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What in the world is the Church?

[STUDY] WHAT IN THE WORLD IS ‘THE CHURCH’? most recent-

These entries show the idea of ‘church’ as being the functioning people versus the separate organization. I also stuck a bunch of stuff on leadership in here as well. NOTE- some entries specifically speak on the subject of ‘church’, others are just a feel of the context. They kinda express the broader theme of community in scripture. For a short, concise teaching on church and ministry, read my two booklets ‘Further talks on church and ministry’ and ‘The Great building of God’ [they are both on this site in the February 2010 posts]. Every year I post these categorized subjects in the February posts [on the blog] so if you go back and check the Feb. posts of each year- you will find complete and ongoing studies.

[1590] WILL WE SUFFER? I was going to do another post on the Jewish contribution to Modernity- the Jewish thinkers and their contribution to the Western Intellectual Tradition [an ongoing on-line study I’m doing] but instead let me share a few more practical thoughts. The other day I wrote a post on the persecuted Christians in Pakistan- and I had a few Pakistani Pastors email me- thanking me for the web site- telling me it’s been a blessing to them- and even inviting me to speak or start a ministry under our name/title in their country and they would work with me. I of course thanked them for the offer- and just encouraged them to freely use all our stuff- make copies of the books- hand them out- use all of our stuff as much as you wish. I have waved the copyright to all my stuff years ago. Then I caught a quick few minutes of Peirs Morgan- the guy who replaced Larry King- he was interviewing Joel Osteen. Peirs was asking him something about the abuse of money in the modern televangelist world- and Joel answered cautiously- rejecting the title of Prosperity Preacher- and shared the basic theme that God doesn’t want his people being poor and suffering and beat up all the time. I like Joel- I’m very familiar with his belief system- Joel’s dad- John- was one of the pioneers of the Word of Faith movement in this part of Texas- and over the years I even had some ordained ministers who were ordained by Lakewood church [Joel’s church] who were members of the church I started back in the 80’s. So I basically am familiar with the scoop. Okay- the contrast of Joel’s simple remarks- given in a good spirit- just did not fit the lifestyle of the fine Pastors who I had just been in contact with over the past few weeks. Men who have been literally risking their lives- suffering- fellow believers being killed- all the descriptions that Joel felt were not what God wanted for his people. The book of Hebrews says ‘you suffered the loss of your material possessions willfully- knowing that in heaven you have eternal riches that will not fade away’. There is a verse [Proverbs?] that says ‘don’t make me rich- lest I forsake you- don’t make me poor- lest I curse you- just give me what I need’ or ‘those that desire to be rich [just the desire mind you!] have swerved from the true faith and have gone shipwreck’ [1st Timothy 6]. The point I want to make is we often hear snippets of things- things that seem innocent enough, and yet they violate the basic truth of scripture. I am not upset with Joel- Joel is a good man who has the gift of encouraging people- I do not see him as your typical ‘money preacher’ but I just wanted to give you the balance. The apostle Paul spent a few years living with the believers at Ephesus [I think you can read the account in Acts 20- I also wrote on the subject in my commentary on the book of Acts- in the 2-2010 posts] and as he was teaching them- he called the leaders of the church [called elders in the bible- what we would see as Pastors today] down to the shore- and he gave them a going away speech/warning- he told them after he leaves ‘wolves’ will come in- men who will take advantage of the believers- and he goes on and says ‘all the years I was with you- I refused to let you guys support me- I worked day and night- not only to support myself- but to pay the way for the workers I brought with me’ then he says ‘the reason I did this- was to give you preachers an example- so you too would work with your own hands to provide for yourselves’ now- the entire subject of supporting Christian teachers/preachers is a long one- and I’m not against supporting our Pastors/Priests in a moderate way- them having incomes commensurate with the people. But how many times have you ever heard the story I just shared with you? I mean does the average person even know that the apostle Paul taught stuff like this? You would think it was heresy if it weren’t right there in the bible. If you want to read more about this stuff- under the section ‘what is the church’ an ongoing series I’ve been doing for years- I share about this a little more- but today’s point is we need to be careful as preachers- when we view Christianity primarily thru an American lens- I’m sure Joel meant no harm- but there are indeed times when Gods people are persecuted- broken- afflicted- suffering- these are very real situations that many of our brothers and sisters face on a daily basis thru out the world. We don’t want to give them the false impression that they are suffering contrary to the will of God- there are just too many bible passages that say otherwise [ ‘it has not only been given to us to believe on Jesus- but to also suffer with him’ the Apostle Peter- etc. etc.].

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

[1529] Still doing some reading from the Epistle of Barnabus; let me share a few thoughts from chapter 13. The writer [who by the way was probably not Barnabus!] speaks of the people of God as this corporate community that transcends space and time- we are a living temple of people, Gods completed work. He speaks about the 7 days of creation- God worked for 6 days and on the 7th day he rested, that as Gods finished work [the church] we also are in this ‘resting place’ [Sabbath] with God. In this community God uses prophetic voices to speak, these are the ‘gates’ of the temple- but the people are not enamored with the messenger- they are simply hearing God thru him. All these concepts of course are rooted in scripture; Ephesians says we are being ‘built together’ as an habitation of God thru the Spirit. Hebrews 12 [message version] speaks about the church as this invisible city that has this innumerable company of angels- and citizens who have already passed over to heaven, but they are still participating from the stands- cheering us on as we run our part of the relay race. I just want to encourage all my readers today- I have some old buddies from Jersey- some ‘ex-con’ friends from Texas, and friends all over the world who make up this spiritual community that gathers weekly around the table [radio, blog, etc.]. Listen for the voice of God, try and overlook the image of men- often times we say things and God is using what we say in a way that we don’t fully comprehend; that’s good- because the person being ‘talked to’ sees it as a confirmation from God, not men. The epistle of Barnabus says God uses 3 things to build this heavenly city; the word of faith, the promises he has made, and wisdom. He himself speaks within this community; he says things that nobody ever expected- not even those doing the talking! This community is an everlasting temple, a body of people that God resides in for ever- we are the people of God

[1513] THE LORD THY GOD IN THE MIDST OF THEE IS MIGHTY, HE WILL SAVE; HE WILL REJOICE OVER THEE WITH JOY; HE WILL REST IN HIS LOVE, HE WILL JOY OVER THEE WITH SINGING. I WILL GATHER THEM THAT ARE SORROWFUL FOR THE SOLEMN ASSEMBLY…AT THAT TIME I WILL UNDO ALL THAT AFFLICT THEE…AND I WILL GET THEM PRAISE AND FAME IN EVERY LAND WHERE THEY HAVE BEEN PUT TO SHAME’ Zephaniah 3:17-19. The letter to the Hebrews says Jesus sings among us in the midst of the congregation. Many of the prophetic books speak about God restoring his people. Revelation says Jesus is the light and glory of the ‘city of God’ [the church]. Psalms talks about a river that flows thru us and brings us life and joy [Holy Spirit]. We are the city of God that God himself builds and rejoices over; the city that Abraham and his heirs were looking for as they dwelt in a strange land- a city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God [Hebrews]. God promises to gather those from every tribe and tongue [I will gather all nations and tongues and they will come and see my glory…and I will set a sign among them…and those that escape will go to the nations and declare my glory- Isaiah] those that have been ‘shot at’ [‘You will be like a vine planted next to a well whose branches go over a wall…the archers shot at you, yet you bow remained strong…God strengthened your hands’- Jacobs blessing pronounced over his son Joseph- Genesis] and have been thru much difficulty, these are the ones the Lord will gather and send back out to the nations and these will declare HIS glory. Those that have been ‘to the Cross’ have learned the lesson of the vanity of self glory- the lifestyle of trying to live up to the expectations of man, that which the bible calls ‘vain glory’. These can be entrusted with the gospel and the Lord rejoices and sings over them- these are the garden of the Lord that produce fruit because they have learned to abide in him [John 15]. I want to encourage you today; have you been struggling with stuff? Have you been confounded, confused? God will take those who have been put to shame and he will gather them as his city, the place where he will dwell, and he will rejoice over you; you will be in a position where you will have influence in all nations and cultures- the Lord will ‘extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the gentiles like a flowing stream’ you will ‘come up over your borders like a river in Judah that overflows her banks’ and you will be like ‘fountains that are dispersed abroad, rivers of waters that flow in the streets’ [various verses from the Old Testament].

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

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

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

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

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

[1498] ‘THE WORDS THAT I SPEAK ARE NOT MY OWN, BUT THE FATHER THAT DWELLS IN ME- HE DOES THE WORK’ Jesus Christ. In John 14 Jesus tells his men that he and the Father will manifest themselves unto them; they ask ‘how will you manifest yourself unto us and not unto the world’? Jesus responds that those who love him will keep his commandments, and to these he will come and dwell with them by the Spirit. The world [unbelievers] have no thirst for this. Of course the question would be ‘which commandments’? Most of us are familiar with the big 10; others see certain Christian practices as the most important- going to church on Sunday, tithing, etc. The writer of this gospel [John] also wrote the 3 smaller letters [1st, 2nd, 3rd John]. John seems to see the law of love as the supreme commandment, of course he gets this from Jesus own words. Jesus at one time was asked what the greatest commandment was, and he replied ‘to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and might’ and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Did Jesus just pick this out of the air? No, he was actually quoting the person that the Jews looked to as the great law giver- Moses. Moses, the man famous for receiving the 10 commandments at the hand of God, yes he was the one who had such a grasp of the character of God that he was able to sum up the 10 commandments as these 2 universal laws. When we love God and our neighbor we will be put in a ‘place’ where God will speak to us- when we live in true community we will see and experience God thru one another. A while back I had a friend who began hanging out with me and some of the homeless guys- he too was homeless. He didn’t look the part, always clean shaven, worked regularly, but yet he was homeless. My friend had some background with the Lord, he knew the bible and it was easy to see that he had been a believer for many years. At the time I had just finished reading Frank Viola’s Pagan Christianity- the book stirred up a controversy and I was careful to whom I would recommend it. But I knew Robert had expressed some of these beliefs in the past and I thought he would like it. He read it and did like it, but one day he emailed me and asked ‘do you know where I could find an ‘organic’ church to join’? He made the mistake of thinking he could find true community in some meeting, that is if he found ‘the church’ with the right answers [concerning organic church] that he would then attend these church meetings [as opposed to the institutional church] and then he would have arrived. What my friend was missing was the fact that much of the daily community things we were doing at the time- getting together as a group of friends, sharing the word at certain times, and yes, having meetings every so often- that the actual daily helping of one another and identifying as believers was in itself a true expression of community. Jesus told his men that when they loved God, and each other, that it was in that environment that God would reveal himself to them. John himself would later write ‘how can you say you love God, who you cannot see, if you don’t love your brother who you can see’? I fear we live in a day where other things have taken precedence over the value of ‘our brother’. We have our political ideas, our theological slants, our ‘better’ beliefs than the church down the bock- and these things become the main thing to us, often at the expense of truly loving our brother. Jesus was giving us the words of God, not men. He quoted the great lawgiver of the Old Testament; the main ‘philosopher’ of the Jew of his day- if Moses said it, then surely it must be so.

[1492] ‘submitting to each other in the fear of God, wives submit unto your husband’s as unto the Lord…husbands love your wives even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it…this is a great mystery, Christ and the church’ Ephesians 5. The apostle tells us that in marriage the 2 become one, just like our ‘marriage’ to Christ. In 1st Corinthians Paul rebukes them for a specific sin; incest, fornication. He tells them that when they sleep with a person outside of marriage that the 2 become one- he then says ‘shall I take the members of Christ and make them the members of a harlot’. The point he makes is as Christ’s body we are actually parts of him. The various debates that the church has had over the communion table have centered around whether or not the elements become the actual physical body and blood of Jesus. One of the sad things that has happened is while we have had this debate [centuries old] we have missed the agreed reality that yes, our bodies are actually considered parts of Christ. These verses have also come under fire over the years because they speak of the wife submitting to the husband- the reality is this submission is not some type of bigoted thing, it’s a willing submission done in love as the husband expresses Christ like love to the wife. Paul said the great ordinance of marriage points to the great reality of us being joined to Christ in a very real way- if you will, it can be said without contradiction that the Real Presence of Christ is in the world today thru the church, the people of God.

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

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

[1480] ‘When I heard of your trust in the Lord Jesus and the love that you have towards all the saints, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you, every time I prayed I’d think of you…I ask the God of our master, the God of glory to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so you can see exactly what it is that he’s calling you to do’ Ephesians 1. Notice what the apostle prayed for; he asked God to open their eyes so that they might know Jesus more personally- that is he did not request that they simply have a better grasp of the doctrine of Jesus Christ [which is important] but he was asking that they might actually increase in their relationship with him. It has been said that Christianity is the only religion in which the founder actually lives inside the follower. I like that, it keeps us focused on the reality that God wants us to be more than simple intellectual assenters of the truth claims of Christianity. There is a major theme in the New Testament that runs along these lines, the apostle says ‘I count all things loss that I might increase in the knowledge of him’ once again meaning to know him more. Now I must admit that there are times when believers seem to disdain other groups of believers because they deem them wrong or lacking in some area. It is common to hear certain groups refer to other groups as ‘lost’ that is they see the traditional expression of Christianity that they follow and they judge them as never having received Jesus ‘into their hearts’. I think this is a mistake that we make; notice in the above passage that Paul was thanking God for their faith and the love that they showed to all the saints; that is they had a grasp on the corporate wide nature of the church. While it is important for us to increase in our relationship with Christ, it’s also important to see that God is at work with many groups of believers, not just those who seem to be the most like us! Let’s ask God to increase us in the area of knowing Jesus more personally- that the eyes of our understanding would be enlightened, that we might grasp the length and depth and height of the love of Christ as the corporate people of God. It takes a body of people to fully grasp the greatness of ‘their head’ Jesus is the head of the church, the people of God that transcend time and space. As members of this mystical people called the church, we need each other to come to a more mature understanding of who he is and what he wants us to do- we are not in this thing alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(1385) JOHN 4- Jesus does the unthinkable, he travels thru a bad side of town- Samaria. If you read our Kings study you will remember the history of the region, by the time of Jesus day they were considered the ‘dogs’ of society. Now Jesus meets the woman at the well and they engage is this intriguing conversation, she brings up the debate over where the true place of worship should be- do we meet in the church building or the house? Ah, Jesus says ‘woman, the time is coming and it is even here now when the true worshippers of God will do it in spirit and truth’. It really wasn’t a matter of ‘where’. Okay, she gets into this religious discussion with this strange person in the middle of her busy day, she really doesn’t have time to get into the whole thing. But for some reason she’s drawn to this person, he seems to have insight that is rare for the day. Jesus tells her ‘if you knew who it was that you were talking to, you would have asked for water and I would have given you water that once a person drinks from they will never thirst again’. Okay, another one of those strange sayings, but she’s running out of time, she needs to finish her business at the well at get back to town. What the heck, she says ‘Okay, give me the water’ well, first we have to deal with a few things- remember I’m looking for sprit and truth, brutal honesty about your life and situation. This isn’t an encounter with some ‘wealth coach’ for heaven’s sake! Here we go ‘call your husband’ what? What a strange question to interject at this point-okay, she knows how to answer questions about her past in a way that makes it sound like everything is all right, when we all know it’s not. She says ‘I have no husband’ got ya now. Jesus tells her ‘you have spoken the truth’ the man your living with now is not your husband, and you have been divorced 5 times already, so yes, you ‘have no husband’. Okay, this is where the rubber meets the road, this is what Jesus was getting at when he told her that worship is not about ‘where’ but about truth and honesty when confronted by God. At this point many walk away and stay offended for life, but she was thirsty enough to allow the confrontation/offense to happen. ‘Well, I know that the Messiah is going to come some day, and when he comes he will tell us all things’! It was really a shot at Jesus ‘sure, you know SOME STUFF about me, but the real Messiah knows everything!’ Jesus says ‘I that speak unto you am he’. At that point the disciples returned with the food, they are shocked that Jesus is engaging this woman, they must be thinking ‘thank God the Pharisees aren’t here for this one’ I mean they were always looking for an excuse to discredit him. Well the woman goes back into town and tells all the other ‘mongrels’ about Jesus, he is invited to the town and spends 2 days and this truly is the first great ‘gentile/Samaritan’ outreach of the first century. In our day there is much debate about the how and way to ‘do church’ much of what is missing from the conversation is the ‘spirit and truth’ aspect. I have noticed that when a famous preacher falls into some public sin, that when they make the rounds [Larry King, etc.] there is much interest. People want to know that the things that they have struggled with are also things that we all deal with. The ‘spirit and truth’ aspect is often missing from our modern practice of Christianity. This woman allowed the confrontation to happen; it needed to happen for her to get to the next step where she would believe that Jesus was the Messiah. She truly found the water that she asked for.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(just a comment on Christianity Today’s top 10 books for this year] I Loved Kluck and DeYoung’s first book, but they did not really ‘see’ what the organic/out of ‘church’ movement is saying [theologically]. I really think their first work [why we’re not Emergent] deserved last year’s list, but would have given them a pass for this year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(1308) I caught an interview last night of an Indian author who wrote a book, the title is ‘truth and transformation’ it deals with how India and much of the Eastern world has a great degree of economic dishonesty and hiding of money from the govt. and so forth. But that the Western world has less of this dishonesty going on in a large scale. It was interesting to hear the point of view that because the west still had a degree of Christian morality that this had a lasting effect on society. You rarely hear this view from Easterners. But the brother warned how we are fast approaching the rest of the world in the area of economic/corporate corruption. Any way he mentioned how in the book of Revelation the church is described as ‘a city’- the city that comes down from God out of heaven. I always liked this imagery, in Isaiah we read how this city of God has it gates open ‘day and night’ that there is never a moment where life and transactions are not happening. How can this be? Recently as I have been praying over stuff, and also have posted various requests on the blog I realized that we have people praying and reading and ‘partaking’ of the stuff we are doing, this happens on a 24 hour basis because we have friends from around the world who are connected to us. So Gods ‘city’ is one that consists of believers the world over. There are Christians ‘in church’ 24-7, you don’t have to start a 24 hour prayer service to accomplish this, God has done it by having a worldwide community of people who he describes as ‘my House of Prayer’. This house/temple is open all the time, Isaiah also says that the city will have ‘no walls’ because of its great size, the multitude of men and cattle within is so large that it doesn’t need to wall herself off from society! As a matter of fact a river flows from this temple to the nations and all the kings of the earth will bring their glory and riches into her. I like the city imagery a lot, Revelation says this city has no need for a sun or moon, because the Lamb is the light of the city. No need for a temple either, we are the temple! [as well as Jesus, we as his Body join with him in the temple imagery] When reading scripture it’s important to see things thru a correct lens. I am half way thru the book by Carl Olson ‘will Catholics be left behind’. Carl is an ex Fundamentalist who converted to Catholicism and he gives an excellent overview of the history of Eschatology [end time stuff] much of my teaching agrees with Carl’s view. But reading thru it reminds me of some of the silly views that people hold about end time things, how some see the city ‘coming down from God out of heaven’ as an actual physical city that will be suspended above the earth during the Millennium and that believers will be living in ‘the sky’ while having access to the planet and interacting with Millennium citizens. Silly stuff, the city is called ‘the bride, the Lambs wife’ it’s quite obvious that John is using prophetic imagery to describe the church. But this is a problem among certain Fundamentalists and this view is quite popular in our day. When we grasp the ‘better’ view of these things then we can apply them in practical ways that effect society in a positive way- Gods people/city being open/available for light and help and mercy to all the ‘kings/nations of the earth’ Jesus who is our light can also enlighten the nations who are willing to hear. Stuff like this is helpful, while also recognizing that there are real/literal things that Revelation deals with, like the 2nd coming and resurrection and final judgment. Well anyway we are all part of this 24-7 community that has things happening all the time, we belong to a great worldwide church, the city of God, let’s let our light shine to the nations as much as possible.

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

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

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

(1299) Last night I had a rough night, couldn’t sleep and dealing with lots of stuff. I wasn’t sure what to read [Isaiah or start Galatians] and I felt the Lord leading me to read John 14. Right after I read it I put the Catholic station on and they were quoting from it. In John 14 Jesus tells his men that he is leaving them for a purpose, that in his Father’s house there are many mansions. If he doesn’t leave them they will never become what he wants. In the New Testament [and old] ‘house of God’ refers to Gods people, in the Old Testament you did have the temple, but when referring to ‘the house of David’ it speaks of community/dynasty- so the ‘house of God’ are the actual people groups that God is bringing into his kingdom. We corporately make up ‘the house of God’. Now Jesus is not telling the disciples ‘I am going to build a room for you in heaven, and when I come back I will take you to heaven’ he is saying something more along the lines of ‘I am leaving you to make room for you to learn to function and grow on your own, when I leave the Holy Spirit will come and indwell you- you will become the new habitation of God’. In essence ‘he goes to prepare a place for us’ is speaking more along the lines of us becoming this corporate dwelling place as opposed to building a room in heaven. And his ‘coming again to receive us unto himself’ in this context is speaking of the Holy Spirit (one just like unto himself) being sent back after Jesus leaves, so this Comforter will dwell in us- he ‘receives us unto himself’. Thru out this chapter Jesus is speaking on a higher level than what the guys are hearing ‘where I go you know and the way you know’ what! We don’t know where you are going and how can we know the way? The disciples seem to be saying ‘hold this ship up Jesus, we are feeling a little intimidated, you’ve been telling us that we will have what it takes when the rubber meets the road- we sense that you are ‘pushing us out of the nest’ and if we don’t fly we will crash! Jesus knew that his departure was needed for them to become this house of God, this great community of diverse people groups [many mansions]. The disciples would become recipients of the Spirit and sure enough everything Jesus told them would come to pass, but at the moment of trial/decision they felt inadequate- they weren’t really sure they were ready. I know I can identify with them, can you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(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.

(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].

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

(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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(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.

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

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

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

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

(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.

(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.

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

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

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

(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.

(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.

(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!

(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.

(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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(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].

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

(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.

(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’.

(1071)1ST KINGS 20- Benhadad, king of Syria, besieges Israel and threatens Ahab ‘give me your gold, wives and kids’. Ahab was a demoralized man, his wife was already running the show, he relinquished any remnant of nobility years ago. He responds ‘sure, take it all. What do I care?’ So all goes well, Not! Benhadad says ‘one more thing, tomorrow my men will come and inspect your stuff, if they see anything else of value, they taking that too!’ So Ahab consults with his men, he tells them the situation and they decide to reject the final offer. The fight is on. Notice how the Lord sends Ahab true prophets who give him guidance along the way, it’s like the Lord was willing to allow Ahab some time to get things right. The false prophets are dead, Elijah rebuilt the altar, who knows, maybe God was giving Ahab a real chance at reform. So Ahab does okay, he has a few battles with Syria, and at the end he LETS THE WICKED ENEMY GO! God rebukes him for this thru a prophet. God basically says ‘look, I gave you a second chance. I had a task for you, your job was to recognize and eliminate the threats to my people’ what happened? I have noticed thru the years that leaders, good men, will often fall into mindsets that say ‘well, after all our goal is to succeed and be happy. Have good church attendance, good income. Why even bother dealing with stuff that’s wrong?’ There are times in church history where God is looking for reformers, men and women who are willing to take a stand and say ‘enough, this stuff has be going on for too long, we will have no more of it’ [doctrines and stuff that lead Gods people astray]. It seems as if Ahab was living for the day, willing to let the wicked king live another day. After all, what harm can it do? He disobeyed God, he was given a mandate to execute justice, he didn’t. God chose him to complete the task, not just survive. Ahab blew it big time.

(1070) 1st KING 19- Ahab tells his wife, Jezebel, about Elijah’s victory, she sends word to the prophet ‘so help me God if I don’t do the same to you as you did to my prophets’. Understand, Elijah did not simply ‘rebuke’ false doctrine here, he actually dismantled an entire ‘religious system’ that was contrary to the purposes of God. It is very difficult to uproot all that you have put in place for the sake of reformation. I find this to be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome when seeking God for true change in the church. Christians too often associate their relationship with God along with the systems of religion that they were brought up with. Now Elijah flees for his life, God will appear to him at Horeb; he is not in the wind, earthquake or fire, but in the ‘still, small voice’. Elijah is told to anoint a king of Syria, also anoint Jehu as king of Israel and go get your protégée Elisha. Elijah is also told by God there are seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal. We see the danger of prophetic ministry; God vindicated Elijah and truly did miraculous stuff with him. It was easy for Elijah to fall into the trap of ‘I am the only one who sees this stuff’. God reassured him he wasn’t alone. These last few years I have been surprised by the number of Christians who have corresponded with me thru our blog, it seems as if the present challenges to ‘church/clergy’ are becoming commonplace to the believers at large. It is no longer a secret. But it is also disheartening to see many of my friends who have served the Lord for years; they seem to be oblivious to the same truths that the church worldwide is seeing. So with Elijah you did have false prophets who were all wrong at the same time. Yes, just because there were so many who held on to the same view of religion [Baal worship] this did not mean they were right. But at the same time it was obvious to at least seven thousand others that the popular religious system was actually wrong! James says that Elijah was a man ‘subject to the same weaknesses as all men’ yet the Lord used him mightily. All Gods servants have feet of clay, many of the greatest reformers of church history also made big mistakes. Luther was a tremendous force for change, but his anti semitic writings would later be used as a justification for Jewish oppression. As we strive for truth and justice in the days ahead, let us all remember that some of Gods greatest voices are ‘compassed about with the same infirmities as us all’ God does use clean vessels, but even clean vessels sometimes have cracks.

(1061) 1ST KINGS 12- At the end of the last chapter Solomon died, Rehoboam his son will now ascend to the throne. Rehoboam is confronted by the nation, they tell him ‘your father was a slave driver! He made it hard on us, we were tools that were being used for his own self advancement’ [my paraphrase] they plead with Rehoboam to go easy on them. I find it interesting that Solomon’s reputation outside of Israel was great, he excelled and the kings of the earth knew it [image building]. But amongst his own people, those who knew him best, he was driven by ambition. Though hey liked the man and he was a great leader, yet they associated him with always putting a yoke/burden on them to build. ‘More and more’ was the logo. The people were tired, they wanted to simply exist as Gods people. They weren’t asking Rehoboam to totally put them on welfare, they just wanted a break from viewing their lives thru the unrelenting pressure of ambition. So Rehoboam consults with two groups; he asks the elders of the land for advice, they advise him to ‘become a servant of the people, go easy on them’ What! A servant, are you kidding me man. Sounds like the teaching of Jesus ‘he that wants to be greatest must serve’. He then consults the young guys, peers in his own age group, they tell him ‘go for it, tell them you aint seen nothing yet! You think daddy was tough, my little finger will be heavier than his leg!’ Rehoboam listens to both groups and chooses the bad advice of the younger generation. So the people [with Jeroboam as the head speaker] come back on the 3rd day for the response, they don’t like what they hear and mount a revolt. The kingdom becomes divided under Jeroboam as the new king of Israel [ten tribes-northern] and Rehoboam as the king over Judah [and Benjamin] the southern tribe. Now Jeroboam realizes that he will lose control of the people if they keep their religious feasts at Jerusalem every year. Jerusalem is the capital where his adversary Rehoboam is at, so he sets up two golden calves [just like what happened in the wilderness in Moses day] and he places them in the city of Dan and Bethel. He also sets up a new class of priests, in violation of Gods law, and he makes up his own religious calendar. This single action of rebellion introduces false religion on a large scale to Gods people. Rehoboam gets together an army and is about to fight and regain his rightful place, God sends a prophet to him and tells him ‘leave it alone, the thing is from me’. God allowed for the split, Rehoboam had the chance to humble himself and instill a new mindset into Gods people. Yet he went for ‘the glory’. There are obviously a lot of lessons here, I don’t have to show them all to you, they are plain enough to see. To all the leaders/pastors who follow us, how are you viewed by those closest to you? Do outsiders see you as a successful leader, ambitious and able to get stuff done? Do those closest to you seem to be saying ‘lets take a break, we have had many years of never being able to sacrifice enough, building things. Okay things, but the job has been tough, we need a break’. Be sensitive to the real purpose of God, for him to be fully glorified and expressed thru is church, the community of God. Solomon reigned over a great people, but he was too ambitious, ambitious in the area of image building. The people themselves should have been the important thing, not the amount of stuff they could produce! In the end Rehoboam lost more than he would have ever gained by choosing the hard route. Allow God to lead you in the paths that he has set before you, the people you lead are the thing of value, not the things that they can produce [financially or any other way].

(1060] THE MARK OF THE BEAST! Let’s talk a little today. This past week I had a few people ask me about their church. They said they liked the church, but they thought there was too much emphasis on money and practical matters. They said they realized the need for Christians to ‘be practical’ but they felt like they really weren’t growing spiritually. First, I told them that I felt they were doing good by attending/helping the church out. I did not want to give them the impression that it was okay to just drop out. I also told them to read our site, that many of the questions they had were dealt with on the site. Then yesterday I had a believer asking me all types of stuff on the book of Revelation and the mark of the beast and the whole computer chip in your head thing. Okay, I must admit I made a joke about the mark of the beast, something like ‘it really isn’t talking about an actual number that will be implanted in someone’s skin’ [I do really believe this by the way] I said ‘for instance, it’s no secret that the Pastor was born with a birthmark of three 6’s on his head, no big deal’ [I know, this is bad]. But I did try and put some stuff in context, the head represents the thoughts of man, the hand represents his actions. The world thinks they need to cheat and steal to get ahead [worldly thinking and acting- hand and head] and those who are part of Christ’s new kingdom [as opposed to Rome-Babylon] think and act in a different manner. There did come a time under the Roman empire that if you didn’t bow the knee to the cult of emperor worship [confess Caesar as Lord] you would be persecuted or killed for your faith, in essence ‘no man could buy or sell [function in society] unless he received the mark of the beast and the number’. So anyway I advised this person to read our site. I have known them for some time, but I don’t think they read the site. They finally ask me ‘who is Corpus Christi outreach, who makes up the organization’. I told them that it’s just me, but I stuck the name on it years ago. Now, don’t get me wrong, my goal is to initiate a movement of sorts. I do pray and work towards that end. I believe it’s possible for us to have a worldwide impact, equal to any other movement [Jehovah witnesses or Mormons]. I do believe we can do this, but at the same time staying within the confines of historic Christianity, which these other movements do not do. All in all it’s been an interesting few days, I want to encourage you guys who read and follow the site, use our stuff freely. Make copies of our books and studies, send and publish our blog anywhere you wish. All of this stuff is free and available for anyone to use as they wish [except for making money!] also, keep in mind the example I gave above, don’t discourage people from being involved ‘in church’ if people eventually move on to more mature understandings and practices of church life [leaving the institutional system if you will] that’s fine, but don’t fall into the trap of ‘nudging them along’. All in all we are in this thing together, I appreciate the Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox and all other expressions of Christianity that the Lord has allowed us to minister to. Strive for unity of the Sprit in the bond of peace, let your thoughts and actions be in harmony with Christ. Don’t worry about computer chips in the head, but have the mind of Christ instead.

(1058) 1ST KINGS 10- The queen of Sheba hears about the wisdom and wealth of Solomon and makes a trip to check it out, she says ‘the half has not been told’. Solomon established an impressive economic and military system for the nation; he knew how to accomplish stuff. Wisdom [Solomon’s gift] allows for there to be action along with knowledge. Jesus knew how to use wisdom, scripture says he ‘is the wisdom of God’. The book of Proverbs [written by Solomon] personifies wisdom as Gods firstborn, God possessed him before all things. Scripture says ‘wisdom sends out her servants/ships’ remember when Jesus ‘sent the word’ and healed people? Or when the Leper was told to ‘go wash’ [by Elijah] he almost didn’t follow through because he was expecting some big show. Wisdom does not need you to personally ‘be there’ for all the action. I get frustrated at times when the modern church implies to the average saint that they really cant effect society ‘on their own’ but it is said in a way that makes the average ‘churchgoer’ think that the only way they can have a part of the action is in if they give exorbitant amounts of money ‘to the church’. And then ‘the church’ will send their money to other professional ministers who will carry out the job. Or the church will send their minister all over the world and he will do the job for them! This mindset ‘de-claws’ the average saint, it makes him think his main contribution is ‘the collection plate’! Use wisdom to impact society, you don’t always have to ‘be there’ [physically] to have an impact, but you are not limited to simply giving money to others who will act on your behalf. The believer’s greatest tool is his/her ability to make disciples wherever you are. Of course you can use modern tools like the internet. These things can be done for little or no cost and you can have a worldwide impact. The point is wisdom allows you to get things done by establishing systems of communication and ‘sending’ that can reach far and wide. In this chapter we read of Solomon’s navy, a previous chapter said ‘Hiram [and Solomon] made rafts and floated the trees to Solomon, there they were discharged for the work’. God can give you ‘divine rafts’ systems of delivery and discharge where you can impact large regions with little effort! All in all the wisdom of Solomon put in place systems that could carry the workload, without having to use actual manpower to get everything done by hand [can you imagine the manpower that would have been needed to hand carry all the trees!] To all my readers, you can impact ‘your world’ by listening to God and responding as he directs. Solomon said [in Proverbs or Ecclesiastes] that there was a poor wise man who delivered a city [and no one remembered him- non famous!] yet his wisdom gave him great influence ‘with the elders of the land’. Paul established the greatest ‘church planting movement’ known to man, and he did it on a shoestring budget! Don’t let man tell you that you can’t really accomplish much without being rich, you are a child of God and he that is in you is greater than he that is in the world! [note- as an aside, I was listening to a testimony of a minister who said how he thought it was sad that in the ‘ministerial’ environment there were times when the pastors would gather and the church members as well. But in these scenarios there seemed to be a distinction that was unbiblical; sort of like the ministers were fellowshipping amongst themselves, being excited over the plans and activities of ‘their church’ while the average saints were also fellowshipping amongst themselves and sharing about their lives and stories. In actuality the New Testament communities did not have these types of divisions. You did not have a separate class of ‘minister’ who ‘ran the church’ as a separate business enterprise. All the people [Elders and Saints] were of one community and their stories and lives commingled in a more communal way. There was no separation between the ‘classes’.]

(1057) 1ST KINGS 9- The Lord honors Solomon’s request and tells him he will hear the prayers of the people. He also warns Solomon to walk in the ways of David his father. God tells him that David walked right and did good, funny thing, the Lord doesn’t bring up the Bathsheba incident! His mercies are new EVERY morning. Now Solomon becomes firmly established as Israel’s king, he puts the pagan nations under tribute/slavery and sets his people up as the overseers. I just finished reading the book on ‘Revival and Revivalism’ and started a new one on ‘in search of Paul’ yes, it’s written by a few of the Jesus seminar brothers! [you know, the guys looking for the real Jesus, Yikes!] but the book does have some excellent historical content. It brought out a recent archeological discovery of a synagogue on the island of Delos [in the Aegean]. Delos was never visited by Paul, but he sailed by it on his journeys. It is the supposed birth place of the Greek god ‘Apollo’. The interesting thing was that the synagogue looked like any other meeting place of a voluntary society of people. It did have ‘Moses seat’ [the Jewish pulpit!] and the ‘collection plate’ [at least the history of the Jewish collection late was discussed. By the way, this backs up my theory [over against Frank Viola’s] that it’s very possible that the development of the ‘church as the building’ concept came from Judaism as opposed to paganism!] But anyway, the island of Delos, under Roman rule, was encouraged to allow for the free worship of the Jewish religion. The Roman empire wanted freedom of religion! As long as it did not challenge their multitude of gods [Pantheon]. Solomon did not totally wipe out the enemies in the land, but he let them know who was in charge. He understood that there are realities to living in a pluralistic world, you don’t have to always agree with every point of view, but it’s noble to treat people with respect [I am not saying slavery is respect!] and get along as much as you can with those of opposing views. But also don’t feel intimidated by being part of a victorious kingdom that God himself set up, Solomon allowed the pagans to function in the land, but they knew who was in charge.

(1056) 1ST KINGS 8- This chapter shows the coming together of the Ark and Temple at Jerusalem. Solomon makes a great dedication to the Lord. He acknowledges the reality that God does not ‘dwell in temples made with hands’ but he asks the Lord to show preference to the temple and the prayers of the people. We really have a tremendous picture of Gods kingdom and rule thru these images. The temple centers the people on the reality of God dwelling in their midst. They worship him from Jerusalem and their king honors the father and leads the people in community wide intercession. There are even provisions made for ‘strangers’ who will become influenced by God’s reality, they will hear about Gods great story with his people [narrative!]. They will then come and also make intercession to him. I find it interesting that in the book of Acts [and 1st century church history] we read about the pagan converts to Judaism, the ‘God fearers’. Israel always maintained this aspect of their culture with God, they left the door open for converts. I also find it interesting that converts came! After all, the Jews did not practice a type of ‘soul winning’ that actively sought proselytes. It was simply the reality of God working with his people that drew others in. These last few years much has been said/written on the church and her mission. Is the gospel too small or too big? Sometimes in our efforts to ‘go deep’ we make it difficult for new converts to come into the church. In all of our efforts to present a gospel that affects society as a whole, the social aspects of our calling. The greater kingdom vision of Jesus as seen in ‘the gospels’ we also want to make sure that the simple initiation of new converts is made plain and easy to understand [in essence we need the Gospels AND the epistles both. A kingdom message is not complete without the reality of Atonement!] Solomon makes a great speech/prayer in this chapter, he worships God for standing true to his promise that he made to David his father. The people hold a seven day city wide celebration and go back to their homes. Even though the temple and it’s structure were not in Gods original plan [go read about David and Nathan] yet God will honor and use this limited system for a season. In the present day reformation of the church and her structures, we always need to keep in mind that we are still dealing with the people of God. Many of them worship God in ‘limited structures’ but yet they still worship God! So as we reform and grow in the coming decades, we also want to leave room for the prayer of Solomon ‘I know you cant be limited to a structure like a temple, but please honor the prayers and simple sacrifices of your people. They are doing it out of dedication to you’ [my paraphrase].

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

(1054) 1st KINGS 6 ‘CONCERNING THIS HOUSE WHICH THOU ART IN BUILDING, IF THOU WILT WALK IN MY STATUTES, AND EXECUTE MY JUDGMENTS, AND KEEP ALL MY COMMANDMENTS TO WALK IN THEM; THEN WILL I PERORM MY WORD WITH THEE, WHICH I SPAKE UNTO DAVID THY FATHER’ [verse 12] Part of the promise of God to David was he would set up a son, from his natural heritage, that would take an everlasting throne. God would be faithful to his part of the bargain as long as his son walked in obedience, ultimately these promises would be fulfilled thru Christ. We can also apply them to our lives as well, we are all ‘building a house’ in a sense. Jesus said those who heard his words and did them were like those building on a sure foundation, those who ‘heard only’ were building on sand. I find it interesting that many of us seem to think that gathering one day a week to ‘hear words’ is what God requires, in a sense we have become professional hearers! [and speakers] As you relate to the house you are building, seek the Lord for wisdom and insight into how you should build. God gave Moses specific directions in the building of the tabernacle; these are the same blueprints Solomon used, only on a larger scale. Solomon did not have to get ‘another blueprint’ he simply needed to be faithful to what the Lord already revealed. Recently in the ‘church world’ we had the passing of two good men; Avery Dulles and John Neuhouse [spelling?] If I remember right, Avery Dulles said that he was no innovator, he would not be known for his new ideas, but he was just a faithful servant in Christ’s church. I liked that, we too often want to find ‘new blueprints’ sometimes the Lord is simply looking for those who will hear and obey. [Both Avery and John were Catholic’s involved in the evangelical/catholic alliance]

(1053)1ST KINGS 5-Solomon contracts with Hiram, king of Tyre, to supply Cedar wood and trees for the construction of the temple. He also raises up a mighty labor force who will work in 3 shifts, one month in the forest and two months back home. They helped cut down and deliver the logs on rafts back to Solomon. He has a massive labor force of stone cutters as well, they are cutting stone for the foundation of the temple. Like I said in a previous chapter, the temple is a picture of both the Old Covenant [law] and the new gentile church uniting as ‘one new man’ in Christ. Though the temple is basically a large scale replica of the Mosaic tabernacle, yet the only actual piece of furniture that makes in into the temple is the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark represents Gods presence, in the New Testament we see that Gods Spirit and presence left the Old law system [as typified by the temple- Hebrews] and ‘entered’ into the new temple, made up of both Jew and Gentile believers! [Ephesians]. Solomon was wise enough to realize that he personally did not possess all the skills to accomplish the mission, he knew how to hire other skilled people to help with the completion of the task. In ministry we often try and accomplish too much through the personal attributes/gifts of the leader. One of the plagues on the Body of Christ today is the American system of entrepreneurial church, we seem to exalt the personalities and gifts of the main leader at the expense of the functioning of the people of God. Though many good men are involved with this system, yet we need to transition to a place where we understand that in Christ’s church he uses many gifted people in various ways to build his temple [the people of God].This chapter says God gave Solomon ‘peace on every side, he had no adversaries nor evil occurrence’. Scripture says when a mans ways please the Lord he makes even his adversaries to be at peace with him. God gave Solomon a season of peace and rest, not for the purpose of sitting back and resting on his laurels, but for the purpose of building his kingdom. Solomon walked ‘while he had the light’ [he took advantage of the window of opportunity that God put before him].

(1052) 1st KINGS 4- ‘And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness [generous] of heart…and his wisdom was greater than all the children of the east and Egypt…and all the people and the kings of the earth [gentiles shall come to thy light and kings to the brightness of thy rising] came to hear the wisdom of Solomon’- In this chapter we read of the tremendous storehouse of goods and resources that God gave to Solomon. His wisdom was in many areas, not just ‘theology’! He was a true Renaissance man. Before the reformation and the ‘enlightenment’ you had the Renaissance period. For many years the wisdom and knowledge that prevailed in early Greco-Roman society was lost/hidden from the public. Through process of time and events [like the crusades] some of these hidden resources of knowledge were re-discovered and the world went thru a renewal period in wisdom and philosophy. It was thanks to the catholic churches preserving of these early works [Monks and monasteries] that would later lead to them being recovered. Now, even though these works were recovered, they weren’t readily available to the general public on a wide scale. You simply did not have the tools [internet/public libraries in abundance] to disseminate the information at large, but you did have men who became educated in these areas and they were the ‘renaissance men’. Sort of like walking libraries of wisdom, ‘Solomon’s’ if you will. Solomon wrote and studied on all sorts of subjects, he did not limit himself to one field only. Often times in the area of ‘full time preaching’ we send kids off to college [okay] and they get an education that only applies to one field [full time ministry]. I think it would be better if all the ‘preachers’ became well rounded in many practical areas of learning, getting skills in various areas [Paul-tent making] that would enable them to transition when reformation happens [like the current challenge on church practices and the full time pastoral office. Many sincere men are too dependant on their jobs as full time ministers to seriously reconsider the scriptural grounds for their office]. So Solomon was the type of brother who could converse with you in all types of fields. Many of the world’s greatest scientists/mathematicians were Christians, a common mistake is to think the scientific revolution was launched by anti religious men, this is simply not true. A careful study of history would show you that the majority of the great scientific minds were products of the church. It was common to major in theology and use that field of study as the foundation for all the other fields of learning. Jesus said of Solomon that kings and queens went out of their way to hear the wisdom of Solomon [the Warren Buffet of his day] but yet a greater than Solomon was here! [speaking of himself]

(1048) 1st KINGS 1- David’s son, Adonijah, plots to take the kingdom and become king in his fathers place [after he would die]. He chooses a team of talented men to become his inner circle, he prepares chariots and gets a force together. David does not discourage him, he seems to be willing to let it slide. One problem, David’s son Solomon was chosen by God himself to be the next king. David’s key men, who were left out of the celebration ceremony that Adonijah threw for himself, realized that if they didn’t act quickly they would be left out in the cold. So Nathan tells Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, to go in to the king and tell him about the problem. Nathan then will go in after her and also confirm the bad news. Note, Nathan was a powerful prophet, he was the one who faced David head on about the sin he committed when sleeping with Bathsheba and killing her husband. But David is old and sick, even if Nathan took the risk to confront him again in a ‘thus saith the lord’ type thing, there was no assurance that David would listen. Or worse, tell him he has had enough of his ‘prophetic ministry’ and take his head off! Nathan chose influence and common sense to get his point across, he was even a little deceptive in the way he planned it out. David then tells his men ‘go, anoint Solomon as king’ David’s men prevail and they quickly form a new team around Solomon. Zadok, Nathan and Benaiah will be the Prophet, Priest and military commander. Now word gets back to Adonijah that Solomon has been anointed by David, their party ends abruptly and Adonijah flees for his life. These men [Adonijah and his team] had real hopes and dreams for their new administration, but God had other plans. A few things; was Adonijah in total rebellion in doing what he did? Not really, he was fourth in line to the throne, above Solomon. Remember, the Old Testament puts special weight on this seniority thing! And David never discouraged the boy. It’s very possible that Adonijah thought he had the green light in this thing. Solomon will take the throne and though he will become famous for his wisdom, he will also be pretty brutal in his first days as king. He quickly warns Adonijah and in the next chapter we will see him take swift and decisive action to route out his adversaries. I see a little too much personal ambition in Adonijah and his men. One of them was Joab, a great military leader with much experience. If you remember when we studied Samuel he also had his run ins with David. These men were playing party politics and positioning themselves for a ‘wonderful future’. The only problem was God wasn’t in it! I remember many years ago when a friend of mine ‘started a church’. He was quite a few years older than me, but still new ‘to the game’. He made the statement ‘God has now made all my dreams come true’. He innocently fell into the trap of seeing ministry and ‘church’ as some type of structure/business that God allows people to engage in, in order for them to ‘fulfill their dreams’. Adonijah and his men were excited about the launching of their new ‘career’s’ the wind went out of their sails when Gods ordained plan took precedence over their dreams.

(1034)Ecclesiastes 8:4 WHERE THE WORD OF A KING IS, THERE IS POWER. AND WHO MAY SAY UNTO HIM ‘WHAT DOEST THOU’- The other day I took my daughters out to eat Chinese food. My daughter’s friend came along, she is studying to get her degree in geology. So I thought it would be a good chance to talk a little on Evolution. Though she is a Christian, she had no idea about the science against Evolution. We got into Eugenics [Darwin’s relative came up with this ‘science’ it was what Hitler used to justify the holocaust and the murder of handicapped people. It justified [in Hitler’s mind] the destruction of the weaker races in society. Though Darwin did not call for forced ‘natural selection’ yet this theory led to Hitler’s justification of it] I was surprised that she knew nothing about it. Especially the fossil evidence against Evolution, she is studying Geology for heavens sake! Some how we started talking about the various things you can read in the fortune cookies. My kids came up with stuff they have read and all. Of course I had to add my two cents, I said ‘I had a note that said ‘Chinese rule and Whites drool’. My daughter’s friend said ‘are you kidding me’! Of course I was. Now, when the word of a king goes forth [when God is speaking truth about any thing at any season- Evolution and its false claims, Church structure, Reformation] then our only option is to learn and make adjustments as time goes by. We all have a tendency to stick with the popular opinion, until it gets overturned. Wisdom allows you to spot the trend and get in on it at the beginning, to see that God is speaking about a subject and be willing to go with it as God leads. I am absolutely convinced that science will reject evolutionary theory in a few years. Like I said before, they will do it in an ‘unrepentant way’ but it will be done. Certain things going on in the ‘church world’ right now are going to be ‘the norm’ in a few generations. I believe the church is going to re-think our whole world view concerning ‘church’. Now, we will not abandon the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’ [the body of Christian truth that all Christians hold in common] but there is going to be a revolution in our basic understanding of ‘church’. When God decides to ‘speak into the community at large’ we really have no option. We just need to listen and make adjustments in his time. The key is knowing when it’s God who is speaking! I do not advocate jumping into every new fad and new Christian movement that goes on in Christian circles. But I recognize there are key times when God is speaking with a loud voice to the church in the world, when God is speaking there is power. Don’t say unto him ‘what doest thou’ [or who gave you the right to speak].

(1032)‘A GIFT DESTROYETH THE HEART’ Ecclesiastes 7:7b Over the last few years I have read testimonies from Pastors who said they felt like they were unconsciously being manipulated to look good or perform for the community. Though they were well meaning, and the people they were ‘pastoring’ were also good people, yet the system of being a paid clergyman caused there to be a degree of inauthenticity. A famous quote of a quote [Frank Viola quotes another person in the book ‘Pagan Christianity’] says it’s hard to convince someone about something when their salary depends on them not being convinced! [paraphrase] So the actual position of being dependent on the offerings/tithes of people can put pressure on leaders to not deal with certain subjects. I have had fellow ministers over the years reject what I was saying simply because they felt it would affect their income. Their priority was on surviving. These men are not bad people, they mean well and don’t purposely want their message to be shaped by their dependence on a job/position. But in many cases the temptation is too great. Solomon said a ‘gift’ can corrupt the motives of people. While it is fine for ministers to receive financial help out of respect for their labor, yet we need to examine whether or not the salaried position of the fulltime minister is in keeping with New Testament ecclesiology. Are you tailoring your message by the support you bring in? Do you view success from the standpoint of material assets? Do you see ‘your ministry’ as a career choice? Lets all examine our hearts and motives, we might not be taking bribes in the classic ‘Mafia’ sense, but if we are allowing our financial support to effect the way we live and teach, then we are allowing our hearts to become ‘corrupted’.

(1029)ECCLESIASTES- 5:1 KEEP THY FOOT WHEN YOU GO TO ‘THE HOUSE OF GOD’ [ECCLESIA] AND BE MORE READY TO HEAR THAN TO GIVE THE SACRAFICE OF FOOLS- Yesterday we had a good outreach day in Bishop and Kingsville [2 south TX. Cities] I had a few homeless brothers with me and we drove thru a few areas and hooked up with some of the brothers we have been working with for around 20 years. I am always tempted to answer more questions [speak more!] than I should. It’s important to let the brothers ‘do the talking’ they benefit more when there is a real give and take. I read this verse the day or so before the trip, it makes a lot of sense. To all my Pastor/leader friends, do you consciously make an effort to ‘keep silent’ when going to the ‘house of God’ [times of fellowship and community]? I know this needs to become learned behavior for many of us. We usually have grown up in a church environment that emphasizes the need for strong preaching, mounting the ‘sacred pulpit’ [double ouch!] and stuff like that. We are usually well intended, but we need to relearn some stuff. I was surprised how the homeless brothers shared many spiritual truths with clarity. One of the brothers does suffer from mental problems, he is extremely intelligent. He is a machinist who worked for many years in Ohio and knows his stuff. But he is a little unstable in his thoughts at times. Sure enough when he was sharing about the Lord one of the other brothers really took it to heart. On the way to back to Corpus I asked what they learned today. He said he really enjoyed being able to speak and help others. I could tell that this in itself was therapeutic for him, it truly is ‘more blessed to give than receive’. This is why Paul taught the interactive church meeting [Corinthians]. In the background there was a TV preacher on, my buddy put the Christian channel on for atmosphere. Some preachers were answering questions on the Rapture and all, it seemed to be ‘endless chatter’ on stuff that was not even true! I couldn’t but help wonder what the apostle Paul would have thought if he saw his writings being used in this way. On the TV there was no real sense of community, simply preachers telling people their endless views on various subjects. I am glad I tried to ‘keep my mouth shut’ as much as possible [hey, this is hard for preachers to actually do!] I too learned some good stuff.

(1025) Note- I stuck this one here because I think it helps us maintain a proper attitude as we seek reform in Gods church. GREAT AWAKENING- In between studies I have been reading the ‘shelf of books’ I bought a few months ago. I bought about 70 dollars worth of books at the half price book store, they are worth a few hundred at least. The last three I just went thru were published by universities; Oxford, Princeton, etc. I have learned over the years that your time is well spent in the ‘higher education’ category. You can spend a lifetime reading the popular Christian culture stuff and never really get educated. The book I just started is called ‘Revival and Revivalism’ it was put out by Princeton and covers the history of the first great awakenings. I want to give you a long quote from Samuel Davies, the son in law of Jonathan Edwards. The Lord used him in Hanover, Va. ‘In all the sermons I have preached in Virginia, I have not wasted one minute in reasoning against the peculiarities of the established church; nor so much as assigned my own reasons of non-conformity. I have not exhausted my zeal in railing against the established clergy, in exposing their imperfections, or in deprecating their characters. I have matters of infinite importance to spend my time and strength upon, to preach repentance towards God and faith towards Jesus Christ.’ ‘What an endless variety of denominations, taken from some men of character, or from some little peculiarities, has prevailed in the Christian world and crumbled it to pieces…what party names have been adopted by the Protestant churches, whose religion is substantially the same common Christianity, and who agree on much more important truths than in those they differ. To be a Christian is not enough now-a-days, but a man must be something more or better, that is he must be a strenuous bigot to this or that particular church…but to glory in the denomination of any particular church, as my highest character, to lay more stress on my denomination than on my being a Christian…to make it my zeal to win people to my peculiar denomination than to Christ, to overlook the faults of those in my own party and to be blind to the good in others, or to diminish them; these are the things that deserve condemnation from God and man. These proceed from a spirit of bigotry and faction, directly opposite to the generous catholic spirit of Christianity, and subversive of it. This spirit turns men from the important matters of Christianity, to vain jangling and competitions about circumstantials and trifles. Thus the Christian is swallowed up in the partisan, and the fundamentals are lost in extra essentials’ [I paraphrased a little] I find it interesting that Davies and the other leaders in the awakening were anti sectarian, though most of them were Presbyterian/Reformed, yet they saw their task above denominationalism. In Davies case the main denomination he came up against was the Anglican church, many in Virginia contrasted the traditional church with the ‘new light’ brothers. Many associated with the revivals were seen this way. You can still find prejudicial comments made against Catholics during this period, but I find it interesting that many of the revival leaders were aware of the sectarian spirit and saw it as a danger to the work of God. They warned against what many of their ‘offspring’ would become. I find it hard to understand how many of the offshoots of the awakenings can read and study their history and not see the error that their own fore-fathers warned them about. But for the most part God was working in their day and they were wise enough to rise above religious bigotry.

(1022)ECCLESIASTES Solomon said there was nothing new under the sun. During the 16th century reformation you had a number of ‘offshoot’ movements that sprouted. Some define these as the radical reformers. Groups like the Anabaptists [re-baptizers] and others. As you read the writings of many of these groups you find that they were definitely seeing truth for their day. George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, was hitting the nail on the head when it came to ‘church as the building’ he exposed the limited mindset that many believers embraced. He would refer to the churches as ‘steeple houses’. Many of these groups were deemed heretical for a myriad of reasons. The Quakers would embrace a belief that emphasizes the truth from the Spirit versus the letter of the law. Some would carry this to an extreme and associate all ‘head knowledge’ faith as wrong. Any doctrinal correction from the more reformed brothers was seen as ‘dead knowledge’ coming against Spirit truth. So they would get branded with the heretic title by some. The same goes for the Anabaptists and many others. The sad thing is many of these movements were partial ‘reformers’ in their own right. They had good things to add to the debate. If you read some of their writings you would think they were a few hundred years before their time. I have read scholarly works from Catholic theologians on the Ecclesia [church] and what she is. These works were right on! Even though the average Catholic might not be aware of them. So you find real treasure in many of these groups. Their really is ‘nothing new under the sun’. You should avoid a mindset that begins seeing ‘my group’ or ‘my way of seeing things’ as the true group, and the majority of other Christian groups as false. While it is easy to see whole mindsets of limited understanding that exist in the church at large, I feel it’s dangerous to grasp hold of an idea that says ‘90% of all Christianity is dead wrong, they have all been duped until now’. This is sort of like the teenager saying to dad ‘you’re so behind the times, my new way of seeing things is better than yours’. Most times the teenager later realizes that this was an overreaction. I think we all need to read the great writers of days gone by, Bonhoeffer wrote excellently on the communion of the saints. Our Church of Christ brothers had real truth on the church as the people. The Catholic mystics new that there was more to the Christian way than simple knowledge, they sought a real experience with God. As you enter into this glorious communion of the saints, there will be obvious blind spots that you can find in many of these writers, but maturity allows us to by pass the faults of others [love covers a multitude of sin] while receiving the valuable stuff. Avoid the strong ‘they are all wrong’ spirit, remember ‘there is nothing new under the sun’.

(1020)CORINTHIANS CONCLUSION- Paul concludes this long letter with a bunch of personal notes. He tells them that the Lord has opened up a great effective door for him at Ephesus and there are many adversaries. He wanted Apollos to make a visit but he did not want to at this time. He told them to go easy on Timothy because he was a fellow worker in the Lord. Overall Paul’s message to this church was one of true grace. I want to emphasize again [like we did when studying Romans and the other epistles so far] that one of the main themes of the first century apostles was belief in the gospel. Paul told these believers that it was believing in the message of the Cross that saves them. He defined the gospel as Jesus death, burial and resurrection. He encouraged them to live free as Gods community and to help each other out. Paul did not lay on them some type of guilt trip to become some high powered institution in order to ‘change their world’. He believed that the simple lifestyle of love and purity would be able to do the job. I see a contrast from the first century church and its simple gospel and today’s idea of church. Also notice how Paul was ‘planting’ these churches. He visited them, spent time with them, LEFT THEM, and continued corresponding with them thru letters and friends. In essence, first century church planting was simply establishing groups of people on the foundation of Christ. They were not organizing under some type of 501c3 model [I do realize they didn’t have this back then!] they didn’t see ‘church’ as some type of social group that you joined [Elks lodge type thing]. They actually were the church! I want to stress this theme as we continue teaching thru out the New Testament. Many times believers hold on to and embrace ideas that seem to be biblical [you can find a verse here and there type thing- proof texting] but when you see the whole story you get a better picture of what’s going on. Well I hope you guys got something out of this brief study, try and keep in mind the things that challenged you as we read thru this book. Did you see some things differently than before? Did some stuff get you mad? Did we challenge your belief system in some way? My goal is to encourage reformation in the church, not disorder! Take the new things you might have seen and implement them in Gods time. Those of your starting from scratch [first time church planters] can start with a clean slate and implement many of these ideas from day one, others who are already in ministry will have to take a more measured approach. Do all things as God leads and in his time. To all you ‘church members’ don’t take the stuff that you learned and use it to come against your ‘church’. Let God lead you on your journey and reform as God directs. It’s easy for some young rebels [or old!] to take the stuff on tithing and use it against your current church, that’s not our goal. Be patient with your pastors and leaders and allow God to use you as a force for change, not destruction. Well that’s it for now; I am not sure what study we will jump into next. Recently got some good emails and phone calls from some of our friends laboring in other towns, people I did not even know of, but who follow the ministry. Those of you out there who are following along, send me an email every now and then so I can see what type of growth we are having, the different regions we are impacting. Those of you who have launched home groups, let me know how things are going. God bless till next time, John.

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

(1016)JAMES AND HUMILITY- ‘Humble yourselves in Gods sight and he will lift you up’ ‘He gives grace to the humble’ I was reading a testimony from a reformed type brother who is also an excellent writer on the ‘out of the institutional church movement’. He shared how early in his Christian life he was grounded in truth, he eventually became more reformed in his thinking and pastored various expressions of church. He recalled a few divine appointments in life where he was confronted by truth in a new way. He pastored during the years right after the hippie movement of the late 60’s and he ran into a few simple believers who simply challenged him on why the meetings he was pastoring were centered around his speaking gift. These were simple believers who came to know the Lord outside of the traditional church and naturally developed along the lines of a community. Now the pastor was much more knowledgeable in all things religious, but his humility caused him to rethink his understanding of what these simple brothers said. So over a period of a few years he studied the scriptures with an eye for this type of thing. He realized that most of the examples of one person preaching to a group were actually evangelistic in nature. The times the brethren met for fellowship were in fact not centered around one persons speaking gift, he realized that the questions posed to him from the simple believers were right. So he made adjustments to his ministry. This example shows you the need we all have for true humility. This type of openness is rare in ministry today, most leaders would have simply dismissed the questions that the other believers asked. Most well trained educated men would see their background as a defense for their practices. This does not mean we have no need for a well educated church, in this mans case he still uses his knowledge and education as a benefit for the church at large, it’s just we all have a responsibility to respond to truth in Gods timing. I have read testimonies of ex-pastors who felt like they were filling a position of performance and ‘looking good’ and living up to the expectations of people in a way that was phony. Men who felt like they had to go to some other town to simply enjoy being a simple believer. They were carrying a weight of fame and expectation that they felt were not a real part of Christianity. It was more of a by product of the development of the hired clergy position that they held. So these men left the pastorate out of conviction and humbled themselves in the sight of the Lord. I don’t recommend this for all pastors who see and learn these things on their journey, but this is the correct response for some. I simply want to challenge you today on your response to being confronted with truth on your journey. Do you have a tendency to dismiss all criticism as wrong? Would you have judged the simple believers who challenged your mode of ministry as ‘less than you’? I know I have done this at times, had the wrong response when confronted with truth. I appreciate the pastors/leaders who read this site, my goal is to help all of you on the mission God has placed on your lives. Some of you will have different responses to the things we share, my goal is that we would all come to maturity and unity as a corporate people in Gods timing. I certainly do not advise all pastors to ‘close up shop’ and start from scratch, but to some this might be a real option. But in each case if we respond in humility God will give us more grace, this is something we can all use. NOTE- The brother I used in the above example is Jon Zens, his web site is on my blog roll, it’s called ‘searching together’.

About ccoutreach87

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

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