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Statement of Faith- 2-11

[2-2011 posts] STATEMENT OF FAITH

[1511] Jesus said when people hear the ‘word of the kingdom’ and don’t understand it; that the devil comes and takes the word out of their hearts. Right now in our country there is a rise in anger over the Muslim versus Christian traditions; many have made a ‘cause célèbre’ over the mosque being built close to the 911 tragedy. Over the years as I have studied the various faiths and the history of Christianity, I have come to see that many sincere people of various faiths have been a victim of the ‘devil stealing the word of the kingdom’ from their hearts. That is many sincere people have never truly understood or grasped the real kingdom message of Jesus. As the Christian church progressed thru the centuries, many have come to define the faith as a strict orthodox interpretation of the Trinity, the 2 natures of Jesus, and other historic declarations of orthodox Christianity. While I fully agree and hold to these historic creedal truths, what has happened is the other 2 major world religions- Islam and Judaism- have come to define the historic faith by these statements. They have never really understood the main Christian message of God reconciling man thru Christ. They see Christianity thru the lens of ‘that religion is the religion of western civilization’ and they have never been able to grasp the ‘full world’ nature of the kingdom. A few years ago I had a chance encounter with a Muslim. As we talked I asked him if he knew the history of Abraham and the story of Isaac and Ishmael; to my surprise he was not aware of the story found in the Old Testament. I then did about a 20 minute ‘bible study’ and explained to him how God always had a purpose and destiny for the Arab world- many trace the lineage of the Arabs to Ishmael, the step brother of Isaac. It’s a little too much to do right now, but I tried to break down the cultural barrier of viewing Christianity as an ethnic/western mans religion, and presented the ‘kingdom’ in a way that he could understand and see the main message of reconciliation of all races of people thru Christ. Too many people define the Christian message as a political agenda- or they see the very technical orthodox interpretations of the various doctrines of the faith- and they never really hear what the kingdom is all about. Jesus said this was a strategy of the enemy to prevent people from coming to the faith. As we are entering into a time of increased tension over Islam, let’s be good stewards of the faith and present a non ethnic/cultural message of acceptance and reconciliation of all nations thru Christ. I am not saying all people will automatically believe in the gospel, but I fear that many of them have never really heard it.

[1491] ‘Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children: and walk in love as Christ also has loved us, and hath given himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour’. Ephesians 5:1-2. The early church had a tag stuck on them- they were called ‘followers of the way’. Paul exhorts the believers to be followers of God; he goes thru the first half of the chapter and speaks about ‘not sinning’ yes- those who commit adultery, lie, cheat, use bad language, these do not inherit Gods kingdom. Strong stuff indeed. The early church saw Christianity more along the lines of being a follower of a person [Jesus] than embracing a set of doctrines. Now, there was a core set of beliefs that the early church did hold to, the New Testament defines it as ‘the faith once delivered to the saints’. Many believe that the statement of Paul in 1st Corinthians 15 ‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures…’ many believe that this portion of scripture was first an oral tradition among the early believers; that is they might have used this as an early creed. And the church did have what was called a ‘krygma’ a compact set of beliefs that was considered to be the core beliefs of the Christian faith. The point being we had a concise set of beliefs, but we also had a strict moral code, one that was to be lived by the power of the Spirit, but yet strict as compared with today’s standards. Paul tells the church ‘be followers of God’ we are told to imitate Christ, to be like him. As Christianity progressed down thru the ages many came to define authentic faith as embracing the more orthodox set of beliefs that were being hammered out thru the creeds and councils of the church- some came to see Christianity strictly along these lines. I think it would do us all some good if we began seeing ourselves once again as followers of ‘the way’ that is people who call Jesus Lord and ‘follow God’. Yes, we appreciate and hold to the historic Christian faith, that’s important- but we also ‘follow God’.

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

[1486] ARIUS- a priest from Egypt who would challenge the deity of Jesus in the 4th century. Arius taught that Jesus was the Son of God, but not eternally the Son. He said Jesus was a created being whom the father ‘bestowed’ son ship upon. He taught that Jesus was ‘like God’ but not God. The emperor Constantine would call the famous council of Nicaea in 325 a.d. and the council would agree with Athanasius and say that the Son and the Father were of ‘the same substance’ [homoousios] and Arius’s belief would be rejected. The debate would still rage on thru out the century as Constantine would die and the new emperor from the east would hold to ‘Arian’ views. Eventually Orthodoxy would win out and Arianism would be rejected by the majority of believers. I should note that many of the oriental churches would go the way of Arianism till this day; some of these churches are not like the modern cults that we would automatically reject, but they do hold to beliefs that Orthodox Christianity has rejected. As I have written about before, it’s easy to see how various believers have struggled with these issues over the years, some of the ways people express things can be deemed heresy a little too quickly in my view. There are believers who express the deity of Jesus in ways that some Arians express it, and they are not full Arians! The point being, yes- Arian went too far in his belief that Jesus was a created being, Johns gospel refutes this belief strongly [as well as many other portions of scripture] but too say that Jesus was/is the full expression of the father, because he ‘came out from God’ is also in keeping with scripture. Today we should be familiar with the issues and also use much grace when labeling different groups of believers; and we should strive for a unity in the Spirit as much as possible. As believers we accept the full deity of Christ, one who is of the ‘same substance’ of the father- true God from true God. He who has seen the Son has seen the father- Jesus said to Phillip ‘I have been with you a long time, if you see and know me, you have seen and known my father’ Jesus is God come down in the flesh to dwell among men, the true Immanuel, God with us.

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

[1454] ON INFANT BAPTISM- I have been listening to an interesting debate on infant baptism; it’s being held between two good scholars. I have said before that I do not believe in infant baptism, but I also understand the case made for it. Basically those who practice it believe that baptism is a sign of the new covenant, and like circumcision in the old covenant, it’s alright to baptize new borns under the new. The minister presenting the adult baptism only side did a good job, as did the one who advocated for infant baptism. The only problem with the argument from the ‘adult baptism’ advocate was at the end of his message he appealed to the great 16th century reformers [Luther, Calvin, etc.] and made the case that those who practice infant baptism are not in keeping with the reformers character in rejecting the ‘old papal heresies’. In fact the reformers accepted infant baptism and fought against those who rejected it. The most famous example being that of the Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli; he famously drowned the ‘Anabaptists’ [re-baptizers] for their unwillingness to baptize their new borns. The Anabaptists are sometimes called ‘the radical reformers’ they were a strain of believers who felt the reformers were still too bound by tradition, and they wanted a total return to the early practices of the church. And the centuries following would give rise to a whole host of various groups staking their claim on being the most accurate New Testament church. The point being that even though the minister who defended adult baptism only was standing on good biblical grounds, yet he used an example that was not totally accurate. It benefits all believers to be familiar with these arguments, if they are done in a spirit of friendship [which the above debate was done in] then they can help us progress along the lines of Christian unity. That is we still may hold to our peculiar position, and at the same time see the other point of view. Too often we are only familiar with our own position.

(1452) IMPUTATION- Okay, I am going to get a little technical today. Being we just came off of both a study of Galatians and a series on justification by faith, I want to hit a little on the doctrine of imputation. During the time of the reformation one of the areas of disagreement between Protestants and Catholics was the doctrine of justification by faith. Those of you who have read my studies realize that in this area I am Protestant, but my explanation on James chapter 2 [read the Justification by Faith study] leaves room for more agreement between Catholics and Protestants than we have had in the past. One of the other points of contention is the reformed position on God imputing the righteousness of Christ to the believer. Some Protestants teach it in a way that is not fully defined in scripture. Some teach that the righteous life of Christ, as a separate transaction from the sin bearing work of the Cross, is ‘imputed’ to the believer and this righteous account from Jesus is now counted towards us. I am not totally in disagreement with this doctrine, but some seem to teach it in a way that misreads some of the passages used to defend it. In my Romans study [chapter 5] I explained it somewhat. In Romans, Corinthians and Philippians we read verses that say ‘we are now saved by his life’ ‘we are made the righteousness of God thru Christ’ ‘thru the obedience of one man [Jesus] many are made righteous’- these verses teach us that the obedient life of Jesus qualified him to be the sin bearer of the sins of the world; he took our sins because he was sinless. He also lives at the right hand of God and is continually ‘saving’ us by his life. His obedience ‘unto death’ is also referred to in some of these passages- that is he obeyed the Father and went to the Cross for us- ‘thru one man’s obedience many are made righteous’ ‘he was obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross’ [Philippians]. Some seem to have confused some of these verses by teaching that they are saying ‘the obedient life of Jesus is now credited to us’. In actuality these few examples are really not saying it in this way. To be fair we do have the verses that say we are made the righteousness of God in Jesus- that Jesus is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification, and of course my last study showed all the verses that speak of us being justified by faith. But technically it is not a clearly taught doctrine that the positive account of Christ’s righteousness is taken and put on our account. At least it isn’t as taught as clearly as the actual doctrine of justification by faith, and as I just showed you some of the verses that are used to teach it are being read in a particular way that might not be in keeping with the text. Why wade into this discussion, isn’t it true that we are made just in God’s eyes because Jesus lived a holy life and died for us? Yes. It’s just some areas that are not clearly defined in scripture should be left open for further discussion and thought. As of the time of this writing this area is one of contention between some reformed theologians and other Orthodox/Catholic/Anglican believers [Anglican scholar Tom Wright being one]. I do not totally reject the doctrine; I believe the righteous life of Christ was a requirement for him going to the Cross for us. And I do believe God makes us righteous as a free gift of God, as Luther said ‘an alien righteousness’ it’s just not taught as clearly as some reformed teachers have developed the doctrine, and we want to be honest when dealing with these issues. I know for some of you guys these types of posts are a little ivory tower, but for others these things are important as we strive for greater unity among the Christian faiths.

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

(1446) ‘Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no man be justified’ ‘I do not frustrate the grace of God, if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain’ ‘But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for the just shall live by faith’ Galatians 2:16, 21, 3:11. Okay, these verses [as well as the book of Romans] strongly show us the New Testament doctrine of being justified when we believe in Christ. To many people this idea seems contrary to the normal belief that being a good person, doing good, going to ‘church’ trying to keep the 10 commandments; these are the normal ideas on what people think they need to do to ‘be saved’; yet the apostle shows us that our redemption is solely based on Christ’s death for us. He even says ‘if righteousness [being made just legally] comes by keeping the law, then Christ died in vain’! It almost seems strange for this doctrine to be found in the bible! Yet it is the basis of New Testament Christianity, which is based on a New Covenant [in contrast to the old one, which was the law] this New Covenant is grounded on the death and resurrection of Jesus; as Paul says ‘if Christ died for all of us, then we are all dead- so let those who now live, live unto God’. When I first became a Christian and started reading the bible, I saw these promises as saying ‘all who believe in Jesus are saved’ but I noticed how many believers taught a type of conversion that watered down this doctrine; some said ‘yes, you accept the Lord by faith’ and they seemed to add all types of steps that needed to be ‘done in faith’ in order to be a true believer. Whether it was an elaborate evangelical scheme that eventually led to kneeling at an altar in some church, or whether it was the exact memory and dating of the day you asked ‘Jesus into your heart’. Now I’m sure there are many fine believers who have come to the journey this way, my point is not to doubt their conversion; but the more I became aware of these many ideas, the more I studied the scriptures to see if faith really meant ‘faith’. My own conversion came from truly seeing the promises in John’s gospel on believing and having eternal life. It was more of an awakening, sort of God breaking thru and revealing grace to me. Now, my conversion was rather drastic, it wasn’t a slow coming to the Lord, but it didn’t fit the sinner’s prayer scheme that many of my Baptist friends embraced. I also noticed how many of my friends, after hearing the evangelical version for so long, would then ‘get saved’ for real! They would be convinced by some well meaning evangelist that their initial conversion was shot thru with holes, then they would sort of fabricate a ‘more legitimate’ conversion. Even strong believers would do this. So then you had to deal with the fact that these fellow believers, who were truly walking with the Lord for a while, were really lost all along! This process struck fear into the hearts of all the other church members, after all how many of them were deceived too? So I began to study the bible to see if bible conversions really meant this often elaborate schema. One thing I noticed is all of these verses on being justified by faith were based on the main promise to Abraham from God, which consisted of God taking Abraham outside and telling him ‘see the stars, your offspring will be like this’ and it actually was a passive act of belief, not some act of Abraham doing something, that is defined as the day God justified Abraham. Then I ran across Acts chapter 10, and this story shows Peter preaching to the gentiles and they simply believed the message and the Spirit fell on them- Peter was not expecting a conversion, they were surprised. This also was a passive type conversion. In the letter we are quoting from in this post [Galatians] Paul describes it like this ‘He that works miracles among you, does he do it by the works of the law or the HEARING OF FAITH’ Paul will describe their conversion as a point in time where they heard and had faith, again another seeming violation of the active conversion model. The main point being that yes, there are cases where the conversion is reduced to the simple act of believing in the gospel when it’s first preached. To be fair, in the New Testament the outward ‘act’ that usually took place on ‘conversion day’ was water baptism, so if we were totally honest with ourselves we could say that water baptism was the altar call of the New Testament, but the fact is faith itself is identified as the basis of our justification, faith in Christ.

(1445) WAS NOT ABRAHAM OUR FATHER JUSTIFED BY WORKS WHEN HE OFFERED ISAAC HIS SON UPON THE ALTAR- YE SEE THEN HOW THAT BY WORKS A MAN IS JUSTIFED AND NOT BY FAITH ONLY- WAS NOT RAHAB THE HARLOT JUSTFIED BY WORKS? James 2:22-26. Okay, in Genesis chapter 22 we read the story of God telling Abraham to offer up his son Isaac upon the altar. Abraham obeys God and at the last minute the Lord stops him; but the angel of the Lord says because he did this, that now God knows he can be trusted and God will fulfill his promise to him. James uses this story to define what he means when he speaks of ‘being justified’ in Gods sight. I believe there have been many noble attempts at trying to reconcile this passage with the passages in Romans and Galatians where Paul specifically says ‘a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith’. Paul clearly teaches us that men cannot be justified by the works of the law; James says ‘see how men are justified by works’. The explanations I have heard go like this ‘James was simply saying the faith that saves is an active living faith’ ‘James is simply saying men are justified in the sight of other men by their works’ ‘James is simply saying true faith has works along with it’ while all of these things are true, they seem to not adequately deal with the 3 passages I quoted at the top. James says that when Abraham offered up his son on the altar that the scripture was fulfilled that said ‘he believed in God and he counted it to him for righteousness’. James is fully aware of the Genesis 15 promise to Abraham, the key verse Paul uses to define justification by faith; it’s just James is speaking about the process thru out life where men actually become righteous in practice, which is a result of being legally made righteous by faith. In essence when James says ‘see how men are justified by works’ he is describing the act of God being pleased with us, God having the right to say ‘yes, you obeyed me son, and I call you righteous in my eyes because you did obey me’. This process can be defined as being ‘justified by works’ while not contradicting Paul use of the term ‘justification by faith’. To me it is quite clear that James is saying more than just ‘real faith has works’ no, he is saying that the legal/forensic act of justification by faith [Gen. 15] leads to a life of actually doing just things [obeying God- Gen. 22] and when the legally justified believer obeys God, in a sense he is justified in Gods sight [not men’s!] by these works. Now, this does not mean men are ‘saved’ by doing good works, in the sense that Paul uses ‘saved’ but James is saying that when believers do good works, these works cause a response from God that can be defined as ‘being justified in Gods sight by our good works’ a totally different theme than Paul. This passage has been a difficult one for many years, Luther battled with it and at one point called James epistle a ‘straw epistle’ he doubted its canonicity. The Catholic Church used this very passage in their council at Trent to refute what they saw as Luther’s neglect of good works. I have had Mormons and other various Christian groups use this passage in defending certain aspects of their churches; this passage is well worn in the annals of Christian apologetics, I think the explanation that I just gave is the best one; the other efforts that have been made to explain this passage have some truth to them, but at the end of the day they don’t fully explain the clear text of the above passages. I think this explanation explains them.

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

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

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

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

(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.

(1420) THE DOCTRINE ON WHICH THE CHURCH STANDS OR FALLS- In keeping with the last post lets overview some stuff. One of the main themes in the New Testament is the theme of justification by faith; the great reformer Martin Luther called this the doctrine on which the church stands or falls. If you go thru this blog and read the Galatians, Romans and Acts studies you will see what a major subject this is in the bible. Read Acts chapter 15 and you will see 3 specific statements made about what exactly the Jewish teachers out of Jerusalem were trying to put on the believers at Antioch; the chapter says they were trying to make them become circumcised, then it says to become circumcised and KEEP THE LAW OF MOSES, and then James will say the same in the final decree that was sent out to the gentile believers at Antioch. The point being the question very much was whether or not the gentile churches were to submit themselves under the ‘law of Moses’. In Galatians Paul says ‘if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain’ ‘I am crucified with Christ… and the life which I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God’ this theme runs thru out the corpus of Paul’s writings and there is absolutely no doubt that the apostle is saying the believer becomes right with God, by faith apart from the law. And that ‘the law’ in context means the whole law [ceremonial, sacrificial and the moral code- 10 commandments]. Paul himself told the Galatians ‘if you become circumcised Christ shall profit you nothing, for he that is circumcised has become a debtor to the whole law’ all of these statements in context would be meaningless if they simply meant the gentiles were not under the ceremonial law, but still bound by the moral law. When the decree made it back to the church at Antioch they rejoiced in the fact they they were not bound under the law, not so they could go on sinning, but because the New Covenant of grace frees us from the legalistic approach to Gods kingdom. Remember, Paul associated the ceremonial law [circumcision] with the moral law- if he were just speaking of believers not being under one aspect, but another, then this distinction would be meaningless. James said the church at Antioch were troubled by those who went to them and told them they needed to become circumcised AND keep the law of Moses, it is clear from these passages that the message of the New testament is believers are under grace and are not under the old law; once again we are told ‘does this mean we keep on sinning’? Paul’s response is always no, not based on the fact that we are still bound to the law, but based on the fact that we have been risen with Christ, we are ‘new creatures in Christ, the old has passed away’- I do not frustrate the grace of Christ, if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ died in vain!

(1419) ARE WE STILL UNDER THE LAW? I am a little of course this week; one of my favorite theologians who I hear just about every day on the radio is doing a series on how the believer is still under the law. He is a great reformed theologian, but in this area I have so small dissent. Just to be clear, I consider this a major error that strikes at the foundation of the gospel of grace. Many good men have held to this idea, they are confusing the gospel of grace when they do this. In reformed theology you have the majority of believers holding to ‘covenant theology’ versus ‘dispensational’. I agree 100 % with the dispensational view of the reformed [that is they reject it] but their understanding of the covenants also has some problems with it. They see the old covenant and the New Testament as 2 covenants [true] that have an overriding covenant of grace that works independently between them both. Again, another major error in my view. The idea is that in the old covenant people believed in the coming Messiah and as they looked forward to his future coming they were ‘saved’. There is some truth to this, Paul does use this example from the life of Abraham to prove this very point, but to than develop an idea that all the old testament saints sort of had this working knowledge of looking forward to Jesus and understanding that they were all saved by faith, well this goes too far in my view. First, Paul in the New Testament clearly lumps all the law together [ceremonial, sacrificial, moral] when saying Jesus nailed the written law to his Cross and freed us from it. You can’t read Romans and Galatians and not see this [Colossians too] the New Covenant in Jesus Blood is exactly that, a new covenant! [it did not exist before!] To carry the idea that people generally knew they were saved by grace under the old covenant seems to miss this truth. The law came by Moses, but grace and truth thru Jesus. While I agree that this reality does not mean we have the right to break Gods moral law, yet we are clearly not under it in an Old Testament sense. I can’t stress enough how much I think this doctrine is a major error in the understanding of many reformed theologians, it is often presented in a way that says this is the very reason why there is so much sin in the church, because Gods people don’t realize they are still under the law. Big, big mistake in my view. I still like much of reformed theology; it’s just in these areas I have major disagreements, to say the least.

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

(1407) THESE THINGS DOES THE LORD HATE…HE THAT SOWS DISCORD AMONG BRETHREN. HE DEVISETH MISCHIEF CONTINUALLY, HE SOWETH DISCORD. Proverbs 6. Okay, the health care package passed, many are upset and some have crossed the line in their language. Even though statements like ‘reload’ [Palin] ‘he’ll be a dead man’ [Boehner] and others are talking political speech, yet in this atmosphere we all need to avoid using words that can be taken the wrong way by unstable people. Recently here in Texas we had the famous school board controversy over what to include in the schoolbooks, I have written about it a few posts ago. One of the school board people is from my home town of Corpus; she is a Hispanic woman who is involved in politics a lot. Now, I’m sure she means well, but our paper had a picture of her sitting at her office desk with a bunch of anti white slogans all over her desk. I’m sure she does not mean to be racist, I’m sure she views her opinion thru the light of standing up for minorities, but the fact is you can’t have any ethnic representative openly advocate for their own race, and to use wording that publicly says things that imply ‘whitey is the enemy’ [she has regularly used the term ‘white wash’ in describing the white board members resistance to including more Hispanic people into the history books]. Now I’m going to be honest about South Texas politics, I have been living here for 30 years, many of the prejudices against minorities have been expressed by the majority Hispanic democratic leaders [I am not saying all Hispanics are racist!] The reality is the Black minorities have been discriminated against in the political system. Some have actually said ‘when they were in power they didn’t help us, now it’s their turn’ [a prominent Hispanic politician about not supporting president Obama]. So the facts on the ground are different than what many people think. I believe we should include prominent Hispanic and Black leaders into the history books, men like Cesar Chavez are truly great examples, but when any representative publicly says her goal is to advance her ethnic groups cause, and that the ‘white washers’ are the enemy- this is unacceptable speech too. Who has opened the door for this type of stuff? Gods people. One of the most prominent themes of American preaching is a theme that is shot thru with racist overtones. The popular prophecy preaching of the day teaches that Gods end time events are triggered by a special role that ethnic Israel plays in God’s plan. This system [dispensationalism] teaches that God most certainly prefers one ethnic race over another. It is in contradiction to the ethos of the New Testament which teaches that in Christ there is ‘neither Jew nor Greek, male or female, slave or free- we are all one in Christ Jesus’. The people of God are the plumb line of society, the world around us will never display a higher level of morality than the church- when we as Gods people rise above these ethnic divisions, we will be like leaven in society that effects the whole lump. When we continually sow discord we displease God.

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

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

(1401) GLENN BECK- Okay, this past week Beck stirred up a controversy by telling people that if their churches use language like ‘social justice’ that you should leave the church. Beck showed how many of the liberal movements of the past, both inside and outside the church, used this language and also were socialist. Is Beck right to warn people about this? 50-50. In reality most Christian churches [if not all] have some belief about social justice, that is doing good, being charitable, etc. You also have strains of theology that touch on these issues [liberation theology, Rev. Wrights church, etc.] these see the role of the church in setting up systems that would mediate ‘social justice’ programs thru the state- not all Christians accept this premise. Overall we as believers should value social justice very highly on the scale of Christian service and belief. Beck seems to mean well, but the poor brother seems to be a little unhinged at times [like between 4 pm and 5pm every day or so]. In John 16 Jesus tells his men ‘a time is coming when those who kill you will think they are serving God’. Here in is a strange thing; out of all the commands of God, one of the most important ones is not to kill. But Jesus says that men are so susceptible to the influence of the world that they can even be convinced that killing other people is ‘doing God’s will’. Now, if I were to tell you at a young age ‘little Johnny, you will walk the planet for a few short years [70-80?] one of the most important things you need to avoid, more than anything else, is don’t kill other people’ got it- I mean how hard can this be? Yet Jesus says there will come a time when people think killing other people is ‘doing God’s will’ Huh? Okay as the year’s role by people all over the world are born and have been taught some version of this natural law, often given by their own belief system in God. So you have those in Islamic countries who eventually are shaped by their nations political causes and a time comes when they blowup other adherents to their own religion and shout ‘God is great’ as they kill themselves and others with them, they think they are doing ‘God service’. But you also have little Johnny growing up in the western world, he attends church as a boy, is taught lessons from the bible, and thru process of time joins the military. He is a good man, means well, and is taught that God and country go together. He even remembers attending some patriotic religious rallies over the years. He gets sent off to Afghanistan and winds up killing a woman with child. He either mistook her for an enemy combatant, or maybe she violated a safe zone. Either way, the one main command above all other commands, the thing that you were always told was the main thing to never do, you wind up doing. You even think that it is your patriotic duty to do this, yes you think the doing of this act is not only acceptable, but in a way it is ‘doing God service’. Now, as an ex Navy person, I support and believe in our military men and women, and in no way equate the act of a terrorist with that of our people; but what I am trying to show you is that as we go through life we can become effected by ideologies that are in conflict to our base principles, we can even do things that violate our most fundamental ideals, and be convinced that doing it is from God. When dealing with all types of social justice issues, we need to put Gods will first and foremost, above all other things. The message of Gods kingdom often runs contrary to the nations and governmental systems we espouse. When we confuse the two [whether the Christian patriot who chooses a career that may involve killing people] or the radical Muslim who confuses Gods will with the advancing of his political ideas, we need to re-evaluate our motives and think things thru before we embrace any world kingdom over Gods kingdom. Beck obviously had a point about the radical liberation theologians and their mixing of liberal politics with ‘church’, but Gods kingdom is all about social justice. Isaiah prophesied of the Spirit coming upon Jesus- to carry out social justice!

(1398) REV. ZEKE- [pastor from India] Brother, I accidently deleted your email, if you are reading this, email me again and I’ll put your email on our global section.
Okay, it’s a rare thing for me to take a ministry off of my blog roll. Once I put someone on our site I feel it would be irresponsible to drop them for any minor disagreement, or because they might hold differing views than my own. For the most part I add other web sites because I feel they add to the diverse conversation in the global church. Having said this, I recently deleted the site for Charisma Magazine. I originally put them on because I was blogging on their site and they eventually removed the blog section, but I felt it was okay to leave them on anyway. But after a period of time I just couldn’t keep endorsing ‘the level’ of stuff they teach- in all good conscience I hit the delete button. The other day I thought I’d give them a visit, on the main article page they had some sister sharing a vision and on the heading it said ‘I saw snakes wrapped around [something- I forget]’ and I just felt bad that a major Christian magazine would do stuff like this. In John 14 Jesus says he’s going away and will send ‘another comforter’ this word speaks about the Spirit coming, one just like Jesus. The disciples ask him how he will reveal himself to them, and not to the world. Jesus says if we keep his commandments and do his will, that the Spirit will manifest and come to us- but the world cannot see him and they will not benefit from his work. Though many Christians are divided over ‘Charismatic churches’ yet the need for the work of the Spirit is vital, I personally believe in the gifts of the Spirit and do not hold to a cessationist view. Over the years as I have read this chapter I have been inclined to see the promise of Jesus ‘going away and coming again to receive us’ as actually referring to the Spirits outpouring at Pentecost. This does not mean I reject a literal physical return of the Lord at the end of the age, but in context it seems that Jesus was telling the disciples that he would ‘come again and receive them’ in the sense that the Spirit would complete the ministry of Jesus by sealing them until the day of redemption [Ephesians]. Jesus said those who hear his word and do his will are promised the presence of the Spirit; truly God is no respecter of persons. There is a movement in the church today that appeals to the kingdom call of Jesus, versus trying to convince people of the truth claims of Christianity- to some degree I like this emphasis, it appeals to other religions in the sense that we are telling people ‘we are not here to change your culture [and make you accept ours] but we are here offering you the promise of Jesus, if you believe his words and do his will he will manifest himself to you’. There actually are some in the Muslim community who are claiming belief in Jesus [not just the ‘Jesus’ of the Koran] and yet still consider themselves cultural Muslims, this is certainly interesting. The point today is we need Gods Spirit desperately, though we have been guilty at times with confusing the work of the Spirit with people having visions of snakes! Yet we need the Spirit to work, Jesus said he would manifest himself to those who are keeping his word- a great promise indeed.

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

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

(1394) THE TEXAS SCHOOL BOOK DEPOSITORY? In John 12 the Greeks come to Jesus disciples and want a meeting with Jesus, the Greeks are those who prided themselves in their wisdom. Jesus basically brushes them off and refuses to cow tow to the elites. He responds ‘unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone’ in essence- you guys ‘abide alone’ [no meeting with me] until you take up the Cross and follow me. This week [yesterday] the news has been reporting the Texas school book story. Basically every few years Texas school board members go thru the process of what the books for the state should include; basic guidelines and stuff. Texas is the nation’s number one purchaser of textbooks, so the theory is if Texas ‘conservatives’ get their way, then the rest of the nation gets stuck having to buy books that are tainted with backwoods idiots who imposed their views on the rest of the ‘Greek’ [intellectual world]. Do our schoolbooks in general steer away from the religious history and statements of many of the founding fathers? Yes. Do our schoolbooks in general avoid/edit out religious statements from their coverage of the founding documents. Yes. Why? There is a basic mistake made by many of the publishers of schoolbooks that say ‘if we show religious content, then we are violating the separation of church and state idea’. The problem with this approach is they have left out a large portion of history while trying to produce a product that will be accepted in both ‘liberal’ and conservative states. If you read the founding documents in their entirety [Mayflower Compact, etc.] they read like a ‘church covenant’ that any Christian community could adopt. Yet when the history books show quotes and portions of the documents, they never quote these sections, why? Because of what I just showed you. This has happened time and time again over many years until we have gotten to the point where many public school children are really not learning an accurate history of the country. The well meaning [but grossly misinformed] opponents simply do not know this. They see the struggle as one between ‘those darn Christian ignoramuses’ versus the enlightened crowd, they are really the ones who have no idea what they are talking about. Now, are we- quote ‘a Christian nation’? Not really. At least not in the way that some Protestant preachers claim. During the founding of our country you had the mindset of the European enlightenment affecting much of western society. Lines were being drawn that pitted a humanist form of belief in God [Deism] against the classical Christian view. Some of our founding fathers did adhere to a Deistic view. Deism said ‘we do not need tradition or religion to inform us of human value and dignity, we can hold to these principles by virtue of our human nobility and intelligence’ that is they believed these truths to be self evident, sort of like the current theme from some of the more popular atheists ‘do good for goodness sake’ [which by the way, fails in the long run- too much to explain right now]. Now, with this background, when our founding documents say ‘we hold these truths to be SELF EVIDENT’ this term smacks of the fact that some of our fathers did indeed reject the classical Christian view. So what does this show us? That some of the founders purposefully included language that would veer away from the Christian view. But you will never understand or learn this simple thing that I just showed you, if we continue to expunge from the record all the religious statements and views of the fathers! So the point is, when these so called enlightened ones try and approach teaching from a biased view, a view that they often don’t realize is biased, they do more harm than good to their cause. The Greeks said ‘we are willing to hear Jesus, let’s set up an appointment’ they went further than most of the liberals on the Texas school board.

(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.

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

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

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

(1382) IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD; AND THE WORD WAS WITH GOD, AND THE WORD WAS GOD- John 1:1 Jesus is called ‘The Word’, the Greek word for ‘word’ is Logos. In the first century this word was common among the philosophers, it stood for a sort of overriding principle that would explain and bring together all the fields of science and learning, the same obsession of Einstein in his search for a unified theory. The philosophers believed that there had to be some type of base principle of truth that would bring together all the other fields of wisdom and learning. In essence John was saying ‘This is it, we have found the Logos- the answer to everything- his name is Jesus!’ It’s always difficult to teach these types of verses, they are fraught with only seeing one aspect of what God is saying, and then dividing lines are drawn between the Christian camps. I was having a conversation yesterday with a person who was asking questions about a Muslim friend who used to be a Christian. The Muslim said that he wanted a religion that he could understand, that God is the only God and Jesus is not God. I explained the best I could and shared this verse and a few others, but I also explained that various ‘Christian’ groups have argued over the way to express the deity of Jesus for centuries. There are groups that say ‘Yes, Jesus is the redeemer, he is Gods Son, but only God is God’. From the catholic bishop Arius in the 4th century all the way up to the Unitarians in Boston in the 20th century, people have debated the language we use. I explained to my friend that the bible clearly does teach us that Jesus is God, but I do see how people have problems with the language. But I told my friend that for a person to use the difficulty over the Trinity to embrace Islam is going way too far in my view. I mean the fact that someone has a problem with the wording of the Trinity should not mean you abandon all the realities of redemption and Christianity and embrace a movement that was started by a ‘prophet’ who killed and murdered and had ‘many women’, I mean no other prophets ever had a track record like that! As we read the rest of John chapter 1 we see how John the Baptist says he came to bear witness, to give a record of Jesus, the ‘Lamb of God’. The religious leaders come to John and ask him ‘who are you, we need an answer to bring back to the authorities, the movers and shakers of our day’ John says ‘I am the voice of one man crying in the wilderness, get ready, the lord is on his way’. John quoted Isaiah 40, he is also said to be the prophetic voice that Malachi spoke about- the Elijah that was to come. Johns only significance was in the fact that he was chosen by God to trumpet the reality of the Messiah, his purpose was not about him or his prophetic gifts, his purpose was to proclaim the last true prophet [in the sense of Hebrew messengers who came down the line- see Hebrews chapter 1] and John the Baptist said ‘this is the one, the one whom the Spirit descended on- he’s going to baptize you guys with the Spirit’ [and fire!]. John testified that Jesus was the end of the line for promised Messiahs, he was the ONE. Why look we for another?

(1380) THE KILLER WHALE- This week we had a tragic event happen when a killer whale at sea world killed its trainer. Now, as I have watched the evolving story get out into the media I believe that they are purposely portraying the story more as a ‘drowning accident’ than a whale attack. Why? First, the initial response from sea world said ‘we had a trainer that fell into the pool and drowned’. Yet every witness to the event said it was very obvious that this whale was either upset or simply decided to attack the trainer. The witnesses above ground said the whale came up out of the water and grabbed the woman by the arm and drug her under; those who were viewing from a below ground room saw the whale with the woman in its mouth, turning over and over again in a motion that killed the woman. Sea world has described the event as a woman that fell into the water and drowned, they are lying. This whale was involved with 2 other human deaths, described as accidents as well. One was a homeless man who illegally snuck into the park at night and climbed into the tank, the whale killed him. The other is described as, quote ‘someone who fell into the tank and drowned’ the same official description of this attack. It is obvious to me that both the advocates of the fish, as well as the business enterprise of sea world do not want to admit that this fish killed this woman, as well as others. The money involved in raising these animals and caring for them for many years and training them is a much bigger enterprise then ‘putting to sleep’ a pit bull that kills a human. There are obvious financial reasons to avoid describing this event as a ‘fish kill’. Then you do have a purely naturalistic mindset that is common in our day that sees man as this evil intruder into the realm of nature, and that nature itself could never be deemed as ‘bad’. The biblical story tells us that after man fell in the garden, that the earth and all things in it were cursed. Animals were not created in their original state with an instinct to kill, the scriptures teach us that this instinct came as a result of mans sin. The bible speaks of a day when ‘the lion will lay down with the lamb’ so the reality of animals having this killer instinct is a biblical doctrine that witnesses to the fact of original sin. For modern man to immediately come to the defense of the fish [animal kingdom] in a way that says ‘in no way could this animal [or animals in general] be exhibiting a killer instinct’ is naturalistic mans attempt to portray man as the pollutant to society and nature, while exalting nature to some pristine status that is in conflict with the biblical view. I believe in and appreciate all the great works that these people do; and I understand the mindset of those who don’t want a tragedy like this to hinder the future of these types of displays; but to continue to describe this event as ‘a trainer that fell into the pool and drowned’ is really a disgrace to the life of the poor woman who really did love these animals.

(1368) FOR HE LOOKED FOR A CITY WHICH HATH FOUNDATIONS, WHOSE BUILDER AND MAKER IS GOD- Hebrews. In keeping with the last post, let’s talk some more on the debate between Evolution and Design. When the able Stephen Barr shot the round that was heard around the world [at least the world of IDer’s] he made some good points, even though I disagree strongly with the way he represented the other able scientists in the field. One day I had a talk with a geologist, it was a happenstance meeting [friend of my daughter] and during a normal friendly conversation I brought up many of the opposing views to ‘uniformitarianism’ and the challenges to a ‘deep time’ geology. While not a young earther myself, I found it amazing that this scientist was totally unaware of any opposing viewpoints to the standard theories. In the halls of academia the majority opinion is without a doubt that of Darwinian Evolution, it is also true that many people [even scientists!] are really not familiar with all the data [lots of data!] that challenge the standard view; many have come to challenge the basic Darwinian timeline [thus punctuated equilibrium] and have admitted that the tremendous ‘gap’ in the fossil record, along with the discovery of high complexity in the most simple cell, that these scientific discoveries have made it difficult to accept the Darwinian idea. Now the adherents of Evolutionary theory accuse the IDer’s of resorting to a ‘God of the gaps’ excuse. That is they claim that all the IDer’s are doing is finding places in the record that have no explanations [information, complex machines, etc.] and are inserting ‘God’ into these gaps. The Evolutionists say ‘given enough time, maybe we will find naturalistic explanations to fit the gaps’. And they claim that any ‘gap theory’ actually hinders scientific discovery, because it has a tendency to say ‘well, might as well stop looking for a naturalistic cause, God just filled the gap’. First, the IDer’s are not saying that because we have run across unanswered difficulties, lets stick God in there. What they are saying [for the most part] is that observable data [science] show us, in every case, that when you have complex systems that are ‘irreducible’ and stored data/info at the most simple level; that these facts point to an intelligent mind having been the cause of these things. Now, Stephen Barr and Francis Beckwith [two of the main scientists/philosophers in the debate] do not reject the idea that yes, an intelligent mind is behind the design/info, what they are saying is it’s still possible that science will discover a ‘naturalistic’ explanation/mechanism to it. That is God might have created some other unknown mechanism that is simple [or complex] that can be credited with bringing into existence the design/info. They are simply arguing that it’s possible, and not in contradiction with historic Christianity, to embrace this view. Barr also seems to be saying ‘yes, it is very possible that we will never find a reasonable, naturalistic explanation for this, and at that point the IDer’s might be right, but then you jump out of the field of science [observable data] and carry the argument into another classroom’. I believe the ‘God of the gaps’ accusation is erroneous, I also believe that far too many adherents to Evolutionary theory are not giving the proper weight to the gaps, some are not even aware of them! Thomas Aquinas is sometimes misunderstood and is said to have advocated a secular/religious division in apologetics; that is some say he taught that the natural sciences and religious truth were 2 totally different fields, sort of like the thought of Emanuel Kant [Physical/Metaphysical division] but Thomas taught that science could show us many truths about God, just because you have naturalistic explanations to things, this does not discount the Divine hand- but he also taught that science could only go so far down that road- for instance it would take many years to arrive at a naturalistic proof of Gods being, while revelation [thru tradition and scripture] could get you there quicker. Also science can prove that God exists [prime mover] but for truths on the nature of God [Trinity] you need revelation. So Aquinas leaves room for science to go so far, and if it ‘hits a gap’ then yes, you have every right to carry the argument into ‘another classroom’ so to speak. It is not wrong to say ‘yes, we are searching for a city, one that has been built by God’ but to also recognize that the city has foundations [whether discovered thru naturalistic or religious truth]; both seekers can be on the right track, arriving at different times/ways.

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

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

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

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

(1350) THE ANTICHRIST IS HERE! Okay, probably not a good heading for following the last few political posts. But I’ve been reading in the gospels and wanted to share a few thoughts. The apostle John, who wrote the book of Revelation [a popular book in today’s prophecy teaching] also wrote the epistles of John, in 1st John chapter 2 he says ‘it is the last [end] time, as you heard that antichrist will come, even now are there many antichrists and this is how we know it is the last time’. Most prophecy teachers are aware of this verse and it’s usually chalked up to the fact that ‘yes John is speaking of ‘the spirit of antichrist’ and the Gnostic cults who rejected Christ’s humanity’ while this is true, it’s also important to see that there is language in the New Testament that places antichrist/antichrists as a possible 1st century figure. I have hit on this before and just wanted to cover this concept a little. Many believers saw Nero as the antichrist, others see various Roman Emperors as fitting the title, and of course the most popular teaching in America is he is a future person [usually said to ‘be living somewhere in the world today’-even if today ranges over hundreds of years!] So we have had our speculation on the fella. I certainly believe that the apostle Paul was writing about a real man who would be a rejecter of Christ and persecute the church fiercely, and Jesus did speak about the ‘desolation of Daniel’ so I don’t want to spiritualize the man, I just wanted us to be challenged when we read John saying stuff like ‘even now there are many, this is how we know we are living in the end times’. I mean he is saying this a few years before writing the book of Revelation, it should cause us to re-think some of the ‘end times’ scenarios that we espouse today. John was exiled to the island of Patmos by the emperor Nero. Nero died a couple years before AD 70, it is possible that Johns Revelation was written before Nero died [being Nero was the one who put him on the island] and this would leave room for an early dating of Revelation and possibly a still living Nero to have been Johns target. Regardless of all the dating questions, it is striking to read the language of the 1st century apostles and see how they believed the key transition time of an ‘old age’ passing away and a new era coming, they saw it as the time of Christ and his death, burial and resurrection; they used ‘end time’ language as a description of their own day, not a bunch of geopolitical speculation of world events that would take place thousands of years in the future. Surely we are also considered to be ‘in the end times’ and I do believe in a literal future return of Jesus to the earth, I just wanted us to be open to the actual language that the bible uses when speaking about ‘the end times’ and allow our thinking to be shaped more by the scripture and not so much by the popular end times teaching of our day.

(1343) One of the other themes that spoke to me from Galatians was the idea that Israel and the world were under a ‘schoolmaster phase’ until the fullness of times arrived. This phase was the whole economy of Old Testament law and rule. I felt like the Lord was saying that many of us have been led, and actually have arrived, at places and purposes the hard way; i.e. – the ‘tutor’ phase. That is God allowed the process of trial and error and discipline to work in us until we arrived at the purpose and goal. Isaiah says that ‘I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction’ yes, this way of ‘arriving’ is much more painful, but it still gets you there. Now the entire discipline phase for the world was the time period before the Cross. The law and the Old Covenant were the only way to ‘get there’ so to speak. If people wanted to have a relationship with God, they were either born Jews, or converted to Judaism. Today of course we have access thru the Cross. One of the earliest ‘cults’ of Christianity was a sect call ‘Gnosticism’ these early adherents mixed Greek dualism [material world bad, spirit world good type of a thing] in with Christianity, they taught that the God of the Old Testament was the evil God who created the material world, and that thru Jesus we can come to know the true God of the New Testament, the God who gives us salvation by delivering us from the material world. Though it seems like there are verses in the New Testament that teach that the ‘world’ is evil and that God wants to ‘deliver us from this present evil world’ [Galatians] yet in these contexts ‘the world’ is simply speaking of the lost system of man and the ‘way of the world’. In Christian theology matter is not inherently evil. The Apostle John would deal with the Gnostics in his first epistle by saying ‘whoever denies that Jesus has come in the flesh is not of God- they are anti-Christ’. Because the Gnostics believed all matter to be evil they would reject the humanity of Jesus, John was targeting them in his letter. As I mentioned before the controversy over the Trinity was settled at the council of Nicaea [a.d.325] but the church still battled with the nature of Jesus. Nicaea said ‘God is one essence/substance and 3 persons’. But this did not fully deal with the nature of Jesus, various ideas rose up [Monarchianism, Dynamic Monarchianism] that challenged the nature of Christ. In 451 a.d. the church settled on the language that ‘Jesus is one person with 2 substances/essences [natures]’, though to some this looks like a contradiction to the earlier language of Nicaea, this council in 451 [Chalcedon] was simply saying Jesus was ‘fully God and fully man’ so anyway we were all under the discipline phase until the ‘fullness of times’. I am believing God to get us to the destination with less ‘tutoring’ if you will, less trial and error. Sure, we will never fully get to the point of not making a few mistakes and stumbling along the way, but as we get older hopefully we will ‘stumble less’.

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

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

(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.

(1335) GALATIANS 5- Paul’s main theme is if we possess the Spirit as believers [being indwelt by God’s Spirit] then let us also walk in/by the Spirit, as opposed to trying to please God by the law and being circumcised. Paul will use the somewhat controversial term ‘ye are fallen from grace’ which simply means that these Gentile believers started by faith and went back to the old Jewish system, much like the themes in the book of Hebrews. Paul says when you go back to the law you have left grace. Christ has ‘become of no effect to you, you who are justified by the law’. This is a good example of how words and certain phrases can develop over the centuries of church history and develop a different meaning over time. In essence the bible does teach that a person can ‘fall from grace’ but this does not describe what the modern reader might think. The first church father who attempted to formulate the Christian doctrine of the Trinity was a man named Tertullian, he lived in the second century and was what theologians refer to as one of the Latin fathers [as opposed to the Greek ones- Origen, etc.] Tertullian was famous for the sayings ‘what does Jerusalem have to do with Athens’ and ‘I believe because it is absurd’ he was resisting the influence of Greek philosophy on the church, he felt that Greek wisdom was influencing the church too much. He was trained in law before becoming a theologian [like Luther and Calvin of 16th century Reformation fame] and he used the words ‘God is one substance/essence and also three persons’ later church councils would agree with this language. But the word ‘person’ at Tertullian’s time was the Latin word ‘personi’ which was taken from the theater and meant a person/actor who would put on different masks during the play; the word had a little different meaning then what we think of today as ‘person’. Later centuries would come to condemn certain Christian groups who seem to have formulated language on the Trinity that expresses the same thing as what the original developer of the doctrine meant to say, but because words and their meanings change over time we get ourselves into disputes that might be getting us off track. Paul also tells the Galatians that if they become circumcised that they are obligating themselves to keep all the law. Of course the medical procedure that many have done in our day is not what he is speaking about, but in Paul’s day getting circumcised was the religious rite that placed you into the religion of Judaism, and this is what Paul is refuting among the Galatians, he tells them not to go down that road. This chapter has lots of good ‘memory verses’, the famous lists of the works of the flesh versus the fruit of the Spirit are found here, and it seems pretty clear to me that Paul identified circumcision with the moral law of the 10 commandments, that is he saw being circumcised as an act that obligated you to ‘keep all the law’ some theologians are discussing whether or not Paul meant the law of Moses when speaking about going ‘back under the law’ some think Paul was speaking only of the ceremonial law and the system of animal sacrifices when he was telling the gentiles that they should not go under the law, I believe if you read Paul in context both in this letter and the book of Romans, that he is speaking of the moral law too, not just the ceremonial law. All in all Paul exhorts these believers to fight for their right to be free from the past restraints of religion and bondage, he tells them to not desire to go back under a system of bondage, that Christ has made us free from that legalistic way of life and he has liberated us by giving us the Holy Spirit- if we ‘walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, for the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, and these two are contrary one to the other, so that you cannot do the things that you would’ amen to that.

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

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

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

(1329) GALATIANS 2- Paul recounts his meeting with the apostles at Jerusalem; some feel he is talking about his first visit [Acts 11- before AD 50] others think he is discussing his Acts 15 meeting [right at around AD 50] I’m in the latter camp. Paul is basically telling the churches of Galatia that he already went thru this whole discussion with the main apostles at Jerusalem [Peter, James and John] and that they had already agreed that the Gentile believers did not need to get circumcised and come under the law in order to be saved. I do find it interesting that out of the 4 decrees that were made [read Acts 15] that the only one Paul recounts here is ‘to remember the poor’. The only decree worthy enough for Paul to recount is the one on charitable giving; those of you who have followed this blog for a while know how much I emphasize this point. If the early church was teaching tithing to the Gentile churches, surely it would have come up at the Jerusalem meeting, but it didn’t. This chapter has some important verses that all believers should commit to memory ‘if righteousness come by the law, then Christ died in vain’ ‘the life that I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me’ etc. I really want all my Catholic/Protestant readers to pay attention to the verse’s that I just quoted; the bible clearly teaches that if men could ‘be saved’ by keeping Gods law, then Christ died in vain. Paul will go on to teach [chapter 3] that if there had been a law given that could have given men eternal life, then ‘being saved’ would come that way; but he then goes on to say that there never was a law given that men could keep in order to be saved. Paul always gives the caveat ‘does this mean we go out and break the 10 commandments’? And his answer is always a big NO! The point of this chapter is we as believers are saved because Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sin; the proof that the penalty was completely paid is in the fact that Jesus rose again [Romans 5]. All who believe in this reality are now the children of God, indeed ‘we are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ’.

(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.

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

(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?

(1319) Isaiah 65:1-10 Isaiah says that the Lord was ‘found’ by those who were not looking for him, and that those who were looking for him [thru religious actions] were not finding him. He rebukes his people Israel because they developed a religious mentality that took the true revelation of God and exchanged it ‘for a lie’. But the lord says he still saw a remnant of value within her; she was like a cluster of grapes that went bad but had a few ‘good apples’ left. When Jesus appeared to Israel in the 1st century they were waiting for Gods promise to them to be fulfilled. They were ‘waiting for the kingdom’. If you were to encapsulate any singular idea in the preaching of Jesus that was the most prominent, it would be his declaration of the Kingdom of God being now present as he preached. Israel saw the kingdom thru natural eyes, they believed that the restored temple played a major role in Gods coming kingdom. Understand that the restoring of the temple by Herod [the one before the Herod of Jesus day] was a spectacular event; the temple was grand and the Jewish people regulated their life around its rituals. It was only reasonable for Israel to believe that the next step would be the restoring of her national sovereignty by a coming Messiah. They had their temple restored first and were waiting for the national independence to follow- a reverse of what many modern dispensationalists believe. But instead Jesus tells them in no uncertain terms that their understanding of the kingdom is wrong, that the kingdom will not come by observing outward events, but it was already present thru his appearing. In Jesus parables he speaks of the values of this kingdom, forgiveness, laying down your rights for others; he is talking about a spiritual kingdom. When the disciples show him the temple and its grandeur, he states flatly ‘there will not be left one stone upon another when all is said and done’ huh? So Jesus without a doubt challenged their understanding of the kingdom and how it would outwardly manifest in society- it’s not about temples and homelands! He gathers a ‘few grapes’ from the cluster [The 12 disciples] and uses them as the foundation stones of a new kingdom and temple. These apostles would launch the great new movement/kingdom of God thru the proclamation of the gospel. They would write some harsh things about the temple and old law economy of Israel as a nation. The disciple John would refer to the synagogue as ‘the synagogues of satan’ ouch! [Revelation] Paul would say those are not Jews who are Jews ‘outwardly’ [it wasn’t an ethnic thing anymore] but those who had the ‘circumcised heart’ would be counted as the true Israel of God [Romans/Galatians]. And the overall language of the 12 Jewish apostles was not one that would fit in with a scenario of a restored Jewish temple with restored sacrifices and a national homeland. I mean you can’t get much more clearer than this! And yet in our day you have many well meaning believers looking for all these outward signs of ‘when the kingdom will come’. We bypass the main writings of the New Testament [like the things I just quoted] and we go hunting in Daniel, Ezekiel, Revelation- we find all types of prophetic words that seem to support our obsession with some outward restoration of these things in order to justify our system, we basically have fallen into the same error of first century Israel, we are looking for the kingdom in all the wrong places. I understand that many believers who hold to these beliefs are sincere and well meaning, many of them have a genuine love for the Jewish people and this is commendable. But we need to heed the words of ‘the few good grapes in the cluster’ they did not exalt Israel’s natural status nor did they see the kingdom of God thru the lens of restored temples and homelands, they believed that all who would receive the Messiah were presently being built into a temple made without human hands, the ‘true Israel of God- the heavenly New Jerusalem that is coming down from God out of heaven’.

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

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

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

(1311) FOR YOUR SHAME YE SHALL HAVE DOUBLE [PORTION/BLESSING] AND FOR YOUR CONFUSION THEY SHALL REJOICE IN THEIR PORTION, THEY TOO WILL HAVE A DOUBLE PORTION IN THEIR LAND – Isaiah 61:7 In the book of Acts Peter says God has highly exalted Jesus and he has received the promise of the father [Spirit] and because of this he has poured out ‘this which you see and hear’. I like that, God gave 2 types of testimonies; things you see and things you hear. That spoke to me because I do both radio [hear] and blog [see]. I was watching a prophecy brother the other day, he’s a good man, comes from the strong Dispensational school. As he was reading the declaration of the angel in the book of Luke- that Jesus will sit on the throne of his father David, the wife said ‘gee, I never saw that before, Jesus has never yet sat on David’s throne’. And the husband said ‘see, your theological training is kicking in’. If you actually read all of Peter’s sermons in the book of Acts, you will see that the apostolic witness sees Jesus as presently ruling on the throne from the exalted right hand of God. They do not see an idea that the promise from the angel about Jesus has yet to be fulfilled. I am familiar with the distinctions that dispensationalist’s make, I just think they go too far in postponing the ‘actual/literal’ rule of Jesus to some future date. The apostle’s language includes the fulfillment of the Davidic rule with the present ruling position of Jesus at Gods right hand. I do not totally discount the reality that at the Second Coming there will be literal future aspects to that rule, but scripture already ‘sees’ Jesus ruling in Gods kingdom. Well anyway Jesus received this high position because of the shame and confusion [agony] he went thru. He now has the right to pour out things both ‘seen and heard’. He poured out the promise of the Father on his people and they became this great kingdom of Priests and Kings unto God and his father [Revelation and Isaiah]. In this present kingdom we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. Jesus is the Lamb as it were slain sitting on the throne- he’s not waiting for some future date to receive the throne, he’s already there!

(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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(1249) 2ND KINGS 6:8-23 The king of Syria wars against Israel, but every time he tries to set up an ambush someone keeps informing the king of Israel about it. So the Syrian king calls in his men and accuses them of leaking the info. They inform the king that this is the prophetic work of Elisha. So they go get him. As the Syrian army encamps around Elisha’s place, his servant wakes and up sees the troops and panics, Elisha prays and asks God to ‘open his eyes’ and he gets a sneak peek into the supernatural realm and sees all these chariots of angelic hosts around him ‘there are more with us than with them’ a famous verse indeed. So Elisha prays to the Lord to ‘blind’ the Syrians from his true identity [sort of like when Jesus was with the disciples on the Emmaus road] and he goes to the troops and tells them ‘the man you’re looking for is not here, follow me, I’ll show you where he is’. So he leads them into the midst of Samaria and right into the hands of the king of Israel. Then he prays ‘Lord open their eyes’ and they are in ‘shock and awe’ [to quote Rummie]. The king of Israel asks Elisha ‘should I slay them’? Elisha says no, but feed them and treat them well. He asks the king ‘would you slay those whom you captured thru military means’? Obviously the answer is no, so likewise they should be treated like captives and not harmed. Okay, how should we read the biblical narratives on war? One of the most known atheists in the country today is Sam Harris; he is a sincere writer and speaks against what he sees as the flaws of war based religion. He echoes the words of Thomas Paine in his book ‘the age of reason’ [18th century]. Harris sees the danger of world religions embracing a war mentality and believing that terror and warfare are on their side. He cites realities like the Muslim radicals who shout ‘God is great’ as they blow themselves and innocents up. He points out the stories in the bible where God commands his people to wipe out other ethnic groups [genocide] and he berates the Christians for their militaristic end time views and how their beliefs in a violent return of Jesus hinder world peace. Many thinkers have raised these questions and the church shouldn’t simply shrug these men off as pagans. In the story we just read it should be noted that God himself, thru his prophet, commanded the fair treatment of captives. That Jesus and the New Testament revelation are a radical revolution of peaceful demonstration ‘if your enemy hits you, don’t retaliate and return evil for evil. Instead bless them’. In general believers need to reorient their world view around the gospels and the actual message and life of Christ. When using the Old Testament we are to look for the hidden nuggets of wisdom that can apply to our lives today, but we need to avoid a direct application of wiping out our enemies with today’s military conflicts. The church in our day really needs an overhaul in our thinking in these areas, just the other day the U.S. military accidently killed an Afghan family of 6, kids and parents. A few months back we bombed an area and accidently killed around 140 civilians. The military at first said it was possible that the Taliban killed these people. After a few months review we came out and admitted that we did not properly screen these homes for civilians. We messed up and killed a bunch of people. I know all the reasons behind the things we are doing [I think!] but if your wife and kids were just bombed right now, by accident, would it make you feel better to know they really didn’t intend on killing them? Our country was/is up in arms over the sprinkling of water on the face of a few terrorists, one of the reasons is said to be that when we ‘torture’ terrorists we give fuel to the Muslim world by not playing by the rules. Or when we detain enemy combatants at Gitmo that this becomes a selling point to Muslim radicals that they can use to recruit people to their cause. I can see no greater ‘recruiting tool’ than the accidental killing of innocent Muslim women and children, yes I do realize that we do not mean to ‘kill them’ but this still does not change the reality on the ground.

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

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

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

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

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

(1241) 2nd KINGS 2- Elijah is going to be taken up into heaven and Elisha follows him, Elijah tells him to leave but Elisha requests a double portion of the Spirit that anointed Elijah. He tells Elisha that if he witnesses his translation into heaven he will get it. As Elisha follows Elijah to the various towns [Bethel, Jericho, etc.] he runs into the ‘sons of the prophets’ who independently tell Elisha that Elijah will be taken this day. These sons of the prophets are the same group from the ‘school of the prophets’ under Samuel. They lived a communal lifestyle, were provided for by offerings from the community and were recognized as a legitimate group sent from God. Over the years I have had both ‘prophetic’ type experiences as well as learning and growing in Christian truth. Often time’s believers will live their whole lives only experiencing and learning Christianity from their particular group. While many of these various denominations are fine groups, they are only a limited picture of the church. The problem comes in when one group sees itself as ‘the group’ to the exclusion of the other groups. There are ‘prophetic groups’ who operate in these gifts, these gifts do exist and function in the church today. Many of these groups have cut themselves off from the ‘intellectual’ branch of the church. Some seem to regulate their entire Christian experience around the gift. Often times it is next to impossible to correct them doctrinally, because they believe that the fact that they do experience real prophetic gifts justifies all their beliefs. Often times they are wrong. Many times the young believers who follow these gifted men/movements become infatuated with the gift and never truly grow in the things of God. Having said all this, we also need to be open to the miraculous gifts of the Spirit that the bible speaks about. The majority view of Christianity [Catholic, Orthodox and most Protestants] do believe in the charismatic gifts of the Spirit. There are those who try and make a case for their cessation [cessationists!] but for the most part these gifts do and have functioned since the early days of Christianity. I can personally give you many examples from my own story; let me share a recent one. A few weeks ago I had some of my homeless friends over for a fellowship time. We had communion and shared the word in my yard. This spot is the same spot where I pray over the communities of people that we relate to. I have a habit of ‘anointing’ myself with oil while praying for the brothers. I will actually put anointing oil on my head and pray ‘just like this oil is on me, Lord anoint all those we are reaching out to’. One of the homeless guys is very gifted and he does function in the gift of Prophecy, he will often make off the cuff comments and he does not realize that he is actually prophesying. So any way as we were all sitting in my yard he keeps telling me ‘you know brother, I keep thinking of the verse in the bible where the oil was on Aarons head and it ran down to the rest of his body’. This is a verse in Psalms that coincides with the exact type of prayer thing that I regularly do over the guys in this exact spot. So it’s stuff like this that shows me that prophetic people and gifts are not all fakes. Now Elijah does a few prophetic things before the chariots from heaven come and take him; he strikes the Jordan with his mantle [coat] and it dries up for him to cross. After Elisha witnesses Elijah’s ascension he does receive the ‘double portion’ and on his way back into town he does the same thing. The sons of the prophets recognize that the mantle [gift] passed from Elijah to Elisha. A few things; in this chapter we see that those who witness the ascension of ‘the prophet’ receive a greater anointing. Of course this reminds us of the early church, they were the group that saw Jesus ascend and did receive the Spirit. Some say that Elisha does twice the miracles as Elijah [the double portion]. I underlined all the miracles once and think they might be off one or two miracles, but they do come close [Elijah 7, Elisha 13 or 14]. Jesus said we would do greater miracles than he did [in number we would do greater works as the family of God]. And of course the miracles surrounding the Jordan and Elisha pouring salt in the fountain of water to ‘heal the waters’, all these images speak of the ministry of Jesus and John and the significance of baptism and how Jesus would ‘heal the waters’ i.e.; he would unite with us in the waters of the Jordan and we would meet with him thru the ordinance of baptism, in essence Jesus ‘healed the waters’ by his pure life, his ‘saltiness’ [preservation power]. Jesus said we were the salt of the earth. So there are some good prophetic pictures from a prophetic chapter. All in all we as believers are to be grounded in the word, have a grasp on all the various groups/movements that constitute Christianity, and be open to the miraculous. God has given us his Spirit and we do have the ability as Gods people to function in these gifts. But at the end of the day our assurance is in the Lord, not in our gifts.

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

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

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

(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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(1203) In Luke 22 Jesus sends Peter and John into town to get things ready for the Passover meal. They ask Jesus where they should get a room, how will they know where to go. Jesus gives them real specific instructions ‘you will meet a man carrying a container of water, follow him into the house. Then ask the owner of the house “where will we meet” and he will show you a room all ready for the purpose’. How did the man know what to do? Did he have a dream/vision from the Lord? Probably. I was watching a show the other day that was dealing with angels, they were showing clips form the popular TV shows about angels. They showed a clip from ‘touched by an angel’ and it really spoke to me. The angel is sent to some guy and tells him ‘God loves you, but he does not like what you have become’. Sort of like the saying ‘God loves the sinner but hates the sin’ but it was powerful because it was done dramatically and open for the public world to tune in and watch the show. Then the clip ended and the preacher hosting the show rebuked the use of stuff like this on TV and said how in the bible angels only mete out judgment when dealing with sinners. I got the type of feeling that they were from the camp that gets offended when other groups/media try to deal with biblical things, sort of like ‘how could God step outside of the parameters of orthodox belief and speak to people’. The brother wasn’t offensive, he was simply sharing their point of view that ‘true, biblical angels’ don’t do stuff like that. Actually biblical angels do do stuff like that! You do have stories in scripture where angels appear to unbelievers and give them direction [Acts 10, Cornelius]. The point is sometimes believers develop belief systems, and these systems become our identity. If in any way we feel that others are ‘moving in on our territory’ [holy things] we often respond out of ignorance/arrogance. We feel like our very identity is on the line. Many good Christians/preachers live their whole lives this way. I don’t know if the man that Jesus sent Peter and John too for the room was a believer or not, but God is able and willing to use whatever means possible to accomplish his purpose. Now, I am not saying that God uses all religions and any type of belief to get stuff done, but I am saying that God is not boxed in by a system that must respond only in a certain perceived way. Christians need to let down the mindset that seems to say we have a corner on the market of God acting in the nations/world. While we know and believe Jesus is the only way to the Father, yet the Father is creator of heaven and earth and he most certainly can send an angel to get his message across if he wants to.

(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’.

(1196) WE STILL KILL THE PROPHETS- At the end of Luke 19 Jesus rebukes Jerusalem for not knowing the time of her visitation. He says there were things that were presently part of her peace, but because of a wrong ‘timing’ issue, she couldn’t see them. In Revelation 21 we read of the New Jerusalem, God’s holy city. The chapter says she is the Bride, the Lambs wife. She is ‘coming down from God out of heaven’ this city truly is a product of God. Jesus sits at the right hand of the father as its head, a ‘present’ [not future!] reality. In the New Testament the church is described as ‘The Israel of God’ ‘The New Jerusalem’ ‘The Bride of Christ’ ‘The City of God’ it’s not hard to see that John is speaking of the church. He also says there was no temple in the new city, but the lamb is the light of this city and God dwells [tabernacles] directly in this city with his people. The gates of the city bear the names of the 12 tribes of Israel and the ‘foundation’ has the names of the 12 Apostles, this being a symbol for the church being comprised of both Jew and Gentile people [though the Apostles are also Jewish, they represent the new Gentile church, and the 12 tribes show that natural Israel would still play a part, but only as she is connected with the church]. In the New Testament [and Revelation] natural Jerusalem and natural Israel are described in strikingly bad terms, John calls her ‘spiritual Sodom, the place where our Lord was crucified’. The writer of Hebrews says those who continue in the sacrificial system and law, after the Cross, are treading the Blood of Jesus under foot. The basic theme of the New Testament is that thru this New Covenant in Jesus Blood, all nations and people groups [including Israel] can partake of this new City that comes down from God out of heaven. The temple and its sacrifices are associated with ‘old Jerusalem’ and the coming judgment [that came in A.D. 70]. John’s description of the new city having no temple was theologically significant; he was saying the old law system had no part in her. Truly the book of Revelation is a wonderful prophetic book given to the ‘new Jerusalem’ and Jesus himself said the things that John wrote about were realities that would ‘happen soon’ [soon even to the 1st century readers of the letters!] Johns prophetic vision [actually Jesus’] is a wonderful prophecy that belongs to us, it is ‘part of our peace’ if you will, but because we know not the ‘time of our visitation’ many of the things written in it are hidden from our eyes.

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

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

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

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

(1162) I mailed the materials off yesterday, let me mention one more thing about the letters from my friends in prison. The letter from Leonard, it is full of praise and thanksgiving and glory; it reminds me of the testimonies of new believers. Many times over the years I have noticed good friends of mine come to know the lord, doing things in ministry and fellowship together. Sometimes these brothers struggle for years and go back to prison. The genuine brothers really do experience a ‘mini’ revival when this happens. It’s common for the average person to judge them as getting ‘jail house religion’ they can’t see that the process of chastening and the guys renewing their faith are a real process that brings great joy to them. Believe me, I have seen this happen many times and know that for the most part these guys are not faking. Okay, in Luke 9 we have lots of good stuff; Jesus sends his guys out light ‘don’t take money, extra goods, etc.’ Herod hears about Jesus and wonders if it’s John the Baptist risen from the dead [guilty conscience no doubt!] Lets hit the statement ‘some of you standing here will not die until you see the kingdom’. Over the years commentators have had various views on this, a common view is right after Jesus says this the transfiguration happens and this might be referring to that, it’s possible? The New Testament has various statements like this that the critics of Christianity have used over the years to debunk the faith. The famous atheist Bertrand Russell wrote a book called ‘why I am not a Christian’ one of the reasons stated was the so called missed prophecies of Jesus, these statements in the bible about Jesus coming kingdom that would take place within the lifetimes of those who heard him. Russell also rejected the faith based on a faulty idea from the philosopher John Stewart Mill. Mill said if every thing must have a cause, then God must have a cause, and if God is the first cause, then why not say the universe/world are the first cause instead of God. Russell believed this faulty argument, the law of causation does not teach that every thing must have a cause; it teaches every effect must have a cause. Any way Russell got duped by this fictitious argument and kept it his whole life. But back to those who read the statements in the bible about Jesus coming quickly, the things being written that will happen shortly [revelation] and stuff like that. There is some truth to the Preterists argument that the ‘last days’ that were taking place were speaking of the end of the present age of law and the introduction of the new age of grace. These brothers also link most of the ‘seeing the kingdom come’ verses with a.d. 70 and the destruction of the Jewish temple and law system. There are various views on these subjects. What about Jesus saying that some of the disciples would not die until they saw God’s kingdom? Preterists think the transfiguration happened too quickly after the statement for it to be speaking of that, it’s possible? I think some of the Preterists are too ‘futuristic’, let me explain. Jesus is functioning and operating out of the reality of Gods kingdom, he’s healing people, raising the dead, doing all sorts of things that are contrary to the natural order of things. He is introducing God’s kingdom to his disciples, they are actual witnesses to the events of Gods order breaking into mans order. The greatest events of this kingdom that they will witness will be the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, these ‘parts’ of the kingdom will be the most significant aspects that they will ever SEE in their lives. I prefer to see the reality of God’s kingdom, and the statements about certain followers being alive at the time of God’s kingdom coming, thru this lens. To push the majority of the significance out to a.d. 70 and the destruction of the temple seems to miss the great reality of Jesus death, burial, resurrection and ascension as actual witnessed events of the first century church. So, Russell and others who thought Jesus statements were false prophecies did not really see the reality of these things. I do believe that the events surrounding the destruction of the temple are important, and that you can find many verses that speak of the passing of the old testament order as the ‘end of that world/age’ but I believe the actual work of Jesus in redemption, as being witnessed by the early church, would be a better ‘location’ for the explanation of these types of things. Got it? [note- the main point being the importance the new testament puts on the eyewitness accounts of the disciples to the work of Jesus in redemption, any connecting with ‘the seeing’ of things and the witnesses of those things ‘seen’ has to be viewed thru this lens, the most important ‘seen things of the kingdom’ are without a doubt speaking of the great work of Jesus. This was so important that when Peter mentions the replacement for Judas office, he states that the new apostle must have been a witness of these things from the beginning of Jesus ministry]

(1159) Just read the story where the prostitute pours expensive perfume on Jesus. A Pharisee named Simon invites Jesus to dinner, the woman comes and does this act of worship, she wipes his feet with her hair, she cries and worships him. The Pharisee thinks to himself ‘wow, if he were a prophet he would have known what type of woman this is’. The problem? He did know. Simon simply assumed that a true prophet would not receive a wicked woman. So Jesus does one of those things where he tells a simple story that even a child could understand, he says ‘Simon, there were these 2 guys that owed money to a lender, one owed much more than the other. The lender forgave them both, which one do you think would be more grateful’? Simon, not realizing that he’s on the hook, says ‘O, I don’t know, I guess the one who owed more’. Caught ya! Jesus says that’s why this woman is so extravagant towards Jesus, she was forgiven more than Simon. A few things, it is becoming popular today to teach that all religions mean well, they want to worship ‘the God of Abraham’ and we should be open and accepting of them. First, this woman worshipped Jesus. She was accepted because of her willingness to love and know him. Paul told the religious folk at Mars hill ‘I will reveal to you the unknown God that you have this altar set up for’ [Acts 17]. In all of our pluralism, we need to bring people to the Cross! Two, Simon simply misjudged Jesus. He figured if a prophet was really a prophet, he would act a certain way. Simon was simply wrong. If you look at this woman’s conversion, most evangelicals would say ‘she didn’t get saved’. I mean Jesus does put some liberal spin on it. The woman loved much, so she is forgiven much. What! Where are all the steps that end in a sinner’s prayer! You know according to that standard none of the apostles made it either [you find none of them asking Jesus into their hearts!] The point being we want people to come to Jesus, to know him and accept him as the messiah. Too often Christians can be a little technical in all the aspects of conversion while overlooking the main thing. The apostle John will write ‘those that do good are of God, and those that do evil are not’ Wow. Of course John also taught that those who deny that Jesus has come in the flesh are antichrist. So the basic belief in Jesus as Gods Son, the deity of Christ, is a foundation of the faith. But John’s test is not what type of conversion prayer you prayed, but a changed life. Simon invited Jesus to dinner, he was a Pharisee who was willing to give Jesus a chance. But he was too quick to come to a judgment about him. Over the years I have had friends who might get challenged in some area of reformation, something that God is doing to change things. Often they will say ‘O, I know about that belief. I have had friends try and tell me that before’ but they respond in a way that says ‘Yes, I have heard it and judged it and rejected it’. Too quick to think that God can’t be in it. Yes, John also told us to test the spirits, because every thing out there is not from God. But make sure you are not rejecting a prophet because you think he’s hanging out with the wrong crowd!

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

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

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

(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.

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

(1149) Just started reading Luke, in chapter one we see the story of the birth’s of John and Jesus. We see the dual ways that God works. In John’s birth the angel appears to his parents and reveals that Elisabeth will get pregnant, though she and her husband are old. She has been unable to have children and they have prayed for kids. God does it thru a miraculous intervention and reveals it thru an angel. The same angel appears to Mary and tells her she will have Jesus, Mary asks ‘how can this be, I know not a man’. It’s almost if she was looking at the miraculous situation of her cousin and the fact that God allowed her to get pregnant, but yet there were natural means that God used. John’s parents did sleep together and God gave them the child; miraculous in that Elisabeth was beyond the age of kids, but also a natural explanation can be seen. So Mary must be thinking ‘now Gabriel, I do realize you are an angel and all, you have a pretty good prophetic track record when it comes to announcing births; but you must understand there is only so much God can do, if you don’t know yet, I’m still A VIRGIN!’ The fact is that both John and Jesus births were considered miraculous, the fact that a natural explanation could be attributed to the process with John, this did not mean that there had to be a natural explanation to all miraculous births! As we just came off a series of posts on creation and science, I want to overview a few things when it comes to the miraculous. First, the act of creation itself is a tremendous miracle that can never be fully explained by naturalistic means. Hebrews says ‘by faith we understand the worlds were framed by the word of God’ there are things that God does, that often can not be explained thru science. Though we try and make a noble effort to use the tool of science to argue for the reality of God, yet we don’t want to fall into the trap of Mary, who thought ‘how can this be?’ It ‘can be’ because God said it can be! God’s creative power causes things to be! There is a danger of skepticism creeping into the ranks when we try and affix a scientific explanation to all the aspects of creation, the fact is the actual act of God bringing things into existence by his spoken word is a mystery that can never be fully explained by science. We can try and understand things as much as possible, like the light from galaxies that are supposed to be 13 billion miles away, if the earth were only 6-10 thousand years old, then we wouldn’t be able to see the galaxies yet. The light wouldn’t have had enough time to travel to our telescopes! Okay, sounds good. But then the young earth creationists will explain that the light from all the super novas that occur [the deaths of stars that put off tremendous light] if the planet were billions of years old, we would be seeing the light from many more of these star deaths than we currently see. The light from these explosions would literally be bombarding the planet at a much higher rate than we now observe. So these are two good arguments made from both sides of the debate. But can we hold God down to these types of natural explanations? How can science fully measure the creative act of God? The appearance of all things from nothing can not be measured in the same way as all other things that currently exist. The divine act of creation was a one time event that can not be repeated. It does not fall under the scientific category of testability, it is in the category of observable past events. We know it occurred, we look at it, but we can’t repeat the process and test the event itself. Some say that at the initial creation God created the light ‘in transit’ he was not limited to the natural speed of light that would need 13 billion years to travel from the furthest galaxies to the planet, he made these things in a truly miraculous way! To be sure there are many other things like this that can be used to defend both sides of the issue, today’s point is in the situation with the miraculous births of John and Jesus, both were considered miracles, but one birth had a natural explanation to it [God used his power to enable the barren womb of Elisabeth to conceive thru natural means of conception] and the other didn’t [Mary was really a virgin, the only way you could explain the event itself was that it was a miracle from God- no natural explanation could suffice]. When it’s all said and done we do our best to understand and love God with our minds and intellect, but there are things that we cant always wrap our minds around, these are the ‘things we understand by faith’.

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

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

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

(1141) UNIFORM OR CATASTROPHE ? One of the key verses in the debate between young and old earth creationism is in 2nd Peter chapter 3. Peter says that in the last days scoffers will doubt two specific things; the second coming and the flood of Noah’s day. I find it interesting that some theories on the long age of the earth also incorporate a local flood for Noah’s day. The young earth guys will use the Peter verse to show that if you purposefully rule out a world wide flood from your theory, that you fall into the snare of viewing certain scientific data [geologic table] as being a result of millions/billions of years of gradual uniform time [uniformitarianism] as opposed to being a result of the flood. The young earth brothers point to the fact that much of the fossil evidence and geologic column [like the Grand Canyon] can be a result of the universal flood. These brothers see the catastrophe [catastrophism] of the flood as the cause for these things. Does Peter [or any other bible passage] shed light on this subject? Yes, even though the bible does not speak to us in scientific language, it is reliable on all the things it does speak about; history, events like a flood, the future judgment, the second coming, etc. So it is important to not rule out the effects that a worldwide flood might have had on the data. Do we have any examples of the bible referring to worldwide things, and not really meaning ‘the whole world’? Yes, in Acts 2 the bible says there were people gathered from ‘every nation under heaven’ at the time, but the chapter gives us the nations that were there, there were obviously no people from America! So does ‘every nation’ simply mean every nation from the known world of the time? Yes. So some local flood believers use this type of stuff to defend their view. We do need to be careful when doing theology like this. Does the biblical account give us other clues that the flood was worldwide? Sure, why in the world would God have Noah build a huge ark, gather all these animals, have them in it for a long time while the earth floods. If the flood was regional, just tell the guy to move! The biblical account says the waters covered the highest mountains of the day, this could not happen unless the flood was world wide. So even though the bible does say ‘world wide/all nations’ at times in a non literal way, this does not mean we can change all the events described as world wide into local events. Some who read the first few chapters of Genesis in a poetic language way, also have the problem of deciding when the poetry stops! Is the Genesis 6 account of a flood real? What about the tower of Babel in chapter 11? Once you start going down the road of over spiritualizing the bible, you can run into problems. Overall I believe we need to be open and willing to see both sides of this argument [young and old earth views] there is somewhat of a tendency to view opposing views as real heresy [I sense this mostly from some of the young earth writers]. But there is also a condescending attitude towards young earth believers that at times seems to say ‘how can you be so behind the times in your views’? This debate on the age of the earth and the various progressive stages of evolutionary progress [cosmological evolution- stars producing basic elements over billions of years and these things ‘birthing’ planets and so forth] these theories are in no way definite! There are a lot of things that we simply don’t know for sure. But at the same time there are and have been true scientific breakthroughs that have challenged the mindset of the church and have corrected the church’s view in certain areas. As believers we need to hear both sides, while avoiding the warning of Peter who did say that there would be scoffers who purposefully would overlook the historical event of the flood of Noah’s day, we must let scripture form our views, while at the same time understanding that the bible does not give us a scientific explanation for all things.

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

(1139) CREATION DAYS 2-6 There are various views on these days; of course the literal view, each day is a 24 hour day that ends with the description of ‘evening and morning’. The symbolic view would argue that there was no ‘real’ evening and morning until day 4, because on day 4 God made the sun. So an ‘evening and morning’ that would be measured by the earth’s rotation as it relates to the sun [solar day] could not happen in a literal sense. These see certain poetic elements in these verses. A repetition of certain phrases- evening and morning, let there be, God said. These repetitive phrases show a stylized Hebrew narrative. It should be noted that this argument is true, whether you believe in the literal or figurative reading. It is still possible to have this type of stylized element, while at the same time speaking a real historic narrative. Another interesting view is called The Framework Theory. This view has been around since the early 20th century. It’s a topical view of the creation days. It sees the first 3 days and the 2nd set of three days as basically describing the same time frame. Basically this view says that God simply used the ‘framework’ of the 7 day week to give to man a real historic explanation of creation, but God used the framework of the 7 day week in a symbolic way for mans benefit. This view will compare day 1 [the first day of the first 3 day set] with day 4 [the first day of the second 3 day set]. Day one has God creating light, day 4 has the sun and stars. This view says these are 2 descriptions of the same creation act. The light from day one comes from the luminaries in day 4. Day 2 coincides with day 5. Day 2 has the heavens appear when God divides the waters [heaven and sea] day 5 [the second day of the second set] has the things that fill the heavens and seas- birds and sea creatures. Day 3 has land and vegetation, day 6 has land animals and man- things that eat the vegetation and walk the earth. It’s interesting, though not exact. You could see the seas as being part of day 3, and as you read both creation accounts [Genesis 1 and 2] there is a mixture of when things showed up. Are there other explanations for why the account in chapter 2 differs from chapter one? [chapter one has man being made after the animals, chapter 2 shows Adam before the animals, God brings the animals to show Adam, he sees nothing fitting for him and God then makes Eve]. Some see a purposeful inconsistency, put in the text by God himself, to show man that this was not to be taken in a literal, consecutive way. Sort of like the critics of the gospels, they will find various inconsistencies in the gospel narratives, like one gospel having two angels at the tomb, the other showing one. The critics say ‘see, inconsistent’ but the other argument can say if you had exact testimony from various eyewitness accounts in a courtroom, this would not convince the jury that their testimony was true, to the contrary it would indicate that the witnesses were coached. So the various different details might be actual clues to the validity of the gospel writers! So in Genesis, some feel there are purposeful poetic structures and differing accounts for the purpose of telling the reader ‘don’t take this too literal’. I don’t personally hold to this, but do see the point. It should be noted that in Exodus 20 and 31 Moses will speak about the creation days as historical narrative. No matter which view a person takes [literal or symbolic] the fact that creation itself happened by the hand of God is an undeniable fact of history and science. All things could not have come from nothing, there had to be an initial cause some where down the line. This initial cause himself had to have had no beginning [logic and science show this] and it just so happens that these attributes belong to the God of the bible, even before we knew that creation needed an initiator that possessed them!

(1138) CREATION DAY 1- In Genesis 1:1-5 we have the first recording of Gods creative acts, over the years Christians have struggled with this text. One of the main reasons believers ‘struggle’ with it is because modern scientific understanding [majority view- not all!] indicates that the earth is quite a lot older than 6 thousand years. Some scholars believe that the church has been duped into believing in old earth science and because of there acceptance of science, above Gods word, they have come to compromise Gods word. A simple reading of the first 5 verses of Genesis tell us that ‘in the beginning’ God made the heaven and the earth. At this point, God is not constrained to a time/space continuum of ‘day’ [the Hebrew word Yom]. The day itself will be created in this time period called ‘in the beginning’. God will create light and separate the light from the darkness and call this ‘day’. I see the possibility of there being a very long period of time having passed at this point, at least according to this text [we will look at Exodus 20:11 in a moment]. I do not see a need to create a ‘gap theory’ between verse one and verse two, some theorize that you had an entire pre adamic world, that God judged this world and this is how they explain the long age of the earth. I believe that a simple reading of the first five verses could go like this ‘at the start of all things, God made the heaven and the earth [no day constraint yet] and he also made light and dark [now we are getting into Gods cycle for man] and he saw that all these things were good. He made the day itself at this time, and the day became mans measurement of time’. Now, this is my paraphrase on how this text could be read. I do find it interesting that out of all the scholars I am presently reading on this subject, none of them are making this simple point; that the 24 hour day constraint was itself created ‘in the beginning’. Now, exodus 20:11 does say that God made all things in ‘6 days’, this verse seems to indicate that there was a time constraint to the actual making of the heaven and earth ‘in the beginning’ so to be fair to both sides [young and old earth creationists] I had to throw this in. Jesus also refers to the creation of man as an historical event [as opposed to a theistic evolutionary view] he says ‘in the beginning God made them male and female, and for this cause a man leaves his parents and is joined to his wife’ the young earth brothers will use this to show that Jesus believed that God created man ‘in the beginning’ as opposed to there being billions of years passing before man showed up [which is also a progressive view of creation- a sort of joining together the timeline of long age science with the Genesis account]. The point I would make is if God created time at ‘this point in time’ then the phrase ‘in the beginning’ could refer to thousands, or millions of years all being ‘at the start’ [compared to forever!]. I do not hold to a ‘progressive view’ myself, I simply believe that a plain reading of the first 5 verses of Genesis shows that the time constraint of day [Yom] was itself created at this time. The Exodus verse does seem to say that all the events of Gods creative acts did fit into the time/space of 6 days, but this first Genesis reading seems to leave room for a longer period of ‘one day’ when speaking of the creation of heaven and earth. While the young earth creationists do seem to fault the old earth creationists for trying to make scripture fit into current scientific theories of the earths age, I would like to point out the fact that both sides [young and old earth groups] see the first 3 days as distinct from all the other days that have occurred since that time. All agree that the sun was not the original light source for the first three days [well, some believe God was not giving us an exact consecutive recording of creation. So these see the sun as being the source of light for all the creation days] the charge could be made that even the young earth creationists are admitting that some of the creation days are not ‘days’ in the classical sense of the word. These first days were not solar days! The whole point is we do find some room for the interpretation of the creation days as having some areas that we don’t fully understand, or at least we don’t know all that was going on in a scientific sense [was the light for the first three days God himself? Possible. But then that would leave the door open that God created himself! A much greater theological heresy than the long earth view!]. I also believe that the fact that ‘the day’ itself was said to have been created by God ‘in the beginning’ leaves much room for a longer time period of the earths age. Out of all the other ancient near east [A.N.E] stories of creation, none of them have ‘a god’ who himself transcends time and space and actually created time itself. For thousands of years the common belief was that either matter itself always existed, or that time always existed. So the competing stories of creation found in other cultures have a god that was himself formed from matter, or creation itself was a process of these dependant gods fighting each other. No other view has a god that transcends time and space and actually creates time and space. It wasn’t until the 20th century that science itself proved this to be a fact, Einstein’s theories on time and space gave us proof that all things did have a starting point [big bang cosmology]. So anyway, in the coming weeks I might hit on these things a little more, but for today I wanted to emphasize that a simple, literal reading of Genesis 1:1-5 does show us that God created ‘the day’ [the actual time measurement that man goes by] during his initial act of creation. God himself was not ‘bound’ or constrained to the time/space continuum, he actually made the time/space continuum at ‘the time’.

(1137) Not sure which way to go, either the danger we are in right now as a country; that both sides [right and left] seem to be going to extremes, some wanting failure for the purpose of feeling vindicated. Or the liberal side that seems to always overlook the devastation of late term abortions. Never able to actually see and realize that we are actually dismembering real babies, babies that cry and squirm and wince on screen as they actually have taken pictures of this horrible act! Of course the murder of the man who engaged in this act for 5 thousand dollars a shot was wrong, very wrong. But the act itself is still horrendous! Both sides [right and left] are truly wanting the failure of the other side, even if it means national disaster! Bad stuff indeed. Okay, recently I have been reading up on the various views of Genesis and the recording of creation. Some scholars see the reality of other ancient near east [A.N.E] stories about a flood and creation, that have similar things to the biblical account, they see this as a key to understanding the Genesis account [I don’t fully hold to this myself]. While it’s interesting to note that some of these other stories have similarities [7 days are used frequently, the story of a man building a boat and saving his family as the world floods] and some of these stories existed before the Genesis account was written [around 1500 years B.C.] this in and of itself does not cast doubt on the biblical version. So what was the reaction to those who found out that these other stories had similarities to Genesis, and were written before Genesis? Some saw this as a clue to understanding the Genesis account; for instance they would say that when Moses recorded the Genesis account, he was a man influenced by his time and culture, so he obviously wrote in a sort of symbolic way, a style that he knew would be understood by the culture of his day. These scholars don’t reject the belief that creation did happen by God, they are simply trying to resolve some of the seeming problems [like God creating light on day 1, while the sun wasn’t created until day 4!] and feel there are some answers by using this paradigm. How else could you resolve the fact that other cultures [Babylonian, Egyptian] actually had their own stories of creation and a flood, before Genesis was written? Well the other possibility is that if Genesis is telling us the literal truth, that all people came from Adam [and later Noah] and that a great flood occurred, and that God really did make everything in 7 days, if these things really happened [by the way, I believe they did!] then why would you think it strange that the Babylonians and Egyptians had their own telling of these events, the other explanation for these other cultures having their own stories about these things is that these things really did happen to them! If all people really did come from Adam, then every culture would eventually have some type of telling of these stories passed along thru their culture. The possibility that some of these stories would be recorded before Genesis, does not diminish at all from the biblical account. No where in scripture does it tell us that the bible is the only book that would ever record the events of creation or a worldwide flood. The way people view these various truths depends a lot on their pre conceived mindsets. If you lean towards skepticism, then you tend towards seeing these things as ‘aha, I knew the bible was fake all along’ but if you lean towards a real belief in scripture, you could see it like the way I just showed you. In the future I will tackle some more of these issues [like light being created before the sun] and will try and give you both sides of the debate. But for now I wanted to just drop this in, to give your mind some things to chew on. The over spiritualizing of the creation account can be dangerous, Paul and Jesus both use the creation account in their teachings as historical narrative! In Romans Paul even says ‘like death entered into the world by one mans disobedience [Adam] we receive eternal life thru one mans obedience [Jesus]’ so to over spiritualize the creation account can be problematic. But even the literalists have some hurdles to overcome when reading the account. Most of all we know we can trust God’s word, and if there are portions of it that are Prose, Narrative, History or Phenomenological in language, this does not mean the Word of Gods is not true.

(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.

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

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

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

(1124) Let do some more apologetics [by the way, the word means ‘give a defense’ it does not mean to apologize! It comes from the bible, in Peter it says ‘be ready to give an answer to those who ask for a reason for the hope in you’] One of the other areas of doubt raised by the atheist is the fact that there are various accounts of creation and the ‘flood story’ found in other civilizations. The Babylonians have ‘the epic of Gilgamesh’. This is an account of a worldwide flood. The fact that there are other stories about a major world event, would not in and of itself cast doubt on the event! Where I grew up in New Jersey you would have been able to actually see the world trade center disaster on 9-11. As an Italian, say if I wrote a report of the events for my fellow Italian buddies. Then lets say a thousand years go by and you find out that the Cuban papers also reported it, and the Puerto Ricans, as a matter of fact you might find many cultures that have their own reporting of this event. Would that cast doubt on my report? No, as a matter of fact if no one else had a report, except me, then that would cast doubt! Now, how do we know which report is true? Out of the various other stories about creation and a flood, the one that is the ‘least fantastic’ is the biblical one. The others definitely have a tinge of unreality about them. Some say the earth was flooded, but it rained for 7 days [not long enough to flood the earth!] and the waters receded in one day [cant happen!] the biblical account has both a longer period of rain as well as a longer period of the waters receding. The actual dimensions of Noah’s Ark were huge! The huge boat looked more like a giant rectangular barge, you could fit huge jetliners in the thing! It was three levels high, but not like the silly kids pictures found in fables. That topsy turvy thing with animals peeking off the deck! The actual dimensions could have worked, really! The point is the simple fact of other cultures having their own stories of events like this does not mean the events themselves were fake, to the contrary, if only one culture had these stories, that would cast more doubt on the events themselves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(1110) yesterday I fell asleep on the couch watching Shindler’s list, of course I have seen it before but it’s worth watching a few times. My daughter woke me up to give me a letter she found in the mail box from an old friend of mine. I was surprised to have received a letter from Leonard; I used to preach to his dad in the county jail back in the 80’s, I became friends with the whole family [6 sons 5 daughters- if I can remember?] One of the boys eventually became one of our best brothers in Kingsville today. Still serving God and drug free after many years in prison and on hard main line drugs. The last time I spoke to Leonard [now in prison] was around 19 years ago. At the time I was ‘backsliding’ and ran into him in some alley in Kingsville. He ‘jumped’ me, hit with a sucker punch. I can still remember it. I took my glasses off and whacked him hard, I had him on the ground nailing him in the face, his sisters pulled me off. A bad time for me. I don’t think I have spoke to him since, I know all is forgotten. I have heard from his brother how he is back serving the Lord and all [in prison!] and his brother has kept him updated on ‘our journey’ [the progress of the ministry since those days]. I will read the letter later today. Now, Shindler’s list was good, there is a scene where the kids are being separated from their mothers and being taken to the death camps, the mothers are weeping. It reminded me of the Old Testament prophets words ‘Rachel weeping for her children, they are no more’. This verse was fulfilled in Jesus day when king Herod slaughtered the children, the wise men did not reveal to the king who Jesus was so he slew the kids from 2 years and under. God had his prophet speak about young children who would be born at some future date and who would live very short lives. They were important enough to make it into the prophetic history of Israel, don’t tell me God doesn’t care for the unborn! At the end of the movie Shindler buys as many Jews as he can to save them, and he begins regretting that he didn’t do more, he cant seem to see what he did as noble, something effects him and he is wracked with the guilt of not doing more. There are a few verses that I come across every few years, and when I read them I stop and allow them to have full impact. One is the verse from King David where he mourns over the death of his son ‘Oh Absalom, my son Absalom, would to God I had died in your place’ this verse reveals the brokenness of God over the loss of his Son, an aspect that is rarely seen when discussing the Atonement [God was punishing Jesus on our behalf, Penal substitution. Yet at the same time broken over his death!] The other verse is when Jesus says to his friends ‘the things concerning me have an end’ it strikes me as both sad and tragic, his friends were hoping for a full life ‘long live the king’ type of a thing, but Jesus was surrounded with the reality of death. His close friend John recently died, they took his head off in prison. He is traveling a road that will end fairly soon, his friends wanted more. Jesus said ‘greater love has no man than this, that he would lay his life down for his friends’ how does a statement like ‘the things concerning me have an end’ affect you? What would you say to Jesus if he expressed these feeling towards you? We would want to say ‘No way, don’t talk like that!’ we would be more concerned with the things of men than of God. Live your life to the fullest, don’t get me wrong, but live it with the understanding that we are all mortal ‘the things concerning us will soon come to an end’. Shindler did all he could do, at the end he felt like he didn’t do enough. Live well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(1079) let’s see, I was gonna talk about the movie ‘there’s something about Mary’ they have been playing it on cable. It is funny! But a little too racy. Then I thought about doing one on ‘the Ort cloud’ a so called spot in space where comets are waiting on the runway to launch into our solar system, after all comets lose mass in their orbits. If you measured the amount of mass being lost with the old age of the earth/solar system, they wouldn’t be around any more! So the Ort cloud is ‘an idea’ that fits in with the old age theory [I lean towards the old age theory myself]. And last of all I was going to delve into the authorship of the New Testament, I spoke about this a few posts back and thought we should do a little more. Right after I started reading the bible I came across an interesting fact, I noticed how the letter of Jude was almost identical with a chapter in 2nd Peter. It was more than just common themes; it seemed to be a duplication. I remember mentioning this to my Pastor [a good man who had graduated from a fundamentalist bible college] he was not aware of this. I told him I had no problem with it, that it was certainly possible for the Holy Spirit to inspire two separate writers to say the same thing, and I left it at that. Are there any other solutions to this type of thing? Well, it is also possible that Peter [or Jude] read the other brothers letter and used a portion of it. Peter states in his writings that he was reading Paul’s stuff. The New Testament leadership knew each other fairly well, ALL the early Christian leaders lived in the same region of the world and had contact. There is one more explanation that scholars give; in the first century it was common for a writer [scribe-personal secretary of an author] to write/compile the teachings of a few various leaders [with permission!] and to attribute the whole letter to the main contributor. The book of Proverbs is attributed to Solomon, yet there are a few other authors mentioned in the book [king Lemuel, Agar] same with Psalms. So it is possible that a compiler [scribe] put together a letter with parts of Jude in it, but the entire letter would be attributed to the main contributor, Peter. The point being that there are solutions to difficulties like this, Christians should be familiar and trained in stuff like this. My original pastor, though a good man, was not familiar with stuff like this because the strong fundamentalist background simply ignores these types of scholarly questions. All in all I believe 2nd Peter [and Jude] are inspired books canonized by the church for our benefit, but the first century writers did not write [or compile] in a vacuum, they did use scribes [Paul did as well] and sometimes this sort of compiling did go on, not in deception, but as an accepted practice of first century writing. I would have no problem with accepting a book as inspired, even if it was possibly a compilation of more than one author.

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

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

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

(1069) 1ST KINGS 18- After three years in hiding the Lord tells Elijah to show himself to Ahab, rain is on the way! He appears once again on the scene and Ahab says ‘here he is, the one causing all the trouble’. Elijah says ‘you got it wrong buddy, it’s your wickedness and turning away from proper paths that has caused this trouble’. Elijah sets up a contest ‘go, get all the false prophets of Baal and let them come and set up an altar. Let them place a bull on it and pray and see if Baal will come and show himself alive’. So Elijah has them crying and cutting themselves [pagan ritual] and pleading all day for Baal to come and consume [by fire] the sacrifice. He even mocks them ‘where is Baal? Maybe he went on a trip? Maybe he’s sleeping’? One translation says ‘maybe he’s on the pot’ [toilet] Elijah was not above scathing sarcasm! So after Baal doesn’t ‘act’ Elijah sets up his own altar, puts a bull on it, soaks the whole thing with water and prays for God to reveal himself. Sure enough fire falls from heaven, burns the bull, stones and everything else! Elijah takes the false prophets and puts them out of their misery. These brothers had a bad day, the same day they find out that their religion is false, they meet Jehovah face to face! And then Elijah tells Ahab ‘get ready, the rain is coming’. God ‘showed’ himself thru a great act; he let it be known that the true God made a real difference. I recently read a story about an atheist. He is an intellectual and lives in Africa. Over the years he observed these ‘silly Christians’ coming to his nation and spreading their ‘ignorant beliefs’. He also noticed something else, they were the only real ongoing group of people who regularly gave their time and lives for the betterment of his fellow Africans. Sure, his intellectually arrogant friends would look at the whole thing as a charade, watching these missions groups spending time trying to teach silly stuff like the Trinity, declaring that this Jesus was ‘Gods son, God in the flesh’ but the atheists never organized a community that would actually help his fellow Africans, there was almost a built in bigotry that said ‘why even help these poor blobs of flesh, after all, we all came from nothing. When we die we simply cease to have feelings and pleasure, our lives basically consist of enjoying pleasures and being happy, what eternal significance is there in caring for the poor ignorant masses’. The observant atheist realized that thru out his life, his closet friends, the people who shared his own beliefs. They were the ones who didn’t ‘give a damn’ about his fellow black countrymen, but the Christians whom he and his friends spent their who lives mocking and resisting and verbally abusing, these Christians were the ones who gave of their lives for the betterment of his fellow man. God revealed himself thru Elijah’s ministry on this day, he showed the people that the God [system] you believe in really does matter. In all of our talking and debating between various religions and belief/unbelief systems, at the end of the day look at the results, Christianity has had her faults to be sure, but she has done a lot better than the prophets of Baal!

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

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

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

(1050)1st KINGS 3:1-15 this is a prophetic chapter, Solomon goes to Gibeon to offer on ‘the great altar’. What is the great altar? There is a remote verse [somewhere in the Old Testament- I didn’t look it up] that says Moses tabernacle is located at Gibeon. How it got there we don’t know, but the picture is important. The tabernacle of Moses represents the Old Covenant [law], during David’s rule the Ark of the covenant that was stolen, David retrieves it and places it at Jerusalem [the tent that he puts it under is called the Tabernacle of David- a type of the new covenant people who have free access to God, no more veil!] So Solomon more than likely sacrificed at Gibeon [picturing the Old Covenant] and then has the famous dream where God appears to him and he asks for wisdom. This ‘dream’ can be a type of death. Jesus referred to death as ‘sleeping’ Paul too. So after ‘the dream’ [death] he goes to Jerusalem and is at the place of the Ark [a type of Gods presence, it was not in Moses tabernacle, but under the tent that David set up] and eventually the remnants of Moses tabernacle [at Gibeon] will be joined to the Ark [at Jerusalem] and their will be ‘one new temple’ [Ephesians speaks of the 2 becoming one in Christ, both Jew and Gentile]. So under Solomon’s rule [a type of Christ] we have the joining of the Old Covenant people of God along with the Gentile church. Jesus did not forsake his ‘people that he foreknew’ [Romans] but thru his death he took away the ‘law of commandments contained in ordinances and nailed them to his Cross’ [Colossians, Ephesians] thus removing the enmity and making in himself ‘one new man’. Solomon was definitely prophetic! [see 2nd Samuel study, chapter 7- entry 923]

(1023)ECCLESIASTES- I PLAYED THE GAME AND WON! Solomon was in a position where he could do and try anything. I recently read how a very famous Christian singer has come out of the closet and began living the gay lifestyle. He is married and has kids, he is in his fifties. He simply said he woke up one day and told the Lord that he was tired of fighting the desire and gave in. Solomon said he gave in to pleasure, he decided that trying to restrain himself was unfulfilling and he gave in to every pleasure his heart desired. Did it fulfill him? No, he said it was folly. He became the most successful business man in Jerusalem. No one before him was able to achieve the success and prominence in this city where he resided, yet at the end it meant nothing. In essence he played the game, by the rules, and it still wasn’t worth it. Yesterday I was helping out some homeless friends, a sincere older lady asked me if I had a few dollars, I actually didn’t. But I went to the store and bought a few things and took out an extra 20.00. I split it between 4 people; friends that I knew weren’t going to get drunk. They were so happy and grateful, I still can’t get over what a simple 20 dollar bill can do for people. In ‘this game’ that we are in [called life!] God is the scorekeeper, I realize that many modern ‘theologies’ have turned the tables. Some teach that God does keep score by how much material success we achieve before we die, they sincerely think this is right. I watched an exposé on U- TUBE that showed a CNN reporter interviewing one of the prosperity ministers who has come under fire. The reporter got smart, she actually read from scripture the passage where Jesus challenges the young rich man to sell all he has and give to the poor. She quoted the passage where it says it’s harder for a rich man to go to heaven than for a camel to pass thru a needle. The preacher defended his pursuit of wealth by saying ‘if you read the rest of the story, he sold his wealth and God gave him a hundred fold back.’ He said ‘God was telling the man to worship him with his wealth’. I actually was surprised that this minister said this, he does know scripture. He definitely was wrong about this, the rich man went away sad because he had ‘much wealth’ and did not want to depart from it! God keeps score differently than the world. Solomon tried all the options, he was way ahead on points. He was so far ahead that no one was going to catch up, he then realized that ‘being ahead’ wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.

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

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

(1014)CORINTHIANS 15:50-58 Okay, let’s wrap up this chapter. ‘Flesh and blood will not inherit the kingdom’ Paul speaks a little on the nature of the resurrected body. It is real, but not mortal [flesh and blood] without getting lost in the technical aspects of the actual body, Paul does make a distinction between the natural life of man [blood gives life to the mortal man] and the supernatural life of the resurrected body [spiritual life]. Then Paul shows us a mystery [something that was hidden up until the time God reveals it- here thru Paul!] that ‘we shall not all experience death, but we shall all get new bodies’. Paul teaches that some believers will not face natural death, they will be the generation that is alive at Christ’s coming. Paul says this happens at the ‘last trumpet’. For those of you not familiar with some of the silly stuff that passes under the heading of ‘theology’, let me explain some stuff. In the world of ‘dispensationalism’ there is an entire body of teaching that deals with the trumpets in scripture. Basically if Paul is teaching that this event, getting raised from the dead and being transformed, if this takes place at ‘the last trump’ then it is pretty clear that this event is not some type of rapture that takes place 7 years prior to Gods ‘last trump’ [last day, when God wraps things up]. But if you read the portions of scripture that speak about Christ’s return and the resurrection [Thessalonians 4, John 14, Matthew 25] you will see that all these scriptures teach that the resurrection takes place at the end, when Christ returns. So anyway a whole lotta time is spent by the rapture guys to explain that when you are in school, you might say ‘hey, that’s the last bell [trump] before class starts’ and that ‘last bell’ doesn’t mean ‘last bell’, but it means the ‘last bell for now’. It’s kind of silly stuff that preachers do in order to back up their theories. If scriptures ‘last trump’ isn’t really the ‘last trump’ then you can fit the rapture in as a separate event from the second coming. I think doing doctrine like this is silly and hairsplitting. The first century believers who were reading these letters [not all at once, but as they were slowly being penned and sent] simply saw all of the references on the second coming as one event. It’s silly to try and make two separate lists of the New testament verses on Christ’s coming and then place some verses under a rapture heading, and others under a ‘second coming’ heading, especially when the rapture brothers themselves cant agree on which ones belong to which list! Well any way we have a glorious promise of a future resurrection body, the last enemy that Jesus destroys is death. Revelation says ‘death and hell are cast into the lake of fire’ Jesus has power over death, hell and the grave. He will totally eradicate all death some day, Jesus tasted death for every man [Hebrews] so that man does not have to be in bondage under its fear any more.

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

(1012)JAMES AND REVELATION- I have been reading James along with some stuff on Revelation. James says ‘though the ships are driven with fierce winds, yet they turn by the steering of the captain. He sets the course with a small helm/rudder’. Also that the tongue is a ‘world of sin, it sets the course of nature on fire’. In revelation Jesus is depicted as a warrior LAMB. He is also called the Lion of Judah. He ‘slays the wicked’ with the sword [word!] from his mouth. The word for conquer/victory in Revelation is the Greek word NIKAN-NIKE. Yes, the famous sneaker comes from this word! Nikan was a Roman conqueror god. Rome was a conquering nation who used force and brutality to win. John depicts her as Babylon in his apocalypse. When we read of the victorious Lamb and his followers [believers] overcoming and conquering the beast, we are seeing the nature of Jesus kingdom at work. We too are lambs sent out into the world. We turn the other cheek, we forgive and love our enemies. We reject violence as a means of victory. We conquer too by the sword that comes out of our mouth! [The blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony]. What we say, as the corporate church of God, matters! We can turn entire ‘ships’ [nations and governments] by the things we proclaim as Gods people. We can also release the nature of man and cause a huge ‘firestorm’ without realizing it. When we present Jesus and his kingdom thru a view of ‘conquering’ [Nike] that is done thru violence, nuclear war, Jesus literally treading people’s blood until it drips from his garments, when we give this imagery as actual killing, then we thru our lips are releasing the violent course of man in the earth. We have believers reading the popular end times books and fantasizing about end time scenarios of survivalism and warfare. These images are actually things the ‘beast’ uses to obtain authority and rule. To the contrary Jesus and his followers are conquering thru a different means. We are followers of the Lamb who ‘kills with the sword of his mouth’. When the citizens of ‘Rome’ [unbelievers] are confronted with the testimony of Jesus from our lips, then they ‘die to their old lives’ and are raised to walk in newness of life [Romans 6]. The blood imagery of Jesus being drenched in it, can be saying that Jesus identified so much with man in his bloody death, that as he ‘treads the enemy’ he becomes identified with the human condition so man can become identified with him. In essence Jesus ‘co-mingled’ with us thru death, so we could be united with him in life. The point I am making is we as Gods people need to be careful when we run headlong into violent war scenarios when presenting the word of God. It is obvious that Jesus is not literally killing people with a real sword [made out of metal] from his mouth. He conquers thru love and death and resurrection, the world conquers thru violence and oppression. When we ‘paint’ an inaccurate picture of these things thru our teaching/preaching, then we are releasing thru our tongues a ‘world of iniquity that sets on fire the course of nature’. This is not the testimony that we should be speaking that truly causes us to overcome.

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

(1008)CORINTHIANS 14:34-40 ‘Let your women keep silent in the gathering, for it is not permitted for them to speak. If they have any questions let them ask their husbands at home’. As a practical matter, when me and my wife attend church, I bring one of those little note pads with me. You never know when your wife has a question! [This is a Joke! But now you can see why I don’t take offerings]. What is Paul saying here? In chapter 11, verse 5, he also told the women not to ‘prophesy’ with uncovered heads. Some think Paul is forbidding women to operate in the speaking gifts, specifically tongues. Here he seems to be addressing a specific issue at Corinth. He says ‘if they have questions let them ask their husbands’. It’s possible that the wives were interrupting the meetings, or taking an authoritative role that was beyond their calling. I already discussed how Corinth had a form of idolatry that incorporated ‘temple prostitution’. Paul did not want the churches to go the way of the culture at Corinth! Paul is not forbidding women in general to never ‘talk in church’. He closes this chapter with the admonition to do all things decently and in order. Paul has a special relationship with these believers. He spent quite a long time in their city [18 months] he launched another very effective ministry while at Corinth. Do you know what that was? He began his ‘writing ministry’ while at Corinth. He wrote his first 2 letters to the Thessalonians from the city. Paul was very hard on this church, but he did not yet challenge their basic identity as believers because of all their misgivings, he still treated them as Gods holy people. In the next chapter he will question whether or not ‘they are in the faith’. He will challenge them on their unbelief in the resurrection of Christ.

(1004)CORINTHIANS 13:11-13 WHEN I WAS A CHILD I UNDERSTOOD AND THOUGHT AND SPOKE LIKE A CHILD, BUT WHEN I GREW UP I PUT THOSE THINGS BEHIND ME- Paul shows us that we presently see and understand things thru ‘a glass’. God gives us insight and glimpses into Divine truth, but we need mercy because we all have limited sight. Over the years I know I have ruffled some feathers. Whether it be our teaching on what the church is, tithing, end times stuff. How New Testament believers should view the nationalistic promises made to Israel under the Old Covenant. I have found that the problem usually isn’t solved by simply proving something from scripture. For instance someone might become convinced by an ‘avalanche’ of information, they might actually see what I am saying. They can even articulate it to a degree [sometimes better than me!] but at the end of the day the answer to the problem is we all need to ‘grow up’. We need an overall change in the way we view things thru a legalistic lens. For instance, the tithe issue. Over the years I have taught the concept that believers are not under this law. Those of you who have read this site for any length of time know this. But I have also taught that it is fine to put 10% of your money into the offering on Sunday. It’s okay to support those who ‘labor among us’. But there are also many examples in the New Testament warning Gods leaders to not be in it for the money. Now, if we took seriously the mandate in Malachi to tithe. If we want to actually bind the believer’s conscience in this way ‘how are you robbing God? By not bringing in the tithes!’ Then we need to also look at the context. Israel as a nation was mandated to ‘tithe’ of their goods [not money] in three ways. They gave to support the Levites, also for the poor, and then they gave a tithe for religious feasts. In essence this ‘tithe’ was a total of around 30 % of their annual income, not 10%! [This by the way is right around what I spend on a monthly basis for the ministry stuff I do]. So, if we were telling people ‘you are going to be cursed if you don’t pay 10%’ we are actually misreading this verse. Also, how many believers think they are going to be cursed if they don’t ‘tithe to the poor’? Most modern preaching on the tithe simply puts it in the category of the Sunday offering. Most of this type of giving goes to support salaries, building upkeep, light bills, insurance for staff. I could go on and on. A very minute portion of this money [in general] goes to the poor. Certainly not a third! Also the portion that went to the Levites could not be used to purchase anything that would be owned by the Levite. They were forbidden to own any type of personal inheritance as Levitical priests. How often does the modern concept of tithing include this? The whole point is if we are going to bind peoples consciences in this way [which we shouldn’t] then we need to make sure we are at least teaching it right! Why bring this up? This is simply a good example of what Paul is saying. ‘When I understood in a limited way, I spoke and acted in a limited way’. The answer to the problem is simply ‘becoming mature in our thinking and speaking’. Recently I read an article from a U.S. congressman, he was speaking about the situation between Israel and Palestine. He sided with a military interpretation of the Old Testament promise to Abraham to ‘posses the land’ and used that to influence his political activism for war. How ‘mature’ is this type of thinking? Did any of the JEWISH apostles do this? No. So instead of trying to ‘crisis manage’ every single doctrinal problem, we really need to mature on an overall basis and view these doctrines thru the paradigm of Jesus and his life and work. Are we imitating his ethos when we do these things? Was this the primary message and life of Jesus when he walked the earth? How did he respond to Roman oppression and unjust govt.? Did he advocate military action in defense of the promises of God made to the nation of Israel? If we as the 21st century church do not ‘rightly divide’ these things, then we are of all men ‘most miserable’ [1st Corinthians 15].

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

(998)CORINTHIANS ‘DO ALL SPEAK WITH TONGUES’? – Before we leave chapter 12, let me overview a little. Paul mentions ‘do all speak with tongues’ and the presumed answer is ‘no’. I love my Pentecostal brothers, but some have developed an interesting doctrine that says ‘God wants all to speak with tongues’ though here it is obvious that all don’t! I am familiar with the classic defense of this. It says that in the beginning of the chapter the gifts are individual gifts that all believers can have [true enough] but that later in the chapter the ‘tongues’ that all don’t operate in is speaking of some sort of ministry gift of tongues. That Paul is basically saying ‘you can all prophesy, speak with tongues, etc..’ but you are not all going to have public ‘ministry gifts’ in these things. Okay, I got it. What’s the problem with this defense? Simply that when your done making the case, the brothers usually wind up saying ‘therefore, we should all speak with tongues’! Any argument [case] made from scripture, needs to use the plain language/thought flow to interpret that which is not plain. I believe all the gifts are for today [though I would disagree on certain Pentecostal definitions of them] but I also believe we violate the New Testament when we teach that certain gifts are supposed to operate in every person. Sure, you can find tongues and other gifts as signs in the book of Acts that believers were filled with the Spirit. But this doesn’t mean that those who don’t speak in tongues are not filled with the Spirit. Paul’s teaching here is that we are all baptized into Christ by the Spirit and we are all ‘drinking in the one Spirit’ but yet he empathically says ‘you all will not have the same gifts operating’. I think it is a violation of scripture to develop a doctrine that says ‘unless you function in a certain gift, you are not Spirit filled’. I do not see the classic Pentecostal division between ‘public tongues’ [that everyone doesn’t do] and ‘private tongues’ that you must have in order to have proof of being baptized in the Spirit. I do see the division to a degree, but I feel the Pentecostal brothers are being legalistic when they make this case.

(995)IS MODERN ISRAEL THE SAME AS ANCIENT ISRAEL? Why bring this up now? At the time of this entry [1-09] we have another one of those endless wars in the Middle East. Israel has been bombed over the past few years on a regular basis from Hamas. Hamas are the rogue ruling authority in the Gaza strip. Israel made a deal with the Palestinians to give them the strip of land, in return Palestine promised not to use the land against Israel. What happened? After the Palestinians took the land, they elected Hamas to be their ruling authority! Hamas are terrorists, make no mistake about it. So after a few years of regular bombings from the Gaza strip into Israel, Israel said ‘that’s enough’ and started a military campaign to up root Hamas. To be honest, they are using the exact same justification as the U.S. action against terrorism. Now, Israel as a modern state is quite a miracle. Or are they? After the destruction of their temple and the loss of their national identity in A.D. 70 they have been without a homeland for 2 thousand years. In the 20th century [1949] Israel once again became a state with a homeland for the first time in nearly 2 thousand years. Most evangelical Christians in the U.S. equate modern Israel with the promises made to Abraham by God in the Old Testament. God promised Abraham that he would give the land to him and his seed. In Deuteronomy 28 we see that the promise of Israel keeping the land was contingent on their obedience to his covenant. The history of Israel in the Old Testament shows them violating Gods laws at various times and God allowing them to be taken captive and losing their land. So the promise of inheritance was based in part on their obedience to God. Now, after W.W.1 the League of Nations made an agreement with modern Israel to give them a homeland. This promise was not carried out until after W.W.2. The United Nations agreed to give them the land and the British carved out a portion of the land and Israel became a nation once again. Let me make myself clear, as a nation Israel has a right to exist. After the initial taking of the land, the neighbors had various wars with Israel and in every case Israel won and took some more land. How Christians view the present status of the modern nation state is important. Most believers look at every modern conflict thru the promise of God made to Abraham thousands of years ago. The normal reaction by the fundamentalist/evangelical preacher is ‘God promised them the land, and by golly if Israel has to kill some poor Arabs to keep it, then that’s Gods will’! This is where we need to be careful. As an ally of the U.S. Israel is a small lone Democracy in a tough region of the world [there are other democracies, but they don’t border Israel]. Our country does have a responsibility to back up our allies. Israel does rule herself in a modern way with a rule of law and a humane judicial system that are rare for the region. So all in all they are a good ally who has a right to exist. But should believers equate this right with some biblical promise made to Abraham by God? Remember, God himself said that the promise of them dwelling in the land had to do with their obedience to him. Modern Israel is a religious nation. But they are also cultural. Many Jews presently living in the land do not practice Judaism, they simply see themselves as ethnic Jews. Those who do practice their faith practice a form of Judaism that can be called ‘Rabbinic Judaism’. This form of Judaism is what the Pharisees practiced during Jesus day. They elevate the traditions of the elders to a degree equal to [or greater than] the Old Testament law. If you remember Jesus rebuked this religious mindset when he told the Pharisees ‘by your tradition [the tradition of the elders] you make void the commandments of God’. So first of all, modern Israel is not in good standing with Jesus! [At least on covenantal grounds]. Second, did you ever wonder if the modern religious defense of Israel coincides with the actual Promised Land mentioned in scripture? If you go back and read the actual borders that God promised Abraham, you have a region extending to parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and a few other spots. In essence, many of the defenders of Israel’s right to the land, are not even talking about the actual borders mentioned in the bible! What does this mean? If God conditioned the obtaining of the land on the obedience of natural Israel to his law, is modern Rabbinic Judaism fulfilling it? If the promise of the land by God to Israel are what most evangelicals are fighting over, are they using scriptural borders to define ‘the land’ or are they using a 20th century land agreement made by human nations after the world wars? I believe Christians should stand for the right and freedom of all people [including modern Israel!] to exist and practice their religion freely. I believe modern Israel has as much right to the land they inhabit as any other nation who dwells on territory that used to belong to other people groups. That is if any nation engages with other nations in an aggression, if the nation who attacked you loses, you bet your gonna lose some land. That’s the way the ball bounces. The point of this entry is to simply call the American church to rethink the attachment she places on Gods promises to Abraham when making these arguments. A case could be made that modern Rabbinic Judaism is in fact still rejecting the law of God and does not fulfill the requirement, given by God himself, to ‘dwell in the land’. We as believers need to be careful when we simply jump headlong into these world affairs in a way that says to the world ‘God is on this nation’s side, and anyone who challenges their borders is in the wrong’. Understand, the ‘borders’ in these scenarios were carved out by human nations coming to certain land agreements. Be careful when you equate modern borders with Gods covenantal promise to Israel. We all need to pray for peace, we need to act justly in the world. We need to be against all racism, even anti Semitism! But we also need to stand true to the New Testament Ethos of all ethnic barriers being destroyed in Christ. We don’t want the world to think that King Jesus is going to return and physically war to protect a border made-up by the United Nations! This type of end times teaching can get us into real trouble.

(991)1ST CORINTHIANS 12: 8-11 Instead of giving you my definition for each one of the gifts of the Spirit, let me just give you a sense of where I’m coming from. Over the years I have learned the normal Pentecostal understanding of these gifts. I also have learned the ‘anti-Pentecostal’ view. I take a little from each camp. The strong Pentecostal view usually sees all the gifts as ‘supernatural’ I do too! But to them this means the gifts of Wisdom and Knowledge can’t be ‘regular wisdom or knowledge’. Okay, so what are they? Some teach that the ‘word of wisdom’ is simply a prophetic word about future stuff. The ‘word of knowledge’ is simply prophetic insight into ‘past stuff’. To be honest I have no idea how people come up with stuff like this [well, actually I do have an idea]. I see Paul as operating in a strong gift of knowledge, though Paul was trained and had a good education, the Spirit took all of his ‘head knowledge’ and quickened it. I see James as having a strong gift of wisdom, his epistle is the only New Testament work considered to be part of the corpus of wisdom literature. Of course the gifts of healing[s] and prophecy are supernatural, but wisdom and knowledge can be ‘supernatural’ without having to fall into some prophetic type category. If it’s wisdom and knowledge from God, then it is supernatural! I have known Pastors who had the gift of wisdom, sometimes they would come to the same conclusions as me, but they took a different route to get there! They might not have ‘seen’ all the knowledge portions of scripture that I saw, but the wisdom they operated in caused them to arrive at the same place. Some teach that after the Spirit fell on the church at Pentecost [Acts 2] that you no loner had miracles, dreams and visions or angelic visitations. Why is this wrong? The book that records more miracles and angels and visions than any other book [except for the gospels] is the book of Acts. In essence, one of the major New Testament books on these manifestations shows them to be a result of the Spirits outpouring! The point being these things didn’t end after Pentecost. I realize both camps [Pentecostal- non Pentecostal] have had their wars over this stuff. I find that both sides can be just as legalistic and judgmental in their views. I think one of the major ‘signs’ of being ‘Spirit filled’ is a life based on free grace. When people grasp the gospel and are filled with the Spirit, they should be free from living their lives out of a state of condemnation and guilt. Many ‘Spirit filled’ churches operate in the gifts [their view of them] but are just as legalistic as the non Pentecostals. To me this is not what it means to be ‘Spirit filled’. Overall we should be open to the working of the Spirit in supernatural ways. We should avoid making this the goal or identity of our Christian walk, but we should not reject or despise prophetic/supernatural things. They are available and necessary at times for completion of the mission.

(981)TRIALS/END TIME STUFF- As I was praying this morning I was meditating on what verse to share. Sure enough as I was listening for guidance, I remembered that right before I woke up I had a dream. In the dream I picked up a green Gideon’s bible and read from James. I think it was ‘Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life’. I have been reading a scholarly work on the book of Revelation. Much better than the more popular ‘prophecy teachers’ stuff! The author is a little too Preterist for me, but overall very good. Preterism is the view that sees all of the prophetic end time passages thru a historical view. They teach that everything already occurred, even the final resurrection and judgment verses! I think the modern popular view is too futuristic, that is they seem to take most of the book and try and ‘news paper prophecy’ the thing. I see John’s work as primarily dealing with kingdoms in conflict. The kingdoms of the world warring against the kingdom of God. So he most definitely has Rome and her emperors in view. But this does not mean that John’s vision is limited to Roman leaders. The book can have meaning for believers in every age as they deal with ‘Babylon’ [the world] and the ‘kings of the earth’. So I see both a present reality [present for John’s actual readers who lived in the first century] and a future application. And of course I see the second coming of Christ and the final judgment as future! Now John was ‘on the island of Patmos for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus’. John was a partaker, along with the suffering church, of the trials and difficulties of the first century church. His banishment to Patmos [an island off modern day Turkey, in the Aegean Sea] , most likely by the emperor Nero, was for the purpose of ‘the word of God and testimony of Jesus’. He was being persecuted for the faith, but also for the purpose of receiving and writing down God’s word. Jesus says in John 17 ‘I sanctify myself and ask that they would be sanctified too. I sanctify myself for their sakes. I have given them the words you gave me.’ [my paraphrase] Jesus had a task to get certain words from the father to the elect, he fulfilled the task! John had some trials and things to deal with, it was part of the cost. I felt the Lord wanted to encourage some of you today, you are going thru stuff ‘because of the word of God and testimony of Jesus’. You are being ‘targeted’ because of your destiny! In the gospels Jesus says ‘when the word comes then tribulation and persecutions arise’. One of the strategies of the enemy is to come against you hard ‘after the word comes’. Once God has revealed and made plain to you the purpose and vision, then the enemy works overtime to stop you. He doesn’t want you to ‘deliver the word/purpose’ to those that the father has given you out of the world. Your trials and difficulties are a direct attempt of the enemy to stop you from getting the message out! Don’t take it personal.

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

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

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

(972)1ST CORINTHIANS 10:1-4 it’s actually Christmas morning, 2008, as I write. Paul says ‘all of our forefathers were under the cloud, they were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and sea’. Note- 2 baptisms ‘Cloud’ [Spirit] ‘Sea’ [water]. Let’s do a little thinking here. How can Paul refer to the Jewish fathers as the Corinthians forefathers? Is he expecting a large Jewish group to read this letter? [Like Romans- both Jews and Gentiles were in mind]. Is he addressing them like the author of Hebrews, who is speaking directly to a nation in transition? While it’s possible for a few Jewish believers to have read/heard the reading of this letter. Yet I think Paul is simply being consistent with his letters to the Galatians and Romans, where he taught that all who would believe were the ‘children of Abraham by faith’ Abraham is ‘the father of many nations’. Now, I like the way Paul ‘spiritualizes’ here. Moses was the prophet who typified Jesus. The people were baptized [joined] to him both thru the good times and the bad. There was quite a rough history between Moses and the rebels! Times where they wanted to change leadership. Times where God even said ‘I have had it with this bunch, let’s just wipe them out and start over’. They had history. Also Paul says ‘they all ate of the same spiritual meat and drank from the same spiritual rock. Christ’. Again, Paul seems to teach the symbolic, as opposed to literal, view of ‘eating/drinking Christ’. Israel did have some physical ordinances in the wilderness. The Passover and the bread from heaven [Manna] already happened. But Jesus himself [John 6] would say ‘Moses didn’t give you the real bread, I am the real bread!’. So Paul’s use of the ‘Rock’ is purely symbolic. The story relates to the time where God gave the children of Israel water from an actual rock in the wilderness. Moses spoke to/struck the rock and water came out. Paul sees this as a symbolic picture. He is saying ‘this foreshadowed Christ, the true rock who would be the ‘Rock of ages’ who would be struck on the Cross and water would flow from his side’. Once again, this leaves us some context to interpret the Lords supper in a symbolic way. Was Paul teaching the Corinthians to go out in the fields and actually drink real water from a rock? No. He was simply saying these physical symbols would be fulfilled at a future time, and that time was now! All who believe in Christ are partaking [spiritually] of the water of life, the Holy Spirit. Tomorrow we will get into the examples that were left to us from these stories. I just want to mention that the Apostle Paul freely uses the Old Testament [his only bible at the time!] and applies these stories to both Gentile believers and 1st century Israel. The writer of Hebrews [who I think was Paul] says ‘just like the forefathers missed out on the promise by unbelief- entering the promised land- so too there is a danger that you, 1st century Israel, might miss out on eternal life by not receiving the Messiah by faith’. In this context, Israel of the Old Testament represents Israel in the first century. But when addressing a gentile church [Corinth] it is also okay for Paul to say ‘just like Israel faced physical death by being disobedient, so you too have had premature physical deaths in your community by rebelling against God’. In this comparison Israel [Old Testament] is simply being used as an example of God judging his covenant people for their disobedience. I feel these distinctions are important, they help us to keep the New Testament in context.

(966)1ST CORINTHIANS 9:1-14 Paul defends his apostleship and gives a strong defense for the New Testament doctrine of financially supporting Christian leaders. Now, I never want to be one of those types of teachers who skews or bypasses scriptures that seem to contradict previous teachings. It’s common for good men to do this, all leaders need to avoid doing it. Recently I added my comments to a debate that raged in the blogasphere. You had Frank Viola put out the book ‘Pagan Christianity’ [good book, I read and do recommend it] and another good theologian, Ben Witherington, gave a good critique [I also recommend Bens site, you can find both Frank and Ben’s sites on my blog roll]. Part of the debate hinged on the financial support of elders/ministers. I must admit I fell on Ben’s side in this argument, though I probably would agree with Frank around 90 % of the time on all the other stuff. Ben argued for the biblical mandate to support elders, frank seems to teach the support of apostles [itinerant workers] is okay, but does not leave room for the support of elders who live in the community. Now, you really need to read all I have written under the ‘what in the world is the church’ section of this blog to get my full view on all of this stuff, but this section of Corinthians makes this stuff pretty clear. Paul says ‘I have the right not to work and only live off of the offerings of the people’. So Paul defends this practice, but he also says ‘I choose not to use it’. He also uses two interesting examples from ‘the law’ [Old Testament] to defend the financial support of leaders. ‘The Ox who is treading out the corn shouldn’t be muzzled’ and ‘the priests who serve at the altar get to eat the meat from the sacrifices’. What is the most obvious example that he does not use? The tithe! I would say this is one of the best proofs for the tithe not being a normative practice of the early church. But Paul does use the other examples to say its right to financially support those who labor among you. But Paul has also given examples to elders [read my Acts 20 commentary] to show them that they are not in this for the money! Paul will actually defend the practice of working and not taking money from the believers. So we see a wide range of freedom in this area. I feel the biblical example is it is fine to financially support Christian leadership who are dedicating their lives to teaching and ministering the word. It is also fine to not use these ‘rights’ as a Christian leader. But nowhere are we taught a type of Levitical tithe system for the support of Christian leaders. Why? Paul’s main message was one of grace and coming out from the requirements of the law. To have used the tithe as an example to give financially would have been counterproductive to his whole message. Eventually believers would come to view ‘the church’ and ‘the priest/pastor’ as the single head of ‘the church building’ who would be supported like a Levite who served as a priest under the old covenant [bring all the tithes into the storehouse type concept]. This legalistic view of ‘the church’ is prevalent today in much of Christendom, both Catholics and Protestants seem to cling to this limited view of the church. The modern house church movement is giving the old view quite a run for its money! But let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water. Paul said its okay to financially support Christian leadership among you, just don’t see it as a tithe that is supporting some type of Christian New Testament Levitical priest!

(962)1ST CORINTHIANS 7:16-24 ‘Were you circumcised when you were called into the Christina life? Then don’t become uncircumcised’ [that would be quite a feat!] ‘Were you uncircumcised when called? Don’t get circumcised’. What’s Paul saying? Basically he is keeping the decrees that were made at the Jerusalem council [Acts 15]. He is stressing the importance of Christ’s spiritual kingdom. To the Jew, he is not saying ‘keep trying to become justified by the law and sacrifices’ but he is saying ‘I am not trying to wipe out your culture and heritage, I am trying to bring you into the fullness of what the Prophets have foretold’. This is Paul’s ongoing defense in the book of Acts ‘I stand condemned because I believe that what the prophets said would happen, did!’. Paul says the thing that matters is ‘the doing of Gods commandments’. When we studied Romans I showed how Paul did say ‘the hearers of the law are not justified, but the doers shall be’. Here again Paul stresses the importance of the Christian life being one of true conversion. Those who believe are changed and become doers of Gods law by nature. The mechanism of conversion is Faith, the outworking of that conversion is obedience. So even though Paul is not putting the law on the gentile converts, yet he does teach that they will by nature keep the law [Romans again]. Now he says ‘were you a slave when called? Seek not to become free. Were you free? Don’t become a slave’ and ‘be not the servants/slaves of men’. We actually have hit on this a few times in recent months. Once again Paul says ‘don’t see this new faith as an opportunity to mount a civil disobedience campaign’ but at the same time he makes it clear ‘don’t put yourself under servitude either!’ The New Testament does not justify the institution of slavery or racism! The basic ethos of this new kingdom is freedom from bondage, it was only a matter of time before this new movement would shake the foundations of society and uproot this evil. Make no mistake about it, the anti-slavery movement was instigated by the people of God [William Wilberforce, Charles Finney and many others].

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

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

(957)1ST CORINTHIANS 5:9-13 Now Paul clarifies what he meant when he said ‘don’t associate with those who sin sexually’. He wants to be clear that his instructions on ‘not being with sinners’ is not misunderstood. After all we are called salt and light, Jesus himself was accused of spending too much time with the lost. So Paul says ‘what I meant was don’t keep ongoing fellowship with a brother who is practicing unrepentant sin’. He also says ‘if you thought I meant all sinners in general, then heck you wouldn’t be able to live in society this way’. Some believers have taken a stand on ‘separation from the world’ in such a way that they have no unbelieving friends. Others seem to view the unbeliever as the enemy. Sort of like we are in this culture war and the enemy is YOU! I can’t even watch the O’Reilly factor [Fox news] too long, he says he’s fighting this culture war and then in the ads for upcoming shows he shows the raciest pictures on any news show. What’s up with that? I feel we need to make the distinction between separating from a sinning brother [for his own good] and having friendships with unbelievers. People you can influence down the road. Paul also says if we judge our own [by shunning them for their own good] that this is a type of ‘present chastening’ that believers do experience. But those who are ‘outside the camp’ [unbelievers] are left to be judged by God. We see this same theme in chapter 11 ‘when we are judged we are disciplined by the Lord so we will not be condemned with the world’ [at the final judgment]. I believe that this idea is one of the best arguments for eternal security [once saved, always saved. Though I don’t like this language, you get the hint]. The concept of believers being presently dealt with for sin, even to the possible point of physical death, seems to indicate that they will not face a future judgment like the lost [eternal damnation]. When we recently did one of our Old Testament studies, I overlooked a verse that said to King David ‘I will raise up one of your sons [Solomon/Jesus- dual Messianic prophecy] and he will build this new temple/people. The way I will deal with the people under this new covenant is, if they commit sins, I will chasten them, but I will not utterly take my mercy from them’ [my paraphrasing- it is said to the actual son, Solomon/Jesus, but in the New Covenant revelation of the church actually being part of the Body of Christ, this is how you could apply it]. You can also read this idea in a few other places. I think Jeremiah uses it ‘I will give them a new heart and I will put my Spirit in them’ and he also speaks about not being totally rejected if they commit sin under this new covenant. So the point is, if there is a mechanism under this new covenant whereby sin is dealt with in the present time, and if this is compared to the other choice which is ‘judgment at a later time’. This would seem to indicate a type of ‘in house discipline’ that says ‘if you openly sin now, God will judge you now. He does this for your own good, so you won’t face the judgment of the unbeliever at the end’. So the fact that some were sinning, even pretty badly! Did not mean that they were expelled completely from the benefits of the covenant. As a matter of fact, temporal excommunication itself was one of the benefits! I don’t want to be too dogmatic on this, I just want you to see a repeated theme in scripture that says God will deal with his kids in the here and now [no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous- Hebrews] but this in itself is a blessing that is designed to ‘produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby’ Hebrews.

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

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

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

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

[These 2 entries simply give scriptural evidence for the ongoing function of Apostles/Prophets today]

(739) ACTS 1- Luke, the writer of this book, feels the need to document the ongoing work of Jesus and his revolution. He already wrote a gospel and believes this to be the beginning of the story. In essence, the reality of Jesus and his resurrection are just the start, we have much more to do and become on this journey. Most writers jump to chapter 2. We have churches and music groups called ‘Acts chapter 2’. Why does Luke seem to wait till chapter 2 before getting to ‘the good stuff’? Chapter one records the 40 days of Jesus showing himself alive after his death. Luke feels this singular truth to be important enough to simply stand alone [I do realize the early letters did not have chapter and verse divisions like today]. The real physical fact of Jesus bodily resurrection is without a doubt the foundational truth of the gospel. The outpouring of the Spirit and the whole future of the church depends on the reality of the resurrected Christ. Paul will write the Corinthians and tell them if the resurrection were not true then they are the most miserable of all people. Luke tells us Jesus gave instructions for the Apostles to wait at Jerusalem for the Spirit. Thy will be witnesses of him to all the surrounding nations after the Spirit empowers them. We also see Peter emerge as the key spokesman for the group. He quotes freely from the Psalms and reads their own history into the book. He sees the prophetic verse from David on ‘let another take his office’ as referring to Judas betrayal and death. They cast lots and choose Matthias as the one to replace Judas. Peter shows the importance of Judas replacement to come from one that was with them thru out the earthly time of Jesus. Someone who saw and witnessed Jesus after the resurrection. Scholars have confused this with the ‘ascension gift Apostles’. Some scholars have taken the truth of the early Apostles having the criteria of being actual witnesses of Jesus, and have said ‘therefore, you have no Apostles today’. Paul will teach in Ephesians that after Jesus ascension on high he gave gifts unto men ‘some Apostles, others Prophets, etc.’ The New Testament clearly speaks of Apostles as an ongoing gift in the church. Barnabas will later be called an Apostles [Acts 14:14] as well as many other references in the original Greek using the same Greek word for Apostle. But here we find Peter seeing the need to replace Judas. Other scholars think Peter might have jumped the gun. They see Paul’s apostleship as the possible person the Lord picked out as the replacement. You do find Paul referring time and again to his Apostolic authority as one ‘born out of due time’ who saw Jesus on the Damascus road. If Paul was simply an ascension gift Apostle, why would he refer time and again to his authority based on being a witness who also saw Jesus? It’s possible that Paul was in this group of ‘Apostles of the Lamb’ who had extra authority based upon their testimony of being eyewitnesses. So in chapter one we see that Jesus appeared for 40 days giving instructions to the early leadership and told them to wait at Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We see the incarnational purpose of God, Jesus was and continues to be the express image of God to man. He was not some ‘phantom’ like the Docetists will claim, but a very real physical resurrected Lord. Luke begins the early history of the church with this reality being important enough to stand on its own.

HEBREWS commentary copyright 2007 John Chiarello http://www.copruschristioutreachministries.blogspot.com P.O. box 181256 C.C. Tx. 78480
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CHAPTER 1:

‘God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the Prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds’ Many years ago when I was going to a fundamental Baptist Church, they would interpret this passage in a ‘cessationist’ way. They would say because God says in the past he spoke by prophets, but now by his Son. That this means he doesn’t speak thru Prophets any more. The Prophets here are Old Testament voices. In Ephesians it says after Jesus ascended up on high he gave gifts unto men, some Apostles, some Prophets, etc. The fact that Jesus made Prophets after the ascension teaches us that there were to be a whole new class of New Testament Prophets that were different from the old. I find it strange to believe that Jesus would create a whole new class of gifts, and then take them away as soon as the Bible is complete. Why would Paul give instruction in the New Testament on how Prophets would operate [Corinthians] and then to say ‘as soon as this letter is canonized with the others, all this instruction will be useless’ it just doesn’t seem right.

The reason Paul is saying in the past God used Prophets, but today his Son. Paul is showing that the Jewish Old testament was a real communication from God to man. But in this dispensation of Grace, God is speaking the realities that the Prophets were looking to. Paul is saying ‘thank God for the Old Jewish books and law, they point to something, his name is Jesus’! The Prophets [Old Testament] served a purpose; they brought us from the shadows to the present time [1st century] now lets move on into the reality. Now you must see and hear the Son in these last days. ‘Who being the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person…when he by himself purged our sins SAT DOWN on the right hand of the majesty on high’ here we are at the beginning stages of themes that we will see later in the letter. The significance of Jesus ‘sitting down’ will be contrasted with the Old testament priests ‘standing up’. Paul [for the record I think Paul wrote this letter, from here on I will probably just refer to the writer as Paul] will teach that the ‘standing up’ of the Levitical Priests represented an ‘incomplete priesthood’ the reason Jesus sat down was because there would be no more sacrifice, and no more priesthood made up of many priests who would die year after year. This doesn’t mean there would be no more New Testament priests as believers, but that there would be no more Old Testament system. Paul will find spiritual truths like this all thru out the Old Testament.

Some theologians feel that Paul is a little too loose with these free comparisons that he seems to ‘pull out of the hat’, for the believer who holds to the canon of scripture, it is the Word of God. ‘Being made so much better than the angels…but unto the Son he saith “thy throne O God is forever and ever, a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy Kingdom”. Here Paul introduces another theme that will be seen thru out this letter. The superiority of Jesus over angels. Why is this important? Most believers know that Jesus is greater than angels, don’t they? Here we see why context is important to understand this letter. In Jewish tradition it is believed that the law was given to Moses by God thru the mediation of angels. Some say ‘well, we don’t use Jewish tradition, we use scripture’. First, Paul used anything he could to win the argument. Second, if we believe Hebrews is an inspired book, then when we read later on that the law given thru angels received a recompense if broken, then right here you have scripture [Hebrews] testifying that God did use angels to ‘transmit’ the law to some degree. Now, why is it important for gentiles to see this? Well it really isn’t! But it is vital for a first century Jew to see it. If Paul can show that Jesus is greater than the angels, then he is beginning to make the argument that the New Covenant is greater than the Old.

Here is the context. Moses law is highly revered in the first century Jewish community, so here Paul says ‘how much better is the law/word given to us from Gods Son’. Since Jesus is much better than the angels, therefore pay closer attention to the words spoken thru Gods Son, he is greater than the angels! ‘But to which of the angels said he “sit at my right hand until I make thy enemies thy footstool” we end chapter one with the theme of Jesus being better than the angels, yet in chapter 2 something funny happens, Paul will make the argument of Jesus being “a little lower than the angels” lets see what this means.

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

(905)SAMUEL 21- David is fleeing from Saul and he goes to the priest at Nob. The priest wonders what’s up. David tells him he is on a special assignment from the king and he and his men need food. The priest tells him the only food available is the consecrated bread that is only for God and the priesthood. David convinces the priest to let them eat and David asks ‘do you have any weapons here’. The priest says ‘I have the sword you used to kill the giant’ David says ‘great, that will work just fine’. Jesus used this story to describe himself and the disciples [Mark 2]. One day Jesus and the disciples were going thru the grain fields and the disciples picked the grain and ate it on the Sabbath. The Pharisees said ‘your disciples are breaking Gods law by picking it on the Sabbath’. Now, to be honest they were breaking the over extended ideas that the religious Pharisees came up with thru their legalism. But Jesus still used this example as a defense. He says ‘have you not read what David and his men did? They ate the ceremonial showbread that was not lawful, only the priests could eat it’. David and his men are a symbol of Jesus and his men. While it is true that the bread was only lawful for the priests, David is a king/priest who gets away with doing ‘priestly things’ because of his picture of Christ. Scripture says he put on an ephod [priestly garment] which only priests could do. David functioned before the open Ark in Jerusalem. He did things that other kings were punished for [Saul, Uzziah]. Jesus in essence was saying to the Pharisees ‘I am the new priest/king from which all future law and worship will be measured by. Me and my followers are not under the law, the law serves us’! In Christ we are free from the guilt of the law, we live above legalism and follow the master. David and his men were acting like priests and kings contrary to the economy of their day. David was a type of Jesus whose future priestly ministry would ‘out trump’ the law.

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

(886)SAMUEL 4- DOES TRUE SCIENCE BACK UP BIBLICAL CREATIONISM? The reason I stuck this in here is because this chapter deals with the Ark of the Covenant [the box that ‘contained God’ or his ten commandments!]. I want to deal with the biblical revelation of Gods character and how it relates to creation. Do you remember the Indiana Jones movies? The Raiders of the Lost Ark. They showed a view of the Ark of the covenant as God being this super energy/light force that if ‘unleashed’ would completely decimate everything around it. Sort of like an Atomic bomb. The biblical account of creation is that in the beginning [of time and all matter and everything else, except God] that all you had was this self existent all powerful being who is Spirit [not matter]. And that by a singular act of speaking he created all matter and everything else in our universe. This concept was rejected by philosophers and scientists for over 2 thousand years. Even Saint Thomas Aquinas, the premiere apologist of the Catholic Church, believed that the universe always existed. He chose to defend God from the idea of ‘prime mover’. That is God is the initiator of all motion. He accepted the basic belief that the universe always existed. So you had the biblical world view, as seen in those who said ‘all matter and existence came into being at a point in history where God [this being of infinite energy and light] spoke and unleashed his creative power’. The majority scientific view was ‘this is impossible’. The 20th century will go down in history as the century that made the most breakthroughs in scientific thought up until the present time. Michael Faraday [the 19th century] would unlock certain keys that would become the groundwork for Einstein’s breakthrough in Physics. Up until that time all science treated energy and matter as separate fields. Faraday discovered that light itself was a beam of energy. He discovered Electro Magnetism. Einstein had an obsession with light as a little boy. He wanted to know what it was, how it functioned. Einstein’s famous theory E= MC 2 combined energy and matter in a way that was revolutionary to the scientific world. For the first time science would view energy and matter as co related fields. What worked in one field was true for the other. His theory stands for ‘Energy = Matter times the square of the speed of light’ C represents the speed of light- 670 million miles per hour! Einstein unlocked a tremendous secret that was hidden to the world of science up until his day. He showed that time itself is relative. Until that time Newton’s view was if you could actually travel at the speed of light and ‘catch up’ to the end of a beam of light, that it would still be moving away from you at the speed of light. Einstein believed this didn’t make sense. But the laws of physics up until his time did not leave room for a reasonable explanation. His breakthrough idea was that if you could actually catch up to the speed of light, you would theoretically be at a point where time stood still. These concepts seemed ridiculous before. The only place where you would find such silly ideas as ‘time being no more’ or as ‘all matter came into existence by this supreme light force’ were in the ancient biblical texts. So true science was getting closer to biblical revelation, not the other way around. Now Einstein’s theory meant that if you not only caught up to the speed of light, but actually surpassed it, what would happen? The energy used to surpass the speed of light would turn into density, matter. So you would actually be able to get matter [Hebrews 11] from ‘things that are not seen’ [immaterial]. This theory also meant that if you could unleash the potential energy from matter, you would be unleashing one of the greatest forces known to man. The Atom Bomb. Einstein’s theory has been measured and been proven to be true. As hard as it is to wrap your mind around, studies have shown that things do not age as fast when traveling at high rates of speed for extended periods of time. Einstein’s theory has made possible the belief that all things came into existence at a specific point in time. This supreme being of light and energy had the potential to create all the matter in the universe in a matter of seconds. This ‘super fast light being’ also transcends time, a thing thought to have been impossible in the past. Einstein enabled man to come closer to the ‘stuff of God’ more than at any other time in history. One other thing, Einstein’s theories break down right at the point of ‘singularity’. The exact moment of creation. Hey, God isn’t going to let you see it all without having some faith! NOTE- I am not advocating Pantheism here [the belief that the universe and the creation itself are actually God]. Light and energy [power] and ‘Logos’ [The Greek word for ‘Word’] are all descriptions of God, that he himself uses to reveal himself to finite man. But because he is the creator of light and energy and all things, he is revealed to man by his creation. But God himself is a personal self existent being. In his revelation of himself thru Jesus Christ he also exists in a bodily resurrected state at the right hand of the majesty on high.

These entries simply give you an idea on the way I see scripture and doctrine.

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

(865)ROMANS 12: 13 Paul continues to give some basic guidelines on practical Christian living. Notice his teaching on financial giving ‘distribute to the necessity of the saints’. This basic Christian doctrine from Jesus teachings has become the premier act of giving for the New Testament saint. The reason I have stressed this teaching as opposed to the more popular view of tithing, is because the scriptures place such a high priority on Christian charity. As I have mentioned before, Jesus even uses this basic description to describe those who ‘are righteous’ or ‘unrighteous’. He teaches the final judgment will be based on this outward identifier of ‘what we did to the least of these’. If you read carefully the New Testament epistles you will see a picture of ‘local church’ as a caring community of people who show their love for one another thru these acts of kindness and compassion. None of the New Testament letters teach a type of financial giving that focuses on ‘support the ministry/institution’ as being ‘the new testament church’ that replaced the ‘old testament temple’. For example a tithe system that supports the ‘pastor/priest’ in the same way the Levitical priests were supported under the law. It’s so vital for us to see and understand this. Because the average believer is taught thru out his life that his primary expression of giving is to ‘bring the tithe into the storehouse’ in such a way that it violates the actual primacy of giving as taught in the New Testament. Which is to regularly give to meet the needs of those around you. The fact that there were instances in the book of Acts or the letter to the Corinthians where believers gave an offering in a corporate way [the collection for the poor saints- 1st Cor. 15, or the laying of the money at the apostles feet in Acts] does not excuse the believer from the teaching that we should all regularly give to meet the needs of those around us. This is flatly taught as a regular part of the Christian experience. The other fact that Paul never once teaches the tithe as a function of giving for the Gentile churches should cause us all to take another look at the way we teach giving in the church today.

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

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

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

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

(836)ROMANS 7: 5-13 ‘But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of the Spirit, not in the oldness of the letter’. This is such a powerful statement! WE ARE DELIVERED FROM THE LAW, surely Paul must mean ‘the fleshly law [carnal nature] in our members’? No, he means ‘the law’, the actual moral code that was contained in the Ten Commandments. He writes to the Colossians ‘Jesus took the handwriting of ordinances that were against us [the real law, not the sinful nature!] and nailed it to his Cross’. He tells the Ephesians ‘the middle wall of partition [law] has come down in Christ’. I know it’s easy to develop ideas that justify this radical grace concept in our minds, it’s just part of mans nature to want to be able to do something, contribute some way to our salvation. ‘Surely the law helps me stay in line’? No it doesn’t! You are ‘dead to the law by the Body of Christ’. We now live and are regulated by the ‘Spirit of life in Christ Jesus’. It is the fact that we have been raised to life in Christ that frees us, not the law. Paul goes on and explains that there was a time when ‘he was alive without the law’ but when the commandment came ‘sin revived, and I died’. Paul was a strict Pharisee, the further he advanced in law, the more he found himself to be ‘exceeding sinful’. The more he learned, the worse he got! It’s sort of a catch 22, you see and hear the ‘do not do this’ portions of law, and it stirs up the sinful nature to ‘do it’. Now Paul recaps an earlier theme of the law serving the function of revealing sin to man. He defends the law by saying ‘was that which is good [law] death unto me’? No, but the law simply ‘awakened’ the sin that was always there, hiding under the covers. It brought to a head the ‘disease’. The law revealed the underlying problem of sin, and made it ‘exceeding sinful’. The law is good, we are bad! [apart from Christ and the Spirit of life].

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

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

(828)ROMANS 4:15-25 ‘For the law worketh wrath, for where there is no law there is no transgression’. I simply want to touch on the concept of ‘wrath’ being a very real part of judgment. One of the ways the gospel ‘saves us’ is by promising a future [and present!] deliverance from wrath. While death ‘reigned’ before the law was given, it wasn’t until the law where you had a clear picture of transgression and atonement. We will deal with this later in Romans. Now Paul once again hits on the theme of Abraham being the ‘spiritual father’ of many nations [all who believe] and how the promises of God to Abraham were to be fulfilled thru this ‘new race of people’ [the church]. Paul is careful to not demean Israel; he couches his terms in a way that says ‘God will fulfill these things thru the circumcision who believes [Jews] and the un-circumcision who believe’ [Gentiles]. I want to stress the very plain language Paul uses to show us that we should not be seeing Gods ‘covenant promises’ thru a natural lens. Christians need to be careful when they support [exalt!] natural Israel in a way that the New Testament doesn’t do. ‘To the end that the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is the faith of Abraham’. Now Paul tells us that when God made promises to Abraham that Abraham believed against hope. When all things looked really bad, he still believed. When he was 100 years old and Sarah around 90, he held to the promise [read my commentaries on Genesis 15-18 and Hebrews 11] and therefore God imputed righteousness to him. How closely are you paying attention to Paul’s free use of Abraham and Genesis? If you carefully read this chapter you see Paul ‘intermingle’ the story of Abraham being ‘made righteous upon initial belief’ [Gen. 15] and the later story of Sarah having Isaac [Gen. 17]. I think Paul was simply using the description of Abrahams faith, as seen in the Gen. 17 [and 22!] accounts of his life, to show the type of faith he initially ‘exercised’ [I don’t like using this term to be honest. God actually imputes faith to the believer at the initial act of regeneration]. The important chapters from Genesis that we all need to have a ‘working knowledge’ of are Chapters 12 [the initial promise], 15 [the oft mentioned ‘imputed righteousness’ verse], 17 [the receiving of the promised seed- Isaac], and 22 [the ultimate act of obedience that Abraham showed in offering up Isaac. This will be described in James epistle as ‘righteousness being fulfilled’. James, who is concerned about ‘works’, will say that when Abraham offered Isaac he was fulfilling the ‘imputed righteousness’ that God gave him earlier. James actually describes this as ‘being justified by works’{James 2:21} and James says ‘the scripture was fulfilled that saith Abraham believed God and it was imputed to him for righteousness’…’see how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only’. The classic view taken by many confuses the ‘justified’ part with the initial act of justification that Paul centers on. James uses ‘see how he was justified by works’ in a future ‘judicial decree’ sense; that is God having the ongoing ‘freedom’ to continually say ‘good job son, you did well’. The word justification is used in a fluid sense much like salvation. Christians need to be more ‘secure’ in their own assurance to be able to see these truths. When we approach all these seemingly ‘difficult passages’ in a defensive mode, then we never arrive at the actual meaning]. When we see the overall work of God in Abraham’s life we see the purpose of God in ‘declaring people just’ [initially ‘getting saved’]. The purpose is for them to eventually ‘act just’ [obey!] ‘Jesus was delivered for our offenses and raised again for our justification’ thank God that this process is dependant on the work of the Cross!

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

(772) JUDGES 4- Deborah judges Israel. Let’s get into the role of women in the ‘church’. Wow, talk about being a glutton for punishment! First, the New Testament clearly teaches that in Christ there is neither male or female, Jew or Greek, bond or free. Paul also lays down some guidelines in Corinthians and his pastoral epistles [Timothy, Titus] on the role of women and leaders in the church. We taught the book of Acts and saw that Phillip had 4 ‘virgins’ who prophesied. Peter quotes the famous Joel prophecy and says ‘in the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, your sons and DAUGHTERS will prophesy’. So we see two themes in the New Testament on women. One, they most certainly can be used in spiritual gifts, even ‘speaking ones’. While at the same time Paul tells the Corinthians to not allow the women to have authority over the men. He even says ‘let them keep silent in the ‘church’. [note- as you read all my teaching on this blog on what the church is, this will answer many questions on this subject. I also am aware of those who make a distinction here between ‘women’ and ‘married women’, the idea that the wives were asking their husbands questions during the meetings and how this could be seen as disorderly and out of custom for the time. The same idea on the subject of women and ‘hats’ in church. Were these instructions dealing with certain customs at Corinth that were peculiar to that city? Corinth was a wild place, the ‘women’ on the streets had customs that went along with ‘their trade’. Some think this played a role in Paul’s guidelines in this letter]. So obviously Paul did not see the reality of all being equal as meaning all have the same roles and responsibilities. Would it be wrong for God to not make everyone an Apostle or Prophet? Of course not. Does this mean that all cant prophesy? No. But God given roles and being equal [in value] in Gods eyes are different things. Would a father be fair if he let 2 of his boys join the football team [or boxing] and discouraged his daughter from doing the same? Just because people have different roles does not mean they do not share equal value. Now, we could go on forever with this. Some used arguments like this to justify slavery, I certainly disagree with that! But I also believe we have gone overboard [certain church ideas] in introducing Pastors as ‘Pastor Bob and Pastor Betty’ to the degree where we feel it would be bigoted to not see them as having the same role. Now, as you understand that the church is the corporate people of God, you will see that God is not ‘restricting’ the function of women as much as it might seem. The fact that the New testament did not have the singular role of ‘The Pastor’ as the primary functioning gift in the Local churches, would show you that even if women were not seen as Elders or Pastors [they were not by the way] would not mean they couldn’t function in spiritual gifts. But because we practice Local church in a way that has a few main leaders doing most of the functioning, this does seem to tell the women ‘you cant be one of us, you cant function’. While in reality this limited view of Local church not only restricts the function of women, but of most of the men as well! So here we see the Lord use Deborah in a leadership position, but even she seems to think that Barak is shrinking back from the role of leadership. She tells him ‘the Lord wants you to go up and defeat the Canaanites’. He is fearful and says ‘I will go if you go too!’ She agrees and also gives a prophetic statement ‘this journey will not be for your glory’. I think the present mindset of church and modern ministry needs to get back to this principle. Jesus told us we are to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow him. We often approach Christianity with the mindset of ‘I will achieve great goals and dreams by using God and scripture to attain all that I want out of life’. While it is true that God loves us and has good plans for us, we also need to see the virtue of actually denying ourselves for Christ. There are [and should be] real things that you desired to do or be at one point in your life, that you consciously laid down for Christ. This is a very real practice that most believers in today’s church environment don’t hear about. What have you given up for Jesus? Even saying it like this sounds strange to our ears! So ‘this journey is not for our glory’. Deborah tells Barak to go and defeat Sisera, the leader of Jabins army [geez, I am quoting all these names as I write, double check the spelling for yourselves]. He goes and defeats the mighty 900 steel chariot army of Jabin. Sisera escapes and hides in Jaels tent [the wife of Heber, descendants of Moses in laws]. He asks her to hide him, she covers him with a blanket. She gives him some milk, as he is sleeping she drives a tent stake thru his head! [Ouch] She then shows Barak that he is dead. God used women to help with the cause. He always has and always will. Jesus broke the etiquette of his day by allowing women to be ‘on his team’. He spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, a huge no no! He allowed Mary Magdalene to be part of the group. Prostitutes received mercy and wiped his feet with their hair! Jesus broke barriers and used women, but staying within the basic guidelines of ones calling [like women not being elders in the new testament churches] should not be seen as chauvinistic, but as simply submitting [both men and women!] to Gods basic order laid down in the new testament. NOTE- A few years back the southern baptist convention reaffirmed the basic truth that wives should submit to their husbands and husbands should love their wives as Christ loves the church. Boy did you have a firestorm in the liberal media over this. Both sides [even in the church] have a tendency to use the verses that seem to present their side the most. Paul actually referred to a woman [Junia- Romans 16:7] as a possible Apostle ‘who are of note among the Apostles’[depending on how you read the text]. So I believe the scriptures give us much leeway way in God using women in the church, but we should not think it ‘progressive thinking’ to simply by pass all the other portions of scripture that teach the different roles of men and women.

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

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

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

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

[These entries show our position on Penal Substitution, the bible and other stuff that would be basic to our belief system. Though our blog tries to be ‘cutting edge’ and relevant, yet we strongly believe in the historic doctrines of fundamental Christianity.]

(628) I was gonna wait and share this with the John 19 overview, but what the heck! Yesterday I had a few signs; I haven’t shared them as much as at the beginning of this blog. I want to hear God on sharing this kind of stuff. It’s been only a year since I started really blogging. The blog went up a few months earlier, but I didn’t even know how to access it for the first 6 months. I was praying early under the stars, I was walking around interceding with this stick/rod in my right hand. I was quoting the verses ‘from your right hand will go a fiery law’ and as I held it out, right at the ‘tip’ of the rod a shooting star went forth [from the distance! But you saw it right at the point of the rod]. What are the odds of going outside, quoting stuff like this and then seeing a shooting star right at that spot? If you think ‘oh, brother. It’s just a coincidence’. Let’s do this, start getting up at 3 AM, walk around praying with a stick. Hold it up and quote stuff about fires going forth, and wait till you see a shooting star at the tip. If nothing ever happens, at least you will become an intercessor! Recently a bible scholar wrote another book on how there are so many ‘variations’ in scripture that you can’t trust the word. This happens every so often. Most of these men come from very strict fundamentalist backgrounds. Being brought up in a legalistic environment where the bible was ‘god’. They then actually find a sense of freedom when they do stuff like this. I don’t think they are all lost liberals. I think this at times is a response to the strong ‘fundamental’ Christian life. And when a scholar does this, in some strange way he is opting for a walk of ‘faith’ in the reality of the historic truth of Christ and the traditions of the church as opposed to the ‘jot and tittle’ legalism of his youth. I want you to see this dynamic and not just dismiss these critics out of hand. We can learn something from this. I have said in the past that the reality of redemption does not depend on a bible that has no errors. Now, stick with me. I believe in the canon of scripture. I believe in its inerrancy! I believe it has NO ERRORS! But what I am telling you is when Jesus actually redeemed humanity, it was a real purchase that took place. Your salvation does not depend on whether or not the translators got everything right! It depends on the reality that Jesus actually purchased you! Do you see the difference? There is a difference. When someone lives their whole life in an environment where everything depends and revolves around the debate of the accuracy of scripture. When they ‘rebel’ against this upbringing and leave that mindset, it isn’t always an open act of rebellion. Sometimes it’s an organic reaction of leaving a life consumed with text [like the scribes and Pharisees] and jumping into a life fixed on the actual reality of what Jesus did. I hope you can see what I am saying. To live with the reality of Jesus actually being the risen redeemer, like the first century church. And having a life that isn’t focused around the questions surrounding each verse, as some fundamental believers have experienced. This ‘leap’ while not necessarily the best ‘leap’ to make, is a return [or fleeing!] from a life consumed with the mental gymnastics of what text is the most reliable to one of ‘I am trusting in the great reality of Jesus that has been passed down thru both Tradition and Scripture’. It can be freeing from this point of view. Sort of like the early church and how their power was in the reality of what Jesus did and was continuing to do, as opposed to the accuracy of the recordings of it by the writers of the gospels. To the surprise of some, there have been good theologians who felt the ‘jot and tittle’ argument of accuracy actually harmed the faith. They are true believers in every way [some-not all! There are those in this camp who deny everything along with scripture!] Who feel that when the textual critics find variations, that this proves to the skeptics that ‘see, you Christians are wrong. We have found an error in your bible’. These scholars say ‘who ever said you would never find an insignificant little error’. These guys feel defending all the little variations is not the same as saying ‘Gods word is faithful’. They argue that God only intended for the reality of the major Christian truths to have been transmitted without error. That if you find a ‘flaw’ in some other area, that this doesn’t disprove the reality of everything else. Now, I don’t hold to this idea, but wanted you to see that some good people do. So anyway, the point is our faith rests in THE REAL FACT that Jesus redeemed us. The factual recording of this redemption is most certainly found in scripture, but the ‘finding of it in scripture’ isn’t what redeemed you, it is the actual reality behind the recording of it that redeemed you. Jesus said to the Pharisees ‘[ye] search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life. And they testify of me. And you will not come to me that you might have life’. The ‘life’ is actually in him, the scriptures simply bring us into the ‘marriage’. They are proof of what he did. But the marriage is much more than a license!

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

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

(653) POPULARIZE REDEMPTION As I get ready to jump into the New Testament, I want to re emphasize redemption. I was reading a testimony from an American believer who went to Turkey to interview a Christian woman who lost her family to martyrdom. The reporter spent a week with the woman. She found the faith of the Turkish believers to be one of ‘having their treasure in heaven’. The Turkish believers would say things like ‘well, we know some of us are being killed for our faith. But we praise God because we have a better treasure in heaven than on earth’. The reporter shared how the American churches message is one of ‘you can be all you can be’ or ‘have your dreams fulfilled’ type theology, while the Turkish church understood the real teachings of Jesus on the temporary stuff of this life. I went to a ministries web site to read some stuff. They are a good church out of San Antonio. I used to listen to tapes from the brother. While thinking of ordering some stuff I noticed how the majority of all the messages were on ‘winning the battle’ ‘achieving your goals’ ‘power of confession’ ‘wealth’. All practical stuff. I then realized how the majority message of the American church is consumed with this stuff. We seem to preach a gospel that sees redemption as the ‘being born stage’ [true!] and then we say ‘now that you are born again, let’s spend 50 years on learning how to prosper in life’. Sure, every now and than this message says ‘O, we believe in prospering to get the gospel out’ but then a year or so goes by and the main message seems to still be ‘how to get stuff’. I want to re focus as we get into the Letters of the New Testament. Redemption does things for you that a million message on money cant! Redemption changes things! You can confess a million times. Renew that mind all day long. Vow money to the TV preachers. But redemption is Gods divine act of changing you and everything about you, and he does it for free! As a matter of fact, if you try to add stuff to his work, it takes away from the power! We will learn the fact that the Blood of Jesus gives you the ability to be free. I know you have been taught ‘well, God saved your spirit, but you still have that old mind’ you are taught this in a way that exalts the verses on ‘renew the mind’ [God thing by the way!] but takes away from the real act of Gods power saving you. When you ‘got saved’ this act of Divine grace changes you in ways that all of you’re confessing and renewing could never accomplish. The New Testament will teach us the absolute power and primacy of this singular thing called ‘Redemption’. We will see a message that includes the practical things of life, but is saturated and inundated with the Cross! If you went to Paul’s web site, you wouldn’t find a bunch of success messages [a few maybe?] but you would see the great themes of justification by faith, the Blood of Christ, Gods sovereignty. You would see the majority theme being that of the great act of Redemption. Paul saw it more than just a way to get into the Kingdom!

(681) [This shows my understanding of law and grace, a major belief I hold to!] ‘Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are ‘in the way’ with him’. Look at this principle. Jesus puts it right before he speaks on divorce. Divorce court is the single most contributor to personal bankruptcy. How many times do we see litigation and ‘getting even’ as the primary motivator for going to court? I heard of a guy who sold his house and vehicles for 50 dollars [or some outrageous value] just so his ex wouldn’t get it. Paul says ‘why harm your brother, or own family member. No man ever yet hated his own flesh’! Jesus said your wife was your own flesh. Two have become one. Why sue yourself! As you read further Jesus says ‘if someone takes you to court for your shirt, give him your coat too’! The law of non resistance. This next one is good also ‘if you are compelled to go 1 mile, go 2’! I have heard that in Jesus day the Roman Empire had mile markers all over the place. When a Roman soldier compelled you to carry his pack, you by law were required to carry it. But only 1 mile. Sure enough the legalistic Pharisees figured out a way to just do the bare minimum. So you had these mile markers all over the place. Well after the mile is up, these new Jesus followers said ‘let’s go for one more’. What! Are you outta your mind! The first mile is like the first covenant. The law had you under its grasp. That first mile was like ‘I will do this requirement, but I will be cursing under my breath the whole way’. Now mile 2 was different. Your were still doing all the same requirements of law, but you didn’t have to! The ‘law keeper’ was still watching [soldier] but the terms were turned around. It’s almost like you were in charge now. He couldn’t tell you anything. He almost felt guilty! As a matter of fact after the second mile was completed he was almost your friend! When you are in the second mile [under grace] you still do the moral requirements of the law, but you don’t have the soldier forcing you at the point of a gun [law mentality].

(691) SERMON ON THE MOUNT- ‘BEWARE OF FALSE PROPHETS’ ‘you will know them by their fruits, what they produce. They come to you as wolves in sheep’s clothing’. In Ezekiel the ‘shepherds’ are rebuked because they come to devour the sheep. They see the sheep as a means for self aggrandizement. Here Jesus says ‘they are wearing sheepskins!’ They view ministry and pastoring/shepherding as a means to become wealthy and prosperous! Shall I continue? Let’s also take a broader view. In the history of Christianity you have had Christian cults that were ‘false’ by virtue of the fact that they denied the basic truths of Christianity. In the bible, 1st John deals with ‘those who deny that Jesus has come in the flesh are anti-christ’. John was targeting the early Gnostic/Docetist sects who said Jesus was a ‘phantom’. He appeared to be ‘real flesh’ but wasn’t. John deals with them as ‘anti christ’ because of their denial of the incarnation. Jesus was truly man and truly God. On a broader scale you have the religion of Islam. Arab [Muslim] people are good people! ‘Why brother how can you say that’? Easy, they were created in the image of God! Allah didn’t make them, Muhammad didn’t create them! They were created by Jesus Christ of Nazareth! Now, have they been led astray? Yes. As hard as it is to say this in today’s pluralistic society, they have been MIS LED. What about Jewish people? Good people! We should love and pray for them, not at the expense of Arabs [Muslims] but in concert for their salvation. Ultimately all religions accept for Christianity produce ‘bad fruit’. Why? Because all religions outside of Christ are man centered. You try to self reform thru law. This produces death. Christianity offers a free redemption thru the Blood of Christ. You don’t ‘self reform’. Grace produces the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus does say in this passage ‘narrow and straight is the way to life’. Yes, it sounds narrow minded to proclaim Jesus as the only way. Christians in America have crossed the line in ethnic/religious views. They have wrongfully sided with militaristic views of defending one nation’s military against another’s. Do we as believers have the right to support our countries military actions against radical Islam? Yes. As Christians should we advocate the annihilation of Muslim people because of their religious beliefs? NO! Too many American Christians seem to have not made this distinction. I believe Christians and Muslims and Jews should all work together as much as possible. Respect each others different beliefs. But also advocate for why we believe that Jesus is truly the only way to God. Jesus truly is the answer!

(701) [I added this to show a little on the inspiration of scripture, I definitely believe in it. But sometimes believers are a little inconsistent when they quote the common verses found in the new testament to teach this doctrine] GENESIS 15- Abraham has been living for a bunch of years since God told him ‘you will have lots of kids, great nations and peoples’ yet he hasn’t had any children yet! You begin to see the natural mind working. Abraham suggests that one of his servants might become the promised ‘seed’. It was not uncommon for a father with no natural children to give the inheritance to a servant. Scripture says a wise servant will rule over a foolish son. Remember the movie ‘Gladiator’? The King/father chooses the Roman gladiator [Crowe] over the son. So Abraham is thinking maybe this is Gods plan. He will do this later with Ishmael as well. A son born from him, but not from Sarah. The Lord will have to keep reaffirming the original vision, so Abraham will have to trust. Also scripture says ‘the word of the Lord came to Abraham in a vision’. Let’s do a quick study. The New Testament teaches faith comes by hearing and ‘hearing by the Word of the Lord’. In the book of Acts the phrase ‘they preached the Word’ appears. Paul says ‘all scripture is given by inspiration of God’. What exactly is ‘the word of the Lord’? While you certainly can apply it to our bible, yet Paul will use this phrase before the New Testament was complete. The preaching in Acts was ‘the word’ yet they had no bibles like we have today. What is the ‘all scripture’ Paul is speaking of? It is specifically the promised ‘word’ that was fulfilled thru Messiah as the completion of the revelation of God to man. This certainly included the Old Testament, but it was more specific. The preaching in Acts was focused on Jesus being the fulfillment of the promise that all Israel was waiting for. So ‘the word of the Lord’ is not simply some general belief in scripture [though it is good to have this belief!] but it is belief in the promise and revealed will of God to you thru out your life. It is the thing you have been waiting for, as revealed by God to you. If you will, it is the actual vision of God for your life. When you believe and see the purpose of God for you, you will have momentum and a dynamic that can not be achieved thru other means. When God calls you and reveals his will to you, you must reattach to this purpose thru out your life. Even in Abraham’s doubts, he is still trying to figure out how to complete the mission! The whole ‘let my servant be the son’ or later on ‘let Ishmael live before thee’ are doubts that are arising out of his determination to see ‘the word of the lord’ [Gods original promise to him] fulfilled! So I want to encourage you to do a little housecleaning. Have things moved so fast [or slow!] in your life that you have lost the original purpose? Are you spending your time doing things that are not primarily connected to your destiny in God? Re attach to the original purpose. In verse 6 Abraham believes God again and it is accounted unto him for righteousness. God is still wanting you to believe him to bring it to pass!

(703) GENESIS 17- Once again God appears to Abraham to reassure him of the original promise. What did God promise him again? He will be the father of many nations [Paul will refer this to Abraham being the father, spiritually, of all believers. Not just natural Israel!] God told him he would be a blessing to the whole world thru his offspring [Both Jesus individually, all men being justified and receiving the Spirit by faith. And also thru the ‘corporate Christ’. The whole body of Christ, including Jew and gentile believers] and Abraham would ‘inherit all this land thru his offspring’. If you go back and look at the actual borders that God spoke of, it is much more than what you see on a map of Israel today! We are going to deal with the mistaken idea of the Protestant American Evangelist and his preaching on so called ‘replacement theology’. Now The Lord will reaffirm this basic promise and tell Abraham ‘walk before me and be perfect’. I get the sense that the Lord was waiting until Abraham’s faith was ‘perfect’ enough to fulfill the promise [read my commentary on Hebrews 11 on this site!] It’s like the Lord was saying ‘walk right son, I am waiting to give you all the stuff I spoke of!’ Abraham is 99 and Sarah is 90. God says ‘Sarah will be the mother of many nations’. It seems like Abraham all ready gave up on his future son Isaac and had all his hopes on Ishmael. Abraham will say this in response to the promised Isaac. ‘O that Ishmael would live before thee’ in essence ‘just do the promise thru Ishmael, I’m all right with it’. God says no, he will do it thru the promised child! Now, let’s get into it. Read Galatians 3-4 and Romans 3-4. Paul will take all these promises and say ‘the promise that God made to Abraham that he would inherit the world was not to Abraham or his kids thru the law, but by faith. So at the end [fulfillment] the promise might apply to all the kids, not just to natural Jews who are living by the law’. Paul absolutely is a REPLACEMENT THEOLOGIAN! He is really not guilty of what this so called accusation means. Some preachers will say those who ‘spiritualize’ the promise of God to Israel and apply them to the church are ‘replacement theologians’. But the fact is Paul is doing this! Read Romans 4: 13-14. Paul interprets these passages to refer to the church. Both Jew and non Jew who believe. ‘Why brother, how can the church fulfill the promise of God to Abraham that his seed [kids] would inherit the holy land’? Easy, the New Testament clearly states that we are joint heirs with Christ. We basically own the planet. There are believers right now in every part of the Holy land and all Palestine and Iraq and Egypt and as a matter of fact all over the world! Did you notice Paul will expand the ‘land promise’ from the holy land to the world! Jesus is actually seated at Gods right hand in heaven ruling from a universal throne [which includes Israel!] and is expanding his actual earthly presence thru the church. The fact that right now Abraham has spiritual children inhabiting the whole planet, including Israel. Shows that the promise to Abraham is being fulfilled thru ALL THE SEED, not just those who are ‘of the law’ [natural Israel]. Well in a nutshell, Paul was a ‘replacement theologian’ but I prefer to see it more as a ‘full world theologian’ a type of interpretation that sees all of Gods kids possessing all of Gods world thru the ‘promise of the Spirit’. NOTE; It is vital for believers to see this truth. It will keep us from getting involved in ‘holy wars’ between Israel and Palestine and advocating actual murder as a fulfillment of Gods word!

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

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

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

(480) I watched a prophetic conference the other day. I liked it. The brother is a well known ‘Prophet’ in prophetic circles. He did make a statement that I disagree with. He said ‘put behind you all doctrine, theology and creeds and just come to me’. He said this more than once. I do understand that there are times where God says ‘I am God, don’t look to yourselves for help’ I see that there is merit at times in ‘putting all you have learned behind you’ but the overall idea of disregarding theology, doctrine and creeds as ‘old stuff’ is not really biblical. Paul did say ‘hold to the traditions that I have taught you’ it is a funny thing that Paul’s ‘tradition’ in this passage [go and look it up, I forget where it is right now- either 1st or 2nd Thessalonians] is the tradition of ‘getting a job’. He actually is teaching if someone is not working, then he is a troublemaker! The point is ‘all tradition’ is not wrong. Its only when the ‘traditions of men’ usurp the Word of God. This is what you see Jesus rebuking in the Gospels. He says ‘by your traditions you have made void the Word of God’. So anyway I just wanted to clarify that true Christianity doesn’t mean you leave your brain behind you. It does mean that faith in God, even when you don’t understand it, takes priority. The ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ was forbidden to Adam in the garden. This didn’t mean Adam had no wisdom or knowledge, to the contrary he was extremely intelligent. He named all living creatures off the ‘top of his head’. But not eating of the tree meant Adam was not to live his life based on his own moral criteria. His own ability to ‘think things out’. God would be his provider and sustainer. He had full access to the ‘tree of life’. The day Adam made the ‘knowledge of good and evil’ his standard, in that day he died! NOTE: Now look at something prophetic that is going to happen. I just remembered at the end of the above meeting, the Prophet shared a story about Elijah and the woman who was barren. I heard him share this a few times thru the meetings I have caught on God TV this month. The story emphasized ‘making room for the prophet’ at the end of these meetings. This GOOD, WELL MEANING brother is sharing this and saying how the people need to give money into the ‘prophetic’ in order to receive a blessing. This brother is Prophetic, no doubt. He is not a ‘crook’ or ‘fake’, I actually like him. The New Testament leaves NO ROOM for the receiving of money [whether offering/tithe/whatever] directly after the prophetic word. For some reason the early church abhorred doing this. The teaching from Christ about ‘freely you have received, freely give’ is really dealing with the ministry gifts deposited in the people. The earliest writings of the Apostles [early church] that we have today, apart from the bible are called the ‘Didache’ [the teaching of the Apostles]. Though this book is not scripture, it gives us insight into the way the believers dealt with certain things. In the Didache it says ‘if a prophet stays around for more than a few days and is charging money, he is a false prophet’. Now I personally am not that hard. The point is today’s environment of ‘professional minister’ especially as it relates to the prophetic, is not seen in scripture. Though the New Testament leaves room for the financial support of laboring elders [Leaders] it does not permit the direct asking for money right after prophesying. The instance of the guy in Acts, Simon, who thought he could ‘purchase the gift of God’ with money is strongly rebuked by Peter. This guys name later came to represent the abuse of money and Gods gifts and not rightfully dividing the two. The definition of this is called ‘Simony’. The whole point is the above Prophet is a truly gifted brother, he does not see that the direct asking for an offering, and appealing to people to ‘give into the prophets ministry’ is really not scriptural. Though you can use the story of Elijah and others who did get material needs met thru people, the overall teaching that has Prophets actually prophesying and then seeing this as ‘well, I used the gift to build the church, therefore I am worthy of my reward’ and then correlating giving directly into the ministry with ‘giving to God’ is something the first century church would not permit. I am not saying this brother is not a Prophet, or that he is not being used of God. I am saying the Prophets today need to re think what it means to be in ‘Prophetic ministry’ and to bring their gifts more in line with scripture. That is if you ‘didn’t leave doctrine and creeds and theology’ at the door when you came in! NOTE: I have been following the restoration process of Paul Cain. Paul was the Prophet I told you about earlier on this blog. Paul is an older man who is sick and also takes care of some family members who are sick. In following Paul’s restoration I saw how the Christians who are helping him thru this were trying to explain why they feel Paul should start ministering again. Even though others feel he should stay low for a while. One of the reasons was for salary. The team of Christians working with Paul explained that Paul’s only [main] source of income was his prophesying. Therefore he realistically needed to start ministering again. I use this as an example only. I love and pray for Paul Cain. The point is we ‘see’ our gifts as our source of income. This is no where to be found in the New Testament. Again, the actual teaching from JESUS CHRIST was ‘freely you have received, freely give’. The early Christians took this seriously. The teaching from Paul on ‘laborers being worthy of their hire’ was simply showing us that it is all right to support, voluntarily, those who are giving themselves to the word and prayer. There is a big difference between the biblical support of elders [ministers] and seeing our gifts as a means of financial gain. Peter wrote in his letter for elders to not go into ministry for ‘filthy lucre’s sake’. So the idea of a prophetic gift bringing in money, right after the gift was used, is not good. The present church is so inundated with the prosperity gospel that she really doesn’t see or understand this principle yet. When we give, Jesus did say men would give back to us. But these verses must fit in with all the other ones you just saw me quote. Prophets should not ask for money after they prophesy, the New Testament has NO examples of this ever happening. And there is proof that the early church saw it as wrong. It is too common for the modern professional minister to apply ‘sowing into good soil/ giving to God’ to their specific ministry. Over 90 % of New Testament teaching on giving is actually giving to the poor. Meeting the real needs of people. In today’s environment, whether Christian TV or ‘pulpit ministry’ we constantly equate the believer’s faithfulness with giving to US. It is highly irresponsible for so many professional ministries/ministers to continue to do this. We need to redirect our appeal to the church at large and instruct them to give/sow into the needs of the world around us. It is a blatant misuse of scripture for the average believer to hear over and over again that ‘giving to God’ means giving to a ministry or minister. I have tried my best to explain this in the past [the store house being the actual people of God as opposed to the 501c3 church building] but I felt like we needed to be reminded of this.

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

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

(378) Let me give a little example of the ‘overriding act of redemption’ trumping any little verse or experience. Paul actually tells the Corinthians ‘if the dead are not raised, then why are you baptizing people in ‘proxy’ for the dead?’ This is tough stuff. Let me give you one way to see this. The ‘baptism for the dead’ seems to have been a real cultural thing that took place in a specific time and setting [like the slavery verses I mentioned earlier]. There seems to have been a concern specifically to the 1st century church that said ‘this new doctrine of Jesus is great, but being its only been around a few years, and you are telling us [Paul] that you must embrace it to be saved. Then we have a problem. A lot of our loved ones never got a chance to hear. How do you expect us to quell these concerns?’ And it’s possible that the ‘baptism’ by proxy [like a father or son getting baptized in the place of the loved one who died] was a 1st century cultural thing that grew out of this. The fact that they were doing this does not mean that Paul the Apostle was condoning it. Paul was simply saying ‘if you guys really don’t believe in life after death, then why are you bothering with this rite?’ Its like Paul was using their own cultural thing to show them the inconsistency of their thinking. He wasn’t really teaching the baptism for the dead. [This is my view, Mormons believe different. They do practice this today and they use this verse as justification].

(396) Some things from Isaiah 53. ‘He is despised and rejected of men, we hid our faces from him’. Funny thing, never did or said a single wrong thing. Theologically correct 100 % of the time. How did we view him? We HID from him when we saw him coming. The gossip was so bad about him we couldn’t even face him. ‘We esteemed him not’. We said ‘I don’t care who he thinks he is, do you know what I heard’? ‘He was wounded for us, bruised for us. The price to obtain the things that would bring us peace was on him’ all the things that caused us to look down upon him were actually part of the price he had to pay for our benefit! ‘He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth, he was like a silent lamb being killed’ I don’t have what it takes to be silent when I am being talked about. There was a sort of oppression that kept coming against Jesus. It was like men will keep doing whatever it takes to ‘get to him’. Pilate says ‘don’t you know I might actually have you put to death’ they kept pushing all the buttons. What was it again that they found wrong with him? O yes, he said ‘I am the Son of God’ in so many words. That’s right, now I remember. The great crime that led us to this point of killing him was HE TOLD US THE TRUTH! ‘He did no violence, nor was there ever any deceit in his mouth’ I cant say the same about me. ‘Yet it pleased the Father to bruise him, HE HATH DONE THIS TO HIM’ it’s so hard to comprehend this. You are not only allowing these things, but actually doing them by your great purpose! I thought any thing like this was the work of the devil. I thought I was suffering because of something I did wrong. I have been trying to get out of this difficulty. Everyone today preaches ‘if he were from God surely this wouldn’t be happening’. ‘He will see of the pain in my soul, by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many’ the things I will bring forth from your pain will ‘justify’ [bring into alignment] many. The pain first! ‘I will divide him a portion with the great [he will share the fruits with many well known people, those who thrive on fame]. He will divide the goods with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death. He bare the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors’ in the midst of this personal turmoil he was faithful to continue interceding for others. He did like Job who ‘prayed for his friends’ and then the Lord turned his captivity around. He learned to be faithful in intercession even when his life was being poured out. Who can live up to this? Jesus is the perfect man. NOTE this chapter starts with ‘who hath believed our report’ I was just ‘worrying’ about how many people are ‘accepting/believing’ the things on this blog. A feeling of like ‘am I crazy, is nobody getting reached in a lasting way?’ Then I read the part of ‘our report’. I felt like the Lord was saying don’t worry about whether or not you are accepted. If you speak the things I am saying, then it’s ‘our’ report. Sort of like when scripture says to the prophets ‘they have not rejected you, they have rejected me’. I don’t want to come off as everything I say is right. I just felt like the Lord was saying when you speak in his will, it’s up to him to deal with the problem of whether or not the ‘report’ is being believed. Sometimes it’s in his purpose for reports to ‘not be believed’ so he can get to the next step.

(397) I saw a ministry out of Texas [We sure seem to have a lot of em!] who again preaches money all the time. I have read and listened to tapes from him before. He does have a tremendous amount of wisdom and Knowledge in areas of business and finance. His teachings were some of the best I have ever heard in these areas. He himself testified of how when he became a believer he later began to be ‘fascinated to an extreme’ with rich people. He studied and researched and could not get and consume enough information on these rich and wealthy people. The way he described it sounded like an unbelievable obsession with wealth. He used this description to explain how he became so knowledgeable in these areas. I saw it more of falling into the danger that Jesus warned against ‘Beware of covetousness, for a mans like doesn’t consist of the abundance of the things that he possesses’. I like this teacher, he does have great wisdom. It’s just he advocates so many of the things I have shown you to be wrong on this site. He would never admit it, he is brilliant. Scripture says ‘thy knowledge hath perverted thee’ it is possible to learn the most intricate truths of success from scripture. To apply them in such a way that you become highly successful and wealthy. It is possible to teach this system to others with a PURE HEART, that is you truly are not trying to take advantage of people. All of this in and of itself does not justify the obsession with wealth that these types of teachers promote. Their ‘wisdom’ has truly perverted them. NOTE: Many of these brothers are not ‘crooked’ fakes. They are sincere and honest in their dealings. They give extreme amounts of money to missions. Because of this they do not see themselves like the obvious fakes. There have been blatant deceivers who have robbed people; these brothers do not fall into this category. Because of this they cant see that they have fallen into the snare of desiring to become wealthy, which scripture forbids [1st Timothy 6- go read it!]. This is what makes it so difficult when you try to uproot this teaching from the church. NOTE: Let me show you how humility and truth trump wisdom. Though the above teacher is extremely wise, he also uses the ‘proof texts’ to teach that Jesus was also rich. The many verses I have shown you on this site. You can honestly show these brothers that these ‘proof texts’ do not trump the overall character of Jesus that comes to us from the testimony of the gospels. The gospels plainly show us an itinerant preacher who gathered a rag tag team of disciples and led a radical life. Sure they had a ‘bag’ [treasury] and Jesus wore an expensive coat [more than likely donated!] but these verses do not teach a wealthy Jesus! It is next to impossible for these guys to ‘see’ this. Knowledge can pervert you. These guys have seen real truth [knowledge] in areas of finances that the historic church has overlooked. They see how they know more than the traditional church in these areas. The fact that they posses true knowledge is a stumbling block to trying to show them these other areas of false teaching. They seem to think that all critics are traditional thinkers who do not have revelation knowledge. Deception is deceitful, that means you don’t know you are being deceived! NOTE: I know I have ‘harped’ on this a lot. I do over emphasize this area of correction because there have been so many leaders who have refused to deal with it over the years. Many innocent Pastors who are not familiar with the extreme elements of some of these teachings have inadvertently taught or condoned these teachers by mentioning their names or teaching a small aspect of their doctrine, like Jesus being rich because he had an expensive coat, or the teaching that the parable of the sower is speaking about finances [it is not!]. So in general this area has affected a lot of innocent Christians who are truly not aware of these things.

(402) Let me clarify something. It is hard to fight too many battles at once. There are financial planners and other good Christians who absolutely disagree with me on tithing. Some misunderstand what I am saying. Also as humbly as I can put this. The ‘teaching authority’ that God has placed in various ‘elders’ [Apostles/ Prophets] absolutely trumps the best intentions of Christian counselors. I know some are mad, o well? Many well meaning Christian counselors say ‘it’s too late to convince me that tithing doesn’t work, I have been counseling people for years as a responsible financial planner, it works!’ Without rebuking you guys too much, here’s what you are wrong about. First, the ‘tithing’ as taught in the bible is not what you guys are teaching in the first place. So when you appeal to Malachi [the Old Testament book that says Gods people are robbing him by not tithing] you are not even speaking of the same thing. Go do an Old Testament study for ‘crying out loud’ and realize you are not teaching Christians tithing! Number 2, what you do teach works because YOU ARE TEACHING GIVING! Giving always works. The simple fact that you guys [Pastors and financial guys] are teaching Christians to give of their first fruits unto God works. Now if you give a lot [more generous] God returns a lot. If you give a little [cheapskate] then you get a little. Got it. In no way, shape or form is this the biblical doctrine of tithing. This is giving! It works not because you are teaching tithing, but because you are teaching giving! Well brother we teach it has to be 10% or you are under the curse. Well you asked for it. You guys are 100% wrong on this. Good theology trumps financial planners authority, sorry. There is NOTHING a believer can do to actually ‘get cursed’. Theologically impossible. Go read Galatians. Now its possible to go back to the mindset of law, and bring upon yourself the judgment of legalism. Feeling guilty and condemned if you don’t live up to certain standards. But this is what the so called TITHE does, not giving! In general all Christians should give. If its 8-10 or 20 percent, that’s between you and God. But for sure you are free from the curse because of Christ. Well to all my Pastors friends and Christian financial planner friends, sorry to have ‘trumped’ your authority on this one, I know it hurts! NOTE: Many preachers use this verse in Malachi to teach if you don’t put 10% of your income into the offering plate on Sunday that you are ‘robbing God’. Remember Jesus taught in his judgment scenarios that when you didn’t feed the poor, or visit those in jail, or clothe the naked. That this was how you were ‘robbing’ God. So in effect the way a person ‘robs God’ is by not ‘giving’ to meet the needs of society/brothers in need. This is also what Paul was doing in 1st Corinthians 16 when telling the Church to ‘take up a collection on the first day of the week’. This collection was to meet the needs of the poor saints at Jerusalem. So to ‘rob God’ is to not give to people [who are the New Testament Temple]. NOTE; there is a very popular Christian financial counselor on Radio today. I like him, most of you would know him. He is basically OK. I have a real problem when he says ‘this program is about making gobs of money’. He also uses language like me! He says ‘crap’ on the air. I kinda put his statement on ‘gobs of money’ in this ‘crap’ category. I actually think that some of his financial advice is wrong. Not even talking scripture here, just basic financial advice. The point is there are lots of experts in many fields who are Christian and for the most part do a good job. As believers we all have the right to question and come up with our own ideas on how to approach subjects. Take what’s good from these guys, and leave the rest alone.

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

(417) Being I just discussed healing, lets talk about the ‘baptism of the Spirit’. When attending a Baptist church they taught the Baptism of the Spirit occurred at the new birth. When you are born again you ‘got it’. Every believer most certainly has the Holy Spirit. The Assembly of God friends taught ‘you got saved, but you didn’t get the Baptism until a separate experience’. This too can be found in scripture. If you look at the book of acts [which I haven’t read in years!] you see in chapter 10 the Gentile converts. The fact is ‘they got it all at the same time’. Sorry to my Pentecostal friends. But you can look at Acts 19 and see Paul saying ‘have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed’ to some disciples. They tell Paul ‘we haven’t even heard of the Spirit’. Now I do want to stress that many Pentecostals do read this to show its possible to believe and ‘not have the Spirit’. Actually if you read this passage you will see that they were ‘baptized with Johns baptism’ they were only disciples in as much as they received the initial message of repentance that John the Baptist preached. Paul tells them ‘he preached about someone who was to come later [not the Spirit, but Jesus!] and then after they heard this’ [not the message of the baptism of the Spirit, but the gospel] then they were baptized and Paul laid hands on them and they prophesied and spoke in tongues. The point is these believers were not believing in Christ yet. They didn’t hear the ‘rest of the story’ until Paul preached it. I am not siding today with either side. I am showing that the book of Acts is ‘Gods diary’ if you will, it is a compilation of the ‘experiences of God with men’. It certainly is doctrinally sound, don’t get me wrong. But it shows Gods primary purpose of redemption and how he is sovereign. If he chooses to ‘give it all at once’ in chapter 10. Or to ‘give it thru the laying on of hands’ in chapter 19. He has the right to do whatever he wants. He is God! It is perfectly biblical to have both ways of operation in existence. It’s possible that the Pentecostals are right and the Baptists! You mean God actually might have been experienced in different ways by different groups? Yes! Scripture shows that this is possible. Now I want to make my self clear. I believe in the gifts and operations of the Spirit. You can actually develop a doctrine of ‘multiple baptisms’, times where the Spirit shook and ‘baptized’ groups on more than one occasion. God is God, be open to his reality. Don’t take one part of a chapter and try to make it fit for everyone. Both sides are guilty of this. The Spirit of God is alive and active. John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb! You mean before he got saved? Now go and rack your brains on this one.

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

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

(731) GENESIS 43- Jacob and the boys have not acted yet. They came back home and told their dad the situation and it seems as if Jacob is frozen with fear. Being in a place of stagnation. Proverbs says the righteous are as bold as a lion [Judah has lion imagery in the blessing that Jacob will give him!] but the wicked fleeth when no man pursueth. One of the strategies of the enemy is if he can’t out right stop you, then he will try to cause you to simply maintain. Don’t do anything to advance. So the food supply is low and Jacob must decide! He says ‘go back to the governor of Egypt [their brother Joseph] and just buy a little food’. His plan is no plan. He seems to think that if he limits the vision it will be all right! What good is getting a little food? He will be starving again soon. Judah basically says this ‘Dad, the man told us plainly not to return unless we bring Benjamin. If we hadn’t dilly dallied this long we would have already made the second trip and been back by now’! They flatly tell their dad ‘we aint going back without the boy!’ now Jacob agrees to send the boy. He once again falls into the worst case scenario in his thinking. Judah does something important here. He tells his dad ‘I will be surety for the boy. If anything happens to him let the blame be on me’. Why is this important? I mentioned earlier in this study that Judah is the special tribe from which ‘the lion of Judah’ [Jesus] will come. Hebrews says ‘it is evident that our Lord sprang from a tribe which was not represented at the altar’. Basically Jesus had to be born from another tribe that wasn’t a priestly tribe [Levi] in order to fulfill his new covenant priestly image. But why Judah? He doesn’t seem to be super holy, as a matter of fact we already discussed his playboy lifestyle! Judah is the only one in this scenario who sees ‘substitution’ as a viable answer to the problem. He basically says ‘I will be in the boys place’. Now we will see later that Judah will make this offer out right when Joseph attempts to keep Benjamin. But most of all I see Judah and his offer as a forerunner for the future act of Penal Substitution that will be carried out by Jesus, the lion who will spring from his loins. Now the boys pack up some stuff, bring extra money and head back to Egypt. They show up at Joseph’s house and are worried. They tell Joseph’s servant ‘we didn’t steal the stuff last time. When we opened the bags someone put the money back in our bags’. This was a trick that Joseph pulled on them earlier. So the servant says ‘don’t worry, the God of Joseph has shown you favor’. Interesting, though the Egyptians never converted en mass to Joseph’s religion, yet he was showing the reality of his God being the true God. He was a man of great influence who had attained a position of unbelievable authority and he was accepted by the government of his day. I think this is important for believers in our day to grasp. I feel we do damage to our testimony when we do ‘marches on Washington’ and stuff like this. While there might be times for things like this, the overall testimony of the church should be one of ‘the God of the Christians has shown you favor’. We should impact society thru our deeds and social justice concerns, not by our marching in the streets! Well Joseph sees Benjamin [his only other brother born from the same mom, Rachel] and has to leave the room because he almost cried right in front of his brothers. They still don’t recognize him yet. So as we end this chapter he makes all the brothers sit down at the table for a meal. He places them in order of their birth. The boys are thinking ‘how does he know the order of our birth’? They will find out soon enough.

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

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

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

(767)ACTS 27- Paul heads to Rome! He sets sail under guard and has a few harrowing experiences. He warns the ships captain not to sail at one stop, the time of severe weather is at hand. They refuse to listen, they set sail and wind up almost dying. Paul gives them a classic ‘I told you so!’ and says ‘don’t worry, an angel from God appeared to me and told me your lives will be spared’ [poor Paul, when is he going to see that these prophetic experiences are ruining his ministry!] they all swim to shore after the ship gets stuck off shore. At one point while still stuck in the water Paul tells them ‘you guys have not eaten in 14 days, have some food’ he breaks bread, thanks God and invites them to eat. I really see this as a type of ‘Lords supper’ thing. I have showed you guys in the past that the early church practiced a type of ‘common meal’. They seemed to take Jesus words in John 6 [Paul in Corinthians too] to teach that ‘as oft as you do this’ [do what? As oft as you get together and eat a meal from this time forth, you will remember that your actual spiritual life is pictured by you eating and drinking for physical life. I am your daily bread of life. You live because I live!]The early believers seemed to take it in this ‘buffet style’ way. So Paul seems to be holding some type of ‘invitation Lords meal’ and saying come and dine! At the end of this chapter Paul’s life is spared by the favor he had with the centurion Julius. God gave him protection to complete the mission. Paul has been witnessing of Jesus to all these gentile [Roman] authorities and he will take it to Rome. Ultimately it will take 3 centuries before the whole kingdom [Roman Empire] will bow the knee, but Paul was the firebrand who set the match.

(820)ROMANS 1: 1-16 many believe this letter to be Paul’s best, I wouldn’t disagree. The letters of the New Testament do not appear in chronological order, some feel this to be a huge obstacle in understanding scripture. I think it helps to know the times when Paul wrote the letters, but this in itself doesn’t prevent us from learning scripture. Romans is addressed to the church at Rome and is significant in that Paul did not ‘plant this church’. Unlike the other letters of Paul, he is writing to the believers with whom he had no strong prior relationship. He roots his gospel in the historical facts of history and scripture. ‘The gospel of God that the prophets foretold- Jesus of the seed of David who was proved to be the Son of God by the resurrection’. Make no bones about it, Paul is coming down strong on the gospel of Jesus Christ and he positions himself well right at the start. There were ‘other gospels’ [Galatians] that were circulating and at times might have even outnumbered Paul’s message! The Jewish sect from Jerusalem who embraced both Jesus and the law were very influential in Paul’s day. When Paul combats a legalistic gospel, at times he is running ‘neck and neck’ with the Judaisers. Paul will make a foundational statement that will run true thru out the rest of the New Testament. ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is the power of God unto Salvation to everyone who believes. For in it is the righteousness of God revealed’. Now, I have hit on this theme before, but it is so fundamental to the rest of this study that we need to spend some time with it. I always wondered why many so Evangelicals, and scholars, could not ‘rightly divide’ this biblical doctrine. I am speaking of ‘Righteousness by faith’ as being the root of all other ‘Salvation’. What I mean is many have confused the doctrine of ‘the salvation of the righteous’ with the salvation of the sinner. The reason why the gospel is one of salvation, is because this is the tool that God has ordained to administer ‘righteousness- justification’ to the believer. When God ‘saves- delivers’ a sinner from an ‘unjust state of being’ this act can be called ‘being saved’ [Ephesians 2]. Also thru out the scriptures you have people who are ‘just- righteous’ who experience ‘continual salvation’ because of the fact that they are righteous. This doctrine can be called ‘the salvation of the righteous’. David in Psalms says ‘the righteous cry and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles’ ‘The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord’. Peter speaks of God delivering the ‘just- righteous’ from wrath. Both Lot and Noah are said to have been ‘saved’ because they were righteous. The whole point here is as we progress thru Romans Paul will use the term ‘salvation’ and ‘righteousness’. Whenever [chapter 10] you have a combining of the righteous [believers] calling, crying out to God for ‘salvation’ it needs to be understood that this does not mean ‘salvation’ in the sense of the initial act of justification. While the two are closely related, the testimony from scripture does make a distinction. So Paul shows us that the reason the gospel is Gods power ‘unto salvation’ is because this is the way God chose to ‘make people just’. Paul will spend a few chapters [3 and 4] laying the foundation of righteousness by faith. But first he will argue his case for why all men need to have this righteousness.

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

IS HELL FOR REAL? These next few entries deal with the subject of eternal punishment.

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

(528) Isaiah 61 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me BECAUSE the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek, he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound’ Jesus read this verse in the gospel and said it was being fulfilled thru him. God anoints Jesus and us for set purposes. I find it interesting how this coincides with chapter 58 and deals with the hand of God to free people. To actually minister to real needs. In chapter 58 God rebukes Israel for thinking the anointing [Spirit] is for ritualistic religion, he tells them to do justice and reach out to the hurting. Jesus exemplifies this. He ‘proclaims’ liberty to captives. It’s like if someone were in a jail cell and the governor sent a message that said ‘you are already pardoned’. The message of the gospel is ‘you are free, God is not holding your sins against you. Only believe!’ We often preach ‘you must do so and so to get free’ Jesus said ‘you already are’. ‘To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, the day of vengeance of our God’ we must make it clear that a day of judgment is coming. The reality is God does forgive you, but you must come thru the Cross. It must be plain that all who reject Christ face a sure and certain judgment. A few years ago a very famous Charismatic preacher became a ‘universalist’ [someone who believes that everyone goes to heaven, or in this case that hell and judgment do not exist] He shared how when he stopped preaching ‘hell’ that it just made everyone feel better. It might make you feel better, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real! God wants us to tell people about this ‘acceptable time of the Lord’ but also warn them that if they refuse Gods grace, judgment is coming down the road. ‘To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness’ Now we are going to see a theme thru out the rest of the chapter. God wants to bring you out of mourning and into full restoration. I said in the previous chapters that rebuke and correction lead up to restoration. It is vital that we enter into joy! God wants us to come out of places of ‘heaviness’ [depression] and bring us to places of joy and peace ‘that we might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, and they shall build up the waste places, repair waste cities’ Who will do these things ? Those who have truly entered into praise! This is why it’s vital to make the transition into joy. It is the restoration process that enables us to move on to the next level. God says ‘you will have a scar, but no open wound’ There will be reminders of the desert you were in, that’s good. God says I want you to remember how awful it really was, never forget the ‘pit that I took you out of’ now that you are out, go and do my works! I have claimed these verses for over 20 years concerning building up waste cities and God doing it thru your seed. Yesterday we had a good outreach day in Kingsville. We got with some brothers and met at a park. I have a friend who is a musician, but he only knows the old classics ‘amazing grace’ and stuff. Fine with me, we sang and praised in that park. I felt the Lord said that he was going to restore joy to ‘our mourners’ and it will be thru this restored joy that he will ‘build the old waste places’. ‘You shall be named the Priests of the Lord, the ministers of our God’ this is all of us! No special class here, no ‘clergy’. This is you and me. ‘For your shame ye shall have double, and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion, they shall posses double, everlasting joy shall be with them’ In Hebrews it says of Jesus ‘he despised the shame, looking ahead to the reward’. Here it says God will reward you by giving you many converts and blessing these converts exponentially based on the shame and confusion you experience. Don’t try to get out of the shame/difficulty/persecution, but see it as part of the cost. Know that as you suffer, God is promising to reward you thru your seed. ‘I the Lord love judgment, I HATE ROBBERY FOR BURNT OFFERINGS’ now I want you to pay attention here. In the New Testament Jesus teaches the way people ‘rob God’ is by not meeting the needs of people. He rebuked the Pharisees for tithing to the temple and using this as an excuse to not meet the needs of their parents. Jesus said when you didn’t meet the needs of the destitute that you were NOT MEETING HIS NEEDS, Jesus is God! John says ‘how can you say you love God who you don’t see, when you don’t meet the needs [love demonstrated] of the brother that you do see’. It is common today to use Malachi and teach ‘robbing God’ in the context of ‘not tithing’. Because the New Testament temple are made up of people, the New Testament teaches ‘robbing God’ is done by not ‘giving’ to this temple, which are people! I have taught all this before, but I want to change your thinking in this area. You must see the people as the temple in order to not ROB GOD. ‘I WILL GREATLY REJOICE IN THE LORD, MY SOUL SHALL BE JOYFUL IN MY GOD’ I want to end on this high note, even though the last verse of this chapter is also good [go read it!] I personally believe this to be a key ingredient at this time for us. The joy of the Lord is our strength. ‘But brother, you ‘rebuke’ so much in your writings, you teach correction a lot. How can you have joy when there is so much difficulty and trials and stuff?’ Our joy is not dependant on our situation, it is fixed in God. Read the Psalms, David understood this principle. Paul said his contentment was not based on outward circumstances. Let’s grasp hold of the great reality of what God has done for us; we are going to live forever! Don’t loose sight of the great things God has done. Be joyful in God at all times. I know he is going to do great things for all of us, let’s rejoice in the Lord, and again I say REJOICE! NOTE; ‘for confusion and shame your children shall posses a double portion in the land’ [my paraphrase] this past year my 2 oldest daughters [19-21] both purchased their own homes. They ‘possessed’ double of what I own. I see God doing things in the natural first, then the spiritual. A couple of our friends from the early years have just begun doing home groups in their cities, they have been serving the Lord, but it’s been a while since we really established anything consistent with these guys. I felt like the Lord was saying ‘our seed [yours too!] will begin possessing the Land this year’.

(539) Isaiah 66 ‘Thus saith the lord, the heaven is my throne and the earth my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? And where is the place of my rest’ Here we begin to see the transition that will take place in 1st century Rome. These descriptions from Isaiah are prophetic of Gods offer to Israel. Isaiah is saying ‘where is the temple that you can build for me to dwell in’? I do not want a man made temple any more. I am done with all animal sacrifices [we read that next!] God will end the prophetic message of Isaiah with his intent to transfer from an earthly natural temple, to a heavenly spiritual one, the Body of Christ! God will show his displeasure with all animal sacrifices, not just certain ones. For Isaiah to claim to be speaking for God, and to say these things seems blasphemous to Israel at this time. You must see that Isaiah is coming against all the ceremony and system that God instituted. To say these things was to put himself in the same category of Paul who the Jews will accuse of trying to destroy the law and Temple worship. But Paul was saying this post Christ, Isaiah was saying it before the Cross. How could Isaiah get away with this while the law was still in effect? The Spirit of prophecy sees and functions in future realities. When God opens up the future to a prophet, he simply speaks what he is seeing. It is Gods prerogative to proclaim his disapproval of the old system in anticipation of the new one that was to come. ‘For all those things hath mine hand made, but to this man will I look, to him that is of a poor and contrite spirit’ God says ‘I will not dwell in the temples of men, but in those who are humble and contrite’. Jesus said unless we humble ourselves and become as little children, we will not enter Gods kingdom. Here we see the ‘stones’ that the new temple will be made of, humble contrite people. ‘He that killeth an ox is like he slew a man, he that sacraficeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dogs neck, he that offers an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood [and you guys think I am harsh!] and he that burneth incense as if he blessed an idol’ In essence Isaiah is saying the same as the book of Hebrews. You must see that in the mind of God, all animal sacrifice, after the Cross[which Isaiah is seeing thru prophecy, he is speaking ‘post Cross prophetically’] is an insult and an abomination. I am going to start a commentary on Hebrews as soon as I finish Isaiah, I want to put the book in proper perspective. When the writer of Hebrews says ‘those who continue to sin after they were enlightened, that God will not allow them to renew their repentance’ it is not speaking of believers, as commonly taught. But it is telling Israel ‘if you reject Messiah, and think you can keep bringing me all these sacrifices of repentance, I won’t accept them anymore. You cant be ‘renewed again unto repentance, you have done despite to the Spirit of Grace and have trampled under foot the sacrifice of God’ The reason the language is so strong here, is because God is saying when you continue to sacrifice animals after the once and for all sacrifice of my Son, then you are doing disgrace to Grace. For Isaiah to being saying this, pre Cross, is amazing! ‘Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out FOR MY NAMES SAKE said, let the Lord be glorified, but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed’ the brethren of Jesus cast him out for what they thought was Gods will. The rejection of Messiah was seen to be an act of Israel’s orthodox belief. They truly thought they were doing the will of God. Jesus even said a time was coming when people would kill believers thinking they were doing Gods service. But in the end God appeared to Jesus joy and they were ashamed. ‘A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple’ Gods ‘city’ and ‘temple’ are the people of God. God has a voice that comes forth out of the temple. Rivers flow from this temple. Jesus said he who believes, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. God speaks thru his church. Some have attempted to ‘de gender’ God. They will say that God is both male and female. This is not so. God is definitively male. Then where is the feminine voice? It comes from what the Spirit is saying thru the bride, the Lambs wife. God has purposed to speak this way. So you have both the male and female sides seen. Paul said that the Jerusalem which is above is the mother of us all. The ‘Jerusalem from above’ is the church, the city of God. Scripture says listen to the voice of your mother and your father. We are to hear what God says [Father] and our mother, the corporate voice of the Spirit that has spoken thru the church, the mother of us all. ‘Before she travailed she brought forth, before her pain came she was delivered of a man child, who hath heard such a thing? For as soon as Zion travailed she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the birth and not cause to bring forth?’ God is saying there is a process to the things he wants to birth from you. Part of the process is travailing, it is the severe pain experienced at the end of pregnancy. We often equate that pain the wrong way. We think ‘well, things are so hard here at the end, I want to quit and go home’ God is saying don’t quit, you are about to give birth. Don’t misread the labor pains; it is a culmination of the long months of waiting. I determined to bring you to this point of extreme pain, it is my process. Don’t abort! ‘Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, be glad all ye that love her’ It is vital for us to enter into joy. Jesus said after the woman gives birth, she forgets all the pain she went thru, because of the joy of bringing forth the child. Begin rejoicing in God, he will do great things. Scripture says ‘when the Lord turned the captivity of Zion, it was like a dream’ God is going to so move on your behalf that you will think it is too good to be true! ‘I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the gentiles like a flowing stream’ Jesus said ‘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’ You have the inner ability to ‘not let your heart be troubled’ the world runs to doctors and drugs, we run to God. ‘As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you, and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem’ God comforts us ‘in Jerusalem’. In the book of Galatians the Body of Christ is called ‘the New Jerusalem, the Church, the mother of us all’ in the book of Revelation John says ‘the city that comes down from God out of heaven, the New Jerusalem, is the bride, the Lambs wife’ God says we are comforted in community. John also says [in 1st John] ‘when WE walk in the light, WE have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses US from all sin’ God works in community, as well as with individuals. Some times we as believers go to one extreme or another. Soren Kierkegaard, the great 19th century Philosopher/Theologian wrote as a Prophet against what he saw as the abuses of the institutional church. The Danish state church had a lot of formality and ‘spectator’ Christianity. Kierkegaard emphasized Gods desire to reveal himself to people individually, outside of ‘the church’. He would say things like ‘the congregations are totally useless, there is nothing good to be found there’ and then he would say you can only truly serve God outside of ‘the church’. Well God does see all of us ‘as the church’ and he works thru individuals as well as ‘groups of people’. God wants to ‘attach’ you to people for his purpose and destiny. You need to ‘walk in the light’ with other believers, so God can ‘comfort you in Jerusalem’ the corporate city of God. ‘For I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations… to the Isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither seen my glory, and they shall declare my name among the gentiles’ sound familiar? This sounds just like the day of Pentecost, in Acts. God gathered all types of people groups to Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Spirit, and these nations/people groups went back to their own areas and spread the gospel. God sends those ‘who escape’, out to be evangelists. Many times you will ‘go thru hell’ and barley escape with your life, but the reason God let you escape was for the purpose of sending you out to other places and people. Don’t make bargains with God and not keep them! How many times have people said ‘God, if you get me out of this one I sware to do this or that’ are you out? Then do what you said! [note: in the New testament Jesus and James taught to not even make these types of vows, so I am not advocating doing this, but the point is many of us have, so if you did do it, now fulfill what you promised God you would do!] ‘For as the new heavens and the new earth shall remain before me, so shall your seed and name remain… and all flesh shall come to worship me.. and they shall go forth and look upon the bodies of those who transgressed against me, for their worm dieth not, neither shall the fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh’ I want to end our study of these last 15 or so chapters of Isaiah with a brief overview. God tells us ‘I am going to make all things new’ God has a real future eternal hope for all those who are in Christ. We need to reaffirm the truth that heaven is real! As well as a ‘new earth’ that he will make new some day. God also affirms thru the Prophet that hell is real! Theologians, even good ones, have differing views on hell. I like R.C. Sproul, he is one of my favorite theologians, he believes the references to ‘hell fire’ are symbolic, but he states ‘the real punishment will be worse than real fire’ the reason I wanted to add the above verses on ‘the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched’ is because Jesus himself uses this terminology when describing eternal punishment, the ‘worm dieth not’ indicates that there will be a real physical judgment that lasts forever! God doesn’t want ANYBODY to go there. How many will go? I don’t know, but this I do know, we as believers have the only hope in the world to keep people from going there, his name is Jesus Christ. I exhort all of you to begin doing all you can to reap in a huge harvest of souls for God, we can’t bring our cars and houses and money and stocks and all these other things with us, but we can bring people! Gather up as many of them as you can, so you will have some friends and family when you get to the other side.

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

(351) The rise of the Islamic religion came as a direct result of the Christian churches idolatry. 1400 years ago the prophet Muhammad saw the actual idolatry of the church in having statues and Christians actually bowing down in front of them during ‘church’ services. Muhammad led an iconoclastic revolt [image smashing] and felt that God was using him to judge idolatry in the church. In essence ‘radical Islam’ is sort of a type of ‘Babylonian’ judgment that God allows to come against the church when she becomes idolatrous/materialistic. Today radical Islam looks at all the TV and entertainment that is being produced from ‘western’ Christianity, and sees herself once again as an instrument in Gods hand to ‘judge’ idolatry/materialism. The western church doesn’t yet realize the significance of not being materialistic. Many of the mindsets say ‘this is what Christianity is all about, God is a good God [true] and therefore we are all bout ‘accumulating stuff’ [false]. This ‘idolatry’ of things has once again opened a ‘spiritual portal’ that allows ‘pagan’ nations to judge Gods people. In essence God uses wicked govt. and religions to come in and attack the ‘secure’ feeling of those who find security in ‘things’. The significance of the worlds 3 great religions [Christianity/Islam/Jew] at this time in world history is at a critical point. The reason why ‘spiritual Israel’ [all believers] will be the ‘body of people’ that Christ will return to and vindicate is because these have been the servants of all these other nations during these conflicts. Jesus said the last will be first. These humble believers who have been risking their lives reaching out to all these communities and trying to feed and help these nations are the ones that Christ returns to and ‘shows’ himself. In essence the humble church do inherit the earth. Natural Israel could not do this. The Israel of today is a govt. built and established on Old Testament truths. They still have embedded in their minds the concept of ‘animal sacrifice’ and obedience to law as the nationalistic ‘glue’ that holds the fabric of their society together. The return of Jesus will be an event where all nations will see and fall down and confess Jesus as Lord. It will be humbling to realize that at this moment God is not vindicating the thoughts or religions of men, but instead he will be vindicating the Lamb and his followers. Judgment will be given over to the Lamb and the humble ones who have been following him for 2 thousand years. The world will be relieved to see judgment in the hands of those who truly loved and gave themselves for them. Paul said we shall judge the world. Jesus said whosever’s sins you forgive will be forgiven. There is an aspect to the final judgment that is given to the Saints. This will not be an arrogant thing. Jesus is waiting for the saints to be mature enough to return and entrust this to them. You wouldn’t give your car to your 10 year old. But when they are mature enough you will entrust it to them. So a major aspect of Christ’s return is for his people to be mature enough to not want to judge and condemn, but who will be willing to ‘suffer these other nations to come unto him’. After all redemption was his purpose from the start. [I am not advocating universalism, I am showing you that at Christ’s return he wants his people to be able to handle in grace and mercy the role we will play in the judgment of the nations].

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

About ccoutreach87

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

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