organizational and personal spending. The ministries being probed include Joyce Meyer Ministries, World Healing Center Church, Without Walls International Church, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church/Eddie L. Long Ministries, Kenneth Copeland Ministries, and World Changers Church International/Creflo Dollar Ministries.
The Lausanne Theology Working Group serves the Lausanne Movement, a Christian movement focused on world evangelization.
Christian Post Reporter
Copyright © 2006 Christianpost.com.
(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!
(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.
(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.
(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?
(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!
just a comment I left on Christianity today, they are having a global conversation on the prosperity gospel- One aspect that is often overlooked is the change in ‘style’ from the Old Testament prosperity teachings and the very strong language woven thru out the N.T. on the praise of the poor [yes praise! Read James] when ‘using’ scripture to glean truths for our day, we must ‘filter’ the Old Testament thru the message of the Cross.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(1267) 2ND KINGS 14:1-20 Amaziah becomes king over Judah and avenges the assassination of his father. Yet he does not kill the sons of those who murdered his father, why? Because the law of God said the children should not be put to death for the sins of their fathers, Amaziah did justice, but also melded it with mercy. He then sends a message to the king of Israel to come and meet in a challenge. The king of Israel gives him a little parable that basically says ‘look, you had a victory over Edom, don’t let that go to your head, just because you won in one nation doesn’t mean you can repeat the strategy everywhere [ouch! That is ouch to our present situation in the world]. But Amaziah won’t listen and they come out to battle, sure enough Judah suffers a loss and Israel breaks down the wall of Jerusalem and takes the precious riches from the temple. Okay, sometimes wisdom says slow down and don’t start too many wars at once; in this case Amaziah did a few good things but then allowed inexperience to rule the day. He also acted justly in the execution of those who killed his father by not taking it out on the kids. We seem to have 2 extremes in the modern church; 1- we really don’t like to deal with past mistakes and errors that have caused damage to Gods people, we feel like dealing with issues in a just way is wrong. 2- When we do decide to deal with them, we usually ‘kill the kids’, that is we go too far and mount a personal campaign against those who were really not responsible for the ‘parent’s sins’. We as believers need to be careful when embracing ideologies that say ‘let’s kill those damn terrorists, along with the families and kids and every one of their offspring’ these ways of thinking are not in keeping with even the Old Testament ethics of war, never mind the actual pacifist teachings of Jesus! I was watching a conservative news program the other day [you can guess the network- it’s the same name that Jesus called Herod] and the commentator said he wanted our military to go out and kill as many of these radical Muslims as we could find. Will that strategy ever really work? You will have no end to the killing because the mindset has not changed. Now I do realize that as a country we do have the right to intercept and go after those who are planning and strategizing against us, but the point is to simply think if we try and kill all ‘the offspring’ of those who harmed us will work, we are fooling ourselves. Amaziah dealt with the parents and stopped short when it came to the next generation. He also overstepped his resources by assuming a victory over one nation [Edom-Iraq] could easily be repeated in another [Israel-Afghanistan] as believers we need to have more of a plan than just ‘lets kill them all’ we need both progressive [liberal] and conservative voices to be heard, don’t just swallow the party line [on either side!].
(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.
(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.
(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.
(1251) 2ND KINGS 7- Elisha is before the elders and the city is in trouble, the king of Israel is blaming the recession on the Christian conservatives and Elisha is being targeted. Now comes the true test of a prophet; Elisha says ‘by this time tomorrow the price of goods will be next to nothing, inflation will be gone and the recession over’. How can this happen? One of the men says ‘even if God opened the windows of heaven things cannot turn around this fast’. Wrong response, Elisha tells him ‘because you doubt, you will see it with your eyes but not experience it’. Okay, that night there are these 4 outcasts of society living at the city gate, they are lepers. You know, the type of people that nobody wants to be around. O sure the religious institutions have started all types of leper helping ministries, and the local religious folk give to these ministries, but nobody really wants to personally get involved. So these outcasts are at the city gate and they say ‘look at our plight, we are sitting here at the gate and will surely die, if we go into town the famine will kill us. If we go to the Syrians, sure they might kill us too, but maybe they will feed us and spare us, heck if we die we die!’ I like their outlook, even in the midst of great personal turmoil and sickness; they make one last ditch effort to turn things around. We need more brothers like this. So they go to the enemy camp and lo and behold [yes it’s corny] they find all the wealth and goods of the Syrian army, but no one’s there! God supernaturally caused the sound of the heavenly chariots to be heard by the army and they fled out of fear, casting away all their goods on the way out. So these lepers cant believe their eyes, they hit the jackpot. So they start going from tent to tent and take the stuff and go and hide it. After a few hours of hording and building wealth, they realize they are not doing right. They decide to go back to the city and tell their people what happened. They go to town and tell the king, he can’t believe it, he thinks ‘sure, this is a trap set up by my enemies’. Notice how both sides were battling paranoia, the Syrians fled thinking the armies were at the door, and the king of Israel thinks it’s a trap too. So they send some men to check it out and sure enough it’s true, the famine is over and the commodities are selling at a ridiculously cheap price. The brother who said ‘God could not do this even if he opened up heavenly windows’, he gets trampled at the gate by the gold rush and sees it with his eyes but never benefits from it, he dies. Okay, God is able to turn things around on a dime, though the economy was in shambles, the king/president thinks all is lost, no chance of a second term. Yet at the moment of great desperation God comes thru, the prophet [believers] was willing to use his gift to turn things around, and that’s exactly what happened. We as a people need to check our hearts and see if we really want the success ‘of the king’. Are we willing to do what Elisha did and pool our gifts for the success of the nation? Or have we become so cynical that we secretly desire the failure of the nation so we can feel vindicated? The lepers were tempted to horde the wealth and use it for their own benefit; after all they were God fearing capitalists! Why should they have to share their stuff with everybody else? Yet they chose to not ‘store up for themselves treasures on earth’ [Jesus] and did the right thing. Geez, I just wish we could find some contemporary comparisons for this stuff.
(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.
(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!]
(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.
(1232) 2ND CORINTHIANS 9- Paul encourages the church to be generous ‘give much, and you will be blessed much’. The principle is clear. The other day I wrote on the verse ‘he hath distributed and given to the poor, his good works will endure’ [my paraphrase] let me give you what the message bible says- ‘he throws caution to the wind, giving to the needy with reckless abandon’. Yesterday my friend John David came by. He’s the friend I wrote about a few weeks ago, one of the local homeless guys. John is doing well; he made it thru the local drug rehab and is attending the aa/na meetings. John is really excited about the lord, even though he is an older brother  he really wants to do things for God. I gave him a few old copies of some of my original books I wrote years ago, and I gave him all the cash I had [around 15 dollars from my wallet]. He didn’t ask for it, I just felt ‘what the heck, if I don’t give it I’ll just spend it’. Later my wife asked me if I could take my daughter to get her I.D. at the driver’s license place. You need cash, it’s around 16 dollars. I thought ‘geez, maybe I’m too reckless in giving to my buddies’ and then I read this verse this morning. Paul exhorts these believers to give themselves and their goods away for the gospel. He challenges us to live with ‘reckless abandon’ knowing that our lives are like a vapor that appear for a little while and then vanish away [James]. If you give yourself away, God will increase ‘your seed’ and multiply the results 100 times, but you must lay down your life first. Jesus said unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abideth alone. But if it dies it will bring forth much fruit. He was speaking of his impending death, how he saw it as a necessary event for the purposes of God. Paul also says in his letter ‘if Jesus died for everyone, then we are all dead. He then that lives should now live for God.’ We are not here to please ourselves, to derive some type of fulfillment through our Christian experience. That is to ‘seek to save our lives’ we are here to lay them down for a greater cause, Jesus showed us how this must be done.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(1199) WHY ME? As we wrap up Luke 20, we see Jesus dealing with a few issues. The religious leaders are trying to trick him into saying something that will offend the people [or the govt.] ‘Should we pay taxes or not’ one of those questions that gets you into trouble no matter what you say, Jesus answered with wisdom. Again they put a question to him about the resurrection; he stumps them on this one too! Now it’s his turn ‘you tell me, how can Christ be David’s son if David prophesied about him, saying “the Lord said unto my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool” [Jesus was quoting King David in Psalms]. They had no idea how to handle his wisdom, they decided to go another route [like crucify him]. I find it amazing that Jesus saw himself in the prophetic portions of the Psalms, I mean He and the Father and Spirit all existed together from eternity, they had a Divine counsel that knew that one of them would eventually become man and die for the world. Yet the Holy Spirit would ‘give voice’ to the Sons agony and victory before the Son was born into a human body. Sort of like a pre incarnation of the Spirit thru the prophets, King David being one of the most significant of the prophets. Jesus would see his own agony being prophesied thru the prophets ‘my God, my God, why have you forsaken me’- ‘thou hast done this to me’ David would say in Psalms 22. I read a good article last week about a Christian professor from Harvard. He shared how thru out the years he felt guilty that he had such a good life, that things always seemed to turn out good for him. Then one day he had a flat, got out of the car to change the tire and did something to his back. Since that time he has suffered chronic back pain that is excruciating, I could identify. Then after he took the job at Harvard one of his children contracted a deadly disease and his marriage was on the rocks. Then he found out that he had cancer, they treated him and he prayed that the lord would heal him, after a year or so it has spread to his lungs and other areas, he has around a year or so to live. He shared his thoughts and spoke of the sovereignty of God. Talked about what the biblical characters went thru, things that they suffered. He placed everything in proper balance and understood that though God didn’t ‘do this to him’ yet God did permit it to happen. I also realize that there are whole belief systems that as soon as they read this entry they started looking for the reasons ‘a ha, see, he didn’t know/practice a positive confession. That’s what happened’ this belief system confronts the suffering person with the same accusations of Job’s friends, not much help when your going thru hell. Jesus was reading the Psalms ever since he was a boy, he began seeing how he was fulfilling something that was put into action before the foundation of the world was laid. He was the second person of the Trinity who would come to the planet and suffer many things, he would be rejected of men and rise on the third day. He knew a lot was riding on his shoulders, he must have been impacted to some degree when he realized he was reading his own biography thru the writings of Kind David, especially when he said ‘thou hast done this to me’.
(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.
(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.
(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]!
(1187) CASH FOR CLUNKERS- In Luke 16 we have the parable of the steward who wasted his master’s money. Jesus says there was this employee who was reported to have swindled his boss. The boss calls him on the carpet and the employee gets busted. He thinks ‘geez, I am going to lose my job [you know, the recession and all] what will I do for cash?’ [Oh, I don’t know. What about taking whatever you can find?] He says ‘I can’t dig [why not?] to beg I am ashamed [now we are running out of options] I know, I’ll contact all my bosses debtors and reduce their bills’. He takes option number 3 and gets in good with the guys who owed his boss money. Notice, this option really didn’t produce wealth, it simply lost it. Right now our country is doing the ‘cash for clunkers’ program, you can take your old gas guzzler in and the govt. pays the dealer $4,500 dollars for the car. The dealer then destroys it. The idea is the govt. is getting the polluters off the road while the dealers are doing business. You know how many of these clunkers could put my buddies to work? Guys trying to buy clunkers for a few hundred, these so called clunkers that are being traded in are pretty good vehicles. If you simply gave them to unemployed people who really needed them this would help them and the economy. How many junk yards could have done business with the parts? I realize the reason for destroying them is for environmental concerns, but we are having major unemployment right now, this deal doesn’t help them. So the steward wrote off some value. Then at the end the Lord commends the guy for being wise, doing what he had to do. The parable ends with the famous verse ‘you cannot serve God and money, if you try and do both you will wind up hating one and loving the other’ note to you readers, if this verse just offended you, in a small sense you are ‘hating one of them’ right now. I like Jesus forward preaching, you never left the sermon wondering what his point was. In life we all do what we need to at times, this employee cut off two viable options right at the start [work, beg] make sure the reason you seem to have no options isn’t because your standards are too high. I get a kick out of some of my buddies who wont work for a ‘measly 7 dollars an hour’ but have no problem dumpster diving for a left over pizza! Sometimes we are the problem. And sometimes we are ‘unprofitable’ because we are too caught up in the material pursuits of life. Jesus does say those who were not faithful in temporary riches [money] would be unfaithful in the true riches [spiritual wealth]. I know there are many ideas on what this means, but one way we become faithful in natural wealth is by not letting it consume us, by not being too preoccupied with the obtaining of the stuff. These are the main points of Jesus in these stories; we seem to miss the main points a little too much.
(1181) Well we had a good day at the river yesterday, we went to San Antonio [New Braunfels] and rode the river in the inner tubes. I actually pray regularly for this area, stuff like ‘your people will rise up and overflow the river banks and flow into Judah’ ‘you will be like fountains dispersed abroad, like rivers of waters in the streets’ [bible verses] so it was cool floating down a river with hundreds of people who you regularly pray for. On the ride back I also noticed some famous churches along the highway, basically good people, charismatic type personalities who I used to catch on TV [I haven’t watched shows like that in a few years now, not because their bad or wicked, but too disconnected from the historic context of Christianity- a simple success gospel with no real attachment to the historic church]. So it was fun. Okay in Luke Jesus says when you have a dinner [B.B.Q.] invite the poor and down and out, don’t invite the rich and well to do [man, he is so hard on the affluent!] because if you invite people with the mindset of ‘reaping a harvest’ now, you forfeit a true reward. Jesus says the reward you get will be at the resurrection [no material mindset here, no money thing in the here and now] this is Luke 14 by the way. It’s a mystery to me how so many well meaning streams of Christianity can completely by pass this central mode of Jesus teaching. James, Jesus’ brother, wrote in his epistle ‘when you favor the rich in your assembly and treat them better than the poor you are doing wrong’ [James 2- by the way this is the only reference in the New Testament that speaks of an assembly that can be translated as a place to meet. The context of James is Jewish believers, he obviously is referring to meeting at the synagogue. That probably would have been a better translation. The term for church, Ecclesia, never refers to a building]. So James obviously picked up this mantra from Jesus, you know, the whole negativity on the rich type preaching! Well today we see how Jesus wants us to approach our service to him, when we love our neighbor we are to act and show kindness and spend money [hey, brisket isn’t cheap!] and do it all with a mindset that says ‘no, I am not doing all this so I can get some type of financial reward in the here and now, Jesus will reward me at the resurrection’ I like this stuff, you might not like it, but I love it.
(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.
(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?
(1171) Just read the story where a brother asks Jesus to help him with his finances; he asks ‘tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me’. Jesus says ‘man, who made you think I was about money stuff’? Then he gives a famous verse ‘beware of covetousness, for a mans life consists not in the abundance of the things that he owns’. It’s strange, but this is one of the first verses I memorized as a Christian, there was no particular reason for me to have focused on it, but now all these years later it seems to have been prophetic, being a major part of our teaching is based on this verse. Jesus then gives the parable of the rich man who tore down his barns and built greater ones to store his goods, Jesus puts these words in his mouth ‘I will say to myself, soul you have many goods for many years down the road. I can now find comfort in my wealth and enjoy the coming years’ Jesus says the man died that night. He then warns the rich to be rich towards God, and not to find a sense of security by the size of their 401 k. I remember seeing a commercial on investing, it shows a woman discussing her wealth and she says ‘I feel so safe’ about her wealth. She was expressing the feeling of security that comes from investments. It caught perfectly the warning of Jesus, covetousness has effected the church because we have allowed our financial empires to give us a sense of peace and security, contrary to the teaching of Jesus. Jesus warned us to beware of this type of mindset, if it wasn’t a real danger that people would fall into, he wouldn’t have told us to beware!
(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]
(1152) In Luke 4 we read the temptation of Jesus by the devil. The basic temptation to lust [eat bread- hedonism] to gain self glory [all the kingdoms will be yours] and last but not least, the temptation of victim hood [cast yourself down!] Being I am reading somewhat on the various ideas of the inspiration of the bible, let’s do the response of Jesus to the bread test. Jesus said ‘man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God’. Over the centuries you have had various views on the inspiration of scripture, did the historic church believe in it, some ask. Others say the doctrine was invented by scholars in the 19th century. Some say the main intent of God is inspired ‘the voice’ of God, while the individual words are not. Karl Barth is considered one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century. The Swiss scholar had a view of inspiration that said the bible ‘becomes’ the word of God to us when the Spirit himself communicates to us thru it. It was sort of a ‘Rhema’ type teaching, that which is popular among Word of Faith churches. Barth was actually making a noble effort to regain the authority of scripture at a time where many scholars were throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Is Barth’s idea the same as what the historic church believes? No. Does his idea have some truth to it? Yes. There are times where we as believers ‘hear’ God in a special way thru scripture. He might even speak to you in a way that is ‘out of context’. Sort of like if you were seeking insight to something, and then a verse says something that causes you to see things from a different perspective. The verse might not be speaking directly about your situation, but you know the Lord has spoken to you. This is okay for personal stuff, but you should not use this method to develop doctrine. Jesus told the devil that we need to live off of every word from God, the whole voice of God in context with the whole story. To proof text stuff [picking out single verses and making them say what you want] is not eating every word! As the church changes and reforms in our day, some have seriously questioned the idea of inspiration. Some have questioned the idea of whether or not we can even know what God is saying! Ultimately, the truth of God must be objective in order for any case to be made about anything. Is it possible for things to be true even if the record of those things are not infallible? Of course! We believe the history of our country and the history of the world based on fallible documents. We can know certain facts beyond a reasonable doubt with out having to have an infallible recording of those facts. But this is not what the church teaches about the bible. The church teaches that we have an inspired record of those facts. The word of God is true, it does not err! I believe this, though I am somewhat of a radical in the things I teach, whether it’s on church reform or end time stuff or railing against the prosperity movement. Yet without a truth standard that we can all go by [the bible] these arguments would all fall to the ground. As we change and reform as the people of God, we want to be open to different sides of the debates that go on in the church, hear and listen to what people are saying. But don’t reject/challenge things just because it’s popular to do so, in the end we don’t want a whole new crop of believers who don’t believe in the word of God, this would hurt the cause of Christ.
(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.
(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.
(1133) Nehemiah 10- Because of the reading of the law, the people reform. They were ignorant of many of Gods commands, after they had their minds renewed to the Word, they made adjustments. The scripture says they separated themselves and walked according to God’s wisdom. Let’s talk a little. What does it mean to be ‘separated’ from the world? I have mentioned in the past that right after becoming a believer I attended a Fundamental Baptist Church for a few years. The church and the Pastor/people were and are great people. After leaving the church [and while attending as well] I came to see that certain groups practice a form of ‘separation’ that can be legalistic. This view sees current dress standards, watching movies [or TV] and other cultural trends as being worldly. Now, there is no doubt that movies and the media bombard the Christian with images and ideas that are contrary to Gods Word! But my view is these things [forms of media themselves, or changing dress codes] are not the heart of the matter. But there is a ‘worldly’ mentality that people can embrace. The current debate on abortion has the pro abortion groups lobbying for changes to the law on who has to provide abortions. President Obama is changing the standards that have been in place for years. There is currently a loophole for Christian doctors to abstain from this procedure because of conscience sake. Obama is trying to change that. They want to make it where if there are no other providers around, that the Christian doctor must ‘kill your kid’. Think of this for a moment; some people are so influenced by the culture of death that they would see it as a great victory to make a Christian doctor dismember their baby! The world’s mindset can be deadly. Now as the people in Nehemiah’s day repent, they restore the practice of the Sabbath year forgiving of debts. Israel had both a 7 year ‘bankruptcy’ type thing, where after 7 years the books are cleared. They also had a 50 year Jubilee, at the end of 50 years the title deeds to properties went back to the original owner. Once again, lets examine our mindsets; what would you say if Obama tried something like this? Would you rant and rave about socialism? Would Rush and Hannity fall over dead? Yet Gods ways are not ours, he is neither a Republican, Democrat, Socialist or any thing else. His kingdom is a Divine monarchy for heavens sake! He is the King and what he says goes, that’s it. By the way, this principle of letting things go back in the 50th year engrained in the community that they really didn’t own stuff. They were just stewards of Gods stuff. The biblical picture of land and homes and farms was that people simply were taking care of these things, God was the true land owner. That’s why Jesus and his men ‘picked the corn [grain]’ and ate it. God had already instilled this command in the law. Though the farms and fields were ‘owned’ by the land owner, yet ultimately everything belonged to God. How do we live our lives? Have we become affected by the culture to such a degree that the U.S. constitution takes precedence over Gods Word? Do you get upset [or enraged!] when some politician questions your right to own a gun? Jesus said someday the guns will be beaten into farming tools! I don’t want to debate the whole gun thing, I just wanted to give you a little test to see whose standard you are being effected by, we all need to re-tool our thinking to a biblical worldview, it is often mistaken with human world views.