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Teachings- Part 7

TEACHINGS- PART 7

(1074)Yesterday I met Edward; he is a homeless brother from San Antonio. He located to Corpus a few months ago. As I was helping him out during the day I realized he had a situation with another brother who owns a ‘church building’. The building is not being used so they worked out a deal with my friend, he would live in it and kinda be a caretaker while they are trying to sell it. Well after being with the brother most of the day I ‘discerned’ how he is in great strife with the owners. They have told him to leave and all, he is telling me about his ‘legal rights’ to stay [you do run into brothers like this. I have had buddies tell me stuff like this before ‘squatter’s rights’ and stuff. When one of my friends refused to get his motorcycle motor out of my garage, he started using the squatters rights ‘provision’ he saw how quickly I began dragging it out to the curb! He got it out.] So this is kind of a funny thing that the guys do at times. But it did get me to thinking about how often we mix ‘business’ with ‘church’ [charity]. I have a policy, whenever someone asks to borrow money, I NEVER do it, but I will GIVE them some, with the explicit directions to ‘not pay me back’. A few posts back I mentioned how I used to do the real estate thing; buying a cheap rental [some were not cheap] and renting it out until I could sell it. It’s not wrong for believers to do stuff like this, but Jesus also taught us that the pursuit of wealth can affect you in a bad way. At the time I was reading and learning about all types of money investments, consuming my thoughts and energies with this stuff. Then my bible reading/teaching would inevitably become ‘affected’ with this paradigm. I would just naturally gravitate towards the money portions of scripture, when coming across the classic ‘you cannot serve God and money’ verses; I would unconsciously stick it in the category of ‘church tradition’ even though Jesus was the one who said it! So it’s a popular trend for believers to get into the whole ‘God has called me into the ministry of teaching believers how to become financially independent, so lets spend our time building wealth for my business and at the same time helping other believers build wealth’ sounds noble, but it usually winds up focusing on the money stuff most of the time. It gets your focus on the wrong thing. So anyway I think we need to refocus our thoughts on the New Testament priorities, sure you can be a responsible business investor, nothing wrong with it. But don’t go down the road of ‘my ministry is to bring in the wealth’ you wont be the first [or last] person that has ‘felt this calling’.

(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 Peter’s 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.

(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 brothers 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.

(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.

(1078) I’m getting ready to email one of our news papers [the ones I run the blog ad in] they double billed me again! I have these papers do direct withdrawals from my account, when a few of them over bill in one month it puts me in a bind. Sometimes it bugs the ‘heck’ out of me, but then I calm down and try and correct it the next day. I believe the Lord allows you to have influence, to ‘go far’, by his sovereign will. Not too long ago I emailed a national radio/prison ministry. He’s based out of Washington, famous brother. Sure enough as I heard his 5 minute radio program one morning, he used a rare example that I have taught on our site. I thought ‘geez, he must be reading our stuff’. It was one of those teachings that is hardly ever heard, a short thing on Jesus words about ‘the camel going thru the eye of a needle’. I refuted the silly teaching that used to say ‘the eye of the needle’ was the name of a ‘low gate’ in the city wall, thus- the poor camel can make it thru, but he has to crouch! OUCH! So any way this brother used the example, good for him [and me]. So if the Lord wants a person to have influence that goes far, he will do it. But there are also times where the Lord holds us back, that is he is simply waiting for our maturity to catch up with our ability. What I mean by this is it is all too common for preachers/ministries to master the art of bringing in the finances, getting things together, then expanding their message way beyond the borders of their maturity. That’s why there is so much unbalanced teaching in the church today, the American church spends exorbitant amounts of money on teaching stuff that is ‘less than perfect’ if you get my drift. So let the Lord lead you in how far your voice should go. He might be saying ‘look son, I have great purposes and plans for you, I have given you a gift and talents that are going to be used in a great way in my kingdom. But for the present time this does not include a national/world-wide audience’.

(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.

(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!

(1081) Was thinking earlier what we should talk about today, I have been jumping around thru some of the prophetic books [Revelation, Zechariah, etc.] but then I remembered I got a letter yesterday from my buddy in the New Jersey jail [I have some in the city jail, some in the state prison system of Jersey]. So I thought I should read the letter and mention it. Sure enough they didn’t take the check, I sent him a 25.00 dollar check and they sent it back; it needs to be a money order. The guys need money to get stuff from the commissary and stuff, I have done this plenty of times [by ‘done this’ I mean sent the money!] I realize now that the Lord is going to have me do a little more writing than I expected. Nothing wrong with it, for some reason I didn’t expect my buddy to write back and want to keep in touch. That’s fine. He also told me he was reading the stuff I copied from my blog; he says ‘it’s strange I can hear your voice when I read your stuff’. Just a few weeks back I was ‘thinking’ about the dynamic of hearing someone’s voice when you read their books, I mean it was a conscious thought that I couldn’t shake. Now I realize it was one of those prophetic moments, basically the Lord was telling me ‘people will hear your voice when they read your stuff’. My buddy handed out a few of the ministry cards I sent, he told me some of the other brothers might write. It’s strange, I felt the Lord was telling me a few years ago that he was going to expand my territory and I would once again have contact with New Jersey, and at the same time some of the Texas contacts would wane [the prison stuff- I still have a bunch of cities we speak into]. So it seems like some of this is coming to pass. To be honest with you guys, I have had some tough times these past few weeks. I can’t be ‘too real’ on a public blog like this! But take my word for it, I have struggled somewhat. You know what’s funny [or sad?] I have preacher ‘acquaintances’ who preach great, they always have an excellent public persona. Some think I am too ‘worldly’ [possibly so!] but they mean my open sharing and stuff on the blog. Sort of like we should always be in a preaching mode and ‘God’ forbid we should ever be real. I know some of these men personally, some of them have had more ‘private’ problems than you could ever imagine. Now, I am not judging them, but if all we ever see/know about people are their platform image, then we are seeing an unrealistic picture of the Christian life. Our preaching [American Christianity] is consumed with self-help techniques and psycho babble. We present an unreal picture to the world. Then I hear preachers say that this real life style, being open and not perfect, is wrong. I think the American church needs an overhaul in general. I got an email from the news paper that messed up my bill last month, this paper [Jersey Journal] is the only one I put my name in with the ad, the purpose is for any old friends to see it and maybe read the site. In the other papers I just run the blog ad. But the Journal always treats me right, the poor brother who handles my account always profusely apologizes when something goes wrong ‘please forgive us for the mistake’ and stuff like that. So this time I just couldn’t resist it, I emailed him back ‘NO, I CAN NOT FORGIVE YOU GUYS THIS TIME!’ of course I was kidding, but I would have loved to have seen the look on his face when he read it. So anyway, today we learned that we are all in the same boat, we all struggle with things in life, but during this life we are also called upon by God to give ourselves away for others. To transcend our own weaknesses and give of our time and money for the benefit of others. People who live in the real world need others who live in the real world to reach out and help. One of my favorite movies is Donnie Brascoe [yes, I watch the mafia stuff]. It’s the true story of an undercover F.B.I. agent who infiltrates the mob, he made it further in than any other agent in history. The danger was he identified so much with the brothers, that he had a difficult time differentiating between which world he was in. There is always a danger when living in the real world, we are to be in the world, not of it. But for mere mortals this can be difficult, surely Jesus would never identify too much with such sinful creatures! Oh wait, there is this little doctrine that just popped into my head, I think they call it THE INCARNATION.

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

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

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

(1085) I was reading Ezekiel, this verse struck me ‘the Lord took me to a high mountain, and I saw something like the structure of a city on the south’ [40:2]. To my Corpus friends, these types of verses are really prophetic. The Lord uses imagery in scripture; the Church is a city, a ‘city set on a hill’ that cannot be hidden. Sometimes the atheists try to hide us, they make arguments that the whole Christian faith is a big lie, that we have all been duped! Then they say the church has been the biggest force of evil known to civilized man. If I believed the Easter Bunny was a myth [I do, by the way] and then I spent the rest of my life tracing the history of Easter bunnies; how everywhere you turn they have affected society, from kings to peasants. These bunnies are everywhere! Both of these arguments can’t be true at the same time. Either they are insignificant things that people made up, or they are so insidious that they are the biggest nuisance the world has ever known! The poor atheists haven’t got a clue. God says he has set up his people like a city on a hill, he says she ‘can’t be hidden’ both the good and bad stuff has been recorded for all human history to see. The fact is, since this city has been impossible to erase from the annals of history, this fact in itself testifies to the reality of the masterbuilder who created her. Jesus said we would be set on a ‘hill’ a mountain for all the world to see, they have seen!

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

(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 to attend this overeater’s 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.

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

(1089) it’s a Monday morning right now, last night I had one of those nights where you can’t sleep. I was up until around 2 am, I thought ‘well, maybe I won’t pray the normal Monday intercessory prayer thing’. On Mondays I make it a point to do a consistent prayer time for family, friends, and nations, lost people groups, the persecuted church and many other things. I do this at least three times a week. Usually from around 3:30 -5:15 am. Every morning I spend time with the Lord, if it’s not intercessory prayer, it’s an hour or 2 of praise and meditation. I have often thought there might me something wrong with me, I mean I am still praying for friends from high school, the kids of some of my buddies who have died years ago. And to be regularly praying for nations, lost people groups, the persecuted church; to be doing this, even in the midst of personal turmoil, is simply not normal. I know you will think I’m kidding, but I do have somewhat of a compulsive nature, I think I have inklings of O.C.D. [obsessive compulsive disorder] to be honest about it. You know what also doesn’t help? After finally falling asleep at around 2 or so, I thought ‘well maybe I will miss a day, what harm could it do; after all the Lord is full of mercy, he’s no slave driver!’ Then the first verse I read in Micah was ‘arise, contend thou before the mountains, let the hills hear thy voice!’ [6:1] Gee, thanks a lot. Part of my prayer time actually quotes ‘listen oh mountains and you from afar, the Lord has called me from the womb, from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name! I will not fail or be discouraged until I have set justice in the earth, I will call a nation that I do not know, and nations that do not know me will come running to me’ [various collection of verses] I quote this, along with many other verses that I have added to memory over the years. Sounds kind of noble and dramatic, doesn’t it? Hey, I would have settled for ‘now I lay me down to sleep’ but the Lord had other plans.

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

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

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

(1093) woke up too early today, around 1 a.m. The first sound I heard was Dick Van Dyke singing ‘put on a happy face’ from some classic movie on the AMC channel. I never really listened to the words before, but he sings ‘don’t use the word tragic/tragedy in your vocabulary’ I must admit I have been using those words a bit too much. It sounded like a Joel Osteen sermon in stereo for heavens sake! I guess the Lord knew I wouldn’t have received it from a prosperity preacher. But how could I brush off Van Dyke? I know ‘who does Van Dyke think he is! Mr. big shot, big screen actor who stooped so low that he made the Dick Van Dyke show, no REAL actor would do a TV series’ yea, that makes me feel better. I was at the homeless hangout the other day [will be there today as well] now there are also a bunch of gang kids who hang out there, in Corpus we have somewhat of a gang problem, kids shooting every week and all, deaths every so often. I was walking with one of the homeless brothers passed a few of them, I mean you can tell by the way they look, I could never wear my pants half way down my backside! What the heck kind of cool look is that, I think it makes you look like an idiot! Well anyway one of them said something as we walked passed, I of course had to stop and give them one of those ‘are you talking to me’ type looks, to be honest I think the kid got a little scared, just being honest. Okay, I never listen to myself on the radio [maybe 5 times total in 13 years] and the other day I put the station on, seeing who’s new in the area and all. Sure enough I hear this brother, can’t really recognize the voice, but he sounds pretty good. It took me a minute to realize it was me! I quickly turned it off. Remember the Jeff Foxworthy thing? You might be going thru some stuff if you hear yourself on the radio and don’t know it’s you. Thought it fit in good here. My wife got an email from an old friend, she lives in Germany with her ‘new’ husband. We were friends with the lady years ago, I was friends with her first husband. She was the secretary at a Baptist church and yes, she ran off with the Pastor! She divorced my friend and married the Pastor. He left his family and they have been together for around 10 years now. I know people are human, they fall into stuff [I really know!] But I can’t see how the ex pastor can try and get things right and stay in the marriage, over the years I have had ups and downs, yes even times where me and my wife were separated but after getting things right, any side relationships had to go! I mean even stuff like ‘maybe God is in this’ being said by the other person [talking years ago by the way!] wouldn’t even register in my mind! I don’t know how pastors/ex pastors can continue in these types of relationships, God forgives, but the relationships just can’t go on like that. And I am not judging, been there done that, just when things are over you have to do your best to make things right. Just read ‘blessed are the pure in heart, they shall see God. Blessed are the merciful, they shall obtain mercy’ I have learned in my life that there are times where I can ‘see’ God. Days when I know if I stay on course I will hear him, I am the type that if I backslid into drugs and bought a bunch of stuff, that I would not be able to keep the stuff overnight, I would have to throw it out. Or if I woke up and thought ‘later on I will mess up, but for now let me do the prayer/teaching thing’ I wouldn’t be able to do it. Now, if later on wound up being bad, that’s another story, but to actually premeditate the thing doesn’t happen with me, I know I ‘cant see God’ when not truly desiring a pure heart! Now, I have had Christian friends who could do stuff like that, i.e.; staying in the new marriage after leaving your former family, I know I could never do this. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are divorced people who move on with their lives and God forgives them, but the above situation is much worse than that. God says ‘if you regard iniquity in your heart, the Lord will not hear you’ to live with the conscious, ongoing acceptance of sin in your life will cut you off from the presence of God! Blessed are the pure [not perfect!] in heart, for these are the ones who get to see God.

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

(1095) I had one of those weird prophetic experiences yesterday, I was reviewing a radio tape that I made a while back [6 months to a year?] though I don’t listen to myself on the radio, I review the tape one time before airing, and I will be surprised how many times the thing I just wrote on the blog matches what I said a year ago! I mean the exact words. So yesterday as I am listening to the tape while cleaning the house, I am saying to myself ‘wow, this is exactly what I just taught’ and then on the tape I say ‘you know, sometimes people hear these messages years later and say “wow, that’s exactly what I just went thru”’ weird, isn’t it? Okay, being we have been talking somewhat about Jesus and his movement, let’s do a little about style/procedure. A few weeks back we had a busy day around the mission where I hang out; various Christians/ministers donating time to help out. I met a new brother who introduced himself and we both shared about our various ministries, I told him how I have made many homeless friends and we get together and do stuff. Sometimes we travel to another town and ‘see how the brothers are doing in all the towns where I have preached the gospel’ [Paul does this in the book of Acts] But most of the time we are just friends. During this day as the other Christians were chipping in, fixing things and stuff, my other ‘ministry friend’ kind of wanted to talk ‘ministry’ he saw me sitting with my friends and kind of couldn’t understand what I was doing [just being friends!] sort of like ‘when are you going to do the preaching/teaching thing and then talk ministry?’ He was well meaning, but he just didn’t get the whole point. I do not see/have a ‘ministry’ thing that takes place outside of the confines of simply trying to live out the kingdom of God as a real person with other real people. These people ARE REALLY my friends, I don’t wrap things up and then ‘talk serious ministry’ this is serious ministry! It took some of my preacher friends some time to really see this, sort of like ‘gee, John has some ability to teach and all, if he would only get his act together and start a ‘church/ministry’ he could really be successful’! I have heard/felt this mindset many times. I believe we need to live as real people in society, the great need isn’t for more ‘ministries/businesses/churches’ to stir people up to give more money in order to carry out another endless series of projects! The need is for us to return to the ethos of Jesus as seen in the gospels and try to emulate [by the Spirits power] the things he did and taught. Jesus spent much time among the hopeless; he was teaching and doing good deeds. At the same time you had the religious class of professionals living as some type of upper-class clergy. Jesus style works a lot better.

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

(1097) Okay, lets do one on apologetics, the last few posts drained me too much! During the time of the Reformation, Enlightenment and scientific revolution [15-1700’s] you had people dealing with the reality that many of the former institutions that they trusted in [Catholic Church] were being challenged at the core. Though the scientific method was introduced by the church, yet as time advanced many would use science as an excuse to challenge the existence of God. As certain philosophers grappled with the effect that this would have on society [Immanuel Kant] they developed belief systems to explain the necessity of some type of belief in a moral higher power, versus the other extreme which is defined as Nihilism. That is the basic belief that nothing really has meaning at all, as the rock group Kansas put it ‘all we are is dust in the wind’ [p.s. try not to listen to this song if your feeling depressed!] Those who advocated Nihilism [Niestche] still had to explain away the reality of this almost universal belief in God. Where does it come from? Why do people gravitate towards this belief? For the most part the atheistic philosophers said it was born out of this innate desire of man to want more than Nihilism, basically man could not accept the reality that he came from nothing and was heading nowhere, so that’s why he came up with God and religion. Now it was important for the atheistic philosopher to come up with some answer to the dilemma, and this was basically it. What’s the problem with this answer? The majority view of God [Christian, Jew, Muslim] is a view that God is this all-powerful being who knows all things. He also has this moral code that if broken demands strict punishment, and man in his humanity has a really difficult time living up to this code [of course Christians solve this problem thru the Cross!] and any man who lives his life as a lawbreaker will not be able to escape this all knowing judge who has all power to carry out all justice for all men. In short, if man developed a god for psychological reasons, as some type of cosmic crutch to help him thru his meaningless existence, for heavens sake it wouldn’t be this one! Thus the explanation that the atheistic philosopher gave didn’t really solve the problem. Now Kant rejected natural theology, he did not believe the arguments used to prove the existence of God from natural means were valid [Anselm, Augustine, Aquinas] but he was accused of driving God out of the front door and letting him in thru the back. Kant said in order for man to have rule and order, civil society, that you would need some basic things. Man would have to have some type of moral code to live by, he would also have to be assured that those who broke it would have to pay some type of penalty [in the after life as well as now]. In order for a just future judgment you would need an all knowing judge who you couldn’t slip something by, he had to be just, not one you could bribe! He would also have to be all powerful, if by chance he couldn’t execute the judgment then crime would still prevail. Kant called this basic moral requirement ‘ought ness’ that is the things that all people ‘ought to do’ the moral code implanted in man. Kant recognized the danger of Nihilism, if man had no outside moral agent to whom he was accountable to, then civil society would eventually be lost. So you now see the problem with the period of human history where men went thru a revolutionary stage. As they tried to cast off the church and God, they also realized that these things provided the very foundation of civil society. If Nihilism won out, society would eventually collapse.

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

(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!

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

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

(1102) FOOTBALL JIM- I have never written about ‘football Jim’ before, he is one of the first ‘street people’ I met around 15 years ago. Jim is in his 70’s and doesn’t really qualify as homeless. He lives on social security and shares a small apt. with his brother. He walks around a lot, goes to the mission to eat the meals and I have taken Jim out to eat over the years. Jims the type that doesn’t really want to ‘talk religion’ that’s fine, I actually hardly talk it myself! A few weeks back I heard he was in the hospital with walking pneumonia [or should I say ammonia?] I asked a lady friend of his where he was at and she told me. Then yesterday I saw his lady friend and asked how he was doing and she said he’s out and will be here soon. So when he showed up I asked how he was feeling and all, he’s doing fine. I told him I did ask about him and had him in my prayers. As the serving time comes for the meals I just sit out front [where you see me sitting in my photo] and read or meet new friends. Jim came out and sat with me a little, told me how he heard some people didn’t ask about him and all, I could tell he was keeping score, asking his lady friend ‘did anybody ask about me?’ and stuff. He must have heard that I did ask. Jim sat with me for a few minutes, told me why he doesn’t go to the other free meals that a Pastor friend of mine does twice a week. He said he doesn’t like it when people offer food but require you to hear preaching. He then told me that even though he doesn’t go to church that he does believe in the Lord, that when Jesus was on the Cross he told the thief ‘today you will be with me in paradise’. I told Jim it’s true, that all who believe and accept the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus will go to heaven. I didn’t want to really go any further, Jims been around for many years, he’s heard it all. But I found it interesting that after 15 years of Jim knowing that I was somewhat of a ‘street preacher’ that he shared this story with me. It meant a lot to him to know that I simply asked about him when he was sick, somehow this broke a barrier and Jim talked ‘religion’ for the first time in 15 years. Funny thing isn’t it?

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

(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 seem 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?

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

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

(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 tried 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 about 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 backing 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?]

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

(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’m 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 took 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.

(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 spoken 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.

(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.

(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?

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

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

(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 brother 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 the 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.

(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.

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

(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.

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

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

(1121) ‘Dinosaurs with wings and Darwin’s winged rats’ Let’s do a short thing here; recently I have seen a few silly things and thought I should expound. First, the common argument on the road of evolution is that dinosaurs turned into birds [or as G.K. Chesterton expounded, evolutionists would have you believe that running rats turned into flying ones!]. I know that the average consumer of public school evolution does not fully realize the total lunacy of many of evolutions claims. What would be the most obvious problem with dinosaurs turning into flying reptiles/birds? If you had a very slow period where many thousands of species SLOWLY evolved wings where their front legs used to be, this species would be the first to die off! For Darwin’s theory to work, only the fittest survive! So according to Darwin’s own theory, the so called ‘in between’ species would have never been able to have made it! This is the exact observation that G.K. Chesterton used [famous Catholic writer] about the rats, he said it was quite obvious to any rationally thinking person, that if the walking rats slowly developed wings and turned into the flying ones, how in the world would the sad little rats have survived during the many thousands of years where they couldn’t walk or fly? You say ‘Now John, surely there must be a reasonable explanation to this dilemma, true thinking evolutionists aren’t that dumb’ the majority of evolutionists believe that all things came from no thing, a scientific impossibility. If they could swallow that, then surely they could swallow anything.

(1122) Jesus is getting ready to eat the Passover meal with his disciples, a woman pours very expensive oil [perfume] on his head. The disciples [Judas] are mad ‘we could have sold this perfume and made money! Oh, and we could have given it to the poor too’. Which meant put it in the offering bag Judas was in charge of. Jesus rebukes his disciples ‘you always have the poor with you, but my time is very short now. What this woman did was a prophetic act preparing my body for burial’ [I wish he would quit talking like this!] Jesus says what this women did would be told all over the world, wherever his story would be told. Quite a bold statement, don’t you think? Jesus has this little rag tag group of followers, they are feeling somewhat let down, I mean Judas goes out to betray Jesus right after this act. He goes and makes a deal for thirty pieces of silver, what was in his mind? The trigger seemed to be the fact that he didn’t get his hands on the perfume money! Go read the story, it’s in there. We often brand Judas as this guy that was all bad right from the start, understand, Jesus knew his men were in his movement for political reasons, a sort of messianic group that was challenging the system if you will. His men did not realize the nature of his movement yet. So it was quite natural for Judas to feel disappointed, in some way he realized he was not going to get what he wanted by being a member of ‘Jesus church’. So Jesus sits down with his men, takes the bread and wine and breaks it, showing them that it will be his own act of brokenness that would be the glue that would hold this group together. The prophet Isaiah said ‘as many as were astonished at your torment/suffering, so likewise you will reach many nations’ Jesus knew it was in this act of sacrifice that he would be planting the seeds of true revolution, a little too much for the average follower. He even will pray in the garden ‘if its possible let this thing pass, lets do it another way God’ when he returns to his disciples they are sleeping, he will tell them ‘its enough, I now have settled what will happen, lets go’. We often think that the Father told Jesus ‘no Son, you must do this’ but in a little while Peter will cut off the ear of a soldier in trying to protect Jesus, Jesus will respond by saying ‘don’t you know I could call down angels right now and get out of this’ maybe the fathers answer was ‘Son, this is up to you, its totally on your shoulders now. If you decide not to go thru with it, its your choice’ the bible does say that Jesus purchased us by himself, that is it was riding on him. I don’t want to be too dogmatic about this, just something to ponder. Of course we know the rest of the story, this selfless act of Jesus would be the seedbed for a great worldwide revolutionary movement that will touch all nations, it was not an easy cup for him to drink.

(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.

(1124) Let’s 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 let’s 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.

(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?

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

(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.

(1127) Let me share a few testimonies; I type all this stuff from my laptop, I never work from a desk top. I have 2 laptops that I use, one as a backup if the other goes down [I realized a while back that it disturbs things too much to not type until it gets fixed!] One laptop misses letters as you type, I used to think it was my novice typing skills [I am bad! My daughter caught me doing the one finger thing while looking at the keys and couldn’t believe it] that was the problem, but I actually started looking at the screen while typing and realized certain letters don’t show up, you have to backspace and do it again. The other laptop has a mouse problem, it won’t always respond, this is frustrating for someone who cuts and pastes all over this blog! So when one computer gets me mad, I switch to the other one. Yesterday as I was battling with the mouse problem, out of frustration I said ‘Lord, give me a break! I can’t deal with this’ and it immediately started working, for the first time ever since I got it [it was a used computer when I bought it]. I also prayed about it these past few days while typing, sort of like seriously believing the Lord could fix it, you know you forget stuff like this at times. Then the other day I told you guys how I had an old buddy from prison write me, I had a package of teaching stuff I was going to send him. In the old days I would write the brothers in prison while at the fire house, you have time to sit around and do this stuff. But it’s really been a while since I regularly wrote any prison buddies [I have written many hundreds of letters in the past, no exaggeration] but I had the letter and stuff in the truck and kept putting it off. Finally the day I sent it was the same day my daughter got hired for a job with the state. My two oldest daughters attend college and have had good jobs. My oldest [24] is now a teacher at the high school she graduated from. My second oldest was a veterinarian assistant, but was looking for something else. She applied for some counselor thing with the state, a job that you usually don’t get unless you have connections. Sure enough the day I sent the packet, she got it! The bible says if you help the poor, reach out to the hurting, spend your time and resources freely for others, that God will reward you. I felt like the Lord returned the favor. As I just read Nehemiah chapter 5, Nehemiah rebukes the leaders for charging interest from the people. The Jews were mortgaging their lands and homes and going into debt trying to accomplish Gods work. The leaders were profiting from the situation. Nehemiah rebuked them, he even sounds like Paul when he says ‘all the time I was with you as governor [type of an apostle] I never took a salary, I provided for myself and my staff’ Paul says the exact same thing to the elders in Acts chapter 20. I think we as leaders need to re think some things. I was thinking the other day how that I have no Christian relationships with anybody in which I ever ask, or receive any financial reward. No offering thing, never speak in ‘a church’ and take an offering. I simply have the freedom to by pass the whole mess. One time the homeless brothers told me ‘brother, if you need your yard cut, or any work done at your house, let us know’ I could tell that they talked about it amongst themselves, sort of like ‘hey, the brother spends a lot on us, lets help him’. I turned down the offer anyway, they are used to local contractors hiring them at slave wages, I wanted them to know I wasn’t trying to get something from them. Although I have kidded about it at times, one time one of them finally got accepted for social security, they were gonna get a big check. I told them ‘you know I sense the Lord telling me that I am supposed to start hanging out with you a little more’! In the long run God will reward you if you really do stuff for free. Leaders, do you have regular friendships with people whom you never bring up money or offerings with? Are the people who know you most always being challenged in a financial way? Always needing to give more? Nehemiah rebuked the nobles because the ‘laity’ were being consumed with having to pay their own bills, plus support the nobles financially, and pay for the structures! Nehemiah said he wouldn’t charge the people, that God would reward him instead, I think he did.

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

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

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

(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.

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

(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.

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

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

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

(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.

(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’.

(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!

(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 it 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 it 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.

(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.

(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.

(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.

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

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

(1146) SONS AFTER THE FLOOD- In Genesis 9 we read the account of Noah and his sons repopulating the planet. God promises Noah that he will never destroy the earth again [by way of water- what about fire? We’ll get to that in a minute] and we see the beginning of man eating animals for the first time, the institution of the death penalty and civil justice [Romans 13] and the famous promise of the rainbow ‘when ever it rains again you will see my bow in the clouds and know I will not flood the earth again’. Are there natural explanations to things that the bible ascribes to God? Yes. Does that mean the bible is a book of myths and fables that were fake and only meant to give us moral lessons? No [contrary to liberal theology]. The fact that we know every time there is a rainbow in the sky, that there is a natural explanation to it, this does not mean this story is fake. God obviously created a repeatable situation that never occurred before, and he told man it was for a sign. Just because science can ascribe a naturalistic explanation to a thing, this does not mean the thing has no supernatural elements to it. This is also where the theistic evolutionists/progressive creationists make parts of their case. Does the fact that God created something mean that there are no possible natural means for him to work by? They will show you that when David said God formed him in his mothers womb, that obviously ‘God formed’ David in a different way than Adam! When you look at ‘a test tube baby’ do you not see a creation of God? Yes, even though there are obvious natural explanations to the conception and birth [like the rainbow being explained by nature] yet the actual life itself is still a mystery that can only be attributed to God. Also God reassures man not to worry about a total future destruction of the planet, in the last verse of chapter 8 he says as long as the earth remains there will never be another worldwide ceasing of the created order [seedtime and harvest]. How do we square this with the Christian doctrine of ‘the end of the world’? Now, this can get complicated and take more time than I have right now, but let’s try and take a quick ride. The famous New Testament verse on the future ‘destruction’ of the planet is found in 2nd Peter 3 [the same chapter that deals with the flood] Peter says the elements will melt with a fervent heat and we await a new heaven and earth. In the gospels Jesus also speaks about ‘the end of the world’ the word for world does not mean the planet, but the age. Just like when the bible says ‘satan is the god of this world’ it speaks of age, not earth. So a careful reading of the ‘end of the world’ verses show us that there will be a future time of cleansing ‘by fire’ that will usher in a new age/order. Preterists [those who believe the future judgment scenarios were speaking of a.d. 70 and the end of the old order of the law] take these verses to mean that God was ending ‘the old order/age of law and bringing in a new age of grace’ I see partial truth to this, but don’t fully accept that there is no future aspect to it. The futurists [dispensationalists] see a destruction of the world and sometimes allow this view to effect their responsibility to the planet and society at large ‘heck, why worry about the environment and future stuff, it’s all coming to an end soon’ type mentality. Some, not all, have this mindset. The Preterists think the Futurists have made a fatal mistake in misreading the verses that should say ‘age’ instead of ‘world’. There are very good points that the Preterists make, though I don’t fully embrace everything they have to say. Overall we see that God wanted to reassure man that he was not going to totally wipe the earth out again like he did in the past. Whether you see the future fire burning up the elements as some sort of nuclear thing [I don’t] or a reference to the glory of Jesus burning up the chaff at his return, the important thing to remember is God wanted man to know that the natural order of day and night would go on, and a new heaven and earth would continue to exist for all eternity. The mindset of ‘don’t give up on the mandate to have dominion and care for the planet’ was being instilled in Noah and his sons. I think it would do the evangelical church some good if we looked more seriously at some of these issues.

(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.

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

(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 light years 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 light 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’.

(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’?

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

(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.

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

(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!

(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!

(1156) Okay, lets talk about something simple today, no more quoting 18th century Scottish philosophers for heavens sake! I know, let’s talk Quantum Physics and the study of sub atomic particles! [No, I am not kidding ] One of the most difficult obstacles for the atheist to overcome is the question ‘what was there before the big bang’? They really have no answer to this question, the answer can’t be ‘nothing’ and if it was ‘something’ then what was it? [Of course we know that something is God] So this has lead the atheistic scientists down a path to see if we can find something popping into existence from nothing, the ultimate uncaused effect. Have they found it? No. But this won’t stop them from trying. The most popular scientific evidence used to prove that you can get something from nothing is found in the field of Quantum Physics [the study of really small things]. Scientists have discovered a phenomenon that occurs when a Proton strikes an Atom. It seems as if the Electron will disappear and reappear at the same moment in another location, without having traveled the distance. The second it disappears it shows up at another location. Some type of metaphysical wormhole? Who knows. The point is some have said this is proof for the idea that matter can pop into existence without a prior cause. Not! All this shows us is that material things can act in such a way that the examiner cannot explain what’s happening. In the above case you have matter already existing and a clearly recognizable repeatable pattern that can be observed. This in itself is an argument for an intelligent designer and a caused effect [the proton striking the atom and causing the electron to disappear/reappear]. So today I thought I would show you what goes on in the debate over trying to come up with an uncaused effect, and how vital this question is in the area of apologetics. Oh, I almost forgot, do you know what the name of this phenomenon is? It’s the famous ‘Quantum Leap’.

(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.

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

(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!

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

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

(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!] Let’s 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]

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

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

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

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

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

(1168) Jesus told the Jews that they were seeking a sign and they would get no sign except the sign of the prophet Jonah. He was speaking of his death and resurrection [I explained this in the ‘Messianic, Jewish, Gentile’ section under the John Hagee comments]. Jesus also warned us about the things we see, accept as models for the way we live as individuals and as a society. He talked about the eye being the gateway to the body, what we ‘look at’ informs the way we live. Whenever I hear of these reports of a 5 year old accidentally shooting someone, I think to myself how in the world do these kids know what to do with a gun? They obviously were informed to some degree by ‘what they saw’ whether it be a cartoon or whatever. The point being what we see gives us information that can be acted upon. Now I am not saying that every person who sees a shooting will commit murder! But you get the point. What ‘we see’ as a society also effects the way we live. Right now the senate is grilling Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Sonja Sotomayor. She is the first Hispanic women to be nominated to the court. I really have nothing against her to be honest, but she has made statements saying she believed that the fact that she is Hispanic and a woman, that that would help her to come to better conclusions than white men. Maybe so? The main point is if you had a white woman say that her ‘whiteness’ would help her make a better decision than a Black/Hispanic woman, she would be thrown out as a racist. But we allow minorities to make statements that are at their heart racist in nature, because it’s cool to be on the side of the minority. So we ‘see’ how this is wrong, basically a double standard, yet we allow it because it’s trendy. Now, I know I lose readers when I talk about this stuff, but frankly I could care less. I do not believe this woman is a racist, and I think she should get on the court. But we need to stop allowing double standards like this to slip by. Of course she just got overturned by the Supreme Court for her ruling in the Connecticut firefighter’s case. The fire dept. gave a promotional test, around 16 White firefighters passed and 1 Hispanic, no Blacks passed. So the city simply thru out the test. This stuff is blatantly racist at its very core, every body knows this! Things like this fuel these white skinhead groups; this makes other ethnic groups mad at Blacks. When you allow certain racial prejudices to exist in society, it affects the ‘whole body’. Jesus said we function according to the models that we are given, according to the things we see others do. When young kids see the blatant acceptance of racist actions as acceptable, they will grow up with the same frame of mind. I realize that many people who use this lens for their worldview are good people, I also realize that because of past sins against minorities that we do need to try and make up for these sins as best as we can. If institutional racism has kept minorities out of the colleges and other professions, then lets do our best to right these wrongs, but you cant right them by discriminating against the white grandchildren of those who might have been part of this institutional racism, it simply breeds future generations of racist thoughts and ideas. If the ‘light’ [the things that inform us as a people] that be in us is dark, then the whole body [society] will be affected in a negative way.

(1169) let’s finish up Luke 11. Jesus is invited to dinner again at a Pharisees house, you think the brothers would have learned not to do this by now! So as Jesus eats he doesn’t wash his hands first, the Pharisee ‘thinks within himself’ wow, this is the proof I was looking for, he’s not the one! Of course Jesus knows his heart and rebukes him for being more concerned with outward religion/cleansing than the heart. Jesus tells him ‘did not he that made the outer things [material world] also make the heart/soul of a man’? He was rebuking him for having a sense of ceremonial cleanness, a view of ‘being clean’ that was legalistic, but Jesus said God was more concerned about our inner actions and thoughts. Now, he does connect the ‘right heart’ with a particular act of worship. He says ‘give alms [do charity] with all that you have and this is what cleanness is about’. The same rebuke the prophet Isaiah gave to Israel of old, he said ‘this is not the type of fast God wants, to do outward acts of casting yourself down and rending your garments, but God wants you to loose the chains of those who are suffering, to set the oppressed free’ the same type of idea that is expressed when Jesus quotes Isaiah in the synagogue and says ‘the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, he has anointed me for opening blind eyes, preaching the gospel to the poor’ the anointing of Jesus, God’s religious way of ordaining people, was to do justice and show mercy. Jesus rebuked this Pharisee because he lost the original intent of Gods law and digressed into this religious mindset that was looking to find fault, that was obsessed with outward standards of holiness [they washed their hands obsessively! It wasn’t just a one time deal before a meal, this ‘washing’ became a religious obsession with them, this is the mindset Jesus is rebuking]. Jesus corrected this mistaken view and showed him what was really important, to do charity, justice, mercy and good deeds, this is the new testament sacrifice of the believer [along with praise- Peter] and Jesus said when you do charity, this is what makes you ‘ceremonially clean’ in the eyes of God.

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

(1171) Just read the story where a brother asks Jesus to help him with his finances; he asks ‘tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me’. Jesus says ‘man, who made you think I was about money stuff’? Then he gives a famous verse ‘beware of covetousness, for a mans life consists not in the abundance of the things that he owns’. It’s strange, but this is one of the first verses I memorized as a Christian, there was no particular reason for me to have focused on it, but now all these years later it seems to have been prophetic, being a major part of our teaching is based on this verse. Jesus then gives the parable of the rich man who tore down his barns and built greater ones to store his goods, Jesus puts these words in his mouth ‘I will say to myself, soul you have many goods for many years down the road. I can now find comfort in my wealth and enjoy the coming years’ Jesus says the man died that night. He then warns the rich to be rich towards God, and not to find a sense of security by the size of their 401 k. I remember seeing a commercial on investing, it shows a woman discussing her wealth and she says ‘I feel so safe’ about her wealth. She was expressing the feeling of security that comes from investments. It caught perfectly the warning of Jesus, covetousness has effected the church because we have allowed our financial empires to give us a sense of peace and security, contrary to the teaching of Jesus. Jesus warned us to beware of this type of mindset, if it wasn’t a real danger that people would fall into, he wouldn’t have told us to beware!

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

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

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

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

(1176) In Luke 13 the people ask Jesus about a current event, there were these people who Pilate executed and mingled their blood with their sacrifices. Jesus says ‘do you think these sinners were the worst? No, but unless you repent you too will perish’ and then Jesus volunteers another news story ‘and what about the 18 people that died when the tower of Siloam fell, do you think they were worse than the common man? No, but you all need to repent’. Recently there was a story in the news about a nurse who worked for an abortion doctor, she testified to the fact that there were times when the babies were born alive, and you simply left them to die. She explained that on one occasion the doctor placed the tiny baby in a disposal basin and put it in a closet. She went back into the room and heard the poor mutilated baby crying its brains out. She finally took the baby out and held it until it passed away, the baby lived for 45 minutes. We as a society have a tendency to look back at the past injustices of man; we see the horror of slavery or the holocaust. We often think ‘how could people have been so blind to have allowed these atrocities to happen’ and yet we allow for things that are worse. Jesus rebuked the people of his day for thinking that other people must have been worse because of their fate, he said not so, you too allow for evil things. Picture a white doctor dismembering a baby, the arm is cut off. But by some accident the baby comes out alive and screaming. Let’s say the baby is Black, then let’s say he stuck it in a disposal box and left it to die while screaming in a closet. Can you honestly tell me that this act is not as horrendous as the poor Black slaves that were killed on the ships from Africa to America? Or the innocent Jews who were gassed under Hitler? One of the things that disturbs me about our current president is when he was in the Illinois senate he was one of the few [if only?] senators who voted against a bill that would have protected the live birth abortions. They tried to make it illegal to not administer treatment to a child that came out alive. I know the politicians lie and say ‘well, we voted against it because it would have opened the door to the pro life groups’. I don’t care what your reasoning is, if you cant protect the life of an innocent living baby, you have no right to be in office. We are talking about the babies who popped out alive for heavens sake! Jesus told us to beware of the tendency to look at the abuses of others while not seeing that we are just as bad. I can think of no greater application than this.

(1177) I would like to talk on a few things today to be honest, I just heard a good radio debate on evolution and it gets me in the mood to argue; but I am still in Luke and want to hit some stuff. Jesus said he came to set a fire on the earth, that he would cause divisions in homes and among ‘families’ [even church families]. His radical kingdom passion had people lining up on opposite sides. Mother and father against son and daughter, stuff like that. I have found that most revolutionaries get this type of response, it comes with the territory. You find some who hear and think ‘wow, this is the best teaching I have ever heard’ and others who say ‘look, he’s stirring the waters too much’ Jesus was that type of a preacher. Okay, let’s do the science thing; the debate I just heard was good, the presenters of the Christian show did a good job airing it, yet they were a little confused on thinking that Intelligent Design and Creationism were the same thing, they are not. Lets talk a little on the Scientific Method, during the enlightenment of the 18th century you had the method develop called ‘the analytical method’ this added to the scientific method and stated that you had 2 sides to examining and learning stuff- the inductive side [gathering of facts/data] and the deductive side [coming to some basic conclusions based on the facts]. The biggest problem with modern science in my view [if I can be so bold] is it’s inability to rightfully use the second part of this method, that is there comes a time where any scientific endeavor has to capitulate to the overwhelming inductive data and come to some basic set of beliefs. You can’t go on ad infinitum looking for missing facts to prove your conclusion. That would be getting the method backwards. So for example if you are looking to prove that a living cell can come into existence ‘by chance’ without any real cause, then you look at as many examples of living things and try and trace a point where something popped into life without a prior cause. After a few hundred years of doing this, science has gathered tons of real evidence that show us that this never happens. Now, if your theory on evolution NEEDS this to happen, and you continue to promote that this ACTUALLY HAS HAPPENED, you are basically taking the scientific data and coming to a false conclusion, you have deduced an idea that is not consistent with the facts. Now, you can argue that there still is the slight possibility that new data will arise to back up your theory, possible. But the point is you can’t promote your theory [evolution] over other theories [creationism or intelligent design] and say yours is science while the opponents is not. This just is not true. The field of intelligent design is loaded with scientific facts that lead to the conclusion that there was intelligence behind the created order. They have the science to back up their theory, evolution does not! [Darwinian macro view] So anyway Jesus said he was going to set fire on the earth, he was starting a revolution that would get out of control, I think it’s time for us to start some fires.

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

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

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

(1181) Well we had a good day at the river yesterday, we went to San Antonio [New Braunfels] and rode the river in the inner tubes. I actually pray regularly for this area, stuff like ‘your people will rise up and overflow the river banks and flow into Judah’ ‘you will be like fountains dispersed abroad, like rivers of waters in the streets’ [bible verses] so it was cool floating down a river with hundreds of people who you regularly pray for. On the ride back I also noticed some famous churches along the highway, basically good people, charismatic type personalities who I used to catch on TV [I haven’t watched shows like that in a few years now, not because their bad or wicked, but too disconnected from the historic context of Christianity- a simple success gospel with no real attachment to the historic church]. So it was fun. Okay in Luke Jesus says when you have a dinner [B.B.Q.] invite the poor and down and out, don’t invite the rich and well to do [man, he is so hard on the affluent!] because if you invite people with the mindset of ‘reaping a harvest’ now, you forfeit a true reward. Jesus says the reward you get will be at the resurrection [no material mindset here, no money thing in the here and now] this is Luke 14 by the way. It’s a mystery to me how so many well meaning streams of Christianity can completely by pass this central mode of Jesus teaching. James, Jesus’ brother, wrote in his epistle ‘when you favor the rich in your assembly and treat them better than the poor you are doing wrong’ [James 2- by the way this is the only reference in the New Testament that speaks of an assembly that can be translated as a place to meet. The context of James is Jewish believers, he obviously is referring to meeting at the synagogue. That probably would have been a better translation. The term for church, Ecclesia, never refers to a building]. So James obviously picked up this mantra from Jesus, you know, the whole negativity on the rich type preaching! Well today we see how Jesus wants us to approach our service to him, when we love our neighbor we are to act and show kindness and spend money [hey, brisket isn’t cheap!] and do it all with a mindset that says ‘no, I am not doing all this so I can get some type of financial reward in the here and now, Jesus will reward me at the resurrection’ I like this stuff, you might not like it, but I love it.

(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]

(1183) I HATE YOU! Felt like this was a prophetic word to all of my critics [KIDDING!] Jesus said unless we hated our families and lives we could not be a true disciple. Over the years I have seen the church go thru stages; one of the areas of popular teaching is the entire field of family life. Now to be sure the bible speaks about family life, husbands loving wives and bringing up their children in the fear of God. But I want to give you another side, while I don’t believe Jesus was speaking of ‘hate’ in a way that means anger, but I do believe the people of God have at times made ‘family things’ an idol. I remember years ago when first coming to Texas, I had a good friend who made the second trip back to Texas with me. He had a hard time [as I] in trying to make it as young kids in a strange new world [you know, cowboys and stuff shooting regularly in the streets- or Bush and his cronies running rough shod over the population as Cheney acts as an oil czar!] At one point my friend, who was now married and had kids, was having a hard time making it. We were both in our mid 20’s with families and kids. I had just started our church and he was an original member. My focus was on doing Gods work and branching out in outreach to as many people as possible. I was working at the Fire Dept. and doing my best to ‘run the church’. My friend told me one day he decided to leave Texas and take his family back to New Jersey, it was rough on him to be sure. At one point I could sense he was missing his natural family back home, he was raised by his Cuban grandmother [she used to make us some great Cuban food!] and he expressed a feeling of ‘wow, I can’t wait until I get back home and grandma can make us good food again’. While his love for his natural family back in Jersey was fine, yet he based his decision on past family affinities, as opposed to current situations. I felt he made a mistake in going back. Jesus challenged us to put his kingdom first, even ahead of well meaning family things, things that can be hindrances at times. When I first started helping street people and addicts, I had some people say ‘gee, why don’t you help your natural family and not worry about all these other people’ some thought I was rich and spending lots of money on these friends. Then when they found out I was simply doing it on a fire fighters salary [now a retirement check] they kind of had the feeling ‘gee, the guy doesn’t make that much, he shouldn’t be spending the little he has on these bums’. You know, you can’t win for losing! Jesus wants us to do what he says, sure he also wants us to be responsible people as well, good family lives and well adjusted kids. But as in any area of life, we need to keep the proper balance, there will be times when you will need to make a choice between what’s better for you and your family situation, or moving ahead by faith in the Kingdom. My buddy went back to eat some good Cuban food, but I fear he might have missed out on the real supper the Lord had for him in Texas.

(1184) LETS TONE DOWN THE RHETORIC As of this month [7-09] the president has been in office for 7 months, and we need to talk. First, the present media atmosphere [radio, TV, blog] is really bad. The racial accusations are too high, you have both ‘right’ and ‘left’ wing voices that are way over the top. The president also suffers from inexperience, though he is a smart man, he is very inexperienced in executive stuff. I remember how during the campaign this was an issue, many Obama supporters actually appealed to his experience at running his campaign as the actual experience that he had. Are we kidding ourselves or what? I mean serious voices said this, then if you asked these same media persons ‘what about the experience of Palin’ they would ridicule her experience as governor of Alaska and mayor. If you then asked ‘why aren’t you counting her campaign as experience’ the answer was not given. I like our president, he was asked how he wanted to fund health care reform, how would he pay for it. He said it wasn’t his idea to tax current health care benefits. Okay, got it. What about any specific ideas at all? The problem is he is asking his fellow Democrats to make the tuff choices, Max Baucus [top financial guy for the Dem’s] is taking heat for trying to foster an agreement, his idea is you do need to take away the tax free benefit for other health care policies, this is a way he feels you can accomplish reform. But if the president is saying publicly ‘hey, that’s not my idea’ and at the same time asking them to pass something, hey, this doesn’t cut it. People don’t work like that. This is what you call ‘executive inexperience’ ah, maybe some of the critics were right after all. Fine, we are here now and we should support the president as much as possible. The media types who are playing the race issue are in dangerous territory. Frankly, some of them seem to really believe in the conspiratorial idea of the president being involved in some type of purposeful destruction of our economy for the sole purpose of instituting socialism. These guys really believe this! This is bad. But some of the liberal voices constantly accuse the critics of Obama as being racist, geez, can’t you disagree with a Black person without being tagged a racist. So both sides are going way overboard. Those who doubt the legitimacy of the presidents citizenship, okay, I think there a bit nuts. But why in the world does the president not release the actual birth certificate from Hawaii? By not doing this he feeds into the hysteria of the nuts. I heard Bernie Goldberg espouse the idea that Obama’s insiders [Rham Emanuel] are purposefully withholding the actual documents so they can associate the Republicans with the right wing nuts. That is the more the right wingers accuse Obama of not being a citizen, this feeds the ‘Limbaugh/Beck’ stereotypes and will help Obama in the end. I don’t know if Goldberg is right, but if he is this ‘Chicago’ style stuff is just as bad as Beck’s rants. And then Chris Matthews accuses the ‘birthers’ [those who question Obama’s citizenship] as trying to brand Obama as an illegal alien so they can deport him out of the country! As he interviewed Gordon Liddy he said ‘the papers reported Obama’s birth when he was born, this would mean his mother knew he would run for president someday and pre planned all the right moves’ Liddy tells him no, he says it’s perfectly possible for a good mother to want her son to have U.S. citizenship, and it’s possible that Obama was born in Kenya and quickly flew back into the states and the mom did her best to establish U.S. citizenship. Okay, stuff like this does happen, many Mexican moms have their kids on this side of the border for that very purpose. Do I think this happened with Obama? No. But those who do think this would benefit if the president released the real birth certificate, but once again he won’t do it, ah the politics of the whole thing. But Matthews is publicly stating that those who have doubts about this are claiming Obama was born ‘in the slums of Kenya’ and they are trying to get him deported because of his race, this is just as bad as what Beck does. Our president is not a socialist, he is not purposefully trying to destroy our economy for this purpose. But he is inexperienced, he very much underestimates the reality of spending way too much money at a time in our economy when we are still very shaky. We need to be able to disagree with people over real issues, without accusing each other of racism. We need to tone down the rhetoric on both sides. We need to pray for our president and the country.

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

(1186) PARABLE FROM A PARABLE- I woke up this morning and was praying for ‘my sons’ [this refers to all the people we are reaching out to] I had a dream and after thinking about it I felt the Lord wanted me to pray this. Then I opened Luke 15 and read ‘a certain man had 2 sons’ and figured I’d better do it. In Luke 15 we have the parable of the prodigal son, a younger son [inexperience] approaches his dad and requests too much money to soon [economic stimulus- 800 billion, possible health care cost- 1 trillion. You get the point] and the son goes into a far country and wastes the money [it could have had a better effect if spent properly, i.e.; I like Nancy Pelosi, but I heard her defend the Democratic plan for the economy as green jobs, energy reform and insurance reform, while these are noble things, they are not things that drive our economy] so after the son wastes his money, he repents and says ‘I will go back to my dad and admit I blew it, I will tell him I am no longer worthy to be called his son [doubting his legitimacy, citizenship!] and will work as a hired servant’. The father receives the son back, makes a huge feast [media adulation] and all is well. Oh wait, the older brother [more experienced conservative type, he knew all along that this younger inexperienced person would blow it, he’s just waiting for others to see it too] the older brother comes close to the house and hears all the ruckus ‘what’s going on’ he asks. They tell him your younger brother is home and your dad thru him this big bash. He gets mad, he says he has been doing right all these years, faithfully serving in a conservative way, he never wasted the people’s money! And now, after all this waste, this younger guy is getting all the credit for things. He’s being treated in a way that I have never been! Being appreciated and all. The older brother refuses to rejoice as well, he really doesn’t want the young brother to succeed. I believe many people who voted for ‘the young son’ thought he would be more main stream than he actually turned out. Some fiscal conservatives thought he would be a pragmatic type, who could talk to both sides and come down in the middle. The truth is he has turned out much more liberal than expected by the moderate group who voted for him. I am not saying this is bad in itself, but this is political reality. Now, there are some major things that can go either way right now, and I fear that some of the more conservative ‘brothers’ really don’t want the younger brother to make it. Just like they did to the last president [the Dem’s to Bush]. The point is we do need to root for the success of the younger brother, even if his wasteful spending lead to ‘a famine in the land’ we need to allow room for rejoicing once again, and the possibility of things going well for all parties involved. It’s only natural for the older group to feel animosity towards the younger brother, he was treated with great bias by the media, they truly did a disservice to the country by not fairly presenting both sides. Too much adulation, I heard a recording of two reporters at one of the appearances of Obama during his campaign. On the air they were having a conversation about Obama’s I.Q. it went like this ‘What do you think his I.Q. is? I don’t know, but it must be one of the highest I.Q.’s of any president ever. Do you have any idea what the number is? No, but I have a feeling it’s really high’ now, lets be honest, when the opponents hear this stuff, they develop a natural animosity to the man. The older brother heard the tremendous noise from the party, a party he really didn’t deserve. And this caused him to not want to side with the younger man. The father finally says ‘look, you are all in this together, you could have partaken of the inheritance all along, just like your brother is doing now’ the father turned the conversation from ‘us versus them’ to one of ‘we are all the same family’ I think we need to heed this parable.

(1187) CASH FOR CLUNKERS- In Luke 16 we have the parable of the steward who wasted his master’s money. Jesus says there was this employee who was reported to have swindled his boss. The boss calls him on the carpet and the employee gets busted. He thinks ‘geez, I am going to lose my job [you know, the recession and all] what will I do for cash?’ [Oh, I don’t know. What about taking whatever you can find?] He says ‘I can’t dig [why not?] to beg I am ashamed [now we are running out of options] I know, I’ll contact all my bosses debtors and reduce their bills’. He takes option number 3 and gets in good with the guys who owed his boss money. Notice, this option really didn’t produce wealth, it simply lost it. Right now our country is doing the ‘cash for clunkers’ program, you can take your old gas guzzler in and the govt. pays the dealer $4,500 dollars for the car. The dealer then destroys it. The idea is the govt. is getting the polluters off the road while the dealers are doing business. You know how many of these clunkers could put my buddies to work? Guys trying to buy clunkers for a few hundred, these so called clunkers that are being traded in are pretty good vehicles. If you simply gave them to unemployed people who really needed them this would help them and the economy. How many junk yards could have done business with the parts? I realize the reason for destroying them is for environmental concerns, but we are having major unemployment right now, this deal doesn’t help them. So the steward wrote off some value. Then at the end the Lord commends the guy for being wise, doing what he had to do. The parable ends with the famous verse ‘you cannot serve God and money, if you try and do both you will wind up hating one and loving the other’ note to you readers, if this verse just offended you, in a small sense you are ‘hating one of them’ right now. I like Jesus forward preaching, you never left the sermon wondering what his point was. In life we all do what we need to at times, this employee cut off two viable options right at the start [work, beg] make sure the reason you seem to have no options isn’t because your standards are too high. I get a kick out of some of my buddies who wont work for a ‘measly 7 dollars an hour’ but have no problem dumpster diving for a left over pizza! Sometimes we are the problem. And sometimes we are ‘unprofitable’ because we are too caught up in the material pursuits of life. Jesus does say those who were not faithful in temporary riches [money] would be unfaithful in the true riches [spiritual wealth]. I know there are many ideas on what this means, but one way we become faithful in natural wealth is by not letting it consume us, by not being too preoccupied with the obtaining of the stuff. These are the main points of Jesus in these stories; we seem to miss the main points a little too much.

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

(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?

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

(1191) THANK GOD I’M NOT LIKE YOU! – Jesus said 2 men went up to the church house [temple] to pray; one was a tax collector [a despised class in the 1st century, they collected taxes for the Roman govt. from their own people [Jews] they were seen as sell outs] the other man was a Pharisee, those who were deemed more holy than everyone else. You know, the whole aura of the room would change when these guys showed up [the preacher/pastor is here, watch what you say type of a thing] the Pharisee prayed ‘I thank you God that I am not like other men, adulterers, liars and even like this low class neighbor of mine, this tax collector’ he saw his religious life as a means to self betterment. Something that made him a cut above the rest. He tithed, fasted and attended the temple meetings. Now the tax collector was struggling with guilt, the weight of all the years of being hated and despised, sure he pretended it was just part of the job, but it affected him. He even feels unwanted at the temple, I mean this Pharisee is using him in his sermon illustration for heavens sake! He does not even feel worthy enough to look into the eyes of other people, fearing he might see someone that he has had shady dealings with in his extortion type job. He simply says ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner’ Jesus said this man went back home accepted in Gods eyes, the religious leader did not. This week [8-09] the congress went on break, they are back home in their districts and getting an earful, angry constituents chewing them out. The conservative media says these folks are mom and pop types, just innocent citizens expressing themselves. The liberal media say they are republican plants who are part of the K street lobbying conspiracy to thwart health care by the corrupt insurance profiteers! Probably a little truth to both views. The problem is our country has about 20-25 % who are uninsured [around 40-50 million people] the rest of the population has insurance, when the liberal media portrays the country as being willing to sacrifice their present system [whether it’s broken or not] and to have a possible increase in taxes, when the media says the 80 % of the insured really do want to do this for the 20 %, they are not being realistic. I want universal health care, I don’t have insurance right now and I need it! But the reality is most Americans are not willing to make more sacrifices for a group of uninsured people who for whatever reason have not been able to get insurance. Many seniors are worried that their Medicare will be affected, it surely will. Right now about half the country wants it, about half say leave the thing alone. Our society measures ‘winners’ by the success that they have attained, one of the scoreboards is how well you are doing compared to the next guy ‘I thank thee that I am insured, been responsible, done what I was supposed to do. I give tithes/taxes of all that I possess, fasted [been frugal] but look at this other 20 %, they are reaping what they sowed, sure they don’t have health care, but why couldn’t they have done the responsible thing and gotten it like me? Now you’re asking me to sacrifice for them’ the main reason why people are against it is not because the conservative lobbyists have tricked grandma to go to the town hall meeting and scream, the reason is people will only go so far to ‘help the other guy’ when you tell people that they should be willing to make all types of sacrifices for the betterment of the whole, this usually does not work. Some people are saying ‘hey, I don’t even have a job and you’re asking me to agree to support one of the biggest expenditures in U.S. history’. There are many reasons why people are disgruntled, as of today I think the president is not going to pass reform. Maybe some type of a private co-op thing, but not reform with a public option [like Medicare]. When society digresses to a point where one group is pitted against the other, ugly things happen. Both sides [liberal/conservative] have misrepresented stuff, have used racial/class distinctions to fight the other side, no group has clean hands in this stuff. The church/people of God should function with a higher morality, speak with a clear voice and not misrepresent issues or people. I believe that overall, we should have true health care reform. I realize there are many pros and cons to the debate, but as a principle, we should strive to provide care for all Americans whether or no they can afford it. This principle is noble, it doesn’t help when both sides brand the other as the real enemy, look at the issue, take a principled stand and let the chips fall where they may.

(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 cities 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?

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

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

(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 its 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.

(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.

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

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

(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’.

(1200) MICHAEL VICK, THE LIBERAL MEDIA AND OTHER MUSINGS- Yesterday Michael Vick, the football player who did 18 months in prison for running an illegal dog fighting operation, was reinstated by the N.F.L and signed on with the eagles. I heard 2 conservative pundits debate it. One said lets forgive, the other wanted Vick to serve the whole term [I think 10 years]. Michael is a black man and racial tensions are high right now in the country. I am an animal lover; own many cats and 2 dogs. You have had other pro athletes accused/involved in actual cases where people were murdered. Some were involved in shooting crimes and all sorts of stuff. These guys played the game right thru the legal wrangling and some never paid any penalty at all. I think Vick should have been suspended for 18 months [no prison time] and paid a fine. I am not excusing what he did, but in comparison to the way others have been dealt with, I think this would have been a better deal. Of course he should play again, it’s the mans livelihood for heavens sake! Now, the disaster that is taking place with health care and the town hall meetings. First, President Obama is very inexperienced at actually running things. I like and pray for the man regularly, but he has made some major mistakes. The strategy he used to try and pass health care reform was to not personally shape the plan, but let congress do it. They went into the current recess with 5 plans floating on Capitol Hill. This created an environment where the representatives had to defend 5 different things, and the media lying about it. Okay, MSNBC has said those against the plan are racists [yes, this was said] they mocked the peoples concerns. They tried to portray ALL the opponents as idiots. Some real concerns are on ‘end of life’ issues, [not death panels] rationing and other real things that are being mentioned in the plans. MSNBC implies that the people raising these concerns are uninformed idiots ‘no plan is going to kill grandma’ ‘no plan is going to fire doctors or prevent students from becoming doctors’. But these are not what the serious opponents are saying; end of life issues were part of one of the plans, fine. Not killing grandma, but a serious discussion went on over the fact that most health care money is spent on a person during the last 6 months of life; therefore any serious reform will have to deal with this issue. But some in the media made it sound like the people who brought up these concerns were totally misinformed, not so, these are real concerns that serious people look at. Senator Grassley has since dropped the wording from the plan on end of life issues [the wording in the plan simply said the insurance would pay for the consultations over living wills and stuff like that, the point is a real discussion does go on over how to voluntarily, or in some countries its forced upon people, that at the end of life people should consider how much should be spent on the patient]. Rationing, is this also a question that only idiots have been asking? When you take a system, any system, and inject another 40-50 million people into the system, rationing will occur to some degree. If you took your high school and doubled the students in a year, you get less one on one time between teacher and student. This is a simple reality that many older folks are asking about; the media portrays them as ignorant. The political strategy of some Democrats was to push back and portray all of the town hall opponents as misinformed insurance lobbyist plants. Big mistake, more than half of the American people are now against the present reforms being floated, and the independent voters have turned 2 to 1 against it. When you portray more than half of the country as ‘the enemy’ you are making a major political miscalculation. I believe those in the media who have said the current behind the opposition is racism; these pundits are the most dangerous. Of course you have those on Fox news who have made just as outrageous comments on the other side, but the media usually does not cover the liberal slant, they don’t see their own biases. I still believe universal health care is a noble goal that our country should strive for, but if our representatives portray the voices of their own constituents as ‘un-American’ [yes, Pelosi and Hoyer did say that those who were shouting down the other side were acting un-American. Yet every year you have liberal voices who shout down [and tear down] stuff at the world summit meetings, and they are not portrayed as un-American] then the odds of something passing looks worse each day.

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

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

(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 from 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.

(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’.

(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.

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

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

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

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

(1210) SAVE THY PEOPLE AND BLESS THINE INHERITANCE. FEED THEM ALSO AND LIFT THEM UP FOREVER- Psalms 28:9 I guess I will hit a few scattered Psalms, these last few weeks I have been reading the Psalms and trying to add a verse to memory every day or so. Sort of praying/meditating on them like the famous ‘Jesus prayer’. The Jesus prayer is an ancient simple prayer that says ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner’ but you actually say it all day long until it becomes part of your psyche. So these single Psalms can be used in this way. Okay, God wants to feed his people and bless them, Jesus told Peter ‘if you love me, feed my sheep’. In the 20th century you had the famous existentialist/atheist philosophers like John Paul Sartre and Albert Camou, these guys sought for purpose and meaning thru philosophy but wound up as nihilists [no hope] because of their rejection of God. Sartre would say ‘man is a useless passion’, Camou would say the only question left for philosophy to answer was the viability of suicide. The famous atheist Antony [Anthony] Flew, who has now become a believer in God [Theist], used to use a parable about a garden to challenge belief in God. He said man and his religious quest is like men who are journeying thru a forest and all of a sudden they come upon a garden; it is manicured and detailed in every way, it ‘appears’ to be a product of a designer. But then flew said as the men look around for the gardener they can’t see him, they then espouse all types of ideas about the master gardener. They come to various conclusions; he must be all knowing, very talented, transcendent- they develop views about this gardener/God that in Flews mind were just as silly as saying you might as well have no gardener at all! Flew thought if believers came to all these ideas about God, what’s the difference whether you believe in a God or not? The obvious answer is ‘then where in the world did the garden come from’. The challenges to Christianity, Theism, Deism try and convince people that there really is no purpose to your existence, you are a ‘useless passion’ you came from nowhere and are heading nowhere. Initially, this philosophy sounded liberating to those who embraced it. Sort of like telling the kids that schools out and you have no more teachers to listen to. But when you embrace this form of meaninglessness, you can not then try and instill purpose and meaning into people. Sartre and Camou rejected the foundational basis for man to have meaning in life, they tried to tell man ‘look, here is the purposeful garden, but it came from nowhere’. After many years of Anthony Flews insistence that there was no gardener, the evidence that caused him to change his mind was the evidence of design. He kept telling himself ‘there is no gardener’ and realized he was trying to convince himself of a lie, he knew he was logically wrong. He has since joined the ranks of those who now seek to know more about the master gardener.

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

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

(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?

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

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

(1216) lets try and do a few things; first, I read a few more chapters in Wrights book [N.T. Wright] and as much as I really like his writing, I do have a few problems with some of the ways he states stuff. He kinda tries to walk the middle road in the area of the second coming and the physical nature of it. He does say he believes in the real second coming and that it did not happen yet. He does teach that Jesus is ‘in heaven’ [Gods realm] physically- good. But he also says stuff like ‘when Jesus ascended you don’t believe he lifted off vertically from the planet’ [actually I do!] or when Jesus comes back it wont be like some spaceman descending out of space [well I know he’s not a ‘spaceman’ but I do believe he will come from ‘out there’]. It was statements like this that caused me a little concern in the past. He also states that he is not a full Preterist, and distances himself from those who tried to claim him as one. But you can hardly blame them, he really does at times sound like he is one [Preterists believe the second coming happened in a.d. 70- it’s a long story] Wright empathically says he does not believe that. Yet he says all the statements from Jesus on ‘his coming’ do not refer to an actual second coming in the future. But he believes Paul and other New Testament passages do teach a real, literal second coming, but that Jesus never spoke of it. To be frank, I think brother Wright opens up the door to all the accusations and confusion that some people have about his position. I still like Wright, he is an excellent N.T. scholar and 1st century historian, but I think there are some problems with his views on the second coming. He definitely states he believes in a real, physical second coming. But instead of it being ‘Jesus coming down from somewhere’ it will be more like ‘Gods realm [heaven] joining our realm’ and at that time he will physically be with us. Well I do believe that at the second coming ‘both realms unite’ that at that moment we will have a ‘new heavens and earth’ I just don’t see the point in Wright’s language when he seems to make light of the physical aspects of Christ’s return. I also agree with him 100% about the New Testament not teaching a ‘rapture’ he rightfully shows us that the ‘rapture chapter’ [1st Thessalonians 4] is the same as 1st Corinthians 15. There simply is no ‘secret coming’ taught in the New Testament [some will be caught by surprise, but it will be no secret!] All in all I like Wright, will continue to read him, just thought I needed to mention these points. Okay, let’s turn to politics. The climate in the country continues to be really bad at this time [9-09] I watched MSNBC show over and over again a picture of a man toting a sub machine gun on his back at some Obama town hall. Of course this is dangerous and nuts! The problem is Chris Matthews portrayed it along with the mindset of ‘see these white skinhead radicals, these racists who are against change’ his whole rant against the people opposing Obama is done in this vain. Sure enough, another news organization showed you the full picture of the man with the gun on his back; he was a black man. Why mention this? Stuff like this, purposefully not telling the whole story, or taking an incident and being dishonest about it to prove your point, this stuff creates racial tensions all on its own. There is no need to try and fabricate a scenario in order to make it fit your story. There are enough real nuts in the country for the news media to not have to fabricate stuff like this, to make the audience think that the ‘gun man’ was an anti Obama ‘right winger’, he obviously was not. Those who oppose the president should do so on purely political grounds, those who support him should take the same view. To be against or for a person because of their race is wrong, very wrong. But people should not feel intimidated if they want to oppose him for the right reasons. When the country sees this type of race card being played, this breeds a type of racism all on its own. Did the bill being floated on Capitol Hill fund abortions- you bet it did! I know the denials have gone forth vehemently, Obama himself publicly said that his position in national health care would include provisions for women’s reproductive rights; he was point blank asked this question. In no uncertain terms he said it would. But after the heat hit the fan they of course would not say it like this. In essence the proposed bill would have included language for ‘women’s reproductive rights’ but because the term ‘abortion’ was not specifically stated, the politicians said ‘oh no, those who think abortion is in there are misleading you’ they lied to you. So let’s try and pass what both sides agree on; pass laws on making it illegal for an insurance company to drop you if you get sick. Provide funding for those who can’t buy insurance and try and get everyone insured. Do tort reform. Get the stuff done that can get done, don’t create all types of problems by bringing up ‘reproductive rights’ there are too many people [Democrats and Republicans] who are truly opposed to abortion in a fundamental way, leave that language out. And for heavens sake, if the media has a picture of a man with a gun strapped to his back, don’t portray him as some white skinhead, especially if the guys black!

(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.

(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.

(1219) SAVE LORD, LET THE KING HEAR US WHEN WE CALL- Psalms 20:9 I woke up too early yesterday, around 1 a.m. This has happened a few times in the last few days. So I just move the 3:30-8:30 prayer/study/teaching time up a few hours. It leaves me an hour or two extra to catch up on one of my books. At around 8:30 I felt the Lord wanted me to go and check up on the homeless guys, it’s been a few weeks since I have gotten with them, but I was tired and thought I would just spend a few hours with them. I brought the paper and headed out to the mission. Andy showed up, he’s one of the brothers who has struggled with alcohol for years, just got out of the ‘teen challenge’ program and is doing well. He has two other brothers, I have written about them before. He told me his older brother [59], John David, was supposed to show up at the mission this day and he wanted to make sure he didn’t hook up with the wrong crowd. Andy is 58 and he has a younger brother named Huey. I have fellowshipped with Andy and helped Huey out over the years, but John David is the oldest and he keeps his distance. He looks a little intimidating [to be honest, this stuff never affects me- but to some people they stay away]. If you see him as one of the homeless on the streets where I live, he is a little scary. Anyway Andy was glad I showed up, and Henry [one of the strongest homeless believers, really a fine Christian] showed up. Henry will actually come check up on me if I don’t come around for a few days. Well John David showed up, he has spent 40 days in a local drug rehab and looks great. He is on fire for God, has had a real experience with the Lord. He really loved fellowshipping this day. John David told me his whole story; when he and his family were living near Houston back in the 60’s- 70’s, he killed his best friend with a shotgun. His buddy was violent and one night was coming after him, John David pulled his friends shogun off the rack in the truck and emptied 5 shells into him, he had pellets in the bottom of his feet all the way to the top of his head. His father, who was also an alcoholic by the name of John, died a few weeks before this incident. Johns mother asked around for the best lawyer, she was told the name of a lawyer in Dallas who was the best [Percy something?]. He recently was Lee Harvey Oswald’s attorney, and after Jack Ruby shot him he defended Ruby. Sure enough she went to Dallas and the secretary told her the attorney would cost too much, that he wasn’t even in the building that day. She waited all day until around 10 p.m. and the attorney came out of the office. He asked her about the case and she told him and gave her title deed to her little trailer as payment. He took the job pro bono and got her son off at trial. John David told me that a year later he- quote ‘went and pissed on the grave of his dead friend’. He was ungrateful and unrepentant. Eventually the family wound up in Corpus and all the brothers are living on the streets. When they first got here they did okay, John David had his own concrete company and was making lots of money. He was doing well, but the alcohol and cocaine were his downfall. He told me he hated the homeless guys, he looked down on them and disrespected them. He eventually went thru five marriages and lost everything and became one of the most despised street guys in the Bluff. John passed his alcoholism off to his sons, one night his son was leaving the school dance, he was walking home drunk. A doctor ran him over and killed him. The doctor was also drunk. The boy was only 15, this was another setback in a long series of regrets. We spent the whole day having a good fellowship, I bought some grape juice [in the little bottles] a few weeks back, I felt like the lord said get some for a communion thing. Sometimes when I get with the brothers when we come back to the house we will do an outside communion/fellowship thing. Sure enough this was the day for the juice. I lent Andy one of my good books, he is a serious student and was sharing with me the stuff he has been studying recently. I know he’s reading right now so I lent him some good stuff. Henry took a few reference books, he keeps his books at my house and I’ll lend him stuff from my library as well. He will be preaching Sunday at ‘Church without walls’ a homeless church that sets up a tent every week and holds street services. Yeah, sometimes I don’t get the books back, but it’s worth the investment. John David was a different man this day, all the years I have seen him, never was he like this. He told me a few months back as he was sitting out by the intercoastal waterway where we live, he was strung out on coke, tired of his whole life. He screamed and cursed God, he said ‘if you are f…ing real, then do something’. It was within a few days that someone paid 5 thousand dollars out of pocket to send him to this rehab, the ‘king heard him when he called’.

(1220) VAN JONES- This week the news media have been dealing with one of Obama’s ‘czars’, he is in charge of ‘green jobs’. What’s the problem? Well he seems like a nice fella, until Glen Beck researches all the history of the man, and it turns out he is as bad as any white racist. Now that’s a problem. Why is Beck doing this? Van Jones also leads a group that started an advertising boycott against Beck, he went and personally tried to put Beck out of business. So Beck found all these past things, stuff like ‘the whites are purposefully poisoning the blacks thru polluting the environment’ or he signed his name on one of the ‘9-11’ truther petitions. These people claim that Bush purposefully allowed the attacks to happen. Quite frankly you’re a nut case if you believe this. Now, are people allowed to be nut cases? Sure. But not if you work for the White House. Any white man who would espouse that blacks are purposefully killing whites through pollution would be run out on a rail [rightfully so!]. The reality now is that this man must go, you got into a fight with a conservative broadcaster and alls fair in love and war. To keep a guy on the team that has espoused racist beliefs and comments won’t fly. I am writing this post on Friday, 9-4-09- 5 a.m., it wouldn’t surprise me if he resigns today. Why do I even get into stuff like this? When the media allows one group get away with stuff like this [liberal!] then the poor older white senior citizens, who have been scared out of their wits by both real and false accusations. When these older folk see stuff like this, they think they have a true radical in the white house. During the last election you had a couple of black panthers manning a polling place. The pictures have been all over the media. Quite frankly, they looked quite intimidating. There is no doubt that some elderly white folks kept on driving when they saw these guys at the polling place. If you never saw the pictures they looked just like radical black panthers, the contrast would be having a bunch of skinheads with bats at a black voting location. The uproar would be tremendous. So when we allow for any group to get away with stuff like this, then it breeds fear and racist thoughts on the other side. I don’t know Van Jones, but when you’re on record espousing the stuff that he espoused, you need to leave now! No if, ands or buts. Get out, get out quick- go join some ministry and leave the public eye. These rules should apply to both sides. Martin Luther King led a movement that would not allow for these types of thoughts or beliefs. He gave his life at the hands of white racists, but he refused to lower himself to the level of those who killed him. Luther is a man worth admiring and honoring.

(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 [Bart 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.

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

(1223) 2ND CORINTHIANS; 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.

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

(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.

(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 lose 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.

(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 their 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.

(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 known, 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.

(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.

(1230) YOU LIE!- I was going to do chapter 8 of our 2nd Corinthians study, but I just finished a regular Monday morning prayer time and felt I should go another way. On Mondays I do a regular prayer thing that includes praying for the president as well as world leaders. I have prayed for President Obama, by name, every Monday [and sometimes a few more times a week] ever since he’s been in office. I did the same with Bush. This week Obama gave a speech to congress in an effort to salvage his health care reform. During the speech you had a Republican, Joe Wilson, shout out ‘you lie’ at the place where Obama said that those who were saying illegal aliens would be covered under the bill were lying. First, Wilson was wrong to do what he did and he apologized. Second, did the president lie? A little bit, probably not on purpose, but he wasn’t totally accurate. Joe Wilson is one of the key Republicans dealing with a part of the bill that would either exclude or include illegal aliens under the plan. The fact is every time Wilson tried to add language specifically excluding illegals, he was shot down by the Democrats. This has happened a number of times and it is quite obvious that the Democrats were signaling that they did not want to exclude illegal aliens from the plan. One part of the bill said ‘no illegal aliens will benefit from tax benefits proposed under the bill’. This language does not say no illegals will benefit from the plan itself. Now, when it comes to illegals, I am more liberal than many of my friends, who are Mexican. When I was working at the fire dept. I was one of the few [if only] guys that sided with the illegal immigrants when it came to showing them sympathy after they got into the country. Many of my Mexican buddies said ‘hell no, my parents did it right, these illegals should have to do it the legal way’. I didn’t side with doing illegal things; I just sided with their plight and felt we should avoid the strong racial stuff that usually comes up in these scenarios. So anyway why did Wilson say ‘you lie’? As an insider, who knew for a fact that the Democrats were purposefully opposing language in the bill that would exclude illegals, in his view the president did lie. He is sitting there and being accused of misleading the American people, that is Wilson is being told by the president in front of the world that those who are saying illegals might get covered are lying to you. Wilson knew Obama was in fact wrong, in his view Obama very well lied. Now, like I said at the beginning, did Obama know all these inner workings of every group writing stuff in all these comities? Obviously not, but he did not tell the whole truth about this specific issue. I do not hold to the view that our president is a secret socialist trying to undermine our economy for the purpose of a communist overthrow of the country. Do all the media persons who are espousing this view really believe it? I think Beck is a sincere guy, but really not ready for ‘prime time’. He might very well believe his views, and at times does show the other side of the story, but his overall framework is dangerous. I think Rush is too smart to really believe this stuff, but he is an entertainer. Hannity? I think he believes some of his own rhetoric. But I know for a fact that the president has said, on record, that he wanted to initiate a single payer health system that would eventually lead to universal health care for all Americans. He said this in 2007 when he advocated for the govt. to run the entire system. Okay, Barney Frank said the same thing a few months back; they caught him on tape saying it. So for the president, or Democrats in general, to say that the Republicans are lying to the American people when they warn about this, then they are actually not telling the whole story. Today’s point is we need to hear and listen to all side’s of these issues, we need to avoid the mindset that demonizes the president, or those who honestly disagree with him. We need to pray for our leaders and the president on a regular basis. We need to act right in this whole mess.

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

(1232) 2ND CORINTHIANS 9- Paul encourages the church to be generous ‘give much, and you will be blessed much’. The principle is clear. The other day I wrote on the verse ‘he hath distributed and given to the poor, his good works will endure’ [my paraphrase] let me give you what the message bible says- ‘he throws caution to the wind, giving to the needy with reckless abandon’. Yesterday my friend John David came by. He’s the friend I wrote about a few weeks ago, one of the local homeless guys. John is doing well; he made it thru the local drug rehab and is attending the aa/na meetings. John is really excited about the lord, even though he is an older brother [57] he really wants to do things for God. I gave him a few old copies of some of my original books I wrote years ago, and I gave him all the cash I had [around 15 dollars from my wallet]. He didn’t ask for it, I just felt ‘what the heck, if I don’t give it I’ll just spend it’. Later my wife asked me if I could take my daughter to get her I.D. at the driver’s license place. You need cash, it’s around 16 dollars. I thought ‘geez, maybe I’m too reckless in giving to my buddies’ and then I read this verse this morning. Paul exhorts these believers to give themselves and their goods away for the gospel. He challenges us to live with ‘reckless abandon’ knowing that our lives are like a vapor that appear for a little while and then vanish away [James]. If you give yourself away, God will increase ‘your seed’ and multiply the results 100 times, but you must lay down your life first. Jesus said unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abideth alone. But if it dies it will bring forth much fruit. He was speaking of his impending death, how he saw it as a necessary event for the purposes of God. Paul also says in his letter ‘if Jesus died for everyone, then we are all dead. He then that lives should now live for God.’ We are not here to please ourselves, to derive some type of fulfillment through our Christian experience. That is to ‘seek to save our lives’ we are here to lay them down for a greater cause, Jesus showed us how this must be done.

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

(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.

(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.

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

(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.

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

(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?

(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!

(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.

(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.

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

(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.

(1245) 2ND KINGS 4:8-37 Elisha travels thru a town called Shunem and a woman decides to prepare a little ‘prophets room’ for him on the city wall. She goes out of her way to assist in Elisha’s ministry. So he wants to return the kind deed and he asks what he could do for her. He finds out that she has had no kids and prophesies that she will have a child. She disbelieves the word but sure enough she has the child. One day when the boy is in the field with his dad he gets sick and dies. The woman lays his body in Elisha’s room and heads out to meet him. He comes back with her and raises the child from the dead. Elisha has already multiplied the oil supernaturally [well God did it] and here he raises the dead. He truly is doing the miraculous signs of a prophet among them. I am still reading Brian McLaren’s book ‘everything must change’ and I like the way Brian shows us how the ministry of Jesus was a challenge to unjust power and human government. He actually uses the example from Pontius Pilate, when Jesus was asked ‘are you the king of the Jews’ and Jesus says yes, he came to testify of the truth. Pilate says ‘what is truth’ and McLaren uses this to illustrate that unjust power structures see truth as this ‘wishy washy’ type thing. I find it funny that Brian accuses Pilate of being a ‘postmodern, relativist’ McLaren himself espouses postmodernism! In the prophetic ministry of Jesus the father gave him the tools he needed to accomplish the mission, in the gospel of John we read ‘many other miracles did Jesus do that are not written in this book, but these are written so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that by believing you would have life thru his name’. Jesus shook up the systems of his day; he knew the prophecies concerning him that were found in the Old Testament. One of them said ‘Gentiles shall come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising’ when Pilate asked Jesus ‘are you this king or not’ Jesus replied ‘did someone tell you this about me, or did you come up with this idea on your own’. Jesus knew that the Father had promised him that he would impact nations, that kings and rulers would hear his ‘narrative’ and be changed. He fulfilled the 3 years of earthly ministry; he raised the dead, opened blind eyes, fed the masses. Now his time has come to take the cup and drink it. Much is on his mind, at the moment of truth Pilate asks him if he is really who he said he was. Jesus says ‘I can’t lie, for this reason was I born. I am taking this thing to the end, I am going to finish the course that God has set before me’. Pilate was simply a ‘first fruit’ of Roman rulers that would hear about the story of Jesus. After his death and resurrection many kings and aristocrats would come to the Christian religion. Within a few short centuries the whole empire would succumb to a form of Christianity under the Emperor Constantine. Truly Gentiles have come to his light and kings to the brightness of his ‘rising’, before you can rise, you must die. Jesus drank the cup and finished the course, the Father kept his promise.

(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.

(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.

(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!

(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.

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

(1251) 2ND KINGS 7- Elisha is before the elders and the city is in trouble, the king of Israel is blaming the recession on the Christian conservatives and Elisha is being targeted. Now comes the true test of a prophet; Elisha says ‘by this time tomorrow the price of goods will be next to nothing, inflation will be gone and the recession over’. How can this happen? One of the men says ‘even if God opened the windows of heaven things cannot turn around this fast’. Wrong response, Elisha tells him ‘because you doubt, you will see it with your eyes but not experience it’. Okay, that night there are these 4 outcasts of society living at the city gate, they are lepers. You know, the type of people that nobody wants to be around. O sure the religious institutions have started all types of leper helping ministries, and the local religious folk give to these ministries, but nobody really wants to personally get involved. So these outcasts are at the city gate and they say ‘look at our plight, we are sitting here at the gate and will surely die, if we go into town the famine will kill us. If we go to the Syrians, sure they might kill us too, but maybe they will feed us and spare us, heck if we die we die!’ I like their outlook, even in the midst of great personal turmoil and sickness; they make one last ditch effort to turn things around. We need more brothers like this. So they go to the enemy camp and lo and behold [yes it’s corny] they find all the wealth and goods of the Syrian army, but no one’s there! God supernaturally caused the sound of the heavenly chariots to be heard by the army and they fled out of fear, casting away all their goods on the way out. So these lepers cant believe their eyes, they hit the jackpot. So they start going from tent to tent and take the stuff and go and hide it. After a few hours of hording and building wealth, they realize they are not doing right. They decide to go back to the city and tell their people what happened. They go to town and tell the king, he can’t believe it, he thinks ‘sure, this is a trap set up by my enemies’. Notice how both sides were battling paranoia, the Syrians fled thinking the armies were at the door, and the king of Israel thinks it’s a trap too. So they send some men to check it out and sure enough it’s true, the famine is over and the commodities are selling at a ridiculously cheap price. The brother who said ‘God could not do this even if he opened up heavenly windows’, he gets trampled at the gate by the gold rush and sees it with his eyes but never benefits from it, he dies. Okay, God is able to turn things around on a dime, though the economy was in shambles, the king/president thinks all is lost, no chance of a second term. Yet at the moment of great desperation God comes thru, the prophet [believers] was willing to use his gift to turn things around, and that’s exactly what happened. We as a people need to check our hearts and see if we really want the success ‘of the king’. Are we willing to do what Elisha did and pool our gifts for the success of the nation? Or have we become so cynical that we secretly desire the failure of the nation so we can feel vindicated? The lepers were tempted to horde the wealth and use it for their own benefit; after all they were God fearing capitalists! Why should they have to share their stuff with everybody else? Yet they chose to not ‘store up for themselves treasures on earth’ [Jesus] and did the right thing. Geez, I just wish we could find some contemporary comparisons for this stuff.

(1252) ARDI THE MONKEY BOY! Okay, I was gonna do 2nd kings 8 but I just couldn’t resist. The other day I read an article from the N.Y. times that spoke about the most recent discovery of a missing link. The problem is this ‘missing link’ was discovered in 1992, 17 years ago. The article showed you the drawing of a wonderful looking ‘half man/ half human’ being. It went on to tell us the story of Ardi, he/she was found in an area of Africa not too far from the famous Lucy fossil. Ardi is a little over 4 million years old, Lucy is over 2 million. So Ardi fits in well with a transitional species that could tell the story of human evolution. O how the story went on, it explained how Ardi lived and often would come down from the trees and walk on 2 feet [bi-pedal, to find a link that walks on 2 feet is essential for the theory of evolution to be true]. The article really described well everything that the evolutionist would need to tell his story. The problem? Ardi is a collection of monkey bones that were scattered all over the place; these bones are so brittle that the process of cleaning them for examination actually destroyed the bones. All indications are that these highly questionable bones are simply brittle monkey bones, this is why it took 17 years before ‘the find’ hit the headlines. So why did Ardi make it into the papers now? Because fellow evolutionists put the pressure on the original archeologists to ‘come out with the truth’! So they made up a wonderful tale, with pictures and all, and Walla- Ardi the monkey boy lives! How can I be so sure that Ardi was not a bi-pedal half man/monkey? Because science tells us this, not religion. If Lucy comes along 2 million years after Ardi, then surely Lucy must have really mastered the art of walking on 2 feet. Evolutionists have actually spent many years trying to ‘make Lucy walk’. The more they found out, the less proof she walked. First, the original find did not have hands and feet with it, so they gave her human like hands and feet. But after they found many other species of the same kind, they found many hands and feet also, they were not human like at all, the feet were truly monkey feet and not the structure you would find from a ‘walking monkey’. Next, they examined the bone structure of Lucy over many years and there were some major problems with the hip area that needed to be different if Lucy was to walk. Finally they made a documentary on Lucy and explained away the problem with the hip, they said that it was possible that a dear stepped on the hip and crushed it. So they had a brother on the show explain that he had to ‘re-make’ the hip back into the original hip. They actually showed him grinding down the model, with chips flying in the air, to get the walking hip. I mean it was hilarious! Years ago we also found a bunch of human footprints close to where Lucy lived in Africa, these prints were touted by the evolutionists as proof of Lucy being a bi-pedal monkey/human. The prints were so human like, many wondered if they were human. The only difference between these prints and a normal human print was the arch of the foot, it was a little flatter than ours. But after careful examination these prints did fit the exact prints of tribes that lived their whole lives bare foot. In essence these were human prints! The prints also had the foot prints of little feet inside the adult feet. How did this happen? More than likely the kids were having fun and stepping in the prints of their parents. So after many years of trying to make Lucy walk on 2 feet, the evidence shows otherwise. So if Lucy didn’t walk on 2 feet, there isn’t a chance in Hades that Ardi did! A few years back I was watching a Seinfeld episode and George wanted a cool nickname, so during lunch he orders a T Bone steak, he figures the nick name will stick. But sure enough the next guy orders a T Bone as well, and they give him the nick name. George is furious! So he confronts his co worker in the hall and you can see George jumping up and down and arguing for the right to the name ‘T Bone’. His co worker gives in and says sure, the only problem is the boss and the other guys saw George thru the window when he was throwing his fit, and they said ‘look, George looks just like a monkey’ and before George could tell everyone that he obtained the rights to T Bone, they stuck the nick name ‘Coco the Monkey boy’ on him. I appreciate the N.Y. times, the picture of Ardi looked great! But I think they tried to stick us with a tale, they tried to gives us Ardi the Monkey boy, when in reality he was just a bunch of brittle monkey bones.

(1253) NOTE ON THE CURRENT HEALTH CARE DEBATE- 10-09 let me do a quick update on abortion, as of today, 10-6-09, all the bills under consideration for health care reform most definitely include funding for abortion. These bills have been gone over by lawyers and every word was read and looked at. Technically speaking they allow for abortion. Now, as much as I pray for our president, he has misled the public on this issue. In his speech before the congress he did deny this, and he has stated on other forums that those who say that these bills would cover abortion are misleading you. I don’t know if he truly believes this or not, and I take very seriously my responsibility about not misleading people about the president, but he is wrong on this and he has accused those who are telling the truth as misleading people. We need to pray and be informed; we need to let our voices be heard on this important issue. We don’t need to go down the radical path of the right wingers who are accusing the president of trying to undermine our country and create a socialist state [Beck, Limbaugh, etc.] but we very much need to speak the truth when the president himself is either unaware or purposefully misinforming people. The Catholic bishops have gone over these bills with a fine tooth comb, their legal experts have concluded that abortion will be covered in some way thru these bills; these men are not listening to the radical right. We as the people of God need to tell the truth on these issues, pray for our president, but vocally disagree when you need to.

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

(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.

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

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

(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].

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

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

(1261) THE ALABASTER MAN- The other day my daughter was telling us a funny story, how she was looking for her pizza pan and asked her fiancé if he knew what happened to it, he admitted that he used it to cover a hole in the yard to keep the dogs from getting out. She was recounting the story to my wife and saying ‘just like dad used to do’. Boy did they get a laugh, I felt like rebuking them for not honoring their elder, but as I contemplated my best defense I realized that right now there sits one of my wife’s baking pans on top of the chimney on the roof, tied with bailing wire to keep the rain out; I figured I would just let it slide. I have been reading Isaiah along with the Kings study we are doing, Isaiah 40 thru the end has been one of the most prophetic portions of scripture for me in my own personal life. ‘I will make you like a new threshing instrument having teeth, you will thresh [cut apart] the mountains and beat them small; the wind shall carry them away’ ‘who raised up the righteous man from the east, called him to his foot and gave the nations before him; he will rule over kings’ ‘the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight in the desert a highway for our God’ I like all these verses, they have given me direction over the years. Here at my house I have a few things that I kept from my childhood, one of the mementos is a 1 inch figurine of an oriental wise man that is made out of Alabaster, I simply call it ‘the Alabaster man’. My dad bought it for me when I was around 10 years old; he used to take me over to the city [New York] and when we went to China Town one year he bought it for me. I have it in the yard next to a prayer area where I pray. I also have written various verses all over my yard, on the wooden fence and on my gazebo, it does look a little trashy but my wife learned to live with it. The verses ‘his fan is in his hand’ ‘before it happened I showed it to you’ are from Isaiah, one of the verses is right next to this man, as I was looking at the verse ‘before it happened I showed it to you’ I realized that this statue of the sage [wise man] has a fan in one hand and a staff in the other, these images have been significant to me, I have been praying with a staff in my hand for many years. I just never really noticed the little fan in the hand; I felt like the Lord was simply confirming these many various promises, I bought this statue in New York City when I was a boy, the wise man represents authority and these past few years we have been reaching into the New York City area in a greater way than ever before. In essence the Lord gave me a wise man from New York with a staff and fan in his hand, years before I would ever even contemplate anything along these lines. Isaiah said ‘before it happened I showed it to you, so when it would come to pass you would know that it was my work, not yours’.

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

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

(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 too 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.

(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.

(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.

(1267) 2ND KINGS 14:1-20 Amaziah becomes king over Judah and avenges the assassination of his father. Yet he does not kill the sons of those who murdered his father, why? Because the law of God said the children should not be put to death for the sins of their fathers, Amaziah did justice, but also melded it with mercy. He then sends a message to the king of Israel to come and meet in a challenge. The king of Israel gives him a little parable that basically says ‘look, you had a victory over Edom, don’t let that go to your head, just because you won in one nation doesn’t mean you can repeat the strategy everywhere [ouch! That is ouch to our present situation in the world]. But Amaziah won’t listen and they come out to battle, sure enough Judah suffers a loss and Israel breaks down the wall of Jerusalem and takes the precious riches from the temple. Okay, sometimes wisdom says slow down and don’t start too many wars at once; in this case Amaziah did a few good things but then allowed inexperience to rule the day. He also acted justly in the execution of those who killed his father by not taking it out on the kids. We seem to have 2 extremes in the modern church; 1- we really don’t like to deal with past mistakes and errors that have caused damage to Gods people, we feel like dealing with issues in a just way is wrong. 2- When we do decide to deal with them, we usually ‘kill the kids’, that is we go too far and mount a personal campaign against those who were really not responsible for the ‘parent’s sins’. We as believers need to be careful when embracing ideologies that say ‘let’s kill those damn terrorists, along with the families and kids and every one of their offspring’ these ways of thinking are not in keeping with even the Old Testament ethics of war, never mind the actual pacifist teachings of Jesus! I was watching a conservative news program the other day [you can guess the network- it’s the same name that Jesus called Herod] and the commentator said he wanted our military to go out and kill as many of these radical Muslims as we could find. Will that strategy ever really work? You will have no end to the killing because the mindset has not changed. Now I do realize that as a country we do have the right to intercept and go after those who are planning and strategizing against us, but the point is to simply think if we try and kill all ‘the offspring’ of those who harmed us will work, we are fooling ourselves. Amaziah dealt with the parents and stopped short when it came to the next generation. He also overstepped his resources by assuming a victory over one nation [Edom-Iraq] could easily be repeated in another [Israel-Afghanistan] as believers we need to have more of a plan than just ‘lets kill them all’ we need both progressive [liberal] and conservative voices to be heard, don’t just swallow the party line [on either side!].

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

(1269) 2ND KINGS 15- This chapter has lots of various kings, instead of covering them all let me just hit a few verses. One of the kings is being challenged by Assyria, so he ‘exacts money from the wealthy’ to pay the guy off. Another verse speaks of a king with a long 52 year rule who also had leprosy. Let’s start with the ‘taxing the wealthy’ brother. Right now [10-09] the congress is about to vote on health care reform [actually today is 10-22, they vote today] and to be sure there are challenges on both sides. I was talking to a north eastern ultra liberal the other day; this person defended the president and accused all those who were against him as being racists. I explained to the person that there were many White independent voters who sincerely voted for the president, many of whom do oppose him on actual policy disagreements; these voters who have been publicly accused of being racists will never vote Democrat again. The statements of President Carter, though taken out of context somewhat, were the worst thing that could happen to a political party. A few months ago Chris Matthews [MSNBC] interviewed a woman columnist who wrote a piece for the Times that was called ‘the southern strategy’ she explained how the real reason for McCain putting Palin on the ticket was to contrast the ‘sexual aggression of the Black man against the southern white woman’. Now, it was obvious to me that McCain chose Palin as a counterbalance to the historic nature of the Obama candidacy, they waited until Obama picked his running mate and when they saw he didn’t pick Clinton, McCain figured let’s put a conservative woman on our ticket who could help with the base [which McCain had trouble with] and also could appeal to a historic candidacy [the first woman V.P.]. So any way it was obvious that this was more than likely the reason. But for a national show to accuse the entire McCain candidacy as being racist in this way simply alienates many sincere White voters who will simply reject the entire Democratic ticket the next time around. Okay, if we pass health care and mandate every American to purchase it, it is wrong not to have the so called ‘public option’ [Medicare for everybody]. Why? Because you are thrusting the populace into buying from private industry, without any checks and balances on that industry. I know states do this with car liability, but nevertheless to do this on a federal level without offering some type of govt. plan would be a mistake. How to pay for it? Some say ‘exact money from the millionaires’ others want to tax the high end insurance policies that are out there [the Cadillac plans]. However this is done we need to avoid strapping the middle income worker with too high a price. Some estimates, from Democrats, say that an average 4 family household who brings in 60 k a year would have to pony up an extra 700 a month under the plan. That if this family presently cannot pay for the coverage, they would be fined. This takes into consideration the govt. offset. The average insurance plan costs around 13 thousand a year, the govt. would pay for around 7 thousand in the above example and this family would be mandated to pay the rest. So some of these plans are not good. My view is, let’s do the thing and have the public option with it. If you can’t have the public option than this would simply be a regressive tax on middle income families. When the president was asked this question by George Stephanopoulos he denied this being a tax, but George told him if you mandate a fine on these people and then require them to pay by law, then it is a tax. The whole point today is we need to realize that simply ‘taxing the rich’ does not solve the problem. We should make sure that companies and rich folk pay their fair share, but they are not some type of secret answer to all the problems. This week a boy asked the president ‘why do people hate you’? and Conan Obrien said the boy then looked at Biden and said ‘I know why people hate you’. Ouch! There is plenty of room in this debate to hear both sides, not demonize the opposing side, and try and work out a compromise that everyone can live with. We certainly don’t need to hate either side.

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

(1271) 2ND KINGS 16- Ahaz the king of Judah is attacked by Israel and Syria; he takes the treasures from the temple and buys the help of the Assyrian king. The king in return attacks Syria’s capitol city of Damascus and Ahaz is off the hook. Now Ahaz goes to check out Damascus and the job that he paid to have done; as he is there he sees the pagan altar of the Syrians and likes it so much that he sends the design back to his ‘arch bishop’ [priest] and tells him to make one for them. He also takes the brass/bronze altar from Gods tabernacle and mixes it in with this pagan contraption. Okay, first we see that once you open the financial door it’s hard to shut it. What made the king think about buying the services of Assyria with the temple goods? Well they did this before and once it became a viable option it was easy to just go back to the same source. That’s why we need to be careful as a country as we establish ‘new sources’ of income for various projects; these sources tend to get raided when needed [S.S. trust fund!]. Also Ahaz desecrated the holy things by his willingness to mix pagan worship along with God’s true worship. He basically liked the artistic value of the pagan altar at Damascus and wanted one. Last night I watched the documentary of the Monte Python guys. Back in the 70’s they were popular where I grew up in Jersey and they hit the TV about the same time as SNL. I never really saw how ‘anti Christian’ these guys were. I know they spoofed the Holy Grail stuff and all, but as they were talking on the documentary you could tell that they were truly ‘enlightenment’ babies. British mockers of the faith. Now, right after the documentary they showed their film ‘Life of Brian’ which I never really saw before [just parts] and it was a total mockery of the faith. The actor who spoofed Christ died not long after, he got cancer and died young, in his 40’s [I’m not saying God killed him!]. They showed his funeral during the documentary and it was sad, in keeping with their style the comics cursed at the Eulogy, dropped the ‘f’ bomb and said ‘we now know that Graham is gone, he no longer exists, all we have is memories’. They did the best they could, but as you saw the kids in the audience and the faces of friends and family, this end of dissolving into nothingness seemed so hopeless. The kids were taught you live, do what you want in life without purpose or meaning, and then evaporate into the cosmos! No real hope at all. I appreciate art, I don’t really get too offended when Christians are spoofed and all, I think our skin is too thin at times. But the constant mocking of Christ and the faith at the ‘altar of art’ seems to parallel Ahaz and his willingness to allow the beauty of the pagan altar to become part of his worship. Much of the so called ‘religious art’ is simply a mockery of the faith. Crosses in urine, the Virgin Mary depicted with porno- stuff that simply is not art. I read an article a few years back, the picture showed a 70 year old Black janitor standing next to a bunch of trash; it was dog poop, an old coke can and a bunch of trash just sitting in some building, it was actually one of the art displays. The poor janitor saw it while he was cleaning the museum at night and like any good worker, he threw the ‘dung’ out. Oh was he excoriated for this senseless act of disrespect and his inability to appreciate true art! In the article he said ‘it just looked like trash to me’ amen brother.

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

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

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

(1275) IS THE PRESIDENT KNOWINGLY LYING TO US? As of today- 10-28-09, the current health care plan still does not have language in it that would forbid your tax money from paying for abortions. There are various views on this issue, some liberal politicians feel you don’t need to have special language put into the bill, they feel the current law on the books banning federal funding for abortions would cover this [the Hyde amendment]. Others insist that the Hyde amendment would not cover the new law that would fund changes in health care, these pro life politicians [led by Bart Stupak, a Democrat] are calling for specific language in the bill that would prevent tax money paying for abortions. Now, I just read a very disturbing article where this Democratic house member- Bart Stupak, was told by the President himself that when he said ‘under my plan no federal money will pay for abortions’ that he was not referring to the actual plan that congress is voting on, that the words ‘under my plan’ referred to a theoretical plan that Obama had ‘in his own mind’. Stupak was grilled on this by the news reporter who interviewed him; Stupak said he actually called the President to make sure he was not misunderstanding him. Stupak told the president that he himself [the president] did not have a plan, that the only real plan was what congress was working on. In essence Stupak said to the president that he was misleading the public by saying ‘my plan will not cover abortions’. Obama knew good and well that ‘his plan’ was not the plan that the congress was working on, or that they would ever work on. The president was referring to ‘a plan in his mind’ that he could use to defend his language. If this story is accurate, I have no other option than to believe that the president has purposefully lied and misled the public on an issue that is crucial to many Americans. If this type of semantic talk is being used by the president, while calling those who were disagreeing with him as ‘misleading you’ he simply can’t be trusted. He seems to be allowing the pressure of the job to get to him to such a degree that he feels doing these types of things are justifiable, after all it’s for ‘our own good’. Lets continue to pray for the president, if he lied to us [which it sure looks like he did] it wouldn’t be the first lie a president told, but the manner in which it was done- telling the nation ‘under my plan abortions won’t be covered- and those who are telling you different are misleading you’ and then to tell Stupak that he was referring to a ‘plan in his own mind’ this is really bad, it accuses those who were actually telling the truth as being liars, many Democrats who have been honest and open about the issue have been tagged liars by the president himself. This is not good.

(1276) 2ND KINGS 18- Hezekiah rules in Judah and is the first king to tear down the high places of idolatry that Jeroboam instituted and he destroyed the calf’s and rid the nation of other idols [the bronze snake image that Moses had made was being used as an idol]. When I first read this chapter I of course wanted to credit this king as being one of the best, after all the chapter tells us this. But don’t underestimate the importance of surrounding events that aided in Hezekiah’s purging the nation of its idols. The northern tribes are in captivity, this gave the king of Judah room to function. It’s probable that most of the kings of Judah would have preferred ridding the nation of these calves, because their existence was for the purpose of preventing the children of Israel from reuniting with Judah, but Hezekiah had the opportunity to finally do it. Also the king of Assyria will come up against Hezekiah and threaten him ‘what makes you think that your God can do any better than all the other gods of the nations that our king has defeated’. These messengers are treading on dangerous ground, they are having a public discourse right outside the wall of Jerusalem, they are speaking the language that all the people know [probably Aramaic] and the leaders of Jerusalem say ‘don’t talk to us in the common language, after all we don’t want all the citizens to know our problems’ and the Assyrian messengers say ‘no, we want the people to hear- so they can know that they will be [quote] drinking their own piss and eating their own dung’. These brothers must have been the political ancestors of Alan Grayson! [the Democratic congressman from Fla. who calls women whores and stuff like that]. So anyway the Assyrians leave the threat and Hezekiah and his men do some soul searching. We’ll read the results tomorrow. Okay, there was a conscious effort on the part of leadership to ‘hide the discussion from the public’ Hezekiah did not want to post these things on the internet for 72 hours- or put it on C-span like the president initially said he would do. Also, don’t underestimate the role that our moral decisions have to do with whether or not things turn out good. Hezekiah will get some help from God because he really did seek to do the right moral thing in ridding the nation of idols. Right now [like today] there are many efforts going on in the congress to include abortion in the current health care funding. This would be a major national change in policy for our country. In the past the president is on record as saying he wants abortion covered in national health care [he said this in 2007]. So there is a debate going on in the Democratic party over this, there are around 40 Democrat congressmen who are opposing this bill over this issue. I applaud these men. I still believe that our nation can overcome some major problems that are facing us, but we can’t overcome them if we disregard Gods word. I am not advocating a theocracy, but to extend the coverage of abortion to a degree that has never happened before would be a big mistake. I realize the president has misled us on this, the facts are out there. I think he did it out of fear of not getting something passed, which would be a major political defeat for his agenda. But to purposefully mislead people, no matter how well intentioned you feel the end result is, this is still unjust. The king of Judah has a dilemma, he will find some help in seeking God, I think this strategy can work for all of us.

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

(1278) 2ND KINGS 19- The king [Hezekiah] sends a messenger to Isaiah the prophet and goes into the house of God to seek the Lord. Isaiah informs Hezekiah that God will defend Judah. Isaiah also gives a rebuke to the king of Assyria. God used this pagan king to judge many nations, in essence he was fulfilling a type of ‘manifest destiny’ [American exceptionalism] and yet he grew proud over his victories. To be honest about it I see some of this going on in our nation at this time. While I do not subscribe to the ultra conservative critics of the president, these past few weeks have convinced me that he has lied to the American public on a huge scale over his willful misrepresentation of the abortion issue [read my recent posts under the abortion section]. I feel there was a disdain towards the Christian community and that the Chicago style politics simply ruled the day ‘hey, if we lie about this, what’s the big deal? We are fighting fire with fire- they lie about us [Fox news, the presidents critics, etc.] so this is simply part of the game’. I feel the president bought into this and at the same time underestimated the role that lying about abortion so it could be federally funded will play in any economic recovery. In essence our country will not recover if we disregard the heritage of Christian morality in this way. So God rebukes the Assyrian king for thinking he could do whatever he wanted and the Lord sends an angel and kills 185 thousand Assyrian troops. The Assyrian king goes home and dies while worshipping at his pagan gods altar. Okay, his arrogance led to a massive troop defeat as well as his own personal demise. One of the other major problems that out country is facing is the military situation in Afghanistan, those of you who have read my site for any length of time know that I do not support this war, I want our troops out. I find it unbelievable that this week the media exposed the fact that our CIA was paying off the brother of Hamid Karzia [the president] who is a drug lord. Some of our troops have died fighting the drug lords, yet our own govt. has them on the payroll. How did the media cover this? If we found this out under Bush/Cheney what would the outrage be? One of CNN’s most able commentators on the Afghanistan war [Michael Ware] said he would be shocked to find out that we weren’t doing this, sort of like it was the right thing to do. Unbelievable. The now famous tour of America by Alexis De Tocqueville in the 19th century has been cited by many historians. He praised our country for many things, but he also warned of ‘the tyranny of the majority’ that is he said that any society that measured right or wrong solely on what the majority wants is doomed to fail. Hezekiah sought the Lord and this made the difference, the nations that ‘forgot God’ and at the same time prided themselves in their military arrogance were judged [I honor our men and women who serve, but for our govt. to be paying those who have killed our men is a travesty!] I think the Old Testament is still relevant today.

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

(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.

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

(1282) 2ND KINGS 21:1-17 Manasseh rules and rebels against the reforms that his father Hezekiah instituted; he rebuilds the pagan altars and even brings pagan altars into the temple and court. He sheds innocent blood by sacrificing his children to Moloch and ‘making them pass thru the fire’. Moloch was an idol statue that the pagans heated up until the arms were bright red; they then laid the babies in the arms. God pronounces judgment on Judah and they will eventually go into Babylonian captivity. Manasseh was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Manasseh’s father was a great king, yet the turn around from one ruler to another was astounding, many years of reforms and respect for human life were undone under this wicked king. Often time’s society embraces ideas that seem open and liberal, yet when they disrespect human life these ideas lead to captivity. I know our country faces many real problems right now in our history. The average citizen who watches the news hears about them to a degree, but the behind the scenes dangers are much greater than we see. Other countries are seriously looking at our economic problems and making moves to shield themselves from a future collapse of our economy. Many banks are still failing and the economic numbers that seemed good in the last quarter are really inflated math; in essence the cash for clunkers program and the free money given to first time home buyers [that was just extended today- as well as another extension for unemployment] these well meaning programs give a false sense of economic improvement. If I told you I was going to help your son get on his feet, and after 6 months of ‘my help’ you visited him and he seemed to be doing well, he had a car and place to live, food and a check. Wow, I kept my word. Then you found out that I gave him the car and house and was simply giving him free money every month, then in essence I falsely stimulated ‘his economy’, to a great degree this is what we are doing. Whenever you pump billions of dollars into the system, sure it will have some effect, but unless you give little Johnny the real tools for success, a pro small business environment, means to get real funding to become successful, unless you do the real stuff that makes a difference you are not truly going to change things. Manasseh was a progressive type person, he was open to all sorts of religious beliefs, tried implementing them in with the worship of the true God, he disrespected that old silly belief that you shouldn’t sacrifice babies on an altar of convenience, and he made some real changes from the previous king. His actions had some very serious consequences, the nation suffered for it.

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

(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.

About ccoutreach87

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

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